Thursday, July 24, 2014

Spiritual Journey Thursday - I Will Follow


Matthew 4:19      English Standard Version (ESV)

19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

     I didn't think I'd be able to post today since we're leaving on our mission trip in the afternoon, but after packing, I was able to sit down and think through this journey and why we're going.  We also need to write a devotional for the people coming to our camp in Czech Republic, so this helps me think about what God might want us to say.
     This journey to the Czech Republic started in May.  Katie, my 18-yr-old, was finishing up her senior year of high school and came to me asking if she could go on the Encounter (our church's high school youth group) mission trip to Mexico in June.  I told her I thought it was too late, and sure enough, when we contacted the youth minister, they had just finalized numbers and bought tickets, so they weren't able to fit her in.  We knew this mission trip had been planned since winter, but at that time, it wasn't something she was thinking about. While I was talking to the youth minister, he suggested we check into the Czech Republic trip.  This was a trip I knew about because one of the church members, Cheryl, who also happens to be in a book club with me, went last year and loved it.  She went alone there to help teach an English camp run by a pastor and his wife who are connected to our church.  She had a wonderful time, and the pastor asked if she could round up some more church folks to help out next time.  She had even asked me earlier in the year, but I had said no because I knew Katie would be home in the summer, and I needed to be around for her.  Little did I know this was something she would want to do!
     When I was reminded of this trip, I was intrigued and asked Katie if she'd like to go.  She didn't even hesitate.  YES!  I checked with Cheryl, and there were exactly two spots left - perfect for both of us! There would 8 of us going - 3 adults and 5 teens. I'm honored to be going with these amazing Christ followers.  It all seemed to fit perfectly into a plan.  God's plan!  We've been working hard on lesson plans and preparations, we're packed, and ready to go.
   Katie working on animal word flash cards...
Photo: Katie working on lesson plans for the Czech Republic mission trip/English camp. Teaching animal words!
     Last Sunday, our group was commissioned by our church during both services.  I love that our church does this.  Whenever we send off people to do mission work, our pastor invites friends, family, and church leaders to come up and lay hands on to pray.  It is a wonderful feeling to be connected to our congregation and know that they are praying for us.
The power of prayer!

     One of the praise songs during second service (our contemporary service) was "I Will Follow" by Chris Tomlin.  I love that song and thought it was perfect for our story and why we were going.  Katie heard God whisper "GO" and she followed!  I'm happy to be going with her. :-)  I was able to go on two mission trips with Libby, my oldest daughter - one to NYC and another to Mexico, so I love having the opportunity to do this with Katie.  My husband, Ed, will be holding down the fort while we're gone. 
    I would love for you to link up and tell your story of how you are following God.  Our theme this week is FOLLOW.  God doesn't always call us out of the country to follow him, obviously.  It can be as dramatic as a trip across continents or as subtle as a conversation with a stranger.  Of course, feel free to write about whatever spiritual journey you're on this week!  Your writing doesn't have to relate to the theme.

     Katie and I would love for you to pray for us on this journey.  One of our objectives is to teach English, but our main goal is to have the opportunity to share God's love and promises. And please tell us how we can pray for you!  I will not be posting next week, but come join me again on August 7th! 

Where you go, I'll go
Where you stay, I'll stay
When you move, I'll move
I will follow you
Who you love, I'll love
How you serve I'll serve
If this life I lose, I will follow you, yeah
I will follow you, yeah

Light unto the world
Light unto my life
I will live for you alone
You're the one I seek
Knowing I will find
All I need in you alone, in you alone

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Slice of Life - Am I a Writer?

    I love participating in Slice of Life, started by Two Writing Teachers and writing a story, reflection, or musing at least once a week.

     It is also time for Teachers Write! founded by Kate Messner.  This post is combining the two a bit since I am a teacher who writes AND I need to share a slice of life today. 

Yesterday, I had an experience that caused me to ask, "Am I a writer?"  This was a question posed by the hosts of the #nctechat on Sunday.  Be sure to read the archive of the chat if you weren't able to participate.  It was great!

