#sol17 March 24 A slice of a love note. 

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!

 

Dear Students, 

My head is in my hands. It’s true. I can’t believe that some of you are having such a hard time not distracting yourself and others. You are bickering! Stealing silly objects from each other. It’s annoying, and the rest of the class is having a hard time concentrating. I am having a hard time concentrating and helping students. 

What do I need to do? I’ve already asked nicely, had a few heart to hearts, moved your seats, told everyone it is silent work time, and let you know that continuing will mean an office referral. 

“She’s actually mad.” I hear one of you say. 

And I realize that’s not really true. I’m not mad. 

The class is distracted for sure, but it is 15 minutes until the last class bell on a Friday. The atmosphere here is not heavy with defiance. It’s just odd. 

A few of you are still working, but most of you are watching your classmates who are acting up and me. You are wondering, I guess, what I wil do. 

“Her patience is running out, guys.” I hear someone say. 

This isn’t really true either. Although patience isn’t exactly my best quality.

Something strikes me in this moment where I am rubbing my eyebrows and trying to figure out what my next step is.

I realize that I really do love all of you. 

“I love you all,” I say, “And I’m so glad it’s Friday.” 

“You’re just saying that because it helps you get through the year with us.” One of you counters. 

“No. She does. I believe her.” Someone argues. 

“It’s true.” I say. And I look all around so you all know that I’m talking about you. 

“Would you risk your life for us?” You ask. 

“Yes.”

I know you know I love you. Yesterday when asked who an ally is, I heard you say “Students, teachers…especially Ms. Feinberg. ” 

I wrote that down on a little post it note. I’ll take it out later when I’m having a bad day. 

This is not a bad day. 

Now I look around, I smile at you, and ask you once again to get back to work. 

There are 14 more minutes of class left, and we have work to get done. 

Love,

Ms. Feinberg 
 

#sol17 March 23 A slice. I don’t know what to say.

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!

Oops. This is yesterday’s post… which posted as a page for some reason. Just trying to put it in the right spot. 

March 23. 

I don’t know what to say.
You probably don’t care that I’m currently making myself some decaf.
Or, that I plan on putting a little bit of vegan creamer in it.

I don’t know what to say.
It doesn’t seem to really matter that my demonstration notebook is broken.
My big sketchbook, where I keep my reading and writing work, a la Kate & Maggie.
Will I be able to fix it? Do I need to redo all those teaching charts?

I don’t know what to say.
Did you know? It’s the anniversary of my cat Billy’s death.
Facebook is good for reminding us of anniversaries.
Death anniversaries aren’t fun, and pet death anniversaries seem to just pass on by.
No one wants to read a depressing slice like that.

I don’t know what to say.
Should I mention that I made my class hold their compare contrast essay mentor texts up,
Look at them with adoration and sing “You’re the inspiration!”
And would you be interested to know that we wrote found poems about dung beetles,
In order to showcase our understanding of nonfiction?
Teaching is fun.

I don’t know what to say.
Next week I’ll start covering my bulletin boards to make sure
My students don’t cheat on the PSSAs by accidentally looking at something that reminds them of the work we’ve been doing this year.
But I’ve written about standardized test PSSAs before and although I’m feeling angry
about the system that puts data before kids, I’m not sure how to disrupt that system.
I wonder if Cornelius Minor wants to come help me figure that out.

I don’t know what to say.
 It’s late, but if I had more time I’d find the perfect article to use tomorrow in class.
 Today we talked about not having to believe everything you read.
 We talked about perspective.
 We talked about position.
 We talked about power.
 But we didn’t have a great article to practice with, so the lesson fell a little flat.
 Felt a little flat?

I don’t know what to say.
Maybe tomorrow I’ll have things to slice.
I don’t know what to say.

#sol17 March 22 A slice of A Kate Roberts TCRWP session

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!

 

Kate Roberts. If you’ve been to Teacher’s College, and you’ve seen her sessions, you know what I’m talking about. You don’t even need to read my slice, because you just know.

She’s our “must see.” On Friday night we start planning our sessions. We circle our first and second choices, and my friend Kris and I can be heard saying things like, “Well, as long as we see Kate Roberts.”

Today, facebook reminded me of the first time I met Kate. I wrote about my first TCRWP session here.

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How can you not go to a session called “Differentiating when you have a million students?” How can you not want to listen to a presenter who starts by reflecting, “How am I going to get my arms wrapped around these kids?” 

“How am I going to get my arms wrapped around these kids?” 

