You Do Not Have To Be Good #sol16

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The eastern morning sky kissed goodbye to nighttime sky as I climbed out of my car, scrambling with my totes and slamming the car door with my foot.  As I glanced eastward, ribbons of orange, velvety apricot and gold caught my attention and I was captured for a moment, lost in this small gift of the morning sunrise. . . and then I heard them.

The Wild Geese.

High above, I listened to their calls to me.  I’ve heard that music before.  I knew what they were messaging.  Mary Oliver’s poem came to me in full verse.

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees 

for a hundred miles through the desert repenting . . .

Yes, yes, I know.  Always, the wild geese.  They remind me of this.  I should quit hauling all this stuff home on the weekend, thinking I am going to dig into it.  I carry this bag back and forth from my classroom, to my car, to the house, back to my car and into the classroom again.  The contents remain in the bag, while I wear a cloak of guilt that says I’m not doing enough.  Thank you, Mary Oliver for teaching me that who I am, what I am, and what I do is good enough.  It’s ok. Thank you.

Poetry is such a part of who I am.  I’ve memorized a few poems.  Wild Geese.  Stopping By The Woods On a Snowy Evening. These poems bring me calm and peace, like a prayer, when I call on them to rest upon.

I have plenty of poetry mentors:  Mary Oliver, Georgia Heard, Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge, and Ralph Fletcher.  But, my online secret social media poetry mentor is Amy Ludwig Vanderwater.  She is the author of several fabulous poetry books, however, it’s her online home at Poetry Farm that keeps me alive when I need a poetry feeding.

She leads me to poems of any topic or technique.  If you are looking for poems about art, she’s got some.  Need a poem about spring mornings?  You’ll find one of those, too. Once you discover this secret hiding spot of poems, you will visit here a gazillion times.  If you peek along the left side, you will discover resources galore.  I so love it when writers/poets/artists share their ideas for free.  It’s such a gift.  Especially to us teachers.

Amy also teases me into sneaking over to her other playground – sharing her writers notebooks.  Heavens.  Seriously.  I can’t even. If you are not using a writers notebook, you will be when you are done visiting here.  Stuck for notebook ideas?  Go here now.  Never again should you say, I’ve nothing to write about.

And, if you write poetry or would like to try your hand at it, you need to swing over to Poetry Friday, which sometimes  Amy hosts.

Hopefully, you don’t save poetry for one month in April and instead, you sprinkle it in your classroom all year long.  Regardless, one way or another, you are missing out on some glorious poetry treasures if you have never stopped in at Amy’s home.

Shari 🙂

I’m participating in twowritingteachers March Challenge of posting a blog post every day for the month of March.  While I’ve missed a few days, I’m still in it for the long haul!  To check out other writers, visit here.

 

 

 

Who Are Your Secret Social Media Inspirationalists? #sol16

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The other day, I came across a facebook post by an artist I adore, Rachel Caringella.  She wrote about how there are people on social media that we follow, read their words and are deeply inspired by.  It’s almost like we can feel a connectedness to them, as if we were best friends.  We share common passions, feelings and thoughts.  To be honest, we are like-minded-souls.  We may comment or message them, but really, many of them have no idea that we even exist.

In my mind, that is perfectly okay, if it makes us happy.

I need to share out more who these amazing people are that inspire and energize me. They need to know of their healing powers.  And, I just need to say thank you. Thanking them for the work that they do, for putting their words out there.  They nourish both the heart and soul of others.  They feed the mind.  It is my obligation to say thank you.

Today, this person was Debbie Ridpath Ohi.

She posted this illustration on her twitter feed:

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It knocked me out of my chair because I am supposed to be working on a project for one of my doctoral classes that is due tomorrow.  I can’t get the words out that I want on to paper, so I keep revising my plan.  I sheepishly peered by behind me.  Was there someone watching me?  Seriously?

“Who is this lady?” I asked my laptop.  I had to know.

It’s pretty easy to do investigative work online.  You just keep clicking on the links.  It turns out, she is children’s author, illustrator, reader, Donalyn Miller fan, and even shares (for free, mind you) teacher resources for readers.

I dove into her site and tweets, marveled by her illustrations and creative work.  Her words so encouraging.

Struck by her found art, I discovered her  you tube video to share with my third graders this week for art workshop.  Her instagram page is just too much.

I got lost in her world for over an hour.

