All posts by onathought

Fueled by Love

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

I want to celebrate one of my kids today. One of my wonderful children is a little extra unique. He’s smart, creative, comical, helpful, talented, a struggling reader, fidgety, a nonconformist, sensitive and loud. If you haven’t met him, watching this will give you a good idea of him. (If you’re his parent, watching it might make you cry and hope.)

The other day I overheard someone else use the word tricky to describe him. They hadn’t met him yet, but it was my fault because sometimes I have labeled him “tricky” in order to try to describe him to others. But I think I’ve been using the wrong word. It’s not that he’s never mischievous… it’s just that that isn’t what I mean by tricky. The nuance of what I mean is lost in the translation from my brain to others’ ears. I mean unique. I mean not interested in the status quo. I mean challenges you to be a better person.  I mean sensitive but not quiet. 

The other day, Mr. Thought and I were talking about how to make sure our son starts off his new school on the right foot.

“He’s not tricky.” Mr. Thought said. “Well, sometimes he is, but that’s not the point.”

We both thought for a moment. “He’s just fueled by love.” My husband explained, “He needs to know he’s loved.”

I don’t usually speak in hashtags, but come on. This is #truth.

So, I have a new way to talk about my amazing kid. He is fueled by love. He deserves it.

And I think I have new way to talk about all kids, right? Who isn’t fueled by love? Who doesn’t deserve it? What does it mean? It means give every kid the benefit of the doubt, set kind limits, give second chances, again and again. Take a deep breath, let it go. Don’t make compliance your learning goal. Look around at your students and get to know them. Please. They are fueled by love.

 

 

A slice at the Grocery Store

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

 

There’s only one register open at Wegmans, and it’s a little bit slow. E and I can handle it though, and while we wait, a pregnant mother of 3 kids pulls her cart behind me. Her toddler keeps throwing things on the floor. So, when it’s my turn to put groceries on the belt, I ask her if she wants to go in front of me.

“No, that’s okay. They need to learn to be patient.”

“Are you sure?” I ask, “I only brought one of my kids with me today, so you are welcome to go first.”

“Nope, I’m kinda hoping they open another register. Usually they open registers when there are lines.”

The cashier rings up my groceries, and the woman has to start loading hers.

“Can you get those things on the bottom? No the bottom. The very bottom of the cart.” She explains to her kids. “Grab the milk from your sister before she drops it.”

I’m pulled out of my noticing by the cashier complaining about the line. She needs a price check for one of my items, so now she is the only cashier and her lamp is blinking. Another worker walks by, and my cashier yells after her.

“Is anyone going to help me?”

The woman walks away, saying “I’m going to accounting.”

“It would be great if you said something.” the cashier tells me. “That will make them listen. This is crazy. I’m all by myself.”

I nod. “It really puts the pressure on you.”

“That’s true.” she says to me, and then turns her head towards customer service, calling out the name of her manager. “I could use some help!”

Her voice is stressed, and snippy. The manager looks up, takes a deep breath and says “I’m with a customer. And then I can help you.”

The cashier grumbles to me some more, and I don’t really know what to say, so I just tell her that it must be so hard. The manager walks over, a smile on her face, asking what she can do to help me.

“I’m the only one on register.” the cashier says as the manager walks away, looking for the price we need. When she gets back, she asks the cashier if the item got on my order.

“I have no idea. I’m the only one on register. Can someone please come help over here?”

The manager checks that the item is now on my order, turns to the cashier and talks in a very patient voice, “More people are coming on. It will be okay.” She walks away.

“I hope your day gets better.” I tell the cashier as I walk away. E looks at me, eyes wide and rolling a little. It’s the look he gives me when we witness something a little odd. So, we talk a little about how hard it must be to be the only cashier, and how hard it must be to be the manager trying to get other people on the registers.  In my head I think about how patient the manager was, and how stressed out the cashier was. I wonder if this was supposed to teach me something. Is it ironic that the manager was all smiles to me, and on the patronizing side of patient with her employee? I don’t know. But, I noticed.

E reads this over my shoulder. “That’s sad” he says, and then, “Why are you writing about Wegmans? Write about something else.”

 

 

A Slice of just stopping by

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

I was just stopping by, a quick summer visit. Camp was in session. I am not a part of the camp. I was just stopping by. A quick meeting or two.

