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2016 - Bring It On!

I am a struggling writer. I struggle with topic selection, getting started and a lack of self-confidence. And, although I love to write, I r...

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

bedtime rumination

at the end of the school day
I pack my school and computer bags
stuff books and papers in both bags 
and make a mental list of all the things I'm going to accomplish tonight

I get home at 5:00 pm
and head for my bedroom and a hot shower
the water is not hot, but it will do

my husband and son go for a walk
meanwhile I grab my computer, 
determined to clear the tabs from my browser

30 minutes later, I've bookmarked a few,
and left others to review tomorrow

I still haven't gotten through my to do list from two days ago
I carry the weight of all the things I haven't done

I want to empty my bag at school
only a notebook left there at the end of the day 
to plan, reflect or for reading

I am forever fighting this feeling of coming from behind
never catching up
always more to do

I struggle with being kind to myself

so, it's time to pick up a book 
read myself to sleep

tomorrow 
an empty school bag
only a notebook
I will lift the weight off my mind

good night.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Ecuador Earthquake, April 16, 2016

On April 16th, a deadly 7.8 earthquake shocked the coastal towns of Ecuador. Six provinces in all. Although people felt the earthquake in Quito, where I live, no one could have predicted its impact on those living in the hardest hit areas.

I am saddened by the loss of life and the injured; the trauma that comes with having lived this experience is unimaginable.

I am uplifted by the outpouring of support from all corners of the country and all over the world.

I am saddened by reports of those still missing and the newly orphaned.

I am uplifted by the brave work of relief workers who continue to pull out live victims from the rubble.

I am saddened that some people have used this tragedy for their own political convenience.

I am uplifted by the organization and dedication demonstrated by public and private institutions leading the relief efforts.

I am saddened that it's going to take years to rebuild this region of the country, small towns whose livelihood depends on fishing and tourism.

I am uplifted by the vision of some to rebuild these towns to make them even better than they were before.

I am hopeful.



Tuesday, 12 April 2016

A Surprising Conversation About A book

It was one of those moments when I wished I could have recorded the discussion.
But I couldn't have anticipated the depth of or interest in the conversation.
In fact, I couldn't have planned the conversation even if I'd wanted to.

We had just finished a chapter in our current read aloud, Pax by Sara Pennypacker.
It was suggested by one of my students and since it was a book that I hadn't read, but wanted to read, I said, "Sure!"

I had planned on spending a couple of weeks reading the book to the class, but this is such a rich book that it will probably take twice as long to finish it. The kids don't seem to mind and neither do I, though they want me to read at least two chapters or more every day because they want to know what happens next.

At the end of the read aloud yesterday I asked a question about the characters: What do we now know about each of the characters and how do we know that? They humored me for a few minutes until someone changed the topic of the conversation. I don't remember who it was and I don't remember all that was said, but it was powerful. I tried to stay out of the conversation and just spoke up when it seemed like adding my voice might help connect their thinking.

The conversation in italics is what I remember though these are not my students' exact words.

"Why is it that in all of the books we've read, the main character has a problem."
"In Rules, the brother has autism."

"In Out of the Dust, the main character burns her hands in the fire." 

In Home of the Brave, Ganwar (the main character's cousin) is missing a hand."

And, on and on and on. They kept bringing up books in which the character faces a conflict or a problem of some kind and must overcome it to change. (This was me with contributions from some of of my students.)

"A book is not a book if there isn't any conflict."

"Don't call it a problem. It sounds bad when you say that." (This comment was referring to the brother in Rules who has autism. Lots here to uncover.)

Then, as if that wasn't enough, most of the rest of the class started naming other characters in other books where the main character has a "problem". Their examples were mostly about physical disabilities. Nevertheless, they are starting to piece together the relationship between characters and the challenges they face on the way to becoming better people. And, that is why we read: to become better versions of ourselves as we live the lives of others in the books we read. Although this is what I want my students to understand about fiction, we're not there yet. However, this conversation will help me think about next steps. One action I will take is to record our read aloud conversations and analyze them for depth and growth across the remaining two months of the school year. In the fall, I will start right at the beginning of the school year.

And, this is why I love teaching!

Cross posted to Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Tuesday.





Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Morning Tasks

What a day!
I had absolutely no breaks all day long.
The two prep periods I had were devoted to meetings - one with a parent and another one to discuss our next PYP unit - the Exhibition of Learning!
And, as if that weren't enough, I had recess and lunch supervision.
Finally, there was a leadership meeting after school.

Phew!

Despite the fact that it was an action-packed day, with no breaks for me, I loved the energy that my students and I created throughout the day. We laughed and were serious. We were loud and quiet all at once. Each part of our day today could be a separate blog post. I'm going to write about the conversation we had about our morning routines. At a later time, I plan to write about other things we're doing in the classroom.

