#SOL21- Kindergarten Has Become A Gamble

Tuesdays is the day for the Two Writing Teachers post.

It is the time of the school year that I reflect about what has gone well and what I want to change in the fall.

I feel like I have pivoted so many times it has been 3 years rolled into one. I changed teaching positions in January of 2020 and I haven’t had a “normal” school year since I moved to Wisconsin. What is normal anyway? Dealing with children is always a new adventure.

The last month makes me feel split. I teach some students in person and some online. On one of my walks the other day I was thinking about Dr. Richard Allington and his reading research and how I used to teach.

I met Dr Allington and had dinner with him one year at an International Reading Association conference. He is no nonsense and brilliant.

I had modified everything for virtual learning, including my writing instruction and kept feeling like something was missing. My students love writing time and are creative but I was skipping something.

I used to do something called Family Meeting. It was circle time and when I did calendar and all those snippets of standards you need to review every day in order for them to stick. We made patterns and tally marks, etc.

I also read the one of 4-6 read alouds for the day and then we would write a response to the book and I would focus on one skill. Students would then write their own version independently in their own notebooks. It worked well and the kids learned to experiment with writing.

Yesterday I added the group chart back and then had them write. It went smoothly and the feel of writing workshop was productive.

We used It Looked Like Spilt Milk and then wrote a story about what spilt blue paint would look like. Then they set off with their own colors. One had a spider that morphed into something else. Someone else had dancing butterflies.

I don’t have too many days left with the kids and I am trying to test in math and reading. There are some students that only show up on the in person days and some that randomly come to class no matter what mode we are in.

It is a gamble every morning.

I am looking forward to the summer and resting. I need to recharge for the fall. There is uncertainty as to what that is going to look like as no decisions, or discussion, is happening until next month in my corporation.

I will live my writing life this summer and go kayaking and ziplining and walk in the sun. I am going to Disney and celebrating my birthday next month and I am looking forward to it.

I am not certain what is in store for the fall, but I cannot control that right now and I do not have the energy to worry about it.

What are your summer plans?

I am teaching a Fabulous Flash Fiction class June 9-13! You won’t want to miss it. You can register here. Space is limited, so don’t wait! Spaces are filling up.

One Day MAYbe… #SOL21

Every Tuesday at Two Writing Teachers Blog teacher writers share a blog post and a slice of their life. We comment on at least 3 others after we post our own. I do this every Llama Tuesday and the entire month of March.

Yesterday was the first day of May with my students. For more years than I can count my tradition is to give the sentence stem: One day MAYbe…as the writing assignment. It does not matter what grade level I am working with that year. It is universal and always applies.

My students wrote with this prompt and we discussed if they would travel somewhere or what they wanted to be when they grew up. I had answers like becoming a doctor, a princess, a witch , becoming a Pinocchio carver, and going to DisneyWorld.

Teaching online and in person at the same time makes me feel inadequate some days. There is magic that is lost between the two. I am trying to bridge it. My students come to school til the middle of next month so I will keep trying.

How would you finish the sentence stem?

One day MAYbe…

I would love to hear in the comments.

Poem in Your Pocket Day #SOL21

Every Tuesday at Two Writing Teachers Blog teacher writers share a blog post and a slice of their life. We comment on at least 3 others after we post our own. I do this every Llama Tuesday and the entire month of March.

Poem in your Pocket day is Thursday this year. It is always a day I have handed out little poems. Many years ago [many schools ago] I handed out my favorite poem, “Secrets” by Naomi Shihab Nye. A friend sent me a picture weeks ago in response to my newsletter showing me she still had it.

With all the hustle this month I almost forgot. I have been writing and reading poems all month. I have been focused on poems because of all the posts and shared poetry but honestly poetry is a part of my writing practice. I learned a long time ago poems were a way to bring students to text who were reluctant. I think it is the white space!

Poem in Your Pocket day was initiated in New York.

I haven’t decided which poem to carry around this year. I have come to know so many amazing poets this year. Ada Limon, Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Naomi Shihab Nye, Jim Harrision, Ross Gay, Kaveh Akbar. Some were new to me and some I delved in deeper to their words and images.

I think I might use Ross Gay’s Thank You Poem. Or Ada Limon’s poem about planting and harvesting carrots, “I Remember the Carrots.”

I love that some poems are small, like an appetizer. The anticipation before a larger reading session. Something you can read and reflect on in the cracks of your day. Something to reread and find something new in each time.

I Remember the Carrots:

Will you join me in sharing a poem this year? Or carry one in your pocket?

I would love to know which one.

Look How High I’m Going! #SOL21

Swings and Sun – The Perfect Partnership on a Monday afternoon.

“The swing is tickling me!” – one of my kindergarten students exclaimed as she pumped her feet back and forth in the afternoon sun yesterday.

At first I thought she had said, “The sun is tickling me.”

The joy of being together – even masked – on the equipment is hard to describe.

After pushing another student for a few back and forths I realized what she meant.

I asked her,” Does the swinging make your tummy feel funny?”

