Sunday, July 31, 2016

bigtime blogging challenge month-in-review

Hey all y'all! It's the BigTime Blogging Challenge. I'm writing every day in July to celebrate my blog's three year anniversary! Join me - write your post, link it up with mine, leave some love for blogging friends in the form of comments!

I've had so much fun writing with you all for the past month! Sometimes I had a bunch of friends writing with me, sometimes just a few, and one day I didn't even post, but it's all good.

Few things I am taking away with me for the new school year:

  1. Kids need to write on a consistent basis. I'm definitely going to have the kids I work with next year consistently use the Quickwriting strategy that Penny Kittle discusses in Write Beside Them. I think it's the balance of the prompt writing - because with quick writing, you do prompt kids, but if they land on something 'hot' as Penny says, then you tell them to stick with it.
  2. Some days you just don't feel like it. I mean, for me, I was *not feeling well at all on one particular day, but it's true, sometimes you just don't feel like it. I think we need to remember that with kids. That being said, the more you write, the easier it gets, so skipping it often is also not a wonderful idea.
  3. The posts you are most scared to post - those are probably your best ones. We need to take risks with our writing, and in life in general. I just started A Mindset for Learning and I think the traits that they offer are going to be so helpful for students I work with next year!
  4. It's crazy how you can inspire others with writing. It's true that a word after a word after a word is power (Margaret Atwood). While a lot of what I write is crap (see #5 below) there are some gems there, too, and sometimes, other people are inspired from my work.
  5. Crap. Lots of crap and nonsense here on BigTime Literacy, too. But with reading Use Your Words, I am seeing that the real writers have to sift through years of writing, and lots of it crap, before they can really get anywhere. And along the way, you probably get some great stuff too, but it's a lot of junk as well. So if you're one of those people who don't want to hit publish because it isn't perfect, remember that perfection is the enemy of completion. Just. Click. Publish.
Have you been writing lots in July? Take-Aways? See you back in the coming weeks, but also for the 2017's BigTime Blogging Challenge next summer!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

review: use your words

Hey all y'all! It's the BigTime Blogging Challenge. I'm writing every day in July to celebrate my blog's three year anniversary! Join me - write your post, link it up with mine, leave some love for blogging friends in the form of comments!

Good morning! I'm so awful - I didn't post yesterday. But I just couldn't. Have had friends in town all week and all the "fun" finally caught up to me!

Today I'm back with a little reivew of Use Your Words: A myth-busting no-fear approach to writing by Catherin Deveny. I got about 2/3 of the way through but there is still so much to share from it!

First of all, her voice is awesome. She's straight to the point and peppered with explicatives. One chapter is called, Thinking your writing is sh!t, and in it she says, "You level up as you grind." You get better at writing as you do it. So important to remember, especially as teachers. We have to create space in our classrooms where kids are practicing writing daily, because with practice comes growth.

In another chapter entitled Don't Take Directions from Anyone she says, "When you find yourself longing for feedback, remember: you probably just want someone to say, 'It's brilliant, you're a genius: just keep going. Tell yourself in stead.' This one stood out to me because I was just reading in a book about *teaching writing that kids are with their work alone 95% of the time, and that we have to teach them to be more self-directive. And here the author is telling us the same thing. We have to cheer ourselves on and keep on grinding with the writing. Kids too.

By far, the best chapter I read is chapter 15: Stop Fetishising Books and the Printed Word, which goes on to say:
Literacy has always been used to enforce class distinctions and preserve privilege, encouraging in-group loyalty and out-group hostility. The educated elite have access to power, decision-making, money and leisure. They support those like them and ostracize those outside their circles to protect their privilege. It's not privilege if everyone has it. Think about it: historically, women, the poor, and the non-Caucasians have been purposely excluded from or disadvantaged in the education system. They were often not permitted to go to school - or not for long - meaning fewer of them learned to read or to write, let alone got published. In the case of women, education was seen as a waste as they would end up having babies, keeping house, and basically being slaves and incubators for the patriarchy.
She goes on,
The  education system's obsession with rote learning, spelling, times tables, and 'staying inside the lines' has been a huge waste of our brainpower and educational time. And a massive obstacle to creativity and innovation.
Seriously. Have you read Literacy with an Attitude (Finn)? Says some of the same, how school can be a place to create compliant citizens who don't question anything (just wrote about that from a Taylor Mali book) or we can create schools that liberate and empower children - empower them to be creative, to innovate, to share their ideas and thoughts with the world, to question things that seem off, to become active involved citizens of their communities, which begins by creating a classroom where students are active and involved.

