Do You Reread?

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There are few books I reread. The book Essentialism by Greg McKeown comes back onto my radar usually after I have listened to Tsh Oxenreider from THE ART OF SIMPLE talk about it.

This book requires me to think about my actions and why I make the decisions I do especially when it comes to how I spend my time. There is often a gap between what my responsibilities are and what I want to do. There is also a category of the things I should do because someone expects me to. This is the area I am really looking at for the upcoming school year. I have made a big decision about doing what I deem essential and also managing my schedule and time differently.

I have a choice about how I spend my time. At school, I want to spend my time on the actions that I can get the most bang for my buck and make the most impact with my teachers. I cannot do everything even though my TYPE A personality whispers to me in quiet moments that I can.

I stopped celebrating just being busy for busy sake and my stress levels went down.

Over the next couple of days these questions from the book will be on my mind:

  1. What do I feel deeply inspired by?
  2. What am I particularly talented at?
  3. What meets a significant need in the world?

The next right thing for me and my time is on my mind. What are you thinking about for the fall?

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Graffiti Boards

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I am continuing my series of fun stories from my teaching career. It has been fun to share these funnies and to remember these wonderful students who are so important to me.

Last month I attended an amazing workshop with Jack Berckemeyer and his colleagues. One of the main components of their presentations is FUN.

Laughter helps you lose weight, live longer, and lower your blood pressure. Bring on the guffaws!

Today’s story is more fun than funny.

Graffiti Boards

Let me start this story by saying I am that annoying teacher who puts writing and reading opportunities up in a school everywhere. I put jokes and poems on the backs of bathroom doors, over pencil sharpeners, in the hallways, in the teachers’ lounge, in the teachers’ bathroom, and whatever random place I can get kids to read and write. This causes students in the stalls to read knock-knock jokes to each other.

I don’t even remember where I heard about graffiti boards but I started posing a question on a large piece of butcher paper outside my room so students could stop and write their responses.

In the school I was in I was about midway down the length of the hallway. The concept took on a life of its own and would cause a traffic jam in the hallway in the morning and the afternoons at dismissal. Students also randomly asked to go to the bathroom so they could come and write their responses in peace in the middle of the school day.

The questions varied from silly to serious. Some examples:

Who is your favorite character in what you are reading?

What is your favorite food?

What are you looking forward to over spring break?

What color should Mrs. Breitweiser dye her hair?

Rainbow and pink I believe were the most popular answers to the last one.

I had teachers who were salty about this idea. They were afraid students would write something inappropriate. To be fair, it did happen twice that I can recall and it wasn’t that bad. There were no cuss words just something minorly insulting that a 5th grader would think is funny.

Overall, the good outweighed the bad. Any opportunity for reading and writing is a good thinig in my book!

Poem in Your Pocket…Literally

sols_6I am continuing the logging of some of my funny stories from my teaching career and am sharing one for Two Writing Teachers Blog Slice of Life.

Last month I attended an amazing workshop with Jack Berckemeyer and his colleagues. One of the main components of their presentations is FUN. As I was listening I started a list of funny stories from my teaching career. Every teacher has funny stories of situations with students and I have decided to write some of them down.

Laughter helps you lose weight, live longer, and lower your blood pressure. Bring on the guffaws!

Poem in Your Pocket…Literally

I love poetry. I love writing poetry. I love teaching poetry. I love reading and displaying the poetry my students write.

When I was a reading specialist I introduced Poem In Your Pocket Day. I use poems with reluctant readers because they are fun and because they seem to be less intimidating to students. We use them for reading and writing.

I was lucky in this particular job at the elementary level to push in to do full classroom writing lessons but also have small groups.

My classroom was right by the front doors and the office, but also right across from the bathrooms. I learned early that it was important to have reading materials outside my door and in the hallway so students could read while they were waiting in line for their turn to use the facilities.

I was standing in the hallway having a brief conference with a 5th grade teacher and her students were lined up. I noticed one boy kept patting his jeans pocket. It was that movement we have when we have something important in our pocket that we do not want to lose. We keep checking to make sure it hasn’t magically disappeared without our knowledge.

I asked him what he had in his pocket. I was intrigued. He looked at me shyly and said, “My poem”.

This was a student that was a little on the harder side. He was very guarded and would be likely to have a weapon in his pocket rather than a poem.

The look of surprise was evident in my face and he continued.

“You talked to us about poem in your pocket day so I thought I should put my own poem I am working on should be in my pocket then I always have it with me.”

I smiled at him with tears in my eyes. “I love it,” I told him.

