Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Creativity in humidity

Yesterday in Massachusetts was truly a summer day. The temperatures rose above 90, the humidity kept pace. All we could do was stay as still as possible. Despite having grown up here, I am never prepared for the summer. I melt, and any cheerfulness I may have had melts away as well.

My girls take after me.

Yesterday could have been a truly craptastic day.

But it wasn’t.

After a morning appointment, we went to the ice cream stand for lunch. Yes, ice cream cones are a perfectly appropriate lunch when the thermometer already reads in the high 80s at 11:00am. After that we drove up to the mall to soak in some air conditioning and buy a few needed summer clothes. Second lunch in the food court (with actual protein) and we were ready to brave the outdoors again.

At home, Thea retreated to her air-conditioned room (she has asthma, so gets the ac), Anya headed to the relative cool of the finished basement, and I sat under the porch ceiling fan icing my wrist.

And here’s the cool part: each of us got to work on a creative project. I started organizing the two major writing projects I am thinking about for the summer, Thea created character boards for a story idea that’s been percolating for a while, and Anya pounded away on her laptop to complete the next part of her fantasy novel, complete with snippets of poetic prophesy.

At the end of the day, my wrist still hurt, there were dishes in the sink, and not a single load of laundry had made it to the washer. It was a very productive day.
Today we are anticipating temperatures in the mid-90s with 70% humidity. We’re heading down the street to the lake to meet up with some friends. (I’m tempted to bring my laptop.)

Not every day will be as creatively productive as Monday was. Some days I’ll have to actually wash those dishes and run the washing machine. Still, what an inspiring way to spend our first day of school vacation.

Here’s to a summer of writing!

This is my Slice of Life for the week. See others here

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

end of year behaviors in a 2nd grade classroom

J would not take out his notebook. He needed to finish his narrative writing. We had talked about what he needed to do last week in class. It didn’t get done. Today, he clearly did not want to tackle the problem so claimed again and again that he did not know what to do. “But J, please go get your notebook and I will talk to you about what you need to do. It’s not much, you already started the work; you already have a great idea.”
He did not get the notebook. He sat idle at his desk.
Finally, I got the notebook.
I reviewed the page we had discussed last week to remind him what needed to be done. Almost nothing, really. He had a few sentences to write, and this is a kid who can write.
He did nothing.
His name had already been moved to the “red zone” so he would have no recess. There was only a slight chance that he would do the writing at recess, but there was a chance.
He didn’t make it to recess.
He refused to go to the quiet table in lunch.
He refused to walk up to the office with the Vice Principal.
He refused to talk with his Mom when she came to pick him up.

I keep trying to figure out what I could have done differently. The biggest mistake I feel I made was asking him to sit at the Quiet Table at lunch. If I had not added that stipulation, he may have come around and been ready to work at recess.
May have.

It is a tricky balancing act to work with the emotions of a 9 year old. or, a 43 year old, for that matter. In the end, both J and I are human. Neither of us handled yesterday’s problems with perfection, but both of us handled them as best we could in the moment. And, being human, we can look at yesterday’s mistakes to improve today’s choices.

This is a slice of annoyances from life this week. Check here for happier slices from teacher writers around the country. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Things my father taught me:

·      Do it well, do it right, whatever it is – washing dishes, laying brick, writing essays. Even if you didn’t want to do it in the first place, do it right because someone is counting on you.

·      Don’t take yourself seriously, at all. Human beings fart and snort and stumble and say the wrong thing. Go with it.

·      Love completely and show it in the way that seems best to you. Not everyone wants flowers or jewelry, sometimes love is better shown by loosening the lids on jars before you put them in the fridge, by standing close with a strong arm ready, by looking at your spouse with the same sparkle after 50 years of marriage as you did after 50 days.

·      See joy everywhere. Joy is a choice and we can sit around and worry or watch a four year old create a block tower big enough to hold her imagination.

·      Do what you love; even if you have to do something else to make a living, do what you love as well.
My Mom and Dad, before they were married, before they had 10 kids.
See that love - that never dimmed.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Report cards and cumulative folders and Flag Day parties

This week has been a craze of organizing. Every year I promise myself to be more organized throughout to avoid this chaos of end of the year requirements. But, at least I have an excuse (sort of) since I didn’t start until mid-year and the classroom was already a study in how not to organize a classroom. I never caught up.

So, maybe not the smartest idea to plan a Flag Day party for Friday. I’m sending home a request for red, white and blue paper and decorations and snacks and the kids are planning how best to recognize the birthday. Some ideas include singing happy birthday to the flag and designing our own flags.

When I glance over at my desk I see the cumulative folders lined neatly in the box waiting to be updated, my report card file with a checklist of what parts I need to complete, the box of printouts that have been handed to me over the past week (score summaries, end of the year activity ideas, strategies for reaching ELLs). And yet, I turn my back, cue up the National Anthem on Teacher Tube and review the lyrics with my students – allowing questions, comments, connections – because this, too is important.

Tomorrow, I interview to keep this job, hoping that I will not only be able to tame this clutter, but finally attain my goal of organization from the start. (Wish me luck.)
My Slice of Life. See more here.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A writer writes

How has your instruction been impacted by being a Writer?

In that wonderful way of kismet, the question included in the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life post was a segue from a conversation I had with one of my second graders at the end of the day. I was taking photos of my bulletin board and he asked me why.
“Because I plan to write about our work today, and I want to remember the good thinking you added to the board.”
“You’re writing about us?”
“Yes. I write about our class all the time.”
“Why?” He was incredulous.
“Well, for a few reasons. One, because you guys are so smart and thoughtful, I think people would like to hear about you. And also, writing about our work helps me think carefully about our wok.”
“Oh.” And off he went. His incredulity cured, he took my explanation as reasonable. After he got his backpack and put his chair up on his desk, he turned to me again. “So, Mrs. L.A., you’re a writer too, just like us.”
“Yes I am, Evan. Yes I am.”

It has taken me a long time to call myself a writer. I tell my students that a writer is someone who writes, and I believe that they are, in fact, writers. I call them writers all the time. But I almost never call myself a writer. In the grown up world, I long held that moniker aside for published authors, those who came up on Amazon searches or popped up in academic journals.

It was about a year ago that I blushed as my husband described me to someone as a writer.

I write every day. Most of my work stays quietly on my laptop. Some of it is posted here and shared. Some I post to my Corner Classroom blog where I focus more directly on teaching and learning. I even write a weekly blog for my local newspaper. But when someone asks me about myself I say I am a teacher. I almost never say writer.

It’s a question of confidence, I think.

Being a writer helps me to be a teacher. First and foremost, writing about my work makes me more reflective. I think on paper – What worked? Why didn’t this work? What can I do to support my ELL students in this? What is the end goal? I think of the big ideas like “What is the purpose of education?” and the little ideas like “How can I make my morning routine more efficient?” and every idea in between.

I also gain empathy through writing. Not only do I know how hard it is to string words together to make an interesting story, I know also how scary it is to share your story with others. I know how to gently push students into reading their work aloud, and I know when to quietly collect the notebook. I’ve been there. I know how they feel.

Being a writer has made me a better reader. I notice things in books, the techniques the authors employ, the decisions that had to be made to organize a story or an essay. And, I’m beginning to use my improved reading skills to help support my young readers. It’s helpful to think about what the author describes in detail and what she leaves for our imaginations. You learn how to gather good evidence from a text to support your opinion.

If I have time tonight after grading the final Math test, I’ll be writing about the work I mentioned to Evan earlier today. I know if I don’t get to it today, though, I’ll be writing sometime this week. Because, I’m a writer, and that’s what I do.