Wednesday, January 31, 2018

#DWHabit - Word of the Day - Sarcasm

Today's word was chosen by me. I utilize sarcasm when I find myself frustrated with a situation beyond my control. I’ve been told that I am very good at being sarcastic. I am going to let you be the judge of that. 

I believe that teachers should no longer have to go to school to get a teaching degree. After all, we all know that teachers don’t know how to teach.  Why do I say this?  Simple. Teachers must not know how to teach because the district is always telling us how to teach.  We select a textbook because we like the way it is set up. It goes along with our state standards. It goes in a logical progression.  They agree and purchase it. Then they write pacing guides and curriculum maps that take those logically progressive units and switch them all around.

Another reason we loved the text book is because it is full of graphic organizers and text structure strategies. But we all know that teachers don’t know how to use those resources. So what does the district do? They purchase a program for tens of thousands of dollars that mandates the teaching of text structures. Instead of just using the textbook and all of its built in text structures we have to reinvent the wheel and  find other passages from other places to teach the text structures.  We need to do this separate because it wouldn’t make sense to follow the natural placement in the textbook.

The next thing we are going to do is purchase a writing program.  Now it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t meet your needs. If your students are high functioning writers this program is going to let them know that their writings are unscorable because it doesn’t match any of the other essays  of those lower level writers that they have to compare it to.  Now don’t worry, this will make your students feel one of two things. They will either take it personally and feel like they can't really write, or they will think that it is useless writing and being made to use a program that is just a time waster.

Your textbook is online and actually came with a writing program. But we need to spend thousands of dollars on this program that is excellent for those who really need help with their writing because they are not on grade level.  We are going to make everyone use this program and ignore the program that came free with the online textbook and all of its resources. We are also only going to give you half of the licenses you need for this program so that you will have to take money you need for other programs and use it to purchase the extra licenses.  Now we are going to add this in to your already burgeoning curriculum and expect you to have your students write, edit, revise multiple times in a 40 minute period. It doesn’t matter that many of these children can’t do this from home because they don’t own computers or have Internet. You can always assign this writing as homework so that they can type it at home, save it to a flash drive  and then upload it to the program. That is if they have a computer at home. If not they will need to try to type it all in during that 40 minutes period and then edit and revise.

Yes, my students tell me I am the queen of sarcasm. They find it funny when they or their parents complain about some of these ridiculous programs and I reply with sarcasm. I have figured out it is the way I deal with these situations so that I don’t go nuts.  I had to sit in a meeting, where they pulled me out of my class to meet with reps from one of these programs. I asked them if the program was done the way it was set up to be run, how long it would take for students to use their program and read their articles, prompts, etc. to write, revise and edit it multiple times.  They hemmed and hawed and never did give a complete answer to our administration.  I told them that as an author I can’t write a chapter and revise and edit it multiple times in one week if I want quality. Their response was, “Well I used to be a teacher” and “well you can always have them write it first and fix it up, then upload it into the program.”  As long as we have canned programs that try to be a one size fits all while they expect us to differentiate the instruction, you will find this teacher utilizing her sarcasm.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

#DWHabit - Word of the Day - Cranky

So this morning I was thinking about my character Danielle.  She appeared in my head extremely upset. I sometimes wake from sleep hearing my characters. Here is an excerpt from "Leaving Behind Our Walls".

Danielle didn't wake up cranky. She had been the happiest kid all day. She couldn't believe her dad had invited  Tobias to dinner.  As a daughter of the man everyone knew as the head of the Stasi it was hard to have any loyal friends. People claimed to be her friend because they thought it would be safer. If they were her friend they figured she would not say anything bad about them and report it to her father.  That was only one thing that made her cranky. Did they not realize that she was her own person and that her father would turn on her just as quick as they did her?  That was a constant cranky subject in her life.

No, today topped the cake.  She thought Tobias was coming over to let her dad know his plans for the future because he loved her and when they got out of school that year he wanted to officially get engaged. Boy had she been wrong. She was just a stepping stone in his plans to go to work for the big and mighty Stasi.  Her father saw her attitude change and assumed she was upset because he and Tobias were ignoring her.  He excused himself and suggested they have coffee on the porch.

"I can't believe you just did that Tobias." Danielle snapped.  Tobias looked at her confused.

"I thought you wanted me to be friends with your dad. Besides, if he really likes me he might put in a good word for me where he works." 

Danielle looked at him. He was like all the others. "You know if you go to work there you will report everything you hear about your friends right?"

Tobias took a drink of his coffee and shrugged. "Yeah so what's the big deal? We're expected to do that now."

Danielle turned from him and looked out toward the river. She didn't want him to see the tear sliding down her face. How could she have thought he was any different? Did he truly believe that ruining people's lives was the way it should be? She world around and slammed her cup down. "I'm going to bed. See yourself out!"  With that she entered the house, carrying a dark cloud with her, slamming the door behind her. How could such a beautiful day, and the boy she loved make her the crankiest person on earth?

