Sunday, March 31, 2013

Dear Daughter, I am brainstorming

Today is the last day of the Slice of Life Challenge, but my mind is already thinking about another ending; my daughter's college. She will graduate in a month. A month will go by so fast. I want to write her a letter that reflects all the things that she has already accomplished in her life, struggles that she has faced head on, and what a women she has become.

How can I choose just the right moments from her life to include in the letter? Shall I choose one event per year? Or only choose those moments that stand out in my memory? Should I include difficult times or events that did not always turn out so well? Should my focus be on the recent years or her early years?

What about the format? shall I go to the office supply store and select beautiful paper to write the letter on? Or would be more convenient to write her a letter in an electronic format? The definite advantage of the electronic letter format would be that I could include pictures with my words. Scanning or uploading pictures would be so easy. But would it be more special to able to hold onto a paper copy of the letter; fold it and put it between the pages of her favorite book? Or maybe that is something that I would have done before the time of computers; today's young tech savvy people might think very differently.

Could I also include a few mentions about my feelings? Cuddling under the blanket reading, chatting about daily happenings, counting how long it takes to swim from one end of the pool to the other, arguing about words in essays--I miss them. Listening to the tape that grandmother in Finland made with her when she was a toddler. (How can I transform that into an electronic format??) Laughing with both grandmothers as they always tend to hear things wrong (and always in a funny way).

I need to decide. I have only one month to accomplish my task. I want to show in my letter how much I love her.  Can you think of anything else that I should include in my letter?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

10 Minute Revolution

Graphic by:

In January I read a blog post about all the things that you can do in 10 minutes.
Here is a sampling of what I can accomplish in 10 minutes and what I would like to accomplish in that time.

  • Take a walk to smell the spring air
  • comment on a few blog posts
  • get my heart rate up by exercising (Pilate's, walking, jumping etc.)
  • correct 5-6 quizzes 
  • make my morning coffee and breakfast (and drink the first cup)
  • read at least 10 pages of a good book (Why would I waste ten minutes reading a bad book.)
  • Write a short blog post when the day is almost over
  • vacuum downstairs
  • do the dishes ( when I have less dishes on the sink than right now)
  • be half way to school in the mornings
  • knit at least 10 new rows for my scarf
  • de-stress with a friend and colleague after work
  • write at least one day's lesson plans for one class period

Here is what I would like to accomplish in 10 minutes:

  • finish a one-on-one speaking test (but unfortunately it takes much longer)
  • correct all my quizzes (you know I am dreaming)
  • spend time in the mornings reading the Word
  • clean the house (so, I am optimistic, and would like to move onto other things after cleaning)
  • take that walk more often to make sure the smell of spring stays with me on days that feel gloomy (even with the sunshine)
  • brainstorm future blog posts that are more eloquent and professionally crafted
  • make a phone call to a friend far away or write an e-mail to someone an ocean apart 
  • go to bed a few minutes early in order to wake up a few minutes early to accomplish more, and to be more awake 

What can you accomplish in 10 minutes or what would you like to accomplish in 10 minutes?

Friday, March 29, 2013

As Far as the East is from the West....

I want to be perfect.
I want to do everything right.
I don't want to make mistakes.
I don't smoke
I want to live longer.
Yet, I am not perfect.
His grace is sufficient for (me) you.
I should lose a few pounds (maybe even more)
But I haven't accomplished that yet.
Could I do more for the poor?
Yes, of course!
Do I always treat my fellow humans
the best possible way?
I believe I fall short many times.
His grace is sufficient for (me) you.
Could and should I spend more time
studying His word?
Yes, so why do I not do it?
Do my hobbies at times come
before Him?
Are my words always chosen wisely?
His grace is sufficient for (me) you.

This is what Good Friday is all about. Forgiveness when none is deserved.
Radical forgiveness purely out of grace and love. And not just forgiveness, but removing our sins so far that we cannot even touch or see them again. Therefore, this is the day to bless His name!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thankful Thursday #4 in March 2013

This last week before spring break I am thankful for:

-Colleagues at my table at the new standards training: Candy, Kathy, Evalicia and Karen. You tried to do everything to help me out today when I was not feeling well. Thank you!
-Friends from church that I can e-mail and ask to pray for me as I am not feeling well. (Thank you Penny)
-Teachers at my school who are covering for me when I am at the training. (Thank you Rindy, Ahlam, Shannon and Shawn.)
-Getting my taxes done--with a smile (Thank you Barb.)
-For my students who have blogged this month, and asked if we could continue our blog after March.
-For everyone who has commented on my students' blog posts
-For the sunshine that kept me going today when I was not feeling well
-For no traffic jams to slow my drive to the city in two days!!!
-For the opportunity to participate in Slice of Life Challenge. What a great way to stretch my writing muscles.
-For fellow slicers who have given me so many ideas to try, and also to save to try later
-Daughter who only a text away (Dorothy, thanks for praying for me yesterday; I am feeling better.)
-for Holy Week and all it means, and made possible for me.

