It’s late so…here is a six-word poem which summarizes my day.
Sinus headache slowed my thinking today.
It’s late so…here is a six-word poem which summarizes my day.
Sinus headache slowed my thinking today.
In January, I attended an online meeting with an educational group. It is a big organization with 3 or 4 “President’s Meetings” each year. My job is to “attend” and take notes. Easy, right? This would have been my second ever meetings with them. The Fall meeting went well, no glitches, so I wasn’t expecting anything less. However, at this January meeting, after successfully logging in to the ZOOM meeting, I could not hear for about ½ the meeting. You heard me, half the meeting! After many questions typed through the ZOOM site, I finally suggested that they check their mute button. It was on! Frustration!
Tonight, I was supposed to be attending another ZOOM meeting online with the same educational group. “Oh, this will be awesome,” I foolishly thought, thinking all the muting issues were cleared up. “I won’t have to spend two hours driving. I’ll relax at home, and, ha, ha, if the meeting is slow, I’ll freeze my video, listen, and work on something else.” (I have a second screen so I can work on one screen and look at a second screen on my laptop.) Well, my best laid plans did not go as I expected…
I should have known something was up when TODAY I had to email the organizer to ask about the ZOOM address. It had not been sent yet. Why wasn’t I suspicious that this wasn’t well organized? The e-invitation did arrive about 5:30. Not much time to spare, but, oh well, it’s here. So, at about 6:00 PM, I clicked on the link. It opened, but spent considerable time spinning its wheel…launching…launching…launching, or, rather NOT launching. Ugh! Nothing.
More emails to the organizer. I tried the phone-in number for the audio meeting. “Your ZOOM meeting has not started yet,” the recorded message informed me. Yes, it has! It’s past 6:00. “Please try again later.,” the calm robotic voice continued. Not again! More emails…no responses. I give up!
My son walked into the kitchen without a care in the world. “I can’t believe it. Everytime I have to work with any educational organization and technology, it is a disaster,” I stormed. “They’re always so far behind the times. I hate it!”
“You’re sounding more like a millennial everyday,” he answered with a grin.
Yesterday, the day, fresh and warm and gorgeous, beckoned me, “Come play!”
I answered. My bike, with flattened tires and dusty body, sat stoically behind winter storage-the wicker chairs and pillows, the planter, the shovel, and an assortment of other items. Ugh!
Determinedly, wiggling this item, moving that item, scooching the other thing, I managed to roll out my royal blue Peugeot. It’s like an old friend; we know one other well The seat is comfy; the handlebars are adjusted just right; and the frame is perfect for 5’3” me. I wonder where that pump could be? Usually, my husband and I ride over the rolling hills along the bike trail to a lakeside deli that overlooks a marina together, but today, my husband is working. I think I can do this by myself this time. After wasting a good bit of time looking for the elusive pump, I decided to call my husband’s work.
“Do you know where the pump is?” I asked.
“Are you going on a bike ride?” he answered, somewhat disappointedly. I knew he wished he was free to ride along.
“I know I’m out of shape so I thought I would just go on a little ride. Maybe 20 minutes or so. Do you think it will be OK? Both the tires are flat, though,” I added. The last time I rode by myself, I got a flat tire and had to be rescued by the sag wagon. The bike dealer had repaired the rim, noticing that there had been little metal shards that sliced the tire.
“I think if you go 20 minutes without any problems, you should be ok. The pump is over to the left of the garbage cans. Have fun!” he added wistfully.
The yellow pump was shortly attached to my tires. Pushing down easily and quickly at first, it became harder and harder until, at last, I was using my entire body weight to force the air in. Reaching out with my right hand, I squeezed each tire hard. Neither was mushy or soft. I’m good to go! Quickly, I detached the pump and put it away.
Just to be sure I didn’t overdo my very first ride after a long winter’s biking hiatus, I set the stopwatch on my iPhone for 24 minutes. Twenty-four minutes out, turn around, and come back home.. The return trip for me is traditionally a bit longer. Max time about 45 or 50 minutes. Just get my legs warmed up for the season.
Click! My chin strap latched as I put on my helmet. On slipped my gloves, first the left and then the right.. Right foot on right petal. I’m off. Looking both ways, I navigate out the driveway onto the suburban road in front of our house.
