Slicers Celebrate

I look down at my white salad-size plate. I see:
– an orange slice
– a wedge of brie next to crackers and salami slices
– a slice of perfectly ripe cantaloupe
– a twizzler (not red in color but cream-sickle in color and flavor)
– a slice of homemade bundt cake
– a wrapped lindt orange chocolate truffle candy
– a slice of pepperoni pizza.
In my hand is a champaign glass filled with a bright orange mimosa.

The common thread of this unusual happy hour menu?
Orange in color or comes as a slice!

Sitting around me are the writers of the following blogs:

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Leah and Michelle were with us in spirit but couldn’t attend the Happy Hour Party.)

We all sit in my living room on a Thursday after school to celebrate! Why? Because during the month of March, we all wrote a daily slice of life on our blog. Then we posted it to the twowritingteachers’ blog as part of their March Writing Challenge. We also read at least 3 other daily posts and added a comment. And we especially enjoyed receiving comments from other slicers.

For the next hour or so, we munch on our unusual snacks, introduce ourselves to each other and share more about our lives. As host, I know everyone. Four people I work with at my middle school. Two people I meet with monthly as a writing club. Two people I met in 2003 when I started working at their school and have remained strong friends with them for now 15 years. Today, they all gathered in person at my house!

As I make introductions, they ask each other “What’s your blog title?” as that name is more familiar. “I really liked that story you wrote about….” is heard once we connect the person in front of us to their writing identity. Our group is 7 women and one male. Some are middle school classroom teachers. One is an elementary school science teacher. One is retired. Two are reading specialist. One is a librarian. A few are career switchers. Others have always been teachers. A few are mothers and a few are grandmothers.  Though we are so varied, the common thread is we are writers.

We write stories. We share them in a space where we trust our audience to accept our humble attempts. For a month, we craft personal narratives based on the happenings of the day or a flashback to our childhood. Sometimes, we use a poem structure. Sometimes, we include photos. Always, we get a boost when a comment is added. Having an audience for a month, keeps us motivated. Spending time writing daily strengthens our writing muscle.

Sometimes, it was fun. Sometimes, it weighed us down. Always we pondered, What to write?  Sometimes, an idea came quickly. Sometimes, it was a gem. Sometimes, it was more of a draft. Sometimes, we’d rather just throw it away. But no matter what, we posted and then started thinking about the next day’s writing.

I think this is what it must feels like for professional writers, too.

Thank you and CHEERS to Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this daily forum each March.                                                                                                     slice of life 2016

Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.

 

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VSRA Presentation

Yesterday, instead of teaching my 6th graders, I went to Richmond, VA and made a presentation with my friend and colleague, Tammy. Because of all the support we got, the day was a success.

Thanks to Tammy driving us the two hours down 95, we easily arrived.

Thanks to the helpful Marriot staff, the car was parked, our bags were checked and we had a few hours to grab lunch and rehearse before our 4pm showtime.

Thanks to Evi, our one friend also attending the conference, whose serendipitous encounter just 10 minutes after arriving amongst the 100s of teachers scattered around the lobby, helped calm our nerves. (At least one person was planning to come hear us!)

Thanks to the conference volunteers who registered us and helped us find where we were presenting when confusingly the “Learning Lab” wasn’t listed on the conference map.

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Thanks to the tech supports. One man ensured we had the cords and dongle and a working mic and another shared the wifi password with us. (And for Tammy who tracked down these supports while we both envisioned the worst case scenario – our tech not working for a presentation called  Using Technology During Reading and Writing Workshop).

Thanks to Sarah, a conference attendee who volunteered to introduce us to our audience. She arrived early and helped pass out our handout and shared the wifi password and now is a new teacher friend. Afterwards we exchanged emails after we discovered she lives in the next town over from us back home.

Thanks to the 30 or so teachers who came to learn with us! They listened, asked questions and smiled as we both nervously shared examples of our students using padlet, google slides and kidblog in Reading and Writing Workshop all shared from    this padlet.

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Finally, thanks also to our school, system who supported us by covering the cost of the conference and are family and friends, who sent text messages of encouragement.

As I sent out a tweet after the presentation, I was reminded that it was International Women’s Day. I’m thankful, as a women, I had the opportunity today to empower more women in their teaching work.

Now today, I get to spend another day here. But this time, I’ll be sitting in the audience to learn from Jen Serravillo and Smokie Daniels! And I’m wearing jeans and my VA sweatshirt (because happily, my team, the UVA Mens Basketball team won their first game yesterday in the ACC tournament – Go Hoos!).

 

Now I Tag

I started my first blog back on July 13, 2011. At that time I began reading the blogs of  Staff Developers at TCRWP and thought if they could do it, so could I. I posted a total of 11 posts from July to December that year. I included writing related to my own reading and tips on teaching reading and writing. I included photos and hyperlinks. I added widgets to allow people to follow me, show blogs I follow and archive my posts. I used blogspot and was pretty proud of myself.

