6/24/14

The Girl Who Didn't Know How to Write

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Once long ago there lived a young girl, who feared writing stories most of all when in school.  She shied not away from the tests of the day, nor round robin reading, (she thought spelling was cool). But these simple words from a teacher once said, "Take out a pencil, here's your paper." she did dread!

She loved to read stories for sure it was true, but when it came to writing she knew not what to do. . .  She wrote essays, spelling words, and journal entries galore, research papers, and poems, and lists and more, but stories she worried, "I don't know where to start!", "What do I write about?", "When. . . is. . .art?"

This lasted for years, those years they had passed.  The girl grew through grade school and college went fast. Soon she was Mom with three kids of her own, and to write a story was still an unknown.  She read to her children, and told them short snippets, of pieces of her life and silly stuff in it. But writing them down, still seemed quite the challenge.

"Write what you know" say the experts so plain, but she thought that what she knew would just be too plain. Yet she wrote her own thoughts about this and of that and she created a blog that was becoming quite fat. Then she worked in a school where writing was taught, and the teachers showed kids what her teachers had not.

They read books and wrote stories to talk and to show the ways writers think, lots she still did not know!  Then she went on searching for more, and to grow, she joined a challenge one March full of snow.  She wrote day and night about any and all, from family and work to the smells of the fall.

Now this girl is all grown, her kids growing too.  She writes stories of life for herself, kids and you. Sometimes she writes, with tears fully streaming, sometimes to stop her own self from screaming.  She laughs and she scribbles, deletes and keeps going, because this girl's now a writer all grown and still growing.      

6/17/14

First Family, Family First

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I probably should have written last night.  I was a bit restless and the funeral was fresh on my mind, but I wanted to let it all settle, all the tears, the hugs, and the memories that come with a funeral day.  It was blue sky and sunshiny outside, and I drove with sunglasses and a/c on and drove right past the funeral home with its suited men awaiting visitors and parked on the next street.  Something about the men in their suits, who I didn't know, I just didn't want to have to talk to them.  My stepsister pulled in and turned her car over to the suited ones just as I rounded the corner by foot, looking for the entrance.  I was thankful.  I didn't have to enter by myself.  My husband wanted to attend but I hadn't worked out the details and he needed to take over kid duties (I was wishing I had planned better).  Of course I barely made it over the threshold when tears began to stream mercilessly down my cheeks, despite my sunglasses and will.

Mom took my hand and led me into to the viewing room.  "Come on.  Let's get the hard part over with"  and there he was, and wasn't, all at once.  "Too much makeup." I thought to myself.  You know how sometimes people say, "He looks so good, they did such a good job."  I didn't hear anyone say that, and it simply wouldn't be true if they had.  His eyelids lay over his once sparkling blue eyes.  Nearby Mom showed me the flowers she picked in her favorite coral pink and the note for "Dad" of mom and her brothers, "Grampa" of all us cousins, and "Super Grampy" to our little ones.

We did the right thing.  Hugged our way through the line.  I never called her Grandma, and her sons were never my uncles, her granddaughters I scarecly new.  "I'm sorry for your loss." said one of the girls, and I think I gave her a funny look, because here she was in the line of "kin" telling me she was sorry for my loss.  I wonder if she will ever realize the irony of that.  Or the irony, that my Grandfather's remaining sisters sat across the room, and his own children were about the room, with no place in the line.  It bothered Auntie, she said something to my mom, but Mom was prepared for this, knew it would be this way just as it has been since (not) Grandma entered our world.  Mom made lemonade out of lemons, "It's ok.  I just met everyone at the door instead.  Don't worry about it."

I was holding and folding a piece of paper all morning, trying to remember not to accidently set it down or absentmindedly throw it away.  I needed to read at the church.  Mom couldn't do it, she knew, and that was one of few branches offered to Grampa's first family.  At least it was a nice piece to read.  The whole ceremony was well tied together with the themes of building, a family, a home, a life, within a community and country that he loved and gave willingly to.  Even the (not) uncles said a few things that tied in.  There were only a few silent chuckles (not bad for a girl prone to giggling in church) from me at the over emphasis of the selflessness of the (not) Grandma.  The one so self centered as to not notice that her dear husband's blood relatives who had loved and known him twice as long as her and her clan of fools should probably have been afforded a space in line, or offered an opportunity to memorialize this man too.  Sometimes the minister opens a space for attendees to share memories of their own, but that was not the case this day.

My brother was a pall bearer and I couldn't help thinking that he looked like the little boy he used to be, on the verge of tears as they carried the casket into the church.  My reading was right in the beginning, it caught me by surprise to hear my name announced but I pulled it off, looking into the audience, pausing for affect and emphasis.  I gave the casket a touch on the way by and went to my seat.  Of course, there was singing, but I didn't even try, because singing would make my cry.  So instead I smothered a laugh at Edith Bunker's voice trailing from the seat behind me.  My step sister thought, "Who brought the muppet." but quickly conceded, Edith Bunker was behind us.  These are the distractions of a girl trying not to let the memory of "running" downtown, my hand in Grampy's as he strode long with steps long and purposeful, leave me in a puddle on the pew.

At the cemetery, it took me a minute to notice Grampa was to rest next to (real) Grammy and I smiled back the tear that was trying to escape.  A World War II Navy vet, he was buried with a flag ceremony and taps. As the music began, I smiled as one of the Aunties rummaged for another tissue, having thought she was done with the tears.  I was fascinated soon by the folding of the flag.  I had only seen it done by my boys and their friends as young scouts.  I could see they had a bit of practice to do.  My arms felt hot from the sun as the flag was handed over to the wife, then we milled about in the sun for a bit as folks taking shelter beneath the black tent dispersed stepping between gravestones as they went.  I bummed a ride back to my own car, with my Mom's cousin and his daughter before the reception, and scarfed a third of the raspberry chocolate bar in my purse as I wound back through traffic to the other end of town, where my real family saved me a seat.


