Monday, November 16, 2015


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.
Have you ever struggled connecting to a student? During these past two years of teaching, I have specifically focused on making connections with my sixth graders. Learning doesn't happen without least consistent and powerful learning.
I have one student in mind from last year and I failed him. Something happened and I was never able to connect and it sticks with me. I regret that so much. This year I promised myself that I'd do better. As the year began, I found myself presented with quite a few students who did not trust teachers and did not like school. Patience.
We are well into the second quarter and I'm seeing changes. I notice students who never spoke to me, coming up and starting conversations about books and blogs and TED talks. I notice students who never looked me (or anyone else) in the eye, looking up and even sometimes smiling. Yesterday, a student who never responds to my greeting of good morning, walked into the classroom, smiled at me, looked me in the eye and said, "Good Morning Ms. Haseltine!" In that moment, my day was a success.
WHY? Connecting with students means that we show them that we SEE them and that we CARE. Some of them have never experienced that in a teacher and they are very distrustful of that promise. They make me earn it. I think making connections is an obvious necessity for teachers and students. When I feel like an administrator cares about me, I perform better. I'm willing to go the extra mile and my attitude improves. When I feel like I am ignored or misunderstood, I become resentful. I work from fear and that never works for long.
HOW? How do I connect with my students? There are lots of ways... I greet them at the door. Say their name as I speak with them. Smile! I'm goofy and we laugh. Ask them how they are. Conference with them...conversations that happen in conferences are priceless. (Students are asking to conference on a daily basis...and students I wouldn't expect.) Sometimes I leave notes on their desks. I always look them in the eye and show them that they are seen! Listen to them. Listen to them. Listen to them. Remind them every single day that they are the reason why I am there. Finally, show them & tell them YOU MATTER.
It's hard work. It's building trust. Do I mess up sometimes? Yup! Do I apologize? Yes! Doing this work is hard. Doing this work in the scary world we live in...hard. I want my students to know that we will work on being readers and writers and we will get better at those things...but what's most important to me is them! Who they are!
Wouldn't it be nice if the world was like this?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Celebrating Kindness

Thank you to Ruth Ayres for the opportunity to focus on celebrations every week! Please join us!
November 13th is World Kindness Day. I'm not sure how I've missed this since it began in 1998 by the World Kindness Movement. Better late than never, right? I decided to spend some time celebrating World Kindness Day with my students. 
We started class with our normal routine...status of the class and independent reading. During reading time, I quietly wrote sticky note compliments for each of my students and placed them on their desks. When reading was over and students read the notes, I liked watching their faces go from confused to happy to wonderment. I said, "Today is World Kindness Day and I wanted to show kindness to all of you...that's why there are notes on your desks." They nodded, smiled, and some mumbled, "Thanks." I continued, "...but then I thought of something that would make you even happier. Let's go outside for recess...RIGHT NOW!"
Time in middle school is a precious commodity, so I take my students out for recess once a week for 10-15 minutes. This extra, "just because" recess made their day! They cheered and soaked up every second of this time. It reminded me how we all have to stop and enjoy the moment!
When we came inside after our recess time, we talked about how something so small made such a difference in the day. We talked about ways we could share kindness with others. We used sticky notes and wrote notes for others in our school and spread them out. Here are some of the words of kindness spread out around the school...
Update...I confess it was hard writing about how we celebrated World Kindness Day on the same day as the attacks on Paris. I questioned it. I almost didn't share this, but instead I thought about how powerful kindness and love are. I pray that the world will be different when our kids are the ones running it.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Best Part of My Day

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 love getting inspired from other teachers. Recently, I read two blog posts that inspired me! 
The first is a post by Carrie Wisehart. I love her blog! There's so much there...I even love her About Me Page. Last week, she turned forty and blogged about a birthday gift that turned into a student challenge. The challenge is called #dollardifference. A friend gave her forty dollar bills and challenged her to do something creative. She passed the dollars onto her high school students and asked them to make a difference. WOW! I'm figuring out how to do that with my middle school students. Changing the world while teaching...what's better than that?!?!
This weekend, I came across this post by another Carrie...Carrie Baughcum. She blogs at Heck Awesome.  I love Carrie's positive attitude! She poses the question: How do I share when it's a tough year? When we, as teachers, spend time on social media we need to balance the honest with the positive. Carrie's solution is BRILLIANT! She calls it #TheBestPartOfMyDay. Each day she searches for the best part and then tweets it out with this hashtag. I joined in today!! I hope you'll join too. 
If you are looking for brilliant new blogs to add to your reading, I hope you stop by and read the life and times of Carrie Wisehart and Carrie Baughcum! When we tell our stories, we make each other better.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Celebrating Read Alouds!

