Reading is My Binky

Reading is my comfort and much more than a hobby. It is part of an innate coping mechanism I seem to possess. As a runner training for a marathon or ultra you run many daily miles for months. When it comes to tapering before the race many runners get cranky, myself included. You get twitchy from so much time and less miles. You feel like you are someone else you don’t like. You have a an itch that has no scratch. Reading is my universal itch scratcher. When I don’t read, much like when I don’t run, I get twitchy and irritable. It is my automatic activity for pleasure, information, general happiness, and escape.

In college I took the most classes I could every semester except for one. That semester was remarkable and memorable to me because I a class was dropped at the last minute, and I decided to just let the universe guide my schedule and take the break of less hours. I realized quickly I had way too much time on my hands that was usually slated for studying and dictated by professors’ syllabus so I went to the library. I loved the library at my college and found the new releases shelf that semester. I had no idea it even existed before then. I read almost everything on the shelf. I wish I had the record. I remember reading a book about how Starbucks was started and how it was created to be a third place. In the back of my Franklin planner I used to keep a running list of the books I read. For some reason I decided to discard this list over a decade ago. I cannot recall why I did this – probably because I felt “I didn’t need it anymore.”

I read Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones and was “caught” reading it in an undergrad linguistics class. I had a classmate come up to me randomly and ask what class I was reading it for. My answer was no class and I remember looking at her incredulously not fathoming why anyone would not read something that wasn’t assigned to them. I was irritated that she assumed I was reading it for a class and not on my own accord. I love that book still and refer to it often.

I am constantly searching for a book that changes me. I have read many books that I have not liked for one reason or another but have been compelled by the same book and find myself thinking about it later. One of these books is 1984. It took me a long time to read it but I enjoyed the story. I didn’t find it difficult to read but had a hard time. The Bone Clocks is another novel that I enjoyed for the concept. I thought it was too long but felt compelled to keep coming back to it. The Course of Love made me angry. I did not like the characters choices but was simultaneously fascinated by the concept of the characters actions being explained by philosophy.

When my life exploded into something I didn’t recognize a couple years ago I went to the library. I looked up the national book award long list and I read the books on that list. I was angry that the books were on the shelves. I figured these books are supposed to be so great why are more people not checking them out? I would leave for work in the morning from my apartment and think about all the activities I would participate in when I got home. I never did any of them. I would stop by the store and decide what to have for dinner based on what protein was on sale and then read. I would get to the point where I would feel like I had absorbed so many words that I needed to talk about the books with someone and then I would consider going to book club but then not go. Reading is a solitary activity for me most of the time.

In middle school I spent my lunch times in the library reading. I was often asked by people how I chose books. I didn’t really have an answer for them. I was picking books for me and the idea that anyone would be concerned with my choices was baffling. I enjoyed this time and it was a good break from the craziness of middle school for me.

Depending on my income determines how many books I buy. The invention of Google Library Extension makes it easy to check on availability and reserve books at the library. It is even easier than Amazon. For many periods I just bought all the books I wanted. I will never figure out how much money that was. The constant is books and reading. No matter where the books come from, I always find a way.

What I Learned from the 2016-2017 School Year

I joyfully started a new position this school year as a curriculum coach. The previous three years I was a teacher coach at a charter school and learned how to be effective through training, practice and coaching. Using that knowledge helped me begin the new school year with practices that served me and my new school well.

1. Relationships Are the Most Important

I intentionally focused on building relationships with my teachers from the moment I walked into the door. I made myself visible. I listened. I did not repeat anything anyone told me. I also made a point to not name drop, and this included with the principal. I was always open for meetings with teachers, and would do my best to meet with people when they needed me rather than what necessarily fit into my schedule. This sometimes meant forgoing lunch which was acceptable.

I tried my best to be positively frame every situation. I tried to solve problems that I could as quickly as possible. Just talking to people and engaging with them is part of the relationship building. I kept having to remind myself of this fact when I would feel like “I wasn’t working.” Thank you notes and genuine appreciation went a long way. Teachers do not get recognized enough for the great things they do everyday in the classroom and their individual strengths and I tried to highlight these behaviors whenever I could.

2. Don’t Show All Your Cards

I have a lot of skills and have had a variety of experiences from the last 21 years in education. I attempt to have my actions show my knowledge base rather than telling people. Lots of knowledge and experience in a variety of areas can alienate people rather than bring them closer, depending on the context. When topics arose I would reference a situation I had been in before and how I solved it as much as possible. I would sometimes use other teachers’ experience I had witnessed if I myself had not been in the situation. I would always answer questions about my experience when asked. I was not trying to be evasive,  but rather not to bombard people with too much information.  I have a variety of skills and experience but I do not know everything. I get obsessed with topics and then conduct my own research and then drop researchers names like we are friends!

