Tuesday, December 31, 2013

OLW 2013 is Saying Goodbye

Irrigate was my OLW for 2013.
So, I watered my soul
with infrequent success.
I planted seeds of learning
that grew as my students' English improved.
I made new friends
who in turn irrigated my soul
deep down where it was dry.
I irrigated my plants
both inside and outside.
I watched them grow and multiply.
I started to irrigate my body
by watching my input and decreasing
my waistline.
On some days my steps increased and on others 
I needed fresh water in order to irrigate.

I irrigated my mind by ordering professional books.
Some have sticky notes on many pages
others are waiting to look a bit more used.
I shared ideas with colleagues.
Some thanked me for new ideas
and others where too busy to listen.
I wrote and read when my students did.
I gave them an example of a reader and a writer.
We even blogged in March as a class.

I said goodbye to my daughter
who left for overseas.
I adjusted to an empty house
that is only filled with my noise.
I have missed her terribly,
but I know God is now irrigating her soul.
I learned to irrigate my mind, body and soul
by being with others who feed
my spirit, my mind and my body.

So THANK YOU for irrigating me
by reading my blog and leaving a comment!
Your encouragement and kind words
have sustained me this year through many rough patches!
THANK YOU, my reader, for many wonderful ideas
that I have gathered while reading your blog. 
My life would not be as rich as it is 
without this blogging community!

Irrigate is saying goodbye as the OLW for 2013.
 OLW for 2014 has not visited me yet.
Hopefully I will get to entertain OLW 2014 very soon.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Many Reasons to Celebrate

Discover. Play. Build.

This past week has been wonderful! I have enjoyed having my cousin Matti and his wife Liisa--from Finland--with me. I loved cooking with Liisa, and then eating with the family. Showing Matti and Liisa around my state has also been fun (although cold at times). It has also been wonderful to just chat and talk about people that we all know and love; and also to talk about people that we all loved and  still remember with both love and tears in our eyes. There has been so much joy and laughter present in my life this past week; I think I have added a few years to  my life.

Here are a few highlights of our celebrations this week:

1. Spending an evening with international friends was so much fun!

2. Greenfield Village in Dearborn, MI during Holiday Nights. Matti was proud of "his new" car.

3. It was cold--even if you came from Finland. Actually, it was the Finns that felt the cold more than the others. But the cold did not hinder our fun even though it felt that the coldness was reaching the inside of our bones at times.

4. Hot chocolate, warm home, tiredness, and most of all, happiness was all over us when we returned from our excursion.

5. Having a good cup of coffee with a wonderful friends while exchanging Christmas gifts is always an enjoyable moment!

6. Christmas Eve Candlelight service. This is what Christmas is all about!

Photo by Donnell Wyche

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Traditions

This Christmas I am privileged to have my cousin and his wife travelling from Finland to spend Christmas with me. It's only been two days, and we have already laughed so much. My cousin's wife, Liisa, has reminded me so much of my mother. For some reason, Liisa's mannerism, ways of speaking, and her actions, are so similar to my mother's. It has been good to share memories with someone who was very close to my mother.

Yesterday (Christmas Eve Eve), we prepares casseroles. It always starts with Finnish rice porridge. I slowly cook the rice first in water and then in milk. I season it with salt and butter. At this point, everyone wants to already have a bowl, but after taking out enough porridge to make our carrot casserole, the porridge will have to cook for quite some time in order for it to be the perfect softness when eating. Nothing really says Christmas like perfect rice porridge for me!

Wouldn't you want to have some as well?

While the porridge is cooking to perfection, carrots need to be shredded and rutabagas need to be cut and cooked. The house is starting to smell wonderful! Carrot and Rutabaga casserole are always at my Christmas table. But this year Liisa convinced me to try something new: shredded beet, onion and blue cheese casserole! I was not so sure about the beets. After all, I don't think I have ever touched a beet that did not come from a vinegar solution! I guess I will find out later today if the beet casserole will become a new tradition or just a one time wonder.

By the time you read this, I might be sitting down for Christmas dinner, or putting the final touches on dinner preparation or gift wrapping. I wish you the best ever Christmas which ever way you celebrate this season. My your life be filled with joy, laughter, fun, peace, and most of all, LOVE!
Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Celebrations Continue

Discover. Play. Build.

