Tag Archives: Slice of Life Challenge

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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Baby Steps

If you’ve read my blog this month, then you know about the accident and saga that began two and a half weeks ago. Today was another appointment in a string of appointments. On the docket was cleaning my wounds, changing the dressings and a check-up with the doctor on my progress.

Update: The road rash on my ankle is healing pretty well, and while it isn’t exactly pretty, the majority of my wound is now dry and they didn’t need to even cover all of it today. My toes are healing, but considering the open wounds are only a week old thanks to last week’s fiasco, they aren’t as far along as my ankle. That being said, only 3 toes needed to be covered today. So, progress. My ankle, foot, lower calf is still swollen, but is not nearly as swollen as it has been, so the doctor was pleased with that. I’ve got some range of motion, although my Achilles tendon is super tight, which is making it difficult to put my foot down normally.

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I’m soooo over the whole hobbling on crutches or using a wheelchair thing though. Teaching preschool in a wheelchair seriously cramps my style. I can’t get around easily, especially in a school that’s not totally handicap accessible (so many steps!), and I’m just not the teacher I want to be right now. I can’t do what I want to do and that makes me cranky! I wake up every morning and think, I’ll just walk. I’ll be fine. Only I’m not fine. My leg doesn’t do what my brain tells it to do. Grrr!

Anyway, the last few days, I’ve been able to put a little weight on my foot, and with the aide of my crutches, I’ve been able to walk-ish. Due to the fact that I can’t put on a shoe or anything, my practice has been confined to my apartment. Today, I asked the doctor if I could have some sort of foot covering to try and walk outside and at school. I demonstrate my willingness to try by hobbling around the treatment room. After a bit of cajoling, he agrees to let me try. He even recommended I see a doctor in the rehab department and start physiotherapy today!

Physio went well. After a heat pack treatment for 30 minutes, I was put through a series of exercises, and to my surprise, most of them didn’t hurt at all. I then got to practice walking around with my new kicks! She kept telling me I was doing it wrong, but like I said, my leg’s not listening to my brain right now. At least I was doing it, even if it wasn’t exactly right!

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They say my recovery will take a while (3 months til I’m back to normal!), but if I keep at it and do my exercises everyday, I’ll improve faster. I’m determined to get off these crutches, so I’m going to follow the doctor’s orders. Here’s hoping it won’t take as long as they think! 🙂

Baby steps, literally and figuratively. 😝

 

Hello There…

Hello There…

I am learning to love me again, to embrace the very me-ness I possess inside, and express myself freely.

I keep secrets, a writer’s notebook, and memories of my travels.

I wish I could travel anywhere and everywhere for a year, with no regard for money (Who wants to sponsor me? haha).

I love mango sticky rice, iced chai tea lattes, pomelo, new books, blogging, sleeping in, goat cheese, dragonfruit, sharing stories, laughing, and filling my passport with stamps.

I dance ridiculously when I’m excited about something, usually making my friends laugh in the process.

I sing along with most songs, regardless of where I am and regardless of my mostly off-key voice. I have this innate gift of being able to pick up a song after hearing it a couple of times. I can’t promise you the lyrics are exactly right, but they’re close enough!

I think often about going back to school for another Master’s, possibly in school counseling or early childhood education. I’m in the research phase at the moment.

I really would like to be able to walk right now without the aide of crutches- hoping my ankle heals quickly!

I need less stuff than I thought I needed a year ago.

I should exercise more than I do, which is something I intend on starting once my ankle is healed.

I can teach preschool, despite thinking that it was something I could never do. And I’m actually pretty good at it, too.

I make a difference in the lives of my students, and they do in mine.

I always put others first; I’m working on that.

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Miss Renda’s House

We all have those places we hold dear to our hearts, that take us back to a simpler time, when our biggest worry was the scraped knee we got when we fell off our bike or the fact that we had to finish our vegetables before we could have dessert. For me, there are only a few places where, despite the years that have passed, I can be taken me right back to that place at a moment’s notice. One such place is Miss Renda’s house.

When I conjure up Miss Renda, images of a spunky, fun-loving, motherly (but in the cool mom kinda way), sweet, yet stern, woman come to mind. Miss Renda looked after me from around the ages of 3 to 7, sometimes all day, sometimes half-day, and sometimes only during the summers. Along with me were her twins, Melissa and Ty, my brother once he was born, and I’m pretty sure another child. When I think back on that time, some things are fuzzy, but other memories are crystal clear, painting this image of a quintessential American childhood.

Her home was warm and inviting, familiar and lived-in. Her house, on a corner lot, provided a huge yard to play in, and its white stone brick exterior, for some reason, didn’t seem to match the inside of the house. The front door, while the entrance my mom used to drop me off and pick me up, wasn’t the entrance we used. We came in and out using the back door, the one by the car port that led into the playroom. The front door was for more formal entries, not casual ones. Isn’t that how it always is? The back or side door, the more familiar one?

