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!