Eavesdropping Snippet

As we walked out to the bus today, I walked alongside two of my third grade boys who were having a conversation.  I don’t think either one realized I was listening.

“My bus driver smokes. When she talks on the loud speaker, her voice is as raspy as a train. It’s like the bus shakes.”

“Really?” said the other boy.  They chuckle.

“Yeah. And she’s so crabby. She’s always crabby. We call her Debbie Downer.” He laughs. “The funny thing is. . . her name really is Debbie! It’s like she was born to be a Debbie Downer!”

I finally acknowledge that I am listening.

“Maybe what you need to do is say something nice to her. That might make her happy,” I suggest.

“Nah. She can’t hear. She’s like 900 years old.”

Nine year olds. What a clear description of the bus driver.

I think I’ll tuck it away for a story one day.

Shari

I’m participating in twowritingteachers March Challenge of posting a blog post every day for the month of March.  To check out other writers, visit here.

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Saying Goodbye To Another Notebook ~ SOL #5 ~2017

Another notebook is nearly full. My goal is to fill a notebook a month. Yes, there are notebooks that adorn my shelves and fill baskets everywhere. What am I to do? I have a lot to say.

Mixed feelings stir inside me when the ending of a notebook is near. Melancholy. A sadness that the journey with this notebook is over, yet excitement to begin with a new one. I grieve for a while as the old notebook is set aside and eventually stored in a basket or on a shelf.

It must be hard for the notebook to understand.

Seriously? You have no idea.

Excuse me? I reply to the voice.

You carry me around with you everywhere for a solid month or more.  I give you my pages and they accept everything your pen scribbles into me. I never whine or complain. So patient, I am. Waiting and waiting for your words.  Oh so grateful when your hand finally reaches for my spine in the mornings. Everything I give — you complete me and then. . . I’m set aside. . . like a one night stand.

Oh, Dear Notebook of Mine,

That is not how it is.  I treasure you! My heart fills with anguish the closer I get to the last of your pages, knowing that soon – I have to let you go – and begin again.

It doesn’t feel that way to me.  I see all those other notebooks tucked away in baskets and stacked on your shelves.  Forgotten – for years.  In a day or two, that will be me.

Oh, Dear Notebook of Mine,

You are correct.  I’m so sorry.  But – I do visit you from time to time, rereading your pages, reliving the joys we spent together.

That’s not enough.  I am meaningless sitting in a basket.  I want to be used.

But, that is not true, Dear Notebook. It could not be further from the truth.  You contain pieces of me that no human in this world has.  You hold my history – the stories of me.  I give you ALL of me.

Well. . . .

You are my safest place, Dear Notebook.  I trust you to hold these tender stories and keep them safe.  Forever, if need be.  You have such a responsibility – all the gems I’ve given you – a treasure box you are.  And just like treasures that are sometimes buried or lost at sea for millions of years, so must you.

Millions of years? I don’t have that much time.

But, you must.  It is an honor to be a notebook and house history.  One day, I will be gone, but you will still be here, carrying all that I was, you help me to live on – for my children and grandchildren. You are that carrier, the link, the sweet nectar of my humanness.  Tending to these stories is a privilege bestowed to you.

I’m sorry . . . I guess I didn’t realize.

It’s quite alright, Dear Notebook, you are young and want to be the center of attention for a little while longer.  I understand.  Once you are with the other notebooks, you will become wise.  You will learn of your importance.

Okay. I will try to understand.  And, be more patient.  I will.  I promise.

You, Dear Notebook, are the Keeper of the Flame for this short period of my life – January 22nd to March 5th of 2017.  Only YOU alone holds this part of me.  You need to guard it with your life.

Yes, I will.  I am honored to be this protector of your history.  But. . . when will you come back and visit me? I don’t know any of those other notebooks, even.

I may – I may not. Even so – be willing to live on.  The other notebooks are your friends.

Yes, yes. . . I must. . . I will.  Thank you.  Thank you so much for giving me your heart – your soul. For trusting me.  I understand now.  Good bye, dear friend. . . until we meet again.

Good bye, dear friend as well.  And, thank you, for waiting for me each day and greeting me with your open arms.