In my mind’s eye, I can transport myself back to that place, and while I know I can’t remember all the details (Where was the bathroom again?), I can remember the ones that count. I can remember the wrap-around front yard, where every summer we’d spend hours running through the sprinkler, fighting for our turn on the slip ‘n’ slide, eating popsicles in the heat of the afternoon. You know the ones. The brightly colored liquid in the plastic pouch where, once frozen, you cut the ends off and pushed up to eat. Why were the tiny frozen pieces in the cut off parts so much better than the actual popsicle? I can remember Melissa trying and trying to teach me how to do a cartwheel out there, and me failing every time. I have, to this day, never been able to do a cartwheel. It was in front of Miss Renda’s house, on that stretch of road leading to the dead end, where Melissa and Ty taught me how to ride a bike without training wheels. The pride I felt that day is something every kid should experience.

Her backyard was just as fun! Melissa, Ty, and I would spend countless hours outside, making up games, imagining new worlds, digging in the dirt, playing with leaves and sticks, and collecting locust shells we found stuck to the side of the house. Around the back, there was a swing tied to a big oak tree, and I have this vivid memory of swinging on the swing belting out “Rockin’ Robin.” Later, when we were in elementary school, Melissa, Ty, and I would tease each other with the “Sittin’ in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G” song on that very swing.

Inside, I can remember the massive playroom, full of toys, and if I recall correctly, a room that was converted to a playroom from something else (garage maybe?). I can remember nap time, our nap mats in the foyer near the front door. Like most kids do, I fought nap time, and I remember Miss Renda’s constant pleas for me to “just go to sleep.” But my strongest memories are in the kitchen and one of the back bedrooms.

The kitchen was the soul of the house. Miss Renda’s U-shaped kitchen, clad in typical 70’s/80’s fashion was yellowish-orange or green. A large dining table sat off to the side, where Miss Renda’s family presumably ate their dinner. But we didn’t eat there. In the middle of her kitchen, Miss Renda had a small kid-sized table and chairs set up for us, where we’d eat our snacks and lunches. My favorite meal Miss Renda ever made was Cherry Soup and Grilled Cheese. I can remember years later my mom telling me the story of cherry soup. My mom and 4-year-old me were grocery shopping when I asked her to buy me cherry soup. Of course, she told me cherry soup doesn’t exist. Insistent, I told her it does- Miss Renda makes it for me!– and I wanted it. Again, she tried to convince me I was making it up, as there is no such thing as cherry soup. After throwing a fit in the store, my mom asked Miss Renda what it was she was feeding me. Where was I getting this nonsense? Miss Renda laughed and told her it was tomato soup and grilled cheese, only we wouldn’t eat it if it was called tomato soup (no kid really likes tomatoes, do they?), so she called it cherry soup, and we loved it. From then on, my mom made me cherry soup, too.

Sometime in the 80’s, Nintendo came out with their original gaming system and classic games of Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt. Miss Renda was the only person I knew who had it, which made her the coolest person I knew. I remember it was located in one of the back bedrooms, hooked up to a large, encased-in-wood TV set. We were allowed to play it sparingly, which made it all the more appealing. I can remember sitting on the edge of the bed, taking turns with Melissa and Ty, as we learned to navigate this entirely new technology. Shooting the ducks, we got way too close to the TV, our barrels nearly hitting the glass. Maneuvering little Mario through the mazes of Super Mario Bros. took skill and timing. It was vital to move the controller when you were making him jump. We swapped tricks and helped one another avoid pitfalls by shouting out our advice. I didn’t convince my parents to buy me a Nintendo until much later, when Super Nintendo came out. I still wish I had that first Nintendo system.

As much as my memories are attached to the physical place of Miss Renda’s house, the real memories are my experiences within that place. Miss Renda was such an influential person in my life, and I’ll never forget the care, love, and attention she gave us. I wouldn’t want to change this part of my childhood in any way, and I wish that everyone could have their own Miss Renda.

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A sketch of Miss Renda’s house I made in my writer’s notebook

Drowning in Slices

Swimming in a sea of slices

circling, swirling, so many to choose from

unable to settle on just one

drowning, quite literally, in slices

 

Do I write about my trip to the movies this weekend

to see Beauty and the Beast?

Acutely aware of how un-handicap accessible

the theater was

precariously hobbling

stairs upon stairs

but oh, so worth it

 

Or what about the twins,

who are finally breaking free of

their shells?

Come play with me!

Constructing a teetering tower,

laughter flowing, as the blocks cascade down

Our private glances,

telling each other stories,

words not needed

 

How about the thrill of a new book?

Settling in to read, yet

unable to keep my eyes open

Zzzzzzzzzzz…

(In case you didn’t know,

Zzzzzz means sleep!

according to J.J.,

my dormant EAL student,

who just today made a connection

between our letter of the week and

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site)

 

Or do I tell you of the (mostly) unsuccessful attempts

to reheat last night’s leftover lasagna

in a small pot on a hot plate

while standing on one foot?

