Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I'm Baaaaack....Again...This Time With A Book!

Hiiiiiiiiii......

It's been awhile, no?  I've missed you guys.  I know many of you are rolling your eyes and thinking, "Uh, then why didn't you post, you delinquent blogger?"  Well, there's a lot to that answer, so here is my best effort at explaining myself and my wee absence.  (I say anything under a year can be termed "wee.")

First of all, I've been doing my best to crush it in the classroom.  And, as you know, crushing it in the classroom means setting aside most thing that aren't termed "basic needs."  (Hello, intimidating pile of laundry that remains undone, I'm looking at you and thinking...maybe I can just wash the underwear???  Basic.  Needs.)

Plus, while I didn't make a super big deal about it over here on the blog, I did add another tiny human to the Mimi clan.  Our newest Mini is the sweetest boy in the history of boydom but for the love of all things holy this boy never sleeps!  I mean,  not that I've been counting, but I went 361 days without sleeping through the night.  For reals.  But now he is one and continues to be twinkly and amazing in addition to sleeping better so...hallelujah.

Annnnndddddd, because I felt like I needed a little something on the side...you know, because the hours of 2 through 5 a.m. were not occupied...I've been working on a book.  Yes, I wrote another book.  It's called Be Fabulous and I like to think that it is.  The book officially drops tomorrow and after I poor a little out for my Super Colleague homies in celebration, I promise to post again with more deets.  In the meantime, here's the linky loo.

I am so happy to be back...I just need to dust off my wind machine and then it's on!!!





Monday, October 7, 2013

Murphy's Law of Classroom Juju

(And for the record, I think Murphy is a douchebag.)  (Also, I hope you didn't fall out of your chair/burn yourself with coffee/shit yourself when you saw that I had a new post.  It's been awhile.)  (Did I mention that I had another mini???  Wondering how long that excuse is valid.)

Here is Murphy's Law of Classroom Juju.  Hold up, do I need to define Classroom Juju for you?  When I say "Classroom Juju," I am referring to that feeling in your classroom as well as that feeling you get about yourself as a teacher.  It's your vibe, how you're rolling, you know...how you doin'? 

Okay.  Back to Murphy's Law of Classroom Juju.  According to Murphy's Law, a fabulous day in the classroom will be followed immediately by a day that makes you want to light your own hair on fire.  And not in the Rafe Esquith way, in the holy-hell-are-you-kidding-me way.  (Please notice that this law can also be reversed...unbelievably difficult days can be followed by fantastic days.  But because I am a bit of a cynic, I see it the other way.)

Picture it:  A crisp fall day.  Your morning meeting? Slammin'.  Your reading and writing instruction?  Epic.  Your students independence and stamina?  Unparalleled.  Your math lesson?  Unreal.  Student level of enthusiasm?  Stoked.  Your content area instruction?  Hot.  Read aloud?  Bananas good.  Classroom management?  The stuff of genius.  All in all, you are on your way back to your classroom after dismissal feeling as if you have this week in the bag.  You can practically hear your own theme music following you up the stairs.  Your after school routine (You DO have an after school routine, don't you?)  (You need the routine.)  is easy, breezy, beautiful.  You chat with a few colleagues, there are no pop up meetings or assessments.  You pack your bag that does NOT have a cockroach in it and head home.  You may even have time to hit the gym.  Say whaaaaa????

Cut to the next day.  OH THE NEXT DAY.  From the moment you pick your friends up from where ever you pick them up from, they act like it is the first day of school and they have no idea what your routine or rules might be.  You're all, "Guys, it's totally like the 40th day of school."  And they're all, "What's your name again?"  as they throw their homework folders just anywhere (The bin is labeled, people!), shout out that they left their books at home and then proceed to chit chat as opposed to getting down to the business of their morning work.  One student has a meltdown during reading, the gym teacher tells you "your class acted out of control" like there was something you could do through telekinesis while you weren't in the actual gym at the time of said loss of control, and your lunch sucked.  On the way back to your classroom after finally FINALLY dismissing your class, you get stopped in the hall by an administrator who wants to know when you're going to turn in the data, the data, must have the data! 