He smiled and patted his pocket again.

I saw him several times during the day and every time he would smile at me like we shared a secret and pat his pocket to let me know his poem was still there. He extended poem in your pocket day for at least a week.

#happytuesday

My Brain Needs More Oxygen!

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Last month I attended an amazing workshop with Jack Berckemeyer and his colleagues. One of the main components of their presentations is FUN. As I was listening I started a list of funny stories from my teaching career. Every teacher has funny stories of situations with students and I have decided to write some of them down.

Laughter helps you lose weight, live longer, and lower your blood pressure. Bring on the guffaws!

My Brain Needs More Oxygen!

When I was teaching first grade many years ago I was honored to have a professional development coordinator in my district named Rita Brodnax. One of the many programs she brought to the district was Brain Compatible Teaching for Learning. One of the many practices I have adopted over the years is to share some of the learning with my students when I have attended a conference or workshop when I return.  I want the students to know that I am still learning and bringing it into the classroom for them and for me.

One concept I had talked to my students about was the need for the brain to have oxygen when thinking gets difficult. When we are learning new things our heads literally hurt because new dendrites are being formed. When this happens we need to sit up straight so out brain gets more oxygen to aid in the process.

I had a very unique class of cohesive learners that year and we were able to get to mastery levels with grade level material very quickly. They were sponges. We wrote and read every day. The kids were constantly making books. We had our family meetings in the mornings and then wrote a group chart. then the students wrote in their journals and we conferenced. The afternoons were filled with read alouds and math.

It was may and we had reached the end of the math book so I began material from the second grade standards to get them ready for the next grade. It was harder concepts, they knew it was second grade material but I was chunking it and things were going well.

This afternoon we were talking about borrowing in double digit subtraction and the students were working on a problem independently to check their thinking after the model part of the lesson. This was normal practice for our class.

Suddenly in the middle of silent work and productive struggle (there were lots of mumblings of process steps) my student Micah stood up abruptly.  It was so sudden it startled everyone. I asked him what was wrong.

(My name was Zack at the time)

Micah said “MS Zack, this is hard! My brain needs more oxygen” and with his missing tooth grin spread across his face his classmates and I laughed. I told him he could stand for as long as he needed to.

He stood for the rest of the lesson.

From then on, it became a thing for students to randomly stand. No one was alarmed when someone stood after Micah’s introduction to the concept in our room.

Giving Up Part 2 #SOL18

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To continue my ponderings on time I have been evaluating more about the people in my life. Even though there are many people I genuinely care about, I don’t usually choose to spend time with them. Sometimes I’m not sure why. There are times I choose to invest the time and the output results are rejuvenation, excitement and a distinct feeling it was time well spent. On the opposite of the spectrum, if I have a couple encounters with a particular group of people where I don’t feel fulfilled then I start to question whether I should spend any time with them at all. The strange notion here, is typically I don’t look at this from an emotional standpoint, I look at this from purely from an input/ output perspective which makes it feel wrong to me in some way. I am an INTJ, which I think contributes to this issue.

Continuing the ponderings about STUFF – The years before I divorced I had self-imposed a massive purge on the belongings in my house. We lived in a house approximately 2700 square feet and had become the dumping ground for other people’s cast-offs. By the time I moved out, the number of belongings was minimal in comparison to what I owned before. Then the circumstances dictated I move three more times within a short period of time which required more purging. Most of the books still remained!

For roughly the last two years I’ve been living in a house with 4 children (shared) on and off and a husband and we have accumulated the things that are necessary to live in a house and to decorate it. When we began the packing process the boxes started adding up at an alarming rate but without much furniture. The house we rented came with some lovely antique furniture that we treasure while we had the change. I was truly surprised at the amount of stuff we have accumulated.

This is simply one of the systemic cycles I navigate through.

I purge.

I accumulate.

I purge.

I move

It starts again.

I try to be very conscientious of what comes into the house. To be honest, the last 2 years there have been very few disposable income purchases because there has been no money for it.

So the question of the day is: What is worth keeping?

I believe in resale shops, thrift stores, and Goodwill purchases. I also believe in donating all the purge items when I am in that part of the cycle. However, when you find yourself in a temporary dwelling that is not your own, you do not have the need for furniture and certain household items. To purchase all of it again would be silly when we find our next home. So then comes the dilemma – the consideration is made for what you pay for storage as opposed to how much the items you are storing are worth. Monetarily if I purchased it all at the second-hand store it would cost me more to store it then it would compared to what I paid for it. I do not have an emotional attachment to it either. There is the cost of the time and energy to move these items as well.

