Thursday, March 31, 2016

Day 31: Final Slice

Today is the final day of the 2016 Slice of Life Challenge. Once again, I met my goal of posting every day. I did have one day posting after the midnight deadline, but it was more important to me that I wrote and not necessarily that I was able to make it before 12:00 am.

I realized that I wrote mostly about my family. They are the most prominent and important aspect of my life. I realized that it is sometimes hard to come up with a topic for a post. I love receiving comments on my posts, but in the end I write it because I am trying to get better at writing and see writing from my students' perspective.

I have enjoyed reading the posts of other slicers. I wish I could read them all but there are just too many of them. I wish my iPad would be a little more cooperative when posting from it, especially close to midnight. I'm hoping that my voice comes across in my writing the way it sounds in my head.

I'm going to try to write on my blog more frequently through the year and not just dust it off for the SOL challenge each year. But, I think I still suffer from the thought of "What do I have to say that other people would actually have interest in or feel was valuable?"

I hope you all have enjoyed the Sloce of Life challenge as much as I did. Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting again. I look forward to meeting up with you again next year.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Day 30: Reading the Signs of Life

I've never been one of those people who look for "signs" in order to live their lives or help them make decisions. I've often thought that people see signs where they want to see signs or are looking for an excuse to justify the decisions they make.

In this case, I would be more than happy to ignore the signs I've been seeing. In the last several days I have been seeing signs all over that are telling me I need to get back to the gym and work on getting fit. I really enjoy working out and seeing the benefits of it. I also feel better when I am eating healthier, getting more sleep and exercise, and generally taking care of myself.

I know that I feel better when I start my day with a workout. I feel better about myself when I look in the mirror and my clothes fit and I don't have bags under my eyes.

Sometimes things happen for a reason and we are given signs to remind us of what we already know, not to lead us to something new.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Day 29: That One Kid

I think we have all had that one kid...the one that drives us crazy but we just love to death in spite of it. I have one of those kids this year. This little boy has been a challenge since day one. His go-to response for anything is a physical response. If he thinks he has been wronged, he has been known to hit and kick as his immediate reaction. This comes from having two very physical older brothers. We've worked incredibly hard to show him other ways of handling anger and frustration.

I have worked really hard with him to let him know that I WANT to hear his side of things. He is so used to people immediately assuming the worst and jumping to a punishment, that it took some time to get him to trust me and know that I am not going to believe everyone else before hearing from him. Now he does. He and I have built a special relationship this year. He comes to me and asks me questions and holds onto my hand to receive a reassuring squeeze that yes, I am listening and I value what he has to say. I have given him an individual behavior plan to help him see his daily progress and his biggest goal is to get all smiley faces so that he can have lunch with me. Who would have thought that lunch with me would be his biggest motivator?

In recent weeks, I have even seen him start to finally put effort into his work. For the first time, he is taking pride in his writing and asked three or four times today when he would be able to share his writing. This is one of those cases where progress cannot be measured in reading levels or test scores. We have laid so much foundation this year it's going to be really hard to give him up to a second grade teacher next year. If anyone had told me in September that I would be saying that about this boy in particular, I would have said they were nuts. But he is just one of those kids who has wormed his way into a special place in my heart.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Day 28: Finding a Focus

It's Day 28 of the  2016 Slice of Life Story Challenge. As I look back on my posts so far, almost all of them have been about my family. In all fairness, I had been on Spring Break for days 18 through 27, so it makes sense that my slices have been about family-related topics. Of course, that doesn't account for days 1 through 17, but my number-one focus in my life is my family, so most of my posts tend be about that part of my life.

However, as you can tell by the title of my blog, I am also a teacher. I spend every day with 27 first grade boys and girls. They are my own special source of entertainment. I admittedly have a very poor short-term memory, so when cute things happen with my students, if I don't write them down immediately, the exact wording is lost. My first graders crack me up in some way almost every single day, so it's a shame that I don't have more recorded stories about them and the things they say. The ones I remember most are the ones that I rush to tell my teaching team, but even they get tired of hearing the stories I'm sure.

There are a lot of people, particularly educators, who have embraced the practice of choose "One Little Word" to focus on for the year. Last year, my OLW was "Family". I concentrated my efforts on spending more time with my family, saying "yes" to the little things that would allow us to spend time together and bring us closer.

