Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Special Baby

"Bunny. Bunny.
Hug. Hug.

Husband and I grin as we creep downstairs, Little Sweetie's happy-sleepy voice softly crackling through the monitor. She's just started sleeping with a stuffed animal, and she's really enjoying snuggling the floppy purple bunny she chose.

Long shadows stretch across the great room as moonlight streams in from our wall of windows. As we settle onto our velvety brown couches to relax, Husband suddenly elbows me, nodding toward the monitor.

"Baby. Baby.
Special Baby."

"You're my special baby!" Husband's eyes glitter as he quotes the rhyme from our local library storytime, which we got the rare treat of attending all together since we were both off work for MLK, Jr. Day.
Husband & Sweetie doing "You're my special baby" at storytime. <3
Pure silence fills the house. M&M has drifted off to sleep remembering one of the most loving moments of our day. My heart feels like it will balloon up into the vast expanse of the great room and float right out of those windows into the moonlight.

I hope she always falls asleep knowing that she's our special baby.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Choosing our words

Tuesdays at Two Writing Teachers!
"Oh wow, you guys are choosing great words!" I peer over my students' bent heads as they brainstorm and then create signs for their "one little words" for 2017. My kids are just awesome. Seriously, they're amazing! Oh man, I love this job.

I love sharing pieces of myself with my students, showing them how hard I work to be who I am and helping them find ways to do that work for themselves. Every year, I work more goal-setting into my classes, and every year, I'm less afraid to be unperfect in front of my students. Every time I share about my personal and professional goals with them, I can feel the sparks flying from my eyes, turning into glimmers growing in theirs.

So even in the midst of several dismal days of graduation test retakes (a great way to start off the new year, right?!), we're taking the time to reflect on how we grew last semester as readers, writers, learners, and people. We're analyzing our progress and setting specific goals, but we're also choosing "one little word" as an overarching guide in our journey to be better people in 2017.

For me, "one little word" has been such an uplifting way to encourage myself to be better without putting more stress on myself, and that's how I introduced it to my classes this year. We've already done so much goal-setting work that they have well-developed attitudes about working hard to improve, so it really didn't take much to nudge them towards the right kind of brainstorming to discover their words.

We talked about how resolutions often fail, and why our short-term, measurable goals with plans work better for making specific progress. We discussed how, combined with those specific goals, an overarching, broader intention or word can be a positive force that keeps you driving throughout the year. I quickly modeled how I often brainstorm possible goals and look for patterns across my list, and then turned them loose to do their own brainstorming...

And boy, did they arrive at some powerful words!
 A few of the words that have been chosen so far... others are still working. Love these kids!!!
Look out, world. There are some pretty incredible teenagers in room A2. They speak multiple languages, navigate multiple cultures, and handle untold adversity with strength and grace. Best of all, they're working hard to get better every day.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

One Little Word 2017: Anyway

Tuesdays at Two Writing Teachers!
What an absolute doozy of a year!

Personally, professionally, as a citizen of the U.S. and a person in the world... just wow.

STRONG certainly turned out to be a darn good word for 2016, and it did its job well, pushing me to be better while also taking care of myself better.

And I want to keep that up. Keep pushing myself, like I always have, but in a way that's good for me, which is the newer part.

Unfortunately, as 2016 showed us all, the world can pack some pretty big punches, no matter how hard you work to make your very best impact on your very small corner of it.

So this fall, when I ran across a version of the "Paradoxical Commandments" on social media, widely attributed to Mother Teresa but apparently actually written by Kent Keith and used by Mother Teresa, I knew what my word for 2017 would be:

As I thought more about my word, I remembered loving a song called "Anyway", and when I went to look it up, I learned that Keith's poem was actually one of Martina McBride's inspirations for the lyrics, so my OLW inspirations are tied together perfectly!

