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Keep It Simple

This is a little bit of a hectic week for me.

Oh, who am I kidding.  December and January are going to be hellacious.  What with my reading endorsement class, weekly Fred Jones classes, lesson planning, and life in general, things are nuts around here!

Oh, and I almost forgot one other important thing…my first observation of the school year.

As a still-somewhat-new teacher in the district (i.e. one with fewer than four years’ experience), I have the blessing (cough, cough) of being observed twice each year.

I know the purpose is to give new teachers a chance to learn from the first observation so that the second, and more weighty, one that happens in March will go smoothly.

Still, it’s very nerve-wracking to have someone watching YOU do your thing.

I have no problem sounding dumb and making a fool of myself in front of teenagers.

As an adult, I do this simply by breathing.

However, to do so in front of someone who is your boss…whose opinion you value greatly…well, that’s a scary thing indeed!

Fortunately, I work for a very kind principal.  He’s extremely smart, and his feedback is spot-on.  He does his best to remain unobtrusive during observations, and I usually forget he’s there once I get into my lesson.

I adore my students and can’t help but get caught up in the fun that we sometimes (cough, cough) have…

Especially with the crew that will be the “observation class.”

Ok…so I’m getting away from the main point of this post.

Sheesh.

I’m teaching main idea to my students right now, and just this morning, I told them that when they read, they need to ask themselves, “What’s the point…” much as they want to ask me the same thing (and sometimes do).  heehee

To prepare for my observation, I’ve gone back and forth with several activities in mind.

I taught main idea during my observation last year, and honestly, I did not do a very good job.

I was new, uncertain about what to do, and scared to death.

Plus, main idea is a very difficult thing to teach.

I’ve been to quite a few trainings since last year…CRISS, Kagan, Smart Board…so I have a wealth of tools at my disposal (not that I’m an expert at using them all, mind you).

Narrowing down my activity to one thing was hard…not to mention not knowing, exactly, where we would be in my teaching of main idea.

And thus what became my quandary…which strategy or strategies to use.

I am an overachiever, and I like to throw everything but the kitchen sink into my lessons.

It can be overwhelming for my students, though.

Today, I had visions of myself years ago when I was teaching Pioneer Clubs at my then-church home.

I had no idea that you could choose WHICH badges to have your class members earn.

I thought that the list was what you HAD to teach them.

Let’s just say that I pushed my kids…hard…and they earned the most badges of anyone there.

Oops.

I only taught one year.

heehee

Today, feeling uncertain, I queried my friend, Barb, who’s been teaching since there were dinosaurs (shhh…don’t tell her I said that).

As I explained what I wanted to do, I saw her eyes go wide.

That’s when I knew.

I was making things too complicated.

Her pointed questions made me realize that in my attempt to be this AMAZING teacher who would bedazzle my principal with my uber-fantastic teaching skills (yes, I am delusional), I was setting myself and my students up for failure.

Not that she said that.

I read between the lines, using my inference skills (I’ll be ready to hit that unit next!!).

So I scaled back a bit…sticking to what my gut had originally told me to do.

Gotta trust this teacher gut of mine.

I’ve gotta remember to keep things simple.

I’ve got a pre-planning observation conference tomorrow morning and will scurry around trying to put the finishing touches (i.e. find text passages, copy them, and insert them into my Kagan software) tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I’ll try to get a good night’s sleep so I’m ready to face my day head-on.

Gas Station Goodbye – Part 2

Well, today could almost have been a carbon copy of yesterday, as far as goodbyes go.

After attending church, where Rooster pitched in to help with the light and sound systems, we headed back home.

That’s where the not-so-fun stuff began.

I heard Rooster make a few trips back and forth between his bedroom and his car.

I weakly offered to help him.

I was not feeling too happy.

Depression always sets in the morning that my babies are heading back to school.

He told me he could handle things himself.

Rooster seems to get a little grumpy before he leaves too.

I think it’s his transition time.  I know he’s eager to get back, but I also think that leaving is a little hard too.

We took him to lunch, and I soaked up everything he said…every movement he made.

When he had filled up his belly, we drove to the gas station at Walmart.

It was deja vu.

I stood outside while he filled up his car.

The minutes passed by too quickly.

It was time to say goodbye.