Oh the joys of not having

a microwave, or oven for that matter

 

Or better yet,

I could pine my notebook

teeming with stories not yet written

sifting through the ideas

until I found the perfect one

 

Drowning in slices,

this poem will have to do.

 

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My Life in Numbers

Several of my fellow slicers have written their own ‘life in numbers’ posts this month, which is a list of facts about them, corresponding to the numbers 1-10. I enjoy these posts, as they give an insight into the author. Here’s mine, but as the rule-breaker I am, mine doesn’t follow the 1-10 format. Instead, it’s a list of number-based facts using any numbers I deem necessary. But I’m not an animal…they are listed in numerical order. 🙂

1- I have 1 brother, Andrew, who’s just shy of four years younger than me. We are quite different, starting from our heights. He’s a full foot taller than me! We have different careers, different tastes in food, I live abroad while he lives where we grew up, he’s married with kids and I’m single, and the list of differences goes on. Despite our differences, I love my bubba and look forward to seeing him whenever I’m back home.

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2- I’m an aunt to 2 adorable kiddos, Randi and Logan, who are some of my favorite people on this earth. They make me smile and laugh whenever I’m with them. I think about them all the time. And they are so full of personality! I love them soooooo much!!

4- I’ve broken 4 bones in my lifetime. Two fingers, one on each hand, and both arms simultaneously. Yes, that really happened. I earned the nickname “Monkey Girl” during my eighth grade thanks to my accident on the monkey bars. As a middle schooler, naturally, I was mortified. As an adult, it’s a funny memory.

5- So far, I’ve lived in 5 countries (soon to be 6). USA for my first 29 years, Australia for 6 months, China for 5 years, Albania for a year and a half, and Thailand for the past 2+ months.

7- I’ve been slicing as part of the Slice of Life community for the past 7 years, and it’s been so instrumental in my development as a writer. I cannot thank all the co-authors enough for this opportunity, and all the slicers over the years who have encouraged me as a writer!

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9- In order to feel fully rested, I need 9 hours of sleep each night. I usually don’t get this much, but I strive for at least 8 hours of good sleep.

11- In my lifetime, I have lived in 11 different houses or apartments. This may not seem like very many, but considering that I lived in the same house until I was 22 years old, I think it’s quite a few places. One of these places was a townhouse I owned from age 26 to 29, my first and only place I’ve ever owned.

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My first home I owned 🙂

13- I’m currently in my 13th year of education, and in those years I’ve taught Grade 3, Grade 4, and Preschool, been a literacy coach and a part-time PYP Coordinator, and served as an elementary principal at two schools.

19- Not counting babysitting when I was younger, I started working at the age of 16 as a skating Sonic carhop, and over the past nearly twenty years, I have worked at 19 different places. Reading that you probably think I can’t hold a job, since it averages to about one per year, but most of these jobs were part-time and held simultaneously. With the exception of one job at age 17, my stint as a nanny in Sydney, and my summers as a camp director, all of my jobs were held for at least a year, the longest being 5 years.

22- I have 22 cousins, including their spouses and children, who I now consider my cousins. I love seeing many of them at our annual Kesler family reunions. Can’t wait to see them again this summer! 🙂

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35- So far, I have visited 35 countries, including the ones I’ve lived in. Check out my Where I’ve Wandered page to see where I’ve traveled across the globe. While 35 may seem like a lot, it just seems like a drop in the bucket to me. There’s so much more I want to see!

43- Last year, I read 43 books. I’m hoping to read more this year though! 🙂

9,156- I’m currently living 9,156 miles away from home in Bryan, Texas. No wonder I’m tired traveling to and from!

 

 

Thai Names

Don’t you just hate when everyone has your name? In a sea of Johns or Jennifers, you become defined by your last initial. Well, no more! I have a solution for you! For all of you expectant parents out there, here are some quirky and unique names for you to choose from, courtesy of Thailand!

There’s Einstein and Atom, Mafia and Boss,

Sibling pairs like Versailles and Venice, Violin and Piano,

Classics such as Cheese and Milk, Bike and Book, or

Stand-outs like PlanktonBouquet, Touch, and Titi,

You can be Famous, the Best, a Bonus, or just Wow Wow!

You can be a Party or you can be Mild, cold as Ice or a Saint,

Then there’s First and Third, or simply Nine.

You can be a Proud Captain or you can be a Fluke.

Or you can be the most polite kid around and be Thankyou.

Whatever you choose, know that you hang the Sun over the Earth!

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Living in Thailand has its idiosyncrasies, as every place does. I embrace its vibrancy and quirkiness. One of the things that I find so different than other places I’ve lived, so uniquely Thai, is the names people have. I’m not talking about their names in Thai, most of which consist of 23 letters and are unpronounceable to me. What I’m referring to are the English names they choose for their children. Some may say they’re unusual, others may say they’re weird. I’m going to go with quirky.

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