My Bags are Packed, I’m Ready to Go

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IMG-3219I’m sitting at my hotel desk eating my breakfast. My mind is not here, though.  I’m already, in my mind’s eye, on the long road home. The congestion and buildings of the city thin.  Little communities with welcoming signs invite me to linger, but I can’t visit now, not now. I’m watching the farmlands, some beginning to green up, some still slumbering in winter hibernation, some churned up, whisking by.  With each passing mile, my heart’s song is a little more joyous, a little more lyrical, a little more liting. Farmhouses, snug and warm, nestled in the land and dreaming of the coming spring, wink at me as I pass. Tall windmills, spinning and twirling high in the air, greet me as I pass.  Pick-up trucks and 18-wheelers and passenger cars join my along the highways, racing beside me as if to say, “You’re almost there! The journey almost is done!” Rivers and creeks, friends with fascinating names, like Kankakee and Potato, give a cheery gurgle as I pass.

I smile to myself, reflecting on my week.  How anxious I anticipated the trip, the learning, the journey!  Oh, and it was so worthwhile. I wouldn’t have stayed away for anything, but now my focus is homeward, my eyes to the north.  

Indianapolis, 35 miles.  Chicago, 95 miles.  Milwaukee 65 miles. The road signs, green, with envy perhaps, count off the miles and guide the way.  Then, there it is, Cedarburg, 4 miles!  And, oh, how long are those last 4 miles!  My eyes sparkle, my pulse quickens, my foot presses the accelerator just a little bit harder.  How the miles creep by! Like a snail running, that is my speed.

My hands turn the steering wheel to the left and then to the right.  My foot gently pushes on the brake. Grabbing the gear, I put the van in park.  I grip the door handle, push open the door, glance up, heart pounding in my chest.  And there, a pair of sea-blue eyes look for me, a familiar grin slides across the face.  Two warm arms reach out and enfold me. I’m home!

One of the Best People in My Life

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Have you thought about those people in your life who are your cheerleaders?  The kind of person who, when you are with them, always is building into your life?  The kind of person who, when you are with them, leaves you with the feeling that you are loved and important and special? The kind of person, when you are with them, makes you believe in yourself and make you want to be the best you possible?

I have someone who is that person.  Let me give you an example, a little vignette, of what I mean.  (It is kind of long…sorry about that!):

This is year 3 for me in the SOL challenge, and for some reason, life seems to be pushing in on me this year.  Time is a tyrant, not giving me extra “slicing” time. My slices don’t seem as powerful as in the past. Being a perfectionist, I want them to be perfect, but I haven’t had the time I need to ponder, revise, refine, and ponder again.  In addition to that, I don’t have the “Welcome Wagon” volunteers who read and comment on newbies’ slices. (Year 1 was so great!) So…a bit more discouraging. And the 2 slices that are my favorites didn’t really get any comments.  (Just as an aside, I bless you, the “Welcome Wagon” volunteers, who built into me as a writer in my first year.  Wow! Did I feel the power of having an audience read my first real, risk-taking attempts at writing! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!  Hmm, that might be another slicing topic to stash away…)  Anyway, even though it has been a bit discouraging this year in the “not receiving very many comments” sense, I still personally am committed to writing everyday.  Go me!

With my hectic schedule this March when the Literacy Coaches in our district travel to Ohio (all 500 miles of it)  for 3 days of ongoing professional development through Literacy Collaborative at The Ohio State University (for which I am super thankful and appreciative), I have the added bonus of getting to see One of the Best People in My Life while here!  This person travels up to Columbus from Yellow Springs to spend one evening with me. She travels up and is waiting at the hotel for me when I finish my sessions at 4:00. We then have such a sweet time together, catching up on all the gossip: “How is so-and-so doing?”  “How is the baby?” “Is she already a year?” “Did I tell you the funny story about…?” “How is your friend who was sick?” And so it goes happily through the evening.

Then I remember…in the middle of a sentence…that slice!  I forgot to finish it. I run to my computer. (“Grrr,” I think, as this is eating into my precious time with One of the Best People in My Life).  I quickly finish it up and post it. Then, One of the Best People in My Life comes over and looks over my shoulder, trying to see what I am up to so frantically.  I decide to take a risk and read it aloud to her.

“That is really good!  I love it! I can’t believe you wrote that! I could never write like that.”

This is exactly why this person is One of the Best People in My Life!  I don’t have to tell you how that made me feel!

I didn’t even feel the need to endlessly check my blog for comments.  I am walking on Cloud 9…I still am!

