Viewing the new PIXAR short entitled PURL, I watched it in many ways.
As a mom of two adult daughters, wondering about their work force experiences.
As a teacher, whose work force is mostly all women. Yet, I know decisions are made that affect me by a “Bros” world. And never have I sat as the lone woman around the conference table, striving to solve a problem with a bunch of Bros.
As some of my male middle-schoolers ask, “How do you know Purl’s a girl?” Their innocent question made me glad I shared the video so a class conversation could occur.
As some of my other middle-schoolers saw it as a video about fitting in, changing to fit in and having the courage to be oneself when someone is around that is like me.
Most days I walk the mile to my Middle School but today I drove due to my heavy backpack. My car radio is always set to WAMU 88.5 and as I drove the 5 minutes to work, I listened to NPR’s Morning Edition. As I listened to this segment, I realized I could use it while teaching today. I’m getting ready to introduce my students to the Social Issue Book Club Unit. During all my classes, I shared the definition of a Social Issues: a problem, the problem involves many people, and the solution to this problem that can’t easily be solved by just one individual. As I played the 3-minute segment for all my classes, I asked them to listen and decide if this segment was about a Social Issue. After listening, I asked them in table groups of 3-5, to discuss what they thought. Lively discussions occurred in each class! Thank you, NPR.
At lunch, I checked my email and saw my daily email from Larry Ferlazzo (if you don’t already get his daily emails, I recommend you do!) His first tip today was sharing a story called: NPR Wants Students to Tell It What Love Is. I loved listening to one of my favorite authors, Kwame Alexandere talk on NPR about love. He asks for kids to send in their writing to the prompt, Love is… I immediately shared the link with my writing friends. (I’m planning next week to write to that prompt.) Thank you, NPR!
Before lunch ended, I headed over to facebook to check out “Jays Wintery Mix” posting. He’s a local guy who predicts the weather pretty well and already school was closing 2 hours early due to afternoon weather and I wanted to read his prediction. As I checked, I saw that Fran had commented on a post in the Units of Study in Writing TCRWP so I clicked and saw a link to another NPR article called HOw Teenage Sisters Pushed Bali to Say ‘Bye-Bye’ to Plastic Bags . There was also a photo of 2 older looking faces of the Bali sisters who I learned about as I taught my students how to give a Tedtalk. Their Tedtalk was my mentor text last year! (I wrote about it HERE). So for a third time today, I clicked and enjoyed listening to a story. Thank you, NPR!
I’m glad NPR was part of my teaching day, today.
I bet you have stories involving NPR, too!
As I read Betsy’s invitation to write today (1/21/19), I realize she is the second person to relfect on the passing of a poet that I humbly admit, I did not know. The first person is a friend (and fllow Slicer) who posted to facebook on the day of her passing:
Then while driving Sunday morning I was listening to NPR and the show On Being was replaying their interview with this poet. Once I got to the coffee shop, I found the podcast online and sat and listened and even made a Reading Notebook page to help me hold onto what I was hearing and thinking (something I am trying to do more so I can show my work to my students).
If you are like me and don’t know this poet, I encourage you to find time and listen:
I wrote a poem called Women on 1/8/19
Today, I tried to revise it by starting each stanza with dialogue, then character description, and end with my reflection. I also got some help from my writing club, two wonderful woman writers – Thanks!
“Can I go to the restroom?”
The quiet, middle-schooler asked
with her cat-ear headband
poking up from each side of her curly blonde hair.
A good 15 minutes late, she returns to class,
headband in place
and her gym uniform in place of her jeans.
“Must has gotten her period,” I think to myself
and I give her a reassuring nod.
“Sad news…we are losing the baby”
I read in a text from my colleague.
Just last week during lunch she told me
“It’s the size of an avocado and
can make a fist and suck its thumb.”
I tremble as I text back “How can I help?”
knowing full well I can’t.
Her news makes no sense to me.
“Congrats to a new Arrival!”
I read in the email message line
then click and I see another colleague and his wife smiling
as they hold their new bundle.
“9lbs, 21 inches long” I read in the email.
Perfect weight and size I think
and what a family photo is supposed to be.
“Is it hot in here or just me” I wonder to myself
As I remove my sweater and toss it on the chair.
