Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Moment in Time

Graduation 2016.

A moment in time.

It seemed like a day that was so far away just a short 18 years ago when she was born.

Everyone says it will go by fast.

Enjoy the baby years -- they are little for such a short time. It will go by fast.

Enjoy the little kid years -- soon they will be too big to hold. It will go by fast.

Enjoy the elementary years, the first days of school, the cute little papers and projects they bring home. Save the little drawings and the stories they write. It will go by fast.

Enjoy the junior high and high school years. They will be so busy and learn so much. It will be tough, but it will be great. They are becoming who they were meant to be. It will go by fast.

And it did.

And it was great.

We're so blessed, and lucky, and proud.

She has impressed us with her attitude, her dedication to both academics and sports, her love of God & family & friends, her loyalty, and her perseverance.

And we know the next two months will go by fast.

Then a new journey, with more precious moments in time, will begin.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Road and the Journey

photo by Jen Houlette

"Never let a stumble in the road be the end of your journey." ~unknown

The journey is sometimes winding and often contains bumps. But even the smallest stumble can be navigated depending on the road taken.

Will the stumble be a road block?
Or will it simply be a detour?

The ever-changing, sometimes disconnecting, never-ever-the-same landscape of technology in which my journey currently resides is always full of bumps.

Whether it's a slow connection, severed fiber cables in the area, deleted users that need re-adding, websites that aren't working but they were yesterday, questions without answers, lack of time, etc. ..... there's one thing that doesn't change --- there will always be stumbling blocks, bumps in the road, unexpected detours, and an ever-winding road.

It comes with the job. No day is ever the same. And the thing that makes it impossible to just "go through the motions" is the same thing that makes it exciting and sometimes scary. I find myself thinking - "What vehicle did I jump in and what road am I going down?"

But one thing I do know is this...... even though I may have an unclear road map and there will undoubtedly be bumps no matter what side road I find myself on, each time I find myself on a rocky road I have a choice.

A choice to see it as a detour on my way to a great destination along the journey.

Or a choice to see it as a disastrous road block that stops me in my tracks and disables me from continuing down the path to greatness.

I will choose the first.

Because a detour is sometimes an opportunity - a Plan B - a better way - a chance to round up road-side helpers. :)

Because a detour is not a dead end. It's a chance to try again, to turn the day around in a positive way.

Because a detour is the perfect way to model resilience, flexibility, and vulnerability.

So I will continue on the journey using this quote as motivation to keep going, keep trying, and keep my head up when things don't go perfectly on the daily road of the journey I'm choosing to take. Join me!

                "Never let a stumble in the road be the end of your journey." ~unknown

Saturday, January 2, 2016

A Time to Pause

One of my favorite bookmarks

Much like a bookmark is a pause between pages, my life has been somewhat paused between the many layers of the over-scheduled minutes of a mom, wife, friend, teacher, and student.

---starting a new job position, finding time to do two online grad classes and the accompanying readings and assignments, spending time at swim meets watching my daughters, going on college visits, creating 6 videos a week, meeting with friends, keeping up the housework, volunteering and serving on the swim club board, and much much more ---

Am I complaining? No. I'm blessed to have the opportunities to do the things I love, and the days when the many things I do pile up just a little too high, I wonder why I chose the #oneword "create" last year -- but the positive things that have been created have outweighed the hard times that may have come along with it.

But the last week and a half has been a time to pause and think ...time to spend with family, time to spend catching up on to-do lists, time to celebrate Christmas, time to shop and play and just be.

And as it feels great to move the bookmark further ahead as pages are read, information is absorbed, and stories are enjoyed, it also feels great to just leave the bookmark in place and pause.

A "pause" is a representation of space.

A "pause" is a temporary stop between starting and stopping.

A "pause" is meant to be a short-lived break. However, one pause that has been more of a dramatic pause has been the break between my blog posts on this blog. It's not that I haven't had a lot of things I could have written about, and it's not that I haven't had support from my blogging community and friends, and it's not that I haven't had numerous inspirational and challenging posts sent my way. It's just the pressure that I put on myself to get things right and say things the way I perceive them to be and sometimes it's easier to just continue the pause instead of trying to break through the wall.

