Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Small moment - Making All Stars

Here's the story I am working on to publish next week with my 3rd graders during our Personal Narrative Unit. I chose it because it is a strong memory of my dad showing me he was proud of me. I drafted many leads and picked the sound lead. I worked to stretch out the moment of seeing the sign. I worked on an ending that would have strong inner feeling.

    "Beep...Beep...Beep..." The sound fills my bedroom. Reaching over, I hit the snooze button with my right hand to make it stop. I rub my eyes and notice that it is bright outside the window. Then I remember. Yesterday, I swam my fastest time ever in 50 meters butterfly and came in 1st place in the Divisional Meet. Last night I wanted to stay up to see if the coach would call to say I made All Stars. Only the twelve fastest swimmers in the whole league are invited to compete.

   "Please, Mom. Can't I just stay up a little longer? The coach may call any minute," I begged with my fingers crossed.

    "Absolutely not. It has been a very long day. Off to bed and I'll tell you tomorrow if he calls," she ordered.

    Now I realize it is morning. Quickly, I jump out of bed and bolt to the kitchen. As soon as I enter, I see it. On the round, wooden table where we gather as a family for all our meals is a sign propped up. In the fanciest cursive handwriting I have ever seen, I see the words - Congratulations, Sally. Only my dad writes in such a fancy way. I also notice that the "y" at the end of my name extends and loops to form the shape of a fish. Seeing this clever, beautiful sign, I let out a scream of excitement!!

    "What's going on?" dad asks as he enters the kitchen with a grin on his face.

    Turning around I ask, "Did I really make All Stars?"

    "You not only made it, the coach said you are seeded to place 3rd! You are quite the fish!" he says proudly. "Now go get changed. The coach wants you at the pool in 30 minutes for a special All Star practice."

     I rush to my bedroom, change into my practice bathing suit and grab my googles and towel. Feeling well rested, I skip to the car. As dad drives me, I notice the smile on his face matches the one on mine.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Celebrate - I found my lost planner!

I knew I had it on Saturday morning. After posting my Celebrate blog post while sitting at the Lee and Harrison Starbucks, I used it to plan out my next week of teaching. I thought I had it that night in my bedroom as I did a little more planning before falling to sleep. Sunday morning I met a friend for brunch and then went to a neighborhood deli to finish my planning. (I do have a home but while it is under construction, it is easier to concentrate when not at home!)

Then, Sunday night my searching began. I cleaned out the car, looking under all the seats and in the trunk. I went from room to room, checking and rechecking all the piles of clutter that happens in a week. I drove to the Starbucks and asked them to check their "Lost and Found". I called the deli. I even called the place I went for brunch, 99% sure I didn't have it with me then. I started to think that maybe this was a sign for me to start embracing the digital world more when planning. Maybe I don't need a paper planner anymore. Maybe. I then prayed to St. Anthony, patron saint of lost things.

Thursday, while in my staff meeting after school, my phone vibrated and a voice message was left. It was a worker at the Staples Store next to the deli I visited on Sunday calling. She was holding my planner at the Customer Service desk!!!

That's right. I did go into Staples to buy one piece of poster board before going to the deli. I must have absent-mindedly put my planner down when paying and walked away. Jasmine, the cashier is my hero!!

Today, I celebrate that I found my planner!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Small moment about a broken clock

I shared the below story, my own school story, with my 3rd grade students on Thursday during our Writing Workshop. Then on Saturday, I bought Brian Selznick's newest book, Marvel and on pg. 421 I read this line: "Even a broken watch is correct twice a day." I got goosebumps reading that line and thinking that both this brilliant writer and I wrote about a similar object in our stories.

    Quietly, I entered Room 10 and took a seat. Moments ago I was feeling safe and happy as I solved math problems led by Mrs. Lawler, my very favorite teacher. But in 5th grade at St. James Parochial School the students change classes and Sr. Cecile taught reading. She was only four feet, ten inches tall covered by a dark nun's habit. Her stern face, which showed though the veil covering her head, made her seem scary. I glanced at the clock. It read 9:04. Today's packet of worksheets were handed out and I began to fill in the missing words to create correct grammar sentences.