6/14/14

Building Literacy

Supporting early literacy evolves.  The year begins with a foundation.  Assess students and prioritize needs.  Add to that, get to know children (& teachers), make connections with individuals that will form the foundation for a respectful learning and or teaching relationship throughout the year.  Within the classroom setting, supporting and collaborating with teachers and children to establish routines, procedures, and a safe community, a place where children struggling to learn literacy skills and good learner skills, social and executive skills, can feel safe to learn & take risks that allow learning.  I believe in Resp Classroom practices and “the power of our words” as educators to either open minds or close them to learning, trust and connection. 

The first floor is laid with planning.  I am a planner.  I plan for individual, group, and whole class instruction.  I keep in a handy place a plan for my day, week, month, and year.  I think of a plan as a place to begin.  It keeps me on track so I don’t forget any pieces yet also is flexible enough to stretch or change as formative and summative assessments inform my teaching.  I have experience planning independently and in groups.  I will continue to play an active role in whole staff, & grade level planning.

Framing walls & windows is about supporting learning at all levels.  As language develops, from listening, to speaking and reading and writing, I listen, I watch, I model and I provide opportunities for children to practice language (speaking, reading, writing).  I teach explicitly when children don’t notice.  I use Read Aloud, RR, Guided Reading, and Interactive Reading and Writing to support new readers and writers from K- 3rd grade.  Learning is a multisensory experience and can be tailored to the needs of students to maximize learning and engagement.

Nails, screws, nuts and bolts are skills that are necessary to become proficient at a task.  The details of letter sound correspondence and familiar chunks, roots, prefixes, suffixes along with sight word recognition, letter formation, and concepts of print, decoding and encoding, build the mechanics of reading and writing.  I support children in learning these skills by providing many opportunities to practice with real books and using hands on activities, games, and songs that focus practice within an engaging format.


Wallboards and Windows are the understandings and comprehension along with connections to the world outside.  Our wall is taking shape, gaining color, we can see how it defines a space in time and we can see through it to the real world.  I build comprehension with literature.  I provide opportunities for children to read and listen to books and explore stories in ways that encourage a deeper understanding.  One year my class explored versions of The Little Red Hen, then the children participated in interactive writing to create their own class version of the story.  We also reenacted The Little Red Hen for a buddy class.  Children prepared by practicing reading their parts aloud in small groups or with partners, creating the setting with paint, and establishing distinct characters with simple costumes.  Each child had an active, if not speaking, role in the production.  Students learned about chickens and eggs through hands on and live science activities and by reading non fiction books on the subject.    I am more than willing to work with teachers on a wide array of activities and modalities that support children’s literacy and comprehension skills.

6/3/14

Be back in a half hour. . .

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I walked down my driveway and along the gravel road as the sun sank to the west highlighting tree tops, translucent leaves glowing golden green.  As I approached the fields and gardens of a neighbor, I felt as if walking into a painting.  Everything vibrated green, green, green.  Gray green timothy twizzled in the breeze, oak leaves and maple, poplar and pines, grasses and new growth each held it's place in a patchwork rainbow of greens as I stepped quickly and turned my attention to listening.  Birds.  So many songs, mostly familiar and I thought how sad it was I couldn't match a one to it's owner.  My youngest brother would know the birds that belonged to the songs.

In a second, barking ensued, a flash of black bounded through the break in the stone wall and circled me in the road with his hackles up.  I could hear the call from within the house.  I didn't recognize this dog or his name, but I knew she would come for him.  Sure enough, "Get over here!  Come on!" and an appology for the nuisance. Her own dogs were accustomed to foot traffic and came out to greet me often enough, but in a more friendly manner than this visiting canine.  "No problem!" I waved and walked on.  A constant and unwavering buzz soon overwhelmed me, the Chestnut trees were in bloom and it seemed every pollen jock in the country was here buzzing from blossom to conical blossom among the three grand trees.

I stopped a moment to watch while one of the big black bumbling bees went about his business of pollination, and as I resume up the hill my mind wanders to an image of my kiddos scouring the ground below the trees for prickly shells cracked open with mahogany nuts peeking out.  The smooth nut inside makes a lovely childhood treasure, and they often fill coat pockets and bike baskets at our house come fall.

For a while, all I hear is my own breathing, as I make the most of this hill.  Then, I think of my promise, "Be back in half an hour!"  and I turn around to head back home.  To the right, past the buzzing chestnuts, I hear the "glump.  glump." of the frogs in the pond and I wonder as the pond leaves my sight if the heron was there tonight stalking through the tall reeds.  My feet take me out of the warm sun set into the cool shelter of trees and past another barking dog.  This guy is tethered, straining against his leash and breathing raspy, thick breaths between barks.  I wonder if he just wants his ears rubbed. . .

Around the corner running water wooshes down a spring stream.  This one will be dry in July, but for now it rushes down the mountain, under the road, through a culvert and splashes quietly through the woods on the other side.  I don't linger to throw stones or send sticks through the culvert, the bugs are hungry.  I head up the hill and up my driveway calves burning just a twinge and I meet my husband on his way out of the house.  "The kids are in bed."  When I get to the boys room, Charlie told me that when I opened the door to come in, the clock hand was exactly on the 12, exactly one half hour since I left.