Tuesday, March 31, 2020

A Half a Month of Writing

This month I am participating in the 13th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. Visit Two Writing Teachers for more information.

Today ends my first ever Slice of Life Story Challenge. I joined when Two Writing Teachers sent out the invitation to latecomers, so technically I have not participated in the entire challenge. When I first began, even though I only needed to write for half a month, I wasn't sure if I could keep up with writing every day. Well, fifteen posts later, it turns out that I could do it! On this last day, it seems fitting to reflect on the challenge. These are my three big take aways:

  • Writing every day is hard! Writing isn't something that comes easy to me so there were days when I had to force myself to write. Even on days when I didn't want to write, I was always glad I did. This is kind of how I feel about exercise sometimes. Like exercise is good for my body, I think writing has been good for my mind.
  • Some days, I quickly came up with an idea to write about and, other days, I spent the entire day thinking before an idea popped into my head. This made me think about my students and how sometimes they are expected to come up with an idea quickly, such as on a state assessment - this doesn't seem like a realistic expectation.
  • A writing community is important. I have enjoyed the Slice of Life writing community because it inspired my own writing. Knowing that others were writing every day and sometimes struggling with it, too, made me feel like I wasn't alone on this writing journey. Reading others' posts has also made me feel less alone in life. Reading others' perspectives and thoughts has provided me comfort during a trying time, but also possibilities for how I can respond differently to life or do better. Writing is truly a way to connect and learn about and from each other.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers and the entire writing community for this wonderful half a month of writing and sharing!

Monday, March 30, 2020

Recent Reads

Every Monday, I participate in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, hosted by Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers, and share my recent reads. This month I am also participating in the 13th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. Visit Two Writing Teachers for more information. 

Spending so much time at home, I have much more time to read. But, with all that's going on in the world and the challenges of figuring out how to support learners from home, I've found that concentrating on reading is not so easy. I would think, I would have read a lot more than usual, but I really haven't. I am glad for the reading I have been able to do.

Recent Reads...

Don't Worry, Little Crab by Chris Haughton

I love this book! Little Crab and Big Crab are at the edge of the ocean. Little Crab takes slow, hesitant steps towards the ocean and starts to question the decision to go in while Big Crab encourages him. An enormous wave sweeps them under and Little Crab discovers the wonder, beauty, and adventure of the ocean depths. This is a sweet story of courage and friendship. 

Knot Cannot by Tiffany Stone and Mike Lowery

Knot is envious of all the things that Snake can do and he cannot. A bird puts Snake in danger and Knot puts her greatest strength to use. This is a clever and humorous story with a message about appreciating one's strengths. 

Brooklyn Bailey, the Missing Dog by Amy Sohn, Orna LePape and Libby VanderPloeg

Yotam's dog is startled and runs away. Yotam's neighbors assist in helping to bring Bailey back home. This is not just a story of a dog who finds his way back home, but also one about community.

Tornado Brain by Cat Patrick

Frankie and her twin sister are very different from each other and have a rocky relationship. Frankie believes it's her sister's fault that her friendship with Colette, who she has known since kindergarten, came to an end. Now Colette is missing and Frankie becomes involved in figuring out what happened. This is a mystery and a heartfelt story of friendship. It's also an insightful book, as Frankie is neurodiverse, and readers get a glimpse into her thoughts and emotions.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Daffodils Will Show Up

This month I am participating in the 13th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. Visit Two Writing Teachers for more information.

One of my favorite places is Newport, RI. Luckily, I live close enough that I can spend frequent time there. I love the beaches. Some of my favorite restaurants are there. There is a coffee shop that gets plentiful sun in the morning and through the afternoon where I enjoy going to sip a green tea and read. A tennis match is really fun on the grass courts at The International Tennis Hall of Fame. Running on the Cliff Walk, a path that runs along the coast, or biking on Ocean Drive provide stunning views of the ocean that take my breath away every time. There's always people around, too. No matter what time of year, there are people enjoying the sights, the restaurants, the beaches.

I often do my shopping at a wonderful market in Newport that specializes in organic products. That's where I went yesterday to pick up some fresh fruit and vegetables and while I was there I took a drive around. The city was the quietest I've ever seen it. There were little people walking around. With restaurants only open for takeout and the shops closed, there's not much reason for people to be there. There were still some people enjoying walks on the beach, but definitely not the typical crowd for a Saturday. 

I was heading out of Newport, towards home, when I noticed the daffodils. Every April, Newport celebrates the beginning of spring with Daffodil Days. There's a week or so of festivities as the daffodils are in bloom. Daffodils have been planted in various places throughout the city and even businesses and residents have displays of daffodils. Over a million daffodils have been planted throughout Newport since Daffodil Days began. Daffodil Days are joyous days, filled with the anticipation of the warm weather to come. The color brings more beauty to a city already filled with remarkable views. 


Daffodil Days have been canceled for this year, but the daffodils are showing up regardless. The celebration will not be the same this year, but we can still celebrate the beauty of the flower that is a harbinger of spring and a symbol of new beginnings. As the daffodils continue to bloom, we can anticipate the better days that are to come.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Five Ways that Technology Made Me Happy This Week

This month I am participating in the 13th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. Visit Two Writing Teachers for more information.

Social distancing and sheltering in our homes is quite a new way of living. There's so much I'm missing like going to the coffee shop to read, meeting friends and family for dinner, and going to work where I can see students and colleagues in person. As challenging as it is, I feel very lucky that we're living in a time in which technology makes parts of life easier and provides us options to connect with each other. I keep thinking about life growing up in the eighties and how much of what we are doing to connect with each other today wouldn't have been possible then. As I reflect on the week, I am thinking about the ways that technology has made me happy this week.