Monday, January 29, 2018

#DWHabit - Word of the Day: Stew

This is the perfect word for me for today. There are always a few people who rub you the wrong way. I try to avoid them. They are usually the type who ask you a question and when you answer it then they TELL you what you will do. The other one ask for your help and when you tell them what they need to do to fix the situation then they just ignore you.

The first example was a person who asked me about a situation coming up. I told her what administration had passed on to me. She then looked at me and told me that she was going to do thing her way. I explained why it wouldn't work because of other things happening at that same time. She is going to do it no matter what. It will interrupt scheduled graded presentation. Her telling me she didn't care she was going to do it anyway was my cue to leave the lunchroom.

The second example asked for help. I got the information for her and told her how to handle the situation and she ignored me. Unfortunately this caused issues with some students. This meant my admin came to me to ask me to try to fix the situation.  The problem with both of these situation is that you can't fix something when the other party is determined to do things their way. 

Both of these had me stewing for about an hour.  I suddenly realized that my feelings were not affecting them at all. The only person they were having an effect on was me.  I had to let both situations go. The cards will fall where they will.

I can no longer stew over things I have no control. I have to many other things to worry about such as my students and their learning.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

#DWHabit - Word of the Day - Wondering

Today's wonderful word is "Wondering".  As a writer and a teacher I wonder about a lot of things. But, something my husband said this morning made me wonder how we became such a stupid society. I remember when I was a teen we would do dumb things. All teens do. We would see who could hold their head under the hand pump the longest while someone pumped water on their head. We found that as cold as the water was from our well it would be three to four times before you had brain freeze.  Never had to worry about ice in my water until I moved to Florida.  Then there was the challenge about who could drink a glass of water the fastest or who could drink the most water in thirty seconds. We always had races. Who could get to the top of a tree fastest or the top of the corn crib by climbing the boards up the side. Then there were the food challenges. Who could eat the most tomatoes in one minute or the most berries. The biggest hazards there were you could fall and possibly break a bone, or you could get sick from eating or drinking to fast or too much.

Today's kids and adults do some of the dumbest things without thinking about the true consequences. We had the ice challenge.  Not too bad. Then we had the cinnamon challenge and had to worry about burns from the cinnamon and aspiration from inhaling the powder. Now we have the Tide Pod challenge where kids are suffering chemical burns and even dying.  While some of my students discussed this on Friday one of them mentioned the newest thing was to put lighter fluid on your sleeve and light it and see how long you could stand the flame.  We had a long discussion about that.

This got me to thinking. When did we as a society become so stupid when it came to hazardous things?  I asked the student talking about the lighter fluid if they would run into a burning building and see how long they could stand there? She said no because she might get burned.  I then asked what she thought the outcome would be of the lighter fluid on clothing?  Her reply was she had not thought of that.  That is the whole issue.  We have become a society that tells our kids not to do something but not why.  When they ask why we tell them, "Because I said so."  I remember being a young mother. I had a baby in the top part of the cart and my son was hanging on to the side of the cart. I had to turn the cart around to get some meat so I told him to come up next to me. When he asked why I told him that I didn't want to run the risk of someone coming up and stealing him.  He was only three.  An older lady walking by slapped me and said to me. "How dare you terrify that child about something that isn't likely to happen."  I remember looking at her and telling her that I knew all too well it could happen. As a nineteen year old I remember our neighbor's granddaughter going into a store and she was stolen from the store. They caught it on video and they never found her or her kidnapper.  I would much rather have him terrified and safe than let him do his own thing ad lose him. 

Kids today don't think of the consequences because we shield them from them. We don't want to scare them.  I know this happens because I've been called to the office and talked to about scaring my middle school kids. How you wonder?  By telling them that if they didn't earn a certain number of credits they would not pass my class.  I was told that this was scaring them. The fact we had just had the guidance counselor in telling them the same thing and I was asked to remind them meant nothing because a parent had complained her child was scared they were going to fail.

I wonder what would happen if we became a society that not only promoted what a child could do buy explained the consequences of not taking steps to try to reach those goals?  We no longer hold children back.  At the end of the year when I figure grades I assign  points to their grades. Then I look at what the computer averaged and what their points came up to and have to give the the highest. This often means the student who chose to do nothing all year will pass by one point because we can't let them feel like failures.

I wonder. What kind of future can we adults look forward to knowing this is the kind of generation we are turning out.

What things do you wonder about?

Saturday, January 27, 2018

#DWHabit - Shopping

Spending time away from home in store were you don’t want to be.
Hoping to find something that fits, knowing all the while it won’t
Obsessive clerks working for you to earn a commission.
Promising to find something to fit you, while pulling styles you can’t stand.

Painful realization that nothing will fit, no matter what they bring you.
Instantaneously hating the store for not carrying enough stock.
Nothing feels right or looks right, no matter how many outfits they bring you.
Going to go home to a good book to get over the shopping trauma.

I truly do hate to shop for clothing. My husband knows this. I've been complaining that I need to get some more pants for work. Unfortunately the place where I had gotten pants that were comfortable and fit me so well had closed. I've looked everywhere but still couldn't find pants that fit well. Once I started losing weight it became even tougher. Unfortunately the weight is not coming off proportionately.  This makes finding pants that fit really difficult.  I did find two blouses today. They were buy one get a second one for $10.  