I haven't decided on my new OLW yet. I'm not even sure when the start and end date should be. Is it the calendar year? The school year? Just some arbitrary date chosen by whomever it was that started the OLW "movement"? And while I haven't chosen that one perfect word, I do know that it is going to be about finding the joy and capturing the childlike wonder of the children I am fortunate enough to be entrusted with every day.

There are so many negatives in the media, public perception, and government about education and educators. It's hard not to get overwhelmed and disheartened by it all. That is why I want to encase myself in my own little classroom bubble and be in the moment with my students. I want to remind myself every day of their youth and innocence and the possibilities that are ahead of them.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Day 27: The End of Spring Break

Well, it's Sunday night and Spring Break is coming to an end. I didn't go on a trip to warmer climates, I didn't visit any national landmarks, I barely even left my house. But, it was a great week all the same.

With my kids and I in two different districts, we only occasionally have the same week off. We took a family trip in February and have one planned at Christmas, so this was just a week of hanging out at home.

We spent a lot of time staying up late and watching movies, sleeping in and eating cereal together, we got our first ever patio furniture and spent a lot of time outside. We got a new couch (very exciting for my husband) and a new car (very exciting for me). I read a few books and even got my classroom ready for next week. We visited both sides of the family for Easter and were blessed with beautiful weather on both occasions.

As much as I love traveling and especially enjoy time away with no cares or responsibilities, this Spring Break was filled with exactly what I need at this time of the year...time to just relax and re-charge. There really isn't much time left before we are wrapping up this school year and heading into summer. I am happy to be facing it with a renewed energy, excitement, and positive attitude.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Day 26: Wonderful Memories in Photographs

My oldest niece Elizabeth (Libby) will be graduating from High School in June. My sister-in-law asked me if I would be able to find some pictures of Libby for a project she is doing for her graduation.

One thing to know about me is that I love taking pictures and scrapbooking our family memories. As the family photographer, everyone knows that I am the one to come to for old pictures. I have been keeping an ongoing record of the pictures I take on a spreadsheet and back up all the pictures on disks. My digital records go back to about 2004.

Today when we went to visit my family for Easter, I took my laptop and backup disks with me to start going through some of the pictures for my sister-in-law. Of course, in the process, I came across pictures of all of the kids. I was blown away by how small they all were. I can't believe how much they have grown.

It just reminds me of how quickly time passes and how much we should cherish and enjoy each stage of their lives.



Friday, March 25, 2016

Day 25: Family Movie Night

A few years ago, our family started the tradition of "Family Movie Night". Every Friday night we get pizza and watch a family friendly movie that everyone from our 7-year-old to our 14-year-old can enjoy.

We started by showing the kids movies that we grew up with and felt were "classics" that they should see. We also show them the originals of movies that are either being remade or have a sequel soon to come out. Since my husband is a film critic, he gets many movies on DVD and BluRay that we watch as a family.

This week we are watching "The Jungle Book" in anticipation of the live action movie that is being released in mid-April. We really enjoy seeing our kids enjoying these movies that hold special memories from our own childhoods.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Day 24: Finding A New Restaurant

After a very busy week, we decided to go out to dinner tonight. We've been really trying to cook at home as much as possible, but some nights you just don't feel like it.

The problem with having a family of 5 is that eating out can be expensive. Add to that, we have two boys who eat as much as a full-grown adult and it's really hard to find a cheap, satisfying place to get a meal.

We have our old stand-by's for reasonably priced food, such as DiBella's subs, Subway, Pizza, and fast food. Throughout Spring Break we have pretty much exhausted those places and needed to find something different without repeating.

Tonight, we tried a new place not far from our house: BiBiBop Asian Grill. If you've never had BiBiBop, its setup is very similar to Piada, Chipotle, and Subway where you build your own bowl, salad, or wrap by adding rice, beans, protein, vegetables, and sauce. I was very pleasantly surprised with the food. It was very simple and had some interesting combinations of ingredients, but it worked.

Everyone in the family liked it. I think we have found a new option for reasonably priced food for our family.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Day 23: My New Car

Today was an exciting day for me. For the first time in 13 years, I bought a brand new car.