I love you.

And, I love you.

Well geez.

Here I sit. . . in tears. . . saying good by to a notebook.  Did I just say, “I love you?”.  . to my notebook?

Good heavens.  What has become of me.

I am grateful I am home alone today.

Shari 🙂

Mysteriously, this song came on my Pandora station as I finished this post:

I love it when my angels do that. 🙂

I’m participating in twowritingteachers March Challenge of posting a blog post every day for the month of March.  To check out other writers, visit here.

 

Saturday Morning Headlines ~SOL 2017

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The Awakening

I awoke this morning wondering what planet I was on – a week of sleepless nights had finally caught up to me and at last . . . a good solid rest.  Already, I’m whispering gratitudes.

Searching for my slippers, the wind is roaring and the sun piercing through the window already, Sandy (our lab), senses I am finally up and follows me around, waiting for me to notice her.  She wants her breakfast.

Feeding of Sandy

Her water dish has still gone untouched.  For three days now.  It’s just an ice cream pail and I’m wondering if my husband used it to mix water and Pine Sol in that last time he had to scrub up one of Sandy’s messes. I don’t smell a Pine Sol scent in there, yet perhaps a dog can smell the residue. Where would she be getting her water for the last three days?

Then I realize that the bathroom door is always open.

I give her a fresh dish of water.

The World News

While the coffee brews, the checking of the news takes place.

Let’s see. . .

Trump is now accusing Obama of a Nixon/Watergate plot to wiretap the Trump Tower. Says The Washington Post.  There is no evidence.

PaaLeeeeeZe.

Seven tweets in a row – another middle of the night rant, conjuring up new bait for the people to chase after so we forget about his real issues.

If I had a penny for all the times he does this, my little piggy could go to market more often. (That’s such a good line.  I just had to use it, Brittany, before I forgot about it.) 🙂

He even poked a jab at The Terminator again for his bad ratings on The Apprentice.

Honestly. (eye ball roll)

Checking Emails

Switching to my emails – there are plenty of new Slice of Life posts to read this morning and I’m excited.  I adore this community and the writing lives of teachers are so real and at home with me.

Bernice taunts me, “You can’t go there now!  Later!”

I quick head over to Facebook.

Just for a minute.

Facebook Stories

A high school friend is moving to England for a few months and wants to take her sewing machine (she is a mean quilter). Another friend tells her the power/current is different in Europe and it might not work there. They encourage her to buy an adapter or just buy a new machine when she gets to England.

Well. . . isn’t that the strangest thing. Whoda thought we’d have to consider electricity when traveling the world? I need to get out more. I know nothing.

More posts about calling my senators to veto bills.  Geez, I should do that.

And, oh my heavens, can you believe there are major cities in the world that are actually making plans to BAN cars within their cities? It’s an effort to reduce carbon emissions and make more room for pedestrians and bicyclists. No US cities are on the list (I don’t think there will be for at least 4 years) but New York is trying to make way for more pedestrians and bike riders on their streets.  It’s a start, I guess. But, my, how far the rest of the world is ahead of us.

Twitter Tweets

Moving on to Twitter, I check to see if Trump’s tweets are real.

They are. (eye ball roll again adding a head shake and lip pursing like my mother)

I come across words of Parker Palmer that make me chuckle.  Sandy jumps. He restates the words of John Stuewart:

“The presidency is supposed to age the president, not the public.”

Thank you for your truth, Mr. Parker Palmer.

I screen shot those words for a later reference.

Skittish About Snapchat

Oh Snapchat, my eldest son is in a bar somewhere with two girls singing, “Any Man of Mine”. I’m grateful that’s all he sends me.

My grandson, Greyson, is in his high chair feeding their dog, Jax, his Cheerios.

My heart smiles.

My only Snapchat friends are my four children (aged 21-27) so I know what’s going on.But, I don’t want to know EVERYTHING that’s going on. So, I’ve warned them that I can see them.  They need to block me if there is inappropriate stuff.  I have enough to worry about. Bar  brawls and swearing put me over the edge.

Off Into The World

The phone is put away and my coffee topped off.

