Thursday, December 18, 2014

It's Okay That It's All About You

Teachers spend a lot of time taking care of others.  What do my kids need?  This one really needs to be extended and enriched - how do I do that?  This one is so far behind the others - how will I ever catch him up?  What about the average kiddos - the ones who come in every day and follow directions and turn in their assignments and basically do okay?  Am I giving them what they need?  And how about the parents who call worried, or angry, or confused about what's happening with their children?  When do I squeeze in time to call them back?  How do I phrase bad news in a way that lets them know the issue without making them feel terrible about their child?  And what about teaming?  Cover for this teammate, plan with that one, pass out runoffs, get the books from the library, find that website - don't forget that blog and remember to tweet at least once a week and, oh yeah - it's your turn to do the newsletter.  Sometimes it's okay - in fact necessary - to disconnect and take care of yourself.  The holiday break is upon us, and although there is much to do at home to prepare or travel, it's still a break from the daily routine teachers face.  Take advantage of this time to renew and revitalize yourself.  Be good to yourself. Sleep a little more, do something fun, just relax and do nothing - whatever your mind and body needs.   Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate this holiday - and happy relaxing to the rest of you.  See you next year.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Owl Moon

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen is one of my favorite books.  It's the story of a little boy who is finally old enough to go owling with his dad in the wintery woods near his home.  It's absolutely loaded with sensory language -  "The trees stood still as giant statues."  "Somewhere behind us a train whistle blew, long and low, like a sad, sad song."  "Our feet crunched over the crisp snow and little gray footprints followed us."  This book creates a melancholy feeling and makes the reader yearn for woolen caps and mufflers and mittens, and deep snow, and hot chocolate, and the snowy woods on a cold, crisp winter night.  It reminds me of another favorite, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost.  Enjoy:

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Finding Your Voice

Don't you love the word "cacophony?"  It means a harsh discordance of sound or a discordant and meaningless mixture of sounds.  We have so much auditory and visual input every day, all day, all night, all the time.  Have you ever felt uncomfortable with silence?  Do you find yourself reaching over to turn on the radio, or music, or call someone to talk?  Do you even fill up the space by talking to yourself on the ride home from wherever really important place you've been.  Sometimes, we lose sight of what really matters because we have so much yammering going on inside our heads.  Maybe that's why the psalmist in Psalm 46:10 said, "Be still, and know that I am God."  Be still.  I think we miss the still, small voice that beckons us to come away and we get lost in the day to day existence of our lives.  Be still.  Shhh.  Just listen.  You'll find peace in the silence.  It may take practice because of how addicted we have become to being connected - technologically, personally, socially.  Elijah was a great prophet of God and by the hand of God accomplished supernatural things, but at one point all the noise in his life brought only confusion.  He didn't know how to find God.    And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. 1 King 19:11-12.  My encouragement for us all is to slow down and listen more.  Be still.  The answers we need are in the silence.

Friday, October 31, 2014


It's the last day of October. The weather has turned chilly and winds are blowing in a different direction.  It seems like a good time for introspection.  Things are changing. There's a leaving behind of the old and an embracing of the new.  Life goes on and time marches by.  What wisdom is there in this?  I like the old song by The Birds (originally from the Bible) that helps us pull over for a minute and reflect.  It's healthy and normal to continue to move on and it's okay that there's something different in each season of life.  Embrace them all and don't merely exist, but truly live.  Live thoughtfully and mindfully and with true intention.

To everything 
There is a season 
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace
A time to refrain from embracing

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it's not too late!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Placing a Demand on Our Gifts

Here's the thing about collaboration.  It's not about teamwork so we can check "collaboration" off our list of "things good teachers do."  It's about placing a demand on the gifts, talents, and understandings other people have.  It's about recognizing what's in a colleague and saying, "I need that.  Will you help me get better at that?"  When I place a demand on your gifts it's not only for me.  It's for you, too.  It says that I believe you have something valuable and worthwhile I can learn from you and it forces you to dig deep to be that resource I need.  It empowers you to grow more in that gift you have.  It's a reminder to us all that, as the poet John Donne said, " No man is an island, entire of itself, everyman is a piece of the continent, a part of the main."