I didn't walk into this lightly. I did a lot of research before stepping foot on the car lot. I checked out websites, I made a Google form and spreadsheet of the different specifications of each vehicle. I knew what our budget was; how much we had for a down payment and how much we could spend on monthly payments.

I made a short list of makes, models, and dealerships. I knew which model I was looking at, where I could find it, and how much I could expect to pay. I knew which vehicle would be the best for fitting 2 teenagers and a 7-year-old in the back seat. So, when we walked into the dealership, I was able to tell the salesman which car I wanted and that they had it on the lot. It turned out that it had just arrived and hadn't even been prepped yet.

The process still took a lot of time because of all the paperwork, but I cut down a lot of it by doing my research ahead of time and walking in knowing exactly what I wanted.

So, I present to you my as yet unnamed 2016 Kia Soul.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Day 22: Nick and the Lost Teeth

My 7-year-old son Nick has lost quite a few teeth since turning 5. He knows all about the Tooth Fairy. We've always told our sons that the Tooth Fairy needs them to keep their teeth healthy by brushing, flossing, not eating too many sweets, and having regular checkups because she takes their teeth and gives them to the new babies being born.

However, Nick has a special gift for losing the teeth he has lost. More accurately, swallowing them. Of all the teeth that he has lost over the last three years, I think he has put a total of two or three under his pillow. 

If anyone knows 5-year-olds, one thing they know is that they can be incredibly sensitive and emotional. The first time this happened, he was in tears for hours. Every time he felt the hole where his tooth used to be, he burst into a fresh round of tears. Being the primary grade teacher I am, I came up with something to turn things around. (Maybe I read it somewhere, but I'm not really sure.)

I told him that if he found a pebble the size of his missing tooth, and wrote a letter to the Tooth Fairy explaining what happened, she could use her magic to turn the pebble into a tooth. So now, whenever he has a loose tooth, he tries to be hyper-aware of how loose it is getting and when it is almost ready to come out. If he somehow swallows it (which just happened this morning...again) he is ready to go hunt down the replacement pebble. I'm sure going to miss the days when he will accept my stories so easily.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Day 21: Entertainment Without Tech

Today was the official first day of Spring Break for me and my kids. The weather here in Ohio has been up and down. One day we have warm weather and everyone is wearing shorts and flip flops. The next day the heat is turned on in the house and everyone has pulled out their winter coats again.

While today wouldn't be considered warm, it was still relatively nice, although chilly, outside. My boys usually like to spend their free time with their tech; laptops, Kindles, tablets. My youngest two especially, like to watch YouTube videos and shows on Netflix. That's why today was such a nice change from the ordinary.

As I was sitting on the sofa reading my book, I noticed that my two youngest, Ben (12 years) and Nick (7 years), were outside. Playing. Together. It's not strange that they were playing together, they get along and often share the same interests in spite of their five-year age difference. What's weird is that they were playing outside.

So much of my youth was spent playing outside. It was just something that we did. We had to. I think that kids who spend so much of their time inside in front of screens is missing out on a key element of childhood. They were out there playing pretend, kicking a soccer ball, and riding bikes. I don't feel like them spending as much time on tech as they do is rotting their brains like so many people might think, but I do appreciate them enjoying time outside as well. It doesn't hurt that they were getting along and having a great time together.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Day 20: Family Movie Marathons

Anyone who knows me, or has spent any time talking to me or reading my blog posts, knows that my family loves to watch movies together. My husband is a film critic, which combines his two favorite activities: watching movies and telling people his opinion. He gets to see movies in advance of their release and will often take one of our sons with him. He also gets sent Blu-rays to watch and review, so the rest of the family has the opportunity to watch the movies with him. As a result, much of our family time is spent watching movies.

What people may not know is that we like to plan movie marathons together. Several times throughout the year, we plan movie marathons that last anywhere from a weekend to a week. It began several years ago with the "Bondathon"; it was a marathon of all of the James Bond movies up until that point. Our basement is set up as an entertainment room with a television, Blu-ray player, Roku box, and Wii gaming system. During the marathons, we often have themed snacks to go along with the movies along with decorations and "swag bags" of little trinkets along the theme. 