3. Until you have to…

There were several points in the year that someone asked me a direct question and then I was very honest about how I handled a situation in the past. Sometimes this sharing was not in a light the teacher liked. During an RTI meeting I had to bring up that in a past corporation I was part of a group that reworked all the forms for our special education co-op. I know the law and how RTI intervention works and why. There is a difference between RTI intervention and intervention groups, which is a practice that good teachers should do anyway. One of the teachers figured out through the questions that I was asking that my experience was more in depth than I had indicated. I appreciated that she took me aside after the meeting to ask about it rather than calling me out in the meeting.

I also have had to be ready to stand my ground and defend research and practice from my own classroom. I use post it notes for kids to encourage academic behavior I desire which also builds the relationship with the student. Sometimes it is a simple, “Thank you for getting right to work.” or “Thank you for following directions perfectly.” Other times it is “You read so fluently!” or “I wish I would have written this sentence myself.” I had a teacher tell me that practice would work for a few days, but it wouldn’t work longer than that. I had to firmly tell her that it worked well for a solid 8 week period and then when I went back into the classroom throughout the year. I use this practice with all the students I have whether they are adults or children. It is motivating and effective.

4. Listen and observe

Listen to teacher and student needs. Really listen. Listen to the questions people ask or what they comment on. Then provide training or resources. Don’t push too hard and FOLLOW-UP! It can be a conversation in the hallway or an email. Paying attention to the little things can make a big difference. My Workshop Wednesdays were a big hit with my teachers because it addressed needs they had expressed to me.

5. Facts NOT Emotion

Use facts as much as possible. One of the conversations I had several times with teachers was about student evidence. As a teacher, we need to focus on high, medium, and low work not high, medium, and low kids. Using the work, teachers can determine many teaching behaviors that affect the student achievement and outcomes.

6. No One Can Take Knowledge Out of Your Brain

I have been through many trials and tribulations throughout my teaching career. There are some fundamental truths I believe :

  1. Reading is the gateway to learning.
  2. True modeling works.
  3. I won’t ask you to do anything that I am not willing to do or have already done myself. (I use this mantra with adults and students.)
  4. All the training you immerse in, the reading you do, and the products you create based on these areas cannot be taken away from you. It is part of who you are and makes you a better individual and educator.

I am looking forward to next year and building on the relationships with the teachers that are returning. The teachers and I are learning what skills we all have to be able to utilize all the experts in the building. Teachers will be more effective and students will achieve more! It will be an exciting year! Summer here we come!

You Want Me To Believe – A Poem

You want me to believe

There is no pain

Miles away

But I know better

to believe in something that seems

perfect as if it were true

No wrinkles to hide

No worry lines to erase with the

Pencil of solution

Do you think I am that naïve to think that you are peachy now like melting ice cream in       the hand of a babe on a hot summer day?

The days where it looks like the tracking is trying to adjust as if watching the scene on a       VCR.

No inspiration comes to me anymore

Without you in my life

Are you protecting me from something you don’t want me to see?

To shield me from helping you from afar.

No more talks into the night,

Into the day.

Tears into a glass filled with something that dulls the senses

You’ve been dulling yourself for years

Shine my friend

Shine like you swallowed a light bulb that won’t turn off.

Flash Fiction: Let’s Buy A Reindeer

 

She awoke to his hand on her backside resting while he gently snored in her ear. As she woke she smiled and heard the rest of the house waking up.The elixir was brewing in the other room and she realized she craved that cup to get her going. She was warm all over. From sleep, from his closeness, and from the summer morning air. She carefully moved as to not disturb him. His sleep was peaceful tonight and she wanted him to absorb as much energy from the rest as he could.

The love that radiated from her was so unlike anything she had ever felt. Yet felt like it was always that way since it was so pure. He opened his eyes and sighed…

“Let’s buy a reindeer.”

“What?!”

“Let’s buy  reindeer and put him in the front yard.”

“Where are we going to get a reindeer?” she asked laughing.

“From Amazon, they sell everything!”

“What do we need a reindeer for?”

“Need is relative. He could eat all the stuff in the yard. It would be festive.”

 

The couple looked for a reindeer that evening while in bed just before sleep. You cannot buy a reindeer from Amazon…yet. Within the same living creature vein they did search for bees and bee hives which seemed more reasonable. After some research it was discovered that bees and hives are a much more involved process than one would imagine.

She thought about the dreams that are created your significant other can be an eye opening experience and dream. The more ridiculous the more desire to fulfill the dream and take action to really do it becomes strong.

As she washed the dishes that night she thought about the idea of bringing out the fun and passion from just the idea of buying a reindeer on line and having it delivered to the house is outrageous and brilliant at the same time. The smile that stretched across her face lasted through the whole chore. She wondered what they would dream together that night.