That's my goal as a teacher. Empower students to be active members of their communities.

Please check out one more post I did about this book: motivation follows action. I was so inspired a few weeks ago I had to write!

This book was/is really great. I'm excited to read the third part next, about the writer's tools. I'm sure she'll have a lot to offer, to me, and to any students I get to work with in the coming school year!

What have you been reading lately? Share about this book or another!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

what teachers make with #d100bloggerpd

Good morning! The BigTime Blogging Challenge carries on and I am here today to write though about a topic different from the prompt. I'm so thankful to work in such a forward-thinking district where there are a bunch of teacher bloggers! We have all banded together to do some projects, including today's post which is one in a series of posts about Taylor Mali's book What Teachers Make. I bring you content and commentary on chapters seven, eight, and nine.

Surely you know of Taylor because of his classic spoken word poetry... and if not, you're in for a treat!

This went on to create a book that is subtitled In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World, and although I am slightly biased, I couldn't agree more!

Let's get to it!

Vignette 7: Keeping your eye out for the teachable moment
First, take a look at the poem that goes with this vignette:

So beautiful. Let me teach like the first snow falling. My, how I love that line. And so, when we launched this book study, we actually we so lucky to have a Twitter Chat with Taylor Mali, and I remembered this beautiful string of words, and mentioned it to him, but times-are-a-changing, and so is teaching:

As teachers, sometimes it is okay to be doing the mini-lesson, demonstrating for students, as we *are the best readers, writers, and mathematicians in the classroom. But even more important is to set students off to do that difficult work, to be patient problem solvers who don't get stuck, who persevere and learn through doing.

Yes, that's true, but all that aside, from a writer's eye and heart - Let me teach like the first snow falling - just exquisite.

Vignette 8: In praise of thoughtful uncertainty
Another poem to share with this little chapter:

You know when you read something and you just gloss over it, not really taking much away? I must have done that last time I read this chapter, because after going back and *rereading and *rewatching this poem, I love it more than I ever have, because it reminds us of our purpose in education.

Some people say that schools are meant to create compliant citizens, and I think, depending on the way that you're teaching, whether or not you are encouraging your students to question things, whether or not your students have choices and can direct their learning in some ways, whether or not the classroom is run by one teacher or by an entire class of students plus one teacher - I'm trapped in a run on sentence but what I'm trying to say is that classrooms where students have voice and choice are classrooms where students are being taught to be citizens who don't just fall for anything and speak with conviction of thoughts. I think we need to empower all our students to be engaged with and knowledgeable of their world, rather than just taking everything for fact.

Vignette 9: Encountering Genius
"Teachers shouldn't make the mistake of always thinking they are the smartest person in the room." Preach.
As a Literacy Coach, I always keep this front and center, because the teachers I am privileged to work with are so smart on so many different levels. Each person brings years of experiences, not just education related, but life related. And so it is for our students as well, that sometimes, like Taylor experienced, our students are just smarter than us, and their way of thinking is luminous and we should let them shine in their moment, to help the greater good of our classroom family.

If you like what you've read here, grab a copy of Taylor Mali's book What Teachers Make, and definitely watch all his spoken word poetry on You Tube. You can also check out a post I wrote a few years ago after I saw him here in Chicago. In this post, I shared my favorite five poems of his!

Be sure to stop back for the #d100bloggerPD next Tuesday for Theresa's review of chapters 10, 11, and 12.

And none of this would be possible without such inspiring work from Taylor Mali - Thank you for Twitter chatting with us and following our blog study!

Hey all y'all! It's the BigTime Blogging Challenge. I'm writing every day in July to celebrate my blog's three year anniversary! Join me - write your post, link it up with mine, leave some love for blogging friends in the form of comments!

BigTime Blogging Challenge friends, hope you enjoyed today's post and I'm looking forward to reading yours!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

dear 1st year teacher

Hey all y'all! It's the BigTime Blogging Challenge. I'm writing every day in July to celebrate my blog's three year anniversary! Join me - write your post, link it up with mine, leave some love for blogging friends in the form of comments!

