Thursday, February 22, 2018

#DWHabit: Word of the Day - Fascinate


I am fascinated with the lengths students will go to get out of class.  Today’s assignment was simple. The students were to write positive letters to the students at Marjorie Stoneman High in Parkland, Florida. This was a request made by a teacher at that school from teachers/students around the country. The letters were not supposed to mention details of the events. It was simply a short letter letting them know that they were loved, wrapped in hugs and that students across the state were thinking about them and sending positive thoughts and hugs.  Somehow after that class was over and the next period had started writing their letters things fell apart. Administration called to say they had students from my first period all upset to the point that they thought they would need to bring in more counselors.  The students were demonstrating one of the IB Learner Profiles by writing letters to the school expressing they care.  This was a ploy  by a small group to skip their next class. So I guess that it will always fascinate me that there are some students who are so adept at manipulating things that they would do this. Shame on them. They lost out on an opportunity to share love with those who are hurting.  All it took was three students to ruin it for 146 of my students and all of those who are hurting across the state.  I have better things to be fascinated by, such as why some honey bees are very sweet and calm and others are not. Why my husband, who grew up in big cities and apartments can grow and propagate just about anything and why I who grew up on a farm can’t.  Those are the things I want to be fascinated about, not how a handful of students can manipulate the administration.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

#DWHabit - Word of the Day - Tests

I have chosen my own word today. The reason is simple, we are getting ready for state tests over the next couple of months.
Tests. Just the mention of the word creates a classroom of reactions. We have the rolling of the eyes, the slumping in the seats, the pounding on desks or stomping of feet.  After weeks of telling students why they are writing one more essay you no longer get the above  reactions. Now all I get are the glazed looks followed by the "You must be kidding me" look.  I hate this time of year as much as my students do. I hate it because so much is riding on those tests. My evaluation is 50% based on how my students do on that test. Students are put  under the microscope for these tests. They determine whether they have to take remedial classes.  I have a student who does not pass them, meaning he doesn't test well and it is always below grade level on the reading test. The funny thing is he reads 50 plus books throughout the school year. He has donated books to my classroom. two to three times a year every year since he came to our middle school.

We have our first major test in two weeks. It will be our state writing test. We have spent the last two to three weeks writing argumentative and informative essays.  Why could they not have students in middle school write narratives?  A lot of students would do much better.  Better than that suggestion I think they should offer a choice of the three. Once you clicked on your choice you couldn't change your mind. However, if kids had a choice then they would probably do much better.  I don't know, what do you think about this idea?  I only know I will be thrilled when testing is over for this year.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

#DWHabit - Word of the Day: Sofa

The sofa. Most homes have one. Whether you are a contemporary type of person, a classic elegant, or like something that is a little out there in the realm of ultra modern.  In my opinion there is a major purpose for this piece of furniture. For some it is for napping. For children it is for staring out the window or lounging on while playing on a tablet or phone. Then they have the other purpose for kids, time out.  But for me they are the greatest place for reading. Whether I am reading my favorite book, or reading to one of my grand kids, there is no place better for this activity than a comfy couch.  I prefer something I can lounge on with my feet up or out in front of me. In winter time when it is chilly out it is the place to curl up with a nice cozy blanket and of course a book. There are two other activities I enjoy on a couch. Sometimes I like to sit and draw. The other activity is writing. I love to curl up with a notebook (still a book) and write.The couch is one of the most important pieces of furniture in your house. Don't you agree?

Monday, February 19, 2018

#DWHabit - Word of the Day: Time

Tired. I am so tired. I have spent three days working on lesson plans for one of my teachers out on leave.  I have graded her essays and left mine for later. Three days.
My husband was my salvation. He took me out on two dates this week. He said I needed a brain break. Lunch and a gourmet popsicle twice this week. Who could ask for more.  When my head began to pound and my eyes cross he told me to lay down. He held me tight. He said it was to relax me, which it did. I believe it was to force me to take some time.

I have trouble relaxing. I always have had an issue with taking time for me.  I always put others first. It is late at night as I write this because I am just now taking time for me and my writing. For the first time this week I feel like I am in my element.  I have missed so many days of writing. Every day last week a writer student of mine would bring up her writing and ask if I wanted to read it. Of course I did. The last two days of the week I told her I wanted to but was unable to at the time. I asked her to bring it to me before school on Tuesday so that I can catch up with her second novel writing.  I found myself feeling jealous because of a school situation I was unable to fit it in.  In addition to working with students on their own writing we had multiple discussions about the recent school shooting. It didn't help that we had threats in our own district after the shooting.

