Celebrate 3.1

celebrate-image So happy to Celebrate with Ruth Ayres this weekend! 

Celebrating getting back into running…
A few of my thoughts before during and after today’s run: 


Pre-Run: Awesome. I ran a 5K last weekend, I can do it again today. Maybe I’ll run 4 miles! Earbuds in, water bottle filled…walking up this hill before I start, for sure!

Mile 0-.75: This feels great! Out in the open air, it stopped raining, great music. I love running. I’m so glad I found some pretty flat areas of the neighborhood to run in. Isn’t it cool how your pace goes with the music? Lucky day, lucky life, lucky I can run. 

Mile .75 – 2: Why would I think I can run 4 miles, ever? Why did I move to another hilly neighborhood? If I stop now, that’s okay. You are supposed to run various distances. What’s so special about a 5K? Why can’t the park have a track that is flat? What’s with all the dog walkers? I have to pass them obviously, I’m running. But that’s annoying. I should just stop and walk home. That’s exercise too. Plus, I have to get home and do other stuff. Why do I have such a lame running playlist on my phone? Why would I want to listen to this music? This path looks like it belongs in a murder mystery. I wonder if I can find a running partner who runs at my s-l-o-w 12 minute mile, and doesn’t want to talk…just someone so I’m not alone on these wooded paths.That’s silly. Nobody runs this slow.  

Mile 2 -3: Fine. I’ve done 2 miles. I can just do the next one. If I can just find somewhere flat to end this run, I could do more than 3.1 miles. I’m fine. This music is good. I’ll just skip a few of these tracks. How do people drink their water while they run? If I stop now to take a drink, I might not start again. If I run up there and then back that way, that will use some distance but not take me too far from home. If I go that way, I’ll have to go up that hill. If I go over there, I’ll have to go up that other hill. This would be stressful if it were a race. I think I’m more of a solo runner. I better be able to pass that old lady walking her dog up ahead. 

3 Miles!Woot! I’ll just go around this bend, and see how much more I can do. 

3.12 Miles: And that’s another hill. I’ll just stop now. 

Post run: Ahhhhhh… I did it! Water, water, water. I bet I could do that again tomorrow. Or Monday. Or tomorrow. Maybe Monday…

 

A slice of swimming lessons

Slice of LIfe Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

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Melancholy has taken over E, and I blame the steroids he’s on right now. This sadness can come to play all through the day, but for sure on the way to school, on the way to karate, and during swimming lessons.

Tip of the day. Don’t start your 7 year old in any fun extracurriculars at the same time he starts a 12 week course of prednisolone! 

Today as I walked E and H into the YMCA for their swimming lessons, the difference between how each boy viewed this activity was clear.

H: I don’t know if I should move up a level, or just stay in this. I mean, it’s easy, but it’s good practice. How many more classes do we have left?
Me: Well, this is your third class, and there are 8 total .
H: 5! We only have 5 left?
E: 5! We have 5 more?
Me: You can take another round of classes after this if you want —
H: Yes! Please? Please?
E: NO! Do we have to? I don’t want to!

Once in the building, we hurry into the pool lobby. H and E walk through the men’s locker room, and I meet them via the women’s. E looks worried and says, “What if they make me go under water? Last time they just expected everyone to go under, and I can’t!” Then he tells me that the other kids splash, and that really bothers him. “If I hold two fingers up like this, that means they are splashing! That’s what I was trying to tell you last time!”

“How about 1 finger up means ‘I love you?'” I ask him.

I’m so glad to make this signalling system, because the first time I took the boys to swimming lessons, E kept looking at me and mouthing whole sentences that I couldn’t understand. If you have ever been on the other side of windows looking into an indoor pool where your 7 year old is scared of swimming lessons and is dramatically mouthing his concerns about drowning, you know what I’m talking about.

The classes are called to the pool, and I walk to the plastic pool chairs that parents sit in to watch. I’m not going to lie. Trying to watch 2 kids in 2 pools…not my favorite thing.

E is getting splashed. 2 fingers up from him, and I mirror his signal while mouthing, “It’s okay. You’ll be okay.”

Every few minutes, E mouths, “How many minutes left?” and I flash the number on my fingers.

25 minutes left.

E is so mad about the kid next to him acting crazy. His 2 fingers are up, his eyes are rolling. I give what I hope is an empathetic and encouraging look.

