Saturday, December 13, 2014

Celebrate! 12/13/14

Discover. Play. Build. 

Here are the things I loved about my week:

1.     Monday was the Artist’s Tea at Maddie’s preschool. The highlight for me is always the fact that Teacher Rhonda teaches the preschoolers to serve drinks and small treats to family members. And it is all served on glass plates and cups (say, what?!). It’s amazing to watch Maddie ladel hot chocolate into small GLASS cups and then serve the plate and cocoa without spilling both her dad and me. It shows me that I step in and do too much for her sometimes – she is far more capable and independent than I give her credit for. 

2.     Wednesday I had time to meet with the amazing Jennifer Napoleon, Reading Teacher at Oceanlake Elementary, to discuss our Daily 5 PLC. In essence we are leading two schools through a book study, and providing support through observation, modeling, co-teaching, and planning yet have limited time to really talk about what we are doing. Often times, our conversations take place through Facebook posts or text messages. Jennifer has a deep understanding of Daily 5 and coaching teachers through implementation. I learn something new from her every time we meet and consider time with her a bright spot in every day, every week. 

3.     Speaking of the PLC, we met on Wednesday evening. The PLC interactions began as blog responses but I'm seeing and hearing that the format does not work for every PLC participant. We pulled everyone together for our first face-to-face gathering. I am always so impressed with teachers when they pull together on their own time and that they choose to do so. This is just evidence of what teachers will do when given a choice about what they want to read and how they want to grow professionally. I wish that we provided more choice for professional development that is embedded into their work day. They are stretched incredibly thin and they still show up. 
       Anyway, we gave participants time to engage in a collaborative assessment process that we use in our mentor program giving participants an opportunity to celebrate what they are doing well with Daily 5, challenges with Daily 5, identify where they are headed next, and then supports they need to continue to move forward. I loved hearing and seeing their reflections – I couldn’t help but feel proud of the teachers for their reflection, their honesty, their willingness to make themselves vulnerable. I work with amazing, dedicated educators. 

4.    Friday morning was a time for the mentor team to pull together for a monthly business meeting. Although the mentor project has been a part of the way we do business in my district for seven years, the mentor team is relatively new. We begin talking now about specifics of the January beginning teacher seminar so we aren’t planning at the last minute (I’ve done it but I cannot function well that way). For the first time since I joined the team, I feel like we are doing a better job of intentionally connected the topics of the seminars. Last month, we focused on formative assessment (and really differentiating it from summative and interim assessments). Next month, we take what they learned from formative assessment and apply it to the work we will do with analysis of student work. The seminar after that will focus on differentiating instruction and will build upon what they do with their analysis of student work. I guess, like new teachers, now that I’ve survived my beginning mentor years, I’m finally seeing how the seminars are interrelated or it really could be that we are better about connecting everything. For me, there’s just satisfaction in knowing that while we follow general themes in seminar from year to year that the way we are presenting them this year makes more sense - they're more interconnected and I believe are being facilitated in a way that will push teachers further in their practice.

5.    Today we get our Christmas tree. I know, I know. Christmas is less than two weeks away. Maddie is at the age now where the anticipation of the holidays is fun. While we are working on the constant “wants” and being honest about not getting everything you ask for along with doing something for others can grow to be exhausting, she “gets” the season. She is excited about Christmas lights, loves the Elf on the Shelf (we are VERY low key about it), has had her picture taken with Santa, and wants to be part of every aspect of Christmas. She has already stated that she wants to be the one to put the star on the tree because she’s “never been able to before, mom”. She is just shy of 5 and I can't help but be in awe of watching her develop into an amazing, engaging little being. I love being her mom.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Slice of Life: Over the Slump