At first, I was going to scatter words from each line of the poem around my word in this year's image, but I didn't want it to be too cluttered, and I wanted to add "strong", so I decided to make it more my own:
created on my iPad with Drawing Desk and FontCandy+
I chose sunrise colors this year, for hope and rebirth.
Like the past several years, this will be my computer wallpaper at school.
So in 2017, I will do my very best to brighten every piece of the world I can reach, even especially in the midst of so much darkness.

I will be kind, even especially when others are not.
I will be joyful, even especially when it's difficult to find joy.
I will be strong, even especially when I'm worn out.
I will be brave, even especially when I'm scared.
I will give my best, even especially when it seems to not be enough.
I will forgive those who act hurtfully, even especially when they act unwilling to work for healing.
I will love. Everyone. Even especially when it hurts. Even especially when they seem hard to love.

I love this word because it allows me to keep living my past words... even especially 
when it's hard. I will keep  connecting, keep  delighting, keep being  a spark, keep  loving, and keep being  strong...

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Kids in the snow

Tuesdays at Two Writing Teachers!
"Nohhh!" "Out!" "Ang-yul!" "Boots!" "Ang-yul!" Little Sweetie is prancing back and forth beside the sliding glass door, pointing outside and back at our winter clothes strewn haphazardly on the doormat from our first snow on Sunday. With one hand, I attempt to pull on my snowpants and boots while simultaneously gathering up her scattered fleece suit, snowpants, boots, coat, and mittens. Daylight is fading fast out the window, but I've been waiting for this all day as I watched the fluffy flakes fall. Quickly, I plunk her down on my knee and stuff her into layer after layer. By the time I finish wrangling her tiny mittens down and out the arms of her coat, I'm so hot I consider just leaving my own coat off to go outside, but I throw it on anyway.

"Down-down!" Her little legs squirm as I carry her down the deck stairs. "Wwalk-ing!" She toddles off into the yard, making little "ooh-ooh" noises.

"Ang-yul!" "Mannn!"

"Our snowman fell down, but we can fix him!" I find the intact-but-separated balls from Sunday's snowman, quickly roll them a few times to add some new snow, and stick them together.

"Mannn!" "Pat!" "Hugggg!"

"Are you the very sweetest?" My heart wants to burst as she pats the snowman's shoulder and snuggles up to him for a hug. She just loves everything and everyone so much!


"Do you want to make a snow angel?" I remember how cute she was when we helped her make one on Sunday, spreading her legs back and forth and flailing her arms, and I can't wait to help her try again.

"No. Mommy!" Her succinct, clipped "no" with a slight head shake is definitely "no", not "nohh" (snow).

"You want Mommy to make a snow angel?" I'd rather have her make an adorably tiny one, but... whatever makes her happy!

"Mommy!" "Ang-yul!" "Make!"

"Ok, you can watch Mommy make a snow angel!" I plop down, savoring the soft cushion of snow underneath me, and start wiggling. As she grins and giggles, I'm suddenly stunned by the gentle beauty of delicate flakes falling onto my face under a backdrop of gray winter sky. It's impossible to be anything but purely happy while making a snow angel! The last lingering bits of school stress melt away, and I'm a kid again, even as I sit up to look back into my own toddler's eyes.

"Do you want to make a snow angel now?"

"No! Walking!" She takes off, little legs plowing through the snow, and I follow. "Weeeee!" Our two sets of tracks crisscross through the pristine white expanse of the yard: two kids playing in the snow.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

What I really love

Tuesdays at Two Writing Teachers!
"Oh, you LOVE talking in front of people! I'll just sit over to the side and nod, maybe click the slides..." My colleague laughs and winks at me, joking-but-not-joking about her nervousness for our upcoming PD presentation about modifying assessments.