It is four days until Christmas. I feel like I am running out of time. But then I remember, there are so many reasons to celebrate.

1. I don't like cleaning, but the end result is worth it. Looking at a room from the doorway that is clean and organized, gives you a sense of peace and accomplishment.

2. My cousin and his wife are coming from Finland this afternoon! As my daughter is overseas, there was a possibility that I would be home  by myself at Christmas, but surprise, visitors from overseas are coming! Maybe I will even get to enjoy some Finnish chocolate!

3. I have two weeks off. Time to enjoy great company, and recharge for the next few months. 

4.  One of my neighbors and friends saved me. I have been looking for a Christmas present for my overseas visitors, but had not found anything. Then my neighbor stopped by to show what she had made for a charity craft sale. Perfect item for my visitors! I didn't even go shopping!

5. I can't write this and not celebrate the  many wonderful coworkers that I have.  I came home yesterday with cookies (migraine kept me from joining the cookie exchange), chocolate, cards and a wonderful ending for a 2013.

What are you celebrating today?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

PD means seeing friends, learning and having fun

I was so fortunate to attend a professional development yesterday. For the last five years, our state's special population's office has supported a Train the Trainers cohorts. We started with SIOP (-Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol), worked on writing, and now, we are looking at WIDA and how we can integrate common core standards with the WIDA standards.

Today we had three wonderful presenters: Kelli, Maura and Nadra. Their goal was to instruct us in close reading, WIDA standards and, of course, common core. These three ladies are amazing! They are full of knowledge on how to best instruct English Language Learners in content area classroom while still supporting their English language development.

My day yesterday was NOT:

  • boring
  • dragging
  • same old, same old
  • full of wasted information

But my day yesterday WAS:
  • fun
  • entertaining
  • educational
  • fun
  • learning experience
  • did I say fun already
  • energizing
I came home with so many ideas on what I can do to teach my students better, prepare lessons that are aligned both with common core and WIDA standards, and how to share these ideas with classroom teachers in order for our students to learn as much as possible. I think I am now ready to start planning for the two PDs that I am responsible during the first week in January. I needed this spark to start my creative process. I needed the encouragement of fellow ELL professionals. I needed someone to validate my work.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Celebration Saturday

Discover. Play. Build.

There is so much to celebrate! Here are a few highlights from this past week:

  1. The varsity boys basketball game last night was soooo close! It was fun. What made it even more fun, was sitting next to wonderful students who totally energized my Friday evening.
  2. Great coworkers to share soup with at lunch. And let's not forget the pizza that was delivered to my room on Thursday while I was trying to crunch numbers in order to meet a deadline for the state.
  3. Text exchanges at night to remind to get my gym clothes packed and ready for a workout after work. And a few additional texts after work (to make sure I am really leaving work and not just working:) Great coworkers make great friends!
  4. Small group ladies! They always make me laugh! They care, share coffee and tea, and pray!
  5. Seeing students  who have already graduated! One of them told me last night how he is getting great grades in college (his first semester). He is now actually focused on his studies!
  6. I am also celebrating snow that is coming down! I LOVE SNOW!!!! Everything will look so much brighter with new snow on the ground! It just might be white Christmas this year.
What are you celebrating today?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Human Rights Day 2013

20 years

Did you know that today is the United Nation's Human Rights day 2013? I didn't. I know about human rights. I know what it is when you don't have them, and what it means to have them. I teach students who come from countries with no rights, some rights, and a few of them even come from countries where human rights are honored. This past week, I was again reminded about the importance of human rights by Nelson Mandela.
In my Sheltered English class, we have been studying real-life writing purposes; what they are, where we can find them, and how do we know what the writer's purpose is. So this idea came to my mind: could I devote a few days to human rights in the middle of this unit? What would the lesson look like? Would it include writing? What about reading? What would be the end product? 

Good cup of coffee, comfortable chair, Internet, laptop on my lap, and I was on my way to planning this week. Very soon it became apparent that the inclusion of videos would greatly enhance my lessons. As I watched YouTube clips, listened to music and read declarations, I became even more convinced that this is really something that I need to study with my students.