A boy was wandering the hallway, with a look a teacher can spot from a mile, or at least a hallway or two away. It’s the look of “Maybe I’m doing something I’m not supposed to be doing, but I’m a little lost, I don’t really know. Am I in trouble? I don’t want to be in trouble, and I don’t want to go where I’m supposed to be or do what I’m supposed to do.”

I’m just stopping by. I’m just here for a couple of meetings. I’m not involved. 

A camp counselor came out of a door at the other side of the hallway, and she called out “Mark! Mark! Where are you going?” (Names have been changed, of course.) He said nothing, just wandered further away, closer to the outside doors.

“Get back here, Mark! Where’s your counselor? Where are you supposed to be? Upstairs? Come here. You need to find your teacher. Does she know you are here? You have to come here.”  She kept repeating these kinds of statements, then said something I couldn’t understand, and walked back into her room for a moment.

Mark just kept walking, almost out the door.

I’m just stopping by. I’m just here for a couple of meetings. I’m not involved. 

“I don’t think you’re supposed to leave.” I said, and then I called out, “Is he supposed to go out here?” (Sometimes we have to ask obvious questions…)

“No! Are you with him?” the counselor asked me, and I started to wonder… who is with this boy?

I’m just stopping by. I’m just here for a couple of meetings. I’m not involved. 

Mark walked back, as the counselor walked away and up the stairs. I watched him, but he didn’t follow. He walked slowly towards the outside doors down the other hallway. I easily caught up to him.

“Hi.” I introduced myself. “I’m Mrs. Thought. Is there something I can help you with? I’m a teacher, and it looks like you might need some help.”

“I lost my lunchbox.” he sniffed. “I left it outside, but I don’t know which door it was.”

I’m just stopping by. I’m just here for a couple of meetings. I’m not involved. 

We talked a bit, and as I was convincing him to not go outside until he found his counselor, another woman rounded the corner.

“Mark! You can’t just leave like that! You have to stay with me.”

I’m just stopping by. I’m just here for a couple of meetings. I’m not involved. 

“He thinks he lost his lunchbox outside.” I explained.

She looked at me and shook her head, mouthing, “He didn’t lose his lunchbox.” in a way that meant, “This isn’t about a lunchbox. Don’t believe everything this kid tells you.”

I’m just stopping by. I’m just here for a couple of meetings. I’m not involved. 

She walked away with Mark, and I heard her softly say, “Do you want me to go outside with you to look for your lunchbox?”

I’m just stopping by. I’m just here for a couple of meetings. I’m not involved. 

His camp counselors have it covered…

But wow, I would really like to know the rest of this story, the rest of his story, and if there was a lunchbox out on the playground.

Some Celebrations, big and small #HashTagsIncluded

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

Some Celebrations, big and small

Right now I am celebrating:

Listening: My dog drops the shoes he steals now, without chewing them up first. Usually.  #HeStillRunsAway

Remodelling: The family room rug – the one that same dog chewed up – is gone. Hardwood floors are in! #NowWeHaveToPaint

Learning: Spending time with my coaching team — getting to know them, getting excited to work with them. #LuckyMe

Replacing:  Our 17 year old car is off to the highway in the sky, and we have a lovely used prius now…45 mpg. #Good4Planet

Listing: Somehow this list is patterned L-R-L-R… and patterns are something to celebrate and extend… #PatternNerd

Reading: Audiobooks on walks, young adult books on my deck, professional development books in between. #NeedMoreShelves

Lingering: I pause when I can, summer is short…I want to soak up the sun and time with my babies. #It’sAlmostAugust

Restarting: My kids and I will all be in new schools this school year… we are all nervous, but so excited! #BlankSlate

Looking: I’m trying to look at things and take them in, notice the good. #There’sSoMuchGood

(W)riting: I need to do it even more… but #IamWriting

A slice of getting ready

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

Every time I go to target, I find myself looking at the dollar spot. I look at the cute wooden signs, and the fun mini clips.

“I don’t need any of these things!” I whine to my kids. (Which, Mr. Thought would argue is what I should always say when I think I should get something for my classroom.)

Summer is a weird time for a classroom teacher with no classroom of her own.

Every time I read a blog, a school idea floats through my brain, or I see a great deal on colorful pens, I pause. I wonder a little about my choice to take a break from the classroom and move to an instructional coaching role for awhile.