Thank you for taking the time to read my post!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Words of Joy

A few days ago I encountered tagedo the very first time. I have seen other bloggers try this, and I wanted to try and see if I could also create a cloud from the words on my blog. I love the fact that I was able to choose the shape of my words.
JOY brings me so much happiness! So do the words inside inside of each of the letters.


And so many other words. All of them bring joy into my life, and hopefully, to those around me (either physically or in cyberspace)!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Feelings and thoughts of something you use daily

It is so dark here.
It's crowded. Some new members were stuffed in last night.
Should I introduce myself?
Maybe not yet.
This might just be passing acquaintance.
The new green one is kind of cute.
Recycled material I hear.
Must be the fashion these days.
I wonder if the blue one is related to the green one?
Should I ask?
That really hurt.
How many times a day do I have put up with this kind of behavior?
Hey, I can breathe better now.
But I am cold.
Do you have to hold me so tight?
I am not your drum stick! Stop tapping me on the table!!!
Do you hear me???
Of course not!
You are so busy moving me from place to place.
Or from surface to surface.
I really like the white smooth one that my friend red has left some marks on.'
The bumpy one really hurts me.
I can hear the zipper again.
Is it time already to hang out with the others?
Wonder if there are any new friends today?


Monday, March 25, 2013

Unexpected Blessings

March is testing month for all the ELL students. Every student has to take a test that has four parts: listening, reading, writing and speaking. The first three are done in a group setting, but the speaking test must be administered one-on-one. I have been trying to figure out why I feel like I am drowning and going much slower than last year. I should already be done, but I am not. Why?
Then I finally realized; I am testing over 50 more students than last year!! So, if I calculate that each speaking test taking about 20 minutes, I will need about 17 more hours for testing this year!!!!!! But I don't have 17 hours! What to do?? And let's not forget that I can't just test, I also have to teach!

My phone rings:
-Hi Jaana! Are you still testing?
-of course
-do you think you could use help this week on testing?
-YES! Are you available?
-yes; I could come on Monday and Tuesday.
-wonderful! I will have the testing booklets ready for you.
-okay. see you on Monday morning.

This call came from my neighbor Linda--a retired teacher--who has helped me many times in the past with testing. She knows what to do.
Another retired teacher, Kathy, came for a few days to help me out with testing.
Sunday I talked with a fellow teacher who just promised me to help with the speaking test as well!
On Friday, another part time teacher was willing to change her hours so that she could come and help with the testing!
UPDATE: This morning another teacher offered to help with few students as well!!!

I am feeling extra blessed right now!! I have amazing people in my life! People who are willing to come and help. My stress level just went down:-) Now I get to figure out what can I do in return to bless these people who have made such a big difference in my life!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Cooking soothes my soul

It is Sunday morning. I am feeling like I should write something profound and and meaningful, something that would make a difference; perhaps even a lasting impression on someone. I have nothing First time this month, I feel like the vessel is empty.

My kitchen, however, is not empty at all! Jars of tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, black beans, white beans, and pasta are ready to pour into the pots. It it lunch after church today, and I know how to cook! I can smell the onions in the stew. Maybe even an itch or a scratch in my eye from their fragrance. I even added some celery; thinking that there must be people who actually like the taste of it. Actually, even I can tolerate cooked celery (especially when it is hiding in a stew).

I am actually not making a stew. Just don't really know what to call it. Maybe one pot meal? Anyway, this will be easy to serve and both adults and children like it. It is not expensive as the ingredients are simple. I feel calm. I love the smells that come from kitchen. It makes me feel accomplished. I am producing something that others really like and enjoy. This time I even saved a little for my evening meal--either today or tomorrow.

