Slice of Life

Slice of Life
Join the slicing for the month of March

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Try It, You May Like It

My husband and I have always been sports enthusiasts. We played multiple sports in high school, participated in sports in college and raised our kids to swim, kayak, skate, ski, bike, play soccer, tennis, and baseball.
When the kids left home for college, my husband announced he would like to take up golf again. There was a course three miles away and he had played there in his early teens with his family. I shuddered as he declared his interest. 
My grandfather had tried to teach me to swing at the little white ball when I was a young teen. "Stick your butt out, waggle the club, take it back, now hit the ball", he would coach. I tried to follow his directions only to hit the ground, miss the ball, and feel the reverberations all the way up my arm. It only took a couple weeks for me to give up and return to tennis, bikes, and swimming. Summer was too short to be that frustrated.
My husband's interest in golf left me with a dilemma. I could send him off to play golf on Saturdays and Sundays and find something to do on my own or I could try my hand at the elusive sport once again. I went with the latter hoping some miracle would occur once I appeared at the golf course with my new gear, shoes, and outfit.
It has been twelve years since my husband's announcement. Tomorrow we will strike out to a favorite course in a neighboring town. We will hit some good shots and some disasters. We will laugh and we will groan. We will stop to gaze upon a gift of nature be it plant, animal, or scenery. I am not a good golfer nor is he but we enjoy each other, the outdoors, and the challenge that little white ball presents each time we try to connect with it.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Why Do I Do This??

The first four days of this week have been horrendous. In order to make it through Friday with a positive outlook, I had to come home on Thursday and remind myself why I chose this career.

I became a teacher because I enjoy kids.
I became a teacher because I am have an appetite for learning.
I became a teacher because I am up for a challenge.
I became a teacher because I am creative.
I became a teacher to be part of a community.
I became a teacher to learn how to be a mom.
I became a teacher to model for others.
I became a teacher because I had some great role models.
I became a teacher because I understand.
I became a teacher because I was sure I could make a difference.

There…I think it is all coming back now. I became a teacher because I couldn’t imagine being anything else!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

My Husband and I

He is observant.
I am a listener.
He is shy.
I am an extrovert.
He is detailed.
I am global.
He is methodical.
I am speedy.

We are parents.
We commune with nature.
We enjoy musical theatre.
We love to travel.
We seek adventure.
We play sports.
We  read voraciously.
We are a couple.

For almost thirty-four years there has been…he…I...and we.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Proud Parents

We have two sons…
Our oldest is thirty-one. He has his father’s gate, stance, and way of thinking. He has my smile and love of learning. He was always a teacher’s student…homework done, hand raised, and offering to do more. He was a swimmer through high school and college. He spent college summers in Alaska mapping volcanoes as he honed his love of nature into a career. His ambition took him to graduate school and then across the country accepting a position at the Lawrence Berkeley Labs. He works with other scientists in the field of geochemistry tracking pollution around the word, looking for energy solutions, teaching others how to perform experiments and use multimillion dollar machines. This is the one job he wanted, sought out, and got. He has been there for eight years and I expect will be there in another eight years.
Our youngest son will be thirty next month. He has my coloring and love of people. He has his father’s eyes and directness. Like his dad, in school, he was always a square peg not fitting in a round hole. He got it the first time and had little patience to sit and wait while others processed. Teachers found him exasperating because they could not provide for him as he wished. He just didn’t like school. We moved him ahead a year to try to quiet the frustrations for all. He tried his hand at wrestling, tennis, and golf in high school. He played intramural sports in college. He went to college on a five-year plan alternating school with internships in large companies... learning about business, accounting and tax. His ambition kept him in Philadelphia working for a variety of finance companies. He specializes in corporate tax. He is highly marketable because he is meticulous and a worker. His ability to put together thousand piece puzzles as a child has transformed into finding mistakes on spreadsheets of numbers. He is never quite satisfied with any job. He won’t be…until he becomes his own boss.
Our two sons could not be more different in looks, personality, interests, and their approaches to work. We are so proud of both of them and thankful they are themselves, finding their way, being who they were meant to be.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

New Application...Excitement in my Classroom

A few days ago, I read a piece about Lino It on SOL (I think it was by Diana?). I had not heard of that site before. Once I closed out of TWT, I had to pay a visit. Lino It is a virtual bulletin board upon which one can post stickies. As I was perusing the site, I wondered how I could incorporate something like that into my first graders world, knowing they would love to play with the stickies. I came up with a plan. I decided to have them use Lino It to take notes about the animal they choose for a pond unit of study. There are multi colored stickies so the students can color code their notes (looks like, lives, eats, enemies, etc.) They can also draw and import pictures to add to their bulletin board.
The goal...