Furniture was therefore abandoned.

Let the next cycle of purging begin! I do not want to move all these boxes to the next house!

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My question to you today is: What is something you may not have paid much money for,  but you are willing to shoulder other costs to be able to keep it?

Giving Up?

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The concept of abandoning or giving up things has been on my mind in recent days. The big ideas centered around physical items, time, and people.

My thinking has changed over the past several years where my primary thought of value equated with money. Money buys you what you need to live.

It is the simple idea that money pays for items and services you need. I didn’t put time or relationships in the same context of value until I was much older. I had an ah-ha moment while I was teaching yoga. I mentally calculated how many students per session I would need to be able to pay for something I desired. Some items were too many people or sessions. It just wasn’t worth it to me. It actually stopped me from making some impulsive purchases.

 

Those of you who follow the blog know that I just recently moved again. You also know that I have moved several times over the last 4 years. With every move, I evaluate the value of the items I have acquired.

At this point, there are only a few items  I will hold onto forever.

This evaluation has forced me to realize some things are just not worth moving to a new space. The cost of the energy and time outweighs the use or sentimental value of the item itself.

One practice that influenced this idea for me was a reading flare of minimalistic books in 2013. The big idea I gleaned from all the reading was “If you don’t love it,  then it shouldn’t take up space in your dwelling or schedule.”


Time and monetary value are often compared. But here is the thought that hit me: You can always make more money. 

There are legitimate ways.

There are illegal ways.

There is a dangerous way.

You have to spend your time in some way to make money, usually.

You cannot create more time. You cannot.

 

If 24 hours isn’t enough there’s no way for you to miracle another hour no matter how desperate you need it.

As an example: Today is July 1st. Those of you who follow and read the blog are aware I moved out of my house in June. As a function and consequence of the lease, I had to be out of the house by midnight. There is no time turner or time travel scenario from one of my short stories where I can wish myself more time.

I think that is the true test of becoming an adult – you realize that time is much more valuable than money. You start to spend it wiser. Here is hoping I use my time and my money wisely moving forward!

 

 

#Everydayhappy Slice of Life #SOL18

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Thank you for Two Writing Teachers for sponsoring the SLICE OF LIFE challenge every Tuesday!

This week when I was listening to my normal podcast queue I clicked on Jenny Blake’s PIVOT podcast. This week was especially inspiring and I was super excited to listen. I made a bunch of notes for writing and for projects for students when I go back to school in August. I even started listening to the podcast again which is something I rarely do.

The guest for the interview was Dev Ajula who wrote the book 50 Ways to Get a Job. It isn’t just a book about finding a job but seems to be an inquiry into who you are. I have a reserve on the book at the library and have checked out the website that goes along with the book.

Jenny Blake is also an author. Her book is also called Pivot like the podcast. She has a great newsletter.

There are lots of great parts but one in particular is when Dev is talking about his apartment and making it personal just for him. He had visited other people’s spaces and thought it was appealing because it was more sophisticated or bigger but realized it was fine tuned to the owner. He wanted to emulate this practice so he put his chair in a space where it sits in the sun at 3 pm and sits in it. He also painted all his radiators white. Small things that made a difference to him.

On my blog I write about #everydayhappy. Those little things that just make your day but are uniquely your own. These items or actions spark joy for you.

I asked from friends this question: What makes you #everydayhappy? Little things that spark joy for you? A certain coffee mug? A certain pen?

#Everydayhappy things for me are a favorite coffee mug to drink my coffee in. I also have a certain fountain pen I adore. I love the feeling and writing in a new notebook. I also moved my coffee pot into my bedroom instead of the kitchen.

The List

Carrie: Opening up the windows in my house to enjoy the fresh breeze

Marta: My husband making coffee for me. The dogs resting in the sun. A joyful laugh.

Eva: Perfect song to match my mood coming on, more coffee left in the pot when I thought it was gone, red lipstick

Sarah: Great day texts from co-workers

Rachael: My dog leaning on me as I write

Julie: Sitting under a tree looking up through the leaves at sunlight preferably with a stream running nearby. That or a fresh notebook page…

Marian: calls the pecans out of the mixed nuts “happies”!!!!!

I am @tlbreit on Twitter and you can respond there with your own #everydayhappy ideas or in the comments below.

What are the things that spark joy for you that are personal to you? I would love to read them! I bet some of your are so good I would want to borrow them and add them to my own list.