I'm telling you, to be a teacher you have either got to be the most Zen, balanced chick on the planet OR enjoy riding the emotional ebbs and flows.  What does it say about our confidence that even I (who is in possession of a fairly strong sense of self and capacity if I do say so myself) feel crushed and worthless at the end of a day like this?

Monday, December 31, 2012

Buh-Bye 2012!

So I'm just about T-minus seven hours away from the official start of 2013 and I feel compelled to write some sort of reflective genius about the year.  Hopefully you are reading this post with a drink in hand.  I definitely sound much more brilliant if you've been drinking.  True story.

You guys, 2012 was rough.  ROUGH!  While you know I have a flair for the drama, the highs and lows of 2012 put my natural tendencies to seek out drama to shame.  I didn't have to seek it out, it found me, slapped me in the face and then laughed about it while calling me fat.  For real.  Both professionally and personally, I am keeping my fingers crossed for a much more even keeled 2013.

If you've been reading for awhile, you know that I have basically been involved in a five year quest for professional Zen.  Much of my struggle to find said Zen stems from the daily ridiculousness that goes down each and every day in our public schools as well as my public-school-teacher-ingrained- manner of being perpetually unable to strike anything related to a personal/professional balance.  (Did you guys know that you are actually supposed to go to the gym?  Evidently it's not enough to carry that little thingy around on your key chain.  Who knew?) 

Some personal struggles this year forced me to have a new perspective on my life as a slave to education.  Without actually saying "Don't sweat the small stuff" (because that sort of phrase makes me want to pour salt on an open paper cut), I learned to stay cognizant of what really matters.  My family, my own philosophy of what it means to be a good teacher, and those projects that truly make me happy. Yes, I still engage in hours of paperwork and other miscellaneous bullshit that is a complete waste of my time, but I try not to focus on it as much.  Very Jedi mind trick, very Zen. 

With this attitude in hand, I gratefully will say goodbye to 2012 and hello to 2013.  May 2013 bring joy and professional happiness to us all.  (Spoiler alert: Mrs. Mimi is going to be getting her Happiness Project on and I hope you all will join me!)  For me, that definitely means more time over here on the blog.  This will only be my 20th post this year and although much of this year was too dark for me to even contemplate looking at a keyboard, I have missed you.

Without further ado, here are the top five viewed and commented on posts of the year.  In other words, the posts that totally kicked ass/struck a chord with all you lovelies out there.

Number 5: Heroes

Number 4: Just Another Manic Wednesday

Number 3:   Where Do I Begin?

Number 2: I Went Running.  What Did I See?

Number 1:  You Put Your Whole Self In, You Put Your Whole Self Out...

Happy New Year!  I raise a glass to each and every one of you. 

xo,
Mrs. Mimi



Saturday, December 15, 2012

Heroes

I am sitting here in front of a blank computer screen attempting to write curriculum, to focus on the Common Core, to be mindful of my looooooming deadlines.  But then...

My mind drifts back to the recent tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT.  As a mommy, a teacher and a CT-girl, I just cannot wrap my head around what took place on Friday.  And yet, I can't think about anything else. 

Although I am horrified and write this with tears streaming down my face, I have never been more convinced than I am right now that teachers are heroes.  We are heroes.  Those men and women working at Sandy Hook Elementary were and are heroes.  I joke about Super Colleagues zipping through the hallways with capes on their backs as they go about changing the lives of the children they touch each and every day, but these people, Vicky Soto, they are truly heroes.  With or without the cape.

If I struggle to process what has happened, I am not sure how those most closely involved can even begin.  I have read that when Fred Rogers was a boy and would see scary things on the news, his mother would say to him, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." 

So for today, I am going to focus on the helpers and the heroes. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Nerd Out: Stand Up And Wave Your Nerd Flag

My Teacher Bag is a thing of mythic proportions.  It is big.  It is heavy.  It is strategically packed.  It is a thing of beauty.  Over the years I have refined my Teacher Bag so that it is no longer something that mocks me from the corners of my living room ("Why haven't you opened me and graded all these assessments yet?  Grey's Anatomy Shrey's Anatomy...I'm watching yoooooouuuuu.") but is something with which I can effectively finish up remains of the day, tweak my plans for the next and, in all honesty, probably Macguyver you a new alarm clock.  I'm just sayin'. 

