Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Delight in Learning

at Two Writing Teachers!
I'm wiped out. We're in the midst of state standardized English proficiency testing: three days of paper tests (reading, writing, and listening) in addition to individual speaking tests that we must complete with each student throughout the week during our plan and admin periods.

Nonetheless, my "one little word" for the year has managed to sneak its way into my day. (Thank goodness!)  Delight.  Days like today are why I made it my OLW: to find delight even when I'm tired, even when things are crazy, even when I've been feeling discouraged.  And just as promised, delight shows up.  It's everywhere. I just have to notice it!

First, a student ran into my classroom this afternoon breathlessly waving Tears of a Tiger, which I booktalked a few weeks ago and recommended personally to her last week. "Mrs. M!  I woke up at 6:00 this morning to read this book! It's sooooo good!!!" Especially sweet since she's been one of my many students who insist that they "don't have time" to read.

Then this evening before dinner, I was watching reruns of The Andy Griffith Show, which to me is like snuggling into my mom's arms since that's where I first watched it.  Much to my DELIGHT, one of my all-time favorite episodes came on: the one where Helen Crump is introduced as Opie's new teacher.  From the moment Opie and his friends start calling her "Old Lady Crump," I'm cackling every 30 seconds.

In this episode, Opie and the other boys in his class have decided they hate history, to the point that they boycott their assigned reading.  The best part (and one of my absolute favorite moments of the whole series) is how Andy gets them to do their homework again with his dramatic storytelling of Paul Revere's ride:

Despite the historical (and grammatical) inaccuracies, I love the DELIGHT in learning that shines in this clip. Andy's enthusiasm as he tells the story comes together with the wonder on the boys' (and Barney's) faces to show that learning can be fun.  No, that learning IS fun, and if you don't know it yet, it's just because nobody's helped you discover it in a way that means something to you.

I love that Andy gets them to buy into learning by knowing their interests: he knows that little boys love Indians and guns, so that's how he hooks them.  Then he makes the story come alive so much that they forget it's "history" and just DELIGHT in the story.  After all, as Ruth and Stacey so often remind us, story matters.  Suddenly, history is so exciting that they're clamoring for more.

That's what learning should be.  That's what I want for my students: DELIGHT in learning. So thank you, Andy Griffith, for reminding us what can happen when we draw on student interests and share the power of story with them.  For someone who wasn't officially a teacher, you sure were a good one.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

No Words

at Two Writing Teachers!
I remember interviewing for teaching jobs and being asked what I would do if a student started crying in my class.  I always said that I'd go talk to him or her right away, but I remember wondering how often that really happens.  5 1/2 years later, it's happened far more often than I ever thought it would!  Every time, it gets easier and less awkward to go over, kneel down at eye level, and ask what's wrong.  After all, these are "my" students and I really care about them!

So today, like always, I knelt beside this particular crying student and then asked if she wanted to go talk in the hallway.  But today was different, and I wasn't prepared for what she would say.

First of all, I could barely get her to say anything.  The crying turned into sobbing once we got into the hallway, and I had to resort to yes/no questions. "Are you sick?" (shaking head no.) "Is someone being mean to you?" (no again.) "Is it something with this class?" (Still no, thank goodness!) "Is it one of your friends?" (nodding yes.)

"Oh, ok, what's going on?" I figure it's going to be girl drama, but...

She's an advanced ELL, but it comes spilling out in Spanish. "Mi mejor amigo...que está en México..." (More sobbing.)  "...lo mataron."  (My best (male) friend... back in Mexico... they killed him.")

My heart feels like it just plummeted through the floor and my hair stands on end.  "I'm so sorry..." I pull her in for a hug and she cries against my shoulder for a second.  When she pulls back, I just have to ask. "The drug gangs?"

Still crying, she nods. "Los narcos... They killed him on Saturday but I just found out this morning."

I don't know what to say or do. There are no words for this.  I ask about 3 times if she wants to go to the guidance office, but she says no. Class is almost over anyway. "If you need to leave class anytime, just go. And you know you can always come here if you need to," I assure her.  "Just tell your teachers you need to come to ESL and they can call me if they want." Nodding, she starts to dry her tears. I ask if there's anything I can do to help or make her feel better, but she says no. "Let me know if you think of anything you need... If you want to write about it or talk about it, just tell me, ok?"

My heart is broken. I can't believe she got through a whole day of school holding this inside. Like many of my students' stories, this is going to stay with me for a long, long time.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

One Little Word 2013: Delight

at Two Writing Teachers!
My "one little word" for 2013 has been rattling around in my head for a couple of weeks now.  I forgot to think about it in December, so I wasn't ready at all when Jan. 1 rolled around.  Oh no!  Everyone else was posting about their words, and I had NO IDEA what mine was going to be!

I loved my word for last year: CONNECT. It was the perfect word to strive for personally and professionally. Even though I didn't reflect on it as much as I should have, and I never got around to making the cool visual reminders I wanted to make for myself, it was there.  It was in my head and in my heart, and it really helped me grow. I blogged more, I took more time to get to know my students, I got intentional about sharing more of myself with my students, and I tried harder to build relationships with other teachers in my buildings. I made more time for my parents and my in-laws, and I even made small improvements in keeping in touch with friends.  Although that was my worst area, I did see (and email/Facebook/text) some special friends more often.

Last week, I'd finally pretty much decided on my one little word for this year, but I really needed to write about something else instead. But that was ok, because it gave me another week to make sure I'd really found the right word for this year.

And I have.  This is the one!  So without further ado, my OLW for 2013:  DELIGHT.