Ahhh, to be young again. I remember the days I was the youngest 20-something trying to keep it together at school. How I wish I had started blogging in those early days! Here's a little note to all the first year teachers who will begin this awesome career this fall...

Dear First Year Teacher,

Your first year. I'm sure you've been surfing teaching blogs and Pinterest for the cutest ideas for your new room. It will look fabulous, I just know it. It's so fun to put a room together. But... It's all for the kiddos that will walk through your doors on that first day in August. So, while I'm sure you've been planning your room and maybe even your first week of lessons and activities so everyone can get to know one another, have you also been thinking about what you might say to the kiddos?

The children in your first class are going to be awesome. Some will be funny, some quiet, some will test your patience. You will learn and grow together. As teachers, we always know we will teach them so much, but it's possible that we don't realize all that they will teach us. There's so many things.

They teach us to have fun.
They are going to quote the books you read in the funniest ways, like asking you, "Can I get back to you on that?" when you ask about homework after reading Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key. They are going to get out of their seats just to be funny, and when you ask them to sit down, they'll look at you deadpan and say, "YOLO." Everyone will laugh, including you, and then the kid will, in fact, go back to their seat. They are going to leave their books in your classroom when they have a locker just to try and irritate you, but all in good fun. They are going to try and negotiate chair races down the hall as a reward for finishing their work. These kiddos are creative and witty and will make you laugh, so please take them up on the offer! (And, if you can find the time, write the stories down!)

They teach us about technology.
Let's face it - the students in our classes these days are wired for iPads and Chrome Books. So let them lead. When you don't know how to do something, ask the kids. And not just technology, but everything. Let your room be a class of 31 experts, rather than just one.

They teach us about boundaries.
Kids are kids and they want to do things their way, even when it is in their best interest to do so your way. So, it will be important for you to decide what you want your classroom to look and sound like and pursue those expectations consistently. My first year, my mentor told me this - have procedures, and teach them and practice them. I heard her, but I didn't really hear her. My students my first year definitely taught me about boundaries, and that what you ignore, you accept. So, if you don't want students calling out, do not talk to them unless they follow the expectations for sharing. These are some of the hardest things for us as teachers to do, because what's easiest to do and what's best for kids aren't the same things. So, be consistent, and make your classroom the place you want it by allowing what is okay and halting what is not. Boundaries... kids want them and need them to feel safe!

They teach us to find other solutions.
As much as the writers of standardized tests might like to think so, kids aren't robots and do not think through problems in the same ways. They do not learn in the same ways. As teachers, one important aspect of the work we do is to figure out exactly what works for each student. Most of the kids will get what we're teaching on the first go-around. Then another group will need to hear it in a different way to understand, and a smaller few, even, will need it in three, four, or five different ways. All of our kids are different, and we must work to meet them where they are, and embrace the fact that as teachers, we are on a problem solving mission to help each student reach their greatest potential. They can all do it, it's just a matter of us figuring out how to get them there. This takes creative thinking. Lean on your colleagues. Collaborate with your PLN. There's so many ways to be supported, and when we are supported, children are supported and achieving.

They teach us about love.
You know that kid in your classroom who is swearing at you? Love that kid. And the one who knocks over chairs and hides under tables? It's hard, because it happens almost on a daily basis, but love that kid too. Of course there will be the ones who are easy to love, because they are funny, and giving, and they do everything you ask. But you'll really be learning about love when, in the heat of the moment you can take a second to yourself, breathe in and breath out, walk up to that super hard kid and share the love. I'm not saying give in to whatever they may want at the moment, quite the contrary actually. Give them boundaries, and stick by them firmly, give a consequence, and then tell the child that it's only because you love them so much that you can't let their bad behavior slide. Trust me when I tell you this:

So there's all that, and then there's also an awesome, unforgettable year ahead that you will just love. Savor the moments, newbies!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

slice of life

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My best friends are in from Phoenix and San Diego!

Last night we had dinner at RPM Italian downtown and it was so so good, made even better, in fact, by their company.

We split two bottles of wine and Katie and I shared gnocchi and Chicken Parm. I wish I had taken pictures of the food, but all I have is a selfie of the four of us (Anita, our close friend who lives in town joined us!)

The dinner was awesome, but even better was being with these girls. Sharing food and talking about our dating lives and marriages, our plans for the upcoming school year and for the rest of the days here together in Chicago, so awesome. We're only ever together like once a year, but we do keep in really good touch all throughout the year, so these once-a-year gatherings feel more abundant.

