Summer Book Study Blog

Summer Book Study Blog

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Learn Like a Pirate Chapter 8: Empowerment

Another "empowering" chapter on a student-led classroom.
This chapter could be summed up with the following five words from a chapter subtitle:
Empowerment = Enjoyment = Motivation = Effort = Achievement

Favorite highlights of chapter 8:

  • Passion Projects and their planning
  • Essential Question - PHAT Questions (Pretty Hard and Tough)
  • New technology uses for planning...Trello Board
  • Presenting options of making sure everyone gets feedback - important section to ensure that students present and receive feedback without spending days and days on presentations.
  • Student "Ted Talks" written, practiced, videoed, and presented on YouTube
  • Students must feel safe - explaining good days and bad days and that they are always loved.

Learn Like a Pirate Chapter 8: Empowerment

Another "empowering" chapter on a student-led classroom.
This chapter could be summed up with the following five words from a chapter subtitle:
Empowerment = Enjoyment = Motivation = Effort = Achievement

Favorite highlights of chapter 8:

  • Passion Projects and their planning
  • Essential Question - PHAT Questions (Pretty Hard and Tough)
  • New technology uses for planning...Trello Board
  • Presenting options of making sure everyone gets feedback - important section to ensure that students present and receive feedback without spending days and days on presentations.
  • Student "Ted Talks" written, practiced, videoed, and presented on YouTube
  • Students must feel safe - explaining good days and bad days and that they are always loved.

An InLinkz Link-up

Friday, July 17, 2015

Learn Like a Pirate Chapter 7: Twenty-First Century Skills

Chapter 7 was a treasure-trove of important life-skills, goal setting, and ideas for moving students forward in 21st Century Skills to be prepared for their futures as students and responsible, well-equipped adults for a successful life. I had lots of pauses and thoughts as Paul broke the skills out and was validated on ones that I currently employ and reminded of those that I don't.

I was especially interested and focused on the sections on goal-setting. I've been doing weekly goal setting around smaller goals and more intense goal setting after each of our three NWEA testing results. I plan to bring in the 21st Century Skills this year. My parents have been involved in the past, but I think that letting them know about the 21st Century Skills it will bring a bigger impact into all our lives. Preparing for the future shouldn't be left to chance. Parents don't always know how to help their child and appreciate being informed.

Reflection was another chapter focus for me. I have highlighted the steps that Paul uses with his students. "Reflection doesn't only happen in writing at the end of a learning process. In our class, students learn to be metacognitive in their thinking. ...they develop an awareness of their progress at all times...ask them to answer questions about what they're thinking, assess their progress, identify potential struggles, and make plans..."

Planning the year in advance is also something that I NEED to do. This year I am only teaching Lang. Arts to two different sections of 4th graders. I also have a section of high ability LA students. Seeing how specific Paul was with the 21st Century Skills and the curriculum components gave me a sample for how this could look for me. The 4th graders teachers work as a strong, united team, and I will share this with them.

Another great chapter for me to do some creative and critical thinking, collaboration and communication with my peers and my students, and to keep the 21st Century Skills on the front burner as I plan. D :)

Friday, July 10, 2015

Learn Like a Pirate Chapter 6: Active Learning

"We know students learn best by doing. Fortunately, the best learning method is also incredibly fun -- for students and teachers!" Paul begins chapter 6 by stating the facts about "learning by doing."

This chapter on active learning was a great reminder for what I have dabbled with in the past. I've tried almost all of these including a debate of 2 teams of "lawyers" with REAL parent lawyers serving as judges. So exciting! Parent volunteers can really be an asset!

About the science section, we have a guest dentist (personal friend) that comes to our classroom to dissect a rat under a document camera that projects LARGE to the screen. He brings rubber gloves for the students to hold and touch body parts. Writing a real lab report on the body systems of a rat were "fun" after being involved actively. Students took pictures and tweeted. The lab reports were incredible and as we shared these google docs with the "rat dentist," he encouraged students into the medical fields. This gave us a public audience. Parents were also elated with this strong academic experience. It is a highlight of the year in my classroom. Ask your personal care providers. You never know what skills they have that might be an active learning opportunity that supports our science and health standards.

I also have used collaborative online tools for team discussions on a driving question that involves research and some argumentative passion. In the past, I used "gotomeeting" but now it is only free for a 30 day trial. There are lots of options for this including google drive and hangouts. This Kathy Schrock site gives lots of educator options.

Paul nails it when he says, "Technology helps turn ordinary learning into extraordinary fun. And the whole time children are working with these technology tools, they are collaborating and helping each other problem-solve. Those results seem worthwhile to me!" Seems worthwhile to me, too! D :)

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Learn Like a Pirate Chapter 5: Responsibility

This summer I am participating in 4 online book studies and learning so much from the texts and other teachers. The interesting thing is that all 4 books are adding to each other in my own thinking and learning. Besides Learn Like a Pirate, I am reading and sharing Teaching with the brain in mind by Eric Jensen, 2nd Edition, School Culture Rewired-How to Define, Assess, and Transform It by Steve Gruenert & Todd Whitaker, and What Connected Educators Do Differently by Todd Whitaker, Jeffrey Zoul, and Jimmy Casas. I am making many text-to-text connections. :)

Chapter 5: Responsibility
This is a professional life-changing chapter! I can see that I try to keep control to the expense of my own organization and keeping my students from stepping-up into life-changing aspects of building personal responsibility. I plan to re-read this chapter and make "cheat sheets" on how I can release responsibility to my students to free-up myself. I spend way too much time at school doing things my students could have done. 

