It’s Monday. It’s summer. There is a laid back feeling even in the times of the Corona virus.
Yesterday was filled with writing, running, a coach session, and great conversations. It was also a reminder that I am too hard on myself and I am impatient.
One of the takeaways from my coaching session yesterday was that I light up when I talk about the workshops that I teach and the adventures with my kids. I will be sharing more about those two areas of my life in my newsletter and this blog in the coming weeks.
This week we are taking the kids canoeing on the Wisconsin River. We have tried to go before but have run into obstacles like a too high river in Indiana. Hopefully, no issues this time.
One of the best parts of the adventures with the kids are the crazy things they say that I write down. Every Christmas, we make a photo album of the year’s adventures. These are not always trips either. We play games and create things inside the house as well. The book is also filled with fun things everyone has said. Often you will hear someone say, “Put that in the notes!”
While in the car last week my youngest said randomly from the backseat, “It illegal to die in some places.” Which, of course, was met with, “WHAT?” In fact, this is true, and he learned it on YouTube. Someplace they were running out of graves and made it illegal to die, at least on the books. Then he called the graves, “grave houses.” This comment led to a discussion of how in New Orleans they bury people above ground.
If you do the prompt on your own, you are not allowed to look ahead!
Choose a verb that ends in -ing, then a body part, and an inanimate object.
Go ahead…I’ll wait. Now write them down before you read on!
Now, put your words into this sentence: After a long day of verbing, he/she discovered that his/her body part had grown insert inanimate object.
I had fun with mine and after a long day of transcribing my character had a mirror that had grown out of his arm. It led to a weird little story about being to infinitely able to see into illusions and dreams.
Welcome back to the weekend! It is the 4th of July weekend. For some reason, the 4th always brings back strong memories. I remember the year it was cold and we wore sweatshirts and jeans and were still freezing. I remember being very young and feeling the powder from the fireworks fall into my eyes. I remember the ones where I stayed inside and watched the fireworks through the picture window (Which I prefer). I remember the one where I lit my first roman candle.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you we finally got the boat here. It is such a relief and was such a long day. While we were coming through Illinois there was a rainstorm like I haven’t seen in years. It was so much water I am certain rainstorm isn’t even the word. The universe dumped buckets of water on us. I was thankful to get home after 8 hours.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you I spent one day dealing with paperwork and trying to get loose ends tied up. I hit some obstacles along the way but put a plan is in place. Now I have to wait for others to do their part.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you my Back to Zero program is right on track. I am fasting, logging my food, and exercising every day. I am seeing progress in myself and in the way my clothes fit.
If we were having coffee I would tell you the 100 day project is coming to an end soon. Sunday is day 90. I can hardly believe it. Now the real work begins with the next step. I will read the sentences in the order I wrote them out loud and then will hear what story emerges. Then I begin the work of chunking and changing the order to make a short story. My writing prep course is also ending on the 10th. Endings mean the opportunity for new beginnings.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you I had a dynamic conversation with a writing friend this week. I was so glad we made the time to chat. I think we learned some great information from each other and our friendship was strengthened after realizing even more how much we are aligned.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you I went to have a medium do a spirit guide reading on me. It was interesting and thought-provoking. There were a lot of general statements but a couple of the statements resonated me with and gave me chills.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you I finished Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid in less than 24 hours. It was such a good read and so well written!
If we were having coffee, I would tell you I visited a botanical garden which was beautiful. We saw a baby deer tiptoeing through the plants and nestle down in front of a tree. It was magical.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you I have BIG NEWS! I finally made the decision to publish my first short story collection. You can check that out here.
My superpower is teaching students to read. It doesn’t matter how old they are. I can hear nuances in their process and am able to fill in the cracks so they can make quick progress.
I also pay attention to what they are interested in and what they need.
When I was teaching first grade way back in 1996 I needed books for my kids with decodable and familiar text for them to practice with accuracy. There was no Teachers Pay Teacher or Pinterest back then. I had to find an easy solution.
That solution was using PowerPoint for bookmaking.
When I was a novice teacher, I took risks constantly with my students. I found the ideas that worked in my classroom were based on research I found later. Dr. Richard Allington and Marie Clay were huge influencers to me. I just continued using them because they worked.
I teach kindergarten now and even with the internet resources available, I still have the need to make books for my students.
I have given books to students and said, “I saw this and thought of you.” then watch as they read it whenever they can. I have also said, “I created this just for you.” It yields the same result: Reading.