Yesterday, I showed them a video of me using the program. The video demonstrated how to find the site from our classroom wiki, how to log in with their username/password and how to get started using this application. We went to the computer lab after lunch to give Lino It a try. Some students watched my video a second time before beginning, others jumped right onto our wiki and found the application. You could have heard a pin drop in the lab. They were fully engaged in this new activity. Since it was their first time, I let them have a free write. On each of their boards I had posted my picture with a note asking them a question. I encouraged them to answer me and then to write anything they wanted on as many stickies as they could cover. They loved choosing the many colored stickies and ink colors. Lino It has a small collection of icons to add to the stickies and those were a hit as well.
The kids experimented with peeling off stickies, editing stickies, moving them around, pinning them, and tilting them. They wrote to each other. They laughed and read what they wrote to me.. About three quarters of the way through, I had them get up and walk around the lab to view what their neighbors had done. They ooh-ed and aah-ed and then quickly returned to their seats eager to continue. These six and seven year olds wrote for an hour 
One of my student's free writes

Next week, I will teach them how to create a drawing (in Tux Paint or Paint), save it to the desktop and then upload it onto their Lino It bulletin board. By then, they will be experts at this virtual bulletin board. My frontloading will pay off when we do our pond animal reports.

Monday, March 26, 2012

She Is...

She is loving and loyal
She is protective and dependable
She is curious and intelligent
She is energetic and sleepy
She is athletic and goofy
She loves to cuddle
She shares herself equally
She enhances our lives
She is Holly.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Procrastination Again

Report cards are upon me and I am procrastinating as I have the last two quarters and the three years before. I dread filling out these reports. Four years ago a committee of volunteer teachers made this first grade report. Our system was about to develop a standards based curriculum and the administrators wanted a standards based reporting system. The problem was, nobody was trained in standards based reporting. “Not to worry, said the administrators, we will only use this report card one year.”
Well the report card has never changed. It is not standards based. It is redundant in some areas and does not say enough in others. There are skills listed on this report card that no first grader can achieve so we have to put N/A in place of real information. Our math section is so long it is on a separate piece of paper. Parents don’t understand what the 1-4 coding means. Teachers are not uniform in the way they use the coding. Some kids are given 4’s for doing well in every day skills and others have 4’s withheld because teachers are looking for skills to be applied “outside the box.”
I dread filling out those report cards. I know I have to. Thank goodness, we have conferences to go along with these reports. During conferences the kids and I can show the parents what is real. Students will read to their parents. They will share a favorite piece of their writing. A math skill will be demonstrated using manipulatives. The science notebook will be opened and a concept will come alive as the child tells all he/she has learned.
I dread filling out those report cards. So here I  sit writing about them…putting off the inevitable.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Sugar Time

I have always wished I could take my students to a maple sugar demonstration. The use of a natural product being tapped and then turned into a marketable product fits right in with our social studies curriculum.
My wish came true today. Students at our high school put on a demonstration for younger students. They started the program with a locally made video. Two students introduced the video and then took questions afterward. The video showed them drilling holes into sugar maples, hammering in the spouts, and hanging pails.
My students were then ushered outside to see some tapped trees with the tree sap still in the buckets. The older students had a poster showing the process of tapping trees similar to what we saw in the video.
 The next station was a table set with forty gallon milk jugs and one gallon jug of maple syrup. The high school students explained the ratio of raw product to finished product.
 Up next, a barrel stove with side containers to heat up the sap. The sap is heated to 219 degrees and not any higher or it can burn. The adult attending this station explained what was happening and took questions as well. My students were able to watch the water turn to vapor as it left the sap.
Finally, the youngers were invited into the kitchen to taste a variety of foods made with the homemade maple syrup. My students tasted baked beans, cinnamon rolls, smoothies, pancakes, and syrup on crushed ice. Needless to say, everyone found some kind of food they liked.
The older students did a fantastic job. They were well prepared, friendly, and obviously very proud of their unit of study. We were so lucky to be invited to a demonstration like this.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Our taste of summer is leaving us. For the better part of a week we have had 60-80 degree weather. The sun has been warm and the blue skies have been bright.
The grass is greening, shrubs are leaving, and flowers are in bloom. It looks like late April instead of late March.
Tomorrow a cool down will bring everyone back to reality. Temps will return to 40-50. Rain will move in. The sun and blue sky will disappear behind a thick layer of gray clouds.
Some people will lament, "Our wonderful weather is gone!" I will tuck the week away in my memory bank to savor for another day.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Free Ticket To...

