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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Shaping a Reader

When I was a little girl I had a nightstand next to my bed. Inside was a box I had saved. The box had once had a mug in it from my favorite movie, Annie. My obsession as a young child was rocks. And this box was full of them. Most of which had come from my driveway. You could often find me bent down, scouring the ground, looking for something spectacular. I think, at the time, it felt like a treasure hunt. 
My rocks were precious. I would often sort them, wash them, sometimes paint them with some clear nail polish. I loved my rocks. I loved learning about my rocks too. My favorite book was all about rocks and minerals. 
This book was in my hands more often than anything else around the age of six. I would look over it trying to find my rocks in the pages. I couldn't read and understand this whole book. However, I was reading it, the way a six-year-old reads a book they don't fully understand. 

Reading this book did not stunt my reading development. I was eager and motivated to learn, therefore I picked up this book over and over again. During this same time in my life, I was learning to read from a Basal reader, memorizing passages for stickers, and reading sentences from the blackboard. We had a lot of books in my home. My parents read to me every night. I ultimately learned to read with the help of teachers and my parents. Not everyone learns to read in this way. I know this because I have been able to share in the joy of many children as they learn to read. There are certainly things that help all children. Access to books is a primary circumstance of reading enthusiasm and achievement. Understanding sounds and manipulating them, hearing them, and recognizing the symbols they represent in written language is a large part of decoding text. Rich conversations, listening to a lot of reading, and drawing inferences from illustrations builds vocabulary development and understanding. Reading cannot be distilled down to a few steps, strategies, and skills. When you ask readers how they learned to read, their answers are mixed. Many probably don't know. Some respond immediately with the challenges they faced. All of these bits and pieces of a readers' story are what shape their relationship with reading. 

I came across my favorite book today when I was once again re-organizing my office/writing/remote classroom space. It paralleled the many conversations I've seen on Twitter and Facebook referring to reading, readers, and what they need. Or, what they don't need. It made me consider my own reading story. I wonder what all those who are writing about other people and their reading research would say about their own reading lives? My book about rocks and minerals helped shape my reading experiences. What shaped your relationship with reading?






Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Backyard Observations

Have you ever watched a squirrel? Their agility is quite astounding. It's not by accident, of course. They are made to jump, balance, scurry, and climb. 

Still, when I watch a squirrel trapeze through a leafless tree, it's pretty wonderous. I can't help think, how do they do that?

Today I sat quietly on the step just outside of my sliding glass door. Cassie was frolicking around, looking at me out of the corner of her eye, just in case I decided to throw a ball. I didn't. I just sat as my skin began to chill through my robe. 

My eyes were drawn to the closest tree. A rapid sound thudded from the top. Each tap short and low. I thought, not hollow enough, probably no ants that high. Still, the downy woodpecker persisted, hopping higher and higher. She must have been onto something, but I couldn't tell. My perspective was pretty limited, being so low to the ground. 

I continued to sit, Cassie continued to prance, and the woodpecker continued her beats. It was like we were all in a dance together. There was a wooshing sound from the running of the squirrels, and their feet clattered limb to limb. The bird's beats were continuous yet low and ominous. Cassie happily the soloist trotting about the back yard and I was there watching it all. A spontaneous performance with a gray backdrop and quiet simplicity. 




Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Appreciate the Smiles

This year I don’t see my students in person very often, but I do see them shine in their videos and photo assignments. 
Today was a half day of school so I was able to use some time to catch up on going through Seesaw assignments. I had been saving some pattern book submissions since I knew they would take me longer to go through. I was so glad I saved them.  I was really able to savor their joy. So much happiness and pride came through. I watched them read their multi-page books like pros. 
It still blows my mind I’m teaching kindergarten this year. It’s been a reminder to me how much I appreciate young learners. They give so much joy through the process. It’s lovely to witness. 




Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Catching Breath

I'm working remotely from my students but report to school each day. I intended all day long on going onto the playground and swinging on a swing. In my virtual morning meeting with students, we all talked about what we planned to do outside today. It has been so unseasonably warm. I was sure I would take the time to go out. I knew I needed to just feel some wind in my hair. I needed that fresh air feeling. 
I never went. 
This is my biggest problem lately. Finding moments to just stop, play, and reset. Instead, I run around getting everything and nothing done. The difficulty in committing to things that are important to me is so challenging right now. My time is gradually whittled away and before I know it the day is over and I'm beyond empty. 
Here is to making an effort, tomorrow, to swinging on a swing. 
I hope I make the time. 


Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Lots to Filter Through


This: 
This: 
This:


Why is life in general coated in fatigue? Every turn. Ugh!
I’m just going to keep moving forward. No matter the distraction. No matter the sleep deprivation. No matter the defeat on some days. 
Productivity is high and I’ll focus on that too. Just wish it was enough to get ahead. What teacher is ever ahead? Not this year. That’s for sure. 
I’m wishing all of you good days forward. Celebrate the victories, no matter how small. Give yourself moments to breathe and some quiet time too.
🙃

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

One Win for 2020

I think we can all agree, 2020 has not been light on surprises, scares, and suckage. It has been difficult at times to find the joy. Today, in kindergarten, the color of the day was blue. To celebrate, I put three blue scrunchies in my hair. I've worn a different scrunchied ponytail or bun for the past several days. 
For a while, I was borrowing from my daughter's six dozen stash of colors, patterns, and textures. A few weeks ago, I decided to splurge and get myself two six-packs of assorted colors. There is just something fun about a scrunchy. I'm also baffled at how happy I am about them. A year ago, I would have thought a scrunchy looked ridiculous in my hair. Perhaps they still do, but for whatever reason, my lens has changed, and I see fun, happy hair when scrunchified. 
Maybe it's the influence of my daughter. Seeing her enjoy scrunchies the same way I did at her age, perhaps nostalgia plays a role. 
I don't make a habit of wearing scrunchies on my arm, but for this post, it seemed like the right move. 




Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Sometimes, Seinfeld.


Today was the first day of school with students. After many twists and turns over the summer, I landed in a remote kindergarten position. So, even though the rest of the face-to-face students were in class, and the first through fifth-grade virtual students met with their remote classes, kindergarten, as it always seems to be, was different. 

I taught kinder for more than a dozen years. I never thought I’d be back, but today I met a few in person for some pre-kindergarten evaluations and met another online for the same. I heard some letter names, colors, and even an “ I love you.” Kinders really are the best in so many ways.
I’m looking forward to more. We will all meet remotely starting next week. 

Even though my day was absent from the physical exhaustion of kindergarten, I’m still ready to decompress tonight. Lately, the way I do this is with an old favorite, Seinfeld. 
When I was in college, Thursday night was sacred for Seinfeld. Now, I can recite multiple lines, and I still laugh uncontrollably at the punchlines. It surprises me how much I remember. It is, for me, a great way to unwind and laugh.  

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Binders, and Standards, and Essentials, Oh My!

Today I started sorting through some binders to get my kindergarten and first-grade curriculum, standards, and must-haves all in one place. It's one of those things I do to feel like I have something organized. It's comforting. 



It is kind of like how a few weeks ago when I was stressed about what my job was going to be I went in my backyard and ripped out rows upon rows of ferns that we had been meaning to remove. It was one of those, "eh, we'll get to it," kind of jobs. It was also something I knew I could do in one day and it would be neat and tidy when I was finished. 

Last weekend I rearranged our overflow pantry items and moved them all to a new location. It's neat and tidy too. I love sorting canned goods

Yesterday I had to go to Target. I do most of my shopping online now and get deliveries but we really needed some new towels. Again, not totally necessary, but we needed a bit of luxury around here. I bought four new towels, a new bath mat, and put a shelf together for the bathroom I hadn't gotten to. My bathroom is now rearranged and I have new towels!

But tonight, I am sitting on my basement floor. I'm surrounded by some clean and unfolded laundry. I have standards for four different grade levels in front of me that I'm attempting to organize. I also know, when I'm done, one more thing will feel like it is complete.  


Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Cycling Thoughts

I'm in the middle of some Professional Development modules for my "Back to School," requirements. My district's admin team put together several activities to mostly help us reflect and prepare. One of the assignments was to create answers to some prompts and reflect on what virtual learning was like in the spring and how it will change in the fall. I created this image (above) in response to, "The instructional improvements I am making for teaching virtually in the Fall are..."

I feel like that thought bubble is a very accurate representation of my thought pattern right now. I've been reading all summer long. All kinds of reading. Novels, verse, professional texts, articles, antiracist works, blog posts, the news, and now discussion boards for PD. I cycle through ideas that feel like genius, throw up my hands in frustration, settle back to the drawing board, read more, think more, and get more ideas. 

Even amidst all the uncertainty and frustration with reopening plans, changes, opinions, and idiocy at times, I am excited to start the school year. There is still a lot that is unknown to my school district. I don't know when I will actually be able to prepare for whatever happens. I do know that the day will come and until then, I guess I'll go back to reading. 



Tuesday, August 4, 2020

In My Present Mind

Hmmmm...what should I tell you?
I've been reading a lot of verse poetry in preparation for a unit I'm writing for middle school readers and writers. I'm enjoying the work.
The rain has really cooled things down. It's been a hot summer, my favorite kind.
Fatigue from all that life is offering right now is thick. 
I passed my language arts certification test and can now teach middle school English if the opportunity arises. 
Our dog Cassie keeps growing. We are beginning to think she isn't what we thought she was, but it's hard to know. She'll be six-months-old tomorrow. 
I'm drinking my morning coffee at 6 pm today. I opted for tea this morning. Peach tea is delicious. 
Longing for a family routine, I'm finding it challenging to get everyone on board. 
I miss my mom and dad.  

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Not Ready

Early Sunday morning, I was attempting to percolate a post for Two Writing Teachers. I had a handful of ideas but had been so buried I hadn't "put pen to paper."
I ended up writing what sounded like too much of a downer of a post. I did end up using parts of it but merged multiple parts of my ideas into one. I knew it was a pretty real part of what I was feeling, but it also felt a bit more personal than a TWT post. 


The general start of the post was this:


As I write this post, it is the early hours of the day before the first day, and like any other, that could be compared, I am not ready. Just as I would not be "ready" for the first day in my classroom. There is always that measure of readiness before the first day. 

"So, are you ready for your first day?"
"Ready enough!"

No one is ever ready. 
I don't know what will go wrong. I don't know what will be successful. I'm not sure how my students will respond to my math and social studies lessons. I've accepted that I may never be on the pulse of the needs within the moment because most of those moments will not include me in live time. Conferring with readers and writers will be different, and even under the best circumstances when we are all together, it's a challenge. 
I continue to spiral around the questions:

Is this authentic
Will they do this
What's the value
How does this match my beliefs
Will they smile
Will they cry
Will someone be there
Will they love learning
Will they hate "learning"...after this...what will they have gained. 

So, I'm not ready.

I'm now on day two of our official distance learning plan. I'm still not ready, but I'm moving. I'm moving along and hoping things get better. I'm pretty sure it isn't going to get easier, but that's okay. One part I was ready for, and I realized it yesterday--I was ready to SEE my students. I have seen 18 of the 25 faces, and I hope to see a few more soon. Thank goodness for technology.



Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Sharing a Laugh

For about a week now, my husband, he's a high school teacher, has been participating in a Goose Chase with colleagues. He is on a team with three other people, and each person is to complete three challenges per day. There are six teams in all. The challenges vary in many ways, from dressing up as characters, eating tacos on a Tuesday, or smelling flowers. It has been fun for our family to help him accomplish his different challenges. For my final slice today, I thought you all might enjoy a laugh from my favorite amateur comedian, my husband, Shawn!

Eat a taco. Bonus points if it's on a Tuesday. 

Find a coin from 1999.


Locate at least five different sports balls. 

Go surfing on an ironing board.

Wear protective gear.

Happy Gilmore: Show us your best golf swing. 

Take care of the environment.