The Mr. went first.

I always like to be the last person to hug the kids when they leave.

I don’t know why.

I reached my arms way up high, for he’s quite tall, and hugged him tightly.

I always give him a kiss, but because he’s so tall, I only pecked his neck.

heehee

As much as I wanted to hang onto him, I couldn’t, and before I knew it, I was waving to him as we drove away.

Sadness descended heavily upon my heart.

When we got home, I immediately left again to run a few errands.

Starbucks was in order, but I started crying on the way.

I sat in the parking lot with tears rolling down my face.

I could not understand why this separation was so difficult…especially given that I’ll be seeing my children again in a couple of weeks.

I called Barbara because I knew she would be a voice of reason and would return me to an un-crying state.

As we chatted, I realized the “why” of my sadness.

Earlier that morning, at church, Rooster’s friend’s mom had approached me and told me how highly Rooster had spoken of me and my teaching.  He’d told her that he could see that I was making a difference in my students’ lives, and that I was very committed to my teaching.

Rooster had never shared those words with me.

While he’s a great listener and can, at times, talk a person’s ears off, he still has a somewhat reserved side.

During this visit home, he’d been a little quieter than usual.  I don’t know if it was relief from projects and tests he’d recently finished or the fact that final exams are only a couple of weeks ahead.

Thus, his friend’s mom’s words touched my heart and, I suspect, made the parting that much more difficult for me.

I’d had a wonderful visit.  Both of my children are so precious to me.

Chicky and I are growing closer…the cracks in our relationship are slowly healing.

Rooster is still exploring options for his future, and it is interesting to listen as he talks about things he’d like to do…different routes he could take.

I am officially on a twenty-day countdown.

There are twenty more school days until Christmas vacation…the time when I can fully engage my heart and brain in the fun of being with my family and, perhaps, enjoy some respite from the hectic schedule that is a part of my profession.

Gas Station Goodbye

If you were driving past Walmart this morning, you might have witnessed an interesting sight…

That of a mama and daddy hugging their sweet girl and her puppy goodbye.

Yes, a gas station isn’t one of those places that movie directors use as their settings for goodbyes, but the truth of it is that when you’re stretching every moment you have with a child, you don’t always select the prettiest place from which to separate from them.

Oh, the bittersweet feelings that invaded my body as I got into my own car to drive away.

As she drove out of the lot, I rolled down my window to give one final wave.

Her smile as she waved back lit up her own car.

Cali, the puppy, was standing on the console between the seats, happy to be on the road with her mama again.

No matter what where the location, goodbyes are never easy.

The Day After

Black Friday…the day after Thanksgiving…

I usually do not venture outside of the house.

I loathe shopping…for the most part…especially when there are large crowds of people involved.

However, I had a couple of Kohl’s coupons that I’d received in the mail.

Besides that, with Chicky home, I didn’t want to miss spending a moment with her.

So off we went with me adorned in a Christmas sweater and new bling I’d purchased two weekends ago…

Kohl’s was a huge success, and I found a few things to add to my closet.

I even ran into a friend while I was there.

A little later, Chicky, the Mr., and I headed out to Old Navy.

Oh my, but we hit the jackpot there!  I selected quite a few things to try on…

I bought two pairs of jeans (my first skinny jeans), a few shirts, and a cute pair of shoes.

Chicky also got some much-needed items.  She’s got to spend part of her Spring semester observing a classroom, and next Fall, she’ll be doing her student teaching.  New clothes are high on her list this Christmas.

The mail arrived shortly after we arrived home, and I found a package from my friend, Christina…

My little knitting group at school has been having a lot of fun digging through my yarn.  The girls are especially drawn to bright colors.

Because Christina could open a yarn store with her humongous stash (*cough, cough*), I asked if she would be willing to donate any.  I paid her for the shipping…a small pittance compared to what she stuffed in that flat rate box!!!

She included a special treat, my Christmas present, in the box…

Very Auburn-ish, don’t you think?  I grinned from ear-to-ear when I saw it!

Now, though, as the day is drawing to a close, I’m starting to feel sad.

Chicky leaves in the morning, and Rooster leaves on Sunday.

