It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (9/9/13)

From Evernote:

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (9/9/13)

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA!

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover the next “must-read” book!

Since last week was the first week of school and we had a super-busy weekend at home, I didn’t read as much as I had hoped to. Hopefully, as things settle down, I’ll be able to get into a routine that includes more reading each evening!

I did, though, set up the entrance to my office to be a place to share new and old favorites with my colleagues. Here are two pictures:

What I Read This Week:

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown

Of course, I had to read this after reading all of the blogposts about this new picture book! And it didn’t disappoint. It took me a moment during the first read to understand what was happening, but I love that about the book. I quickly shared it with a few teachers and can’t wait to see how their students respond to the story!

The Story of Fish and Snail by Deborah Freedman

Another much-read-about picture book, I laughed out loud as I read this story. A great story about friendship and trying new things–perfect at the start of the school year.

Kindred Souls by Patricia MacLachlan

A beautiful story, another tearjerker by Patricia MacLachlan, about a boy and his grandfather. I love how Patricia lets us into her characters’ lives through conversations and a child’s observations and thoughts.

The Art of Coaching by Elena Aguilar

I’ve been dipping into this book as I try to learn more about how best to support other teachers at the start of the school year. There are some great prompts and questions for coaching conversations as well as helpful ways to think about the different lenses through which we can observe and give helpful feedback.

What’s Next in My Reading Stack:

The First Day

Today was the first day of school. For me, it was my first day of school since 2000 that I was not beginning the school year in my own classroom with a new group of students. (I’ve been a full-time instructional coach since last November when I returned from maternity leave.)

Instead, today, I had the privilege of getting to be a part of nine classroom’s first days. While at first I felt as if I were intruding on the “magic” of the first day, I soon fell in love with my new stance as an observer, as another set of hands and pair of eyes for my colleagues, and as someone who knows many of the faces that were new to their teachers.

Here are a few of the wonderful “firsts” I saw and heard today:

~Sixty kindergarten families, students and their parents, waiting for their classroom orientations in our school’s lobby. So many proud parents holding their children’s hands as they embark on a magical year of learning and discovery.

~Teachers prompting students to write using all they know to write their very first piece of writing of the year and students quickly and quietly moving their pencils across the lines on their papers.

~Teachers reading favorite picture books to launch the day, launch Math Workshop, launch Reading and Writing Workshops and to kick-off the first conversations of the year. Books included: Chrysanthemum, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, One Green Apple, and The Math Curse.

~Third graders squealing and giggling as their teacher read Lulu and the Brontosaurus and she read the phrase “she was a pain in the b-u-t-t”. Followed a few moments later by students joining in as the teacher sang Lulu’s song about finding a brontosaurus for a pet.

~Fifth graders sharing that a few problems they tried to solve were a little difficult since they just came from vacation and couldn’t remember everything from fourth grade so quickly;)

~Fourth graders turning and sharing with a neighbor a “Math Curse” problem from their summer with glowing faces as they excitedly tried to create creative and tricky stories.

~So many students and teachers making a fresh start, hope in their eyes and voices as they reflected on the past and started sharing goals and dreams for their new year together.

Here are a few hopes I couldn’t resist snapping a picture of–could we have any greater hopes for our students?!

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (9/2/13)

From Evernote:

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (9/2/13)

Being new to Twitter and relatively new to the blogging world, I just discovered this "meme" and am excited to attempt my first time participating. It will be great to find new titles that others are reading, share what I’ve been reading, and make reading plans for the week ahead.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA!

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover the next “must-read” book!

What I Read This Week:

The Year of the Book by Andrea Cheng

This is the book that the fourth grade teachers I work with are planning to use as their first read aloud of the new school year. The main character, Anna, who is in the fourth grade figures out over the course of the story how to be and make friends…something that many fourth grade girls are figuring out. The book is also a nominee for the Rhode Island Children’s Book Awards, and I’m excited to share it with many of our students.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

I’m very in the late in the game when it comes to reading this beautiful story. I was hesitant to read it because, just like a movie that gets rave reviews, I was worried it wouldn’t live up to al lot the great things I had heard….But, I finished it in two sittings and loved it. I’m so excited that one of our fifth grade teachers has decided to kick-off the year with this book, as I think the fourth graders who read Charlotte’s Web last year as a grade will find many connections between Ivan, Stella, Bob and Ruby and Charlotte, Wilbur and Templeton. The story moved me to tears and I’m so glad I finally made the time to read this new children’s classic!

