3 thing April 12 – 2nd day of spring break – I’d rather be at the beach!!

I was a wreck – so nervous.

So, day 1 I got sinus surgery and it’s a 3-5 day recovery with 2 weeks of no strenuous activity. I did this over spring break so as not to miss more time in my classroom since the repeated sinus infections that knocked me out so bad doc gave me a Covid test every time, kept me from my job on multiple occasions. Then I got Covid!!! So it’s been a very rough school year.

So here is my list of gratitude I am grateful for the surgeon and health care professionals that did an amazing job of calming my nerves, healing my pain, and giving me tender and full attention. Special shout-out to Chris, the recovery nurse that was generous with the pain meds but more importantly, started singing I am woman…how did she know?

I am grateful to have people to surround me with their love and care as I recover at home.

I am grateful that I call tell the pressure behind my eyes – the one that made them feel like they would just explode out of my face – well, it’s gone. Praise God.

On another note…

I was called selfish and a bad teacher this week by another teacher. I was told I lacked commitment to my students and criticized how much school I had missed, my lessons and instruction. Although she has never been in my room. Nonetheless, it really hurt my feelings. She is a friend. No conversation, no asking me if I’m ok or why my absences have been so many. (See sinus story above).

Hmmmm chronic illness… Choosing to take care of my physical, or mental health for that matter, is not selfish. It’s called self-care.

I have accepted that she was having a bad day, is overwhelmed by her job, and chose to lash out at me. Perhaps even something personal going on as well. Teaching is hard and very demanding and we tend to ignore our own needs ALL THE TIME. So I repeat, self care is not selfish.

Basically? We had a misscommunication as I failed to receive information about a student. That prompted the unprofessional email. Anyway – I’m disappointed she was not made to apologize or did not do it on her own accord – as she also sent this to 2 administrators. I was told it was handled and now it’s a personnel issue and they can’t tell me anything. They printed my email of concern and put it in the file of this incident Total cop out.

I don’t want to reply to her attack in kind. I thought about bringing her flowers and just saying – something is clearly upsetting your life and I hope whatever it is gets better for you .. and give her the flowers. Be the bigger person and give her. Chance to apologize. She’s a teacher – she’s under too much stress – she snapped and had a target that morning and unfortunately it was me. I can empathize. But I can’t accept the personal attack. Standing up for yourself is a part of self care. I cannot let it go unnoticed. She is my friend. This could be just what SHE needs.

I am grateful that I have grown is gratitude, grace, and peace and I hope to continue to help others grow as well. You are never alone. Ask for help. Reach out – someone will reach back.

Have a great day everyone. And be kind to one another. You never know what their struggles are.

#gratitude #3things #choosejoy #selfcare #bekind

December 2, 2021 – 3 things of daily gratitude

I am grateful for the success I have had so far in my publishing venture – still so much to learn; I am grateful for the yummy bbq I had for dinner tonight but especially grateful for my company; I am grateful for the countdown app on my phone – very grateful – 63 more days. #choosejoy #gratitude #3things

December 1, 2021 – Today’s 3 things of Gratitude

I am grateful for the annual leave days that I am able to use however I see fit. I saw fit today; I am grateful for the love and compassion of those who I now surround myself with – I encourage you all to eliminate toxic people from your lives. Time is too precious; I am grateful for teachers of all kinds who have helped me on my journey through life. #choosejoy #3things #gratitude

a good day

I know many details have been left out as I sit exhausted at this computer tonight.  That young man, the one I helped so many years ago – helped me tonight. 

I woke up this morning and made it to duty sort of on time.

As I monitored the progress of my 1st period class and that of the 3 the day before I realized that not one student had managed to turn in the day’s assignment correctly or completely.  Partly due to tech glitches, but MOSTLY due to the refusal to read directions, the inability to follow directions, and the ridiculous notion that if the answer requires thought then it remains beyond their reach.

Moving on to 3rd period this morning, a student walked into my classroom, threw is Chromebook on my desk and said “You were my favorite teacher” and as he turned and made it halfway out the door he shouted “I’m dropping out!!!!”   Then he slammed the door as hard as he could.  I tried to cut him off in the parking lot only to run into the administrators also hot on his trail.  I had to return to the students in my room (well, at the door watching every step I took).  They wrangled him back inside.  My principal later informed me that they talked him off the ledge and he will, in fact, be returning.  Whew.

