Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Ripples~Slice of Life July 27, 2015

Ripples...an idea that's been stirring in my head since I had the opportunity to spend a few days on Cape Cod last week. As myself and some dear friends were being "toasted" by our generous host at dinner Monday night, she talked about the "ripples' we send out and it stuck with me.  It's not an earth shattering epiphany...but honestly as I looked around the dinner table on that hot, humid Monday evening, the idea of how 'ripples' had brought this group of people together really resonated with me.

       ....a random "retweet" that connected not just me, but my students at the time, with an genuine, kindhearted author through a Skype visit.   That Skype visit led to a class visit...which led to a dinner...which led to threads of conversations that revealed our hearts, tying us together in friendship.

      .....a unplanned face to face meeting at the Scholastic Warehouse after following each other on Twitter for several months. A meeting that led to continued conversations via Twitter and Facebook around our shared loved of books and teaching. Conversations that led to an invitation to dinner...which led to an invitation to a Maine Reading Association meeting and threads of conversations as we commuted to meetings together,  revealing literacy centered passions that tied us together in friendship.

     .....happening upon a literacy coach in a hotel lobby at NCTE Boston, trying to problem solve a technology glitch for a presentation the next day. A mutual friend calling me over to see if I could help.  Over laughter and many attempts to help...threads of friendship beginning to be sewn...technology glitch fixed.  Drinks later in the weekend...where conversations began to reveal our common interests...binding us together in friendship.

     .....while waiting in line to check bags, the person behind me being brave enough to say she followed me on Twitter (I'm way too shy to do something like that), and through conversation discovering that she was coming to Maine that coming January. Staying connected through Twitter, and then offering a welcoming hug to her when I saw her at our first Nerd Camp Northern New England...which she came to alone. I want to be brave like her. Threads that began to tie us together in friendship.

     ..... a brief conversation after a presentation with an attendee, that revealed he was alone...not just at the conference, but in his teaching situation. Making a note to continue to reach out to him through Twitter. Running into him again several times during the conference.  Then sharing ideas at random times via Twitter as the threads of friendship began to weave their way across cyber space, stitching our lives together.

     .....a message left in a Voxer group, where I could hear discouragement in a voice. Sending a separate message to encourage a colleague to keep doing what she was doing. Keeping her "why"...her students as her main focus. Which led to daily morning commute Voxer conversations sharing ideas, thinking, and daily life events with each other.  Threads of friendship, intertwining our lives through conversations. 

Ripples. Turned into threads because of actions and reactions of those caught in the current
of the crest. Now bound in genuine friendships. 

Ripples...a beautiful ebb and flow.

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/5485824630/

You can find more Slices of Life at Two Writing Teachers.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Dee Dinner Date Night-Slice of Life July 14, 2015

It started as a small gesture in navigating a "new normal".  I'm a doer.  I see a need and I want to do something to help. So I offered to make dinner for my father-in-law, having my husband and I join him on the first night he would be at home...alone...for the first time in almost sixty-six years. I had no idea what this one small gesture would become for me.

My mother-in-law passed away in April. April 25th. 5 days before her 84th birthday and 5 months before her 66th wedding anniversary. After her faith in God, her family was most important to her. She was always most happy surrounded by her children and their families. 

That first Tuesday I made homemade chicken pot pie. The three of us had dinner together. Tuesday arrived again. I called my father-in-law and invited him to come over to our house for dinner. The three of us had dinner together.  Lasagna was on the menu. Tuesday arrived again. And...well... it's just become what we do. Dee Dinner Date Night. Every Tuesday.  

Friends and family members say things like, "That's so thoughtful of you." or "What a nice thing to do for your father-in-law." But as I was prepping dinner last Tuesday, I started thinking about how it's become so much more than that. 

It's reignited my love of cooking. I'm enjoying coming up with a new menu each Tuesday. I scour cookbooks and websites, looking for new recipes to try each week. I try to make everything from scratch. I make sure to cook more than we can eat, sending home enough leftovers for another dinner for my father-in-law later in the week.  It's like new self imposed challenge each week.

It's my way of showing my husband, my father-in-law, (and even the immediate family) that I hurt with them in their loss.  I feel the void, not in the exact way they do. Their history with her is much longer than mine. But I feel the void. And I loved her, just as they loved her. Our dinner conversations always include stories about her...and just by sharing these memories together, we heal a little bit.

And in this small gesture...making dinner...I remember and honor my mother-in-law. I find myself thinking about her as I'm prepping meals each week.  I remember how much she loved sitting at the table, with family all around, sharing home cooked meals together. I can hear the pride in her voice when she talked about her children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren.  I remember her style of cooking...no measuring...but a little of this and a little of that, tasting as she would go...and I smile. 

Dee Dinner Date Night connects me to her. And as I prepare the meal, set the dinner table, and prepare to welcome them both to the table each Tuesday evening, I'm saying to her

"I know how much you loved them, your husband and your youngest son. And I'll continue showing them love...just as you did...in the doing."

You can find more Slice of Life Posts by visiting The Two Writing Teachers.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Living Among the Books~A Slice of Life July 7, 2015

I'm joining the Slice of Life Challenge today for the first time, as I try to add more writing into my daily life. You can find more Slice of Life posts at The Two Writing Teachers

I always look forward to July with great anticipation. It's the month of the year that I get to live among the books.  Spending my Mondays through Thursdays spreading the love of books, reading, and writing with the young and not so young, brings so much joy into my summer.  Yesterday was our first day with children and I couldn't wait to see familiar faces and meet new reader/writers! 