Time to write and head out into this beautiful world and look for more stories that need to be told.

Laundry, cleaning, and homework will have to wait.

I’m in Storycatcher Mode.

Shari 🙂

I’m participating in twowritingteachers March Challenge of posting a blog post every day for the month of March.  To check out other writers, visit here.

 

Shaped By The Authors I Love~SOL 2017

I was contemplating the multiple ways in which we tell a story. My notebook is overflowing with writing fodder, but much of it is internal dialogue, collected words and wonderings.  Shaping snippets into story is an art and I really intend to focus more effort on exploring the countless way a story can be told.

I grabbed a couple of books off of my shelf to guide me.  Storycatcher, by Christina Baldwin and The Art of Memior, by Marie Carr jump out to my hands first. Opening to pages scribbled with the chicken tracks of my thinking, both books remind me that our stories are interpretations of our own events.

“Yeah, yeah, I know that,” I babble .  “I’m looking for structure here.”

My mind darted back to last summer when I took an online writing course from Jen Louden. I sought many structures for the story I had drafted.  Amy Krouse Rosenthal, one of my mentor writers and favorite authors popped into my head.  A post was penned about her here. Don’t go here now.  Do it later. You must read to the end of this story first.

“Perhaps I just need to look back at my own dang notes to see what I’ve already pondered,” I scold myself.

So, I did.

“Good stuff here,” I congratulated myself.

My dog, Sandy whined to go outside, so I crankily got up to let her out, and before I sat down to write, I picked up my phone and checked the world’s news.

The first news report on my phone was an article titled, “You May Want to Marry My Husband,” reported by the New York Times.

Okay ~ this is odd.  This first story is not about Donald Trump? It must be good. So, I figured I’d better read it. Besides, it’s by the one and only Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

Oh, how I love her.  Go figure.

You can read it here: “You May Want to Marry My Husband” by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. And, you must.  Because you will not understand anymore of this post if you do not. Do it now.

After I wipe up this puddle of tears, I will study how she did this.

But for now, my post/story ends here today.

I have more important things to do.

Shari 😦

I’m participating in twowritingteachers March Challenge of posting a blog post every day for the month of March.  To check out other writers, visit here.

 

 

Technology and The Brain ~ SOL 2017

In reading workshop yesterday, I did a lesson on preparing for “binge” reading.  With parent/teacher conferences this week, our kids have a four-day weekend and I wanted them prepared for long stretches of nothing to do, which is when you plan for extra reading.

But first, we had to define the word “binge”.  After a brief discussion about this new word, we talked about the kinds of things we binge on.

Of course, video games came up first.

And, you tube videos.

Anything technology.

“Too many video games will rot your brain!” one girl shouted.

“Well, actually, it won’t.  But, you do change your brain when you are using a lot of technology, ” I told them.

I shared with them the research done by scientists and psychologists about how much technology a third grader should have per day (no more than 2 hours a day – and that may be too much for some).

I explained to them why their brains like technology, what dopamine is, and neurons and dendrites. They love learning these brain words. For some reason, learning how our bodies work is some pretty fascinating stuff.

“What do you think happens, when your brain has been feeling so good receiving all that dopamine from playing all those video games for hours, and then you have to quit?” was my next question.

Immediately, without even a hesitation, the truth came out:

“You’re bored,” a few of them said in sync.

They’ve been here.  They know.

“Yes, and nothing seems like any fun because your brain isn’t getting its drips of dopamine.  You have trouble finding anything that holds your attention or even seems just a little bit interesting. You get crabby. It’s because you have rewired your brain,” I added.

They were a little mortified that they alone were responsible for doing this to themselves.

“The good thing is,” I continued, “your brain is like clay and you can mold it back into a healthy brain.  One that is curious and interested.  A brain that is creative and focused. There are many good things to do for your brain: art, writing, legos, building, games, being with friends, sports, playing outside or being in nature, talking to people, and of course, lots of reading.”

Finally, I got us back on track to my reading mini-lesson: to share some new book titles to get them loaded with books for the long weekend.

My binging video-gamer told me he planned on doing some big time binge reading over the weekend.

