Category Archives: 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!”

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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!)

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! 

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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!”

 

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…

 

#sol17 March 19 A Slice of Celebrating Drew Dudley

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!

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I’m also Celebrating today with Ruth Ayres!

Dear Drew Dudley,

I didn’t raise my hand when you asked us who was comfortable calling themselves a leader. I guess this means that tomorrow is my “day one” of being more impactful. You told us yesterday that we should “treat every day  like it’s day one.” Impact.

You spoke with confidence and told us that you can have moments of leadership by impacting one person at a time. Tomorrow at least 50 people will walk into my classroom. I plan on recognizing their individual leadership, I plan on looking for lollipop moments in my classroom and my school. I think I will find these in small moments of love and kindness.

I will keep wondering about your question,  “Are you living a life that makes people who know you smile at the mention of your name?” I will keep hoping that there are people in this world who do smile when they hear my name. More importantly, I will celebrate the people who make me smile at the mention of their name.

Thank you for your important, inspiring, illuminating key note. Today, I am celebrating you! I am smiling at the mention of your name.

Warmly,

Ona

P.S. Here are my notes from your keynote:

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Winter Break Slice-A-Day Challenge #9

I’ve challenged my 6th graders to a Slice-A-Day during our winter break…I will attempt to keep up with the challenge as well!

celebrate-imageIt’s also the Celebrate Link Up at ruthayreswrites.com

It’s louder than I wish it were right now. I’m more tired than I’d like to be. I’m trying to motivate the family to go downtown for the New Year’s Eve festivities of ice sculptures and music… but I think they can see right through me to my homebody heart. I’d love to stay here, put on my PJ’s, watch a movie, finish my book… maybe play a game. As I write this, my youngest just came in and said hopefully, “So, we aren’t going to the ice sculpture thing? I don’t think we really should. Should I build one of my new legos? I want to bring my new birthday things up to my room.”

Today was E’s birthday. He shares his day with New Year’s Eve, and I’d rather celebrate him than a ball drop, a champagne toast, or a countdown.

 

We have celebrated all day. First we looked through pictures of him as a baby and later we had an afternoon with grandparents, cake and gifts.

In line at the restaurant for his birthday breakfast,  as I gave a quiet reminder to the boys to chill out, an older woman laughed a friendly laugh. “Enjoy them,” she said. Some parents like to complain about these older grandparent strangers telling them to “enjoy it.”

Not me. I smiled back at her. “I try. I know one day I’ll be sitting in my clean and quiet house…sobbing.”

Her and her husband nodded their heads, “You will.”

I don’t mind these conversations with strangers. I see them. I hear them. I know I will be that grandma one day. Considering my youngest is only 7 and I already lament that I can’t go back in time… I imagine that when I am 60 I will see families with young children and I will want to remind them… “Enjoy it.”

My house is louder than I’d like it to be. Messier too. I clean the counter 800 times a day, and I should vacuum that much as well. There are legos everywhere. My middle son insists on wearing his shoes from the time he wakes up around 6:00, until it’s bedtime. A dishwasher did not magically solve my dish problem. I can’t get laundry done fast enough. I don’t like chores. The bickering just about does me in sometimes… But sometimes you need to focus on the celebration. There are so many things to celebrate.

Today was my baby’s birthday.  I’m writing at the dining room table, and he is across the way building a lego. I’d love to be the kind of writer who can put these words down just right. I want you to see him sitting there in his 7 year old glory, reading lego directions. Emptying bags of legos onto a drafting table. (Dropping empty bags onto the carpet.) He’s concentrating, and having fun. This is joy to him: a new lego. His cheeks have lost a little of that baby puff, but they are still as kissable as ever. Every so often, he talks to me a little bit:

“And mommy, I’ll still have things to do tomorrow after I’m done building these! Because I’ll be playing them! It’s just as fun to play. But, if I had a choice, I’d rather build. I love the feeling of “Oh my gosh! I have a lego!”

When he is all grown up, I’ll look at him and remember him as a little boy. I hope I can picture him building a lego, with his still chubby cheeks. I hope I can bottle up the little boy snuggles. He’ll be a man, and I imagine he’ll brush away my motherly sad face as I tell him (once again) that he was just born yesterday.

Celebrating Mistakes

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So happy to Celebrate with Ruth Ayres this weekend! 

I've taught 6th grade more than a dozen times before
I just did the fuzzy math, subtracting 
maternity leaves
coaching leave
and my year in second grade 
That's over 500 kids
And thousands of mistakes

Like when I forced kids (well, their parents)
to make a model of a boat for homework
A boat.
For homework.  

And all the times I took away recess when kids needed
you know, 
a break. 
Recess.
When kids needed a break. 

I used to make all the kids
read the same books
and answer comprehension questions
to prove they read the assignment
and write vocabulary sentences
that let them pretend they were learning vocabulary. 
To prove
and pretend. 