The Truth of Me by Patricia MacLachlan

I am a sucker for anything written by Patricia MacLachlan, especially Baby, Sarah, Plain and Tall, Edward’s Eyes, and Word After Word After Word. See, I’m about to list a dozen of her books:) This story of a young boy learning about himself and his family is both magical and beautifully written. Not sure if it ranks at the top of my PM list, but I loved reading it and can’t wait to share it with my colleagues who also love her work.

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Another teacher I work with was carrying this very large book around with him a few weeks ago and I was intrigued. The size alone is intimidating, although very appealing for many young readers. I just had to check it out;) After reading the blurb and seeing the first few pages, I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical. Would I really be able to follow a story half of which was told only in picture? And the answer…a definitive YES. I loved this book and found myself "closely reading" the illustrations and trying to figure out how the characters were connected. As a former New Yorker who loved getting lost in its museums, I loved being transported into the Museum of Natural History.

Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst

One of the third grade teachers is thinking of starting the year with this funny book. My daughter’s nickname is Lulu and so I found myself both laughing out loud and cringing at the main character’s behavior. I loved the songs and the story and can’t wait to see how this book helps her start to build a community of readers who love to read and laugh together.

What’s Next in My Reading Stack:

Kindred Souls by Patricia MacLachlan

Double Dog Dare by Lisa Graffiti

One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

And for my adult book club, I need to get started on:

Lean In: Women, Work, and The Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

On Behalf of My Daughter

Yesterday, I was at the mall doing a bit of back-to-school shopping for myself and as I was browsing the racks and simultaneously chatting with my 14 month old daughter, two of the saleswomen at the store noticed her pigtails and pink shoes and exclaimed, “Why aren’t you adorable? Hi, cutie!” I prompted Louisa to say hi, and she smiled shyly, and then I continued looking through the rack of blouses. The saleswomen kept chatting with one another, remarking, “Oh, doesn’t she make you want to have another?” To which I found myself smiling, because, yes, for my husband and I, our daughter does make us want to have another baby. But then, their conversation continued and I felt my inner mama-rage set in…

“Oh, but girls are so hard. I’d take five boys before I’d have another girl,” one of the women commented. “Ugh, I know. Girls…” I gritted my teeth and quickly pushed my daughter’s stroller out of earshot and to the other side of the store.

Can I tell you that I can’t even count how many times another woman, another mother has said that same thing to me–in front of my daughter? Boys are so much easier. I don’t want girls–they’re way too hard.

I know that most of the women saying this are not ill-intentioned, and I’m sure, they love their daughters, nieces, and granddaughters just as much as their sons, but I cannot tell you how maddening these comments are as the mother of a young girl. And how it boggles my mind that it is socially acceptable to say this to me (as a proud mama) and in front of my daughter…

We live in a world where most families still prefer sons, where in some countries daughters are given up (or worse) just because of their gender, and one in which women still have to fight for equal pay and recognition for doing the same work as a man. I worry that, although women’s rights are so vastly different than a century ago, our daughters will still grow up in a society where they will be up against double-standards. I worry that if our daughters hear from the very beginning–from other women–that they are more difficult or not wanted as much as boys, aren’t we setting them up to already have to prove themselves otherwise? Aren’t we already setting the stage for negativity and low self-esteem issues that many young girls battle?

And why are they more difficult? Maybe it’s that some studies show that girls are often more verbal at a younger age and so start voicing their opinions and ideas before their male counterparts? Is it because of what we foresee as the scary teenage years–the years in which they will be potentially moody and hormonal, and struggle with friendships and body image, and possibly sexual relationships? What about boys–shouldn’t we worry about those same things for our sons?

I honestly don’t know what it is that makes us say these things about our daughters, but as the mom to a strong-willed, curious, funny little girl (and an aunt to some pretty strong-willed, curious, funny boys), I don’t want my daughter to ever think she is less than. And so I write this plea to think twice before making what might seem like a harmless comment, on behalf of my daughter.

Five-Minute Friday: Last

Yesterday was the last day of our summer institute–eight days of professional development, discussions, learning and planning. The two weeks ended and I felt rejuvenated and excited to get back to work. I want this feeling to last and so I’m pushing myself to really strike a balance this year–between work and home, between being a teacher and a mother.

I’m hoping I can make that feeling last by:

Working only 4 days a week instead of 5. I’ve already signed my little girl up for “dance” class and can’t wait to have that special time with her each Friday morning.

