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Showing posts from March, 2016


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 f…


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 un…


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.


Today was the first day of a three-day workshop on guided inquiry and how to teach for enduring understandings. It is being led by two teachers from the International School of Brussels who are involved in the Common Ground Collaborative (CGC). There are about 40 of us attending the workshop, which is being followed up by two days for writing curriculum. The sessions are being held at my school's campus, and there are educators from the Ivory Coast, Argentina, Venezuela, India, the US and, of course, Ecuador.

Here are some of my takeaways from todays' session in no particular order of importance:

We learn best when we construct our own understandings (theories) about the way things work.We learn best when we investigate answers to our own questions. As teachers, we can get the ball rolling and then we must step back to observe and take notes about what we notice. Only then can we plan learning engagements based on students' current understandings. Teachers need to provide l…

The Edge

I subscribe to a word of the day prompt for writing. Yesterday, I wrote Footsteps in response to one of these daily prompts. Because I've spent the last ten minutes staring at a blank computer screen, I decided to try another one for today's SOL. And, although I'm not necessarily a big fan of writing prompts I obviously need help again to get me writing. Today's prompt is "edge". My first response today, unlike yesterday wasn't, "Woah! What am I going to write about that?" Instead, I immediately thought of several ways I could respond to this prompt to suit my needs and my mood at the moment. So, here it goes. 

This week has been difficult. It was our spring break vacation and we had some plans. We needed to tick off a few important items from our family to do list, like taking the car to the mechanic and paying the required annual registration fee. We went to the wrong place after a long time driving and now we have to pay the $50 fine for regi…


I subscribe to a word of the day prompt for writing. Although I haven't done any writing responding to one of these daily prompts yet, I decided to try one for today's SOL. I'm not necessarily a big fan of prompts for writing. However, sometimes they help to get me writing when I'm stuck, or they give me a new way to look at things and get me writing in a different way. Today's prompt was "footsteps". My first response was, "Woah! What am I going to write about that?" Then, I remembered the recommendation not to see a prompt as limiting, but full of possibilities. Prompts simply require a response. What that response turns out to be may be of little consequence. What's important is that it gets you writing. So, yes, this response has me thinking and writing. the night?
Footsteps...behind me as I'm walking down a dark street?
Footsteps...of people in my past?
What kind of footsteps can I write about?

The word "footsteps&qu…

Ruminating about responsibility, standards, expectations and excuses

I have a widget on my blog that automatically posts a new quote every day. Today's quote caught my attention for several reasons. Here it is below. Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody expects of you. Never excuse yourself.Henry Ward Beecher First of all, I hold myself responsible to a higher standard. Always. In fact, sometimes I wish I could cut myself some slack because being responsible all the time is exhausting. Of course, I'm not saying that the alternative is to be irresponsible, but sometimes I secretly wish I did things in an ordinary way, rather than all the way. I think that's why I sometimes feel that I'm not good enough. I have high standards for myself and everyone else, and there's no way I would lower my standards, but I wonder if anybody really notices. Of course, that is not the point though sometimes a pat on the back or a bit of recognition could go a long way.

I started to write that I never excuse myself, but that is pr…

Manicures, Pedicures and Soccer

This morning I treated myself to a manicure and a pedicure.
It had been over a month since I'd last gone to the beauty parlor.
(Does anybody else call it that anymore?)
As usual, I enjoyed my time there.

Whenever I go, I just watch whatever is on the TV, which is more often than not a soap opera in Spanish, or I listen to the conversations of the other ladies who are there.

Sometimes, I just space out and then I realize I haven't been watching what the manicurist has been doing. I chide myself for not paying attention because I like to give her tips about what I would like her to do.

After she's done, I usually stay for 15 minutes or so waiting for my nails to dry, but today I left right away. And, for a good reason: we were going to the Ecuador - Paraguay qualifying match for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Ecuador is undefeated in South America and today they tied 2 - 2 against Paraguay with minutes remaining on the clock. Tuesday, the national team goes to Baranquilla, Co…

My Grandfather

I carry my grandfather with me wherever I go.

He is in my thoughts often,
especially when I'm going through a rough time.
I think about him and feel protected.
That everything will be OK.
And, even when it's not, it will be.

He passed away over 50 years ago,
but I still remember him
as if it were yesterday.

He was a very tall man.
(It's funny I remember that the most.)
He was like a giant to me.
Whenever he came to visit
I would see his head
towering over the top of the curtain
to ring the bell.
Most people could only dream of jumping high enough to touch it.

