Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Beautiful

Tuesday fun at Two Writing Teachers!
Heads bent: over notebooks, over Chromebooks, towards each other.

Tiny islands of ideas scattered around the room: sunk into a pillow, at a desk beside the window, sprawled on the rug, huddled at a table.

Loud silence. Quiet chatter. Arabic. Spanish. English. Thoughts taking shape.

Heartbreaking, uplifting, sweet, excited, strong, scared, beautiful stories.

"... Palacio de Bellas Artes..."

"... my father come to study..."

"... how everyone was afraid and you didn't know what would happen..."

"... studying and playing with my friends..."

"... the government pay for everything so we can learn English..."

"... I walked for three months..."

"... the beautiful mountains..."

"... the American occupation of Iraq..."

"... we wait for six years..."

"... all students would go to a garden..."

"... the scary things happened..."

"... this is my fifth country..."

"... I'll ask my mom..."
"... and I was so nervous because I didn't know English..."

"... this year I want to tell my story..."

"... the war..."

Our school's multicultural celebration is always my favorite day of the year, and the weeks leading up to it are the most precious times in my classroom. But this year, more than ever, I've talked with my students about how this is their chance to combat ignorance and prejudice, especially in light of the negativity around immigration that has reared its ugly head over the past few months. This year, more than ever, my students really recognize how powerful their stories are.

Maybe it's the way I introduced the project this year. Maybe it's the fact that some of my students have experienced the event several times now, and their enthusiasm is sparking the minds and hearts of the others. Maybe it's the way we've been talking all year about being brave and strong. Maybe it's just magic, but my students are more willing than ever to share their incredible personal journeys, and I can't wait.

Today, before we continued storyboarding our ideas, we read "I, Too" by Langston Hughes. While he wrote it about being black, it's just as true for my amazing immigrant students, especially the marginalized refugees from the Middle East and Central & South America.

"Besides,
They'll see how beautiful I am 
And be ashamed --  

I, too, am America."
(Langston Hughes)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Positive vibes

Tuesdays at Two Writing Teachers!
"What's up, P?" I'm truly glad to see her, even though it usually takes all the energy I can muster to be cheerful at 7:30 in the morning. I wonder if she needs to have another serious talk about all she's been struggling with. I'm always honored to be someone that my students feel they can come to anytime.
Welcome to room A2! Looks like fun, right?

"I just came to get some positive vibes from your room!" She shrugs, grins, and plops down at the little table beside my desk. "I get really depressed in the morning, you know, and I just... I don't know, I love your room, I don't know why."
I'm quite proud that my room looks more like an elementary room than a high school room!

"I'm so glad! Mornings are rough, and I work really hard to make my room a happy and comfortable place for you guys!"

"I just love all the colors you have in here, and it makes me feel so positive, and you know, sometimes I just feel like I can't... but then I come in here, and I love all the things you have... I thought that if I could come here in the morning, I could start my day feeling better!"

A community of readers...

"Aw, thanks, P. That's a great idea! I'm excited that I'll get to see you in the mornings now!" And I really am. What better way to start each day than with a reminder of what really matters?

...and a community of writers!
I've been quoting Stephen Krashen about the importance of a low affective filter since grad school, but it's really much more simple than that: I love my kids, and I want them to be happy in my room. And nothing means more than knowing they realize that.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Snapshots

Tuesdays at Two Writing Teachers!

Life in a high school is a whirlwind, especially as an ELL teacher who is also one of the go-to Spanish speakers in the building. Testing, meetings, subs, unexpected parent drop-ins, medical emergencies... oh, and there's also some teaching and grading in there somewhere. 

Some days, it's not hard to lose sight of what's really important. But luckily, there are also plenty of reminders if you watch closely.

--

"Is there anything else you'd like to tell me about your reading?" I end the conference with my usual invitation, and B.'s dark eyes light up as he nods.

His lanky body straightens from its usual folded position. "This is the first time in my life I've enjoyed reading!" I grin, and he continues. "I mean, I never liked reading. I'd get in trouble and my dad would make me read a book, but I never liked it. But I like this book! I like the exciting adventure, and I want to know what will happen next!" 