During lunch I covered a class for another teacher a watched one student cheat shamelessly on a test, while the others in the room poured their hearts and souls into the assessment. (Deep cleansing breath).

During the rest of planning I had to type up all the problems technology gave me the last two days and beg for a solution.  Tomorrow we will be reading from a textbook.

During the last class of the day I had the occasion to sit a student down in front of me to tell her that she is the reason I come to school every day – A wonderful project of our librarian.  She recorded it.  The student cried – and told me that I’m cheesy.  I loved it.

Also during that class we had to start off very harshly, as students have NOT been hitting deadlines for our yearbook publication.  100 emails and problems to address.  Finally, tech support showed up – God bless her at 3pm on a Friday afternoon, still chugging away to make my technology work for my students.

By the end of that class we were dancing, celebrating small victories of the day and embracing the weekend ahead.  Well, not the tech person – she continued to chug.

After school I sat in on a meeting of our student group that tries to bring coexistence to our school.  Their struggles are real.

Tonight at dinner I ran into a former student. As my husband and I sat at table next him. He looked familiar at first glance, but when I saw his smile all the memories from his 9th grade year came flooding back – everything but his name.  Ugh – I wish I could remember their names, especially when they weigh so heavy on my heart sometimes.  Of course later when he said it – I could not believe I could have ever forgotten it.  This young man had the kind of smile that made his whole face shine and you couldn’t help but smile back.  A young man filled with talent, charm, and whole lot of teenage angst.  That angst got him into some trouble that the charm could not get him out of, so he ended up going to another school and he was gone from our lives…like so many students that touch our hearts.  When I approached him at the checkout, it took a moment but then the recognition shocked across his face.  “Mrs. Bertram!!”   He looked healthy and happy and shared his excitement about his future.  Man, that made my day.

I know many details have been left out as I sit exhausted at this computer tonight.  That young man, the one I helped so many years ago – helped me tonight.  In fact, I think it is pretty safe to say that he inspired today’s post.  It’s the first time I have posted in over a year, I think.  I’ve been stuck.  Stuck in it all.  I am finding my way out.  If you write you know what a big deal that is; and if you don’t write – you’ll have to trust me.  When an individual can get you over a year long writer’s block – it’s a very big deal.   Thank you, young man.

It was a good day.

Book Club

Thanks, Kelly Gallagher, for the Book Club!

Year after year I have struggled with reluctant readers in my classroom.  I try and try to support outside reading and despise the read a book take a test option.  I want so badly to ignite a love of reading in each and every student.  I think I finally figured it out.

My students this year participated in a weekly book club (held in class).  They had to prepare for each meeting by doing the following:

  1. Reading the set number of pages – decided on by their own group on the first day.
  2. Annotating or take notes in some way in preparation for the weekly discussion.
  3. Writing down at least 4 discussion questions in their writer’s notebooks.
  4. Completing the weekly video recap- using the RECAP app – a great tool for formative assessment.
  5. Completing some sort of connection assignment (literary devices, vocabulary, context, artwork).

After the meeting they had to write a half page reflection about the discussions.  I love using the Writer’s Notebook for all of these assignments.

book-club-4book-club-1book-club-2book-club-5
Some groups were clearly more excited about reading than others – but they all did the reading.  This was just one of four classes and they were all begging me to do the project again.  They kept up with assignments, came prepared for discussions, and spoke passionately about their opinions.  They annotated their reading and were ready with evidence when they had to explain themselves.  Did some skip out on the work and only pretend – I am sure they did (I could probably tell you names) but I definitely had more meaningful reading than I have ever had before.

One of the hardest assignments for them was the artistic rendering – create something from nothing – inspired by the book.  They could take any component of the story to find inspiration to create ANYTHING.  They just did not know what to do with this kind of freedom.  I said art and most of them heard pencil drawing.

But then, some of them were very original – from dressing in costume as one of the characters, to baking a fresh rhubarb pie!

We are getting ready to embark on another round of Book Club.  I learned a lot from the last go ’round that I will implement.  I will let you know how it goes, so check back!

And remember – smart people read!

