Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Stuck - Again

So it turns out that I can't seem to make this post be what I want it to be despite many revisions. I think I may just go ahead and post it so that I can move on. No great reflections here just a random collection of thoughts. Read at your own risk but please know that I am not looking for sympathy here, I am just trying to clear my head.

About 11 months ago I wrote a post on this blog called Stuck about how "stuck" I was feeling in my job at the time. I realized recently that I am still stuck and have been since that time - none of the things on that list have gone away or been resolved. Most of the posts I have added to this blog have been posts that I wrote for my classroom blog. I can write on that blog for parents but I can't seem to be able to write more reflective posts here.

What really brought home to me just how "stuck" I am was being asked to take part in some online blogging challenges going by the names of Sunshine Award or PLN Challenge. I had fun reading the posts of others who accepted this challenge and so appreciated being asked to participate by Rose and Judi. When I actually sat down to write my 11 random facts about myself, I was shocked to see what came out. You know how the act of writing sometimes actually brings out what you are thinking even when you aren't aware of it yourself? Well, that is exactly what happened to me. My list was a very sad list of things that had happened to me over the last few months and years. I knew then that I was depressed even if I was able to carry on with my day to day life and act very positive. So needless to say, I ended up not participating in the challenge.

A few other things that have happened that may also have contributed to my "stuck" feelings have also helped me change my perspective and outlook on many things. Last month was the shooting at Arapahoe High School. My husband teaches there so the impact on my family was rather intense and while we still have moments of great sadness, we know that we need to appreciate each day we have with each other. (For more details of this event, see my husband's blog post about it, 12.13.13 or Judi's blog post about it, Teaching Tip...It's Okay to Cry - Judi is my daughter's Language Arts teacher and tells the story about how that day unfolded for my daughter.) The other more recent thing that happened was that I was hit by another car while I was waiting at a stoplight. No one was hurt and my car had minor damage but it was extremely scary to be slammed into the middle of the intersection when I was hit.

I have been using these events to remind myself to appreciate each day and each moment because we truly don't know how many moments we have. So while there is still sadness, there is also gratitude. These events help me put into perspective the "things" that are making me feel stuck in my job (as listed in the previous Stuck post). They help me put into perspective a rough start to this year that included a very contentious school board election and lots of resulting fallout from that (including a very, very uncomfortable district-wide professional development day last Friday).

I thought I had a specific purpose in finally returning to this blog and trying to reflect and write. It may have just been that I realized the other day that I was once again writing reflective blog posts in my head. I sort of feel like I can't move on and begin to write those reflective posts until I get some of this out (and not nearly as eloquently as I wrote it out in my head earlier).

Maybe now I can move on to writing other posts. Time will tell if I am finally unstuck.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Joyous Chinese Cultural Center

The following was posted last week on my classroom blog.

We had a wonderful day of learning at the Joyous Chinese Cultural Center. We went to sessions on making dumplings, doing Kung Fu/Fan Dances, doing paper cutting and doing calligraphy. Check out the photos below to get a peek into how we spent our day.  Thanks so much to all of the chaperones who went along and were so helpful all day. (If you get this post by email, you will need to go directly to the blog to enjoy the Haiku Deck.)


The following was posted last week on my classroom blog.

We are climbing this week in PE. Thanks to all who came to belay the climbers. We truly appreciate it. Enjoy the Haiku Deck below. (If you get this post by email, you may need to go directly to the blog to view the Haiku Deck.)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Learning from Friends

This was originally posted on my classroom blog.

We have been so lucky to connect with Mrs. Price and her class from Australia this year. We have learned so much from each other in just a few short months with plans for more. Earlier I wrote a post that shared some of the tweets that we have sent back and forth (click here to read the previous post) but I thought I would provide a little update on things we have learned since then.

A Few Things We Have Learned from Mrs. Price's Class
We learned about an animal that we had not heard of before. It is called an echidna. It lives in Australia and it looks like a porcupine with a long nose. Mrs. Price shared this video with us that she took while walking in a national park.