Seems silly, for sure — that a few mini clothespins with cute pencil tops could make me question my life choices — but I think it speaks to my love of creating a home for my students and me. My mom might raise her eyebrows here — she knows I have a deep love for office supplies that lives alongside my altruistic teaching heart. However, I think my school “nesting” each year is a way for me to ready my brain and my heart for a new year.  The Reggio Emilia approach to education tells us that the environment is the third teacher, so I try for a bright, organized, calm and inspiring space in hopes that it will help students learn and work. (Considering how hard it is for me to concentrate on writing this right now, on the tiny space I’ve carved for myself on my dining room table in the middle of the mess of a new floor installation … I tend to think the environment really does matter!)

Lucky for me, almost every time I’m at Target, I bump into a teacher I get to work with for the next few years! Usually it is one teacher in particular, but I’ve bumped into several. So, even though I might stare longingly at the book bin labels, a few minutes later I will be reminded of how cool this job is! These teachers are amazing!

When it’s almost August, and my teaching year is on the horizon, I like to think about the 50 kids I’ll be spending the year with. I look at the class list, and make conferring forms and checklists. The promise of a blank-slate-school-year always feels exciting. So, I reorganize my classroom library, and get ready for back-to-school night.

But, now it is almost August, and it’s my coaching year on the horizon. So I’m thinking about the teachers I get to spend the year with – the creative, hard working, smart, kind, welcoming, kid-loving teachers! And guess what? Each of those teachers spends their day with 25 kids or so… so the reality is, I get to spend my year with about 35 teachers, and about 875 kids. How lucky can you get?

 

So I’m readying my brain and my heart in a new way. I’m helping a friend set up her classroom – it’s getting those organizing and setting up needs out of my system.  I’m reading a lot of resources, and focusing myself on learning across a breadth of grade levels, I’m working on curriculum writing teams, getting to know the curriculum, and the teachers. I’m turning my brain into my classroom, I guess! (Hey, the analogy works, until you realize that my brain doesn’t have any cute paper clips.)

…I may have also bought some cute ABC and ruler ribbon from Target, just in case I need to wrap up a little mini “Back-To-School” treat for teachers. I couldn’t help myself.

A slice of a summer night.

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

 

Summer nights come suddenly. I’m just relaxing into the evening with kids, and then BAM! It’s 10:00, and I’ve failed at bedtime — again.

A bad headache equaled a late dinner tonight which made a late bedtime inevitable, so I decided not to care. We sat on the deck, as the light faded, and I just chatted with the kids:  Chairs pulled close together, legs resting on laps.

I wanted to see the stars come out, but the clouds were in the way. One big cloud, actually. So, I closed my eyes,  pretended my headache was gone, and just listened. We talked about makeup that L wants to try, “just for fun,” and the sphynx documentary the boys had watched earlier, and the smoothie E had just made, “even better than my smoothie from yesterday because instead of two ice cubes, this time I added two extra pieces of frozen mango.”

While we chatted and the wind stirred up, the magic wasn’t lost on me. In the back of my head I was noticing that this… this is what they mean when people tell me I’ll miss these days.

 

Celebrating friends

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

Writing Celebrations,
like expressing gratitude —
what you focus on grows
Something to celebrate.
Friends visit, you haven’t seen them for years
But the laughter is there the moment they arrive,
just like the moment you met in high school
Laughter while studying
Social Studies
Or was it Latin?
Hours of laughing
and exaggerated tales
just the right amount of sarcasm
(maybe a little too much for anyone else listening)
Too many weekend ice creams for the kids
– Sorbets for you!
– Wine for you!
– Late nights of laughing for you!
Isn’t it lucky to have a golden friend?
— Or is it silver?
A friend who knew you
when
and now
a sleepover friend
a roommate friend
a laughing friend
a crying friend
a thanks for travelling friend,
a friend, now a mom
a laughing friend
a rolling eyes friend
a raising eyebrows friend
a sit around after the kids are asleep even though we are all too tired friend…
Isn’t it nice?
Something to celebrate.

Celebrate change (again)

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

I’ve celebrated this before! This week, I accepted the opportunity to leave my classroom for a few years and coach again. 6 months of coaching last year was a great taste, and I’m excited to do it again, for “real” this time! I loved my work with teachers and students last year as a coach. I can only imagine how amazing it will be to build those relationships and learn more about how to best support the work and growth of teachers and students. I’m looking forward to the challenge!