Every morning my students have 15 minutes for morning tasks which include checking email and Edmodo, as well as finishing assignments. They can also read, write, work on a project, or do a classroom job. It has been a constant struggle this year to get some students to realize the value of this time for getting organized and transitioning into the school day. So, today we had a conversation about how 15 minutes can add up to a significant amount of time over the course of a week (75 minutes), month (300 minutes or 5 hours), school year (45 hours) and adding up to about 8 school days or about 40% of the total allotment of absences permitted by the Ministry of Education before a student is in danger of repeating the year. 

I probably talked more than necessary, but I feel it was an eye-opener for some kids to put our "morning tasks" time into perspective. Nevertheless, there are a couple of kids that need a specific assignment because they are not ready to take on this challenge for themselves. I'm thinking that a combination of 10 minutes doing a teacher directed task and 5 minutes on their own might be a good place to start, decreasing the teacher assignment over time.  

I don't want to take away these 15 minutes altogether because most of my students do take advantage of this time and are busy from the minute they walk into the room until it's time to break for PYP or another lesson. We'll see how this goes over the next few days.

What does your morning routine look like for your students?  

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Celebration

Today's blog is a little celebration for myself. I hope you will bear with me.

Last night I had an amazingly encouraging Skype conference with my doctoral advisors in Australia. I am doing my EdD online through a university in Adelaide. I did a lot of research before deciding on this program and I am very satisfied with the guidance and support I've received over the last few years.

After last night's conversation, I can truly see a shadow of a light at the end of the tunnel, even if it's a bit dim. I have made more progress in the last six months than I have in the last couple of years. I still have some revisions and additions to make to my literature review, but that is an ongoing process. I have been working on the ethics application which has been more involved than I could have ever imagined. Very educational; I've learned a lot in the process.

I wouldn't be honest with myself if I didn't recognize that it's really hard to do a doctorate and work full time. Now, everyone will say that, but only having lived through it can I truly appreciate how challenging this whole process has been. And, I'm not yet done. I still have my field work to do which, if all goes well and time allows, I will start before the school year is over. But the bulk of my research will take place during the 2016 - 2017 school year. So excited!

I am very pleased that I have gotten this far in my doctoral program because there were many occasions where I questioned myself about what I was doing. I even went as far as questioning whether or not I was capable of doing scholarly work. There were many weeks where the only time I could find to do my research was on the weekends often cutting into precious family time.

I have had the support of my entire family, but particularly that of my two oldest daughters who have lifted me when I was down and wouldn't let me give up. Without them, I wouldn't have made it this far. Although I still have a ways to go, I feel more confident and capable of what I can accomplish. My topic - teacher professional autonomy, collaboration and learning - is very important to me. I am hoping to make a contribution to the field. I'm on my way!

Cross posted to Two Writing Teachers March Slice of Life Challenge, Day #31.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Conversations

Snippets of conversations...

"Ms. Elisa, you're late!" (It's 7:43 and I usually get to my class around 7:35 in the morning.)

"How's your workshop, Ms. Elisa?" (I've been at a workshop all week long. I see my students first thing in the morning and not again until the next day.)

"Ms. Elisa, what do you prefer? Being in your workshop or being in the classroom?"
"Being here with you guys, of course!"

"Ms. Elisa, can you read chapter 5 of our story?"
"Of course! Just send me an email so I will remember."


"Ms. Elisa, the lightning struck right outside our window yesterday! We hid under the tables. It sounded like an explosion!" (We've been having some intense electrical storms over the last few days.)

"Ms. Elisa, I won't be in school today. Is there anything I can do at home?" (Email from a student who was out today.)

"Ms. Elisa, can I start to do some research for the information writing unit we're about to start?" (Another email from a student.)

I have missed my kiddos this week! While I'm really loving the PD I've been involved in, I really want to get back to my classroom. Two more days...two more days...

Cross posted to Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge, Day #30.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Funk

Sometimes I get in a rut.
Nothing interests me.
I'm easily irritable,
and I don't feel like doing much of anything.
The problem is that I actually have a lot to do,
but nothing seems to attract my attention.

If I'm tired and sleepy, then I just go to bed, even if it's early.
If I'm not sleepy, I wish I were and get cranky about the fact that I'm not.
I tell myself that if I could just go to sleep,
then I can forget about this funk I'm in.
Or, I can simply write about how I feel,
and hope that it will go away all by itself.

If none of that works, then I read a novel to take my mind off feeling out of sorts.

The problem is that
I'm not sleepy.
I'm writing, but it's not really helping,
and I'm not reading a novel at the moment.

Wow! I sound whiny and negative.
I think I will just tag this as a no-good-very-bad-day and hope tomorrow is better.

Cross posted to Two Writing Teachers March Slice of Life Challenge, Day 29.