This wall is not easily knocked down. And it only becomes a larger wall the more you stare at it and try to imagine all the ways to break through it.

How do I start? What do I say? Who wants to even read it anyway? These are all questions I asked myself as the weeks and months since my last post.

Now I'm not one to make New Year's resolutions or think that the change of the calendar will somehow magically make things happen, but maybe I'll at least try to pause more often and long enough to try to break through the wall a little at a time.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Road to Simple and Seamless

"If we teach today's students as we taught yesterday's, 
we rob them of tomorrow." ~John Dewey

Photo by Jinoba

What do we need to do to make technology woven into our teaching and learning? 

What do we need to change to make it less of an "event"?

How do we move from the state of mind that technology is a special tool, much like a dessert, instead of the table setting that is a necessary and obvious part of the landscape that simply blends into the background?

The #compelledtribe blogging group topic for this week couldn't have been more timely for me.

Because these are the exact questions I've been asking myself.

Photo from Wikimedia

The number of classrooms full of students that I am teaching.

The number of classrooms full of students that I desire to bring to a new level of knowledge.

The number of classrooms full of students I hope to be able to help understand that technology isn't simply an event that takes place at a certain time of the week that they see me, but can take place anytime and anywhere.

The number of classrooms full of students I wish to connect - to each other, to their community, and to the world.

Photo by Jen Houlette

The road to get there may be many miles long.

Especially with an outdated, or missing map of the land.

And the road most likely will have twists and turns, barriers and dead ends.

Making the use of technology into something that is second nature, is sometimes quite a trip.

Is there a right way? Is there a wrong way? It's hard to say.

Unless you're in the vehicle at the front of the caravan on the road, it's almost impossible to imagine.

But here are my first steps down that road:

*Connect lessons to the content learning taking place in the classrooms and the skills the students need to be able to do.
In most of my classes this week, I was able to connect the technology lesson I was doing to a reading, science, or social studies standard that was a focus in their classroom.

*Make creating and sharing more important than consuming.
This week I overheard a few students ask, "What game are we going to play?" I had a small twinge of panic as I realized that our view on the use of  technology may be on opposite ends of the road. It's my desire to move students toward the realization that a technology device can help them create amazing things, not just entertain them with mindless games.

*Take risks - variety is necessary.
I've done more risk-taking in my first couple weeks in my new role than I have in a long time. I could not have imagined myself doing six Google Hangouts with multiple classes at once, or realizing with only 15 minutes notice one morning that I would need a Plan B when two kindergarten classes were left with devices in locked mode, or that I would be required to "wing it" when the internet froze in the middle of a fourth grade lesson. My students need to know that it's ok to take risks, and it's ok if things don't work out perfectly.

The road to simple and seamless is one we need to travel together, especially when technology is concerned.

Yes, we need to do things differently.

Yes, we need to take technology and the way we teach it out of the box we've put it in.

After all, the road is about the students, and this is why we do what we do:

Photo by Jen Houlette

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Poems for the First Day

Photo by Jen Houlette

The students are all on their way

They're eager to learn and to play

The classrooms are ready

for learning to grow

We're energized for the first day! 

Students and Teachers.... 
this is my hope for you:

That you will.....
know that you have amazing gifts
be able to share your voice
shine in your passions
create amazing things
realize learning is a journey
and know that you matter.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

I Don't Know

Photo by Jen Houlette

"Take the attitude of a student, never be too big to ask questions,
never know too much to learn something new" ~Og Mandino

This week I had a lot of questions.

I also spoke the phrase, "I don't know" quite a few times.

As a question mark represents the unknown, I've been in the thick of an unclear fog and it's a little unnerving.

After many, many years of being quite certain what I needed to do to be ready for the first weeks of school, I'm going down a path I haven't been on before.

Starting something new isn't always easy. With new expectations, new relationships, and new responsibilities also comes new possibilities.