   "How much more time until I can return to Mrs. Lawler?" I wondered. I glanced up at the clock. It read 9:04...still? I turn the worksheet over and completed the backside.

   Up I glanced a third time...9:04? I know time has passed. "Why does the clock still read 9:04?" I thought to myself.

   "Miss Stallings, don't bother checking the time. My clock is broke and is only correct twice a day," Sr. Cecile said sternly. "Now put your eyes on the paper and finish your worksheet."

    What a crazy room! A clock that doesn't move in a space where time feels eternal.

Reading Brian Selznick's words in Marvel (a beautiful, must-buy and read book, by the way!!) clearly motivated me to publish my school story here. I hope the same reading-writing-connection inspiration occurs at times for you!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Celebrating - Back to School Night

The spotify Rain playlist was playing.  The Smart Panel message read:
           Welcome Parents!!  Please find your child's seat.
           Check out their work! Also, please take a moment to write a NOTE 
           to your CHILD to go in our Class Time Capsule.
           (It won't be read until the last week of 3rd grade!)

A Figure Me Out Math project hung at each cubby. An All About Me Tower made of index cards was on each desk, along with a decorated writing notebook and a reading bag of of books.

After the room filled with moms and dads, I began:
"This is how your child enters my room each day. To build their independent skills, they know to read the smart panel and to do what is listed. Then we gather for our Morning Meeting. We start with a greeting and then have a share or an activity. Today, I'd like us to greet each other by saying our name and sharing one thing about yourself. With your child, we have been sharing favorites - colors, sports, weekend activity...all this helps us to know each other more so we can learn better together. Tonight, I thought as adults, we could say our name and a favorite restaurant. I'll start....I'm Sally and I like to order and pick up takeout from Moby Dicks House of Kaboobs". Then around the room all continued, sharing a favorite.

"Now as our Share today, I want to show you a video made especially for tonight!!"
Then my first Back to School Night iMovie played, showing all the pictures I took since school started!! (I big thank you to my daughter who coached me in making this movie!!) 

Today I celebrate being brave enough to simulate a Morning Meeting with my parents at Back to School Night. I worried it would be too time consuming. I worried it would seem stupid or childish. 

Instead, it did exactly what Morning Meetings are intended to do - by sharing, we grew as a community, connected because all of us are connected to the students in Room 212.

Today I celebrate the structure of Morning Meeting and I know now that this will be how I ALWAYS begin my Back to School Night meetings. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

My Feet

Where Have My Feet Taken Me?

For the first twelve months,
Then finally,
step by step,
the exploration began.

So many times
they ran down the hill
in the backyard
to the swing.

In springtime, they raced
 to first base
after the softball got whacked
to the outfield.

In summer, they together pushed down
to propel my swimmer's body

They carried me
daily to school,
lots of time to the library,
and occasionally to Tyson's Corner Mall.

They have touched
the Atlantic,
the Pacific,
the Mediterranean,
Lake Michigan and Erie.

They have crossed
the Memorial,
the Brooklyn
and the Rialto Bridge.

They have climbed
to the top of St. Peter's Dome,
the Campanile in Florence
and the spires of the Sagrada Familia.

Now, they step, here and there,
then pause to stop and chat,
in the classroom.

And each evening
they rest up
for their next adventure.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Celebrate - a great first week of school!

Today I CELEBRATE the four wonderful days I spent with a group of 3rd graders - my 3rd graders as we began our school year together!!

We ended our Friday enjoying an animated version of Peter Reynold's story The Dot.

Then we made our own DOT and on the back we completed these two sentences:
                        This year I hope to....
                        My dream is to...

I CELEBRATE today all that my students (and I - I'm the last on this list) are hoping and dreaming we will accomplish as we MAKE OUR MARK while learning together during this 2015-16 school year!

