The Slice of Life is Coming!

For the past 3 years, during the month of March I participated in the Slice of Life Challenge hosted by the Two Writing Teachers blog. Every day I write and post to my Screen Shot 2019-02-17 at 7.50.17 AMLitCoachLady page a ‘slice’ of my life…a poem, a memory, a small moment. It’s not always easy, but it is always rewarding. Having some experience with it for a few years now has helped me realize that preparing some things ahead of time can make the challenge less challenging. I noticed yesterday my friend and fellow slicer, Leigh Anne Eck, was also preparing ahead of time. This early prep can give you a structure to build on each day, some ideas in the can for those hectic days, and as a way to commit (and avoid writer’s block).

This year I’ve decided I will be writing each day to a spark from my new book Spark! Quick Writes to Kindle Hearts and Minds in Elementary Classrooms. I’m going to walk the talk of a writing teacher, “Do as I do, not as I say.”  I’ve bookmarked 30 sparks, but I’m giving myself the option of choosing others, or to respond authentically to events that pop up in my life that inspire me to write.  This always helps me to walk through my day more present-knowing anything and everything has importance enough to write about.

So how can YOU prepare for the SLICE OF LIFE CHALLENGE and make the month of March a little less challenging? Here are some tips, I’d love to hear any others.

Preparing for the SLICE OF LIFE CHALLENGE

  • Visit the Slice of Life Challenge overview page and the participant information form.
  • Create a blog page if you don’t already have one. I use WordPress (you can get started HERE) but there are others Wix, Weebly,etc.  This is a good resource  on HOW TO START A BLOG.
  • Read slices from other slicers (think ‘mentor texts’). You can see some of mine HERE.
  • Try writing a few slices between now and March 1st. Save these as drafts on your blog site. Use these on those hectic days that will inevitably challenge you.
  • Don’t worry about being lengthy and lush…remember other slicers are trying to read at least 3 posts each day and we often appreciate brevity!
  • I’m not great at self promotion, but I’m proud of the quick write ideas I’ve put together in my new book and these might provide some SPARKS for you as well!
  • Go to Twitter and search #SOL19. There you’ll find other slicers you can follow and get support from. It’s truly a community event, so welcome to the community!

screen shot 2019-01-27 at 9.45.11 amShared Spark! This week I’ll share a few teacher quick write SPARKS to perhaps get you started on some slices. Just write for 5-10 minutes on whatever comes to mind. Try not to filter your thoughts or overthink it. Just let your ideas flow onto the paper without judgment. It can be fun to see what emerges!

  • When I look into the faces of my students…
  • The thing that surprised me most about teaching is…
  • Reframe a situation in your day or week that revises the narrative more positively, yet honestly.
  • What do you think school looks like through the eyes of one of your students?

Whatever approach you take, I just hope you take the Challenge! It will change your perception of writing profoundly and permanently…I guarantee it!

One More Off My TBR Stack!

TThe bridge homehe Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman

I was totally spellbound by this compassionate and poignant novel. Living in poverty in India is hard, but imagine being Viji whose father abuses her mother and whose older sister Rukku has developmental disabilities. After her father turns his abuse to the girls, Viji knows she must flee to the city to find a better life for herself and Rukku. With almost no money and no plan, they encounter danger and hardship until they find shelter under an abandoned bridge. There they meet Muthi and Arul, two boys with equally tragic histories. Together they create their own family who work together to survive-pooling their meager resources and scavenging in trash heaps while Rukku makes bead necklaces to sell. When their safe haven is raided, they take shelter in a graveyard where they might be left alone. But with little shelter during the rainy season, Rukku and Muthu contract dengue fever from the mosquitoes. Viji and Arul need to find help, but they haven’t found many people they can trust or who would care about two of millions of homeless children. Padma Venkatraman beautifully shares the harsh reality and the courageous hopes of real homeless children in this fictional story. Open this book, it will open your eyes and your hearts

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What’s Your Win?

This week as I was meeting with my mentee (and brilliant new teacher) Heather, we were discussing some of the challenges of teaching kindergarten. But then she talked about how she and her kinder colleagues try to share a “win” with one another each day. When they see each other they’ll ask, “What’s your win for today?” This got me jazzed because one of my mantras for this year is Nothing is too small to celebrate, and here these teachers were putting that idea into action.