  A Slice of Life is a weekly blog hosted by Two Writing Teachers, Ruth Ayers and Stacey Shubitz. Click on Two Writing Teachers to be taken to their website to learn more about this week's 
Slice of Life.
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To start, my school district out for Thanksgiving break this week so I get to write my Slice post with my cutie close by. 
Cuddles with my girl-my happy place.
Each month, my supervisor schedules time with me to check in. She's an amazing leader who is incredibly supportive and has the art of coaching educators mastered. I know that when I am with her that she is going to push my thinking and reflective practice in a way that truly helps me improve my mentor and coaching practice. It's a two-way conversation that leaves me feeling rejuvenated and refreshed.
As I prepared for my meeting with her last week (which really is just me developing a list of hot topics and professional development ideas), it occurred to me that for the first time in several months I was not preparing myself to "crawl up on Betsy's lap" to pour my heart and soul out about how stressed I am, or to share feelings of inadequacy, or to gain clarity around the latest district rumor. For the first time in quite some time, I felt like I could just breathe.
What occurred to me is that I was going through phases much like the new teachers I mentor and was coming out of disillusionment. 
Phases of First-Year Teaching
Like new teachers, I had gone through a 6-8 week (maybe even longer than that)funk. I had been sick since August. I really questioned whether had what it takes to be a strong support for teachers. I struggled to manage my mentor time in a way that was about the teacher and not the requirements of the program. At this same time my district has a new superintendent-our district had not a new leader in 10 years so a new superintendent feels like a jolt to the system. And, there were a number of tragic events that took place in our community and my alma mater. Add to the mix the fact that I was not engaged in the things that kept me "fed": reading and writing. I had even pulled back on my Twitter PLN. I was feeling low.

There was nothing magical that transpired except that a week ago "things" began falling back into place. I finished an audiobook that snapped my reader brain back to life. I had this epiphany about structuring my mentor time in a way where I observe and meet with teachers in a more timely manner. I now feel more connected to the teachers I support. Two colleagues talked to me about starting a Teachers as Readers group which for me was like an oxygen mask - I have been craving local conversations about reading, about books.

Like the new teacher phases, I am in Rejuvenation. Of course, some of the rejuvenation can be attributed to Thanksgiving break and time away, but I truly believe that it has more to do with shifting my mindset. I needed to quit focusing on the doom and gloom that was surrounding me or that I perceived and really focus on the things that I had control over. And, I needed to take care of myself. A large part of my self care is reading and writing. I never should have stepped away from either. Happily, I'm back.
I'm over the slump.

Monday, August 25, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 8/25/14
 It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is an opportunity for everyone to share their book journeys: where we've been for the week and where we plan to go next. To learn more about It's Monday! What Are You Reading? with a kidlit focus, jump over to Jen Vincent's blog, Teach Mentor Texts, and Kellee Moye's blog, Unleashing Readers.
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It's been way too long since my last IMWAYR post. 
I believe in transparency. I did not have the reading nor writing summer that I anticipated in June. 
I am disappointed. 
My four year old took all of two naps this summer. I had not planned for that. In previous summers, toddler nap time was when I had my time with my books. Yeah, I had not planned on not having nap time.
My summer was incredibly short. As the manager of a grant for my school district, I worked through the end of June and then started up again August 1. I was not too worried about it - even with travel in there, I packed books like I pack underwear - we never leave home without 'em. 
It's not that I didn't read. With a 4 year old in the house, we make regular visits to the library and leave with an amazing book stack. When it comes to picture books, I had an amazing summer. 
It's the young adult and middle grade book stacks that I barely made a dent in. 
By the time August hit, what I thought was a cold was actually some sort of bacterial lung infection. I didn't know it was worse than it was until I was using an inhaler (one I usually only need, on occasion, for exercise) at night just to sleep. In a rural area like where I live and work, doctors come and go and I couldn't get in to see anyone for nearly two weeks. I'm on antibiotics now, but in the meantime, I was literally too exhausted to do anything but sleep once I got Maddie down for the night. 
I was in a reading slump. 
I didn't like it but was too tired to pull out of it.
That is....until the principal of the 7-12 school where I will mentor this year posted the all-school-read for 7th and 8th graders on the school's Facebook page. 
The Running Dream
Let's just say, I read The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen in one sitting. It is an amazing book!
And, The Running Dream helped to kick me out of my reading slump.
I'm back... :o))))

