Monday, June 26, 2017

The Magic of Musicals

I love musicals! What is it about musicals that I love? Musicals tell a story with music and dancing. It's how I wish life would be...I'm going through my day, something frustrating happens, and I turn and belt out a song about it. Wouldn't that be great? 
This past weekend I saw Rent at the National Theatre in Washington D.C. with two friends. I first saw this show, before it's debut on Broadway, in Boston twenty years ago. I loved it more this time, and I didn't think that was possible! This story is timeless and powerful. The music touched me all over again and the performances were incredible...goosebump-inducing singing and dancing! I've always loved musicals. My family picked one musical a year to go and see. It all started with Cats. Since then I've seen Les Miserable, Miss Saigon, Ragtime, Annie Get Your Gun, Smokey Joe's Cafe, Crazy for You, Kiss of a Spider Woman, and Phantom of the Opera. When I listen to musical soundtracks, I always pick which character I'd be, if I were in this story. Empathy. I sing (only when I'm alone because I have a terrible singing voice) with gusto and I feel the story! Musicals allow me windows into different lives, cultures, and experiences. Musicals are magic.
Next week I'm going to see "The Sound of Music" at the Kennedy Center. I've never seen the stage show and I can't wait! My wish list of shows I'd like to see include: Wicked, The Secret Garden, Aspects of Love, Dear Evan Hansen, and of course Hamilton!
Do you have a favorite musical?
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. Join us at Two Writing Teachers.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Closing Tabs and a Book Rec

Write about superheroes? No. I could write about Bella, my dog, and her obsession with penguins? No. 
How I have too many tabs open (on Chrome) and it's stressing me out? No. 
UGH! I don't know what to write about. I've been blogging for years. Maybe I've run out of things to say. No. I know that isn't true, but I'm stuck and I think I'm too focused on making it "good" and "worthy". I hear my own annoying advice rattling around in my head, "Just show up and write!" so here I am. 
Yeah, I....
Arrrggghhhh!!! This writing thing isn't easy. You know what's ironic? I've been writing (not on my blog) a lot recently. How do I balance different kinds of writing? I have to switch off what I'm writing over there and really be present here. I guess it's like reading more than one book at a time.
Oh, and that reminds me, I'm reading an AMAZING book that every single educator I know should read! It's called Intention: Critical Creativity in the Classroom
This book....there's so much inside these pages. I'm savoring the message and meandering through the chapters so as to soak up every syllable. The ideas inspire me and I'm doodling all over the pages. I'll write more about it when I'm done, but if you don't know this book or don't have it....RUN and get it....NOW!
I have one more thought this morning before I post this. Why does Grammarly insist that my ellipses use four, instead of three, periods?!?! Grammarly is a free add-on for Chrome and it frequently reminds me that I use the incorrect prepositions and stink at commas. 
This post is a mash-up of randomness. It's not great, but it's done and sometimes that has to be enough....and I've closed all those extraneous tabs. Just closed them. Ahhh, that feels good!

Monday, June 12, 2017

You Matter

I'm not the smartest person. I'm not the prettiest. I was never picked first for any team. I'm not the best and I really don't want to be. I work hard at so many things but what's most important to me, what I value the most is being kind.   
The end of the school year is time for reflection. I ask my students to reflect and I reflect myself. I think about what I did well and where I can do better. In my reflections this year, I've come to the conclusion that I did a good job at developing relationships with students and connecting with them.  Here are some of their thoughts...
"You Matter" is how I communicate to my students that I see them and they are important to me and to our classroom community. Every day those words are on the board and it's made a difference. Many students told me that seeing those words every day in class made a difference to them.
We talk about what those words mean. We discuss how to communicate those words to each other, verbally and non-verbally. It's something I value and I see the value transfer to all very soon. We use these words. It becomes part of our daily conversation.
It's important, it's necessary, it's non-negotiable, to SEE our students every single day. It makes a difference. One class told me that I was their hero. (By the way, it isn't really about me at all, it's about the message: "You Matter!" It changed them. It meant something to them.) They created beautiful gifts. First of all, I got my very own superhero cape...
They also created a notebook for me. This notebook is filled with pages and pages written for me and to me. I see my students and they see me.
My hope for these students is that they remember their worth and share it with the world.
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. Join us at Two Writing Teachers.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Yes, And...

