Trying Something New

This was a crazy day!  It all started in our computer lab where I met my friend, Laura, who is a third grade teacher, and her class.  Picture forty-eight second and third graders crammed into a computer lab that only has 32 computers.  Laura and I had attended our first EdCamp last Saturday.  We attended three really exciting sessions with other teachers in our district.  One of the sessions we went to was on how to use Google Docs with our students.  We were eager to try it this morning.  I was scheduled for the lab this morning from 8:30-9:00.  Laura was scheduled to go at 9:00-9:30.  We thought it would be great to go together to the lab and we would get a full hour.  We wanted to see if our students could get into Google Docs and create a document.

At our session, we learned how to create a folder and share the link for that folder with students so they could access it from any computer or device.  Laura placed her link on her secure classroom website.  I placed it on my learning management system called Learning Point.  We decided that the third graders would try first.  The second graders would stand behind them and observe.  Then we would switch.  That’s when Laura realized that her website needed usernames and passwords and only a few of the students knew their secure login.  We tried to get the students into the Google Docs folder she created by typing the direct link.  That also did not work.  It was very frustrating.  Keep in mind, we do not have a computer resource aide or teacher in the lab.  We have to direct everything.

By this time it was 9:00, so I asked Laura if I could try.  We asked her students not to log-off the computers.  My students opened up Learning Point and logged in using their usernames and passwords.  They clicked on my Google Docs link and were taken to my folder.  This time, I wanted the students to upload a document we had been working on in Microsoft Word.  When we went to upload, we realized that the document folder that opened up belonged to the third grader who had initially logged in to that computer.  Ugh.  That meant my students had to log off the computer and log in as themselves.  Then, we had to go through the whole process of uploading again.  Only this time, when the students clicked on their document to upload, nothing happened.  It was frustrating.  One of my students tried to upload a photo to the file and that worked.  When he tried to upload his document after that, he was able to do it.  So, I asked all the students to go through that same procedure.  Everyone was able to do it, and everyone uploaded their document.  I am sure someone out there will tell me there is an easier way.  Maybe someone will tell me why we couldn’t upload our documents in the first place.  Was there a button I was supposed to click on my end?  I would really like to know how I could make this easier and stream line the whole process.

How could something so easy be so difficult.  My friend, Laura, said this was why teachers would not want to do this.  It’s too hard.  It’s not easy.  However, I think it will be easier now.  My students know how to access.  They know how to upload.  I thought this whole activity was a failure, but now I am rethinking that.  It’s not a failure because everyone was able to download their document.  It took us a little while, but we got it.  The next time we need to access Google Docs, it will be a piece of cake.  In fact, we are going to try tomorrow.  I have an opportunity to go into the lab.  Wish us luck!  🙂

Stars

It seems as if my friend, Kim, and I are on the same wave length.  Last weekend, I was having fun with my iPhone camera taking pictures of things in my backyard from different perspectives.  I took a few pictures of my Cutie orange tree while lying down on my chaise lounge.  I also took a picture of the sun from the same position on the lounge chair.  I was interested in taking a picture of a bee that was flying around from flower to flower on the tree, but I was having trouble getting the shot in the prone position.  I had to get up and take the shot from a different perspective.  The top.

collage

In any case, I was going to blog about it, but other things took hold of my attention. I never got to writing.  That’s when I saw Kim’s post on her blog, Thinking Through My Lens.  Her story was entitled Considering Perspective.  I didn’t want it to seem like I was copying her, so I decided not to write about perspective.

Then, last week, I read the story Stars, by Mary Lyn Ray.  It’s a beautiful story about how stars are everywhere.  I read the book to my students because in a few weeks we will be voting on the California Young Reader Medal Award.  Stars is one of the nominees this year.

stars

As I read the story to my students, there was one section in particular that reminded me of my daughter, Allison.  I thought it would be a nice story to share on my blog.  I didn’t get around to writing it over the weekend.  However, I got a notification via email that Kim had posted something new.  And guess what?  It was about stars, too!  You can read her post Stars Emerge about one of her students.  Now Kim is going to think I copied her because I am going to write a star story, too.  However, my story is more of a sweet memory I have based on stars and my daughter, Allison.

