Tag Archives: reading

Lollipop Moment Thank You

Tonight, I re-watched Drew Dudley’s TED Talk entitled “Everyday Leadership.” In it, he talks about a girl who thanked him four years later for a moment that forever changed her life. She was scared about going to university, but when he came up to her wearing a goofy hat and passing out lollipops, she knew everything would be okay. She could do this.

In his talk, Drew asks, “How many of you guys have a lollipop moment, a moment where someone said or did something that you feel fundamentally made your life better?” He goes on to ask if we’ve told that person that they had an impact on our life. It got me thinking about people in my life who’ve been instrumental in a big way.

My lollipop moment was in 2006. I was beginning my third year as a teacher, in that shaky period where you feel like you sort of know what you’re doing, but you’re still second-guessing most of your decisions. I had spent my student teaching placement, as well as my first two years of full-time teaching, as a Grade 4 Math & Science teacher in a two-way split. Math was my jam. Always had been. I felt comfortable with numbers, with the one right answer aspect of it. Sure, there are many ways to get there, and I celebrated those, but at the end of the day, there’s only one right answer. Science was full of experiments, therefore it was equally exciting and engaging to teach (and for students to learn). I was comfortable in my niche, and I didn’t want it to to change.

Of course, as I’m sure you’ve predicted, it changed. With a reduction in students and staffing, my teaching partner was moved to a new campus. With no one to be my switch teacher, I was told I’d be a self-contained teacher. Gone were the days of teaching only Math and Science. I would now add Reading, Writing, and Social Studies to the mix. To say I was scared and upset would be an understatement. A major one. I was freaking out. I can’t teach reading and writing!!! I have never taught anyone to read! I have no idea how to even begin teaching someone to write! You’ve got the wrong person! I can’t do this! All those insecurities of not being good enough surfaced. To top it off, that year was the year that my district was embracing reading and writing workshop, a brand-new concept to all of us. No more basal. No more teaching stand-alone grammar lessons and form writing based on the 6 Traits. (Just to be clear, I despise basals and teaching writing and grammar inauthentically, but these new initiatives meant there was no one on my grade level to go to for help. It was new to them, too!)

During this freak-out moment, Debbie Johnson came to talk to me. Debbie had been teaching Grade 2, and while I knew her from seeing her around the building and in faculty meetings, we weren’t really acquainted and weren’t yet friends. But that year, Debbie had been appointed to the newly-created position of Literacy Coach on our campus. She approached me, trying to assuage my literacy fears. Her idea was simple. I didn’t know how to be a reading and writing teacher. She didn’t know how to be a Literacy Coach (she didn’t even have a job description!). But what she did know was how to teach reading and writing well. Really well, in fact. So she proposed a plan. She’d come in everyday and teach alongside me, mentoring me through this newness in which I suddenly found myself.

I’m not dumb, and I know a good thing when I see it. Through my tears, I took her up on her offer on the spot. Debbie and I began spending a lot of time together, planning, observing, teaching, assessing, reflecting, and crying (mostly me!). Using the gradual release of responsibility method, she held my hand as I launched reader’s and writer’s workshops in my classroom. She was in my room everyday for my entire afternoon (120 minutes) for at least a month. We used the First 20 Days by Fountas and Pinnell to guide us through reader’s workshop and Lucy Calkins’s Units of Study to establish writer’s workshop. She taught me how to teach guided reading, how to confer with my readers and writers, and how to take documentation on my students so that I knew them better as readers and writers. I learned to read and write alongside my students, using my writing and my struggles and triumphs as teaching tools.

Following that first month of hand-holding, Debbie and I met regularly to plan and reflect. She continued to observe and coach, and she remained that steady person I could rely on. I was in her office nearly everyday, sharing successes and failures, worrying over my abilities, talking about my kids, and problem-solving. We forged an unbreakable bond. What we had was why Literacy Coaches exist. They are there to help and guide, listen and offer advice, nudge, but not judge. Debbie was all of that– and more. Sometime during that year, Debbie became my friend, my confidant. She knew more about me (professionally and personally) than most people did. I could trust her completely. We shared secrets. We laughed. We gave each other books that the other just had to read.