I started teaching teachers my technique when I was nurtured by the Tech Trio. These were three technology education teachers employed by my first corporation. They also encouraged me to write a proposal to share my techniques at the Indiana Computer Educators conference. This conference would be the first of many I presented at over the course of my career.
The solution for me was to take a presentation program and turn it into a bookmaking program.
The design was simple. The text would be at the top of the page with a picture to help the student read.
The first book I needed was an environmental print book. The first day of class I have students read me the book. Then they get a sticker . I tell them someone asks them what the sticker is for they are to tell them they read a book!
The idea that my students are readers the first day solidifies this identity for them. There is no arguments. There are no limiting beliefs that they are too young. They just did what they thought was impossible.
We add to class books as the year goes on, highlighting the uniqueness of that class. One year we had to have a hot Cheeto page.
I created books with their spelling words, their sight words, the vocabulary words for the reading focus that week, favorite class words.
It created the environment for them to be authors. I didn’t have to tell them to do it, it was a regular practice. Soon they learned to make their own books.
PowerPoint and Google Slides allows you to print the pages so you can run it through the copier and staple into the books immediately. If you duplicate the page and print 2 to a page then you just have to cut them in half. There is no sorting that way and saves you tons of time.
Creating books contributed to my outcome of nurturing readers and writers. What a reading community it is!
In education, we talk about gaps all the time. The gap of learning where children start and where we want them to go based on standards and minimum requirements. Sometimes it is how we can enrich a child that has special potential.
We are always minding the gap.
Summer is the time for educators to examine the gaps within our own knowledge and experience and fill that to become a better instructor.
So I ask you today, what gap do you need to close for yourself professionally?
Over the course of the spring many of us had to close gaps in our knowledge arsenal quickly. I learned how to make Screencastify videos, how to be comfortable trying to teach through a screen, how to create and take a virtual field trip, how to engage students over a Zoom meeting, and how to make and manipulate a Bitmoji classroom.
I am always learning.
The dreams about school have already started for me. I dreamed I changed classrooms with a teacher I taught with several years ago. I was teaching intervention groups in the hallway. I was trying to order a calendar set and worried it wouldn’t come in on time.
Usually, the dreams don’t start until August but this was an unusual school year for me. Not only did I have to conquer the pandemic constraints to my job but I also changed jobs and states. This was the change I desired. The teaching from home and the ending of the school year was not my choice but as a kindergarten teacher, you have to be adaptable.
I have a professional book to read for school this summer. I am making lists in my passion planner of things I want to buy and do this year with my kindergartners. I have excitement to start the school year already.
I have a list of books I will try to find at the thrift shop for my classroom. I am looking at the activities and protocols I will teach the first week. I pay attention to my Pinterest feed and am making materials to use with my students. I am going to use Canva more to make certain items visually appealing. I have the time now and can play without the pressure of having to push it out immediately.
I am a risk-taker in my classroom. If an idea comes to the surface we try it and see what happens. I am open with the kids about this. I tell them – if we like it and it works we keep it. If not, we chuck it.
I will have a spot on my board for something interesting that day. It might be a quote, a picture to make them think, a question of the day, or a fun word for them to use.
I am going to do priming exercise with my kids every day to get them ready for learning. It is a combination of breathing and visualizations.
To keep me on my toes I have decided to write an article about education every week. This is easy to remember with Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life challenge.
One of the things I want to bring to my kids this year is delight. School is supposed to be fun. I have to figure out how to layout my room. Thinking through some of the activities I want to incorporate into the day will help with this task as well.
To close the gap, I will study and make sure to take notes. How will you?
I started choosing a word for the year several years ago. It works better for me to have this mantra rather than resolutions. I always have goals, but they are more specific to seven areas of my life including health, emotions, career, contribution, and wealth. A word is easier to come back to and keep in the forefront of my mind.
At the six month mark of the year, I like to revisit my list from January and check in with how my life is progressing.
More Time — I have had more time allowed to me or at least the illusion of it. January, February, and March were stressful and full of change before the pandemic even hit. During quarantine, I was able to do some projects. I transcribed some of my notebooks into the computer. I was able to write. I took advantage of the free classes and prompts that were offered by teachers I love and follow. I learned some interesting practices with my kindergarten team on how to conduct distance learning with 5-year-olds.
I was granted more time with my husband while teaching from home because of the sheltering in place this spring. This isn’t at all how I envisioned it to happen, but I was excited that the universe granted it to me anyway.
More Money — I changed jobs in January and am finally being paid what I am worth. I had used all the avenues I had for my former job and came to a dead-end every time. The sad reality was that I was never going to get the money that I desired, even though they were paying my colleagues upwards of $25,000 more than me for the same job. Changing jobs became my only option.