The next day at my “lunch bunch”  (5th and 6th grade teachers in a different school) we were discussing our day and I thought I’d try asking “What’s your win for today?” to each of them. Though some were humorous, and some took a little thinking, they all had a positive aspect to what is often a very tough job. It certainly brought some levity and light to the table.

We see what we look for.

It’s not always easy to recognize a win unless you are looking for it. Sure, we sometimes have those amazing moments that reaffirm for us why we became teachers or that fill us with pride. (Here’s a link to one of my proud teaching moments)But more often there are dozens of wins going on in our day that we don’t celebrate, and might not even notice.  Did a quiet student find their voice? Did kids transition well between activities? Did turn-and-talk produce good conversation? Was someone kind to a classmate? Did students enjoy the read aloud? Did you make it to the end of the day!?

We create an environment in which kids can thrive each day and sometimes we don’t realize what the impact is of the choices and decisions we make has on their social-emotional and academic learning. We tend to notice (and perseverate) on what didn’t go well, especially when we are tired and frustrated. But so often the conditions we’ve created spark lots of small victories for our students. We just need to look for them.

This week, try and ask yourself, “What’s my win?” Then perhaps ask a colleague, “What’s your win?“Encourage one another to look for and notice those small (or large) successes that happen each day in your classrooms. They’re there!  I plan to revisit this topic in the future after checking in with more teachers on their wins. I’d love to hear about your wins!

screen shot 2019-01-27 at 9.45.11 amShared Spark! In keeping with the theme of this week’s blog post, invite students or colleagues to quick write the answer to the question, “What’s My Win Today?” There’s a large body of research that shows writing or journaling about positive events or what we are grateful for can have a powerful impact on our mental health and mood. Taking 3 to 5 minutes to reflect on a win could set you on a more positive trajectory for the rest of the day.  Try it for a few days and see what you begin to notice.

One More Off My TBR Stack!

Merci Suarez

Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina

Winner of the 2019 Newbery Medal! Meg Medina has written a compassionate story about a family coming to grips with the brutal reality of Alzheimer’s disease while also dealing with the everyday struggles of daily life. Merci Suárez is beginning her 6th grade at a private school where she was “lucky” to get scholarship, but she doesn’t feel so lucky when she comes up against the most popular girl at school and when her beloved Grandfather, Lolo’s, behavior makes her feel like she doesn’t know him anymore. You’ll fall in love with these characters and find yourself rooting for them to overcome hardship, I know I did.

An Amazing Kickoff

Pardon the football reference, but it IS Superbowl Sunday!  However, I’m talking about the kickoff I’ve had to a new year of reading. If January is any indication of how the rest of the year will go, I’m in for a terrific trip around the sun!

In anticipation of the ALA Youth Media Awards that were held January 28th, I tried to read as many books as I could that made Mock Newbery and Mock Caldecott lists. I always love trying to guess which books will make the final cut,and my track record is pretty dismal. However, I almost always love the choices the committee members make.

CLICK HERE FOR A COMPLETE LIST OF AWARD WINNERS

I felt like a winner by being able to read so many fantastic books this January, and this is only the tip of the iceberg of books still on my TBR stack. Here are the middle grade novels that kicked off 2019 for me:

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And here are the picture books that kicked off my Year of Picture Books 2019:

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I’ve already started digging into my February stacks and loving ’em! I’d welcome any suggestions of your favorites. I almost always make choices based on recommendations since there is so little time, and so many books I want to devour!

Here’s to A YEAR OF READING in 2019!

screen shot 2019-01-27 at 9.45.11 amShared Spark! OPENING LINES- We talk with students about the importance of leads and how those first lines can hook a reader. A fun Spark is to share a few opening lines from books and invite students to choose one and take off from there. Have students write for 5-10 minutes and see where those lines take them. It’s fun to share and discover where a lead may guide a writer and discover the endless possibilities. For more quick write ideas you can check out SPARK! from Stenhouse Publishers.

One More Off My TBR Stack!

33294200THE POET X by Elizabeth Acevedo

National Book Award, Pura Belpré, and Golden Kite Honor Award Winner!