Here's where I plan to travel this week:
The Night Gardener
Balancing Mathematics Instruction: Practical Ways to Effectively Implement the Math Common Core
Professional read as part of all district K-6 implementation for framework for math instruction
What are you reading this week?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Books That Make Me Smile: The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend

smile book
Several Nerdy Book Club pals and I post weekly about a book that makes us smile. Follow #booksmiles on Twitter to see other book smiles. Check out these blogs to see what books make my Nerdy Book Club pals smile:Niki Ohs Barnes, Ann King, and Stacey H.  
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Sometimes the books that make me smile are the books that make Maddie smile. We recently read The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat.
The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend
Beekle is the endearing story of how he (Beekle) goes in search of his friend since no one is imagining him. Anyone, especially a 4-year-old little girl, will appreciate how Dan Santat validates the reality of her imaginary friend. Maddie not only wants to read Beekle repeatedly; she also wants to go in search of Beekle. :)

Check out the Beekle book trailer. You will fall in love with Beekle.

What books make you smile? 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Books That Make Me Smile: Ninja Red Riding Hood

smile book
I'm joining my Nerdy Book Club pal, Niki Ohs Barnes, and others to post weekly about a book that makes me smile.
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If you are not on Twitter then you really should be. Not only can you connect and learn from amazing educators from across the nation and from around the world, you are able to interact with wonderfully generous children's literature authors. One author that I have connected with is author Corey Rosen Schwartz

Corey is the author of The Three Ninja Pigs (and Goldilocks and the Three Bears and Hop Plop) and the soon to be released Ninja Red Riding Hood. Both Ninja books are illustrated by Dan Santat. 

Remember that Twitter plug? Well, it is through Twitter that Corey asked if I was interested in a F & G of Ninja Red Riding Hood for review.

Ummmm... YES, please!!!

So, true to her word, Corey sent me a copy of Ninja Red and I LOVED it. I had my #booksmiles on the entire read. 

Ninja Red Riding HoodNinja Red continues to follow the plight of poor Wolf. After getting his rear kicked by The Three Ninja Pigs, Wolf sneaks into karate school thinking that he will gain the skills necessary (beyond huffing and puffing) to fill his empty stomach. As we know, Wolf crosses paths with Ninja Red ... what he doesn't expect is that she, too, has been to Ninja school.

Corey Rosen Schwartz made me a fan with Ninja Pigs and she continues to amaze with Ninja Red. I love how Ninja Red starts with wordless pages showing Ninja Red entering the bamboo forest and then ends with a wordless page of the Wolf exiting the same bamboo forest. This fractured fairy tale is told through rhyme and again includes a female character who knows how to defend and hold her own. Who doesn't love a girl that can kick butt?!

Here's a sample of Corey's fun Red Ninja rhyming:

Soon after, he heard someone knocking.
He called out, “My dear, come on in.
Oh, don’t you look good
in your lovely red hood,
but a shame that you’ve gotten so thin.”

Check out the Ninja Red Riding Hood book trailer here:


Check out author Corey Rosen Schwartz's website here: And, be sure to follow her on Twitter at @CoreyPBNinja.

Check out illustrator Dan Santat's website here: And, follow him on Twitter at @dsantat. 

Ninja Red Riding Hood's book birthday is next week. I have mine ordered & it should arrive on July 10. Celebrate by picking up your copy of Ninja Red and prepare to smile.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Slice of Life - Finally, Some Time With My Girl

  A Slice of Life is a weekly blog hosted by Two Writing Teachers, Ruth Ayers and Stacey Shubitz. Click on Two Writing Teachers to be taken to their website to learn more about this week's 
Slice of Life.
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Today was the first real start to my summer. 
Ahhhh... relief!
Summer is a time to read & write. 
It's a time to run around with my hair in a pony tail and without anything on my face but some Burt's Bees on my lips. 