A second cup of coffee, a walk to the water, a sit in my swing, my ears were treated to...
chickadees calling, "dee, dee, dee" to their mates,
gaggles of geese honking as they gather in the bay to rest from their long flight home,
cardinals singing their familiar songs as they flit from tree to tree
pileated, downy, and hairy woodpeckers hammering into the tall pines,
run off water washing over moss covered rocks and dancing to the river...
Nature's Symphony!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Young Writers

My young writers are six and seven years old. They amaze me every day. We begin our writing workshop with a story. We pause to talk about what the author did to make us want to turn the pages. I tell them, you can write like this too if you enjoy this author's style. You can use any author style, craft, technique or you can develp your own.
The writers are then sent off into our classroom to find a favorite place to work. Some are at tables, easels, on the floor, in our classroom library. They all reread their piece and then decide what is next. Some continue to write, some ask a friend for a conference, some conference with me, some grab editing pens to clean up a piece, and some think.
I don't have one child who says "I can't"...ever. I hear other teachers say their first graders can't come up with ideas. That is never the case in my room is how we handle idea collections:

Students are encouraged...

to keep a list of topics they know a lot about in their folders
to go to the library to read for a bit to get ideas from other authors
to talk to a friend about ideas
to brainstorm with me
to look out the window for inspiration
to use their morning journal entry for further development
to return to a previous unfinished text that was put away for another day 
to rewrite a story using that story structure for support
to try poetry, non-fiction, fiction

I think there are many ways to teach children how to become writers. The key is to give them as many options as possible.The more empowered they become the less likely we are to hear..."I can't". In our classroom, my students know what they can do to help themselves.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Digging Deep

I joined a technology book club last month. The book I am reading is, The Shallows (What the Internet Is Doing To Our Brains) by Nicholas Carr. If you have not read this book and have interest in brain research, history, and how technology is changing our society, then I highly recommend the book.
It is interesting and perhaps a bit scary to realize we, as a society, are rewiring our brains. Carr talks extensively about how this fast-paced information overload keeps us moving at high speeds skimming the surface of a lot of information. He opens the readers eyes to lack of depth in our search for information. He says we have less ability to stay focused on one topic and find ourselves going off on side trips.
Perhaps this is why, as an “old teacher” I am appalled at the surface teaching I have been witnessing. I have been having a difficult time understanding why so many people are teaching to the test. I thought it was out of fear but perhaps it is because they don’t know how to dig deep with their kids and get great results. I did not grow up in an information highway. I was well into my career by the time the Internet hit our schools.
Don’t get me wrong. I love all the techie tools. I use them at home and in my classroom. My classroom has four computers, five ipads, an lcd projector, and a document camera. I use my iphone for all sorts of things such as taking photos, recording kid’s reading, and previewing apps.
I try to never limit my teaching to test results, curriculum, “I Can” statements, or the baseline of what is expected. The sky is the limit. We start with what is expected and open our minds to even more. I don’t want kids memorizing, I want them to understand and then take that concept they understand and apply it across the curriculum and throughout their life. The unit of study never ends…there is no finale.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Date Night

On Saturday night my husband and I went to our local independent theatre to see The Iron Lady. I love this little theatre with its old seats, couches, and easy chairs. It is so small the ticket seller is also popping corn, pouring coffee, selling candy bars, and soda…a one-man operation.
This theatre is for adults not children. The movie selections are foreign films, independent films, and award winning films. Only one movie plays at a time because there is only one theatre.
Half way through the film, there was no doubt in my mind, why Meryl Streep won the Best Actress award. She was phenomenal. There were times I had to remind myself the real Margaret Thatcher was not on the screen.
It was a lovely date night with my hubby ...cozy theatre good film, and great acting.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

What a Saturday!

There we were, with old shoes on, slogging through the puddles and mud. We pulled and pushed the carts to the driest terrain we could find. We groaned as we strained to find muscles we put away last fall. We shaded our eyes as we looked to the sky for that familiar little white sphere. We laughed with John who asked if he could join us. We breathed in the fresh air and marveled at the warmth of the sunshine on our faces. Thwack, thud, plop, thunk, swoosh, clunk, clunk, clunk were the sounds we injected into nature’s beautiful pre-spring day. Oh…twas only March 17th…St. Paddy’s Day and there we were playing our first round of golf!

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Change comes upon me
Like the wind off the water
It sweeps to my left...right...
Enveloping my body
"Time to go..."
It whispers.

I try to ignore it
I turn, look the other way
I am comfortable
I know what to expect
"Time to go..." 
It encourages.

I stroll away
Attempting to leave behind
The louder voice
It will be too much work
Change is daunting at first
"Time to go..." 
It demands.

The voice is hounding me
It follows me everywhere
It makes me uneasy
And yet it excites me
"Time to go..." 
I whisper.