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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Shameless Begging....

Okay, so I told someone yesterday that I am not beyond shameless begging. And that is only partly true. I feel a little bit of guilt. Guilt that I didn't think to put these things on my list when we were getting back to school supplies for our classrooms at the end of last year. Guilt that I would put it out there to you, my friends in bloggy land. Guilt that I don't have enough in my bank account to just go get this stuff.... But alas, I cannot cover these items this year. So I'm asking for your help for the items I still need.

I need magnets to stick to the backs of my business cards so I can hand out refrigerator magnets at open house. I need a total of 25. But they come in packs of 10, so I guess I need 3 packages.
Click the picture to go to
I need bean bag filler. My bean bag is too flat. (oh, sadness). It is no bueno when a student goes to the calm down area, flops in the beanbag and hits their head or their bottom because they sink all the way to the bottom of the beanbag (not very calming after all)!
click the image to go to the order page
I bought some water bottles at the Dollar Tree last Spring. They were 3 for $1. But the 3 for $1 size is really too small. They are constantly needing refilled! I really need the 2 for $1 size. And the Dollar Tree I visited yesterday did not have them (again.... sadness). So I need water bottles. They wouldn't have to be from Dollar Tree. They just need to be BPA-free, and be 16-20 oz. and have a sport top lid (not 8 oz for sure, possibly 12 oz). Here are some ideas:
I actually couldn't find the number of ounces this holds, these may be on the small side. Click to see them at 
Target dollar spot usually has sport top bottles for $1 that are 12 or 16 oz. But I can't find an image of them to post. I would need a total of 24 or 25 of these.

Here are some from Dollar Tree. They can be ordered online in a case of 25. I know that in the Salina store they had them wrapped up 2 together for $1 and they were *big enough* (16 oz. I think). 

click to go to Dollar tree order page
Last but not least.... is it really last? Don't we as teachers ALWAYS find more and more that we "need"? Anyway....
I *need* clear contact paper. I could use clear packing tape, but it makes things gummy and is hard to clean. I am trying to build a better relationship with the custodians this year! A roll of clear contact paper would make so many things easier!
click here to go to to order
So that is all for now. Shameless? I am not sure about that. But begging nonetheless. I could really benefit from this stuff and I didn't have the foresight to order it last year. Or I just realized the importance of it now!

If you order things online, ship them to: Carrie Horn, Faris Elementary School, 301 E. 10th, Hutchinson, KS 67501.

Of course, these are always the right shape, color and size:

Okay family and friends, I know that I should be embarrassed for begging. And part of me is. But there's a part of me that knows my school year will start so much better if I can acquire these items and the almighty dollar is stretched pretty thin around here these days!

Above all what my classroom needs is your good thoughts and prayers. Prayers for students to feel safe and loved. Prayers for me to be centered and balanced. Prayers for our school and our administration to always do what is best for the kids.

Thank you for being part of my life and reading my blog. Thanks for seeing me as a valuable human being long before I saw myself that way. May you feel blessed today! 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Reflecting on Writing

So I did not take time to reflect on my month of blogging with BTL in the month of July and I decided that I would rather be late than not post at all.
I'm going on a short side trip, so go with me for just a minute....
I just finished 4 days of professional development called "Adaptive Schools." Very good training. In-depth and practical and relationship building. And if you know me at all, you know I think that relationship building is key to any sort of success in life. One of the things we talked about frequently was the need to process what we are learning or we will lose it. Okay, so that is ultimately why I want to go back and reflect on my month of blogging even though my mind is full steam ahead looking at the upcoming school year.

Blogging in July was....
  • up close and personal. And I was okay with it. But I am also aware that I'm on over-sharer and I hope that is not what I did by sharing some deeply personal things about myself. 
  • fun.... mostly. Some days were difficult, but what I noticed was that the more I blogged the easier it was to do it. Once I missed a couple of days, then it was harder to find my flow again. 
  • inspirational. 
  • motivational. I felt like a writer. I also felt more competent in other areas of my life if I blogged. Blogging competency spilled over into other areas and motivated me to garden, clean, sew, read and connect.
  • reflection = growth.
Sometimes I try to stay away from the deeply personal, but I also think that it is a core part of who I am and why I do the things I do. And my friend Rebecca says that my past is now my strength, so use it. Which means I'm done pushing it down and pretending I am like all the other people in this world.