More importantly, summer means uninterrupted time with Maddie. 

Today, Maddie and I had no real schedule. We had a leisurely morning of cuddles and hot cereal. We then made our way to the outdoor swim center in Corvallis. Since Maddie is four we are able to get into the aquatic center at 11:30 a.m. instead of 1:00 (thankfully, because with 90+ degree temperatures everyone was at the pool today). I tend to supervise Maddie closely so I was in the pool following her around as she meandered about. At four, she wants to know that I am close, yet she really wants to have the freedom to move about on her own.

After swimming we enjoyed frozen yogurt together and spent time chit chatting.

When we got home, Maddie played in her pool with a couple of friends who are going to spend part of July playing with us while their mom works.

As I look back on the day, nothing major happened, but I realize that today I actually had time to just watch Maddie; time to just listen to Maddie; and time to appreciate the person that she is becoming.

Quality time with Maddie is the BEST way to begin my summer break. I am appreciative that I have this next month to soak in every Maddie moment I can.

Monday, June 30, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 6/30/14
 It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is an opportunity for everyone to share their book journeys: where we've been for the week and where we plan to go next. To learn more about It's Monday! What Are You Reading? with a kidlit focus, jump over to Jen Vincent's blog, Teach Mentor Texts, and Kellee Moye's blog, Unleashing Readers.
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I'm baaaaack....
The second half of the school year proved to be crazy (and professionally rewarding) and the result was the blog taking a back seat. Truth be told, I missed my blog and so I'm happy to be back in the blog saddle. 
I've shifted things a tad bit and will post a recap of what Maddie and I are reading together on a blogpost for Five on Friday
This past week I finished The Real Boy by Ann Ursu. If you have not read it then you MUST. 

The Real Boy
I am not sure why it took me so long to get my hands on Artemis Fowl, well the audio book, any way. I'm nearly finished and am actually looking for any reason to run errands so that I can listen to it. It is not a book I tend to read but the audio is amazing and I love it. Once I finish Artemis Fowl, I've already checked out Time Stops for No Mouse from the public library. 
Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl, #1)
Time Stops for No Mouse (The Hermux Tantamoq Adventures, #1)
 Here's what I've got in my stack for the week ahead:

The Camping Trip That Changed America
La Princesa Dragon/the Loathsome Dragon (Cuadrada)
The Favorite Daughter
The Center of Everything
My professional read for the week comes from a series that is popular in my school district. 
Navigating Achievement for Struggling Students with the Common Core State Standards
What are you reading this week?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Books That Make Me Smile: Tractor Day by Candice F. Ransom

smile book

I'm joining my Nerdy Book Club pal, Niki Ohs Barnes, and others to post weekly about a book that makes me smile.

Two weeks ago, Mark, Maddie, and I made a stop at Home Depot. Like two peas in a pod, Mark and Maddie both made a beeline for the riding lawn mowers parked out front, each jumped on separate mowers and said to me simultaneously, "I need one of these, mama."

This week when Maddie and I made our weekly visit to the library, I came across Tractor Day by Candice F. Ransom.
TRACTOR DAY by Candice F. Ransom
Tractor Day, told through rhyme, describes a daddy and daughter day spent working their property on a tractor. As we read Tractor Day together, I couldn't help but smile as I envisioned a tractor day for Maddie and her daddy.

Leather seat.
Noisy gears.
Up we go!
Daddy steers. 

What book makes you smile?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Five on Friday: Maddie's Book Pics from the Week

Whew! It's been a while since I posted last. Chalk it up to a CRAZY spring. I am happy to be back, though, and I'm kicking off the return to the blog with a Five on Friday post. 

My Five on Friday post will feature the top five books that Maddie asked to have read repeatedly. This week all the books are new to us; however, several of the authors are standing favorites.

