Tuesday, September 27, 2016

All we need is...

This past weekend, my daughter Jen and I, along with my grandson, went to visit a young friend of ours that is just about to turn 10.  This little girl has had a hard life - physically abused, she and her family were homeless for awhile. Life has not been easy.  But you would not have known that had you seen her this weekend!

Jen and I took Alexis, 2 of her friends, and her mom out to dinner. The kids were giggly and chatty.  It was obvious they were all good friends.  They are even in the same 4th grade classroom.  The laughs and joy was contagious.  I think we could be heard throughout the entire restaurant!

After dinner (dessert vanished in mere seconds) we moved the party to our hotel pool, where they played for hours!  Jumping, splashing, racing, laughing.  They quickly started up some games with the other kids in the pool and before we knew it, it was time for the kids to head home for the evening.

Watching those three, I realized how important friends are. We don't need a gabillion of them. Just one or two true friends can make everything better.  People to laugh with, share adventures with, even commiserate with when necessary.  That can make the difference in anyone's -young or old - life.

My thoughts turned to my grandson.  He is the happiest baby. He is surrounded by love- his mom and dad...all of his family love and cherish him.  His smile lights up my life.  Hopefully he will never leave through the tragedies that Alexis has. Friends, though, will be just as important to him as they are to her.  Because we are all better with a friend.

As a teacher, we have the ability to be a friend to the kids on our class, kids in our school.  The kind of friend that listens and cares, asks questions, remembers what's going on in their life.  We can make a difference just with a smile.

Teacher - that really is synonymous with friend, isn't it?

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for allowing me to share this slice of my life.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Permission to Fail

This happens to me every year.

All summer, I am able to read, keep up on twitter, maybe even blog (OK twice so far - not counting today, but it was a start!)  And then as soon as school starts - I loose it!  I vow that next year I will manage my time and energy better but I never can keep all the balls in the air.

How do others do that - blog, read, tweet...maintain relationships outside of school and home? I really wish I knew the secret.

I am so much happier when I feel connected.  Yes, twitter and voxer counts as connected. 

I love to read and learn.  In the summer, between grade-level books and professional reading, I am constantly absorbing.  I work on writing about reading.  This summer, I participated in a bookclub with other teachers, practicing what we ask students to do.  I met with other teachers to discuss ideas for math workshop.

But then school starts and BAMMM...I fall off the planet.

This year, I could blame it on a new position in a new school.  A position that requires me to create a curriculum as I go.  But I know that is not the real reason because this happens every year.  (P.S. - I am one of those crazy people that likes data and writing assessments and creating as I go).

Sometimes it makes me feel like a failure because I can't do it all.

Then I stop and think about what I am doing.

I am 100% present when I am with my students.  

I am trying out new ideas. This year, thanks to Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler, I am totally redoing how I teach math.

I am a wife, mother, nonna, friend, daughter, and sister (there are more - but you get the idea).

I have to accept that I cannot do it all. 

So, while I admire those that can, it is time to accept me for me.  I can only do what I can do.  I need to stop comparing myself against others - just as I don't compare students against each other.  We are all different with different capacities for learning and doing.  And sometimes I simply want to lay in my hammock and snooze.

That's OK.

So while I will continue to admire people that can accomplish what I cannot, I will try harder to accept me as I am.  
A teacher struggling to write with some consistency.  
A Nonna that doesn't want to miss too much of her first grandson.
A wife that likes to watch a favorite show or two with her husband.
A friend that values coffee dates to "catch-up."

Earlier this year, I made a goal to write every day. So far, I have failed.  Typically failure makes me give up (sad but true) but this year, I am going to forgive myself.  I am going to allow myself time to learn and build habits.  Some weeks I will manage. Some weeks I won't.

I am giving myself permission to try - and fail - just so I can try again.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers and Slice of Life for creating this opportunity.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Community Matters

Whenever I attend an institute or reunion weekend at Teacher's College, I am embraced by a sense of community.  It is easy to strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you (yes, we turn and talk too!) because we share common beliefs and values. We have a similar purpose.  I may be there to learn more about one aspect of workshop and my partner may be there to learn something else but we are really there because we want to learn - to be a better teacher for our students.  We are a community of learners.

Tonight, I participated in TC's Twitter chat, hosted by Cornelius Minor.  Again, the sense of community was pervasive.  Side conversations, requests of "can you tell me more about that?" abounded.  One participant actually took the time to create a google form to demonstrate how he uses that to track his conferring! As we started to discuss the use of Seesaw in the classroom, several of us decided to work together to learn the program.  These are people I have never met, and may never meet face to face.  But we are a community; we have a similar goal.

Earlier today, I attended my first inservice at my new district.  After careful contemplation of what to wear (black dress, gray sweater, flip flops) and what to bring (purse large enough for storage, notebook), off I went.  Any trepidation I felt was immediately squashed as soon as I entered the room. Everyone was chatting and catching up.  Teachers were sitting and visiting across grade levels and curriculums.  One of the joys of a small district is that we all fit in the junior high library, making it easy to mingle.  I quickly felt that I landed in a new home with a strong sense of community.  Administration shared information  in a conversational way, with laughter intermingled.  There was even a bit of a sing-along!

One of the activities of the day was to fill out a SWOT chart, first on ourselves and then on the district.  The immediate transparency and honesty was refreshing.  Nobody professed to have it all covered - but there was a clear sense that we have each other's back. That together - administration and staff - we will work to improve.

As I walked out the door with a teammate, commenting on the work that needed to be done before the students started, I felt a strong sense of partnership. Having often felt an island in my previous position, it was great to hear my partner say, "We are in this together. We will figure it out."

I have missed the sense of community - the feeling of acceptance - the feeling of a common goal.  It's going to be a good year!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


Last week, as a planned for one last free day in Chicago before starting school this week, I received an email, inviting me for an interview.  The district issuing the invitation is a high-achieving district, only about 15 minutes from my home. A district I have been interested in for a while.  I was both nervous and excited at the same time.

The next morning, as I prepared for the interview, I told myself, "you know what you know. You believe what you believe. Be yourself and see what happens."

The interview was actually so much fun!  It was a conversation about what we believe to be true in education - goals and hopes.  Putting students first.  Accepting teachers where they are just as we accept students where they are. It felt comfortable - like home.

I knew the decision had to be made quickly because school would be starting soon. As the afternoon turned into evening, I accepted that I did not get the position.  My daughter and I enjoyed our day in the city, ending with dinner at Shake Shack and Grease (the movie - not the burgers!) in Millennium Park. I stopped checking my phone once the movie started.

After the movie ended, I glanced at my phone screen.  I had missed a call from my previous principal (she had just left our school to pursue other opportunities) as well as from district I had interviewed at!  Must be good news!  I listened to the school's voice mail first - a job offer!  Excitement and nerves flowed again. Listening to my principal's message, it was clear she believed this was a great opportunity for me as well.  

The next day was a flurry of emotions and activity. I went into my school to deliver my letter of resignation and talk to my team.  They agreed that I had found my dream job and were nothing but happy for me.  And then I started packing.

Today, almost a week later, I am still in the process of moving into my new room at my new school.  I have so much to learn but I am beyond thrilled with where I am now.

This will be a year of change for me - new position, new school, new district. I have the glorious opportunity to make new friends, learn alongside new teachers.  I will be challenged in ways I cannot foresee.  There will be struggles.

But there will also be great joy because for me, learning is joyful - especially when it does not come easy!

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for allowing me to share this Slice of Life.