Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Writing Fire

I loved Katherine Sokoloski's post last week posing the question, "Should teachers be writers?" I more frequently hear the refrain that teachers need to be readers, but we don't often talk about teachers as writers.  We most always write with our students, but when do we write for ourselves.  It can be challenging. I know.

In 2015, I was the least prolific on my blog aside from the first year I created the blog when I wrote a single post and was done. I wasn't connected. I didn't know I needed to be connected.  This past year, I haven't had the energy to write.  A series of events blindsided me and it took my strength of mind to persist.  I opted out of writing, but I did engage in the self-care of working out.  It really isn't the lesser of two evils for me.  But I am back into writing sooner than I thought.  I always knew I would be back in, especially by March.  I couldn't, I wouldn't miss the month-long Slice of Life Writing Challenge. It was what pushed me into blogging routinely in the first place and taught me the most about writing in a community. It was a series of post last week, however, that helped me recover sooner.

A second post last week reminded me that the SOLSC was five weeks away.  I had diagnosed myself with what I at first termed "leader fatigue," but after researching it, find it best described as social good fatigue.  What stands out most for me is number 3 about the power of community--by being "connected to coaches, and mentors, and colleagues who care for them and can help them stay healthy. And it's helpful to have a few role models who inspire you by how they stay passionate and committed over the long haul"(Miller, 2014).  I am lucky to have both in face-to-face community and my virtual community.  It helps me sustain and rekindle my fire.

When my former student Ashley Carson, now a teacher, created her blog  last week and posted each day, my writing fire was rekindled.  When three other teacher-friends, Alicia Duarte, Autumm Harrar, and Laura Kies, committed to joining the SOLSC in March, I was re-energized.  When I just listened to all the teachers from the Two Writing Teachers Voxer group I recently joined, discuss their writing work all week with post-it notes, my writing fire was stoked.  I realized that I can manage to write a post-it a day. Just like I can manage working out for an hour a day. I consider it a small win for my writing, perhaps because as I know a blog post always takes longer than I think, but  a post-it can take on any size.  

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Starting the Day Right!

How do you start your day?  Mine always starts with a smile and a good morning.  We can never let go of the power of a simple good morning whether you have had your coffee or not. I admit, I am a person who wakes up and hits the floor running, and I can been annoyingly cheerful in the morning.  I am never, however, too busy or too tired to not smile and say good morning although sometimes I just don't feel it!  It sets the tone for the day.   It sets the tone in your classroom.

At my first teaching job it was the expectation that the teacher greet the students at the door.  It was a habit cultivated during my first year when my supervising administrator, Susan Storch, came and prompted me to the door between classes.  I was busy as all high school teachers are during class changes, getting ready to transition for the next set of students.  For students who don't want to come to school or excited to learn, it communicates to them that someone is glad they are there. For me it was a simple way to gauge their readiness to learn and chat informally with them.

My English students decided that our morning routine would include the natural light of morning versus electricity since we had a gorgeous bay of windows without a view, but windows nonetheless. They based their decision after reading our article of the week (GallagherMaking Light of Sleep. They applied their discovery about blue light versus natural sunlight and decided that they could make one small change to make them more wakeful in class.

My last addition to getting the morning started right is having a personal playlist.  It is one that I play on the way to work, but I also created one with titles that my students earned.  We kept it clean and PG-13, but it added a little movement to our mornings.  It also allowed me to gather more insight about my students' interest and exposed students to a wide variety of genres.

Anyone of these three steps were simple additions to my hectic morning routines. How do you like to start your day or your early mornings with students?

Morning sky over the Caribbean Sea

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


As we head into a new school year, setting goals is a common classroom activity.  Fall is a great time set student goals, set your teacher goals, or reset personal goals.  We often lose sight of how long it takes to establish the habits and routines that will lead us to actually reaching our goals.  We also often don't have clear markers to demonstrate that we are indeed making progress toward the goal, no matter how small.  We also neglect to remember that we will have setbacks on our journey toward our goal.