Then, her words jumped on my screen:

“My biggest piece of creativity advice for writers & illustrators (all ages): make time to PLAY.”

Ummmm. . . yeah.  That was it.  I forgot to play before digging into my work.  I know this.  Why can’t I remember it?  It would open the flow.  I know.

I pulled out my notebook, printed some images, grabbed my paper tapes (oh, how I love my paper tape), scissors, glue stick, markers and did some playing.  20 minutes later. . .

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It surely was a Happiness Day for me.  Thank you Debbie for inspiring me and reminding me to play.  Your influence will spill over this week when I introduce you to my kids at school.  And, hopefully, to others who read my words thanking you.

This week, my slices are showcasing the inspirationalists I call my friends on social media.  They don’t really know me, but, I am letting them all know that what they do matters.

Who are your secret social media inspirationalists?

Shari 🙂

I’m participating in twowritingteachers March Challenge of posting a blog post every day for the month of March.  While I’ve missed a few days, I’m still in it for the long haul!  To check out other writers, visit here.

Dirty Dishes~ sol#16

 

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Knowing that your kitchen sink is adorned with the overflowing of dirty dishes causes one to linger in bed a little longer on a Saturday morning.  Even to get to the coffee maker means some dishes need to be washed. 😦  My husband snuck out of bed early to head up to work for a bit.  On any other Saturday morning, he would be helping, but today, it’s up to me.

I’ve never been one to fret about going to bed with dirty dishes in the sink.  I know I should as it’s certainly not a pleasant way to start the day by peering into the sink wondering where the wash cloth is.  My mother would be horrified, although, I’ve also heard her say that she often wishes she could ignore the sink dishes and go straight to bed.  She has a lot of German in her, so I understand.

Her mother ironed sheets.

It doesn’t bother anyone else in the household enough to do them before bed, so why should I be concerned?  I ask for help, sometimes, and I get ridiculous excuses:

“I’m charging my phone right now.” (24 year old son)

“Actually, I was just going to watch this hunting show. How about after?” (husband)

“But, I didn’t dirty any of them.” (23 year old daughter)

“I was just about to take a nap.” (20 year old son)

“I don’t even live here anymore!” (26 year old daughter)

“Are there any scraps on those plates?” (dog – Sandy)

I will hear my Grandma Killian’s voice, “Oh, the hell with it,” and I just leave them.

I guess I have more Irish in me than German.

I have not decided if it’s a good trait or not.

Shari 🙂

Image above is from https://www.etsy.com/market/dirty_dishes.  I think I need to buy it as a reminder.

I’m participating in twowritingteachers March Challenge of posting a blog post every day for the month of March.  While I’ve missed a few days, I’m still in it for the long haul!  To check out other writers, visit here.

 

Stealing Ideas sol#16

If you’ve read Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon, you know that nothing is really our own idea.  Every idea we’ve ever come up with was born somewhere else by someone else, somehow.  We can put a new twist on things, but honestly, a totally new idea is rare.  Old wine in new bottles.

Elizabeth Gilbert in her book, Big Magictells the story of how she believes there are these ideas floating around out there and they decide who to land on.  When you feel inspired with an idea, that’s the idea angels, fairies or whatever you want to call them.  If you don’t do something with that idea right away, it up and takes off from you and goes to someone else.  Gilbert documents a true story that proves this to be true – in her life.

Well, my truest inspiration, if I’m honest, comes from other writers.  I love when that little nudge from someone else’s writing whispers, “Try this, Shari!”  Sometimes it’s an idea about content because a memory is triggered.  But, what I find more beneficial is when I discover a structure because I can use it not just once, but again and again.  A writing structure is like a tool that can be pulled out anytime.  The more you use it, they easier it is to remember and to whip something up from it.  In the last few days, I’ve found quite a few structures that I intend to steal and try out – with a must of giving credit to my inspirational writers.

Elisabeth Ellington at the durigible plum, wrote in her sol today about small gratitudes.  Loved it.  I’m stealing it.