Thinking about these three women
and on the miracle that allowed me
to bring my own two into the world.
I nod my head, so overwhelmed.
“Can I go to the restroom?”
The quiet, middle-schooler asked
with her cat-ear headband
poking up from each side of her curly blonde hair.
A good 15 minutes late, she returns
Headband in place and her gym uniform in place of her jeans.
I give her a reassuring nod.
Must have just gotten her period.
Another student tells me
“In May my mom’s going to have a baby!”
She’s so happy and I’m sure her mom is too.
A mom, who works three jobs now
A student who I mentor at the library on Sundays
Because she’s new to this country.
And now another on the way.
My colleague texted me
“Sad news…we are losing the baby.”
Another baby was to be due in May
Doesn’t seem fair.
Doesn’t make any sense to me.
I open my email today
“Congrats to the new arrival!”
Another colleague’s wife just gave birth
9lbs, 21 inches long.
He and his wife must be so happy.
I hope my other colleague isn’t reading email today.
I take all this in
All these women
Then reflect on the miracle allowing me
to bring my own two into the world
And remove my sweater, pushing through my hotflash.
Looking back, these words served me well. Now for a 5th year, I reflect to name a ONE LITTLE WORD as a mantra for 2019…
A while ago, author Kwame Alexander gave me an idea when he spoke at my local public library. I wrote about it HERE and thought about using his word – ARROGANT as my word. “I am arrogant in my appreciation of myself.”
But as I say the word ARROGANT, negatives come to mind. And I want my word to be positive. As I explore his quote, the idea of being self-confident is the appeal. So as 2019 begins, I pledge to being CONFIDENT throughout the year.
Confident in my family...I look forward to being supportive of their work, continuing to settle into our home, designed by my husband, continuing to cheer on my adult children with their pursuits. “Because I have the BEST family,” she says arrogantly.
Confident in my personal interests…reading children’s literature, writing about my reading and my small moments while trying to cook healthy recipes and add more physical activity into my weeks. “I have read LOTS of books,” she says arrogantly.
Confident in my teaching…sharing my expertise, as well as, continuing to be a life-long learner. It is my year to renew for National Boards and I will confidently write about all the ways I have grown professionally since I first certified in 2010. “I’m a great teacher,” she says arrogantly.
My 2019 OLW = confident
(with a sprinkling of arrongance!)
Last month, I had my students research their family heritage to create a classroom display for the school’s Multicultural Night. As the teacher, I needed to create my own display as a model so I searched for items. While I rummaged through some boxes in the basement, I found an old Advent Calendar. This would work, I thought. I was raised Catholic and my family celebrates Christmas. This artifact represents a part of my heritage. Holding it, I remembered how growing up, I’d open a window each day, read the verse inside from the Nativity Bible story and see a small object – a star, a bell, a sheep – something matching the story of Christmas. I enjoyed this daily task as a countdown to Christmas Day!
Now it is December, 2018 and I saw this idea on twitter:
I loved this idea because I love children’s books. I immediately thought how it would be a perfect present to send to my grandkids on December 1st, except I don’t have any yet. I envision a box of wrapped books with a number on each from 1-24. Each December evening, a book would be opened and read and enjoyed. It sounds like an expensive endeavor but I actually have loads of picture books still – ones I just can’t give away. Ones I read aloud to my girls. Ones I read aloud as a teacher. All have a story that matches why I haven’t part with it yet. But I could part with it and would proudly part with it as part of a special non-traditional Advent Calendar gift to to my girls and their family.
So here is my first December Book Advent Calendar lineup and why each book. I realize I have to eventually make two as I have two daughter! But for now, I’ll start by building one and then, year after year, I can enjoy rereading the stories myself, until I have someone to pass it on to.
Teddy by Sara Ball I bought this wordless book in Munich, Germany in 1991. It was my very first time traveling outside the USA and I was traveling alone. I left my 2-year old with Nana for the month of May and was traveling to Venice to be with husband, as he finished his grad school semester abroad. I remember that my plane landed in Munich, Germany and I had a few hours to find the train station and take it for a five hour ride to Verona, Italy where my husband was meeting me. It was 1991 so no cell phone, no GPS. I must have had some German money because I recall buying a hot dog and this book for my daughter. It was the perfect German book because I could “read” the wordless concept book and I knew she’d love it. Plus, books always help in nervous situations!
Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss So many nights I read-aloud this book. I’d skip some of the tongue twisters as the book is rather long. But I could never skip The Tweedle Beetle Battle! A favorite of my girls during their pre-school years. This copy also is evidence that it was before they learned that books were for reading and not writing in!
Go, Dog, Go by P.D. Eastman A favorite book for the WHOLE family! As December begins, it seems a good time to enjoy an old favorite. I especially enjoy studying the ASLEEP page and then quickly turning to observe the AWAKE page. Asleep – awake! Of course, the very best is the DOG PARTY at the end. I can stare at that tree to notice all the many, many antics going on. A festive book for a festive month!
Andrew’s Bath by David McPhail A small moment story about bathtime, with an imaginary twist. My sister gave me this book in 1984 when I was “Miss Stallings” teaching Kindergarten and the book plate inside is evidence of that time. She worked at a publishing office which received many books to be reviewed. She passed them along to me to use in my classroom and eventually to read to my girls.
Leo the Late Bloomer by Jose Aruego I loved reading this book to my kindergarten class because it is what I believe. We bloom when we are ready. We all eventually will say, “I made it!”
Flying by Donald Crews I love ALL of Donald Crew’s books. But Flying is a favorite because of the surprises on each page. As the plane flies, the reader notices all the other modes of transportation Donald Crews created in his other books. It’s fun to read and notice the bike, the carousel, the freight train, the truck, the school bus. I first taught Kindergarten and would spotlight an author a month and I filled my reading corner with books checked out from the library by the spotlighted author. My students LOVED listening to me read Donals Crews’ books. Then, as emergent readers, they felt confident to “read” these simple concept books during free reading time. A personal connection – Amy Crews, his daughter, was in my husband’s architecture grad school class in Venice. While I visited my husband, I enjoyed a few meals with her and her sister, Nina. Now, as I reread his books, I look for his dedications to his girls and places where he adds A&N for Amy and Nina.
Round Trip by Ann Jonas I love how creative this book is. You read it forward. Then you turn it upside down and read it back to the beginning. Using only black and white spaces, this gifted author and illustrator creates a round trip that takes the reader all around town and back and forth through the book. As a Kindergaten teacher, I enjoyed reading ALL the transportation books by Donald Crews (see #5). Then I’d introduce them to his wife, Ann Jonas. I was inspired by this married couple that writes childrens books! A personal connection – their daughter, Amy was in my husband’s grad school class in Venice. He got to dine with this literary couple but thinks of them as just Amy’s mom and dad. I can also recall watching from the sidelines at grad school graduation as Amy showed her family around the UVA Architecture school. I so wanted to meet them, have them sign a book and tell them how much I enjoy their books as a teacher. But I just watched from afar, as they were there as parents, not as authors. I guess this is why I love all books by Donald Crews, Ann Jonas and now Nina Crews, a family of authors and illustrators!
The Keeping Quiltby Patricia Polacco I love all of this author’s books. Her picture books are meaty and I ended up using them more once I taught 4th and 6th graders. But back when I did teach Kindergarten, my school had an auction to raise money each year. And I suggested the students help make a quilt to auction off. So I’d read-aloud this book to share a story of the importance of fabric used again and again as the years go by in a family. This book also inspired me to save the fabric of my daughters’ lives. Their first onsies, their Catholic school uniform, the dinosaur curtains from their bedroom. Then as a high school graduation present, I made the saved fabric into a small quilt for them to take to college. Thanks for the inpsiration, Patricia Polacco!
Exactly Opposites by Tana Hoban Tana Hoban was another author of the month when I taught kindergarten because emergent readers can read her book. She uses photography and creates her books around a concept. This one is opposites! In the 1990s, when cameras were not carried in your pocket as part of your phone, it was special to take my students on a walk around the school, looking. Once they found a shape, I had them use my Olympus camera. Then I’d take the film to be developed at the drug store and get it back in two days. I’d tape each photo to the top of the card stock page and the student added words. We slowly made our own class Tana Hoban inspired concept book. Now taking photos is not a novelty and making sa similar project can be created quickly using the school issued iPad. However, I’ll always enjoy rereading Tanan Hoban’s books and remember that years ago, making a photographic concept book was a new concept.