Elizabeth Acevedo is renowned for her slam poetry, and now she is just as accomplished as a kidlit author. Her debut YA novel, The Poet X, tell us the story of Xiomara Batista. Xiomara (See-oh-MAH-ruh) and her twin brother (whom she refers to only as Twin) were miracle babies to their older parents who thought they’d be childless. Mami is ultra-religious and wishes she’d been a nun, Papi is a reformed womanizer who let’s Mami run the household. Xiomara feels unheard, but has so much she wants to say. She decides to write it all down in poetry in the notebook Twin gifted her. She finds love, but is forbidden to date or be around boys. She wants to join the slam poetry club, but must attend confirmation classes instead. Will Xiomara get to be her authentic self or will the collision course she is on with church and Mami’s rules destroy her chance at the life she desires? Amazing story in verse. I kept rereading sections to savor the #DeliciousWords!

How Can We Increase Our Touches With Writing?

This week was the book birthday of my second professional text with Stenhouse IMG_1514-1Publishers SPARK! Quick Writes to Kindle Hearts and Minds in Elementary Classrooms. I felt a great deal of joy on this occasion, but I also experience what many authors have shared-a bit of trepidation. When you have put everything you have into your “baby”, you want the world to welcome it and love it as much as you do. I can tell you that my admiration for all writers and authors has increased exponentially as I appreciate the courage it takes to put a piece of you out into the world and let it go.

I created SPARK! because I know that the only way we get better at something is with practice, I could see that with my own kids in dance and soccer, as well as any task they excelled in. But with our tight teaching schedules many kids aren’t getting nearly enough writing practice as they need.

My son Casey’s soccer coach gave his team some great advice, “If you want to up your game you need to increase your touches with the ball, every-single-day.” That meant time and touches outside of practice. Casey found dozens of small moments each day to increase his touches and practice his footwork and ball drills-usually in our living room! It made all the difference for him as a player.

I want to increase the touches our kids have with writing each day-outside of the regular practice of writing workshop. Short bursts of practice throughout the day that can increase their skill and confidence. But I also wanted those touches to move beyond the same drill and skill and kindle creativity, engagement, and enjoyment.

I curated a collection of “SPARKS” or prompts to “Kindle the Hearts and Minds” of our students because I wanted them to grow as writers, but also as humans through their writing. The obvious benefit is that builds up the volume of writing. We’re building in opportunities for fluent practice and because they are low stakes (not graded or assessed) they encourage more creativity and risk-taking. Maybe less obvious, but also important, are how they can be used to develop off-page skills. We aren’t just raising readers and writers who are college and career ready, we are raising human beings who need to be life-ready These quick writes encourage critical thinking, creativity, communication, mindfulness, appreciation and a host of other social emotional skills in  addition to writing skills. I’ve set up each chapter with a different focus so teachers can choose from a variety of beneficial sparks.

And the beauty is that it doesn’t require much of our most precious commodity–TIME. Most of us can find 5-10 minutes in our busy schedules, why not use it to increase those touches our kids have with paper and pencil, or even keyboards, to spark wonder and curiosity, explore their thinking, increase their appreciation and compassion, or play with ideas. I believe with a short investment of time we can yield some terrific results with our students’ learning and lives.

I’ll try to share a SPARK! with each blog post this year to encourage you to give them a go, or you can preview the whole book here for free at the Stenhouse Website.

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Shared Spark! One way we can use quick writes is to help our students reframe their thinking. I offer some quotes as sparks for students to respond to that give them an opportunity to reflect and possibly reframe their thinking to embrace a more positive outlook or mindset. Try one of these:

  • “Folks are usually about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”-Abe Lincoln
  • “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”-Wayne Gretsky
  • “What doesn’t challenge you, doesn’t change you.”

Students are free to respond in any way they choose for about 5 minutes. I often take the next 5 minutes to let them share their thinking and appreciate the diversity of responses. Let me know if you give it a go!

One More Off My TBR Stack!

Harbor Me

HARBOR ME by Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson has an uncanny ability to create incredible stories that speak directly to her readers’ hearts and to tap into the raging currents of our time. I can no longer read one of her books without hearing her voice- layered with passion and lyricism. In this story six 5th grade students in Brooklyn are sent to the art room alone each Friday- just to talk- by their very wise and trusting teacher. It becomes the ARTT (A Room to Talk) room and gradually each shares their hopes, fears, and experiences in such a way that you do not pity them, but want to embrace them. As Ms. Laverne shares, “Every day we should ask ourselves, ‘If the worst thing in the world happened, would I protect someone else? Would I let myself be a harbor for someone who needs it?” The response of these students in word and deed is a resounding, “I WILL HARBOR YOU.

