Thursday, March 31, 2016

dreams {sol 3.31.16}

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For the past month (well, most... or at least half of the past month) I've been writing here on my blog and with a community of writers over at Two Writing Teachers. Some might wonder why - why do I write on my teaching blog about random stuff in my personal life? Well, it's because if I have any hope of teaching writers or coaching teachers of writing, I have to walk the walk, so I write and I share with all of you.

Yesterday, a blogger in the TWT community posted a beautiful post about her dreams. Today, as I was running (half running, half walking) on the lakefront path here in Chicago, I began composing today's post, the last for the Slice of Life Story Challenge for 2016. A post about my dreams. The dreams of a 35 year old woman. The dreams of  Literacy Coach. The dreams of a writer, and a world traveler, a beach relaxer, and a wine drinker. Here goes nothin...

One day, I hope to write alongside teenagers. When I was a classroom teacher, I wasn't a writer. I would bark orders, assign papers, devise rubrics, but I never lived that Writerly Life. I stood in the front of my classroom and told them what to do, without ever doing the work myself. So, one day, I want to sit at the side of teenagers, and show them my writer's notebook, and my writing process, and the pieces of writing that suck (that I published anyways) and the ones I'm most proud of. I want to show them how I revise, and coach them towards the same, taking in all their wisdom, too. I want to write beside kids. It's amazing when they look at you and say, "That lesson (about Author's Craft) was so fun!" What would be even more amazing would be if those kids were my kids.

One day, I hope to coach in a middle school, a middle school where I get to instruct one section of a 7th-8th grade looping English Language Arts (you know, teach them in a little lab of sorts) and then coach the rest of the day. I've been so blessed to have been able to coach at an elementary school, and I really love all the work that I get to do, but my heart continues to be with those awnry teens, and so I know, it's only a matter of time before I reconnect with them again.

One day, I hope to sit on an oceanfront patio, with my laptop or notebook in my lap and coffee at my side, and just write. Listen to the sounds of the sea call to me, and the salt in the air absorb into my skin with the hopes it makes me more creative, more open, more vulnerable with my writing. I hope to sit on oceanfront patios all around the world and write, but for now, I'd like to start in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Jennie, Amanda, Erika - can we do this? Go there and write and walk on the beach and suntan and have great dinners and then write about it all? And drink wine, too?

Speaking of wine, one day, I hope to see Napa and wine country in Italy. It's just been in the past few years that I've really opened up to trying all kinds of wine, and I would love to travel to the best places where it's made. Hey, we can write there, too.

One day, I hope to find an awesome guy, one who is secure enough with himself to be open to an amazing relationship. I've dated the guys who avoid intimacy at all costs, and now that I know how to spot them a little better, pretty sure I won't be going down that road again. But, finding a guy who could trust enough to let his walls come down and be vulnerable, well, that would be awesome. I believe we're meant to go through this journey we call life with someone, and I can't wait for the day when I find a guy who is open to the possibility of a fantastic relationship.

And then, when that's all settled, one day, I want to get married in this amazing church I now call home, Old St. Patrick's, surrounded by my family and most favorite people.

Oh, and one day, I want a Golden Doodle. Dudley I'll call him, and we'll live happily ever after (with my awesome husband, too!)

So there you have it, my dreams. Thank you, Michelle, for inspiring me. Like it always goes with writing, you never have any idea of how far your influence reaches. I'm so thankful I found this amazing writing life!

What are your dreams?

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

blessed {sol 3.30.16}

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Since before 2009, I've had quite a few instances thinking that I'd like to find a church to call home. Then, last July, my friend Bernadette mentioned that her boyfriend was going to attend classes for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) at Old St. Patrick's Church in the West Loop. So I asked, "Hey, can I come too?" Berna was more than happy to have me tag along.

We started RCIA back in September, sessions every Tuesday, which led to our confirmation at the Easter Vigil this past Saturday night.

My parents came in for the service and a visit. I thought I would be nervous for the ceremony, but after getting to Old St. Pat's, I just felt such a sense of calm.

The service was beautiful. Our choir is amazing, and Father Hurley is the best priest I have ever had the experience of spending time with at a mass. He's funny, down to Earth, and takes the gospel and makes it meaningful for us in 2016.

My favorite part is always this, when Fr. Hurley asks the congregation to raise a hand and help him bless all of us. The first time this happened, at another sacrament earlier in the year, I didn't know it was coming and was overwhelmed with a feeling of such happiness that I totally started crying. This time, I was just happy and so, so thankful.

