Sunday, November 7, 2010


I'm in a funk tonight. I'm sooo not ready to begin another week of school, and on top of that, I'm feeling sorta depressed that my Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks (which I normally look forward to) are both going to be really different this year and although I'm still looking forward to the break, I'm not sure I'm looking forward to the actual holidays.

I think part of the problem is a struggle over where I want to be in my life. As I mentioned in a previous blog, the prospect of moving is something I don't look forward to, yet continuing my current commute for the rest of the school year is not a happy prospect either. So I'm beginning to ask myself what should I do over the holidays? Do I think of moving over Christmas break? Do I travel somewhere independently? Do I spent the time quietly at home? Do I fly and go visit family? --- for the first time in my life, due to family changes, my Christmas is completely up the air and even though it's over a month off, I can't help thinking about it....and fretting over it.

Oh, do I wish for easy answers sometimes...

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Okay, it's a boring title for a blog entry, but I honestly can't think of anything else to name this. Today ended up as a day where I totally blew off schoolwork. Probably should have gotten some stuff done, but I decided to be lazy this morning, and then headed out geocaching this afternoon.

Geocaching (for those who haven't heard of it) is a scavenger-hunt of sorts using a gps, or otherwise known as: what I enjoy doing when I'm not teaching. I joined up with a friend and went hiking/caching in a local state park today. It was a chilly day (I'm sad the warm weather of summer has left), but still a nice day overall. Anytime I can escape lesson planning, paper grading, etc. is nice, and today was no exception. I'm tired tonight from lots of uphill, rough hiking, but it's a good tired. Not to mention, I can get an extra hour of sleep tonight as it's (unfortunately) time to fall back.

I'm really not looking forward to the time change though. It means that often I'm going to be coming home to darkness. :( Having a 35 minute commute with this current job is something I'm still trying to get used to. I used to teach only 5 minutes (at most) from home, so it's been a big transition. Moving is an option, but honestly I can't imagine trying to complete a move while teaching, so I don't think that's going to happen. I struggle to find free time to keep up on everything as it is!

But oh well, enough for tonight. Off to bed. :)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Poetry Friday

Day 5 of NaBlPoMo and today my topic is picked for me. Why? It's Poetry Friday!!

I was sitting down and taking a break this evening when I stumbled upon a link to the New Zealand Electronic Text Center's collection of Best New Zealand Poems. I started reading through a few when I ran into the poem that follows. The opening line caught my attention as earlier today I had to climb up on a desk to pull down my overhead screen as it had yesterday escaped my grasp and sprung up to where it was completely unreachable from the floor. I can't yet pinpoint exactly what appeals to me about this one, but it stayed in my mind as I continued to read the others that followed, and as a result, I decided to capture it here for my Poetry Friday contribution too.

Even though it's technically been a short week, this week has felt long. In fact, I had to laugh at myself at the end of writing workshop today — just after proclaiming last night that we seemed to be back on the right track again, it all fell back apart today. Too many interruptions pulled me out the classroom and I definitely discovered this class can't handle even a minute without me present in the room! I'm glad it's the weekend and I can have a bit of time to recharge. Monday will be here again before I know it, and then it will be back to trying to get everything moving in the right direction yet again. I'm determined to get there!

But anyways: without further ado, here's the poem. Enjoy!

Busy With the Short Teacher
by Janet Charman

the short
stands on a box
to reach the top
and as she stretches up
to print
spills from her wrist
a thread of gold

the class quiet inside

while she
to a boy
in the corridor if you
you can pass

he comes back
in and sits

but throws his screw-up
at the rubbish tin on
his way

doesn’t notice
busy with
and shushing
for speeches

applause for every fourth former finishing
and beginning
to video them
the ones who want to


and a standing student weeps
straight round her desk


the class

don’t notice

The full round-up can be found at Teaching Authors this week, where JoAnn has gathered it all together.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Workshops are COMMUNITIES

So after writing my post last night, I decided to do something today that I'm really hoping maybe will bring about a change in our workshops. I gathered my students together this morning and opened my concerns to them.

It dawned on me last night that I really can't take everything onto my shoulders. If I say my goal is to have a community of writers (which IS what I want), then I have to keep the community involved. Through my years of teaching through workshops, I've learned part of the success of reading and writing workshop is from letting go of control — i.e. allowing students make their own decisions about what they're writing, what books they're choosing to read, etc. With so many different genres and ideas going at once, I have surrender some control and let my students be responsible, otherwise it's not a true workshop atmosphere.

Therefore, when I considered the problems that have kept me away from conferencing recently, it dawned on me that I have to surrender some control there too, and in this case, let my students become problem solvers along with me. So, that's exactly what I did today.

I opened the floor and asked them to name some of the things that weren't working for them as writers in writing workshop, and I got some good responses! I had one who talked about how it was hard to write when other students would come up and want to talk/conference. Another who talked about how it was hard for him and a peer to conference when other students in nearby conference corners were goofing around. In fact, any of the issues they brought up were the exact kind of problems that I've been spending so much time policing!