Silent-Day was intriguing. I found the website links (I'm reading the e-book version) to be so helpful. Hearing students explain "REARMJCL" gave clarity to how this looks. I will use this video to share with my students.

I can't say enough about "sharing the load" and creating responsible, collaborative, and supportive students. I will probably be in and out of this blog entry as I absorb and reflect more on all this chapter had to offer.

I am moving tomorrow so off to packing, but I'm sure this chapter will resonate in my brain. Wish I had a student-led classroom to help me with all this work!
D :)

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Learn Like a Pirate - Ch. 4 - Improvement Focus vs. Grade Focus

This chapter has rocked my "pirate ship"! I truly believe in the "improvement focus vs. the grade focus," but grades are part of district, school, and parental expectations. I have highlighted so much in this chapter to think about in the next 6 weeks before a new school year begins. 

"Assessment and feedback, rather than a focus on grades, pushes students toward constant growth." 
This quote validated how I use feedback in my classroom. Just this year, I started using the Google Classroom. I can grade and send feedback that students DID read and then revised and resubmitted. My students are using the "share" feature in google docs, slides, etc. and commenting back and forth with me and each other. Students are actually asking for feedback on their work. 

"Why are we so focused on finality that we have to assign a summative grade to everything?"
This past year there were numerous project/presentations where there was less emphasis on a grade and more on the learning. Class discussions: "What did you learn from your project and each other's projects?" Science and social studies were the areas that I used project-based and group learning the most. Grade level discussions around giving students report card grades that were Satisfactory, Improving, or Needs improvement were vetoed to continue with traditional letter grades in science and social studies. Disappointed.

"My feedback comes with no strings attached. I've earned my students' respect by demonstrating that I genuinely care about them and their progress, so they listen when I share insights and offer instruction."
I noted that there was no iPad or clipboard as he gave feedback. My wonder, does Paul keep notes on students that would help him remember areas of weakness that might need addressed in small groups? Not sure I would always remember anecdotal observations with all 50 students that I see for lang arts. These notes are so helpful when I talk with parents. Perhaps I'm looking at this in a different way than Paul is suggesting. I do so believe in what the quote is suggesting. "Students won't care about what we know until they know how much we care," or something like that is a quote that I remember when working with students. Relationship is key. 

"Speaking in the past tense makes students feel as if there's no way to fix their mistake or failure. (What's done is done.) In contast, speaking in the present or future tense demonstrates that learning is a process." 
I love the examples of Say this: "Next time, I'd like you to do it this way because..." or, "Can you try this way instead?" Or, "Are you displaying good leadership skills right now, or could you do better?" This is constructive feedback that builds a students not negative feedback that breaks down a student. This is perhaps my favorite "walk away" from this chapter. I need to work on this one.

Improving Classroom Behavior
Set the expectation with the "Six Pillars of Character" by the Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.

Character Counts!
  1. Respect
  2. Responsibility
  3. Trustworthiness
  4. Fairness
  5. Caring
  6. Citizenship
Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
  1. Be proactive
  2. Begin with the end in mind
  3. Put first things first
  4. Think Win-Win
  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood
  6. Synergize
  7. Sharpen the saw
Identify the Consequences
Behavior Management System:
  1. A warning
  2. A behavior point
  3. A work-it-out
We have a current Positive-Based Behavior system that is similar already in place. What Paul has to say about how he uses this in his classroom gave me some clarification in improving how I manage this with my students. 

Boosters - Peer Feedback
  • Quality Booster
  • Compliments (Love the Quality Booster and Compliment Sandwich for peer feedback!) 
  • Write your suggestion as a question rather than a statement. "You don't seem superior to them if you're just wondering something!"
Student views on feedback were illuminating at the end of the chapter. 

This was a great chapter with lots of pauses to really think about what I believe and what I practice in my classroom. 

Sail on, mateys!
D :)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Learn Like a PIRATE: Peer Collaboration - Chpt. 3

Have to admit I was more than a little excited to read the title of Chpt. 3 - Peer Collaboration! LOVE seeing students interacting and learning from and with each other. Makes my heart smile and sing (maybe a sea chantey)!

"Two brains are smarter than one!...Collaboration allows us to know more than we are capable of knowing by ourselves." I love the way Paul starts this chapter and leads into "WE'RE IN THIS TOGETHER." I plan to make this a banner across the top of my whiteboard, "We're not just a class; we're a crew! We're in this together! We are a company of workers and a family." 

"Give me five!" is something I say often in my classroom to get attention. I can't imagine a student saying this, and yet, I can't imagine one of them hasn't. This is definitely something that I want to hear and am excited to read on to see how Paul sets this up to work with students stopping and listening to the "give me five" person. "The power to interrupt the class is one of the most important aspects of a student-led classroom." Model, encourage, give feedback. The examples he gives are happening in my classroom (except moving desks around in 1 minute 8 seconds (Impressive!), just not encouraged. I can do this. They will catch on! 

"Students lead when they believe the teacher would appreciate their help, not when the teacher is completely in charge." This reminds me of "Be the guide on the side not the sage on the stage." I have to smile as I think about the times of the day when they take care of me by remembering what I am forgetting. I do appreciate when they help with the running of the classroom. This past year I let them do more than I have in the past and it did free me up some extra time to work with groups or one-on-one, but now I'm thinking of all the things they could do on their own from the beginning of the day through the end. I just hope there isn't a job chart. I am horrible with those. If so, I'll pass it on to the students to do. :)

Today I was at a district retreat dealing with school culture. There were several questions that we discussed about empowering students to have ownership of their learning, creating students that are problem-solvers and thinkers, and students with 21st Century skills. My mind kept coming back to LLAP! It was all I could do to keep from saying "AARRRG!" I am also in an online study group for School Culture Rewired, our anchor text for the retreat, also speaks to much of LLAP with its student-led classroom. The whole afternoon was peer collaboration among the adults. I think I did a "give me 5" at one point. What we did, I've seen my students do. Collaborate, then share out. Easy, Peasy! 