Feels good to call Old St. Pat's home, and I'm so thankful for the new friends I've made in the process.

And if that weren't enough, Ryan proposed to Bernadette the following Monday! So happy I was able to be there for this little Easter Sunday of theirs!

#hacklearning: the book nook

Problem: Kids aren't reading.
Hack: Flood your classroom and school with books via The Book Nook.

You've all heard the research - kids not reading or wanting to read is nothing new. We all know that studies show the lower the income level, the fewer books around - in student homes, and in many cases where school funding is based on property taxes, in schools too. How then, can we get kids reading if we don't have books?

The Hack: Create a Book Nook that gives free books to everyone.

Picture your favorite bookstore.... Comfy arm chairs, tables where you can work, and soft music playing in the background. And, the best part? You're surrounded by all the books you love - the picture books, the YA Lit, maybe some great books on ways to eat cleaner and some trashy gossip columns with our fave celebs on teh cover. There's a fireplace roaring in the corner, and they're serving up your favorite Peppermint Mocha.

This is a Book Nook, only in our school's version, the books are free to take... not to buy or to check out and return, but to take for as long as the students would like.

As a Literacy Coach who has experience in two different districts, and with two different philosophies, I can say that without a doubt, the schools that flood their campuses with books see students through to that Readerly Life that our Reading Worskhop idols describe to us. Perhaps your principals don't hand out $1500 in classroom books to every teacher on your campus (TY D100!), but that doesn't mean you can't get lots of books in the hands of all of the students in your class or school.

As they mentioned in the book, your first instinct might be to think that you don't have the space for A Book Nook. Don't go there just yet. Start in your classroom. Do you have bookshelves? Great! Let's work on getting more books on them.

All we have to do is curate a collection of books to put in use for students in your classroom or school. Have you tried these options?

  • Reach out to your family and friends for donations to start.
  • Utilize the power of facebook and search for groups in your city. For example, in my neighborhood of Chicago, there is a group called Bucktown Community News. Just two weeks ago I posted asking for donations for our Family Literacy Night, and got at least a dozen replies! For your Book Nook, post to your neighbors asking for donations of books. Barnes and Gonzales recommend that you don't get super specific - share grade level expectations, but then take everything. You can sort through and keep what you want, donate the rest! 
  • Similar Idea: Post an ad on Craig's List.
  • Check out yard sales, used book stores, and the public library.
  • Write or call local businesses asking for donations - books that they have purchased for you or a check for teachers to purchase books they need. 
  • Make it a homework assignment to your students: Find a book to donate to The Book Nook!
After you get a good collection of books to start, then begin to build your Book Nook. Barnes and Gonzales recommend creating a team, including students if you're in a middle or high school, to help manage this space and put in the work to keep things orderly and running smoothly. This team of students can reach out to the larger student body to help brand this Book Nook - maybe you want to call it your Little Lending Library or something else way more creative than that. Student input will build buy-in!

You'll need to find a space for this Book Nook, but think outside of the box! What school has an extra little nook around, unused? Not many, if I had to guess. So, think about large closets, or even a hallway that could be reimagined.

Barnes and Gonzales go on to describe full implementation in the chapter, and also how to overcome obstacles. Pick up a copy of their book if you love this idea as much as I do, and plus, you're going to learn about the other 9 hacks as well. Until then, get a preview of them by way of the #D100bloggerPD posts:

Hack 8: The Book Nook - Here and Now! :-)
Hack 9: The Glass Classroom - Kayla
Hack 10: The 360 Spreadsheet - Coming Soon!

Be sure to follow our blogging group on twitter, by searching our hashtag #D100BloggerPD. If you like what you've read here, follow my blog via facebook, Instagram, or Bloglovin!

And... check back next Monday for Kayla's post about Hack 9: The Glass Classroom.

Later, Hackers!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

flow achieved {sol 3.20.16}

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On Friday at work, I didn't have time to eat lunch. Some of our staff was out, I had an extra lunch duty, and I was prepping (last minute, of course) for a demo I was doing in 5th grade.

I was to teach Author's Craft. In all my years in the classroom, this isn't something I had ever taught, so I had to read up on it to make sure I sold it well to the kiddos.

I read the session from Lucy Calkin's curriculum and checked out the resources on the Heinemann website. I was good to go. But hungry.

