Celebrate – BEST family EVER!

Looking back on this week, I must celebrate my family, my two daughters, Anne and Bridgit and my husband, Brian.

who shared a clever Ancient Greek Pottery craft she learned while teaching last year in France. With her help, photos of my students were taken posed as Greek warriors or gods, and then used to decorate a paper pot to tell a story, just like the Ancient Greeks did.
Anne ….
who when shopping with me at IKEA, was as excited about their puppets as I was and who helped to type up a planning packet so my students could collaborate in small groups to plan out and then perform puppet shows before we left for Winter Break.
who spent a whole day at my school while home from the University of Chicago where she is earning a Masters in Public Policy and Computer Science and spoke to each 3rd grade class about the job of a computer programmer. She also pushed me to make sure my class participated in Hour of Code activities which they ALL loved! Thanks to Bridgit, lots of 8 year olds are aware that coding can be hard but is something they can all do!
who spent years thinking about the design of a house for us and who spent the last two years overseeing the construction of a very energy-efficient and modern house for us and who received word on Friday that our permit to occupy the house has been granted.

March 13 – Every minute counts

One thing I recall doing when I stopped being a classroom teacher to become a reading specialist was no longer looking at the clock constantly. As a classroom teacher I glanced up at the clock and asked Is it time for the kids to arrive? No, I have 3 minutes. Is it time to get to a special class? Yes and unless we get lined up very quickly, we will be 2 minutes late for PE. Is it time for lunch? No, we still have 4 minutes. Enough time to play a game. Is it dismissal time? Still have 6 minutes. Enough time for another read-aloud. As a reading specialist, I did not have a classroom of kids in front of me at all times to guide and herd throughout their school day. I had to be on time for meetings and to co-teach but the minute-by-minute accountability seemed lifted. Now I am back in the classroom as a 5th grade writing teacher. Again, I find myself constantly looking at the clock or constantly setting the timer on my iPhone to help keep on schedule. Every minute counts!

I was reminded of this when reading my daughter’s blog post yesterday:
She is working as a native English speaker in a French elementary school in Chambery, France (which is about an hour south of Geneva, Switzerland…a very pretty part of the world). As I finished reading her blog post about the reaction of her littlest students, I felt very proud of her. Thanks to Anne, these kids now know of the favored American book character, Pete the cat and can sing his song in English!

Anne’s blog post, though, got me thinking about my time as a classroom teacher. How often am I rushing through my school day? Do I take enough time to enjoy my students? Maybe I shouldn’t glance at the clock so often. Maybe I need to take time to experience, as Anne describes it, “the pure unbridled happiness of children.”

Thanks for helping me to keep time in perspective, Anne.

March 20 – …the point when I am not longer needed.

While waiting for Doris Kearns Goodwin to come out on stage to talk to the large crowd of educators gathered in the ballroom at the DC Convention Center, a video started. I don’t even recall who made the video to give them credit. But one aspect of the movie is still playing in my head.

A teacher was having his students work collaboratively on a project in the video. He then states: “There comes a point when I am no longer needed. My students are engaged…I can sit back and watch….my goal is to have students who are confident and excited… the by-product is increased knowledge.”

I got to thinking, I have had those moments as a teacher. My classroom is buzzing, all are engaged, all are working together. I am not needed anymore. I acted as the catalyst and now they are in motion.

I got to thinking, I have had those moments as a mom. Days and weeks go by and I might not talk to my two twentysomething girls. They confidently are living their daily lives. I acted as their catalyst and now they are happily in motion.

In both instances, both return to me often to ask purposeful questions. Because of the environment I’ve created at school and at home, all know they can come ask me anything. All feel comfortable asking. They know I’ll listen. They know I’ll offer suggestions. They know in the end, they are still deciding.

I got to thinking, I have had those moments when I am not needed at all and I have had those moments when my students and my girls articulate their thinking in the presence of someone who will listen and offer valuable feedback. I am that person!

Viewing the video on Saturday reminded me of the importance of all aspects of no longer being needed.

March 8 Ballad-like Poem, inspired by Reading Aloud to my children!

Last year I was helping the 6th grade students at my school understand what a ballad is – a songlike, narrative, poem that has rhyme, rhythm, and a refrain. In the process, I wrote this ballad-like poem, inspired by my daughters, Bridgit and Anne!! I love that it has recorded for me the best part of being a mom, getting to read-aloud so many stories filled with so many great characters to my two favorite readers.

My daughters, at 4 and 1
Licked their cone of ice cream
Listening to me read The Tweedle Beedle Battle
And the adventures of Spot and his mom, Sally,
While taking turns to open the flaps.

The clock chimed eight.
I said good night, sleep tight, and turned out the light.

Once they turn 6 and 3
They spooned their jello
As I read everything by Donald Crews.
We rode his train, plane, boat, bike, and carousel.
Then listened to the troubles of Arthur and DW.

The clock chimed eight.
I said good night, sleep tight, and turned out the light.

Soon both could read at 8 and 5
Yet, they still listened, munching on popcorn
As I read of Elmer on Wild Island
And we met Samantha, Molly, and Josephina
Living in another time.

The clock chimed eight.
I said good night, sleep tight, and turned out the light.

By the ages of 10 and 7
We met Ms. Jewels, Louis and the 28 students
in that tall, skinny wacky school.

Also, Anastasia and her funny brother, Sam.

The clock chimed eight.
I said good night, sleep tight, and turned out the light.

Time flew by, and suddenly they were 12 and 9.
They made the cookies we all munched on
As I read-aloud the adventures of their newest friends:
Harry, Ron, and Herminone.

The clock chimed eight.I said good night, sleep tight, and turned out the light.

Now, they are 25 and 23.
The clock chimes 2:00am.
I’ve been asleep for hours
Closing my eyes after reading a chapter alone on my kindle fire.
Bridgit tweets the latest news of the day.
Anne posts a TEDtalk video to her facebook wall and grabs a play to read.

Good night, great readers, sleep tight.