If you would like to read more about our previous marathons and what we do, you can read my previous posts here:

This year's Spring Break Marathon was a "Viewer's Choice" marathon. All five of us chose a movie that we would like to show everyone else. I chose "Flatliners", my husband chose "Conan the Barbarian (2011)" and "Gravity", my 7-year-old son, Nick chose "Garfield Gets Real", my 12-year-old son, Ben chose "Forrest Gump", and my 14-year-old son, Liam chose "Groundhog Day",  We held the marathon from Friday to Sunday with two movies each day. We didn't have any decorating or swag bags this time, but we enjoyed it just the same. The next marathon won't happen until Memorial Day weekend. By that time, school will almost be over for the year. It's a great way to give us something to look forward to as a family.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Day 19: Babysitting

Today, my oldest son and I babysat our young cousins for a few hours. Kodi is 22 months old and Mika is 4 months old. My husband also babysits Kodi every Wednesday to help out his cousin.

It was nice to spend time with the little ones. But it was also nice to be able to give them back to their parents after a couple of hours. Don't get me wrong, I love babies and toddlers. But, I loved them even more when I was younger and didn't know how great things would be when they became more independent. Now that my kids are all in school full-time, independently arranging their own rides and outings with their friends, and can be left alone at home for a period of time, I am loving this stage in their lives.

I enjoy babysitting for a few hours or being the one who is known as "the baby whisperer" at family gatherings, but I wouldn't go back to that age now for anything. I'm happy with where we are in our family and kids' ages. I think I will enjoy it even more now that I see how far we've come.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Day 18: All Set For Spring and Summer

Summer is my favorite season. I enjoy being outside, but my patio and yard are not really conducive to spending time outside. We had a couple of Adirondack chairs, a fire pit, and a grill, but no real outdoor living space.

I have coveted my friends' spaces for years. I have great visions, but by the time spring and summer arrive, I either lack the energy or the money to make my dreams a reality. This year, that all changes. Today, my husband and I went out and bought a patio table and chairs, along with an umbrella. We also got two more Adirondack chairs. I love my new outdoor space and can't wait to spend some time out there.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Day 17: Podcasts to Keep Me Company

Every day, my drive to school is 20-25 minutes. It's a pretty straight shot and doesn't really have too much traffic, so it can get pretty boring. I used to listen to morning shows on the radio, but I got tired of their topics of conversation, the commercials, and at this time in particular, the political ads. So, I began listening to podcasts. I soon discovered that the time passed much quicker when I listened to podcasts. When I have a longer drive, it helps me to stay focused and keep from getting drowsy.

It actually began with my husband's podcast. He is a movie critic and has a weekly podcast during which he talks about the movies coming to the theater that week as well as those coming out on DVD. I would listen to his show on my way to and from school.

I have found some enjoyable podcasts. One of my favorites is the podcast of This American Life. they take one theme and tell several stories around that theme. You may have heard of one of their affiliated podcasts, Serial. This takes one crime or court cast and tells what happened week by week. The first season was the story of a young man who was convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend. Season Two focuses on the case of Army Sergeant Bowe Beurgdahl who was captured and held by the Taliban for 5 years.

There are some entertainment podcasts that I have subscribed to. My recent favorite is Happier with Gretchen Rubin. She hosts this podcast with her sister and they discuss ways that you can organize and simplify your life and just be a happier person. I love their sisterly rapport, but they also have some great tips for living a happier life. I also recently discovered the podcast, What Should I Read Next? with Anne Bogel. Each week, she interviews a new person, finds out their interests, and then recommends what they should read next. The only problem with this is that I hear about these great books while I am driving and can't write them down! Fortunately, I can check out her website and get those titles.

Finally, there are days when I want to feel inspired and energized in my career as a teacher. I have found several great podcasts for this. I like Talks With Teachers by Brian Sztabnik who interviews master teachers about their careers and teaching practices. Studentcentricity discusses ideas for strategies for teaching with students at the center of the learning process. Book Love is a podcast with Penny Kittle where she shares inspiration, information , and the value of reading in a student's life. My very favorite education-related podcast is Stories from the Teaching Life with Penny Kittle. Penny shares inspirational stories about reading, writing, learning, students, and so much more. This is truly a great way to start your day, especially if you find you need something to give and inspiring start to your day.