I went up to the room a little early, just to get all my stuff set up. My heart was racing a little. Teaching kids is my thing, but demoing for other teachers always adds and extra edge. I was set up in time to go to the bathroom, so did that, then came back and was just hanging out, smiling, happy.

"She gets so excited for this," one of the coteachers said, smiling in my direction.

It's true. I just love teaching.

The lesson began, and I was very cognizant of the time. As a coach, I wanted to keep this mini-lesson mini. I asked kids if they have ever listened to rap music... "Have you guys ever heard a Jay-Z song and thought how awesome he was playing with words to craft  the best lines ever?"

They smiled, nodding. "That is art. That is also known as Author's Craft."

The lesson was awesome. I forgot I was hungry. I was in a state of flow: feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.

Teaching is my jam. I seriously love it.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

identities {sol 3.17.16}

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I go by many names: Michelle, Shel, Ms. Brezek, Friendy, Sponge. Until social media, people always knew me from meeting me in real life (IRL). But these days, sometimes people know me (or I know them) via their online presence, not from face-to-face interactions.

Today I was sitting in a common area of school working alone in the quiet, when one of the iCoaches in our district, Todd came by. He was looking for a place to work with some kids and was asking about the particular space I was in. A short time into the conversation, he asked, "What's your name again?"

Over the past few months we've run into each other a few times - in the hallways or in a planning meeting. I told him, "I'm Michelle Brezek, I'm the Literacy Coach here."

"Oh yeah, your name came up in one of our last meetings...."

I interrupted, "Oh, maybe for blogging? My blogging club and I and the third and fifth graders are working on the Slice of Life - I write at BigTime Literacy?"

"Oooohhhhhhhh!" (The lightbulbs were going off at this point!) "You're @bigtimeliteracy. Right!"

It's just funny how these days you might know someone via Twitter or Instagram only, and even though they work in your district, maybe you haven't met them face-to-face. A similar thing happened to me about a month ago with Angela, a fifth grade teacher. All the bloggers from my district were meeting up to plan and I asked for names of people I didn't recognize. As soon as she said Angela, I got all excited and interrupted, "@missgdoesfifth?" We all laughed and she nodded, yep.

I so treasure my PLN, and even more awesome is when I get to meet the same people IRL!

Monday, March 14, 2016

words are power {sol 3.14.16}

I went to the semi-finals of Louder Than a Bomb yesterday and all I want is to write like those kids, those kids who are half (more than half) my age and living with crazy experiences than my white privilege always kept me from. Check out Young Chicago Authors, the organization that puts on LTAB here:

The kids wrote poems about politics, how the government drains our schools of money, abortion, feminism, growing up gay with a dad who could never accept you, police brutality and killing of young African American Boys, racism, and a lot more topics that are slipping my mind right now.

As I sat in The Metro yesterday, listening to kids from all around our great city, as I was transcended to a different place, a neighborhood not like mine, a high school where a young woman begins to understand that being "the cool girl" with the boys isn't all it's cracked up to be, an abortion clinic, I was reminded how powerful words are. Our words matter. Our words inspire. Our words have the potential to create change.

So to all the new Slicers out there, know that you can never be too sure how far-reaching your posts are. More than likely, they are inspiring someone right at this moment. So keep writing, keep sharing, and if you're anything like me, continue to appreciate this amazing writing life.

Now, if I could just get as good at writing as those high school kids are. The last few days, I've actually been thinking about another degree, maybe in writing? It sounds so so awesome! Anyone out there with writing degrees? Thoughts?

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Sunday, March 13, 2016

that's just science {sol 3.13.16}

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Yesterday was St. Patty's Day - a big day in Chicago! Every year, the river gets dyed green, and thousands of people come out for the event. This year, my friends and I got tickets for a double decker boat, to see the river being dyed from the river!

Not sure how, but I was super early and the first one there, so we got a great spot on the top of the boat. As we were standing there, someone said something about being further from the water (because we were on the second floor).

A view from the top of the boat

"Yeah," I said, "Downstairs you're closer to the water."

Boomer replies, "Well, duh. That's just science," and laughs at me for saying something that was obviously common knowledge.

Awhile later, he takes a trip downstairs. When he comes back, he tells me, "You're right, it *is so much closer to the water."

"You mean it's not just science?"

I guess seeing it with your own two eyes is much different!