“And I’ll probably still play some video games,” he confessed, “but maybe just an hour.”  And he smiled.

I think I have more work to do here.  But, I can’t help but wonder if we, the teachers, who complain about how technology is changing our kids, actually do the heavy lifting of teaching our kids what’s actually happening to the brains and the effects technology is having on them, can cause them to think about their own decisions on the use of technology.  Parents can, of course, influence decisions their kids make.  But, what if we put it on the shoulders of our kids – because they themselves are now informed and are old enough to make these healthy decisions for themselves?

Just what if we made this shift from complain and blame to educate and responsibility?

Would it make a difference?

I don’t know. . .

It certainly can’t hurt.

Shari 🙂

I’m participating in twowritingteachers March Challenge of posting a blog post every day for the month of March.  To check out other writers, visit here.

 

 

 

 

Day 1: Slice of Life Challenge ~ 2017

Slice of Life 2017.

I pondered whether or not to tackle the 31 day marathon of writing for an audience this year.  My life is full. Do I need one more thing to add to my plate?

“Your life will always be full,” I hear a voice say.

So, I tried to think of other reasons.

The reasons filled up several pages. (If you’ve done this before, you know what they are.)

I migrate to my desk to write every morning, but, even my notebook is bored of my same old tales. It’s an audience that pushes you out of your ruts. Good heavens, you could never write for an audience, day after day, about how pathetic you are because you didn’t exercise. . . again. Or, tiredness. Please. Or, how filthy the kitchen floor is. Or, how you wish you could get more done.  Or, how you promise – tomorrow – no sugar.

Sometimes, I wish my notebook could play a recording that repeats, “You said that already,” every time I write the same old stuff.

I’m excited for where I hope to push myself to this year.

New structures and voices – deeper wonders and more detailed noticings. Experimenting, sharing and connecting with others.

I discover so many new ways to write from other slicers. And, the community of writers who take the time to read my words and comment are amazingly kind. Never a drop of criticism for a word spelled wrong or a verb tense issue (I do that a lot).  I know my weaknesses. I discover more every day.

And so, I’m taking the pledge.

To 31 days of putting it out there.  31 days of committed writing.

31 days.

Giddy-up ~

Shari 🙂

I’m participating in twowritingteachers March Challenge of posting a blog post every day for the month of March.  To check out other writers, visit here.

 

 

Slowing Down and Finding Words

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I don’t know what this post is about.  It’s a ramble and I apologize upfront.

I’ve been having trouble lately putting words to the images, thoughts and feelings I experience.  It’s not that I can’t recall them, it’s just that I’m struggling for the right fit – the perfect description.  Maybe I’m just exhausted.  Well, it halts me in my tracks.  I get frustrated and end up writing clichés or simple phrases just to hold on to the moment.

Last Friday was the most beautiful September day.  As I walked from my car to the school door, carrying my bags and coffee in hand, I caught sight of the horizon.  Fog blanketed the playground and a layer of dark clouds rested along this horizon.  Just at the crust of these clouds, light beamed.  The sun, not showing itself yet, was announcing it’s arrival. The entire sky was glowing with rays of light.  I stopped for a moment to take in its beauty. It filled me.  I had no words.

At lunch, as I walked to the mailbox, I heard honking above.  As I craned my neck to the sky, hundreds of geese flapped their wings in the most magnificent V of geese I have ever seen – all heading south.

Again.  I stopped to take in the awe.

A boring description – again, I apologize.

As I reached for a poetry book off my shelf this morning, John O’ Donohue, one of my favorite poets and also an Irish teacher, jumped into my hands.

Here was his first poem:


Somewhere, out at the edges, the night
Is turning and the waves of darkness
Begin to brighten the shore of dawn

The heavy dark falls back to earth
And the freed air goes wild with light,
The heart fills with fresh, bright breath
And thoughts stir to give birth to color.

Oh my heavens.

The words I had been clamoring for.

I printed it off and pasted it to my September Birthday Poems collection.

John O’ Donohue understands poetry.  He put words on the page to paint the description of my experience.

For this, I am grateful.