Blogging was easier the more I did it. I can draw a parallel between this and just about anything educational that I want to. But in particular I am thinking about writing. The more my students practice writing, the more confident they will be, the easier it will become. There are some students who will never write as quickly or as fluidly as some others, but from wherever they start, they will improve and it will become easier. I think daily practice is something I will focus on more this year because of this challenge. I don't think my Kinders will blog this year (ha ha), but we'll start with name writing practice and letter formation. And as we progress throughout the year, we will continue to improve and extend and write more. It will become routine.

Writing can inspire. I want to reflect on inspiration and growth both at the same time. When I took time to reflect on the big things in my life, I was inspired. I realize now that sometimes I "miss" those little things that are actually big things because I don't take time to reflect on my day and what was really important.

When I accomplish something and have a focus, everything is more focused and organized in my life. Summer can be dangerous for me because too little structure leads to feeling lazy and useless but also feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to start. Blogging often gave me a start. Though some days it was how I ended my day.

I loved this challenge and I hope, hope, hope that Michelle will bring back "Letters" on a regular basis because it is one of my favorite forms of writing (no pressure my friend). I learned and grew and I am inspired to-- be a more consistent writer for my own benefit; and to instill a practice of writing in my class.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Blogging on July 30

I can't decide what I'm posting about today. The almost end of the blogging challenge. I attempted to start a post yesterday about my hopes and dreams for this next year. But after I sat there for an hour and had half of a first paragraph, I gave up. It's not that I don't have hopes and dreams. It is more that I don't want to sound too Pollyanna. I tend to live in a cloud. A pink cloud. And then when I pull my head out (of the cloud.... keep it clean folks!), I plummet to the sewer. I tend to ride the roller coaster around and around and around thinking each time will produce a different result and after awhile I am suddenly sad and disillusioned and, well, bitter. This year our building will be facing an even greater number of new staff and teachers than last year. And I am super excited about it. There is a lot of positive energy in our building right now and a lot of anticipation and excitement. It is contagious and I am really excited. I feel more comfortable in my own skin than I have felt in a long time. Both personally and professionally (not parentally~ that's a word, right? My computer says no). I know that every year brings new trials. But I feel like I'm on track to keep my head when a student is losing theirs. And that is a giant first step. For the most part, I am pretty good at faking it til I make it and keeping a calm demeanor and voice even though my insides are climbing the crisis scale right along with my students. But it is SO HARD to think clearly and stay in my "upstairs brain" when I have an escalated student. I tend to descend to fight or flight myself. But I am becoming more and more aware of my shortcomings as well as more aware of ways to stay in the thinking part of my brain to find solutions. So I feel good about that and I feel confident that it will be a hugely successful year in this regard. I have a dream that students will know how to regulate their emotions, know how to calm themselves down and how to respond appropriately when they feel uncomfortable! Crazy, right? Well, I know it can happen. Not by osmosis, but through direct teaching and continuous modeling. So I have hopes and dreams for my team. That we'll all use loving and kind voices, words and actions to help students learn how to regulate their voices and actions. They have a legitimate right to their feelings. And to process them. My hope and dream is that they feel safe and loved.

I have a lot more hopes and dreams. About my dream team and how my colleagues and I will interact this year. I'm going to ride my pink cloud until it dissipates. And I'll try to stay grounded in reality enough to be flexible and learn new skills and solutions instead of doing things that don't work and expect amazing results.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Dear First Year Teacher

Today's prompt for Big Time Literacy's blogging challenge is "Dear First Year Teacher." So read 'em and weep. Okay, don't weep.
I thought I'd be full of wisdom (?), but my mind is pretty blank this morning. So I'll give it a shot, but....