I was named after my grandmother, his wife,
and I think that's why I was special to him.
At least that's what I've been told.

He came to visit us often and always brought presents for my brother and me.
I wish I could remember more, but that's all.

I carry my grandfather with me wherever I go.

Cross posted to Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge, Day #23.

Early Morning Timeline

3:40 am - My husband nudges me awake to go check on our son. When I reach my son's bedroom he is standing in the middle of the room throwing up. He never made it to the bathroom though he clearly tried. My husband and I start cleaning up the mess while my son takes a quick shower and hops back into bed, apparently feeling better already.

4:30 am - My son is sleeping soundly. My husband and I are completely awake. I try to sleep. My husband turns on Netflix and starts watching a movie. I try to watch with him, but I finally give in to sleep.

4:45 - 7:00 am - I sleep on and off and finally wake up because I've had a nightmare. In my dream, my husband and I are trying to board a flight home when he suddenly disappears. The flight agents make people run to the exit door. I yell at them for causing a stampede. There's a final call, I think, but my husband is nowhere to be found, and the flight leaves without us. The only reason I know that is that I see the flight agents driving …

The Places I Love

It's hard to write about just one place I love because I love a lot of places equally. I have no favorites. You might think that's a cop out, but not for me. It would be like saying I have a favorite child, or book, or student. I don't on all three counts. I love each of my children equally and have distinct relationships with each one. I love the current book I'm reading and it's always my favorite. And, I love all of my students, even if sometimes they drive me crazy (just kidding) or if I feel frustrated at myself (not kidding) on those days when nothing seems to be working. I love them all. So, I'm not going to write about one place I love; I'm going to write about several places I love.

I love the beach. Any beach. I love the heat and the ocean water on a hot day. I love the food at the beach. It's different than at any other place. That's why I rarely eat food I associate with the beach when I'm in the city. It just doesn't appeal to me…


I have been reading professional books and chatting online about educational leadership, the importance of teacher and student input into decision-making in schools, and how to give more ownership to my students of their reading and writing projects. I have some questions and random thoughts about these topics. I am capturing them here so I don't forget. Here they are, in no particular order of importance:

Teacher input to administration about how things are going is valuable. So is the input my students provide to me about what's working and not working in our class. I need to solicit this input from my students on a regular basis. Maybe every 3 - 4 months.How can I make my reading and writing workshop more robust without taking the enjoyment out of reading and writing for my students?How can I improve my note taking during reading and writing workshop so that I can use this information for planning instruction and conferring with students?How can I use negative input from stu…

I believe...

The following I believe...statements are not in any particular order. I wrote them as I thought of them and later elaborated, if necessary. This has been a great exercise to help me articulate some of my beliefs. Sometimes we take them for granted, but it's important to know what they are because they help us know ourselves better and why we act the way we do.

I believe that as a teacher I can make a difference for my students.

I believe in the power of positive thinking because it can lift the burden off our shoulders.

I believe students can and should take initiative to solve problems, both big and small. We just need to get out of the way and let them do it.

I believe that the healing power of positive thinking can move us forward.

I believe in the power of love, as cheesy as it may sound, to turn humanity around.

I believe in the power of family to help navigate the hard times until we can steer the sh…

All You Need is Ecuador

We are now officially on spring break.

I teach at an international school in Quito, Ecuador, and many of my students are from all over the world, but primarily from other Latin American countries. Whenever we have a vacation, many of my students take advantage of all this beautiful country and region have to offer. Here's where some of them are going during this break - Macchu Picchu, the beach, Dominican Republic, Easter Island, the Galapagos Islands, Mindo (subtropical town in the cloud forest about 2 1/2 hours from Quito), Guayaquil (the major port city in Ecuador), and Baños (quaint town in the mountains that is home to the Tungurahua Volcano that has been actively erupting since 1999). Of course, there is always the trip to Miami.
Just in case you are not familiar with Ecuador, here are some promotional videos from the Ministry of Tourism that will introduce you to this beautiful country. Sit back, relax and enjoy the images of Ecuador in these videos.

My family is staying ho…

Letter to Myself - "Cut yourself some slack."