Fortunately, they will be home in a couple of weeks, but still…the week-long visit has been so much fun, and I don’t want it to end!!  I’ll be counting down the hours until their cars turn into my driveway for the long Christmas break!!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Good Thanksgiving morning to you!

Hello! I am Chicky’s new puppy, Cali, and I just wanted to wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

I am thankful that Chicky and her roommate adopted me a few weeks ago.

My grandmommy, Auburnchick, is so glad I came to visit, even if I have been waking her up before 7am each day. We just go potty and then snuggle on the couch together before going back to sleep.

I hope you enjoy your time with your family. I’m going to try to sneak out of here in a few days.I have a feeling Auburnchick might shed a few tears when I leave.

Thankful for the Hodgepodge

It’s time for the Hodgepodge!  Woo Hoo!  I continue to be impressed at the way that Joyce comes up with a fresh batch of questions each week!  Kudos!!

1.  Turkey-love it or leave it?  White meat or dark?  What’s your favorite thing to make using leftover turkey?

As a vegan for nearly two years now, I do not eat turkey.  The rest of the family does.  Every year, we order a smoked turkey from Sonny’s, a barbecue place in town.  The Mr. and everyone else will eat one or two meals of the turkey left overs…usually as sandwiches or just plain on a plate…before we freeze it (and forget about it).

2.  Gotta burn off all those carbs the day after a holiday feast so which would you rather do-run a 10K or climb a mountain?

I’m going to say neither.  In my dreams, I’m running a 10k.  In reality, I’m napping after an entire day of preparations and cleaning up.  As I said…in my dreams.  😀

3.  Do you feel like social networking has made your relationships better or worse?  Explain.

I think that social networking has made my relationships better because people have a better sense of who I am.  Despite what people think, I really am shy, although I appear quite talkative.  I’m nervous about sounding dumb in front of people (which I usually do because of the dumb, blonde comments I make at times).  My posts on Facebook, along with my blog posts, show a different side of me…my tendency to poke fun of myself…what I’d like to think of as a wacky sense of humor.

In addition, I feel as if I know more about others as well, so if I see someone and recently read a status update, I naturally ask questions related to the update.

4.  How do you find and express gratitude for the hard things in your life?

I find gratitude for the hard things in my life by looking back at the crises that God has brought me through and the blessings that resulted from them.  I am able to praise Him because I know that He has always been with me and will continue to be with me through whatever lies ahead in the future.  I always give Him the glory for being my strength and claim nothing of my own.

5.  In the US, the day after Thanksgiving has been dubbed ‘Black Friday’.  Is most of your holiday shopping done live and in person, or is it done more through the magic of the Internet? How do you feel about stores opening at midnight Thanksgiving night? Will you be out amongst the masses on Friday?

I loathe shopping…especially in large crowds.  I tend to feel claustrophobic in small places or when I’m around a lot of people, so I don’t go.  The Mr. loves to, however.  I may venture out to Kohl’s because I just got a $5 coupon in the mail.  Other than that, I’ll probably stay put in the house and spend as many precious hours as I can with my babies before they head back to college over the weekend.  They are a lot more fun to be with than crowds of people I don’t know!!!

For the record, nearly all of our shopping is done in person, by the Mr.  Do I think stores are crazy for opening up early?  Yep.  However, I think it’s a lot easier to stay up late and shop than get up around 3am to get in line.  Ultimately, however, I think our priorities are misplaced.  Next thing you know, we’ll be having Black Friday in July.  Sheesh.

6.  Speaking of the color black-which black item in your wardrobe would you say is your favorite?

Let’s see…it’s a toss-up between my black shoes (I do love my shoes) and my black button down sweaters (yes, I own two).  My sweaters are a staple for me, being a cold-natured person, but I also love, love, love my shoes.

7.  What do you appreciate about your life today?

I am so appreciative that God has blessed me beyond my wildest dreams.  I am soooo not perfect and soooo undeserving.  I am grateful that my children have grown into amazing young adults who are making choices in their lives that reflect their commitment to the Lord.  I made a lot of mistakes as a parent, so to know that God protected them and made them grow up straight and narrow despite my mistakes…well…that just makes me feel so grateful.

8.  My Random Thought

This week will culminate in Rivalry Weekend.  If you watch college football, you know what I’m talking about.

