“Do you have a countdown?” This is a question I’ve been getting a lot lately. I’ve been counting down the days to my retirement in a variety of ways since the beginning of the school year. I have used things like months and curriculum milestones but lately my countdown has changed as the reality of retiring at the end of the school year sets in. Here are some of my current countdowns:
1. 44 1/2 more teaching days – This one is a constant countdown now since the number of the school day is announced every morning.
2. Two months and 7 days.
3. One more math unit.
4. Two more Number Corner months.
5. One more social studies unit.
6. One more haircut.
7. Two more field trips.
8. Nine more Sunday nights.
9. ONE MORE SET OF REPORT CARDS!
10. Six more Formula 1 races and then we get to celebrate my retirement at the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal!
My Three Positives in Memory of Tim
1. A weekend visit with my son and daughter-in-law.
2. I wrote every day during the month of March.
3. Two Writing Teachers has created a wonderfully supportive writing community.
For the past two days I have been teaching my second graders about schools in the late 1800’s. We have been learning about one-room schoolhouses in preparation for a field trip to a local one-room schoolhouse later in the year. My students were surprised about a number of things we have learned about schools during this time in history.
To say they were shocked about the discipline practices and seeing a student sitting in the corner wearing a Dunce Cap, would be an understatement. They declared,”That’s not fair!” when they learned a teacher in the 1800’s couldn’t be married. “You couldn’t be our teacher, could you?”
“No,” I replied, “I couldn’t.”
We continued exploring schools in the 1800’s today and read about school supplies. We learned about slates, inkwells and Mcguffey Readers. While I don’t own a Mcguffey Reader, I do have some other school supplies from the late 1800’s that came from my husband’s family farm. I shared some readers, an arithmetic book, an English book and two penmanship books. The penmanship books are my favorite part of this collection because they belong to actual family members whose names are on the front. They also include the teachers’ names along with the dates of 1895 and 1897. The penmanship books are falling apart but the handwriting of these family members preserved in the yellowed pages are family treasures.
My students oohed and ahed has I shared these precious items that I received from my husband’s grandmother. As I was returning the materials to my desk before recess, one of my students came over to me and asked, “Do you have more books?” This one simple question communicated so much from this student. He has only been in this country since August and, while he has learned a great deal of English in a short period of time, he very rarely speaks in a complete sentences. I knew our time exploring these gifts from the past was more than just a fun activity today.
My Three Positives in Memory of Tim
1. I didn’t need to wear my coat to go to my car this afternoon.
A few weeks ago I was sitting behind two former students at church. Sisters, who are only two years apart, who I had the pleasure to teach for two years each. I used to loop between first and second grade so I taught many of my former students for two years. These two sisters look so much alike, when I first met them at the open house before the older sister started first grade, I thought they were twins. All through the church service I was thinking about how I wanted to chat with them afterward and I prayed I could figure out which one was which when they turned around.
The service ended and I was able to catch their attention. “Good morning girls! How are you?” I exclaimed. I took a deep breath and pointed to one and said, “Ellen?” and pointed to the other and said, “and Diana?”
The nodded and smiled. I heaved a silent sigh of relief. We chatted and I learned they are now in 9th and 11th grade. When I asked what they are interested in Diana, the older sister, said swimming and Ellen said journalism.
I have to admit when I heard journalism I wondered if Ellen’s second grade writing experiences had sparked her interest in writing. It also brought to mind an information piece she had written as a second grader about swimming. I couldn’t remember the exact wording in her piece that made me laugh but I knew it had something to do with swimming safety.
Yesterday, as I mindlessly scrolled through Facebook, I saw I had a memory from 7 years ago. I don’t always look at these memories but I was glad I looked at this one because it contained the part of Ellen’s writing piece that made me laugh. I took a screenshot of it so I could remember it.
As I sat two rows behind my former students this morning, I knew I had my slice for today. I don’t know if Ellen will continue to pursue journalism but I do know the writing experiences we provide to our youngest writers can last a lifetime.
My Three Positives in Memory of Tim
1. Though the temperature has been in the 20’s most of the day, the sun is pouring through the windows.
2. I’ve recovered from a very busy week.
3. My husband is making homemade pizza for dinner.
All month I’ll be joining my sister in focusing on three positives a day in memory of my brother-in-law.
I’ve spent the last few weeks debating with myself about whether or not to participate in the March Slice of Life Story Challenge. I’ve completed the challenge three times and during lockdown I wrote for half of the month of March. I know I can do it. I know it’s not easy. I know it helps me grow but I still question whether or not I can write every day for 31 days.
The first step is always the hardest. This morning I put a reminder in my phone to sign up for the challenge while my class was at recess. “I can’t do it right now,” I told myself, “I need to get ready for school. Besides, it’s too difficult to sign up on my phone, I need a computer.” I put the challenge out of my mind and headed upstairs to get ready for my day.
