Right now I’m staring at this blue-eyed chunk of sweetness, my grand-daughter Sammie. She lives in Costa Rica with her mommy and daddy who are career missionaries…they left after Christmas with ‘our baby’, our unexpected treasure. Random chance that she is here? I don’t think so. Random chance that her parents met each other on the last raft trip of the summer in Wyoming two short years ago? I don’t think so. Random chance that our daughter was invited to go with her best friend on this random vacation? I don’t think so. Random chance that her new best friend had taught with me and then got a pink slip and landed in my daughter’s building? I don’t think so. Random chance that Em, felt dissatisfied and knew that she wouldn’t be teaching in her beloved school forever? I don’t think so. Random chance that she had even become a teacher after viewing herself as ‘Katie Couric’ since she was nine? I don’t think so. Random chance that she was the most spirited one year old alive and that twenty-seven years later she would give birth to a giggle monster with strawberry blonde hair and a temperament that just sings? I don’t think so. God’s humor, God’s love, God’s missionary baby…It can’t be random…it couldn’t be planned any more perfectly than this. …snip, snap, snout this tale is told out.
My husband retired after being a career teacher and at our local high school in ’11. Loved, loved his job but felt ready for this new journey of life after schools. Every day he is discovering that volunteering can bring joy…that ferociously cleaning, painting and cleaning out storage rooms can bring some type of satisfaction….but nothing can satisfy Dave as much as a good mow and a good snow blow.
Last season while he was still working ‘outside’ the home we had this blow out snow storm. Our baby snow blower just couldn’t hack it. Our neighbors had to come and bale out my poor, almost retired husband. Our little blower just had seen its day. Dave used to be the guy in the neighborhood baling out our more senior neighbors. Now our neighbors…sporting sparkling mega blowers were coming down the street. Are snowblowers a sign of manhood verility? It was a difficult situation indeed.
Fast forward to the fall of this year. I arrived home, to see this mega blower in my garage. It had blades and grinders. Dave smiled and said, “I hear we are going to have the roughest winter ever recorded.” I smiled, “We better have one for the price of that ‘chopper’ !” It has snowed twice this winter…once when Dave was visiting our son in Denver and once last week, when he was visiting our daughter in Costa Rica.
I had to shovel. He conveniently forgot to teach me how to turn it on…. Hmmm…snip, snap, snout…this tale is told out.
When the door is closed , after the checking in is done, we have the freedom at our school to talk about what is good for children. We agree, that we can never give up the precious time that they ask for every day. Every elementary teacher who is reading this knows what we were whispering about. We vow, we cheer- read aloud will never die. It is the time we relax, that we can delve and all can savor. Teaching a strategy is automatic, seamless as we read with intonation and voice. Together we relish new word discoveries and explore different worlds from our own.
Finally, as a team of teachers we discuss why the new assessment tool is superior to our other tool- we all agree that it can help us to know where to go next with our students…helpful to see exactly what is hanging them up in comprehension. Is it vocabulary, is it that they can’t derive the essence of why the author wrote the story ….or is it that they don’t understand the problem? Do they have difficulty making an inference based on details from the text??? main idea???? the list was long….scary. How do we move them forward?
You have to ‘go low, to get high’. Okay, crazy Nancy….what in the —- are you talking about now? Don’t you have to get pretty low in the limbo to come out the winner? Well, I think the kids have to go back to the easy to start to see their mental process in play. Like when I can’t remember how do do a percentage problem I remember 10 percent of a 100 is 90. Do an easy math problem, to get or understand a harder one. Read an easy book, and sometimes lots of easy books, to understand that in a story plot there usually is a problem and then a solution. My kids laugh when the wolf lands in the pot of boiling water when he can’t blow the brick house down. They usually can infer that the villain will get a taste of his own cruelty. Oh yes and then another side effect is that they can see why the sequence and the details are so important. Oh how we love picture books- we need to bring them out all the time…‘go low, to get high’. They should all be lined up on our chalkboard- face forward for easy access and easy love.
Snip, snap, snout this tale is told out.
PS So once again, in one morning- we solved the problems of the world with laughter and our books.
Today I was working with a bunch of my teacher friends, trying to solve this interesting problem. Our students now equate their reading speed to their ‘arrival’ as a reader’. Are you following? For example we line them up every week, a timer in our hand and say ‘when I say begin- put your finger on the first word and begin reading- our final reminder… and be sure to do your best reading’. I say begin…off to the races- they are a jackrabbit trying for that illusive carrot or a racecar driver at Indy. They are zooming along at warp speed and I might add, in their loudest voice possible. I arch my head, stare at the ceiling almost turn around in my chair because I’m so dizzy hearing the spinning wheels and staccato pitch of their screaming tires over this paper pavement. I want to laugh, I want to cry also. Sometimes I might ask after the ordeal,
“Did you enjoy that passage, uh story?, uh- what was it all about?”
“Well, I don’t know- I was reading really fast.”
“That’s it exactly…I say…you were really reading kinda fast.”
hmmm comprehension– understanding- hmmm are we arriving at our destination?
Stay tuned: tomorrow- going low….to get high!
Looking back can sometimes let us move forward. When I was young, I needed to go outside on rainy days, snowy days and picture perfect days. I still sleep with my window open on the coldest of nights wrapped in my cozy down comforter. On many nights my mom would just let me stand in our backyard to talk and sing to that man in the moon. I have just one thing to say, “We need recess, we all need recess….especially now !” In my intervention we move at speed that dazzles. My strugglers need to move and eat to be successful. Our little ones need music, action, singing and drawing. We need to let them hear crazy rhymes and stories that make us laugh until we cry. We all need to get up and move. We also need to teach those advocacy skills to our students for better productivity and concentration.
