Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Who Inspires You?

Coffee for Your Heart 150
More encouraging words at 
I read this prompt--Who inspires you--from Holley and started asking myself that question. Should I only talk about God here? Should I look at this prompt very "religiously" or should I look at this prompt the way that I would teach my students to look at a writing prompt?

When I am not sure how to write, I like to brainstorm first:

When I look at my visual, I can clearly see that I get inspired by the written word! I read books, poems, blogs, tweets, papers and journals. I also like to write. Yesterday I wrote a blog post that was inspired by an article that I had read online. 

On Wednesday nights, when my small group meets, the ladies at my group inspire me! They share words of truth and wisdom. They share thoughts about life, work and family. They share books that they have read, Bible verses that have been meaningful in the past week, prayer requests and answers to prayers. They share their struggles and where they have found hope.

My students inspire me every day. They come to school despite their struggles and difficulties. They come even though they stayed up late the night before because they had to help their siblings with homework. They come even though they don't speak English, and everything sounds strange to them. They have persevered through so much already, yet they continue to inspire me with their resilience.

The words of truth spoken at church, heard on radio or seen on television on an early morning, inspire me to be a better person. These words inspire me to to learn more. Without inspiration, where would I be? So, it is not just who inspires me, but what inspires me!

What or who inspires you?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Do Your Weekends Rejuvenate You?

I came across an article by Laura Vanderkam "What Successful People Know About Weekends." The title alone intrigued me. I was wondering if there is a secret that I don't know. I decided to find out!

Here is a quote from the beginning of the article:

We all look forward to weekends. But are you really making the most of them?
Few people are, because we tend not to think about weekends holistically. Here's one way to look at it: There are 60 hours between 6 p.m. Friday and 6 a.m. Monday. Even if you sleep for 24 of those hours, that leaves 36 hours for other things. That's the equivalent of a full-time job. Yet many of us hit Monday morning with a vague sense of having squandered our precious downtime on activities that didn't help us recreate.

This article made me think about my weekends. As I looked back at my weekends over the last few months, I was sadly surprised to see how few plans I had made that would really work to rejuvenate me and make me ready for Monday morning. Sometimes I was so tired by Friday evening that the only thing that I could do was to drag myself to the gym and then collapse on the comfy chair in my living room. On a few Saturdays--when we haven't had a snow or a freeze issue--I was able to drag myself to the gym again. Yeah, I had a few coffees or lunches with friends and my regular soup kitchen volunteer once a month, but I had not CONSCIOUSLY planned really any of those events, they just happened.

In her article, Laura walks the reader through a 3-step process to make the most of your weekend:

1. Ask what you would like to do with your time. Laura writes how we tend to spend our weekends on just completing have-to-dos. So what can we do to change that? Make a list! She tells us to write a list of 100 or even better 1000 things that you would like to do or have in your life. Things that would make you and your loved ones happy. Journal, here I come.

This is the beginning of my list:

  • hang pictures on the wall
  • work on my OLW project
  • create/make cards
  • meet friends for coffee or lunch
  • see a movie
  • gym!!!
  • fresh air (should be easier once the weather gets warmer)
  • Skype
  • cook something new 
  • discover a new restaurant
  • write my celebration post
  • blog every day in March (had to include that :)
  • comment on at least a few blog posts

2. Make a plan. Laura talks about anticipation and how it can make us ever happier. I know that looking forward to a dinner with friends this past Sunday night made me happy many days in advance. In the article, Laura gives specific examples of how to plan your weekend (it really is worth reading her whole article; it isn't very long). I don't have my next weekend planned yet, but maybe in March, one of my posts will be a planning for my weekend post.

3. Honor the Sabbath. This last point that she makes is beautiful! It does not really matter if you are religious or not, but making sure that your work does not take more than a few hours on one day of the weekend, helps you to go back on Monday refreshed and rejuvenated. "Spend at least one of your weekend days focused on family, community, inspiration, gratitude, and the larger questions of life and you'll hit Monday in a different frame of mind." I don't think that I could have said it better!

I am off to thinking about my next weekend and how I can make it a better one. How I can plan activities that will rejuvenate me and get me ready for the following busy week. 

How do you organize or plan your weekends? Do you go back to work on Monday mornings feeling refreshed and ready for a new week?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Celebrate Single Mothers

It Is Time to Celebrate

Once a month at church we have a special dinner for single moms. The wonderful people at church volunteer their time to come and cook a fabulous dinner for the single moms. The moms sit down at the beautifully decorated tables where serves bring them their dinner. Another set of volunteers is taking care of the children so that the moms can have this time just for them. 

Check out the beautifully decorated table this month!
I had invited Zuli to come to the dinner with her children. I was excited. Then Zuli calls that her car had broken down. As I talked to her I realized that her car had broken down just 100 yards from the church! (coincidence? Absolutely not!) I went to get the children so they could come inside while Zuli waited for the tow truck to come. Little later, Zuli came to the dinner as well. Our kitchen volunteers were wonderful to make sure that Zuli had just as a wonderful dinner as the rest of the moms who had come earlier.