 

Running Solo

Some thoughts on running:

 

I measure my life by the miles I run.

 

I feel my feet on the pavement in my ears at the exact moment my forefoot sole makes contact with the asphalt. The thinking drawers I have open in my brain are amounting to a  massive number. I am rehashing conversations, . I am practicing the professional presentation I have to do later today. I am thinking about the goals I have for the day and my life . I am praying. I am revisiting memories – especially of a time I have run that route before and what I had been thinking at the time or the song I have been listening to. I think about books and who I am going to be recommending books to. I am thinking all these topics at the same time.

 

I do not warm up. I do not stretch. I get dressed, put my shoes on, and go.  My legs feel heavy and it feels like I  must put forth a lot more effort than necessary to move one leg in front of the other. Is it my shoes? Is it my attitude? This often happens. On short 5 miles runs it can take up to 3.5 miles to feel like it should. After the 3.5 is when I find the rhythm and my brain can stop thinking about the physical act of running and hum along. When I find this sweet spot I feel like I can run forever.

 

I often find myself in the same physical spaces on a different run. In these instances, I can suddenly recall with alarming clarity exactly the song I had been listening,who I was running with, or an emotion that I was engulfed in. It is a surreal sensation.

 

Suddenly without warning, my thoughts will empty and my mind is clear. I am in moving meditation now.

 

When I am afraid I will have nothing to think about I assign myself a questions almost like a writing prompt for my journal. I give myself these questions as an assignment to busy my mind.

 

I am a happy runner girl when I can run 10 miles a day. It is the gravitas I have from these days that is like a light that beckons people into it. People do not know I have run that many miles. They just know there is something about me and they feel the need to comment on something. Usually my hair or my outfit. They are compelled to say something.

 

I am nearing the end of the route and my thoughts turn toward what I want to eat when I am done running. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, ice cream sundaes with whipped cream and chocolate sauce are favorites. As soon as I put my foot in the door of my dwelling I don’t want those foods anymore. The most amazing and common occurrence is when I am not hungry at all. I have stood in the glow of the refrigerator and eaten an entire jar of squash pickles because they look good as I think that pickles do not have many calories so I am safe and I have no undone all the running I just endured.

 

There are everyday runs and there are memories of races that are ingrained into the muscle memory of my legs. Never to be forgotten completely. A run or a phrase will trigger the emotions and the pain and the joy all at once. Almost sensory overload but since I was there my brain can process all of it at once. I am not sure if it is like this for other people or because i am used to having so many thoughts at once.  They are in my mind in a file  that hopefully will never be deleted.

 

Runners have quirks. I had quirks and was odd before I became a runner. I suppose I was always a runner but had not opened myself up to that part of myself yet. I have special running socks and my students notice. There are shorts I will wash three days in a row to keep wearing them.

I have gotten up at 3 am to run, never to be repeated.

 

Some runs are so cold and I have so many layers on for warmth,  it takes one load of laundry to get them clean again.

 

At the HUFF race at Chain of Lakes park  I ran in waist deep water  – in the winter…the ice rattled around in my shoes as I exited the puddle up onto the frozen mud and leaves.

Food has never tasted so good after a hard run or race. A shower has never felt so good. I have been so tired that I almost couldn’t eat. I have run myself into a trance and running is the only thing that can turn my brain off to overthinking. I ran so far I started to see things that weren’t there. Spiders and silos in the woods. I am always striving for the effortless running zones.

 

I play mental tricks to keep me sane during a long run or a race – esp when I realize in the middle I am over it.

 

I trained hard for the flying pig marathon and I woke up that morning missing my running friends and not wanting to run.

 

My first marathon was magical. It wasn’t terrible as many people have found. It was one of the best experiences of my life. I was so ready for that run. I had trained myself well. When I realized as I ran over a bridge and checked my watch that I was going to finish under 3:30 I started to have a hard time breathing because I started to get emotional. I had to pull myself together. I started to not be able to breath and slowed down. Then I thought of all  the preparation I had endured and how it  was paying off. I did not want to ruin it within the last mile. It was almost over and it felt so much shorter than any training run.  I felt energized and amazed. I finished and then stopped running. I had my medal and this mylar blanket. I had stopped. My legs had stopped and I couldn’t figure out what to do. I couldn’t stand. I couldn’t sit. It hurt to lean. Suddenly all the pain from the entire 26.2 miles started to seep into my body. I was cold.

I talked to myself during the race . Steak and Shake chili had never tasted so good. My mind was numb and I was thinking almost no thoughts. Just observing what was around me in the tent that was shielding the wind. I don’t recall moving from the finish line to the tent to sit.

 

At the Fox Valley Marathon in St. Charles, IL I was the 12th woman finisher. I was  so excited. It rained, as most of my marathons. I was so tired but had PR’ed by 5 minutes. I had prayed my feet would go numb. I had racing flats on which lowered my time but the soaked shoes and the pounding of my feet even with my light frame had crushed what little cushioning to nothing. I was in agony, but would not walk.