“What if I drown?” he mouths.

“You’ll be okay.” I mouth back, gesturing to his 2 teachers and the lifeguards nearby.

“How many minutes left?”

I look over at H, who is diving for rings and swimming back and forth in his class’ lane.

E does a front float, and a  doggy paddle to his teacher who keeps moving farther away. He looks at me, and I give another encouraging smile, with 2 thumbs up.  His teacher pushes him away, off towards the side of the pool and he is doing great. Until he’s not. And I see the mini panic as he loses steam, and goes under. His teacher is there in a second, and helps him to the side, and he seems fine. But when I mouth, “Are you okay?” with questioning eyebrows, and one thumb up, he shakes his head no. He rests, arms on the side of the pool, looking sad.

He swims again, and this time mouths, “Was I good?”  Thumbs up buddy.

H is diving off the diving board.

“How many minutes left?”

The kids in E’s class are taking turns jumping into the water. Last time, E jumped into his teacher’s arms. But today, he jumps straight into the pool, submerging himself.

“Was I good?”

“So good, honey!”

“How many minutes left?”

One more jump, and then I am handing the boys towels, talking to H’s teacher about moving up a level, and reassuring E that he did indeed do a good job.

I meet them on the other side of the locker rooms, and we walk out…Swimming lessons are done…until Thursday.

 

A Slice of a Testing Day (A regular slice)

Slice of LIfe Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

Step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…
I weave slowly through the tables. I watch for issues,
I watch for cheating, I watch for problems.
I look carefully but I don’t look too closely.
I’m not allowed to look at the test. Only at the students taking the test.

Step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…
I follow rules, even though I’m not necessarily known as a rule follower.
I read my manual.  I’m prepared.
I picked up my tests by 7:50. I counted them in front of someone. I signed for them. I protected them. I never left them alone.
Maybe tomorrow I’ll bring a baby blanket to wrap them in, just for extra protection.

Step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…
I place some things on my rolling stand.
The stand flips up, and all the things drop to the floor.
It’s loud enough, in the complete silence.
So, I silently apologize, and wave the kids back to their work.

Step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…
It’s boring. I try a walking meditation, I stretch my neck, my arms. I even do a squat in the corner of the back of the room.
It’s boring.
I wish I could take the test!
That would at least give me something to do.

Step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…
Active Monitoring! Sounds so professional,
feels so gosh golly boring.
A few students finish too early. This is not a good sign.
There’s no way they read passages and questions closely and carefully! No way!

Step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…
I wish my dog hadn’t eaten my fitbit. I’ll never know how many steps I’ve taken.
I collect tests when students have finished.
I pile them in alphabetical order to return them, counting them once again in front of someone.
As if I’d want to take one for myself.

 

#sol17 March 31 A slice of the last slice.

Slice of LIfe

 

 I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for bloggingwithstudentsall of March.  You should do it too!  Thank you, Two Writing Teachers! Readers, check out their site, and start slicing!

My students filed in, sat down and started their slices.

“It’s the last day!” Someone said.

Another student’s face fell, in puppy dog sadness. “I’m sad that it’s over.” she said, and then paused, shook her head a bit and added, “Well, sad and also kind of happy too, you know?”

Yep. I know.

#sol17 March 30 A slice of marching

Slice of LIfe

 

 I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for bloggingwithstudentsall of March.  You should do it too!  Thank you, Two Writing Teachers! Readers, check out their site, and start slicing!

 

One of my favorite bulletin boards this year is my “What Would You March For?” board that we made from a collection of the things that my 6th graders think are important issues. This was part of a larger activity from our celebration of Martin Luther King Jr, and watching  Teaching Tolerance’s The Children’s March.

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I love it because the kids were so genuine when they made their signs, and I love that we happened to make the signs on Inauguration Day. I love the memory, even though it broke my heart a little bit that day.  After watching my students write that they would march for LGBTQ rights, The Environment, The Animals, Global Warming, Freedom, etc., I was reading news of White House taking down website pages protecting some of those very same things. But, it gave me hope to see my students thinking about things that were important to them.