I was so proud of the students of the teacher on leave. I gave her students an assignment to write a personal narrative. They had to write as if they were a child of the Holocaust who had witnessed their friends disappearing.  They were so good. There were some I read where I held my breath in fear the character would be found in their hiding place.  I felt their hunger and the pain of hard, torturous work.

I have not TAKEN the time I so needed for me. However, for a few hours while I graded those personal narratives I thought about how I would write it.  Here is an excerpt from MY thoughts.

I heard my parents enter my room silently.  Something was wrong. 
"Eva," my parents shook me gently. "Quiet my sweet. I need you to get up quietly, put on your warmest clothes and my coat without any questions."  I nodded and did as I was told.  I left my room and saw my parents with two bags. My mama wrapped a warm blanket around my shoulder and took my hand. 
As we walked toward the door my mama reminded me not to speak.  I nodded.  We slipped out the door, walking silently next to the house. My papa cocked his head listening. I wondered what he was listening for.  In the distance I saw another family slip from their home.  We followed them through back streets toward a large church.  I wanted to ask my mama why we would go to a Christian church, because we were Jews. I held my tongue.  
The door to the church opened and we slipped into the darkness. We followed the man leading us to the back of the church and down a set of stairs. In the basement were several families. My mama led us to a corner in the back of the room. I sat on the floor next to my parents. I kind lady, a little on the plump side brought us a cup, steam rising from it. It smelled delicious.  Hot chocolate. I could tastes the sweet chocolate before my first sip. I looked around me as I drank down its deliciousness. The parents wore looks of fear and despair. My own parents looked tired. The children were confused. Why had no one told us what was going on?
"Mama?" I looked at her tired face. "Why are we here?" I saw the look exchanged between my parents. It said so much. Should they tell me? How much should they tell me?  
"Mama?" I asked again.  She cupped my chin in her hand and replied softly. 
"My sweet child, we must leave and hide. The Germans want us dead." she said.
"But mama, aren't we Germans?"  
"Yes my little one we are. But, we are Jews and the Nazis want us gone. Now finish your chocolate and then you need to get some sleep. We will spend many days being moved at night."
I sipped from my cup again and wondered why the Nazis hated us so much. Maybe with time they would learn to like us.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

#DWHabit: Word of the Day: Broken-hearted

I am feeling broken-hearted today.  On a day that is supposed to represent our love for others, there are those whose hearts are broken into a million pieces, never to be pieced back together. There are those whose lives have been changed forever.  We ask, why would someone choose to take the lives of so many innocent people?  What is wrong with their heart that they would do this?  Today's school shooting in Parkland, Florida is tragic on so many levels.  Just once I would love for the perpetrator to explain what drove them to do such a heinous thing.  I'm tired of hearing that at some point they were bullied and decided to kill a bunch of people they probably didn't know.  As a teacher it angers me that someone could do this to kids. It doesn't matter what their age is, they are still kids.  This is one of the worst kinds of violation that can happen.  An event like this shakes you to your core. Every time we hear of a school shooting my mom reminds me that this is her biggest fear for me. I have never felt unsafe.  I imagine those in that school today felt safe until the chaos began. On this day when so many celebrate the love of others; hug your loved ones tight and tell them how much you love them. Say a prayer for those who will never get the opportunity to hug their loved one, or give them that message.  

Reeling at the news
Overwhelmed by emotions
Keep loved ones close
Expect the best of everyone

Everywhere. Pay close
Everyone  needs
Daily reassurance that things will be okay.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

#DWHabit - Word of the Day - Bend


Like trees that bend in the storm,
I must learn to be flexible when
Life throws curves at me.

I must bend and sway
When hardships try
to break me down.

I must learn that these storms
Help to build character.
They make me who I am.

I may be a little bent over
Under the pressures
From every day life.

But look at those trees, now
Buffeted by the winds
And storms.

They stand tall, and
Bent from the pressures
That pounded them.

They stood the test of time
As must I.  I will stand a
Little bent but strong.

I will continue to
Grow strong through
Life’s storms.

Monday, February 12, 2018

#DWHabit: Word of the Day: Penny

"A penny for your thoughts." I said to one of my students. She had been sitting staring into space.

" I was just thinking that if I would just force myself to write I would get this stupid essay done." She sighed and stared down at her paper. She did this for four or five minutes before picking up her pencil and writing.  Once she started writing she didn't stop until the essay was complete.  She looked up and smiled.

Once again I asked her what she was thinking about.

