Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Old Beginnings {SOL 8.30.16}

Summer is officially over, but I'm not too sad. Sure, I will miss my free choice days where I could go or do anything. But I'm ready to get back to school.

I am moving up from 4th grade to 5th grade this year and I am really looking forward to it. I'm looping with my class from 4th grade. They are an awesome group of kids and I'm looking forward to seeing what this year brings.

Looping with the same group of kids greatly reduced a lot of my nervousness over this new school year. I already know the kids and they know me. Instead of spending the first quarter of school trying to figure each other out, we can hit the ground running. It's an added benefit that their parents know me as well and are familiar with how the classroom runs as I also know a bit about their family routines.

It just makes things easier -- for all of us.

Not having that nervousness for a new class has made getting ready for this new school year easier. I can begin to plan because I have a feel for where each student was last year. Of course, I am leaving lots of room for summer growth as we all change over time.

I can't wait to get started.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Years are Short {SOL 8.23.16}

When you are holding your newborn baby in your arms, staring into its barely open eyes and listening to its sweet coos, time seems like an infinite thing.

When a wise friend tells you to cherish every minute because time moves quickly, you brush their words aside because time seems endless.

When you ask your sweet child what he wants to do when he grows up and he answers that he wants to be a superhero, you gently laugh to yourself because you can't imagine a time when he will have to be something other than your little boy.

When you sit through band concerts, scout ceremonies, parent teacher conferences, volleyball games, birthday parties, and play dates, they seem like mere appointments on your calendar that you check off in a blur.

When your little one learns to walk, takes the bus to school, goes to sleep away camp, gets his driver's license, and graduates, you don't realize what is happening.

Then comes the day you were warned about.

That day that seemed like it could never, sometimes would never,  come.

That day that is the culmination of every day that came before it.

Your sweet child leaves the nest.

And you realize that the days may seem long, but the years are very, very short.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Exploring Barn Swallow Babies {SOL 8.16.16}

I'm a little bit of a bird fanatic. Living in the country will do that to you.

In the spring, I love to watch the bird feeder outside our front window to see who is visiting. I will often find cardinals, woodpeckers, and yellow finches all hanging out together.

Later in the summer, I become fascinated by the barn swallow.
It is a beautiful bird and it flies with such grace and ease. It swoops down to catch insects and can turn on a dime or reverse directions easily. It's fun to watch!

When the baby barn swallows are old enough to leave the nest (about 3 weeks old), they like to fly up and sit on the gutter on the backside of my house. I often will wake up to the sound of their singing to the rising sun. They are fluffy and their beaks are too large for their faces. I just love them!
I sat for a few minutes and watched the babies and saw how the feeder bird (both moms and dads -- and older brothers and sisters) bring insects to the baby. As they approach, the baby will stop its singing and wait with its mouth open. The feeder bird swoops in, drops the insect in the baby's mouth, then flies away. It never stops to rest during feeding, it all happens on the go. Pretty impressive!

Yesterday as I was cutting the grass, the barn swallows were swooping around me. I used to think they were trying to dive bomb me when they did that, but I now realize they are catching the insects that fly up from the grass as I pass over with the mower.

Here are a few interesting facts I found about the barn swallow:

* A male barn swallow who has not found a mate will often destroy the eggs in a nest as a way of "breaking up" the mated couple to try to steal the woman bird. (How rude!)

* Legend has it that the reason the barn swallow's tail is so forked is that it stole fire from the gods to bring it to earth for man. As it was flying away, the gods threw a flaming spear at the bird, singeing the middle of its tail as it flew.

* Barn swallows mate in the air. (That's talent!)

* They can fly up to 600 miles in one day.

* They can live up to 10 years. 

* Legend says that the first person to see the barn swallow return after winter will have good luck all year long.

My curiosity about my favorite summer bird led me to find these interesting facts.  Then it dawned on me that these facts would make a great exploratory notebook that Ralph Fletcher describes in his book:
I'm looking forward to sharing my notebook with my students to show them how our personal interests and curiosities lead us to writing topics.

But for now, I hear the birds chatting so I've got to go!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Time Flies {Celebrate This Week 8.13.16}

This has been a busy week.

My son is leaving for college a week from Monday. There is a lot of shopping we are doing to get him ready, in addition to washing laundry, packing and going over lists of things he needs.

He had his wisdom teeth pulled on Tuesday and has had a tough recovery. The mom in me is torn. On one hand, I am trying to prepare myself for letting him go as he heads off to college. On the other hand, I get stuck thinking that he is still a little kid who needs his mom to heal his hurt, make sure he takes his medications, and bring him ice packs.

It is a funny contradiction.

I am trying to focus on the celebrations instead of that sinking feeling I get when I think about sending my first born out into the world alone.

I celebrate the little boy who grew up to be a man who can set an alarm to wake up in the middle of the night to take his antibiotics and pain meds.

I celebrate the little boy who grew up to be a man who takes himself shopping to get some things he needs for school and then doesn't even ask me to pay for them.

I celebrate the little boy who grew up to be a man who still comes in to kiss his mother goodnight when he gets home from work at midnight.

I celebrate the little boy he used to be and fine young man he has become.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Writing is Hard {SOL 8.02.16}

Writing is hard work.

But I'm preaching to the choir, aren't I?

One of the things I wanted to do this summer was write some stories that I could share with my 5th graders.  Funny school themed stories that capture the lives up upper elementary students.

I want my students to see me 'walk the walk', but I also want  them to know that I know how difficult writing can be because I've been there.

I go back to school in three weeks and I still don't have even one story to share with them.  I've tried writing. A lot. While I feel like I may actually be on the verge of a story breakthrough, I've learned quite a bit along the way that I will take back to my classroom:

* Writing IS hard, especially when that little voice is telling us that we don't have any ideas. We need to learn to tell that voice to be quiet or tell the one that is cheering us along to speak louder.

* Timed writing actually works for getting words out of your head and down on paper. Writing continuously for 10 minutes has brought me some pretty cool ideas that I never would have found if I had just sat and stared at my computer for 10 minutes.

* Sometimes, you just have to get it out. Keeping an idea in your head that you don't write on paper actually blocks your creativity like a dam blocks water. Even if you don't think you'll use it, write it down. You can always edit it out later.

* Imperfect is okay. I am a natural born perfectionist and I want my writing pages to look just a certain way. This summer, I have worked on being okay with scribbled out words, messy margins, and bad handwriting.

I truly feel that when we allow our students the freedom of choice in our classroom, they take writing more seriously, show more growth, and take more risks in the writing. However, choice can be messy. My writing this summer has shown me that.

So even though my writing has been challenging this summer, I'm still glad that I am a teacher who writes. I will return to the classroom a better writing teacher because of it.