 

When One Is Enough

I love reading through posts in January to see what One Little Word people choose to help them focus their energies and passions in the upcoming year. It is often hard to think of just one when there are so many ideas racing around in my head and so many passions beating in my heart.

One thing I want to do as a coach and colleague this year is to help us all become more mindful and present during our days. I would often find at the end of the day that I’d wonder, “What did I even get done?” There would be times that I’d notice my shoulders were tense or my jaw was clenching and I’d realize, “Oh, I’m feeling stressed.” In my post last week, I shared my first activity toward encouraging greater mindfulness.

So I thought, sure MINDFUL would be my One Little Word. But then I pushed that thinking and wondered, “To what end?” and I realized it was because I wanted to appreciate the moments and experiences I have in this short life. I wanted to experience more gratitude for what is, and less angst for what isn’t.  Comparing what could be or nostalgia for what was can suck all the joy out of what IS.  Being more present with what is happening around me and inside of me can help me focus on the gift of being alive.

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GRATITUDE encompasses so many other intentions as well-it encourages me to be thankful for KINDNESS, GROWTH, CALM, TRUTH, POSITIVITY, LOVE, MINDFULNESS…you name it. It encourages me to accept people and events in my life for what they are and not feel so compelled to change them. I can only change ME, and if I do it with a grateful heart I believe it will lead me to a more gratifying life.

IGratitude Writing.jpg‘ve got a few ways to intentionally focus  on my GRATITUDE this year (and build a more writerly life!)  They involve quick writes each day to reflect on my blessings, happiness, and gratitude. They won’t take a lot of time, and the research on how gratitude can change the brain is pretty profound, and I’ll explore/share some of that this year as well.  I believe these will be a valuable investment of a small amount of time each day!

So as challenging as it was to choose ONE little word, I am satisfied that this one is enough! Whatever your One Little Word is, may it lead you to a richer life in 2019.

One More Off My TBR Stack!

screen shot 2019-01-13 at 10.31.51 am24 HOURS IN NOWHERE by Dusti Bowling

I wanted this to be my first book in 2019 because I wanted my year of reading to start out with a bang-and it did! Dusti Bowling takes me to a part of our country as different from my home in Maine as possible-offering a window into the lives of several poverty-stricken children in Nowhere, Arizona.
But being poor is relative for Gus, Rossi, Jessie, and Matthew who enter into a deadly Frenchman mine to seek a piece of gold, each for differing reasons. As the mine collapses they begin to bond over how hard their lives have been and find that if they survive, their lives could be altered forever. I love Dusti’s writing; she is somehow able to weave humor into trauma, peel back layers of her complex characters, and bring us to her beloved desert with vivid descriptions. Kids are going to love this adventurous tale!

A Gift to Remember

We teachers  are part of the village that raises our communities’ children, but somehow it seems we are increasingly the only ones being held accountable.  So much is continually asked of us, expected of us, and evaluated of us that many teachers are leaving the profession and fewer are choosing this path as a vocation. We need to find ways to support one another in an increasingly stressful  life as teachers. As an instructional coach, I see part of my job as encouraging greater self-care and supporting teachers hearts and minds as well as their professional learning.

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This year I wanted to give a small gift to our teachers that might make a meaningful impact.  I’ve been practicing greater mindfulness in the past few years that has helped me find a better balance in my personal and professional life, as well as in experiencing a greater sense of harmony and presence in my day to day life. A weekly yoga practice, a daily meditation practice, and lots of ‘Zen’ reading has fueled this awakening.

But until it becomes a habit, it can be easy to forget to be more mindful. So I wanted to gift a reminder to my colleagues that might help them. I gave each a mindful marble as well as this letter:

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My hope is that we are able to reduce some of the stress in our lives and develop a deeper sense of gratitude for what IS and worry less about what COULD or SHOULD be.  I would love to hear how you are practicing self-care and welcome ideas for how we can support one another in the coming year(s) and open our hearts and minds to more meaningful experiences.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

One More Off My TBR Stack!

hey kiddoHEY, KIDDO by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

A powerful graphic memoir by author/illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka, this left me with greater appreciation for his artistic success and deeper empathy for our children growing up in homes with addiction. Krosoczka offers us glimpses into his life that are raw and real; heartbreaking at times and inspiring at others. He cleverly incorporates original artwork from his childhood and teen years, as well as letters from his incarcerated mother to share his story. This is no pity party, but it is sure to move you. With difficult subject matter and authentic obscenities I’d say this is a powerful window-book for older readers, but could be an inspiring mirror-book for children growing up in similar situations. A National Book Award Finalist, this novel deserves all the praise it is receiving. You can see Jarrett’s TED Talk about his journey from boy to artist here:

 

 

 

Letting Go

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My post this week isn’t about school, books, teaching, or even the holidays. Though they have all been on my mind, their importance was diminished by the passing of my dearest buddy, Murphy, and the shock and sorrow that enveloped my family.

