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!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Slice of Life #2

I'm so pleased to have found Slice of Life! This is my 2nd post:
I am at a crossroads in my life. I'm too young to retire, I have about 13 more years of teaching before that happens, and I'm ready to get on with the next phase of my life...one that probably will not be monetarily rewarding, but spiritually and emotionally fulfilling. So how am I supposed to do this? I'm guessing just putting one foot in front of the other and see what happens. So what's this next phase? For years I have wanted to teach yoga to people who deal with chronic pain, and those that feel that there has to be more out of life than just getting by.

To start, I am taking myself on a yoga retreat this September for my 50th birthday. My guess is that I will have an abundance of collaboration and ideas from the attendees of the retreat. Who knows? Maybe there I will have an epiphany that leads me to my next phase.

I'm reading a book called Start with Why by Simon Sinek, recommended by one of the principals of one of the schools where I teach. It is an inspiring book that explains if you have the 'why' of an idea, the how, what, and where will come. So what is my why? To teach individuals with chronic pain the rejuvenating aspects that yoga has to offer to provide relief and contentment in order to live life to their utmost potential. And by giving to people, I, in return, receive a higher understanding of what people need (myself included) so that I can life a healthy and contented life.

I truly believe events, people, circumstances are put in our way to provide us opportunities. That principal, just by recommending that book, spurred the idea to actually ask the why to my dream, which I have shared 'write' here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Slice of Life Writing Experience.

I was invited to participate in this writing project called Slice of Life by Jen Vincent, author of Teach Mentor Texts. Slice of Life is  hosted by the blog, Two Writing Teachers, and they invite others to participate in the writing. You are encouraged to post a piece entitled Slice of Life to be posted every Tuesday. I decided this is a perfect way to write and share writing with other writers. How do we become good writers? By reading and writing...often...everyday. Please challenge yourself to participate in this project. I am excited to do so. Although each Slice of Life post will be on a separate posting, I will post each Slice of Life link to this post for easy access. Sound fun? I hope so! So Make it Happen Write Away!
Slice of Life #1
Slice of Life #2
Slice of Life #3
Slice of Life #4
Slice of Life #5

Slice of Life #1

This is my first Slice of Life post ever! So what to write? Well, I am a writer, teacher of students who are deaf or hard of hearing, wife, mother, an avid crocheter, jewelry maker, yogini, and nature fanatic. My first post I thought should be about creativity and endurance. I decided to make a scarf for my husband designed after Tom Baker's Scarf which was 14 feet long! Whovians will know this scarf, but if you are unfamiliar with the term Whovian, it means Dr. Who fanatics. For sure this will take creativity and endurance. This will be his Christmas present; therefore, I should definitely have the scarf finished by then!

So how can this endurance and creativity be used in other areas of my life? First and foremost it has to be as a mother. Any parent will tell you that parenting is a full-time job, and energy is needed in abundance, even on days when getting out of bed is a chore. But doesn't endurance factor in our creative life as well?

I find that when I embark on a new endeavor, I surround myself with information. My crocheting, for example, is an area that I immerse myself completely in until I finish a project. It helps me think. I create in my mind, but I also get to know myself better, which I'm sure increases my endurance, acceptance, and creativity.

My newest blog, Make it Happen Write Away, is a blog that really challenges me to be creative and authentic at the same time, it also makes me feel vulnerable. As a teacher of the deaf, literacy is at the forefront of what I teach. Putting my style of teaching out there, while exciting, does make me feel a bit vulnerable. It will take endurance to push through the times when the creativity isn't flowing. But with Slice of Life in my Tuesday's corner, maybe this will be the inspiration I need to keep making it happen 'write' away.

Slice of Life #2