Making time to read for myself. I’m part of a book club–a group of women I’ve just recently met–and we meet once a month to eat, drink, and talk about some really interesting books. I’m being pushed outside of my comfort zone in more ways than one–talking with new people and reading books I wouldn’t necessarily choose.

Making time to read children’s literature (aside from the board books I read to my daughter). I just received my first big shipment of new children’s books of the almost-school year. Some are written by favorite authors I used to read when I had my own classroom, others are the first read alouds of the teachers I work with, and still others are books I’ve heard about on Twitter.

Writing. I need to make the time to write–whether that’s here on my blog or simply reflecting on my work or day, I am really hoping I can make this happen and be something I can make last. I think writing may be the most challenging for me.

Spending time when I’m not half-asleep with my husband. This will be tricky too, but I can see making this happen by going to bed early on the nights he’s working.

Staying connected with colleagues, near and far. I’ve just recently joined twitter and started using Facebook to share professional links. I am endlessly curious about what other educators are trying and writing about and reading, and it’s exhilarating to feel a part of a larger community of teachers.

It’s eight o’clock right now, and I am peeking at the three books I have on deck to read next, and am secretly happy tonight is a night my husband is working because it means I get to crawl into bed now and read a good book or two or three. Well, let’s see how long I can last;)

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Year One: What I learned about mothering, working, and co-parenting

It’s been quite a long time since my last post. Since November, I’ve returned to work as an instructional coach, done work in Denver as a math consultant for 10 days–using both of my school vacations, traveled to attend the NCTM Annual Conference as well as a few teacher workshops. During the school year, I started working with a colleague who joined the coaching team this year (yay!), found myself working on being more direct, and crying a few times when the work-life balance seemed to get the best of me.

This isn’t even touching on all the learning and loving I’ve done as a still new mom and wife. So before I start (hopefully) blogging about the current events in my life as a mom and educator, here are a few things I’ve learned in Year One as a full-time working-outside-the-home new mom:

Leaving our children while we work is harder on us than it is them. While it makes my heart hurt whenever my daughter cries as I leave for the day, I notice that the crying always stops before I close the kitchen door behind me. Some have called it “mommy-guilt”, but for me it’s a genuine wish to be there with her each day–not wanting to miss the majority of her awake hours each day and miss seeing her explore and excite in her ever-expanding world. I am lucky that for rolling over, my husband caught it on his iPhone and she started walking on a Saturday:)

Having a supportive community at work is HUGE. I am lucky enough to work at a school where even the co-directors are new parents. One of the other instructional coaches and I were pregnant together and still love to drop by each other’s offices for updates on our little ones. Another colleague with whom I’m good friends, had her twins two months after Louisa was born and returned to work a few months after me. It was cathartic to share with her some of the ups and downs of returning to work, and share with her the mom-envy we sometimes had of our stay-at-home husbands. I’m not saying non-new-parents aren’t supportive, but that it helps tremendously to have others to talk with who understand my intense desire to talk about my daughter’s sleeping and eating habits.

Being a parent does change my perspective (a bit) on classrooms and teaching. I used to HATE when people would tell me that my not being a parent put me at a disadvantage as a teacher. I would still never say that to one of my colleagues, because I still think I did some of my best teaching and learning way before I even thought of becoming a parent. However, I do think being a parent has added a new dimension to how I view classrooms and instruction. I really notice whether the children in a classroom are valued and loved as people first, if they are seen and heard. I watch how teachers interact with and talk about their students and imagine my daughter in their care for thirty-plus hours a week. I find myself pulling my Teaching Children to Care off the shelf more and more frequently (and will be pulling it out again to reread as a parent)–thank you Ruth Sidney Charney!

Just like the students in our classrooms, each of us as mothers is different. My sister and best friend are both pregnant right now (and mothers already to some pretty adorable boys) and my dear friend and sister-in-law just gave birth to her beautiful son two weeks ago. I cherish each of my phone calls, texting “conversations”, and visits with them, as they help me cope with all of the uncertainty and celebrate all of the milestones of the past 13 months. But, we each have our own stories, our own struggles and what makes me cry, makes one of them laugh, what is important to me is irrelevant to them…and that’s okay. These differences are what are helping me learn and grow as a mother and friend.