Thirteen years ago we rescued a little dog, or maybe he rescued us. He came into our Screen Shot 2018-12-22 at 8.12.28 AMlives and brought so much joy each day. Walking through the door we were always welcomed with an exuberant wag and warm cuddle. He would patiently wait for one of us to sit and then take up residence in our lap. He lived to snuggle and we loved it so.

In recent months he’d slowed down and was no longer able to jump into our laps so we bought little stairs to ease his way. We knew there would be no forever, but we were never ready for no more. I think he waited for my daughter to come home from college, to see his Bailey one last time, and for that I am beholden.

We relive our last moments as though they were somehow more significant than the thousands of kisses and snuggles and other precious moments that preceded them. For me, I recall kissing him goodnight, chucking his chin,  and whispering, “I love you, buddy,” the way I did each evening. Then during the night his sleep became permanence and my buddy was gone.

Our heartache was excruciating at the discovery, and the tears flowed until we could literally cry no more. But “after great pain a formal feeling comes”, a gratitude so deep it is lifting me out of anguish. I realized I would not feel this grief if I had not loved so deeply, and that is the price we pay for loving others in our tenuous lives. If we outlive those we love we will grieve, and hopefully our grief evolves into a gratitude that sustains us.

I know others are suffering far greater traumas in life, but to compare is to miss the point. We each in our lives must navigate great pain. “First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.“I am hurting, I am sad, I am finding a new normal, I am letting go.

Goodbye, Murphy. We love you so.

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Casey’s first kiss from Murphy
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A million snuggles with Murphy.
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Always in search of a lap.
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A face we will never forget.

Delicious Words

Have you ever been reading along in a book and suddenly the words wake you out of your reading trance? The precise selection, the unique arrangement, or the magnitude of their meaning dawns on you as pure delicious reading. And once you are awakened to their presence you hunger for more-then unsurprisingly you find more. You just needed to be stirred from your suspended animation.

I’ve decided I want to start collecting these delicious words so that I can go back and savor their flavor, but also to share them with others to give them a sample taste. Last week I started a hashtag on Twitter #DeliciousWords to begin collecting lines that caused me to pause and reread, to ponder the author’s process at that moment in selecting just the right words to convey their thoughts so beautifully.  Here are a few from this week’s reading:

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THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF COYOTE SUNRISE  by Dan Gemeinhart
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SWEEP by Jonathan Auxier
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IN YOUR SHOES by Donna Gephart

 

And then Friday I attended a Heinemann workshop with Penny Kittle and Linda Rief in which they shared their writer/reader notebooks with us. I was totally mesmerized at the way Penny crafted “Beautiful Words” entries into her notebooks. This took #DeliciousWords to a whole new level for me! Now I want to collect even more deliciousness and preserve them in a notebook. Check out some examples she shared (used with permission):IMG_0706IMG_0708So if you are looking for ways to revitalize your writer/reader notebooks, literally take a page from Penny and Linda. They weave the look of Found Poems with the skill of noticing authors’ craft with these beautiful entries. If these creations of art are too intimidating, just start collecting with photos, copying lines, or tweeting out the #DeliciousWords you find.  Share what you savor knowing no two readers have the exact same tastes, variety is the spice of life!

What’s On My Book Radar?

Screen Shot 2018-12-16 at 8.36.19 AMSWEEP: THE STORY OF A GIRL AND HER MONSTER by Jonathan Auxier

Every once in awhile you read a book that you simultaneously can’t put down and yet want to it to stay immersed in that world and linger on-SWEEP is one of those books. Jonathan Auxier takes us to the world of child chimney climbers in Victorian London, who are typically indentured servants trapped in a life of cruel and dangerous work. Society turns it’s face away from the horrible child labor because their fear of fire is greater. We meet Nan who was raised by the Sweep, but when he mysteriously disappears she is forced into the servitude of Wilkie Crudd-a Fagin-like master who works his children to the brink of death. When Nan is nearly burned alive in a chimney she wakes to find herself in the care of a mysterious creature. She befriends “Charlie” and learns that he is a Golem sent by the Sweep to protect her. But in this hard life they struggle to save each other and the children that no one cares for. Beautifully told with so many lines I needed to write down to remember. Do yourself a favor and get a copy of this book-a perfect Dickensian read for the holidays!