I grin, because she's right-but-not-right, and I like the me that she sees. I like that she doesn't see the anxious tension that ties my muscles tight before a presentation or the restless intensity that courses through me as I check and rework my slides. I like that she doesn't see my jittery knees and hands, the fierce heat that pours into sweat as I talk, or the flurry of thoughts that floods my brain as I fight to appear calm, knowledgeable, and relatable. I love that she sees my enthusiasm instead of my fear and doubt. Because I actually hate "talking in front of people", but I love teaching them.

I love nudging people to change their thinking, whether they are students or adults. I love opening minds to new possibilities, designing opportunities for focused practice, and settling down elbow-to-elbow to guide and encourage. I love lit-up eyes and heads bent in concentration. I love building communities that center on learning and growth. I love sparking change. Most of all, I love my kids, and I know that I can make a bigger difference for them by stepping out of my comfort zone to be a resource to my colleagues.

So while I'm rehearsing my exact words for the millionth time, pressing my hands across my laptop case to savor its calming smoothness, subtly stretching my rigid back, and sucking in deep breaths, I'll take a moment to float above the room and see myself as I jump in: energetic, determined, and grateful for every chance to change the world for my kids.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thank FULL

Tuesdays at Two Writing Teachers!
"I love godmother"

"💕 THANK YOU 💕 "

"Dear Mama, Thank you for loving me..."

My heart does a few flips in my chest as I glance around the table at the thank-you cards my beginner ELLs are making for people they are thankful for. "Aww, your people are going to LOVE these!" I squeal, and the warmth spreading through my body grows as I peer closer over their shoulders.

"Thank you for supporting me in everything..."

"I appreciate when you listen to me..."

"I am grateful for your patience even when I am unruly"

"I love when we talk in the kitchen..."

The language teacher in me is excited that they're doing a great job applying the sentence structures and vocabulary from my mini-lesson, but the so-much-more-than-language teacher in me wants to skip across the room. My kids are the absolute sweetest. They do not have all the words they need, but they are not afraid to try to say exactly what is in their hearts.

The bell is about to ring, and I want to hug them all, wishing I could see each of them give these cards to the special people in their lives, when H. waves me over to her seat. "Mrs. M, how do you spell your name?" And in case my heart couldn't get any fuller, she fills my name into the blank space she had left after "Dear" and hands her card to me.

There is no better feeling than knowing that your students see you exactly as you hope they do.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

In person

Tuesdays at Two Writing Teachers!
"I voted on Saturday."
"I mailed mine in weeks ago."

Around the lunch table yesterday, it seemed like hardly any of my colleagues were going to vote in person today. Everyone did their civic duty, but in their attempts to avoid lines and crowds, I think they missed out on the magic.

When I was little, my mom always made a big deal out of taking me to vote with her. We'd go inside the little blue cloth stall and excitedly close the thick, velvety curtain behind us. Firmly, with purpose and enthusiasm, she would push the switches to select her chosen candidates, telling me how important and special this process was. I don't remember exactly what she said, but I definitely remember walking away, voting stickers on our shirts, with a sense that we had done something BIG.

"I just love going on Tuesday to push those buttons myself!" I tried to convey to my colleagues the impression my mom gave me on all those Tuesday trips to the little blue stalls.

And so, as I unbuckled Sweetie from her carseat this afternoon, I put some extra sparkle in my eyes. "We're going to vote, Sweetie!"
"Vote! We're going to vote for the president!" I swung her onto my hip, straightened her stars-and-stripes dress, and marched up to the "VOTING TODAY" sign.

The poll workers oohed and ahhhed as they swiped my ID. "What a cutie! She looks so patriotic!" Beaming, they got her a sticker and grinned when she tenderly patted it as I put it on her dress.

No heavy blue curtains or metal switches anymore, but the touchscreen machine certainly got Sweetie's attention as soon as I started to push my selections. As it chortled and chirped, spitting out the little paper on the side, she wiggled and giggled against me, pointing her tiny finger back and forth between the screen and the paper.

"See, that was fun, right?" As soon as I touched the final green button, I pushed my forehead against hers, squeezing her tight. "Your first presidential election!"