Dress up like a Game of Thrones character.


As you can see, we've been having fun watching him and helping him with these challenges. It has lightened us up and made us laugh. I wish you many more laughs as April starts tomorrow. I thank you for being part of this challenge with all of us. I am always grateful to be part of such a wonderful group of writers, listeners, and learners. 





Monday, March 30, 2020

Recipe Alert!

I was perusing recipes online. I absolutely love watching videos of food being made. I feel like a preteen watching Youtube loops. However, the other day I came across a recipe from my childhood. I quickly printed it out in hopes I would make it soon.

Today I was reminded of the recipe and decided it was a great day to make it. The recipe is something I used to make all the time as a kid. It's called Wacky Cake and not only is it the easiest from scratch cake to make it is VEGAN! No dairy and no eggs.

It starts with the basic dry ingredients, flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.


This recipe did not call for three wells in the dry mix, but my mom taught me this when I first learned to make Wacky Cake. Back then, I'm pretty sure it was a third cup of water, oil, and vinegar. One in each well. I followed this recipe for the amounts, which are slightly different. That said, I still made the wells because it felt right.


I even used my old fashion whisk, the fork!



Into the parchment-lined and flour-dusted pan.

After the cake was baked and cooled, I went a step further and looked for a vegan vanilla frosting.





I found a recipe and had all the ingredients but I felt like it might be a bit too sweet or just a single note kind of frosting. Then I remembered my last sleeve of Thin Mints was in the cupboard. Did you know Thin Mints are vegan? They are! I crushed up a few cookies, ate a few cookies and got back to the frosting.



When it was finally, I was pretty happy with it. A single layer, no celebration, weekday cake. Something I never do. Something I should maybe do more often. Dessert is a bit of joy on a plate. One we might begin enjoying more often these days.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Seeing the Joy

During, what is historically a challenging time in our world as a whole, I was comforted by the joy in my daughter's face yesterday.

Friday night I sat in our basement cutting out cardstock balloons, thirteen of them, because I couldn't go to the store to buy any. Too risky.

I wrapped thirteen gifts, some were candy, hair ties, some were special things she had been wishing for.

I stacked them all up on the couch for her the morning of her birthday while she got dressed and ready for video calls, presents, and photos.

She was so happy. I sometimes wish I could capture joy and save it in a reserve somewhere for those moments when joy is needed. But instead, I have to find joy in memories, in future joys to come, and in the hope that there will always be joy.

May these pictures of a happy thirteen-year-old bring you some joy.














Saturday, March 28, 2020

Today I Bake

Today is my daughter's thirteenth birthday. She is the baker in the family. Mostly incredibly delicious and decorative cupcakes, brownies, cookies, or candy treats. Those are her favorites. When she was little, we made her cakes at home. When she got older, and we got busier, we bought cakes from the bakery or grocery store. I haven't baked a cake for quite a while.

For her thirteenth birthday, she wanted me to bake her cake. Now, if circumstances were different, she probably would have just picked it out, but the option was, "Do you want me to bake it, or do you want to bake it?"
She wanted to be surprised. I was glad to be the surpriser but also a little nervous my skills would be rusty.

I got my parchment cut to a circle and greased my pans, then dusted the side with flour. So far, so good.

Getting them out was a bit nerve-wracking but went incredibly better than expected. 

I let them cool a very long time and whipped my frosting up to lighten the color and texture. Then came time get them on the platter, stack, and frost. 
Again, surprisingly, this went super well. I did forget to do a crumb coating first, but it worked out okay, and I moved forward anyway. 

Then came the sprinkles, which was super fun, and super messy, and I'll likely find sprinkles for days even after sweeping, wiping, vacuuming, and running the rumba. Yes, all of those, in that order. Still finding those little pearls. 

But, as you can see, I did not go light on the sprinkles. They had to be everywhere! And they are. My girl deserves it. It will be a moment of happiness on this happiest of days, even amongst the sad craziness that continues outside. 






Friday, March 27, 2020

What Day is It?

Have you seen those memes on Facebook that say something like, "I don't know who needs this but it's [insert the current day's name]?"

