Tuesday, July 31, 2012

On Vacation, Off Balance

I'm on vacation with my little family this week, and I'm so off balance.  {Some of you are thinking that I'm never balanced, but this is different.}  I'm having amazing moments with amazing people, my little family included, but I can't download any photos from my camera--I don't have my cord.  I don't have wifi where I'm staying, so I'm not even checking email everyday--what a shocker to my system!

It's also good {and yucky} to feel an internal struggle around enoughness and to allow myself to sit and day dream while my family sleeps.  So much about the past few days confirms for me that I'm on the right path.  Can I say that I'm totally freaked out by that?!

There is going to be some amazing stuff happening here and over at Brave Teachers during the month of August.  I know you will want to stay tuned!

What's tugging at you?  Have you felt unbalanced recently?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Another Picture Book For Writing

Here's another book I read to my 3 year old last week, but I can't wait to share it with my 4th graders in writing class.

You Get What You Get by Julie Gassman, illustrated by Sarah Horne

Melvin is learning that we don't always get what we want.  He's having a hard time with all this.  {Don't we all!}  At school they have the mantra, "You get what you get, and you don't throw a fit."  He ends up taking the lesson home, and the book ends with proof that he did learn the lesson.  It's another quick read.

My 3 year old said this was a really good book, and he is a surprisingly tough critic.  I like the illustrations, too.

So how would I use this for writing?  I have a few ideas:

Here are 2 possible journal prompts:

Write about a time when you didn't get something you wanted.

Write about a time when you forgot this saying, and you threw a fit.  {Kids are usually so honest!}

Class discussion before writing:

Make a list of other important sayings your students have heard, and then they can choose one about which to write a story.  {I want to think of a little list because sometimes kids have a hard time with this.}  To expand the authenticity of the writing, the stories could be shared with younger students or actually tuned into picture books.  I think this will be a good spot to talk a bit about fables, too.

Community journal:

I think I'm going to put a picture of the book cover on the front of a notebook, and then I'm going to offer all 3 of the prompts above, and students can take turns writing and illustrating stories--either fictional or biographical.

What ideas do you have for making writing more power-full?

Here is where I shared another book.

Friday, July 20, 2012

FREE Self Care Calendar From Brave Teachers

Did you know that I have a whole website devoted to soul centered living for teachers?

It's called Brave Teachers, and it is stirring a revolution of inspiration, encouragement, and empowerment one teacher at a time.

Brave Teachers provides live workshops, professional development, keynotes and a retreat in the Fall.  I also create posters and other tools to support teachers in self care, positive perspective, and hopeful living.  I  provide supportive coaching to teachers who need some TLC.  {Don't we all!}  My coaching has most often focused around life and or job transitions.  Sometimes I just listen.

This summer Brave Teachers has it's first ever online workshop, Visioning The Best Year Ever.  Its based on lessons I'm learning and experiences I've had.  I'm working through it all myself, and I'm amazed at the insight I'm finding.  {I'm not just the creator--I'm an active participant, too!}

As part of the online workshop I created a Self Care Calendar for the upcoming school year.  It's all about being intentional and actively planning to exercise, go on adventures, make time for friends, cook healthy meals, create, and whatever else I need.  Otherwise I'll just dash from task to task--getting more frustrated, overwhelmed, anxious, even angry.

I believe this is so essential, that I want to share the Self Care Calendar with as many people as I can. Grab it here FREE!

{There is no magic, but I believe the results can be miraculous.}

If you're interested in other Brave Teacher services and resources, check out the website or email me or sign up to join the email community in the sidebar on the right.

Hope you find some time this weekend to practice self care!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Life Lessons And A Story From The Woods

Sometimes I'm amazed by what I see when I'm REALLY looking--with my eyes and heart wide open! How 'bout you?  Sometimes what I see, really see, turns out to be a game changer--a transformative moment.  I just had one of those while taking a little solo hike in the woods yesterday.

My husband and son where at a preschool nature program, and I thought I was really close to a little lake where we've hiked before.  {Here's where you can think flat and easy trail--maybe a half mile--a little time to just hang out alone in nature.}  I felt like I was walking farther than I remembered walking before, but all I was thinking about was sitting on a little bench by the lake.  {Maybe I should have been paying attention.  Maybe not.}

At first I thought I was just seeing little bushes and rocks in the path.