More Time Saying Yes to the Right Things — I have started to say no to things that do not align with my beliefs and values. This covers activities and people. From the outside, I suppose this seems harsh. Some relationships, I have tried to repair in an adult manner and have come to a dead end. I am taking Maya Angelou’s advice and recognizing that when people show me who they are, believe them the first time.
More Writing — I wasn’t sure this was possible, but I am writing every day and have several challenges going at the same time. Through the learning I have immersed myself in this year, my pieces are better and I am thankful. I was able to do my 100 rejections project and share some of my learnings from it as well.
More Fun — I am focusing on the positive and bringing more of it to my life simply by paying attention. When I feel joy and things are going well I revel in it! I enjoyed the time at home, time with my husband, time with my kids. I enjoyed the learning. I loved the time with friends and in classes online. I had fun with my students. In recent weeks, the family has been horseback riding, boating on the Wisconsin River, ziplining, playing games at home, and laughing.
More Walks — I have changed my exercise and health routine (I am on day 28 of my back to zero plan). Walks are a daily practice now — rain or shine.
More Sun and Moons — I have been out in the sun more and have the tan to prove it. I pay attention to the moon cycles and this has brought me joy and insight.
More Movies — With the sheltering in place, I have never been more thankful for streaming. Netflix and Amazon are our friends.
More of What Matters. This has been an area of hyperfocus for me. If an action does not align with my beliefs and values then I delete it. I have refocused my social media and communities with this in mind. The books I keep and the way I spend my time as well.
More Hikes Near Trees — This one is more difficult since I moved. My daily walking route has trees along the path, but there is mostly open space and hills. The hills are great for fitness and toning while you walk and run!
More Time to be Who I Am — I am in the middleof my coaching program and am coming back into my power. I am a force of nature and needed to stop pretending that I am not. I am a leader, but I get irritated when groups don’t go the way I would facilitate them. Recognizing these reactions, and then changing my actions has been helping.
More Words that Matter — I have been paying attention to the sentence level of my writing. My 100-day project has been helping with this considerably. My project is to write a random sentence every day for 100 days. At the end of the 100 days I will gather all the sentences, read them aloud to myself, and find the plot within. Then I will edit and revise the sentences into an amazing short story.
I also write every morning. There is a combination of Janning ( a combo of journaling and planning), fiction, and morning pages.
More of the Stories that Need to be Told — This one I am still struggling with. I use my tarot cards to get out of my own way to trick my brain to stop putting up walls. I am trying to write more of my wounds and what that has generated in my life. There is learning, loss, betrayal, and growth.
More Writing in Bed — My bed is my desk. Part of my morning routine is to write with my coffee. I do have a desk, but it is in the boys’ room. I need a better chair.
More Reading by the Fireplace — This one is more of a visualization, for now. I put the fireplace on my computer screen. I have no fireplace in the apartment. This is more when I move to my forever house. There will also be a small fireplace in my writing shed when I get there too!
More Connections with People who make me Grow and Feel Supported — This is one of the four main goals I am working on now. I am nurturing my female friendships and am being more intentional about them. I am reaching out to some writer friends to get to know them better. I am also looking for a real-life group of writers to meet with and made a power move to start a teacher group this fall.
Overall, I am living a life as close to my ideal life that I have since….EVER. I am thankful for the changes that I have made and continue to grow. I am excited to see where my word takes me for the rest of the year!!!
One of the ways I am striving to be a better human and teacher is to always be learning. Part of my self imposed curriculum this summer is the teachings of Tony Robbins. I am working with one of his Peak Performance Speakers, Karissa Kouchis.
One of the concepts Tony Robbins (TR) talks about is the 6 Human Needs. As I was listening to a workshop recording it occurred to me these apply in a special way to how I run my classroom in regards to my students.
Certainty or Comfort
All humans search for what they know for sure. Students are no different. This is why agendas work in classrooms and why some students are constantly asking what is next when you don’t tell them. When there is not enough certainty, students will react and try to create it on their own. This is not always pleasant. Students do not know sometimes why they are doing something – they are simply trying to get their needs met. This is another reason the culture of your classroom is so important for students to be comfortable.
Uncertainty or Variety
Now, these first two seem to be in conflict with each other since they are opposites. When we have too much certainty, then we get bored and start looking for adventure. This is also where students get in trouble. When they get too comfortable and there is not enough variety, they will create their own variety. Creating variety that is appealing to your students can go a long way in having everyone’s needs being met. This is why we change where we are sitting, encourage brain drainers and movement, we change groupings of students, and the way we share information.
