Saturday, June 30, 2012

Things I Love Right Now: Bowling

For our year end teacher work day, we were told there would be a breakfast meeting and that we needed to bring a pair of socks. When we walked into the gym that morning, there were a few tables up, but not set for food. I started to wonder if the socks were going to be for throwing!

But no, we were loaded into the buses and taken on a surprise trip to a local bowling alley. An anonymous donor paid to feed us and let us bowl for the morning.

I am not a bowler. When we take our son, I usually just watch. But I wanted to be a good sport, so I got some shoes and laced up. And I had a great time. I was easily the worst bowler in our group, but it wasn't a competitive bunch, so it was okay for me to be bad.

In fact, I had such a good time, I came home and signed our son up with He gets two free games of bowling every day for the summer. For $25, my husband and I can get two games a day as well. We only have to pay for shoes. It's a fantastic program! I am so glad we signed up this year. We can bowl our games in an hour or so, so we can work at school in the morning and bowl in the afternoon.

Check it out - its a steal!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Things I Love Right Now: Labels

A few years ago I noticed our school principal using address labels in a creative way. Rather than putting an address on them, she put an encouraging message.


It took me years to do anything with this great idea.

We'll see how these work this year - I have one Happy Birthday set, two sets with the Six Traits of Writing (I can use them on student work and highlight or circle the trait(s) they are doing well), and one with an "I'm proud of you" message. I'm excited about the potential connection with students that can come from these little stickers!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Things I Love Right Now: Audio Books

We started our relationship with audio books with the FANTASTIC Harry Potter audio books. I wish our school allowed Harry in the library, because I would love to use the audio books with my students. They are so well done.

This summer, we have been listening to some Percy Jackson in the library while we work, and we have been enjoying The Kane Chronicles (also by Rick Riordan) on audio in the car. Audio books are a great way to get through great material while doing other things at the same time.

The only downside I have noticed this summer is that the audio books during the day have replaced bedtime reading at night. That's not a trend I like, but it is easy to get lazy and let my son stay up later, playing, while I do something else rather than set aside the 30 minutes or so for our usual reading routine. But I know in my heart that that routine is precious. I just need to find the right material to restart our bedtime routine.

Now, I am on a quest through my book magazines for some new audio book titles to try. We started The Phantom Tollbooth read by David Hyde Pierce, and it's fantastic. I'd like to finish that one. If you have any recommendations, let me know!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Summer Balance

I find myself longing for the summer vacations of the past - of sleeping late, curling up on a chair with a book, playing games with my son. Last summer, we weren't home much and when we were, I was still trying to keep a part time job that had been graciously flexible with me as I dealt with the death of my father and dealing with his estate.

It would be too easy to fall into that same pattern this summer. There's plenty to keep me busy, plenty of projects to work on. And my son is a good sport about the work we have been doing so far this summer. But I feel like this is a critical juncture. I feel like I HAVE to get this balance thing right this summer. Summer break is too short and school will start before we know it. Once August gets here, summer will be gone.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

"What Are You Reading Right Now?"

Someone asked me this at a party recently.

My first thought was, "Wow, this person knows me well."

My second thought was "I wish I had some spectacular answer for her." I felt like I was missing an opportunity because I haven't had time to dig into any reading material. I have book review magazines from January I haven't read, so I've been getting caught up on those. With the library clean out project, activities with my son to make the most of our summer break, keeping up with social media, and household projects, I haven't had time. I long for a season of reading all day and into the night to finish a great book. I am committed to carving out time for that this summer - maybe even a whole week of it!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Library Purge

Here it is! My library space, in mid-purge. The cabinets are beautiful and big, and I barely used them last year because they were full of things I either didn't know I had or didn't need. One whole cabinet was full of old National Geographics and other magazines the students would use for a poster project on the Dewey Decimal system and non-fiction organization... a project my students begged me to skip this year. Those are now gone. Another cabinet had two shelves stacked with construction paper. The unopened packages alone were over a foot tall when I stacked them up. I maybe used 30 pieces of construction paper all year last year. Now I'm down to a more politely-sized stack.

I also had scads of classroom sets of books in the library itself. Most people didn't know they were there or what was available. Now I am moving those into the library office. I hope to bar code their boxes so I can check out the set when someone wants them. I want to label each cabinet so that I know what I have where. I would love to have the office set up as a resource room for teachers. I can hardly wait to have it done.

