Saturday, August 29, 2015

To You on Your First "First Day" of School (As a Teacher)

I'm sitting here preparing for the first day of school. On my list is to write a note to the teacher I'm mentoring. It's her first "First Day of School" as a teacher. As I think about what to say to her, I reflect on my first "First Day" and I think about what I'd tell my "first year teacher self" on this First Day Eve. Here's some tips on your First "First Day" as a Teacher... 1. You are ready. It may not feel like it. You will check and re-check your plans a million times, but you've prepared for this moment. You got it! 2. Smile. Enjoy yourself! You set the tone in your classroom, so make it a positive and joy-filled place to be.  3. Breathe. There's so much to do and I know you want to do it all perfectly. Those students deserve the best teacher you can be! Breathe. In. Out. In. Out. What doesn't get done today, will get done tomorrow! 4. You are not perfect and that's ok! Be authentic, not perfect. We all make mistakes. You'll make a couple yourself. Be honest with the students. Be yourself. Own it when you mess up.  5. Remember it's their first day too. Whatever tiny detail that got missed...the students won't notice! They are busy with their own stress and worry and excitement for their own first day. 6. Take a First Day of School picture!!! It may sound silly, but you'll want it in later years.  7. Use the rest room before the day begins. 8. Ask for help. Depend on your teammates! We've all been there before and we want to help. 9. Enjoy the butterflies! Those nervous and excited butterflies in your stomach signal so many things...anxiety, anticipation, excitement!!!  10. Take a moment to stop and notice. This day will fly by so quickly...when you get a moment, stop and look around. Look into the faces sitting before you. Jot down the funny things said. Remember this's the beginning of a life long journey! Any other words of wisdom?!?! Please share! Have a wonder-filled first day!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Celebrating Family

Thank you to Ruth Ayres for the opportunity to focus on celebrations every week! September 19 will mark our 100th celebration! Please join us!
I'm writing this blog post on my phone because I'm in Massachusetts this weekend celebrating my cousin's wedding. I'm attending an "I Do BBQ" with family and friends. 
Spending the weekend before school begins four hundred miles away was stressing me out, but now that I'm's perfect!
Yesterday I took my sister and niece and nephew for ice cream. We played games and built Legos! 
We played in my notebook when we were out at dinner.
Last night, I got to be the one to read bedtime stories! 
Today, a morning with just me and the kids to some fun places. I love getting to spend time together and spoil them! The BBQ is this afternoon. Lots of family to visit and relax and have fun!
I celebrate my wonderful, loving, beautiful, crazy family today! 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Gratitude and Miracles

Thank you to Stacey, Betsy, Dana, Tara, Beth, Anna, Kathleen & Deb for this amazing platform to write and share writing! What a wonderful community you've created! I'm honored to be part of it. Join us at Two Writing Teachers.
We are in the middle of teacher workdays. Monday I presented and facilitated for most of the day. This morning I am meeting my sixth graders for the first time at orientation. With a spinning head, I am here. Here is where I stop, breathe, think. Knowing you will forgive me for the simple post today, I showed up...and today I want to write a list...a gratitude list. In no particular order, I'm grateful for: my mom, my sister, Jack and Jillian, my whole wonderful family, Bella, my home, friends who love me, notebooks, a job I adore, writing, the look on a face when a student finally "gets it", Dairy Queen, good books, Netflix, quiet after a long day, my writing group, funky reading glasses, peppermint, a smile, thoughtful gifts, cards in the mail, hearing just the right song at just the right time, fancy pens, bookstores, long drives, hugs, meeting new students, pillows, Anne Shirley, warm blankets, kindness, pool time, sound and smell of the ocean, early mornings, afternoon of shopping, giggling, poetry, slam poetry, Youtube videos, DubSmash, the moment before you fall asleep, YOU MATTER, gerber daisies, noise-canceling headphones, The Princess Bride, retreats, beginnings, doodling, showing grace, deep breaths, creativity, the sky after a rainstorm, chocolate cake, the smell of dog's paws (like Fritos), surprises...
Wishing you days filled with people and things for which you are grateful. Please share what makes you grateful in the comments! I'd love to hear about it!
Since it's the beginning of the school year, here is one of my favorite poetry slammers, Taylor Mali, to inspire you...

