Chinese Excitement

One day, in the middle of the summer before I began 4th grade, I was riding my bike up and down the my street.

Hark! There is a girl on the steps of her house! "She must be new!" I exclaimed.

At that moment the new girl became my best friend.

For 5 years, we lived three doors apart.

She then moved to Bolivia, and didn't move back until I was senior in high school. Regardless, we kept in touch the entire time. She came back to "the States" once a year, during the summer. Just like old times, we'd spend long days swimming, sweating, and being silly in general.

Andrea and I have been friends for 20 years.

Andrea is now a fourth grade teacher at the International School of Beijing. During my semester
of interning in the fourth grade, we set up pen pals with her class in China.

Why the excitement?

Tomorrow - she is coming to visit the class. All the way from China! I can't wait to hear the questions, see the confused but excited faces, and learn the activity from a teacher that teaches on the other side of the world.


Holiday Cheer in a Picture


Mind Block

I have finished my first placement in my PDS program. Part of the process during internship is the creation of a 5 - 7 page reflective essay about this experience in relation to myself, as a developing teacher, demonstrating my "ability to reflect upon and analyze your development as a teacher."

Okay, great! I'm reflective. I am evolving through this program. I can write about this.

Except I can't. I've been staring at the same paragraph for hours.


I walk away from my computer, throw in some laundry, distract my mind for a few minutes...
only to come back to the same paragraph. There is a wall in my mind, and I can't break through.

I re-read previous philosophies and case study reports.

I walked my dog.

I started a new blank page -one without the paragraph - the paragraph I am hoping is my wall.

Nope. There it is again... the mind block.

My candle wick is a little low. I know I can pull it together and get it done, but I wonder how authentic, expressive, reflective it will be when I am having such a hard time creating it.

Meanwhile, I'm coming up with great alternatives to this anthology review (all of which would create the same mental block, I'm sure). Video anthologies, art work or reflective photography display, AH! Reflective blogs! Dr. G - what do you think?

I only hope that when the wall breaks, the flood will be overwhelming with reflective statements and great writing prompts.

Here it goes again...


The Great Purging of Post-Its

In response to a classmates story: "I liked the way you used excavation marks."

Visualize at will.


Today I was talking to a class about reasons why people move. We focused on reasons why they landed here, in Annandale.

The discussion, as you can imagine, was lively and interesting - hearing all of these various stories about families: reasons why they moved to the U.S. or Virginia. It was clear for some students that they were spouting off stories told to them by parents... when they were mere babies during the transition. Regardless, I was intrigued... as was the class.

Some things we shared:

I heard about bombings,
mothers moving to go to college and falling in love with fathers
(and on to birth mini-4th graders),
parents moving for jobs, leaving mom and baby at home to move later,
moving closer to relatives,
planned relocations to the states for a new life in a rich country,
good hospitals and medical care (for a child with many surgeries in his past),
military relocation,
"family want American dream."

I got goosebumps. I also went with a student-initiated tangent about military relocation.
We talked about why this area might attract military personnel, and why military bases are common around here as opposed to some other places in the country. Being from a Navy family, my first example was about a naval base.

Shoot forward 5 minutes - after we had moved on.

Hand raised. I call on it.

"If there are *navel* bases, does that mean there are Belly Button Bases? Because navels, in this one book I read, meant belly buttons."

Discovery: Navel does not mean the same as Naval. And no, there are no such things as Belly Button Bases. Brainstorming activity turned homophone lesson.

The Dog Protest

How could I possibly disturb him?

He spent about two hours curled up next to it,
paws casually stretched out across the cover.

He's been very understanding of his owner...
accepting the brief walks,
the rushing outside between reflections,
no tummy rubs, late nights of lesson plans...

But today, he had had enough.
He wasn't going to lose out to another
night of reading and school work.
He pulled out the big guns.

And for 10 whole minutes, it was glorious.

Letting it go

I have been festering about something for days.

I started simply reflecting,
strategically tip-toeing around my thoughts
trying to figure out a way to approach them
and slowly disect out the negative
while leaving just the positive and slowly carrying it away.

But that negative just won't budge.

So I stew, bubble over, steam,
until I have a crinkle in my brow.

I'm sure I have a new wrinkle, right there in the middle of my forehead.
The wrinkle that represents


I have given myself a deadline. A deadline until this, although unresolved, becomes



Homework, I Love You

Homework, I love you. I think that you're great.
It's wonderful fun when you keep me up late.
I think you're the best when I'm totally stressed,
preparing and cramming all night for a test.

Homework, I love you. What more can I say?
I love to do hundreds of problems each day.
You boggle my mind and you make me go blind,
but still I'm ecstatic that you were assigned.

Homework, I love you. I tell you, it's true.
There's nothing more fun or exciting to do.
You're never a chore, for it's you I adore.
I wish that our teacher would hand you out more.