Maddie has been counting everything for weeks now. As such, I've been looking for books about counting at our public library. One gem of a find was written by a favorite of ours. Click, Clack, Splish, Splash by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin shows Farmer Brown's animals counting their way to the shore leaving the farmer with an empty fish tank.   

Another favorite author of Maddie's is Alethea Kontis. This week Maddie repeatedly wanted to read Alpha Oops! The Day Z Went First where the alphabet performs out of order when Z informs everyone that, "Zebra and I are SICK of this last-in-line stuff! This time we want to go first!" Y believes it's time for a change so says, "Why not?" and so the out of order performance begins.

Much like other preschoolers, Maddie is curious about color. She frequently notices objects with multiple colors and tends to like to draw her version of the rainbow. Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh tells the story of three mice who play in paint and create different colors. This book is a great way to introduce primary and secondary colors. 

Chicken LittleA fun surprise for the week was Chicken Little by Rebecca Emberley
and Ed Emberley. The story of the Chicken Little's experience is reflected by the words, "oh my goodness, oh my gracious, the sky is falling, and we are running for our lives!" and through vibrant colored illustrations with a surprise ending - achooooo!

Perhaps my favorite book, I Can Be Anything! by Jerry Spinelli and illustrated by Jimmy Liao rhymes its way through the unending possibilities of what a child can be when he/she grows up. I appreciate the way that it helps to open a child's eyes to the chasing his/her dreams. 

It's always fun figuring out what kinds of books to search for when we take our weekly trip to the library. This weekend we will likely be looking for books about snails. :o)


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Slice of Life - It's OK to Make a Mistake

  A Slice of Life is a weekly blog hosted by Two Writing Teachers, Ruth Ayers and Stacey Shubitz. Click on Two Writing Teachers to be taken to their website to learn more about this week's 
Slice of Life.
Everything I've learned about life I have learned from the children I have taught. As a mentor, I now have the benefit of learning from the beginning teachers I support and their students. Today was no exception.

I was in a 6th grade classroom today that had the following journal prompt: What does this quote mean to you? The question was paired with the following photo and quote:
A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.
After time to think, reflect, and write, the teacher asked students to find out what the quote meant to their neighbor. I was sitting by a group of three students and listened in on their conversation: 
"You'll never accomplish anything."
"...doing the same, old, boring thing over and over again..."
"If you try something new you are going to make mistakes."
"It's ok to make mistakes."
Following the group/pair-share, students were randomly selected to share their thoughts. 
"Someone trying to be perfect all the time means that they are not trying to push themself to the limit."
"...never had a chance to improve."
"What(student) said, if you never made a mistake then you never learned." 
"It means that ... like the Wright brothers, they crashed into the barn and a baby's first steps..."
"What we are doing in the engineering project...that's just what it is...we keep doing it over and over...isn't it like what Edison said about 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration?"

The teacher of this classroom was relating the conversation to the work that the students are doing with an engineering task and a related written summary - in essence, she expected them to make mistakes and that it was ok. I was proud of this teacher and the opportunity that she took to not only build community but to also tie the time to their current work and life.

As I sat and listened to the their responses (out of the mouths of babes, right?), I couldn't help but think about a recent incident that I shared with my supervisor about my personal fear tied to a project I am working on failing. Her response to me was that "sometimes (it) has to fail in order to learn from the experience and to know what really needs to be done." I believed her when I heard her remark, but it didn't resonate until I sat in this classroom of 35 6th graders and listened in on their own thoughts about what it means to make a mistake. 
Some of my work "pushes me (and my district) to the limit" which means I'm/we're learning. It is like a baby's first steps where parts of the project need to fall multiple times in order to learn how to pick ones self up and continue to do so until the walk is stable.

