The world swirled in waves of green, yellow, blue and white as I spun like a top around the summer lawn. My arms splayed out to each side and something about this place welcomed me to stay. Around and around I spun. The light glimmered through the trees. Around and around. The birds seemed to be singing a tune just for me. All my senses seemed so alive and the energy buzzed through every limb of my small body. Yet, as I tumbled to the earth below I had never felt more at peace. The day was normal and special in all the right ways.
This is my second year participating in the SOL Challenge, and this year more than last, I’m appreciating and reflecting on the fact that it starts the day after my birthday. It somehow feels cleansing and more meaningful to start the first day of a new year of life reinventing myself through daily writing. I feel empowered and excited and definitely a little less nervous this time around.
Over this past month I’ve found myself prepping for my writing entries and realizing how I need a notebook to jot down my thoughts at any given moment. Without the challenge even starting yet, I’ve realized that as a teacher I’ve told my students that writing ideas can strike you at any moment, but unless you really integrate the idea of being a writer into your daily lives, you can’t appreciate that it really is true! On my way to work, walking down the hall, making dinner, awake at two o’clock in the morning have all become times where a thought, idea or phrase strikes me as a great kick off to a potential writing piece. Most importantly, I’ve learned that if I don’t write it down often times it becomes a vague, meaningless thought that doesn’t hold the original passion and vigor as it originally did, and the momentum is gone.
So I am excited to start up this challenge and continue to grow as a writer and as a teacher through my reflections about the writing process. Here goes nothing!
As I start to write after far too long of a hiatus, I’m reminded of my closet door this morning and how it ached and complained each time I pressed open its hinges and it fought against the breeze of the ceiling fan. It begged time and time again to be left alone, closed and undisturbed.
And as much as I love writing, after the siesta of summer and endless other excuses of a busy life, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m feeling very much like my closet door. The insecurities are seeping back to the surface, and I’m struggling against this internal conflict-to write or not to write. So here I am, pushing against the uncomfortable coolness of my thoughts and writing-something, anything. And with each stroke of the computer keys I’m feeling a little more comfortable with being open and beginning this process again. I love writing.
I LOVE reading children’s literature-like really can’t get enough of it. It gives me the opportunity to be a kid again and be full of the light that I experienced as a child when I found books I couldn’t put down. It’s also so intriguing to me to sit down with a children’s book and try to look at it with adult perspective and then remove all inhibitions, and look at it with a child’s wonderment. This was never more apparent to me than an experience I had this summer.
I was working at an enrichment camp, and we would bring the children to the library every Tuesday. As I looked through the display of new books, a budding fourth grade girl commented that the book in my hand, The Best Worst Thing by Kathleen Lane, was “amazing”. So naturally I had to get it. I finished the book in a day due to it’s easy prose and quick, snippet chapters. It tells the story through the narration of Maggie, who is about to start middle school as the book opens and immediately Maggie’s quirky personality resonates through all of the events that take place.
The whole time I read it I couldn’t decide how I felt about the story-and I couldn’t help but think that this may have been intentional on the part of Kathleen Lane. The events and the emotion of the young characters felt authentic and the undertones of the adult relationships also were depicted beautifully through the perception of a child. But the whole time I kept asking myself, what about this was amazing in the eyes of that camper? Perhaps it was the eccentricity that I could see in this child and was apparent in almost every character in the book. I’m not sure. But I challenge you to give this book to a young adult reader and then sit down to discuss and try to see the world that Kathleen Lane created through the eyes of a child.
A picture book I read this summer and really enjoyed was Little One by Jo Weaver, @joweaverillustrations. The charcoal drawings are magnificent and ground the story about Big Bear and Little One in the serenity that nature provides. I nearly cried as Big Bear shows Little One all the possibilities that are outside their den and gives gentle reminders of what life has to offer. As a mother of a two year old this truly grabbed my heart in a vice to connect with the big role we have to show our children what life has to offer and guide them towards understanding life on their own.
From a teaching perspective, I think this could be a great read aloud that could connect to science for K-1 through furthering a discussion about the seasons, hibernation, etc. It’s also a great one for just stopping and noticing what the pictures have to add on to the text. I have no doubt whatever use you find for it your students will be captivated and calmed by the story and beautiful illustrations.