So today when my husband told me we were going shopping for clothes I threw my little tantrum. I belligerently got dressed to go out. I stomped through the house and was just really ugly. Then my husband asked, "Have I made you cry yet like my mom?" That made me angrier. One year his mom decided she was going to treat me to a set of clothes for the new school year. She found out where we were. She had her arms filled with clothes and stood in front of the store exit and told me I couldn't leave until I tried the clothes on and let her buy them for me. Luckily there were a couple of outfits that did fit. I was smaller then.  But I cried.  I felt bad that I had upset her for wanting to do something so nice for me.  I truly do hate shopping for clothes that much. 
I was that way when I was a teen as well.  Now put me in a fabric store or a book store and stand back.  I hope as I lose weight that I will at least be more open to shopping. Usually I have found that if I need clothes I either can't find clothes that fit or a price I can afford. Who knows maybe things will align in the future and I will actually enjoy it. I'm hopeful.

Friday, January 26, 2018

#DWHabit - Second Chances

I wrote a book review yesterday so I didn't post here. However, every time I turned around today I heard someone use the phrase "Second Chances".  I had a student with an attitude issue today. I talked with one of my co-workers this student was upset with. He explained the reason for the kid's attitude.  Then he said that the kid was good at sports. He was trying to use that as leverage to help the kid make better choices. His reasoning?  He believes in giving second chances.  He also told me that he is the product of a second chance.  I wonder how many adults give kids a second chance?  Sometimes that is all that it takes to change a life. 

I have a student this year that has a record, according to several teachers, as being horrible. In my 25 years of teaching, I have never ever read a student's file or talked to their previous teacher(s) before I met them. I have always wanted to meet the students where they are. In all of my years of teaching I have only met one student that I don't think will make it no matter how many chances we give him. I don't say that lightly. I want all of my students to succeed in whatever they choose to do. I have students who have such horrible home lives and yet they find an adult to mentor them so that they have a second chance.

It made me think about how often I give students a second chance without telling them I am giving it to them.  Sometimes I don't know what impact I have on their lives. Sometimes I receive a letter or a visit. When I retire I will spend days looking at those success stories.

I had a kid a couple of years ago tell me he was a mess at our school and that I told him daily that I believed in him. He said I was the only one who ever told him that. His on family constantly put him down and told him what a loser he was like his ___(parent).  They played this mind game with him using him as a pawn in their feud.  He is a grown man in the military now.  I want to be an inspiration to my students. But most importantly I want them to know that I believe in them. Sometimes I have to tell them that every day until I see a change and I begin to believe it myself. I don't believe in telling students they are a failure. We all need second chances in our lives.  Who will you give a second chance to?

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

#DWHabit - Word of the Day - Worry

Growing up I always thought my dad never worried.  As a young adult I found out the truth.  A couple of years after I married I went to my dad with a problem.  I told him I was so worried about the situation. I will never forget his answer. "Sandra, can you change it or fix it?"  I told him that I could not. He said, "Then why worry about it? If you can't change or fix it then the only thing you can do is put it in God's hands and leave it there. All the worry in the world is not going to change one single thing.  If so we'd have no problems."

I asked him if he never worried about anything. He said he did because everyone was human. It was in our nature to worry.  I asked him why it seemed he never worried about anything.  He took me into his office. He had a small toilet bank  on his desk.  He said that when a problem arose he would think about it for a few minutes. If there was nothing within his power he could do about it, he would take all of those negative thoughts and worries and flush them.  He pushed the handle down on that bank and I heard a flushing noise.  I had to laugh.  You see, when I was younger and had a problem or got angry my dad would tell me to literally write it down, read it, tear it up and then flush it down the toilet.  That usually got my mind off of it. 

I don't physically flush things down anymore. However, I do write about those concern. I keep a journal for just that purpose.  If it is a really tough day and that issue has plagued me all day, then when I get home I do flush it. You see, when my father passed away, one of the things he left me was that tiny toilet. It is a visual reminder to flush the worry about things you have no control. The last time I know of him flushing that bank was the night before he went into surgery. He was given a 50% chance of surviving the surgery and a 50% chance that one of two things would go majorly wrong.  The outcome was in God's hands no matter what. He knew that and figured there was no sense in worrying about it. He had already prayed for the surgeon.  He did survive the surgery, but  stroked out. He lived three more weeks and then passed away. There was no reason to worry about what he couldn't control.  I try to teach that to my students. If they do all within their power then they should not worry. The rest is out of their hands and worrying won't change that. 

So tell me. How do you handle worry?

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

#DWHabit - Word of the Day - Admiration

I picked this word today because it has popped into my head twice this week.  I have a student whose writing I admire.  She is such a talented writer.  She is writing a novel and it is full of original poetry. Then she came to me and said she thought it would be great to create a companion book of poetry with it.

