Monday, March 14, 2016

{solsc} The Flip! #sol16

The March Slice of Life Challenge
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I was a cheerleader. Not the technical, super athletic gymnast type of cheerleader. I was more of the super LOUD, extra enthusiastic type of cheerleader.  I could lead chants and execute cheer moves with great precision. Yes, I was that girl practicing cheer moves at the bus stop, on the playground, walking to check the mailbox, pretty much anytime, anywhere. I was very serious about being a cheerleader.  

One Saturday night when I was about 15 years old, I let my pride get the better of me. My best friend, Tammy, had come over for a sleepover.  As we sat around the living room, the conversation somehow led to my dad challenging me to a cheering competition.  Being the serious cheerleader that I was, I jumped at the chance to show old dad just how good I was! As any gentleman would do, my dad let me go first.  I "Ready!Okayed" with gusto then executed a near flawless cheer.  It was inspiring! The crowd erupted in applause!  Okay. Maybe it was just polite clapping.  But I had performed my very best. And after all, I was up against my dad. What did he know about cheering? Not a whole lot...or so I thought.

He congratulated me on my well executed cheer and then he "Ready! Okayed!". It wasn't bad,  a little over exaggerated, but not bad. I was feeling okay. He was making up some kind of cheer that made absolutely no sense. Another good sign that things were going my way. His movements were completely over the top. Seriously over the top.  I started planning out the words of encouragement I would use to console my poor dad.  And then it happened...right there in the middle of my living room with eight foot ceilings. My old dad....did a backflip to end his routine. A backflip people!

How is a girl supposed to compete with that?!?  Of course, I couldn't. The judges (my mom, my younger brothers, and my best friend) gave the victory to my dad.  My old dad beat me that night...and handed me what would be one of my most favorite memories!

So really, I was the winner after all.

Friday, March 11, 2016

{solsc} PL Day #sol16

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"School [districts] should always be on a pathway of self-improvement, with the expectation that teachers will outgrow themselves." Lucy Calkins 

I remember hearing those words in Lucy's opening remarks, kicking off the 2015 Coaching Institute on the Teaching of Reading. They were powerful! Today I was reminded again, of how powerful those words were.   I am grateful to work in a district the ascribes to this philosophy.  

Today was a professional learning day for teachers. In my role as literacy strategist, I am responsible, along with my coaching colleague, for providing the professional development on these days.  I always approach these days hopeful that teachers will view the day as a beneficial use of their time.  I spend a lot of time thinking (code for worrying) about if teachers will find the ideas and information we share tied to the work they are doing, not something "extra" that they have to find time to do. I want them to walk away feeling validated, while also feeling empowered to go deeper.

I'm exhausted and need to spend time reflecting with my coaching colleague on how we can improve for the next time. But my teaching heart is bolstered by the ways I saw and heard teachers expressing ways they can outgrow themselves. Tonight I'm letting those conversations, reminders that none of us (myself included) ever truly "arrive",  replay themselves in my mind as I crash on the couch after a long but very affirming week!  

Thursday, March 10, 2016

{solsc} Shine #sol16

The March Slice of Life Challenge
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This week my colleague, Matt, and I had the pleasure of hosting site visits for two different teams of educators from other school districts.  We wanted the visits to be useful for these teachers so we planned out a schedule that provided them with observations in three classrooms, where they were able to see the reading and writing workshop in action.  After each workshop,  the host classroom teacher joined us for a debrief session, allowing our visitors to ask questions about not only what they had observed, but also general questions about each teacher's experience with using the Units of Study for Reading and Writing. 

Watching our host teachers navigate their reading/writing workshop, the observer might think it's seamless and effortless. Transitions are smooth. Students are engaged. There's a tone within the classroom that its members are about to embark on serious work. There's community. There's REAL reading and busy work to be found here! However, what was seen in these classrooms was accomplished through reflective effort on each teacher's part. I get to see this mastery every day, but to see it again through someone else's eyes, was so powerful.

Moving into each debrief, we made a conscious decision to take a back seat, allowing our teachers to take the lead in the conversations. I was reminded yet again just how fortunate I am to be doing this coaching work.  Each teacher articulated their 'story' with confidence, answering questions with thoughtful reflection of the instructional decisions and teaching moves they made. As I listened to them talk, I was struck by the fact that this was even more about giving my teachers the opportunity to reflect, as it was giving visiting teams the opportunity to see the work in progress.

And here's the thing that makes this all the more wonderful. Our visitors could come back tomorrow, unannounced, and see the exact same level of excellence in our classrooms. This is the work we do, every day, whether the spotlight is shining on it or not.

I'm just fortunate to be able to shine the light. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

{solsc} Glorious! #sol16

The March Slice of Life Challenge
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I stepped out of the school building this afternoon, anxious to see if the weatherperson had forecasted the day correctly. March weather in Maine has a reputation for being persnickety, often times feeling like the excess baggage of winter.  So when the long range forecast indicated highs in the high 60s today, I did not get my hopes up. I mean, it's only the 9th day of March.  No way could we possibly see temperatures that high this soon.