"You know I just realized that at first I thought I was procrastinating. Then I realized that what I was doing was running all of this through my mind. I thought I was wasting my time by rereading all my notes.  I realized I was just putting them in a logical order. Once I started writing the thoughts kept flowing. Then I went back and looked at what I had read and realized that I could use better words in some places."

I smiled and let her talk. I think this was the first time she had actually looked at her writing and the writing process.  The interesting thing was that other students started commenting.  I asked if they thought what the student had done was unique. I was shocked to hear that they all felt that way. They thought with their mind wandering around that they were doing something wrong.  Where did we go wrong when teaching our students about writing. I will show students multiple ways to do something, then let them choose how they get to the finish line.  I don't believe that all children are the same. I am there to facilitate. I want them to take chances and stretch themselves.

We all fear failure when it comes to our writing. We need to let kids see that fear and know that it is a part of the process.

To think if I had not asked a simple question I would not have given my students the ability to look at their own writing process.  Maybe we need to do it more often.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

#DWHabit - Word of the Day - Answer

I have not written a post on here for a couple of days. I have written, but it has been more  on the line of curriculum and lesson plans. We have all kinds of "gunk" going through our school right now. I'm trying to stay one step ahead of it. I actually went back to bed this morning about 10AM and rested for an hour. I've had a massive headache for the last few days. My husband's back and neck is causing him so much pain that things he usually handles such as grocery shopping has fallen to me. So I didn't get to sit and write the way I wanted to.

When I looked at today's word I laughed.  I have kids who love to answer questions and I have to tell them that they can't answer any more because the other students won't try to answer any. Then I have the students who hide and duck their head hoping I won't call on them.  Occasionally  I will get one that has an answer and then I ask them this question; "Can I play devil's advocate with you on this topic?"  Most of them think it is fun. Sometimes it has such a different outcome.

It’s funny that whenever I tell my students I have a question I want them to answer some of them groan while others sit up at attention and laugh. They know that if they answer my question it will be followed by another. Sometimes I ask them those tough questions. You know the ones I’m talking about. They don’t necessarily have a black and white answer. They fall into that gray area. I love to play devil’s advocate then.  I have gotten so good at this that last year while we were working on writing argumentative essays I asked the question “why?” I was asking the student to elaborate on her point. I then started bringing up counterpoints. By the time I had finished she was almost in tears. When I realized this she told me that she thought that her answer was simple and to the point and now she wasn’t sure about her point. She then pointed out that I was so passionate as I kept asking her questions and expecting her to answer she thought she was wrong. I pointed out I wanted her to be that passionate with her point of view that she could argue her side.   Sometimes when we expect our kids or students to answer we need to make sure we know what we want them to answer or be sure to give them the room they need to explore the many aspects of an answer. That is what I wanted to teach my students that day. This student knew and volunteered to let me play devil’s advocate. She told me after class that she thought she was up to the challenge.  She asked me if I chose her because she lets everyone in class know that she is “always” right and it gets them upset.  I told her I had not chosen her for that reason and I was proud that she was able to take the lesson and internalize it. She told me that it taught her she didn’t know as much as she thought she did.  

How do you handle having your students or kids answer questions???????

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

#DWHabit - Word of the Day - Hilarious

When I think of the word HILARIOUS several things come to mind. What I find hilarious others may not. We all have our own sense of humor.  For me watching babies laugh is so hilarious I can't breathe. I could never sit behind a baby or toddler in church because the sounds they made or the faces they made would make me laugh uncontrollably.  It's the same thing with cat videos.  Now I worked with a lady a few years back who found people who slipped and fell hilarious. She literally fell out of her chair laughing at me one day when I sat down on the edge of my chair on wheels and it rolled out from under me.  Our boss came out to see what the commotion was and found her rolling around under her desk. Good thing most preachers have a great sense of humor.  For my students I have found the thing they find most hilarious is farts.  Yes that is all it takes to set a middle school student off.

They say laughter is good for the soul.  Well you get a triple dose of laughter when you find something hilarious.  For me I begin to turn red, I can't catch my breath and when I do I make funny sounds. This in turn amuses me and makes me laugh even harder.  I've only been like this once in my classroom.  It was brought on by an off the wall comment, said in all seriousness, by a student.  I usually have my husband around to remind me to breath, all the time he is laughing at me which keeps me going.

So tell me, what do you find hilarious?