  • Through videoconferencing, I participated in a group workout with about fifty other people. The workout usually takes place on the beach once a week, but instead everyone followed along from their homes.
  • I ordered and had delivered right to my door step some things I need (another pair of lounge pants) and things I don't need, but make me happy (felt tip pens).
  • My book review group, #BookExcursion, met up virtually to chat about life, teaching and learning, and books. This is the first time we've done this and it was a lot of fun.
  • Through two Facebook group pages (one devoted to exercise and the other to books), I connected with colleagues. We're sharing what we're doing to stay fit and what we're reading both to motivate each other and just to stay in touch.
  • I worked from home as I met with teachers to plan ways to support students and connected with classes through videoconferencing and Google Classroom.
In the eighties, we had snail mail and telephone party lines. Connecting to others definitely would have been much harder than it is today, so this week I am grateful for all the ways technology has helped to make my life easier and better.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Friendship and Spring Air

This month I am participating in the 13th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. Visit Two Writing Teachers for more information.

Yesterday was one of those days that hint at the warmer, greener days that are coming. There was bright sun and the temperature rose into the fifties. March days often still require a jacket in New England, so it's always welcome when we get a sweater-only day.

I actually almost missed it. I had gone outside for a run early in the morning before the sun had fully risen and the temperature was still chilly. Then I spent the morning in front of my laptop checking and responding to emails, attending a videoconference, and gathering ideas and resources to support students' remote learning. If not for the message a friend had sent me in the early afternoon, I think I would have been oblivious to the treat that Mother Nature had sent.

My friend had suggested a walk on the bike path in the town where she lives with the promise that we'd stay six feet away from each other. We met up in the parking lot. We haven't seen each other for months, but we didn't hug. We walked together, at an appropriate social distance. We chatted about teaching and learning - she's also an educator - and about life. This was the first time all week that I saw someone in person for more than just a passing few seconds.

The isolation of the week has been hard, so the friendship and the spring air were just what I needed. And to think I might have missed this opportunity! Feeling these days like my laptop is an extension of my body, I am going to make a more conscious effort to step away from the screen every day.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Courage is Strength and a Choice

This month I am participating in the 13th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. Visit Two Writing Teachers for more information.

A topic I've been thinking about recently is courage. Courage is strength and it comes in many forms. It can be big or small or loud or quiet. Courage is extraordinary acts, but also every day ones, as well. It's running into danger, but also a step forward into uncertainty or a breath in the face of doubt.

Recently, I took a survey that helped me to identify my character strengths. I don't need that survey to tell me that exhibiting courage is not one of them. I'm not a risk-taker. I am most comfortable with the familiar. I like to know what is coming next. I have a strong drive for perfection, so I tend to follow the rules and play it safe by sticking to what I know best.

As a teacher these days, I feel that I am in, what is for me, uncharted waters. Although I believe there is always a need to grow and learn professionally, generally I am pretty confident in my abilities to provide the best literacy instruction possible to my students. My confidence to do this virtually is at about zero. Teaching and learning does not feel familiar to me right now and it all feels uncomfortable. Whether it's a strength of mine or not, I need to summon all my courage to navigate the path of what is our new reality of schooling.

Don't Worry, Little Crab by Chris Haughton
In Don't Worry, Little Crab by Chris Haughton, Little Crab and Big Crab stand at the edge of the ocean. Little Crab takes very slow, hesitant steps while thinking that maybe going in the ocean is not such a great idea after all and even asking to go home. Big Crab stands by Little Crab's side and provides encouragement the entire time. When an enormous wave whooshes the two crabs deep into the ocean, Little Crab finds himself in a world of wonder and adventure that he didn't know existed. Today and tomorrow and for however long it takes until we return to teaching and learning as we know it, I have to be Little Crab. One step forward and then another. Courage is a strength, but it's also a choice.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Using Strengths in New Ways for Happiness

This month I am participating in the 13th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. Visit Two Writing Teachers for more information.

Over the weekend, I started the course, The Science of Well-Being, modeled after a popular course on well-being and happiness taught at Yale University. I've completed the first week of the course and have already gained insight into the concept of happiness and well-being. The course is intended to provide information related to the science of happiness, but also to encourage participants to actually practice habits that will support happiness and well-being. One of the underlying principles of the course is that knowing is not merely enough. In order to make something happen or to change, we actually need to put something into practice based on what we know. Throughout each week of the course, there is a habit related to happiness to put into practice.

The habit to practice the first week is using your signature strengths. The course included a link to a survey that revealed my top strengths. The recommended goal is to try and use these strengths in different ways each day of the week. According to the survey, one of my top strengths is honesty. If I wanted to use the strength of honesty in a different way, I could do something such as write a poem revealing an inner truth.

Another strength I have, which doesn't surprise me, is the love of learning. To use this strength in a different way, I did some research on running. Although running is one of my favorite things, it's not a topic I spend too much time learning about. I sometimes read up on the newest running sneakers or exercises that may benefit runners, but I've never delved into any science associated with running. A Google Search led me to this video, The Connection Between Running and the Brain. Having been a runner for many years, I know from personal experience that running is good for the brain. It helps to clear my mind and to relieve stress. What I didn't know before watching the video is that there is scientific evidence that supports the idea that running is beneficial to the brain and that there is a connection between running and mindfulness and meditation. Now when someone asks me about the benefits of running, I can say more than, "it's good exercise."

Reflecting on just this one moment in which I used my signature strengths, I can see how it's a practice that supports happiness. Putting strengths to use is a way to focus on what one is best at doing and that provides a sense of empowerment and joy.

I have started a Voxer Chat to discuss this course further with other educators who are taking it. If you are taking the course and interested in joining the chat, let me know.