And, it’s still hard to leave my classroom, and my (amazing!) team.

When I told my class that I wouldn’t be back in my room for the next few years, they were more upset than I had predicted.

“What does a coach do?” They asked and then quickly added, “Where will your classroom be?”

“I won’t have a classroom.” I told them.

“What? Where will you put all of this pinteresty stuff?”

“My garage.” I shrugged, imagining the current state of my garage disaster, wondering how on earth all this stuff will fit.

“Oh!” a student shouted. “Set it all up! We will just go there for school.”

I’ll stay! I should stay! I’ll just be your teacher forever! 

Later, another student looked at me with confusion. “You’re going to take down all the stuff from the walls?”

“Yes.”

“All of it? The walls will just be plain? White?”

“Well, mostly. Gray I guess.” I nodded.

“But this is my favorite classroom! You can come in here and just feel peaceful.”

I’ll stay! I should stay! I’ll just be your teacher forever! 

“I’ll always remember you for you reading Rain Reign, and making us sob, and for your beautiful classroom.” One of my students told me. Another one piped up, “I’ll always remember you for being a good teacher.”

I’ll stay! I should stay! I’ll just be your teacher forever! 

Earlier I had told my team that I was leaving, and they were happy-mad. “I’m happy for you! You’re going to be an awesome” they each said, but their eyes did just a little bit of “I can’t believe you’re leaving us.”

I’ll stay! I should stay! I’ll just be your teammate forever! 

After school this week I started to pack my room. June is always about cleaning my room… but it’s different to pack up all my personal things because I won’t be back for 3 -5 years. I didn’t realize how much of my classroom library I have personally collected. Wow. Crates of books are ready to lug to my van. And the baskets. Oh the baskets. People always make fun of me for my baskets (and borrow them!) but really, I do have a lot of baskets.

I’m not going to lie. It’s a ton of work. This week I told Mr. Thought more than once, “I don’t think I can do it! I can’t pack up this room by the 16th! It’s too much work!”

IMG_7036

I’ll stay! I should stay! I’ll just live in this classroom forever! 

Change is hard, transitions are hard. Saying goodbye, or even see you later is hard. Packing up a classroom is hard. Starting a new job is hard. Filling the shoes of the coaches that are leaving is more than hard. All in all, though, it is a thing to celebrate.

On Friday I had the chance to go to the schools I will be working in. One of the schools is new to me, and the other is one I worked in last year during my 6 month coaching stint.

Friday morning, I got to do math with a third grade class. I watched a master coach and master teacher. I talked about math with kids!  I met teachers I haven’t met before, and got “Welcome back home!” hugs from others.

These are lovely, amazing people I’ll get to learn with, and that is something to celebrate.

I have so much to learn, and that is something to celebrate.

I get to (try to!) rise to a new challenge, and that is something to celebrate.

I am so excited, and that is something to celebrate!

(My boys want to go to my classroom with me this morning to help me clean and pack, and that is also something to celebrate!)

So, here’s to change! (Again!)

A (flashback) slice of “bullying”

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

A flashback slice! 

What do you remember about 7th and 8th grade? I’m closing my eyes and I can see the hallways of my Junior High School. I can glimpse a classroom or two. I remember my Social Studies teacher giving detentions to people who said “Shut up.” I remember that Latin was all the way down the hall, on the second floor, I think. I remember my math teacher slamming a ruler on a desk and screaming “Divided BY!” I vaguely remember display cases across from a water fountain. I remember the cafeteria, and the “lunch ladies” getting so mad if you went to the bathroom instead of outside for recess.  And I remember just a few of the kids.

I don’t remember all of their names, and I barely remember their faces. But, there were these girls who decided they didn’t like me. I mean, there were plenty of people who weren’t especially nice to me… but these girls seemed to have it in for me! Snide remarks, sarcasm, a constant stream of jokes at my expense, and (maybe worst of all) a fake friendliness in between every insult.

 

There was that time I accidentally put my chair leg on the sleeve of a leather jacket. That girl looked at me, lips curled up, eyebrows furrowed. I don’t remember her name, I don’t remember her face, but I remember that expression. I remember how mad she was.

