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Showing posts from January, 2016

Changing Habits

I haven't written anything in three days and for a good reason: I was with my students on the grade 5 Outward Bound trip in Mindo, Ecuador.

Although Mindo is only 2 1/2 hours from Quito, it has a completely different climate than the capital city. Mindo is in the cloud forest and has a subtropical climate. In other words, it gets really hot during the day, cooling down a bit at night and in the early hours of the morning. Normally it rains quite a bit in Mindo, but we were fortunate that it only rained once, during the night, while we were all tugged away inside our tents.

So, after having written something almost every day for the last month - at most I skipped a day here and there - I realized how easy it is to go back to a habit of no writing. And, the thing is that there were the odd moments during the day when I could have sat down to write. I just didn't do it. I'm trying to think why that was. Maybe it's because I was in a different environment with students. But,…

Temptations

What temptations would you be better off removing from your life?
This was a recent question from the Thought Questions website. It is a great one for me because temptations sometimes stand in the way of realizing some of my goals.

Although getting rid of some temptations (candy and gum come to mind) would make my life better, there is one that stands out for me right now: being connected for way too many hours of the day. There are so many things happening online that I want to be a part of and they seem to be multiplying all the time. Twitter chats, new apps, online book clubs, Facebook updates, Voxer groups and on and on and on. And, I want to be a part of all of it. So, I sign up or subscribe to all of them and then wonder why I can't keep up with everything. Well, duh! 

OK. So, I'll say it again: being connected 24/7 is my greatest temptation and removing it from my life completely would be disastrous as I learn so much from my virtual contacts. These social media connection…

Rule Follower

In most aspects of my life I am a rule follower and this is particularly true in school. I was a good student, a "goody two shoes"; I never got in trouble. I always did my homework and turned projects in on time. My parents always went to parent-teacher conferences even in high school. I was rarely one of those kids who pushes the envelope, gets in trouble, and risks detention. 

All of that changed when I went to college.  But that's a story for another day. 

Once a decision is made at my school, I carry through with it even if I initially disagreed with what was decided. That doesn't mean I'm a pushover. If I feel strongly about something, I will argue to support my point of view, but I will also listen to the other side's perspective. And, before a decision is made, I will try to reason, cajole, and persuade others to make sure that whatever we end up doing can be justified because it's in our students' best interest. If possible, I don't negotiat…

Changes, Changes, Changes

The first day back to school after a break is always hard. This is especially true if the vacation was a long one. First of all, not all of the kids come back at the same time and those that are present are either sleepy or just very quiet. And, even though I want to hit the ground running, that isn't always advisable because I might not get the results I'm looking for if I do. So, the second day is always welcomed because it feels like my students and I just passed a test and we can breathe a sigh of relief. The first round is over. Now, we're back in our groove. Nevertheless, I decided to try out a few new ideas I'd been reading about during the winter break. You can read about that here

First of all, I started doing some brief meditation exercises with a focus on breathing, relaxing and being quiet for just a minute or two. This is called the Core Practice in the MindUp Curriculum written by The Goldie Hawn Foundation and published by Scholastic. I think it has mad…

Professional Reading

I did a lot of professional reading and thinking during the winter vacation. And, although I started writing this post before school started and am only publishing it now, it details some of my thoughts on this professional reading. This is a good exercise for me now that we're about to enter our third week back to school and I've actually tried out some of these ideas in my class. This post is preceded by one tomorrow in which I describe in a little more detail how I implemented these ideas and what happened as a result.

(1) I am going to teach my students a 3-minute meditation practice during transitions. This is a precursor to implementing the Goldie Hawn Foundation MindUp curriculum that teaches kids about the brain and how to manage their reactions to a variety of daily events. I will do these 3-minute meditations for a couple of weeks before launching into the curriculum itself. This is the first time I'm teaching this so I'm a little nervous.

(2) I am going to try…

Saying Goodbye

I can't get used to saying goodbye to my daughters even though we've been doing it for the past 10 years. You'd think it gets easier, but it doesn't. It still feels like the first time.

Your children are not your children.They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.They come through you but not from you,And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.*
At the airport, I watch families with their young children and try to remember what it was like when my girls were little. What I felt like. What I was doing at the time. What we weren't doing. Was I even aware of the passage of time?

When my kids were little I lived so much in the moment that there was no time to reflect on the fact that our time as a family was measured. Sooner than we were ready, we would have to let them go. Send them on their way. Wish them an abundance of everything, but especially of love, health and joy. 

They come through you, but not from you.* 
I nod and smile, a li…

New Year Adventures

I spent several days with my family in the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador. I live in Quito with my husband and 11-year-old son. My two oldest daughters live and work in the U.S. Christmas is one of the few times we see each other during the year though we always look for ways to get together more often.

As I was writing this, it was raining. I wondered where the monkeys were hiding, especially the big fat one and the smaller ones we had been watching swing from tree branch to tree branch. My daughters took pictures and videos of them. They were really amazing and we never tired of watching them play and eat the bananas that the resort owners gave them as a treat.

There were also lots of insects. The annoying kind and the fascinating kind. They were all amazing and we were mesmerized by the strength of the ants as they carried tiny leaves and other debris to their queen.

On New Year's Day we went to the Cavernas de Jumandi. I am not an extreme sport person and I'm not enamored of ca…

Try it Yourself First!

As teachers of writing, we know that using precise words in our writing allows our readers to visualize and understand what they're reading. Therefore, we advise our students to select precise words when they're writing. We take this aspect of our instruction seriously. We also know that avid readers develop an extensive vocabulary which they can use in their writing. That's why it's so important for our student writers to become effective readers.

As avid readers we are also discriminating readers. We read and delight in exquisite writing. We know what good writing sounds like and feels like.

Now that I am becoming more aware of my own writing process, I can empathize with my students: this is truly challenging work. And that's why it's important for me to write every day to experience what I am asking my students to try out in their own writing.

Playing close attention to my own writing process has been eye opening, if not painful. However, this emerging awarene…