Dear Me,
I know today was a rough day, but not all of it. Just some parts, here and there.
It didn't start out that way. You went to school feeling fine even though you were a bit tired. I mean, after all, getting up at 4:30 in the morning for a Twitter chat is a bit insane, even by your standards. 
So, cut yourself some slack.
Maybe today's morning Twitter chat wasn't as inspiring as others. It was about summer PD plans. It's true that you're not going to #ISTE16 or #ILA16 or #WLU16 or any of the many #EdCamps out there. However, you do have an amazing summer planned out. Your oldest daughter is getting married! That is awesome! 
This summer, you're staying one of the world's most idyllic spots. Remember that others would love to live right in the very spot that you call home. In fact, that's why the wedding is here! People are coming from all over the world to rejoice with you and your family in your daughter's marriage. It's going to…

Slicing with Students

Slicing with my students this month has been an eye opener.
They have a lot of stories to tell and they need a lot of support telling them.

We often run out of time in class for students to complete their slices and they rarely finish them at home. I do a lot of revising and editing in the evenings so that I can publish their slices before the end of the day.

As I read my students slices, I am taking notes as to the mini lessons I plan to teach in small groups or whole class.

Next year, I think that it might be a good idea for my students to start slicing on Google Docs a week or so before the challenge starts. I think about how I write a blog post and most of the time I don't write directly on my blog, except during the March SOL Challenge; it's faster to write directly on my blog during March.

Today my students' slices were better than on other days when their final pieces seemed to have been written on the run. I think what helped them is that I shared an example of a s…

My Day

When we got home this afternoon we discovered that there was no internet. Something having to do with the fiber optic connection. The Internet service won't be restored until after midnight my time, which would be way past the SOL challenge deadline. So, what is a committed slicer to do? Blog on my phone, of course! It is definitely not my preferred style, but it's better than missing a day. The print is tiny and it takes so much longer for me to type on my phone than on my laptop, but it has gotten easier over time. 
I wonder if the problem the Internet connection is related to the 4.3 tremor we experienced earlier this morning? Actually, I should say, that others felt because my students and I didn't feel anything. It wasn't until an assistant came to tell us that we needed to evacuate that we realized something was happening. Fortunately, everyone was OK and there haven't been any more tremors. However, we're prepared since we live in a country with a lot of…

My Work Space

Almost two years ago, my husband and I built our dream house. We had bought the land 10 years earlier, but personal circumstances prevented us from building on it until just 3 1/2 years ago.

I love our house and the neighborhood that surrounds it. When we're here we feel far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life, yet it is only a 35 minute commute to work. My husband and I planned every little space in our house and we're proud of how it turned out.

But, there is one little detail that we have not been able to work out to our mutual satisfaction - work spaces for both of us.

Since my husband works from home, he needs an office space where he can spread out his things without worrying about tidying up right away. Although I don't work from home, my school work and doctorate require a similar amount of space.

What to do?

For a while we shared the office space, which doubles as a family room. However, my husband is unable to keep to his side of the desk space that w…

Today I...

Today I got up later than I usually do and didn't accomplish nearly as much as I'd planned.

Today I responded to a few slices. I realized I enjoy reading other people's blogs, but I don't value what I have to say as much as I should.

Today I loaded the dishwasher twice - once for yesterday's and this morning's dishes, and a second time after we had family over for lunch.

Today I thought about my to do list, but didn't cross out anything. In fact, I didn't even look at my list and will probably regret that tomorrow.

Today I read an email that made me angry and responded right away; that will probably be my second regret tomorrow.

Today I remembered that we have a literacy consultant at our school this week. Demo lessons, meetings, learning, and planning will be the key words for this week.

Today I enjoyed talking and laughing from early afternoon until early evening on our terrace. We watched the lights of the city magically turn on as the sun went down.

At this time of the year...

Next week is our last week of school before Spring Break. This is always a hard time of the year for me because I realize that we're in the 7th inning stretch. I feel like I'm running out of time. Soon, it will be time to say goodbye to my students for the summer. Normally, I am full of regrets about things I could have done better; about things I could have done, but didn't do; and about things I did and shouldn't have done. Typically, I will beat myself up over the small and medium regrets. But, this year I resolve to silence the regrets with the knowledge that I acted based on the information I had and with the best of intentions. 
At this time of the year, I feel like I could walk out of my classroom and let my students manage themselves. I've actually had to do that a couple of times since January and they've done better than my best expectations for them. They know what is expected. They know that when they don't know or aren't sure, they can coun…

Friday Night

Friday night.
At the end of a long week.
Watching a movie,
but what I really want is a good night's sleep.