YES! The recognition of someone understanding what she meant was priceless. She doesn’t know that is the same feeling as being on a rollercoaster….yet.

One of my favorite parts of kindergarten is how they chose their words to describe something. It is one of the many areas we can learn from them!

*********

Two opportunities are coming soon:

Fabulous Flash Fiction class – sign up for info here: https://mailchi.mp/d376163c35bc/fabulous-flash-fiction

What Do I Do With All These Freewrites?? course – sign up for info here: https://mailchi.mp/866f580e114c/freewrites

Two Truths and A Lie Tuesday #sol21 #day30

Two Truths and A Lie

Can you tell which is which?

  1. I can juggle and used to entertain at children’s parties.
  2. I have run races from 5K to 50 miles and won an ultramarathon.
  3. I hate left turns and will avoid them when I can.

Do you have a guess?

How is it Day 30 of the month and this challenge already? The months are once again whizzing by for me. I sorta enjoyed the slow living of the lockdown/pandemic year. Every day for the month of March I post on my blog and then comment on three other blogs at twowritingteachers.org.

Ten on Tuesday #sol21 #day23

A Ten on Tuesday List

This is a prompt I have given often to students in the past.

It lends itself to ideas for more writing later. You can give a topic or leave it open.

Here is my list for today:

10 Things I Have To Get From The Store

  1. Ice
  2. Blueberries
  3. Lettuce
  4. Mushrooms
  5. Garlic Herb Tenderloin
  6. tortilla shells
  7. DayQuill
  8. Sparkle wine in a can
  9. Eggs
  10. Trident

What list of ten would you make today?

Every day for the month of March I post on my blog and then comment on three other blogs at twowritingteachers.org.

Tuesday:Llama Delights #sol21 #day16

St Patrick's Day Llama" iPad Case & Skin by YamPuff | Redbubble

Tuesdays are all about delights!

Today one of my delights is Llama Tuesday! What is this strange reference to Tuesday you ask?

It isn’t the beginning of the week — it isn’t hump day — it isn’t Friday Eve- it’s just a normal ordinary “do what you need to do” day. I decided it needed something special to liven it up that was my own. People make up holidays all the time so why not me? This was the day Llama Tuesday was born.

Tuesdays used to be the day my favorite podcasts came out. There are still many that drop today that I love [MFA Writers, The Next Right Thing, LaVar Burton Reads…]

Llamas are a little ornery. They spit, they can be pretentious, and have a bit of an attitude. I think that Llamas and writers have a lot in common in these ways so I started to slip it onto the end of my blog posts. You might notice when I post for Slice of Life Tuesdays that I reference llamas.

I started posting a random “Happy Llama Tuesday” message in my regular writing community on Slack as well as the bottom of blog posts. At first, I didn’t offer any explanation. I just wanted to see if people would notice.

They noticed.

Now it is a regular practice and the tag line now is “Happy Llama Tuesday — Celebrate accordingly!” So you might celebrate by being a little sassy that day or bring a smile to someone’s face. It is not the customary greeting which can catch people off guard pleasantly.

The llama has popped up here and there. A friend tagged me in an Instagram post yesterday with a llama. I got llama notebooks for Christmas. A friend on a Zoom call pointed out her llama earring! FUN!

I wasn’t expecting the Llama to have such a lasting effect but I am glad she did!

I say to you — HAPPY LLAMA TUESDAY! Maybe you can greet someone else today and make them smile!

What delighted you today?

Is happening!

Sign up here to join in the fun!

#FMF A Love Letter to #Time

Dear Time,

I meant to write this letter yesterday, but I ran out of you. Our relationship is so complicated. You are a human design constraint, but hard to escape when my body craves the cycles of the moon and the seasons.

Not only are there boundaries of seconds, minutes and hours to lead me like a horse through my day but then there are rules about what you are allowed to do and when.

In the mornings, you are supposed to be on time to wherever you are scheduled to report and there are morning beverages on the approved list. There are things you are not supposed to eat or drink in the evenings either. I don’t tend to follow these rules, but they are there.

There is no changing of the to do list after a certain time in the day. You can skip lunch and scroll through Instagram but don’t leave the building early.

Yesterday, there wasn’t enough of you. I had talks by Cheryl Strayed, Ada Limon, Sabrina Ward Harrison, KK, Tony Robbins, and the Quench collective that felt like there were on all at once. I needed to be able to listen with both ears separately and reflect and write simultaneously.

I wanted to write my daily prompt, this letter, the senses writing program activity but had other obligations that put money in my bank account. I made notes in my journal all day, but it wasn’t the same. The time I wanted was a creative bubble that was only interrupted by coffee refills and walks.

You have played tricks on me all week. The work day went fast and then the evenings went slow but you know that you make me weary and the writing comes slow in the night. My energy seems tied to you and the numbers that represent.

Yesterday was a great day in spite of these issues. My morning boys were fun and formed a writing group suddenly giving feedback and chatting during writing time. Talking cats will bring that out.

Dinner was amazing too.

I still love you.