Next, pizza.  We have a tradition of picking up pizza at Tommy’s Pizza on Lane Avenue and bringing it back to the hotel to eat.  We want to have as much time to chat as possible. (Sadly, we can never remember what size pizza we ordered last time and end up with way too much left over!  I can tell you positively that we should be ordering the SMALL!)  We chatter and laugh as the evening is slipping away.

Then, in the middle of a funny story, “Oh no, I forgot to comment on 3 other Slicers’ pieces!” I grumble to myself.  MORE time away from One of the Best People in My Life.  I zip over to my computer, praying I’ll find 3 short slices on which to comment.  I comment on 2 slicers who use WordPress. (Yah! That always is quick.)  After reading the third slice with which I can really relate, I notice too late is a Blogger site.  Boo! That always takes me about 10 times as long, because it doesn’t let me comment without first signing out from one account and logging into another one.  But, I do it anyway because I really want to encourage my new “friend” on her honest slice. Done.

The evening fades with heavy eyes and quiet, “Good night! Sleep well.”

Today is Day 8.  As the soothing water of my morning shower flows, my mind is busy thinking, thinking, thinking.  You guessed it, What will I slice about today?   And then it comes to me like a bolt of lightning flashing across the blackened sky:  I’ll write about One of the Best People in My Life.  

Did you guess who it is?

Yes, my Mom. Thank you, God, for this wonderful person who is One of the Best People in My Life.  

One of the Best People in My LifeOne of the Best People in My Life

I hope you have one of these people in your life, too…

 

A River Runs

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River

The river outside my window is hurrying, scurrying by,

swirling and gurgling and bubbling,  

rushing on watery wings.

 

Onward toward its destination

without a thought or care

for passing shores or meadows green.  

 

Does it ever pause to think,

“Where is my final end?”

Does it ponder o’er and o’er,

“What’s the meaning of this race?”

 

Does it look to right or left

as on fleeting feet it flies?

Does it hear whispers

of rustling leaves on overhanging trees?

 

Does it attend the songbird’s call?

Or hear the lark or wren?

Does it in merry mirth reply,

or does it hasten on?

 

How fleeting this life!

How swift the years!

hurrying, hastening, scurrying on,

with nary a slack or pause or care.

 

Time flies on and on!  

 

Perspective

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Why does a number on the scale bring tears

when going up,

but solicit smiles

when going down?

 

Why does a snowstorm bring anxiety

when travel plans are looming,

but excited wonder

when warm hearths await?

 

Why does sadness darken a light-loving soul

when summer solstice ends,

but joy sparkle in a sorrowful soul

when winter solstice wanes?

 

Why does a glass appear half empty to one

yet to another seem half full?

Why does a trouble cripple one

yet to another unhindered sours?

 

Perspective is the magic key

that turns the blind to sight,

Perspective is the mystic flame

that changes darkness into light.

 

Grant me that key,

give me that flame

that I may walk, seeing,

in heaven’s light.

copyright 2018

My Three Favorite Things…Today

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I wrote this on Friday, March 2.  It still makes me feel great when I read it!

  • Getting to know someone new
    • Today I ate lunch with a student who “won” a lunch with me in our PTO’s school carnival raffle.  Although I have seen him around the building, I didn’t really know him until today. What a treat!
  • Hosting a visitation day
    • A neighboring district asked to visit our school to learn about our literacy model and to observe our teachers in action.  We had a group of 14 teachers + 1 literacy coach + 1 principal. What fun to share what we know and to let our teachers shine.  Great learning was happening today!
  • Hearing birds chirping…
    • Leaving my house this morning, cheer-y chirps tickled my ears.  Yes, after some unusually warm weather here in Wisconsin, most of the snow piles are gone and the birds are singing!  Hallelujah!  Here is the promise of Spring-again.

Phone Poem

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I learned about this form of poetry last year in SOL.  Write the digits of a phone number, and then write one phrase or sentence that has that number of words in it.  Try it.  It’s fun!

 

2 – Literacy Coach

6 – Walking alongside teachers and reflecting together.

2 – Powerful work!

 

3 – Working in classrooms

7 – That child is a puzzle. Need help?

6 –  What tangles in understanding need untangled?

 

6 – Let’s try this; Let’s try that.

8 – That didn’t work?  What else can we try?

6 – What’s that? A shift in learning?!?