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Long Distance Connections

Join us at Margaret's blog for digital literacy posts every Sunday!
Being a teacher is hard. I adore my job, but make no's challenging. I'm grateful for those who make my job easier! Colleagues, strong administration, supportive parents...I'm blessed to have all of these. I also have a powerful PLN. Teachers from around the country (around the world) who share my passion and who share their expertise and ideas! 
How do I connect with these teachers? It starts here, on the blog. I write and they read and comment. Relationships begin to develop. It continues on Twitter. We chat and share resources. We ask each other questions. Last year I was lucky enough to meet so many of these teachers at a national conference, NCTE. 
How do we keep in touch? Currently, I am in an amazing online writing group that meets weekly via Google Hangout! It's the best way to begin a Saturday morning, by sharing our weeks and our writing. 
Yesterday I enjoyed another Google Hangout with some other teachers. We had plans we wanted to make and online wasn't enough...we needed to talk. Julieanne, in California, and Margaret, in Louisiana, and me, in Virginia...sat and talked for a couple of hours via Google Hangout. 
The hardest thing about Google Hangout is finding the time (especially across three different time zones)...and making sure the internet works.
Our talk left me feeling inspired and grateful. I am amazed that I work with teachers all over the country. I consider them mentors. Technology has changed my life as a teacher!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Almost There...

Thank you to Ruth Ayres for the opportunity to focus on celebrations every week! September 19 will mark our 100th celebration! Please join us!
This week marks the return to work for me. There's a new feeling in the school...lots of energy and excitement! I see lots of smiles and I notice so much positivity. It's exhilarating! 
Today, I celebrate those that are new to our school community! Your motivation and energy are contagious and I already see the impact you are making on our community!
I celebrate the returning staff members who are pulling together to help and support those new to our building and our profession! 
I celebrate the amazing and hard working custodian staff. Our building looks beautiful!! Thank you for all you've done to maintain this beautiful environment!
I celebrate my classroom. After hours of work, I'm almost there. It's almost's a peek inside...
To fully appreciate the lights, 
watch this short video...

Monday, August 10, 2015

Teacher as Student

Thank you to Stacey, Betsy, Dana, Tara, Beth, Anna, Kathleen & Deb for this amazing platform to write and share writing! What a wonderful community you've created! I'm honored to be part of it. Join us at Two Writing Teachers
This week I get the opportunity to spend three days in training for PBL (project based learning). The trainer is excellent...she is knowledgeable and a good teacher. Learning about PBL is something I enjoy and I feel like fits easily into my teaching routine. I sat down ready to learn and to create an interesting and creative PBL unit, so why is it so hard? It wasn't long until I started thinking things like...
I don't know what to do. 
I am struggling with finding an idea. 
I can't decide. 
Nothing seems to fit. 
I am getting confused.
I can't find a clear answer to my problems.
I don't undestand. 
What do I do? 
These are some of my thoughts from today. It devolved into...
This is hard. 
I don't like this. 
This stinks.
I don't want to do this.
I'm done!
Suddenly, it dawned on me that THIS is what my students feel like sometimes...some of my students feel like this a lot of the time! I think about that while I struggle. What helps me? The trainer tells the group that it's ok to be confused right now. That helps me! She approaches me and offers support and some encouragement. I want more. I want her to tell me how to do it. I want the right answer, but I (as an adult) understand she wants me to learn. This helps me. I feel seen and heard. She leaves me alone to find a solution...for a long time. I want her to come back and check in again. She doesn't for a long time. I am getting annoyed and I feel like she's ignoring me. Later on, she comes over again to check in. I've made some decisions. I am feeling a little better about where I am. She says that she knew I'd find my way through. That helps me. She had faith in me. She believed in me. 
I want to remember the feelings of discomfort. When my students feel like this, how do they act? Sometimes they talk...I needed a lot of talking to figure out where I wanted to go. Sometimes they misbehave...I was tempted to get up and walk out, just for a break. It felt like I was never going to figure it out and that feeling of "FAILURE" was staring me right in the face. Sometimes they pass notes...I really wanted to talk to a friend, so during a break, I texted one who had been through this training for support. Remembering these feelings and this experience will help me understand my students and why they make the choices they make. 
As I left the first day, I felt like I had survived a tough day of learning! I have an's not complete yet, but it's there. The best part of this is being a student again and remembering what it feels like to work at something when you don't feel any success. As the teacher, I must remember to... 
1. Listen 
2. Offer encouragement
3. Ask questions
4. Walk away
5. Check in again
6. SEE my students
7. Think about the WHY
Back to day two and more lessons to learn!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Walking Alongside Friends