#everydayhappy

Link to other blog post

Reading The Queen of Hearts

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Part of my “summering”is reading. Honestly, a large part of my life is reading but this is a slice of my summer reading.

The Queen of Hearts by Kimmerly Martin

 

 

This book is written by a medical professional. I heard about this book from a podcast interview with the author which persuaded me to read the book. The chapters go through time and also from different perspectives of various characters.

Some of my favorite thoughts and quotes from the book:

Page 3 had the word “comeuppance” Any book that starts with a word like that must be an interesting read!

Page 18 “…he can talk a herd of cats into a hot tub and he’s relentless when he wants something.”

The imagery of this line made me smile. Can you imagine the chaos of cats in a hot tub???

Page 25 “Emma, who’d had a determination to be a surgeon since the age of 3. Meanwhile, as a toddler, I’d aspired to be a bulldozer, a career path that received the enthusiastic support of my older brother.”

The idea of a character wanted to be a bulldozer when she grew up brought back memories of my brother playing with Tonka trucks and Bob the Builder Cartoons.

“Emma is the kind of person who can effortlessly transition from sleep in to a well-oiled machine like functionality. By contrast, I have to be poured out of bed each morning like human syrup, and I’ll lurch around, emitting miserable squeaks until I’m caffeinated.”

Human syrup is a phrase I wish I invented as a writer!

Page 314-315 “If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s this: the past is never really gone . It’s one long chain linking the present and also the future, and sometimes it doubles back on itself, exposing the things that you thought were buried.

“The chandelier the size of a cow” What a large piece in a house! I can visualize it!

I love the first paragraph here. I do not like this phrase either and like the way the author conveys a more logical explanation of the phrase “Everything happens for a reason”

This is an interesting quote from Carl Sagan which I want to delve into more personally.. The last line is a great ending line to a chapter.

I felt this book had a strong beginning and a strong ending. I got a little lost in the middle. I kept putting the book down after reading a page or two and that is usually not a good sign for me. Overall, I enjoyed it. I am looking forward to see how my fellow readers thought about it at book club. Feel free to weigh in with your opinion in the comments!

What are you reading during the summer?

Which Road to Take? #SOL18

sols_64 more days left until summer break.

I pulled 4 7th-graders to record a small group lesson for some PD for this summer. I chose the poem The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. This was the first experience the 4 students had with the poem which surprised me. Initially, it did not seem familiar to any of the 4 until 3 readings in one girl said she remembered it from our individualized computer program iReady.

We began with a vocabulary QHT chart –

Q is for questions about words

H is for heard of it but do not know the meaning

T is for “I know this word so well I could teach it to someone else”.

I allowed them to read and record words that seemed important to them in some way. Diverged is a word I needed on the chart and they all chose it right away.

We talked about choices and the path that the narrator was trying to decide upon. Then the girls spoke up about the connection to life in general and which paths people choose to take. The students said they thought a lot of people chose the wrong path. Some thought that certain paths were thrust upon people.

The writing the students did was quick but thoughtful after our brief discussion. It is much easier to make an extended response when a list of details about your big idea is either annotated on the poem in front of you or on a list you have created. We did both.

The students all said the narrator wanted to not be a follower and make his own choice which is why he took the road less traveled.

I offered them two poems to take with them: Mary Oliver’s Every Morning and Billy Collins’ Days. Several took the poems for later. That is definitely a smile moment for the writer and reader in me.

 

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We are all confronted with choices every day. Some are trivial and some are life changing.

Do I stop and fill up my tire with air since the sensor went off and be late to work or wait and chance a flat? 

Do I eat now or wait till I have more time?

How do I decide what town to move to next?

Some choices we make and some seem to be thrust upon us. As humans, as teachers, as mothers, as spouses we have to make decisions all the time. There are sometimes I need to hear and listen to the inner voices and other times I need to shut them out for my own good and peace of mind. I have been known to overthink situations.

There are times it seems this is more difficult then it should be. Some people are plagued with the fear of making the wrong decision. I always wonder “wrong” according to whom? Cultural norms have more of an influence than I think most of us realize. The trajectory of my life took the path of a whole list of “shoulds” before I changed it.

I heard all my life: I should graduate and I should go to college and I should get married and I should have kids and I should buy the biggest house I can afford and I should, I should , I should…until you reach a point in your life that you have achieved all the goals you thought that you should and it doesn’t match who you are as a person inside. Then huge choices have to be made. Some just stick to the status quo and some make a leap. I made a leap. Although it came with consequences, I have no regrets.

So which road do you take? I guess the answer depends on the day.