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Saturday, December 31, 2016

One little word?

One of my friends posted her word for 2017 on social media this morning. The truth is, I haven't even thought about 2017 yet. I still have over 12 hours left in 2016, right?! But I started thinking about what will be MY defining word this year, my focus, the one word, ideal, concept that I come back to again and again.

PASSION. Passion for Kinders, their families, my children, pedigogy, learning, living, and possibly even loving. I mean, why do anything half-(way). Right? I could really get into this. Because I think this word already defines me. I am not a half-(way)-er. I am a whole-way-er. I tend to jump in whole-heartedly to both the good and the not-so-good for me. So passion. But wait.... I'm already there on the passion thing. In fact, maybe temperance would be a better choice. I need to slow down and really weigh out what I get so all-firing passionate about. Maybe.

But then again....

JOY. Maybe 2017 is a year for sheer joy. I am happier with myself, my life, and more at peace with the wreckage of my past than I have ever been. So maybe this is the year to bask in the glory of it all. Joy. But that seems to be a natural by-product of my FOCUS. Because when I focus on what is good and right in myself and the world, the world becomes a better place. Focus is how I got to joy in the first place. So maybe Joy isn't my word after all....

So maybe a good word would be....

HEALTH. I want to focus on my health. More water. Actually make and show up for Doctor appointments. More fresh fruits and veggies and whole foods. Less convenience foods and highly processed foods (which happen to be my favorite and my comfort foods). So getting regular movement in, changing my eating habits, drinking more water and for heavens sake, go to the bathroom when I need to! (Teachers are notorious for holding it ALL. DAY. LONG. and my kidneys are rather angry at me about this). But there is so much more to health than just the physical. There is the spiritual side. Which often drives and overrides the physical health part. So maybe my word should be....

SPIRITUALITY. I want to be more Zen in 2017. Chill. Go with the flow. Increase my awareness of what is going on within my heart and soul. Pursue yoga. Find a church. okay, I think I found a church, I "just" need to commit to getting there. Which is easier said than done. This requires both getting up AND getting dressed. At a reasonable hour. On the weekend. So that part.... I dunno. But being aware of what I feel, and accepting it. A good goal.

INTROSPECTION would be a good goal/word too. Reflecting on what went right, what went wrong and what can I do differently next time. Wait. I do that. Daily. Sometimes lesson by lesson. Sometimes minute by impulsive minute. So maybe I am satisfied with my current level of introspection. So moving on....

BALANCE. Ah, that word makes me vomit in my mouth a little. It has also been my goal for many years already. So no thank you. It is great in theory, but I find that it inhibits my passion, which I am much more excited about than my balance. So I give up on balance. Don't tell my youngest child, she's waiting for me to find more balance. But something I need to focus on is learning....

EDUCATION. Life-long learner. Isn't that what teachers commit to? Being life-long learners? Exciting. It is exciting. But I NEED to find the passion and the drive to pursue the Masters of Education plan that I have committed to. UGH. I am not currently passionate about this. But it will improve my quality of life and the quality of the lives of the children I so dearly love and what to educate to find an easier, softer way than the way I took. So I need to stop playing around with this, because I am currently a student and I need to become a studious one. So maybe I need perseverance. I need to commit whole-heartedly to this education choice I've made and let it be part of my passion.

In case you haven't noticed, I don't know that there will be ONE LITTLE WORD for me this next  year.  But I loved my word last year.... MOMENTUM. The pendulum has swung to the good, the passionate, the confident side. I have less self-doubt than I ever have. I want to keep going. Keep focusing on what is right and good and watch the good in my life increase. That was what I envisioned for 2016 and it was a good word and goal. It has been a year of positive momentum and also a year of growth. A year of passion and there's even been some joy. My real hope is that I look for the good in others and that I offer compassion as a constant gift to those around me and especially to my students.

Happy New Year's Eve Day. Or introspection and reflection day. or some such thing.

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.