That first year was hard work. I doubted myself. A lot. But you know what, I did it. Through the mini-lessons that flopped, the late nights spent planning, the tears shed, and the stress of planning and teaching 5 subjects everyday, I grew. I reflected often, refined my craft, and vowed to be better each and every day.

The biggest lesson Debbie taught me was that to be a good reading and writing teacher, I just had to be a reader and a writer. I already possessed those skills. In my free time, I was a reader and occasionally a writer. I thought like a reader and a writer. I was passionate about it. All I had to do was show it to my budding readers and writers. All I had to do was be myself, letting my love of literacy and my passion shine through. Most of the battle is getting your students to love reading and writing. Once you’ve done that, anything is possible. My beliefs around literacy are rooted in that authentic work of readers and writers. Reading and writing should be life work, not school work. And this is how I approached it with my students.

In 2006, Debbie Johnson was my lollipop moment. She met me where I was and coached me forward. In the years after, I went on to become a stellar literacy teacher, one whom teachers and administrators around the district came to observe. I was the teacher who ignited the writing flame in even the most stubborn of kids. The writing club I created for struggling writers was something every kid wanted to be a part of. In China, I created a Literacy Coach position and was a coach for 2 years, eventually becoming principal. I shared my passion of literacy with others, and I made a difference. Looking back, I’m not sure my life would have turned out this way had it not been for Debbie Johnson. So Debbie, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you.

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Everything, Everything

Today was day three of returning to work since the accident. Days one and two resulted in me leaving with an incredibly swollen foot and in intense pain, resulting in me crawling into bed to hoist my enlarged foot, wrapped in an ice pack, onto a mountain of pillows, while I took meds to stave off the pain. This weekend wasn’t much different. Other than my doctor’s visit and dinner with a friend on Saturday, I was either on the couch or in the bed, elevating my foot, wincing with pain whenever I hobbled around my tiny apartment on my crutches. Today, day three, was different. I was able to last for longer periods of time on my crutches, although I primarily used the wheelchair when I was in class, as it’s infinitely easier.

I had to leave at 1:00pm today to go pick up my work permit, and when I left I noticed my foot was swollen, but less than it was the other days. In the car, I asked how long it would take for us to get to the immigration office. One hour. Ugh…I should have brought my book. Oh, wait! I have the book Elissa gave me!

Earlier this morning, Elissa handed me a book she’d finished this weekend, saying she thought I’d like it. It’s a YA novel called Everything, Everything. Apparently they’re making it into a movie (Don’t they always?). I took it, but since I’m in the middle of another book, I wasn’t sure when I’d get to it. A two-hour round-trip ride downtown was the perfect time to dive into it. I was instantly sucked into the story. The fast-paced storyline and suspense kept me hooked.

After the immigration visit, I visited the massage parlor next to my apartment building, where they helped work out the kinks and knots that have taken up residence in my back and shoulders. From there, I walked home on my crutches…without getting winded! My foot was swollen, of course, but I wasn’t in pain. Nevertheless, I propped it up and continued to read more of my new book.

My stomach started grumbling around 5:30, and rather than ordering in again, I decided to venture out in a taxi to one of my favorite restaurants. Gingerly, I walked up the steps and across the uneven footpath. My dinner companion was none other than my new book. Between bites, I turned page after page, unable to stop. After dinner, I was surprisingly still not in pain, so I headed to Starbucks to get my favorite iced tea and continue reading. I ended up finishing my book! It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book in a day, and I loved the uninterrupted reading time.

