Saturday, May 26, 2012

Oh, my blogness.

Holy cow. I popped in on my blog for the first time in foooor-eeeeeev-eeeeeerrrrrr (what movie was that? Sandlot?) and the whole stinkin' thing has changed. I don't even know or remember what I thought I was going to write about, as I am so freaked out by the new format I am seeing right now. Yikes! Learning curve alert! Woooop! wooop! I am going to a two-day workshop on google apps in early June. Maybe I'll get some super secret blogger tips then. Heck, I don't even know how to customize my layout - I just use one of the templates google gave me - so maybe at the very least I'll figure that out. But I'm guessing I'll learn more about synchronizing calendars and sharing docs and all that. Either way, I have always considered myself reasonably tech savvy, but lately I am seeing how dusty and rusty I've become. Working with kids makes me realize how easily they can comprehend and adapt to the torrent of technology that pummels their generation. I know I can count on them to help each other (and me) figure out all the tricks that make using applications easier. This is a good thing. But I marvel at how few of their parents respond to (or even check) their emails - would they ever join an edmodo board? Or comment on a blog their kid kept? Or are they also overwhelmed by all the screen-time in our lives? If I were to position myself (and grow into the practice) as a 21st Century Literacy teacher, requiring lots of digital thinking alongside story times and conversations and handwritten journals, would the parents be inspired to grow with their kids? OR would they be out of the loop? Where do I draw the line? A few Saturday morning thoughts I had no intention of having, I guess... More soon.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Reasons I Love Teaching, Episode 3,492

I don't even know if I can sufficiently describe this moment of pure joy between my fifth graders and me this morning. But I want to record it, and I've already updated my facebook status too many times for an average person to appreciate today, so here goes.

Imagine my classroom, normally a busy and inviting place with desks clumped together in work groups and a big open place on the floor for us to gather around the coffee table and share. During standardized testing, however, the desks are all in rows, spread the required three feet apart. The work we've created for the walls is all covered up in scrap paper. The comfy-ness disappears. It's just ugly.

Knowing that all little people (especially mine!) struggle with sitting in a seat for a few hours straight, and knowing that I'd need to rest my brain after pushing it to its limit all morning, I allow the kids to bring a pillow or a lovey or combination of the two (pillow pet, for example) so they can sit comfortably and then nap on the floor when they finish. Yes, they are 10 and 11 years old, but who doesn't appreciate a good nap? Especially if that nap involves a purple unicorn and a frog blanket?

So, this morning, all the little well-rested and well-fed people were in their carefully selected seats, ready for us to begin, when one of my friends asked me if I would wear his necklace so he wouldn't mess with it during the test. Picture a silver chain, just long enough to go over your head, and just manly enough without being gangsta. Add the one-inch silver cross, and you can see how one might need one's teacher to help avoid distraction. As everyone was watching him taking off the necklace and me putting it on, another friend was making sure his plush brown Snuggie was adjusted perfectly so it would stay on in a slightly-bent-forward-over-a-bubble-sheet position.

Necklace Friend to Snuggie Friend: You look like you ought to be in the choir.
Snuggie Friend: Huh?
NF: That looks like a big fuzzy choir robe!
Another Friend: Naw, he looks like a preacher!
Me: I kinda think he looks more like a monk.
(Extreme giggles all around. It doesn't take much with this crowd. Imagine them murmuring, "She said he looks like a monk! You look like a monk, man!")

Now, I haven't mentioned yet that Snuggie friend has been bringing a grey wave cap for two days, as he doesn't want his new twists to get messed up while he is napping after the test. This is critical to the story, So sorry for having waited so long to plant that little part for you! Okay, back to the room...

So I start walking around chanting, while holding my Test Administrator's Manual like a Bible in procession. Pie Jesu, Domine... Much more giggling, but it was polite, as we were trying to set a proper tone for testing, of course.

And then it hit me - a terribly clever idea, a combination of all the comedic elements right there before me. I do think before acting most of the time, but I needed some more giggles in the room, and I needed them to be my own. So I went for it.