I'm always looking for more podcasts to add to my playlist. I would love to hear your recommendations!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Day 16: A Well-Oiled Machine

Today started off pretty hectic. As I was driving to work, I got a text from my oldest son at school that he was sick. He wanted to know when his dad would be able to come pick him up. I told him that his dad was babysitting his cousin today and wouldn't have a car seat so he wouldn't be able to leave the house and go pick him up. So, I called my school and arranged for someone to cover my class while I went to pick my son up at school and drop him off at home.

By the time I dropped him off and finally arrived at school, I was only about 20 minutes past the time that the kids arrive. That tardy bell had already rung and I was pleased at what I discovered when I walked into my room.

The kids had already moved to our morning meeting circle and the helper of the day had started the book check-in process. They have gotten so independent with our routine that they were able to get it going without me or any other instructions. I would be curious to see how far into our morning routine they are able to go without my prompting.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Day 15: Open Windows Are Mixed Blessings

When the weather starts to turn warmer, as it has this week, my husband likes to open the windows throughout the house. He works from home, so this is something that he often enjoys during the days. There is a period of time between the end of winter and the beginning of summer when this is an almost daily occurrence.

Unfortunately, there is also a downside to the opening of the windows. One is that the neighbors next door are smokers. But, they only smoke outside on their patio, which drifts into our back yard and through our open windows. I arrived home yesterday to find a bunch of candles lit throughout the house. Apparently, there was a lot of smoke coming in through the windows in the afternoon, and the candles were the only way to cover up the smell. 

The other negative to open windows is the barking dogs in the neighborhood. I don't blame the poor pooches; I blame their owners. They put the dogs out and when they bark, if they acknowledge them at all, it is only to yell at them to be quiet. They don't want to deal with them, so they leave them outside and close up their own doors and windows. So now a chain reaction starts with all the dogs parking at each other.

Even though I really enjoy this time of year, and I love the freshness of the breeze coming in through the open windows, the negative elements make the arrival of Spring and and the open windows that come with it a mixed blessing.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Day 14: Pi (Pie) Day

My husband is big into Math and Science. His Bachelor's Degree in Secondary Science Education, although he has never taught beyond student teaching. Every year on Pi Day, he gets or makes some food that is round for dinner along with a pie. He then involves our boys in measuring the circumference and diameter of each item and showing where Pi figures in. This year, our 2nd grader was actively involved in the measurement process while the older boys did the calculations. I, on the other hand, took a few pictures and sat back and enjoyed the chicken pot pies for dinner and the apple pie for dessert.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Day 13: Sunday Night Blahs

I'm sure that there are few people across many professions who do not suffer from Sunday Night Blahs. Whether you have been lazy all weekend and then realize on Sunday night that you got nothing done, or you have been incredibly busy all weekend and on Sunday night realize that you had no time to relax, the Sunday Night Blahs kick in and cause some very strong reactions in people.

Normally, I tend to fall in the former category. My week has been so busy that I just want to unplug, unwind, and do nothing. By the time Sunday night rolls around, I'm kicking myself for my lack of motivation that then sends me into a panic come Monday morning.

This weekend I was busy the entire weekend with the State Thespian Conference, literally at the High School all evening Friday, all day Saturday, and most of the day Sunday, and I didn't have much time to relax, However, I was incredibly productive and feel really good about the week ahead. Of course, some of that might have to do with the fact that I only have to teach 3 days this week due to a professional development day one day and the start of Spring Break on another.

The main reason I was able to be so productive was that while I was at the conference, I was hosting the Adult Hospitality Room all weekend. I just had to be present and make sure all the snacks and water was constantly stocked. I brought my school work and was able to get data entered and analyzed, groups planned for, and lesson plans written. I really do feel a huge sense of accomplishment when I am able to be so prepared going into a week. I don't know why I don't do it more often.

Of course, there are things I wasn't able to do, like update my class webpage, but that didn't take too long and is already done. I may have a very busy week ahead of me (mostly consisting of "mom duties" after school) but for once I am not dreading Monday morning and thinking I am not prepared enough. I'm going to enjoy this feeling while it lasts.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Day 12: Hospitality, Theatre Kids, and Exhaustion

My entire day today has been spent at the Ohio Thespian State Conference. In fact, I am writing this on my iPad from the Adult Hospitality room where the adult directors and chaperones are taking a much-needed break from their charges. This is where I have been from 8:30 this morning and will remain until 12:00 midnight. I am responsible for making sure that the complimentary food and drinks are always stocked for the adults who wander through. I was here from 8:00 until 11:00 last night and will return from 8:30 tomorrow morning until about 2:30.

