Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What Slicing Daily Has Done for Me (SoLSC 31/31) #sol15

What Slicing Daily Has Done For Me
  • ·        It's gotten me back in a writing habit (I hope to keep it going!)
  • ·        I’m trusting my voice more, and remembering again the value in it
  • ·        Emotions came out in ways I didn’t know they would & I was able to process them much more effectively through writing about them
  • ·        I’ve gained new insights into my students’ lives and personalities
  • ·        I was reminded why I enjoy writing poetry so much
  • ·        It’s given me ways to practice different ways/forms of writing
  • ·        I’m realizing once again how anti-real life the five paragraph writing style is
  • ·        It’s rebuilt our classroom community (through students’ participation and my sharing)
  • ·        I’ve been vulnerable in my writing, which were some of the more impactful posts (based on comments) that I wrote
  • ·        My passion is reenergized
  • ·        It’s reminded me that I need to be a writer myself to be a more effective teacher of writing
  • ·        I’m remembering how hard it can be to write sometimes, but that if I just go with it, it usually works – kinda like Field of Dreams: if you type it, it will come
  • ·        It’s reminded me that I am a writer, no matter what form that might take
  • ·        I remember that I like a challenge, and being held accountable by a larger audience, because it’s good motivation to get going!

Monday, March 30, 2015

When I Don’t Know What to Write About (SoLSC 30/31) #sol15

Sometimes I just don’t know
What to write about
So I sit and look around
And try to get inspired

Finding inspiration
In the things around me
Can be as easy as
Seeing my students
Looking out the window at the weather
Remembering a favorite quote
Reminiscing about books
Smelling my favorite Mr. Sketch markers
The remnants of
My teacher life
Scattered around a classroom

Grasping for inspiration
In the air
Can be as difficult as
Trying to pull a word out of my head
Dragging a line out of the paper
Struggling to hear a sound
Knowing that it is
Just outside of my reach
My fingers grasp for it
My eyes search for it
My brain scrambles to
Compare, contrast and
create an idea

I try
To find that inspiration
Only to realize
That I have already found

What I was seeking

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Blown Away By My Students' Writing (SoLSC 29/31) #sol15

I've spent several hours today grading. Grades are due tomorrow morning, and due to issues with not feeling well this past week, I was left with more of it to do today than I planned on. 

But...sometimes I'm blown away by my students' writing. I'm so glad I've had them participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge alongside me because I've been seeing such growth in their writing, and am finding ways to get to know them even better than I have prior to this. I know for sure this will be something I will have my classes participate in again in future years.

Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I cry, sometimes I cringe, sometimes I smile, sometimes I gasp, many times I'm blown away by what my students are willing to write and share with me. I am thankful that some of them trust me enough to share some fairly deep and important things through their writing. Much of that is coming through most clearly when they experiment with writing poems.

But at the same time, when I read things like this, my heart breaks a little bit for what some of them have to deal beyond the typical adolescent angst. And don't even get me started on how this student might have performed on a standardized test the next day if there had been one. 

I want to thank A for giving me permission to share this one on the blog. Her words got me thinking today and left me sitting for a few minutes just processing the power of such few lines.

It’s 1 a.m.
we’re just sitting there…
watching t.v.
It was 4 gunshots...
Everyone stop and everything is still... Sirens that's all you hear in your ears...
Written by an 8th grade girl

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Finding Inspiration (SoLSC 28/31) #sol15

I almost forgot to Slice today! I'm laying in bed about to pick up my book, browsing my Facebook feed and realized I never wrote today. 

And then I realized I saw this picture shared by no fewer than 4 friends:

If you didn't already know I live in Wisconsin, a quick scroll through my Facebook news feed tonight at this hour would make it abundantly obvious. (Go Badgers - Final Four!)

Which got me thinking about the regions throughout the country where I have pockets of connections. And it always becomes clearer when something big is going on in an area because I'm more aware of it through what people share. Interesting thought of the day.