The view from downstairs

Friday, March 11, 2016

short slice {sol 3.11.16}

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No wifi. 
Data on phone almost gone.
That's it.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

bad egg {sol 3.10.16}

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My morning routine is the same every day: wake up, shower, wash some dishes, do hair, makeup, make food, get dressed, make coffee, grab my stuff, go to work.

The frying pan I usually use to make egg whites (every morning, creature of habit) was soaking in the sink - I had made something else last night with it.

So, I washed dishes, as per usual, after I showered. (That way they have a little time to dry before I need them to make egg whites.)

Fast forward through all my morning routine, to the eating of the eggs. They had a new flavor. A flavor of Dawn... and, no, not a fresh morning, new beginning, sun-coming-up flavor, but that of dish soap.

And this wasn't the first time.

See, I have to be careful when doing dishes. If I put too much soap on the sponge, there will be some flavor left over and it will get seared into the eggs. This morning, I was safe with the sponge, but pretty sure I soaked that pan last night with hot water and (probably too much) dish soap.

After the first bite, I knew the error of my ways right away, but didn't really have time to make anything else, so I thought I could just finish them with some extra OJ. I had a second bite, and with more hesitation a third. After a swig of OJ, I choked down a forth, but that was it. The rest went in the trash.

That's great - go ahead and smell dawn and new beginnings, but let's keep the flavor out of the eggs.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

failed a test {sol 3.9.16}

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There I was, under cloudy skies out on the blacktop at recess today when two fifth graders came running up to me. A converse shoe plopped down in front of me and Naylani asked, "Ms. Brezek, can you tie my shoe?"

While trying to keep my eye on half of the fourth and fifth grade in my general area, while staying clear of the football that kept flying towards my head, and while waiting for another kiddo to come back and talk to me about an incident just before, I quickly make eye contact and said, "Nope, sorry. Ask a friend."

Lizzy interjected, "Ohhhhh, Ms. Brezek, you're the first failure."

All of a sudden, the football game couldn't seem further away and it was as if it were just the three of us there.

"What do you mean?" I protested.

"Well, this was a test of generosity, and you've failed. You were the first teacher to fail it!"

I interrupted, "Well, which teachers tied your shoe?"

"Mr. D, the sub, and a sixth grader in the middle school."

"Ok, well go ask Mrs. Jantz and see if she'll tie your shoe."

The girls ran off, across the playground, and even though I should have had my eyes on all the kids playing around me, all I could do was watch and see if Mrs. Jantz would bend down and tie the shoe.

Before that happened, though, Mrs. Jantz was laughing, and there was no shoe tying, and I was thankful that I wasn't the only person who wasn't generous that afternoon.

I'd like to say that one day I'd pass that test, but tying shoes is not something I do in elementary school. Well, maybe for a kinder who couldn't find a friend to help out... but definitely not for a fifth grader!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

blink blink blink {sol 3.8.16}

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Cursor blinking.

blink. blink. blink.

Nothing to say.

blink. blink. blink.

Cell phone chimes.

blink. blink. blink

A welcome distraction.

blink. blink. blink.

Return a text to a friend.
(check email)
(surf on Twitter)
(stare off in space)
(get a drink of water)
(talk to a colleague)
(return to desk)
(back to blog)

Blink. blink. blink.

Still no ideas.

blink. blink. blink.

If I don't write now, it won't get done.

blink. blink. blink.

This flicker of an idea will have to do.

Save and quit.

Monday, March 7, 2016

warm march chicago {sol 3.7.16}

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We're off school today and it's glorious. It's also currently 59 degrees according to my Weatherbug! I met my friend for a late lunch, and even better than that was the walk outside. Just leggings, a t-shirt, and a light hoodie, and I was actually a little hot!

And now I'm in my office (my favorite writing place) and the window is open. The sun in shining through the window and there's a light breeze. I can't think of anything better to be thankful for today!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

paralleling problems {3.6.16}

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I live in the city and park my car on the street. Good news is that I have super easy street parking. Some neighborhoods in Chicago will leave you driving around for like 30-45 minutes looking for a spot, but that was one of my deal-breakers for an apartment. So, lucky for me, I always have parking available right outside my door.

One of my friends tells me I'm the worst parallel parker. I mean, I'm not awesome, but I don't think I'm terrible. It's just that every time I happen to be with her her - like three times that I had to parallel park - I couldn't do it.

But the same thing happens to me, too, when I'm alone, like this morning.

I came back from the grocery store and the spot I left from looked like it would be a tight squeeze, so I went to the spot on the other side of the street. I got all ready to put it in reverse and parallel, and off I went, except I hit the curb too early, and had to try again.