A Letter for Amy by Ezra Jack Keats I love ALL books by this author who I discovered while teaching. I taught kindergarten in an all white school but Keats allowed my students and I to see what other neighborhoods looked like. I especially like this book because I would read it during our Letter Writing Unit. In the 1990s, the post office was the only way to send a letter. Walking to the mailbox, as Peter does in this book, is what we also did after writing our letter. I guess this book would be considered historical fiction today, allowing 21st century readers to glimpse another time, when emailing and texting did not exist!
The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater “My house is me and I am it. My house is where I like to be and it looks like all my dream,” Mr. Plumbean said in this book. In December, 2015 we were able to occupy the house that my husband designed. It truly is a unique home (just like Mr. Plumbean’s and it matches all our dreams! It’s especially comfortable at Christmastime, with the fireplace ablaze, the tree lights twinkling and the table in the double height dining room filled with holiday treats!
Dancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen This book was introduced to me during a Summer Institute at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. It helped me understand how to pay attention to what a character says and does in order to identify character traits. I also learned to pay attention to all the secondary characters, placed into the story for a reason. This story also reminds me of all those ballet dancers performing The Nutcracker during this month.
Sheila Rae and the Peppermint Stick by Kevin Henkes This is another book introduced to me during one of my many visits to Teachers College. We discussed character traits. We discussed who has the power. We debated fairness and discussed our own sibling connections. So much to do with such a little book written by another favorite author!
Miss Rumphiusby Barbara Cooney This story reminds introduces the reader to the Lupine Lady whose motto was ” to visit faraway places, come home to live by the sea, and so something to make the world more beautiful”. Her “something” was to plant lupine flowers. My dear art teaching friend, Donna Beth, would read aloud this book and then have her students paint a lupine. She visited my classroom in the fall of 2001 and painted with my students. Her sudden death months later in January, 2002 make we cherish this book and the lupines I painted with her even more. Every year, I hang painted lupines in my classroom to be inspired by a teacher who truly made the world more beautiful during her short time on this Earth.
Fig Pudding by Ralph Fletcher I recall co-teacing 5th grade as a reading teacher. The other teacher wanted to use this book for the class read-aloud. I didn’t know it so I read it. However, it was also at the time when I was learning to read, stop and jot my thinking. Because of my close study of this book, I loved it! There is a scene where Ralph’s family is making fig pudding and streudel. I recall enjoying stredle with the class as we sat in December, finishing the book as a read-loud.
Dream Snow by Eric Carle I love ALL books by Eric Carle. This one seems most appropriate for reading in December.
An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco Here one of my favorite authors telling a depression-era Christmas story based on a true story, experienced by her grandmother. Rereading it reminds me to appreciate all I have and to always share with others when I can.
The Tiny Star by Arthur Ginolfi I recall my mom giving this book, signed by the author for Bridgit in 1990. The author was at Barnes and Noble in 1990 and Nana happened to be in the store the day the author was there. I read the simple story of the nativity told from the star’s point of view and saw it as a play that the kindergarteners could perform! I casted the following roles: Starlet, the moon and stars. Each made a star or moon to hold and I was the narrator. It became the Kinder play for years!
The Christmas Trainby Ivan Gantschev This was another book given to me by my sister when she worked for a publisher. I love the watercolor illustrations. I love the story of a brave girl who is the hero who saves the train.
The Clown of God by Tomie dePaola I love the message in this book – use your gifts to make others smile. That used to be the theme of my Catholic School classroom – Use your gifts. And I stapled gift bags up across the bulletin board above the blackboard as a board. Each having a different student’s name on a bag. I love how Giavanni in the story uses his gifts until the very end. I love that it is set in Italy, reminding me of my trip to Italy with Brian in 1991 and our family Christmas trip to Venice in 20__. Plus, this copy got signed by the author!
Jesus of Nazareth: A LIfe of Christ Through Pictures illustrated with paintings from the National Gallery of Art In the 90s, I taught Kindergarten for many years and always planned a fieldtrip to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Once I bought this book and took my girls on a scavenger hunt, looking for each painting in the book. If near DC, I recommend a trip to the museum to see the paintings in person!