Today we did a book pass in class. I gave each group books representing eight different genres. They had to record the title, author, genre and then rate it. They read only the front, back and maybe a page or two.  This young lady I mentioned earlier had a book of poetry by Edgar Allan Poe. She took his poem "The Lake" and was inspired to write a poem titled, "Frosted Lake".  She is such a wonderful writer both academically and creatively. I admire her passion and her ability to take a simple thing and turn out a beautiful masterpiece. She reads and critiques my writing and then asks me to do the same for hers.  She will leave me at the end of this year. I do hope we stay in touch. We hope that we have students who will look up to us. However, sometimes teachers need students to set examples that we can look up to.

Is there something or someone in particular that you admire?

Monday, January 22, 2018

#DWHabit - Word of the Day - Bright

There are many definitions for the word "Bright". Some of them are: giving out a lot of light, shinning, being very smart.  My favorite way to use the word bright is when we are talking about colors. Last summer one of the artists I spent three weeks with told me that she was in trouble a lot when she was in elementary school.  The reason was she "didn't color in the lines".  I don't mean that literally. She would be told what color to color something and if the color seemed too pastel or dull she opted for brighter colors. I can think of two instances where something like this happened to me. In fifth grade we had a safety poster contest. I colored my bike red because I wanted it to be bright enough for people to see. The teacher told me she could not enter it because I had colored the bike red.  It was too bright and gave a feeling of panic. I should have colored it light pink or blue.  As an adult my kindergartners were coloring pics of baby chicks. I literally was called into the office and talked to about my student's "rainbow" chicks. I was told they should have all be light yellow.  I looked at my principal and asked him if he'd seen all the chicks that God had made. When he replied no he had not, my reply back was, "How do you know he didn't make bright rainbow colored chicks. I stood up and walked out.  My children never received pastel colored blankets or clothing. If it was not bright they didn't wear it.

My students tease me because any time I have anything decorated in my room it is bright. The closest I have come was my book cover. It is pinks, lavenders and blues.  The background needed to be lighter so the other pics stood out. That I get. In life I believe we need to brighten up our little corner of the world. We need to add more color to it.  What will you do today to brighten up the world?  Think I'll do some drawing and coloring.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

#DWHabit - Word of the Day - Comfort

So many things in life bring us comfort. What would it be like if we stayed only in our comfort zone.

Would we excel in life? Would we learn as much or as quickly?  I think for us to grow we must step out of our comfort zone. We must take risks. Failure is uncomfortable. However, if we never try, we will never fail. If we never fail we will never learn. It is through trial and error that we hone our life skills or any skills.

For years I preached this to my students. I talked the talk,  but seldom walked the walk. It wasn't until I took a job in a school for the visual and performing arts that I learned to step out of my comfort zone.  The three weeks I spent at the Hermitage Artist Retreat last summer forced me out of my comfort zone.  It took me away from my family and put me with strangers. It forced me to put myself and my work out in front of the public. I learned that not only could I survive, but it gave me the courage to try other things.  

This year I was nominated for Teacher of the Year at my school. I was asked if I wanted to continue and accept the nomination. I said yes.  Along with that answer was another set of events that took me out of my comfort zone. I won and have the title of Teacher of the Year at my school. Then I was asked if I wanted to proceed on to the district level. I took myself out of my comfort zone and said yes. Although I didn't win at the district level it put me in a position where I was able to reach more students in a manner I normally would not and gave me the opportunity to do more with parents.

We all need to find things that comfort us. However, we also need to remember that it is only when we step out of our comfort zone that we truly move forward.  I wasted so much of my life by staying in that save little comfort zone, that now I am working hard to keep myself constantly moving forward. I challenge myself all the time.  

My husband hit the nail on the head several years ago. I kept telling him I was going to write a book. He had heard it so much that finally he brought a pad and pen to me and told me to write it and stop saying I was going to. Then he sat and told me the reason I had put it off for so long was because it meant I would have to step out of my comfort zone and actually talk with and interact with people.  He knew me very well.  He is the reason I push myself to step out of that zone.  Won't you take a step out of it today?  You may have to take baby steps at first, but trust me, it is worth it.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

#DWHabit - Word of the Day - Inspire

I chose a word different than the one put out by Jennifer Laflin.  Today I chose the word inspire.
Let me back you up to the beginning of 2016 so that you understand why I chose this word. In May of 2016, three weeks before the end of school I had both knees replaced. I had lived with bone on bone with bone spurs between for several years. I was at a point where I was using a cane on my good days and a walker on my worst. I was inspired by a student I acquired half way through the year. He'd been in a terrible accident. He had to learn to walk and talk all over again. He was a gifted student who lost all of that. Yet my last day he said to me, "Just do everything they tell you to do no matter how much you don't want, or how much it hurts and you will be walking again in no time." I let him know at the beginning of the next school year what an inspiration he had been to me. Every day in the rehab facility when I thought I couldn't do what they asked I pictured him.

