Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Slice of Life: Hectic days

Every Tuesday, a number of amazing bloggers write a Slice of Life. If you are interested in joining in, visit the Two Writing Teachers blog for more information.

This school year, I am happier than I have been in a long time. I was given the opportunity to move out of middle school and back into fourth grade. I jumped at the chance. I went into education to be an elementary school teacher. I love being able to teach all the subjects. I love to read, I love to write, I love math, I love science, I love history, I love teaching it all.  I also think that there is a definite comfort zone for every teacher. Yes, I am certified to teach grades 1-8, but I am most comfortable with 4th and 5th grade. This year I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders and I am invigorated and working hard again.

That being said, I have one of those crazy active classes that drive me bonkers some days. I get hugs and pictures to make up for my patience being tried, but I do reach the end of my patience some days. We are working hard to establish a safe and caring environment. We do things in the Responsive Classroom way, we have morning meetings, and we work to be sure everyone is accepted as part of our collaborative community. This is really hard to do when there are a few kids that struggle with empathy. We are getting there. We will get there, we will.

This school year has been especially full of new things for teachers in my district. There is a new student information system and online gradebook to learn to use, a new evaluation system that requires an in-depth plan, and more mandates from the central office than we can keep track of.

I am working hard to plant my two feet firmly on the ground and to get us all on track. It feels like we take two steps forward and one step back. Part of the problem is the ridiculous amount of fabulous ideas out there. Taking a step back and evaluating my goals will go far in helping to make the decisions I must make. It is mighty overwhelming at times, but I know I will succeed in providing what my students need and giving them a classroom in which they can feel safe and loved.  It will all work out, it will.

This is a message I need to give myself today because the day was crazy. If I didn't know any better, I would have sworn there was a full moon today. It must be something else in the air. Now, I need to take a deep breath and repeat to myself: it will work out, it will.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Slice of Life: Meetings 8/5

Every Tuesday, a number of amazing bloggers write a Slice of Life. If you are interested in joining in, visit the Two Writing Teachers blog for more information.

Allow me a few seconds of your time to rant about my last two days.  I went to a district meeting with my school team in order to write our school improvement plan.  However, the district in its infinite wisdom decided to fill our days with presentations that gave overviews of initiatives that we have been implementing for at least two years.  I get that there is a possibility that a lot of schools had not been doing these things, but why do the rest of us have to sit through presentations that do not increase our understanding about anything and suck up the time that we should be spending on analyzing data and writing our plan?  It is so frustrating to be there for one thing and to end up actually receiving something far inferior and completely different from what you signed up for.  I think our team will come up with a good plan, but we would have been much better served having the time to work on it rather than having to sit through presentations that did not move us forward in our understanding.  I know many people bring this up all the time, but why are we expected to differentiate our instruction if the powers that be do not see the need or make the effort to differentiate theirs?  AAaaaaannnd, Breathe.  Okay, rant over.  

Now that I have calmed down a bit, I have started thinking about the way this day affected me.  How awful that the people planning this day did not respect our time as educators.  How awful that these people did not consider our prior knowledge in their lessons for us.  How awful that they did not recognize that there were many different levels of understanding in the room and that some of us were hearing this for the third time.  As a learner, I felt powerless and without a voice. I was not engaged and lost a lot of the motivation that I came with.  I came to work and expected to be given the opportunity to show what I could do.  Unfortunately, the people organizing this event did not give us that opportunity.  

This experience served as another reminder to be careful about the power structure in my classroom.  When students feel powerless and do not have a voice, they will become disengaged with the lesson.  I need to make sure I plan for the many levels of understanding that I have in the classroom, and I need to make sure that students are given enough time to work when there is a task that needs to be accomplished.  I also know that I need to make sure I have things organized. Wasting everyone's time by not being ready to present is so disrespectful.  

I will always strive to respect the learners in my classroom by making sure I know about their understandings and working to not waste their time.  I hope the next time I go to a district training I am able to feel more engaged and productive.  