 We also learned that in Australia, McDonald's is called Maccas.
Source: Link

We learned about a yummy looking dessert called Pavlova that is a favorite in Australia.

 Mrs. Price sent us a picture of her Pavlova plate with the recipe in the center of the plate.

We also enjoyed getting this video from them so that we could hear their voices.

We also learned some interesting things about the largest rock in the world from Sam's grandma and Mrs. Price in the comments of this post.

A Few Things Mrs. Price's Class Has Learned from Us
They learned about Tellagami's by watching the Tellagami's that we posted on our Kidblog page. Here is Mrs. Price's Tellagami that she shared with us.
They saw how we created patterns using popsicle sticks (they call them icypole sticks) and wanted to try it themselves. They sent us some photos of their patterns. They were so creative with their patterns. We saw more pictures. This is just a sample of the photos.

They also learned more about our American holiday of Halloween. They enjoyed watching the slideshow of our costumes on our blog.

We are going to try to Skype with their class tomorrow afternoon. (Let's hope we don't have any technical issues.) Our crew also wants to begin a conversation about coins/money in our countries so we can notice any similarities and differences. So much to learn!

Sunday, November 3, 2013


So I have been absent from this blog lately. I have been processing many changes in my school district and limiting my writing to just my classroom blog where I could stay in my comfort zone. All of that began to change for me last Friday during our professional development day. As a staff we took a day long course on creativity that happened to be taught by our own Art teacher. It was a very inspiring day. It made me think a lot about the ways that I currently ask my students to be creative and how I can improve upon that. It was interesting to learn that there is a defined creative process.

The Creative Process
  • Observe and analyze
  • Generate and select
  • Discover and apply
  • Revise and refine
  • Apply and evaluate
What we ended up noticing and talking a lot about is how this process is basically the same process as the writing process, the problem solving process in math, the scientific method and the inquiry model. It is also similar to the process of using reading strategies that we teach readers who are just beginning to decode text. It is a way to describe many processes. It is all about thinking. I want to use this new knowledge to help my students begin to see at a much deeper level all of the cross-curricular connections. The creative process is a learning process and can be applied in many areas. If they learn the basic process using whatever labels are developmentally appropriate for them, my students will have learned how to learn. For me this is exciting and I can't wait to dig in.

The Creative Process in my Room Now
Currently we use this general process in all academic areas but it seems to stand out the most in our Writer's Workshop, Math Exchanges Workshops, Number Sense Workshops, various apps on our iPads (ShowMe, Tellagami, etc.) and in our Social Studies and Science Expeditions.  I have worked hard to add short times to our days where students can also use this process. One of these is the Build and Create Station. At this station, we rotate through collections of various building toys - blocks, gears, pattern blocks, dominoes, marble towers and a new version that we call a Maker Station. The Maker Station version of the Build and Create Station is when we gather lots and lots of recyclable materials and the students can make anything they want. It has been very popular.

New Challenge
The day ended with a challenge from our principal. She asked us to dive into the creative process ourselves as learners. She asked us to think about our "perfect" classroom and think about what we would see there. She challenged us to take one idea from this thinking and try to implement it using the creative process. She encouraged us to think big and be willing to fail and try again. Her question to us was, "What matters enough to me that I'm willing to fail while trying?" She also asked to let one thing go that is currently on our plate to make room for this new thing. I am now pondering what I will try. I know that I am excited to try something new - I just have to choose one thing. So I would like to throw this question out to you. What would you try? How would you choose? What matters enough to you? I really want to know.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

We Are All Experts

Yet another post from my classroom blog that I wanted to share here because it relates to some of the thinking we did during #cyberpd this summer.

