Poetry Friday: Haiku

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Click here to link up with #PoetryFriday

Where I live in northwest Montana, winter can feel like an eternity. Cloudy inversions can drop into our valley for days, sometimes even weeks on end before a cold clear day brings the glorious sunshine back, if even for only a day.

One way to cope with dreary Montana winters (short of denning-in like our native grizzlies) is to embrace our surroundings. For me, this meant a brisk hike with my pups in a nearby state park last weekend. While working our way up a favorite trail, it seemed I was seeing the forest through different eyes. Perhaps it was the stark white landscape that drew my eyes to see what I had passed by so many times last summer. Dead, decaying trees full of holes jumped out at me as if I had never seen them before.

I recalled past field trips with my students in Glacier National Park, where rangers taught us about the amazing biome of old-growth forests, and the importance of dying and decaying trees. On my hike, it seemed all my eyes found were these trees; homes to birds, squirrels, insects, and other winter resistors.

It has been a while since I attempted a poem, but I could feel inspiration bubbling up in me as I continued my hike. I haven’t tried a haiku, so with the continuing encouragement and mentoring from my good friend, Margaret Simon, I share this poem in celebration of and appreciation for old-growth forests.

Not what I once was,I appear hollow, lifeless.Look closely and see.I am valuable.A hunting perch for raptors,Colonized by an (4)

Thank you to Jan @ bookseedstudio for hosting today’s #PoetryFriday link-up!

Spiritual Journey First Thursday: #OneWord2018

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Another trip around the sun has brought many of us to a place of reflection on the past year, with an opportunity to consider the possibilities of what lies ahead on our next 365 day journey. While I have had some successful New Year’s resolutions in the past, I willingly admit there have been many more that didn’t make it into February.

This is my first year to choose One Little Word. I have considered choosing one since first hearing about this movement in 2016, but never quite found myself motivated to actually commit until now. I have been mulling the idea around in my head for a few weeks, trying hard to encapsulate all that I want to improve about myself and narrow it down into a single word.

Then I came across the following quote, and found my word.

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Intentional: Planned or intended. Something that is intentional is done deliberately. It is something done by choice.

When it comes to considering the vision I have for bettering myself in 2018, being truly intentional in everything I do is a challenging aspiration. I know the weaknesses in my character, and the habits that creep into my day-to-day life that often don’t align with this word.

But that is the challenge in committing to One Little Word, isn’t it?

Change means looking honestly and deeply at what isn’t working. As a professional plate-spinner, I habitually gather too many superfluous materials, schedule too many commitments, and take on too many projects. In so doing, what I find is that in the flurry of my spinning plates, much of what I am trying to accomplish is done simply with the goal of completion. Focus is blurred. Joy is lost. Recipients of my attention are robbed of a meaningful exchange.

My hope with this One Little Word is for fewer plates. Being intentional is going to mean that I trim the margin in many areas of my life in order to leave room for deliberate choices that can receive all of my focus. Out of this I hope to experience deeper growth in my professional life, more meaningful relationships, and a renewed appreciation for intentionally choosing the things that matter most.

Intentional

Thank you to my friend, Margaret Simon, for hosting this week’s link-up, and for gently nudging me to join in.

#MustReadIn2018

At the start of the new year I have enjoyed reading the many blog posts featuring The Best Of 2017 book lists. My go-to bloggers with the very best lists include Nerdy Book Club, Dylan Teut, and two of my favorite podcasters; from All The Wonders, Matthew C Winner, and from Books Between, Corrina Allen. If you are looking for excellent lists of the best books from 2017, you will find them on any and all of these posts, guaranteed.

I have been encouraged to see many of the titles on these lists are books I discovered and read this past year. I was also excited to find even more titles I somehow missed along the way. When I recently stumbled upon a tweet from Jill Merkle sharing her blogpost about joining Carrie Gelson’s #MustReadIn2018 challenge, I was instantly motivated to put together my own TBR list for 2018.

As a kindergarten teacher, I read a lot of picture books, but it also important to me stay immersed in middle grade books. I strive to diversify across the genres, so my lists span a variety of books that included both fiction and nonfiction. When I drafted my first list, I had over 30 titles! Of course I will keep all of these titles on my radar, but for my #MustReadIn2018 list, I whittled it down to 9 picture books and 6 chapter books.