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Slice of Life: Serenity

Every Tuesday, a number of amazing bloggers write a Slice of Life. If you are interested in joining in, visit the Two Writing Teachers blog for more information.

I am not sure about sharing this.  I am not sure I want to really document this.  I do know that writing this reflection was good for my soul so I will share it and perhaps someone else will benefit from my reflections.

In the last few weeks, I have found myself reciting the serenity prayer.  For various reasons, this small bit of supplication to a higher power is quite applicable to my life right now.  I am struggling quite a bit with the hand we have been dealt in life.  My husband and I are unable to conceive. We have tried a few procedures, but it has been a long time and we are tired of the disappointment. It is not always easy to tell the difference between things you can change and things you cannot change.


In this world of incredible medical advances and technology, there are so many opportunities to keep trying to conceive. There comes a point, though, at which it becomes absurd to continue to spend outrageous amounts of money for the slight chance that it might work.  Logically understanding that it is time to stop trying is far removed from accepting the inevitable. I need vast amounts of serenity to accept this one.


What I can do is to live my life in a healthy way and to take care of myself and my husband.  We both need to change our diet and lose weight for our health.  It takes courage to change our habits, but it is so important for us to live our best life, even if it is a different life from what we had imagined. It takes courage for me to change the direction I saw my life going.  It takes courage to keep moving forward.


This one is tricky.  It is hard to know when it is time to stop.  I understand the reasons for stopping and I am not getting any younger, but it is hard to know that this is the right thing to do. Every fiber of my being has always known since I was very little that I am made to be a mother. Who am I to stand in the way of this destiny? Except it isn't me standing in the way. It is infertility rearing its ugly head. I am still working on this one.  It is hard to know the difference here.  

As I have been struggling through all of this in the last few weeks, the serenity prayer has repeatedly popped into my head. It is so interesting how a small bit of text can help you to reflect on almost anything in life.  As I work through one of the most difficult things I have had to work through in my life, I find the words comforting and I hope someone is hearing my prayer.  

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Slice of Life: Storms and Schema

Every Tuesday, a group of bloggers writes a Slice of Life. If you are interested in joining in, visit the Two Writing Teachers blog for more information.

     The other day, I was standing in my kitchen making lunch when I heard a BOOM.  It wasn't particularly loud and didn't last for long.  I puzzled about it, and asked my dog what she thought the neighbors were doing.  Were they moving something big that had been dropped?  Or maybe the train had some freight shift or the construction workers were using a noisy tool.  After a few minutes, the sound came again.  Now I was starting to get annoyed.  So, I took my dog out to the sunny backyard and looked up and down the alley.  No one was doing anything that could have been that noisy.  Then I heard the sound again and turned around. What I saw was a wall of dark clouds that was quickly descending on us.  I had to chuckle.  As a midwesterner, I should be ready for quick changes in weather.  I was a little embarrassed that it took me so long to figure out.  In my head, I apologized to the neighbors for the not-so-nice things I had been thinking about them and all their noise. Then, I started to think about schema.
     I have lately been doing a lot of professional reading to get myself ready for a grade level switch this year.  One of the books I read is Comprehension Connections by Tanny McGregor.  In this book, the author offers a wealth of suggestions about using concrete experiences to help students understand comprehension strategies.  I had just read the chapter about schema, so it was fresh on my mind.  I thought about how important my schema had been in my initial confusion and eventual comprehension of what was going on.  At first, the sun was shining and I had not seen the weather report.  I had no idea that there were storms predicted for the day.  My schema for sunny days made it possible for me to register that thunder as a different sound.  It couldn't be thunder because it was sunny outside.  (Although I have to say, as a Wisconsinite my schema should know better) I was not understanding what was happening because my schema told me something different.  Later, when I saw the roll of clouds, the a-ha moment hit me and now I did have schema to place that noise as thunder.  I added the new information to my situation and had a new understanding of what was taking place, thus synthesizing and gaining much more comprehension of the situation.
     It made me think about how important it is for students to be aware of schema and its role in their comprehension efforts.  My schema actually led me astray, and it wasn't until I linked the new information that I gained understanding.  How many times do students pick up a book thinking that they know something about the topic only to find out that they were not quite right? Adding to schema by synthesizing new information and making connections to what we know about the world can help you to understand what you read. I think this could be a good story to share with students to talk about how initial understanding is sometimes erroneous.  By adding the new information and rethinking, we can then come to a more complete and accurate understanding of what is happening.  Now, every time I am unsure of a big noise, I will be looking at the sky before blaming the neighbors.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Teachers Write Warm-Up July 8