Enjoying this book so much! 

Ahoy, matey! Sail on!
D :)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Chapter 2 - Learn Like a Pirate - Common Concerns about Student-Led Classrooms

All concerns that Paul addressed in chapter two were mine, plus there were several concerns I hadn't even thought of to be concerned about! Yikes! However, when I turned to the page of his "sub notes," I was amazed. If a sub can come in and not lose her mind or even have to "walk the plank" from an unruly, mutinous crew, then there must be something to all this. Paul states, "My most recent philosophical and pedagogical changes have reinvigorated me and made me a much better teacher than I was before." I want to start out the school year reinvigorated in spite of this summer's busyness. 

I want to model the tools of  a "self-starter" and I want my students to become one. "Taking responsibility for yourself is something that is learned," is quoted at the end of the chapter from Mary DeMaria. Equipping students with the skills and needs of the future is a noble pursuit. Curriculum standards and standardized "high-stakes" testing will always be with us. We also owe our students life skills that will prepare them for the future to come. When I think how education has changed over the years and the skills and adaptations that have come along with technology since the early 2000s, WOW! BUT, good teaching is still good teaching. A teacher is still the one to make the difference in the learning for students, but why not equip students to share the load? I have had multiple units that students shared the workload in preparing, presenting, assessing, and reteaching their peers. Students worked so hard and were so excited to share their learning. My students have created websites, blogs, shared google docs for collaboration, set up study groups, and much more. I think  KNOW I can do this. 

Ahoy, matey! I'm ready to set sail!
Pirate D :)

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Saturday, June 6, 2015

Learn Like a Pirate - What is a Student-Led Classroom?

I am starting the Learn Like a Pirate, book study a few days late sponsored by Primary Gal. I heard about it through my following of the blog, Runde's Room. I looked around to buy it, but because of having to wait more days, I decided to try the ebook through Amazon. It will be hard to read and not mark the margins of my book with my thoughts. I am a "pen in hand" reader of PD books. However, I did find the highlighting and notes features on my kindle app. Might like this a lot after all! Excited to collaborate with this new community of learners! 

I had to smile as I read that author, Paul Solarz, has taught for more than 15 years, as I have taught MUCH MUCH MORE than 15 years. I am definitely "an old pirate learning new tricks," a "world-changing" teacher. I'm rowing hard to catch the wind of this journey with this fleet of sailing pirates!

Opening quote grabbed me, "Right is right, even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it." - Augustine of Hippo

I have read several books on "talking," collaborating classrooms where respect is a  #1 priority. Respect for each other and for all the adults working with them. I was excited to read that Paul is going to deal with conflict-management techniques that promote respect.

"A student-led classroom is one in which students make decisions and choices through the day without consulting the teacher." ARRRG! That is a scary one to imagine. A huge pause in trying to imagine, but I read on... "These decisions impact their own actions, the actions of others, and even the actions of the teacher." Decisions leading to impact. Intriguing thought that students learn that their actions carry impact in their learning. There is always lots of discussion on actions of behaviors affecting others and the consequences that these behaviors bring, but to bring this into the academics' arena with a positive implication for learning is exciting to imagine. I'm hooked (...Captain Hook)!

"The curricular objectives don't change - the method does." I have read, studied, and used Fisher and Frey's, GRE - Gradual Release of Responsibility in my classroom for several years and believe there will be some similarities. In GRE, the teacher models (mini-lesson), we (teacher and students) practice together (Guided Practice), students work together in groups (Collaborative Group Work), students work independently ( Independent Work). Paul's mini-lesson is followed by active learners guiding the learning set forth by the mini-lesson. Passive learners are not passionate learners. Learning becomes a chore. There's no joy.

"...lots of instruction and practice must take place." This is critical and one that I will have to slow down my enthusiasm to "set sail" without doing the front-loading of all the preparation needed before embarking on this exciting journey. "Every day, teachers need to provide learning opportunities for students to practice the necessary skills until they become habits."

Feedback on positive decisions and supportive feedback when negative decisions are made are important prerequisites to establishing routine and feelings of safety in the classroom to be a thinker and a doer. This shows students that you are there as their biggest supporter and not just a "Captain Hook" to reprimand and control their thinking . At my school, positive energy is part of our school goal. Quotes are everywhere about positive thinking and positive energy and how it affects us all. "I am the positive energy to my students' success." Students can spread this positive energy to each other. "I am the positive energy to my peers' success." What an important mindset that will affect family (present and future), school years ahead, future career, and life!

"When children feel happy and safe at school, they're willing to work hard for their teachers. And hard-working students are what it's going to take to create a successful student-led classroom!" I'm hooked! 

However, I do plan to continue brushing my teeth, as "pirates have green teeth" because they don't brush. (from How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long) :)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Day 31 SOL - Grateful for SOL

SOL is ending today. Today marks completion. Thirty one posts, many more that the 93 + 60 comments, discipline of writing every day for the world to read, and some new friends. Lots of wonderful writing ideas for the future with poetry such as Poetry Quick Write and Found Poem, and Reverso Poem. I linked up each of the "slices" I used with their directions. 

This all feels a teeny tiny bit like the movie/book "Julie and Julia." Staying with a blog for a specific length of time and completing the challenge. I did not make my way through the Art of French Cooking, but I did write from a blog pouring out heart and life for 31 days. 

