Saturday, May 27, 2017

Celebrating Family

I'm spending a long weekend with family. It started Friday night with dinner at my favorite restaurant, Red Rose. 
Wait, back started with time spent with my niece and nephew, playing games and having fun!
  I'm here for a baptism. My sweet cousin Danielle and her husband, Henry, asked me to be Godmother to their beautiful daughter, Josephine. Time spent with my family is filled with laughter and giggles. It fills me up the way nothing else can. I'm savoring every moment of these days as I remember the words of Maya Angelou, "I sustain myself with the love of family."     
Thank you to Ruth Ayres for providing this space for sharing our celebrations. Please join us and share your own!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Learning through Laughter

Acting out as a panel of ballet experts on a morning show
"Why are we still here? What else do we have to learn?" That question plagues me. It's difficult because students get mixed messages. The end of the year excitement and energy is hard to battle. I refuse to show movies. We make our time meaningful until the #lastbell. In communications, we are learning using improvisation. A brilliant teacher, Whitney Field shared a presentation on using improv with middle school students this summer in the Northern Virginia Writing Project's ISI. I was skeptical as improv is very much outside of my comfort zone. 
Working together as groups of three-headed experts
As this year progressed, I kept my eyes and ears open for new and interesting things to teach and practice and learn in communications. A couple of weeks ago, I was reminded of improv and it fit perfectly. I've seen the silent students raise their hands to perform. I notice everyone participating and laughing during our warm-ups. We laugh. We take risks. We get better. It's been so successful, that I've started using some exercises with my sixth-grade classes. It turns up the energy on a listless class and it bonds the group. I see the community growing stronger and stronger. 
Working together as a three-headed expert
Taking a risk and trying something completely new has been so worth it! The students are learning about communication, creativity, critical thinking, and listening. Making mistakes is celebrated and taking risks pays off. 
Practicing the three-headed expert
Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for this amazing platform to write and share writing! What a wonderful community you've created! I'm honored to be part of it.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Ending, Cleaning, and Organizing

Fourteen days left with the students. The school year is coming to an end. It's a time of wrapping up and closing and with that comes reflection. Thinking about where we started and how far we've come. The end of this year is different for me as I am packing up and leaving this school. This school where I discovered my true love...working with the middle school student. It's time. It's the right time. I've been offered an opportunity to open a brand new middle school, which is a new opportunity for me. I have all of the feelings that go along with transitioning...anticipation, excitement, worry, sadness, loss, and wonder. My challenge right now is to stay present in the moment with the students. I find when I'm able to do that, I am able to grasp the most joy.  Practically speaking, arrangements must be made to clean out years of memories and teaching, before I move. I've dreaded this, until last night when I heard a comment that stopped me in my tracks.  Last night I attended a class about Bullet Journaling at this cool studio called Create N Take. I've journaled before, but I needed a refresher and wanted to hear some new ideas. It was a small group, there were only four of us. One of the women was saying something about the time it takes to create the layouts in the bullet journals and the teacher quietly replied, "It's self-care. You need to take the time to show yourself some self-care and by setting up these pages, that's one way to do it." 
I'd never thought of bullet journaling as self-care, but of course, it is! 
Cleaning and organizing is a form of self-care too. It's all in the perspective. I've been dreading cleaning and packing up, but now I find myself hearing those words and looking forward to showing myself some self-care. We all could use more of that! 
Thank you to Margaret for this linkup! 
Join us and share your post here.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

A Week of Celebrations in Photographs

Time is at a premium as the school year draws to a close.
Celebrations are easily missed, so I tried to collect 
celebrations this week in pictures...
Recess. Extra recess this week. What's better than recess? Bubbles at recess!
We played and chased and giggled with the bubbles!
Sick day this week. No voice. Sore throat. Exhaustion. What's the cure? Popsicles of course, the purple ones are the best!
 National Notebook Day was this week! 
We celebrated with some 
extra writing time in our notebooks. 
 Time to write in the middle of the chaos of testing and wrapping up the school year. The moments of notebook time bring us peace and give us time to breathe!
  Storytime in communications. We completed our debates and as a transition into our next unit, I asked students to grab pictures books. The room transformed. Students begging to read aloud their favorite from my collection (some brought in their own).
Books really are magic!
Stormy skies! I love how I can see the clouds coming in this picture. It's been a stormy week in Virginia.
Bella on our early morning Saturday walk. She's so sweet and such fun! What a joy to have her in my life!
What are you celebrating this week? 
Thank you to Ruth Ayres for providing this space for sharing our celebrations. Please join us and share your own!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Test Prep

Tomorrow my sixth-grade readers take their state test in reading. In Virginia, the state tests are called SOLs. (Yes, I know. It stands for Standards of Learning.) We have been preparing for tomorrow. The day before is always a tough day. The tension is palpable. I answered questions...and there were a lot of questions! I gave them a pep talk...another one and then class began. They had choices today.
1. Make positive and motivational signs for test takers. 2. Complete practice SOL questions. 3. Read. 4. Write in your notebook. 
Students were invited to do what they needed. I conferenced and checked in on their work and eavesdropped. I heard them whispering and planning their signs. I saw students reading silently and a few practicing for tomorrow with released test questions. Class was relaxed and students were productive.  
Part of my pep talk asked them, What story are you telling yourself? I wondered aloud if they are telling themselves that they are dumb or going to fail or bad? If so, I reminded them to start telling themselves a new story. Their new story is this:
I am ready. I am prepared. I am a successful and accomplished reader. I can do this!  
I reminded them that when they walk into that testing room tomorrow, they aren't alone. I'm with them...not literally, but figuratively. I told them to imagine me sitting on their shoulder...I heard some giggles. I told them to envision me sitting on the top of the computer there are guffaws and someone blurts out, "You mean, like a floating head?!?!" I smiled and agreed. I told them to imagine whatever helps them.
That's MY head in a jar saying, "You GOT this!!!"
These signs are hanging in the hall as they walk into our classroom.
Thank you to Ruth Ayres for providing this space for sharing our celebrations. Please join us and share your own!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

TEDxHerndon Conference

This past Saturday afternoon, I traveled to a local middle school and settled in to listen to eighteen TED talks about difficult conversations. I left four and a half hours later inspired and motivated and educated. There's not enough time to share everything with you, so I'll share some highlights for me. Whitney Parnell spoke about creating allies and building bridges. Her talk started with this song she wrote. I was sobbing.
Kwame Alexander was one of the speakers. 
He always inspires when he speaks. His message was to be a SAY YES person. I laughed and listened and teared up as he shared his journey and experiences.
After Kwame came the legendary, Nikki Giovanni! I have been reading her poetry since college. She's bigger than life. In person, she's sassy and irreverent and brilliant! My favorite thing is she walked on stage and gave her TED talk holding her notebook. I felt a connection with her as soon as I saw that!
She spoke to writers about writing and not worrying about what people think about it. She then launched into a poem about fear. Here are a couple of lines from it,
"I think fear should be a spice..."
"I need to explain right here, it's not fear that causes problems, it's when hatred is combined with it..."
"Hatred is a bad idea, which is why it's cheap and available, anywhere you look"
Her words echo in my mind. There were so many other powerful speakers who made me think and who taught me. I have pages and pages of notes in my notebook. I can't wait to return and reread and soak in these words.
If you ever get the chance to attend a TED Conference, I highly recommend it!

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...