2 – Let’s celebrate!

catch the teacup

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china teacup falling freely

time slowing down…

shattering, scattering shards

 

salty tears trickling

from eyes, from soul

fingers trembling, trying to undo

 

eyes smoldering, shooting hateful darts

darts piercing, cutting, tearing

my wounded, bleeding heart

   

remorseful words

forgiveness pleading

alas, those ears not hearing

 

sorrowful glances

forgiveness begging

alas, those eyes not seeing

 

hasty words, angry acts

joyful friendships

shattering, scattering

 

tender bonds

kindred spirits

once though one; now are two

 

halt the words

end the hate…

catch the teacup

Let’s Party: Celebrating Our Writers

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The idea for this post was inspired by Anna Gratz Cockerille’s article,“Ending a Year of Writing With a Group Reflection”, from twowritingteachers.org, June 18, 2014.

person thinking

 

The whirlwind of teaching for the 2016-2017 school year is quickly coming to an end.  Teachers, on the whole, are a reflective lot, but in the midst of the busyness of daily teaching, it may seem hard to pause and reflect.  As the time to bid au revoir to our students approaches, what better time is there to spend a few minutes reflecting together on our past year of teaching writing within the Literacy Collaborative framework? Reflection is the key to becoming a reflective practitioner, and it is at the heart of a growth mindset.

MontgomerySchoolbus

 So…

Let’s party!  I am excited about all the growth I saw in my first graders this year…students who are able to write and write and write…students who consistently write 25-30 minutes daily…students who are plain excited about writing.  My biggest celebration is the ability of students to draw on a repertoire of strategies when writing.  Where I notice this most often is when students have choice writing time or when they are in the Writing MIL (managed independent learning centers). Students create something, such as a paper airplane, and then write a “how-to” paper to teach their friends how to make it.  During Share Out, they want to read what they wrote, they want to display their item with the accompanying paper.  That is authentic writing!  These students were drawing upon their understanding of procedural texts and how they work, especially the form of “how-to” writing.  Another students write and illustrate stories about an animal they know a lot about, using their understanding of informational writing.  Other students write stories with a strong lead; students add dialogue and descriptive words and sound words!  I’m celebrating because these students are using a repertoire of strategies when writing.  I’m celebrating because they are much farther in their writing practice than I thought they could be by the end of the year.  I’m celebrating because they are a community of writers.

While reflecting, the area I believe that needs shored up is an area in which I still struggle.  I struggle with having the writing not feel “perfect” at the end of the story.  All the theory about lifting the writer is in my head, and I really believe it in my heart, but–I will own this to teacher pride–it just doesn’t necessarily look like something that I think parents will look at and say, “Wow!”  I haven’t worked out how to balance the lifting of the writer and the final project.  Now, don’t get me wrong, we have “published” projects like the Franklin stories and the Awesome Author books (animal research writing), and the final projects are amazing, but the stories I’m excited about may not look like much to the “outside world.”  These everyday stories are the ones that show the fledgling writers trying out new strategies, taking risks, and being, oh, so excited.  Oh, well, this is definitely an area to shore up…at least in my own way of thinking.
As I reflect on next year, my goal is to integrate mentor texts more fully into my instruction.  I want to be like Carl Anderson and have a little stash of books ready to go in conferences.  Like him, I want to develop my go-to books, complete with sticky notes to mark the pages, pages with clear examples of powerful writer’s craft and elaboration.  My goal is to use those mentor texts to help lift my writers.  I’ll let you know how well I meet my goal next year.

I hope you’ll join me in a moment of reflection.

Swirling, twirling

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Swirling, twirling

Hurricane of thought

Unsettling whirling

Chaos of confusion

Twisting, turning

Sleep eluding

Restless, dreamless

Wakeful brooding

Should I?

Could I?

What if?

Or… not?

Sun dispelling deepest night,

Dawn-exploding, shimmering light.

Return my peace,

Serenity of soul.

© Barbara Donaldson, 2017

Temperature Afghan

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On January 1, 2017, I knit the first row of a 365 row afghan.  I can only knit one row a day if I stay on track.  If I don’t, I have to catch-up knit.  By that, I mean that I have to knit the rows of the days I missed.

My daughter saw the idea on Pinterest.  A gradient of  temperatures are created and one color yarn assigned to each range.

These are the yarn colors for temperature ranges from coldest on the left to warmest on the right.

The knitter checks the high temperature everyday, and then knits the row in the color for that temperature range.

This shows the temperature ranges (left) that match each color

It is really quite exciting.  Not only will the knitter have a wonderful temperature history for the year, but also a cozy, warm afghan in which to wrap on cool evenings.

I added one row of white yarn for March 21, the day my beloved Golden Retriever, Gracie, died.  My sons, who ask me daily if I knitted my row, and I wanted to add this special row to my afghan to remember the day of her passing.  We chose white, because it would stand out.

Gracie in Autumn

I waited until today, March 31, because I wanted to show the afghan as far as possible.  Unfortunately, because I spend my evenings writing, I am a bit behind.

Temperature Afghan as of March 21, 2017

Think of me next March, wrapped in this snuggly and completed (I hope) afghan, writing my slice.  I’ll be smiling!