Well, we didn't have highs in the high 60s. No. The weatherperson got it wrong. Again. Instead we had a high of 75.  Yep. You read that right. 75 degrees on March 9, 2016 in Maine.  I wasted no time getting to my car, popping open my sunroof, and starting home. As I started the 35 minute commute, my mind was busy rearranging my after school plans. The prep work for Friday's professional day was moved several rungs down the priority ladder, as going for a walk quickly moved to the top!

What a glorious afternoon! Usually I'm trying to keep a swift pace as I walk but not today. Instead I meandered through the cemetery across from my house, breathing in the warm fresh air, listening to the birds and taking in the early spring smell of mud.  As I returned home, I admit, the weather  really got the better of me.  I went right out to the pool shed to pull out the grill. Yep. First grilled meal of the season.  And since I'd already gone that far...I topped this glorious glimpse of what's to come with a trip to get an ice cream.

I know this weather won't last. I know there's a really good chance Winter will make it's presence known again before Spring finally takes hold for good. But this one day, holding out a carrot of what's to come, was a welcome distraction in my otherwise ridiculously busy schedule.

It won't be long now, my friend! 

Monday, March 7, 2016

{solsc} Today I... #sol16

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Today I...

   ....voxed words of encouragement to a coaching colleague dealing with a difficult situation

   ....taught myself how to trim and combine video clips into one video

   .....created a new anchor chart, complete with little people drawings, for a lesson

   ....watched previous modeled lessons begin to take hold as readers became more engaged in reading a professional article on coaching

   .....prepped for two site visits later this week

   .....finalized schedule for an upcoming TC Staff Developer visit

   .....worked on content for Friday's Professional Learning Day

  ......participated in a webinar on Synthetic Phonics 

  ......had dinner with a former colleague, catching up on our professional lives 

  ......helped my niece, an education major, with an assignment on my drive home

  ......wrote something for the seventh day in a row

Sunday, March 6, 2016

{solsc} Strong. #sol16

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"You lift my weary head. You make me strong instead."

Words wash over my tired soul,
       repeating the promise of strength. 
Although the lyrics have moved on,

       tears stream down;  

Emotions bottled up release 

        in the solitude of the moment.

Exhausted from holding up the shield 

        of confidence and positivity

I drop the shield and stand, 

        allowing the promise of whose I am

Wash over my tired soul. 

Image credit: Proverbs 31 Ministries

Saturday, March 5, 2016

{solsc} Special to Me #sol16

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"Auntie, you are special to me. Love, Kylie"
This picture came up in my Facebook feed today. She wrote this to me when she was in first grade. She's twelve now.  I have to be honest. I wish she was still six. She couldn't wait to get to my house, calling on Thursday so that we could make a list of all the things we would do during her bi-weekly weekend visits. 

The visits are spread further apart now, as friends start to become more central to her world.  She doesn't call to make a plan anymore.  But this morning as we sat on the loveseat, her head leaning on my shoulder, watching episodes of Project Runway Junior I'd saved since her last visit, I was more focused on the moment.  These glimpses of the "little" girl are cherished moments. I know that I'm still special to her. I also understand that the eye rolls when I say silly things that used to make her laugh are just a part of her growing up. I understand. I don't like it. But I understand. 

And I'm thankful for all the time I've poured into her life so far, because that bond will be an anchor for both of us over the next few years of navigating the middle school years. 

She's special to me too, as are all of my nieces and nephews. I'm so grateful God chose me to be their Auntie.

Friday, March 4, 2016

{solsc} Wait for It. #sol16

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"I don't quite get what you're trying to say," the fourth grade student said after his first grade buddy had tried to explain the feedback he was giving on his partner's writing.  

I knew they were supposed be talking about the content of the opinion pieces they had written after a debate on whether Lilly, the main character in Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse was a good role model. They had done that.  I sat with my body turned to the side, eyes looking away from the pair, and waited. I didn't jump in to interrupt. I didn't ask clarifying questions. I didn't try to redirect the conversation. I didn't say a word. I just waited.  

"Well, like right here" the first grader continued on, turning to the last page of his partner's writing. "See here...when you read that to me," pointing to Thank you , "you read it like an exclamation point but you put a period there."

"Oohh, I get what you mean. You think I should have used different punctuation, right?" 

"Yeah," and to further make his point, the first grader turned back to the first page, pointing to a certain place, "And right here, I said it sounds like a question but there isn't a question mark. That's what I was trying to tell you."

The fourth grader nodded in agreement. "Yeah, well, I'm really not that great at punctuation.

Silence. I turned slightly to see what was happening. They were looking at each other in awkward silence.  I continued to wait.  After about a minute, the brave first grader pressed on.