So. 
Many.
Mistakes.

I have to celebrate these mistakes, 
because I have learned so much
in this lucky lucky job
that starts over every August. 

I have to celebrate these mistakes, 
because when I made them 
I was doing the best I could
at the time. 

I have to celebrate these mistakes, 
because now I know better
which means now I'm doing the best I can
at the time. 

Which logically means
I'm making more mistakes
to learn from. 

Celebrating Tr. R

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So happy to Celebrate with Ruth Ayres this weekend! 

Thank you, Teacher R

My kid is smart, he understands
thinks of others, helps at any need
He makes us laugh, he makes us proud
He might be just made to lead

and we love him

He doesn't do homework
is often late to school
reads below grade level
wants to make his own rules

and you love him

He engineers in art class
argues during games
speeds ahead when he should slow
and stops if the project is "lame"

and you understand him

He is righteous
thinks way outside any box
impulsively a perfectionist 
who talks, talks, talks, talks, talks

and you teach him

I want to add all sorts of words here
to show off your teacher value
"authentic, smart, kind, fair!
honest eyes, words always true"  

and he loves you

You "get him" and listen
show him how to get himself too
that it's okay to be different
and try things that are new

and he understands you

His future teachers have big shoes to fill
as they try to understand
who my child is, how to help him learn...
They better all be Teacher R fans

Thank you. 

A selfish Celebration

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This post is part of Ruth Ayres Celebrate Link up. Thanks, Ruth for this great opportunity to celebrate.

 

A selfish celebration. 

It’s April
and I’m not getting ready to proctor
state testing

I’m not
covering bulletin boards
reminding students that
testing days are different than normal day
and I won’t be able to help them
there will be no collaboration
no choice. 

I’m not whispering to kids that 
on testing days
I will seem mean, strict, stressed
but I will still love them. 

I don’t have a class. 
I’m not giving any speeches that
“This test 
doesn’t measure
your worth.”

I’m not reminding any 12-year-olds of all the work they’ve done
of how proud I am
of their 
daily
authentic
true
learning.

I’m not in charge of any students
I won’t be pacing my classroom
sending a not-so-subtle message: 
“I used to trust you, but today I’m not allowed to.” 

I haven’t had to roll my closed eyes
or take calming breaths
while listening to reminders to
cover posters
collect scrap paper
never open your computer
put up privacy screens
and a “testing in progress” sign.

I have this testing season “off.” 
No proctoring for me. 
That doesn’t mean I can 
be quiet.

To the teachers in the trenches:
It will be okay.
You have done so much.
Thank you. 

To the students:
It will be okay. 
You have learned so much.
I’m sorry the state is wasting your time.

To the state 
It. Is. Not. Okay.
Please spend your
money 
on something else 
Here are some ideas: 
books
more teachers
healthy food, clothing, shelter for those in need
art supplies, instruments, 
fill in the blank
Did I mention books?

Next year, I’ll be back in the classroom. 
I’ll follow the rules.
I always do. 
I’ll keep speaking out.
I always will. 

 

Celebrating Kindergarten

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This post is part of Ruth Ayres Celebrate Link up. Thanks, Ruth for this great opportunity to celebrate.

You are a new coach, trying to pop into as many classrooms as you can in between meetings and planning and other work. It’s amazing how much you learn popping into classrooms. You celebrate getting to work with so many amazing teachers every day.

You decide you need to pop into Kindergarten. You haven’t really been there yet, and it just seems like a good day to do a little pop in visit.

You walk into the first kindergarten with an open door.  Children play blocks and lincoln logs as they start their day.  (Every time kids get to play, you celebrate.)

You make plans with that teacher to stop by in a few minutes for reader’s workshop, and  walk across the hall to pop in to another kindergarten: Everyone is dancing! You didn’t want to intrude, so you hang back at the door until the teacher smiles and invites you in, “Ms. Thought, you can join our game!” So you celebrate and dance with the 6 year olds: you stop and start with the music, and  try to be as cool as these little dancers. You stay for a morning message, and calendar complete with a mystery shape game! And then  literacy workshop begins. You take in the beginning literacy signs all around, with words and letters, pictures and cues: all made with fun and creativity. You listen to energetic and clear directions (Kindergarten teachers know how explicit directions need to be!) Students will go on a hunt for animals around the room, and spell them on their recording sheet when they find them. But wait! Before they go, they have to make sure they won’t be cold. Their teacher shows them a bag “Reach in without looking, pull out a scarf!”

It’s hard, but you get up, thank the teacher and walk next door, telling yourself that you’ll just pop in there for a few minutes. Reading workshop is beginning and students are choosing their first work. You stroll around, check in on the iPads, listen in to the Words Their Way lesson, and then sit on the carpet to see what books the students are looking at from their new collection. A boy sidles up to you, and you ask if you can read with him. Looking through books together, you help him with some letters, read some pages, and notice when he starts to hold your hand.