A Different Gift This Year

Most of us are well into the holiday season already. Thanksgiving was early this year, which stretched the festivities by an extra week for most. Hannukah starts today for my my Jewish friends and Black Friday is already in the rearview mirror. Talk at the staff room table often centers around plans and shopping for the holidays.

It’s festive, it’s fun…it’s frenetic!

This year we’ve already had several snow days before December even arrived  and during our last one I realized it was the first time I didn’t have some project or plan waiting for me to work on . My book is off being printed, my National Boards are completed, my workshops and conferences for the year are behind me. I had a day to myself without a TO-DO list nudging me along.  It was incredible!

It got me thinking about how infrequently I experience that situation. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining about my ‘busyness’-I love living life to the fullest and packing in as many experiences as I can into this short journey I’ll have on this earth. I rarely regret any of the choices I make to do, go, or create – but I also realize there is a cost that I sometimes ignore. In order for the value of these experiences to be more meaningful, I need to appreciate that.

I decided that for this December I am going to give myself a guilt-free gift that I can unwrap each day and appreciate…the gift of NO. (or No, Thank You!) I work at four schools and each has it’s own Secret Santas, Goodie Days, Gift Exchanges, and Christmas Parties. In the past I have tried to participate in something at each school to feel connected to my colleagues with the spirit of the season. And I enjoyed each experience very much, but what I neglected to recognize was the cost of participating. Sure there is a monetary cost, but it was the mental cost of planning, scheduling, shopping, remembering that I didn’t fully appreciate. I almost always found myself scrambling to fit it all in and over-scheduling myself with the preparation parts.

I have no worries that anyone will feel slighted, in fact, I think that’s a bit of hubris to think that my absence would negatively impact anyone. I love leaving my own notes and gifts to teachers and friends that fill me with gratitude and offer them some holiday cheer-and that doesn’t need to be on anyone’s schedule but my own.

Saying “NO.” is not saying “Bah-Humbug”!

“No” offers me the gift of space.  Space to say “Yes” to something I may not have had time for. Space to be open to in-the-moment simple joys-to sit and listen to music, watch my tree twinkle, snuggle with my pets, gaze at the flames in the fireplace, savor a Christmas cookie nibble by nibble.  “No” invites more mindfulness because it reminds me that I have choice in all I do-that I can make choices with more intention. It encourages me to BREATHE IN the spirit of the season. May you find a little of this guilt-free gift in your stocking this December as well.  You deserve it.

One More Off My TBR Stack!

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THE LOST GIRL by Anne Ursu

Anne Ursu is a brilliant storyteller. She knows how to dangle just enough foreshadowing and mystery in front of her readers to pull us in and keep us captivated. She knows how to create characters we cheer for and cringe at. She knows how to weave the threads of plotlines together to create a gorgeous tapestry of story. The Lost Girl (releasing Feb 12,2019) is her latest gem.
Identical twins Iris and Lark have been inseparable until 5th grade when their parents think it best for them to be in separate classrooms. They have no idea the impact this will have on their girls, especially at a time when strange things are happening in their community. A mysterious shop sets up in town that Iris can’t seem to resist. Lark keeps having possessions go missing and becomes more reclusive. Neither has any idea of the dan
ger that awaits them, but our surreptitious narrator tries to warn the readers-are they paying attention? Not all is as it seems!

Here’s a book talk by Colby Sharp!

NCTE 2018 Ah-has and Oh-Yeahs

When I can’t attend a conference (and that is most of the time) I like to learn vicariously img_0221.jpgthrough other attendees. I follow hashtags on Twitter, I look at posts of Facebook or Instagram, and I read the blogs of those who share out. I think it is only fair to reciprocate whenever I can. Last week I attended NCTE18 in Houston and tried to tweet out quotes and highlights as well as my sketchnotes. (You can see all of my #NCTE18 sketchnotes HERE)

So what did I take away from this conference (other than dozens of books for my TBR stacks?) Here are some of my Ah-ha’s and Oh-yeah’s in sketchnote form…

Raising Student Voice: What is our Role in Equity and Justice in the Classroom?