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Who's in Front of You?

When you have twenty plus students in front of you every day it's not always easy to see who they are.  It's not that you don't care, and it's not that you're all about the curriculum and nothing else, and it's not that you aren't interested.  It's that you feel rushed all the time.  Finish this lesson, input this data, email parents, attend meetings, organize your classroom, prepare the plans for next week, cut paper for the graphic organizer . . .It takes real effort and determination to figure out what makes a kid tick.  Today I worked with a student who spends a good deal of time rolling around on the floor.  He works when it's his choice; he responds when it's his choice; he follows directions when it's his choice - and no matter how great you are he plays by his rules - not yours.  We did a dozen analogies, most of which he had not done with the class because he didn't want to.  I made a deal with him to do the writing and he would do the thinking. (I pretended I had no clue about man:boy::woman:___.)  He was able to do all but one with no help at all.  Then, he showed me his IC notebook.  What?  He told me all about how batting absorbed something and released something else in the sand and what the experiment was designed to teach.  Who knew?!  Well, he did.  So, his teacher (who is fabulous, by the way) may not have time to dig that deeply with every child, but what she's been able to bring out in him has been amazing.  So - who's in front of you?  Just wondering.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Teacher Super Heroes

One year we had firemen come to our building to do presentations to our kiddos on fire safety.  As I stood at the back of the room, listening to them talk to the students I thought about the heroic and dangerous job they chose to do.  No one made them become firemen.  They chose to run into burning buildings and pull people off roofs and pry open crushed cars on their own.  I remember thinking how remarkable that was that someone would choose to put their lives on the line everyday for someone they didn't even know.

Teachers are alot like that.  They show up everyday and take little minds and create amazing opportunities for those little ones to go deeper and reach higher and become something they never knew they could be.  There's a little debate about whether teachers should be "sages on the stage," imparting their knowledge and training and utilizing their skills to enrich the lives of kids; or whether they should be "guides on the side," facilitating learning in students and leading them to make their own discoveries.  Just like everything else in life, it's a balance of both.

Children need to be directly taught.  They can't learn things by osmosis.  On the other hand, we know that the discoveries they make for themselves are the ones they keep. 

So - here's to the super heroes I get to see everyday.  They run into a building afire with little folks who display eager anticipation, and dreams, and hopes, and fears, and longings, and confusion, and awareness.  They suit up to handle the heat of the day, they strap on their toolbelts heavy laden with the instruments they will need to accomplish the tasks of the day. 

Here's to the Teacher Super Heroes at Christie Elementary! 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

So, have you ever had two Google accounts and not even known it?  Apparently, I did and the jaw-dropping, highly riveting posts I've had so far were published in the "wrong" account!  Somehow, the world is still spinning on its axis, but I don't know how.  So - after much deliberation, I finally figured out I just needed to copy those posts to this blog and start again.  I think I'm in the right account now, but really only the tech gods know for sure.  Also, you can't reuse a blog name in the blogging stratosphere, so my new blog title is "Destiny in the Door."  More to come soon. . .


What box?

So, we keep being told to think out of the box and I used to feel a little threatened about that idea.  I liked the idea of my box.  It was safe in there - comfortable - easy.  Gradually, though, I decided to open one flap of the top of my box.  I peeked out and looked around, sniffed the air, and realized it wasn't so bad.  So - I opened another flap and another, until my entire box lid was open.  Last year I coordinated 16 authors to join us for World Read Aloud Day.  Various teachers invited the authors via Discovery.  I won't lie - I was a nervous wreck.  I didn't sleep the night before for fear that all these well known and very busy authors would try to connect with us that day and not be able to.  People would be mad and throw tomatoes at me, or something equally vile, and I would be humiliated.  "That's what happens when you venture out of your box!" I would say in my imaginary conversation with myself.  But, the truth was all but one connected and it was a huge success.  Eleanor Roosevelt said something to the effect that we must do that we think we cannot.  I agree.  So, this year I'm thinking about putting my box in the recycling bin (it is cardboard, after all) and seeing how the world feels without the walls of my box closing me in.  I'm sort of like Scaredy Squirrel.  My world was neat and orderly and well-planned, but something happened to propel me and him out of the tree and into "the unknown."  It's okay out there - if I can do it you can too, so my challenge to you is - step out of your box and try it.  Let's talk about the challenge and support each other along the way.  Let me know what you think. 