The following is a free-write, very rough, of a childhood memory turned into a work of fiction.

The bell sounded and the students all scrambled to clean up so that they would be ready to be dismissed for recess.  Ms. Ryan looked around the room and gave the signal that released the class.  And then, "Sam and Shelly, stay here for a minute please."

   Sam turned around and felt her insides quaking.  This could be many things, but it didn't seem like it would be good news.  She racked her brain to figure out what she might have done wrong that morning.  She couldn't think of anything.  What did Shelly have to do with anything either? They never really talked to each other and there wasn't much that would bring them together. Biting her lip, Sam walked over to Ms. Ryan's desk, where Shelly was already standing.

"Sam and Shelly, I had a chance to go through the applications for the newspaper positions and I have some good news.  You two have all the qualifications necessary for the Editor-in-Chief position.  Unfortunately, I am having a very hard time deciding between the two of you." Ms. Ryan paused while Sam and Shelly warily eyed one another.  "I have a choice for you girls to make.  Either you can work together and be Co-Editors or we can put the choice to the class for a vote.  Keep in mind that I already have decided all the other Editor positions so the person who loses the election would then be in a worker position."

There was a long pause.  Sam and Shelly looked at each other and shrugged, each feeling the unbearable weight of this decision.  Each wanted the position badly, and each wanted to be the only one with the prestigious title of Editor-in-Chief.  Shelly spoke first. "I think we should have the class vote." Sam cringed and thought, "Of course you do." Sam knew that she was not popular. But this vote wouldn't be a popularity contest, would it? Surely her classmates would vote for the person who would do the best job.  Sam knew she was the best girl for the job and she was sure her classmates would see the truth of it.  "I guess the vote would be okay.  I agree that we should have the class vote."

"Are you sure? Whoever loses the election will be out of the editor job and in layout. Wouldn't you rather share the responsibilities?" Ms. Ryan wanted them to be sure.

"We're sure." Sam said confidently and Shelly nodded along.

"Okay, then the election will be immediately after recess.  Think about what you want to say to the class." Ms. Ryan went back to her stack of papers to grade. Sam and Shelly headed outside for the remainder of recess.

When the class came back inside, the vote happened fast.  Sam lost.  She was shocked and devastated.  How could her classmates be so dumb? Didn't they see that she was the right girl for the job? Shelly beamed and soaked up the congratulations offered to her by Ms. Ryan and the rest of the class.  Sam felt hot and she felt tears prickling the corner of her eyes.  She wasn't going to give them the satisfaction of seeing her cry.

Slice of Life: New Adventures

Every Tuesday, a group of bloggers writes a Slice of Life. If you are interested in joining in, visit the Two Writing Teachers blog for more information. 

This Spring, I decided that the time had come for me to make a change.  I have been thinking about it for a few years now, and the impulse to look for something new just became too strong to ignore.  I applied to some new coaching positions within my school district.  After being at one school for 14 years, the prospect of learning a whole new set of procedures and rules, and meeting a whole new staff was quite intimidating.  However, I took the bull by the horns and kicked my behind into gear and applied.

It turns out that this position was highly sought after and the competition was stiff.  This did not bode well for me.  You see, I am an introvert.  I know in my heart of hearts that I would do an excellent job with this position, yet it is almost cripplingly difficult for me to tell that to a group of strangers.  If you stuck me in a workshop or a classroom, you might not know that I am introverted.  I am comfortable in those situations. I am the person in the front row, asking questions and participating enthusiastically.  I am eager to share my knowledge and to learn from each and every person in the room.  But that is a give-and-take situation. Interviews are not. The ability to sell my skills and my knowledge in a relatively short amount of time to strangers is not in my set of expertise.