There was a page in the book that reminded me of a special moment I shared with my husband and Allison.  The page before said,

But stars that
come with night-
for those
you have
to wait
for night.

You need
some dark
to see
them.

On the very next page, this was the illustration.  Kids putting on their pajamas to go view the stars with their parents.

pajamas

When I saw the picture of the parents with their kids in pajamas watching the stars it reminded me of Allison.  When she was about 5 years old, we went on a camping trip to Agua Caliente in the Anza-Borrego Desert.  We went with a few of our neighbors.  One night, while we were sitting around the campfire, we told stories and talked.  Every once in a while someone would yell out, “There goes a shooting star!”  Everyone would look up and catch the star, except for Allison.  This happened about 5 or 6 times that night.  Allison missed every single one.  She was so upset that she started crying.  She announced that she was never going to see a shooting star in her life!  We couldn’t help but laugh. But it was huge to a 5 year old.  My husband tried to make her feel better, and she was able to calm down.  Fast forward a few weeks later.  My husband tells Allison that there was supposed to be a meteor shower around 2:00 A.M. on Monday.  Allison was so excited, because she would finally get to see her shooting star.  She asked my husband if she could stay up to wait for the meteor shower.  My husband told her she couldn’t because it was a school night and she would have to go to bed at her normal time.  However, he told Allison that if she happened to be up at 2:00 in the morning, she could watch for the shower.  She agreed to that.  My husband and I went to bed that Sunday night thinking she wasn’t going to get up.  Around 1:45 A.M., Monday morning, we hear the pitter-patter of tiny feet bounding into our bedroom.  She was standing on my husband’s side of the bed looking down on him.  That pretty much scared my husband awake.  He had to keep his promise since she woke up in time for the meteor shower.  We have no idea how she managed to get herself up at the right time.  However, this is a girl who pretty much potty-trained herself, so nothing surprises us anymore.  The three of us sat quietly in our pajamas, looking out our bedroom window, waiting for the stars to shower.  Picture us with our chin in our hands, elbows resting on the window sill.  We were not disappointed.  We saw several shooting stars.  Allison was so happy.  She made a wish on every single shooting star she saw and went back to bed happily.  I will always remember that moment.  I am glad I read the book Stars to my students.  It brought back a happy memory.

Liebster Award

Hello Stranger.  🙂  It’s been a while since we talked.  I just wanted you to know that I haven’t forgotten about you.  But, life has been hectic the last couple of weeks.  I know I should take time to pay more attention to you.  It isn’t that I have stopped writing.  I have been, but it hasn’t been the “fun” kind of writing that I would do if I were with you.  No, I have to pay more attention to a formal type of writing.  Essay writing.  I have to keep in mind writing rules, margin sizes, double spacing, MLA format.  Ugh!  It’s been a long time since I have done this kind of writing.  I need to Google search MLA format. In any case, I decided to take a break from all that and have some “fun” writing time.  I have missed you.  And, I want you to know, I think about you everyday. . . .

It’s been a long time since I have had time to write to my blog.  In fact, it is Saturday.  I have a class at 8:30 A.M., but I woke up extra early so I could post something here.  I feel like I needed to.  This week, my fellow blogger at Cultivating Questioners (cultivatingquestioners.com) nominated me for the Liebster Award.  This award is given in an effort to encourage and recognize emerging bloggers and to spur connections between bloggers.  I was surprised and honored to receive the nomination.

liebster2

When I first started writing this blog, I was only writing for myself, family, and close friends.  I never thought anyone else would be interested in what I have to write or say.  But, I realize that I have been able to learn and communicate with so many different people.  Some of these folks I have never even met.  I am hoping I am doing the same in return with my blog.