Co-parenting is amazing and amazingly hard. I’m saying it here: parenting with my husband (whom I adore) is difficult. I want him to do things my way, to spend his days with her while I’m at work the way I dream of spending my days with her. But he doesn’t dream of his days like I do and so we get annoyed with each other and get resentful when the other offers suggestions on how to feed her or what to feed her or how to wrangle her into a clean diaper. I secretly, or maybe not quite so secretly, enjoy that she is a mama’s girl right now and flaps her arms up and down in joy whenever I enter the room and cries and clings to the gate at the top of our stairs each morning that I leave. But, I adore watching her climb over to him in our bed after I bring her in from her morning nap and she pushes her little face in his neck and kisses his face; I can’t get enough of it.

I love being a mom. Before we had Louisa, before I was pregnant, I was a workaholic who loved her job. I went to conferences, read piles of professional books, harbored secret “crushes” on my teacher idols, worked 10-12 hour days and then went home to write and respond to emails and read more. I took on extra work with committees, started consulting and loved it all. Don’t get me wrong, I still crave learning and love being a part of an amazing school where I am constantly challenged, and (as I sit on a flight to Denver headed to do some work with math teachers) I love working in other schools with some of the smartest teacher leaders with whom I’ve ever worked. But, if I could give it all up for just a little while, I might, might just be tempted to spend my days and weeks only as Louisa’s mom and Chris’s wife.

I’ve also learned that my free time is often taken up with household chores or relaxing with some brainless tv show, and it’s clearly hard to keep up with a blog. But, I’ve been inspired by some amazing women and men who really do seem to find time to “do it all” and I’m going to try to be more dedicated to writing and reflecting as I start Year Two…

motherhood–a realization

Louisa slept in her own room for the first time last night.

It’s taken me awhile to get to the point where I’m ready to have her in there and not in her sleeper next to my bed. We’ve been discussing it for over a month. Chris has actually been suggesting it for even longer, but I kept telling him I wasn’t ready and that the AAP recommends keeping infants in your room until 6 months of age. She’s not yet 5 months, but I there was a part of me that knew it was time. The part that understood my husband and I would sleep better, and that Louisa would probably sleep better too. And so after each discussion, Chris would smile and shake his head. He saw me those first few nights at home sleeping with my hand on Louisa’s belly or feet, so he knew that it might take this mama a little while longer to let go.

Last weekend, we finally finished decorating her room (she couldn’t start sleeping in there until it was done!)–we hung the shelves and the pictures and all that’s left is moving the rocker back in.

Yesterday, before Chris headed to work, we were discussing it again. “It’d be good for us,” he pointed out.

“But the AAP says…” I argued back.

“Yes, I’m sure they do, but she’d be fine. It’s up to you, though. Do it when you’re ready,” he relented.

And then bedtime came last night, and I looked down at my little girl as I dressed her in her 6-9 month sized pajamas, and thought that maybe he was right. So I quickly moved the monitor and sound machine into the nursery.

After we finished her bedtime routine of singing and nursing, kissing her and laying her down in the crib, I slowed backed out of the room and closed the door. I turned on the monitor and watched as she played with her feet and whimpered a little, before settling in and falling asleep with one little hand tucked under her head.

The pride I felt (that my baby girl fell asleep on her own in her own room) was mixed with heartbreak (she didn’t need me)…and as I sat there watching her on the monitor, I realized that my life from now on will be filled up by moments like this.

Quiet–Five Minute Friday

I went back to work this week.

It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, but what I found the most unsettling at work was how quiet it was.

Transitioning back into my position when the school year started nine weeks ago means I have a lot of catching up to do. There’s observing and listening and reading work I need to do to understand what’s been happening in my absence. I also have a new office space that needed to be organized and set up. This work was all very quiet compared to the work I’m usually doing, and it was a bit unsettling.

I found myself on a few occasions, sitting in my new office, looking around and feeling a bit overwhelmed by how quiet it was, so I’d pop into a classroom to be with students or walk down the hallway to “eavesdrop” on the work teachers and students were doing. I know that the quiet will be soon be replaced by a schedule crammed with teacher meetings and classroom work (I can’t wait!), but I’ve also realized that quiet is a good thing–I’m getting to hear and observe what I might otherwise have missed if I was jumping in quickly to add my ideas. Hopefully, I can remember to hold onto a little quiet in the coming weeks…

5-Minute Friday: LOOK

It’s Friday again, and that means another 5-Minute Friday challenge from Lisa-Jo Baker. If you want to join in or read other people’s posts, check out her page here: http://lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday/. Here’s my take on this week’s word and something I’ve been thinking about since a meeting I had earlier this week…

LOOK

In any classroom, good teachers know that the most important thing is seeing your students. Knowing them. Understanding who they are. We can’t be good teachers if we don’t really listen to and look at the children who walk into our classrooms each morning.

