Gifts

If I were to choose a skill that I am grateful I possess, it would be my ability to be enthusiastic. This is not a skill I developed; it is a skill gifted to me since birth. I am the lightning strike, the cloudburst, the wild crying jag you get after seeing that ASPCA commercial. My internal volume is always set at 85 decibels. I’m the beaming good morning on the first day after Christmas Break, the beatnik snaps after you recite your poem, the smiley face sticker on your paper.

Like many a confused extrovert, I am more than wild intensity. I am the peppermint essential oil to banish your migraine, the band-aid for your knee, the box of tissues for your breakup. I am long anticipated books, bought the day they are published, charge cords and power strips when your battery is about to die, and sharpened pencils with new erasers.

For all these traits, for my students and the supporting staff with which I work, I am grateful.

“Lightning” by One Day Closer is shared under a CC by 2.0 license.

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Grateful Leadership

Yesterday, all I could think about was myself. My enjoyment, my free time, my worries. How could I have forgotten Cub Scouts? Let me tell you about our Cub Master, Marc Quick.

Imagine that your children are all grown up, as are your grandchildren. You served your country in the Army. You have a full-time job. And yet, you are still willing to sleep overnight on your church’s hard floor, just to let a group of elementary age boys and their reluctant parents experience camping out. You willing sit through two kid movies, pass out popcorn and pop, clean up the inevitable spills. When you realize our space rockets are all missing the bracket, you shrug and plan how your third grade den will build the launcher next week.

Marc is the first one at the church to open it up. He listens with a kind ear to any crazy scheme we newbie Scout leaders want to try. Hold the fishing derby at Camp Birch? Sure! Send the whole pack to the Spook-o-ree and camp all weekend? Why not? You want to take your den to the Wittenberg Observatory? He’s there, with a smile and a Scout shirt, neatly pressed.

Marc is our calm male role model. He is the one with the wooden mallets he made by hand, and hand drills to make Christmas presents. He brings the hammers and nails, to build a brag board with all the knots my son knows how to tie.

Thank you, Marc, for all that you do for us.

“Marc Quick & Lions” by Jackie O’Connor is shared under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International and is not free to be reused except with permission.

Gratitude Day 2

This weekend, I spent a lot of time playing video games. It is a great escape for me, and I am grateful that my husband bought the game for me during Christmas break. I like the thrill of saving digital people, even though I know when I log off, they are not really still in danger. It can be addicting to play, to finish that next quest, to plan how that settlement can thrive without my intervention.

It would be wonderful if life were that simple. If only I could quit and save while my 1st period is typing about gratitude, knowing they are diligently working without my direct observation. But alas, real life is not a video game.

In the process of playing this weekend, I entertained the idea of playing Minecraft with my son, although playing with him is often a long tutorial about how to play. He watches YouTube videos about Minecraft, so even at 8 he knows more than I do about strategy.

I just read an article on NPR about parenting styles, and I’m a little concerned about our screen usage. Turns out I’m a permissive screen parent. Although this doesn’t totally surprise me, it was a bit of a downer. To top it off, my son complained that he struggles to fall asleep. Could his Minecraft till bedime obsession be part of the problem?

Luckily, I have a potential solution. He’s already busy on Mondays till 7 pm at Cub Scouts. If I can hold firm, we can go “offline” for an hour before bedtime with no problems. But it’ll be a challenge since I have quizzes to grade.

This post was supposed to be about gratitude but veered off into an anxious rant about parenting. Is this my life now?

“3 Things You Could Do To Kill the Time Until Fallout 4 Comes Out” by BagoGames is shared under a CC by 2.0 license.

Gratitude Journal, Day 1

Week 2 of The Global Kind Project asks us to focus on gratitude. 5 minutes each day, we are creating a gratitude journal entry. I will post each day, with the final day to be a poetry entry on my creative writing blog.

  • The penguin I saw today
  • Coffee
  • The Magicians on Netflix
  • My wonderful students
  • A warm lapful of cat
  • Sunlight shining through my front window
  • The beauty of ice crystals forming on my windshield
  • Clean socks
  • Sleeping in
  • Listening to rain fall on the roof
  • Date nights
  • Having a steady job
  • Quiet, focused students

“Black-footed penguin” by SuperJew is shared under a CC by SA 3.0 license

Kindness Rock Project

My kindness rock project is going forward! I can’t wait.

The Global Kind Project is sponsored by The Education Collaborative, and this year, I was determined to put my school on the map as participating. It is a four week project that focuses on making the world a better place.

