Saturday, June 28, 2008

cupid of education

tonight i'm headed to the wedding of one of my friends from college and i am slightly worried his mother may poison my food.
we were dorm counselors together in the same building our senior year and we spent a year of parenting our needy-yet-fabulous freshmen. i spent my winter semester student teaching and would come home exhausted from my first full-time experience with lesson plans and first graders. in january my fellow dorm counselor listened politely to my days, but by april he was waiting at my door in the afternoons to hear my tales of a school. he was hooked. by then he'd decided that despite winning multiple awards from the journalism department he was destined to be a teacher. putting his promising career in journalism aside he took a year off to teach at a montessori school and apply for graduate teaching programs.
you can imagine what his mother thought of all this after paying our private school tuition for 4 years. she was far from happy, and i believe, blamed it all on me. he (and my own mother) would joke that i better hope she didn't have a voo-doo doll of me to get back at me for taking away her son's promise and turning him into "just a teacher".

hahaha. it was a funny joke until my first year of teaching started and life got very, very rough (not just because it was my first year, but that was tough too). i really think someone may have been out to get me that year, and it could very well have been her.

he went on to get his maters in teaching and met his wife in his graduate program (now they teach at the same school).

the other victim of my "teaching is the best career in the world" left her promising future of getting a phd in math from an ivy league school to teach middle school math. (her family was a bit more understanding, or if they weren't, they at least didn't blame me too much). i was in her wedding in april where she married her school's music teacaher.

hmmmm.... maybe i was really destined to convince these fabulous people to consider teaching so they would meet their future spouses. i am the cupid of education.

hopefully the groom's mom will see it that way. i haven't seen her since graduation, and she wasn't too happy with me then...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

book sharing

on the last day of teacher workdays i held my collection of fluff books out to a fellow teacher about to leave for a long plane trip across the country. she shuffled through the books deciding which ones would be best to read on the plane, which were the "fluffiest" and would require the least amount of thinking.
while we sorted through the books and chatted about our tastes in the chick-lit genre the teacher's old student stood next to us, peering into the scandalous bag of books. we would have been fabulous natural models of grown ups reading for pleasure and having book talks if the books in question weren't so... mind-numbingly fluffy. the poor 2nd-about-to-be-3rd grader stared wide-eyed at how these teachers could become so involved in "terrible books" when we give our own lectures about "just right" books.

sorry jos, i hope we didn't do any permanent damage to your little one!

dramatic play & already ready

On page 55 of Already Ready, Katie Wood Ray describes a preschool student acting out a picnic and a bear hunt during dramatic play time. After the playtime finished the teacher suggested that the child write about the picnic adventure so that she would remember it. In writing about the picnic and then presenting her book to the class the child naturally went through different stages of the writing process. Ray writes, "What Regan's process shows is how dramatic play can support the development of meaning, and particularly, the development of narrative. Because Regan had lived her story first through dramatic play, she was able to develop it more fully as a narrative and to draw from the details she remembers from being activity engaged in the experience."

How do we create a kindergarten classroom where we foster dramatic play that immediately lends itself to writing? Do we create dramatic play experiences for a whole-class and then immediately as the children to write about them, or do we stay engaged with the children during their free choice time and after "playing" with them do we suggest they go over to the writing center and get to work? Can we change the nature of free choice time to support writing workshop, or do the children developmentally need a time to let-down without the academics?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Thoughts on Already Ready

subtitle: yes, i know i am a big dork, so you don't need to point it out in the comments.


Our kindergarten team with the help of our literacy collaborative coaches is about to start a new writing project next year where we are transitioning from having writing workshop take place in journals to having writing workshop take place in small books. I am ridiculously excited about this. Right before the end of school a kindergarten teacher and I launched a writing unit on 'How To' books with her class. Watching them produce small yet detailed How-To books was amazing and I am so excited to start this project in the beginning of the year.

So to get ready for next year (coming in mid-July) I've started reading the text we'll be using, Already Ready by Katie Wood Ray and Matt Glover. I have a feeling throughout my short summer break I'll be posting what I've found fascinating and exciting from the book.

