Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Bats in the Theater?

A friend of mine asked me to join her at a theater for a documentary that her daughter was hosting at our town's historic landmark, The Egyptian Theatre. Her daughter is a lactation consultant, and the company she works for was hosting this movie called "Milk". In a nutshell, it talked about breastfeeding all around the world. Heartwarming and heartbreaking all in one.

Well anyway, as we were watching, we saw on the screen some bird-like creatures flying in the shot; but then, they became 3D! And more flying creatures were added to the mix. Yikes! These creatures were bats flying around this theater! Mind you the Egyptian is a very old and beautifully ornate theater. And to be honest, the bats fit right in! My friend would tell you that they were not welcome at all. I say, keep them there! They added character and a sense of awe! Happy Thanksgiving, All, and add your Slice of Life to the blog: Two Writing Teachers!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Yoga and Writing

For years I have practiced yoga to improve my physical, mental, and spiritual health. Starting most days with my practice primes my body and mind to become more open to what the day may bring. I have incorporated breathing techniques and simple yoga postures into my teaching--especially on those days when my students were hanging on by a thread. By why wait until students are in desperate need to incorporate all that yoga has to offer? Here is a great way to mindfully start the morning off right and incorporate writing at the same time!

Before I begin on how to incorporate yoga into the writing process, let me just say this: The most important part of the day is the morning! Our thoughts, actions, interactions, and reactions will set the tone for the day. Make sure your students see you at the door welcoming each and every student as they enter the classroom or resource room. Saying their names and smiling is a small, but powerful way to let students know they are important. This practice, if done mindfully and consistently, will pay off in the long run. Believe me, if you skip a day of this, notice how the atmosphere in the room changes! Now, onto writing...

Students are to clear their desks. Hands are to be placed palms up on their laps. Have them close their eyes. Guide them through this 1-2 minute breathing cycle by saying these words:

Notice your breath flowing in and out of your nose...(pause about 10 seconds) Notice how fast or slow you are breathing... Do not change your breath in anyway, just notice...if your mind wanders, just bring your attention back to your breath...now feel the breath move through your nose to the back of your throat...notice if your breathing has changed...is it faster? slower?...notice your belly move as you breathe...now just relax for a bit more...open your eyes and get out your journal and a writing utensil...write down your thoughts...how did this feel? Write whatever comes to mind...
(Follow this link to learn more about free writing.)

Do this everyday. You can change your journal prompts as you see fit, however, the process of breathing stays the same. If at any time during your day you find that students are becoming distracted or antsy, you can remind them to do their breathing. Once this becomes part of your routine, you may not even have to guide them as much as before.

Try this out first and see how it feels. And you, being the wonderful teacher you are, will model writing with the students. Now get started write away!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Slice of Life #5

"Life is a box of chocolates...you never know what you'll get!" This line from the movie Forrest Gump is accurate and priceless. These past few weeks were such beautiful ones with my family. Each day is something new.

We are creating a new "tradition" in our family: My sons attend Heroclix tournaments on Sundays. Heroclix is a game involving superheroes and villians. Only the strong survive. I began playing a couple of summers ago. It took me a year or so to really learn how to play this once-easy-now-more-complex game. My kids have been pestering me to join them at the tournaments. I have resisted, since the first tournament I attended was chaotic. They have assured me they are no longer that way. So about a month ago, I attended a tournament. My kids really gave me no choice. I grumbled in the beginning, because I'm not a very good player. But what I found out from the experience was that all the people at the tournaments help each other. It's not cut-throat like I thought it would be. I truly enjoyed it.

What truly made me want to continue going to the tournaments was a comment from a fellow teacher who is a superhero fanatic. He said, "Your kids are so lucky that you play those games with them. Most moms wouldn't do that." Now I won't lie to you. It isn't always easy sitting down to play this game...the rules are many, and the powers confusing...but sharing that precious time with my kids is what is so important. As I'm finding out, the years slip by fast, and I don't want to miss a minute of it!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Slice of Life #4

My garden! It's blooming! For about five years I waited for my lil sprout of a lilac bush to produce flowers. Two weekends ago I was digging up hasta shoots to replant in other parts of my yard, and I happened to glance up at my young, aspiring lilac bush. The first time ever! BUDS! This bush is at the NE corner of my house, right by my back porch door. I am anticipating the sweetly fragrant smell to greet me each morning as I go to work or spend the early summer mornings in my garden.

Brand new lilac buds!
At the end of the last summer season, I started a photo journal of my garden and posted the beautiful flowers on Facebook. This was my attempt to create hope, rejuvenation, and acceptance of change during the cold winter months. And you know what? It worked. Normally, winters are so long for me, and my motivation to get moving is stymied by that wonderfully soft recliner in my living room. But now that I see the rejuvenation happening in my garden, I see my spirits are starting to lift again.