Love,

Tammy

End of Year Thoughts #SOL20

screen-shot-2017-03-14-at-1-30-42-pm15

Every week on Llama Tuesday I write a post and share it on the Two Writing Teachers blog.

Here are the rules:

WRITE a slice of life story on your own blog.
SHARE a link to your post in the comments section.
GIVE comments to at least three other SOLSC bloggers.

I have chosen to focus on the blessings of 2020 rather than the alternative.

Reframing is a skill I learned more about from Teach Like a Champion in education that I have applied in all areas of my life. During 2020 I trained with Tony Robbins and Karissa Kouchis and came back to the idea that my life happens for me and not to me. I have had this attitude most of my life but 2015-2019 were some rough years for me when I forgot.

Yes, there has been challenges and death in my life. I have learned to pivot even faster than I had in the past.

We are down to 3 days left in 2020. I have 3 more writing prompts to publish til the end of my #100writingpromptsproject. I have been joyously planning my next projects all this week on my walks.

2020 was the year of the pivot. I had to learn more about virtual teaching but had confidence going in. Most of my best friendships are with people I have never spent time with in real life. I know that strong relationships and learning can happen on Zoom because it was already part of my life. I also have participated in so many free or low cost writing classes over 2020 because of the generosity of teachers all over the world. Taking what I learn from these experiences and applied to my every day teaching makes me happier.

I learned from people around me. I went to Unleash the Power Within from Tony Robbins in July which was online for the first time. Tony Robbins at first didn’t think it was possible to do his events on Zoom but guess what? He figured it out. (He also built an incredible stage to run it from but that is another story.)

It is a whole different kind of exhaustion to be in front of a computer all day while teaching and attending meetings – this is a fact. It is also a reminder that we need to take care of ourselves. There are advantages to teaching online – my kids know their sight words better than any other year. They are more focused during lessons because they are watching me on the screen and they feel like I am talking right to them.

My word of the year came to me and I tried to ignore it for awhile but it persisted and won. My word for 2021 is PUSH. I have lots of plans (and secret plots) brewing already for the new year. There is a certain ceremony for the changing of the month and the year – especially in kindergarten! It is a fresh start and exciting.

There are a lot of things I am going to let go of this year. I have been hanging onto to them for so long and it is time.

I am also going to be open and allow things to come into my life. I have goals and intentions of course but sometimes things come into our life in a much different way than expected – and sometimes that is even better.

Building my own circle of people I associate consistently with is a focus of mine this year. I am always learning from life giving conversation and have to create these experiences in a different way now! I am beginning my PUSH groups on January 4th (which are FREE!). The first one is on journaling and if you would like to join in the fun and learn 3 ways I journal to better writing then please click here.

Everything I have learned has brought me to right here. It is a good place to be!

Tuesday Walking Thoughts #SOL20

screen-shot-2017-03-14-at-1-30-42-pm15

Every week on Llama Tuesday I write a blog post and share it on the Two Writing Teachers blog. Then I comment on at least 3 other posts.

Here are the rules:

WRITE a slice of life story on your own blog.
SHARE a link to your post in the comments section.
GIVE comments to at least three other SOLSC bloggers.

We are down to 9 days left in 2020. I have 9 more writing prompts to publish til the end of my #100writingpromptsproject. I can hardly believe it or how fun it has been!

One of the delights of winter break is that I can take my walks in the morning, which means sunshine. My body prefers to walk in the morning rather than after school. Today I walked 13 miles and was positively giddy about it.

I listened to the MFA Podcast which I love about writing (A new episode came out today.) I did a Tara Brach meditation. I made notes about writing.

But I also thought about my grandmother and some complicated feelings around her and current circumstances. Grief and lost things were on my mind too. It is always surprising to me when there is a domino effect of memory. One leads to the next like a “if you read this you’ll like this” list. Or a recommended list from the memory before. This ripple can send me into a spiral of not pleasant memories fast. A thought of a loss falls into another one and into another.

In addition to this memory parade, I have been dealing with other pain. Physical pain is not something I typically have to deal with even when I was a long distance runner. Lately, I start my walks with my muscles all balled up and it can take two miles before I feel my body relax.

On a different note, on my mind today was also a writing prompt that stuck with me about a desk and an egg metaphor. I reflected on the year and how I can use what I know to help others or save them time.

I learned about Chalene Johnson’s tradition of 10 envelopes. Her family writes letters and includes a monetary gift in an envelope and then hands them to strangers on an outing for the purpose of distribution. They hand the envelopes to people with the phrase: Here is a gift for you, Merry Christmas. In November in years past I have had students write anonymous letters to adults in the school thanking them for something specific. I have been the anonymous gift fairy. This 10 envelope idea intrigues me and I plan to make it my own.

I am thankful for the time and less obligations this week. I will continue to carve out time to read and write and simply rest.

Also, my flash story was published in Gone Lawn yesterday. Click here to read it. One of the most influential teachers was my orchestra director who taught me from 6th grade to 12th. This (mostly) true story was inspired by him and my love of music.

What are you thinking today?