Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Slice of Life--The Best Laid Plans

Ruth and Stacey at Two Writing Teachers
host the Slice of Life every Tuesday.

Lately I have really been reflecting about the way life turns out.  It seems to me that life plans can come and go and they never seem to work out exactly as one had wanted.  My big life plan was to fall in love and get married young so that I could be married a few years before having kids, but still have at least one child before turning 30.  I made this plan in high school (never mind that I did not even have a boyfriend until the summer after I graduated).

My life plan started out well.  I met my husband while studying abroad in Sevilla, Spain and brought him home with me.  I was 22 on my wedding day.  Then came the next part in the plan.  My husband was not so sure he wanted kids at first, but I worked on it  and he came around to the idea.  It took us about six or seven years of being married to get through all the speed bumps in the road.  It is another story for a different post, but lets just say that it took a LOT of work for my husband to feel at home in this country and for the two of us to feel like our marriage was centered and strong.

After this amount of time, I was ready to try for kids.  After all, we had the strong relationship and had had multiple years to enjoy our time together before changing everything.  Now was the time...and I could still have a baby before turning 30 if we hurried it up.  So, we starting trying.  And trying.  And trying.  After four years of trying to get pregnant, we finally decided to investigate what was going on.  I am pretty sure that we waited so long because we didn't want to hear what we knew we would probably hear.  So two summers ago we obediently went through test after test and found out that the chances were awful for us to conceive.  I won't go into details, but we had some tough decisions to make and we are still trying to figure out our path.  It was devastating for me, and still is, to think that I may end up having to settle for being childless.  This was not my plan.

Another thing that was not in the plan?  Being an auntie before being a mother.  My stepbrother and his wife had a baby boy a little over two years ago.  I love getting to spend time with my nephew.  He is such a ham and we enjoy family dinners together.  Now that he is talking more, his personality is really shining through.

Showing off his artwork on the phone.
My nephew and my husband.

And now, as of May 1st, I am an auntie again. This time it has been more special for me because it was my sister who was pregnant.  I spent a lot of sleepless nights worrying about her since she was very sick throughout her pregnancy.  But now she is healthy and we have a new baby girl in the family.  I came out to California to visit and to help out when my sister goes back to work next week.

Me, the baby, and my sister.
 Looking at these amazing kids, I am so blessed to be an aunt.  I will shower these two children with love and loud toys that annoy their parents.  And I will hope that their parents have a chance to get back at my husband and me in the future.  But for now, no more plans.  Summertime is perfect for lazy days with no plan and fun hanging out with a baby.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Slice of Life: Teachers Write 6/18

Ruth and Stacey at Two Writing Teachers
host the Slice of Life every Tuesday.

This summer I am so excited to participate again in Teachers Write, an online writing camp for teachers.  Last summer, I signed up and jumped in with both feet because I knew that in order to be the best writing teacher I can be I needed to also be a writer.  I was also participating in a two-week summer institute through the National Writing Project and knew that I would be forced to write whether I wanted to or not.  I did write quite often last summer, but I didn't exactly make the commitment to writing daily or making the time for writing that I needed to make.  I obsessed over my summer #bookaday challenge and went a little bit nuts with the reading.  

This summer I again want to make time for writing and I am committing to making time daily to write.  If I could do it for the Slice of Life challenge in March, I can do it now.

Some great things came out of my participation with Teachers Write last summer.  First, I wrote more often on my blog this year.  Next, I got my students writing on their blogs more regularly and even set up some collaboration with students in another class.  Lastly, I learned about being vulnerable.  I really did not participate to the highest degree last summer because I did not find that great idea that was going to be the next Harry Potter...I am a perfectionist and it is really hard to admit that I am not going to write polished, amazing writing in the first draft.  I have some ideas for interesting characters and I will be throwing those around this summer as well as working on crafting some memoir short stories.