Thank you to Ruth Ayres for the opportunity to focus on celebrations every week! September 19 will mark our 100th celebration! Please join us!
As I prepare to return for my twenty-first year as a teacher, I am taking time to reflect. Twenty-one years ago, I walked into a third grade classroom, Room 110, excited and nervous and ready to teach. I walked into that room alone armed only with my ideas. Twenty-one years later, as I walk into Room C10, I walk in with a crowd of support. I am not alone...
As I walk into my classroom,
I walk with Stacey who reminds me that I am a writer when I wonder and question myself. Her unwavering faith in me pushes me to continue when I think I can’t.
I walk with Lee Ann who inspires me to be more creative in my notebook and in my life.
I walk with Margaret who shares her creativity and poetry and her kindness.
I walk with Julieanne who always encourages me to think about things in a new way with her thoughtful words and ideas.
I walk with Tara who shares creative ideas that I borrow and use with my students.
I walk with Linda who reads everything and shares her thoughts about these books and words and ideas.
I walk with Beth who introduced me to my favorite new pens, Ener Gel!
I walk with Holly who reminds me to hold onto my faith and to make the world a better place and to share those qualities with my students.
I walk with Kathleen who lives her positive attitude in everything she writes and shares.
I walk with Ruth who celebrates and demonstrates the power of kindness and gratitude.
I walk with Leigh Anne who asks questions and reflects and shows me how to always work to improve as a teacher...and a writer.
I walk with Jennifer who shares her positivity and laughter and motivation and who invites me to be more than I think I can be.
I celebrate each one of you (and so many more that I haven’t named here). You walk with me on that first day of school and all of the days that follow. I listen to your voices when I don't know what to do and when I need support. I'm grateful that I no longer walk alone. It’s good to be surrounded by friends!
Note: The form for this post was inspired by Patrick Allen's thoughtful Facebook post to some of the greats in the world of literacy. He inspired me to think about who I carry in my heart. Here's a peek at his post...

Monday, August 3, 2015

What's Your Motto?

Thank you to Stacey, Betsy, Dana, Tara, Beth, Anna, Kathleen & Deb for this amazing platform to write and share writing! What a wonderful community you've created! I'm honored to be part of it. Join us at Two Writing Teachers
I've been contemplating my motto. What is my motto? What words do I live by everyday? I discovered a new-to-me blogger, Carrie Wisehart. She writes the blog, Live Upside Down. On her about me page, she mentions mottos. On her about me page it says, "She loves to surprise attack her students with stamps that have her mottos written on them: Choose Joy & Best Day Ever!"
I stopped and thought about it. "Do I have a motto? What is my motto? What words guide my life and my choices?"
I reached out to friends on social media and asked others what their mottos were. Here are some mottos...
"A grateful heart is a happy heart."
"Live your life!"
"Tomorrow is a new day, and we start fresh!"
"Everything happens for a reason."
"No matter how slow you are going, you are faster than everyone sitting on the couch."
"Live each day as if it were your last."
"Just making memories!"
"Improvise, adapt, and overcome."
"Be intentional."
"Be kind."
"Be a warrior, not a worrier."
"Show. Up."
"Don't let life get in the way of living."
"Be authentic."
Some of my students even answered. These mottos are some of my favorites...
"Be kind. Some people in the world are jerks and that's why this world needs more people to be balance it out."
"Life is way too short not to be yourself and share your ideas."
"Never be afraid to have your own ideas and you don't always need to like what everyone else likes. Be original and special. Make people notice you in a good way."
"Be true to you."
I think about mottos for those I love. I think if my dad were around for me to ask, I think he would say, "Be positive." My grandmother's motto would be about family! "Family is everything." Also, "Laughter cures all, and if laughter doesn't epsom salts does." Grammy Haseltine's motto would be "Never give up."
What's my motto? After thinking about this and writing about it, I think mottos can change with your life circumstances and some stick with you. When I was in college, friends teased me about my positive attitude by saying, "If Michelle was kept captive in a prison, the first thing she'd say when she was released was, 'I had the BEST TIME!' " I like to think that I make the best out of life, so that's one I'm claiming...
I love quotes. I think my love of quotes may connect with this idea of a motto. I'm looking for words that will guide my life. Brainstorming helped me remember some oldies and think of some new ones. Here's my notebook page with mottos...
What's my motto? I can't live with just one. What's yours?  

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Celebration in Pictures!

Thank you to Ruth Ayres for the opportunity to focus on celebrations every week! September 19 will mark our 100th celebration! Please join us!
Today begins a new month. August. This week I celebrate...
quiet mornings
school supply sales
ice cream
sparkly lights
Hope this post finds you in a happy place! 
What are you celebrating today?

New School Retreat

This school year brings changes for me as I'm transferring to a new school. It's a brand new school. It's still being buil...