Saturday, March 17, 2018

I Am Lucky #sol18

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In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I am listing 17 reasons, in no particular order, why I am lucky!

  1. I have been married to my best friend for 27 years
  2. I have a daughter who feels the joy of teaching on days when it is not joyous
  3. I have a son who has discovered the magic of music
  4. I have children who have made parenting way too easy
  5. I have two sisters who make being the middle child a blessing
  6. I have a mother who continues to be independent and strong
  7. I have a brother who can still be...a typical little brother
  8. I have 7 high school friends who believe that distance apart brings us closer together
  9. I am on spring break
  10. I have piles and piles of books to read this week
  11. I have great colleagues who put the laughter in teaching 
  12. I have supportive administrators who help me to see the teacher I want to become
  13. I have a PLN who nudges when needed and pushes when wanted
  14. I don't have to set an alarm for nine glorious days
  15. I have a roof over my head even if the inside is in need of cleaning
  16. I have the opportunity to continue learning 
  17. I have another slice written!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Ordinary Lives #sol18

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Today's date means we are half-way finished with the Slice of Life Challenge. There have been days when I thought I wasn't going to make it this far.

This year has been different.

It has been difficult.

My plate is full.

Today, I think about these words from Ralph Fletcher, and I carry on

in search of a story.

Writers aren't people 
who have had amazing lives. 
Writers are people 
who find powerful stories 
in their ordinary lives.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Real Authors Use Semicolons #sol18

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This week we have been learning about and using semicolons in our writing.

One student asked, "Do real authors use these?"


"I don't remember seeing semicolons in any book I have ever read," said another student.

"It's because you haven't noticed them; you weren't looking for them.  I bet if you look now, you will find them."

And the chase was on to see who could find one first.  Throughout the room I heard, "Oh, I found one. Here's one. Have you found one yet?"

Finally, they conceded, "I guess you were right, Mrs. Eck. Real authors do use semicolons."

Next up are colons, and I thought this one might take a little more convincing.  Until I found this graphic after school:

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Like a Mom #sol18

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I live in Indiana, and if you know anything about living in Indiana this time of year, then you know that it is basketball tournament time.  Basketball is king...or in my case queen.

My daughter and I were watching the girls state finals on TV a couple of weeks ago. The team who had beat them in the tournament was playing. We were both talking and commenting on the game. You know, the good plays and the bad moments and the players/teams we did or didn't like.

My daughter Megan and sister Janis
coached high school basketball together
for the first time this year.

She looked at me and said, "You watch basketball like a mom."

Thinking that I didn't hear her right, I asked her to repeat it.

"You watch basketball like a mom."

"What does that mean?"

She shook her head and said, "You just do."

Although I have never played basketball, it has been a huge part of my life and has been a connection between my daughter and my sister. 

I started adding up the years that I have watched girls basketball:

Megan - 10 years as a player
Megan -  7 years as a coach
Sister -    4 years as a player (played college ball but I didn't get to see many of those)
Sister -  10 years as a coach here in our hometown

Total years - 31 years collectively.

Yeah, I think I have earned the right to watch like a mom!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Lemonade Stand #sol18

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My husband has saved some unusual things from our children's childhood. Many are tucked away here and there, and some hang from his workbench. Many are endearing and bring back such special memories.  This is all of those.

It was far from freshly squeezed!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Where Have All the Readers Gone? #sol18

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Last week our high school newspaper shared this survey.

This is alarming.

This is scary.

This is so, so wrong.

As someone who is a literacy advocate and who promotes independent reading, I am confounded. I don't see how this (no matter how unscientific and unreliable the results may be) can be acceptable to any English teacher.

This survey led me to reflect on my own beliefs about independent reading and how those beliefs affect my students. It also makes me wonder where have all the readers gone?

I believe...

  • if we talk about books, students will read
  • if we have well-stocked classroom libraries, students will read
  • if we place independent reading at the center of our classrooms, students will read
  • if we give students choice, students will read
  • if we limit whole class novels, students will read
  • if we make reading a social activity, students will read
  • if we, as teachers, read what our students read, students will read

Usually, what we expect, is what we get. 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Since Last March... #sol18

Join Two Writing Teachers and other teacher-writers as we share a slice of life every single day in the month of March.

A popular slice has been one where the slicer shares things that have happened since last March. I thought I would use this idea today.

Since last March...