Thank you to Ruth Ayres for the opportunity to focus on celebrations every week! 
Please join us!
We are reading aloud Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. If you don't know this book, get it...get it NOW.  It's about a sixth grade girl named Ally who struggles with school. Every word rings true!
Read alouds are one of my favorite things about teaching. Sharing good books with students is powerful...but it's more than that. This book, this story, is helping our classroom become a community. As we share the struggles and successes of Ally and Albert and Keisha, we think about our own struggles and successes. Yesterday we read a chapter called, Misfit Lunch. We watched the video from the Rudolph Christmas special, Island of the Misfit toys.
We talked about negative and positive connotations of the word misfit. I shared how I felt (and feel) like a misfit and I love it! In one class, students shared their own misfit stories. The vulnerability they showed by sharing their own struggles brings us closer together. I beam with pride when I think about how brave they are to share these stories and how kind their classmates are when hearing and responding. One student identifies closely with Albert. I've watched him come alive when I read the parts when Albert is present. Students who struggle with reading feel like they've found a kindred spirit in Ally. 
They are rooting for her to succeed!

This is what I want people to know about "kids today". They are kind and empathetic. They are thoughtful and creative. All they need is a safe place to take a risk and to be themselves... it's really what we all need. A world where we can be authentically ourselves and loved because of it.
If you are looking for a good book, please take some time to read Fish in a Tree. Lynda Mullaly Hunt weaves together a story that has touched our hearts. As classes ended yesterday, I heard, "Pleeeeaaasssseee!!!! One more chapter!!!!" Music to my ears.
I celebrate good books.
I celebrate sharing good books.
I celebrate reading good books together.
Here is some of our thinking about the book. Students jot or sketch as I read aloud and here are some I'd like to share...

Monday, November 2, 2015


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.
Be. Present. Now. There's too much. Life is too fast. It's hard to catch my breath. I'm in the middle of two planning days between first and second quarter. I love the end and the beginning. It's time to reflect. Readjust. Renew...usually...but the words, "too much" keep floating around in my head as I worry about fitting it all in. My attention is distracted with new initiatives and techniques. I'm overwhelmed and failing at mindfulness. This thought shifted my thinking to mindfulness. Am I in the moment? No. I worry and plan and check emails...what can I do? The first thing I did was to stop checking emails multiple times a day. In the past, I would check my work email ten or more times a day!
My notebook helps me with my mindfulness. It's like my security blanket. When I feel like there's too much coming at me, the pages of my notebook save me from that. I dive in and remind myself what's important and the calm returns quickly.
As this school year started, I noticed that I only checked email once in the beginning of the day, during planning and as the day ended. A couple of weeks into the school year, I caught myself checking in between classes and found myself getting very distracted and frustrated. It was that lightbulb moment that told me, "Checking email takes you away from your students and instruction. STOP!" That's tip number one to move closer to mindfulness...Don't check email during the day. BE present with your students. They notice! Teachers, we need to practice mindfulness. We need to model it for our students. Life moves too quickly. Slowing down and savoring the moment is vital to enjoying life. How will our students know how to do that if we don't show them? Wanting to know about the practice of mindfulness, I have a couple of books...
The Little Book of Mindfulness by Dr. Patrizia Collard and The Zen Teacher by Dan Tricarico.
I'm searching for interesting and informative videos too. I found this one from TED. He challenges us to do nothing for ten minutes a day. NOTHING. Does that cause you stress just thinking about it like it does for me? I think that means we need it! Take ten minutes and listen. Let his words sink in and do something to practice mindfulness today! 
Do you practice mindfulness? How? Some of my other mindfulness practices include... walking, coloring, yoga, writing. I'd love more ideas!

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...