Now in 2018, I feel I have evolved as a blogger. I owe that in large part to the community I found here at TheTwoWriting Teachers. In March, 2014 I started a new blog to host my first ever Slice of Life posts. My first blog stayed as the blog where I post my learning at TCRWP and other PD related to Reading and Writing. This new blog’s purpose was to hold only the stories I can tell which became my blog’s title. It held my small moment slices and it served me well all of 2014. That first year, after writing for 31 days, I was done. I went back to occasionally adding to my other blog. I returned to my SOL blog in 2015 by adding my OLW thoughts and then March, 2015 another 31 days!

After year two, I felt comfortable enough as a writer to add a Tuesday Slice to my routine during the months not called March and I started adding 4ish slices during these months. And then daily in March. I followed this pattern through 2016.

Then I started noticing people “liking” my posts and I wanted to be able to “like” them back. By then, my daughter, Anne, was blogging (her insightful posts can be found HERE) and she helped me start a new blog using wordpress. WordPress allows me to easily like others. It allows me to easily reply to comments. I liked wordpress so much that since, then, I’ve started a blog to hold onto my thinking about teaching Middle School and another blog I use with a group of teachers doing Teacher Research. 

However, this weekend I wanted to be the kind of blogger who uses “tags”. I’ve seen this on other’s blog pages like this one on Fran McVeigh’s:

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One problem, my go-to tech support (AKA my daughter, Anne) is living and working in France until May. And I wanted to do this NOW. So I searched google “How to tag in a wordpress blog” and it indicated that there were only 8 million links to help me. When I clicked on VIDEO, now only 6 million links were available! So I picked one and watched. It indicated that this box can appear as I am drafting my post if I click on the wheel on the top right corner.

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Without clicking on the wheel, which was something I had never done before, my screen simply looked like this:

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Suddenly, I got it!! I went to my dashboard and clicked on BLOG POSTS and saw this total:

Screen Shot 2018-03-04 at 2.08.26 PMYikes…that meant I could revisit each of the 274 posts, click on the wheel and add a tag or two or three. I started with enthusiasm. Soon, my stomach was grumbling and I took a lunch break. Then I pushed on. I wanted to be a blogger who tagged and it only felt right if I tagged all that went before and then started tagging each in the making of a post going forward. After a dinner break, I finally finished! Now this can be seen on my blog:

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Before I publish, let me just add the tags for this post. What is it mostly about? I’m tagging it like this: tech, SOL, Blogs, friends, Anne.  

 I can’t wait for Fran to see this tomorrow when I post it as my SOL #5!

Are you a blogger who tags? Are you a blogger who uses another feature? Please share!

PS: I also discovered I can publish this right now to be scheduled to actually be published tomorrow…so sneaky!!

PSS: I still want to be the kind of slicer who includes the orange slice and how I’m blogging as part of the challenge. Maybe I’ll figure out how to add that next weekend!

A Quick Hello

I received a short email yesterday from a former colleague; former because two years ago we were on the same team and then I left and she stayed.

The header – a Quick Hello

Then 3 lines apologizing for being too busy to converse more.

Then this ending: I hope you and your 3rd graders are thriving 🙂 A little inspiration for your day: with this link to a video.

Though quick, my friend’s email brightened my day and her shared link jumpstarted a powerful discussion in my classroom. Friends still, across years and physical distance, sharing a link she knew I’d like. That’s what friends do!

I hope YOU take 3 minutes to watch the video.

My Night Routine

A decade ago, you’d find me regularly watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart each evening and then heading to bed. Then the following morning I’d awake at 5:30am as I was first in the bathroom, then my husband and then my girls. Having 4 adults in our then one bathroom house demanded this schedule. Somehow these six hours of sleep were all I needed.

At this time, I was the reading specialist at a school and I shared an office with the speech teacher. Some mornings I’d mention something funny I heard Jon Stewart say the evening before. She’d laugh along with me and then comment that she didn’t know how I did it, staying up so late.  “I’m in bed by 9pm,” she exclaimed. “By 9pm?” This seemed so early I thought.

However, maybe not so early anymore. Yesterday was a typical Monday. My alarm went off at 5:55am. Only 3 adults are under the roof and the current house has two and a half baths! I got up, ate and headed to school. I worked until 6pm, headed home and had just enough energy to cook dinner, retrieve my husband from the Metro, eat dinner, watch 30 minutes of the news, and wash the dishes before heading to bed. While relaxing under the covers, I read on my kindle for about 30  minutes. Before turning out the light, I glance at the clock. 9:25pm!

I don’t work with my speech teacher friend anymore but I think I’ll give her a call this weekend. When I tell her why I am thinking of her, I think it will make her laugh. 