That summer I saw a teacher friend of mine at a writing retreat and thought how wonderful it would be to do something like that. She sent me the information and I applied.  The Hermitage Artist Retreat in Manasota, FL chooses five teachers in the state of Florida to spend three weeks working on our art.  I had to send in samples of my writing and letters of recommendation. Imagine mine and my student's surprise when I opened my school email and learned I had been selected as one of the five. That was inspirational.  However, the most inspiring part came from meeting the other four artists. There were three visual artist, and another writer.  They inspired me to step out of my comfort zone.  Katie worked a lot with textiles.  As a quilter, embroiderer, etc. I just considered it a craft for me. She taught me that it was also an art. I have always, up until three years ago included sewing in some form in my classes.  Because of her I've started looking at ways to bring it into my lessons next year. Jennifer was so bubbly. She does a lot of drawing, cutwork art and a lot of upcycling.  Between her and Holly Pisaturo who works at the Hermitage and creates jewelry I started creating jewelry for myself. I have a collection of jewelry that is broken etc. that was given to me for that purpose.  Following Jenny's site has shown me how to look at pieces that others consider old and used to create something new.  Gerald was a painter. He inspired me to continue painting. In my house are the two paintings I have done.  I love painting with acrylics. At one point my husband and I owned a ceramic shop.  I am looking forward to painting some of the pictures I took while at the hermitage.  Bryan was the other author with us. He read and critiqued my work. He made me feel like I was one of the best.  For some  writing is so easy and natural. For others we have to work really hard.

I have been inspired over the last few years by some of the best around.  I work hard every day to inspire my students.  I have one who has a God given talent for writing. She wrote the following poem I had posted on my other site.  She informed me that she is writing a novel. I've been reading it and it is great. Now she is writing a companion book of poetry to go along with the novel. I am sharing the poem she wrote for me. She has inspired me to continue to write daily.  What will you do to inspire others?

A Poem for Mrs Stiles
One day I walked
into a room
labeled Language Arts
where I could learn 
how to put pencil to paper
and unleash the magic.
The magic that waits
beneath the white,
so my messy scrawl
could burn through
the snow-colored shield.
The little candle 
in my pencil
could melt through the paper.
And the worlds I've gone to
through think black crevices
in the pages of books
are extraordinary.
An I loved Language Arts
through the first school.
Elementary school,
And it was almost as great
as the library
where I could travel through
little black lines
in otherwise blank walls,
into worlds of magic.
For those years 
my candle burned 
in the same little room
in the same little school.

A new, bigger school
where I could see the sky
through patches of blue
in the hallway.
In middle school
where I headed to 
Language Arts
my heart in my throat
because my teacher would be
an author,
who had wildfires in her pencil,
and knew how to 
burn through the paper
and create portals
to other worlds,
where anything was possible.
And I only had my candle
She welcomed us
I liked her 
in moments.
I was glad
she was the one chosen
to show us how to burn 
through paper 
with flaming pencils.
Mrs. Stiles
I look forward all day
to Language Arts
where anything 
is possible.
And we can write
About spinning torrents of wind
and flames unquenchable.
Neat, orderly writing
Or wild, imagined tall tales.
with rhyming sequences
and corresponding syllables.
Or free
like an eagle
flying into the flaming sunset.
You helped my candle
grow into a flame
dancing on a torch.
You've been a great teacher, 
Thank you for showing me
how to put pencil to paper
and unleash the magic.
The magic that waits
beneath the white.
Now my messy scrawl
can burn through
the snow-colored shield.
Thank you.
I'll see you next year
and good luck.

Madison B.

Friday, January 19, 2018

#DWHabit - Word of the Day - Kind

We tell our kids from the time they are little to be kind.  We talk to our students about acts of kindness. Then we turn around and let someone upset us and the first thing that pops into our head is how to get even with them.  What happened to the words "Be kind"?  I've been thinking about this all week as we, my students and I, have delved into Romeo and Juliet.  Students yesterday were talking about the scene at the beginning where the servants started a fight amongst the Montagues and the Capulets by throwing out insults.  They, who were not initially involved in whatever incident had started the feud years before had been taught to hate the other family to the point they were trained to be unkind.  How often do students pass us by and overhear us say something unkind about someone else? Then when we overhear them discussing someone in an unkind manner with their friends we take the opportunity to jump on them? 

Growing up in my family I was known as the "Peacemaker". I did everything in my power to stop arguments amongst my siblings to the point of letting them walk all over me. I was the butt of many jokes because of this.  Somewhere in my twenties I started learning how not to be a doorstop.  Unfortunately the scales began to tip too far the other direction.  I found myself making comments to my friends about people that were unkind.  I had someone tick me off one day and telling a friend of the injustice made the comment to them that if the other person thought I was all up in their business, then they needed to just wait because they would see how much I could be in their business.  I mulled that over for about two weeks and realized I was doing the very thing I detested in others.    So why am I writing about this, besides the fact that the word of the day is "kind"?  Because when something gets into my head and won't let go I have dreams.  This week it manifest itself in a dream that wouldn't let go. I even have a name for the picture book that will eventually come out of it. It is called "The Misunderstood Monster".  It is a book about showing kindness, getting to know someone before we judge them.  The dream was three nights ago and the storyline and the images are just as vivid today as they were when I woke up. I have started storyboarding this because I want it to remain fresh in my mind.  While telling one of my new teachers at school about my dream, her words to me were, "Who are you going to get to illustrate this?"  Even she saw a picture book in it. I want it to be a reminder not only to the kids, but to parents and grandparents who read that book to those kids that they need to show kindness always.