Super thankful for these friends and that they are with me in Chicago!

Hey all y'all! It's the BigTime Blogging Challenge. I'm writing every day in July to celebrate my blog's three year anniversary! Join me - write your post, link it up with mine, leave some love for blogging friends in the form of comments!

Monday, July 25, 2016

gratitude lately

Hey all y'all! It's the BigTime Blogging Challenge. I'm writing every day in July to celebrate my blog's three year anniversary! Join me - write your post, link it up with mine, leave some love for blogging friends in the form of comments!

So many wonderful things to be thankful for. Here are just a few of mine from the last few weeks.

Pictures of baby elephants, because they're so adorable.

Word Swag, especially when a friend swags your words!

This book. It's amazing, and you should read it.

My bitmoji, I just love every one of them.
Especially when friends text you just to say hi with theirs.

Amazing friends like this one and a Cubs game on Friday.

Bottle and Bottega painting, especially when it's Chicago themed.

Free Cam concert.

Ice cream with the Bride-to-be.

Gratitude. It turns what we have into enough.
What are you thankful for today?

Sunday, July 24, 2016

5 love languages

Hey all y'all! It's the BigTime Blogging Challenge. I'm writing every day in July to celebrate my blog's three year anniversary! Join me - write your post, link it up with mine, leave some love for blogging friends in the form of comments!

So the Love Languages. Seems weird to be a on a teaching blog, right? But, teaching is all about relationships and I totally think knowing the love languages of your colleagues is super helpful!

Gary Chapman is the guy behind this research and he found that people feel loved, or appreciated, in five main ways:

Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service
Quality Time
Physical Touch

Words of Affirmation
This is my main language, but it's all about showing appreciation for someone by saying thank you, complimenting them, or using your words in any other way that can show your gratitude. I came across this one day and I believe it's totally true:

Some people feel most appreciated when they are given gifts. I do like to pick up little things for friends at work. A few months ago, another teacher and I had this super funny story about pineapples, and then everywhere I went I was seeing them, wanting to buy her everything with a pineapple! I ended up getting her a golden pineapple pencil which I don't think she shared with her students, although they loved it! Giving thoughtful gifts makes me happy, but not as much as an email or a card that says nice things.

Acts of Service
Some people feel appreciated when you do something to help them out. Maybe you have a teacher friend at work and you make copies for him or her. Or maybe you do more of the grading writing/giving feedback than your coteacher and it really makes them appreciate you. Whatever the case, sometimes you can appreicate your colleagues by doing little (or big) things for them!

Quality Time
Spending time together is a great way to bond and bring teams closer together. When I was at the middle school, our team *always stopped working and spent time together over lunch. I think stopping work and sharing stories about our personal lives helped us grow closer and then, work together better!

Physical Touch
Some people do not like hugs. Or high fives. Other people though, do! Although this takes on a different meaning with our colleagues, showing you care with a hug or a fist bump or a high five may do just the trick.

So, are you wondering what your love language is? Head over to this link and you can take a quiz to find out! And be sure to check out Chapman's other books:

Saturday, July 23, 2016

parent engagement tip

Hey all y'all! It's the BigTime Blogging Challenge. I'm writing every day in July to celebrate my blog's three year anniversary! Join me - write your post, link it up with mine, leave some love for blogging friends in the form of comments!

There are so many fun things you can do with parent engagement - Just wanted to share something we planned to help enhance summer reading!

Of course all teachers want their students reading over the summer. This year, we are leveraging the power of social media to have our parents *show us their kiddos reading.

We created a facebook group and began to invite parents. Before the end of the school year, our teachers - mostly Mr. Puhr - would take the kids to the park or outside to read, snap some pics of them, and then post them on the page. This was just a little model for what we were hoping for, and it's been working fabulously! Check out a few of the posts we've had:

As an added incentive, we were approved for $100 to use for gift cards, so each Friday, we randomly choose a winner of everyone who had posted the week before, and then mail that person a $10 Target gift card.

We also sent home a bingo sheet, with lots of different ideas for reading - under the table, with some ice cream, with a friend or relative, etc. The posts have been super cute, but best thing is our students are reading like crazy this summer!

There are so many ideas for parent engagement - what do you do at your school?