-- 

"I put my "one little word" post up again if you want to re-read it as you work." I start to circulate as the kids log into their Chromebooks.

"I don't need to read it again," E. tells me softly. "I remember everything you wrote, because I'm working on the same things."

"I know," I assure her. "And I'm so proud of how hard you are working."

--

She brought this dress back
from Mexico for my baby!
"I'm so glad you're back!" As I hug P, I make sure my eyes hold a spark that show her that I really mean it. After she missed an extra week of school visiting her mom in Mexico, I am truly excited to see her. And knowing the struggles she's been going through this year, I'm so happy to see a girl who truly looks refreshed and ready to keep fighting.

"I am too!" She's practically bouncing. "I just really like this class. Like, when I get here in the afternoon, I'm like, oh good, I'm finally here!" 

From the way she holds onto problems until she spills them all to me, I already knew that. But it's still nice to hear. 
--

Growing readers. 
Writing that matters.
Building community.
Love.

That's what matters, and I'm so glad that's what anchors every day in my classroom, no matter what else happens.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

one little word 2016: strong

Tuesdays at Two Writing Teachers!
CONNECT.
DELIGHT.
SPARK.
LOVE.

4 little words.

4 years of reflection, observation, and determination.
4 years of having a simple, powerful, and positive way to keep encouraging myself to improve my life throughout the year.

In class today, my students and I read about the history of New Year's Resolutions, and we learned that January is named for Janus, the Roman god with two faces who could look backward and forward at the same time. That's exactly how I felt as I chose my word this year: I found my word by looking to the past year and the upcoming one together. 

Becoming a mom has helped me take control of my life in a way that I was never able to do before. I wondered how I'd ever do it all, when my life had always been so consumed with work. How could I ever be a good mom AND a good teacher at the same time?! But through lots of hard work, I have found that balance I could never make myself achieve... by learning to take care of myself. I've learned that the only way to be my very best self is to refuse to ignore my self-care. And magically, I'm solving that great puzzle of who I am.

I'm proud to announce my fifth "one little word", my word for 2016: STRONG
created on my iPad with Drawing Desk and Font Candy!
I decided to use a color scheme that would remind me of seeing the sky.
This year, my students are joining me on the "one little word" journey, and I wrote the rest of this post in front of them over the course of my classes today.

I resolve to be mentally strong
I will write on my blog every Tuesday. I will read at least 5 days a week. I will practice my Spanish by reading, writing, and speaking in Spanish as much as I can! I will speak in Spanish to my baby often. I will use relaxing strategies to stop worrying. For example, if I start to worry, I will go for a walk, look out the window, listen to music, or cuddle with my baby! I will focus on positive thoughts by noticing all the beauty and blessings around me and being thankful. I will continue to reflect on my life and my teaching to find the best ways to improve myself.

I resolve to be physically strong
I will do hard exercise (running, elliptical machine, or lifting weights) at least 2 days a week. I will also take my baby for a walk at least 1 other day a week. I will drink plenty of water. I will only drink pop 1 time a week. I will make healthier food choices with more fruits and vegetables.

I resolve to be emotionally strong
I will continue to love deeply by showing my family, my friends, and my students that they matter and I care about them. I will work to create special memories with my baby, my husband, and my parents. I will challenge myself to try new things, push myself out of my comfort zone, and be brave to work for what I believe in. I will forgive others and strive to understand their points of view. I will try not to take setbacks or criticism too personally, while still holding on to the insights my sensitive nature gives me. I will encourage myself and give myself the grace I give others, instead of being too hard on myself when I'm not perfect. I will give myself a break sometimes, and be ok with that.

I will be STRONG.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Looking back on love

Tuesday fun at TWT!

2015 was a hard year, a stretch-and-struggle year, and a magical, wonderful, delightful year. Most of all, it was a year where my one little word permeated every slice of my life.


When I chose my word, I already knew that the wiggly little creature I was growing would teach me how to love in an entirely different way... but I still couldn't imagine how deep and wonderful this new love could be until the doctors pulled her out of my belly and held her up, all squirmy and perfect, making little squeaky animal noises. Now I really know what it is to love and be loved.