One day, before a looooooooonnnnnggg field trip which required an even loooooonnnger (think epic like red sea epic) bus ride, one of my friends glanced in my bag and gasped in surprise. 

"Mrs. Mimi, what's that?!" he said increduously.

Panicked I glanced over, mentally steeling myself for a conversation about tampons when I discovered that my friend was pointing at my book.  Not my math manual or the tome of tests I had yet to grade, but my personal reading book.  (Yes, I always have a book with me.  Always.  I HATE waiting and a book makes me feel less stabby when I have to.)  I actually even remember what book it was.  It was the first book in the first book in the Twilight series.  (I know.  I know.  And they weren't even that cool yet...I know.)

"Oh, that's my book."

"The book you are reading to us?  That doesn't look like Judy Moody."

"It's not.  It's my own book.  That I read for myself.  On the train or before I go to bed."

"You read?" (blink, blink)

"All the time."

"What's your book about?" (still suspicious)

"Vampires." 

Silence.

I don't think that particular friend will go glancing in a teacher's bag again, however, word of this insane reading nonsense spread around the room like wildfire.

Psssssttttt....Did you know that Mrs. Mimi reads every night before she goes to bed?

Hey....did you know that Mrs. Mimi is reading a book that she hasn't shared with us?  It's about vampires!

And that's when it hit me.  My friends had never seen me read.  Sure I read aloud to them every day, I read their books, I read with them, I read from the board, but in their presence, I never read for myself.  (I mean, I would actually have to sit down and take a breath for that to happen and we all know that that is a luxury teachers don't often had.)  While I knew that I was never going to be able to sit and read while they read (because she-who-shall-remain-nameless would flip her Weave and we all know I wanted to avoid that like the plague), I realized I had to share my reading life with my class.  Show them the book I was reading.  Talk about my reading.  Wave my nerd flag and wave it proudly.

Chapter 5 of The Book Whisperer advocates for just that.  That we share our reading lives and our love of reading with our students.  Because we can't fake it.  They are too smart for that and I agree with Ms. Miller that authenticity is everything with kids. 

It also means reading the books our friends are reading.  Have you ever had this happen:

Teacher: How is your reading going?
Student: Great.
Teacher: Can you tell me about the story so far?
Student: (Launches into long and detailed explanation that sounds pretty good but honestly, you haven't read the book and they could totally be pulling one over on you, but what are you going to say because, without reading the book, you don't have a leg to stand on....)
Teacher: Sounds fantastic!  (Ugh.)

Can we read every book in our classroom libraries? Probably not this year.  Should we be reading the books our friends are reading?  Hells, yes.  I'm not sure how else you do it. 

I love these last lines from the chapter.  They remind me how important it is to bring your authentic self to the classroom each and everyday and how critical that we turn lists of strategies and requirements and standards into something truly inspired.  "The reality is that you cannot inspire others to do what you are not inspired to do yourself." 

 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Nerd Out: It's Not All About Leveling

Oh standardized testing, how you have ruined us!  How you have forced us to do things that deep down we know are not the best for our little friends!  How you have been abused yourself - used to measure things that you were never designed to measure!

I think we all need one big support group.  I'll meet you at the bar...

Anyhow, one fallout of testing, testing, testing and more testing is our obsession with data, accountability, measuring, and all things one can put on a graph.   One huge casualty besides you, me, our friends and collective sanity?  Our classroom libraries.

I don't know about you, but I have always had a love/hate relationship with my classroom library.  I loved the neat, organized and colorful labels.  I hated that lurking pile of books that I didn't know where to shelve.  I loved the bursting baskets, filled with books books, glorious books!  I hated when books were put back in the wrong place, carelessly and without thought.  I loved the rug, the pillows, the little lamp, the cozy feel of my classroom library.  I hated vacuuming and maintaining the space.