This week, we are delving into the rights that all human beings should have. We are interviewing family and friends, teachers, other students and staff about what human rights mean to them. We will complete mini research on human rights issues that we will then share in class. We will make posters to hang in our classroom and in the hallways to remind everyone about the rights that we all have or should have. And through all this, we will look at the real-life writing and reporting that is happening even today in countries where citizens are still fighting for their basic human rights.

Will you help us by sharing what human rights means to you?

I wish that I had learned earlier about all the resources that are available for educators, but here is one great resource in case you would like to check it out.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Celebration of Heros

Discover. Play. Build.

I did not have to fight for my rights when I was growing up
I already had the freedom
I did not have to fight for my right to vote
I already had the freedom
I did not have to fight for my right to worship in freedom
I already had the freedom
I did not have to fight for my right to sit at the front of a bus
I already had that freedom
I did not have to fight for my right to attend a school of my choice
I already had the freedom
I did not have to fight for the right to speak my language
I already had the freedom
I did not have to fight for my right to live in a place of my choosing
I already had the freedom
I did not have to fight for peace in my country
I already had the freedom to live in peace

So, today, I celebrate you 
who had to fight for your rights
I celebrate you
 who had to fight to get the right to vote
I celebrate you
 who had to fight to worship freely
I celebrate you
 who had to fight to go to a school of your choice
I celebrate you
 who had to fight for the right to live freely and in freedom
I celebrate you
 who had to fight for peace in your country
I celebrate you
who went to prison to make sure I can keep my rights

"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."     -Nelson Mandela-

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Are you a Thinker or Browser?

Have you heard of Kelly Gallagher? Have you ever visited his page? Looked at his resources? Browsed his collection of current event articles? In case you haven't, here is the link to his page: Kelly Gallagher. I am a  regular lurker on his website. I am always looking to find the next article to read with my students.

A few days ago, my high school students read a current event article together. The title was "Why being a thinker means pocketing your smartphone." Very intriguing. The article provided tons of discussion material. We started talking about what we do when we have a few minutes with nothing to do. Do we reach for our electronic devises? If we do, what do we do with them?

The second thing we discussed was the statement made in the article: "smartphones kill creativity." As my students wrote their responses to the article, many of them mentioned that you don't have to think as much because you can "just Google" it. Others said that when you need to do a creative project for school, you just go to YouTube and watch how to duplicate something that someone else has already done.

When I started thinking about my creativity I came back to my cooking. Maybe it is because I feel too limited by following a recipe (unless it's a cake or another fancy dessert). I love the freedom I have when making soup! Little bit or this, some more of that, and oh, there are some frozen peppers left in the freezer as well. Add a little variety of spices, and voila, soup is ready to serve! If it is looking a little strange with its multitude of ingredients, blend it and make smooth pureed soup!

What are you doing in your classroom and in your life to foster creativity and curiosity? What is something new that you have done in the last few weeks? Did you join the #nerdlution? Or, have you been just browsing and lurking?

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Celebration of Word Sounds

Discover. Play. Build.

Words have so much power. I love teaching vocabulary that connects to students' lives, and sounds different--makes it easier to remember. So today, I celebrate words and their sounds!

  1. perpendicular--two lines which meet at right angle. I love how this word sounds. There is a rhythm to the sounds; you have to move your mouth and lips to say the sounds correctly.
  2. ostentatious--showy. Which one really would sound better in your writing: showy or ostentatious?
  3. peculiar--strangle or odd. The sound of that words make just stays with me. I can remember the way that you write them and how they sound. I think this word--peculiar--even sounds a little mysterious, don't you.
  4. ambivalent--uncertain or unsure (having mixed feelings). Again, there is the sound that a word makes that just sticks with me. I am wondering if there is a direct correlation with our lip movement with the part of our brain that stores words in a long term memory?
  5. preposterous--contrary to reason or common sense. I love when my students take these words and use them in their writing. I know that they "got it" when I see one of these challenge words used in essays, journals or other writings.
  6. ubiquitous--being everywhere (omnipresent). Perhaps it is the /b/ and /p/ sounds that attract me with these words. Those two sounds are also the hardest for my ELLs to differentiate as Arabic does not have those sounds. Come to think of it, Finnish does not have the exact same sounds either.
  7. obnoxious--very offensive. Doesn't the pronunciation of this word already tell you how offensive something is?
  8. plethora--abundance. There really are a plethora of words that I could use, but perhaps today, I will focus on words that stay with me because of their sounds.  
Maybe next time, I will celebrate words that have meaning beyond their sounds.