Last weekend, the Mr. and I went to Auburn to attend a football game and visit Rooster, who also came home with us for the week.

I had taken the entire day off so we could get there in time for the locker room tour.

It.

Was.

Impressive.

We were even allowed to walk through the tunnel that the football players walk through to the field.

To see the football field at ground level instead of from the stands was IMPRESSIVE!!!

Needless to say, I was awed.

Beyond words.

I couldn’t help but think about the young men who run onto that field each week…the nerves they must feel when they are facing crowds that can number upwards of 80,000 people.

Then, I considered the tough year that my football team has had this season.

In fact, it’s the worst that I can ever remember as an Auburn fan.

The players have been booed by the fans.  The crowds have thinned.

It’s quite sad.

I think about the players…the seniors who are left with a bittersweet taste in their mouths after experiencing the high of being national champions only two years ago.

I think about these kids who are only a few years older than the ones I currently teach, and my heart goes out to them and the pressure they must feel every single week.

So many of them are able to attend college because of the scholarships they received.

I wonder how many of these kids wouldn’t be in college if it weren’t for the scholarships.

Coincidentally, I watched a story on 60 Minutes.  It was about the income that collegiate sports programs generate for their colleges.

The numbers were astounding, as were the actions that athletic directors will take to draw crowds in.

Throughout the story, I kept thinking about the kids…the babies, as I like to think of them (despite their large physiques).

I wondered about the priorities we have in life…how committed we are to developing these kids as INDIVIDUALS…not necessarily football robots.

And I felt sad.

I think of Marcus Lattimore, who endured not only a devastating knee injury last year but also an even more horrific leg/knee injury a few weeks ago.

What pressure.

What disappointment.

I love sports.  I really do.

I’m the mother of an athlete.

However, my priority has always been in how my athlete-child grows as a PERSON…more specifically a child of God.

As the end of football season draws to a close (with the exception of bowl games, which Auburn won’t be going to for the first time in many years), I’ll watch as coaches get fired and new ones get hired.

I don’t think that things will ever change…at least not unless something dramatic in the world happens…to change the priorities we place on winning and the money it can generate.

I don’t know.  It was all just a bit disheartening.

Forgive me for being a downer.

My Own Style

Last week, my friend, Barb, took several of our new reading teachers to visit the classroom of a local reading-teacher-extraordinaire.  Before she left, I asked her to take pictures…lots of them.

This gentleman has an advertising background and is known for his creative reading stations.  He takes the kinds of worksheets and printables used in elementary and middle school, upgrades them, if you will, and makes them into educational, yet fun, activities for his students.

Barb texted the pictures to me a day or two later, and let me tell you that with every picture that came through, my excitement grew…

As did my lack of confidence and feelings of inadequacy.

Honestly, I can’t, for the life of me, figure out how this guy, who holds down a part-time job on top of being a reading-teacher-extraordinaire, finds the time to do everything and be so fabulous in the process.

I had myself a bit of a pity party and soaked my sorrows in a hot shower.

And that is where some deep thoughts hit, as they always do when I’m in my cove of warmth.

I realized that my strengths do not lie in creative, cut-out ideas.

Nope.

I’m not much of a scissors kind of gal.

My strengths lie in technology.

My previous work experience is in computer trouble-shooting and computer teaching.

I love it when I come across new ways to inspire kids to learn by tapping into an interest they currently have…all things technical.

Hence my recent attachment to Edmodo and the NY Times learning blog.

I also recently discovered Flipboard, thanks to my non-technical-but-quickly-learning friend, Barb.

In that “aha” moment, I was reminded that, while it’s good to get ideas from others, I can (and should) use the interests and talents that God blessed me with to put my own twists on what others share.

That is what makes me unique…what makes all teachers special in our own way.

I’ve spent a lot of the last two and a half years trying to mold myself into miniature versions of other amazing teachers I’ve observed instead of refining the things that make MY classroom activities special.

Does that mean that I won’t ever use the reading-teacher-extraordinaire’s ideas?

Nope.

In fact, if I’m in a pinch, you better bet your last buckaroo that I’ll steal his ideas cut for cut.

BUT, I’m going to work a little more on allowing myself to be ME in my classroom.

Having my own style sounds pretty good to me!

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