Going through this process made me think back to my reading of the book Quiet by Susan Cain and her assertion that the world is more comfortable for extroverts and that we actually value characteristics of extroverted behavior more.  Certainly this interview process that we have favors the people who can walk into the room and immediately be comfortable among strangers.  But does that ability really tell you anything about how well that person will do on a day to day basis? Is my apparently less appealing personality really less appealing? Give me some time to get to know people and you would see that anxiety disappear.  Ask anyone who has known me for years and worked with me side by side.  My ability to really think through a problem and to sit back and listen makes me more suited for coaching in a lot of ways.

As I thought more about this issue, I felt it necessary to do some research.  While visiting Susan Cain's website, I came across this article that really resonated with me and I found her Ted Talk from this year.  It was a great talk to watch to remember back to all the ideas that had intrigued me so much when I read her book.

Our culture values extroverted behavior and is biased toward extroverts.  My interviewing experience highlighted that for me.

I am generally a very confident person.  The experience of entering interviews and trying to sell myself to the committees really knocked me down a few notches. I did not have any success with the process and felt disappointed and disillusioned.  I have since stood up and dusted off my ego and accepted the fact that this was not in the cards for me this year.  What I know for sure now is that I want to revisit Quiet and think about the ways that Cain proposes to harness the quiet strength of being an introvert.  I need to find the power within me to promote positive change and to find the inner extrovert when it is necessary.

P.S. Everything actually worked out for me for the better.  One of my colleagues handed in her retirement papers shortly after the interview cycles were complete.  I was able to move out of the middle school position back to a 4th grade classroom.  I am so excited about this move! My years teaching 4th and 5th grade were the best ones in my career so far and I can't wait to work at this level again!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Teachers Write Goals

This will be the third summer that I am participating in Teachers Write.  I am so excited to participate! I thought it would be good for me to reflect on my past participation and to make goals for this summer so that I can get the most out of my experience.

Before the first summer of Teachers Write, I really didn't write that much.  I had the ideas tumbling around my head and definitely wrote during mini-lessons, but I didn't really write.  I made some goals for myself and worked to start daily writing times.  I did not succeed in making the time for writing and I did not do much fiction writing, which I had hoped to do.  However, the best thing that came out of that summer for me was a blog.  I definitely became a more regular blogger and it had a lot to do with my participation that summer with Teachers Write.

Last summer, I had grand plans for what I would do.  I was planning to have some extra time to myself because I was out in California with my sister and was planning to be the babysitter when she went back to work.  I did not end up having that time because my sister changed her mind and didn't go back to work.  I did not end up being more visible with my participation as I had hoped. I did manage to post on one Feedback Friday post and to post more often to my blog over the summer.  I also read some great books about writing and gained information from them.

This summer, I am planning to be a more active participant. In order to do so, I have the following goals for the summer:

1. I will spend less time reading and more time writing.  I did not give myself the bookaday challenge this summer because I wanted to make more time for writing.

2. I will make the time EVERY DAY to write.  I am going to start with making sure I set aside at least 10 minutes a day.

3. I will continue to research for my novel idea.  I have a list of action steps to follow for this research.

4. I will work on writing a series of personal narratives this summer and short stories for the exercises of Teachers Write.  This will make it easier for me to participate, because in the past I have tried to get my ideas flowing for a novel, but I am not ready to do that.  I need more time to research and plan.

5. I will make sure that I regularly post a Slice of Life on Tuesdays in addition to the It's Monday! What Are You Reading? and Celebrate posts that I usually post.

I hope to have a much more active participation during this third summer of Teachers Write.  See you at camp!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Slice of Life: Celebrate 3/15

I am participating again this year in the Slice of Life challenge in which we write a slice every day in March.  If you are interested in joining in, visit the Two Writing Teachers blog for more information.