Dear First Year Teacher,
No one will care how cute your room is or how adorable your outfits are, they will not remember. What your colleagues will remember was this: were you humble or arrogant? were you friendly and open? were you trying to make things better for the school or just your own little classroom? Did you do everything in your power to help your students have a good year? Did your words match your actions? If you say you care about your kids but your actions don't match, we will see that. So themes and cute rooms are really cool, but what will be remembered is how you treat others and if you are humble.
Someone who has seen both sides of this

Dear First Year Teacher,
It doesn't matter what kind of amazing supports are in place, you will feel like you are under-supported. Because the first year of teaching is hard and more often than not you will be stabbing in the dark with ideas that you don't really know if they will work or not. We (myself and a whole host of others in the building) will do our best to support, friend and scaffold you. But sometimes it will not feel like enough.
a teacher who did not drown that first year, even when it felt like it

Dear First Year Teacher:
You cannot be an island. Reach out. Choose to be part of the team. Even though it's scary and you don't feel like you have the time or the energy to add one more thing to your plate, it will be worth it. Volunteer to help another teacher, speak up at staff meeting, ask questions, and choose to be part of social events. You are a valuable part of our team and we value you and want to support you. We don't really know how to do that any more than you know what you need, so reach out. Be a part. It will help fill that gap. The I-am-drowning-and-I-don't-have-enough-support gap. I think that every first year teacher feels it. I know that in retrospect I had AMAZING support, but I still felt like I was drowning.
your teammate

Dear First Year Teacher,
It is okay to cry. So love your kids. They will know it. They will respect it. And they will rise to whatever high standard you set for them. You might cry though. And that is okay. All the best teachers do at some point.
the teacher in the puddle of tears next door

Dear First Year Teacher,
I may not choose every idea you throw out, but don't stop sharing your ideas. You have the freshest perspective of anyone in the building. Your ideas are gold. I value your input. I hope the rest of our team is aware that we have as much to learn from you as you have to learn from us.
Your teammate

This is the short list. There is so much more! But the bottom line (in my opinion) is: love your kids, be open to others, and remember that it only feels like you are drowning, you will get through this. I hope I am a worthy support to the new teachers in our building. They are going to be a valuable addition to our TEAM and I look forward to rowing my boat to their island.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Gratitude Lately

Today's prompt for BTL's blogging challenge is Gratitude Lately. And as you surely know by now, I'm a big fan of gratitude and what it does to our lives. So head over to Big Time Literacy and read about gratitude.
Today, on a small scale, I am thankful for my new-to-me car. Take a gander. It's purty.

It is a 2009 Chevy Impala. And I received it from my friends at Circles of McPherson County. The organization that is helping those in our community learn about how to get out of poverty and helping people take positive steps toward that goal. This is the truth. I received a car as a gift. I did have to put in some hours of reciprocity (giving back to the community, or community service) and have two people in my life write letters of recommendation as to why I would be a worthy recipient. This is no small thing. Why would I consider it to be a small thing? Because in the grand scheme of things the bigger thing that I am thankful for is becoming part of a community that is bridging the gap and helping people out of poverty. I am thankful for so many reasons! One reason is because of what my friend Rebecca calls social capital. I just call it networking. But social capital may be a better term. The more people you know, the bigger your network of friends, the bigger your network of friends, the more likely you will hear about "that job" or get help in a crisis or a non-crisis. On the Circles page on fb, people are often posting about appliances needed or appliances or furniture to give away. We help each other. It's amazing. I am so grateful for this group because I am making friends and filling my heart and soul with friends from all walks of life. So this is a bigger thing. The influence my journey in Circles has had on my life and the changes that it is making. I am grateful.

I'm grateful for the love my kitty. He warms my heart.
Here he is sitting on the water frisbies I got this summer.

I am grateful for the wonderful people who are my offspring. They are really neat people. I am so grateful for each opportunity to bond with them and get to know them more.
Sister selfies. wow. ????
I am so grateful for my life today and that I can choose today. Will I try to make the world a better place? Will I focus on what is good and right? Or become focused inward on any and every thing that is lacking in my life today? What is my focus? I choose gratitude. I have such a life of blessing today.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Why I teach...