Pop-up of The First Christmas by Tomie de Paola I recall taking the girls to the City of Alexandra’s Children’s Book Store to met this author. It was a crowded bookstore. They were pre-school age and not really in to waiting in line. I loved Stega Nona! I just had to meet the creator and the girls picked this book out to get, too. It must have been in the mid-90s when we lived on Luray Avenue. It was propably the first time meeting an author in person.
Pop-Up The Night Before Christmas This is the classic tale by Clement C. Moore in a pop-up verison! The perfect story to enjoy tonight. “Happy Christmas to all and to all a Good Night!”
Grandma’s ABCs of Christmas: My husband’s mother saved everything. Because she had a big basement, she had room to save stuff and she did. Everthing! For example, she kept ever Christmas card she ever received. Stacks and stacks. Every single one. Then she got an idea. She typed up a poem called The ABCs of Christmas and placed each verse on a different page of a photo album. On the first page, it says, A is for Angels. Then, as a collage on the page, she arranged angel images cut out from her old Christmas cards. She continued this idea for B-Z. And she made one book for each of her five children’s family. Now that she is no longer with us, this books means even more. She enjoyed making a book for us to read each Christmas, made from the greeting cards of all her friends. Definitely saving this book for last – the best for last!
If your heritage is like mine, what would be on your LIST if you decided to make an Advent Book Calendar Suggestion: Get it ready NOW and be ready for Dec. 1, 2019!!
If your heritage is different than mine, how might YOU include books as a way to countdown?
I wait in them at Starbucks to order my grande, no-whip hot chocolate. I wait in them at the grocery store, especially on Saturdays. My students rush, sometimes pushing and shoving, to be first in them. At my wedding, I wanted to make sure I said hello to all who came, so I stood in one between the cocktail hour and the dinner buffet. Last Thursday, I stood in one that I didn’t want to be in and I definitely did not want my friend to be leading.
Last Thursday, I first spent over an hour in a line of traffic on 66 to get to this line. However, as I drove west, the sky put on a brilliant show for me. The first act was a sharp, true-blue sky highlighting the orange fall leaves. Then the whispy clouds danced across, as the sun began to set.The grand finale was the shades of pinks and purples as the sun got lower and lower. This show allowed me to actually enjoy the bumper to bumper traffic. I even thought to myself how the guest of honor, someone I had never met, must have planned such a dazzling sunset for me to enjoy on my drive.
Once I arrived, I couldn’t join the line right away. I sat in the back row and watched. The line was at least two dozen long. Over my shoulder was a TV screen. flashing happy images. At first I couldn’t see my friend and then I did. She was chatting, hugging, welcoming each person, one by one, in the line. Son and daughter standing next to their mother. Then, the guest of honor, another daughter, lying in her final resting space, perfectly set just beyond her family. Once a line member talked to the family, they moved to kneel in front of the guest of honor. Some placed hands together in prayer. Others made a sign of the cross. Many wiped a tear from their eye.
I kept thinking, “This isn’t right…”
Growing up, I stood in such a line on Sundays to receive Communion. I stood at the front of such a line at my Father’s and Grandma’s funeral. But today, I sat in the last row, numb, not ever expecting to be in a line, offering a hug to a mom, because her child died.
It’s not the order of how things are to go. Yet today it was the order.
Finally, I stood. I joined the line, glad it was slow moving. Finally, my time came. All I could say was “I’m so sorry” in a whisper. And I hugged my friend.
My friend from high school. My college roommate. My friend who I haven’t connected with since we were both in our 20s. My friend who shared photos on facebook of her dear, Maggie. My friend, whose dear Maggie died. My friend, who would be burying her daughter the next day.
As I drove home in the pitch dark, I continued to feel numb.
Moms give birth. Moms love their child. Moms do anything and everything for their child. Moms aren’t supporse to be around to bury their child.
I’m home today on Election Day. Students have the day off so teachers like me can complete the first quarter report cards.
I posted my grades.
It was pouring rain.
So with some time on my hand, I thought I’d write.
But I’m not sure what to write.