  • I have written 51 ones blog posts (that's about 25 behind the previous year)
  • My son left for college
  • My daughter began her 3rd year of teaching
  • I celebrated 27 years of marriage
  • My sister became a cancer survivor
  • I lost my 92 year old grandmother
  • I organized a one book, one district, one community reading of the book Wonder
  • I began working toward my Master's degree
  • I presented at two conferences
  • I co-created a Twitter chat, a Facebook group, and a supportive tribe of teacher-writers
  • I was asked to help submit a proposal for NCTE this fall (if accepted, it will be my first one!)
  • I chose STEP as my one little word
because every journey begins with a single step.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Capture the Moment #sol18

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"Being in the moment is becoming more important 
than capturing the moment."

I heard this quote in the middle of a discussion on K-LOVE radio today. The woman was talking about how technology, specifically the use of cameras on our phones, has changed the way we capture moments.

She went on to discuss a wedding she attended and how the guests were using cell phones to take pictures of the bride walking down the aisle.  People had pictures out on social media before the bride even said, "I do."

Are we becoming a society who is placing too much importance on being in the moment? Are we becoming a society who wants to be first to let the world know about something?  Is our desire to be part of the moment over stretching our boundaries and preventing us from capturing it?


This quote had me thinking about my writing life. As writers, I think we do both. I find myself (especially during the month of March) being more in tune with the moments of my day and paying attention to my world. 

I walk around with a metaphorical butterfly net, just watching and waiting.

To use the words from Andy Schoenborn, we "freeze-frame" those moments and stack words to capture them. It's what we do as writers.

We capture the moment while being present in the moment.

Today, go out into the world, 
                                       be in the moment, 

                                                            and capture it.

Friday, March 9, 2018

A Buzz #sol18

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It's been awhile since I've had a buzz...and I don't mean the adult beverage kind. I'm talking about the language arts buzz in the hallway.

We read an Article of the Week on a regular basis in our classroom. I try to find articles that will appeal to 6th graders or ones that feature current events that I feel my students need to know about and understand.  This week I chose one about Logan Paul and his You Tube video about the suicide forrest.  It was an opinion article, and I felt like it would create some interesting conversations in our classroom.  I found out they had some very strong opinions of their own.

Kids came in asking, "Are we really reading about Logan Paul?"

"Yes, we are."

After class they ran to their friends telling them about the article.  Students in the math class next door overheard me and asked the math teacher, "Did Mrs. Eck just say Logan Paul?  Does she know who he is?"

Actually, I didn't before I heard about the video on social media.  But they don't need to know that!

I'll just let them keep thinking that they have a pretty cool language arts teacher!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

I'd rather... #sol18

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The other day I read a post by Michelle Haseltine at One grateful Teacher about her love for mornings.  I am not a morning person, and her post inspired me to think about personal preferences.  

I'd rather stay up late than get up early.  I prefer to reflect on the day instead of anticipate a new one.  I like listening to the stillness of the night instead of the noisiness of the morning.  Although I do not sleep late, I am at my best at night.

I'd rather read a paper book than a digital book.  I prefer to turn the pages with my fingers and breathe in the smell of a new book. I like using my special bookmarks instead of a ribbon icon to mark my place. Buying books and organizing them on my shelves makes me smile.

I'd rather pile things up than put them away.  I prefer to be a "piler" and I admit it. Piling occurs in my home, my classroom, and even my desktop on my computer. But I can usually tell you which pile something is in.

I'd rather eat something salty than something sweet. I prefer chips and crunch as a snack. Now, I won't turn down a sweet offered to me, but I would typically reach for the chips.  

I'd rather slice in the morning than wait unil the evening.  I prefer to have my slices written the day before posting...although I AM a procrastinator.  Unfortunately, these past few days, that hasn't happened.

Thank you, Michelle, for inspiring this quick slice for today! Now, I am off to write my post for tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

What's on your happy list? #sol18

Join Two Writing Teachers and other teacher-writers as we share a slice of life every single day in the month of March.

I keep a draft in my blog file for slice ideas. Sometimes I remember where I got the idea or who inspired it.

and sometimes I don't - as in the case of this slice.

Do you notice those smalls things that make you happy?  I don't mean the blissfully content kind of happy.  But the little things that make you smile and tickle your heart.

Check out this video on keeping a happy list. (If nothing else, just listen to his voice; its mesmerizing.)

"What if happiness is the practice of the slow calligraphy of these small gestures?"

    Here is the beginning of my happy list.
  • all my socks matching in a load of laundry
  • waking up in the middle of the night and realizing I still have hours of sleep left
  • the sound of a book spine cracking for the first time
  • the smell of a book
  • a new box of crayons
  • stopping on an even dollar amount at the gas pump
  • grabbing a stack of papers to pass out and having the exact amount I needed
  • my grocery bill totaling an even amount
  • the smell of rain
  • just enough ketchup for my french fries
  • today's slice
  • meeting deadlines - see yesterday's post!