This is a slice that takes a bit of courage to write.  I shared in a Celebration Saturday post that my fellow writer, friend, and former teaching partner, Megan Ginther, and I submitted a book query and proposal in the spring to an educational publisher.  It is a book in progress called Literacy Frameworks in which we outline our core literacy philosophies and the way we frame our ELA teaching around literacy contracts that we develop, which include a theme topic, read aloud, small group books, independent reading, and writing projects.  At that time, we got two very thorough reviews back and a request to revise.  The editor we worked with was extremely gracious.  We worked on it and revised a couple more months and resubmitted it a week ago.  We got the final word back yesterday that it is a "no."  Wow.  It felt like a punch to the gut!  All that work...
After commiserating with Megan, I immediately reached out to a handful of friends who knew how much we invested in this book.  I didn't tell a lot of people since I was still processing through some of the emotions.  A few of the people I told, besides my best friends and family, were online friends (thank you, Twitter, Facebook, and blogs!), and I am grateful for the encouragement and reassurance they gave me.  ALL of them gave the feedback that this experience is part of what writing entails:  rejection!  I don't like this part. :-(  Being a reader doesn't encapsulate rejection.  I should stick with that.  Ha.

Today, I decided to go ahead and share this part of the journey with my blogging community.  I know my Choice Literacy and blogging friends, family, and colleagues will want to hear the news since they were all so encouraging to both Megan and me.  One thing we can take away is that we are not giving up - ONWARD! (Thank you, Kate Messner!)  As our friend Louise Borden said in her wonderful, encouraging e-mail, "Face the sun...and keep writing!" I need to put that somewhere where I can see it all the time!  Thank you to those I reached out to (you know who you are:-)) for being there when I needed some pick-me-up words of faith and positivity.  I loved Jill's response: "It would be a boring story if the first place wanted it!" And the writers I reached out to reminded me that they have reams of rejection letters - way longer than our one.  We've only just begun. ;-) I printed ours out to start our rejection folder. Ha.  I also loved that an article by Stephen King came through in my Facebook newsfeed yesterday - so timely.  It was a list of tips taken from his book, On Writing, that I just started.  Serendipity!  Some of his advice was just perfect!  My favorites were #2 and #4.
So am I a writer?  I suppose I am.  One of the first things I wanted to do in response to this experience is to write!  I also know my students are writers, and I know that this is a fantastic thing to share with my them.  They know writing is hard.  I know writing is hard.  But it can be so rewarding.  My students know I am writing this book and that we submitted it for publication.  I'll share this rejection with them just like I share my Slices of Life and other blog writings, poems, and stories.  I'll share with them the writing I did this summer for Teachers Write! and I'll ask them to share their writing.  It is all part of the process.  Just yesterday, a fifth grade student wrote this in response to a question I posed on Kidblog about whether it was important for their ELA teachers to be readers and writers: "...if the teacher doesn’t read or write, how is a student supposed to progress in reading or writing if the teacher can’t give them advice or comments on how they can progress in a love of reading or writing?"  I look forward in giving them authentic feedback on what it's like to be a writer, just like I give them lots of feedback on what I'm reading.  I love the relationships we establish when we share these experiences with each other.

And thank you, Greg, for reminding me of this - it's my husband's favorite speech/quote, and is featured in Greg's wonderful book, Dash - Life Between the Numbers...

So, we continue to shop our book, and we hope something comes of it someday, but in the mean- time, I'll write because I am a writer! 

Monday, July 21, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

These are memes started by Teach Mentor Texts and Book Journey, and I'm excited to participate, along with many other bloggers, in reviewing books I read the previous week. I'll be reviewing picture books through adult books. 

What Do You Do with an Idea? 
What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Mae Besom
LOVED this book. I think it would make a great companion book with The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires as texts that inspire creativity and imagination. Great to use in the writing workshop.
I loved this latest installment of the Silver Jaguar Society mystery series. Anna, Henry, and Jose are back, and we're introduced to Hem. Is he friend or foe? This time the three friends get involved in an international art heist, and someone is a double agent, but who? We get to go to Paris in this one, and since I've been there, it made it fun to picture the places mentioned, especially the Shakespeare and Company Bookstore. The ending seems to leave it open for more adventures involving our three friends. I sure hope so! Couple of fun things I posted about while reading: the teacher in the book is Mr. Sharp. ;-) I also loved that there is an excellent example of "close reading" of a poem the kids found. This book pairs up well with Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett and Moxie and The Art of Rule Breaking by Erin Dionne.
Photo: The characters in Kate Messner's Manhunt do some close reading!;-)

Close reading example

Libby and I in the Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

Every book club member and literary type should read this book!  There were so many things I loved about it. I loved the setting, the book store, the romance, the precocious child, the many book titles and allusions, the wit, the twists, the family dynamics...everything really. I'm going to pass this book around. In fact, I already handed it to my friend, Jill. Can't wait to talk about it at book club TONIGHT! 
Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon

I recently read Show Your Work, a gift from Brenda Power during our Choice Literacy retreat, and I liked it so much, I had to read Kleon's previous one, Steal Like An Artist. I'm not sure I liked it as much, but there are still lots of nuggets of wisdom in this little book that I took away. Favorites: Nothing is original, Build Your Own World (Geography is No Longer Our Master - thank you, online PLN!), Be Nice (The World is a Small Town), and Marry Well. ;-)
Circa Now
Leviathan (Leviathan, #1)
Off to read about what YOU'RE reading this week!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

DigiLit Sunday - Online Collaboration

      I love that Margaret Simon has started a Sunday Link Up for posts about digital literacy at her blog to challenge us to share our technology journeys.  
     I wasn't sure I had anything to write about on DigiLit Sunday today, but then I read Margaret's post, and at the end, she talked about a couple online collaborative places where teachers can talk about ideas.  It got me to thinking more about collaboration with face to face colleagues and also with my online PLN.  I don't have a lot of time to write about that today, but it's something I've been wanting to write at length about.  Today I 'm just going to touch on it.
     Collaboration is KEY in education.  We need more of it in a time when I think a lot of teachers feel isolated and may feel like they are fighting the good fight all alone.  I recently had lunch with a friend who reached out to me, wanting to talk about best practices in literacy education and how she can  implement them in her classroom.  She feels like she's doing the right thing by providing choice, time to read, writing time, and reading aloud, but needed some encouragement.  She knows what didn't work for her students (a scripted reading program), and she knows what happened when she changed things up and created a reading/writing workshop with authentic literacy practices.  She knows!  However, it can get discouraging fast when you don't have support.  Teaching is too hard to do alone!  I'm glad we could talk, and I could encourage her to keep going, but she needs more.  Right away, I started talking about online collaboration. 
Unity Is Strength When There Is Teamwork And Collaboration Wonderful Things Can Be Achieved Mattie Jt Stepanek Unity Is Strength When There Is Teamwork And Collaboration Wonderful Things Can Be Achieved Mattie Jt Stepanek
     I'm fortunate that I am in a fantastic district with innovative teachers, but even so, I find much inspiration from online collaboration and tools.  Megan and I get together in person a lot to write and share ideas, but when we can't, we write together using Google Docs.  Our book proposal is an effort of much collaboration!  David Etkin, along with several other teachers, and I collaborated on #ReadWalkWater for our Nerdy Book Club post on Google Video Chat.  We worked together a ton last fall on this project and have never met in person!  Countless literacy gurus share their wisdom on SlideShare, Prezi, Google Presentations and Docs, and Twitter.  I'm frequently talking to inspiring literacy folks through blogs (and link ups like this one, started by bloggers who want to have conversations), Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.  These online connections have kept me going.  While nothing beats face-to-face interactions, I depend on my online PLN almost as much as my in-person PLN.  I love an ongoing conversation I'm having right now on Facebook, inspired by Katherine Sokolowski's post on classroom design.  Without these online friends, I would never have thought about getting rid of my teacher desk (I'm still thinking this one through ;-)).  I'm also really enjoying getting to know some blog/Twitter friends better through a link up I started called Spiritual Journey Thursday.  I've made fantastic friends through Choice Literacy, a website where contributors write about all kinds of classroom literacy practices and get together to write, connect, and provide feedback on each other's writing and ideas.  Teachers Write is currently providing an online space for teacher writers to learn and comment on each other's writing with published authors. 
     I would love to extend this kind of collaboration to my students.  I recently set up Kidblog for all of them, and many are using it this summer, posting writing that they're working on, sharing book titles, etc.  They also started collaborating last year using Google Docs for commenting and editing each other's writing.  I had heard of TodaysMeet, but haven't used it yet.  I think David was the one who introduced it to me.    How else could students collaborate online in their learning?  Like Margaret, I'm excited about Christopher Lehman's new website, especially the group aspect.  I've already joined a couple groups and look forward to the learning that will go on there.  If you haven't seen this video yet, Chris talks about collaboration and why we need it:
Thank you, Margaret, for inspiring a topic even when I thought I didn't have one!  And thank you for being part of my online collaborative PLN! :-)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Celebration Saturday