Then I started to REALLY see.  Was there a message here for me?  For me to pass on?

I kept walking down the path.  There had been a storm the night before, and a tree had fallen across the path.

Here is the blurry road block--wish I had a clearer pic!

As I approached the tree on the path, I wondered what I was going to do to get around this obstacle.  I found another message.

As I continued I found other messages that were not meant for me.  Some were even carved into trees. 

Sometimes it's hard to let go of messages that are really intended for other people.  

I continued seeing messages all around me.  I found myself looking up, looking down, and looking in all directions.  I started expecting to see messages. 

I almost forgot that I was nowhere near the little lake.  As I was panting up and down hills for a couple miles, {so much for the flat short trail} I saw lessons that were more than words.

There was a crew cutting up fallen trees, and I doubted that I was even supposed to be on this path, but it was passable.

I felt ripples going through me as my heart was lifted.

I saw an amazing bent tree, and as I walked I repeatedly thought, "Bent, but not broken.  Bent, but not broken."

I wanted to know the direction of the trail, before I got to the point of needed the information.  Sometimes I even felt frustrated that I couldn't read the trail markers until I was right on them.  This made me think lots about fears I have for next school year.  {Reminder:  I will know what I need to know, when it's time to use it.}

So many messages in just an unexpected little hike!  I never did see the lake, until I had finished the entire trail and turned onto the trail I had originally thought I took.  Once I got to the lake, it didn't seem like such a big deal after all that I had seen.

And as I walked away, there was another message for me:

I love this little line: "Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today." {from the AA Big Book}

And then I walked back to the bench where I was supposed to meet my little family, and I received the last little lesson on an acorn:

Love is the only thing that really matters in the end!

And that is my little story from the woods!

What life lessons are you learning these days?

What unusual classrooms have you recently experienced?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Whole Brain Teaching Is Rocking My World

I spent today at the Midwest Conference for Whole Brain Teaching.  I had checked out their website, implemented a few strategies {like Class Yes}, and been inspired by videos of teachers using this methodology.

TODAY MY TEACHING UNIVERSE WAS ROCKED!  I have NEVER been to a conference where participants had to be so engaged the entire time.  I've never been to anything where all the teaching happened the way the presenter wanted you to teach.  It's powerful, people.

I'm rethinking so much about how I'm planning to do next year.  For the first time this summer I'm feeling excited for the new year.  My students are not even going to know what hit them!

Check out Whole Brain Teaching.  There are tons of videos on youtube.  There are tons of resources on the website that are FREE.

What's inspiring/challenging your work?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bravely Teaching In Workshops

Does anyone out there teach 4th grade using a workshop format for all the main stuff--reading, writing, math?  How do you do it?  How do you keep it organized?  How do you work smarter, not harder?

When I started teaching {14 years ago}, I started in first grade.  I did mini lessons and then workshops. Students practiced skills at center activities while I taught and retaught  and assessed small groups and individuals.  I love this style of a classroom.  This took tons of prep work!

I can find many resources for teachers who still teach this way in 3rd grade and below.  Why not 4th grade?

I did a workshop format in Math this past year.  I had many struggling mathematicians.  I was able to spend more time practicing with them.  Kids loved this format.  I did not have to drive myself crazy planning, but it was more work than whole group instruction.  I felt like we got loads more done--even though my students' state test scores do not prove that.  In my heart I know this is good.

I'm wanting to do more of it with Reading/Language Arts.  I think this would be a good time to do this, since we are beginning to implement Common Core Standards.  It seems to be a more flexible year.  I want to take what I used to do in first grade and apply it to the developmental level of 4th graders and the curriculum.  I do NOT want to make center activities "cute busy work or worksheets."  I want kids to really learn and practice with authentic tasks whenever possible.

I'm open to feedback!  Any suggestions?  Resources?

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Brave Book

Up:  A Mother And Daughter's Peakbagging Adventure by Patricia Ellis Herr

This is my favorite book I've read so far this summer.  It was unexpected because I just grabbed it off the shelf at the library that had some new books. I had never even heard of it.   I didn't expect that I would be grabbed by it.

Here's what Publishers Weekly had to say about it:

"...a charming, uplifting account...a keen feminist fable for brave girls." 