So I bid you all "adieu" and blessings for a life well-lived.

Today marks completion. 
Thirty one posts,
Many thoughtful comments, 
Writing every day for the world to read.
Wonderful poetic ideas,
New friends,
Pouring out heart and life,
"Adieu" and blessings,
Challenge completed.

Numbers 6 :24-26

The Lord bless you, and keep you;
25 The Lord make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;
26 The Lord lift up His countenance on you,
And give you peace.’

Dianna  :)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Day 30 SOL - Punch Bowl Falls & Bridge of the Gods (Wild by Cheryl Strayed)

Hiking to Punch Bowl Falls in Cascade, Oregon was nature's beauty at its finest. With each turn of the trail, the hike up to the falls was beautiful scenic view after view. The trail was just right, not too challenging but just right in fitness requirements and a taste of excitement as you walked on a narrow trail behind waterfalls with a steel rope to hang onto. Loved those moments of thrill that never felt unsafe. The trail is 3 miles in and 3 miles out. I felt fit as a fiddle both ways. 

My granddaughter made the picture below. Once arriving you cannot see the actual falls unless you hike into the freezing waters and peek around the cliff on the right. The sound is so powerful. So peaceful.  "More than the sounds of many waters, Than the mighty breakers of the sea, The LORD on high is mighty." Psalm 93:4. It truly was a spiritual experience.

My daughter and I - Punch Bowl Falls. 3.29.15

When it was time to start back, I went ahead of my young, fast walkers as it was steep terrain hiking up from the falls to the main trail. Once I was started down, I really enjoyed walking alone to enjoy God's beauty and the peacefulness of the trail. The fauna along the trail included ferns, moss, and greenery of every hue. I imagined Cheryl Strayed on the PCT, Pacific Crest Trail, from the book and movie, Wild. It has been my spring break read as there is much of the book around Portland, Oregon. I love finding a book that has its setting in the locale I am visiting. When we left the falls we had to drive north a bit on the Interstate, get off at the nearest exit, then head back south. Just before we made our loop was a sign for "The Bridge of the Gods." That is the culmination of Cheryl's trip on the PCT. I was so excited to see it! There is an Indian legend around this site. 

This day was a true treat. 

D :)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Day 29 SOL - Portland Farmers' Market

Today we ventured into southwest Portland for the Farmers' Marker. Such interesting booths of some amazing, yummy delicacies, yet basic organic vegetables and all my favorite flowers of spring: tulips in a rainbow of colors and my very favorite - the happy, joyful daffodil. "Daffydils." 

It was a healthy atmosphere of organics, bakery sweets, variety of interesting meats (even yak!), exotic cheeses (lots of goat cheeses), smoked Pacific salmon, and some wine tasting. My grandson hustled off and came back with two tamales in corn husks. Inside each was steamed masa, shredded chicken, and a tomato salsa topping. Mui Bueno! The samples at each of the tents were interesting, varied, and always tasty to entice you to buy. We did and we did!

This Farmers' Market is located on the Portland State University campus. Live music gave the morning a festival atmosphere. The shoppers came in all ages, not so much all sizes as it was a healthy, fit looking crowd. I especially enjoyed watching a tiny, elderly lady dressed up for the day with make-up, too, and her little cart. She was sporting some cute "kicks" on her feet that were very Oregonian. Cute little lady! She had a spring bouquet in her cart along with an interesting load of veggies, breads, and a little bit of wine. 

Portland Farmers Market Bounty

After our purchases were completed we left for a stop at an organic juice bar and then back home. Feeling super healthy, part of the family took off on a hike. I chose to read. Yesterday I hiked for hours and tomorrow is a new hike location. New adventures awaiting!

D :)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Day 28 SOL - Portland Wonderland

Today started with a hike in North Park in Portland. It's only a few blocks from where my daughter and grandson live. It's not what you expect in a city park. It's like a stroll through a rain forest. The smell of oxygen is strong in the air where the sunlight hits all the plant life. There are multiple trails that go up and up. At one point, we could look down on hikers below. Felt like we were on quite a steep trail grade but it was so gradual and beautiful that I just floated along. The sunlight streamed down in rays that were 3D touchable. We reached out to grab them like one does in a 3D movie. 

From North Park we ended up in a beautiful neighborhood of older homes and walked to the house from the Twilight movies. It was some house! 

Home to eat and rest a bit, then a walk to downtown Portland...Powell's Bookstore! My grandson and I looked and looked for the perfect books to take back to my 4th graders readers. We ended up in the "Rare Books" section and saw a $12,000 book (did NOT purchase that one!) that could have been taken out of the glass case and held. It was in a special room that had a person watching over and must have had a strong dehumidifier as when we left my eyeballs felt like all the juice was sucked out of them. 

Today was a very good day.

D :)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Day 27 SOL - A Day at the Beach, Oregon Style

A day at the beach in the Northwest, Cannon Beach, is not that different from a day at the beach in Florida. The drive to Cannon Beach had traffic stops, just like Florida on Spring Break. When we arrived, there was a touristy little town with lots of quaint shopping venues and food options galore. Sea gulls were zooming overhead and squawking their welcoming cry. Tourists wearing warm weather attire, flip flops, and sunglasses. The beach had kids, parents, adults, teens, dogs, big waves, sand, driftwood, sunshine, blue skies, and the view took your breath away. Kids were playing frisbee, football, tennis, soccer all along the beach. Sounds like Florida, right?

