Posts Tagged ‘learning’

Day #14: Learn

August 30, 2015


I’m a teacher. I’m all about the learning. I LOVE learning. It gets me excited. It doesn’t matter what subject area or topic. I can find a way to be totally jazzed about it. Here’s some of what I learned this summer:

  1. How to throw baseball pitches. I can throw a 2-seam, a 4-seam, a change-up, a knuckleball, a cutter and a curve. I’m not saying that they’re pretty, but I can throw ’em. Learning how to throw these pitches has taught me other things, too:
    1. I actually know what those pitches ARE.
    2. My sons can be incredibly patient and encouraging, even when there’s little reason to be.
    3. Really. I suck at pitching.
    4. But it’s fun.
    5. No matter how tired, sore or crabby I may feel, it will always, always, ALWAYS be worth my time to throw the ball with them.
    6. Always.
    7. For that matter, I will choose to accept any invitation from my boys, at any time. Frisbee golf? Got it. Open skate? I’m there. Dog walk? Let’s roll. Snuggle time? Can’t stop me.
  2. How to let people go. I had a friend in my former job. She is a great person, and is one of the sweetest, most generous souls I know. But after attempt after attempt after attempt after attempt, it turned out I was the only one who was trying to make any contact. It made me feel more insecure and needy the more I worried about it. So? I let the friendship go. I wouldn’t turn away if reached out to, but I have discovered that, for now, I have better places to spend my attention (see section 1 above).
  3. How to go upside down at the rings at my gym. Not a huge thing, but boy does it make me feel awesome to say I can. Plus it’s good street cred with my kids.
  4. That my kids will be just FINE. That when I sense myself getting worked up about one of my sons – about his achievement, about his skills, about his placement or play on a sporting team, about any of it – I tell myself the following:
    1. My worries stem from my insecurities.
    2. My worries are not about my kids.
    3. But my kids’ experiences are NOT ABOUT ME.
    4. And I can close my eyes and picture them at thirty, being wonderful people.
    5. And I realize there isn’t a need to worry.
    6. Because they will be JUST FINE.
    7. And I can calm down.

Of course, there’s much, much more to it. And there’s so much more that I want to learn. So much I need to learn. So much I’m going to learn, even if I don’t know I need to learn it yet.

That’s why I’m such a big fan of life.


Day #10: Count

August 25, 2015


Today’s post is proof of two things:
1. I’m human. Yes, I missed a couple of posts. Don’t worry, I beat myself up over it more than you did. So ha.
2. My blog is truly eclectic. Sometimes I wish I could find a niche and specialize. Is my writing poetry? Educational? Parent-based humor? Spiritually leaning? I am at the mercy of my brain cells. Come along for the ride.

I’m a counter. Always have been.

I can’t help it. It just happens that way. I love numbers.

I look for the palindromes on my car odometer. I sometimes count spoken syllables. Groups of five are best. (Don’t judge.) I might count lights. Or steps. Or chairs. Or panels on the wall. Or anything that’s more than one. One time in geometry class I calculated the number of holes in the acoustical tile. The same class I got in trouble in for counting the rotation of the ceiling fan.

Yet somehow, as a kid, I let myself be talked into the idea that I wasn’t good at math.  It didn’t happen right away. Geometry was amazing. I loved theorems. (Hey. I TOLD you not to judge.) I loved the way that every bit of knowledge connected back to the most basic concepts via mathematical daisy chain. But beyond sine-cosine-tangent, things just became too theoretical. Without a solid grounding in numbers and ideas, I didn’t have anything to hold on to. Maybe it was the friends around me, the math gurus and geniuses who took calculus while I gracefully backed away from the table. I looked at them, figured I didn’t have what it took, and convinced myself I wasn’t a math gal.

Still, my whole life I have been taken with the poetry of numbers, their symmetry, the way different numbers have their own distinct personalities. I love working with numbers, even still. They’re comfortable to me.

It wasn’t until I began teaching math almost exclusively that I realized I was more mathematical than I gave myself credit for. That I carried numbers and patterns and systems in my bones. And that I had the ability to teach my students how to carry it with them as well.

Soon, I started to hear more and more adults tell me how bad they are at math. I wonder how many of those adults are actually just like me. People who have somehow gotten the message that they stink at mathematics. They tell me that they’ve never understood it, and that they are terrible with numbers.

In my heart of hearts? I. Don’t. Buy. It. One. Bit.