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Cornelius Minor gave me lots of food for thought:

Oppression can be pervasive in seemingly innocuous practices that our privilege blinds us to. Open our minds and eyes to how others may feel left out or less-than with the systems we consider ‘normal’.

There is a big difference between DIVERSITY (“all the people are at my table“) and INCLUSIVITY (“I change the rules for all”).  Where do my beliefs and actions fall?

 

 

 

Sharpening the Intervention Lens Through Responsive Conversations

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Dr. Mary Howard always provides me with ample Ah-ha moments and she didn’t disappoint this time.

She challenges us to rethink interventions-that sometimes 1 minute could be the most powerful in a child’s day if we are responsive to their needs.

The best teachers do more writing after teaching than before.

Interventions should be JOYFUL, not PAINFUL.

We can’t TEACH kids we don’t know! Look in their eyes and show them how important they are!

 

Enacting Sustainable Teaching: How Mindfulness, Embodiment, and Literacy Practices Can Help You Stay in the Profession for the Long Haul

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Teaching is one of the few professions that intersects professional and private lives. We need to embrace Sustainable Teaching Practices. The presenters from CSU Writing Project shared some of their research and understanding.

I will definitely be revisiting these ideas in future posts. You can check out their website at https://www.csuwritingproject.net/what-is-sustainable-teaching.html

If we don’t find a sustainable balance between our professional and personal lives, we are destined for burnout and stress-and that doesn’t allow us to be the best teachers, parents, spouses, friends, or family-members we can be.

 

Keepin’ it Real: Authentic Responses to Reading

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I appreciate that each of these panelists (several from Maine) are in the classroom everyday and using these practices.

Though many were not new ideas they offered ideas for rubrics  and reflection that teachers could use in assessing student responses that are more authentic than tests, quizzes, and response logs.

They reminded us that we can’t just assign these approaches, but that we have to explicitly teach students how to use them, and scaffold them as needed. If kids aren’t ‘getting it’ then it is on us to reteach, provide feedback, and model for them.

 

Writers’ Notebooks: Who? What? When? Where? Why?

Screen Shot 2018-11-23 at 10.45.25 AMMichelle Haseltine, Linda Urban, and Amy Ludwig VanDerWater are my go-tos when it comes to writers notebooks, so when they were scheduled to present a session I was gobsmacked!

I love the idea that our notebooks are gifts to our future selves. Author Anne Nesbet talked about this in a session I moderated as well. She suggested entries and documents that balance LARGE (world events) with LOCAL (community or personal) to write about.

Also-don’t be intimidated by perfect- be messy and raw. These aren’t published pieces they are an exploration of our heart and soul on paper.  Surprise yourself!

There were more take-aways that I’ll explore in future posts, but these were some sessions that will resonate with me for a long time. Of course, the sessions I presented with others shaped my teaching in profound ways as I prepared, reflected, and practiced more mindfully what I planned to ‘preach’. You can see those presentations here:

https://www.paulabourque.com/ncte-2018

Anytime we plan to teach others, we enhance our own practice and deepen our own understandings. If you have never thought about being a presenter, I would strongly encourage you to try it. You will definitely come away a stronger teacher and more reflective practitioner. Call for NCTE 2019 proposals are open now https://convention.ncte.org/2019-convention/call-for-proposals/

One More Off My TBR Stack!

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SHOUTING AT THE RAIN by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
I have been waiting so long to get my hands on this book and all I can say is that it’s worth the wait!
Lynda Mullaly Hunt actually threw out her first manuscript and started all over with a new setting-Cape Cod and the story poured right out of her heart and onto the page.
We meet Delsie living on the Cape with her Grammy, abandoned by her mother and never knowing her father. Until this summer she has never given the situation much thought, but as some friends rehearse for Annie at the summer playhouse, she realizes she, too, is an orphan. She feels an even keener sense of loss when her best friend, Brandy, chooses a self-centered summer visitor, over their longstanding friendship. Along comes a new kid, Ronan, who is sharing some of the same struggles as Delsie, but handles his frustration in more destructive ways. Together they confront challenges we hope our children never have to weather, and make some discoveries about themselves and what family really means. So glad I finished this on Thanksgiving-a perfect way to celebrate the day!