What I appreciate about Carrie’s challenge is the opportunity for participants to post 3 updates during 2018 to share progress on their reading. I look forward to reading others’ posts and continually be kept abreast of the must-reads in the year ahead, as well as share what I have read and recommend to others.

Do you have a #MustReadIn2018 list? There are no hard and fast rules to join the movement; just a passion for reading and a love of sharing what you are reading! Simply go to Carrie’s website, https://thereisabookforthat.com

Celebrate: Montana National Writing Project 2017

I just completed 2 weeks at Montana’s National Writing Project. It was an incredible 10 days of learning full of writing, sharing, and fantastic, focused learning around writing instruction. The 30+ teacher educators I learned alongside were amazing and represented a wide variety of teaching backgrounds, making the overall experience unforgettable.

Having never attended a NWP institute, I was not entirely sure what to expect. What I came to discover was the NWP experience is what you bring in, what you presently & concurrently engage in as you participate in the work, and what you purposefully take back to your classroom and implement with your students.

You will write! A lot. Makes sense, since it is the Montana Writing Project, right? After all, we are all teachers of writing in one capacity or another, and if we are going to expect our students to write, we should ourselves embrace & delve into the writing process.

And what better place to do that than here! Surrounded by supportive leaders who want only to see each participant grow and succeed in bettering their instructional practice. The MTWP is a safe, inviting, and engaging environment for any educator who wishes to improve both as a teacher and a writer.

The leadership team painstakingly ensures that everything participants do has been thoughtfully planned in advance and is meticulously supported with the appropriate balance of resources, activities, and solid model teaching. Despite the fact we are a group of 30+ educators who teach K-16, each one of us I am certain left class each day having been challenged, renewed, and feeling empowered as teachers.

The MTWP builds literacy leaders. The leadership team models this for us as classroom teachers themselves just like the rest of us. This is powerful to me personally. Often I think classroom teachers equate educational leaders to consultants, professors, and administrators exclusively. While these educators certainly do sit in positions of leadership from whom we can and do learn a great deal from, classroom teachers must also see themselves as powerful leaders who have valuable and insightful first-hand knowledge to share.

The daily in-the-trenches experiences we all have from our presence in classrooms each day, working side-by-side with students gives us a different platform to stand on. Not to imply that we know more or are the experts, but rather that we can share the here-and-now of both the challenges and victories that come right out of our classrooms. We understand the struggles that come with unmotivated learners, unreliable technology, and unrealistic demands on our time. We live it. Every.single.day.

Those who don’t let themselves get weighed down in the muck and mire of the struggles but instead persevere, believing that their unmotivated student will show up in class today, the day’s lesson will be engaging, and the students will meet the learning goals for the unit of study are the teachers who need to step into leadership roles.

It doesn’t have to be a 3-hour Powerpoint presentation to every teacher in the district. It doesn’t even have to be sharing at a staff meeting (but that is a great place to start). Instead, it could just simply be sharing with your grade level colleagues and a PLC. Inviting them to watch you teach a lesson, then offering to watch them and share feedback with each other.

My experience at the Montana National Writing Project taught me that leadership can start small. It just needs to start.

Thank you, Ruth Ayres, for creating a place for teachers to Celebrate. Share your story of celebration with others by clicking the image below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Friday: This Is Just To Say

I am enjoying my final day at the Montana National Writing Project. It has been an incredible 2 weeks of learning on the campus of the University of Montana with a diverse group of K-16 educators.

Earlier this week we were introduced to a unique style of poetry known as This Is Just To Say. You can read the original here and/or discover a wonderful book full of them here. As a fledgling poet, I was immediately drawn to the unique approach to this style of poetry, and was excited for the opportunity to try one in our workshop.

I hope you enjoy my piece, and if you have not ever written one yourself, I encourage you to have a go with one – and share it with me!

This Is Just To Say

Thank you to Heidi @ My Juicy Little Universe for hosting Poetry Friday today. Please share your poetry with everyone by clicking the image below.