Friday, March 27, 2015

What I Hope My Students Know Most (SoLSC 27/31) #sol15

What I Hope My Students Know Most

What I hope my students know most
Is that I care
You may only see me
As your teacher
But each one of you
Becomes my kids
Every one of you
Matter to me

I care
Even if it seems as if I don’t
Deep down where it counts, I do
I carry your burdens with me
I sigh your relief as well
When you cry, I cry
Maybe not always in front of you, but I do

I care
When you cheer, I cheer behind you
When you are angry, I am angry for you
When you celebrate, I celebrate with you
Because you doing well means I have done well
When you are frustrated, I am frustrated
When you succeed, I succeed also
I am right alongside you

I care
If there is only one thing you
Take away from our time
Please know this
I care
You matter

You may not remember my name
Ten, twenty, thirty years from now
But I will remember you
And be hoping for the best
For your life
And I hope you remember

I care

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Some Days Just Don't Go As Planned (SoLSC 26/31) #sol15

I had an idea this morning about what I wanted to write today. It was early after I let the dog out and was browsing Twitter and Facebook getting my brain to wake up a bit before getting ready to go to school. It was a good idea. But I think I'll be saving it for tomorrow.

You see, today just didn't go as planned. I have battled TMJ issues and severe tension headaches for many years. Some days are fine, but some days are really bad. Today was the third day in a row that I've been fighting a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad headache. I went to school this morning, and shortly thereafter realized I really should have stayed in bed. I just wanted to curl up in the corner and cry I was so sick of it...which was a sign. It was getting worse as I sat there, and I knew today would not go as I had planned.

So instead of writing my Slice (with that idea I loved) while my students were writing, I was instead sending emails to let people know I needed to go home early and find coverage for my afternoon classes and writing sub plans just in case I'm not feeling better tomorrow. I came home. I went to the chiropractor. I went to bed. I took a nap. I finished a book. I ate dinner. I'm feeling a bit better. Now I am just hoping it stays that way ten hours from now so tomorrow doesn't turn into another day that doesn't go as planned.

I'd like to get back to my classroom and my students - we have a lot going on tomorrow - and Slices to talk about. And now I'm going back to bed.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Ten Things You Might Not Know About Me (SoLSC 25/31) #sol15

Inspired by other Slicers*, I decided to do another example of a list Slice today (as I asked all of my students to also try some sort of list while Slicing today)

Ten Things You Might Not Know About Me

1 – I interned with a morning show at a radio station the summer between high school and college. Justus and Friends on New Rock 102.1.

2 – My original college major was Broadcast News at Ohio University. Because I had read Danielle Steel’s Message from Nam and thought I wanted to be a foreign correspondent. I chose OU not only because of their top ten journalism school, but also because both of my parents went there-that’s where they met.

3 – I have traveled to 14 countries in the past ten years, which by the end of this year might be 18.
They are: Canada, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Turks & Caicos, Chile, Argentina, Ireland, England, France, Spain, Italy, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand + Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary (& possibly Germany if the school calendar and available award seats works out how we hope it will). I’m only counting countries where I actually left the airport–connections in Japan, South Korea & Brazil are not counted.

4 – I was on the girls golf team in high school and was on a swim team most of my years growing up. I was often put on the IM because I was one of the ones in my age group who could swim all four strokes successfully.

5 – I played the cello throughout middle and high school. Being in the pit orchestra for musicals in high school is how I was able to sing along to all of the songs in Into the Woods when I saw the movie. And, as a cello player, I have a love/hate relationship with Pachelbel’s Cannon in D…the cello part is the same 8 notes over and over and over throughout the entire song.

6 – My guilty pleasure snack (inherited from my mother) is potato chips with cottage cheese. Don’t knock it until you try it! Which might make you think that I’m not a foodie, but really I am.

7 – I had my shoes picked out for my wedding before I even looked at dresses.

8 – I only read one entire book (out of the ones assigned to me) throughout high school. It was Invisible Man my senior year in AP English. I have no idea why that one spoke to me when others did not. I read parts of many other books, but that was the only complete one I read every page of. Don't get me wrong - I read voraciously outside of school...I just didn't like to read books that I was told I had to read that didn't speak to me. 

9 – All three kids in my family have advanced degrees…my parents’ emphasis on the importance of education paid off! My older brother, Drew (Duke undergrad), has an MBA; my little brother, Cameron (Yale undergrad), has a JD; and I have an MA (someday I might go for that PhD).

10 – My birthday is the day after Christmas, yes, December 26th. And I turned 30 in Paris (which was a great distraction!)

*The other Slices that inspired my format today:

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Things I Know For Sure (SoLSC 24/31) #sol15

I've been toying with the idea of a list Slice after being inspired by many others, and as an option to show my students. Today's came about from just one little line that started a waterfall of ideas.