Week one focuses on kindness. For my sophomores, we discussed what their personal definition of kindness was and whether or not it was easy to be both kind and cool. Interestingly, they believe that kindness is easy for cool people, and it took some deeper discussions to get to the idea that cool people are often only kind to their friends. We also had a discussion board about how we showed kindness this week. They were troubled that others in the class were able to see what they wrote, and I explained I wanted them to inspire each other.  I’m interested in where they’ll go next week, as we discuss gratitude.

My juniors are the ones who are involved with the Rock Project. They painted rocks with motivational phrases or with phrases about kindness and blogged about what those phrases meant to them.  They marked their rocks with the URL of their blog about the rock. Here’s where it gets interesting: on Monday, we’re distributing the rocks to teachers and staff. We’re asking teachers to give the rocks to students that they feel might need some kindness and asking them to comment on where they found the rock. We’re hoping students will turn around and share their rocks with other students and write comments, too.  This post is one of their blogs: Kindness Rock Project.

I’m so glad my fellow staff are on board with my project. Woo Hoo!

“Kindness” by The Little Red School House is shared under a CC by 2.0.

#OneWord18

In 2017, I lacked balance. I often found myself neglecting one area of my life in order to perfect another. I also found that perfection just outside my grasp. It seemed as if only I reached a little farther or dug a little deeper, then I might have reached that brass ring. But like many, overreaching just led to falling down. Perfection is just not something I can ever hope to attain.

In my ever elusive search for perfection, I found myself neglecting parts of my life. My family and my personal health suffered. As I found myself trying to pour from an empty cup, I knew it was time for a change.

This year, I am returning to center. I need to find the time to balance not just my work, but also my family and my health. I need to find ways to let go of the need for perfection so that I can focus on the attainable.

I present to you my #oneword18: balance.

“Finding Balance” by woodleywonderworks is shared under a CC by 2.0 license.

NCTE Reflections

First of all, if you have never been to NCTE, it is overwhelming. An abundance of choices, voices, options, all of which push you to decide where you will spend your time. My first few choices were teacher-led sessions.

Session 1 was Empowering Student Voice, which fits in with my 2017 One Word Resolution.  I love writing workshop-style classes, but I don’t love a focus on grammar and punctuation. I liked some of the ideas, however, and can see incorporating some of their ideas into my Introduction to Literature course that starts in a few days.

Session 2 was Folger’s Macbeth. After some language play, we broke up into acting companies and tried out 15 minute Macbeth.  I can definitely use this strategy with my sophomores this spring. It sounds like a great start to reading the play. I also heard about Forsooth, a member only group that supports teachers. Needless to say, I joined. I’m not sure it’s worth it, yet.

Session 3 was the Global Kindness Project. I loved it. I definitely want to sign my sophomores up for 2018, beginning on January 15 and ending on Feb. 15. It should fit right into our research project. The steps of the project are:

  1. Kindness
  2. Gratitude
  3. Empathy
  4. Action

Session 4 was supposed to be gamification, mixed with #breakoutedu. The ideas were sound, but sound like you’d need professional actors to pull it off.  My big takeaway? To gamify deeply, you must have a storyline, to provide purpose.

Next, we had our presentation: Using Digital Tools to Level Up the 21st Century Writer. I joined three other teachers to talk about digital tools and how we use them to improve student writing. I use Goobric to track data and Screencastify to provide individual explanations as to their Goobric score on rough drafts, rather than “grading” those first drafts. When students wrote their final reflections, my feedback videos were the number 1 thing students mentioned as most helpful to them.

The last session I attended was Kylene Beers, Robert Probst, and Penny Kittle. I loved the rainstorm metaphor Kylene shared to parallel Notice and Note: as readers, we first see the clouds, then we use prior knowledge to determine it will rain, and then we act on that information by getting an umbrella. Notice, note, and so what? Perfect! And Bob’s slide, that explains why we might get pushback from society by teaching students to defend their ideas with evidence, was perfectly timed. I also loved Penny Kittle’s question, “So how are you getting started today?” I think this was the first time I understood what writing conferences are supposed to look like.

The biggest takeaway I have from NCTE 17-the people. Connecting with educators, with authors, with folks excited about teaching, really made my week. Every day, I ate with different people, dug into the teaching profession with others, wandered the vendor hall with more, and networked. I came back refreshed and ready to take on the world.

I highly recommend attending NCTE. I hope I get the chance to go again!