Each day, we have moments of awe.  It’s difficult to describe their significance and maybe we don’t have to.  We can just feel them.  But, sometimes, I want to put it in writing.

John O’Donohue describes it as such:

There is a quiet light that shines in every heart.  
It draws no attention to itself, thought it is always secretly there.
It is what illuminates our minds to see beauty,
our desire to seek possibility, and our hearts to love life.
Without this subtle quickening, our days would be empty and wearisome, 
and no horizon would ever awaken our longing.
Our passion for life is quietly sustained from somewhere in us
that is wedded to the energy and excitement of life.
We enter the world as strangers who all at once become heirs
to a harvest of memory, spirit, and dream that has long preceded us
and will no enfold, nourish, and sustain us.
The gift of the world is our first blessing.

There are days when it seems these quiet gifts of the world come pouring in.  There are other days where it feels like God forgot that I’m still here.  Perhaps other people need more, on those days, and He thinks I’ll be fine.  But really, it’s the days that I am so consumed with the pace of life that I am blind to what is in front of me.

Slow down, I hear.

Slow down.

The moments are there.

And the words will appear.

 

A Poem A Day: Birthday Gifts To Me

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There is something about a poem that reaches into your soul and grabs you there.  A poem can speak loudly in so few words  causing you to pause for a moment to say the words over in a hope that they might land in your memory for you to retrieve at a later time.

Maybe that’s why I love them so much.

When life moves into auto pilot, I neglect poetry.  But, somehow, it always seems to find it’s way back to me.  We are like old friends – so grateful to have crossed paths again and we reminisce for a spell.

September is my birthday month.  I enjoy giving myself small birthday gifts during the entire month of September.  These gifts do not usually cost anything; a walk along the river, a drive to the library or finding a small space amongst the trees in my backyard to write.  The best gifts are free.

This month, I’m giving myself the gift of poems.  A poem a day.

Some poems are from my poetry books, some I write.

Today’s poem found me.

Garrison Keillor, at his website, The Writer’s Almanac, posts a poem a day, along with other literary and historical notes about the current day in history.  It’s a lovely site.

Today’s featured poem was written by Kate Barnes.  Kate’s words could be my own words as I reflect on my birthday, time and getting older.  I’m only 51 years old, but I appreciate poetry that celebrates getting older.  We need to look forward to what many are not able to.

Here is her poem.

And my gift to myself today.

Future Plans

by Kate Barnes

When I am an old, old woman I may very well be
living all alone like many another before me
and I rather look forward to the day when I shall have
a tumbledown house on a hill top and behave
just as I wish to. No more need to be proud—
at the tag end of life one is at last allowed
to be answerable to no one. Then I shall wear
a shapeless felt hat clapped on over my white hair,
sneakers with holes for the toes, and a ragged dress.
My house shall be always in a deep-drifted mess,
my overgrown garden a jungle. I shall keep a crew
of cats and dogs, with perhaps a goat or two
for my agate-eyed familiars. And what delight
I shall take in the vagaries of day and night,
in the wind in the branches, in the rain on the roof!
I shall toss like an old leaf, weather-mad, without reproof.
I’ll wake when I please, and when I please I shall doze;
whatever I think, I shall say; and I suppose
that with such a habit of speech I’ll be let well alone
to mumble plain truth like an old dog with a bare bone.

“Future Plans” by Kate Barnes from Where the Deer Were. © David R. Godine, 1994. Reprinted with permission.

Rethinking Homework ~SOL#16

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image from Death the Kid

Homework.

Ugh.

Just thinking about homework brings me dread.

And, I’m the teacher.

I’m taking some time to rethink how we “do” homework in my third grade classroom. The math home links, worksheets, correcting, papers all over the place.  Let’s be honest. In the elementary classroom, we should not be spending instructional time going over homework papers every day.  There are not enough minutes in the day.  If you are like me, homework gets turned in and piles up.  Not good, I confess.

Homework is a hot topic right now with all the research now surfacing about its lack of benefits.  Especially, in elementary school.  Google research for or against it and you’ll find both, but current research is stating that it doesn’t help in achievement.