Here goes ~

I am grateful:

For the morning snuggles that keep me in bed too long

For the lab with a sprained leg that lies on the couch with a wagging tail as I walk to the kitchen to make coffee

For the scale that shed one pound the last time I stepped on it

For the deep dark Caffe Verona Starbucks beans that wait to be ground for my coffee

For the clean pair of jeans that beg to be worn

For the fresh inch of snow that blankets the ground (not)

For arriving at school before most others, savoring the quiet and preparing for the day

For the conversation with my soul-teacher-friend, drinking our coffee, before kids arrive

For Grace, who enters my classroom first, with a giant smile and a full wrap around the body hug because she is happy to be here

For Wonderopolis, because we wondered about four leaf clovers and St. Patrick and all things green and Ireland

For will power to refrain from the bars and desserts in the staffroom

For gratefuls.  Because once you start looking for them, they bombard you and you cannot document them fast enough

For Elisabeth Ellington who always seems to do something in her writing to inspire me

For the gumption to write a post today

For writing. Period.

Shari 🙂

 

 

 

Stepping Away To Restock The Well sol#16

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Writing can consume you.

Even when you are not actually writing, you are preparing for writing by seeking the topic for which you might write about today.  Knowing you have to put a post out there each day adds that pinch of added pressure to pick something good, something worthwhile, something that others really care to even read.  I mean, do you really want to read about how my coffee maker overflowed?  Or all about the zipper that broke on my favorite pair of jeans? How about the fact that my dog is dragging old deer bones to the front door step now that the snow has melted?  Yes, these daily happenings could take me to deep, underlying themes of angst, aging and rebirth if I decide to go with some of these topics, but frankly, I just don’t want to go there.  Ugh. Blah. Meh – my daughter calls it.

It was time to step away for a bit.

I skipped two days of the 30 Day Slice of Life Challenge.

“This is okay,” I kept repeating to my “Bernice” brain.

I needed a little break.  Not from writing – but from writing for an audience.  Not everything we write is for the public eye.  Thank God.  Even though I had some content from my days that I could have crafted into a post, my inner writing angel, Gabby, nudged me away from the keyboard this weekend to travel with my husband to his swim meet five hours away.  Yes – to restock the well.  Prime the pump.  Collect new fodder.

Oh, how I love collecting fodder.

The collecting part of writing is where my pure bliss happens.  The not knowing what I will do with a noticing – or if it will grow into anything at all is not the concern.  All I am doing is collecting.  There is an inner joy when there is a shift into a “presentness” mode of being, a living wide awake. Arrival at this place, fills me with peace and contentment, the heart opens and expands as reminders of how connected we are to everyone and everything saturates every moment.

~the sweet coffee shop lady of Mexican decent (I think), a beautiful smile that lights up the shop, her voice like music.  I felt her healing morning blessings as she crafted my decaf dark-as-you-can-make-it latte with almond milk and a shot of hazelnut syrup.

“Can you do that?” I asked.

“Of course,” she comforted me, “It’s an art, you know”.

Can you fall in love with your coffee making lady?  Umm. . . yes.

I left the coffee shop, my hands surrounding the warmth and love in a cup that was created for me.  Yes, I can feel that.  It’s a big deal.

~the college age boys slumped back in their stools at the restaurant bar, beers waiting for them to sip on, their attention – each of them, on their phones, few words spoken between any of them.  Yeah, I felt that, too.

~the waitress who swayed us away from the house soup.  “It has been sitting in the pot too long,” she warned us.  Again.  Felt it.

~my husband’s college buddies who show up to swim with him.  My husband is 52.   These boys shift to 22 year olds.  It’s pretty hard not to feel that.

My notebook filled faster than I could keep up.

My husband became annoyed at my wonderings.  “You’ll have to google that,” became his response to anything he really didn’t have an interest in investigating with me.  That’s ok.  It was my own senses on high alert.  His focus on driving or to get his swimming mindset on.  There’s no way he could keep up to me on my fodder collecting days.  A child, I am.  He’s lucky I do most of my wondering in my head.

The most miraculous thing happens when you tell yourself you are only “collecting” and not going to write.

You can not help but be driven to write.

It’s a little trick I play on myself.

I love it when I fall for it.

So, I’m out of being eligible for any prizes in the March 30 Day Slice of Life Challenge.  I’m okay with that.  I had to go with the ebb and flow of my own writing self.

And, my well is restocked.

Shari 🙂

 

 

Finally. . . An Ipad App I Love sol#16

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Our district went 1:1 three years ago, which means each of my third graders has their own ipad.  Even though I recognize the benefits of integrating technology into our teaching and learning, I have reservations as well.  My biggest struggle has been finding tools on our ipads that we can use every day (or not) that are not gamified.  My kids are a distractable group.  When the ipads come out, it’s tenfold.

