Monday, December 9, 2013

The Center of Everything

The Center of Everything
The best things in life have a delicious center:  cream filled doughnuts, Reese's Cups, Oreos, King Dons (oh, I miss them).  It seemed to make sense to begin my #nerdlution with a book I've been hearing so much about from my book-loving friends, The Center of Everything by Linda Urban, which is a finalist for this year' Nerdy Book Award.

Urban's character, Ruby Pepperdine, has made a mess of things.  Her best friend, Lucy, is no longer speaking to her.  She's not sure Nero will ever be her friend after what she has done.  In a few moments she'll be reading her essay that won this year's Bunning Essay Contest in front of the entire town.  Nothings been right for Ruby since her grandma died.  Ruby makes a wish to make things right again, but "greedy wishers always have things backfire on them."  Hopefully her wish will come true and she'll be able to make everything right.

"There are two schools of thought about the secrecy of wishes.  One is that you should always tell, because you never know who might be able to help you get what you wished for. [...] The other school holds the birthday candle philosophy:  to tell a wish is to ruin its chances of happening."                                                           -Linda Urban, Center of Everything (p. 121)

This story which centers around a friendship, a broken heart, and a wish is delightful.  Linda Urban had me thinking a lot about wishes in her beautiful story that moves effortlessly back and forth in time.  Being a "grandma girl" like Ruby, made the story even better for me.  If you haven't read The Center of Everything yet, what are you waiting for?

More About Center of Everything
Nerdy Book Club:  The Center of Everything by Linda Urban, A Not-Quite-a-Review by Kate Messner

Teach Mentor Texts:  The Center of Everything and Poetry Friday

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Maybe Balance is Found in a #Nerdlution

I'm sure you've heard about it.  There's a #nerdlution happening on Twitter.  Beginning in December everyone committed to making some kind of change for the next 50 days.  I was a little hesitant to take on a challenge at first during such a busy month, but I fell to positive peer pressure and jumped in.  Of course, I chose a goal that would bring me joy for 50 days.

It's December.  I didn't choose healthy eating.  It's Christmas cookie season.  I didn't commit to exercise.  I never keep those commitments.  I didn't commit to writing time.  I've gotten much better at squeezing that into my week.  Instead I chose reading fiction.  It seems the perfect goal to allow me to rest and relax each evening.  With one week down I've been reading 50 minutes or more of fiction each night.  Tough goal, huh!?  My friends were quick to offer many new suggestions for my reading so my shelf is quite full now.

Enjoy the theme songs for each section (please share other suggestions).
If I've missed your #nerdlution tweet, please
share the tweet url so I can add it.

As I started my #nerdlution goal this week, there were some things I expected to happen and many more than surprised me.

Here's what I expected:
  • to be reminded of how much I enjoy reading fiction.
  • to enjoy relaxing with a good book each evening.  
  • to be motivated and supported by the community.
Here's what I didn't expect:
  • to realize that sometimes carving time out for something I enjoy would actually give me more energy in the classroom.
  • to actually get to the gym to exercise.
  • to surprisingly find more time to write.
  • for the community to continually evolve and grow the challenge.
  • to laugh so many times!
  • to find such JOY.
Somehow through carving time out for something I enjoy, I've managed to find time to do all the things I should do. It's a little surprising to find balance in this commitment for more time each day.  

Thanks to everyone who is participating for the motivation and support.  I'm enjoying following your journeys and seeing so many people do what makes them happy.  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

What? There's a #NERDLUTION Happening?

I honestly tried to ignore the tweets as I read them between basting turkey and mashing potatoes.  I noticed the conversation between Franki Sibberson, Colby Sharp, Katherine Sokolowski, and Bill Bass grow as others joined.  I still tried to ignore it.   I added whip cream to my pumpkin pie and tried to pretend it wasn't happening.

Let's face it, the next few months are busy with extra commitments and preparation.  To add to that, it's winter here in Ohio and the hours of daylight are severely limited.  When I saw this tweet I clicked out of my Twitter feed and started humming a jaunty tune to distract myself:

For days, I pretended not to notice the conversation, but the conversation was growing and I knew my friends were right as usual;  I really needed to try to get some balance in my life.  It would be crazy to make this kind of commitment I thought, as I continued to "sort of" watch the tweets about the upcoming #nerdlution commitment.

Soon the blog posts started rolling into the #nerdlution feed....and maybe I read a few, but still I tried to pretend this wasn't something I needed to do.

  • Franki Sibberson is writing for 30 and running/walking for 20.  
  • Colby Sharp is committing to writing every day for 50 days.
  • Katherine Sokolowski is committing to writing and walking each day.  
  • Amy Rudd might be committing to 30 minutes of exercise and 20 of writing at The Rudder....and she is getting up crazy early in the morning to do it.
  • Joy Kerr will be reading.  
  • Cindy Minnich has made several goals for the next 50 days.  Stop by to cheer her on.

...and the list goes on and on.

Peer Pressure
So maybe I've started to fall to the pressure, but what will my goal be?  I have a million things I wish I would do better:  write daily, stay committed to my favorite blogging events (Poetry Friday, Slice of Life, Celebrations), read more fiction, stay caught up on the reading of blogs, comment on more of the blogs I visit, exercise, keep up with my friends....oh, the list goes on and on.


Trying to resist....