Friday, July 22, 2016

maintaining teacher balance

Hey all y'all! It's the BigTime Blogging Challenge. I'm writing every day in July to celebrate my blog's three year anniversary! Join me - write your post, link it up with mine, leave some love for blogging friends in the form of comments!

Hola friends, can you believe it's day 22 of the challenge? I'm so proud of myself, even during the Slice of Life challenge, I usually miss a day so I'm happy to be back every day this month!

Today's topic is teacher balance. It's so important to stay balanced so we don't burn out, so please share with me how you do it!

My first six years of teaching were in Phoenix and I loved it and learned so much. Except I said yes to every request and did everything and in those six years, I didn't do much besides teach. I dated a guy for one of those six years, but otherwise was single, and as I look back, I think a big part of that was because I was so wrapped up in honing a new set of skills in my new teaching life.

Saying Yes
So when I moved to Chicago, I told myself, "Michelle, you don't have to say yes to everything, and you shouldn't feel bad about it. You need to take care of yourself, too!" After all, a yes to more work is a no to something else in your life that might bring you joy, right?

One of my new rules is that I will not take on extra projects without sleeping on it first. It's not that I don't care about the school and kids I teach, but I don't want to burn out and so I have to make certain that what I say yes to will work with my schedule.

I was so happy when one of our principals sent out this blog at the beginning of summer. And, upon seeing another principal just last week, and telling her, No, I'm not teaching and summer PDs, she said, "Good for you."

Because really - I love teaching and learning, but I understand how important it is to recharge, too!

Food and Fitness
It's so important to also take care of our bodies, both with the way we eat and with exercise. So, I almost always prep a week's worth of salads every Sunday evening and try to schedule time for exercise, too. I do so much better when I plan things out, and actually put them on a calendar, so I think with exercise this year, I'm going to try and be better about scheduling my week on Sunday, so it's just something that I know I have to do. And like I wrote in another post this month, motivation follows action, so I need to keep that front and center when I just don't feel like going for a run or to yoga!

Thoughtful with my Thoughts
It's really easy to let our anxieties spin out of control, and a lot of time we create all that drama on our own, in our heads before the thing we're really worried about even happens. So, I work really hard to tell myself things like, "Michelle, it's not time for that meeting / conversation / PD Session, so don't ruin your moments now because you're worried about something in the future." I'm like everyone else who stresses out, except I have gotten pretty good at talking myself out of those destructive thinking patterns. Usually, the biggest conflict is in my mind, and things go better than I expect!

Approach Conflict Directly
This is hard, so so hard. But after reading Brené Brown, I understand that the most compassionate people are also the most boundaried. Boundaries are good! So when something happens that upsets me or hurts my feelings, I make it a point to go approach it within a reasonable amount of time. Usually problems and misunderstandings are solved, and in the very least, the person who said or did something to upset me is at least then aware of my boundaries. I truly believe that what you ignore, you allow, and so I think it's so important be be honest and up front with people. The upside of this? You never have to wonder if I'm upset with you, because if I am, I will tell you!

Appreciate the Small Things
Kids are awesome! Teaching is a ton of work and it's a grind, but it's so worth it when kids email you saying, "Ms. Brezek, I revised my memoir a little, can you tell me what you think?" and "Aren't you going to Middle School with us?" and hugs bright smiles from firsties. With so much technology, I think it causes us to want to capture moments and save them, but better, I think, to live them and then put them in a notebook or on a blog or in your Sunshine File. Any way you can live in the moments of your teaching life, and appreciate them for all that they're worth, will definitely lead to happy, wholehearted teachers!

How do you stay balanced with such a demanding career?
Please share your tips!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

why I teach

Hey all y'all! It's the BigTime Blogging Challenge. I'm writing every day in July to celebrate my blog's three year anniversary! Join me - write your post, link it up with mine, leave some love for blogging friends in the form of comments!

Today we're writing about why we teach. I'm still on a poetry kick, so here we go :-)

As a young kid
in my basement playing
with extra worksheets from school, I stood
in front of the "class"

Without much thought, I knew
before most of my friends, that one day I would stand
in front of a real class
for each school day of my life.

Over the past 13 years, I've been lucky to work
among kids of all ages, mostly reading and writing
with them,
but sometimes math, too.

Because of the kids, I've been blessed
with relationships beyond measure.
As for me, I teach
for this reason, almost solely.... however

Underneath the relationships are stories
about friends, and families and good times and bad.
In addition to relationships, I get
to write with kids and see them
for the people they are and hope
to become.

