Monday, May 27, 2013

What Are You Reading?

“It’s Monday! What are you Reading?” is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. It is a chance for book lovers to share their reading accomplishments as well as what is on the proverbial nightstand. She even does a giveaway. Subsequently Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts added an opportunity for those reading kidlit to join the fun. Since I read both I will post to both. Check them out, join the conversations, and discover more great books.

Must haves for my classroom library are marked with *.

The Writing Workshop by Katie Wood Ray

A Chance in the World by Steve Pemberton (audio)

*The Apothecary by Maile Meloy

Across the Wall by Garth Nix

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Where were you?

Austin Post, USGS

Where were you that Sunday morning 33 years ago?

I lived in Seattle. Our dining room had a huge picture window that faced south, from which we watched the plume of ash grow and spread. Since the winds kept the ash from falling on us all those drills we had done at school (and on the school bus) were for naught (plus it was Sunday). I remember thinking that the eruption was very anti-climatic, but that was because we weren't in the thick of it. I still find it amazing, all these years later, that there is still ask in the median on I-90 as you head east.

Do you have memories of that day?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Thankful Thursday - Budding Reader

I am thankful that I live in a house with people who appreciate books, especially our budding reader.

It is hard to have any kind of print around without her dragging her finger across it 'reading' what it says. She uses context clues or initial sounds as she gives it a go.

The past few weeks she has been waking up before her clock turns yellow (see here for more explanation) and, after a hug, asks if she can go to her room and read. (!)

She is also enjoying reading books to us.


Sometime she memorizes it, most recently Roller Coaster by Marla Frazee, which she even took for Show and Tell. (Marla Frazee has impressed her. Her reading includes stating the title. Realizing she didn't know who the illustrator was, she asked me. When I told her Marla Frazee wrote the words AND drew the pictures G's esteem rose even further than it was already.)

Asking to repeat a page or line after me is her latest form of reading.

This morning I took these pictures of the mounds of book she has stashed around the house. She wants them out and visible, not in bins or on shelves.


We'll work on tidying up, but right now I am thankful that she loves to read.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mother’s Day Celebrations

Sunday here is a regular weekday. As our typical morning routine unfolded, nothing was said about Mother’s Day.

I ‘happened by’ my husband’s office later in the morning. Still nothing.

In the afternoon I stopped by to tell him that he and G were taking me out to dinner. He responded, “OK. Is there a reason?”

The other gentleman in his office asked if it was my birthday or our anniversary. My husband knew it was neither of those.

I was laughing and left to let them figure it out.

By the time we headed to dinner someone had bailed him out and he was wishing me “Happy Mother’s Day”.


During this dinner outing G was not convinced that it was really Mother’s Day since her class was doing a Mother’s Day performance on Monday and she knew it was only Sunday, therefore it could not be Mother’s Day.


The Mother’s Day performance was exactly what you would expect from a room full of three and four year olds, and every mom in the room loved it.

Our adventure in the classroom didn’t end when the singing stopped. There were several centers setup for crafts and activities.

G was most excited about the Beauty Center and the chance to paint my nails, give me a massage, and do my hair. (It was the first time I have wished I was wearing a hijab. I even asked another mom if she had an extra in her purse.)


My favorite was making a ‘hand bouquet’.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother’s Day

Do you need some parenting inspiration today?

I literally laughed out loud, multiple times, as I read this.

Below is my favorite one.

The masterminds who came up with this trick.

Saturday, May 11, 2013


Some rights reserved by Tebbek

I was first introduced to ‘backchannels’ at UnPlugged last year. (More about UnPlugged here.) For me, it was like being allowed to talk in class. All of those things I wanted to whisper to my neighbor, I now had an avenue for. If I wondered about something that was said or made a connection, this was a place to put those thoughts. The resources I naturally look up when I wonder about something, could now have a place to be shared.

Since then I have loved the backchannels of conferences I am attending and those I just wish I was. It gives me a way to learn, even when I can’t be there and a way to deepen my understanding when I am there.

Realizing how much I benefit, as a learner, from these opportunities I started wondering about incorporating backchannels into my classes.

So far I have only been willing to take the plunge in my Digital Storytelling class. This is an elective and the syllabus is flexible. If something gets us way off track, it is OK. We have used the backchannel to share resources, ask questions, and keep one another posted on the progress of projects.

Initially I introduced the backchannel with some simple ground rules and things to keep in mind:

  • Appropriate language
  • Staying on topic
  • How to address people (@_____) if you wanted to ‘speak’ to, or reply to, someone in particular
  • Remembering our Twitter lessons of 140 characters or less (We use TodaysMeet)
  • How to get a transcript of the session to reference later

As always, if you make poor choices, there are consequences. One student needed one warning, but having the warning on the backchannel served as a reminder for everyone.

Since then we have successfully used a backchannel many times. Sometimes I start it and sometimes they request one.

Am I ready to take this into all of my classes? I am getting closer. In other classes it could be optional. Some people (me) benefit from this outlet. There are others that find it distracting. Either way the transcript could be viewed once class had finished and the conversation could continue, virtually.