Meanwhile, the library itself is a pit. There are boxes and stacks of books everywhere. I have to keep reminding myself that it is only temporary. I'll get it all put away again soon.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


I had a "secret sister" this school year. The program is called Partners in Prayer. We prayed for our assigned partner, left notes and small treats throughout the year, and then had a big "reveal" at the end of the school year. I decided to stitch something.

I haven't finished a stitching project in ages. The piece I was stitching while I sat with Dad in hospice is still undone. The Christmas ornaments I started two years ago are also undone. My collection of "someday" patterns is as ridiculously out of control as my bookcase of To Be Read titles. It felt really good to FINISH something. Here it is (I even framed it myself!):


Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Organized Pack Rat Paradox

As soon as the school year wrapped up, I started cleaning out the library.

I took on my new job about a week and a half before school started last year. I had enough time in my new space to get a basic lay of the land, but there was a lot of material and no time to really dig into it to see what I had. All year I kept telling myself that I would sort my space out this summer.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my wish list of summer tasks is far too long to be reasonable, but cleaning out the office and organizing the library is a non-negotiable task. I have been dragging bags to the trash and recycling bins like a woman on a quest. In my frantic purging efforts, I have discovered some real treasures - resources that will be a great help to me in the coming years of teaching. But there have been moments where I have felt torn between my desperation about cleaning out and reorganizing my space and my pack rat tendencies. I hate the idea that I might throw out something I'm going to want later.

For example, I found a large stash of posters and poster boards stacked against the wall behind a box and other things I had shoved in the corner as the year was winding down. I threw away a large stack of poster projects completed by previous years' students. I reviewed book and reading-related posters, keeping ones that fit my personal style and sharing the rest with my colleagues. And I found several poster board game boards. I had no idea what sort of game they would go with, so I left those for my creative colleagues who might develop a game to go with the completed board.

Several hours after making that decision, I found the games that went with the game boards. Thankfully I was able to reclaim the boards before they disappeared. This only fueled my pack rat panic! As much as I want to purge the space and organize it anew, I also find myself thinking, "but I might want this later."

I'm afraid I will have to do this clean out again next year when I see how much of what I am saving I won't use this year, either.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Box 'Em In

A couple weeks ago, we attended a sixth grade graduation ceremony at my son's school. The speaker was a parent/pastor who delivered a fantastic message for parents.

As a visual person, I especially liked that he had a live illustration for his talk. He brought up a mom and dad and one of the sixth graders. He placed the dad in front of the student and mom behind. He challenged fathers to take an active, positive role in leading their families and setting the course for their children. He encouraged moms to partner with the dads and encourage the students to follow the family course (train up a child, etc.)

The speaker noted at this point that the student was unshielded on the sides. (He also pointed out that some families only have one parent in the home, or one parent choosing to be active in the life of the student - this creates another gap). He called up a youth pastor and a mentor to stand at the sides of the student.

Finally, the speaker called up several volunteers to hold up signs representing the things that will vie for the child's attention - peer pressure, drugs, etc. Then he had the student, boxed in by the parents and other significant adults, navigate around the distractions.

It was brilliant. It challenged parents to "box in" their kids with adults who have the student's best interests at heart, who will speak into the student's life when he starts looking away from him parents for input. He stressed that parents (and teachers) are preparing students to leave the nest as adults and we need to be intentional in that preparation - it's too important a job to leave it to chance. I was challenged and inspired to look at my role with my son and with my students in a new way. My time with them is short and precious, and I want to do my best with the opportunities I have.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


This week we are transitioning from school to summer. I've posted a few pieces about my summer reading on my book blog, but otherwise I'm going to take a blogging break this week. I'm still working on the "wait and pray" thing I blogged about last week. Maybe I'll have more clarity next week.

Happy June!

Saturday, June 2, 2012


I have a confession to make.

On Memorial Day, I didn't post a book review on my other blog. I put up some generic post about the holiday, but that isn't really why I didn't post. On Sunday evening, when I was supposed to be blogging, I was on Pinterest.

Shocking, huh?

If you aren't familiar with Pinterest, it is the latest thing in social media. You "pin" pictures to virtual bulletin boards so you can keep track of things you like, recipes you want to try, crafts you want to do, things you want to buy, ideas you want to try, etc. and it is completely addicting. Not only do you pin things you come across online that are interesting to you, but you also become friends with folks and can see what they post and you can get ideas from them.

If you are a teacher, or just an idea junkie, I think you would love Pinterest. I also think it is fun for visual people. Frankly, if I could only do one form of social media, I'd give up Facebook and Twitter and just play on Pinterest!