Do you like this style? I learned about it with Illinois Writing Project last summer - just start every line with a preposition!

Excited to hear your stories today!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

poetry day!

Hey all y'all! It's the BigTime Blogging Challenge. I'm writing every day in July to celebrate my blog's three year anniversary! Join me - write your post, link it up with mine, leave some love for blogging friends in the form of comments!

It's poetry day and I'm so late! Friends, I love writing, but I'm tired. So apologies for not getting this posted until now, but I am here!

I ordered this book for the blog post today:

I didn't finish it, and I don't love it, but I found a few things I like. It's the first time I've read (tried to) an anthology of poems all by the same author, so maybe that's why it was a little more difficult. I guess I'm used to reading poetry, but a lot of different poems by different authors. Anyways, just some reflection there, but here's some of ideas I was inspired by.

a song in the front yard

I've stayed in the front yard all my life.
I want a peek at the back.
Where it's rough and untended and hungry weed grows.
A girl gets sick of a rose.

I want to go in the back yard now
And maybe down the alley, 
To where the charity children play.
I want a good time today.

They do some wonderful things. 
They have some wonderful fun.
My mother sneers, but I say it's fine
How they don't have to go in at quarter to nine.
My mother, she tells me that Johnnie Mae
Will grow up to be a bad woman.
That George'll be taken to Jail soon or late
(On account of last winter he sold our back gate.)

But I say it's fine. Honest, I do.
And I'd like to be a bad woman, too,
And wear the brave stockings of night-black lace
And strut down the streets with paint on my face.

There's so much in this poem. Seems like the mother wants to protect her little girl from unbecoming experiences, have her stay in the front yard, with it's beauty and away from experiences that could lead her in the wrong direction. I love the comparisons to the front yard, the back yard, alleys. I've always hated alleys, especially at night, especially after dark in the city where there's too many people and not enough space. So I understand the mother's preoccupation with all of that the alley would bring (both figurative and literally), but everyone is curious, so I get why the little one wants to have some adventure too.

love note
I: Surely

Surely you stay my certain own, you stay
My you. All honest, lofty as a cloud.
Surely I could come home now and find you high,
As mine as you ever were; should not be awed.
Surely your word would pop as insolent
As always: "Why, of course I love you, dear."
Your gaze, surely, unguazed as I could want.
Your touches, that never were careful, that they were.
Surely - But I am very off from that.
From surely. From indeed. From the decent arrow
That was my clean naiveté and my faith.
This morning men deliver wounds and death.
They will deliver death and wounds tomorrow.
And I doubt all. You. Or a violet.

Okay so I don't even understand all of this, but I wanted to share it because I could see myself mentoring my own poem from the Surely that she used repeatedly - mostly in the same spot, and then not. I love how her words (unguazed, lofty as a cloud, insolent) create images (had to use some most definitely on some of these, good lesson as I think about using poetry with kids.) I totally don't get the last part about the violet. Maybe there was more reference to that in other poems that I may have skipped? anyone have an idea? Totally confuses me!

Beverly Hills, Chicago

"and the people live till they have white hair"
-E. M. Price

The dry brown coughing beneath their feet.
(Only a while, for the handyman is on his way)
These people walk their golden gardens.
We say ourselves fortunate to be driving by today.

That we may look at them, in their gardens where

The summer ripeness rots. But not raggedly.
Even the leaves fall down in lovlier patterns here.
And the refuse, the refuse is a neat brilliancy.

When they flow sweetly into their houses
With softness and slowness touched by that everlasting gold,
We know what they go to. To tea. But that does not mean
They will throw some little black dots into some water and add
     sugar and the juice of the cheapest lemons that are sold....

I love Chicago. Like love, so much. But I know there are two - mine, here on the North side, mostly safe, and another Chicago, in neighborhoods on the South and West sides that are underfunded, that are without hope and opportunity, and with a lot of crime.

What's above is just an excerpt from this poem, but it really had me thinking about two Chicagos, and wishing it was just one world class city where everyone on all sides could enjoy golden gardens and safety on their neighborhood blocks.

and the poem you've probably read, one that I remembered when I got to the page...

We Real Cool

The pool Players.
Seven at the Golden Shovel.