There is so much unrest on the world right now. And I know that being a white kid in poverty is not the same as being a brown or black kid in poverty. I wasn't *really* in poverty. But I was targeted. Singled out. As a black sheep, bad kid, wrong-side-of-the-tracks kid. I was "different." Not like all the churchy, cultured kids. I was a VERY ordinary kid. If by ordinary I mean not rich, not middle class, just a working class kid in a middle class neighborhood/town, then definitely, I was ordinary. We probably lived below the poverty line most of my life. But we also lived a good life. I married into poverty (if there is such a thing) and I have battled to get out ever since (27+ years now). I am making progress, which is another post, or two or more, but today I am looking at why I teach. And I'm joining up with Michelle at BTL for her July blogging challenge.
When I was in school, I was the kid that the teachers turned their noses up at. I was VERY Junie B. Jones. I was precocious, I was unfiltered, I was very intelligent. Being a kid who was very sensitive to how others felt about me, and more importantly, my perception of how others felt about me, I had a lot of anxiety in school (huh, I wonder if that is where my kids get that from?!). I know what it is like to love my teacher and have her have to REALLY try to love me back and not really succeed. Teachers write about THAT kid all the time. The one that they have to fake it with, the one that sucks all their energy. Well, I was that kid. Now, I don't really think I was THAT difficult. I think that by today's standards, I would have been a dream student, but in that town, in that day and age, I was THAT kid. Therefore, I grew to hate school. But not learning. I was always a little bit of a nerd about input. Putting the information in the brain. I love to read and intellectualize and spout off about my grandiose opinions and thoughts and insights. Oh. That might not always be considered learning. I still love those things. I teach because I shouldn't have been THAT kid. Because in reality, no kid should be THAT kid. I teach because all it takes for me to succeed is for one person to tell me I can do something. One person told me I would be a good daycare provider, and I ran a successful business for over 4 years, and then my little girl was old enough to go to school. One person told me I was smart enough to go back to school. Look at me now. BTW.... in contrast to my very LOW high school gpa (I think it was something like 1.75), I graduated with my BS degree in education with a 3.93 gpa. Because someone took the time to believe in me. And tell me that I can, and not that I can't.
THAT is why I teach. THAT is why I love my high poverty school that has fewer than average of the "perfect" students. THAT is why I will love and believe in these kids and hold high expectations for each and every one of them, even THAT kid. And I will try like hell not to have THAT kid, because each one of them is worthy of being valued as a vital part of my class and worthy of being loved and accepted right where they are at. THAT is how I will let them know they can do anything they want to do with their little lives. Because I know one person who will believe in them. No matter what.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

What makes a hero?

Today's blogging challenge prompt is Parent Engagement Tips. I will be reading it to glean new ideas. I feel compelled to write about something I witnessed yesterday, but sometimes I am so torn.... what a great prompt. I will just say this: last year I created a separate facebook account just to use for school. Then I created a secret facebook group for our class where I could post updates, pictures, reminders. The mundane and the not so mundane. I have never gotten such positive feedback from parents as I have this past year. They felt like they were truly included and in the loop with their kids' education. This has been the greatest thing ever in my class. Plus it's fast and easy. Blogging, to do it right, requires going back and reading it to make sure it makes sense, catching the spelling errors and omissions, and changing the poor grammar. But facebook posts are short and sweet and take very little time to preview. It has increased my frustration with blogging and made me even more of an instant gratitude junkie, but it has simplified parent updates and I love it and they love it!
So really, what qualifies someone as a hero? It is time for me to ponder that and really discover why I look at my daughter and think, "she is my hero."
she's the selfie queen...
This is the Punkin. More often referred to as the Punky and sometimes at home we lovingly call her "the Punk." Still a term of endearment, still short for Punkin. Which is almost like Pumpkin, only more endearing and special. And not just for fall. (insert a laugh or giggle here... LOL).