So what if I did not make coffee this morning but drank a quick cup of tea instead?
Cooking in the morning is a great start for the day. Especially when I am cooking for others. Giving because I have been given so much.

What are you cooking today?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Faith is plunging into God's grace

In September, Margaret wrote on her blog so beautifully about a community member who had passed away (you can read it here). After reading her post, the phrase "faith is plunging into God's grace" really stayed with me. I started a draft post with that same title. Every once in awhile I would look at the title, think, and then close it again. Every time that I opened my blog, I would see the phrase as draft title. It has served as a reminder that God's grace is there for me--always available. There have been a few moments in my life when "faith has been plunging into God's grace," but I believe that my father could have owned that phrase.

It is 26 years ago this summer that I received the message that my father had passed away. I was living in Taiwan at that time, and my parents lived in Finland. There was no e-mail, no cell phones, no Skype or face time. There was  just a message delivered via an acquaintance.

After thinking about myself, and how I had to put my faith in God. How I had to trust in God on the long flight home. I had time to think about my father, and how many times in his life he had to have faith in God's grace.

As a young boy, my father's leg became severely infected. The infections was so bad that the doctor wanted to amputate his leg. My grandmother prevailed; she put her trust in God and plunged right into His grace. My father's leg was saved, and it did eventually heal. Then came November 1939. The Russian army attacked eastern Finland; right where my father's family lived. Everyone had to leave. My father's family became just one of the many refugees that were forced from their homes. They had no choice but to have the faith that is plunging into God's grace. They survived.
A few months later they were able to go back, rebuild their home. The neighborhood was back. New house soon stood on the old foundation. Life was starting to return to normal. Well, as normal as it could be in the midst of World War II in other parts of Europe.
Then came the dreaded June day in 1941, just after midsummer. The Russian tanks were coming so fast you didn't even have time to wait for the bread that was baking in the oven. It was time to pray again. It was time to trust in God's protection. You had no choice but to put your faith in God. They survived. God's grace was sufficient again. But, they were never able to go back again. They were now permanent refugees in their own country. 

My father's family is just one example of many families who survived that time by putting their faith in God. And not just by saying the words, but by practicing faith that plunges or dives into God's grace. I am blessed; I had great examples of faith when growing up.

Friday, March 22, 2013

They Come with Words

On Thursday I read a reminder that tomorrow is Poetry Friday. Here is my contribution to the Poetry Friday:

They come every day
with words of happiness
to share with all
their grade in the last math test.

They come every day
with words of worry
to ask for help
in history and science.

They come every day
with words of  frustration
to vent their disappointment 
in life and school.

They come every day
with words of hope
to ask for a 
retake or another chance.

They come every day
with words of disappointment
to ask why did this
happen to me
just now. Why

They come every day
with words of anger
to slam the door and
to shout about inequality.

They come every day
with words of strange language
to ask for a translation
from a teacher who speaks a different language.

They come every day
with words full of questions.
Shall I answer them or
make them find the right words


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Thankful Thursday #3 in March 2013

This has been a crazy busy week for me, so it is definitely time to reflect, and get a little perspective.
I am so thankful for:

  • coworkers who can laugh even in the midst of writing school improvement plan on yet another format (that refuses to update any editing changes)
  • chocolate--it can make any day more sweeter
  • the student who finally gave a right answer to the speaking test question that none had answered correctly before (we are in the middle of assessing all our ELL students)
  • wonderful student blogs--really can't say enough
  • students who surprise me with their work
  • only seven more days till the beginning of my spring break!
  • wonderful comments that I have received this past week
  • warm blankets to sit under when writing
  • for students who miss me when I am in a meeting and not in the classroom
  • did I mention already: only seven days until my spring breaks starts!!
  • the promise of spring even though there is no evidence of it outside (we are @ 40-50 degrees colder than last year at this time)
  • local bookstore; great place to walk around maybe even buy a book to read
  • comments that many of you have left on my class blog
  • cold weather ( no bugs can survive this cold)--trying really hard to find reasons to be thankful that I still freeze when leaving my home in the mornings:-)
  • that tomorrow is Friday!
  • you who read my list; hope you also have much to be thankful for!

Wishing all of you a great day!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

English vowels--like my students

If I would need to describe English vowels in comparison to my students, this is what it would look like:

A--with its many sounds is the child who will never sit still. You never know what will come out of his/her mouth. It might be the right word or sound, or it might be song in the middle of testing. A is happy when she is first, but can change her mind often if put in the wrong group to work.