This year I hope to…
My dream is to…
play the recorder in music
learn cursive
have better handwriting
be a Paleontologist
Learn cursive
Become famous
Become a better soccer player
Become a professional soccer player
Learn division
Play an instrument
Get better at reading and writing
Make lots of friends and have a good time
Learn how to spell bigger words
Play basketball
Learn cursive
Play professional soccer
Get better at writing
Be a professional figure skater
Learn cursive
Swim better
Meet new people
Read more
Get god grades
Be a great artist
Learn to spell
Learn to write better
Be really good at computers
Turn into a werewolf!
Run very fast
Become a better person
Become a better writer
Read a lot this year
Be Quarterback for flag football
Be the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys
Get better at reading
Be good for the year
Have a Lego Passenger Train set
Get better at reading
Make lots of friends

Be kind to all my students, co-workers and parents using my gifts as a teacher as best as I can
Move into my newly constructed home and host many, many family and friend gatherings!

By the way, Tuesday, September 15th is International DOT DAY!!
We will be celebrating it in my classroom.
Read more HERE to learn about it.
Check out THIS LINK to see the beautiful dots created by authors, illustrators and celebrities!

Be sure to always MAKE YOUR MARK!!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Teaching with Music

I have a personal goal to add music to my classroom. As a writing teacher last year, a few times I played Classical Music during independent writing time. I found it soothing. As a homeroom teacher, my class last year loved playing Musical Chairs using my Showtunes CDs. I attended a PD session with Ron Nash in August who suggested ways to have a more active classroom and he reminded me of the benefits of music with children. That day I set my goal that day.

Today is the first day of school for me. It is extra special because I'm on the staff opening a new school in Arlington county, VA called Discovery ES. We were in the Washington Post yesterday and Channel 4 News is coming today. As our website and the news article point out, our school is built with sustainability in mind. It is arranged by theme, starting with the environment closest to us in Kindergarten - your backyard neighborhood. Then it moves out to Forest and Ocean in 1st and 2nd. To get to 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade, you move upstairs to the Atmosphere, Solar System and Galaxy.

I'm a 3rd grade Atmosphere Aviator Teacher!! My classroom sign is RAIN and my teammates include snow, sleet, hail and freeing rain (and after a closer look at the definitions, these terms are all different!)

Last night I reminded my daughter how I wanted to bring more music into the classroom and would she help me.

"How about "Singing in the RAIN?!" she exclaimed.


"You can have raindrops and umbrellas on the birthday graph! And you can add SINGING Happy Birthday in the Rain to the birthday display," she further suggested and we laughed!

After another hour, she set me up with a spotify account and a RAIN playlist.
(Thanks, Anne!! You help me so much to look good as a teacher!)

Who knew there are so many great songs about RAIN?

This year, Room 212-Rain at Discovery ES will be rocking and rolling.

If you find yourself in my neighborhood, please stop by to dance along with us!
And if not, take time to add a little music to your day!!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Celebrate - I get to teach at a brand new school!

What a week!
3rd grade planning meetings, at school and at Starbucks (to get away from the construction noise).
County assessment training.
Interviewing because more kids are coming and we need 2 more 3rd grade teachers.
Beginning and ending of the day staff gathering to hear the building updates.
Open houses moved to the Middle School because building not quite ready.
Training on how to use the SmartPanel, how to use the furniture, how to open the moving wall into studio space, how to take online attendance.
Some trainings while the fire alarm was being tested.

I celebrate the amazing and flexible staff I have joined to open a brand new school - Discovery ES in Arlington VA.

I celebrate that it is only Saturday and it is a 3-day weekend.

I celebrate all the efforts by architects, construction workers, furniture delivery men, mulch crew, janitorial cleaning crew, volunteer parents, and my staff.

I celebrate that on Tuesday, September 8, 2015 I get to guide a group of 22 third grades for the first time ever in Room 212.

I promise we will honor all the hard work spent to build our school and will learn well at Discovery.