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The Pont du Gard Aqueduct

During our 2016 Tour we traveled more than 20,000 miles, starting in the US and traveling to Germany, France, Spain and Portugal.  An amazing 16 day trip.

June 24,2016  After the long day of the June heat of Avignon, France we journeyed to the ancient Roman Aqueduct – The Pont du Gard.

A large portion of the group joined the locals down at the river and took a little dip in the cold water of the Gardon River.

I wish we had known that to walk across the top of the structure a reservation must be made.  Still – a lovely treat on a long journey across France.

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God Bless Mr. Gale Wendell Marshall

Last Sunday I read the obituary of a man that changed my life – dead at 68 years old after over 40 years of teaching.  His words and kindness supported me through my toughest times as I always remembered the way he made me feel as though I mattered, as though I had value.  He taught me compassion and how to listen.  More importantly, he taught me how to be, well, me.

1985  We get used to the way things are sometimes and just don’t realize that there may be a better way – especially when we are young.  Children and teenagers often do not know of hope and future due to lack of life experiences – or, unfortunately, due to dreadful life experiences.

My parents loved me and had no idea what was happening to me and I was always too scared to tell them – so typical.  I did not want to hurt them. I began high school much like I completed junior high and elementary school – by blindly walking through the motions –  being driven by the choices made around me, about me, to me – rather than by my own choices. This is what I thought life was. I was soft spoken and painfully shy and always trying to make someone else happy. I believed I had no control, no voice.  I felt worthless, lost, and invisible.  I was suicidal. Enter Mr. Gale Marshall.

1987  As he taught me to value myself,  I began to realize that I do have a future.  I began to find my voice and test it out.  As I tried to decide what I wanted to do with my life, I continued to struggle; I barely graduated high school due to attendance issues.  I did not have adults in my personal life that knew how to get to college and my parents could not afford to send me, anyway.  Unfortunately, the guidance counselors only spoke to those that knew what to ask.  Through the years Mr. Marshall greeted me with care and concern and always took a moment to check in – always willing to listen.  His genuine compassion reminded me daily that I mattered and that I could do whatever I set out to do.  I graduated and decided that I wanted to be the one to find the invisible child.  I wanted to be a teacher.

It took me nine years to earn my degree – that’s a post for another day.  When I won District Teacher of the Year in 2015, the speech I gave to the auditorium full of teachers described the impact Gale Marshal had on my life.  It was not one intervention or a specific act, but rather who he was every day that saved this little girl.  He had no idea the impact he made. No idea.

Thank you, Mr. Marshall.  May you rest in peace knowing that every day I try to continue your work and continue to seek out the invisible children in my classroom and lift them up with love. God bless you.

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Successfully Setting Expectations for Group Travel

Group travel can be stressful when you are the one in charge of everyone having an enjoyable and positive experience – while staying in the group and remaining safe.  Most unhappiness in our lives comes from unmet expectations.  Sometimes that is because we did not know what to expect and we were left to our own limited experiences to set the level of expectation.  This is disastrous for group travel.  I do my very best to make expectations very clear before students and parents even enroll.  However, they need to hear them again and again – I promise.

I have three departure meetings for every trip.  These meetings serve several purposes.  First, the travelers begin to get comfortable with one another.  After all, it is going to be close quarters for about two weeks.  Second, the parents not traveling can begin to feel a little more comfortable about sending their student abroad – in their eyes alone.  Third, these meetings allow foparents late busr repetitive statements about the rules and consequences.  Fourth, multiple events still need to be decided upon as far as optional excursions, extensions and the like. They need to know they have a voice and are part of the decision making.  Fifth and final, all of the nuances of student group educational travel need to be addressed. (Like, early is on time, and on time is late.)

The two photos used in this post are of students and parents waiting outside of a Paris hotel for a bus that is over an hour late.  Preparing them ahead of time for such a possibility (of things sometimes go wrong) kept their attitudes positive and we all found a way to entertain ourselves while we waited.

The most important discussion I have with them is about the contagious attitudes of the group.  You can either choose to sit and nit pick every little thing, or you can find the beauty of everything around you, embrace the experience, and remain positive so that everyone can enjoy the trip.  Of course – I then point out that this a great way to live life, as well.   We had a choice – stand around and complain to one another about the wait – or make fun, unforgettable memories.

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