I hope that you have a plethora of wonderful Thanksgiving memories to share and treasure!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Books, books and some more books at the Corner Booskhop

November is one of my favorite months. Thanksgiving is coming, and with it, my mind turns to thinking about all the things that I am thankful for. Today, I am thankful for books! 

As an ELL teacher for grades K-12 , and at least five different proficiency levels, I need  a large selection of books for my students. Many years ago I heard Stephen Krashen speak on the importance of books in the hands of ELL students. If students do not have books that they enjoy reading, how can we expect them to improve their proficiency and fluency? From that time on, I have collected books for my classroom (and a few others as well).

This above photo is taken at our local Friends of the Library bookstore. It shows part of the YOUTH collection that we have for sale at the Corner Bookshop. All the regular youth paperbacks are just 25Ȼ each. Hardcover youth books are 50Ȼ each. My friend Kathy, is in charge of organizing the youth section and keeping it stocked. I love walking in on Thursdays after work as I get to see all the new books that she is putting on the shelves. Many Thursdays I go home with a bagful of books for my classroom, but knowing that I only paid $2-5 dollars for that bag, makes me rejoice (and not feel guilty).

Later on Thursdays, Cristian often comes to stock up his section of the bookstore: history and politics. I love looking at the books that he brings to the store. There are always a few gems that I MUST look at--even if I don;t want to buy them. These gems also also just $1! If you are a bargain shopper, you would love our Corner Bookshop prices!

There are also a few regular customer that know when their favorite sections are being stocked. One Chinese young mother often comes with her daughter to check out the youth section. A few minutes before we close, a gentleman walks in on most Thursdays. His direction is the history and politics sections that hopefully Cristian has just refreshed with new material.

Through volunteering at the Corner Bookstore for many years, I have been able to build my classroom library as well. My students have books that they can checkout or use for in class reading. When parents come, I am also able to show them examples of the books that are at their child's level.

There are also times when it is my turn to escape this world and its responsibilities for a few minutes. That is best done with a book! I can have a book in the car, a book to read when my students are reading independently, and of course, a book to read by my bedside. I like a good mystery with some action mixed in.

Murder as a Second Language: A Claire Malloy MysteryThis caught my attention when I was looking at our library website for some new upcoming books. The title was intriguing. It is now on my list of books to read .
Then there is John Green's "Fault in Our Stars" that I am reading in small doses. But that might really turn into a different post later on.

What are your favorite books to read to relax or escape for a few minutes?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Temperature is plummeting--Soup is rising

Discover. Play. Build.

I love my love Corner Bookshop at our public library. When I walk in there on Thursdays after work, see my friend Kathy and browse the books, I can relax! Today, I celebrate treasures found inside cookbooks!

I love looking at cookbooks! I love the pictures that show what the dish is supposed to look like. I do NOT like cookbooks with only the words. I NEED to see photos as they get my imagination moving. Creative cooking comes with imagining the dish on my table or on my bowl.
Today's menu includes soup. I grew up on lots of soup. Broth soups with good rye bread. Fish soup with salmon, summer soup (that we only ate during winter), sausage soup etc. Maybe that is why I love Zuppa Toscana at Olive Garden?

Today I came home with thin books about soups and one thicker cookbook because it had a recipe for salad that was so colorful I could not resist. Guess how much I paid? Three dollars even!! And I will not even feel bad when I take the books back after cooking the recipes that I like. So, I think this weekend's menu will include: soup, rice porridge and a colorful salad.

What are you planning to cook this weekend?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Turning signal, texting and punctuation rules

Are you familiar with the turn signal that is installed in your car? Are you accustomed to using it or ignoring it? Do you use it when the rules state that you should use it or are you a last minute user--you know the moment you need to change lanes and the other driver is not being helpful?

Did you see the photo above? I like to see the orange lights light up when the car in front of me wants to turn. But too often THIS DOES NOT happen! It greatly annoys me! Is there a reason that the manufactures have not found a way to make the turning signal light up immediately when you the driver tries to turn? They have managed to lower the emissions, install CD players and blue-tooth inside the car; they have even managed to increase the amount of miles we get on a gallon of gas. Why not improve the function of the turning signal?