E--definitely not as noisy as A, but still likes to move a lot. E can also be a bit sneaky. You know the child who sits quietly at the table, yet causing all kinds of problems for others under the table. E loves to be the last to give a presentation, that way he can kick everyone down a notch in the grades.

I--think about your students who are easily confused. That is I. Especially if these students come from countries where the English I short sound is actually the E sound. What are you doing for these students? Will you refer them to the social worker or special education?

O--is the dreaming child. Think about the one who is quiet, looks like she is working (maybe even taking notes). But when you ask her a question, even her mouth makes the letter O; she is so surprised that you interrupted her world. She or he is always surprised when it comes time to take a test. They act like they never heard the announcement or read it on the board.

U--is always ready to pass on the responsibility to someone else. U do it. Sometimes I even dream about these phrases at night: "Why can't U do it?" Can't U give me a new copy 'cause I lost mine?" U never told me we were having a test today?" I strongly believe that U and O are kissing cousins. They can both be so surprised every time; and they never want to take responsibility. "Can U write my next blog post?"

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Irritable Vowels--almost like a syndrome

So, what are your thoughts about vowels? Do you have an opinion? Have you ever even thought how we could improve the rules for vowels in English language? I have to admit that I think about these things on daily basis! Maybe because I am an English Language Learner myself who also teaches English Language Learners.

Is the vowel short or long? Does the silent -e at the end of the word really kick the previous vowel and make it say its name? What about when you add an -r? How am I supposed know if the word is spelled with -er, -or, -ar, -ir, OR -ur?? Couldn't there be a difference in pronunciation? Or BIG enough difference that students could hear and understand it?

And then there is Y! We teach students the sounds that each alphabet makes. In the alphabet, Y sounds so normal. At the end of the alphabet list. Maybe not so important or so often used. Wrong!!! Y loves to confuse everyone! I think Y is like the relative who can never make up his/her mind which restaurant we should go eat at, but doesn't like the one someone else picks either. I don't want "sometimes" rules for letter sounds! I want simple, clear, always true rules for my students (and for me as well)!  After all, something in English language should be easy, right.


Monday, March 18, 2013

Mystery Book Covers Part 2

One day I decided to take pictures of interesting book covers based on their titles. Here is a scenario I created based on the cover and title:

It was an early summer afternoon. Sun was starting to slowly turn my nose to pink. I needed to go inside. But I had a few more moments before our club members would arrive. Enjoy the sunshine, get filled with vitamin D, and be ready to  begin an intellectual conversation.

They all came. Tea was ready. We drank from real china cups with saucers. No mugs for this group. I had covered my coffee table with a white lace tablecloth from my great-aunt Hilda's collection. I also used my grandmother's vase to elegantly arrange flowers in it. Bright, uplifting classical piano music was playing in the background. Everything was perfect.
After tea, we moved to sit by the window. Somebody mentioned that natural sunlight would enhance our discussion. After all, we were discussing which is more important: telling the truth or keeping a secret. Discussion was lively. Everyone had an opinion and an example to support their view. Some views were based on moral truths and others had to do with a specific situations.

More hot water was boiling when a screeching bird flew into the living room window. Half of the club members were by now standing in front of the window. Looking down and looking up. Quiet. Then the tea kettle whistled; scaring everyone to turn around. I turned the kettle off, walked to the window, and decided to take a look at the building opposite mine. The street below was busy. Cars trying to drive as fast as possible on a congested traffic. Above the sky was blue; too bright to really even look at it.

Then my eyes shifted to the first window on the right  Could it really be R? I needed my binoculars. But there were too many people in my house to take them out at this moment. I wasn't ready to share my secret with them--not yet.

If you would like to read the real story, you can find it here.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Why Do I Write?

Why Do I write? It is hard for me to think back so many years and find the moments when I actually began writing. I have always been writing. Then why am I asking this question today?
Earlier in March, I wrote about   writing teachers that don't write, but today I am searching for deeper meaning to my writing. When I was a child, I wrote cards, lessons for my dolls, and stories. As a teenager, I wrote in my diary, I wrote essays at school--I can still remember those history essays about Napoleon and Maria Antoinette. As an adult, I wrote down notes at church, during quiet times, and of course, at university. Now I write because:

“Writing is a way of talking without being interrupted.”                                                                                                                                                    -Jules Renard-

I love this quote! When I write, nobody can stop me (except the phone, children, doorbell, or any other external noise). I can choose to ignore anything and everything that does not originate from my brain cells. My words can flow. No one will question my words (at not at this moment). 