What would be on your happy list?  I think I will keep adding to this list as I think more about what makes me happy.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Twenty-Four Hours in a Day #sol18

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Today is one of those days where I told myself, "I don't have time to write a slice. I have a yearbook with a deadline.  I need sleep. I don't have time."

And then I remembered this quote and told myself, "We all have the same twenty-four hours in a day."

"Get over it."

Monday, March 5, 2018

A Tale of Two Skies #sol18

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As I drove to school today I had two different views. I think God was sending me a message.



you are given both
you decide

What sky are you going to choose today?

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Stages of Procrastination! #sol18

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I knew today would happen.  But I didn't expect it on Day 4 of the challenge.

You see, I am a procrastinator.  I try to write my slice a day ahead. Or at least plan a few slices ahead for those days when I have been caught behind a deadline or a due date or just flat out behind.

Yesterday was that day.

I am our school's yearbook sponsor, which means I create the entire book by myself. The due date is March 12th.  But knowing that I am a procrastinator, I gave myself the due date of Monday.

Now, I know you're thinking that isn't procrastinating, right? I gave myself eight extra days, right?

But I hadn't even started yet!

And that is for another slice....

Graphic found on Pinterest

Yes, I am in the crisis stage!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Signs of Spring #sol18

Join Two Writing Teachers and other teacher-writers as we share a slice of life every single day in the month of March.

I am also celebrating my week with Ruth Ayres.  Here's what I am celebrating today!

Today my daughter and I pull up to the school, and she lets out a faint gasp.

"What?" I ask her.

"Look at how light it is today!  I hadn't really noticed it until today. Right this minute. But look!"

I pick up my bag and look around.  I, too, notice the difference in the 7:00 am light and say, "This must be a sign that spring is near."

After school, I look around and notice things are a-changing.

Red maples open their doors, 
greeting us with hello.

Daffodils stick out their tongues, mocking Ole Man Winter.

Tulips hint at planting a kiss, leaving behind their red lipstick stain.

Yes, spring is coming!

Friday, March 2, 2018

How Silly of Me! #sol18

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At the end of the school day, teachers stand in the hall, say good-bye to students, and talk about our day. Yesterday I was standing with the teacher from the room beside me, and we were waiting on her son to arrive from the elementary school.

As Landon runs down the hall to greet his mom with a kiss, he announces with the excitement of a six year old, "Mommy, if we get 100 leaves on our tree, we get donuts!"

His mom, wanting to know more about this tree, asks, "Well, how do you get the leaves on the tree?"

I quietly say with much just a little sarcasm, "It's probably for stupid AR points."

Landon looks at me a little puzzled and explains how any first grader would, " glue 'em."

How silly of me!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

It's a Party! #sol18

Join Two Writing Teachers and other teacher-writers as we share a slice of life every single day in the month of March.

I am kicking off this year's challenge the same way as last year - with a party!

This is the slice that keeps on sharing. Sometime this month when you need a slice, (and yes, you know it WILL happen!) accept this invitation to my party.  The best part is that you can stop by anytime during the month, but here is the catch.  You have to bring five items that are listed on the invitation below. 

What a great way for us introduce ourselves and get to know each other a little bit better as the month moves along.  Imagine a big party full of slicers!

Here is what I am bringing:

Favorite book:  This is a difficult one for me because I have so many favorite books. I will have to go with my favorite book I have read so far this year, and that would be Scythe by Neal Shusterman.  This book has been spreading through my room almost as fast as the flu virus! 

Favorite person:  I would bring my sister, Janis.  She is a fellow teacher, a cancer survivor, and one of the most positive people I know, and she brings life to any party she attends.  Although we are nothing alike, I know you will love her!

Favorite food or beverage:  We have a local pizza place, Bobe's, that has been around since the 1950's.  We have people who have lived here and moved away, and Bobe's is always a stopping place when they come back to visit.  Some people even have these pizzas mailed to them!  They are that good.

Favorite song:  When I was in high school, our basketball team won the state championship.  And if you know anything about Indiana basketball, then you know basketball is king.  Those four weeks of high school are some of my fondest memories. The song Celebrate by Kool and the Gang was played at every pep session and became our theme song.  And since it's a party, why not CELEBRATE!

Surprise:  I would bring each of you a notebook to record our laughs and memories of our time together.  What a great party this would be!

Thank you for stopping by today.  I hope you consider joining me sometime this month and bring along a few friends. Don't forget to RSVP when you post by either commenting here or tweeting me @Teachr4.  That way I can include you in this post and we can all share in the party fun! Last year we had 24 slicers join us, and I can't wait to see who all attends this year!

Let's get this party started!

Look who is coming!