Discover. Play. Build.
 I'm so happy that Ruth Ayres started a Celebrate Link-Up on her blog!!!  I will be joining the celebration every Saturday!!
1.  We continued to celebrate Mom's 70th birthday.  Her actual day was on Thursday, so her friends of 45 years, who dub themselves The Cuties, planned a lunch at Malone's in Lexington, which is a central place where we can all meet.  I rode down with two of her friends, one friend picked up my aunt in Knoxville, and then picked up my mom and another friend in Somerset.  We all met up at Barnes & Noble first, where we had coffee, started a marathon chat session, and I bought books. Then we went to Malone's where our server kept us laughing, and we enjoyed delicious salads and an amazing birthday dessert.  I have my own wonderful group of friends that I've known since high school and college, and I saw ourselves in the smiling faces of my mom's friends.  Long-lasting friendships are something wonderful to celebrate!
My mom (bottom left, her sister to her left, The Cuties, and me)

My mom, me, Aunt Jan
2.  The Warren County Fair is always something to celebrate.  I love seeing all the kids and their projects.  They work hard all year to bring their animals, sewing, art, science projects, talents, recipes, gardening, etc. for people to judge and enjoy.  I hope 4-H continues forever!  By now you know I love the poultry barn.  I also love to see all the other livestock and the horses. 
Holly Mueller's photo. Holly Mueller's photo.
Some of my favorite chickens found in the poultry barn.
Photo: A little wisdom from the horse barn at the Warren County Fair...
I found this little gem of a saying in the horse barn!
3.  I'm sure you've already seen this, but Christopher Lehman came out with some pretty exciting news about his newest project.  This is something to celebrate! 
Off to read all of your celebrations!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Poetry Friday - The Poultry Barn

Our county fair runs this week, and I love to go and reminisce.  I was a member of 4-H for several years as a child, and it was one of my happiest memories.  I raised and showed poultry (and one goat) for the fair, so when I go and visit, that's the barn I like to go through most.  I love the sights and sounds, the kids, the birds, even the smells!  I took my notebook with me this year, and wrote down all the sensory details that I could, and lo and behold, a poem emerged!

The Poultry Barn
Pledges pledged
Chicks grown
Grain fed
Books filled
Tests taken
Projects raised
Questions answered
Shirts pressed
Hair plaited
Poultry transported
Boots worn
Belt buckles shine
Hands hold
Tensions rise
Sweat beads
Dust gathers
Heat presses
Roosters crow
Hens cluck
Families photograph
Onlookers murmur
Feathers ruffle
Ducks quack
Hopes soar
Judges announce...
Visit Tabatha for the poetry roundup this week at Tabatha Yeatts: The Opposite of Indifference.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Spiritual Journey Thursday - You Don't Have to Try So Hard

     Hello, friends! I 'm so glad you're participating in Spiritual Journey Thursday - either in linking up or reading, commenting, or all three.  I love to hear your thoughts!
You may have seen this video come through on social media this week.  I saw it on Facebook (I think Katherine Sokolowski shared it), and I had an emotional response to it for a lot of different reasons. Ann Voskamp featured it, also, on her Only the Good Stuff: Multivitamins for Your Weekend Saturday post.  If you haven't seen it, it's one of  Colbie Calliet's videos from her new album:
See what I mean?!  It got to me.  I was thinking about how much pressure we are all under, and not just girls/women, but everyone, and how God did not intend for us to put so much focus on the external - whether it be beauty, youth, thinness, wealth, success, power, perfection, performance, etc.  We're exhausting ourselves.  We don't have to try so hard.  That's not to say we shouldn't be passionate, involved, compassionate, etc., but that comes from somewhere else.  That can be spirit-driven.  We need to focus on things that are eternal, not external, and that can be so hard.  So, today, I'm asking that we think about BEAUTY.  What is beautiful to you that would please God?  How can we focus more on those things?  As always, if you are led to think/write about something else, please do! I loved this quote, too, by Anne Lamott and shared by Lester Laminack on Facebook:
Today, I am joining my mom on her 70th birthday (for those of you who read my blog, you saw that she joined us in Las Vegas to celebrate her birthday just a couple weeks ago - today is her actual birthday!) with the Cuties, the name her friends of 40+ years have dubbed themselves, and yes, they are cuties, not just outward, but inward.   Happy birthday, Mom!  I am blessed to have you as a mother and friend.  We'll be  meeting for lunch.  I know I will be surrounded by beauty - her friends are the epitome of faith, fun, life, and joy discussions will be rich in content. Here is a recent photo of them on one of their trips (my mom is second from the right):
One more note - my daughter, Katie, and I will be leaving next week (July 24th) with six other church members for a mission trip to Czech Republic to teach English camp, so I will not be posting a Spiritual Journey Thursday link-up post again until August 7th.  I know I will have lots to write about then!  Please keep us in your prayers.  Until then...