5Ks

I do not think of myself as a runner at all. Growing up, I was a swimmer. Growing up, I liked the Shuttle during the Presidential Fitness tests but hated running the 600. I can still remember that feeling of not being able to catch my breath and having a side cramp at the same time as I completed the 600. But I just registered for two 5K races. And I have completed two 5K races. Maybe I am a runner?

Last Fall, our school had a Memorial 5K race in honor of a parent. I wanted to be supportive so I signed up. I kept thinking, how hard can it be? I reminded myself I can even just walk the whole thing if I get that horrible feeling from running again. I distinctly recall that race day. I felt nervous. I almost didn’t go, thinking how I already made my donation. But I went and it was hard. It was hard to be surrounded by so many people who looked like they knew what they were doing. It also was hard because the course was so, so, so hilly. It was hard because I had never done a 5K before and I didn’t even research the course before and I kept wondering how much longer it would be. After a combination of walking and running, I did finish. It helped immensely when I ran into a friend during the race and we could run/walk and chat. I laughed when at the finish line, a student pointed out that I had pinned my race number on upside down, definitive proof that I was a nervous, rookie 5Ker.

After that first 5K in the Fall, I decided to help with Girls on the Run at my school during the Spring. On Tuesdays, I joined 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade girls after school for an hour. I did some walking. I did a bit of running. I mostly handed out stickers each time a girl did a lap around the track. I did sign-up for the culminating 5K race. Happily it was a flat course this time. Happily, my friend joined me again but this time from the start to the finish. Happily I finished and even correctly pinned on my race number!

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Me (#4091!) with my friend and her wonderfully, supportive family!

Now it is Fall again. I signed up to run the Memorial race again on Saturday, Nov. 19th. It will be that same hilly course but I’m ready. It helps just knowing it is hilly and I have my friend and other teachers to race with. I am also helping some with Girls on the Run this Fall and their race is Sunday, Nov. 20th. Yikes. I guess I can run a 5K on one day and then another 5K on the next. But I’m starting to wonder if this is a good idea. Or maybe, it is time to think of myself as a runner.

Wait, let’s not get carried away!!

Learning about the next chapter – retirement!

I had friends over on Tuesday for lunch. I met these friends 15 years ago when I started teaching at their school. Now they have all retired. As one arrived, she said, “I just love being retired. I am so busy, I don’t know how I would get it all done if I was still working!” I loved hearing all their stories relating to the next chapter, even though for me, it feels very far away.
As they left, I found comfort in knowing there is so much to do each day, no matter what our age or stage in life! They kindly brought me flowers and gifts. So as the weekend begins, I still am remembering these great ladies as I see them all around my house.

 

 

March 19 – 5 minutes a day CAN make a difference

Jeff Charbonneau teaches Chemistry, Physics, and Engineering  at Zillah HS in Washington State. He is also the 2013 NBCT Teacher of the Year. Because of this title, he was asked to introduce Tony Wagner at the NBPTS Teaching and Learning Conference on Saturday, March 15, 2014 in Washington, DC.

He took time to first joke about how you can’t get anything done in 5 minutes. But then he quickly switched his tune and inspired the crowd of over 1,000 by saying ” five minutes can change the world!” He stressed that in 5 minutes “we can lift each other up to have the energy to keep going”. As teachers, he reminded us that we need that energy to do our job well so we should take five minutes to lift up our students, as well as our colleagues. Instead of only gripping with co-workers, we need to take just 5 minutes to lift a fellow teammate up.

This got me thinking. On Friday, a colleague came by my room with her computer. For a Gifted and Talented Class she is taking, she needed to watch a TEDtalk. She thought I’d like it so together we watched a talk by a young girl who emphaisized that teachers should let kids guide the class – Adora Svitak – What adults can learn from kids. Then I shared the TED link to my favorite – Rita – Every Child Needs a Champion We were together for 15 minutes of our break time but it was fun to together be inspired. Together we lifted each other up!

Then I thought about how this same colleague made the effort to ask me a few Fridays ago how my Parent Browsing Breakfast went. I smiled because I wanted someone to ask me this. I shared how it went great and how the parents really liked the movie we made. She asked, “Can I see it?” and so I brought her back to my room and showed her the 6 minute video we made to show our parents how we used the computer to make an eBook (really just a powerpoint presentation but it is more fun to say “eBook”!!). Then we  parted to use our planning time separately. Next thing I know, she is back at my door with a card – she took time to write my students a Thank You note to tell them how much she enjoyed the movie we made.

WOW! Claire, my colleague, totally gets what Jeff is talking about. She took time to lift me up. Then we both had the energy to keep doing this hard job called 4th grade teacher!

We all have 5 minutes today – take time to lift someone up!!