It really is the journey . . .

We've all heard the adage, "It's not about the destination, but the journey" or something to that effect.  But, that really is true.  In education, the end game is constantly changing.  The destination for kids today will not be the same as the destination for kids twenty years from now, nor is the one today what it was twenty years ago.  Education is always evolving - it is fluid and continually adapting itself to what the market dictates.  So, how do we navigate that?  We keep focusing on the the intangibles that make the journey sweet . . .

1. Compassion -We need to do a better job of showing mercy when someone messes up, because tomorrow it'll be our turn to need mercy.
2. Caring - Life really does happen, and often we have no idea what's going on in each others' personal lives.
3. Competence - If I'm good at something, own it and share it.  If I'm not, find who is and go learn from them.
4. Contentment -  I think it's really an art to take pleasure in where you are on the way to where you're going.  

It's the journey - not the destination.  Enjoy your journey this year!


It's not just for now

If I've learned one thing after twenty-five years in education, it is that teachers are super-heroes.  They may not wear spandex and a cape (or they may, but that's another story) but they show up every day and do heroic things.  This blog is dedicated to all the amazing, hardworking, dedicated professional educators I have the privilege of working along side each day.  I hope to tell their stories.  I hope to encourage and inspire.  Most of all, I hope to shine the light on the how they touch the future every day.  You see, when a student crosses the threshold of a teacher's door destiny walks in.  Whether it is for an entire school year or just a month, that teacher gets to be a part of that child's destiny.  I'm not naive enough to believe that we leave an indelible impression on every child we teach, but I do believe there are those certain ones for whom we were part of their life plan.  So - here's the story of Marty (not his real name.)

When I was a second grade teacher I had a very sweet, quiet, pensive young man in my class.  He was extremely bright.  His contributions during class discussions were advanced.  He was profound and articulate.  He also couldn't concentrate long enough to get his name on his paper or complete any work.  How frustrating must that be to have such a high intellect, yet not be able to produce with it.  The other unique thing about Marty was that he was a vacuum cleaner expert.  His mom told me that from the time he was two years old he was fascinated with vacuum cleaners and everything about them.  He knew which ones were best for which kind of flooring; he knew where the various vacuum cleaner factories were in the United States.  Any question you had about vacuums, he had the answer.

One day I was sitting at my table watching him gaze off into space yet again.  He would get so frustrated if I reminded him to get to work.  He was mad at himself and I could tell it was affecting him.  Suddenly, I remembered an old Kirby vacuum cleaner I had stored under the stairs at home.  It had a box with all sorts of attachments.  It was a little kid vacuum expert's dream.  The next day, I drug that whole thing up to school and made a deal with him.  We divided his day into ten minute segments.  Every time he finished something during that time frame, he earned five minutes of "Kirby Time."  I kept it behind my teacher table, and he would go back there and explore, try out the different parts, anything he wanted to do.  When Kirby Time was done, he would pick up with his schedule and do the next part.  It wasn't a perfect solution, but he was able to get enough things done each day to feel good about his day when he went home.

I struggled about sharing this story, because I didn't want it to seem like I was tooting my own horn.  My goal is to say this - every teacher has the resources he or she needs to solve these problems.  We have each other, we have ideas, we have faith, we have the will.  Let's use each other, and let's share our victories.  I think Marty's probably out of high school by now.  I'd love to know what he's up to.  He's probably the CEO of Kirby Company.  Who knows?

Remember as the new school year starts in a couple of weeks that you are a super-hero and you do noble and valuable work.  You will have the unique opportunity to be part of the destiny of a child this year.  How many people can say that?