Things I know for sure…

~Teachers have a really hard job. There is much more involved in it than people think. Impacting the future is no child’s play.

~I am a reader at heart, mostly thanks to the influence of my parents when I was a child.

~Life gets harder as you get older with more responsibilities, but with experience comes perspective, which can make things easier.

~Relationships change as circumstances change, and that’s ok. 
Some people are only in our lives for a short time for a reason.

~My 30s have been way better than my 20s. Being more settled in my life and sure of myself made it easier. Don’t be scared of a new decade.

~Everyone has numerous roles to play. Mine include wife, daughter, sister, aunt, niece, friend, author fangirl, writer, reader, photographer, presenter, supporter, listener, adviser, colleague, mentor, teacher…and I cherish them all.

~Middle school is hard. It was a hard time to be an adolescent, and it’s a hard time to witness the adolescent struggles of my students.

~Technology/social media can enhance and help just as much as they can distract and hurt.

~Having a dog to come home to, who always runs to the door tail wagging happy to see me, is good for my emotional sanity.

~Talking to myself is also good for my mental sanity – there’s no better listener.

~Venice is a magical city.

~There are no right answers (except maybe in math). There may be wrong answers, but there is not always just one right answer to problems.

~Choice is everything.

~Everyone has their own journey and path through life. You don’t know what someone else has gone through to get where they are, and remembering that is important.

~Remembering that there are always multiple perspectives and perceptions of any one moment can make life easier.

~Angkor Wat (& Ta Prohm & the Bayon Temple) in Siem Reap, Cambodia is a must see once in your life kind of place to visit.

~It’s not easy to work successfully in an environment of fear/mistrust.

~My heart breaks for the struggles and hardships some of my students have to face. Every. Single. Time.

~Test scores will never show you the full picture of who a child is. There are too many important elements of character that can’t be tested.

~Knowing who your true friends are who won’t judge you, but will judge with you, can make all the difference.

~Kids are not levels – they are readers.

~Sometimes just knowing someone understands and is there can be just what you need and make everything better.

~Kindness is crucial and respect is essential.

~Oftentimes it’s harder to be nice than to be right.

~Travel can open your eyes to the wider world beyond yours, giving you perspective on your own.

~The right clothes and shoes can make you feel more confident.

~Sometimes a day may be just a waste of makeup, but that doesn’t mean it was a loss.

~Goals may change, but you should always have one to work toward.

~There is nothing quite like meandering the streets of Paris.

~Feeling loved is important, being loveable more so, giving love most so.

~If I know better, and I don’t try to do better, I am doing it wrong.

~The sound of waves crashing on the shore, sand under my feet, and sun shining on my skin will always improve my mood and make me feel relaxed.

~There is nothing wrong with taking a mental health day.

~The right book, in the right hands, at the right time, can make things right.

~Writing can be hard, but the more I practice it and do it, the easier it becomes. The more I write, the more I believe I am a writer.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Knowing When to Quit & Finding Balance (SoLSC 23/31) #sol15

Sometimes the hardest thing to know is when to quit. Once I’ve committed to something, or pursued an idea, I want to see it through to the end because I wouldn’t have worked on it if I wasn’t passionate about it or felt that it was necessary. Unfortunately, life sometimes gets in the way.

Over the weekend, I had to make a difficult decision to put a pause on something that I’ve been working on for over a year (a book idea). I talked through lots of aspects around it with my husband, but ultimately, I had to make the decision to step back. Essentially: quit. (Although I prefer to look at it as just putting on a backburner for now – knowing that it might still be there when I am able to work on it again.)

Because of circumstances outside of my control, my focus and time are going to need to be on other things in the coming months, meaning I would be constantly feeling guilty for not finding the time to work on this idea, and therefore, not being fair to myself or the other person impacted by it. And I don’t want to have things hanging over my head anymore making me feel like I can’t have any downtime. And although I hope one day to find that I have the time to go back to it, at this point I have to put it on hold.