I struggle to stay awake.

Today's Teacher's Teaching Teachers (TTT) conference went well.
I ran into a lot of old friends
and that was wonderful.

Nine schools were represented
and over 1,000 teachers
were in attendance.

I went to a workshop on the importance of descriptive feedback
and another one on how to encourage students to
ask questions and be curious.

I gave a presentation on how to develop engagement through independent reading.

At the end of the day, I was exhausted.
Nevertheless, I'm still awake.

I plan to relax a bit this weekend,
our last before Spring Break.

Then, we're into the home stretch.
But I don't think about that too much.
Instead, I think about the joy of the next three months with my students.

I look forward to #celebratemonday
even though it's only Friday.

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

Busy Week!

Can a week get any busier than this one?
I hope not.

This week we had Fine Arts Festival and the 5th grade puberty unit. Oh, joy!
Actually, we had to reschedule the last puberty session today. With all of the events happening for Fine Arts Festival, we just couldn't fit it in. Surprisingly, or maybe not, some of the kids were disappointed. They were looking forward to continuing our conversations.

I was also out of my classroom all day working on writing up accreditation reports.

Tomorrow there is no school because we are participating in the local Teachers Teaching Teachers (TTT) event sponsored by several area schools. I am presenting and I keep working and reworking my presentation. It's 10:20 pm EST and all I can think of is that I want to go to sleep. So, before I fall asleep writing this slice, I am going to sign off so I can finish my presentation and be somewhat awake in the morning.

I'll slice about how it went tomorrow.
Thanks for bearing with me tonight.

Cross po…

Proud for My Students

Today's post is purposefully short.It has been a long week and it's only Wednesday. Lots going on at my school. It's all good, but a bit exhausting. So, I decided to celebrate my students in this post.
Today, the music teacher told me that my students are incredibly well-behaved in his class. I was proud for them and happy to hear that, of course. I've always told my students that what matters is how they do when they leave our classroom and work with other adults in our school. They've shown they understand that!
And, in the afternoon, my students worked in groups of three's or fours with one iPad to create a Light Painting. At the end of the session, the tech director complimented them for collaborating effectively in their groups. They suggested ideas to each other and they tried them out. 
I also noticed that my students were engaged for the entire time during both events.
Reflecting on one positive experience or conversation during the day really helps to brin…


Right around this time in March, my enthusiasm for blogging every day starts to wane. (I know. I know. You're probably thinking, hey that was fast!)I start to run out of ideas for writing because although I have been cultivating a daily writing habit since the beginning of the year, I don't blog every day. So, how am I going to keep going for 23 more days?

Right around this time in March, I empathize with those students who have a hard time finding writing topics. I'll have to admit that so far, this has only happened once since the start of the challenge. No one has complained that they don't know what to write about. Of course, they're not writing a lot. Their slices are short and sweet. Nevertheless, they are writing. They don't complain when it's time to slice and I even sense a bit of excitement during our afternoon slicing time. Of course, I can't deny that this thrills me to no end!

Some of my students' slices reveal a lot about what they pay…

Gloomy Day

Today was a gloomy day.
I don't know if the rain and cold got me off to a bad start,
or if I was already there and the rain and cold simply made it worse.
Either way, it was a gloomy day.

The plans I made had to be altered.
And, I had to think on my toes.
That's not a problem, usually,
and it wasn't today, but I felt
like I didn't get much done,
though maybe I did.

My students started making an "I wonder"
and "I'm curious about" list.
They wrote a response to one of their questions.
Then, they wrote this question on an index card
and tomorrow we will tack up the index cards on our newly minted "I Wonder Wall".

Next, they started doing research.
Inevitably, someone finished quickly,
as if wonderings are that neat and tidy.
Others barely got started.
I've got my work cut out for me, such as
teaching my students how to make a list of key words to facilitate research.

The bell rang for recess.

In the afternoon, my students learned abou…

Sunday Nights

I always dreaded Sunday nights when I was growing up.
Sunday nights signaled the end of the weekend and the beginning of a new week at school.
I don't think it was because I hated going to school. In fact, I was always a good student and loved learning, but something made me not welcome Sunday nights.

Right at around 5:00 pm when the sun started to go down and the next day loomed large, I would get sad, almost melancholy, about nothing in particular, and everything in general.

Watching Mission Impossible helped curb these feelings somewhat, but not entirely.

Even into adulthood, Sunday nights were never my favorite night of the week.