My participation in Teachers Write this summer will be focused on some concrete goals:

1. Create writing notebook pages using the bingo cards that I purchased from Corbett Harrison so that I can use these to show students what I expect them to do in writing.
2. Develop the idea that I have for a novel and do some word count goals to get a good start on the draft.
3. I did NaNoWriMo in my classroom last year and it was the best thing that I could have done. I was so pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm all of my students displayed for this activity.  I want to use the workbook from the NaNoWriMo website to work through pre-writing activities so that I have examples for my students when we do these exercises.
4. Post It's Monday! and Slice of Life posts on Mondays and Tuesdays.  Then post at least one other time in the week, most likely with reviews.  (Also, the quick write prompts and exercises from authors)
5. Play with my writing territories list and heart map ideas to come up with some memoir drafts and poems.  Do as I would expect my students to do and produce multiple pieces of writing in different genres.

I am expecting quite a commitment from myself because I expect a lot of writing from my students.  If I don't change my patterns and make time for writing, how can I realistically expect that from them?  If I can't go beyond my fears of failure, how can I expect my students to do this?

I hope that I can keep up with my goals and really make the time for writing that I plan to do.  I know that the more experience that I get with writing, the better it will be for my students.  Who knows? Maybe my story is just waiting to be found.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Slice of Life 6/11

Ruth and Stacey at Two Writing Teachers
host the Slice of Life every Tuesday.
     Today my 8th grade students will have their completion ceremony and move on their way to high school.  This time of year is always bittersweet for me.  I am happy for the students that they will move on to bigger and better things, and truthfully, I am ready for a break from them.  However, I always know that I will miss this group of kids and I always wish there were time for more.  I can never believe how quickly the last few weeks of school seem to go and I am caught by surprise as the year comes to a close.

    As I have worked to wrap up this school year with my students, I noticed that I did not feel as close with my students as I have in the past.  This bothered me. A lot.  Then, I started thinking about what was different and I figured it out.  This is the first year that I have had 8th grade students who have only had me for 8th grade.  All of the other exiting 8th grade classes have been classes in which students were part of my class in a former year.  I taught 1st grade for the first five years that I was at my school and then moved up to 4th and 5th grades.  Some of my students in former years were in my class three or four times throughout their time at Morgandale.  No wonder I felt like this years group was not as close to me.  Maybe this is what it should feel like...it has been so long since I had a class only for one year that I don't know.  I just know that this year feels really weird.

    Later this morning when I am watching all these young men and women hug each other and say farewell to our school, I know I will cry, just as I have cried every year that I have worked with 8th graders.  Some of these students have been at our school since K4 and now they will move on to high school.  It is a big change for them and many of them shed a few tears also.  All I can hope is that we have done the best job we can in preparing them for the future and giving them wings to fly.

     Some highlights from this school year with these 8th graders:

  • We jumped in with both feet and did NaNoWriMo last November.  It was an awesome experience and most of my students told me it was their favorite writing activity this year.
  • All students read at least 10 books.  This is not as many as I would have hoped they would have read, but I am proud of the fact that every one of my students, even the ones who scoffed and laughed when I introduced the 40 book challenge, has read multiple books and found books to love this year.  
  • One of my students became a voracious reader...she didn't really read until December and then, BAM! She took off.  Here total at the end of the year was 82 books.  And she didn't count the long ones as two like I said they could.  She burned her way through series after series and now has a serious reading addiction.  I told her she had to stop to do chores though so she doesn't get yelled at on weekends.  
  • Multiple students are writing books and stories constantly.  Many of them had not been doing this before this year.  I can't necessarily take credit for this one, but I think the extra encouragement has been helpful for them.  
  • Many students made double or triple the gains that are expected in a year in math.  Although I am not always convinced by the standardized tests, I am excited that students were able to see that their hard work paid off and they felt success in understanding concepts that were difficult for them before.  
  • Writing false apology poems and pi poems with students was so much fun.  It reminded me of the importance of introducing all types of writing and giving students the chance to be creative.