Sometimes it can be hard to say no to opportunities, and it can be even harder to say no once you’ve invested time and energy and thought into one. But when life throws bends in the road at you, you need to be able to lean into the curve, which may mean throwing something out the window so you don’t end up off balance. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

My Brain on Revision (SoLSC 22/31) #sol15

It's a weird thing when you're asked to write a biographical statement about yourself. I always feel a bit awkward about it because I know the purpose is to share things about myself that would make people think positively about me, but it also feels a bit like a #humblebrag at times. So here I sit...waiting on feedback for my draft...hoping it hits just the right note of sounding professional, but not humble braggy. And, yes, I realize braggy is not a word, but we can all agree that we know what it means here, right? Plus, this is the space when I have more freedom to write because it doesn't have to be as formal - so this is me taking my break right now and spewing whatever my brain juices and fingertips want to tap out. Apparently writing and revising make me feel a little wonky (and thinking in random pop culture hashtags). #sorrynotsorry

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Get the Ice Cream (SoLSC 21/31) #sol15

It was a long week for both myself and my husband. That often leads to wanting some dessert. I do want to start trying to make healthier choices, but sometimes you just need to get the ice cream. Which I went ahead and did tonight...and it was delicious.

I'll make better choices tomorrow.

Friday, March 20, 2015

How Dropping My Phone Led to Thoughts on My Favorite Color (SoLSC 20/31) #sol15

I dropped my phone this morning. This is not something that occurs often, but it happens often enough. I have never had major damage (knock on wood) from dropping my phone, but that is mostly because I always get a case the day I get a new phone. I was very thankful for the case I chose this morning.

Now, just like buying a new car, what’s most important to me after functionality is the color. My husband always lovingly rolls his eyes at this. But, here’s the thing, it’s something I’m looking at ALL the time. How many times a day do you pick up your phone, or see it laying somewhere? Too many to count, right? So it matters.
And, yes, my case highlight color matches my lesson planbook/calendar for this year.
I was apparently in an aqua mood in August!
This is my case. It’s my favorite of all the ones I’ve had over the years. I’m big on a no-slip grip (see, functionality first!), as I can be klutzy when holding it in my hand, so I was happy to find this one. It’s also sturdy, as evidenced by the scratches from the number of times it’s been dropped. But, most importantly, it has my favorite color.

Turquoise, auqa, teal…that whole color family encompasses my favorite color. Maybe it’s related to my birthday being in December and having turquoise as my birthstone. Maybe it’s related to all of the Southwestern Native American jewelry my grandmother wore while living in Arizona, which I have fond memories of seeing when I was a kid. Maybe it’s because it reminds me of the ocean as I’m settled on a beach in the Caribbean. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t really matter, I’m just happy that I was able to find a case that fit my needs…and highlighted my favorite color. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Some Days (SoLSC 19/31) #sol15

Some days
I have less patience
than I know I should

Some days
I wish I had more
time, energy, understanding

Some days
I get frustrated
and hear how short my tone is

Those days
I may have to stop
and count to ten…or twenty

Those days
I have to remember
to take a moment and check myself

Some days
I wonder how I ended up
back in middle school

Some days
when the pressures are mounting
and attitudes are striking

Those days
I take a moment
to get my headspace right

Those days
I remind myself
why I do this

Those days
I remember
they are still just kids

Those days
I push myself
to recall what it was like
to be an adolescent

But then
a look connects or
a comment is made or
a piece is written or
a book is finished or
a laugh is shared or
a joke is told or
a smile is given or
a tear leaks down cheeks or
a dream is stated or
an email is received or
a thought is sparked or
a lightbulb goes on or
a face brightens

On those days
I know my spirits may be low
but my hope is renewed

Each day
there is a moment when I remember
why teaching middle school
is the right place for me

Every day
I love my students
and find the motivation to try my hardest
because I want the best for all of them

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Story of Dooley [aka: Ireland, Rescue Dogs, and a Name] (SoLSC 18/31) #sol15

Yesterday being St. Patrick’s Day, it had me reminiscing about our trip to Ireland nine years ago with my family and grandparents. One of the most lasting things from that trip, beyond the memories made and photographs taken, is something that wouldn’t normally be taken away from a trip. It’s my dog, but maybe not in the way you would think. Let me explain…

This is Dooley.
She loves being Up North at the lake in the summer - even if she does get some owies on her nose

She is a yellow lab/golden retriever mix.
Relaxing at home
Halfway through my Master’s program, after my second year of teaching, I had a rough end to the school year. I was feeling like I needed something and woke up early one Saturday morning before the last week of school and read an article about rescue dogs. By the time my husband woke up a few hours later, I was presenting my argument for why I felt it was time to get a dog (I’d had them all the time growing up).
How could you resist this face?

