Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Sad Little Reader

A couple weeks ago, as I was meeting with one of my first grade classes, I was encouraging my students to keep moving forward on their reading for Accelerated Reader. They had about a month left in the quarter to work toward their goal. And I told them that this quarter's party is a great one to go to because - if the weather is good - we go outside to play and eat ice cream. It's a great time.

In the back of the room, leaning against the wall, was a round-faced boy. His bottom lip protruded and his eyes were sad. "I'm never going to make it to the party."

"Yes, you will. You can do it."

"No, I can't. I'm not a good reader."

Oh, my heart broke. He's right. He's not a great reader. It's taking him longer than some of his peers for this reading thing to "click." I don't know what sort of help he gets at home. But I do know that if he believes it is impossible, it will be.

I stopped the whole class and gave him a pep talk. I told him that the assessment he took told us what books were the best fit for his reading right now. These were books that he could read and understand. And I told him that if he read them carefully, a couple of times, and if he took his time on the quiz, he would be able to pass the quiz and earn the points. I told him if he worked with his teacher and practiced at home, he could surprise himself. His demeanor improved, but I have still been worried about him. I'm not sure he is motivated enough - if he believes enough, if there are enough supports in place for him to actually make his goal. And, unfortunately, his continued struggles could very well set him up to always define himself as a poor reader.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

52 Lists - List your favorite albums

This was a tricky one. I rarely listen to or buy full albums any more. I buy a song or two from a variety of sources and I am happy with that. The albums I have bought most recently were:

Kings and Queens by Audio Adrenaline

Reckless by Jeremy Camp

Pitch Perfect Soundtrack (snappy songs - not all are "family friendly)

How about you? Any favorite albums or favorite songs?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sold! (again)

Last week my husband and I attended our school's annual fundraising auction. We have gone every year for the last five and it is always a fantastic evening of fun.

Last year I posted about the event - and the spectacle I made of myself, determined to pay whatever it took to leave with the classroom project for my son's class. As this year's event approached, I thought a lot about that night. It was great fun, but in hindsight I have realized that I didn't really want the project, even though it was packed with great items. I wanted two things - the photo book of the kids, and the satisfaction of winning. I was frustrated to walk away year after year without the items I wanted because the $400 or $500 I had set aside wasn't nearly enough to compete with the other bidders. It was almost intoxicating to be able to bid as much as I wanted with no limit but my common sense (which disappeared as the adrenaline started pumping).

This year, I walked into the auction hoping to secure one thing - a photo session with a young photographer I follow on Facebook who does lovely work. Other than that, I was content to walk away with nothing. I was determined to leave the auction-junkie in the past.

But then my husband discovered a large print from DC Comics that was going to be part of the live auction.

It's almost scary how quickly it all came back - the adrenaline pumping, the determination to win no matter the cost. I fixed an upper limit in my mind and knew I would continue to counter bid without hesitation until I either got the print or hit that limit.

I am glad we live our every day lives with restraint. While spending like this once a year at the auction is a lot of fun, I think ongoing spending like that could become addicting - and stressful.

[In case you were wondering, I did get the DC print for my husband and the photo session I wanted as well as one more item in the auction. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening!]

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Reading Race to the Finish

This winter, two of our teachers asked if we would ever be able to do something so the teachers could do Accelerated Reader (reading books, taking quizzes, earning points) like the kids do and see which teacher could earn the most points. I loved the idea and talked to the principal and we were able to make it happen.

Thus, the Reading Race to the Finish was born. Teachers and staff members opted in or out of the program, based on what time they had available. They have six weeks to read books and take quizzes and the top three point-earners will receive a prize.

We are only two weeks in and everyone seems to be having a great time. Classes are setting reading goals for their teachers, kids are recommending books, and those of us taking quizzes get to see the program from the other side.

Yes, I am taking quizzes, too, although I am not competing with the teachers. I read too much for my work for that to be fair. [Instead, students will be guessing how many points I earn this quarter and the winner will get a prize and his/her class will get an ice cream party.]

Here are some of my observations so far:
* All of our cautions to kids about not skimming through books before taking quizzes and about not waiting for months after reading something and then trying to take a quiz on it are completely on target. I tried to do both and lost points in the process.

* Something powerful happens when students and teachers are reading the same things. I have really enjoyed hearing teachers talk about some of the more popular books the kids are reading. I'm curious to see if the reverse happens, too, as I have teachers reading adult books and some Christian fiction books that happen to have AR quizzes. If nothing else, at least the students are seeing their teachers as readers.