I recently blogged here about using improv with my middle schoolers.  We finished the year with our practice of improv. (I even had a class ask to perform improv on the last day of school!) In our study of improv, we learned that the most important rule of improv is "Yes, and..." That means that as a performer, you must always agree with your partner, otherwise, the scene stops cold. The "and" means that each performer needs to add something new to the scene. As the days and weeks progressed, I saw improvement in the students following these rules. Perhaps that's why the word YES has been floating around in my head lately. I find myself writing about it and reflecting on it and wondering about the power of yes. As with anything in life, when our attention is on something, it seems to suddenly appear everywhere...
With summer approaching, and the word YES prominent in my consciousness, I've made a decision. This is going to be the summer of YES, or more specifically, my summer of YES, AND. I can act from fear...sometimes I resist instead of risk and life is that much duller because of it. I've decided. I'm going to say YES more. I read "Year of Yes" by Shonda Rhimes and it's one of those books that's stayed with me. The lessons she learned and the way she allowed fear to stop her...I kept saying, "Me too." Here it is. I'm going to try new things. I'm going to make decisions from YES instead of fear...even when I don't feel like it. I'm going to invite more and ask more and risk more (that's the AND part of it.) I'm going to live outside of my comfort zone and see what that's like. I invite you to try it. Say YES to summer, to life!
Thank you to Ruth Ayres for providing this space for sharing our celebrations. Please join us and share your own!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Wanderlust Staycation

I'm planning my "Wanderlust Staycation". 
Bella, helping me plan
This is my last week of school. There's so much going on, I don't know where to naturally, I'll begin with summer plans. I was disappointed because I didn't have a week long beach trip planned. Things weren't lining up for me and I was getting sad answering the question, "What are you doing this summer?"  I decided I'm creating my own staycation. I'm calling it the "Wanderlust Staycation" and currently I'm asking for suggestions from local friends for day trips or fun activities around Loudoun County, Virginia which is outside of Washington DC. I've lived here for seventeen years and there's so much to do and see. Right now, I'm gathering suggestions and soon I'll be making a map of my summer. I know that I want to discover new (to me) places. I want to explore and see new things. I love going by myself or with a friend. Places, where I can write, are a plus since I want to write a lot this summer.  Finally, I'd like to push myself to try new things and have new experiences. Suggestions have already begun pouring in and I'm excited...
So far, I'm going to see Rent in DC. I will definitely be trying goat yoga and getting myself to the Newseum.
GYOGA from chip baysden on Vimeo. Back when I was in college, I remember a woman I worked with spent her day off each week exploring Boston. She'd find something new and go. That spirit has always stayed with me and I'm hoping it makes me brave enough to try lots of new things.  Suggestions are welcome! Where should I go? What should I do? Who's coming with me?
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. Join us at Two Writing Teachers.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

And the Winner is...Maker Space

The end of the school year inevitably means awards ceremonies. Last year, I wanted to try out maker space in the language arts classroom, so I had a brilliant idea...class awards ceremony. 
  The students were instructed to create an original award for themselves. It could be about anything that happens in school...not limited to language arts class. It was a rousing success, so I'm repeating it. We've brainstormed possible awards to win. They get to win the award they've always wanted to win. They pick what's important to them in an award. These awards show me what they value in their days. It's amazing! 
We watched lots of acceptance speeches and analyzed them as mentor texts and they have started composing their acceptance speeches. Next week during the classroom ceremony, they will give their acceptance speeches to the class. 
Finally, we create the actual awards. Some students brought in supplies and I provided some...paper plates, paper cups, stickers, and a few other things. We spent a huge chunk of class time making awards. The energy was high and exciting!
I love watching these almost-seventh-graders turn back into little kids playing with arts and crafts. Some of them looked intense as they created, some of them giggled and others found themselves frustrated with their creations. Problem-solving at it's best when I hear questions like, "How do I make this stand?" The conversations revolved around the best way to create these awards and the results are astounding. 
Taking time to MAKE in the language arts classroom is vital. It sparks such creativity and collaboration. I can't wait for our ceremony next week!
Thank you to Ruth Ayres for providing this space for sharing our celebrations. Please join us and share your own!

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...