Punky battles some serious mental health issues. Depression and Anxiety. They can cripple her ability to use socially appropriate behaviors. Like her sense of justice. Things in life have to be FAIR. Not JUST fair, but fair according to her rose colored glasses, which may have a slight tint of spoiled-rotten-I-am-the-baby-of-the-family. Okay, this is not uncommon for kids with anxiety. They need life to make sense to them and to feel safe, they need things to be "fair." Think for a minute about how we as teachers battle the fair is not equal war all the time. every. single. day. Now take a kid with anxiety issues and justice issues and try to explain to them why it is "fair" when it is not equal. She gets it when it is about her and why there are some exceptions for her anxiety. But she doesn't always get it when it comes to others. Which ups the anxiety. and fear. and nervousness. Real fear. Real anxiety. Real physical ailments (stomach aches, headaches). Crippling. This last year, her inability to put her sense of justice aside sometimes caused more problems than it cured. It made it hard for her to make friends. So add bullying to the list. I cannot say with 100% certainty that the behaviors she encountered were bullying in and of themselves. I say that what she encountered was more of a wear down technique. Bullying is generally repeated behavior from one person, but she endured small behaviors from many people. So maybe she could be strong if one of the boys was rude or made derogatory comments. But then another one would throw out a remark. Then a girl would say something cruel (probably because they are sixth grade girls, that is what they do). Then maybe another. So did any one student bully her? I don't know. And technically it may not count as bullying. But what it did to my little girl's confidence was heartbreaking. Enter suicidal thoughts. and mental health intervention. *sigh*

So in some ways it's been a healing summer. She has worked really hard to work together with me, her mother, to be a productive part of our family. I am so proud of her hard work. But what I saw last night... well, it made me aware of what kind of inner strength and grace my girl has. She is not going down without a fight.

Birthdays are a big deal at our house and it is no secret any longer that I kind of detest mine. Most days I don't really think it is a good thing that I was born, and I don't really relish the anniversary of my birth. I tend to mourn. And my mom she's always combated that with a big, bang-up bash (haha, 4th of July. get it?) for my birthday. I tend to do the same for my kids. Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate. Punky's birthday is coming up soon. The 26th. And she planned this birthday party with her friend from school. Thank you Lord that it worked out for her friend to be with us! So... the big plan: a sleepover, go to the skating rink, and go swimming (the next day of course). Here is where the story gets interesting.

My girl is not a good (proficient) skater. It is simply a lack of opportunity. She has not been skating that often. And when you only go every year or two, well, it's hard to get really good at it. And let me just say, she has probably really only gone skating 4 or 5 times in her 12 years of life. Her friend is also not proficient. I was surprised actually. At how "unproficient" they both were. So they got out there and they granny skated. Slowly. Falling down. The opposite of graceful. awkward.

But some of their school mates were there. and they were proficient. Good. maybe even excellent. And they still were proficient in making fun of my girl. and her friend. and me. (I once was a good skater, but I only skate every few years now so starting and stopping are particularly awkward for me).

At one point my daughter said, "it's just not very much fun when *they* are here." And they DID make a point to call out, to make fun, tease and cajole. Talking loudly to undermine her confidence. I asked if she wanted to leave. She said no.

And painfully, slowly, she continued to attempt to skate. Again. and again. and again. For two hours. She battled her own lack of practice and proficiency, fighting against the cruelty of peers, to do something she enjoyed.

The look. That look of determination. Oh my.

That is when I thought, "this girl is my hero." I love her so much. I wish I could make life easy for her. Or easier. Because for her to battle her anxiety, it makes what comes easily to some, more difficult for her. But she is not a quitter. She is determined and I want that. I want a piece of that tenacity. I want her spirit and spunk and her undying fight to carry on.

You never can tell what a hero might look like. It might look like my Punky girl.
Can you see it in her eyes? The fierce determination? Yep. These girls were my heroes last night. But my Punky was elevated to hero status in a way that I can only hope you can glean from my writing. My knowledge of her journey, how difficult it can be for her to take on "ordinary" tasks. Her grit and lack of quit. Amazing. I have always adored her, today I take time to emulate her. She is my hero.