I was reminded of all of this when I finally met a goal today that I had established over a year and a half ago with my doctor.  I finally reached the sevens.  She wanted me to do it by her birthday in June. I fell a tenth of a point short then.  It took me three months longer.  Seeking Six is the name of this blog because the number six is the elusive A1C number that I was initially told to strive toward in 2008 when I received my diagnosis of LADA.  Seven years later I now know that a more accurate title would be Seeking Seven, but I digress!  I reached the upper sevens today. I am happy. To reach that goal, my progress was monitored every three months officially and I inched closer to the goal.  I also had a part in monitoring my progress daily.  I had a strategy in place that I set up with my doctor. I had the resources I needed. I also had the desire. Despite the supports, it still took time.  We often forget how much time it takes to reach goals, especially with our students, because we live in a world that responds in an instant.  I personally have something to work on for the next three months to get into the mid-sevens.  I professionally have goals for my students and teachers too.

As I work with my students this year, as I work on myself and within my teacher teams, I want to remember to be patient. Everything I want to cultivate in teachers, in students, and in myself takes time.  Having seamless transitions with small group rotations takes time.  Bringing new members into a PLC and getting everyone moving on the same page takes time.  Getting students to recognize the sustained effort it takes to grow as a reader.  Reaching the low sevens. It will take hard work, it will take hand-holding and it will take small shifts.  As my mentor, Janet Allen, said, "We are all works-in-progress."  Allowing time for students and teachers to bloom, grow and work toward progress, that's my job. That's also what I am doing for myself.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What Slicing Means 2 Me From A to Z!

A challenging work day  today for me by far and not one that I am ready to share.  I have been thinking about my last slice post. It is most fitting on the last day of the month-long Slice of Life Story Challenge to reflect and for that I use the .A to Z list! 

Audience-The SOLSC participants who post comments and those who just stop provide valuable feedback and sometimes just the acknowledgement that I hear you.  Even the larger community of friends who stop by and perhaps don't comment, but hit like on Facebook, thanks for listening. I didn't know it mattered.  

Brave-It takes courage to put your writing in a public space for other to read.

Challenge Writing is hard work and we most often demonstrate and realized the truth of it by pushing ourselves to write every day this month.  

Dedication-Demonstrated daily to ourselves, to our slice community,and to our students.

Exercise-Writing is an exercise of the mind and you get better by doing it every day, especially on the days you don't think you can.  

Friends- Virtual ones you make through your words and blog visits.

Gift- No one is paid for participating.  Thank you for the gift of your time. It is the most valuable gift you can give.  

Habit- You can find time every day to do what you value and that is what cultivates habits.

Introspection- The daily thinking required by daily writing practice.  

Juggle our lives and its demands of it, but still finding time to write.

Know- the lessons you have learned about the teaching of writing just by the practice of writing.

Labor-Writing takes work and one just never sits down and is done in the 15 minutes that you only have that day.  

Medium- I played with different mediums this SOLSC. I crafted a weekly infographic on Fridays and integrated pictures on my Eye-Spy Wednesdays.  

Novel-The ideas that I have gained from others as well as the stories! The brain seeks patterns and responds to novelty! Thanks for adding novelty to my life and my teaching practice. 

Observe-Writers check out their world. They listen. They see.  This year I added pictures.  It made me look hard for interesting images in my daily world.

Peers-My face-to-face teacher friends, Erin, Lee, LeeAnn, and Krystin who write alongside with me, I learn so much from you! Those who will write with me in the future! I can't wait for you to join. 

Quiet- The place I go to in my head when I write.  Writing isn't all collaboration. It is just the tapping of your keys and the words pouring through your fingers.  Even in a room of chaos, I can find the quiet and the words.

Routine- Open posts were hard and sometimes the routines of writing specifically about certain topics on different days lead to more freedom.  I enjoyed having a Sunday Seven, Eye-Spy, Infographic, and In the Wild posts for four of the seven days.  

Stacey-This is my fourth year participating, but the SOLSC has been alive since 2008..  Many people have vision, but few act and do and sustain!  Thanks Stacey for keeping the writing live.

Team-What it takes to pull this challenge off!  There is the SOLSC with adult writers, I think with over 260 writers and then there are the student writers in the Classroom SOLSC.  You have the site team and then the people who rose to commenting challenges, writers who helped people navigate new to them tech or slice experience and the welcome wagon as well as other organizations that provided prizes. Then there are the participants too.  The team works because we each add to the community.  

Understanding-Understanding of your writing self, your student writers, and others' experiences.

Voice-what emerges through  routine practice.