It is rather awkward on days when I double up on challenges, because this blog was created for my writing exercises.  Slice of Life happens here, and the writing I do for Teachers Write in the summer happens here.  However, I have a different blog that is my reading blog.  On Mondays, some Tuesdays, and Saturdays I participate in link-ups on that blog.  Today I have a post to share as part of the Celebrate link-up on Ruth Ayres' blog.  I would love it if you would come over to see my post here.

Have a wonderful Saturday!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Slice of Life: Relaxation 3/14

I am participating again this year in the Slice of Life challenge in which we write a slice every day in March.  If you are interested in joining in, visit the Two Writing Teachers blog for more information.

Today I had the day off after working Wednesday and Thursday nights for conferences.  I was able to just sit and read for hours this morning.  I also took a nap.  Since I have been feeling a little under the weather lately, it was really good to have this time to relax and rest up.  

I love also that I get to cuddle up and watch a movie with my husband tonight.  We chose Austenland, which is completely my choice.  I love Jane Austen and I love the premise of this story.  So far, I am loving this movie. It is definitely making me very interested in buying the book!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Slice of Life: Parent-Teacher Conferences 3/13

I am participating again this year in the Slice of Life challenge in which we write a slice every day in March.  If you are interested in joining in, visit the Two Writing Teachers blog for more information.

I just arrived home after two long days of teaching followed by parent-teacher conferences.  On Wednesday and Thursday, we had a thirty minute break after school and then had to be there for conferences until 8pm.  I am beyond exhausted after the two long days and so glad we have Friday off.  

Conferences are always a mixed bag.  I wish every conference could be a glowing report of how each student is excelling and making great effort at school.  I care so much about my students and I wish they all cared about school and doing well.  Most conferences are good ones, because I choose to focus on the positive while bringing up things to work on.  However, I sometimes need to crack down and roll out the barest truth so that a parent understands exactly what is happening. I am still positive with these cases, but I want the students to understand their part in moving forward.  

Tonight, I had one of these conferences.  A student, who is in danger of being held back in 8th grade because of the strict standards in our district, needed to hear the dire truth.  He needed me to tell him that as of right now, he is not passing 8th grade.  He needed his mom to tell him that it is all up to him.  He is an intelligent boy that is capable of so much.  I hope that he heard our message and will start to put forth effort. I will cross my fingers and see how things go on Monday.  

For now, it is time to curl up with a good book and forget about school for a while.  There will be plenty of time this weekend for planning and working.  Now, it is time to relax.  

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Slice of Life: Apology? 3/11

I am participating again this year in the Slice of Life challenge in which we write a slice every day in March.  If you are interested in joining in, visit the Two Writing Teachers blog for more information.

As I write this, my husband is in the kitchen making dinner.  I had a splitting headache today and am just able to write this because the Tylenol kicked in enough for me to sit up.  I love that my husband will step up and take care of me when I need it.  It made me think of the false apology poems we just worked on in my writing classes.  Here is my attempt at another poem tonight:

This is Just To Say

I have been
sitting here
not moving
a muscle

While you
clean the kitchen
and make dinner.

Forgive me
the couch
is wonderful
so comfortable
and warm.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Slice of Life: Perfectionism and Failure 3/10

I am participating again this year in the Slice of Life challenge in which we write a slice every day in March.  If you are interested in joining in, visit the Two Writing Teachers blog for more information.

As a perfectionist, I have to make a conscious decision to keep doing something once I have made a mistake.  My whole being wants to say, "it will never be good enough now so why bother?"  I have to force myself to get through this hurdle and keep going.  As I have gotten older, I have developed different ways to get myself to lighten up.  However, it takes a lot of self-discipline to keep myself from negative self-talk.  I tend to berate myself the way I would never do to anyone else.