Love is the soft touch of tiny hands exploring my face, as big, bright eyes gaze up at me in wonder. Love is an open-mouthed smile, panting wriggles, and outstretched arms that greet me with pure joy, whether I've been gone minutes or hours. Love is a delighted cackle at a silly song I made up, and also a sweet snuggle burrowing into my shoulder. 

Love is a reason to leave school earlier, to go for a walk instead of staying stuck on the couch, to decide that those emails or papers can wait for another day because it's so much better to watch those blue eyes crinkle as I wave that toy.

Love is being intentional about taking care of myself so I can be my very best for her. Love is lacing up my tennis shoes, coaxing my fingers to clack across the keyboard, diving into the pages of a book, or simply taking a few moments to stop and breathe in awe of the world around me... even (or especially) when I don't feel like doing any of that. 

Love is learning and reflecting, monitoring how I'm doing and training my brain to ensure that I'm who I want to be. Love is fighting the monsters in my head: worry, fear, doubt... and coming out stronger every day.

Love is adamantly pushing for what's best for my students, even if it's not always popular. Love is sticking firmly to what I believe, even if it's not what has always been done. Love is wiping my sweaty palms, swallowing the lump in my throat, shaking out my tense arms, and standing up for my kids.

Love is listening and caring. Smiles at the doorway, hugs on a rough day, questions that show I remember something they told me last week. Love is always being willing to step into the hallway, beacuse that kid may have waited all day to share her heavy weight in the place where she's most comfortable. Love is handing over a carefully chosen book, saying, "I picked this for you. I think you'll really like it."

Love is showing people they matter. Chocolate on a tough week, a hand-written note, a special quotation, a birthday card, a creative gift, an afternoon together, or even a quick text... just enough to say, "You are special. I'm so glad you're here." Love like this creates ripples of love that stretch far beyond where I'd planned. 

I'm excited to choose a new word for 2016, but I'll make sure to keep choosing love. Every day.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The great puzzle

Tuesday writing fun at TWT!
“Let me think:  was I the same when I got up this morning?  I almost think I can remember feeling a little different.  But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘Who in the world am I?’  Ah, that’s the great puzzle!”
 – Lewis Carroll

This spring, I struggled to imagine what my life would look like with a baby. Could I still be a good teacher? Would I still be able to do the things that make me who I am?

Who, in fact, would I be?

Now, in December, I can hardly believe how far I've come. I'm certainly not the same. I certainly feel different. But I have worked so hard at this "great puzzle" that I've never been more sure of who I am, and that's an incredible feeling.

I am a teacher. I love my students and I pour everything I have into making them better readers, writers, learners, and people. My brain spins with ways to engage them, encourage them, and let them know how much I care.

I am a mom. My days are full of sweet snuggles, slimy hugs, gooey open-mouthed kisses, and smiles bright enough to light the whole world. I can change diapers, store milk, make up silly songs, coax wiggly arms and legs into adorable outfits, turn tears into smiles, do myriad tasks one-handed, and interpret a small creature's feelings from a variety of noises and faces. I love with a depth and ferocity that I never imagined, and I feel more joy and more gratitude every day.

I am a reader and a writer. I dive into worlds of words and those worlds change me for the better. 

I am a spark. I push and inspire others to become better. I am brave enough to leave my comfort zone and fight for what I believe is good and true.

I am both an expert and a learner. I share my unique knowledge and skills with others, but I constantly strive to improve, to wonder, and to keep my curiosity alive.

I am a light. My heart overflows with love, and I make sure I live so that love shines onto others.

I am strong and brave. I am finding ways to balance my life in order to take care of my body, my mind, and my heart. I know this is part of being my best, and I am proud of myself.

I am making a difference.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Best

Tuesday writing fun at Two Writing Teachers!

Wide eyes wondering at the world
corners crinkling with delight

a toothless grin rippling across perfect cheeks
opening so wide it splits my heart with joy

gurgles, buzzes, squealing, panting
flailing arms, twisting wiggles
wordlessly shrieking "Mommy!!!"

tiny hands pat and knead
tiny arms squeeze and snuggle

sweet, pure skin against my cheek
nuzzling into delicate, silky hair

the whole world in my arms

the best way to start and end 
every day

the
best 
love

my
best
self.

living my one little word!