I had already started searching and had found some possibilities in the area. Then Jeff came over to show me one he had found, and as soon as I saw her face on the Petfinder website, I knew we had to apply to adopt her and go visit her at the foster home to meet her. She was a puppy that came out of the Hurricane Katrina rescues, when they put all the dogs together as they tried to save them, months later there were baby puppies, and she was one of them. There was not enough space for them, so a rescue, HOPE Safehouse, in Racine, Wisconsin took a bunch of puppies in to save them.
As you can see, she is now very comfortable in our house!
When we walked in, at 12 weeks old, she came running right up to us at the door. I plopped right down in the foyer of this stranger’s house and this adorable little puppy climbed onto my lap. Then my husband sat down and she started chewing on his hand/wedding ring. I knew right then we’d be adopting her.
The day we brought her home - she was SO small!
So of course, as we were driving home, we started talking about names. You may be wondering how this ties back to Ireland as I started off this post with. Well, the thing is, naming a dog can be hard. And one thing we kept coming back to was that Ireland trip and the car rental we had – it was from a local company because it saved some money, and we had always laughed about the name. We went through the Dan Dooley Car Rentals company…and one of the things we kept seeing were gorgeous, stocky Labrador Retrievers throughout our trip, the European breed that were the kind we liked the best. So when we thought back to that trip a year before, and laughed again about the name, we realized that we had found our name for our dog before we even knew we'd have one so soon...and a funny story to go along with how we came up with it.
Never far away, even when I'm reading, she just wants attention and love

This is Dooley. 
Love this face!
She is now eight-years-old, and the sweetest, most mellow dog you could meet. 
Who got her name in an interesting way.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Writing Poems Today (SoLSC 17/31) #sol15

Scene From a Classroom

We’re going to write poems today
I said to my 7th graders
Almost all of them groaned
And didn’t believe me
When I said it might be easier

Let me show you my poem from yesterday
I said to my 7th graders
They all listened attentively
But thought a poem should rhyme
Even though mine never do

Go start slicing your poem today
I said to my 7th graders
Use the same topic, but phrases and thoughts instead
Some didn’t know what their topic would be
So I told them they just figured it out

I think I should write another poem today
I said to my 7th graders as I sat down to write also
Not one of them responded
Because they were so engaged and typing away
Writing their own
Poems for today’s slices

Monday, March 16, 2015

Opening Yourself Up to Feedback (SoLSC 16/31) #sol15

I've been reading lots of thoughts from people going on with various situations, and I had a wonderful coaching observation session today in my first language arts class, and since I asked my students to try out a poem for today's Slice, I did also, with the thoughts swirling through my mind about accepting feedback.

Opening Yourself Up to Feedback

Sometimes it’s scary
opening yourself up
to feedback
others’ opinions
others’ perceptions
others’ views

Sometimes it’s necessary
opening yourself up
to feedback
how to improve
how to see it differently
how to put it in perspective

Sometimes it’s humbling
opening yourself up
to feedback
seeing yourself from the outside
seeing yourself for what’s there
seeing yourself as others do

Sometimes it’s validating
opening yourself up
to feedback
reminding you that you know what you’re doing
reminding you that you have room to grow
reminding you that there are others who see you

Sometimes it’s scary
opening yourself up
to feedback
but it can be one of the best ways
to see yourself
and the reality
of your situation
it can remind you
that there are various perspectives
and they are all valid
pushing yourself to do better
and be your best
can be improved
when you let in
what others see in you

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Day of Rest (SoLSC 15/31) #sol15

I had something else I was going to write about today, the idea was sparked when I woke up this morning and saw the picture on my nightstand, but then the day got away from me (No worries, I'll keep that idea for another day). I spent time with my husband, we took the dog to the park, ran some errands, got the laundry done, and caught up on some backlogged shows on the DVR. I guess I needed a day of rest after a few busy weeks teaching, weekends with dance judging commitments, and a weeklong visit from my brother and four nieces and nephews. So, yeah, a day of rest was just what I needed. I had actually intended to do some work today. I have grading I need to get caught up on, and before I left school on Friday, I packed up my bag and intended to put my file folders and grade sheets in it, but it wasn't until last night that I realized I forgot to do so. Maybe the universe was sending a sign, maybe I needed this day of rest.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Day Spent Watching (& Judging) Dance (SoLSC 14/31) #sol15

I spent today judging another dance competition. I really do enjoy it, and I especially love that I get to be a part of helping kids participate in a sport they love...and it is a sport, but it is also art. It's about beauty and performance and musicality and technique and teamwork and dedication...and it's so much fun to watch. Everyone from the adorable three-year-olds who are so cute as they're just starting to learn to dance all the way to the eighteen-year-olds who are stunning as they show how they have honed their craft. I always feel happy after a day spent watching dance (even if I am mentally exhausted).