I love that DELIGHT can be a noun and a verb, so it can adapt flexibly to whatever's going on in my life. (Hopefully, having 2 parts of speech will help it to pop into my head more often!)  I prefer that my OLW be a verb, because I feel like a verb calls me to action.  As a verb, Merriam-Webster.com defines DELIGHT in the following ways:

It's so important to recognize that DELIGHT can reflect giving joy in addition to receiving it, because I hope to do both!  I want to DELIGHT in my life, and I also want my life to DELIGHT others.

Here are the major ways that I hope DELIGHT fills my year:
1. I want to DELIGHT in all the wonderful gifts in my life, personally and professionally.  I want to find joy and satisfaction in each day.  I will try to focus on the small victories at school and revel in the many DELIGHTful moments that I'm lucky to have with my family and friends.
2. I want to DELIGHT my students.  I want our classroom to be filled with DELIGHT in learning, sharing stories, and growing together. If there is no joy and wonder in our learning, I'm doing something wrong!
3. I want to DELIGHT other people as well!  I want to treat each person in my life with kindness and strive to increase the joy in their day, whether it's a close friend or family member or a total stranger.
4. I want to DELIGHT in more reading and writing.  I've been trying hard to squeeze more of both into my life, and I hope to be more consistent with making time for both this year.
5. I want to DELIGHT in other things that are important to me, like band and scrapbooking/crafts.  That mysterious future where "I'll have more time..." is really never going to come, is it?  Even if it's only every once in a while, I need to make time for myself.

Even if it's not your OLW, I hope lots of DELIGHT finds its way into your life this year as well!

Friday, January 11, 2013

cómoda y contenta

at Latinaish!
Casi siempre tengo frío, especialmente en los píes.  Lo peor es que cuando los pies se ponen fríos, es casi imposible recalentarlos. Mi esposo simpático (quien casi nunca tiene frío) siempre anda buscando resoluciones a ese problema.

Para la Navidad, me regaló algo fantástico: ¡un pijama con píes en tamaño adulto!  Me siento como una niña chiquita cuando me lo pongo: cómoda y contenta. (y quizás con ganas de jugar con mis animales de peluche o construir una fortaleza de mantas...) Me encanta ponérmelo por la tarde, después de un día largo y agotador.
¡no hay ningún píe frío aquí!
El único problema ahora es que no quiero llevar ropa normal... ¿Qué tal si voy al trabajo con ese pijama? :-)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Teacher Tears

at Two Writing Teachers!
Today I cried in the car on the way home from school.  That's right, only the second day back from break, and it's already a crying-in-the-car day.  (Please tell me this happens to some of you sometimes!)  Already that frustrated, already that discouraged.

I don't know what else to do to reach my students.  I've worked so hard: reflected and rethought and sought to try new ideas, to make personal connections, to help them see real-life purposes, to nudge them to set goals and reflect on their learning, to show them that learning and literacy can be fun.

But some of them just aren't there yet, even halfway through the year.  So many of them still don't see themselves as readers and writers, although many have come a long way from where they were in the fall.  Some of them have an identity to keep up that clashes with being a good student.  Some just don't buy in to the whole "school" thing.  Some of them are hesitant, under-confident, unsure of themselves.  And some are just so wrapped up in their social lives that they really don't want to focus on anything else.

How do I reach them?  What else can I do to convince them that this matters and to instill in them a joy and a hunger that will make them lifelong readers, writers, and learners?

I don't know, but I will keep trying.  I will keep striving and searching and working.  I will dry my tears and come back to them tomorrow with smiles and enthusiasm and love.

And tomorrow, or next week, or next month, I will reach another student.  Every one counts.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The best-laid plans

at Two Writing Teachers!
Well, yesterday I was all excited to start out the year today with an insightful, reflective slice of life that would renew my resolve to connect with my slicing friends every week!  Then, as it so often does, life got in the way.

We woke up to a cable outage. No TV, no house phone, and NO INTERNET!

We called the cable company, who confirmed it was an outage they already knew about and were working on. "Well, I'm sure it won't be out very long," we said.

We read books. We waited until lunchtime.  It was still out.

Since we'd been thinking about going to see Rise of the Guardians today anyway since it's only playing in the afternoons now at our local theaters, we went.  "Surely the cable will be back when we get back from the movies!" we agreed.

The movie was great -- an imaginative, hopeful glimpse into a world I'd dreamed of as a child. I can't wait to read the book.  (Usually I hate seeing the movie first, but that's just how it happened with this one!)  When we got home, the cable was still out.

We read some more.  We played a Wii game. We started to feel disconnected to the world.  Weren't there tweets and Facebook posts and blog articles popping up every second?  And how was I going to write my blog post?  Besides, we were missing all the college football on TV!  "It has to be back on by the time we eat dinner," we assured ourselves.

We went to one of our favorite restaurants, one that has huge TVs that displayed the Rose Bowl in glorious HD all around us.  Upon arriving home... that's right, you knew it was coming... the cable was still out.

So we played another game on the Wii, and read some more books.  "I guess I'll just have to blog tomorrow," I sighed, when suddenly...


So, hello everyone!  Happy 2013!  This may not be the post I'd expected to write, but I'll get around to that one eventually.  Really, this is a much better picture of how life really goes:

You don't suddenly have more time in the new year.  You don't suddenly have a brand-new, clean, perfect slate to start over.  Not really.  You have all the junk and clutter and craziness that you had last year, and perhaps more!  So really, this is probably the best way to start my blogging for 2013: feeling like I had to squeeze it in, unable to find that magical writing time, climbing over obstacles to get there, but doing it anyway.  Because that's how it's going to be all year: messy and imperfect and hard.

But I'm going to do it, just like I did tonight.