We Are All Experts
One of my goals as a teacher is to help each child find the things that they are passionate about and to know their own strengths. To get us started thinking about this we talked about the words “passionate” and “expert” during a recent morning meeting. Then we thought for a couple of days about what our passions and strengths might be. Finally, we created the charts shown here. We use these charts to help us remember that we are all good at something. This helps on those days when something might seem particularly challenging. We also use them to get to know our crew members better. We know who to ask if we need help or have a question about something. We can also use the charts to help us recommend good books that we find to others. They are also great conversation starters and have led to some wonderful sharing. We are all really starting to appreciate our differences and similarities and how these change over time. It is so exciting to me to see the crew really show a deeper understanding of each other and our strengths. Click on the picture to see a larger version of it.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Fall Voyage

I seem to be using posts from my classroom blog here a lot lately. I need to get back to doing more reflective posts, too. In the meantime, here is another post that I had on my classroom blog today.

Our Fall Voyage was a big success and lots of fun for all. Below is a slideshow of photos from our trip. You can either just hit play and watch this slide show or you can use the arrows at the bottom of the pictures to move more quickly or to go backward and forwards. Have your child watch it with you so they can tell you all about each picture. Below the slideshow are some facts, stories, etc. about our trip.


Why do we have a Fall Voyage?

We have a Fall Voyage for many reasons.
  • We take voyages to push students just a little bit out of their comfort zone. Real learning occurs when you are pushed out of your comfort zone and are challenged to try things you have not done before. For some first graders the biggest challenge is simply being away from home for a night and learning that they can trust other adults and themselves. For others the challenge is being responsible for themselves and their gear instead of counting on mom or dad to keep track of everything. Most are challenged in some way by the activities of the voyage. They must learn to work together, show perseverance when trying to find solutions to challenging problems, push themselves physically, and start to show independence in an age-appropriate manner.
  • I love the voyages because I get to see the students in a completely different environment and see other strengths that they have that might not show up in a classroom.
  • The voyages are also a great place for the students to practice the character traits that we have been working so hard to learn in class. Students also bring back some of the confidence and new skills that they learned on the trip and are able to apply them to academic learning.
  • We also all form tight bonds as a crew and are able to work very well together for the rest of the school year.

What did we do at Camp Elim?

In addition to eating, sleeping, packing, unpacking and taking care of ourselves, we also had time for some learning and some fun. Listed below are the activities we did along with a very short description.

Initiatives (Problem Solving Challenges)
Bag It – This activity had us feeling objects in bags to try to figure out what they were or finding the object we put in the bag without looking. We learned to use other senses rather than simply rely on sight to gather clues and make decisions.

Camouflage Hide and Seek - A unique version of hide and seek that can be played in a wooded area.

Nature Hunt at the Lake - This was a beautiful walk around a lake. We were challenged to really look at, listen to and smell what was around us. We had a list of things to look for and check off as we found them.

Web of Life - During this activity, we learned about how plants and animals depend on each other. We all chose an animal and then made a web (with string) to show how they are all related and what happens to the whole web when one animal is removed.

Recreational Activities

Alphabet Hike - At the beginning of this hike, we were all given a card with a letter of the alphabet on it. During the hike we had to look for things that started with that letter of the alphabet.

Obstacle Course – There were several physical challenges at this station.

Solo Hike – This was a short walk with a stop for a little solo time to reflect on the voyage. The kids chose spots within a set boundary and they sat by themselves just thinking and reflecting about the Voyage.

Chapel Games - There were several fun running and very active games that were played in the large chapel.

Other Items

We had a big campfire with skits and lots of laughter. This was a big hit for most of the crew. I am sure that they will tell you all about the spitting contest between two of the counselors to put out the fire.

The meals were very good. For dinner we had spaghetti, green beans, salad and garlic bread with a cupcake for dessert. For breakfast we had pancakes and sausage. There was also a breakfast bar with fruit, granola, oatmeal and hard boiled eggs. Then for lunch we had pizza, salad and grapes with ice cream bars for dessert.

It really was a wonderful trip. Thanks again to all of the chaperones who gave so generously of their time. Chaperoning is just like parenting or teaching – the toughest job you will ever love.