Snip, Snap, Snout…this tale is told out !
I love Valentine’s Day, my daughter loves Valentine’s Day and I’m sure that someday Samantha my sweet granddaughter will love it too. We got to decorate boxes every year at Jefferson Elementary School…I know that we didn’t have parties, but only had a break in the action when we passed out cards to all our friends. I always agonized at home over who should get what card in my class. My sister and I compared and re-read all our cards when we got home from school and then we would tuck them away in our boxes, storing them deep in the closet to revisit every once in a while. Every year, my sister got a card from Craig, he was always in her class and every year he would make each member of their class the same Valentine. There was no agonizing for Craig. He cut a heart, put two slits in the card and wrote, “I chews you for my Valentine”. He stuck a stick of Double-Mint gum through the heart and made it look like an arrow. It was so clever! He must of loved the play on words, because he did it over and over…I was always a little jealous of those cards. I wonder if he still does it- for his wife and their kids…over and over- a funny little Valentine tradition! Today I tabled the intervention (shhhh), I’m not sure if that is okay and we talked word work- ‘chews and choose’. We talked about why Craig’s card was funny. I’m not sure if they really got why it’s funny- but I do know this. Second grade boys need to know how to cut out a heart and they definitely need to know how to make a special card for a special person in their life. Valentines- the perfect, reading and writing, thinking and loving holiday that we’ve got.
PS Oh, and the gum… oh how they loved the gum !
Okay, Pete the Cat, has been one of our favorite books this year. The kids have loved the free downloadable jazzy music and his ‘cool cat’ demeanor in the book. Pete puts on his school shoes and sings his way through the school day, not fearing anything new that he encounters…even that scary LUNCHROOM. I was thinking about how it felt for me when I moved mid year to a new house and a new school. I was petrified, literally, for two years. As I sat at my computer this morning one of our ELL teachers came up to show me this big book that a 3rd grader had made for her at home. Last year this little boy moved from around the world to ours, a new and scary place for him. He didn’t know one word of English. One year later he was writing this beautiful book about how much he loved our school and his teachers…amazing… the simply crafted sentences, the perfect spellings and the very detailed illustrations outlining his school day. But what I found utterly fascinating was his love for his teacher and his new home in America. This very wonderful teacher had, herself, walked in his shoes just about twelve years earlier. She understands how to teach writing…because it is born in conversation and comes from the heart. Every day they practice saying the sentence and then writing down the sentence, together. It is simple and profound. I wish that I would walk slower, step in a child’s shoes more often…..slow down, slow down….take time to listen deeply.
A writers job is to put our hearts down on paper. We have to trust that every child has something to say…we need to teach the writer, not the writing.- Georgia Heard
PS because I like them- this year this student’s young mother died tragically of an infection. Today he told my friend that it was his birthday in two weeks. She said,”I’m excited for your birthday.” He said, ” I’m happy, but I’m sad too…because it is on the same day as my mothers.” He added, ” Will you help me make me make my mommy a birthday card?” …wow, is all I could say.
I find that my attitude really impacts the kiddos that I teach, I see the students just under the money mark…called an ‘interventionist’ at my job now. I deal in the parameters of bad moods from lack of nutrition to overabundance of electronics. Everyone in my groups has a televison in their bedroom, despite their economic situation. Well, encouraging the love of reading, some days, seems frustrating and then I started to remember something about me as a reader. I loved to curl up in a big chair, my book and a snack when I was young, I still do! “Yikes,” nutritionists complain, “That’s a recipe for an overweight 50 something…someday.” Well, it’s not someday for my kiddos. If popcorn helps them focus, If popcorn makes them cheerful, if popcorn helps them to get down and cozy with books- it’s happening every day.
“Wednesday’s child is full of woe.” I determined early in the year to treat myself on Wednesday mornings- to avoid woe and get through with a smile . My yesterday, my Tuesday, was pretty awful starting with the coffee pot and leading to me having an attitude problem in each of my groups. (I forgot to put the carafe in and my morning coffee was running on the counter, dripping down to the hardwood) Does anyone in the world do this except Nancy? No! Coffee headache brewing, we all went to school together. It felt like in every group one of my boys had done the same thing with their coffee…cranky can’t even explain it. Well, that was yesterday, today is Wednesday and Nancy runs on ‘Dunkin’. Every week I buy myself a large and get my girlfriend one too. Today will be different…I just know it ! Snip, snap snout….this tale is now told out .
My cousin Doug has been sending us a picture of us for the last month very early each morning. Doug is the stair step that is sporting a fro. We always took our pictures in age order back then. I’ve been smiling and remembering when we were all so skinny and our lives consisted of friends, school and each other. I’m the oldest….so I’ve been in all the pictures. Day 10 and this is the first one that I looked at and said to myself, ” Hey…I look pretty dang good.” I’m not wearing my crazy brown glasses and I actually look okay in those super short, shorts. I showed it to my husband…to see if he ever remembered me looking like that; because I certainly have forgotten. He smiled and said, “Va va va va voom !” That was early ’70s talk for…”wow, you were really hot”. Renewed energy, that’s a great way to start the day.
Welcome to my new blog. I want to challenge myself to write every single day…because to be a great teacher of writing a person needs to make an effort daily. It is like starting a new diet or learning how to use the Smart Board…it won’t just happen if I keep thinking about it. I need to put my fingers to the keyboard and ‘give it a go’ as the Australians like to remind us. Writing is like that…putting it out there…as messy as it is, and hopefully I’ll start swimming a stroke or two. Maybe some of you will join me in the muck.