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

Pretty sure I heard of this first via Young Chicago Authors and/or Louder Than a Bomb. Obviously it's dark, but I love what she has done with the line breaks and alliteration and rhymes. Check her out on You Tube talking about this poem, which she also says she's most famous for.

Did you read any poetry this month? Share it and your thoughts!
(Or anything else you'd like!)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

home in D100

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In D100, students choose
     their Just Right books
     the pens they compose with
     the clubs they join

Just like home where we choose
     what to cook for dinner
     Saturday afternoon plans
     which friends we spend time with

In D100, our classrooms are outfitted to Workshop with
     beautiful rugs
     spaces to confer
     an easel from which to teach

Just like home ---
     beautiful art adorns the walls
     personal spaces to sleep and think
     a flat screen to entertain

In D100 teachers work side-by-side
     planning curriculum
     tweeting to our favorite hashtags
     by saying, "Come back and visit our class again soon!"

Just like home --
     Cooking meals together
     when lending an egg to the neighbor
     when greeting with, "I love you!"

In D100 Responsive Classroom rules
     Every child says hello in hallways
     friends say sorry and show empathy
     everyone is included

Just like home ---
     a hug when you arrive from work or school
     conflicts on the table for resolution
     big family parties to celebrate life's events

In D100 we're connected
     sharing our stories in Workshop
     blogging or tweeting beyond our four walls
     opening our doors at iEngage

Just like home...
     friends visit from CA and AZ  in July
     christmas cards cover the fridge in December
     facebook keeps us connected in the meantime

But we remember, best practice takes on many forms
     each child learns in their own time
     with a balance of advanced and vintage tools
     by preparing for the future with the knowledge of the past

Just like home where we do what's best
     sleep in or wake up early
     looking ahead to our family's future but remembering our past
     with current photos on our phones but Grandma's wedding picture on the           mantle

Hey all y'all! It's the BigTime Blogging Challenge. I'm writing every day in July to celebrate my blog's three year anniversary! Join me - write your post, link it up with mine, leave some love for blogging friends in the form of comments!

Monday, July 18, 2016


Hey all y'all! It's the BigTime Blogging Challenge. I'm writing every day in July to celebrate my blog's three year anniversary! Join me - write your post, link it up with mine, leave some love for blogging friends in the form of comments!

Hola friends! New week and it's so awesome to wake up and not have anywhere to be super quick. I've been watching GMA and sipping coffee, and now here I am with all of you!

When planning prompts for this BTBC16, I sent some ideas out to friends, and one friend suggested today's - building relationships with colleagues. Super important, we have to love where we work, right? I will never be the person who continues to work at a place that drains me, so I take it upon myself to share sunshine around our building (also, that's what our school calls our school culture group of teachers!) Here are a few things we did last year that were super fun and build positive staff morale.

1. Birthday Beads
Our Sunshine group decided to recognize everyone on their birthday with an email to the staff and birthday beads for them to wear all day. It wasn't a huge thing, but it's nice to be remembered! We think everyone liked it lots!

2. Staff Shout Out Board
We put up a shout out board in the lounge for people to add notes of appreciation for their colleagues. This made me so happy - I loved seeing positivity in the lounge!

3. Mailbox Appreciations
We all took a turn to do little mailbox appreciations - just a little note with maybe some candy once a month. Jennie created a Pinterest board to throw ideas in there, and then we all signed up for a month to deliver this mailbox positivity!

4. Payday Treats
We set up a sign-up for teams to bring in Payday Monday treats - the Monday after payday, there would be snacks in the lounge for everyone, and then since we brought them on Monday, we'd spend the week enjoying them before school and at lunch. We all love bonding around food, am I right?

5. Socials
We also planned events once a month (maybe just slightly less) for us to get together and hang out - a happy hour, painting party, and potluck lunches on our Institute days.

There are so many things you can do to build positive staff morale, and it's so important to do so! One thing I always remember too, is to praise in public and vent in private. There were just a few times when the lounge would become negative, and in those instances, I just thought it better to remove myself from the situation.

On a personal level, I think that keeping positive relationships with colleagues involves talking about conflict at one point or another. When things bother me, I do my best to address them face to face. Brene Brown's research shows that people who maintain positive boundaries are the most loving, which is why even though it's hard to do so, addressing issues is super important. Easier said than done though!

What are you doing to build positive relationships with the staff (or students) in your building? Can't wait to hear your ideas!

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