Whispers-Words that percolate in your mind throughout the day as you figure out what you want to post next.

XOXO- hugs and kisses to my readers and commenters!

Yahoo- Yeah we made it! We're done!  What will you write next?  Will you participate weekly?  How will you move forward in your writing life?

Zen- The knowing that you did it! You accomplished it!  You can write more than you thought possible!  

Monday, March 30, 2015

Want Ad:

The mentor text that inspired my writing tonight is from Kathleen Cushman's Fires in the Bathroom: Advice for Teachers From High School Students. There is a Want Ad for teachers in there crafted by student writers. I've written about many different topics. Here is mine about the learners I want! Each year when the slicing gets tough, this want ad writing is an easy way to come up with a quick piece.


Must have sense of humor; must not make other learners feel bad by cutting them down; must understand that teachers are human and make mistakes; must take responsibility for actions; must not disguise the fact that they like learning; must be tenacious when encountering “mental blocks”; must choose honesty over escapism; must not scream; must learn to tolerate others; must ask for help and recognize that the teacher is not a mind reader; must try to come to school on every day, on time and prepared; must not leave garbage for others to pick up; must be patient;  must have respect for people’s belongings; must get to know teachers and let teachers get to know them; must know that grades aren’t the only thing, but are a reflection of your academic achievement; must be flexible; must be hardworking; must not run with scissors; must play well with others; 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sunday Seven

7. A wonderful week hanging out with my daughter. Her strength, curiosity, and spirit spur me to do better each day.

6. A husband who saves every receipt, which is really helpful come tax time.  This detail is the attention that he applies to work refinishing furniture and his art.  It is a detail lost upon me. I prefer the big picture.

5. Reading time this past week.  Many books were finished this week for my work on the Elizabeth Amelia Walden committee.  By summer I will get back to my regularly scheduled reading list.

4. Lingering at lunch and breakfast with friends and family during break. Rather than a 20 minute quick bite at the desk or table near the window (sometimes).  The company was a welcome respite from my daily lunch regime.

3. Being okay forgetting to post yesterday.  This is my fourth year slicing and I haven't posted with the urgency that I felt year 1 and 2.  I had my post for Saturday. I just didn't upload. It slipped my mind.  I remembered once.  It slipped my mind.  I know I can write and post every day if needed.  It's ok not too!

2. The season finale of The Walking Dead.  My husband and child, mostly my child, are obsessed.  He introduced her to the comics when she was in 2nd grade and then they started watching together.  Her favorite books are the two compendiums, $60 dollar books.  I started watching briefly with them and enjoyed zombies for what the show was about...to me the question, what makes us human and civilized?    I love the show, but despite my daughters urging have not read the comics.  I decided to let them watch it together this season knowing that they can share the moments and I can catch the reruns.

1. Going back to work and colleagues that I love.  I do love the break, but the routines and rhythm of work is good for me!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Tarpon Springs

Last Sunday, I had an opportunity to continue to explore Florida's west coast.  I grew up on the east coast of Florida and prefer the cold Atlantic ocean and the waves it brings.  The Gulf of Mexico feels like bath water in the summer and it's too hot to enjoy!  I have, however, always wanted to go see Tarpon Springs, the Greek isle of Florida.  So after camping in the Withlacoochie and floating down the Weeki Wachee River, we headed to Tarpon Springs for the day.

Immediately we were inundated with the blaring of Greek music and the blue and white flag of Greece.  We happened upon the parade to celebrate Greek independence.  I felt a little conspicuous in my Rick Riordan purple and gold Camp Jupiter shirt with my SPQR blatantly displayed. I wouldn't know if I was being disparaged as the streets were filled with Greek.  Everyone young and old was speaking it.  I was awash in the language. I don't know if that would happen on any other day in Tarpon Springs, but that glorious spring afternoon, the streets were filled with the language, songs, and costumes of  Greece.

You can enjoy the many Greek dishes as cafes line the main street, but what I always want when I am on the coast is fresh fish.  We skipped the many restaurants for one on the docks.  We sat outside and watched the ships sail into the tiny port.  After a delicious meal, we wandered like tourists and purchased some sponges as that is what the city was settled for in the early 1800s. To learn more about how Tarpon Springs was settled, learn more in this Florida Frontiers story here: Greek Culture Flourishes