In a very similar fashion, all my students can tell me that a sentence starts with a capital letter and ends with a period, or another end punctuation mark. But in practice, very few of them are consistently using capital letters and end punctuation. Many of them believe that commas work just as well as the signal that the sentence has ended. It is like driving on the two lane highway, you want to get over to the right lane in order to exit a little while later. You don't feel the need to turn on the turning signal because the other drivers should realize that when you start moving towards right, that is the signal that you are changing lanes. No need to bother reaching the turn signal; after all, that would mean moving your hand an inch or two. When you starting driving towards the other lane it is obvious what you are trying to do, right?

Some experts are saying that forgetting to signal when turning could be as dangerous as texting. Are my students learning from texting that punctuation is no longer a necessary? Are students using punctuation as randomly as they use it when texting? Is this a problem only with the older students or are you seeing this with younger ones as well?

How do we counteract the culture that does not use punctuation according to rules? What are you doing in your classroom to help students continue to follow the rules of mechanics when writing? 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Ladies Tea

Discover. Play. Build.

Last night I had a joy of attending a Ladies Tea at my sister-in-law's church. Festive atmosphere, beautiful decorations, smiling people, and a wonderful speaker. It was a great way to begin the holiday season.

Every table was decorated by a different person

Table decorators brought dishes from home
 in order to make every table look unique.

This was a perfect way to end a hectic week of many meetings on top of regular school work. So, today I celebrate the beginning of the holiday season. Yes, i might be bit early and my home is not ready, but I am in the spirit. Just might play a few Christmas carols while I work today.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Thoughts about Conferences with ESL Parents

Last week Thursday we had parent-teacher conferences. My student teacher and I were sitting at our table in the gym. Signing sheet ready, pens ready, mentally prepared, elementary conference times next to us; we were ready for parents.

My first elementary parent did not arrive. I was just walking back to the gym when another mother in her very broken English asked me, "I miss my son bus. Where he now?"  Another father sitting nearby was able to interpret and help us communicate with the mother. Our bus coordinator came and I was free to get back to the gym again.

A few moments to relax, chat about test scores, and then we saw the smiles coming our way. Five children with their foster father approached. They were so happy! And I was so happy to tell their foster father how hard the children are all working to learn English. These are the children that break my heart (because they have lost so much in their young lives), but also restore my faith in the goodness of people.

Time to run (actually walk fast) to the elementary building again. I walk to the end of the building, no parents yet. I walk to the other end to see if another set of parents has arrived. They haven't, but I find a mother who needs an interpreter. Some more walking for me as I locate the right person to assist her. My step counter really rejoiced on conference day.

Finally everything starts working, and I am able to attend a few conferences in a row. I am amazed with one of our elementary teachers; she's so good at talking with ESL parents.She can say enough with a few simple words. We talked about practicing how to write letters or how to help with simple addition at home. Few parents left with additional work that their children could/should be doing at home--work that parents can supervise even if they don't speak English.

At the end of the evening, one of my 5th grade parents came to see me. I saw her coming, and knew right away this was going to be interesting. Her son, A., came last year from Iraq. He made so much progress last year. Now A's mother wants to know if I could give him extra work in math and English so that he could learn even faster. (Inside I am thinking, couldn't this mother give some advice for my high school parents??? You know what I mean?) We talked for a long time as she was my last parent. I was right, the conversation was so interesting that we decided we need to continue it at another time.  I could only wish that all my parents would be like her: doing everything they can to make sure that their child is learning regardless of their own English proficiency level.

All in all, great evening spent in the company of wonderful people! I am so proud of every parent who came as it takes courage to come when you are not sure if the teachers will understand you or are willing to take the time to speak with you in a way that you will understand.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Celebrating Young ESL Students

Discover. Play. Build.

My struggling third and fourth grade ESL students are getting their vowel sounds right!! This is a milestone and definitely worth celebrating! It was not long ago when M. could not even imagine putting two different sounds together. Now, look at his pile of words that he reads fluently!