However, I think I already know my 2019 Word! I had the pleasure of attending a Book Signing at my public library by Kwame Alexander. He was promoting his newest book, Swing.
During his Q&A, a kid asked him about rejection and what keeps him going when he is rejected. I loved his answer. He admitted that not all love his books and he has received LOTS of rejection letters or unfavorable book reviews. Then he shared his secret. He says he knows he is great! “I am arrogant in my appreciation of myself.” He suggested that if we always believe in ourselves, what others think won’t matter. We just need to be arrogant and say, “I’m great!”
That word, arrogant, stuck with me for hours after the book event. And now, weeks later, I still think about “being arrogant”. Before Kwame, I think I saw only negative conotations with being arrogant. But now I understand how my belief in myself can be the goal. Though it is only Nov. 6 – Election Day, I do think my 2019 word, inspired by author Kwame Alexander, will be arrogant. Hmm…can it be an adjective and not a verb?? Well, be January 1st, I can decide…now how about 2018? How am I doing?
As for ACTIVE – this word is serving me well.
I need to be more active physically.
I’ve been very active in my professional development. This summer I wrote curriculum, have a summer virtual book club and now am getting MS teachers and 6th graders to visibly show in their Reading Notebook the invisible thinking they are doing while reading and viewing.
I also am guiding a group of teachers to do Action Teacher Research and I got my county to give us recertification points for our work!
I’m staying active in my writing life and actually writing LOTS about my teacher research question which is: What is Personalized Learning and how will it look in a 6th grade Reading classroom? I’ve been asked to record video reflections as the year goes on so I try methods related to Personalized Learning and record what I think. So I’m both writing and orally sharing my story. Can’t wait to see what I figure out!
And I’ve been active in my reading life. Reading books like Swing and meeting authors and reading their books. I love that my homework is to read!!
And I still have the rest of November and December to be ACTIVE!
I’m feeling pretty arrogant in my appreciation of how great I am at being reflective and focused on staying ACTIVE!!!!!
How about you?!
PS – Did you VOTE?!! Here’s what my daughter’s outfit was today:
Recently, a friend and then a student’s mom passed away. Because my mantra is books help us know how to live, I gave each surviving family the picture book, The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst. In their card, I wrote about the importance of memories with their loved one and how I hoped this book could help them make their list of all the good things about their loved one, gone too soon from their life.
Thursday is my birthday. Thursday is also the 30th anniversary of my dad passing away from this world. I decided to take my own advice and write down my list of good things about my dad.
The Good Things About James Herbert “Bert” Stallings, AKA Dad
He was a great salesman – of John Hancock Life Insurance, of Gerber Baby Food, of janitorial and carpet cleaning services of his own companies. He could convince all that they needed what he was selling!
He was a Big thinker. When our neighborhood in 1965 didn’t have a community pool, he worked to gather the support, find the land and get it built. “Go High Point!”
He loved playing cards, especially Pinochle and the game called Aquire.
He loved hosting parties, especially our Annual New Year’s Eve Party.
He loved attending Redskin Games at RFK stadium, cheering loudly from the upper level end zone seat with my mom. A few times I got to be his partner!
He loved extravagance. Once took my mom, younger brother and me to NYC for the weekend. We saw Annie on Broadway and then the Christmas Spectacular show! Very extravagant and fun!
He loved the beach. Each August, he took us to Bethany Beach. We enjoyed the sun and waves. Then each evening, we drove to Philips in Ocean City or The Avenue in Rehobeth for a family dinner out and ended with a walk on the boardwalk!
He loved to eat out and not just on vacation. Sometimes simple – Hot Shoppe Cafeteria. Sometimes fancy – Clydes of Tysons.
He had the best handwriting, his own calligraphy style! I always wanted him to sign my report card! and loved how he made our Christmas card envelops look.
He worked hard and put me through college and bought me a little blue Mustang car to drive.
He happily threw me a very festive wedding and enjoyed it as much as Brian and I did!
He courageously stopped smoking cold turkey after the first heart attack when I was in High School. He pushed on after the 2nd heart attack a few years later. But the 3rd one took him, at age 55, on my 25th birthday.
My list is just a few of the many memories I can rattle off about my dad!