I do think it is in my overachieving nature to seek perfection. It is what drives me. However, the lesson I learned from the teacher & students I support is that the mistake is where the learning takes place. I need to be ok with the work not being done perfectly the first time. In essence, I need to cut myself and those around me some slack.
I get it, now!
It is GREAT to make mistakes.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Slice of Life - Analyzing Student Work

I am confident that when the day for me to return to the classroom that I will be a far better teacher than when I left it. I am approaching the end of my 2nd year as a beginning teacher mentor in my school district. My district follows the New Teacher Center model for beginning teacher induction and support. In order to be a mentor in my district, I am required to participate in mentoring induction and training. The training provided in partnership with the Oregon Department of Education has been, by far, some of the best professional development I have participated in. It has really stretched my thinking about how to best support teachers (actually, I wish I had had this training before I jumped into the exciting world of school administrator several nearly 8 years ago) and has helped me develop skills as an instructional coach. I have a L-O-N-G way to go in my mentor development (I am only a second year mentor, after all) but I have found mentoring to be inspiring and the perfect jumpstart to reignite the educator in me. I will be eternally grateful to the 20+ teachers I have had the opportunity to mentor over the past two years. Beginning teacher mentoring is the way we do business in my district; however, the teachers I have supported have been willing and accepting participants. I have learned so much from them.

One tool that we utilize in our work is called the Analysis of Student Work (ASW). The process of the ASW opens up a conversation about formative assessment and also gives us an opportunity to hone in on what we are assessing. Once the formative assessment is administered, together we sort the student work into four categories: far below standard, approaching standard, meets standard, & exceeds standard. We then select one students work to represent each category. Using the student work, we define what the students are able to do and then determine what the learning needs are. Including what the students can do was a shift in thinking for me - I am not sure if it's human nature or if was just me, but it seems instinctual to view student work from a deficit model. I appreciate that the first step in the process is looking at strengths first - not deficits. I have observed more than once teacher reactions when they identify what their students can do - it really helps us all celebrate where the student(s) is at and be more cognizant about how to move the student forward.

In previous work I've done with grade level data teams when I was in the classroom, we had done quite a bit of placing students in red, yellow, and green zones. I am not saying that that work did not have value, but I am finding that it is easier to have a conversation about moving students to the next level instead of having this broad range of student who are strategic and intensive. I have found the conversations in the ASW process to focus on moving all students forward not just moving students out of the "red" or "yellow". I am refreshed by the number of conversations that have focused on specific ways to support students move from far below to approaching and attached to a specific standard or skill instead of "we have X number of students that still need to pass the statewide assessment". The ASW process fosters a culture of looking at every kid and supporting every kid. 

The next step of the process involves looking for patterns and then we begin developing a plan for differentiating instruction. Differentiation is the focus for April so the ASW process will continue. My hope is that we follow this ASW process enough times that it just becomes second nature to teachers - that the act of having formative assessment, mental sorting of students, and meeting needs through differentiated instruction becomes like breathing and that teachers (including me) do all of it without thinking. It's habit.

I will say that one of my favorite ASW stories from this past week involves a science teacher that I support. She had chosen a writing prompt tied to a controversial topic (animal testing vs. organ on a chip). Right off the bat I was encouraged by the fact that she was selecting a task that integrates with the instruction provided in the English Language Arts. She then provided short articles for students to read and a number of activities to nudge students to take a stance. Her focus for the ASW was strictly on the ideas and content of the students' writing. Through the course of the conversation, she came to the conclusion that she needs to provide opportunities for students to debate and defend their position. The argument does not always need to appear in writing. She wants to foster the skill of thinking critically. Yes, it's all tied to common core state standards; however, it's tied to being a scientist as well. As we sat together she was formulating places within units to incorporate argument/debate. She also started verbally thinking through frequency of opportunity to pick a side and really defend it. For students that can already defend, she was developing ideas about how to build the skill of counter-arguement. The point is that SHE did the work - she figured it out. I did not sit and tell her what to do or how to do it. She came to the conclusion on her own. At one point, she stated, "you're really making me think here." It was at that moment that I knew I had asked the right question. It was at that point where I had that feeling of, "THIS is what it means to mentor." It's not about making a bunch of Kristins in the classroom. It's about supporting teachers to develop into their own teacher self.