One fascinating point Ray and Glover make is sighting Randy Bomer who proposes the idea that writing actually helps with literacy development more than reading. "A blank page presents children with an invitation (to make meaning), while reading presents them with an expectation (to figure out someone else's meaning). When children don't have much experience in the literacy club, invitations are probably more developmentally appropriate than expectations."

hmmmm

In chapter 2 the book describes a preschool experience that works on creating focused experiences for the children. The 7 intellectual dispositions they foster are:

~ Problem solving and reasoning
~Questioning and problem posing
~Keen observation- gathering data through all the senses
~Imagining, innovating, and responding with wonderment and awe
~Intellectual risk-taking
~Thinking independently
~Persistence

These are for preschool. Can you imagine if we foster these fundamental beliefs in preschool? Katie Wood Ray and partner go on to describe how writing picture books in the classroom foster all of these 7 initiatives.

I have a feeling that once we get into presenting children with blank books for them to fill we'll find writing workshop easier than when we presented children with a journal. How many writing conferences have we had where we looked at a page of "I went to the park with my mom" and tried to tease out more details. "But I have no room!" the little one responds and returns to coloring his detailed picture. Just looking at the picture provides the details of the story, but a journal limits the details in writing, sending a message to the child to just write the one sentence and be done, the story of the park is not an important story. With more pages hopefully those stifled writing conferences will happen naturally as children put the details in the print-like form with their pictures.

And because it is summer now I'm going to go read a book for fun and possibly take a nap. I do only have 4 weeks of break...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

ugh

it started out as a fabulous friday evening. my first day of summer, jazz in the sculpture garden, sangria, good conversation, sunny weather. of course, in this town the innocent question, "so how was your day?" can frequently lead to discussions of politics and policy. my husband's co-worker began telling us about the education speech he gave to visiting interns and i noticed my husband start scratching his head and trying to distract me.

"really? what did you tell them about?" i asked, innocently.
"um..., darling, let's get more sangria?"

i completely ignored this and kept asking questions until i found myself in the midst of a heated education policy debate that was about to ruin the fabulous evening. ruin for everyone else with us at least, the debater and i seemed to be enjoying it equally.

actually, it was a debate i wasn't enjoying as much as i usually do. i found myself frustrated and having difficulty arguing with the basic beliefs of his debate. his policy initiatives seemed to be founded in the ideas that:

~public school teachers go into teaching for the summers, to have babies and get married
~public school systems are not interested in student achievement
~public schools have failed everyone
~private schools are inherently better than public schools based on test scores and graduation rates
~teaching programs and teacher education is a waste of time and do not result in improved academics in the classroom

in trying to debate the issues of bad public school teachers and bad public school systems i kept being written off since my school and county are so fabulous. "you don't know what its like outside your school/county" they argued.
yes, i have unbelievable co-workers and i have a county that does a lot to support quality instruction. but i student taught in the poorest county in my state and i know that despite the crumbling school building and lack of resources there were still fantastic teachers at that school. i hadn't met anyone who got into teaching for the summers.

my frustration with these basic beliefs is that they are not true, but they are backed up with data from other right-wing voucher-supporting programs that do their own research. yes, test scores may be better in private schools, but you have to look at the quality of parent involvement in the school, the students accepted into the private schools, and the tests given themselves. the test scores they are comparing are not the same tests the public schools have to take. they are comparing apples and oranges.

my largest frustration is the belief that teaching programs and teacher education is a waste of time. it is this belief that brings about programs like NCLB because it believes that we only teach because we aren't qualified to stock the shelves at walmart. teachers just need to follow a scripted curriculum and everything will be ok. "anyone can teach" seems to be the attitude, but those who go into teaching do so because they aren't qualified to do anything else.

can you see my white knuckles??

i was relaying this incident to my friend in grad school (during lunch this time, not during class) and my professor overheard us. she had fascinating insights to add. she has been teaching teachers at the graduate level for about 10 years now and she said that she has been amazed and frustrated to watch teachers struggle through their first 2 years of teaching and then quit to go into administration or policy. she described them coming to her with pride for their new standing in life, and her thinking, "what do you know about education? you had 2 awful years! you don't learn anything those first 2 years other than how to survive!" she said her best advice to us is to teach for years and years, getting as much experience in as many different fields of education as possible before going into a policy or administration job.

but that doesn't happen so much. in 10 years she said she frequently has seen the 2 year teachers off to make top-down decisions about something they didn't really enjoy doing anyway.