“Every word a woman writes changes the story of the world, revises the official version.”           -Carolyn See-

If I think deeply, and am honest with myself, isn't this the reason that I write? I want to change something in this world! Maybe it will only be small part, like the lives of my students. If my example, or my words, will encourage one child to embark on a writing journey, I have changed the world!

“Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.”                                                                -Natalie Goldberg-

I have read many blogs where writers write about their pain. I have cried when sorrow has come through the pages. I have had tears running down my cheeks when good byes have been painful, or when someone else's memories have touched mine. So, I also write to express my fears, memories that are at times painful, or about events that disturb me. I am writing to release stress inside. I am writing that maybe someone will be delivered from their fears, and encouraged to pursue their dreams in spite of uncertainty. I write because there is a message inside me. I write because the dry land needs to be irrigated. I write because it is my passion.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Someday or Today

Someday I will have students
who all make progress.
They will use up all the 
green ink in the data charts

Today I will pray for 
my students.
I will carry them one by one 
to Him' who knows what they need

Someday I will read about my
students who have 
published a book that will 
change the world

Today I will prepare
the lesson that connects 
my students' lives to 
Romeo and Juliet of

Someday one of my
students will help
me to walk again or learn
how to speak again

Today I will teach my students
the vocabulary that they 
will need when that 
someday becomes

I was reading Betsy's blog at the beginning of this month, and I decided that sometime this month I also want to try writing someday/today poem. If you would like to read Betsy's much more eloquent poem, you can find it here.

Friday, March 15, 2013

My Modified Ode to the Color Green

green is the color of new growth in nature
green is the color we use at school when students are at or above grade level
green just makes me happy
green is the color of a juicy apples
green is the color of my bookbag and books bring me JOY
green is the scarf that my friend brought me from China
green eyes are mesmerizing 
green is the sign of spring which means summer is just around the corner
green goes well together with purple
green marker on the board is so soothing
green is the color of the vegetables that I should eat more of
green just makes me happy! 
green is the color of my favorite highlighter 
green energizes me! (and I need energy today!!)
green are my future sandals (just have to wait for the snow to melt)
green is the color around me as I write
green just makes me happy

After a long day of testing and conferences yesterday, I needed a reminder of things that bring me joy! I do not mean that I had sad or difficult conferences, but it was just a really long day, and I am tired now.  Perhaps I will even wear a green shirt today?!?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

My 100th post!!! Thankful Thursday #2 in March 2013

100th Post Today!!  So much to be thankful for!

  • whomever first told me about blogging
  • my daughter for showing me an example of a great blog (hers)
  • faithful slicers who continue to comment
  • students who are into writing
  • friends who understand my passion about teaching
  • Facebook to help keep in touch with old friends around the world
  • a comfortable chair to sit and write my blogs (I am also thinking about Elsie's sofa...should I switch to sofa as well??)
  • the group of students who all decided to bring me an apple today (maybe a post will follow)
  • the phrase "Ms. I miss you!" 
  • new ELL students who keep coming
  • small group ladies who keep me grounded (but in a funny way)
  • parent-teacher conferences with a calm weather forecast (last year in March we had tornado warnings and hail)
  • jeans day at school this Friday!
  • students who have learned to communicate in English!!!!!!!!
  • YOU--who read  this list!!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Voice of Truth & Power of Car Singing

I love to sing! I am not a good singer, but I LOVE to sing! I especially love to sing in the car.Many mornings as I drive to work, I will turn to the local Christian radio stations. I tend to change between the two, depending on what music they are playing (or are they just talking).
I feel empowered by singing these songs as loud as possible in the mornings!
They also ground me; remind me about the truth, about God's power (not mine), and most of all, they show me God's grace! There are mornings when I feel totally lacking or unprepared. Then I am reminded about God's amazing love and grace that are always there for me. How could this not be a good day?

This song was for a long time my ring tone.
Students always thought is was so neat!
(Of course, only ringing after school!)

This is an oldie, but I really love to sing this 
in the car! Plus this reminds me that God
is the one in control--not me!

Amazing Grace--there is something so touching 
every single time I hear it. I might not measure up,
but there is this amazing grace just waiting to 
wrap its arms around me!
Why would I not sing this one?