Friday, March 13, 2015

Sometimes They Surprise You… (SoLSC 13/31) #sol15

I have high expectations for all of my students…because they need to know they can meet them.

I expect a lot from them…because they need to be ready for high school and success beyond.

I press them to go further than mediocre…because they need to show their best.

I keep pushing them to revise and try more…because they need to learn that work is involved in improving.

I want them to remember what they’ve learned…because they need to use what they know for their futures.

I want lessons to work out…but sometimes they don’t.

I hope for new ideas to go well…but sometimes they surprise me and surpass even what I expected and hoped they could do.

I plan for certain things to happen…but sometimes they surprise me and show depth of thoughts and honesty and emotion in poems that I never would have expected.

I am thankful that we are Slicing this month…but sometimes I wish it was all year…because they have grown so much in only 13 days of writing…and I can’t imagine the impact it would make and growth we would see if they were to do it all year.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Slice Visitor (SoLSC 12/31) #sol15

Today was a fun afternoon to be in my classroom. Not only did we do our Independent Daily Reading, #bookaday read aloud, Slicing and sharing, but we also has a Slice of Life visitor! A friend of mine, Jen Vincent, @teachmentortexts, who lives only an hour away, had the day off and asked if she could visit my classroom. I was thrilled to be able to show her my school, and even more, to have a real life Slice of Life professional (aka: she does the year long Slices) in my room to talk to my 7th graders the first time we’ve done this.

It was exciting to see things from my eyes 12 days into this, and also from her eyes as someone who doesn’t live in this room with these students. I’ve been so happy with where things have been going since starting the Slice of Life Classroom Challenge, and having Jen visit today and share thoughts, ideas, and questions, gave me the push to keep going, and ideas for things to remind my students about as we move forward (and things to remember for getting started next year). I love that she also showed one of my classes her writer’s notebook where she planned out her Slice of Life ideas and keeps a topic list.

Plus, it’s always good to see and get a hug from a friend who you don’t get to see very often. Thank goodness for twitter and the connections I’ve made there!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Ruminations on Author Visits (SoLSC 11/31) #sol15

Today we had a visit from Erika T. Wurth, a Native author. She did some generative writing exercises with my students.

In October, we had a visit from Deborah Miranda, a Native author. She led my students through poem writing and found poetry.

Recently, in February we had a visit from Mac Barnett and Jory John. They gave an engaging and humorous presentation to, and pranked, our 3rd-5th graders who were clamoring to read The Terrible Two afterwards.

Coming up in April, we have Jason Reynolds visiting our school. I was just making copies of the preorder forms this morning. I Can. Not. Wait. to hear what he will have to say to my 6th-8th grade urban students.

This spring, we will have Kevin Emerson as a writer-in-residence for three days working with my 7th & 8th grade students. I’m thrilled to have gotten a grant donation to make that possible. I know it will be epic.

In the past two years of working at this school, I’ve been fortunate through my twitter connections, the support of the Electa Quinney Institute at UWM, and our wonderful independent bookstore, Boswell Book Company, to have several authors visit our students: David Treuer, Lisa McMann, Kevin Emerson, Joelle Charbonneau, Elizabeth Eulberg.

This is what I know: It is worth all of the work behind the scenes to make it happen. The excitement about reading those authors’ books, the ability to meet them in person, seeing that writing is something that can be done, understanding more about the revision process, realizing that those names on the books they read are real people. There is something magical about an author visiting my students in person at their school. I will never stop working to make it happen as often as I can.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Captive Audience (SoLSC 10/31) #sol15

I love teaching 7th and 8th graders, and I especially appreciate that teaching this level allows me to be straight up with kids and ask for feedback. Today was another example of that.

See, I have a bunch of picture books at home that I’m trying to read through that have been submitted for consideration for my work as Chair of the WSRA Children’s Literature Committee. My nieces and nephews are visiting this week, so I was reading a few of the picture books off my stacks with my nieces last night.