Back at home now, I’ve elevated and iced my foot to reduce the incredible swelling, but I have to say there is minimal pain. I can even wiggle my toes and ankle a bit without it hurting, and there’s a hint of itchiness, which according to the doctor and my dad, means the road rash is starting to heal. Yay for small victories! I go back for another check-up tomorrow, so we’ll see how gnarly it looks under there. I’m hoping to see less red and more scabby bits. 🙂


Side Note: Everything, Everything reminded me of The Fault in Our Stars, and while I liked it, I would say The Fault in Our Stars is still much better. However, if you are into YA literature and looking for a quick, engaging read, I suggest this one.

9 Things on Day 9

As I was reading through some slices for some inspiration, I came across All Things Purple’s blog, where her slice was full of lists of her favorite things, 9 per list, in honor of the ninth day of slicing. I love lists, as anyone who follows my blog or knows me in real life knows, so this was right up my alley! 🙂

9 Everyday things I wouldn’t want to live without:

  1. Books! (actual books or ebooks)
  2. A device (laptop, iPad, or iPhone)
  3. Wifi connection
  4. Tea kettle
  5. Toothbrush/toothpaste
  6. Live plants
  7. Backpack
  8. Reusable water bottle (loving my Camelbak Eddy at the moment)
  9.  My writer’s notebook

9 Adventures I want to have before I die:

  1. Step on all 7 continents (before age 40!)…just 2 more (Antartica and South America)
  2. Take a year off and slow travel around the world
  3. Write a book…and publish it!
  4. Meet someone I want to share my life with
  5. See the Northern Lights and sleep in a glass igloo
  6. Spend at least one month living in Inle Lake, Myanmar, volunteering at a school or an orphanage, riding my bike every day
  7. Go on an African safari
  8. Take my parents to all my favorite places around the world
  9. Show up at the airport, buy a ticket, and fly some place I’ve never been, with absolutely no plans whatsoever

9 Pastimes I never tire of:

  1. Listening to music
  2. Writing
  3. Reading
  4. Talking about reading and writing
  5. Cooking
  6. Throwing parties
  7. Visiting new restaurants
  8. Planning for a new trip
  9. Talking to my friends and family

9 Treats I could eat everyday (if they weren’t unhealthy):

  1. Chai tea lattes, preferably iced and from Starbucks
  2. Goat cheese
  3. Mangos
  4. Homemade ravioli
  5. Brownies
  6. Chips & Queso
  7. Hot Shipley’s glazed donuts
  8. Mercato’s homemade ricotta and jam with buttery, toasted bread
  9. Pavlova

9 People I’d be lost without (Only 9?!?):

  1. My mom & dad (I know, this is more than one…)
  2. My brother, sister-in-law, niece, & nephew (this one, too…)
  3. Shaggers
  4. Michelle
  5. Linner
  6. Kathy
  7. Sarah
  8. Sally
  9. Callie

9 Places I want to visit:

  1. New Zealand
  2. South Africa
  3. India
  4. Russia
  5. The Maldives
  6. Iceland
  7. Spain
  8. Bhutan
  9. Chile

9 Words I believe hold magic:

  1. Savor
  2. Love
  3. Vulnerable
  4. Change
  5. Play
  6. Serendipity
  7. Authenticity
  8. Gratitude
  9. Delicious

9 Gestures that make me smile:

  1. Receiving a gift from someone who knows me well
  2. Hand-written notes
  3. People who go out of their way when you’re sick/injured
  4. Quality time
  5. Playing a board game with me
  6. Hilarious texts, particularly ones accompanied by poignant GIFs 🙂
  7. A good book recommendation
  8. An engaging conversation where no one looks at their phone
  9. Little kid hugs

9 Favorite songs (as of this blog post) (How can I pick just 9?!?):

Click here to listen to my favorite songs

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What are your favorite things?

Reader- SOL #22

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Reading, like writing, is an integral part of who I am. I can’t remember a time when reading wasn’t important to me. From a very young age, reading caught hold of me and hasn’t let go. I’d like to share a little about me through a reflection of who I am as a reader. I used the poem “Reader” by Billy Collins as a mentor text.