Children need to be seen for who they are. They need to be worth attention and purpose. This is an important component of relationship and knowing who our students are. I am sure that I could ask any one of you reading this who is a teacher what certain students in your class like or dislike. You probably know the names of their dog, what foods they don’t like and who they were mad at last week. This is why greeting students at the door is important and also asking when student’s behavior changes.
How many times have we said relationships are the most important factor in a classroom? I am going to say it again – RELATIONSHIPS ARE IMPORTANT! It is a human need for everyone to have connection.
Contribution and Service
Knowledge and input is important but so is giving and doing for others. Random Acts of Kindness was an example TR brought up in one of the recordings. I have seen classroom and school projects that have encompassed this idea. Students need to be able to have opportunities to help others. This is sometimes learned through home or church, but it is our responsibility as teachers to provide opportunities as well.
We are always learning. Children are naturally curious. The main goal of students for achievement. As teachers, we want students to learn and achieve. We want them to reach the standards as a minimum and to learn to chase their curiosity. We provide them the tools for them to pursue learning on their own. I always want my students to be reading, writing, and problem-solving even when it isn’t assigned.
After some journaling and thinking about how this applied to me in the context of education, I concluded for my own needs of certainty and uncertainty it manifested as me transitioning from teaching to the coaching job. The uncertainty of the daily schedule and working with teachers counterbalanced the certainty of education and my knowledge. At the time I first transitioned, there was a whole new school and program to learn as well.
I can also see why EL education is so appealing to me. It covers all the human needs within their curriculum, including the service component. Giving to others is not a standard part of most ELA curriculums. I find the first two important with the balance. This is why I use EL protocols for students to share and learn from each other.
I am just at the beginnings of examining this list and all it will encompass for the fall but it is exciting to think about.
I would love to hear which one resonates with you the most. Are there needs you do a great job with your classroom already? Is there one that seems lacking?
My commute used to be two hours per day. (Now it is 10 minutes! That is an upgrade). I become reliant on podcasts to try to satisfy my insatiable quest for knowledge. It also seemed like a reasonable activity to pass the time with.
I struggle with audiobooks. There are few books I can tolerate the whole text on audio. I find this odd. I also have an internal fight with myself about whether audiobooks “count” as reading. I have seen the research that the brain doesn’t know the difference, but my reading mind has a different opinion.
The Overdrive app from the library is the way I choose to sample audiobooks. I keep trying. The one book I have listened to with success is The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern. If you have not read it, and you like magic and adventure I highly recommend it. The Starless Sea is also a treasure.
I made the connection that audiobooks and podcasts are simply me being read aloud to. Something that is a cornerstone of my classroom, and probably yours as well. There is nothing that inspires and sparks conversation and writing like a good piece of text.
There is an art to reading aloud. There is a pizazz that is needed. It should not be tortured or boring or “just something that needs to happen.” The magic of reading comes through your voice and expression and is a good read aloud. I think this is what I search for in a podcast as well. The voice matters.
Reading and writing are so connected aren’t they? I tell students all the time to please write how they talk because I do not want to read the same pice of writing from my class. Anything can be boring if you have to read it 20 times!
When I was a reading specialist I was honored to know a woman who would read aloud in a meeting and transport us into the book. She was a wise reading specialist and full of experience that I learned from every time I spoke with her.
Lester Laminack can also read aloud to me any time and I am transfixed! His book, Saturdays and Teacakes is a wonderful picture book memoir.
There is a quote that reading aloud should be like chocolate, not vitamins – or maybe I just made that up. Read alouds should be treats, and sometimes just done for fun. Yes, as teachers we are always looking for the craft lesson. Fun is a lesson too.
We cannot encourage reading for fun if we never model it.
I like to think that I listen to podcasts as a substitute for being read aloud to. It makes my heart happy and my soul too.
The magic of read aloud is a talent that many teachers possess and is key to exciting children to read. I hope that I continue to find audio books that are worth the time. Any suggestions in the comments are welcome!
This Spring, reading aloud looked different for my students. Many links to authors reading their books and Bitmoji classrooms with themed read alouds were used. I also read aloud on Screencastify which was a whole new experience. I never realized how many faces I make to emphasize the sentences!
However you read today may it be fun! You never know though – you might get inspired along the way.
If you need something new to listen to my podcast on Friday will be all about education. Pop on over to Soundcloud and take a listen. The Accidental Inspirationalist is always less than 10 minutes! Listen Here!