The saying, “It’s like riding a bike,” is so true. My bike and I start to fly along in perfect harmony, just as if my bike hadn’t been waiting patiently all winter long for me to come play. The unseasonably warm day, 55 degrees to be exact, brought more than just me out. I think every two-legged creature alive was out walking, and many with their four-pawed friends. Couples with pouchies. Moms with strollers. Parents with children. Joggers. Bikers. Scooterers. Is that a word? Oh, I don’t care. The air was fresh and clean and it breathed new life into my winter-weary soul. As I slowed to cross one road after another, I noticed I didn’t even have to stop. No one was driving their cars! All werel out, like me, soaking up this seasonal medicine.
My alarm, annoyingly, started to ring, reminding me that I must turn around. Seeing a little turn-around spot along the bike trail, about halfway down the hill I”d been zooming down, I slowed my bike and sharply turned the handles. Time to head for home.
The return trip was full of delights. Two cardinals-one a brownish female with just a hint of red and the other a male wearing his scarlet robes twittered a merry hello as I glided by. Then, a pond slipped by, complete with a goose and her goslings swimming in an orderly line…like children following a teacher. Rabbits hopped from bush to bush; squirrels scampered here and there. All were out-human and creature alike.
I slowed as I spotted a familiar gray house with its red door and inviting forsythia wreath.. Carefully, I steered into the driveway and came to a gently stop. Reaching behind me, I unzipped the pouch in my neon yellow windbreaker where my iPhone was ticking off the minutes. I checked it. Twenty-eight minutes return trip. That figures! A little pride puffs up inside me, I know pride goes before a fall, but I am happy with my accomplishment- this little goal for the day. I can’t wait for the second ride of the season!
Bang! The car door slammed behind me. Turning, my feet stepped from the back parking lot into the alleyway beside church; I headed toward the front door. The sun shone brightly on my face, warming it. A smile, the kind with little upturned ends, spread across my face. It feels so good. The breeze, an early-spring kind of warm, played with my wavy, brown hair and tickled my skin. It feels so good.
Chirp! Chirp! Could that be a robin? Where is it? I asked myself, looking up, down, left, and right. Where is it? My little feathered friend was shy and chose to remain out of sight.
I need to hurry. I”ll be late. I willed my feet to hurry along. Then, music and joy and God’s people praising Him. How great to be alive!
I ran up the concrete stairs, reached out my hand, grasped the door knob, pulled it open, and entered. “God is in his heaven, and all is right with the world,” I quoted to myself.
Illuminate Winter shadows
Loosen Winter’s frozen grip
Lift hope on wistful wings
Yearn for frollicking Spring
Today, I had fun. I had the opportunity to model a Writer’s Workshop minilesson in a second grade classroom. The teacher asked me to teach a minilesson on how to add dialogue to writing. It was exciting. One of the only downfalls of coaching, in my opinion, is the missed opportunities to work with students on a daily basis. So, here was my chance.
First, I had to plan the lesson. The class is revisiting narrative writing, personal narrative writing. I knew I wanted to demonstrate how to come up with an idea, how to get my ideas down quickly, how to illustrate, and, finally, how to add dialogue.
My lesson started with the minilesson statement, Writers add dialogue to their writing to make it more interesting for the reader. Then, I added, “I’m so happy I get to write with you today because I’ll be writing in my favorite genre–narrative. I get to write stories, stories about me, stories about my life!” Of course, as you know, kids love it when we tell our stories. It reels them right in. On I went, “I have to think of an idea. What do I like to write about?” Yep, you guessed it. I whipped out my heart map of my writing territories and listed a few. “I love to write about my dog, but I know some of you heard those stories last year. I like to write about beaches…and my family…and my grandma and Papa. Hmm… I just saw a photograph of my Papa the another day where he was husking corn, and it reminded me of that time he taught me to husk corn on his back porch. That’s what I’ll write about.” And on I go with my story idea. “I have to think about what was happening and what I saw and what we said.” Next, mentioning the kind of paper, the kind with a place for an illustration at the top and lines at the bottom, I begin to quickly write my story. I scribble about 4 sentences. Rereading, I add onamonapia, Bang! the sound of the back door slamming behind me…always nice to model revision.
Then, the fun really began. I start talking about about all the details on the back porch: the nylon-webbed, folding chairs; the cellar door which required pantomiming and descriptions; the clothes Papa and I wore, colors and all; the large, grocery bag of unhusked corn on the bench, etc., etc., etc. I was drawing the whole time I was talking. Instant student engagement.