So now, I am supposed to answer a few questions.

1. What do you value most in life?
What I value most in life is life itself.  I know that sounds cliche, but I am glad that I have each day, and I try very hard to appreciate every single one of those days.

2. What activities do you enjoy and why?
At the moment, I am enjoying going to the gym to do my KaiaFit workouts.  I go to classes with my good friend (and neighbor), Nicole.  Nicole and I also run and participate in triathlons.  I am not any good, but I enjoy the social aspect of these activities.

3. What is something you wish you had more time for?
I wish I had more time to travel.  I love reaching a destination and exploring that space for a little while.  I love how I feel when I am on vacation-relaxed and less stressed out.

4. What is one change you would like to make in the world?
I am not sure about this question.  I think it would have something to do with solving social and racial injustice.

5. What is something you would like change about yourself?
Besides wanting to lose a few pounds, I would like to be less stressed out.  I am still trying not to sweat the small stuff.  It’s a work in progress.

6. What “big” question do you often ponder?
I am wondering if I will get in trouble for not answering all these questions!  (See Question 4.)  🙂  Seriously, I often wonder what my purpose in life is.  I think I am still searching for that answer.

7. What surprises you most about your life — something good in your life that you hadn’t expected, dreamed of, or thought possible?
I am surprised that I am the mother of 3 daughters.  They are wonderful, beautiful, young women.  Every day they never cease to amaze me.  Oh, and I am also married to a wonderful, supportive man.  We just celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary this past February.

8. What sorts of things amuse you?
Sometimes my own kids say the funniest things.  It is amusing to me to see how their teenage minds justify happenings in their world.  Believe me.  It’s a whole different world!

9. What is something you can’t do without?
Okay, I know this sounds bad.  But, I cannot live without my iPhone.  I can’t imagine how I survived without it.  I get anxious if I think my iPhone is not in my purse.  I know.  I have a problem.  I think an intervention is in my future.

10. What do you like to collect?
I don’t collect this purposefully, but I love shoes.  I have a lot of shoes much to my husband’s dismay.  I cannot resist a nice looking pair of pumps or boots.  Okay, another intervention is in my future.

Okay, now I think I am supposed to nominate someone else for the Liebster Award.  My nomination is going to my friend, Kim.  Her blog is called Thinking Through My Lens.  I love reading her blog because she incorporates the things she loves into it-writing and photography.  Kim is pretty amazing.  She also encouraged me to start my own blog.  So, if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here right now!  That is why I am nominating Kim’s blog for the Liebster Award.

In a Funk

I realize that  I haven’t been posting anything to my blog in several days.  To be honest, I just haven’t felt much like writing.  It’s sad, I know.  However, I have many things going on in my life these days.  I feel like the person who has plates spinning at the top of sticks.  You need to keep the plates spinning so they don’t come toppling down.

It’s starting to take a toll on me.  Yesterday, I really tried to be organized.  I tried to get my materials ready for the day the night before.  I knew my schedule.  It was going to be busy.  In the morning, I gathered all my materials which included my purse, my school bag, another bag I needed for an after school meeting, and my lunch bag.  When I left for work, I thought I had everything I needed only to find out that I had left my lunch bag at home.  My lunch bag not only included my lunch for the day, but my breakfast, too!  Fortunately, my friend had an extra packet of apple cinnamon oatmeal for me to eat for breakfast.  I ended up going to a drive-through for lunch, so all was well with the world.  After school was over, I headed out to the University of California San Diego  for a meeting.  As I left my school parking lot, I realized I had left my parking permit for UCSD at home.  I had not planned to stop by my house, so it took a few extra minutes to get my permit at home.  This meant I would be a few minutes late to my meeting.  Ugh.