So, I am going to sing my heart out again this morning on my way to work! I want to be ready with JOY when I enter my building. Plus, who cares if I don't hit the right key on every note. I am sure there is some kind of filter between here and heaven (so that God does not have to listen to my off key notes every morning:)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Help me Mrs. via e-mail

I love when I get dramatic e-mails from my students! They all sound very worrisome or even panicky, but I am a firm believer that dramatic is the better word. What do you think?

"Mrs. you but me down all the way to E!! OMG please Mrs. OK tomorrow i'm taking the AR quiz and i'm doing the book talk OK so it will go up little please Mrs. help me  tell me anything for extra credit."

I love how this student never asks or explains how he did not study (you know, chose to not study for the quiz), but instead focuses on how I gave him the E! I mean, this student's e-mail sounds like I am waiting for excitedly for the moment when a student's points don't add up to a passing grade. Do students think that this is the moment teachers high five other teachers? 

I also love how students are always willing to do extra credit instead of studying for something that they know is coming. But, I have to admit, this student does have a plan: read, take a book quiz, and complete a book talk. Of course, there is now the anticipation of what I will GIVE as a grade. Wonder if I will get an other e-mail tonight?

What funny or interesting e-mails have you received from your students?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Irrigate Deserts & Teach with JOY

"The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts."
— C.S. Lewis

When I chose my word for this year, this quote from C.S. Lewis played an important role in the process. My word is IRRIGATE. At the beginning of January I also made a list of things that I want to try this year. One of those is:

  • to teach with joy
This post is really a reminder to myself to keep JOY in the front burner every day! It is so easy to lose joy when things don't go my way. It might be a computer that is not working fast enough, or copier that has jammed just before I need to make my copies, or a student who is in a bad mood and transfers that mood to me. 
So how do I keep teaching with JOY?
This is what I am thinking for this week:
  • get up early enough to be ready for the day (so many others have blogged about this)
  • get ready on time both in the evening and in the morning (sleep deprivation does not translate into JOY)
  • smile more; it really is contagious
  • eat well (sluggishness does not translate into JOY either) 
  • greet my students with smile; respond to their questions and comments with a smile
I promise to teach with JOY and to irrigate those dry deserts in my classroom and school this week.

What plans do you have to make this a great week?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

DST + Sunday Morning = Perseverance

Yesterday my daughter was home for a couple of hours. She casually mentioned that it would be nice if I would come and watch her run the 5K in downtown. Did she realize that she was asking me to do that on a Sunday morning??? On the morning when we already lose an hour of sleep???? Could I have said no?? Not really:) After all, it will not be long before she is living far away...

So, this morning I checked the quote for the day on today's slice page. PERSEVERANCE. Could that have been a message for me?

Here is the evidence of the perseverance I encountered while watching my daughter and a few hundred/thousand others run.

Joy on a Sunday morning!

Musical entertainment to add to our
joy on a Sunday morning!

Everyone had a way to persevere.
Some made the process fun and delivering
joy to the spectators!
I don't believe that I needed that much perseverance compared to the runners! They were amazing! Perhaps next year I should consider joining the race (as a walker of course). I even made it to church--well three minutes late, but pretty much on time.
So, perseverance; doing the right thing when you don't naturally feel like it. What were my benefits from this morning?

  • My step counter rejoices
  • My daughter was (and hopefully still is) happy
  • I got to enjoy the first warm Spring like morning outdoors
  • The whole morning just made me HAPPY!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Writing teachers who don't write. I am determined not to be one!

When I was in college (yes, I know this was a few years ago), and especially during my student teaching days, I never saw an example of a teacher who wrote. I never even heard any of my professors or mentor teachers talking about writing, or saw them write with their students. Everything was always about the end product; nobody discussed the process.
Then I started hearing about how important it is to read with your students. How your students can become lifelong readers based on your example. We dropped everything and read; we read in silence and we read in groups or individually. We  developed stamina in our students so that they could read longer periods of time.
What about DEW? Drop everything and write? Why didn't anybody instruct a new teacher on how to install the love of writing in our students as well?

But then, a few years ago, I started hearing a lot more about writing. Journal writing was talked about outside of elementary school. There were whispers of new standards that would require more writing. I became acquainted with professional books, blogs and websites that are dedicated to writing and encouraging writing. Through everything that I read, one thing became extremely clear: how can I expect my students to write if I do not write? Do I just hand my students the assignment and expect them to produce a perfect essay while I correct papers or record grades?