After dinner, the moms have a few different small group options. They can attend a regular small group, get prayer, or join a special talk that we have each month. This month the topic was summer camps. Zuli and I went to hear about summer camps and scholarships that are available for low income families.

Zuli's children had a wonderful time with the other kids! Zuli had a chance to meet with other single moms and take home a goody bag of toilet paper, kleenex and laundry detergent. And I had the opportunity to drive Zuli home that night.

So, today I celebrate single moms' dinners where a mom can feel special and taken care of without having to worry about childcare or the cost. I celebrate believers who volunteer their time month after month (and many year after year) to come and serve the single moms and their children. I celebrate a church that values single mothers, and wants to invest in them.

What are you celebrating today?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Is Recess a Privilege, Right or Punishment

Growing up in Finland, recess was an integral part of my school day. It did not happen just once a day, but after every 50-55 minute class period we had recess.

We went outside. We played and ran around the school yard. When I got older, we played less and talked more. We didn't run around anymore, but walked slowly while talking to our friends. Still, we were outside. 

Recess always meant going outside. When winter came, we put on our winter coat, hats and gloves. We still went outside. We didn't know about wind chill factors. We went outside until the thermometer hit -15°C  or 5°F. Yes, I remember praying on occasion that the thermometer would go down just one degree and we could stay inside. In general, however, we were all happy to have recess. Recess was our right as students to get a break from the academics.

Recently, I have been following twitter conversations about the role recess plays at schools in America. The question has been the purpose of recess. Is recess students' right or teachers' right? Or is it a privilege that must be earned before it can be practiced? Or is it just a tool that teachers use to either reward or punish students?

Little over a year ago, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published a statement regarding recess: AAP "believes that recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child's development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons." (Read it here.) The article also talks about how principals see the importance of  recess, but still tend to use (or let teachers use) recess as a punishment.

Now, think about your own school. How many times have you seen students sit outside during recess because they could not sit still in class, or did not do their homework, or they misbehaved in one way or another? Recess, for these students, is no longer a break from academic studies or a time to recharge their batteries and get ready for the rest of the school day. For these "recess sitters" recess is often a regular punishment. 

So, when did recess become a tool for punishment instead of a joyful time of laughing children playing outside while breathing fresh air? Was this change gradual or did someone give a presentation that used "recess sitting" as a new way to maintain control of students? Or has this "recess sitting" became such a norm that we don't even know when or where it started?

I don't have answers. I am, however, determined that I will never deduct a child's recess time because they did not behave the way that I expected them to behave. I will find another way.  I will continue to be a supporter of recess. We might be a nation of standardized testing, but that does not mean that our students will have to forgo recess!! We (both students and teachers) need recess!

What is the recess policy at your school? Do you have enough recess time or would you like more? What is the cut off grade for recess at your district? Please share your thought and ideas.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Celebration Saturday

It is quiet this Saturday morning, No new snow even though it is still cold. As I wait for the Olympic hockey game to begin, the only sound is my furnace running. Whether it is Friday evening or Saturday morning when I am writing my celebration posts, I love doing these!! Thinking about my week. Counting my blessing! Thank you Ruth, for helping us find the joys in our lives!

Yesterday I had the day off because of President's Day weekend. I was relaxing at home when I remembered that I should make a haircut appointment. To my wonderful surprise, my hairdresser had time available Friday afternoon!!!! I feel like I have more energy as there is a little less weight around my head now (silly I know, but it makes me so happy).

I have two pre-student teachers who are both getting an ESL/TESOL minor. One of them was in my classroom this past fall for a few observation hours and wanted to come back for 30 more! She walked in on Monday morning with gifts of chocolate! The other pre-student teacher speaks Spanish!!!! She made my new student from Guatemala so happy! I am blessed!

My small group has been praying for one of my coworkers pregnancy. On Thursday evening I got a happy text from her. She had just had an ultrasound and things are looking much better than previously! Perfect way to start a long weekend!

What are you celebrating today?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

One Little Word Designing Women

What do you get when you have a group of women, scrapbook supplies and some birthday cupcakes all at the same table?

LOTS of fun of course!!

A group of us gets together on most Wednesday evenings. We laugh, share our lives, pray for each other, laugh, eat, drink tea, laugh, and we celebrate life and second chances.

Happy Birthday Crystal!
Last Wednesday we got together to celebrate Crystal's birthday, and to make a visual display of our OLW.
We are all so different in our approach to creating.

We are all so intense. We are creating!

This is about my OLW!

Our OLWs

Think about the power these words
 will have this year! When our group
 LISTEN and LOVE while being 
INTERDEPENDENT and BEAUTIFUL. And knowing that we can have ENDURANCE no matter what because God loves us and helps us in all that we need to and want to do. This will be an extraordinary year! I am so glad I get to share it with these amazing women!

Have you thought about  making an OLW bookmark??