Kendra from Simply Learning Together
Dani from Doing the Work That Matters
Wendy from Chaulk It Up!
Michelle from One Grateful Teacher
Sarah from Read. Reflect. Teach

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Every Journey Starts with a Single Step

I am so thankful for Ruth Ayres, who extends an invitation to share the celebrations from our week.  Here's what I am celebrating today!

Last September I took a big step in my journey as a teacher. I began working on my Master's degree. I am ready for a different turn in my journey, and I knew this path was the one I needed to take.  

Looking back at that first assignment, I remember the tears and the doubt and the fear, and I honestly didn't know if I could do it.  With the empty nest on the horizon, I knew it wasn't a matter of running kids here and there and being present in their lives. I had the time. Teaching full time is a challenge, but now that I had taught 6th grade for three years, I felt comfortable with my curriculum.  The workload wasn't the problem.

My biggest fear stemmed from own self-doubt.  Could I really do this at my age?  At the age of 54, many teachers are thinking about retirement, and I am thinking about stepping out into a bigger circle in the education world.

Today, I celebrate learning, as my first semester officially ends this week. Yes, I did it!

When I chose step as my one little word this year, the decision to go to grad school was a big part of it.  Now I am ready to swing my arms back and jump to the next rock.

And I can't wait to see where this journey takes me.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Table is Full, Momma

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for creating this space for me to share my corner of the world.

Our son is away at college, although "away at college" equates to only 60 miles.  I know I am lucky because I get to see him more often than most college parents.

Although my daughter still lives at home, my husband and I have slowly adapted to a quieter house, lower food bills, and less laundry.  But it is still difficult to see one less plate at the dining room table.

Our dining room table has been our gathering place. We have laughed and cried.  We have rolled out cookies and played board games.  We have carved pumpkins and completed homework.  We have written research papers and filled out job applications. But nothing gave my husband and I more joy than sitting down and eating a meal together.
Life happened at our dining room table.

Our dining room table has changed.  I have moved to my son's spot, and books and papers are stacked at mine.  My husband and I eat meals together, just the two of us.  Now, I grade papers by myself instead of helping the kids with homework. The baked cookies are now half-batches because they go stale before we can eat them all.

Yes, the dining room table has changed.

Recently, Ethan came home for a Sunday afternoon visit, (and if the truth be told, a home-cooked meal!) As we all sat down to eat, we shared stories and laughs, just like we always have.

My husband looked at me and said, "The table is full, Momma!"

Yes, it was.
Life still happens at our dining room table.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

A Hole In My Cape

I believe teaching is a difficult profession, yet one of the most important and rewarding. Children sit in our classrooms today and tomorrow will be the ones leading us, taking care of us, and making decisions which will impact all of us.

That is a humbling thought.

Many people see teachers as super-heroes.  If this image is accurate, then my cape got a hole last week.

Without giving too many details, I was verbally attacked by a group of students.

I was in the middle of working with them through a difficult text, and they were not doing their part in the learning process.  Because of their behavior, I stopped teaching and had a conversation about the importance of learning, graduating high school, and finding a good job in order to support themselves.  I told them it starts in sixth grade.

I am sure many of us have had similar conversations at some point with our students.

Sadly, they took my words, twisted them, and spit them out with a "strong dislike" for me, teachers, and school in general.  They became enraged and took that rage out on me.

The next day, I talked with the dean of students, and I requested that no suspensions be given.  However, I assured him I would stand by the consequences they thought would be best.

Later that day, a few students came in and said they owed me a thank you for not getting them suspended.  Another one asked why I would do that.

A third one, who was not involved in the incident but is a student in the class, quietly replied, "Because she is nice."

I didn't do it because I am nice.  I did it because after much thinking, I felt it was the right thing to do.

  • I want them to know they have a voice, but that doesn't mean their voice needs to be disrespectful or full of hate.  Suspending them would only send a message that their words don't matter to me. I want them to know they have a voice in my classroom.
  • I know suspending them would not lead to the results I want.  I want a community of learners who listen to each other, who question perspectives, who discuss problems, and who collaborate and work together to find solutions.  Suspending them would not get me those results; it would only feed the anger.

I know that I need to learn from this experience as much as they do. Reflecting back on that day, I have questions of my own and answers to find.  Why do they dislike school so much?  What can I do to teach them how to handle disagreements? How do I show them to use their voice in a positive way? How do I rebuild those relationships? How can I get them to understand that literacy is the key to opening up their world to all that is possible?

But the most important question I have from all of this is where do we go from here?  I have a three day weekend to think about how I will handle things on Tuesday afternoon.  
Yes, my cape got a hole last week, but thankfully, I know how to sew.  I will wrap that thread up in resilience, compassion, and respect.  And hopefully, we will patch that hole up together.