*sigh*

thinking about all this exhausts me. it feels like we're fighting an uphill battle with our arms tied behind our back.

Friday, June 20, 2008

reflections on reading subtitle: a girl's got to do what a girl's got to do

This year I worked with quite a few kiddos who were struggling significantly learning to read. There are lots of good reading programs out there and people make lots and lots of money selling these programs, especially to special education programs looking for the magic wand to wave over their struggling readers. Many of the special ed reading programs are scripted and very specific. In many ways they are great, but since they are a commercial program they are fairly general. My own school follows the Literacy Collaborative approach, which is fantastic and I as a classroom teacher I would swear my life on it. However, the program doesn't always take into account children who need a little something extra, or children who have severe learning disabilities. So, sometimes you have to take what works, take what you know about your kiddos, take a bit of creativity, and mix it all together. Because, despite what research says is best: a girl's got to do what a girl's got to do if you want the kiddos reading

I am ridiculously excited about the progress one of my students made this year and I wanted to reflect on it before I got chlorine brain and forgot everything I did. This is a long and tedious post and unless you are crazy-excited about teaching reading to special education students I'd recommend skimming past it. It's more for me than for readers.

This little one entered first grade with the knowledge of two letter names: p, and b. He had no known high frequency words (words you see every day in print like 'the', 'and', 'is'). He did not yet have the concept that letters make sounds which when put together make words that have meaning and correspond to what we say. Before you can learn to read you really have to tackle this concept. We call it one-to-one matching when children can "read" a text (even one that just says "No, No, No") and point to each word separately while saying it.

This kiddo has a limited working memory and sever processing issues so learning letter names was proving difficult because he could not remember the names of the letters, let alone the sound they make. Plus, not understanding that words carry meaning, he really just thought we were torturing him. Why did he care about memorizing these painfully difficult odd names?

So, -finally, after we had mastered one-to-one, I decided to skip the letter-name battle and go straight for learning the sounds that correspond with the given letters. The sounds are more useful to children learning how to put words together in order to read, and give them less to remember while still giving them useful skills. With inspiration from my school's speech language pathologist (whom I also like to refer to as 'A Gift From God' or just 'Miracle Worker') I learned of alphabet cards that teach a hand motion to match each sound. My kiddo is a highly kinesthetic learner and so we started working our way through the commonly used sounds based on a sequence I learned in grad school. This worked fairly well and he started being able to connect words with the motion that corresponded to the initial sound. He would do the motion for a few moments while he pulled up the sound. When given enough wait time he was able to pull up the correct initial sound. We also spent time looking into a hand-held mirror to see how our mouths looked when we formed the sound for the letters to pair his strengths of visual learning and kinesthetic learning.

Then I started writing my own books for him. My school has an incredible book room filled with hundreds of titles of books on every level for guided reading. These are great, but I needed a specific pattern that I could vary just a little every day. I actually was inspired by the Rigby books but since they only had 3 books that matched the pattern I needed I decided to write my own.

My books, while having limited text, were all about this evil monster who kept trying to sneak into the child's class and take things from the students. That tricky monster! In every book the monster was trying to take something different from all of the students in my friend's class (he happened to know all of their names, so luckily I could put the class names in the book for him to use as known text.) Toward the end I really had to stretch what that monster was coming in to steal. He even tried to sneak in and steal their swimming pools. Imagine that! Lots of giggles on that one.