Your mission today?  Go out and show kindness to someone.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

#DWHabit - Word of the Day - Room

There is a secret room in my heart. I am not the only one that has one. Many people have a hidden room. This room is hidden because it holds on to grudges, hateful words, and hurts. We nurse these negative feelings regularly by opening that door and adding to them.  Someone says something unkind and we may let it go. Let it happen again and again and we open the door and shove those words inside. The problem with those secret rooms is that they can expand the more we put into them. That expansion crowds out other things such as love, joy, and happiness.

Once in a while we open the door and go inside and inspect the items we have stored there. We pick them up one by one. We often wonder why we held on to an item. It seems so petty and insignificant now. We discard it, never to be seen again.  There are other items we pick up and wonder why we held on to it and that memory brings a small amount of pain. We put it back to deal with a while later after some time has passed.  Then we find those items that still bring that raw feeling back. We place those in a special place so that we can take them out regularly.  

The problem with these rooms is that they make our heart sick. All the negativity we hold inside slowly spreads to those areas we want left pure.  So today I choose to lock that door and throw away the key. By doing this, those things that cause me, and those I love pain can no longer harm us.  I choose to see the good in others and in situations instead of focusing on those things that can spread and destroy. This room will be cleaned and scrubbed and turned over to God to fill with love.

Do you have one these rooms in your own heart?  What will it take to empty yours and close it up?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

#DWHabit - Word of the Day - Laugh

This word really fit today.  My 8th graders have been reading Romeo and Juliet. I laugh my head off watching their expressions. They are eighth graders taking a high school credit class.  Today they read about Juliet's nurse talking about nursing Juliet and how she weaned her. They read along and get to the word teat and whisper it while turning twenty shades of red.  They have a hard time discussing girls marrying and having kids by the age of 14. When you explain why and how it differs from today and dating, they blush, duck their head and giggle. We finish Act 1 tomorrow. We have four more Acts before the story is over.  I live for going in each day just to see their reaction.  The one person I figured would have a problem with  the story has none. They are on the autism spectrum and they handled it very clinically. Every now and then I watch the corner of their mouth lift in a small smile. That is usually when he realizes how embarrassed the other classmate are.  I laugh at myself because this is the first high school class I have taught in 24 years. I was concerned about this particular unit.  I didn't feel confident. It has been my most favorite unit to date. 

I have to say we all need to find something to laugh at every day because there is so much negativity in the world. For me my students make me laugh.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

#DWHabit - Word of the day - Shimmer

She walked into the room
Holding onto the edge of her skirt pulling
It out to show off its fullness.
Mischievousness danced in her eyes. She spun
Making the skirt twirl
Endlessly. Her face shimmering
Radiantly for all to see.

Monday, January 15, 2018

#DWHabit - Word of the Day - Reason

There is a reason we moved to Florida when I was in high school. My father had a titanium plate in his head from an accident when he was four.  In rainy weather or cold weather he would get these massive migraines. They would incapacitate him.  For me there are multiple reasons I stay in Florida.

I love the warm temperatures. Our winters are milder. Yes we do have to deal with things like hurricanes and the occasional loss of power in ninety degree weather because of them.  But, I don't have to deal with snow.  So, since we've been having these cold snaps down here I have loved that I get to wear sweaters for a short amount of time and that I know I won't have to drive through ice and snow. 
However, this morning it was a little more difficult to get out of bed. It is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I am out of school so  that would be a reason to smile.  But, three days ago our AC/Furnace started vibrating terribly.  They came out and looked at it on Saturday because we knew we had a cold snap coming through. They must order the part for the machine. The fly wheel is going.  We have used it as little as possible.  This morning when I got up it was 54 degrees in the house.  I remember waking up in the mornings up north and running down the stairs and laying our clothes 
over the stove to get them warm. I learned to get out of my flannel PJs and into my school outfit in under 30 seconds, because that was about how long you had before your clothes were cold again. 
Anyway, I got up and turned the heat on, praying the fly wheel would hang in there long enough for the house to warm up.  Now, it isn't producing much heat. So I started to complain as I sat under a blanket with my sweater on. Then I looked across through my kitchen window. A fairly strong breeze is blowing. The palm fronds and Spanish moss is gently moving. Then I watched three squirrels play tag around and through the branches.  An osprey out looking for a meal flew past.   I realized that if I lived up north unless I sat out in the cold somewhere in the woods I probably would not see as much wildlife as I can just sitting in my house.
That made me think about how selfish my thinking was this morning.  I have no real reason to complain. There are those who have no house or sweater to keep them warm. I have both. The thought that God has taken care of me made me smile.

So my wish for you today is that you look around you, no matter what your situation is and find the beauty in the world. Search out a REASON to smile today, because smiling is so much better than frowning and complaining.