Well, thanks to my colleagues, I think I have finally been introduced to the most effective app so far. It’s called Seesaw and it’s free.  Yes, free.  Here’s the nitty gritty on it:

What is it?  It’s a portfolio to house student work.  It’s a way for kids to show evidence of their learning.  It’s a communication tool between myself and my students.  It’s a way for parents to see what their child is doing in school.

Why do I like it so much?  Well, it’s free.  Did I say that?  It’s also so crazy easy to figure out – even for me – and I can’t run the remote for my tv at home.  We don’t do many worksheets in school – we are reading and we have authentic writing going on.  I often feel parents do not know what the daily happenings in our room are.  Now they can.  And, they can even give their child feedback.

But here is the best thing ~

Tonight, I had to make sub plans for tomorrow (yuck) and I could actually write my kids a note on SeeSaw, give them directions for lessons and even give them links for some art videos I want them to watch on their ipads tomorrow.  My kids love to draw and several of them are writing graphic novels during writing workshop (Jeff Kinny fans), so I thought some drawing lessons were in order.  Here is what I wrote them:

Dear Artists,

Today for Art Workshop, you will have some drawing lessons. Please watch these art videos with Mr. P. and he will give you some wonderful lessons on drawing characters with shapes. Then, get some paper and try making your own characters using some of his ideas!! Have fun!! I can’t wait to come back on Monday and see what you have done!

Your Friend,

Mrs. Daniels 🙂

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How cool is that?  Now, all I need to put in the sub plans for Art Workshop is, “Have kids go to their SeeSaw feed.”

I was a skeptic about falling into the “App World”, but this one has possibilities.

Let me know if you have used Seesaw and how you use it.  I’d love to here your thoughts.

Shari 🙂

I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.  I’m on Day 10!

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.

Image from http://web.seesaw.me/.

 

You Gotta Love a Good Read Aloud sol#16

We tested today.  Yup.  It’s only March 8th and already the MAP testing has begun.  My troopers worked on their ipads nearly all morning.  Yup.  We test on ipads now – ipad minis even.  Nope, I don’t like it.  I’m 50.  I can hardly read the text WITH my cheaters on.  But these kids are used to it and they did great.  I was proud of their effort.  But after lunch, they were melting into the furniture as if it were 110 degrees outside – noodles they were.  Spent.  I knew our afternoon would not be productive.

Having just the right read aloud is high priority on a day like today.

I decided on The Sons of the Dragon King:  A Chinese Legend by Ed Young.

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Now this book would not work for every class, but it works for mine for many reasons.  I have a lot of readers that LOVE any story with characters that have special powers – we are talking Beast Quest and Percy Jackson fan-city.  I can’t keep these books on my shelves.  In this legend each of the nine sons has a special power and that hooked my kids, line and sinker, right in my intro.

The second reason my kids loved this book was because it is Traditional Literature.  I fully believe we short our kids of good legends, folk tales, fables, trickster tales and especially fairy tales and tall tales.  We tend to stop reading these books aloud in the primary grades.  It’s all fantasy and much of the literature our kids love as upper elementary students builds on good old Traditional Literature.  They listen intently knowing there will be some kind of lesson or moral to the story because they know that these stories were told only orally thousands of years ago to teach children lessons.  They crave trying to determine the lesson before the story is finished.

The third reason my kids loved this book is because of the simple pattern.  The father tracks down each son, who is basically wasting his time with his special power.  With every son, the father finds the perfect life job that allows the son to use their power.  My kids wonder and predict what the power is that each son will have, and then what will the job be.  Through the whole book they wondered if the last son perhaps will change the pattern of the story.  Perhaps will he have no power at all?  My kids love pattern.   They hang on every page.

This read aloud, with our talk took almost 35 minutes to read.  Yes, that’s awhile, but it felt like five minutes and we were surprised that it was already time for music when we finished.  For awhile, it was if we were taken away to China, walking in the shoes of a father who was trying to help his sons to what is good for the world.  We were lost in the book.  Transported.  Flow.

We didn’t get much else done today besides a word study sort.  And, that’s okay.

For me, a good interactive read aloud is striking it rich and I will savor that all  week.

Ahhhh. . . . yes.  Thank you, Mr. Ed Young.