As I finished my rough sketch, I thought out loud, “What did Papa say to me? Hmmm… Do you think he just pointed to the bag? No. He said, ‘I’m going to husk some corn,’” and I wrote that in a talking bubble. “Do you want to help me?” I added to the talking bubble. Continuing my think-aloud, I began “I was a little nervous because I didn’t really know how to husk corn, but do you know what I answered?” looking straight into the sparkling eyes of my audience waiting in rapt attention.
Hands flew up, smiles breaking out on different faces. One student, unable to contain his excitement, shouted, “Sure!”
“Yea, yea,” chorused others.
“Yes, that is exactly what I said!” I added the word to a talking bubble by the little girl drawing of myself. I went on about how I wanted the reader to be able to read that in my writing, how to mark the beginning and end of the exact talking–the exact words in the speech bubble–with quotation marks. The lesson finished up with, “Who has an idea they are going to write about from your life?” and “Turn and tell a neighbor what you are going to write about.” Reminded them to add dialogue, I continued, “Off you go, Writers!” My little writers scampered happily to their desks.
Pencils scratched across papers. The time flew. Two students added dialogue, shared out at the end. I felt the thrill of teaching! ____________________________________________________________________________________________
Today, for once, I thought to bring the video camera. I wanted to reflect on my practice, even though I knew I wouldn’t like my outfit with my green head scarf, in recognition of St. Patrick’s Day. Later, watching myself, I noticed my timing was pretty great, just a smidge long. Time and I continually battle for supremacy. Time usually wins. Reflecting, I mentally plan for next time: write part of the story ahead of time, stand facing the clock, skip the revision on day 1, change this, change that. I have some good ideas for next time.
Mostly, today reminded me that it is important to continually practice what I preach. What is it I ask teachers to do? That I, too, need to do. Teach, reflect, respond, reflect, change, reflect…
Grrrr…grrrr…grrrr. I love sharpening pencils, sharpening pencils at the end of the day. I love the sound. I love the satisfaction of its routine. When day is done, as I am preparing to head home, I straighten my desk, putting in order all the papers and books. I put the Post-its into the drawer; slide opened books back into their homes in the bookcase; clink the stray paper clips into my clay bowl, a clay bowl created by my long-grown, then, first grade daughter. Its hand rolled coils, green and turquoise, snake around into the shape of a leaning cone. Push the shutdown button, click the laptop shut. Push the chair, with its black polyester cushion, neatly under the golden oak desk. I grab my black leather purse and lunchbox, orange and empty, and place them on the upholstered blue chair. There they tarry, ready to be clutched as I saunter out the door. Then, last of all, my hand gathers all the used pencils, in various states of dullness and grrrr…grrrr…grrrr. Sharpening pencils. Each, pointy and new, waiting to be used, are slipped into the top drawer and tucked in bed on the curved, wooden pencil tray. They, like I, are ready for repose, ready to start a new day, sharpened and refreshed. I love sharpening pencils.
Looking up from my bus duty line, an unexpected sight caught my eye. A little boy, toddling along, suddenly fell. There, on all fours like a little puppy, he froze. No tears trickled down his face; not yells of pain; no shouts for help. Frozen like a sculpture he remained until the two hands of Mom, following closely behind, reached down and grasped both sides of his coat-covered waist. Gently, those hand lifted him back on his two feet. Secure again and without a look behind, or even a casual, “Thank you, Mommy,” he started on his merry way again. On he toddled, seeming to forget those helping hands.
This scene has stayed in my thoughts as I puzzle over it. What a beautiful scene it was! So much love and tenderness from Mom. So much caring and protecting. So much helping and guiding. We all need helping hands, I thought.
Life is like that, I continued my musings. Sometimes we fall, and for some inexplicable reason, we seem frozen, unable to ask for help and, yet, unable to move forward. That is when we need helping hands. Sometimes those hands lift; sometimes those hands guide; sometimes those hands steady us; sometimes those hands comfort. Whatever the case, those helping hands give us what we need to move on again.
Coaching is like that. Sometimes we come alongside a colleague when they seem frozen–discouraged, uninformed, questioning–in their journey. Then, Coach, following closely beside, gives a helping hand–a lift, a listening ear, a suggestion, an idea–just a bit. Then, that colleague is able to move happly forward again, confident and secure, scarcely remembering the helper. So is life, so is the role of Coach.