Really looking at the world
Expecting something great no matter what
Always looking for the best in any
Situation that is thrown
Our way can bring us much

Needed happiness.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

#DWHabit Word of the Day - Blush

Today's word is blush.  I have a tendency to blush at the slightest thing.  Everyone has always told me that it didn't matter what I said, my face spoke for me.  So whenever embarrassed my face would show it. At school if my best friend's boyfriend said hi to me, because I was so shy, my face would turn red.  There were those who would take advantage of this.  Specifically my cousin. He knew how shy I was. It was painful walking from class to class. I looked up only enough to see my way to my next class.  In my high school up north our halls went around our gymnasium.  My cousin, who loved to tease me thought it would be wonderful to position his friends in different hallways. The reason you are wondering?  His class was next to mine. He would wait outside my classroom for me to come out and wolf whistle at me.  Then as I rushed past with my face flaming red and turned the corner, at the end of the hall was one of his friends.  This went on at least once a day, every day.  It didn't get any better when we moved to Florida the following year.  If I gave a wrong answer in class, I blushed. If I dropped something, I blushed.  I am not quite as bad as I used to be. I learned that if I do something wrong or someone does something a little embarrassing that I will survive. I have learned to laugh along with the situation.  Have you ever experienced something that made you blush?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

#DWHabit - Word of the Day - Average

There are very few words that I really dislike. "Average" is one for which I have a very strong dislike.  Growing up in my family was a comparison between us; who was smarter, prettier, more talented.  It was the same at school. I'd over hear teachers talking about students. "Oh you know, they're just like their mom I had in sixth grade. They're going to be an average student just like her. We can't expect much more out of them."  I wanted to join the conversation and ask them why they felt that way.  The picture above depicts how I see average. Average means stuck in the middle. You aren't good or bad.  It is almost as if you don't exist.  I have no "average" students. I have students who need more instruction in certain areas. I have students who need more encouragement. 

I have students who excel at one thing but not another. I don't see them as middle of the road kids.  We quantify students so often. Why? Do we feel so mediocre that we have to make others feel mediocre?  In my opinion, and it is only mine, average means mediocre.  I tell my students who are striving for a "B" and only make a "C" that they just haven't learned all of the skills yet to get them there. It is a process. I have no "AVERAGE" kids, I have only "EXCELLENT" kids.  Sometimes we are the only one who believes in them.  

I had a student who was completing work after school one day and their parent and siblings were walking around the classroom while they completed their assignment. Every once in a while the younger siblings would come by and tell him how stupid they was. I spoke to the parent about this and was told that the younger ones did this at home all the time and she allowed it because she figured it would make him work harder to be as smart as the younger ones were. She could not seem to celebrate the accomplishments the older child  made where he was. That is so sad. How many kids do we see each day, how many fellow co-workers have been beaten down to believe they are "Average". Why can they not be Excellent where they are?

This is just something for you to ponder.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018


I have finally decided on my word for 2018, "APPRECIATE". Life is too short to go abuot grumbling. This year I want to appreciate everything. If I have trials I can assume God is allowing it to teach me something. I can appreciate that he is a caring parent and wants only the best for me no matter what. I want to appreciate the time I have with friends and family because time is precious and short. There is no time for petty thoughts that allow us to wallow in our hurt when someone does us wrong. Appreciate that they are still in our life. I want to appreciate my job, co-workers and friends. Many people have none. I don't like my financial situation or house, but those are things I can change. Appreciating my life wherever or whatever state I am in is all about attitude. I can appreciate it or wallow in despair. I choose to appreciate it.

Saturday, January 6, 2018


Today was one of THOSE days. I got up early and tried to write lessons. I went and gave blood this morning, came back and sat down to write lesson plans. Once again I am still in the same place. I don't know why I am having so much difficulty writing my unit plan.  I have been writing lesson plans, both weekly and unit plans for years. However, for some reason I find myself procrastinating. First this is the first time I will have taught Romeo and Juliet. Since we are an IB school we have a specific template for our unit plans. Before we went on winter break we worked on lesson plans. We were given a sub for three periods to work with others. I am feeling intimidated by a lesson plan that I have used for years. There have been some minor changes, but I am familiar with most of it. I just can't push myself beyond a certain point. Tomorrow I must work on it. I usually don't procrastinate with lesson plans. For some reason this unit is different. I will make it happen. I refuse to let procrastination keep me from my goal. This will go for all of my goals. It is so easy to let procrastination take hold of us and do this over and over again. We all go through procrastination. The major problem occurs when we let it continue day, after day, after day. Tomorrow is a new day. I will reach my goal

Friday, January 5, 2018


Today's new word of #DWHabit is begin.  I like this word. In a world where we struggle to start anything we need this word.  I watch students who have been given a writing assignment sit and stare at me. I tell them to pick up their pencil and begin.  They don't seem to realize or understand that if they never start they can't possibly finish. To begin doesn't mean you have give 110 percent. It doesn't mean you are done. It means you have actually put words down.

