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Solace in Books

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Today I am thankful for the written word and the fact I can still escape to the safety of a good book.

It was a lazy day and I didn’t leave the house. To me, there is truly no better way to “celebrate” the break then spending the day not traveling. I got up, got ready for the day and then planted my butt right on the couch with my iPad to read. During the school year I read, I read PD books, I read student papers, I read book club books. But I don’t have time to read my books of choice. Sure I listen to audiobooks but that’s not the same as sitting down and truly losing yourself in a story.

For my entire life, I have found solace in books. They have always been my safe space and happy place.  No matter what is going on in my life, a good book can take me out of it. When we moved countless times growing up. When family pets died. When my parents got divorced. Books were always there to help me through. While today I had no major life-changing events to run from, the sanctuary I found while reading was no different. As I curled up under the blanket with my dog on my lap I felt the world start to fade away. Instead of being stuck in Midland, TX, I was transported to a place where I was trying to stop terrorists from destroying the world with new aged technology. As I read, the stress of student worries, bills, and the upcoming state testing melted away.  I was left with all that really mattered, my book and me. Sometimes the break from the daily drain is exactly what the doctor ordered.

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Cotton Fields

Driving today from Round Rock to Midland, I worked to notice my surroundings. There were many things that caught my eye but none more than the fields. I was struck by the beautiful juxtaposition of last years fields and those newly prepared for the upcoming season. The idea of life and death so clearly contrasted inspired the following poem for two voices.

Cotton Fields

I am death

I am life

The Season is over

The Season is beginning
My fields have been stripped

My fields have been plowed

Left as bare as a tree in winter

Groomed to create new life

The farmer rakes in the riches I have grown for him

The farmer puts his blood, sweat, and tears into me

My crop is gone

My crop is planted

All that remains is abused cotton

Neat rows prepare to produce cotton

Soon the wind will carry even that away

Soon white clouds on stems will burst from my depths

Leaving only stable earth brimming with potential

Prosperous boll ready to be harvested

The cycle continues

Before long I will breathe new life

Before long death will call to me

 

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Field Day Fun

Yesterday was Field Day at my school. The PE coaches tried something new this year where instead of classes rotating together, students were allowed to choose where they wanted to spend their time. Everything was run on a coin system. Green Stations earned coins while the red stations charged a coin. That way kids had to participate in some stations that required athletic skills while still getting to enjoy the fun things like blow up slides. This set up was also really great for the teachers who got to roam around and keep an eye on kids while participating in Field Day activities. I spent my time with my “partner in crime” Donna.

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We started out our day by walking over to the giant blow-up slide. As you might imagine, seeing their teachers go flying down the giant slide definitely got some students attention. Quite a few of them rushed over to us to ask us what we thought of the slide and ask us what other activities we had done. This is where three of our girls joined us leading us to different stations.

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Our next stop was the indoor slide. This one wasn’t a race and, it was a lot more narrow but still a thrilling ride. We all enjoyed climbing to the top before the plummet back to the safety of the cafeteria floor.  After our rousing ride, we decided it was time to move on to some of the other stations. We headed next door to play a life-size version of one of my favorite games…Hungry Hippos.

In hungry hippos partners work together to get to the opposite side of the gym and collect yellow balls into a bucket. I have actually done a similar version of the game with a cup and easter eggs in my classroom. It was really exciting to get to try the game out for myself. First, our girls showed us how to do the activity. Then, it was Donna and my turn. Being the truly competitive person that I am, we worked our tails off trying to beat our kids but, unfortunately, the girls beat us by 1 ball.

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After hungry hippos, the girls decided it was time to go to some Green ticket earning stations. They were running low and even though Donna and I didn’t need tickets to do the fun activities, the girls did. Luckily, next to HH was a bouncy ball race. The object was to bounce all the way to the other side of the gym and back the fastest. I can honestly say, it was A LOT harder than it looked. But again, so much fun. It reminded me of my own field days when this was one of the best activities. We continued to some other green stations including, egg races, and throwing a football through a target.

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Now with plenty of tickets in hands, we all headed over to get some temporary tattoos. The choices were abundant and we spent a few minutes trying to figure out which tattoo would be best. The girls went with little mustaches on their fingers while I picked a beautiful butterfly that matched my class shirt. Now even more glamorous we had a decision to make. Where should we end our epic field day?

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After some consideration, we decided that it was best to end right back where we started at the colossal blow-up slide. The girls went and got in line as Donna and I talked with some of the other 5th-grade teachers. Donna didn’t want to go on the slide again but, I couldn’t wait to go soaring down again. I convinced one of my other team members to race. In line, I might have gotten a little too cocky saying I was going to win. She ended up whooping me but that’s okay because it was still a blast.

All in all, this was the best Field Day I’ve ever had and it has left me hungry for next year.

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Too Tired to Write

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Coming home from school, I can hear my bed singing the sweet serenade of an afternoon nap. The exhaustion from the week has compiled leaving my body drained and my eyelids struggling to stay awake even to set an alarm. “Just a quick nap then I’ll do something with my Friday night.” I think as my eyelids droop closed for a final time.