So I pull my car back out into the street, and, with more carefulness, I make my second attempt. Slightly better, but still, no dice.

By this time, as I'm pulling back out into the street, I imagine my nighbors, all of whom have windows that face where I'm doing this parking (non-parking, rather) and I feel like they all *must be watching me. I get my car set to have another go, and with my utmost carefulness, I back up, into the spot. Once again, it doesn't work, and now I'm too close to the white car in front of me, and I don't want to hit my car on it, so I just throw in the towel, pull my car back into the street, drive up to the intersection to make a U-Turn, and go back to this other spot, down the block, that requires no paralleling.

And I finally park.

I guess my friend may be right about my parallel parking skills.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

nothing to do {sol 3.5.16}

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It's Saturday and I have no plans. This morning was blissful. I sipped coffee while watching The View, read and commented on blogs, and paid bills. I've had time to read a little bit and binge watch some TV.

Then I began to feel bad because I had nothing really to do today. (Also, I live alone, so sometimes it's a few hours before someone calls or texts me.) Weekends are great to get out and see friends, take a little road trip, or just do something, anything.

And while part of me did feel a little bad that I had nothing going on, the other part of me, the part of me that enjoys time to myself and quiet time didn't mind so much.

So when I Skyped one of my friends this afternoon, and mentioned this - that I was bummed I had no plans, but also that I was kind of okay with it - she started to talk about how we, as teachers, are ON all the time. Teaching, making decisions, working together with colleagues, taking initiative to do things that need to be done. So on the weekends, she doesn't feel bad when she's home with Netflix and a frozen pizza. No thinking, no planning, no deciding. Just time to be and do whatever she happens to be or do.

And she's right. I love teaching; there are so many amazing perks that other careers don't experience. But the "being on" all the time, we totally are, so when there's down time, I'm totally fine on my couch all day.

How about all the teacher writer friends out there? Can you relate?

Friday, March 4, 2016

pretty little things {sol 3.4.16}

I've been watching these shoes online for like a year and a half:
They're pretty, right? Ballerina pink flats, by Tieks. The reason it took me so long to obtain a pair is because they are $175 - Yes, One hundred. *And. Seventy-five dollars. At least there was no tax or shipping - that would have totally put me over the edge and I would have never ordered.

For Christmas, I got a gift card for this website. Then, I had to wait until now to save up the rest of the money. I ordered them last Saturday, after a two month wait!

On Monday, I walked into the foyer of my apartment building and was disappointed that there wasn't a box outside of the mailboxes. But it totally fit in my mailbox! I got in my apartment, unwrapped it, and the presentation was so pretty:

Those little shoes, those shoes that are hand sewn from the best leather were wrapped up, and tissue-papered up in this cute little box and topped with a flower. I was feeling pretty good about this over-the-top purchase!

I unwrapped them and unpacked them and put them on. Walked around the apartment a little. I looked in the mirror a few times. Under the light in my apartment, they looked more nude than pink. I figured I would wear them to school the next day for a better assessment.

The next day, under the lights at school, they looked a little pinkier. Good. And I got complimented from like three people when I ran into them. Win! But, I wore them without any socks, so all day long my feet were squishing around in those pretty little shoes, making odd noises. Someone even noticed!

It's four days later and I haven't worn them since. I wish I loved, them, but I wasn't blown away. For $175, I expect...I don't know, the best shoes of my life? Ultimate comfort? Beautiful color? Fireworks? idk...something though.

Isn't that the worst? When you build something up in your mind so, so much, and then you're just disappointed? At least it was a pair of shoes, and not, let's say... a vacation in the Bahamas with rainy and cold weather every day of the trip.

Had any disappointments lately? I sure hope not!

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Thursday, March 3, 2016

forget about it {sol 3.3.16}

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I'm the fifth grade recess duty person and I love being with all 60 of those kids, even if we are all in one room together when it's too cold to go outside. And even though it's mostly too loud - all the time.

Today, the volume was growing at a steady pace, and then the girls screeched over something, so I told them all to go to their silent spots. I began my diatribe:

"Don't talk in your loud voice. Don't talk in your appropriate voice. Don't talk in a quiet voice, or a whisper. Just don't talk." 

This was met with, "How about sign language?" and this friend of mine starts tapping his palm like he's dialing a phone, then he's got his hand up to his ear and is pointing at another friend to pick up the call, then they're laughing, and then I'm laughing, and then it was over.