I procrastinated my first book for years. I talked about it to my husband all the time. I talked so much that one evening while sitting in the yard swing with my husband I mentioned it again. This time when he went into the house to get another cup of coffee he came out with a notepad and pen and told me to stop talking about it and write it. That was when I began to put the words to paper. They had been in my head for so long that they just flowed onto the paper.  If it had not been for my husband pushing me I probably would never have begun it.  Fear is what keeps us from beginning a lot of things in our life. Fear of failure, fear we won't get it right, fear others will make fun of us. Until we begin  we can't ever entertain the possibility of success, whatever that looks like to us.  For 2018 I want to encourage my students to begin.  Begin by identifying what they want to accomplish, then begin to set goals. After that I want them to begin planning and finally begin working their plan.  This should be everyone's word for 2018,

"Begin", he said.
"I can't", I whispered.
"Begin", he said/
"I  don't know how."
"Begin" he said.
"Will you help?" I asked.
"Yes, if you will only begin", he replied.

Thursday, January 4, 2018


Today I returned to school. I entered my room to find a new desk.  I emptied my old desk. It had a center drawer and a small and large drawer on the right.  My new desk is not as wide as my old one. However it is much longer. It has two deep drawers on the left and two shallow and one deep drawer on the right. there are keys to lock my drawers up.  So I spent the best part of the day going through all of the garbage I've collected and throwing things out and getting my new desk organized. 

I was worried about how cold it would be today. I met my principal at the gate. She gave me my work hours and then told me they were working on getting the heat on. Construction had knocked something out again. I was very surprised to enter my room and find it was 61 degrees. It seems that my wing was the only one with heat.

Another surprise came from a teacher in Hawaii.  Looking for resources to teach Romeo and Juliet I came across a mention of an assessment she had done. Both of our schools are IB schools. I emailed to ask her about it and she not only sent the assessment to me, but also the grading rubrics. I love working with teachers who are willing to share their great work.


I know of nothing greater than surprises. The year 2017 was full of all kinds of surprises for me.
I was surprised  to gain three new teachers in my department.  I was surprised to learn that after several years of teaching sixth grade, they were switching me to seventh grade and English 1 (9th grade).  I was surprised to learn that I really enjoyed teaching them both, especially the high school course.  I have always disliked Shakespeare. I was surprised as I prepared for it over the winter break to learn how much I am enjoying it.  I was surprised this last year to have my daughter set a wedding date and then watch her walk down the aisle into happiness.  I was surprised and saddened to learn my son and daughter-in-law were moving back to El Paso. My fear became a reality as he  came for a visit two months later to tell me he was being deployed for a third time.  One of the best surprises came from a student who volunteered to be a beta reader for me.  He asked for the rest of the manuscript to read over the winter break.  He told me that one of the things he enjoyed about my writing was the amount of tension I put into it.    If 2017 was that full of surprises I can only hold my breath for what 2018 will bring.

So far it has brought me the surprise that my granddaughter Lili absolutely loved the Ringling Art Museum. Not bad for an eleven year old.  Can't wait to see what surprises my students will bring back to me next week. 

I hope that your 2018 is full of great surprises.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Baby It's Cold Outside

You who live up north may laugh at this. However, there are many things you don't understand. My family moved to Florida in 1973.  I am no longer acclimated to the icy cold conditions I left in Indiana .I have grown accustomed to cold weather when we occasionally have it down here. I even look forward to the occasional sweater weather.  This year at school has been different. We have been under construction all school year. My room temp varies between 90 for a high and the low 60s. I actually purchased a thermometer for my classroom. The temp inside my classroom has been about 15 degrees colder than it is outside. So imagine if we have a high of 55 on Thursday I can figure my room is going to be about that or colder inside, especially with no students. Since it is a day for grades and mine are done as are my unit and weekly lesson plans, I plan on spending the day writing. I am going to work on my Berlin Wall story, "Leaving Behind our Walls".  I managed to get the first five chapters written this summer.  I also wrote a poem that I shared while I was at my writing retreat. I am posting it here for you.

Brick by Brick

We built these walls brick by brick
We made them with our own two hands
They once were thin, but now they’re thick
And now between us, they do stand.

Just like the wall the soldiers made
Walls of hatred, fear, distrust
Walls exact a price that must be paid
They  turn our lives to grains of dust.

They  tear away our very souls
To mold and shape and try to tame
To dominate us are their goals
We only have ourselves to blame.

So tear these wretched walls away
Eliminate the guilt
Remember the lies along the way
Is how these walls were built.

Sandra Stiles 7/17/17

Monday, January 1, 2018

New Year, New Writing

It took me a large part of the day to decide what I wanted to write for my first post of 2018. What did I expect from this blog?  I have not paid a lot of attention to it. My posting has been hit and miss since I started it. So I will try to put into words what I expect from my writing blog.

First I expect to write here a minimum of three times a week. Some of it will be my personal writing. Some of it may be poetry. Some of it may be rants.  I hope to occasionally  post excerpts from my writing or post ideas I have come up with.  Some days like today I may start with a word. That word may inspire a story.  Please feel free to experiment with anything I post. 

I expect to have others join in. No I don't expect anyone to sign up or anything like that. I expect  my site to encourage others to write. 

I hope you will feel free to share pieces of your writings with me.  I will occasionally put out a writing prompt. 

So here is a quote for the New Year.  "Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come whispering, 'It will be happier' – Alfred Lord Tennyson

My wish for you is that your new year will be full of expectations you will go after and that your year will be happier.
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