So here’s my challenge:

Hey. Grown-ups who hate math. Or who think you do. Or who think you suck at math. Or numbers. Come chat with me. Anyone want to take me up on the offer? Bet I can convince you otherwise.

The numbers are in your favor.

Post-script: And if there is anyone out there who can make calculus make sense to me, who can bring it back to tangible math roots for me, well then. Sign. Me. Up.

My Sweet Pittle Loem

May 4, 2015

Ever hear of spoonerisms?

I asked my first graders to write poems in that style. They had so much fun I thought I’d join in. Here’s my attempt. Keep in mind that these poems are best when you read them out loud. It’s fun to hear the sounds and experiment with them. Give it a go!

The Learded Bady

Stere’s a hory about a learded bady
Her hacial fair was wick and theighty.
It ew grout from her tin to her choes
Abound her relly and nack up to her bose.

One dine fay, she gaw a suy
With a bicker theard, just bassin’ py.
She thiled and smought, “That’s mo I’ll wharry.”
And the wouple was cedded the fext Nebruary.

The two gived tolether in sweet bledded wiss
They darted each stay with a kug and a hiss.
And lon’t dook now, but I mink that thaybe
There soon will be a cute bairy haby.

Seesaw Kind of Day

February 18, 2015

I had an up and down day teaching today. On the plus side, I got to sit back and just take notes during discussions while groups of students held insightful, incredibly rich conversations about the nature of violence and compassion, and what impact those attributes have on society. Yes. Inspiring. It always is when people can make me think of things in ways I had never expected.

I also had to work with a student through some really difficult choices he had been making.

Times like these make me question how I’m really doing. Sure, I say that I prioritize my students’ social and emotional well-being.


There have been so many times across the years where I honestly believe I’m acting in a child’s best interests. There have been times where I feel so sure I am taking the compassionate approach to problems my students face. And then, looking back, I wonder if I have done the right thing.

Should I have gone softer, or taken a harder line?
Should I have brought in the parents when I did, or should I have waited for things to develop?
Should I have let more time pass, or should I have been more immediate in my actions?
Should I have involved other people, or should I have handled things on my own?

There are places where I know I haven’t chosen well, and I continue to think about those children long past their schooling years. These are the children I have always “taken home” with me at night. These are the ones I continue to think about, even as my own kids come to me for guidance and support with their struggles. These are the children whose parents I want to say, “I know it’s hard. I know parenting stinks sometimes. But your kid will be okay. We will all be okay.”

Because I have to believe that things will be okay. That sometimes life gets bumpy, and we have people along the way to help us see our path more clearly.

Until then, I’ll be thinking of them as I cook dinner. Or walk the dogs. Or fold the laundry. Or…

Testing, Testing…

January 15, 2015

Now THIS sums up exactly how I view children, and how I view testing.

Yes, testing gives us a “snapshot” of student achievement. And those of you who know how much I love numbers understand how I appreciate data.



With people.

Complex, confusing, beautiful

Click to see this video (about 4 minutes) of Peter H. Reynold’s “The Testing Camera,” and get a little perspective.

Watch. Enjoy. Share.

Haiku #2: The Leap

January 13, 2015

Worked with another set of students on composing poetry, so…you know…I felt compelled to write again.

This one? Well, I have a feeling I’m not done with the metaphor. I think there is more for me to explore.


Have you ever had an odd feeling of excitement/anxiety that you can’t quite pinpoint the source of? Yep. That was my mood when I wrote this. Taking a breath, being brave. Here we go:

Today, I’m hopeful.
A flutter in the belly
Says, “Expect good things.”

I wonder sometimes…
What if I COULD do all I
Am capable of?

Fear and excitement:
Two sides of the same coin (or
So the story goes)

So then: which is it?
Toes curled over the high dive,
Looking down and down,

Or perhaps the joy,
Resounding splash and relief
Having made the leap?

How I’m Doing

January 9, 2015

This morning, after two snow days at home, I was feeling poetic. So, for the morning warm-up, I asked my students to tell me how they were doing.

In haiku.

Here’s what I love about haiku. Yes, it’s a structure to writing, which means that it requires discipline. Unlike other forms of poetry, however, it isn’t restrictive. Haiku takes the banal, the ordinary, the literal, and it elevates it somehow.

Of course, I wasn’t going to make my kids write without giving it a stab myself. Here goes:

Not much is doing
Glad to be right back at school
Back where I belong

It’s not that I don’t
Enjoy the comfort of a
Snuggled-in snow day,

But there is something
To be said for the sheer joy
Of work, learning.