 

I measure my life in the miles I run.

 

I run less now because I am not training for anything and I do not want to. I run with my daughter. I run with friends. I am back to running on the treadmill which is how I started.

I will always be a runner.

Manifesto

I have been working on my manifesto for a long while now. I even read a book about it last year called The Motivation Manifesto by: Brendan Burchard. It is a “living document” as a former boss used to call paperwork which has the expectation for constant updates. The one in my notebook is prettier with each section drawn in its own block.

  • Reading is the gateway.
  • Coffee is necessary.
  • Think fast. Talk slow.
  • Love over fear.
  • Trust your first instinct.
  • Laugh.
  • Radiate love.
  • Keep only what you love ( people and objects)
  • You can only bitch so long – do something or shut up.
  • Question relentlessly.
  • Be grateful.
  • You don’t have to explain yourself.
  • Read about the people you want to emulate.
  • Don’t ask of other what you are unwilling to do or haven’t already done.
  • Be the light.
  • W.A.I.T (Why Am I Talking??)
  • Inspire.
  • Live fierce. Study deeply.
  • Find your tribe.
  • Intention.
  • If all else fails…READ!

 

 

Toast Poem

Overpriced toast your mom didn’t make you

Don’t care if its artisan rustic bread with special small batch butter

Cinnamon toast made by Oma

Hot chocolate – creamy with skin I didn’t like

Coffee now with my toast

No coconut or grapefruit juice

What world do we live in where toast is a comfort food we want someone else to make us?

 

Perfect mix of white sugar and Korinjie cinnamon

mixed with a metal spoon

sprinkled on the melted butter

tip the toast

sprinkles dusting the plate

lick my fingers and get all the remnants

This Is 40.

I attended the International Reading Conference in New Orleans and heard Kelly Gallagher speak where he mentioned a writing assignment that inspired me to come home and craft my own version. This piece was originally written in March of 2016,  but has been edited and revised several times.

 

March 7, 2016

This is 40.

Forty is the time that I feel I am old enough to be who I am. Forty is the time I feel that I have earned the right with the amount of time I have been on this Earth to truly show who I am as person, no matter what role I am in. I do not need to apologize for my knowledge and my constant quest for it. I have been teaching for 19 years and do not have to be told I am an old soul. I have been in education long enough to know what I know…and to know who to go to when I do not. I have mentors in my life for professional and personal development.

 

This is my 40.

 

I am small enough in physical size that I can wear children’s sized clothes, although I usually do not. I do not advertise this fact, but people ask me. I am petite. I prefer to wear dresses and high heels. I run at least 40 miles a week, but am still insecure about my body and how it looks. There is never a time that I am thin enough. I practice and teach yoga.

 

I am at the age that I answer a request with NO and no longer feel the need to explain myself.

I am confident in who I am and what I know, but am wise enough that I am not afraid to admit something I do not know and am willing to learn.

I know who I am and I do not need other peoples’ approval.

I often get carded when I try to order a beer….still. Everytime I go to the casino I get pulled into the line to get carded too.

I require and want  less material objects,  but always need more books. There is little distinction between the need for books for me,my family, or for my students.

I alway carry cash.

I have been in situations where I have made choices I did not think I would make.

I have been given ultimatums and regretted the hurried situations and decision I made. I learn from my experiences and am reflective as much as possible. I have dealt with new experiences and procedures and I never wanted to know how they worked. I am the person I am today because of these decisions and experiences.

I made a big life decision that most would not have had the courage to do and have been told as much. I analyzed my situation; was not happy, and decided to change it.

This is 40.

I know who my friends are…and who are not.

I am at the age that I dress for the job I have, because I have the job I want.

I am more likely to sit and hold my tongue, rather than react. Think fast, speak slow and carefully is my new motto.

Even though I am comfortable with who I am, 40 seems the wrong number to me.

I have vivid memories that I relive constantly.

The perception of what is most important to me has been a paradigm shift.

I drop educational researchers names like I know them.

My laugh is so loud I have been yelled at by a troubled man on a public train. I have been found in Chicago’s McCormick place just by the distinctness of my laugh.

People who know my resume and talk to me are most often thrown by the tattoos I have.

This is 40. This is me. NOW.

Others have  perceptions of me are that I don’t sleep.

They think I live and breathe my job.

They think I always have my nose in a book. (Which is true…my nose is in 3 at one time.)

They think I run all the time.

They are shocked when the things they find out about me surprise them immensely and suddenly. The words uttered are :“I didn’t know that about you” I once heard that phrase 5 times on a cab ride to the airport.

This is 40. This is me. I will not apologize for it.