I was glad to get home after the meeting was done.  It was late, and I didn’t feel like writing anything.  I am feeling overwhelmed right about now.  Report cards for school are going out next week.  I have two papers due for my administrative credential program.  I have a presentation to prepare for the San Diego Area Writing Project.  I have to continue teaching my 2nd graders.  And, I have to be a wife and a mom to top things off.  The pain in my neck/back is non-stop.  I need to schedule my massage soon.  In the meantime, I continue to plug along.  I keep doing a little at a time to try and stay ahead of the game.  When is spring break??  I cannot wait.

SDAWP Spring Conference 2014

It was a cloudy March morning.  A threat of rain was imminent, but about 150 participants attended the San Diego Area Writing Project’s Spring Conference at the University of California, San Diego.  The conference opened up with a discussion about fear and courage.  Christine Kane, co-director of SDAWP, shared information about how the brain is affected when confronted with fearful situations.  She shared evidence based on scientific studies that the way you can come to terms with fear is to put yourself in those situations that trigger it.

At this point, I was thinking how apropos it was that fear was the focus of Christine’s talk.  That is what I was feeling at that moment-FEAR!  The main reason for this was because I was presenting in the first session of the conference.  I knew right after Christine’s opening, it would be my turn to address the room.  So, I can’t say I was fully engaged with her at this time.  I was thinking about my presentation and hoped it would go smoothly.

The other reason I was experiencing fear was because I was trying to get my iPhone to connect to the wifi in that particular room.  My presentation was going to be in this room and I needed to be connected to the wifi.  My iPhone was a remote control for my iPad.  Both of my devices had to be on the same wifi in order to communicate.  Secretly, I was panicking in the back of the room.  The wifi would connect and then disconnect, connect and then disconnect, connect and then disconnect. I was getting frustrated.  Kim Douillard, director of SDAWP, recommended I go outside the room to connect and then go back inside.  I did that and then, when I walked back into the room, the wifi would disconnect.  Ahhhhh!  My presentation was in 5 minutes.  I had a backup plan, but you always hate when Plan A doesn’t pan out.

Fortunately, I was able to connect and stay connected for the duration of my presentation which was entitled Using Mentor Text to Lead our Primary Writers.   I talked about the writing process in my classroom and the journey I took using mentor text with my kids to craft leads for informative pieces.  As I continue with this journey, I realize that the particular leads I shared with my students can be used across text types, not just with informative writing.

I think the presentation went well.  At least, that is what people told me after the fact.  One thing did go wrong, however.  I did not have enough handouts for the people who went to my session.  I felt bad about that, but I just have no way of knowing ahead of time how many people will show up.  Oh well, I will be more prepared next time.  If there is a next time!  🙂  Here is a picture my friend, Margaret, took during the session.

presenting

I was pretty happy with my presentation.  Just like Christine said earlier, I put myself in a fearful situation this morning.  Hopefully, the more I do this, the less fear I will have.

For the second session, I attended Stacey Goldblatt’s presentation entitled Supporting Student Writers:  One Paragraph at a Time.  Here is a picture of Stacey proclaiming to be a rebel.  She is so cool!

Stacey

Stacey shared a formula on how to get students to write strong paragraphs.  This formula was called AXES (assertion, eXample, explanation, significance).  In conjunction with mentor texts, she uses this formula to get her students to expand on their writing.  Even though the formula acts as a frame for students, their final pieces do not come out sounding exactly the same as one another.  Using the AXES process, students have choices and can use their voice when they write.  Stacey had many great ideas on how to teach the 4 parts of an effective paragraph.  She starts out with students writing about their personal truths rather than opinions.  Then, she shared a great way to use transition words in writing.  Oh, and it involved Popsicle sticks!

sticks

All in all, it was a fantastic day.  I learned so many practical things I can use in my classroom starting on Monday.  My brain is on overload.  I also learned something about myself.  I can do anything I set my mind to.  I need to have more confidence in my abilities.  Thanks SDAWP for continuing to push me out of my box.