And with instruction, particularly in the workshop model where one-on-one conferring is essential, knowing your students is a must. Lucy Calkins, author of many books including The Art of Teaching Writing, described this conferring as having 3 parts: Research, Decide, Teach. Inherent in the research part of a conference is looking at and really understanding what each child is working on as a writer (or reader, or mathematician, or scientist). We might ask questions, read some of their writing, listen to them explain their work or read alongside them. The goal is to really know what they’re thinking, what they’re doing well, and what they’re trying to do. And then compliment them on something they are doing well. Everyone likes to feel good about their work before hearing a suggestion, don’t we?

Recently, I’ve heard my own student voice in my head during a few interactions I’ve had as a new mom. Times when I was struggling to breastfeed my daughter or figure out sleep routines and sought advice, I’ve heard a part of me yelling, “Wait! You’re not listening! You don’t know me! You don’t know what I’ve been trying.” And then I’ve been left feeling ignored, given rote information that doesn’t really apply to me or my situation, and, frankly, pissed off.

We adults have a lot of opinions, and “experts” are often expected to just give their opinions, perhaps without listening. However, here’s a lesson from the classroom for the greater world—do a little research, really look and see and understand, before you try to teach others. It makes a difference.

5-Minute Friday

I recently stumbled upon a website called “Lisa-Jo Baker: tales from a Gypsy Mama” http://lisajobaker.com/. I honestly don’t remember how I found it or what I had been searching for–I’ve been doing a lot of web searches lately at three or four in the morning when I’m up feeding L but not quite awake. The searches range from “cloth diaper systems” (we’re starting as soon as I get our system set up!) to “3 month old sleepier than usual” (she was taking lots of naps). So, I’m not sure what led me to Lisa-Jo Baker’s website, but I found myself reading and I subscribed to her email. That’s how I found out about her 5-Minute Friday writing challenge where she posts a word or topic and invites others to just write for five minutes. The idea is that on days when you don’t want to write, just push yourself, just write for five minutes. I could use that today (after the excitement of putting my first post out there, I was a little nervous to try again, hesitant to pick a topic). So, thank you, Lisa-Jo. Here goes….

Race…

Before Louisa was born, I was always in a hurry. In a hurry to get to work because I pressed snoozed one too many times. In a hurry to get from my classroom to a meeting to another classroom. In a hurry to make one more chart, send one more email, make one more copy. And it wasn’t her birth that slowed me down, but the car accident I was in 7 days before she was born.

In my pre-motherhood life, I never could say “no”–not when it came to work. I didn’t want to say “no”. The busier I was, the better. I loved (and still do love) sharing my ideas, being involved, and helping my colleagues. Teaching excites me. I could talk about curriculum or students or a single lesson for hours. So, even when at 37 weeks, my doctors admitted me into the hospital to monitor the baby and my fluid levels, I still wanted to work. I stopped teaching, but wanted to finish the work that I could. It literally felt like a race to the finish. Could I get it all done before the baby arrived?

That’s why I was at work that Tuesday. I was meeting with my two of my colleagues to look ahead at coming year’s calendar and units of study. It was a meeting I had scheduled so that I could support them in their planning before my impending leave…We met all day, but then I left right at 3, which wasn’t typical, but I had errands to run. Yep, I just had to order the new bureau for our bedroom and then from there, I’d be running to get my nails done. All part of getting ready, right?

Well, it was rush hour as I headed back through the city from the furniture store. I looked down, or over, for a moment and realized, “Oh, I have to slow down–there’s a car in front of me.” But, instead of hitting the brake, I hit the gas and crashed right into that car.

I won’t and can’t describe how terrifying that car accident was. My car ended up being completely totalled, but everyone involved, thankfully, walked away with very minor injuries, if any. I spent the night in the hospital because I did have a few contractions. But the baby was okay–actually, the baby and the fluid levels, ironically, looked the best they had since my 37 week appointment.

That next morning, I finally realized I couldn’t race anymore. I had to let go, at least for a little while. Since then, life has redefined “busy” for me…it’s not running from here to there. “Busy” this week was getting outside three times in one day with my daughter :) I’m sure “busy” will take on yet another meaning when I’m back at work, but I think (I hope) I won’t be in such a race.