Homework, I love you. You thrill me inside.
I'm filled with emotions. I'm fit to be tied.
I cannot complain when you frazzle my brain.
Of course, that's because I'm completely insane.
~Kenn Nesbitt



Yesterday I was looking at my college online library database.
Just for kicks? Nah.
I was curious as to what kind of school psychology articles had been published about a certain topic… so I got a start.

Well, I came across this study that discussed how self-monitoring behavior in children helped them in classroom management and, I’m inferring here - increased learning. What they did was interesting.

The researchers gave some 3 students in a special ed classroom a device…

The MotivAider.

This device would buzz (vibrate) every so often, reminding the students to self-monitor their behavior.

Imagine that. Instead of “Jimmy, check your body language” or “Sally, use your library voice,” teachers can just have each student wear a monitor that buzzes at timed intervals to remind them to be on task, and to snap them back to earth.
Or you push a button and it buzzes.

I realize the implications, and the invasive measures this involves… but I am interested more on your reaction to the thought of such a device.

Buzz. Focus.
Buzz. Stop talking.
Buzz. You’re doing math.
Buzz. You should be reading.
Buzz. Hi.



Curtsy, Then Bow. Don't Forget To Smile.

This is a picture of my backyard neighbor's house.

The lights are for me.

I mean really, who else could they possibly be for? It's not like they hang out on the deck in the winter. I'm the only neighbor that can see them.

So... therefore, I have deemed them mine. They are thanking me for the wonderful recitals that I perform throughout the house - dancing from end to end with all the lights on.

Talk about pressure...

You perform. You're rated. You breathe a sigh of relief.

And then you learn new lines, new moves, and

start your new show on a new stage.

Thanks for the lights.

*Photographers note: I didn't realize until after I took the picture that my shutter was still open. That is the reason for the blurred shot - the crazy lights - and the illusion that it was actually light out when I took the picture. They are regular lights, not magic, a lit tree in the window, and it is actually pitch black outside at the time of the shot. (The lights seem circular b/c I was moving the camera in that motion).


You've Got Mail

They arrived unannounced.

No strange male voice chirping from the small speakers by the screen.

One after the other,

each with a different name.

Letters sent in the middle of the night,

from a place where tomorrow is already half over.

E-pal to E-pal

We open the message and leap into our new relationships




students in another world.



This is my final week in my current placement. My cartwheels look weak, floundering, and lazy. Excitement halted by the realization that moving on will mean leaving this room.

These students and their strange quirks.
These learners and the look in their eyes when they think they "get it,"
and the feeling I get when they do.
These lessons.
This curriculum (I heart VA History).
This on-again-off-again smartboard, the vindictive boyfriend that it is.
This CF, mentor, teacher, colleague, and fellow admirer of choreographical genius.
With each lesson, with each hour, with each day that rolls by, I am closer to the closure of this step in my journey. There are no more "If I can't get to this today, I can do it on Monday." There is a strange sense of urgency as the week rolls away.

I slowly pack up my things. Those post-it notes that clutter my desk, and my mind. The morning meeting activity I never got to (it was a backup - of course). My jacket. My pencil. My highlighter. My homework checking pen.

Will those second graders appreciate the slight sparkle to my ink?


Questions on Fire

Tonight there will be many students from class having nightmares.

Something about the sun blowing up to 4 times its current size and then imploding.

"Don't worry," he said. "You'll all be dead by then."

For when I'm solo...

Hold this here, in front of your mouth. Hold it there while you talk.

Like a superstar on stage, I will have it playing in my ear as I go live.


Podcasting and Air Quotes

The introduction of blogging into my life was swift and steady. I had been ready to blog for a long while, and even started one a while back.... but that just fell off my radar.

Jump ahead a few years, months, weeks, whatever. Thanks, Tree, for bringing me back to life.
Pause to celebrate my blog revival with a quick internal party. (Insert pause here).

As I reinstate my blogging, I have also embraced technology as a whole. Blackboard to blogging to podcasting, I clicked on one link to the next on my quest to understand the infinite possibilities of what the future could hold for my, or anyone's, classroom.

Right about this time a new guest arrived in our classroom - a guest to discuss and create a PODCAST!

Talk about perfect timing!
I morning-messaged it, I put it into lessons, I had students listen to a podcast made by another 4th grade class. I threw it out there like it was my job. Which, really, it is.

So we welcomed our guest - and we listened to him talk enthusiastically about the world of podcasting. We listened when he said we should keep our bodies still. We raised our hands when he asked for responses. And we sat stiffly as he approached with his super-scary ipod + microphone - and held it 2 inches from our mouths as we sputtered our thoughts.

Students, armed with the task of not stating names when they were being recorded, immediately adopted the word "friends" to describe classmates. A slip of the tongue, the release of a name, was followed by a slow hisssssss by nearby "friends."