As you already know, I can make most things in life into a full fledged drama.

Getting back to my point...one trend I have seen in classrooms (and a trend that I do NOT believe is the fault of the teacher, don't get me wrong) recently is making the classroom library into a wall of leveled baskets.  Whether you color code them, number them or Fountas and Pinnell them up, it is still a huge wall of leveled books.  And nothing else.  No genre, no topic, no author, no nothing.  Just levels as far as the eye can see.

I often wonder what this looks like from the perspective of the little friends in that classroom.  Do they imagine the books mocking them - all you-can-look-but-you-can't-touch-me?  Do they push readers to work harder?  (My guess is no.)  Do they make readers feel bad about where they are and limit their choices? (My guess is yes.)

Levels are fabulous.  They are a great tool and have shaped my own teaching of reading.  HOWEVER, as the eloquent Donalynn Miller writes in chapter 4 (I know, chapter 4.  Could we be doing this book club thing any slower?!  I swear, you guys, I am totally not a slow reader.  Seriously.), "I never want my students to feel that they are roped into a book...I believe that students should be empowered to make as many book choices as possible..."

Is it really a choice if you are told to pick one book from the basket labeled "DRA 28"?

This chapter goes on to detail the ways in which Ms. Miller expands her students reading lives and helps them to form a reading identity.  Now, I love the smallest of small fries down in lower elementary and for these new readers, it is essential to have leveled books.  But leveled books and being labeled as a "level x" reader certainly isn't the answer.


Can you imagine if someone yanked the People magazine out of my hands and told me it wasn't my level?  It wouldn't be a pretty day, that's for sure.

*********

If you want to chat more about our The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child, check me and my fellow nerds out over on our book club's Facey Face page.  


Thursday, November 29, 2012

To Gift or Not To Gift

Assuming that none of you out there was the lucky Powerball winner (I mean $500M??  Can you imagine how much that will buy you at The Container Store or - gasp - Staples?!  The organizational possibilities are ENDLESS.  Don't even get me started on the shoes I could buy...), the question I'm thinking about today is to gift or not to gift. 

Every year at this time, in addition to keeping the lid on my boiling pot of friends who were oh-so-over-excited about the holidays, I began to think about putting together a gift to give them before our vacation.  A Holiday Something from me to them.  As with many things in my life, I have found that this situation is also a bit of an emotional roller coaster. Let me explain...

In my early years of teaching, I used all my bonus points and extra pocket change to buy each student two books I just knew they would love.  Joy!  Giving! 'Tis the season! 

Inspired by my own generosity (I have never been afraid to toot my own horn), I followed that gift up with At Home Kits Of Fabulous.  Each child got a new pencil box filled with fun art supplies and ideas for at-home-fun-while-on-vacation.  Ooooo!  Aaaaaa!  Fabulous!

Then I found one At Home Kit of Fabulousness discarded carelessly in the entry way of the school building.  Boo!  Hiss!  And a hearty dose of WTF?!

The next year, you got a pencil with a bow on it.  Blerg.

Then there was the year I began my doctoral work and had to pay for books, classes and, you know, food.  Hershey Kisses all around! 

But do you know what?  (Here's the part where I whip out that janky mirror and hold it up to  my old shriveled heart a-la-the-Grinch and you get to watch my heart burst with the joy of giving.  Consider yourself warned.)  When I gave out the books?  The kids flipped out and practically fell over themselves to hug me.  When I gave out the At Home Kits of Fabulousness?  The kids flipped out and practically fell over themselves to hug me.  When I gave out the pencils?  The kids flipped out and practically fell over themselves to hug me.  When I gave out the Hershey Kisses?  The kids flipped out and practically fell over themselves to hug me.

For real.  Of course, there were a few party poopers who could have given a rat's ass (hence my kit of fabulousness discarded on the floor), but you can't win them all right?  Bottom line?  My friends could have cared less what I got or how much it cost?  They were just thrilled that I thought to give them a gift - from me to you.  Nine times out of ten, each thoughtful gesture I extended to them was met with so much love and appreciation that I was blown away.  Every single time.

What about you?  

Who's Peeking?