One good thing about the job that I signed up for this weekend, is that it gave me some time to get some work done. I brought my iPad, school work, and my to-do list and got a lot done. Actually, more than I would if I had just been in my living room all weekend. I even got a big chunk of reading done in a book just for enjoyment.

This has been a busy, exhausting experience and I have learned a few things.

1) Theatre kids are, on average, a great group of kids. They are respectful and energetic and have a lot of talent.

2) Kids in Musical Theatre like to sing. A lot. Everywhere. They find each other in groups and belt out songs in the hallways. They sing songs from their shows, their college auditions (which also happen this weekend), Broadway shows, and current hits.

3) Theatre kids are loud. They have two volumes...loud and asleep. I don't think they even realize how loud and obnoxious they get when they are together and free from constant supervision. (See #2 above)

I am going to be exhausted by the time I wrap up tomorrow, but that is okay. I am getting the opportunity to support my son in his passion. I get to see first-hand that when he is with his theatre friends, I know that he is in a good place. That knowledge is worth the lack of sleep I will be suffering from and my zombie-like appearance on Monday morning.

Day 11: Missed Deadline

So it's 12:52 a.m. and I am just getting home for the day. I taught all day, then stayed after school to work on some data collection and organization. I went home long enough to fix my hair and freshen my makeup before heading out to volunteer at my son's high school for the State Thespian Conference, where I will be residing all weekend.

I worked the Hospitality Lounge where teachers, chaperones, and directors could come to have a snack and escape the teenagers for a llittle while. I finished up around 11:15 and met up with my son. Neither of us had had dinner yet, so we went to IHOP for a late dinner.we finally made it home and it was after 12:30.

So, needless to say, I missed the deadline for posting today. But so what? I'm out of the running for a prize. But that's okay. I wasn't blogging for a minuscule chance at a prize. The challenge is to blog every day for a month. That's exactly what I'm going to do.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Day 10: Chivalry is Alive and Well

I was shown tonight that not only is chivalry alive and well, but my own sons are continuing to practice the art of chivalry.

While I was having dinner with my two youngest sons, 7-year-old Nick and 12-year-old Ben, I became a little chilled after coming into the restaurant through the pouring rain. I shivered and my son Ben noticed and asked if I was okay, to which I responded, "I'm just feeling a little chilly." He then proceeded to take off his zippered sweatshirt and hand it to me. What a sweetheart!

From that point I was hyper-aware of what he did and noticed other gentlemanly behaviors such as being extremely polite, saying "please" and "thank you" to our waitress, waving me past him as we walked to cash out, and holding the door for me as I exited the restaurant. I realized that none of these behaviors surprised me because it is what we have taught and expect of our children. It was just nice to see that it has become so ingrained in them that it is just a natural part of what they do and who they are.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Day 9: Teenage Drama

I thought that by having sons, I would escape the typical teenage drama. And then one of my sons became a teenager. I found out I was wrong. Boys may not have the same dramas as girls, but there is drama all the same.

My oldest son Liam is 14-years-old. He is a high school freshman and has found that he loves performing in the theatre. He got the lead in his very first play and discovered "his people". With the personality of a theatre person, I know that I'm in for some big time drama in the next few years.

Today, I got a taste, albeit a mild one, of that teenage drama. Liam started dating his girlfriend in eighth grade. She is a really sweet girl and has a terrific family. They have a lot in common and have been friends for years before they became a couple. For the last year and a half, they have been all their friends' idea of the "perfect couple". We were very grateful that they were very laid-back and didn't take themselves or each other too seriously.

Today, he decided to break up with her. He felt that they had been growing apart and never really spent much time together anymore. He had theatre rehearsals, she played club volleyball, and they only saw each other in English class. I found out some of the details of the "event" from her mom, with whom I became friends over the course of their relationship. As hard as it must have been to break up a long-term relationship (for a 14-year-old), I felt pride that he handled it maturely. That is...face-to-face.