I can't remember what he said; one of the friends. I do remember him using the term friends in his podcast response.

But he had a special touch.

Appropriately used air quotes.

Getting it off of the post-it and onto a page...

I have a cousin in first grade.
2 Vision tests + fitting for 2 new pairs of glasses = 4 eyes.
He called me today to tell me. I wear glasses.

4 eyes told me that now he will be able to read big books and use a highlighter.
(Which he sees me do often, with my glasses on).

I said "What big book are you going to read first with your new glasses?"

He says "It depends."

Me, stumped about his direction: "Depends on what?"

His reply: "What color highlighter can I borrow?"


Student: "What do you call it when you times something by five?"

Intern (me): "Um," (thinking of appropriate modeling of response)
"Could you please ask your question using different words?"
(Phew, that sounded okay).

Student: "Yes." (How official).
"When you times something by two, it is called 'doubling', times three is 'tripling', things like that. What do you call it when you times it by five?"

Awkward silence.

Student: "Would I call it pentupling?"

Me - amazed at his strategy in creating a new word:
"Way to use your prefixes! Who can we ask?"

Sidenote: Student wrote a note to our math specialist about this prediction, we are awaiting response.

Sidenote 2: Great thing number 1,487 that I learned from my CF: If you don't know, have them write a letter to an "expert." Even if you do know, confirmation is good!
I am empowered with each toss of a post-it into the trash can.


On Deck

Break out of the dugout.

Shirt tucked in, hair pulled back.

Solid aluminum. My trembling hands reach, sensing the life

–hits – homeruns – celebrations – frustrations – strikeouts – heartbreaks - tears

I stand there with history. I stand there with painful determination.

I watch from the circle.

I watch someone else in a world so close to me that I can’t even imagine myself there.

Their eyes are fixed. See how the feet move. Teeth clenched. See the hands firmly grip the

Watch the natural.

Stand ready

Stand the same

Stand alone


Watching the hit – the slice – the power – the cheering – the strength – the love – the dedication – the practice

The home run.

On deck.

First mumblings...

It's a new world, this classroom. There were natives there before me that constructed and created the land. They brought and bought and built goods. The reminder of the power through the name posted everywhere. They are king (or queen). Fine by me.
Can I borrow your stuff? You know... the stuff that you worked so hard to create. The stuff that you bought with the money your Grandma gave you for your birthday. The books that you first read while sitting on the floor in the library, then in the book store. The materials you sat through hours of lectures, seminars, and meetings for. Can I borrow all that stuff and every ounce of knowledge that goes with it?
The relationship created by a mentor-mentee is miraculous. The sharing of the resources, materials, and of the mind. The ultimate tools of an educator. An open environment that is handed over as a place to explore. The guinea pigs that sit (sometimes painfully) through the mumblings of a frazzled mess.
It's fun. The kids. But they are suddenly not kids anymore. They are in the classroom - they are students. They attach. They detach. Who am I to tell them what to do? Students know the "boss" - the king or queen - of the room. While you speak the same words, they hold different meanings to the GP's. "Please check your voices" (mousy) becomes "check your voices" (Intern level 1) becomes "CHECK your voices" (level 2) which then becomes "VOICES OFF" (Level -also known as "When is she coming back from the copy room?!?!"). It's not just getting them to listen... it's making it look like you have control. Just like they do. Just like the real teacher. They know the difference. It's not a blind taste test - the difference is clear.
I'm teaching them THIS? I'm their only source of THIS information? The accountability - suddenly it's not my knowledge of teaching that I'm worried about, but the ability of the student to learn. Ah-ha. I get it. That was the plan all along. Although that's still not on any rubric I have seen for my classes.
So, it's not my stuff. It's yours. And you are so gracious as to open your door, your drawers, and your life as a teacher to me. I, your student, try to look calm as you hand me your class. I make photo copies and I make lessons and I make mistakes. I will make you proud, I will teach them SOMETHING - eventually.
Sharing the laughs, the sillies, the inside jokes - that's my sanity. Sharing the resources, the knowledge, the ability - that's my life.

"Too late for second guessing To late to go back to sleep Is time to trust my instincts Close my eyes... And leap....
It's time to try defying gravity I think i'll try defying gravity and you can't pull me down."

In between

Of teaching in the classroom and doing assignments for grad classes.
Prioritize, they say.
Well, there are 21 priorities in one column, and they all have names and faces. And they will learn something from what I do (or so I hope).
In the other column is one priority, my learning (and my grade).
Where's the in-between?
Today's dilemna:
Creating imaginary word study groups for 20-something imaginary students - including instructional plans VERSUS Planning for lessons that will teach REAL students - fun, interactive, and significantly more tangible.
... or the lesser-known option of checking the class blackboard site every 30 minutes while writing a few blogs...
in between.