Last year I served as a literacy coach in Sussex-Wantage School District in New Jersey which was an incredible learning experience as it was my first year coaching. There were ups and downs and in reflecting, I learned more from that experience than any other professional experience I’ve ever had. I firmly believe it was this experience that allowed me the opportunity to come back home to the district I taught in, now as an instructional coach, and I am BEYOND thrilled to be doing so!
My new role is slightly different because it will not only be literacy rather I will be focusing on the needs of basic skills and gifted students, while also working with teachers to hone in on best practices of instruction for all learners that can be present in any given classroom. I am proud and honored to be part of a district that is continuously reflecting and working on enhancing the academic opportunities it provides.
My goal in creating this site is to develop a community of educators that I can go to for advice and gain a greater perspective on what I’m doing and what other educators are doing to improve instructional practices. The greatest honor would be for me to be able to do the same for others. Coaching can be a more solitary role than a classroom teacher, and I am fortunate to have three other coaches in my cohort to work with. Nonetheless, coaching is still a relatively new concept, and I believe that using technology and social media can be an excellent way to continue my own professional development through learning from each of you!
So may I take this opportunity to wish all of you a wonderful 2016-2017 school year that challenges you to push your limits and allows you to breath in the fresh air of the endless possibilities! Remember why you got into this profession-because you love kids and you love seeing that spark in their eye. Even on the hardest days, never forget that.
I’m so excited to share with you all some of the incredible celebrations our classes have been finishing up their nonfiction units with! Most recently, our third grade teachers and students put together an expert fair. It was comprised of the information chapter books that students wrote, tri-fold boards where students taught visitors to the fair about something, and their multicultural presentations about their families’ heritages.
I was SO impressed by how professional students behaved while they presented their information to their families and friends. I also found myself learning about new topics such as Dairy Cows and computer programming! To me, it exemplifies the power of student choice because you are not only motivating the child by allowing them to research something they care about, but you are also opening up learning experiences for others that they may otherwise never have taken the time to learn about.
I also could not have been happier to see all the different text structures that teachers taught into and that students decided to use. We had everything from timelines to bold and highlighted print all the way to maps and text boxes. It was clear that the students had been exposed to the different ways that nonfiction can be written and made intentional structural decisions as the writers of their own pieces.
Our first graders also recently celebrated by putting together an Informational Gallery. Mrs. Castrogiovanni, our art teacher, was so kind to use her time with the students to make portraits of the different animals that each student researched. Then, we hung our art for display and invited families in to tour our gallery. Each class added their own flare to the structure (some read the students’ books in the classroom first, some read next to their paintings, etc) and each event was unique and exciting!
It was great to see first graders attaining the Speaking and Listening Standards of the Common Core by standing in front of a small group, reading their piece, and listening to their peers. Talk about courageous!
So a HUGE thank you to the teachers, students and families for taking the time to put these events together, and to make the time in your busy lives to attend!
I felt myself becoming aware of the darkness around me and the low rumbles from distant places. Although my mind was just waking and adjusting to the idea of being up, I began to visualize what the sky may look like if I could manage to open my eyes and peer out the window. I could imagine the electric energy glisten through the clouds. Not the fierce streaks or bolts of lightning that some storms bring. I could tell just by the consistent grumble of the thunder that it would be the type of lightning that just glows from around the edges of the night sky.
One…two…three….I laughed as I caught myself counting to see how far away the storm was and soon realizing that I hadn’t made that leap to actually opening my eyes so I couldn’t possibly know when the lightning came to start counting for the thunder. With that came the slow plinks of rain hitting the metal of the air conditioning unit. Or was it small pieces of hail? As it picked up in intensity I could tell that, yes, this was in fact something more dense then the fragility of rain.
As I lay there I contemplated opening my eyes to check the time and calculate how many more precious minutes of slumber I had. But that was when I felt the pressure of my husband’s shifting body and realized it was much nicer to take in the calming noises of the storm, snuggle up in the warmth of my bed and drift back into sleep-for however long that may be.