Who I am as a Reader

Thinker, reflector, recommend-er, hoarder,
highlighter, write in the margin-er, connector,
planner, revisit-er, polygamist
by balancing multiple texts,
always stealing time in between moments,
quote collector, goal maker, book store peruser,
Good Reads reading log keeper,
dog-earer I am not,
blurb studier, before and during,
book lover, savor-er, structure notice-er,
before bed reader, need quiet time reader,
never read the ending first reader–
why would anyone do that?
mentor text gatherer, always on the hunt,
connection maker, book saver, bookmark user,
read any and everywhere– even in a car reader,
variety is the spice of life reader,
authentic, read for myself reader,
“real books are always better” kind of reader,
voracious, never gonna stop reader.

Books, Books, Books- SOL

Today’s post is dedicated to…you guessed it…books! I thought I’d give you a peek into my reading life.

What I’m Reading:

I’m reading City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau with my fifth and sixth graders in Book Club. We made a commitment to read ONLY to the end of chapter ten before Thursday, and I’m finding it really hard to keep that commitment! Chapter ten ended at such a cliffhanger, that I’m dying to keep reading! So far I like it, but I keep having this nagging feeling that I’ve read this book before. I don’t mean that I’ve actually read City of Ember, but the story reminds me of The Hunger Games and 1984 by George Orwell. The theme of governmental control is overwhelmingly obvious. I wonder if my students will pick up on that.

I’m reading 3 other books with my first and second grade Book Clubs. One is School Story by Andrew Clements. Another is Frogs, a nonfiction National Geographic reader. And finally, Alone in the Night, a beginning chapter book about a cat named Star and a girl named Jasmine who loves her and cares for her. These aren’t my favorites, but my students are really enjoying them.

Professionally I’m reading Reading with Meaning by Debbie Miller, and I’m learning so much about teaching literacy to first graders! I’m only on page 50, but I’m ready to get back into it and learn some more! I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but it makes me want to try out teaching first grade. I wonder if this feeling will pass…

Personally I’m reading Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer. To say I’m reading this one is actually a stretch. A more accurate description would be that I’m stalled in it. The first three books were a breeze to get through, and I enjoyed them, but Breaking Dawn hasn’t had the same appeal to me. I’ve read about half of the book, but every time I come back to it, I can’t even seem to get through a chapter without feeling bored. I’m not giving up on it, but it’s on the back burner. I’m also reading Spilling Ink by Phelam, Potter, and Mazer and an assortment of picture books at random. Now that I don’t have my own class, I find that I’m missing out on reading picture books, so I’m adding to my repertoire by reading a few each week. If you have any suggestions, by all means, leave them in the comments section!

What’s in My Stack:
Here’s a glimpse at the books that are in my “To Read” stack, in no particular order.

The Vow by Kim & Krickitt Carpenter
The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Room by Emma Donoghue
Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi
Growing Readers by Kathy Collins
Making Thinking Visible by Ritchhart, Morrison, and Church

What I’m Recommending:

Lately I find myself gushing over Wonder by R. J. Palacio. I don’t want to give anything away, but if you love YA fiction, this one is a page turner that will tug at your heart strings and make you “wonder” about so many things!

I recently read Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper in my 5th/6th grade Book Club, and it suddenly shot up to my top ten! This is another great YA fiction read that will get you thinking! You’ll just love Melody and her unwavering spirit. I recommend this book to everyone- kids, teachers, friends, parents- everyone!