The differences also took my breath away. Huge rocks were jutting out of the water. Hay Stack Rock is a famous part of the shore line where puffins land in the spring. Puffins are the cartoon-looking birds that are just plain cute. They are often referred to as "the clowns of the sea." 
"Each spring, colorful Tufted Puffins return to nest on Cannon Beach's Haystack Rock after spending the majority of their year floating and diving on open seas." Click on the quote to read about them.

There are no shells on the beach that I could find but instead, beautiful rounded rocks from all the tumbling of the ocean waves. A couple of these rock made their way home with me to live in my turtle aquarium at school. The rugged coastline is northwest all the way. The pine trees take the place of the palm trees with a stately stance above the beach. 

After an afternoon of sunning, reading, walking along the beach, losing clothes left on the beach by unexpected waves, a lost phone found and returned, skipping rocks on the was time to pack up the car. Sandy feet, sandy dog, and traffic again on the way home, not so different. 

Spring Break and beaches - northwest or southeast. All good!

D :)

Day 26 SOL - Let It Go! Let It Go!

Spending time with family is so precious. Often distances put us in trying to cram the best of times into just a few days. Those are high-stakes for visits. Family dynamics are challenging as we are all imperfect in many ways, yet beneath all this is unconditional love. Sometimes the unconditionality is clouded by too high expectations of each other, hurt feelings, disappointments past or present, and just plain being tired and grumpy from the rigors of life with too little sleep and too much to do.

With that being said, I am reminded that life is short when talking to my 87 year old mother about my 87 year old daddy. Her 80 year old sister that is in critical care with a heart condition, the same heart that is "bigger than all outdoors. Her son, my cousin, is 51 and battling serious cancer. My sister-in-law is battling a serious disease her whole adult life as it moves in and out of remission: Wegener's disease. My husband has battled CML (chronic myoloid leukemia, and diabetes for many years. The list goes on and on as most family lists do. Life is short.

Families need to step up to the Frozen song theme, "Let It Go." Remember God's mercy and grace are new every morning for us to claim. This same mercy and grace needs to be extended to family members.

Family visits are precious times. Let go of past and present hurts. Live in the present with love.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Day 25 SOL - The Sensory Experiences of Flight

As I sit with my laptop blogging and commenting, there is buzzing activity all around me. It's a hubbub of Spring Break Frenzy! Most of the flights around me are families off to Florida. I'm waiting to wing my way to the west coast. (Alliteration...waiting, wing, way, west!)

I see:
  •  Brand new books that people are reading while standing in line. Vacation reads!
  • Toes sporting new pedicures, all shiny, colorful, and unchipped.
  • Carry-ons of all sizes, colors, and various stages of new to well-worn and traveled.
  • Technology devices in hands young and old. 
  • A little white, fluffy dog being walked by its aging lady master. 
  • Folks arriving from an obvious sunny destination as everyone is tan.
  • Cloudy skies that will require skilled pilots flying by instruments.
  • Cloudy/foggy conditions at our landing in Kansas. 
  • Tired people traveling after a long day of work or just trying to get home from vacation. 
  • The ceiling at the Kansas airport looks like those brown cardboard egg cartons. The texture and color is the same.
  • Finally, the lights of Portland.
  • Loving faces of family. 
I'm here!

I hear:
  • Phone conversations to loved ones and business related.
  • Laughter with family members as they talk excitedly about their trip. 
  • Announcers telling guests to check their lines as there are 5 flights boarding and leaving at the same time. 
  • The chime of a message on my own phone. Yea! Family.
  • Baby crying on the plane. Poor little punkin. I bet her ears hurt. 
  • Pilot announcing choppy weather coming. Was it ever! The stewardess sat on my chair arm a long time while waiting for safe walking conditions while collecting trash. 
  • Sweet conversation between two high school girls returning from spring break at Grandma's in Florida. Loved talking with them about future plans.
  • Basketball games on the TVs at the gates.
  • Cartoons on TVs at the gates.
  • Another baby crying on the connecting flight.
  • The pilot saying we are at 38,000 feet to avoid the storms.
  • The landing wheels going down.
I'm here!

I taste:
  • A yummy honeycrisp apple sliced and packed at home. My favorite!
  • A soggy turkey sandwich, also made and packed at home. Not my favorite.
  • Almonds and walnuts from home. Did you know that a handful of walnuts per day is supposed to lower cholesterol? We'll see.
  • Peanut m&m's from my student teacher. She made a card that said, "For your "Marvelous and Memorable (M&M) vacation." My favorite treat and nemesis. ;)
  • Red wine in a plastic cup from a free drink voucher from Southwest. Think I"ll stick with water from this time forward. The only real red I got was my face from a hot flash. 
  • Honey roasted peanuts. Two bags. :)
  • Fresh sushi upon arriving in Portland. 
I'm here!
I smell:
  • A funky fuel smell at take-off. Scary smell that didn't last long, thank goodness!
  • Restroom fragrances trying to cover REAL restroom smells. Not a good combination.
  • Popcorn.  Should have bought some of that as my seatmates did, and it required great resolve to not drool or give the "Puss in Boots" pleading look from Shrek. 
  • Pizza.
  • Starbucks. Yes!
  • Leo's  (my granddog) breath when he licks me hello.
I'm here!

Happy Spring Break Day 1!
D :)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Day 24 SOL - Portland, Here I Come!

This afternoon at 6:20 p.m., I will officially embark on my Spring Break vacation to Portland, OR. My daughter and grandson recently moved there, and it will be my first visit. I am wondering what their home will look like/feel like, the walking on sidewalks to lots of easy destinations as they are now city slickers, and just being with them in a new area of the country. What about the sites nearby? Will it feel like a vacation of sightseeing, too?