In my reading class last winter I learned about special education reading programs like Wilson, Edmark, etc, etc. We were able to peruse their teacher manuals and see what made them work. So I took the memory-based theories and rote-learning strategies from these programs and paired them with my school's reading program, Literacy Collaborative, that operates behind a more meaning-driven approach to teaching text. The guided reading program and everything from Fontas and Pinnell is fabulous, but for some children who have little to no working memory (short term memory) it doesn't do enough to by-pass their short term memory and put information into their long-term memory. However, the rote (yet sometime meaningless) approach of more special ed reading programs are geared specifically for teaching children who struggle with their working memory.

So instead of using flash-cards or sheets with words on them like Edmark and Wilson I went ahead and embedded what I wanted my friend to know into the texts of the Monster Series. The books started simply: "No monster!" "No monster! That is for Brian"... "No, Monster, that is for Amy", etc, etc. We had many, many books that just stuck to this "This is for ...." pattern so that I knew my friend had the words 'this, is, and for' in is long-term memory. He also was demonstrating one-to-one matching and showing me he understood that words carry meaning. He would giggle with some of the crazy Monster antics. Occasionally the text would change to read, "Monster, no, no, no!" to be sure that he was not simply relying on the pattern of the book, but was able to associate the correct word with the correct set of letters. The last page of the books always changed a bit to read, "This is for the monster!" (and to give the monster something in return)

As he became familiar with the pattern I began to introduce the other high frequency words I wanted him to know. I started changing the patterns from 'this is for' to 'the cat is for' so that he had to be sure to look at the whole word and check himself (he knew the word cat because I would give it to him in my book introduction, but also because he was learning to check the picture as a reading strategy. He would also look at the first letter and make the motion for what we had practiced so that he could check himself). He became very good at re-reading to make sure he was correct unprompted. After he demonstrated a knowledge of recognizing the difference between 'this' and 'the' I added the word 'and' into the text, many times using the general Edmark script, only with the word inside a text instead of inside a general list of words. Slowly as the days went on (a new book every day) these words crept into his long-term memory and I would notice him finding the words in his classroom and pointing them out to friends (of course when he was actually suppose to be listening to his teacher..., but, I'll take what I can take, right?)

Of course we did not just rely on the books but also used magnetic letters to make the words we were working on learning, using some steps from Fernald's VAKT (Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, Tactile) approach. He thought it was the funniest thing in the world to make the word 'is' and then sneakily put the 'th' on the front to change it. He laughed at me every time, thinking he was tricking me. Did I mention that I love this kid?

I loved watching him succeed in learning words and letter sounds. The pride that filled his body when he walked around with a book he could read, or when he could point out words to his friends. I adore this kid and will miss him. I suppose right now I'm trying to organize the process I used this year so that his case manager and teachers for next year will have an understanding of what I did. I'm not sure they'll be thrilled about the prospect of writing a new book every day, but I have the template ready and waiting. Or perhaps they'll have even better ideas of ways we can reach this little one. After all the progress we'd made in the last month it was difficult to say goodbye and know that he wouldn't be reading so much this summer. I'm tempted to write new stories and do some 'reading drive-bys' just to keep him on his toes.

The most important thing I learned from this process was not to get caught up in research based practices. Using what I knew about my student's strengths and weaknesses I was able to create a personal program that met his needs. Sometimes a little bit of creativity can go a long way.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

location, location, location

a few weeks ago an idea crept into my head that i couldn't get rid of. what if i put my workspace in an actual classroom instead of in my current office so far away from the classrooms i teach? at first i thought it was crazy, and me just longing for the classroom environment again. but the more i thought about it the more it made sense. i miss so much in my classrooms when i am only there for the scheduled hour or so. so many times my kids need me for transitions, or to be walked through how to share a toy, or how to sit criss-cross-applesauce quietly. but when i'm only there for my hour of reading workshop i don't get many opportunities to do all of that. the more i thought about it the more the idea wouldn't go away so i finally approached one of my fabulous co-teachers and asked if i could house my desk in her room. she graciously agreed. i'm not sure i would have agreed as a classroom teacher. i think i would have felt a little invaded. especially since she already has her assistant's desk in the classroom. but i was thrilled she said thought it was a good idea.