It can be a very small thing.  For example, last night I forgot to get cash out when paying for groceries.  It took me a good five minutes to stop beating myself up over that simple mistake. So when it comes to bigger things, there is always a struggle to keep myself on an even keel.  "Nobody is perfect" becomes my mantra and I try to live with that.  Failure is a part of life, and everyone needs to be able to deal with it.  In fact, failing at something is sometimes the way to learn.  Making mistakes is how we learn.  I teach that to my students all the time.  I want them to be able to make mistakes and cope with it and in fact embrace the mistake and learn from it.  Therefore, I need to be able to do the same.

Last week I failed.  I was not able to keep up with the daily writing of blog posts.  I wanted to do it, but I was exhausted and feeling the pressure of report card deadlines looming.  I didn't get it done.  I missed 4 days of blogging.  I no longer will be perfect at completing this challenge.  This eats at me, and I almost didn't get back into it.  When I had missed one day, I was disappointed but ready to continue.  Then I missed 2 days, then 3 days, then 4.  It was a big challenge to not throw my hands in the air and say "why bother?"

Since I am having some health issues, I may miss more days.  I will try not to, but I cannot promise I will get here every day to blog.  This does not mean that I cannot still get a learning experience from this blogging challenge.  It doesn't mean that I can't still make writing a priority most days.  I will do what I can.  My perfectionist brain will have to deal with it.

Reflecting on my own perfectionism really makes me think about my students.  I wonder how many of them share this type of challenge.  I wonder how many of them waste time with the negative self-talk and give up on things when they don't think they will be able to be perfect.  I wonder how many of them hear me when I say that mistakes help us learn, but don't really believe it.  I wonder what I can do to help these perfectionist students to keep going even when they know they won't be perfect.  I can start by leading by example.

Here is my day 10 post.  I won't win a prize, I won't be perfect, but I will stick it out and learn from it.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Slice of Life: Exhaustion 3/5

I am participating again this year in the Slice of Life challenge in which we write a slice every day in March.  If you are interested in joining in, visit the Two Writing Teachers blog for more information.

Today I am so exhausted I can't see straight.  Ever notice how when you are tired the world seems to move at a faster pace? I have been super fatigued the last few days and all I want to do is sleep. Is there a pause button on the world? Wouldn't it be great if we all could press pause every once in awhile and take a nap?

Tonight, I would use that power if I had it.  I hope to be able to finish some of my grades tonight and get something started in my report cards before I fall asleep.  Wish me good luck!

Here is a Haiku that goes with my general feeling right now:

Glorious bed waits
Eyes need to stay awake
Deep sleep comes tonight

How are you feeling today? I would love to hear from you in the comments!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Slice of Life: Sprecher soda 3/4

I am participating again this year in the Slice of Life challenge in which we write a slice every day in March.  If you are interested in joining in, visit the Two Writing Teachers blog for more information.

Over the weekend, my sister and her husband and my niece stayed at our house for a visit.  Since my brother-in-law is on an epic quest to try many different beers (he actually has a spreadsheet and is working through the list of beers that judges in beer festivals have to try to be able to define certain beer types), we decided to tour the Sprecher brewery.  Now, in Milwaukee we have multiple brewery tours available to us so it is sometimes hard to decide.  Since my sister and I were planning not to drink this weekend, we chose Sprecher because they have sodas as well as beer at their brewery.

Since we have done multiple brewery tours, the actual tour was pretty boring. What was interesting was hearing about the soda-making process and the way that root beer outsells everything.  The end of the tour when they give beer samples was the best part.  Normally, I would be sampling right alongside my husband, but I had been under the weather lately so I decided not to have beer.  At Sprecher, they give unlimited samples of their sodas in the beer garden.  This was AMAZING!!!  The sodas are so delicious and there is so much variety in what is available.  There are flavors like raspberry, blueberry, grape, orange cream, cherry cola, and of course root beer.  I now will be a bit obsessed with Sprecher soda for a while.  I really wish it were good for you!

I highly recommend this brewery tour if you ever are in Milwaukee.  Even for the beer drinkers, sampling sodas between beer samples would be a great way to extend your time there.  I know it hit the spot for me on Saturday!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Slice of Life: It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 3/3

I am participating again this year in the Slice of Life challenge in which we write a slice every day in March. If you are interested in joining in, visit the Two Writing Teachers blog for more information.