My growth as a mentor was evident to me during that particular Analysis of Student Work. It is a good feeling. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Slice of Life - Now what do I write about?

I am not the first one to blog about struggling to have a topic to blog about. I'm completely, 100% in that spot at this very moment. I'm somewhat bothered that I haven't kept up with the Slice of Life challenge to blog every day in March; however, I am going to look at what's good and acknowledge the fact that I've posted more than once. Or twice even. For me, life gets in the way - meetings that run into the evening hours, sick kid (seriously, I'm VERY ready for this cold and flu season to be O-V-E-R!), and then the night like tonight where I am just flat out tired. Super tired.

Sometimes when I really struggle to know what to write about I go to pictures. Tonight, I casually looked through the pictures on my iPhone and came across this one of my husband and Maddie.

Maddie is a cuddle queen. It's one of the many things I love about her - the fact that she wants to be close to us. As she grows older, though, she definitely expresses a preference for her daddy. A piece of me is sad by the fact that I begin to take a back seat in terms of who she prefers to be with, but on the other hand, I love that she loves her daddy the way she does and that she's old enough to tell him herself.

I had my own special relationship with my dad. There were two of us girls in the house growing up, but we both knew that we were special, in different ways, to my dad. I was considered dad's princess while my sister was dad's kindred spirit that he would leave funny Far Side comics for on the refrigerator. Watching Maddie with her daddy reminds me of the high expectations my dad had of us but there not being any doubt in our minds that we were loved. My dad was a bit of a paradox to me. In so many ways he was not a traditional Japanese - we did not grow up with a lot of Asian traditions (that came later in life thanks to my Aunt Suzye). On the other hand, there was not a lot of "I love yous" or affection. I observed him with his parents, my grandparents, and there was this unstated sense of "I love you." I knew my dad cared about each of us kids and that he loved us. To some extent, I am like him in that I tend to not be overly affectionate with my family - mom, brother, sister, and poor hubby. It's almost like I expect everyone to just know that I love them (this is a realization as I type this, by the way).

Now, as I watch Maddie with her daddy, I appreciate that he cuddles with her and verbally tells her, every day, "I love you." It is a physical closeness that I never experienced and reminds me of a statement about how dads are the first men that daughters fall in love with. I believe that to be true as I watch Maddie and her Daddy together. Surprisingly, it's not something I'm jealous of, I love it. To me, it just feels weird to have this sudden release of not being the only one that Maddie prefers. I love their bond. 

Hmmm...I guess I found something to blog about, eh? :o)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Slice of Life - Little Girl Chatter

The month of March means a Slice of Life post every day. I haven't posted every day but am proud of the fact that today I post three days in a row. Progress. :o)
One expectation when joining in on the Slice Challenge is to read and respond to at least three other Slicers. Not only does this practice build community, but it also serves a source of inspiration. I needed some inspiration today as I struggled to figure out what to even write about.
I appreciated several of the posts I read today where other Slicers shared that they, too, were struggling with what to write. There's something soothing about knowing that I'm not the only one struggling to write. Others wrote about the conferences they attended over the weekend. Others shared about simple things going on in their lives - that's when it hit me. I am making this Slice of Life Challenge too difficult on myself. 
The lesson that I learned from my fellow Slicers was to write about what is going on around me. I was searching for theses "deep thought" moments going on around me and they just weren't materializing. I relaxed a bit and just sat and listened.
I heard the sound of my daughter's chatter as she sat "resting" on the couch.
I realized today that I don't slow down enough to do nothing but just listen to her. At this particular moment she was talking for her Frozen dolls, Anna and Elsa. She was making up their conversation rather than taking it as a replay of the movie. Just the sound of my daughter's little voice made my heart swell. I love the sound of her voice; the creativity in the doll conversation; her innocence. I appreciated the fact that just sitting at my laptop preparing to write this Slice gave me a chance to slow down and listen. 
I need to do this more often - just listen to my little girl chatter. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Slice of Life & Celebrate!