i'm so excited to try this. it will be nice to feel more a part of a class and it will give me more information on the children i write iep goals for. it may even mean i get to sing all those silly songs trapped in my head from years of teaching first grade. and it should put me closer to my other two classrooms as well so that i can check in when needed. it will become a more organic co-teaching experience.

as one of my office-mates and i were pouting about the fact this would mean we wont see each other much next year she made a great observation. "this office becomes a crutch" she said. its so true. its an easy place to slip off to and not have to deal with the crazy children. it's so easy to go there, gossip with friends, sip our coffee, check email, and wonder why everyone else is working so hard. i am going to miss having that space away from the kids and having that adult time, but i think my office-mate hit the nail on the head. the space was a crutch for me this year. let's see if i can get by with out it. i'm excited to try this experiment. and it might not work. i may need more quiet time to write ieps or call translators, check in with parents and administrators. so if its not working i'll chalk it up as life experience and move myself back upstairs.

so, i've spent the last two days getting together the things i moved upstairs last summer and putting them together so i can move them back downstairs.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

images of the last day of school

re-reading my images of the first day of school made me realize how far we'd come since last july.

still, it was quite a day in its own right.

Small scenes of the day:

~dressed up children nervously clutching gift bags for teachers.
~the dramatic crying from high-school-musical diva throughout all of morning meeting. head in hands, body shaking, head occasionally rising to reveal absolutely no tears.
~giddy excitement and nervous energy as kids signed one another's memory books.
~kids covered in white shaving cream from cleaning desks.
~children coloring on one another's clothing, as though rules for the last day of school are totally different than the day before.
~teachers reminding children that the rules for today are exactly the same as they were yesterday.
~the strong smell of different cleaning solutions drifting into the hallway.
~quick mini-lesson on how to draw the pigeon, resulting in a fight over pigeon books that caused me to walk the books into the hallway and hand them to the nearest first grade teacher who said, "you can read it next year!"
~time-filler games, read-alouds, favorite songs sung, slide shows watched.
~introducing a third grader and my kindergartner who will be at the same school next year.
~trying not to tear up as i put my buddies on the bus knowing i'll most likely never see them again.
~all of the teachers waving goodbye to the buses and cars driving away from the school.

~the large margarita at happy hour.

it doesn't seem like it can possibly be over yet.

Monday, June 16, 2008

"i will not talk in school"

i got in trouble for talking in school.

on saturday i had grad class from 8-3ish (we were suppose to go 'til 5...) the problem is that the class is a continuation of our winter class so everyone in the class already knows each other. and when you go to class with people for hours and hours on saturdays you start to bond. and we hadn't seen each other in 4 weeks. and we have so much to compare. tornado experiences, on-line iep experiences, end of year craziness, and of course, wii bowling scores. so maybe i was really excited to talk to my friend. and maybe i didn't even notice the professor standing behind me, using that great teaching strategy of quietly waiting... maybe the professor threatened to separate us and THEN made us get new partners for our group work. seriously?

later she called my name to make sure my eyes were on her.

all of it was good teaching strategies. she didn't mock me, or yell at me, or shame me in any way. still, i feel like delinquent grad student. who gets in trouble in grad school? for talking? and now that i can't talk during lectures anymore, how am i suppose to survive 8 hours of school on saturday?

maybe i'll have to take my laptop and email.
(just kidding)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

meet fluffy, our pet dust bunny

i was not a nice person tonight. i fear my husband may have volunteered to go to the store at 10pm to avoid the rest of my grumpiness until i went to bed.

from 1 until about 4:30 i had back-to-back meetings on two different children, in two different but equally warm rooms. the air conditioning just didn't seem to be able to work at top form today. after my long set of meetings i stayed at school for too long, doing paperwork and staring at my mess of an office which needs to be packed up and ready to move by this time next week.

the end is so close we can taste it. my new back porch is calling to me. there is a library in my new neighborhood i haven't explored. and yet i feel like i'm drowning in end-of-year requirements.