Every Monday, I write a blog post on my other blog to update my reading for the week.  It is an awesome way to keep track of what I am reading and what my reading plans are.  I really enjoy the community of readers/bloggers who post each Monday and my TBR pile is ridiculously tall because of these blogs.  

If you are interested in reading my It's Monday! post click here.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Slice of Life: Report Cards 3/2

I am participating again this year in the Slice of Life challenge in which we write a slice every day in March.  If you are interested in joining in, visit the Two Writing Teachers blog for more information.

This week, I need to get my report cards ready to send home.  I have to turn them in on Friday and my principal will then read them and give feedback so that we can correct them and have them ready to give out next week.  I always dread this time of year because I feel like there is so much information that we need to share with parents and this is such a short (and confusing) document.

A few years ago, we switched to a standards-based report card.  This means that I give students proficiency scores on each of the standards in each area rather than giving one letter grade for each subject.  I am glad that we report student progress in this way, but there are so many people that are confused by our system that it makes report card day a dreaded time in my building.

Compounding the problem is the fact that I work in a large urban district and the students are far from proficient in many categories.  Helping parents to understand that the effort score is really what tells them if their child is doing everything they can to make progress is very difficult.  Our society is so set in the traditional grading system and so many people think that grades are all about jumping through the hoops and handing things in.  I don't know what the solution is, but I do wish more people would understand that a score of Basic or even Minimal in a standard does not automatically mean that the student is not doing everything he/she can do and making progress.

The last few years have been extra frustrating because by the time I get students in 8th grade, many of them are very far behind.  Getting 8th graders to understand that doing "extra credit" is not going to change their score (unless the extra practice helps them get proficient) is really challenging.

As I enter into this week in which every waking hour will be spent grading and writing report card comments, these thoughts scramble through my head.  I hope that with the comments I write parents will be able to understand how their child is really doing in school.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Slice of Life: Family 3/1

I am participating again this year in the Slice of Life challenge in which we write a slice every day in March.  If you are interested in joining in, visit the Two Writing Teachers blog for more information.

I am so excited to participate in this challenge again this year.  I have not been so great at getting to the Tuesday slices, and I am excited to make writing a priority during this month.  Last year, the challenge helped me to start writing more regularly on my blog.  I am hoping this year the challenge will be habit forming to get me consistently writing daily.

This morning, as I am writing this, my sister and her family are sleeping upstairs.  It is so fun to see her and my brother-in-law. We always enjoy their visits.  This time it is super special, because it is the first time they have come home with the baby. My niece is ten months old and so fun to be with.

The best part of the night last night was watching my dog and the baby together.  So precious! The baby loves doggie kisses and was laughing and playing with the dog. I love seeing such cute moments happening.

Our family time is precious since we live so far apart.  My sister lives in California and we live in Wisconsin.  It is so amazing to spend family time enjoying each other.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Slice of Life: Reflecting on 2013 and Looking Forward to 2014

The ladies at Two Writing Teachers
host the Slice of Life every Tuesday.

2013 was a mixed bag of fun and amazing moments and some not so great moments.  Here is my list of the top five important moments of 2013:

1. My niece Lena was born on May 1st, 2013.  I was so happy when she was born both because now I had a beautiful baby niece and because my sister would not be suffering anymore.  Her pregnancy was awful.  I had never heard of Hyperemesis Gravidarum before, but I learned a lot about it during my sister's pregnancy.  At the end of her pregnancy, she was 10 pounds lighter because she was unable to eat for the most part.  Now she feels like it was all worth it because she has this little peanut to love.

2. The highlight of my year was going to Pasadena, CA to stay with my sister and help care for Lena.  I was there for three weeks and had some quality sister time as well as fun-with-baby time.  I love my sister and her husband and had a blast there.