Have you ever read The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt? It’s a great read, right? I agree, but now that I’ve read the companion novel, Okay for Now, Wednesday Wars isn’t all that. Okay for Now is a beautifully written coming-of-age book focused on Doug and the struggles in his life. I found myself savoring this book, reading only a chapter or two at a time, in an attempt to have it last longer. I highly, highly recommend it!page1image40816 page1image40976

What’s on My Wish List:

Mentor Texts by Lynne R. Dorfman
The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis
What You Know by Heart by Katie Wood Ray
My own copies of Wonder, Okay for Now, and Out of My Mind
*By the way, my birthday’s in 2 months….you know, just in case you were wondering. 😉 

Dad- SOL

I recently read Hatchet by Gary Paulsen in the book club I host with 5th and 6th graders at school. I can’t believe that it was my first time reading this incredible adventure story. I now know why so many of my students have loved to read this book over and over again! At the end of the book, we always write some sort of reader’s response. My response was about when Brian’s mom refers to Brian’s dad as “your father.” Brian reacts by thinking, “Not ‘my father.’ My Dad.” This got me thinking about the differences between a “father” and a “dad.”

To me, the term “father” has a different connotation than “dad.” Father can mean someone who literally fathered a child or it can be more of a formal term for a dad. A child could refer to their father as “father” if he isn’t really in their life or isn’t much of a dad to them. In my opinion, a “dad” is someone who loves you, cares for you, plays with you, listens to you, talks with you, provides for you, disciplines you when needed…but doesn’t necessarily have to have fathered you. I know plenty of people who have a stepdad, adopted father, uncle, or grandpa who’s more of a “dad” to them than their biological father is.

I think Brian reacts so strongly to his mother’s use of the term “father” because he’s still bitter and hurt over The Secret and The Divorce, and when she refers to his dad as his “father,” it’s almost as if she cheapens the relationship he has with him. With all of the worry about The Divorce and the fact that his dad now has visitation rights swirling around in his head, the term “father” further emphasizes the fact that life as he knew it will never be the same.

This got me thinking about my dad. My dad is my biological father, but even if he hadn’t fathered me, he would still be my dad. He has always taken care of me, and I’ve never doubted that he loved me and would do anything for me. Being so far away from my parents makes me appreciate them so much more. I value and treasure the time spent with them. I think that the physical distance between us (I live in China, they live in Texas) actually makes us closer when we do spend time together. I am really looking forward to this summer when I’ll be able to hang out with my mom and dad again. I love them both so much!

Reading…Is There Anything Better?- SOL

Reading has and always will be an important part of my life. Reading makes my heart happy. If I’m unusually crabby, it’s usually because I haven’t read lately. Reading is comfortable, thought-provoking, and intriguing. Reading opens your heart and mind to other ideas, places, perspectives. This post is dedicated to one of my favorite pastimes.

I read YA fiction, realistic fiction, historical fiction (my new fave!), fantasies, blogs, feature articles, Facebook statuses, biographies, professional books (primarily focused on reading, writing, & teaching through inquiry), emails, picture books, series, books from authors I love, letters and notes from friends, old favorites, book reviews, Pinterest captions, Slices of Life, children’s writing (I love when they share their writing with me!), school documents, poetry, memoir, interviews, and magazine articles. I read in print and digitally on the Internet and on my iPad. While I love the feel and smell of a “real” book, I enjoy the conveniences of e-readers. I write about my reading in my reader’s notebook. I love to recommend books to others, and I have a knack for finding *just* the right book for those reluctant readers.

Books I’ve read in the past are defining moments in my life. I can distinctly remember reading From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg in fourth grade, which is a book about adventure and mystery and “running away to find yourself.” I have reread that book over ten times since then, many times as a read aloud or in a book club with students, and I enjoy it every time I read it. Being able to share my love of literature with children allows me to connect with them in a whole new way. When you share books you love, those books that stay with you and resonate with who you are, you are sharing a piece of your soul.

I decided to slice about reading today because this evening I was tutoring Jennifer, a seventh grader who, when I met her a month ago told me that she “hates reading.” When I walked in today, she began excitedly talking about Jeff from There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom like he was a real person, showed me her new Scholastic books that she bought from school, talked about her reading plans for when she finishes There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom, and told me she couldn’t wait to read more of The Hunger Games with me tonight. I just smiled, took it all in, and thought to myself, “Yep, she’s caught the reading bug.” I couldn’t be happier! 😉