But, like everything else, this is not one of those all or nothing concepts.  I don’t believe homework is either good or bad.  It can be both.  And, it depends.  I hesitate to throw it all out based upon the idea that “research doesn’t support it”.

Here is what research does not support:

*mindless worksheets of 30 problems focused on the same concept (double-digit addition, grammar sheets, long division, writing the same spelling words over and over)

*concepts that students have not been taught in class

*a large amount of homework, especially for elementary students

I know that the prescribed home links that come with our provided curriculum series in both reading and math are too much.  An 8-year-old should not have to spend an hour on a math home link.  Yes, we have spelling words and math facts and yes, these are simple practices that students could practice at home with parents.  Perhaps this is all the homework requirements a third graders should have – along with reading – for pleasure.

I don’t know.  I wonder more than I actually know.

As a parent, although my four children are all grown and out in the world, but when they were in school, I liked to have an idea of how they were doing in school.  Observing how they performed on their homework was one way of monitoring that.

As a teacher, I do not use many worksheets in my classroom so papers do not fly home every night that blare, “See what I did!”  We use an app on our ipads called SeeSaw where students can take photos of their accomplishments during the day and parents can peek in on this.

As a parent, I know how busy home life is.  There are sports and parents working nights and daycare and meals and for Pete’s sake, kids just need to play and parents need to have the time to play with them.  But, I know the reality is:  Parent Are Tired.

I know I was.

So, I sit here and ponder some more.

Here are the questions I’m hanging on:

*How can homework be more of a communication tool from home to school so parents know what their child is doing?

*How can we illuminate all the bless-ed papers that go home and come back to school begging to be corrected?

*How can homework be quick, beneficial and interest the student?

*How can homework be something that parents do not have to police?

I still think it is important to begin to add responsibility to students, such as, finding a quiet place to work, focusing out distractions, and managing time (some kids do their homework on the bus because they know they have hockey practice when they get home).

I wonder if I could try some of these things?

1. Eliminate Paper/Reduce Problems

*Have a homework notebook (no papers).  In this notebook, students would glue in a half sheet of paper (from the teacher) that has perhaps 3-5 math problems that demonstrate evidence of what was taught that day.  Eventually, students could just write these problems into the notebook, copying them off of the white board/smart board.  Copying from white board to paper is an important skill students need to learn.  It also teaches independence.  These problems would show parents what students are learning and they could see evidence of their child’s performance.

2. Time Homework Takes Students To Do

*I’m also curious about how long it takes students to do the work.  I want to make sure I am assigning homework that takes minimal time away from family time.

Could we add a spot like this?

Beginning Time:_____ Ending Time: ______  Total Time to Do Homework:_______

This would also help to teach elapsed time, a difficult skill in third grade.

3. Effort?

*Could we have students show the effort it took to do the work by also including a rating scale or face that demonstrates this?  As a teacher, I want to know if they needed help.  As a parent, I want my child’s teacher to know if it was easy or hard.  Could it look like this?

How did you feel doing this homework?

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Yes, it’s a pain chart.  But, I think it’s appropriate.

We could start out the year with these two added parts on the homework sheet, but eventually, students would just write them into the notebook.

 

4. Homework is not always math.

Sometimes, homework might be literacy related, or science, or social studies, rather than math.  Some examples might be:

*Find a photo to put in your writer’s notebook. Why? Because writers can write stories from a photo.

*Bring an object to school that tells something about who you are.  Be ready to tell the story behind the object.  Why? So we can all learn a little more about who you are and writers can write stories about objects, or poems.

*Draw a sketch of your reading nook at home.  Why?  Because it is important to have your own quiet reading spot free from distractions.  A special spot to read gets your body and mind ready to read and teaches rituals that adult readers do.

*Sit outside for 5 minutes and write a poem about something you hear, see, smell of feel. Why?  Because writers write about their surroundings using their senses.

These are homework activities that hopefully, students enjoy doing. When they are excited about a homework activity, the idea of homework changes and their belief shifts from drudgery to one of engagement.

Again, I say hopefully.

There are no “one size fits all” ideas in education.

What are your thoughts about homework and what might you try differently this year?