3. My husband, Ramon, was supposed to do student teaching this semester as his university time came to a close.  He had the placement all lined up and had met with the cooperating teacher already to start planning his experience.  Then, a week before school was supposed to start, he got an e-mail.  A local high school was in a bind because their Spanish teacher had resigned on the first day back to work. The classes they offered in this high school were for heritage speakers so they really wanted to hire a teacher who was a native speaker.  My husband's professor knew that he would be a good fit for this job.  The professor called and talked to the principal and Ramon had an interview that same day.  By the next morning, he was hired and had to report to work the following day.  The paperwork was submitted for doing student teaching on the job and he went to work.  We both felt so blessed by this amazing turn of events.  The best part of everything was that now he would be paid for this semester of teaching.  Ramon has done an excellent job and I am so proud of the excellent teacher he has become.  Although it meant extra work for me (I basically took on the role of cooperating teacher), I have felt rewarded all semester seeing how happy Ramon is doing this job.

4. I was able to coordinate two author visits to my school through the local bookstore Boswell Book Company.  It was so awesome to see how excited my students got about being able to ask questions of a real author.  We had one visit last Spring from Amy Timberlake and another visit this fall from Jasper Fforde.  Both of these authors did fabulous presentations and our students were excited to meet the authors and get their books signed.  Being able to provide these experiences for students at my school made me feel so great.  I can't wait to set up more visits in the future!

5. This one is important, but not in a good way.  One day in September, my feet started tingling.  By the time a few days had passed and I started being unsteady on my feet, I knew it was time to visit a doctor.  I went through about two weeks of urgent care visits and testing.  A hospital stay and two MRI's later, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  This diagnosis basically consumed my energy for all of September.  I am now injecting myself every day with one of the medicines to try to prevent the disease from flaring up as often.  The diagnosis definitely explains a lot about the medical issues I have had in the last five years or so, but it was not very fun to hear.  I am doing fine and I have done a pretty good job of accepting that which I cannot change.  2013 will definitely always stick out in my mind as the year I found out I was not healthy.

Looking forward to 2014, I have a few things that I would like to accomplish.  Here are the top five things I hope will happen in 2014:

1. I want to eat better in 2014.  My husband and I both got lazy in the last few years while he was going to school.  Many of his classes were evening classes so we got into a pattern of quick, unhealthy alternatives for dinner, usually eaten late at night when he got home from class.  My plan is to eat following a diet outlined in The Blood Sugar Solution.  It is close to the Whole 30 plan with many natural, whole foods, and very little processed food.

2. One of the hardest things that we have dealt with in the last few years has been infertility.  Over the summer, my husband and I decided to move forward with a procedure.  Then when I was diagnosed in September, it seemed more prudent to focus on that health issue and learning about the disease.  Now, we are ready to move forward with the procedure.  I am crossing my fingers that this year will bring luck and a new addition to our family.

3. I am seriously contemplating some sort of career change in the coming school year.  I have really been itching to move or at least look around at the opportunities available in other schools, but have stuck with my comfort zone in the last few years.  This year, my principal is retiring at the end of the school year.  I am thinking about applying for a sabbatical next year and going to school full time for either a second Masters degree and a reading license or starting a PhD program.  I also might apply for a coaching position in the district.  Lately, our district has had a difficult time filling those positions so it might be time for me to try it out.  I also might just look around at the positions available in the district at other schools.  I miss working with students in 4th and 5th grade.  My goal is to really force myself to examine my options and not continue to settle for what I already know.

4. I look forward to spending some time in Spain this summer.  My husband and I have already decided that we want to do this because we are unsure how long it might be until we can do it again if things work out for us.  It is always a wonderful time staying with my in-laws at the beach.

5. Last, but not least, I plan to really get back on track with fitness this year.  I have a fitbit and it is really motivating for me to try to get my goals each day.  The new secretary at our school is a Zumba instructor and will be starting to do a Zumba class on Thursdays after school.  I also have my spin bike at home and will be committing to at least 2 intense spin sessions a week.

What are you looking forward to in 2014?  I would love to hear from you in the comments.