One Of Those Days ~ sol#16

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Those days.

I’m not sure what contributed to the angst I carried around today.  There could be logical reasons:  not enough sleep last night, hormones, not enough to eat, thyroid issues? Maybe all of the above.

Instead of accepting this heaviness is due to something physical within me, maybe spiritual or purpose driven, I begin to search outside of myself to declare the culprit.

February and March are tough months for teachers.  The year is 3/4 over when fear and anxiety begin to set in. Testing looms just around the corner and many of your kids are still not writing in complete sentences or worse yet, even turning something in.  You question everything you are doing.  Student behaviors are at their peak – name calling, teasing, and just an air of low vibrational energy that radiates in the classroom.  It gets thick in there.  Interruptions fill your days when you know you have so much more to teach.  Your colleagues are all so busy with these same issues that no one has time to reconnect on a deep level to ask the question, “How are we really doing?”  Sometimes that question alone is enough to cause breakdown in some of us.  It’s no one’s fault.  It just is what it is.

When I was a literacy coach, I traveled to Ohio State University twice a year for almost a full week of PD and renewal – always in November and early March – just when the I’d fallen into the valley of despair and determined that being a greeter at Walmart might be a better job for me.  I always came back to school with new insights and fresh eyes.

Teachers do not get the luxury of going somewhere for a few days to get outside of the situation in order to look at it with new eyes.  We stay in the situation and muddle through.  And sometimes we drown.

Understanding the change curve is one way to ground ourselves in resiliency.  Teachers go through this change curve every year when a new crew of students rush into our classrooms.  Sometimes we go through the whole cycle each month – or even within a week.  I’ve gone through it in one day.  The important thing is to recognize where we are in this cycle and to know that we can work through it.  The other thing is this: We have to reach out to others that might be feeling it, too.  We are not alone in this work, even though we often feel we are.

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So, tonight, I’m sipping on a fresh cup of decaf Carribou coffee, snuggled in my knit blanket and not thinking about school.  Some Dove dark chocolates rest in a small bowl and my book is calling to take my mind away.  I am being a tender wife to myself until this wave passes.

And it will, because I’ve been here before and I’ve survived 100% of all those other times.

Shari 🙂

(images by of Maxine by John Wagner @ Hallmark and change curve from http://surviveatwork.com/coping-with-change/personal-transition-through-change-2012/)

Migration To My Sanctuary #sol16

I could begin this as my boo-hoo tale of how my coffee spilled all over my writing desk ruining papers, a binder and several books.  But, there is great light in this dark tale.  The coffee stained desk was parked in my bedroom, the “winter writing space”.  Today, as the temperature climbed to near 50 degrees, the mess on my desk pushed me to clean up and migrate up to my three season Sanctuary above the garage.

The space heater was hauled in to warm it up a tad and then the move was on.  A few hours later, my soul welled up.  I sat, savoring the gratefulness I have for my husband who made sure that when we added on to our house, I’d have my own space. Love that man.

Let me tell you about my Sanctuary.

My writing desk is really just one of those cheap white tables that fold up – you’ve used them for graduations and garage sales.  Straight from Walmart.  I need lots of space on my desk to spread out as I tend to need several books at hand when I write.  I cover the table with a quilt, hand stitched years ago when my children were small.  Scraps of fabric found their way into this quilt from some of the dresses I made my girls when they were small.  Yeah. Heart stuff here.

Atop the quilt sits a statue of my guardian angel who reminds me to be fearless.  I discovered her years ago in a thrift shop. There’s a story. Feathers are also here – reminders of angels surrounding me.  Quotes and pictures of family adorn my bulletin board for inspiration and to fill my heart with joy.  I have a flower pot filled with fodder (quips and clippings) from random places that I can pull to prompt writing – my hatching station.  I need to write about that.

In the corner is my personal library and my comfy chair I bought myself for my birthday last year. When you turn 50, you can buy yourself presents.  Note to self:  write about the library.

Behind my writing table is my art journaling table.  If I am stuck for writing, I scoot over to art journal.  This clears my mind and always, something appears that needs to be written down.  Like magic.  It’s the angels, I know.

I didn’t even show you my sewing corner.  It’s a mess over there. 🙂

This room.  Days get lost up here.

Where creativity runs free and the muses reside.

A safe haven from the world out there.

My sacred space.