The loud music startles me awake, my eyes pop open. 7:00. “That nap wasn’t enough,” I think as I reset the alarm and return to the land of dreams. Again the alarm screams pulling me from my sleep. 9:00. “I guess I should get up and eat my dinner now.” I think, upset by the idea of having to untangle myself from the soft blankets surrounding me. “Do I need to eat?” I ponder; playing the whats more important game with myself. Food, sleep, food, sleep. My mind bounces between the two ideas trying to make a decision between the two. Sleep I decide. Sleep is more essential.

I’m just about to close my eyes and drift away again when I remember…I haven’t done my SOL yet today. Dismay fills my body as I realize that I will, in fact, have to get up just for a couple of minutes to blog. “I’m too tired to write,” I think to myself. But, perseverance and a guilty sense of responsibility still drag me to my computer as I start my post. “Coming home from school…”

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Noticing like a Writer- SOLSC 8 of 31

slice-of-life_individualIn every Teaching Writing class that I’ve ever taken, the teacher, professor, or coach has talked about teaching students to notice things as a writer. Instead of just walking down the hall the key is to notice the small details: the sun streaming through the window, the hushed whispers, the smell of cafeteria food mixed with sweaty 5th-grader. For the past 3 years, I have been talking to kids about how they should be working to notice these little things. “You are surrounded by brilliance every day, you just need to notice it and write about it.” I even bought each kid a mini notebook to record their noticings in this year. The funny thing is I’ve never tried to do it for more than a couple of days. Well, taking part in SOL has really changed my perspective. This is not some easy task. Noticing things like a writer is HARD!

It’s one thing to notice the small details for a day or two. However, it’s something totally different to do it every day. Especially, when you are trying to look at the daily ins and outs with a new lens. How can I make my daily schedule (which is hauntingly similar Monday through Friday) something new and exciting? Where can I find some new detail that will inspire my next great post? When do I have time in my day to metaphorically “stop and smell the roses?” As I sit trying to write a post each night, I am mentally kicking myself for not spending more time noticing the things around me.

So, I am officially assigning myself the same homework I gave my students the first week of school. Every day I am going to try and record the inspiring details from my day. This can be my writer’s notebook list of ideas to come back to when I undoubtedly get writer’s block. Again. If nothing else, at least I’ve learned an important lesson about writing expectations for 5th graders.

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Construction Grief- SOLSC Day 7 of 31

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Right before winter break, the city of Round Rock and the State of Texas combined forces to ruin my commute. In the middle of a school day, they took down the bridge allowing traffic to cross over the interstate near my apartment. Over 3 months later and there is still no bridge. Losing this bridge was like losing a loved one. I went through all the stages of grief.

  1. Denial- “The bridge can’t be gone.” “Surely they would have posted signs warning drivers. It was there this morning.” Unfortunately for me, this stage didn’t last long. It was pretty hard to deny the bridge was gone when I could clearly see the large gap where the concrete structure used to stand.
  2. Anger- “How dare they take the bridge with no warning. Don’t they know they’re more than doubling my commute home.” This stage was filled with more than one angry rant to my mom. Her patient explanations of why it probably happened did nothing but stir up the rage boiling deep inside me. However, eventually, that indignation cooled to annoyance. Then I moved to the next stage.
  3. Bargaining- “I don’t need the bridge now. As long as its back by February.” “Ok fine, just let the bridge be back by March. I won’t ever complain about my old commute if the bridge comes back.” Bargaining did nothing. If I’m being honest, sometimes when the bargains didn’t work I slid back a step to more anger. Eventually, though, I started to realize that no amount of bargaining or anger would work.
  4.  Depression- “Why me? I’m never going to get my bridge back. Why god why?” I’m not proud to say that this stage was like a time machine to middle school angst. The self-centered dejection was all consuming. Some days, I’m surprised I finally reached the last stage…
  5. Acceptance- “Oh boy I get to drive home.” Now, every day as I exit the school and walk towards my car, I feel the excitement building. You may have felt a similar excitement before watching the next episode of a favorite TV show or picking up a new book in a beloved series. The anticipation of what is going to happen next. I have figured out a way to take the curse of the longer commute and make it a gift of time. Now every day on my way home from work I get to listen to an audiobook.

My more than doubled commute allows me ample time to get into the story and leaves me excited and waiting for the following days drive home. It’s interesting how a change in perspective (even if it takes a while) can change even what seems like a catastrophe into a blessing. And amazingly, I think I’m going to make it through my construction grief.

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Spring Awakening

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Small white flowers bloom

Waking the trees from their winter slumber

“It’s Spring!” they cheer

No more fridged wind

No more cloudy overcast days

No more oppressive winter coats

Instead, prepare for springtime joy

Warm breezes wrapping your body

Sunrays brightening your day

Swimsuits and Sunhats to lounge poolside

These thoughts seem to stir my hibernating soul

replacing the sleepy winter monotony

with the anticipation of the coming springtime.