on top of it all, my in-laws are visiting for the first time this weekend to see our new place. i was so excited about this visit until the power went out in both of our bathrooms last wed. and we can't get it to go back on (nor can we get someone to come fix it). on following the recommendation from dominion power (thanks guys) we managed to break our air conditioning as well. so my in-laws are coming to visit in a warm house with dark bathrooms. *sigh*

i love my in-laws but there is something that makes me feel like i have to overly impress them with the cleanliness and put-togetherness of the house. perhaps because its our first real house, or maybe its just a gut-instinct-woman thing. do we worry that the mother of the man we marry will reject us based on our kitchen floor?

this summer at the ASHA conference i attended a session on stress management. one tidbit the speaker recommended was not trying to do too much and setting priorities. for instance, instead of stressing about the cleanliness of the house she named her dust bunnies. then, when she noticed them, she could say, "FLUFFY! Good to see you! You Grew!"

brilliant.

and so, atlanta-lipsticks, welcome to our fabulous new house complete with dust-bunny fluffy, and unpacked boxes herb, bob, and don. i'm sure by tomorrow i'll think of new names for other 'household pets' as well.

now i'm going to sleep.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

test-taking strategies

today i was blessed to give a standardized test to 5 kindergartners on my case load. it was their first experience with fill-in-the-bubble-teacher-reads-from-script test and i was fascinated to see the 5 different ways each child approached it.

while i can think of a million reasons to complain about giving a standardized test to kiddos this young, i'll admit i think it is actually a great test that gives us great information. as a first grade teacher i always looked forward to seeing the scores. it's a nonverbal puzzle test which reveals problem-solving skills in children you might not have seen shine academically in the classroom.

so, while testing 5 kids back-to-back isn't my cup of tea, i understand the importance.

i started at 8:15 this morning trying to test 2 kiddos together. 2 minutes into the test it occurred to me this was a terrible idea. both were talking to themselves and singing, both had trouble tracking. just reading the scripted instructions exhausted them (and me). so i sent one back to class which left me with my opera singer.

and sing he did. the jeopardy theme song... jaws... monster songs... clifford songs...made up songs. he'd sing while he moved his finger s-l-o-w-l-y along the page to the correct answer as though he was a cat pouncing on a mouse. he knew the correct answer immediately, but felt it wasn't truly correct unless he snuck up on it with song. he delighted in each question and clapped at the exciting ones. the ones he really, really liked he said, "good job mrs lipstick! this is a good one!" because he apparently believed i had made the puzzles for him. (on the easier ones he pouted his lip and flickered his eye-lashes at me as though i would give him a harder one).

i love this kid.

onto the next kid. this one did not listen to my scripted directions at all (why even try to read them?). he carefully selected "the best answer" out of the 5 choices in front of him. but, we have to define best. i, and more experienced test takers, assume 'best' means 'correct''. my friend took best to me the one he liked the most. like, the prettiest picture, or the number he hadn't used in awhile. the test took him about 9 minutes.

the next kiddo was very upset that i was filling in the circles for him when he pointed. we're working on his fine-motor skills so we'd made the decision that he didn't need to fill in the circles himself if we wanted to get an accurate picture from the test. however, this kiddo is strong willed and did not feel i had any right to write in his test booklet. he was so excited about bubbling that i feel he forgot to pay attention to the answers/questions. for him it became a test of putting that pencil carefully in the right area and rubbing it back and forth quickly to make a mark. in the end i took his pencil away from him since he was so distracted, but that left us with momentary tears and pouting.

my next friend could not stay on topic as much as he tried. i kept tapping the test but he kept leaping out of his seat, or if he stayed in his seat, from topic to topic. the swimming pool, decorations in the room, his teacher, etc, etc. at one point he leaped up and tried to strip the clothes off one of my stuffed animals. anyone listening to me giving the test would have heard, "the mouse needs his clothes on to take the test" "the mouse cannot be naked"... etc, etc.