Now we are just a few days away from starting our state assessments. All of us at school are trying our best to comply with the rules of what we need to take down and cover up in our classrooms and hallways. Obviously, we can’t have students looking at charts that will help them write Text Dependent Analysis essays, or charts of literary definitions… but not everything is so black and white. I’ve taken to just covering up almost everything with words on it, because the manual says something about covering things that could help students with the test. (Ironically enough, getting my students to use the charts and resources in the room when I WANT them to use them is challenging… thinking of them using it during a high stakes test is laughable. But, I cover everything anyway.) My students, like every year, walk into the classroom after I have slapped colored paper all over and go into mild shock. They ask me why, and I tell them that the PDE wants to make sure they don’t use anything in the classroom to help them, or to cheat. They look confused, asking me “How could we use the sign that says ‘read’ to help us on the test?” I just shrug my shoulders.

Our hallways need to be free of hints as well, so the other day as I passed the “What Would you March For” bulletin board, I stopped to comment to my friend, “Maybe we should just replace all of the protest signs with signs that say “No More High Stakes Testing!”

But, because I like my job, I asked our team para to cover the board instead.

Walking by it today, though, I shuddered.

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Our marchers. Silenced.

Today one of my students looked up at my wall, where I have a little banner that says “THINK.”

“Ms. Feinberg! You better cover that up. It might give us a hint of what we should do during the test.”

I love sixth graders.

 

#sol17 March 29 A Confession Slice, and some poems

Slice of LIfe

 

 I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for bloggingwithstudentsall of March.  You should do it too!  Thank you, Two Writing Teachers! Readers, check out their site, and start slicing!

 

Confession Slice. 

I wrote a poem slice.
But the rhythm was off.
So I started over,
and that one stunk too.
So here, I’ve written a few:

Today: Bulletin Boards

I had to cover bulletin boards today,
So my students won’t cheat on their standardized tests
I might not agree, but it’s what PDE thinks is best.

Today: My Dog

My dog wouldn’t take a walk with me
Even though I had my sneakers on, and treats in my pocket.
Even when I cheered “Let’s go!”
All he did was stand there, unmoving, saying “NO!”
So I took him to the dog park, where he ran and played
Tired out, I took him home, where he chewed and lay.

Today: Writing

As soon as I start writing,
the dog is no longer tired.
He wants to play tug of war,
Now he seems so wired!

He wants to chase, and chew, and tug
Now he probably wants a walk!
But it’s bedtime for the human kids –
I mean, just take a look at the clock!

I’m not trying to bore you with my griping
It’s just that I’m not so good
at playing chase or tug of war,
at least not while I’m typing.

#sol17 March 28 A Slice of March

Slice of LIfe

 

 I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for bloggingwithstudentsall of March.  You should do it too!  Thank you, Two Writing Teachers! Readers, check out their site, and start slicing!

 

What does March mean to you?

As a kid, March was full of crafts with little yellow lions, and cotton puff lambs.

In 1990, March was all about waiting for my baby sister to be born. I was 12, and an only child.

In 1998, March brought a proposal. Mr. Thought and I had been together for 6 years, high school sweethearts. He proposed in the Pontiac, on the way home from a visit with his family.

In 1999, March meant the sudden passing of Mr. Thought’s dad, Al, just shy of 3 months until the wedding. In a haunting video from the previous summer when we took family to see the wedding location, Al is shown saying, “I hope I’m alive and well.”

In 2003, March was spent waiting for my own baby girl to be born. Life was about appointments, preparations, baby showers — and I just remembered this — patiently waiting for the next Harry Potter book! (Which I had time to quickly read that June right before L was born.)

In 2006, March had me hiding the fact that I was pregnant with H. I was nervous that I’d have another miscarriage, and feeling so very sick!

In 2010, March… An early spring…me on family rearing leave with my  3 kids. That March was filled with taking L to school,  H to preschool and trying to get newborn E to nap anywhere but on me.

In 2011, it was my second March at home, on leave. I hadn’t yet figured out how to get napping to work, though! (Although when E started at a babysitter that fall, he easily napped for a few hours a day for her!)

In 2014, I started my first Slice of Life March challenge!

In 2015, I sliced for all of March again.

In 2016, More slicing. Although, what I remember about March 2016, is my 14 year old cat, Billy dying. He was so sick, but still his death seemed sudden and unfair. My children were there for his last breath, and I arrived just a few minutes later.

And now, March means once again, a month of noticing, of reflecting, of writing.

What does March mean to you?

#sol17 March 27 A slice of not making sense.

Slice of LIfe

 

 I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for bloggingwithstudentsall of March.  You should do it too!  Thank you, Two Writing Teachers! Readers, check out their site, and start slicing!