My children and grandchildren live far away from their midwest Mommy/Nanna and Daddy/Papaw. Vacations are planned around family. They come home twice a year, and we go "there" twice a year. "There" has been changing lots the past few years. New opportunities. New horizons. This is all exciting, however, lots of events happen to the grandchildren in schools and sports that we have to "attend" through pictures and videos. Not the same.

I'll be sure to check out the wall hanging at the Portland Airport's Concourse D that features the Portlanders favorite airport carpet. Did you hear about the hype of removing the carpet in January? People were laying on the floor to make selfies and some had the "Atari" design tattooed on their body. Who knew carpet could cause such nostalgia?

 Reunions are always fun and special, so I'm sure this one will be, too. I plan to be careful in how much I expect. I will live in the moment and accept the days as they unfold. I won't let the expectations of how perfect this vacation must be. We are NOT a perfect bunch, just a family that loves each other. You'll be hearing about Portland in my Slices, starting on Wednesday.

Happy Tuesday!
D :)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Day 23 SOL - Hair...To Cut or Not to Cut, That is the Question

I have pinned a whole board of haircuts on Pinterest. Leave it long (for me just a longish medium length) or cut into a shorter stylish do. I think about it way too much especially after seeing someone with a cute cut. What holds me back? I wouldn't be able to twist it up, pull it back, or go one more day without washing and styling. Lazy...maybe. More time for sleeping in the morning more important...absolutely. I wash my hair at night and go to bed with it wet. Shorter hair takes much more maintenance unless you have nice curl that allows you to run your fingers through it and go. Mine. Is. Straight. Stubby straight. Straight as a whisk broom straight. Straight and thick, but fine. A hairdresser once told me to cover the face of the person in the picture with your thumb and look JUST at the hair. 

2014 medium Hair Styles For Women Over 40 | 2014 Easy Hairstyles for Women Over 40 | Popular Haircuts 
Cut above or cut below?
Both are very similar in looks to me if you squint one eye (without glasses on)
 and shut the other. ;)

I've also heard that as your body heads south, the gravity and aging issue, then your hair should head north, as in shorter. I am definitely in this category. 

However, I'm going to end on a positive least I have hair. ;) 
D :)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Day 22 SOL - Pet Therapy

Pets are a wonderful addition to a family as they have unconditional love for each. Pets don't care what we look like or even if we smell good or bad (possibly they prefer a nice stink). We have had many pets and dogs of our own including some grandpets we've inherited. Presently we have Bear only, a mini black poodle that was a gift for my 85 yo mother that didn't work out so well for her. She had always wanted a little black poodle, but Dad would never agree to letting her have one. He preferred German Shepherds, manly dogs, the family dog of choice, since he was an Indiana State Policeman. We had some wonderful GSs that we shed tears over their loss to this day. Back to Bear, he was just too much energy for them. Plus, he was a puppy. Cutest puppy ever, but still a puppy! 

Because we already had a dog, Jimmy, we were now a two dog household and Jimmy did NOT want a baby brother. Eventually, happy-go-lucky, bite his ear as he passed by, Bear became Jimmy's target for extreme jealousy and bullying. Jimmy was constantly in a "GRRR" state. I kept a blue plastic bat nearby to bonk them as they were in a fight or on the verge of a fight at all times. (Don't judge, I didn't bonk them too hard.) Bear was passive aggressive and too playful for Jimmy. There came the day that alpha male Jimmy had to submit to baby brother, Bear. This only fueled his"GRRR." His disgrace led to depression. Jimmy was a depressed and angry dog.

Eventually our aging "Jimmy" (Jack Russell/poodle mix - jack-a-poo) moved in with my parents. He has been a godsend. They love him and he is happy, happy, happy! He is the best, gentle companion. Never ever does he "GRRR!" Jimmy is the epitome of the lapdog. He is my mother's shadow. Waits at the door to have his feet wiped after being outside. My mother is very clean. His manners are impeccable. He sits at their feet at the table never barking or begging for food, yet his eye and flared ears say, "Please." He is the best "dust buster" there is for food crumbs! No one can play ball like Jimmy. He's the Pele` of soccer dogs. He can even bounce the ball on his nose, possible part seal. He will play fetch with my dad and tosses the tennis ball up on his lap so my dad doesn't have to bend over to pick it up. He does shed (remember my mother is Mrs. Clean) but he does bring her his own brush to be groomed. He likes to be clean, too. 

Insurance companies ask if you have a pet as they know pet owners live longer and healthier lives. 

Here's to pets! 

D :)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Day 21 SOL - Spring Slump into Best Days of our Lives!

Spring Slump. This time of the school year can be challenging for teachers and students in terms of classroom management. We are a K-4 building so "top dog" comes in 4th grade. There are some 4th graders that have behavioral challenges that are robbing staff and other students of joy and energy in teaching and learning. Also, these very students struggle with coping with their own behaviors. They aren't happy either. We are also on the cusp of high stakes testing coming to us in a few short weeks. Every minute of learning is critical. So this morning I have been researching some sites that are giving me inspiration on putting us all on the road of goal setting and preparing us as FIT (Fifth Graders in Training).

I found this article from "The Big Fresh Newsletter" (from Choice Literacy) on "Spring Slump" and the article above is about classroom rules and goal setting. Students set independent goals, then they set a goal and share with another student to hold them accountable.