I'm sure this is only the beginning of the romance-related drama before he finally settles down for good. Just another day raising teenagers.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Day 8: Friends and the Support They Give

It wouldn't be a typical week in my life if I didn't think I was going to lose my mind from all the crazy-busy demands placed on me day in and day out. I love my job, I love my students, I love my family and my kids. In spite of some limitations by circumstance and finances, I have a pretty great life. But sometimes, it gets to be a bit too much and I need to just unplug and disconnect from the things that are driving me crazy.

Most people turn to their friends to help them take their mind off what is making them go nuts. I don't have many close friends. My best friend moved from Ohio to Texas several years ago and I've never found anyone to take her place as my go-to person, not that anyone could! More often than not, I prefer spending time with family or alone. I have learned to embrace and look forward to the rare "me day". I'm hoping I have the chance for one during this month-long challenge and will be able to make that its own post.

I really don't have anyone I meet for lunch, dinner, drinks, a night out. We don't have any other couples that we socialize with. We really are homebodies. For the most part, I'm okay with that. But, there are times when you just have to talk to someone who will understand. I'm fortunate that my teaching team is that for me. We have a great time just being silly, going for coffee or drinks, or even planning together. We'll never be a group that vacations together or even really gets together outside of work and our immediate shared interests. And that's okay too. I'm grateful for them and the role we are able to play in each other's lives.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Day 7: Organization is Key

I have a confession to make...I love making spreadsheets. I love making Google forms. I really enjoy organizing things. Data, to-do lists, packing lists; you name it and I will make an organizational tool for you. I have great ideas and systems for organizing, it's the follow-through that I have difficulty with. But I am sure that when I am in the mood to be organized...I've got a spreadsheet for that!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Day 6: Nothing to Write About?

Every Monday morning, my first graders' morning work is to write about their weekend in their Weekend News Journal. I hear very often, though honestly, not as often as I have in previous years, "I didn't do anything this weekend. I don't know what to write about." I always laugh and respond, "So what did you do this weekend, just sit on your bed and stare at the ceiling all weekend?"

While I had plenty going on in my life on Friday and Saturday, today was a day that I literally did nothing. I'm having a really hard time thinking of a topic to write about for my Slice of Life post. So, here it is, my post about nothing. I'm sure nobody wants to read about how I slept in, watched television and read a book all day. But let me tell you, it was awesome to have the time to do that. I'm sure that when I am driving to work tomorrow morning I will regret that decision, but for now I am going to enjoy the rest of my night of doing nothing.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Day 5: Mommy and Nick Date

Whenever my husband takes my two oldest sons somewhere for an extended time, my youngest son and I have what he calls a "Mommy and Nick" date. It often consists of a small shopping trip, errands, and dinner at Steak 'n Shake (his favorite) complete with milkshakes at the end.

Today, the "big boys" were off at a movie marathon and it was date night for us. We went to dinner, got our milkshakes, stopped for snacks at the grocery store then headed home and played some video games on the Wii and watched an episodes of "Fuller House"

I really enjoy these times together, because I know it's only a matter of a few years until my boys will be too busy to spend time hanging out with their old mom.  It's all about the simple things and just enjoying spending time together.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Day 4: Ready For The Weekend

This has been an incredibly long and busy week. I have had a ton of things going on at work and just as much at home. My weekend is most definitely well-earned. After getting home from my middle son's play tonight, I picked up pizza for the family and headed home to eat, watch television, and relax with the family. I have nothing pressing happening for the next 48 hours. And I am going to enjoy every minute of doing nothing.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Day 3: Teacher Evaluations

This year is my year to get evaluated by my principal. During an evaluation cycle, I am visited twice; once in the Fall and again in the Winter/Spring. The first time this year, my principal observed a reading lesson. It was rough. The kids and I had really not found our groove yet. It goes without saying that there was plenty for my principal to put in the "Areas of Refinement" section of the evaluation report. Today, I had my post-observation conference for my second observation and it was great! I have to say, I rocked that evaluation. But, I can't say that I have always held that outlook.

To give you a little background, I get extremely nervous whenever I am evaluated or observed by anyone. I used to hate having other teachers in my room. I learned in college that I suffer from the "imposter phenomenon". Have you heard of this? It's the belief that you are faking your way through whatever it is that you are doing and someone will eventually find you out and call you on it. I have had many dreams over the years in which my colleagues or principal come into my room, watch my teaching, and then say, "Who gave you a teaching license?! You have no business being a teacher!" I kid you not! For years, this thinking had me on pins and needles whenever someone wanted to visit my classroom or I had an observation. 