Me to Snuggie Friend: Dude, give me the robe!
SF: Why, Ms. Hays?
Me: Trust me! Trust me! It'll be great. (I don the robe. Children are silent with anticipation.) Okay, wait for it, wait for it... (I pull the big silver cross chain out from under the Snuggie and gently place it upon the microfiber vestment) Pie Jesu Domine... (more chanting with the TAM...)

Yeah, man, we laughed. Another friend suggested that I wasn't fat enough to be a monk (A+ for that kid!), so I snatched the nearest Angry Birds Plush Pig and shoved it under the frock, continuing my chant as the portly Friar Hays. Yet another noted that I should be bald. Enter the wave cap! Snuggie Friend put it on my head, and the full effect was achieved.

Yes, friends, I was a spontaneous monk this morning. And we loved it. It will be one of those "Y'all remember when..." moments my kids will have years from now, and it brings me so much joy to think that they will also remember that it was on the morning of some silly test. Okay, maybe they won't remember that part, but I will, because it will serve as a reminder that a little levity goes a long way.

So, as poorly and quickly told as this format and my time allows, there it is. That's one of the countless reasons I love what I do and where I do it. More importantly, that's why I love the little people I get to work with every day.

(And sorry, we didn't get a picture. All of our electronics were shut off for the test, duh!)

Monday, March 19, 2012


A few folks whose blogs I love have recently nudged me about my absence here. One said, "And what is up with YOU not writing?" Another simply cleared her throat in my direction. But a third nailed it today by questioning whether I had lost my writing mojo.

Yeah, I think I have. And I miss my mojo. Not just my writing mojo, but my teaching mojo, my parenting mojo, my wifing mojo, my friendship mojo... You get the idea.

Some people get all miserable and grey as summer turns to winter turns to fall. Me? I think I struggle more with the transition toward the warmer months. Can you get Seasonal Affective Disorder this time of year? If so, I have it.

Those of you who teach might understand better than those who don't. This is the time of year when everything is drawing to a close. We have testing and registration and talk of who-is-teaching-what-next-year to remind us that our time with our favorite people is drawing to a close. Each time we dust the pollen off our windshields, we are reminded that there is no more hope for a much-coveted snow day this year. The days get longer, and the little people are decidedly sleepier in the afternoon. I am left with little but my thoughts and reflections about how the year has gone while faced with the fourth quarter - which inevitably is gone before you know it. All of it gets to me a little. It's a what's-done-is-done time of year. It's too late to reset, too early to stick a fork in it and call it done.

And then there is all the remembering. March means momma's birthday. April means Daddy died. May means Momma died. I don't want those months to mean those things, but they always will, just like November means Thanksgiving and December means Christmas. It's not like I make a big deal out of it, or at least I don't think I do. But I notice. And I am not at the point where I always like noticing - yet. Just today, I was working on a prompt-response challenge with my little friends and one of them said something about one reason he'd like to meet Dan Uggla is because he plays for the Braves. When I asked him, "So what?" (My sneaky way to remind them to elaborate) he said, "Because I have always loved the Braves and my grandpa loved the Braves and I would love to meet him so I could spend some time thinking about my grandpa." Now, mind you, I had taught them they can always use the "Fake Grandpa" elaboration when they can't think of any other way to explain what they mean by one of their statements. But THAT Fake Grandpa choked me up!


It's the time of year when I realize I have been existing more than living. I just don't like that.

(So what?)

Existing is no way to live. I want to cherish moments, appreciate wonders, and use my time fully. I want to get the junk done I need to do so I can do what I WANT to do. I long for new challenges to embrace, new accomplishments to have achieved. I need that fresh perspective spring ought to bring to kick me in the butt and keep me going, looking for my mojo, reclaiming it.

So, thank you, fellow writers and friends, for reminding me about this way to process and express all the thinking that goes on in this noggin. I'm here, like the Whos Horton heard - I am here! I am here! I am here!