I laughed at those. It's funny how when you are home, days begin to all blur together. We've been doing pretty good keeping track, or so I thought.

Elliot is my son. Shawn is my husband-his dad. This conversation had me laughing tonight.

Elliot: "It's Tuesday."
Shawn: "Huh? No, it's Friday. Wait, what day do you think it is?"

Elliot: "It's like Tuesday or Wednesday."
Shawn: "No, it's Friday."

Elliot: "No, it is not dad," as he walks back up the stairs.

Me, casually: "Uh, yes, it is Friday."

Clomp, clomp, clomp.

Elliot: "What, wuh?

He comes back down the stairs and looks at me with that crooked eyebrow "huh" face he always makes.

Elliot: "It's Friday? No way."

Me, laughing, "Yes, it is."

Elliot: "How? Oh my gosh. How"--looks at the whiteboard, squinting, like as if it's going to change somehow. "Yep, Friday. Huh, I had no idea."


Thursday, March 26, 2020

Today I...

Today I...

Video chatted with a student
Got out my trumpet and played for a solid ten minutes
Went outside in above 50 degree weather
Watched the rain from my kitchen
Cleaned the dust off the top of my desk shelves
Folded a load of towels
Made spaghetti sauce
Read some blogs
Decided not to watch any news programs
Looked at Petfinder.com
Wrote three online lessons for student bloggers
Listened to my Governor address the state
Wrote two letters to students
Sat in my recliner
Thought about what to say today
Slice number 26.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

A Stay-at-Home Vacation Poem

Vacationing In My Mind

If I angle the lamp just right,
close my eyes
it almost feels
like hot sun on my face.

If I breathe just right
in the foggy bathroom
it almost feels
like the humid mist of a Florida morning.

If I squint just right
looking out the back window
It almost feels
like I'm camping in the woods.

If I sit just right
tucked in the corner of my couch
it almost feels
like I'm surrounded by my family.

If I listen real close
if I let myself dream
it almost feels
like I can keep doing this.



Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Connecting

I've been getting pictures of letters and notes from my students for the last few days. It's been so lovely to hear from a few of them. If I've received a handwritten note, I'm responding with a handwritten note and emailing a photo back. Three of my students, two of which are former students, have reached out via Google Docs. It's nice to be able to have a conversation like interaction.

I went out to get the mail today and saw my neighbor filling her bird feeders. We chatted for a few minutes staying in our own yards. The interaction was brief, but it was nice to see her doing well. She said they were hanging in there.

Today, Clare and Melanie hosted a Zoom meeting to connect educators. I listened as teachers talked about their concerns and current situations. I didn't have advice or anything to add to the conversation, but it was nice to be part of something with people.

I got to my slice late tonight. I've been working on different things all day today. No naps today, but I accomplished quite a bit. I didn't get my outdoor exercise, though, which I hope to do tomorrow. I also hope I see a neighbor. I also hope I get a letter from a student. All the ways I can connect, I hope for.


Monday, March 23, 2020

Basic Problems

Today I woke up early. Monday morning was called a snow day by the superintendents/principals/teachers of the house.

We just couldn't. 

I had report cards to finish, and I just did not think I would be able to hold my own children accountable for their work today. Did I mention we had a minor flood in the upstairs bathroom? Yeah, not great. But, not earth-shattering either. 

Let me clarify by saying, we are pretty chill at Hubbard House already, it's very much an, explore what's important to you and PLEASE read kind of environment.
That said, we are trying to do what we can as parents, as teachers, as humans. 

Our state is now in a new phase of shut-down mode. It's so weird. I couldn't have even imagined. 
My daughter has a birthday on the 28th, and I'm over here thinking about how to make it as memorable as this pandemic situation the whole world is in. 

One idea I had was to make a sign for our driveway that says, "Honk for the birthday girl." That way, it doesn't say how old she is, but my neighbors will likely know who I'm talking about, and the honks might be fun. I thought, maybe I'll email her friends, family, etc., see if they could drive by, wave, and honk. It would be something. 