But over the last year or so something has changed. I don't know if I finally have gotten to the point where I really do think that I know what I'm doing, or if I have just gotten used to having people in my room. Our reading intervention teacher conducts her groups right inside our classroom. Our Literacy Coach spends time in our classrooms coaching us. I have students who require instructional aides to be in the classroom regularly. My principal will sometimes just miss being in a classroom and stop by, sit down, and just take it all in for five or ten minutes. We've had teachers from other schools come and observe what our team is doing with technology and blended learning. 

I guess I have just gotten to the point where I am comfortable enough in what I am doing to just be myself. As a result of this shift, I had a great observation and a glowing evaluation. I have finally begun to believe in myself as a teacher and am starting to think of myself as an expert in my field. Okay, well maybe "expert" is a bit of a stretch, but compared to a lot of people who think they know what it means to be a teacher because they spent 13-18 years in a school, I guess I have a leg up. 

However, I think the biggest catalyst of my change in outlook has to do with my principal. She is the kind of leader who we always hope to work with. She listens to her staff, she cares about her students, she values the parents, she is truly here to do what is best for the students. I don't feel like she is judging me. I feel that if I were to have a rough patch, she would be there trying to help me be better. In a time when so much is against us in education, it is so nice to know that I am in a really good place. I teach the greatest kids and work with a fantastic team, under the leadership of a wonderful principal, in an amazing district, led by a dynamic and innovative superintendent. Is it any wonder that my evaluation went so well. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Day 2: Read Across America

As many of you who are in the field of education know, today marks the birthday of Dr. Seuss, aka Theodor Seuss Geisel. In addition to recognizing this day as the day of his birth, the National Education Association created "Read Across America" as part of an initiative on reading. On March 2, schools all across the country celebrate reading and honor the contributions that Dr. Seuss made to children's literature by taking the time to share the love of reading.

Today, every student, teacher, and staff member of my school lined the hallways and read at the same time for 10 minutes. It was really neat to see everyone sitting down, enjoying their book of choice, and talking about their reading. I brought a book that I have recently started and sat down right beside my kiddos and read too. 

The really great part was that when the Media Specialist announced that the time was over, the entire first grade stayed in the hall and continued reading until one of the teachers asked what time we go in and I answered that they already announced that we could. We were all so involved in our books that we didn't even notice that everyone else had already left and returned to their classrooms. I wish I had more time to just sit and read a book for myself in my classroom and show my students that I not only practice what I preach, but that I have to force myself not to read when I should be doing something else. But, as my mom reminds me, that is the story of my life. I always had a book with me and would rather be reading than doing anything else. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to my book!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

SOL Day 1: School Day, Mom's Taxi, and The Wonder of the Personal Hotspot

This first day of March has been an incredibly busy day. It was busy at school, what with starting the Slice of Life Challenge with my kiddos, regular teaching duties, an extra after-school duty covered for a friend, and then an after school meeting. But that was only the beginning.

I left my meeting to pick up my oldest son and his best friend at their high school, where they were auditioning for the next theatre production. The next stop was another high school in the district where their choir was performing. After the performance, I hopped back in the car with the boys and another student who asked if I could give her a ride. I dropped off first one extra kid, and then the other, before heading to my second son's middle school to await the conclusion of his drama production rehearsal.

I am currently sitting in the parking lot with my son snoozing in the passenger seat (resting up before he finally makes it home and has to spend the rest of the night on dinner and homework) writing my first Slice of Life post of the challenge. Thanks to the wonders of the personal hotspot allowing my iPad to piggyback on my iPhone's cell signal, I will be able to write and post all from the warmth of my car. Otherwise, I might not make it to post before midnight!

You see, the craziness does not end when the last kid is in the car and we are headed for home. When I get home it will be time to finally have dinner, catch up with my husband, pack lunches for me and my youngest son, listen to my second grader read his nightly books, pick out my clothes for tomorrow, review my lesson plans for tomorrow, post my students SOL posts, take a shower and finally head to bed.

And today is only Tuesday! I think March's "in like a lion" might be referring more to my schedule than the weather!