In teaching literacy, there are things I’ve wondered, and  things I know but don’t think about, or know but don’t know I know, or know and ignore… I can count on Kate to present about all of these and more. I leave her presentations shaking my head and saying, “of course!” to myself, and my friends. My friends, the ones who have to listen to me say “Well, Kate Roberts said…” over and over. (After the Summer Reading Institute, I trained myself to say, “At the Teacher’s College they had this idea…” just to stop myself from constantly saying “Well, Kate Roberts said…”) (Good friends usually give me a look and I admit, “Fine, it was Kate Roberts.)

Writing about  a Kate Roberts session feels a little weird. I can give you the soundbites:

“How can I set kids on a trajectory of learning that is matched to them and still meet the needs of the whole class?”  

“Accept that it is going to be a struggle. It will always be messy. Accept the mess.”

“Believe in differentiating? Keep your mini lessons short.”  AKA,  Just Shut Up!

But I don’t think that captures it quite like being there, watching her honesty.

When she suggested giving kids main missions (whole class work) and side missions (individual responsibilities) I just looked at Kris and raised my shoulders. “Duh!” Why have I been calling them “class goals” and “independent goals.” That’s not inspiring!

When she suggested having students color code their missions by using different color post-its or pens, I just couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of that. We use post its all the time. We color code so many things! Duh!

When she talked about giving the kids high fives, I reminded myself to be more encouraging. When she talked about her over the shoulder observation assessments, I made a note to myself to start doing those again. She showed a quick way to collect data: Draw a quadrant on a piece of paper, write the skills in each section, and record student names where they are ready to work. I have these notes from the summer. I’ve done this a handful of times, but it isn’t a habit. Yet.

When she told us to just do small groups — that doing a bad small group is better than doing no small group, I nodded my head: She’s right.

You leave Kate’s session ready to bring new life to your worksop.

Yesterday, I collected my students literary essay introductions. As I read them and commented on them, I wrote names on a little grid with headings like structure, missing theme, elaborate, and  too much information.  Last night, I created a micro-progression for introductory paragraphs. And then, I went to bed. Nothing I had worked on was perfect. But, it was past my bedtime.

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Kate said,”Embrace your mediocrity! The alternative is no differentiating.”

So, this morning during writing, I timed myself. I did my mini lesson with my micro-progression in less than 10 minutes. Then, I started calling groups over. I’m not saying these groups would have been full of great teaching to observe. I have no idea how much I helped my writers. But I did meet with them. I had a focus. I shared some strategies, I coached a little. I basically said “Here’s what you are ready for – here are some things to try.”

Is it hope I feel when I try just one or two things that Kate talks about?

I think it is. It’s a reminder that I can embrace the imperfection. It’s a reminder that I will keep growing, that there are always more things to learn. It feels like hope: Next lesson, next day, next week, next year… I’ll be a better teacher. 

Thanks, Kate!

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#sol17 March 20 A Slice of Mail Contrasts

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!

You haven’t been to school for a week, so you know you have to go to your mailbox. You tear yourself away from grading late work and walk down to the main office.

Some days your mailbox is empty, but not today! The book order catalogs are spilling out! There are two packs of papers from the print shop, and an interoffice envelope. You carefully balance the heap in your arms and walk back to your classroom on the other side of the building.

Once in your room, you put the book order magazines away for April, and open one of the envelopes. What you find makes you smile.

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What a gift to get this right after your inspirational weekend at Teacher’s College. You can’t wait to dig into this resource. Of course,  your first job will be to put your post-it note tabs in. You wonder what strategies in this book might help your students with their current literary essay work. Excited, you put the book in your schoolbag to take home.

Turning your sights on the packages from the print shop, you wonder what you might have ordered. As soon as you start to tear the plastic open you know. What a let down. Going from Teachers College inspiration to Jennifer Serravallo is natural and exciting. The voyage to PSSA test prep leaves more to be desired.

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Piling the practice Text Dependent Analysis  on the corner of your desk, you sigh. You know you want your students to be successful and not stressed out during the upcoming PSSAs. You know that testing is a genre you need to review.

But, blah blah blah to that!  You definitely know you wish you didn’t need to do this. It’s just not very inspirational!

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#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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#sol17 March 18 Six Word Slices of the Saturday Reunion

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!

#tcrwp series of 6 word memoirs!

(Even my title is six words!)

(Six word subtitle-on a roll!)

  • Feeling uninspired? Head to Teacher’s College.
  • Dudley’s lollipop stories broaden leadership definition.
  • Kate’s metaphors inspire, baby’s cute too.
  • DIY Maggie’s tools make teaching easier.
  • Absorb Mary’s knowledge! Ask what’s fascinating.
  • Cornelius! Aha! “Change doesn’t happen accidentally.”
  • Kate, Maggie, Mary, Cornelius! Rockstar day.
  • Inspired now. Teach. See potential. Love.