Our school's basic school rules involve the 3 Rs for StaRRR Behaviors: Respectful, Responsible, Ready to Learn. All behaviors and rules fall under these 3 Rs. We challenge students to think of any rule that wouldn't fall under at least one of these Rs.
I felt another step was needed for our students to have some help in goal setting around behaviors that need improvement for ALL of us. (This teacher could improve her desk mess and keeping papers organized!) 
Spell out goals to prepare students for 5th grade. Unless students can articulate what it takes, the behaviors we are seeking will not be seen. What is obvious to the adults is not obvious to many students. These goals must have student input and made into a list for them to keep in their "purple folder." Parents should also have a copy to sign and support student at home.
The following goals will fall under our 3 Rs for the StaRRR Tickets (purple tickets are given for positive behaviors seen):
  1. Respectful
  2. Responsible
  3. Ready to Learn 
Examples of goals that should have student input:
1. Homework is completed as assigned and on time. (RRR)
2. Parental forms are completed and returned on time. (R1, R2)
3. Desk is organized so transitions are easy. When you lose your work (-5 purple tickets to replace). R2, R3
4. Treat others with respect: teachers (ALL adults), students, self. R1
5. Focus on work during work time. Not a minute to lose. RRR
6. Hallway behaviors are exemplary. Straight line, no talking, eyes forward, hands to side. Behavior log, book, art box as required. R1, R2
7. Seek help when you don't understand or weren't listening. Look around you for clues as to what you should be doing. Look, Listen, Do. RRR
8. Be the student that you most admire. Model their behaviors. RRR
9. Laptops and computers are a privilege to have and to use in our school. Treat them with respect and be careful with them at all times. Go to only appropriate sites that are school and teacher approved. If you aren't sure, ask. RRR
10. Classroom, playground, hallways, and restrooms should reflect our Bulldog Pride. Make a mess. Clean it up. See trash. Pick it up. R1, R2

Dress for success. One day a week or one day every 2 weeks, let's dress for success.

Check out this classroom's expectations. 4th grade. There are some great ideas here for rewards. Brain Bucks, Chance Tickets, Warm Fuzzies, Teacher of the Day...

Feeling proactive and ready for the challenge of making every day the best day for the last days of 4th grade. 

Bulldog version "Best Day of My Life" by American Authors. YouTube. This is our class song! We sing and dance to a song as needed throughout the day.

D :)

Friday, March 20, 2015

Day 20 SOL - Welcome Spring!

Welcome spring!

Birds sing.
Dreams of
In the past.
Hope spring lasts,
Until it's fall.
What about summer?
You may ask.
Summer follows spring.
Fall follows summer.
Last winter was a bummer. 

Welcome spring!

D :)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Day 19 SOL - Thursday Night Date Night - Top 10!

Thursday is our weekly date night for several reasons:

10. We are both too tired to cook or even care about cooking by Thursday each week.

9. Weekend nights are not our thing as I am home. I am home. I am home. Home is where I want to be.

8. We have a favorite Mexican restaurant that is so close that we could even walk if we had to. Convenience is important to making a habit that will continue.

7. It's just right in terms of being crowded. No wait, but the place has good energy for people enjoying FFF: food, family, friends.

6. The tables are big and there is room to do a quick grading of papers if I am desperate to get something completed for the next day, and I don't have to grade when we get home. I know that doesn't sound very "date-like" but I can still talk and share. My husband is good about listening to students' writing, etc. 

5. There are TVs mounted on the wall and we can request a ballgame. Important this time of year and if I am grading, husband can watch game, too. 

4. We often run into good friends there as it is home locale.

3. The food is good. They will cook certain dishes to our request. No seasoning or changing up the combinations of meats on the fajitas. 

2. The owners bought a gas grill from us and we have a tab. So fun to say, "Just put it on our tab," when we leave. 

And the numero uno reason is...
1. It's also $1.99 margarita night! Need I say more...

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Day 18 SOL - A Prize in Every Box!

Sometimes the day has a surprise. Something unexpected in the midst of a stressful week. Our school district was chosen as a Google Summit Conference for the Google Educator. A small central Indiana school district is hosting a national conference by Google for educators. 

I was a technology/curriculum person in our district for 10 years after being in the classroom for 25 years. I was the "experienced" educator to bring technology to the masses so that the other "experienced" educators wouldn't think it was impossible to learn to use their new computers. "Old dog, new tricks" sort of thinking. This was right at the beginning of the technology explosion in our schools around the year 2000. 

It was a wonderful experience! I traveled to national conferences and brought back new skills and strategies for integrating technology into the curriculum. A university partnered with our district, and I was offered an adjunct professor position that I have truly loved, especially when the instruction became online and I could "teach" in my jammies in bed with my laptop. New friends all over the world! I had a cohort group in China. Best of educational experiences as we collaborated globally on cultures and educational philosophies. I learned so much. I still have a special Chinese teacher friend that checks in with me about life and students. Teachers are teachers wherever in the world we happen to land, more similarities than cultural or language differences. 

I am back in the classroom, these past four years, and in 4th grade. So happy to be back with children and a staff that works hard to meet students' needs and keep our school on the academic climb for excellence. We are an A school after years of not (an A school). 

The prize in the box at the end of the day is...a new Google Chrome Book that I get to keep along with a free scholarship to attend the Google Conference. Good, better, best day ever!

D :)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Day 17 SOL - Life Verse

My writing has been challenged. Last night I tried to write my SOL for today but nothing. I've thought about it today and still nothing until I received an email from someone dear that is struggling with life and a personal relationship. In it was a beautiful prayer/poem he had written. I was blessed.

I have been supporting him with prayer, Bible verses, and encouraging words. I believe that God has watered my words as seeds of faith in his life, and the seeds are beginning to sprout as surely as the buds burst forth in spring. God's Word never comes back void. There is always life in His Word.