"Well, you could fix it now," the first grader tentatively suggested.

"Oh. Yeah. Sure." The fourth grader picked up his pencil and added the question mark. 

With growing confidence, the first grader continued "I'm really good at punctuation. Do you want me to help you fix some more?" 

And then I watched as the two diligently worked through the fourth grader's piece. 

As I thought about that exchange on my drive home I knew I had been witness to some amazing editing work. Yes. It was exactly that. Amazing.  But it was more than that for myself and the classroom teachers of these two young writers. It was an important reminder of the ways kids can be the "lead" learner when we're willing to step back. Step back and wait. 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

{solsc} Worth It! #sol16

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My nephew, Tyler has had a deep, deep affection for McDonald's for his whole life. Granted he's only 14. But still, we're talking total and complete loyalty.  If given the choice, he would eat every single meal there, on your dime of course. Unfortunately for him, the rest of his family doesn't share his affinity.  

When he was 10, my husband and I had taken him and his younger sister, Kylie to Florida for February Vacation.  There are a lot of McDonald's in the Orlando area. Every single time we drove by one, Tyler asked if we could eat there. It didn't matter that we had already eaten. After one such request, I decided I would distract him and the following conversation ensued:

Me: "Did you know Uncle John used to work at McDonald's?"

Tyler: (in complete shock) "WHAT??? Did you really Uncle John?"

John: "Yes, I did."

Tyler: "Why in the world would you quit THAT job???  That's gotta be the best job in the whole world!"

John: (joking with him) "Well, Auntie told me she wouldn't marry me unless I made more money."

It's quiet in the back seat for about a minute and then...

Tyler: (w/ a tone of great disgust) "Well...I hope she was worth it!"

You can't make this stuff up. Humbling. And absolutely hysterical! 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

{solsc} I Should #sol16

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I should have major burn scars on the left side of my face and arm. I should...but I don't. 

I was 7 or 8 years old. I can't quite remember. But I remember that night as clearly as if it just happened. I guess you could say it was seared into my memory all those years ago. 

There wasn't anything unusual about this particular weekend camping trip. My three younger brothers and I had spent that Saturday swimming, fishing, playing on the playground, and running around playing hide-and-seek and other games. Dinner was over, and we were all sitting around the campfire...the fire that had been burning steady since Friday when we arrived. 

There were rules for being around the campfire. I was a rule follower. I can still hear my parents saying "Never run or walk between the campfire and the camp chairs. Always go behind the chairs. Always." And I always did...until that Saturday night. My brothers were sitting on the other side of campfire. They were teasing me about something, what I can't really remember. But as most sibling squabbles will go, at some point I reached my teasing limit. 

Jumping up from my camp chair,  eyes locked on the offending brother who was already planning his escape,  I began running around the crackling campfire, forgetting the rule about going behind the camp chairs. Forgetting about the extra long log that had been placed in the fire, the end sticking out. 

I don't necessarily remember tripping over the log. I DO remember lying on the ground, looking into the campfire, my left arm actually fully in the fire, the left side of my face laying full on the hot stone edging. I remember the heat. I remember the flames dancing around me. And then I remember my daddy picking me up, running toward the large water cooler we kept on the picnic table. I remember hearing him and my mommy as they quickly moved across the campsite, praying. I remember being held under the water cooler, pouring both ice cold water and prayers over my body.

I remember that I didn't have even a trace of a red mark. Anywhere. 

I should have major burn scars on the left side of my face and arm.  I should...but I don't. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

{solsc} Nudges #sol16

The March Slice of Life Challenge
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I'm always thankful for the people in my life that inspire me to be the 'best' me I can possibly be. Those who encourage me in the things that I feel confident in while gently (and sometimes not so gently) nudging me to take risks; to push myself past what I *think* I can do. Those who see the possibilities I've yet to see for myself. 

My journey to taking part in this challenge started with a Voxer conversation and this tweet back in January:

Sure, I thought, I could surely write one post-it note a day for a week.  And so it began...

And I posted for a little over a week. Eleven days, in fact.  I even went a little crazy in Target one day and walked out with "writerly tools". 

And while I didn't continue with post-it notes, I didn't forget the nudges and conversations about the importance of living a writerly life. I made a few lists of ideas to write about. I bought a new professional book on teaching writing and re-read parts of professional books I already owned.  I even wrote a few entries. 

And then came another "gentle" nudge...

...and here I am. Writing my first #sol16 post. But that's not the only result of those gentle nudges from a dear friend. No, I'm really taking the plunge and have just recently been accepted into the Southern Maine Writing Project's 2016 Invitational Summer/Fall Institute. I am making the commitment to nurture and grow the "writer" side of myself. 

And so I want to thank you, Kathleen, for your friendship, your dedication to your students, your passion for "getting on the bus" and your commitment to bringing others along on this journey. You never know where those "gentle" nudges will lead. This first #sol16 post is dedicated to you.