#sol17 March 17 A few slices of St. Patrick’s Day

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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In the car on the way home from picking up the big kids from school, the conversation turns to St. Patrick’s Day and leprechaun traps.

“I know you’re the leprechaun, Mommy.” H says, and I laugh.

“I’m not a leprechaun! I’m not that short! I don’t have red hair! I have no magic!”

L and H roll their eyes at me. “You always say that. We know you aren’t a leprechaun, or Santa, but you always say, ‘How could I have time to give presents out all over the world?'” L complains.

“We just mean it’s you who takes the gold and leaves us green candy.” H explains.

I just laugh. Then I ask them, “What would you do if you came downstairs, opened your trap and there was a tiny little mean spirited elf screaming at you and throwing magic spells your way? ‘ARGH!!!!! ACHHH!!!!'”

They look surprised and laugh.

“I think you are all the things. Except for Christmas. Christmas is real. It has to be. Also, I think leprechauns are real. Teacher Mary said she saw one” H tells me. L agrees.

Teacher Mary has retired, but her magic lives on!

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Later, I drop L off at her play rehearsal and run to Target.

I am on the hunt for something small and green or shiny. Something to leave just for fun. I am late for this errand, I know. A woman walks up next to me looking at the same leftover St. Patrick’s Day tchotchkes.

“I think those 4 leaf clover necklaces are all broken.” I tell her. She stares at them a little bit.

“I’m actually Irish,” she says, and I nod. I’m about to explain that I am part Irish when she continues, “Like, actually born in Ireland…We don’t do this there… This leprechaun trap thing.” She laughed. “But, my daughter came home from school saying, ‘Mommy! We have to set a trap for the leprechaun and he will come and leave us something tricky!’ So, here I am.”

We stare at the green headbands and four leaf clover socks together for a moment, before she walks away, saying ironically, “Well, good luck!”

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The kids are finally all asleep. My sub plans are done for tomorrow. I look at the traps that the boys have set. One is a cardboard drink holder, decorated with puffy paint and plastic gold coins, set precariously on top of the puffy paint containers. That’s the one I made with E. Rushing him a bit because, you know… bedtime! The other is the one that H made on his own. He filled a pot with water, floating some gold coins and duct taping others to the bottom of the pot.A piece of chalk keeps the pot’s lid on, ready to close. Before he went to bed, he explained that he didn’t want the leprechaun to drown. So, he left a lifesaver (mint, but with sharpied on stripes) and a short note.

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Years ago, I found the leprechaun trap idea online. It looked like a fun thing to try with the kids. I didn’t really realize I was starting a tradition that would last for so long. I know this isn’t what St. Patrick’s Day is really about. I know it’s a silly pinterest fad gone crazy. But, I’m okay with the little bit of March Magic.

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We didn’t catch any leprechaun’s last night. (Thank goodness… can you even imagine how scary that would be?) But, the kids did enjoy a few window gel rainbows, and just a couple of green candies for breakfast.

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#sol17 March 16 A slice of silence

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’ve been reflecting lately about time. What do you do with the time you have? What do you do with the silence? What choices do you make? This poem feels unfinished, but for some reason I like the shape of it on the screen. I’m sure it will look different on a mobile version, but it swoops in a way here on my screen… so I’m calling it done. For now. 

It is silent in my house.
E is still sleeping upstairs,
Finn is sleeping on the couch,
Mr. Thought is working downstairs.

I have a pile of should do’s.
I got my grading out: I graded one paper.
I’m looking at the basket of laundry: I’ll fold it later.
The dishwasher needs to be emptied, and filled: You get the picture.

It is silent in my house.
E is still sleeping upstairs,
Finn is sleeping on the couch,
Mr. Thought is working downstairs.

 

 

 

 

#sol17 March 15 A slice of mama worry

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!

 

All day a voice in the back of my head has told me that E is not feeling good enough to go to school tomorrow. Maybe it’s his puffy face, his slow walk, or his pink-is-it-a-rash? face. It could be how hard it has been to wake him up in the morning, how many times he stopped playing and just sat on the couch, almost napping. But, I think it’s mostly the way he has walked over to me more than a dozen times, put his head on my shoulder and said, “I  love you, Mama. I just want to snuggle you.” A few times he has been even more dramatic, mouthing “I love you, Mama” from across the room, or saying in a sweet voice, “I love you, Mama. I’ll love you until the day you die, and then even when you’re dead.” Seven year old boys, in my experience, are very specific and honest with their love.

So, after getting him to sleep, all cozy in my bed, I took another look at his sweet, puffy, red-cheeked face. I walked downstairs and I put in for a guest teacher tomorrow.

I feel guilty of course, another day of sub plans, another day away from my classroom… but sometimes a mama has to do what a mama has to do. And I think if you saw E today, you’d understand.