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

#DWHabit – Word of the Day – Relax

I chose a different word today. The word I got was relax. It was definitely appropriate.  I ask my students to work hard all week then tell them to just relax when they begin to get antsy or stressed.  I had a student’s parent call me today. He’s been out with the flu. He’s lost about 20 pounds and he’s already skinny. He came back yesterday but had to be picked up. His fever was real high today yet he tried to come to school. He was panicked because he had  a project due to me today. I told her to tell him I said relax and rest. The work will always be there as will I.  I stayed an extra two hours after work just to finish grading papers.  I started making a list of what I wanted to accomplish when I got home.  I realized I had not had a chance to write yet today.  When this word came up I realized it was a message meant just for me. I need to learn how to relax.  So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to finish this post and start by riding my bike. No better way to relax than with exercise.

Monday, February 5, 2018

#DWHabit - Word of the Day - Needless


Needless, the feeling of being unnecessary.
Even though we know we are needed and necessary
Every time we hear someone put our ideas down our brains 
Deem us or our work needless.
Less than what we should be is how these
Events make us feel. We need to
Spend time with those like us who love to write, for they are those
Super powers who recharge us daily. This is why a writing tribe is 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

#DWHabit - This is an excerpt from "Faces in the Mirror"

Monica stood in front of the mirror combing her hair. Her mom had put the full length mirror in her room after she decided to grow her hair out.  She began the brush strokes that would tame her tangled mess. As she looked in the mirror a face appeared. She closed her eyes, then slowly opened them. The face of the young girl was still there staring at her. Who was she?  This was the second time she had seen the face of a young girl. She squeezed her eyes shut and turned away from the mirror.

"Mom, would you put my hair up in a high pony-tail?  I tried and it doesn't want to do what I want it to."  She handed the brush to her mom who smiled down at her. Her mom quickly put her hair up and ushered her into the kitchen. Monica sat at the table. The small TV was on  in the living room. She poured herself a bowl of cereal and sat down. As she lifted the first bite to her mouth her hand froze. She recognized the face of the girl on the TV. She didn't know her name but she had been the first face she's seen in the mirror. The newscaster was saying the police had found her body that morning. Monica's mother quickly switched off the TV.

"Eat Monica, you have to leave in a few minutes."  She sat across from her daughter and sipped her coffee.

"Mom, I saw that girl on the TV the other day."

Her mom paused, coffee cup suspended  a few inches from her lips. "Where? When did you see her?"

Monica looked at her mom. "In the mirror." She waited. Was her mom going to laugh at her?

Her mom leaned forward in her chair and looked her in the eye. "What do you mean you saw her in the mirror? Where?"

Monica explained about the face she'd seen three days before while she was brushing her hair. Then she told her mom she'd seen another face this morning. She described the face to her mom. She didn't begin to feel afraid until she noticed her mom's hand shaking as she set her cup down. Monica glanced at the TV and pointed. "There, that's her, the girl I saw this morning."

Monica's mom turned toward the TV. The report was explaining the girl had gone missing that morning.  Monica's mom quickly shut the TV off. "Time to brush your teeth then we need to leave." She cleared away the dishes while Monica left the kitchen. Fear coursed through her veins. What was going on? Why was her daughter seeing the faces of girls who had disappeared and been murdered?

Saturday, February 3, 2018

#DWHabit - Word of the Day - Invincible

I'm always talking to my students about some of the things they do that are not the brightest ideas. The most recent incidents of kids taking the Tide Pod Challenge brought that home to my students. We discussed this. They laughed when I told them that often kids think they are invincible. Things won't happen to them.  I told them that all kids feel that way at some point. However, life  shows them those hard lessons and hopefully they learn from it. Learning the lessons by seeing how a tragic event affects others is a hard way to learn that lesson. But, it no where near as hard as being involved in the tragedy yourself. 

Feeling as if we are invincible doesn't just happen to kids. Often we keep pushing ourselves in our jobs because we think nothing will happen to us. We have to get things done. Thursday was a fifteen hour work day for me at school.  I came home to a steak dinner my husband had fixed and waited to eat with me.  I was barely able to keep my eyes open for another hour before I fell asleep without writing.  Friday was more of the same. I tried to make up for the work I didn't get done the night before. I was asleep an hour after dinner.  I didn't write that night either. 

Today I did part of my work and then realized I had not written. It is now almost nine at night. I feel incomplete when I don't write, even if it is just a small post like this. I prefer to do my writing first thing in the morning and then try to make time to do more writing at night.  This Daily Writing Habit Challenge has been the best thing to happen to me and I'm sure to many others. So even though this post is small I feel pleased that I got some writing done today.  I just need to remember that I am not invincible and that to keep me going I need to write daily.  Have you written today?

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