Here is another pile of words. A. has been really improving fast. In the last couple of months, a new light is shining in his eyes when he is reading. There is new interest in words and reading. He is becoming more fluent!

Another A. has big issues when it comes to learning. He had never attended school before coming to America in 3rd grade. The fact that he is finally able to rad this many words, and with the correct vowel sounds, feels like a miracle!

So today, I celebrate my young ESL students. They have have shown stamina and persistence in their learning. They are determined to learn! They are determined to become fluent in every aspect of English language!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Mental movement vs. physical movement

Last spring one of my coworkers found a small gym--The Pocket Gym. Val would leave right after work, and go exercise. She had more energy, and she was singing the owner's praises. I started thinking, could I start going to gym again? I mean, mentally I knew that it would be a great idea. I also knew I would benefit both mentally and physically. My mental self was eager, but my physical one could not make my legs move towards the gym.

Summer vacation started. I knew I had time. Still, my legs kept moving me in every other direction except the gym. In about middle of July, it hit me: my summer vacation was half over, and I had done nothing regarding my legs' aversion of northwest direction. I guess I would have to make the decision regardless of my legs' preferences.

I arrived at the gym. I huffed and puffed my first hour. My knee was hurting. I was sweating. I was thirsty. I was not mentally prepared for this. Did I mention, I was really hot? There was no miracle weight loss or marathon running in my near future. But, there was laughing, puffing and huffing, little less knee pain every week, more energy, sweating, strange looking workout clothes that came out of the closet, and new friends.

I am no longer sweating that much. Well, the fact that it is cold outside just might have something to do with that. Nevertheless, I can bike, walk on the treadmill, jump (or walk) on the trampoline, and do strength training without any pain! I am excited! I feel that finally, my mental and physical self are walking on the same road. Why did it take me so long??

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Student Teacher Observations

Discover. Play. Build.

I have had a wonderful student teacher with me this fall. Amanda is getting her ESL endorsement added to her existing certificate. I have learned so much, and hopefully Amanda has learned from me as well.

Friday was an important day: Amanda's supervisor from the university was coming to observe her. She was nervous, but she had a solid plan for the two hours that he would be observing her. Of course, one student had to leave just before the class started thus leaving one student without a partner. Looking back, this student leaving might just have been a blessing in disguise.

Everything went so WELL! Amanda was so excited! After talking with the professor, she came back and said: "I am so excited, I need to high five somebody!"  Her joy was contagious! 

So, today, I am celebrating Amanda! She has worked hard to be where she is today. She will be a great teacher in her own classroom! I am just sorry that it will no longer be with me. Amanda will be an asset to any school that will hire her!

Thank you, Amanda!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Celebrating My Garden Fairy

Monday evening. Busy day at work. Pizza box in the car.  Kitchen table waiting to be cleaned and dishes in the sink waiting to be washed. Car parked. Engine turned off. I raise my eyes and look towards my front door.


My neighbor fairy has been working again!

I left this morning thinking that when the next warm day comes, I will have to start getting my plants winter ready. Now, in order for you to  understand why this idea often stays as an idea until the next spring, you would need to know that I love planting in the the spring. I even like watering my plants during summer. Weeding, cleaning the plants, trimming, clearing for winter...I don't think any of those words are even part of my vocabulary! Well, I might know the words, but somehow knowing them never translated into action.

My wonderful neighbor, Ruth, however, considers these above mentioned words to be part of her daily action words: If there is too much grass growing between the rocks in my garden, she will roll the rocks out and weed! If the morning glories are getting a little too wild, she will find a trellis for them, and lift them off the ground. If I forget to water the plants in the back, she will do it for me!

So, back to today. As I gazed at my front door, I noticed that there were no more morning glories! My Rose of Sharon had been trimmed. The grass next to the house cut down! A couple of empty hanging baskets on my steps--now even those are being stored at my neighbors.

My neighbor fairy has been working again!

I am blessed to live next to wonderful neighbors! Ruth makes my garden look so much better than I even could! She comes up with ideas to make my plants (still remember that I actually like planting?) fresher and more abundant! I am not sure if Ruth even realizes how much she blesses me year after year.