Recess, that is.

This is why my heart will always be with the middle school kids. They are so clever and funny, and I love them so!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

just one look {sol 3.2.16}

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Just one look.
It can do so much.

It can say,
You're so funny.
I'm so thankful for you.
You mean the world to me.

Just one look.

It can say,
You better get back on task.
No! Don't head-butt your friend!
Stop chasing each other around the room!

Just one look.

It says,
You're going to love what I just did.
I couldn't be happier to be in your company.

Just one look.

It sometimes says,
Are you sure that's what you wrote?
Make a better choice.
I wish I knew sooner, so I could have helped.

Just one look.

They can build someone up.
They can tear someone down.

Just one look.
It can do so much.

Just one look.
Make yours count.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

currently march

Hi all! It's March first and time to catch up with what's going on currently! Thanks to Farley for hosting; this is one of my favorite linkys each month. Love finding new bloggers and making new friends!

Listening to...
Current playlist includes quite the mix:
Record Year by Eric Church,
Love Yourself by the Biebs, and
Heartbeat by Carrie Underwood

I'll leave you with some happy, romantic stuff from Carrie; this song is so so good!

Loving...Slice of Life
Are you familiar with the blog over at Two Writing Teachers? Well, every March they host the Slice of Life Story CHallenge, and hundreds of teachers from around the globe commit to 31 days of writing in March. It is awesome!

This year, 8 teachers on our staff are blogging, plus all of our third and fifth graders, and a first grade class! It's so cool to hear everyone talking about writing and sharing stories.

And the best thing about it? Writing for 31 days will teach you far more than any curriculum ever could!

Thinking...about how anyone could still be voting for trump

I don't understand it, how so many people are voting for him? I wonder what the rest of the world must be thinking about us? Also, if you haven't seen this video from John Oliver, you must check it out. Heads up - this is by HBO, so it's explicit!

Wanting...New Pillows
How long do people usually keep their pillows? I swear, mine are at least 10 years old. That's kind of gross, right? Anyways, I'm waiting for a Kohl's coupon, and a 30% off one at that, to go buy them!
Needing...Spring to arrive
There have been a few days that I've heard birds chirping when I woke up, but I'm excited for that to happen more and more, and open the windows up and get ready for warm weather and sunsets after 7pm...and eventually, summer vacation :-)

Polling Place

Yep, we're a polling place. It's a non-attendance day for the kids, but teachers are here for a PD day. It's kinda annoying to have a Monday at work, then a PD day, then three more days, but whatever. I'm just happy the kids aren't here with all the strangers in the building. And...if you haven't voted yet, I hope you're #feelintheBern!

That's it for me! Be sure to follow along with my blog, I'll be writing every day in March! :-)

always there {sol 3.1.16}

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My first year of teaching was in the fall of 2003. That year, in my classroom in Creighton School, in Phoenix, Arizona, I met some pretty awesome kids. The year was a whirlwind. It flew by in an instant (much like the past 12) and before you knew it, it was the last day.

I can't remember exactly what meeting I had, but right when the bell rang, I had to go to the conference room to meet with some parents. In the moment, I was too busy to even realize what I'd be missing out on: the last dismissal and the last time I'd see my students that year.

The meeting ended and I went back to my classroom. It was empty. There were no more voices, the laughter and jokes had stopped, and even the arguing had ceased. It was just me, 32 empty desks and chairs, and bulletin boards ripped bare of all the student work.

I sat down in my chair. And I cried.

The year was rough (as are all first years) but it was over. Those kids, my kids, they were gone on home, to go swimming or stop the ice cream truck, or play soccer in the street, and I was left here to clean everything up and put everything away. Alone.

The tears continued to trickle down my face when the door flew open and two rowdy boys bounded into my space. Abruptly, their smiles and jokes stopped.

"Ms. B, what's wrong? Why are you crying?" they demanded, smiles gone.

Through my tears I replied, "Because everyone is gone! There's no more kids here anymore!"

Petie replied, laughing, "But we're right here!"

And he has been there, when he was in seventh grade, he was there, and eighth grade, too. And when I moved to a classroom down the street, he managed to find me there, too. And now that I'm in Chicago, and even though he's still in Phoenix, he's still here online, and my heart swells every time I hear from him.

"But please don't get emotional," he says, and I'm laughing out loud.
Love you, kiddo!

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