My life verse is Romans 15:13, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." 

Everyone needs a life verse filled with hope, joy, peace, and power. 

Happy St. Patrick's Day! (Did you know that the shamrock is a symbol of faith? St. Patrick passed them out to illustrate the Holy Trinity: The Father God, Jesus the son, and the Holy Spirit. Beautiful, right?)

D :)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Day 16 SOL - Field Trip Day....Telling Tales about Tails

Today was our 4th grade field trip for AG Day in central IN as we study IN history this year. I believe that most states have such a program to study state history when students are in 4th grade. The day was gorgeous for a field trip day (no rain) and our highest temp day of 2015. Perfect! We arrived early and were put into groups with a FFA rep from a county high school. These young people were dressed nice with their FFA corduroy jackets and dress pants for the boys and skirts for the girls. In fact, the girls were wearing dark hose (not tights!) and dress shoes: heels. Impressive to know that these kids and their sponsors know to dress for success. 

Not to say anything unkind about any of our students but splitting into four groups from each of our three classrooms and then combining those groups into new groups that contain the 1s, 2s, 3s, and 4s is a feat of problem-solving matched by few other world negotiating experiences. Looking for peace among the masses without combining volatile faction groups. You all know what I mean about how important and strategic this process is combined with the fact that one of the teachers came in and left because of flooding issues in her basement. Now we have two classroom teachers, one student teacher, and two parents for the four groups. 

It actually wasn't too bad except for the ones that answered questions with anything to make someone else laugh (remember the volatile factions). Such as "What products come from cows?" Student: "Strawberries!" The highlight of any 4th graders trip to AG Day is the amount of "poop" and "pee" that they can scream, giggle, and point at coming from any animal on the grounds. One student actually commented to me in passing, "Watch out for the pooping, peeing, and the baby was even nursing from its mom." Tells me that these are not farm kids. That's why we go.

P.S. Did you know that one of the byproducts from cows is collagen and that is what they make glue and duct tape with? Hmmm...Isn't that what we all hear about in make-up for anti-aging expensive creams? Duct tape would be a lot less expensive and it comes in cool colors now. I'm off to purchase some DT for a new headband! I'm sure it would lift and hold and be way less expensive than a face lift. ;)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Day 15 SOL - Hallelujah for Spring Break! BUT...What to Read?

Spring Break is on the very near horizon. Can't say I'm counting down the days as everything is so busy and every minute counts at school right now in preparation for the coming ISTEP-Part 2, but let's just say mine is exactly nine days away.

Anticipation is my favorite part of a vacation. The happy thoughts of getting away to a new destination or to a repeated "good times" location are lurking on the back burner of my brain this time of the year. (My destination is Portland, OR to visit family after a recent move so it's a new destination.) These thoughts fuel me on through difficult or menial tasks that can swallow me whole this time of year. Spring is promising to arrive soon with glimpses of warm, sunny days followed by cold rainy days. No flowers just yet, but daffodils and tulips are peeping through the snow residue and barren, brown grass with bright green growth. Spring is coming soon. Hallelujah for Spring Break!

But this morning, I am pondering a very important spring break decision. What to read? What bookS shall I take with me? I've perused Pinterest and all the book lists on the web. I've done my research. I'm just not excited about any I have put on reserve at the library so I'm taking it to the Slice Community. Help me find the perfect spring break read! Looking for a "can't put the book down" kind of read. 

Happy Reading!
D )

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Day 14 SOL - Rain on a Metal Roof and a Fire in the Stove = Happy!

It's Friday night and the weekend is here! We have a metal roof and it's raining. The sound of rain on the roof is so peaceful. The wood burning stove, between my husband and I, is emitting a delightful, relaxing warmth. On my footstool curled up across my legs is my mini, black poodle, Bearsy. Next to my chair is my new/old floor lamp, thanks to a Goodwill find by my husband, and "a little bit of wine" (remember Justin Wilson, the Cajun Cook?). Life is good.

I had planned to write something inspirational for today, but right now I'm just going to focus on simple pleasures and be grateful. 

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”
― Bil Keane

Happy Saturday to all!
D :)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Day 13 SOL - If teachers ran the world...

If teachers ran the world...


 2. There would always be a mid-morning snack, because we know everyone is happy and productive after a snack.

3. Everyone would be required to go to bed early, as we know that not everyone gets enough sleep at night and it shows in their focus and productivity the next day.

4. Gloves and a hat would always be available along with a warm coat for outside recess on cold days, as we know that fresh air is good for students' health if they have on warm clothes for play.

5. No one would ever want to be a bully, because everyone would feel valued, protected, and respected.

6. Families would sit down at the table for dinner each night with no TV and no other electronic devices around, as we know that families that talk to each other about their day are happier and more successful in life.

7. Every child would have access to quality literature and be read to even before he/she is born, because we know that reading changes lives.

8. Parents would not allow children to hear or be involved in messes they make in their adult life. Children would be protected from the harsh realities of life, because we know that children need to be children and innocence should be protected.

9. Students would leave our classrooms with the tools to be successful in life. Academic standards and test-taking skills are very important, but children also would leave us with a joy for learning. We know that lifelong learning is a treasure never to be left behind.

10. Students would know how to think critically, research expertly for the truth, and feel compassion for others, as we know that the media distorts the truth and causes apathy in our world.

What would you like to add to this list, "If teachers ran the world.."?

Two more to make a dozen... 

11. There would always be plenty of sharpened pencils WITH erasers.

12. Every marker would have a cap.
 "Nobody leaves the room until the cap to this marker is found." ;)

Happy Friday!
D :)