So here is a BIG thank you for my neighbor Ruth! You are an angel who takes care of my garden like a magical fairy!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Finding what you are made for

Are you made to be a teacher?
Maybe a mother?
Are you made to be a mentor?
Maybe a friend?
Are you made to be a good neighbor?
Maybe a coach?
Are you made to be a singer?
Maybe a song writer?
Are you made to be an administrator?
Maybe a principal?
Are you made to be a chef?
Maybe a family cook?
Are you made to be a chauffeur?
Maybe a bus driver?
Are you made to be a writer?
Maybe a blogger?
Are you made to be an athlete?
Maybe a runner?
Are you made to be a caretaker?
Maybe a nurse?
Are you made to be an artist?
Maybe a painter?
Are you made to be a listener?
Maybe all of the above at times.

This past Sunday, I was listening to a sermon about what we are made for. I sat at church thinking about my life as a teacher. Am I where I need to be at this time of my life? The answer is, "YES!" I am a teacher, at my school, with my specific students. I am doing what I am supposed to be doing at this time in my life. Could it be, that there is even more for me?? I don't know. But for now, I am content to be a teacher, an educator, a blogger, a friend, a coach, a mother, a listener, a mentor, and all of the many things that being a teacher means.

Frederick Buechner defines vocation: "Vocation is where your deep gladness meets the world's hunger." I was asked to think what I am passionate about. Well, the answer to that was easy; I am passionate about English Language Learners! Making sure that they learn English, succeed in school, become contributing members of our society, and find their own vocation--their own passion for life.

I am also passionate about writing when my students write, giving them an example. I am passionate about reading when my students read (during quiet reading of course), so that my students will see a teacher reading, not just correcting papers. I am passionate about finding ways that I can help my students learn. Sometimes this means that I need to learn something new--like how to use my new smartphone:) It is also knowing that this is my calling that brings great satisfaction and joy to my life. I don't think that I would be an educator if it would not bring joy into my life.

What are you made for? What are you passionate about? What do you feel called to do? I would love to hear your thoughts.

If you would like to listen/read the message that I listened this Sunday, you can find it here.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Places to Visit and Fruits to Grow......with Padlet

We have had a couple of days off from school. I have been researching technology in light of needing to buy a new phone. I came across padlet. I wanted to create something both fun and useful. Below are some places that I would like to visit in my lifetime. Next, I wanted to figure out how I could make padlet a bit more academic in my classes. Perhaps a simple activity with my ELLs to see where the fruits that we eat come from. (Could not yet figure out why the places moved to wrong places on the map after embedding the wall on my blog. I guess there is still room for me to learn more.) Perhaps I could add pictures of the fruit with my students in class. Students could also have their own maps to label as we look at the big map on the smartboard. I am starting to see the rewards of using padlet as it provides both visual and textual support that our ELLs need. Have you used padlet?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Starry Morning

Monday morning.
Bags are packed; handouts are printed.
Lunch is made--or bought ready.
Vitamins taken? Check!
Teeth brushed? Check!
Car keys? Check!
Gym clothes? Check!
It is so dark. Do I really need to leave this early?
Drapes opened--there just might be a little sunshine wanting to meet my indoor plants today. I have watered them (irrigated--if you know what I mean). Photosynthesis now just needs the sun food.
I wouldn't mind a little sunshine either.
All the bags with me? Check!
Door locked? Check!
Are there really so many stars?
I stop and look up again. So bright. Not just one or two; a multitude.
If I was Elsie, I would have had my camera ready. Obviously, I am not and I didn't.
But I had a moment to marvel the creation of a starry sky. It brought light to my dark morning, a reminder that things are often darkest before daybreak. It gave me hope.
Music was blasting in my car and the driver was singing along. There was joy this morning. All because of those bright stars that shone on my morning.
Joy this week? Check!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

House on Mango Street, another on Hummus Street, a third one on Tabouli Lane, and one more from Masala Avenue

In light of us soon starting our "House on Mango Street" unit, I had to imagine a few different scenarios with my students--as they do not all come from Mango Street.

There is Anna who comes from Hummus Street. She is tall and loves to laugh. She really wanted to be a dentist until she realized that being a dentist involves blood. Anna is now looking into new possibilities that do not involve blood as part of her job description. Anna also loves math, but history is a subject that she could do without. Anna might come from Hummus Street, but it is purely American Hersey's chocolate that Anna loves as her lunch. And not just any chocolate, but cookies & cream is her must have.