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SOL: Here & Now…Remembering Here & Then

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Today I arrived for my first day of the Montana Writing Project, a 2-week institute which is part of the National Writing Project. It is taking place on the campus I attended for the final 3 semesters of my undergraduate work. While I have visited the campus for various events since I was a student here, I found myself feeling quite different today, returning as a student.

As I arrived on campus this morning, I found myself doing the math in my head, realizing it was 20 years ago when I arrived in June to take 6 weeks of summer coursework. My now 23 year-old daughter was 3, and as a single mom, it made more sense for her to remain at home with my mom and dad, while I made the 2 hours commute back and forth on weekends.

Walking the campus this morning, I found myself flooded with vivid memories of a time so long ago, yet it felt like it was yesterday. The sights and sounds of familiar buildings I spent a great deal of time in brought the details of those days back to the forefront of my mind, and I found myself feeling a bit like I was back in time momentarily, reflecting on so many memories filled with both struggle and joy.

I remembered the Sunday afternoon I had to say goodbye to my daughter, who had been diagnosed with pneumonia just that morning in the E.R. My parents were my heroes in moments like that. Their support and encouragement as I worked to earn my teaching degree was fierce, and their love for their granddaughter was exponentially fiercer. I knew she was in the best hands, and over the next weeks, my mom would email me every day detailing all of their daily activities so that I never felt far away from my little girl. I didn’t know why at the time,  but I printed those emails, and still have every one. I dug them out when my mom passed away in 2016, and the comfort they brought me is immeasurable.

I watched my little girl grow up, and just one year ago, watched as she graduated on this campus. Interestingly, when we were here for graduation, I didn’t find myself experiencing the same flood of emotions I did today. Perhaps that is because it was her day, and her celebration. Today it feels like my day, and my reflection. To be here, and remember then.

 

DigiLitSunday: Problem Solving

As teachers, much of what we do on a daily basis revolves around problem solving. Classroom management challenges, instructional pitfalls (both expected & unexpected), students who are not progressing in an intervention, collegial relationships under strain…the list can sometimes feel never-ending.

I am a go-to problem solver. It is how I am wired. When it comes to problems that arise within the walls of my classroom or my school, dialoguing in the company of my colleagues is one of the best places to be where problem solving can take root and impact students, teachers, and systems positively.

This morning I listened to a powerful podcast around this very topic. Cornelius Minor shared how teachers can build an effective teaching team using the analogy of superheros. Everyone has something to contribute to a cause, and taking the time to seek out & identify each person’s strengths/interests/passions can lead to the creation of what can be a powerful & effective team both for teachers and students, and he nudges listeners to consider what each team member can bring to the table to better the work they are doing. This “recruit from the group” mentality takes a team of people who are willing to be honest, transparent, and I would add brave, as everyone comes together to create a solutions-based approach to problem solving that needs to be done.

One idea Cornelius suggested around building an effective team is designing your time when you come together to meet. Because time is something teachers never seem to have enough of, it must be acknowledged that making time is a required sacrifice everyone makes together.

To that end, he specifically suggests that everyone ask each other for 7 minutes a week. Seven minutes? Yes, seven. If those seven minutes are deliberate, focused, and always directed at the heart of the work at hand, a LOT can be accomplished in those few minutes. The first one or two minutes should be a check-in with everyone – now this is important..it is not complain time, because we all know we teachers do the complain thing really well. Cornelius suggests that status check-in should be full of *nouns* and not *verbs.* “This *unit* is going well” or “This *student* is showing growth” offer opportunities for everyone to share what is working, or simply where each person is within the journey of the group’s collective work.

Effective teams will likely need more than 7 minutes a week to work through the problem solving process and eventually accomplish big work. Certainly there will be longer, highly intentional meetings around issues that need attention. However, it is the consistent, intentional team building practices (like weekly 7-minute check-ins to name just one) that create and maintain the integrity and collective problem solving power of an effective team.

Thank you to Margaret Simon for this DigiLitSunday topic and for creating the space for everyone to share their approach to problem solving in any area of their teaching life. Click here to add your story and link up with others who are doing the same.

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