Have you ever suddenly and unexpectedly come across something that at first seems common, but upon investigation, is a treasure? Have you ever walked drearily along in late winter seeing only snow, but there, right in front of you, like a flash in the darkness, is a purple crocus pushing up through the winter’s white mantle? This discovery brings the warmth of hope that thaws the frozen void within.
In the same manner, I discovered a new book! Always on the look-out for children’s picture books for interactive read-alouds, I intently listened to a wonderful Lover of Books share her most glorious finds from the last publishing year. Taking copious amounts of notes on this one or that one, I considered which might be the best choices for our students. Then, this Lover of Books held up a mostly maroon-colored book. It had, on the cover, a book with a key hole on it and a bluish girl sitting upon the book. It was entitled, A Child of Books, by Oliver Jeffers and illustrated by Sam Winston. A bit of it was read aloud, and it didn’t catch my attention. I decided to pass on this book. “Too plain,” I thought to myself
Later, at another session at this conference, the same Lover of Books, share this identical maroon-covered book again! “Wow!” I thought to myself, “She must really like this book.”
At about the same moment, a very literary friend of mine and fellow literacy coach, leaned over and whispered, “I have that book in my office.” Sitting up a bit straighter, I paid closer attention to this second reading of the book.
“Isn’t this cool? All the illustrations are made up of words. Words from different books,” the Lover of Books enthused. My eyes narrowed, squinting, as I tried to see the illustrations better. Then, exploding like a bomb, “I have this book sitting out in my office,” exclaimed the presenter.
“You better pay attention,” I thought to myself, “maybe this book is worth purchasing.” I only had a few moments after the presentation to glance at the book. “Still a little sparse looking…I’ll order it.” With a click of a few buttons on my computer, my decision was final. “It’ll be fun to get a package on my doorstep when I get home. Amazon Prime, I love you!”
After opening the package that indeed was waiting for me when I got home and having time, I really read and studied the book. Each page, starting with the end pages, have wonderful quotes from books,classics, like The Count of Monte Cristo and The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Rubinson Crusoe and A Christmas Carol and… the list goes on and on. There are other wonderful quotes from fairy tales and nursery rhymes, ones we all know like “Hush-a-Bye Baby” or “Brahms’ Lullaby” or “Snow White and Red Rose” and “Rapunzel” and…. A smile spread across my face as I read on and on,examining “…Sam Winston’s fascinating typographical landscapes…” (from book jacket). Here is a book that lifts up the worlds that can be imagined on the sea of stories.
And, the best, to me, was the illustration on the last page:
Isn’t this what we want for all people everywhere? To have the key to read and travel through the worlds of books, of stories?
This book will be on display in my office, too.
For Cold or Flu
That was a Bayer advertisement on television when I was a little girl; I can remember it still. Straight forward, logical recommendations. It seems like this advice has been squeezed out of our busy, hurry-up lives. I wonder why?
When a little girl, I remember, under the care of my mom, following this advice. If I was sick (which was very rare) and at home, Mom tucked me in bed, brought me orange juice, hot tea, or water, and gave me 2 aspirin. Then, I slept or read or, the best option, Mom came and sat with me for a while. She held my hand or read me a story or just talked. Having her there was really comforting. By next morning, my happy, healthy self was back running around, full of energy and sparkle.
Today, no one is allowed to be sick. If we are, run to the doctor, get antibiotics, and return to the usual hectic pace without even a slowdown. Or, we just power through. The malaise, not surprisingly, seems to linger on and on.
Well, today, a stomach flu laid me low. When you are vomiting, you can’t really go into work. Very inconvenient to be turning green and running for the bathroom every half hour! I stayed home, wrapped up in a quilt and rested on the loveseat; drank as much fluid as I could handle; and took pain relievers to help with an accompanying, splitting headache. I watched some t.v. and dozed most of the day. I didn’t have energy or desire for much else, even this slice. Several family members stopped by to see how I was doing and cheer me up. I don’t think I’m 100% right now, but I am mending fast.
As I followed what doctors recommended from the 1960s, I got to thinking that this is the way recuperation should be when sick with colds or flu (or some stomach bugs): rest in bed (or on the loveseat), drink plenty of fluids, and take pain medicine as needed. I’m glad I did.
Thank you, Bayer!
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Educational Consultant and Author Christopher Lehman's Blog
A blog for literacy educators and administrators PreK-8