I found myself with time on my hands today because my student teacher began her final week in my classroom so she is teaching all day. I went to my desk and opened my computer and found the email at the top of my inbox was from my instructional coach, Ona, who slices at On a Thought. I knew there would be a link to sign up for the challenge in her weekly email. I left her email unread and busied myself with the never-ending pile of assessments on my desk. Every time I looked at my computer I saw the unread email from Ona, a reminder that I needed to sign up for the challenge.
I returned from walking my class down the hall to recess and opened Ona’s email. I scrolled past the Spring Break memes and found the Slice of Life section with the bolded title Write with Me! Start Tomorrow! I Clicked the link and made my way to the Two Writing Teachers website only to find the site was quite messed up and the link to the challenge wasn’t working. “I can’t do it at school. I guess I can’t do it until I’m home.” I mumbled.
My phone was sitting on my desk as I started to work on planning for the week after Spring Break. I heard the familiar buzz and looked at the screen to find a reminder – “Sign up to slice”. I picked up my phone and made my way to the Two Writing Teachers website. I navigated through the Google sign up sheet on my phone. I filled in my name, my blog name and url. I clicked the button that indicated I’ve participated in the challenge for 4-8 years and then it was time to hit the submit button.
“It’s that time of year again!” I exclaimed as I hit the Submit button on my phone.
“If you’re going to stick with this teaching thing you better find yourself a husband at college.” These we’re the words of advice my father gave me as I began my college career. He made up for it on my wedding day but that’s a slice for another day.
My dad was a lawyer and I think he always hoped one of the five of us would follow in his footsteps but we didn’t. I think he might have thought I was the one to do this because of my love of history. At the time, I was heading to college to be a social studies ed major. Back then I didn’t think I was smart enough to pursue a law degree but over the years I’ve wondered if I had missed my calling.
As I had the good fortune to sit on a beautiful beach and read today, my wonderings about my choice of career resurfaced. In addition to knitting mysteries I also love lawyer stories. I got hooked on John Grisham years ago though I haven’t read one of his novels in a long time. My latest book was sparked by bingeing The Lincoln Lawyer on Netflicks so I was delighted to find a whole series of Mickey Haller books. Mickey is a defense attorney but I see myself more as an Erin Reagan prosecutor.
I know deep down I would not have wanted the lawyer lifestyle. As stressful as teaching can be, it has afforded me the family life I wanted. Though my teaching career has not panned out the way I had hoped it would and there have been tremendous challenges along the way, there have been some very rewarding times too.
One of those rewarding moments came just a few weeks ago when I ran into a family of three children from my school after a church service. The family is moving to another state and I had the pleasure of teaching two of the three children but after a brief chat I got a group hug from all three of them. I bet Mickey Haller and Erin Reagan never got a hug like that one. I think I just might be right where I’m meant to be.
There’s a first grade classroom I pass by several times a day. It’s a large class so there’s often a group of first graders working in the hall with a paraprofessional. I’m sure they need to do this to maintain distance because there probably isn’t enough room for all the adults to work with a small group in the room. I seem to walk by at the time of day they are doing math and I’ve heard several nuggets of wisdom from this group in my many trips pass them each day.
My first nugget came as a group was working on solving some addition problems. The para was explaining the directions as one first grader moaned, “I don’t want to do this!”
The para replied in a calm and gentle voice, “You don’t have to want to.” and continued on with the directions.
I burst out laughing and looked the para in the eye and said, “I love it, I have a friend I need to try that one on!” I have since successfully used this phrase to defuse a situation or two in my 2nd grade classroom since that day.
Today as I walked by the para was explaining another activity. “You need to make exactly what’s on the card.” the para explained.
“I like to use my imagination to do things.” a first grader declared.
“That’s great, but this isn’t the time for that.” the para replied.
I laughed to myself as I walked into the closet. I’ve been watching these first grades for the entire year as I walk past during my planning time. I’ve gleaned nuggets of wisdoms and I’ve had moments of laughter. I often wonder what will be in store for me when some of them show up in my 2nd grade classroom next year. I can’t wait to see their reaction when I try to defuse some tension with a cheery, “You don’t have to want to.” as I continue on with my explanation of an activity. Maybe I’ll let them know that was a phrase I learned from a group of first graders I used to know.
I am participating in the 15th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge by Two Writing Teachers. This is my fourth year of daily slicing during the month of March. Thanks for stopping by!
My second graders have been working on nonfiction writing projects. They have been able to choose from a variety of types of writing for this nonfiction unit. Most have decided to write a how to book but some have decided to write an alphabet book and a few have chosen to try a graphic novel nonfiction piece. This is new for me but I am embracing it because two of my graphic novel authors are reluctant writers.
This week we are focusing on helping our reader get a picture in their mind to teach them our topic. We are learning to use descriptions and comparisons to help give our readers more information. Today I modeled this with my how to book on cookie decorating. Tomorrow I will be modeling this with the graphic novel book I’m attempting to write to teach the same topic. I’m hoping my reluctant writers are motivated by my page on piping and flood.