When students gather between their workshop rounds again, he sits next to you, and a few other students do to. You decide to stay for one more round. Another boy comes up and asks you to come with him to the teacher station, so you ask the teacher. “Can I come hang out with you? This friend invited me…” and she smiles, nods and reminds you not to be fooled by those eyelashes! Too late. You sit and watch the kids excitedly spell pot, mud and map in “adult spelling.” with letter tiles. You tell them they are ‘spelling superstars!’ and that you are very impressed. Mr. Eyelashes says “Me? I’m a spelling superstar?” Oh yes. He is.

You celebrate these kindergarten superstars by staying for just a little longer. You read with kids, who flock to you: you’re fast friends now.  You read, you listen, you point out letters, and even try to pronounce all of the spanish words in one of the ABC books. The girl sitting with you finally says, “That’s okay- don’t worry about that one.” Your new friends sit next to you, put their arm around you, ask to sit in your lap, and ask for one more story. You partner read with one girl, and keep accidentally reading her pages. She reminds you to take her turn, and you both laugh.

You read about trains and teddy bears, dogs, coconut trees, fairy tale characters, and ABCs.  You celebrate the books and their kindness. As you get ready to finally say goodbye, you tell them, “Friends, thank you for making me feel so welcome in your classroom. I had such a great time reading some of your new books with you. You were so kind to me, and that meant a lot to me. Thank you. I can’t wait to come again.” You look around at all their genuine, sweet faces. Their teacher asks them, “How does that make you feel? Here?” and taps her heart. The kids look happy, some are tapping their heart and saying “It makes me feel happy!” So you celebrate with them and feel happy too. You start to get up and Mr. Eyelashes looks up at you, “I wish you were my mommy.”

You probably deserve a medal for not crying, and you go through the rest of your day with a smile, celebrating Kindergarten!

Celebrate Endings

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This post is part of Ruth Ayres Celebrate Link up. Thanks, Ruth for this great opportunity to celebrate.

Years ago, it was the last day of school and my intern started a compliment circle with our class. Each person would choose one other person to gift a compliment. I crossed my fingers that nobody would feel left out. A boy, I’ll call him Dave, raised his hand to go first. Dave had seemed to not care about school much all year. He sometimes gave a little attitude, and he struggled with getting his work done. I tried to hold him accountable, and I definitely felt that I wasn’t one of his favorite people. Dave looked over and said, “I choose Mrs. Thought.” and proceeded to tell me how I was his favorite teacher, and how much he appreciated me.

I believe I celebrated that by crying. Ends of school years have always been emotional for me. I am pretty sure I scared my second graders at the end of my first year of teaching. I sobbed as they left the classroom for their summer. I couldn’t believe the year was over, the kids were leaving — and I didn’t have a job lined up for the next year yet! The year before last I watched as more than half of my students started crying and hugging each other before the final bell rang. That time had very little to do with me — they were just that close. I’ll never forget the 6th grade girls and boys just breaking down because 6th grade was over! When things end, I think it’s easier to appreciate what you had. I often think of it as the summer camp phenomenon, and I see it play out in June each year: This ride we’ve been on together is over, we will never be able to replicate it, and man that was a fun and crazy time!

This year, I got my June day in January. Friday was my last day with my students as their teacher. (Monday I start as an instructional coach for the rest of the year.)

After telling my classes and their parents about the upcoming change, we had a mini June at school. Everyone suddenly loved me! And, the feeling was definitely mutual. I have loved my classes all year – that’s no lie. But looking at them through the eyes of someone about to leave. . . I should have just played dramatic movie soundtracks in the background for the last few weeks; everything they said was so important and meaningful. As they shared the books they were reading I had to hush an inner voice shouting at me, “Stay! Abort mission! Don’t leave these amazing people!” But, as one of the parents told me in an email: Opportunity knocks at complicated times. I’m so excited about my new opportunity, much to celebrate in that as well! But this week was about saying goodbye.

 

I’m trying to live in the present — never have been one for filming things instead of just living them. However, I wish I had a camera rolling  Friday during 8th period. If you’ve never had a 6th grade boy tell you with all his heart that what you’ve done means so much, if you’ve never had one hug you and tell you he loves you and that things won’t be the same without you… If you have never had a gaggle of 11 year old girls tell you that they will miss you, that the new teacher will “always be number 2, Mrs. Thought!…” I don’t know if you can understand. If you haven’t had a student play some sort of sad classical piece on his chromebook and march it towards your desk, if you haven’t had a kid run to the bathroom crying because you’re leaving… I’m not sure I can explain it to you.

Of course, I’m not celebrating that these kids are sad — I know their emotions are true right now. I also know that they will be okay. Their new teacher is passionate, excited and ready for the challenge that is 6th grade. They will love her, and I will still be around in the building. It’s all good.