Besides, I’d rather
Be here, in the cold, than in
Heart-warmed, hope-filled June.

And you? How are YOU doing? Leave a haiku comment to let me know!

Resolution: Another Direction

January 6, 2015

Today, my fourth graders discussed the layers of conflict in Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet. Kids worked together to find evidence in the text for conflicts involving Man vs. Man, Man vs. Self, and Man vs. Nature. (And yes, for the pedants out there, we did talk about how “Man” meant “People.” It’s all good, I promise.)

Kids gathered evidence to highlight conflicts that Brian, the main character, struggled with, and evidence demonstrating a resolution of those conflicts.

Which got me thinking.
(That’s when the fun REALLY begins.)

Here’s what I asked the kids. We have these three types of conflict. But what, exactly, does it take to RESOLVE those conflicts? To get past them, to work through them, to make things better?

The result was a brainstorming session and an incredibly insightful conversation. Here’s a picture of where our thinking went:


It gave us a chance to wrestle with some pretty tough questions:
*Must we have an apology before we can offer forgiveness?
*How is conflict with ourselves like conflict with others?
*What does it take to bridge the gap between the vision we have for ourselves, and the reality we see in ourselves?

Pretty amazing stuff, if you ask me. It’s one more reason to get up in the mornings, and just one more way the kids I work with excite, teach and inspire me.

What to Do About Ferguson

November 25, 2014

I remember Columbine.

I remember it occurred on a Tuesday.

I remember it occurred on a Tuesday because that was the night my fourth grade class always had to watch the news and bring in a current event.

All that Tuesday evening, as I watched the news, my heart went out to the Columbine students and families. I searched for a way to comprehend for myself and just couldn’t. Then I remembered my students were watching, and I felt even worse. I had unwittingly exposed a group of ten-year-olds to this. This aberration. This massacre.

That Wednesday morning, there was absolutely no doubt what story the students brought in to discuss. We spent nearly two hours talking about the events of the previous day, trying to make sense of things. When it boiled down to it, the students learned:
1. There really is no way to make sense of these things. Even for grown-ups.
2. Events like these make us look at the people in our lives with renewed love and gratitude.
3. Our parents worry about us, want us to be okay, and wish they could always protect us. They can’t.
4. See # 2.

And now.

Last night, my family sat transfixed as we watched Ferguson tear apart. My sons witnessed the burning cars, the people running to escape tear gas, the broken windows, the pleas for peace. They asked many questions, some of which I had the answers to. Others? Well…I only wished.

Being the teacher that I am, I process everything through the lens of student interactions. My mind went through how I would discuss these events with my students. Because in my classroom, we have to. We would have to use this opportunity to open our eyes to the events of history and understand who we are, where we stand, and what we individually must do.


I don’t have my own class.

I’m a specialist who sees kids, depending on their grade, between one and three hours a week. I don’t get to assign current events anymore. We don’t get to have morning meetings. Or community time. These are the times I miss having my own group of students. Kids that I can love and nurture and give what they need all week long, not just for thirty to sixty minutes at a pop.

I began to think that I would have to let this opportunity pass me by. After all, I don’t have much time with my students. Furthermore, and more importantly, who’s to even say that my kids even KNOW what’s going on in Ferguson? Some of them may have parents who talk to them about the news, but I don’t think the majority of them are up on what’s happening around them.

I could wait for our next novel study. It’s a book set in the Civil Rights Era of the 1960’s. I would do a tremendous disservice in allowing my children to think that this struggle is a thing of the past, that racial equality arrived hand-in-hand with the March on Washington. That we have overcome. That we now live in a nation where all citizens truly have equal opportunities, and where people of different races live in harmony.

We still suffer the ills of inequality, of racism, of injustice. Ferguson is a symptom.

And then it hit me.

My fifth graders are reading A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. Yes, it’s a novel study, but we’re mostly using it as a springboard for studying bigger stuff: the nature of intelligence, the cosmos, dystopian societies, the Cold War. Big ideas for young minds.

Today is the day I show them the video clip of Carl Sagan’s famous essay, The Pale Blue Dot. 


It’s perfect. In three minutes, it communicates what I wish to get across: people’s needs, their struggles, their desires for power and agency. It seems both so critical and so insignificant all at the same time.

It’s a start.

We may not be able to have a direct discussion about the events in Ferguson today. But we just may. I just may have one student: sensitive, aware, concerned. One student who may beg the question. And when that student does?

I’ll be ready.

Watch Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot for three minutes of reflection, perspective, and, hopefully, inspiration.