There was that time they made fun of me for not wearing a bra. I think I went shopping for one that weekend.

There was that time they cornered me, accusing me of stealing a tube of bubble gum and a dollar from their gym locker. I had no idea what they were talking about. Somehow we were in the stairwell, 3 of them, blocking the door, in front of 1 of me.

This was 1990. Was that really almost 30 years ago? I don’t remember much, if anything, academic from 7th or 8th grade, but I do remember how mean these girls were!

So, this was bullying, right? I’m supposed to tell you that I was targeted, a victim. I’m supposed to call these girls bullies. My parents were supposed to have demanded consequences.

Fine, I was targeted. They were mean. I don’t know what happened to them at school. I don’t know what happened to them in life. I don’t know if they still think I stole that tube of gum, that dollar. I don’t know what they remember: the stairwell, or what they learned in Social Studies class?

I won’t call them bullies though. I will hope that they are all doing fine in life, happy and healthy.

I’m doing a lot of thinking about bullying… This piece in Teaching Tolerance has a powerful perspective. 

 

 

 

Celebrating the Mess

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

It’s “Muppet” time in my classroom. Several years ago, my intern and I came up with this project as a way to honor Jim Henson, who she researched for one of her classes. I’ve done the project with each of my classes since then, even though I always try to convince myself to skip a year. The mess! The time! The money! The begging parents to send in supplies and help! The mess! The research! The script-writing and revising! The performance! The microphone technical difficulties! The mess! 

IMG_6690
Just part of the mess. . . 

Yesterday, I walked around helping students thread needles, pin pieces, and attach arms. And, I listened. I tried to collect the reasons why I do this project. There they were, the gems that came from my students’ mouths. Some of them were easy to spot, the students who exclaimed, unbidden, “This is the best project ever!”  Then there were the quieter students. I asked one girl how she thought the project was going. She kept sewing, eyes on her careful stitches and said, “Great. I think this is my favorite project of the whole year.”

Other gems are hidden, hard to capture: the kid looking at his puppet’s face for the first time, after turning it rightside out;  the boys helping each other stitch the mouthplate on; the girls teaching each other hot gluing techniques; the classmates holding each others’ pieces to help with placement; the students who finish a step and then help others;  the students persevering through resewing pieces that were placed incorrectly, and the thread that gets cut too short… There are too many of these moments to count. But, the magic is there during our “Muppet Madness.” The parent volunteers see it too, through the crazy loud mess. They smile and shake their heads with wonder as these 6th graders work through the challenges of creating and they say, “What a great project!”

At the end of the day, I finally sat down. There were just 10 students in my room, not in choir or other activities: 7 boys, 3 girls. They had chosen to work on their muppets, and I watched and listened, and started typing what they were saying. As I listened, I heard students engaged in their project, and having fun with their peers. It sounded like learning, and it felt like camaraderie:

“I wish making puppets was more like photoshop.”
“This is the best project ever!” 
“Wait. I know how to do this. Don’t question me. “
“Who has the scissors that really help cut?”  
“This is going to have giant eyebrows. Giant blue eyebrows.” 
“I need some glitter.” 

“Hashtag glitter!”
“We should all do our own little muppet show.” 

“That is what we are doing.”
“No, I mean,  a muppet movie. Each of us.”
“Who took my scissors?” 
“You shall not pass!” 
“Pins. I need pins.” 
“Is this a sharpener?
“I’ve got glue.” 
“So, how do you control arms with no hinges?”
“You don’t. You use little sticks like this.” 
“There you go. This looks nice. A nice little fabulous shirt!” 
“I laugh when I’m nervous.” 
“I bite my nails when I’m nervous.” 
“Is there glitter anywhere?”
“I sewed one side of my pirate hat. It is going to be beautiful.” 
“Ms. Feinberg? do you like it?”
“Ms. Feinberg, where can I find glitter? My shirt is pretty. “
“Huh!!!! No Glitter?”
“See these stitches on the side of my body?? Those are battle scars!”
“You have to sew through all 4 layers.” 
“Ms. Feinberg, I never realized how hard it would be to cut out fabric letters.”
“Here’s ‘Tinkerbell’ fabric.”
“Ms. Feinberg, this was so cool — I mean watching it go from fabric to a muppet!”