So, I decided that I would write with my students. If we were writing in our journals, I would write with them. If we were writing poems, I would write poems. If we were working on essays, I would be writing essays. If I want my students to blog, what better way to show them than writing a blog myself.

How can I encourage my fellow teachers  to take the plunge into writing; into creating? Or do we believe that composing an handout is enough writing? Or could it be that Internet gives us freedom from writing as there are so many ready made examples just waiting to be found? Or do we rely on technology to speed up the writing process, and trust that students will use technology to fill any gaps teachers might leave?

I don't really have the answers, but I know that if I want my ELL students to learn how to write essays or poems, or even how to take good notes, I better show them how to do it. I need to give them visual samples along with modeling the process.

What do you do in your building to encourage writing among your teachers?

Friday, March 8, 2013

District Title; Game #1

Watching our high school boys basketball games is always fun. Many times I think it is even more fun to listen to the comments that you can hear from the audience:

Stay down!
Aren't you listening?
Stop shooting three pointers!
Why would you do that?
Go falcons!
Shoot the ball!
Did you see that?
Way to go!
Hands up!
Are you serious?
Why the whistle?
Let's go!
That's crazy!
What are you waiting for?
I can't watch anymore....
Settle down.
One more.
Sometimes you win , sometimes you lose.
There is always next year.

One little boy picked the word Pineapple that he kept yelling every time the opposing team was trying to shoot a basket. Always, except  once, when he yelled Pineapple, the opposing team did NOT make a basket! 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Thankful Thursday #1 in March 2013

I am thankful for:

  • Fellow slicers who have taught me so much in the last six days
  • Reminders to see my students
  • Teachers who write with their students 
  • A fellow teacher's answer to prayer: she has now made it past 32 weeks in her pregnancy!
  • Students who write and share their journey into writing with me!
  • Church that speaks about generosity towards our community--not just toward our own church
  • Coworkers who share their joys, struggles and laughter with me
  • Friends who volunteer their time to help me with testing
  • Students who ask me: "Did you miss me?" when I don't see them for a day.
  • And of course, every blogger who has commented or read my posts this week!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Kaalikeitto (Cabbage Soup) Story

At school we always eat hot lunch.
The food is set at the tables,
students around it.
We come hungry and ready to eat.
Except when it is time for CABBAGE SOUP!
I butter my bread and drink my milk.
I stare at the soup bowl full of CABBAGE SOUP.
Nothing is moving.
I am thinking; maybe I could eat a carrot piece and a spoonful of broth??
I am brave; I take a spoon of CABBAGE SOUP.
Nooooooo, I can't do it.
Even the carrots taste like CABBAGE SOUP!
"No dessert for you, young lady, if you don't finish your soup."
I could not care less, but it is ice cream!
We do not get dessert except after certain foods;
like CABBAGE SOUP and blood pancakes.
I want ice cream!
I pinch my nose, breathe in, and swiftly swallow a spoonful of CABBAGE SOUP.
I look around. I am the only one left. It is quiet. 
"Are you done yet? I need to wash your bowl."
Two more spoons of CABBAGE SOUP.
I am done! 
Where is my ice-cream?
"Oh, I am sorry dear, we already put all the ice cream away. You better run to class now."
What? No ice cream? Why did I sacrifice myself for CABBAGE SOUP?
Never again! Never! I will never pinch my nose again for CABBAGE SOUP!

I thought I would include a picture of the cabbage soup, but for obvious reasons, I do NOT have any. When I tried looking on the Internet, all the pictures just made my stomach turn--and not in the right way. Try to picture a bowl of cabbage soup, and see if you can feel my pain.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

World Read Aloud Day Plans

March 6, 2013 is the World Read Aloud Day. 

Celebrate by reading aloud, giving away a book, or taking action in any way you can to Read It Forward on behalf of the 793 million people who cannot read. (by LitWorld)

Literacy is the foundation for emotional and physical well-being, intellectual growth, and economic security. The right to read and write is a fundamental human right and belongs to all people. (by LitWorld)

When I was learning how to read, all through high school, and leaving my home country to go overseas, I never thought literacy as a human right. But now, after teaching ELL/ESL students for over 15 years, I can truly say that I believe it is fundamental human right.