So then after naming the problems, we took some more time to talk about solutions. They developed an idea on their own of creating "do not disturb signs" for themselves, when they don't want disturbed by peers for peer conferences. We talked about aiming to limit conference times to 5 minutes or less to leave peer conference areas more accessible for all. And overall, I just left today's mini-lesson feeling much more optimistic about 2nd quarter. I saw through our discussion evidence that many of my students are taking things seriously as writers — they GET it! And although it's not all of them yet, it does refresh my hope that good things are going to come.

Today our independent writing time wasn't perfect (in fact, I doubt "perfect" is even possible), but for the first time in a long while, the majority of my time was spent conferencing vs. policing — and that was a *very* good feeling!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Back to reality

The last two days have been nice — an inservice day followed by a work day, otherwise known as two days off from having students — but today it was back to reality, and I must admit I'm currently still a little muddled about where exactly I'm going.

The priority first quarter (which we just completed) seemed to be survival. Now (starting second quarter) I feel like I should know where I'm going, but sadly I don't think that's reality yet. To get there, I feel like I need another work day or two, but unfortunately our next one isn't until January——a long way still off!

I hate walking into my language arts classroom and only being able to see one or two days ahead. Teaching with workshops, I feel like I need a sense of the big picture, a way to figure out how to make sure everything we need to talk about gets fit in. The number of days, hours and minutes we have together as a reading/writing community are so few and precious that I want to be sure each and every one is used well. However, in truth, I'm afraid (particularly this year) that that is not always happening.

I finished reading through a number of students' self-evaluations from first quarter this weekend and minus one student (who obviously got it) and a couple who had some promising answers, the majority had very little to tell me when asked questions that guided them to describe some of what they had learned. It worries me because at times I feel like I'm failing them as a teacher. With the time constraints and larger numbers, our workshops are running, but I don't think they are running well. I'm really struggling to find time to conference regularly with everyone. I'm trying to cover whole-class issues in mini-lessons, but right now am finding the areas of critical need greatly outnumber lesson time. Even the classroom doesn't work to our advantage — I never imagined myself complaining about having too big of a room, but I think this one is. When I'm in one corner, it seems like there's always an issue popping up across the room (talking, kid off task, etc.) and the continual need for check-in with so many students is really limiting the amount of conferencing on actual writing or reading thoughts that can get accomplished.

I'm really hoping that my feelings of current failure are imaginary, but I don't know. I know I'm tough on myself — I'm probably my worse critic, but I know it IS a fact that we're so much further behind this year than I've been at this point other years, and that does worry me.

BUT, as I did tell my students today as I gave them time to reorganize their folders, it is a new quarter...a new beginning...a fresh start, and maybe things will turn around. I least I'll hope!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Can I have more work days?

Today was a work day. :) And what makes that so special? Well, it was a teacher work day -- i.e. a day alone in my classroom to work. There was no students to worry about. I got to wear comfy clothes and got to actually enjoy lunch outside of the building. Minus two short meetings in the afternoon, the entire day was just mine to finish grades and work on getting caught up. And, wow, was it wonderful!!

I have to admit this is the first work day (minus those before the start of school or the ones after the kids have left for summer) that I remember having just for me. Where I use to teach, we had a few early dismissals that were such work afternoons, but normally any teacher work day was full of workshops and/or meetings, so this was sort of a new experience.

Yea, I know I've worked in my room many times alone. There's been countless hours spent after school and already several Saturdays or Sundays spent in there, but this was different. It was a weekday when I had to be there vs. time "volunteered" and I'm honest when I say I wish such days would come around more often. I think I'd be willing to extend the school year for the chance of a true teacher work day every couple weeks. No, I didn't get half of what was on my "to-do" list done -- but I at least erased a few things that have been on there for quite awhile. :)

Monday, November 1, 2010

NaBloPoMo Begins

So it's November 1st, and for the third year in a row, I'm in for NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month). Why? Well, I have to be honest and say I'm not one hundred percent sure. I guess, it's primarily because of the challenge and secondly it's sort like NaNoWriMo, which I love, but which I highly doubt I have time for this year. :(

Of course, that fact does makes me sad. The last two years of attempting NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) have been fun, especially as I've pulled my students into the craziness too. The amount of writing that they've produced has been amazing. The excitement so many develop for the challenge has been inspiring. The lessons it teaches I think are very good. HOWEVER: as I've bemoaned in previous blog entries, this year has brought many changes. The schedule I have to deal with for language arts has forced me to make some tough choices and there's many aspects of writing workshop that have had to be modified and/or cut out completely just simply because of time constraints. It's not something I like, but something I've convinced myself I have to live with because unfortunately the time constraint is unchangable.

And outside the classroom, for just me: free time is still at a premium. I just completed first quarter (hip, hip, hooray!) feeling like my head was only just barely above water. My life (sadly) is primarily teaching, planning & paper grading, and sleeping. Grabbing meals gets squeezed in (often while working), and I'm trying to take one weekend day off for myself (for my sanity), but beyond that time to invest in something like NaNoWriMo just doesn't exist. In fact, I'm even going into NaBloPoMo feeling like my chances for successful completion (i.e. a blog posting each and every day) are doubtful.

But like every single day already this year, I'm just going to take it one day at at time. Here with this entry Day 1 is complete. Now just 29 days to go. :)