Read Fiction
I read a ton of things across my day:  blogs, nonfiction, professional books, news articles, and poetry.  I tend to read it short little pockets of time and choose reading I won't have trouble putting down.  Let's face it, it's hard to put down a fiction book when you are caught up in the story.  School keeps me busy and I have a hard time drawing a line between my personal time and the work I love.  So....I'm committing to reading fiction 50 minutes each day.  I know, you are all jealous of my goal.  I'm thinking finding this time will help me to relax during this busy time of year....and will help me develop a side of my reading life I need to grow.

Raising Our Words: (Re) Inventing the Future of English #ncte13

"Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability.  It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of dedicated individuals..."  Martin Luther King at Oberlin College Commencement via the King Center
It seems quite common these days for people to speak out against public education.  Politicians, business owners, and even some educators vocally demand change.  Tighter accountability, common standards across the United States, testing mandates, and greater government control are constantly changing the landscape of the work we do.  In all of the noise it is easy to lose sight of the real work we do.

Taking the time to attend the NCTE conference each year reminds me of the significance of the work we do in pubic education daily and helps me to stay focused on what matters most - children.  This year's conferences was titled (Re)Inventing the Future of English.  As I've taken time to reflect on the time in Boston with so many educators I respect and admire, I took some time to try to weave the numerous thought provoking snippets into a story:

To Me (Re)Inventing the Future of English Means:  

Collaborate beyond our classrooms:  Teaching no longer is about what happens within our walls, but instead about how we collaborate and learn with others beyond our classrooms and around the world.  This year I lived this as our six session presenters from a variety of locations worked across Google Hangouts, Google docs, and Twitter to plan and collaborate for this event.   I was so excited to finally meet Susan Dee and Mary Bellavance as we joined Karen Terlecky, Deb Frazier, and Katie Keier to share round table discussions:  Kidwatching in a Digital World.

Get connected:  The future of English requires that we connect with others to learn and grow in literacy.  At NCTE I was fortunate to meet many of the educators, authors, and literacy leaders who inspire me to learn and grow.  The Choice Literacy dinner, #nerdybookclub gathering, Stenhouse gathering, as well as moving from session to session gave me time to chat with countless colleagues I learn from each day.  We are fortunate to be able to bring authors right into our classroom, to learn alongside them at conferences, and to share their work with our students.  We are able to connect as educators to improve our practice, advocate for change, and push our profession to grow and change.  We can now connect our classrooms with other classrooms around the world.  The greatest highlight of NCTE for me was meeting and talking with educators I learn from across the year.  The significance of these connections is apparent in viewing the hashtag #ncte13.

Dig for meaning:  Stephanie Harvey, in a Doubling Down on Strategic Reading and Thinking with Anne Goudvis, Kristin Ziemke and Katie Muhtaris, reminded us, "We teach kids to think so they can acquire and use knowledge."  She added, "Complex text demands the reader's recognition and thoughtful consideration of many of facets of an idea, issue or problem."  Students now have opportunities to use a variety of resources to learn more about their world.  Jo Ellen McCarthy talked about providing students with an invitation to notice, resources to discover, and a notebook to use as a place to capture their thinking (Inquiry Notebooks with Marissa Moss and Erica Pecorale)

Allow time and choice for students to develop their reading/writing lives:  From the start of the conference when Jarrett Krosoczka, children's author, shared his beginning days as a reader/writer, speakers continually talked about the importance of finding time for students to develop their lives in literacy.

Be a reader and writer:  Some things remain consistent in the future of English.  One is that we, as educators, build our own reading and writing lives to more effectively help young learners in their journey.

Provide opportunities to compose in different ways using a variety of tools:  In (Re)Imagining Literacy Workshop in a Digital Age Bill Bass asked, "What does it mean to be literate in a time when things change constantly - when tools change constantly?"  He, Franki Sibberson, and Ann Marie Corgill reminded us that the ways we read, learn, collaborate, and share are constantly changing.  As teachers of English, we have to keep up with these changes and provide these opportunities for our young learners.

Audience and purpose matter:  In the above mentioned session, Franki Sibberson reminded us that these new possibilities "invite intentionality."

Utilize new ways to capture the journeys of learners:  New tools such as Evernote, EduCreations, Google docs, and VoiceThread allow us to (re)vision the way we collect the journeys of the learners in our classroom.  (See our Kidwatching in a Digital World Smore for links.)

Together we build forward:  In the tweets shared by attendees throughout NCTE 2013, educators celebrated the work of Donald Graves and shared the ways Lucy Calkins, Nancy Atwell and other educators have changed the work we do in our workshops.  As I synthesized these tweets I realized that "(re)-inventing the future" might also mean building up from the strong foundation built by the thoughtful work of other literacy educators.

Put children first:  As I listened to sessions sharing ways students now own the learning in our classrooms I wondered:  "What does it mean for us in the field of education as kids lead the learning in our classrooms?  How does it change our role as educators?"  Ann Marie Corgill (in Re-Imagining Literacy Workshop) reminded us, "Small voices need to be heard."  As educators we also have a responsibility to advocate for strong policy and practice.

Shared by Pernille Ripp in her recent post:
Why I Will Not Refuse to Give Standardized Tests
"The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.  Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education."  Martin Luther King, Jr.  
We need public education to strengthen our society and nurture young literacy learners.  Yes, schools should be places where students continue to grow.  As educators we can utilize opportunities to amplify the voices of our students and speak up for change.  As I listened in sessions I realized the changes are being made every day by the "persistent work of [the] dedicated individuals" who walk into their classrooms every day to make a difference.  I'm just thankful they are willing to share all they do so I can also make changes that matter.  Let's raise our words and (re)invent the future of English together.