The anticipation of the first day always brings out so many thoughts and feelings. The unpacking of a complete lending library can feel so overwhelming. I wonder if I've purchased "the" book that will capture that resistant reader, finally giving them entrance into the "literacy club".  I spend what sometimes feels like way too much time on which basket certain titles should be housed. I worry that I haven't expanded the series section enough to give those late initial and early transitional readers enough titles to choose from. And of course there are the graduate students, for whom this program is the main focus. Will they like me? Will they find my ideas, organization, and book choices inviting enough to support the work they will do over the coming month?

So yesterday arrived...and all my worries and doubts began to dissipate as the graduate students started to visit the Library with their young learners for the first time. There were lots of hugs from returning reader/writers. Books quickly began finding their homes in the hands of readers. Conversations were buzzing around the library that revolved around interests, favorite authors, and themes...always with choice as the guiding light in selections. 

Snippets of conversations began to stick within my reading heart...
            from a returning 10 yo reader..."Remember that book that kid had lost and then found on the last day last summer? You know..about the donut? I really wanted to read that one!" (I knew it...and had it...and had to create a Wait List)

           from a new 10 yo reader..."Wow! Usually I'm always the last one still trying to find a book when my class visits the library but I already have three books I want to read! That's NEVER happened to me before!" (Ah...all the unpacking and exact placement of books already paid off 30 minutes into day one!)

            from a new 6 yo reader..."Just so you know, I want books that will challenge me 'cause I already know a LOT about books!" (Duly noted sweetheart!)

Thirty minutes to wipe away the doubts and worries. The time spent reading books, pouring over new titles, creating an order of new books that would cover a wide range of reading abilities and interests, moving furniture, unpacking and organizing books, and creating a welcoming environment will be well worth it! Books will find their readers...and readers will find their reading lives. And I have the honor of witnessing the connections as I live among the books for four short weeks.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Another Layer to Professional Development

My professional reading has become a bit more intentional since taking on a new role as Literacy Strategist last summer. I mean, I have always read with intention before now, but there is something different about reading professional literature when you know the audience for sharing your new learning and understanding will be teachers. Before, I read with my students in mind, thinking about how I would refine and improve my teaching in the classroom. I wasn't necessarily going to have to explain the thinking behind my instructional decisions and moves to them, but rather I would be doing the new learning.

Now I read with the teacher in mind, thinking about how I will facilitate conversations around instructional strategies and ideas from the professional texts I'm reading, in order to help teachers have a better understanding of the "why" and "how" of the instructional moves they make in their own classrooms. This has changed how I annotate and keep track of my own thinking as I'm reading. I started last fall by keeping notes using Google Drive, where I could link handouts I create and web links within my notes so it was all in one place. I found this made it easier for me to share with teachers this year, as I could create "synopsis" notes that could be shared with them during coaching cycles or professional learning sessions.

This summer I'm taking this a step further, using "virtual" avenues that I've expanded through my PLN (Professional Learning Network).  The National Council for Teachers of English just published a qualitative narrative study on teacher participation in online professional development. As I tweeted out today, I'm a big believer and participant in this kind of learning!

This summer I've added another layer to my professional learning! I'm using Google Drive and Voxer to participate in several professional book studies.  This idea started back in May when people were sharing their #cyberpd book stacks via Twitter, Facebook, and Google Communities. Several people in a larger Voxer group I'm a part of noticed that we had similar titles. 

And so a smaller group of us decided to read three books we had in common during June, July, and August. Michele (@knott_michele) set up a Voxer group and reading schedule for the first book, Writing About Reading: From Book Talk to Literary Essays by Janet Angelillo. I set up a google doc where we could keep notes and add comments as we read. It's been a great way to share ideas and thinking, while still enjoying summer time trips and activities. As a literacy strategist, I've really appreciated the comments and questions the teachers & teacher librarians have added to the conversations, both through Voxer and the google document. We've worked together to create handouts and charts that capture key ideas that we can easily reference once we're back in the busyness of a school schedule. We're just getting started on our next book, Conferring~The Keystone to Reader's Workshop by Patrick Allen, using the same format. 

Voxer has benefited me in many ways, since someone first tweeted about last summer. Working in separate buildings, my coaching partner, Jamie (@fivenomar) and I found it very helpful this past school year to stay connected during the week and in planning professional development. My new coaching partner, Matt (@Matt_Halpern) and I are already using it for thinking about & planning for the upcoming school year. My colleague, Natalee Stotz (@nataleestotz) set up a #nErDcampNNE Group for our planning committee to use the weekend of Nerd Camp Northern New England, which helped us all stay in touch in various parts of a large school building. I'm a part of a 'Coaching Connections' Voxer Group that includes a small group of literacy coaches who support each other in work specific to coaching and working with adult learners. We started by meeting monthly via Google Hangout and added Voxer as a way of sending quick messages of encouragement or questions during the work day. An 'All Things Literacy' Voxer group was created when I tweeted out a question looking for input from 3rd grade teachers about how they use & organize Readers Notebooks and our conversation needed more than 140 characters. Honestly, the more I use Voxer, the more I see the powerful layer it adds to an already vibrate, engaging professional learning community! I'm so thankful for those in my PLN who have been willing to try this idea out with me! 

How are you leveraging the various online professional development opportunities and platforms?  I'd love to hear more about the ways your using it to expand professional conversations and learning! As for the professional books I'm reading this summer, I'll share big take aways from my reading in upcoming blog posts...so stay tuned.