Since it's Saturday and I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge as well as Celebrate! I will be posting one post for both.

Discover. Play. Build. 

The week ended with my daughter being sick (again...) and me reflecting on a conversation that I had with a colleague where I came to the realization that I need to apologize. That's tough - admitting you're wrong. I may not have been wrong in what I said but the way I said "it" was not a way that made me proud. I should have resorted to mentor behavior and asked questions instead of speaking out in such a harsh way. The behavior in itself is not reason to celebrate but the fact that I recognize it and am motivated to remedy the situation is growth on my part. It is not easy for me to admit wrong doing nor do I always have the courage to apologize. 

Since I ended my work week on a shaky note, today's post is really an opportunity for me to focus on the positive. The coach I work with through the Chalkboard Project as I manager my district's Collaboration Grant is constantly pushing me to look for the progress we have made this year and to celebrate it. Today's post will reflect a lot of the celebrating I am doing in that part of my job. 

1. I needed some time to focus on a few projects around the house. I try to be fairly organized, but it feels like things are spiraling out of control a bit. My husband took Maddie fishing at a local reservoir - this is the picture that my husband sent me.
The happiness I feel with this pictures comes from two places. First of all, I love that Maddie loves to spend time with her daddy. I love, too, that her daddy helps her to enjoy life outdoors. For me, being outdoors involves a chair and a book - I love that my husband adds some balance to her life. Second, is that this picture brings back good memories of my dad posing for pictures with his catch of the day as well. I am sure he was smiling down on Maddie as she fished. 

2. My work week began with a second meeting for the month with the Collaboration Grant's District Leadership Team. Our coach, Annie, did an opening activity with us that she called a Chalk Talk. 
The directions were for each of us to respond to the prompt she gave us (Speaking for your future self, what does it look like when Professional Development is done really well?). We were to use a marker to write on the butcher paper (resembling a chalk board) and we could not say a word. What ensued was pretty powerful! It's worth noting that the team is comprised of administrators and teachers and a school board member. There's been some tension in the group as we try to work our way through developing a sustainable professional development plan that meets everyone's needs. Sometimes the conversation feels like we are on opposing sides. The power in the Chalk Talk came from the fact that every voice was "heard" and the results were that we all wanting for the same things in PD: job embedded, relevant, choice. We still have our work ahead of us as we work to meet the goals we established when writing the grant but then also as we look ahead to what next year holds. I have high hopes that we will be moving away from what we've always done in my district - a one size fits all plan that has yielded the same results time and again.

3. Groups of teachers from each of the five elementary schools in my district continue to roll out the pilot of iWalkthrough, a web-based peer observation tool. In the 20 years I have been in my school district, we have not spent much time in each other's classrooms, much less provided feedback about what we observe. iWalkthrough provides us with a tool to go in and do three minute observations of our peers and record the observations. Feedback centers on practices such as engagement, teacher talk, student talk, use of technology, etc. It's too soon to celebrate the data, per se, but as the grant manager I have access to the district data and it is exciting to see the data base grow as teachers are observing. The fact that teachers are in each other's classrooms is reason to celebrate. I look forward to seeing how the data collection impacts teacher practice. 
Two teachers calibrate with the peer observation coach.
4. We completed a second 3-hour session of Common Formative Assessment training facilitated by one of our own administrators. We talk a lot about Common Formative Assessment but are only beginning to support teachers professional development needs with writing their own. For me, it's just exciting to see teachers learning and growing together around assessment. 

At the end of the day, I am happy when there's evidence that some of teachers' professional needs are being met. I am not the one doing the training but I am a part of making it happen for teachers in my district. Teacher needs being met is reason to celebrate.