my final friend had deep debates with herself during the test. she frequently made comments like, "i agree with this one. do you? yes. maybe it's this one. no, i agree with this one." about half way through she decided the answer choices had stolen her baby and it was her duty to find her baby (the correct answer). each new question led her to say, "how dare you take my baby? it's you number 5!! but you can't escape! i've caught you. hahahahah!"

i tested these kiddos because their teachers and i had decided they would do better in a small environment. i cannot imagine them taking the test in the whole-group setting, but i foresee disaster.

and so, this concludes their first standardized test experience. they have years and years of testing in front of them, and if they were going to sing/argue/scribble on their answer booklet, well, better now than later.

and now i know, as a first grade teacher, to only put so much stock in this test. in fact, if kiddos do well, that is even more incredible than i thought before. just navigating the testing experience should get you 50 points.

scripts spelling bee 2008

what a great attitude:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=2JWKf9wnv7g


(by the time i see something on youtube i always assume the rest of the world has already seen it... but just in case you haven't)

ht to sister and brother and law :)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

perhaps they shouldn't let me out in public

we just returned from an unbelievable wedding in sarasota, florida. the bride is a good friend of my husband's from college and she asked him to read a passage from the velveteen rabbit at the wedding. i'm not ashamed to admit that if they'd gotten married first i totally would have stolen this passage and read it at my own wedding.

it was the passage when the velveteen rabbit and the skin horse are talking and the rabbit asks him what it means to be real. the skin horse talks about how its not until your eyes fall out and you become loose in the joints and you don't care how you look anymore because someone loves you. beautiful. absolutely perfect for a wedding.

however, i was shocked by how many people weren't familiar with the story. so, at the rehearsal dinner, i for whatever reason, decided i needed to fill them in on the story line. i mean, how can you possibly have a fulfilled life if you don't understand the premise behind the velveteen rabbit? how did you learn to love?

so glass of wine in hand, i launched into the story with captive adults looking at my curiously as i explained about the old bunny opened on christmas day. and then, their faces changed in horror as i went into the ending, the scarlet fever, the fire, the boy headed to the beach holiday without his beloved bunny, and how we're suppose to be happy in the end because the rabbit turns real, even though he's not with his beloved boy.

i may have gotten a bit carried away with the retelling of the story. but... how do you not?

i wasn't the only one who felt so passionately about it. a few men actually came up to my husband and wanted to discuss the plot and other meaningful books. it was touching to see grown men want to discuss their meaningful childhood books. however quickly another man would come along and the conversation would turn to baseball.

i actually did not like the velveteen rabbit at all growing up. how could the nanny just BURN the bunny? was she 100% heartless? had she not read corduroy and understand the love between a child and his toy?? it didn't matter how many times my mother explained the horrors of scarlet fever, i decided i would rather die from sickness with my beloved stuffed animal than have it burned. puff the magic dragon had the same affect on me. i hated that song because the boy grew up in the end leaving poor puff alone. heartless, all of it. and yet the adults somehow got that these stories were lovely and everything was ok when people left their loved ones.

perhaps this explains my difficulties in sending my children on to the next year, or letting them to go another school. i'm not so good with the moving on i suppose. i think i can blame it all on too many readings of the velveteen rabbit. but perhaps i need to keep this all to myself and need to stop retelling the story lines in social settings...

"my friend is sad"

after field day i had begged one of my co-teachers to let me do a read-aloud to her class. another coworker had recommended the book my friend is sad by mo willems and told me that i absolutely had to read it to a class before the end of the year. her email actually stated, "You might want to- are required to read the elephant's voice as a moody/low/"eeyore" type voice. Piggy's voice must be a piglet or tigger kind of voice.
Tis all. :)


So i knew it had to be a fantastic book.

after getting my co-teacher to agree to this i settled down to read the book to a bunch of sweaty kindergartners just returning from their first field-day experience.

at first they looked at me like i was crazy as i attempted my best piglet/tigger voice, but as the story went on mo's characters took over the room.

before i'd even finished the book they were begging to read it again. i highly recommend getting a copy of the book, finding a class full of kids and sitting down for a read aloud. it will be the highlight of your day.