The promise of the weekend is gone. Resting, playing, reading, sleeping in...all of it is done. And, I often feel like I didn't do nearly everything I had hoped to do.

Tomorrow morning, I will drag my untouched bags full of books and school reminders back to my classroom. I had so much fun just doing my own thing. Tomorrow, I need to return to rea…

Twitter Chats

This post is tangentially connected to one I wrote earlier this week. It is about how my increasing involvement in social media as an educator nourishes and sustains me in my daily practice. Even though my presence on social media sites is increasing, I still have time for my teaching, my doctoral studies, my family and myself. Overall, what is overwhelming, in a good way, is the wide variety of professional learning opportunities available on Twitter and other social media sites, and the ever-growing PLN from whom I draw sustenance. 
If I’m honest with myself, I may be a bit crazy and I don’t expect others to have the same level of commitment to this kind of thing. However, the beauty of social media is that it helps me take charge of my own learning, 24/7. Here are three of my go-to places for professional nourishment and ideas for the classroom. There are others, but they will have to wait for another post. Here’s a shout out to #HackLearning, #sbl, and #bfc530, to name three more.

My Teacher Day Today

This was my day today.

I walk into my classroom at 7:45 -
a little later than on most days.
I usually arrive at 7:30 or so.
Our school day starts at 8:00.

Some of my students are waiting outside the door.
I welcome them back.

I check morning announcements and try to greet all of my students as they come in.

No time for much of anything this morning.
We head right away to the PYP assembly.
Grade 4 is presenting.
We learn about inquirers, the design process and the cool projects the 4th graders are engaged in.
We play Kahoot to see what we remember from their presentation.

It's 9:15. My students are off to art.
I won't see them until after lunch, for literacy block, at 1:10.

While they're in art, recess, music, instrumentals, Spanish, and lunch, I try to tidy up my desk.
I try to plan.
I read and respond to emails.
Before I even realize it my morning is done.
I go meet a teacher friend for lunch.

Then, it's back to the classroom.

The kids write letters to their parents i…

Making Time for Everything...

People often ask me how I find the time for all the projects I'm involved in. For some reason, I've been thinking a lot about this today. How do I make time for everything? 
Twitter chats. Professional reading. Online webinars, courses, online book groups, discussions and more. My EdD research. My family - my husband and I have three children, but only one of them is still at home with us. Teaching. More that I left out.
All of these activities keep me going. And, every day I'm able to go to work  with a smile on my face because my PLN is positive and upbeat. We help each other gain perspective  and confront the challenges we all face in our schools.
Sometimes being too close is a drawback. Sometimes we need to step away in order to see what's right in front of us. Because stepping away gives us a fresh view of our world.
But, this wasn't the way it has always been. I was always good at focusing on the negative. Not anymore.
Now, I go to school with a smile on my …

Class Meeting - 5th grade

My students gather on the rug for class meeting.
The two referees (rotating students who guide the meeting) sit on chairs ready to start.
The half-eaten, torn, wrinkled half-moons used for taking turns - red on one side for silence, green on the other to signal a turn is wanted - sit on the rug, too.

I try to stay out of the conversation by sitting to the side, but it's hard to stay out of it completely!

Today's topic: some kids are using their devices inappropriately by playing games or using apps instead of doing their work.

"Why is this a community problem?' I ask my students.

They tell me that when they're working in groups not everyone is doing what they're supposed to do. Some kids are playing on their devices. It distracts others and prohibits the group from completing their work effectively and efficiently.

At the end of the meeting, the kids had a couple of solutions to solve this problem, but they were stop gap measures. For example, if I catch a stu…

Plugging In and Tuning Out - Oh My!

As a family we have been trying, on and off, to control and limit my son's screen time. (We never had this problem with our older daughters who grew up with much less technology than is now available to my son.) Often, we've imposed restrictions on his viewing time and, for a while, they work. Then, when the fury passes, we forget our intentions and he's back on as strong as ever. Recently, I've tried to take the focus off him and place it squarely on all of us: this is a family problem.

So, what we're doing now is that everyone unplugs for at least an hour every night. I am hoping to gradually add 10 minutes a week until we reach a daily count of 2 hours off screens. Although we've had some success with this expectation, it hasn't been perfect. Nevertheless, it feels better than what we've tried previously. During our time off screens, all of us are engaged in other activities.
But, of course, when you solve one issue, another one tends to surface.