One of the books just seemed a bit weird to me, and as I always do when that happens, I made it my next #bookaday picture book read aloud with my students for today. Why? Because when I’m unsure of a book, I come to them – my students.

They are kids, they are teens - they have plenty of opinions and usually aren’t afraid to share them (I can relate to that!). I love that I have this captive audience that I can present things to and ask for their opinions – they always seem to perk up just a bit and sit a bit straighter when I start a read aloud with, “ok, so I’m not sure what I think about this book, so I need your help.”

It is always beneficial to get other perspectives on things, and I am grateful that my students allow me to ask for their thoughts and are willing to share theirs with me.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Happy Monday indeed! (SoLSC 9/31) #sol15

After my massage on our day off today, I was desperate for caffeine after my long weekend of dance judging (see my previous two Slices for more on that), so drove to Starbucks on my way home. While I held up my phone at the drive through window for her to scan to pay from the app, the barista said, "That's 30% off. Happy Monday!" When I looked at her questioningly, she responded, "There's a different special each Monday."
Happy Monday indeed! 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Embracing the Unexpected (SoLSC 8/31) #sol15

As I Sliced about yesterday, I was judging a dance competition this weekend. It was a two day event where the teams perform the first day, get their score sheets and feedback, and then perform the same routine again the second day (today).  There was a full slate of hip hop teams from mini to senior and open teams. Worlds bids were up for the taking if they left it all on the floor. 

We were up early to get started again today, after a long day yesterday...and then the unexpected happened. There was a complaint about an unevenness in the stage floor. 

I have never seen that happen before, but I was utterly impressed by the owners of the event who paused the competition as soon as it was brought to their attention, and immediately tried to figure out how to fix the problem. Unfortunately, it was determined that it was no longer sound for dancing on, and as the safety of the dancers is of the utmost importance, when they realized they couldn't make the floor work, they called all of the coaches over to discuss options. 

Needless to say, this was very unexpected. Ultimately, it was decided that the two day event would be a one day, and the standings would be as is after the first performances yesterday. As judges, we wondered what this would mean for us for the rest of the day. As we waited to hear the plan, we could see there were a variety of reactions from event runners, judges, dancers, coaches, and families.

This is when I realized that we all needed to embrace the unexpected. Then a decision was made. 

After awards were given, the judges went to the warm ups room, and teams were given an option to come spend 20 minutes with the judging panels to perform right in front of us and get a verbal response instead of score sheets.  We weren't sure how many would want to do this, and not all of the teams did, but for the ones who came up to see us, I saw the true spirit of embracing the unexpected. The coaches and athletes embraced the opportunity and were so appreciative and receptive, as judges we embraced the opportunity to comment on performances and give feedback to teams in a different way, and the event coordinators embraced the opportunity to provide a positive experience in lieu of what they thought would be happening. 

By embracing the unexpected, it led to one of the most fun judging experiences I've had and a whole new way of interacting with dance teams who I've watched out on the floor in an even more encouraging way. I can't wait to see how they all bring it the next time they compete.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

How I Spent My Day (SoLSC 7/31) #sol15

This is how I spent my day today. I'm exhausted after a 13 hour day of judging hip hop dance, but I have so much fun doing this. It's Nationals this weekend, and not only do I get to judge, but I get to see friends who judge who I only see during the competition season in winter. I love that I get to spend weekends doing this.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Getting Started (SoLSC 6/31) #sol15

As I sit here staring at the blank page, I realize I don’t know where to begin.

This is the hardest part – the getting started.

I look around my room at my students and see…
            …some already writing
            …some looking up, hoping to snatch an idea out of thin air
            …some glancing around, tapping fingers
            …some throwing pens down already done
            …some with furrowed brows trying to think of just the right word
            …some with heads down intent on their page
            …some rubbing their eyes with their hands
            …some stretching out
            …some fidgeting, avoiding
            …some at that moment when the idea hits, and they begin scribbling away

I look at myself and see…
            …a moment of panic – what will I write about?
            …glancing around the room for an idea
            …thinking about what I’m seeing
…observing as a teacher, being inspired as a writer
            …a light bulb moment
            …fingers starting to type, frantically so as not to lose the idea
            …using what’s around me
            …realizing it’s a universal experience

Finally recognizing that what we do every day at this time is a small slice of our lives, and all of a sudden, my Slice for today has written itself.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Taking a Moment (SoLSC 5/31) #sol15