* I am working toward a significant goal for my part of this "race," so I'm not reading books that don't have quizzes.  As an adult, I know this is temporary. Once this program is over, I can read what I want. But my students don't always have this luxury. Sure, they can read what they want this summer, but once school starts again in August, most of them will eschew books without quizzes, even if they want very much to read them. This makes me sad.

* There are days when I can't read as much as I want to. Sometimes I go three or four days without reading any significant amount. This has been true all year - seasons of a book every day or two and others when a week goes by without any reading. Sometimes it's because I just finished something amazing and I can't bring myself to start something new. Sometimes it's because I'm busy with other things. But now, the reading dry spells matter! If I'm not reading, I'm not earning points! Then I think about my students. They have busy seasons too - seasons when they have baseball every night or three tests in one week or nights where their families have made plans and they are required to tag along, or times when they just need a break from intense reading. I wonder if we, the teachers, remember this when we set goals for our students. Do we give space to our students for those days where they either don't want to read or just don't have the time? Do we label the strong readers as such early on and maintain high expectations for them that don't allow for a natural ebb and flow?

I imagine observations and insights - as well as fun - will continue over the next few weeks of this contest. It's   become a fun way to wrap up our school year!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

52 Lists - List things that make you feel healthy in body mind and soul

clothes that fit - or are a little loose
a little sun on my skin
standing with my face to the sun
using my mind to work through a difficult problem
creating something and having it turn out in reality as good or better than it was in my head
singing praise songs
reading my favorite scriptures
being outside on a spring day with my family
making and eating a fresh fruit salad

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Our pastor made a statement in his sermon on Sunday that grabbed hold of me and won't let go.

"He (Jesus) places you where it pleases Him."

I don't want to get too hung up on free will and my choices vs. God's placement of me in situations, but I like the reframe I hear in this statement.

My church, my home and my work are places where Jesus has placed me for this moment in time. Acknowledging that, and embracing the idea that He has me here for His pleasure and His purposes allows me to relax a little. I can stop wondering what's next, or what's going to be 10 steps down the road. I don't have to wonder if there's something else I am supposed to be doing or somewhere else I am supposed to be. I can focus on this step - this place - and just be.

Other circumstances that I might not like as much - health issues, difficult seasons at work, etc. - don't change the fact that I am where I am supposed to be for today. And it pleases Him to have me here - whether that is to teach me something or to allow me to help someone else, I can find at least peace if not pleasure myself where I am. I can do the best I am able and then stop striving for something else or something more.

Jesus places you where it pleases HIM.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

52 Lists - List ways to show love to others

send a note
give a hug
scratching my son's back
doing dishes for my husband
buy a gift
share a compliment
brag on someone in front of them
listen without distraction - ask questions that show you really hear someone
cheer someone else's achievement

Saturday, April 6, 2013

52 Lists - List what you are grateful for

my family
having a job
my particular job - I love my work and my students
creative outlets like scrapbooking and cross stitch
my home - it may be small, but it is ours and is full of memories
our church family
lunch/dinner out with friends

What are YOU grateful for?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

I Survived

My survival kit was pretty successful - I survived the busy-ness of March and have made it to April and to Spring Break. I have tried to plan only a few tasks for break that have been needing attention for some time, but to allow plenty of free time, too. I'm just happy to have completed another successful book fair. And I am already planning a trip for next year's Spring Break so we can actually get away next year for the first time in awhile. I am ready to start a new count down for that!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 
~ Hebrews 13:20-21 NIV [biblegateway.com]

A few weeks ago, our pastor used this passage as his benediction. I love this sort of passage - the blessings of Scripture, the "May God" passages.

In this particular one, the word "work" caught my attention. "... May he work in us what is pleasing to him." 


Change and improvement isn't granted like a genie granting a wish or a fairy waving a wand. The things God wants to see in me come from work. They take time. Just when I think I have grasped something He wants to teach me, I realize it has come around again - maybe in a slightly different form, but there it is again. Often, it takes months just for me to cultivate an awareness that I'm even doing whatever it is that God is showing me. I guess if I was conscious of it in the first place, I wouldn't do it. Instead, it is such a part of my behavior or my character, it takes repeated effort to even recognize it is there, much less try to do something about it.

It takes work.

Within the work, I take comfort in the fact that God cares enough about me and about my character to even bother with me and my flaws and defects. Apparently He thinks it's worth the time and effort to bring about His purposes, even in a sinner like me.