That is why we are celebrating World Read Aloud Day on Wednesday! I know many of you might do this with your elementary students, I however, am doing it with my high school sheltered English students. We will be reading aloud from the independent reading books that we are currently reading, from a favorite story book or magazine. I will be reading our class read aloud a little bit longer on Wednesday. 
We will be celebrating the fact that we can all read English! In all of our lives, this has not always been true. We are celebrating the fact that in this country we have the right to learn how to read and write; no matter what gender or ethnicity we are. We are celebrating that we are literate--no longer part of the 793 million people who are still illiterate. We are celebrating the power of written word.

Have you made plans for the World read Aloud Day?

If you would like to read The 2012 Global Poem for Change, you can find it here.

Monday, March 4, 2013

What makes my life easier

These are some of the things that make my life easier; or at least someone thinks that they should make my life easier.

  • sand paper for sharpening scissors; you just cut sandpaper and it sharpens your scissors ( I learned this from Steven and Chris talk show)
  • baking soda; say good bye to tea stains in my mugs
  • microfiber dishcloths and water--no need for harsh chemicals
  • flameless candles--I can use them even at school
  • rotissary chicken--you can add it to almost anything without having to cook chicken (think quick dinner and leftovers for lunch)
  • Teachers Pay Teachers--somebody already did the work; I can just reap the benefits
  • laptop--I can sit in my comfy chair and work (or even play) without my feet touching the floor
  • dropbox--this has made my life so much easier! I save a document at home and open it at work! No longer transporting thumb drivers 
  • pixlr--I can now crop and resize my photos, make buttons, and feel like I have made it to the next level in my techno learning journey!
  • fitbit--it counts my steps, stairs and my activity level. It also lets me know how I am doing: "You have climbed the world's largest pencil." Yes, I know, I could live without the comments.
What makes your life easier?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Mystery Book Covers Part 1

One day I decided to take pictures of interesting book covers based on their titles.
Here is the first scenario I created based on the cover and title:

I love coffee! BUT, I only like good coffee with milk. If there is no milk (on in a bind; cream), I will rather not drink coffee at all. I don't need fancy coffees, just one that tastes great.
I believe that the secret to great coffee is in the grounds. You roast the beans slowly. You don't burn them. You take time to smell the fragrance and cherish sweet smell that will permeate your house.
You grind the freshly roasted beans, place them in the organic coffee filter in your coffee maker which is filled with filtered fresh water. You can hardly wait the moment when it is ready. Your mouth is watering. Milk is ready and waiting next to your delicate china cup. You have your book ready next to your cup. Everything is perfect. even the antique white lace tablecloth on aunt-Thilda's oval table. Classical music is streaming along with the sunshine. Everything is perfect.
Until your cup breaks, milk spills on the floor staining your new mystery book, your classical CD is skipping making a screeching sound that almost matches the yelling that you can hear from your neighbor's house. Your doorbell rings; the police is wanting to search your house.
The only thing you can think to ask them is, ""On what grounds?"

You can buy the book here and read the real mystery!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Snow, Heavy enough to Decorate my Trees

This past Wednesday I had a snow day! Some of my friends--especially my Finnish ones--are puzzled how we could have a snow day with just a few inches of snow. I don't know, but I am not complaining!

This was the scenery that greeted me on my birthday! Yes, I had an extra day off in honor of my birthday! It was so beautiful!

Well, that was until I tried shoveling the snow!! I can't even remember the last time that heavy snow. Thank goodness someone else takes care of my driveway.
I was also one of the lucky ones whose tree branches did not snap and fall on the wires or power lines. So many people around me lost their electricity.

Perhaps I will have to go and investigate how my shrubs have survived.
But I also had the joy of seeing snowmen pop up in the neighborhood, and heard the stories next day at school. I could hear the joy and excitement in the children's voices as they talked about building the biggest snowman ever!

Snow days, they are a good thing!

Friday, March 1, 2013

30 more days after today

30 more days to go after today!
Will I forget or fall asleep one day
before posting my slice?
Will anyone read mine?
There are so many slices to read...
What shall I write?
-about friends
-about being thankful
-about family memories
-funny book covers
-the weather
-about my students
Yes, my high school class
is doing their own blog!
My students are writing!
Don't forget, these are ELL students!
So, I will remember,
if my students can write, so can I!
Only 30 more days to go after today!