Here's a quick overview.  A mother takes her energetic young daughters hiking--up really big mountains.  The girls love it.  Other adults are skeptical and negative.  The mother has loads of courage on many different fronts--as a woman, as a mom, as a hiker, and more.  The girls learn so much about courage and confidence and determination and more.

As I think about it, I'm most blown away by the courage and strength of the mother and author.  She made courageous choices about parenting and life so many times.  I hold up her example, not just for her daughters but for brave hearts everywhere.

It's just a gentle quiet book.  It's well written.  I'm still feeling inspired by it a few weeks later.  

If you want to read more about the book or their adventures, Patricia blogs HERE.

What have you read recently that has inspired you?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Are you taking care of yourself?

Are you taking care of yourself?  If I were to answer that question honestly I would have to say, sometimes.  Even though it is summer I'm busy creating and running an online workshop/class.  I'm doing all sorts of stuff with and for my little family because I don't do that much during the school year. I'm starting to create stuff for next year.  I'm thinking and planning.  I'm trying to clean out some hidden parts of my house.

However, the well feels pretty empty and dry inside me right now.

The week coming up feels like it's going to be busy, but it's also filled with lots of stuff that I think will recharge the batteries and start to fill the well.

Tomorrow I'm going to Lakeside to sort of just hang out and visit with at least one friend.  {In a couple weeks I get to go for a whole week with my little family--can't wait!}

On Wednesday and Thursday, I'm going to the Midwest Whole Brain Teaching Conference.  I'm VERY excited about this!   If you don't know about Whole Brain Teaching, check it out!

On Friday I'm going to see the musical Mama Mia.  You know that's going to be fun!

Saturday I'm going to a wedding, and I might be going to the Akron Storytelling Festival.  In the past I've been blown away by this amazing event!

I'm also reading some powerful books and I have some creative projects in the works.   {I'm hoping to share more about both in the future!}

This is the stuff that feeds my spirit!

How about you?  What feeds your spirit?  How are you caring for yourself?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Enchanted By Summer

I love summer.  I love the time I get to spend doing fun stuff with my little family.  I love thinking and dreaming about the new school year.  I love thinking up new stuff to share at Brave Teachers.  {HERE you can grab a mini self care workbook for FREE.}

I love reading good books.  My theme this summer seems to be ordinary strong women doing amazing stuff in their ordinary lives.  {This is a theme that always attracts me.} I hope to share more about that in a future post.

Here are some photos from the past week or so that shows what's enchanting me:

What's enchanting you about summer?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

4th of July

May the sun never set on freedom and choice and opportunity.

With deep gratitude we're celebrating a very low key day!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Blacksmith, Teepee, and Toads

I went offline for most of Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.  I was getting really present into my life.  {A little secret:  This was UNCOMFORTABLE.}  I just showed up.

Beautiful memories were made.  Sam and I went for his first trip to Hale Farm and Village.  His favorite was the blacksmith--which of course I was so wrapped up in I don't have a photo.

It had rained in the morning.  This {and the heat} must have scared off visitors, because often we had private demonstrations.  Can I just say that people were so kind and generous with Sam.  {Can I also say it was hard to sit under shady trees eating granola bars and drinking water when there was so much more to see?!}

Sam demonstrating his weaving skills.

Watching a glass blowing demonstration.

I hope Sam won't look this bored when he goes to school!

Sam playing games from long ago.

Sam churning butter--with assistance.

So that would be enough of showing up and being present, but the next day we went camping in a teepee.  It was our first time.  Despite the heat and a crazy thunderstorm and parents who could not sleep because the 3 year old hijacked everything, it was great!  The teepee was big enough for a small boy to still be mobile as the wind howled and thunder boomed.  He got to go swimming with his dad.  We also got to see amazing fireworks, after thinking the storm would have cancelled them.  He was completely blissed out by being one with the experience--especially the toad who visited us.

We were all in awe of the teepee.

Every little boy needs some time in a teepee

So what is the take away from the weekend beside the amazing memories?  

I do want to be more comfortable with being present, without to do lists or any big plans.
Slowing down is good, even when it's tough.
it takes a LOT of energy to keep up with a 3 year old in unfamiliar territory, so I better take care of myself.

What sort of summer adventures are you having?
What are you learning from the the ordinary and simple experiences?