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Let's Celebrate the Good Things

Thank you Ruth Ayres for hosting these Saturday celebrations!

Life is full of good things to celebrate. At times, we need to dig a little deeper to realize them. This week I did not have to dig!

We had a full week of school! No snow days or cold days! Five days of students! I think we are back to the rhythm.

I had a great time with my small group ladies designing visual displays of our OLWs. More of that later this week.

I had my winter evaluation with my principal. He has so encouraging to me! I felt blessed! We also had a discussion of what we would like to do differently next year with our ELLs. All good stuff!

Great workout at the gym last night. Nancy and I pushed ourselves. I tried a new elliptical machine for cardio. It was hard but I feel good! My muscles are feeling the workout, but isn't that a sign of something good to come.

I have a wonderful Mexican themed dinner waiting for me tonight at a friend's house.

I feel extra blessed today!

What are you celebrating today?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Checking on My #nerdlution

It has been a little over two weeks since I joined the #nerdlution. It feels like too many other things have been happening at the same time and I have had to put my #nerdlution goal in the back burner. Have a forgotten them? No, but focusing on them on a daily basis has not happened.

What has happened?

I have been trying to keep things organized. 
  • Extra binders went to school to help students get organized for the second semester. 
  • Two bags of books are waiting to be donated (=taken) to our library bookstore (when we have a break from the snow). 
  • Incoming mail has been sorted on a weekly basis
Discovering new ideas with my students.
  • This goal has been harder as we have had snow days and then end of semester exams
  • I have tried a different way to use visuals to get my lower level ELLs to discuss a topic with good vocabulary (incorporating Blooms higher level thinking)
  • Yesterday my high school ELLs actually seemed to understand close reading and what it really means!!! It has taken us a long time, but I feel like we are finally making progress!
  • I have started reading Falling in Love with Close Reading!!!!

I guess I am not doing that bad! I have also been able to go to the gym regularly. Snow or cold days have given me extra time to make sure I also take care of my body. Enjoying an unexpected lunch or two with friends has been energizing in the middle of  my snowiest winter in the U.S. I am looking forward to seeing what the next couple of weeks will bring!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

What is Your Story?

By Anonymous

I saw this phrase as a small card at a dinner table a few weeks ago. It was at someone else's seat so I could not take it home with me. All during the dinner I kept thinking about that quote. I ended up taking a photo of it just to make sure I won't forget it.

Ever since that dinner I have been thinking about my story. What is the story of my life? Have I been writing my own story or have I just copied and pasted my story? Have I let someone else hold the pen to my life story?

I know that ultimately God has the permanent marker in his hand.  I think I am still writing with a pencil (mechanical 0.3 of course) as there are times when I need an eraser. I trust God completely. I know his plan for my life is good. But am I always listening to Him or just going about my life in my own way?  Am I listening to those around me too much and forgetting to use my own pencil (or keyboard) a bit more?

It looks like I have more questions than I have answers. That is okay. This is what my One Little Word is about this year: discover. It is okay to ask questions. Without these questions and wonderings, we could easily hear the familiar voice: "Make a u-turn as soon as possible." I am also hearing this other familiar comment: "You have now entered unfamiliar territory. Proceed with caution."

I was proceeding with caution the other morning when driving to school (in case you haven't seen the news, it has been one of the snowiest winters on record here in mi).
Then this song came on the radio Write Your Story by Francesca Battistelli. One of the lines that really stood out for me was: "Write your story on my heart."

I kept thinking about that line. Is God writing his story on my heart? Am I allowing Him room to write His story, or is my heart too crowded with my own stories? Or maybe even others' stories are crowding my heart?

I don't know the answer. The pages of my story are still mostly blank, but I am working on my story.

Who is writing your story?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

First February Celebration

Come join us at Ruth's website!

Today I am celebrating "extra" time!

We had two snow days this week. These days gave me time to work on things that I needed to do, but don't always have time for. I was able to work out at the gym three times this week, and might even get a fourth workout in there if today's snow will not make the roads too bad (which is a possibility). 

I have also been working on my #nerdlution goal of reducing paper piles and organizing my life. This will get even better workout from me if the snow makes me stay inside today.

I am celebrating more daylight minutes! More time spent enjoying the sunshine feels like a breath of warm air in the middle of polar temps (except today when it actually feels like a heat wave when the  temps hit 28°!!)

I am also celebrating extra time that my students got to study for their end of the semester exams (because of the snow days and a PD day). I celebrate the wise students who spent the extra time reviewing or reading books of their choice!

I am also celebrating the power of encouragement and positive words! I had a chance to talk with one of my admins yesterday. She works extremely hard! She is the first admin to arrive in the mornings and often the last one to leave. Couple of years ago when she got her current position I told her what a great teacher trainer she will be. Yesterday she told me how she has treasured those words ever since! I had no idea!

So today I celebrate how encouraging words, that take only a few moments of your time, can make such a big difference.

Let's celebrate the coming week by encouraging those around us at work!