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Nonfiction Wednesday

I'm excited that Alyson Beecher, at Kid Lit Frenzy, is continuing her Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge for the third year in a row.
Here are the nonfiction picture books I read this  week:
My First Day
This is an awesome video showing Steve Jenkins's creative process:
I love every Steve Jenkins book I read, and this is no exception. I need to get it for my classroom library! Wonderful illustrations and interesting information about what a myriad of animals do on the first day. Includes how they are born/hatched and what their parents do (or don't do)for them. Of course, there is added information at the back.
If: A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers
This picture book could be used in the classroom to connect to all subjects. David Smith looks at the size of the universe, ocean, and continents, history of the world, economics, food, and more, and scales them down to ordinary objects in order to understand them in a new way.
This follow up to How They Croaked was just as informative and entertaining as the first. The research that goes into a book like this must be daunting! I think kids will love this one, just like they loved the first one. However, I was disillusioned at times to find out some not-so-great character traits of some of these famous people. :-( I did like the author's note at the end a lot, encouraging readers to take risks (in a responsible manner): "So fail the best you can: try something new, be brave, make mistakes. Just don't hurt anyone, don't get greedy, and don't act like you're perfect, because you're not."
What nonfiction did YOU read this week?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

These are memes started by Teach Mentor Texts and Book Journey, and I'm excited to participate, along with many other bloggers, in reviewing books I read the previous week. I'll be reviewing picture books through adult books. 

Camp Rex

Another entertaining story with T. Rex by Caldecott Honor winner Molly Idle. Kids will love the discrepancies between the text and illustrations. Great for inferring! This story reminds me of some of my camping experiences.;-)
Hooray for Hat!
So cute! Don't underestimate the power of friendship, kindness, happiness...and a fun hat! I've heard some Geisel buzz over this one.

Rosie Revere, Engineer
I love the message that a mistake or failure is not something to view as tragic, but one step closer to success.
My Teacher Is a Monster! (No, I Am Not.)
Hahaha! I love it! This would be a great picture book to share on the first day of school.:-)

How to Cheer Up Dad
This is the perfect book for parents of young children! It's an endearing story of an exasperating but adorable young elephant who thinks his father needs cheering up (his father is cranky because of all the trouble Little Jumbo is creating!).
Hope Is a Ferris Wheel

This is a great example of look at #weneeddiversebooks in an expansive way - not just as multicultural or in terms of sexuality, but in socioeconomic situations. Barbara O'Connor referred to a Kirby Larson quote about this in this blog postHope Is a Ferris Wheel speaks to this kind of diversity and the sometimes pain that is associated with it. It also addresses teenage pregnancy, and while that doesn't seem like intermediate grade material, and I agree this book is probably better suited to 6th grade and up, we cannot ignore that some students may have a family member in this predicament, and even more relevant, if they are a little older, could even be in that situation themselves. I think it is a beautiful story about an endearing fifth grader who lives up to her name, Star. She  IS a star and certainly gives me hope that kids can dream big, no matter what their circumstances.  I love the poetry club and references to Emily Dickinson.
All Our Yesterdays (All Our Yesterdays #1)


I loved listening to this science fiction story involving time travel and power. It was so well crafted and brought up many questions about human nature (can some things completely change your character, like power, greed, or control), and the past, present, and future. Like the Time Traveler's Wife, adult characters meet up with their younger selves. That intrigues me! What would that be like?! What would you say to your younger self? What advice would you give? Would you like what you saw in your older self? Fascinating. Great twists and turns in this story. I was riveted.  Now I have to wait for book two - aargh!
Firefly Lane (Firefly Lane, #1)
I ended up reading this book because Katie, my 18-yr-old, read it over spring break and loved it. I can see why now! It's an epic story spanning decades, following the friendship between Tully and Kate, two VERY different girls from VERY different backgrounds. I loved the time period because the characters grew up in the same decades as I did, so I connected to the 70s and 80s references. This made a terrific summer read, and I think anyone with a long-lasting friendship and an affinity for a great yarn would love it. There were a few things that preventing me from giving it a 5, like some over-the-top and sappy moments (similar to Steel Magnolias), but who doesn't love a good cry once in a while? The romance is a good one, too.


Come back Wednesday when I review the children's nonfiction books I read this week:

How They Choked: Failures, Flops, and Flaws of the Awfully Famous If: A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers My First Day
My family loves to read, too!
Katie (18)
The Glass Castle
Libby (21)
Seraphina (Seraphina, #1)
My mom:
My dad:
What are YOU reading this week?