 

It doesn’t make sense. 

I’m not sure why I’m helping my daughter pick out classes for High School.

She was just a baby.  How could a baby be expected to take Geometry? How could a baby decide between English 9, and Advanced English?

I’m not sure why I’m helping my daughter pick out classes for High School.

It doesn’t make sense.

 

#sol17 March 26 A slice of Standardized tests… (You knew this post was coming…)

Slice of LIfe

 

 I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for bloggingwithstudentsall of March.  You should do it too!  Thank you, Two Writing Teachers! Readers, check out their site, and start slicing!

 

“I know what the PSSAs really stand for! “Pretty Stupid School Assessments!”

I can’t help but laugh, but I try to hold it together. After all, I’m having a small group teaching some test taking strategies. I shall not let my personal bias show. I shall not let my personal bias show. I shall not let my personal bias show.

Last week my test prep copies arrived, and I stacked them on my desk. I had ordered them because I want to make sure my students have an idea of what kinds of questions they will get on their standardized test, but the sight of them on my desk has caused me and them a fair amount of stress.

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“What are those, Ms. Feinberg?” Students have asked with a grimace on their face.

One of my girls pretended to try to to sneak them off of my desk and into the trash.

When I look at them they seem to mock me. “Think of all the things you haven’t taught yet.” 

I’m supposed to understand that testing is a part of academic life. So, I tell my students that they will be taking tests for much of their academic life, and it’s good to just get used to it. After I say that aloud, I can’t believe myself.  In a recent post on ditchthattexbook.com, Sir Ken Robinson says, “Don’t think someone is the system. You are the system,”

Cornelius Minor at TCRWP’s Saturday Reunion last week said, “Systems don’t change because we know about them. They change because we disrupt them. To not be a thing is to be complicit. You have to be anti-the thing.”  Now, Cornelius wanted us to look at systems in our classrooms that create unequal outcomes… he told us to look at our “Realm of influence, not our larger realm of concern. But, his point is still on my mind today. Standardized tests are in my realm of concern, but I’m not sure they are in my realm of influence. Or are they?

I tell my students, “You can do this. You’ve got this. You’ve learned so much this year!” and I look over at the pile of practice packets, and It mocks me. “Think of all the things you haven’t taught yet.” 

This week, I want to  dive deeper into the nonfiction work we have started. We have just started to scrape the surface of the idea of not believing everything we read. We are using Jennifer Serravallo’s strategy from The Reading Strategy Book, page 245:  Perspective, Position, Power. I don’t think we’ll have time for this important work though. We need to practice Text Dependent Analysis, and closely reading multiple choice questions.

I’m supposed to understand that standardized testing is part of academic life. But, my students are 11 and 12.

I’m supposed to understand how lucky we have it. And, we have it lucky. My district still has art, and music. We are encouraged to work towards big understandings, and test prep isn’t really this huge, mandated thing. It’s just me, wanting to give my students a little bit of a reminder and practice so they feel less stressed about the tests. But I’m not proud of myself when I do it. There are schools, I know, where test prep is all year. Where the time spent on preparing for the tests takes so much away from real learning. But just because I have it better, does that mean I have to be okay with it?

I’m supposed to concede that we need standardized tests. That it’s how we do things. Problem is, I don’t think we need these tests. I think there are better, more authentic, less costly (in money, time, and social justice) ways to assess learning.

I’m supposed to agree that we get good data, that we need the data. That it’s how we do things. Problem isI think there are better, more authentic, less costly kinds of data.

I’m supposed to keep my mouth shut. That’s how we do things. Problem is, I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut. I have a hard time with doing things just because that’s how we do things. 

Lucy Calkins asked us last Saturday, “What would you teach with just one (year/month/day) left?”

With just one year left, I’ll tell you what I wouldn’t teach. I wouldn’t spend even one minute on standardized tests.

 

 

 

#sol17 March 25 A slice of friendship

Slice of LIfe

 

 I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for bloggingwithstudentsall of March.  You should do it too!  Thank you, Two Writing Teachers! Readers, check out their site, and start slicing!

celebrate-image I’m also Celebrating today with Ruth Ayres!

Celebrating Friends*

so much depends
upon

friends with relaxed
traditions

wearing comfortable clothes
talking

sometimes tears, mostly
laughter.

* A La William Carlos Williams