Yesterday, as I was packing my bag and putting on my coat to leave school, I was blinded by the glare of the sun coming off the snow. Now, after the long, cold, gray winter we’ve had in Wisconsin, I’m certainly not complaining about the sun shining, but it was so unexpected that I was drawn to it. It shone into my eyes so brightly that I had to stop for a minute to appreciate it, then I dug out my phone to snap a picture because it was such a unique view at that moment. I’m lucky to work at an incredible school that is surrounded by nature on 200 acres of land. With the angle of my classroom with west facing windows, I get amazing views of sunsets over the back hill, particularly in the wintertime. I often will take a moment as I’m heading out of building to grab a quick picture when the view of the sunset is striking enough to stop me for a moment, and it reminds me of something important. Sometimes it’s good to take a quiet, peaceful, reflective moment at the end of a long day to appreciate the view and beauty of nature.
The shining sun view from my window yesterday.
The sunset view from the building before Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

I didn't even know what I needed... (SoLSC 4/31) #sol15

I had a tough day yesterday. I wrote about it in my Slice. I needed to write to get my head on straight. As I had predicted in the morning, with the perspective of many hours later, I was feeling better, but I still posted it. I wasn’t sure what the response would be, if anything, but I hadn’t done it for that, I’d done it for myself…to work it all out in my head space. And since Slicing is all about sharing your truth through your writing, I knew I needed to go with what were my honest thoughts.

I hit submit on my post as I was walking out of school (since I drafted it as I was modeling for my students in class). By the time I got home ten minutes later, I already had several comments and a text message from a friend. As I was responding to my friend who was concerned, I started getting twitter direct message notifications – another friend was worried. As the evening went on, messages and comments continued, and I started to realize something.

I didn’t even know what I needed yesterday when I wrote what I did – I just knew that I needed to clear out my head a bit by putting the swirling thoughts onto paper (screen) so they were out of my head and I could focus on what I needed to do throughout the day to teach the students in front of me. But what I really needed was to know there were people who understood.

I don’t think I even knew the depth of the community I have built over the years through my twitter PLN and the edufriends I have made there. I realized that they have become some of my truest friends, not only because they understand what I do professionally, but because they are some of the most caring, supportive people I know. I needed their support even though I didn’t know it at the time. But throughout the evening, as the messages came in, the encouragement and understanding I got from those friends helped me immensely. It reminded me that I’m not alone.

I didn’t even know what I needed yesterday, but my friends gave me what I needed anyway, even if I didn’t know to ask for it. They were there for me, sharing realizations from their own lives, letting me know they were thinking of me, making me laugh, being my cheerleaders, reminding me of who I am and what’s important. I am so very grateful for that.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

When your world looks askew (SoLSC 3/31) #sol15

My day started today with a phone call. It was not a pleasant call. It was full of harsh words and things that were hard to hear. I tried to temper it with the knowledge that it was because someone was hurting or frustrated on the other end of the line, but there are still times when it is hard to hear what someone is saying to you. It hits at the deepest insecurities you have, it shows you that you haven’t addressed something you thought you had, it makes you question everything. It brings tears to your eyes.

This was not the way I was planning on starting my day. I wasn’t planning to still be thinking about it two hours later. I wasn’t planning to have the thoughts tumbling and crashing around in my mind that have been for the last two hours. But here they are.

What am I doing? Where am I going? Why do I subject myself to some of the things I do? It’s hard to be vulnerable and expose yourself to so much, yet still keep a positive perspective and outlook. I may wear various titles, but I am still a human being, and when you are hurtful to another human being, they can bleed or break. As much as I hope I am never the cause of that to someone else, I know that isn’t always the case. And then I hurt to know I have hurt someone else, and I do what I can to fix it. I make mistakes, I know I've made many and will continue to unintentionally do so, and I try to learn from them. But to be on the receiving end of something, when you feel that hurt by the words, it can be difficult to move past it in your head.

I would love to be able to say that it’s not still bothering me, but it is, and it’s making me question everything. Why do I put myself in a position where this can happen? Is this still the right thing for me? Is it healthy for me emotionally to stay in this type of situation, or is it time to think about other options? And what are those options that would fulfill me as much as what I’m doing now?

I have a whole lot of questions swirling in my head, and not many answers right now, but as I write this at 9:20 this morning, I can be fairly certain that things will look differently six hours from now. And if they don’t, maybe it is time to think some more about what’s right for me.