In my post Slice of Life #3, I talked about those days as a teacher that are just plain hard to get through. I talked about taking the time to reboot for the next big thing. Isn't this what happens in nature? The trees go dormant, many of the critters hibernate, preparing for the 'next big thing'. So, there you have it. This is nature's proof that we all need that rest so that we can shine and bloom and spread our radiance around. Happy spring, All! I hope you have found that spark that keeps you going!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Slice of Life #3

I struggle sometimes, as a teacher, wondering how to motivate those students who seem to have a very difficult motivating themselves. I have taught for 22 years and have been very blessed to have a variety of students from different walks of life with different disabilities and even those with multiple disabilities. But what all of my former and current students have in common, at some stage of their academic career, is that they struggle with being engaged at the level we teachers would hope for them. So am I just talking about students? Heck no. I'm including myself in that basket also. Although I am loathe to admit it, some teaching days are a struggle to get through. Do my students see that? Am I giving them permission to slack off, too? Or, and this is what I hope for, am I showing them that perfection is unattainable, even for adults. I hope that I can inspire them to brush themselves off, and pick themselves up again...and try, try again. I really can identify with this quote from Abraham Lincoln: "Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first hour sharpening the axe." Does this mean procrastinating? Maybe. Does it mean mentally preparing oneself? More likely. So on my 'off' days, maybe my mind, body, soul are rebooting, not procrastinating or just getting by. Maybe I'm preparing for the next big thing. Who knows? But that's my stance, and I'm sticking to it!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Link to Interview: With Grace Under Pressure by M. Rae

Last month, I had the pleasure to interview a new indie author, M. Rae, who wrote a phenomenal book called With Grace Under Pressure. This interview is located on my other blog, Youthful Yogini. Please stop by and read this interview with a wonderful new author. I know you will not be disappointed!

Motivating the Reluctant Writer

Those groans you often hear when you present a new writing assignment can wear on your nerves and possibly stifle any enthusiasm you had in starting the writing lesson. So rather than start with 'how to motivate the reluctant writer', let's start with 'how to motivate the reluctant teacher'. I really believe that quality learning is reflected in the enthusiasm and passion of the teachers throughout a student's day. I know that if I have a lesson that I am proud of, or that is of interest to me, I tend to look forward to that more than those lessons that are 'HAVE-TOs'. I don't think I'm sharing anything profound here, just simply stating what we all know as writers and teachers. So with that, here are my ideas on how to create fun in your class so that you are no longer reluctant, but an active participant in your lessons. Remember, it is important to model writing (as with reading) so that students can see that you are practicing, too.

  • Starting from my first post of this blog, Start Write Here, can be a fun way to kick off a writing assignment. Sometimes, just spending 5 minutes free writing can get those juices flowing so the transition into the lesson is a little easier. 
  • Ideas or steps to take when starting a writing assignment:
    •  In groups, discuss what you already know about a topic, then share as a class (this should take no longer than 10 minutes.) Important! Remember, writers write about what they know. If you were given the topic 'nuclear fusion', how might you feel knowing that was the topic you had to write about? Remember to keep your students in mind.  Steven Zemelman and Harry Ross wrote a book called 13 Steps to Teacher Empowerment. In this book, they talk about actually shadowing a student (chapter 2) so that you can learn how their time in his/her classroom affects the choices and behaviors that s/he make. In my district, our contract states that we are allowed release time to visit other classes/programs. This may be something you choose to do to help you understand how students relate to the work they have to do in class, and the choices they make because of it. My point? Help writers write about what they know: this will happen through discussions in the class. They may not know about the topic prior to the teaching and in-class activities, but all things equal, they will be better prepared to write with continued support and group work.  
    • In individual groups, allow students to decide what part of the topic they are comfortable writing about. Maybe it might be steps in the scientific method. One student may have great ideas on creating a hypothesis, but struggles with how to set it up, while another student really loves the organization piece. Spend 15 minutes or so having each person writing about their piece on the topic.
    • Share the pieces as a group.
    • Share all groups to the entire class. (This most likely will be done on days 2-3 depending on the topic and the students' abilities.)
    • After each group has presented, return to the original groups and discuss all the pieces to refresh each student's memory.
    • Now each student will independently write using their own ideas as well as the others to complete a sloppy copy of their work.
    • On a completely different day, you might follow the editing plans mentioned in Becoming a Writer.
How will this improve your morale and theirs? Hopefully, you are all working toward a collaborative community in your classrooms which allows mistakes and celebrates successes. In a perfect world, this would be a flawless exercise in writing, but since we know that best laid plans are just that, we have to adapt to each day/each situation. By incorporating fun into your writing, AND by writing yourself, you are creating and writing, 'write' away! Have fun!