Matt comes form Tabouli Lane. He has been in America longest of all the students in my class. Matt is usually always on time. His uniform is perfect--with only a few adjustments to his tie are needed before he can sit down. Matt's best friend in my class is a tissue. It could be that Matt needs to stretch his legs more often than the others. Matt is also always cold. "Ms, can you turn the temperature up?" Matt's skills of observation have not yet reached the level that he could see that "Ms" is quite warm, and thus will not turn the thermostat up. Although, Matt must be good at math as he is always trying to calculate the age of "Ms" based on any and all details that he remembers "Ms" mentioning about herself.

Drew form Masala Avenue is a new student. I have not learned as much about him yet. Drew is quiet, but always willing to offer an opinion. Of course, he also always raises his hand before speaking--a fact that some of  my other students have not yet mastered. Drew will ask if I would be willing to help him during lunch or study hall with an assignment in a different class. He is ready with an explanation of what he needs to do and why he was unable to do it at home. It also appears that Drew's mother has something in common with my mother. Interesting, as the two women never met, and always lived on different continents.

What is Your Mango Street?

The names of the students have been changed to guarantee their privacy on their home streets:)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Just the beginning, and we are moving on full force!!

Today is the three week anniversary of this school year. So much has happened in these short weeks. Oh, and let's not forget the two weeks that we had professional development BEFORE students arrived. So, it is actually the five week anniversary today. Many new ideas, programs, plans and, of course, students have entered my classroom and my school. Here are just a few:

  • WIDA English Language Development Standards: MI adopted these new standards and their assessments. It has been a race to learn all that I have to know in order to teach classroom teachers and others working with ELL students. New test to administer to new students, and learning how to score it and how to enter it to the new state website that has been a bit behind in releasing its new features.
  • New Teachers: Some have never worked with ELLs before or are entering a new subject or grade level. When you work in a school where 40-50% of the students are ELL, you cannot wait until the second or third year of teaching to learn how to teach and assist ELLs; you have to do it right now.
  • SIOP--Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol: This SIOP model helps teachers plan and deliver lessons that are accessible for ELLs. I needed to give some quick overviews on SIOP for our new teachers. Writing your content and language objectives for every class is not easy if you have never had to do that before.
  • Interrupted Education Students: How many students do you have in your classroom that come from overseas? How many of those have missed one to four years of schooling? How do you start with a ninth grader who speaks no English, cannot multiply or divide in math, does not understand anything even in art or PE class? How do I equip teachers to work with these students? I am not even talking about how these students have to take our state assessment in a few weeks even though they speak no English. It is going to be an interesting year.
  • My helpers: I am blessed to have parapro or part-time ELL tutor working with me this year. She is so competent that I do not have to wonder what she is doing. She knows what it takes to work with the students, and how to push them to the next level. She is detail oriented--meaning that she pushes me to be more focused on details as well. I also have a student teacher this fall. How did I get so lucky?? My student teacher already has her teaching certificate, and is now adding ESL endorsement to her certificate. Again, she is very competent. when give a task, she will run with it. I already feel that I am much further than I was last year at this time. I could not have asked for better helpers!!! P.S. I have TWO adults who volunteer their time to read with middle and high school ELLs!!!
  • My past, present and future students: What a surprise i had a week ago when one of my old (and very favorite) students showed up as a pre-student teacher in my school! He totally made my day! Then I look at my present students and wonder, how many of them will become teachers, doctors, engineers, nurses, etc? How can I make sure that I give them the education that they need to follow their dreams? How can I make sure that their English proficiency improves? Like many of you, this means hours spent on making picture cards, laminating, searching or creating to make just the right teaching tools to assist my students.
  • Rosetta Stone: I love that my district has purchased licenses for our ELLs. This year I am the one who organizes the registering of students from seven different schools. I am told it should only take extra time at the beginning of the year, but then there is also the monitoring that students are actually doing what they need to be doing. 
I am already thinking what reflections I will have at the ten week and twenty week anniversary this year. I am wondering what new things I will learn, what new resources I will find that prove to be essential in helping my students toward their proficiency in English, and how I will learn to balance my time with school and other obligations and personal aspirations this year.