And even though this week wasn't easy, I was reminded this week of why I'm on this journey.

My one word focus for this year:

Art by Jen Houlette

As I wrote about on January 1st, I want to be open to allow these things to be created in my life:
and solutions.

Little did I know nearly 8 months ago that this is where I'd be today.

And while I still find myself thinking, "I don't know" ..... it's comforting to know that someday I will. :)

Monday, August 3, 2015

It's Almost Time

Photo by Jen Houlette

A few short weeks, and it will be time.

Time for schedules, lessons, organizing, preparing, decorating, planning.....and so on!

But most importantly, it will be time for building relationships, both old and new.

Over the last 20 years in the classroom, I have used a variety of activities to get to know my students: surveys, all-about-me activities, ice-breakers, sharing bags, partner interviews, and even the occasional "sign the box if you have this characteristic" game. :)

But last year was a year I did a lot of things differently. Yes, I still did a few of the things listed above, and they were great. But beyond knowing what makes each child unique, part of building relationships is giving time for students to talk about themselves....their ideas, opinions, and what makes our classroom a family that works together.

So, we spent a lot of time with literature.

I brought some of my favorite picture books into our read-aloud time to start out each day with a piece of literature and a discussion.

It was just part of my effort in establishing the type of  atmosphere in our classroom: one with kindness, trust, creativity, and positive attitudes toward ourselves and others.

Here are some of the books we used:

Spoon by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Spoon thinks all his other utensil friends
have it so much better than him. But he discovers
he has unique qualities too!
Chopsticks by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
By the same author as Spoon! Chopsticks are
together all the time, but after an unfortunate incident,
they have to learn how to do life on their own.

Bluebird by Bob Staake
This beautiful, wordless book is great for a discussion
 on friendship, bullies, and loss.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson
What happens when you have the opportunity
to be kind, and choose not to? Very
intriguing thoughts arise from this story.

Sky Color by Peter H. Reynolds
We enjoyed this story (by the same author as
The Dot, Ish, and many other great books).
Super story about creativity and what happens when
Marisol can't find the right color to paint the sky.

Pete & Pickles by Berkeley Breathed
This book about unexpected friendship
has everything - moments that will make
you laugh, cry, and be intrigued.

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
No one seems to notice or care about
a student named Brian.  A great story for
discussing kindness, friendship, and making
sure all students are considered important.

The Most Magnificent Thing
by Ashley Spires
This story was a favorite of our class
and a great way to showcase that creative
ideas come with frustration and
multiple attempts.

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
This is a fun, creative story about when Duncan's
crayons wrote letters to him expressing why
they were quitting. We used it as a way to talk
about how we are all unique and shouldn't
prejudge others based on their outsides but can
work together like a wonderful rainbow.

Zero by Kathryn Otoshi
Zero felt exactly how she looked ~ a big,
empty nothing. Great story about finding
how everyone has value.

Weird! by Erin Frankel
What do you do when a bully makes fun of you
for who you are? This book tells the story and also
includes great bully prevention notes in the back.

Not a Box by Antoinette Portis
Who hasn't ever played with a plain, old
cardboard box? Great book about using
creativity and imagination.

Louise Loves Art by Kelly Light
Louise loves to draw and create
imaginative masterpieces. What will
happen when her brother, Art, gets a hold
of one of them?
The Sandwich Shop by Queen Rania Al Abdullah,
with Kelly DiPucchio
This story about best friends takes a turn when two
inseparable girls discover they can't get over
the differences in what they eat for lunch.
Great lesson about acceptance.

I Wish I Were A Butterfly by James Howe
Most of us have felt at one time or another that we
weren't good enough, or wished at one point to be someone
else. This book is about recognizing the 
unique qualities in ourselves.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
This is a chapter book, unlike the others.
However, it was an amazing read-aloud to start out
our year. The message about choosing to be kind
is one we referred to all year.

Special thanks to all the educators who write and share about their favorite books -- I've been inspired to pick up so many new titles in the last year!

Wishing everyone a great start to the school year. Use picture books with any age level -- and see where the conversations lead you! :)