Friday, June 6, 2008

field day comments

"What do we do???"

"I don't know, but I'll bet he'll tell us."

"Betty? Whose Betty?"

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

a day in the life...

i'm headed for bed after a very long day, but as i rode the bus home from book club tonight i found myself looking back at my whirlwind of a day with a smile. i'm headed to my brother's graduation from college tomorrow. 5 years ago i was graduating from the same school. if i'd described what i'd be doing 5 years after graduation i think i would have described something like today.

after kiss and ride duty (ok, not my cup of tea) i ran to my first grade classroom so i could get in a fast reading group on the book Love That Dog (possibly one of my favorite books to read with kids ever). then i sat in on a morning meeting across the hall in kindergarten, followed by another guided reading lesson with first graders who have learning disabilities. we giggled our way through the silly book and i rejoiced when one of my kids said, "i read back" when he re-read to fix his mistakes. (not only did he fix his mistakes, he knew what strategy he used! so smart!)

when guided reading ended i went to another kindergarten room and got to read books and play clock games with more of the kids on my caseload. we tried to "trick each other" for about 10 minutes by showing each other times on the toy clock and getting the other person to guess.

back to first grade for writing workshop (i heart writing workshop) where (after coaxing a kiddo to come out from sulking) we wrote a book with skills i was excited he could use. a story with a beginning, middle, and end! hooray!

over to kindergarten again for another writing workshop where we introduced how to write 'how to' books. an hour of exciting writing conferences and helping kiddos stretch out their words, i was off to a very fast lunch and 2 meetings on the children with other fabulous educators where we looked at in depth studies of their academic, psychological, and social performances.

the day ended with an announcement about a tornado warning and we spent the next hour in the main hallway of the school calming the children in after school care who were scared of the storm. i have incredible coworkers who all flooded to help calm the kids even though it was after school hours.

eventually i made my way out of the building and caught a bus into the city for my book club. on the way home, as i waited for the bus (now that i no longer live a few blocks from the train) i watched the incredible lightning criss-cross across the sky over the city skyline.

it sounds silly that i look back at the day and feel like i'm doing exactly what i wanted to with my life. i spent today reading with kids, teaching kids with learning disabilities, analyzing how we can better meet the needs of kids, and then helping entertain kids when they needed a distraction. it's not my 2nd year in a high-powered law firm, a day on wall street, reporting for cnn, or finishing up a phd program at an ivy league school like some of my classmates from 5 years ago. but it is exactly what i wanted from a career when i graduated 5 years ago.

10 more days

i may actually be one of the few people who isn't counting...

don't get me wrong, i am looking forward to the morning i can sleep in and then sit on my new porch with coffee and a book and stay in my pajamas all day long. go to the gym in the middle of the day. meet my husband for lunch on the roof of his building in the city. go to museums. sleep.

but since this was my first year in special ed, i'm not ready to chalk it up as over. there are things i wanted to do this year that i haven't. goals left to meet, concepts to teach, different ways to organize my paperwork. i have come to realize that i am an odd sort of perfectionist. i'm not type a as it is classical thought of, but i can't let something go until i think its perfect. and if its not perfect i have to do it again until it is. in the shower this morning i was thinking of everything i want to fix in the last 2 weeks, everything i need to put right so that i can consider the year a success. its a long list...

so i'm not ready for this year to be over. i know exactly what i want to do next with the kids, and i'm not ready to let them loose for the summer. and what about the paperwork i never organized in a productive way? not next year, i want to fix it now!

with picnics, field day, celebrations, and testing there is no time to meet with kids or get everything done. so i'm going to have to suck it up, say its ok if things weren't perfect, and decide to get it next time.

and just when i decided yesterday it's ok to be over, one of my kids gave me a bear hug with such enthusiasm that once i was able to breath again, i couldn't help but think, well, if he's happy to see me then maybe we how can we put this energy toward guided reading... except that guided reading is almost over.
have i mentioned i'm not good at letting go?

A think tank focused on creative solutions for future problem solvers -tree