Want other opinions on the subject? I have read this blog post and this blog post recently, which helped spur me on to write the post you have just finished.

What are your thoughts and experience when it comes to backchannels?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Learn Something New Everyday: Air Pollution

Some rights reserved by ninahale

I, perhaps like you, thought the worst air pollution in the world was in places like Beijing and Mexico City. The following is the journey I took resulting in now knowing that is not true.

It all started with a job posting. We are actively looking for our next home. The list of possibilities currently include Morocco, Lebanon, Vietnam, China, Mozambique, Thailand and France.

And then I saw Mongolia.

Mongolia! I was so excited. I don't know what the allure is, but the idea of living in Mongolia seemed so cool. (I realize that to some of you the fact that we live anywhere besides North America is pretty cool.)

I sent in my cover letter, CV, and letters of reference. Every time my mind wandered across the idea of Mongolia a smile would appear on my face and I would do a little dance.

Then I got the email asking for an interview - with the school in Mongolia!

(Are you noticing how much excitement this was generating for me?)

Prior to an interview I always to kick up the amount of research I have done on a school, city, and country. In the process I was shocked to find this article listing the top ten worst air polluted cities in the world. China is no where to be seen! In fact, five of the cities are in Iran. Pakistan and India are well represented. And then the big shocker, Ulan Bator (the capital of Mongolia and the location of the school) is number two!

How is all of this calculated? The most basic explanation is this, the main number used looks at the number of particles smaller than ten micrometers (PM10). (See the article for a fuller explanation.)

Now that we are armed with a unit of measurement, let's look at the statistics for some cities.

Beijing is 121 PM10. Since this is so often the city used as an example of horrible air pollution, I'll use it as comparison.

The worst air pollution in the U.S. is Bakersfield, CA with 38 PM10.

Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada 3 PM10

Seattle, at least today, is 21 PM10.

Ulan Bator? 279 PM10

I'm still going to have the interview, but that is a HUGE deterrent.

Want to know more? Read this, this, this, and this.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Past my bedtime


I had every intention of writing a thoughtful post for this week's Slice. Now it is an hour past my bedtime and I can't focus. Glad to be having interviews, but stick a fork in me!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Thankful Thursday

I am thankful for people who love my daughter. Today she is on her monthly playdate with a family that would keep her, if they could. Here is proof that they completely consider her a part of their family.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

My Own Room, For A Day

Today was an absolute treat. I got to teach all five of my classes in one room!
That doesn't seem like something so unusual to most of you, but just this school year I have taught in four different rooms. (I am not even getting into the fact that I moved rooms over the summer.)
How is this possible?
The year started in 'my' classroom. This is the norm. I had a classroom in which I taught my core classes, my elective, and my advisory. When I wasn't teaching I could prep or have meetings in my room. All was well.
Then the administration realized it made more sense to move the middle school into the building that was being built (to replace high school portables that did not meet fire code). Why the middle school? Because we would fit in the building, all in one area. If the high school were to use the building they would be spread out all over campus.
We waited and waited for the building to be complete. Bets were made as to when the move would actually take place. This part of the story could be its own post and I will skip it now.
Eventually we moved to the 'new building'. I had my second room of the year, but all of the characteristics of my first room still held true. Once the move was complete it was school as usual.
Then it was announced that the building was unsafe.
Virtual school for a few days followed.
We resumed classes,
only to be told it was condemned and would have to be retro-fitted.

Now what? Virtual school for the rest of the year?
That was one option (pajamas and sweats for a many months doesn't sound too bad) but not the one we went with.
The building we had moved out of still had three empty rooms, even after the high school moved in. There was another room that was only used by a health class. (They were moved to the stage in the main gym.) Now that we had four rooms a plan began to emerge.
The four core teachers for both sixth and seventh grades could utilize these rooms. Each of us has four core classes and we have a total of eight blocks. It just took a little block swapping, but now during each of the eight blocks, each of those four rooms has a core class.
Eight grade still needed a space. The elementary school gave up their gym and now the eight grade teaches a more college style class with each core subject being taught once (rather than four times). They have a headset mic, projector, etc. The other core teachers are available to assist both individuals and facilitate group work when it isn't their subject area. (It is working out far better than anyone had expected!)
Anyway, since 'my' room is also someone else's room I need another space for my elective. A very kind high school teacher smiles when I come in with my sixth graders for Digital Storytelling during one block of each rotation.
If it is my planning time I have to find another space. This all goes on and on with many people making accommodations so our students can continue to have classes. (Another example is the ES Arabic teachers now use carts to go from homeroom to homeroom so their classrooms can be used by MS specialist teachers.)
It's working. Classes happen. Kids are learning. Summer is approaching.
So what was so special about today? Today reminded how much more energy this shift in rooms takes out of me each day / week. Today, since the seventh grade Language Arts students were taking M.A.P.
I had the room to myself.
All. Day. Long!
I had my elective in 'my' room.
I sat in the quiet before a class started.

Someday it will be my reality once again, but for now I was thankful for one day.