After my intial thoughts about priming in kindergarten there was a larger response than I anticpated.
After more thought I decided to make a script to try. This is a rough draft and after I try it with kids I am sure it will be revised. I am hoping this will give others an idea of what I am thinking.
I have done priming myself for 4 days and can tell you it is amazing. There are YouTube videos of Tony Robbins leading priming exercises if you wish to try some for yourself. I imagine it would be easier to do with the audio cues rather than trying to read it.
Good morning! Today we are going to start our day in a very special way. It is going to get our brains ready to learn and be at school. I bet it will even make our learning conversations that much stronger.
Everyone, please stand. Excellent. We are all going to take a deep breath in…hold it, hold it…now let it out. Good.
We are going to do that again but this time when you breathe in I want you to raise your arms like this: (model bringing arms straight up clapping hands at the top, over the head)
Then we are going to breathe out and bring our arms back down like this. (model for students)
Let’s do this three times.
Breathe in 1
Breathe in 2
Breathe in 3
Great – how do we feel?
The next part is I want you to think of a something you are thankful for. It could be something big or small. It could have been a hug from your mom this morning, your breakfast here at school being super tasty today, the last time you saw your Grandmother. It could be something that happened not long ago or something from a long time ago.
You can close your eyes if you want. I want you to think about that memory and pretend you are there all over again. Like a movie inside your brain. Try to see yourself. Feel what it was like in the place you are remembering. Remember what it feels like.
I see big smiles! The room already feels different, doesn’t it?
Take a deep breath in again – try to fill up your lungs with as much air as you can like you are filling a balloon inside your chest!
Ok, now I want you to think of a time you were really happy. Remember is just like when you did with the time you were thankful. It might have been a birthday, a party, going swimming, a hug from someone, your pets, whatever makes you happy!! Think about how you felt. Take yourself back to that moment! Oh the smiles are even bigger this time!
Ok, now we are going to think of a time you were proud of yourself. Now this would be something you did that someone in your family noticed you were doing and told you how happy they were with you. Maybe you cleaned up after your dog, or you helped your sister. Maybe you did a really great job at something and you were so happy with yourself. Think of that moment now.
[This one may be a little harder for 5-year-olds. I may add one of the memories at a time and not do them all at once over the course of a week. Showing some youtube videos covering emotions may be helpful as well.]
The last one, I want you to think of something you want to do in the future. Maybe it is get your mom a special present or you miss someone and want to see them. Maybe you want to make a goal in soccer or be able to do a cartwheel. Imagine yourself doing this thing you want.
All these happy feelings have made our classroom feel so wonderful! I want you to think about these positive feelings and then think of someone you love that we can send them to. We are going to imagine all these wonderful feelings like a blue light that is blasting out all over the school, the town or maybe even the whole world.
Ok, everyone open their eyes if you had them closed and then do a little stretch.
We are now ready for our day!
Please feel free to comment! I would love to hear your thoughts.
I have returned to what I know about decisions. When I make a decision, I do it. There is no compromise. My life has changed when I made the decision. Usually there is a plan that goes along with it to make sure there is action.
One example is I have decided to take my health back. One factor is to drink more water. I have decided to drink 64 oz of ice water daily. Most days it is more but I know if I drink 2 White Sox souvenir glasses worth I am good. I am not preferring to be more hydrated…I am doing it.
I want to live my life doing the things that light me up. Feeling good in my body is one of them.
Another way that I light up is when I can share the things that I am learning and that are important to me with my students.
One of the concepts I was introduced to this week is called Priming. It is just what it sounds like – you prime yourself for the day. Today is my second day of participating in a priming exercise and it is powerful. The first time I cried and I am not a crier. The emotions gripped me so fiercely it was the only way to let out the emotion.
As I was on my walk today it occurred to me I can do this with my class in the fall. I am going to incorporate a priming exercise in the fall with my kindergarteners. They are going to learn how to start their day with breathing, gratitude, happiness, pride, and projection.
I will solidify the plan for the fall but the skeleton pieces are as follows:
Deep breathing with body movements
Space for them to honor something they are thankful for
Space for them to bring them back to a moment they were happy
Space for them to learn what pride is and for them to be brought back to a moment they were proud of themselves
Space for them to think of something they want to see themselves doing in the future
If we start the day this way I can invite influence for my students to have the best day possible. We will all learn from each other.
I am so excited to have made this decision.
I am also excited to start using the EL Education Kindergarten curriculum with my students. I cannot wait to teach them protocols.