It's her thirteenth birthday. We were going to have a party. She was going to have friends over, and they were all going to have matching pajamas and too much pizza. She was probably going to make treats, and I was going to buy the best birthday cake this town had to offer. Now I'm just hoping I can get a cake mix somewhere, somehow. I don't even own cake pans. But, I haven't totally given up. I am resourceful, and I'm sure we will come up with something. We have a whole bunch of sprinkles if nothing else, thanks to my baker daughter extraordinaire and her stockpile.  

As I write this, the snow is almost all melted. The streets are quiet. The kids have been on electronics too much today. And my basement ceiling has a wet line across a large section. 
Eh, oh well. Kind of basic compared to the important stuff. 

Sunday, March 22, 2020

My Daughter Got Me

Yesterday I was suspicious. Everyone in the house seemed to be IN on something that I was not aware of.

Are they surprising me with something?
Will I scream?
Will I be mad? A joke, gone wrong.

I should trust them a bit more, but I think the current situation has me rattled, and I assumed something was going on that would end badly.

It continued, my husband, reassured me, "Don't worry, she's just being creative."

It was my daughter. She was behind this and acting strangely, running back and forth in the house. I was working on my computer at the time and distracted.

"Three o'clock, movie time."
We were getting ready to watch Forrest Gump, settling into the couch and chairs downstairs.

About two-thirds of the way into the movie, I realized my planned side dish for dinner, South Korean Slaw was not mixed together yet.

"I'll be right back, I promise. I just forgot to do something."

I ran upstairs, grabbing all my prepped ingredients and whisked up my red sauce to pour over everything. As I was scrambling to put everything away, something caught my eye. On the maple syrup jug, there was a face. The face was Jin, a member of the South Korean Pop group, BTS, my daughter's FAVORITE music group for three years strong.
I giggled, then realized there were more. Several actually in the fridge. I started to laugh, loudly. I started looking around, realizing they were everywhere.
Everywhere in my house, Jin's face, including all of the family photos--every face covered with his. I couldn't control myself, tears were streaming from laughter.

Light switches, wall art, the thermostat, she put him everywhere.

At this point, everyone is coming upstairs--"Go outside, mom."
I walk outside, on our front window, looking out, there were life-size faces of all the members of BTS. I lose it, this is too much.

Today, the faces are still everywhere. Each time I see a new one, I laugh. It's good laughter. She may use all our toner this month, but we are cracking up, and that is worth it.

*Notes:

  • I was making South Korean Slaw because my daughter loves this band and we've been learning about different foods from South Korea for a while now. This recipe is amazing, I highly recommend it. 
  • It was a coincidence that there was a joke going on in my house with a South Korean Pop Music theme, while I was making a South Korean dish. I can't make this stuff up. 
  • If you don't know who BTS is, I recommend you go listen. For my girl, they are a great distraction. Used to be a distraction from just normal pre-teenage stuff, now a great distraction from a pandemic. Here is a top ten list with links to their music. 



Saturday, March 21, 2020

Dig In the Dirt

As a child, I loved digging in the dirt. I made bark plates, had stick utensils, and used dead trees, puddles, mud, and pine cone parts as ingredients in made-up meals I would mix up. My favorite "kitchen" space was a small stoop on the side of my house that led into our garage. It was the perfect "counter space" and mostly unused by my parents and sister.

I thought about what I would most like to write about today, and digging in the dirt sounded like something I would have wanted to do as my eight or nine-year-old self, the age of my students.

I made a little video of my discoveries. I think I'll make this into a lesson for writing poetry or maybe thinking about how to research things in the dirt. I'll share it with my students sometime next week. Perhaps they will share their own discoveries with me. I hope they will.


First, I looked out at my surroundings.


I then realized I needed a tool for digging. Looking down, I found a hearty stick frozen to the ground. It took a little prying, but I was able to free it from the grass that was holding on.


When I found my spot to dig, I knelt down and realized the top layer of dirt was quite hard. I had to do some scratching first, then I could begin to dig with a bit more success.


And here is the rock I found all cleaned up.