December 8, 2021 – my daily 3 things

I am grateful for honesty above all else; I am grateful for all that I am learning about myself and the world through this journey of healing; I am grateful that I will be traveling abroad again this summer with students- WWII AND THE WESTERN FRONT. #gratitude #3things #choosejoy

December 5, 2021 – my late night 3 thingS

Have I mentioned the red? Jk – I k ow I have, but it just brings me such great joy, especially this old red truck hand painted by my girl Jenna years ago. I so love it; I am grateful for mini Reece Cups straight from the freezer – yum; I am grateful for my cozy, warm socks that I got in California with Baby Bird. They just make me smile. #choosejoy #gratitude #3things

Avignon, France

June 24, 2016

 

Winning the gift of gab – and all it takes is a kiss!

Kissing the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle in Cork, Ireland

June 20, 2015 – Day 5 of the Britannia with Education First Tours.

Blarney Castle: The grounds were gorgeous and green and views from the top, well, gorgeous.

We climbed to the top of the castle and had to lie down and hang out backwards over an opening with quite a drop.  For this gal terrified of heights – the climb alone could have prevented the experience, but I prevailed.  Then this nonsense.  I did it, though – and that would be another item to mark off of the bucket list.

The day was warm and sunny as we strolled through the park.  Of course, the best part of the day was that I got to share it with my son…  Too much?  Yea – that was rather corny – or was it Blarney?

As the day ended and we rode the bus to our next destination, I gathered all of the maps and brochures and my colored pens and recorded the event in my trip SMASH Book.

Off to the Rock of Cashel!

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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.

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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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Batter up!

I just sat through the first scrimmage of our girls softball team for this season and boy was it cold!   So, after coaching track and going on a run with my husband, the weather seemed tolerable enough – oh no — no, no.  The lack of clothing on my body and the failure to stretch after my run, and the (what felt like) 20 degree drop – not a good combo – I have some tight muscles!

Anyway, I enjoy going to the sporting events of my students.  I try so hard so go at least once every season to every sport.  My goal is 2-3, but sometimes I just cannot make that happen.

As I looked at the softball team tonight I realized I either currently teach or have taught every girl on the team, by far the highest volume of students of any sport.  And, although my fingers maintain little feeling still as I type this post – my pride for these girls knows no bounds.  Although I left after 2 hours and they still had more game to play, at one point they were down zero to 7.  They fought their way back to an 11-7 lead.  Nothing makes me more certain that I am in the right place when I see young folks rise above and conquer.  It had nothing to do with me – I was merely a spectator.  But, boy it felt good to see them fight and find that success.

I do not know at this time if they won the game, but they definitely won my heart (too much?).  Well  it’s true – and I know that I am a big sap!  If you get a chance to attend a sporting event at a local high school I encourage you to take it.  These kids work tirelessly at their sport.  We often hear comments like “this generation is so lazy”, “these kids are so entitled”, “no one wants to work for anything anymore”.  But these kids go to school all day, maintain their grades with homework (sometimes hours), and practice every single day for 2 hours after school – not to mention friends, jobs and chores.  And yes, I put friends on the list because, let’s face it, relationships of all kinds are work.  These kids work hard. These kids have drive.  I was so tired after work today…but then I just remembered how tired my students must be, too – and so I go and sit in the cold.  Way to go girls!

***update – I wrote this a few days ago – the girls won the game.  I have since been to a few more games and they continue to thrive! Go Canes!

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Yanks out for a run in Killarney, Ireland

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Me and my travel buddy, Kelly

I love to grab my phone and go out for an early morning run while on tour with my students.  Unfortunately, exhaustion tends to take over and the rest becomes more important as we move through our 14 hour days of walking and sight-seeing while traveling abroad.

 

Still, when I am able to do this I am able to see a few things that I would have otherwise missed.  Plus, running through town can really give you a sense of what it is like.  I mean, you are on foot and don’t have the protection of a vehicle or a large group.   You smell smells and hear sounds that you would otherwise miss – things that really add to the ambiance of a town.   If it feels unsafe – you usually know it right away.  Still, I would never run where I thought I might be unsafe.  We always discuss the area with our tour consultant and folks at the hotel to ensure our safety – and I would never run alone.

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Our Hotel in Killarney

While in Killarney, our first stop on the Britannia with EF Tours, my travel buddy and I went out for a short run – about 2 miles.  We went away from town in the opposite direction from which we arrived.  It did not disappoint.  Our first lesson was to run on the correct side of the path.  We were running on the right and the running path/bike path follows the rules of the road.  We ran into only one person before we realized our error and began keeping to the left.

First, we saw a flock of sheep in a field with a lovely backdrop.  OUR FIRST FLOCK!!!2015-06-18 17.19.53

We ran to a bridge as saw this lovely view.2015-06-18 17.18.00

We went out a mile and then backtracked.  There was a lovely gentleman selling strawberries near this bridge and he gave us a taste.  They were fresh and yummy.

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Our tour bus never did make it this way.  I feel like I won a special prize when I get to experience these places with a short run.  Stinky clothes remain the problem.  I can put them in ziplock baggies with dryer sheets, but they really need a washing machine!

 

 

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Read about more group travel trip here.

Read about my first marathon here.

 

 

 

the wrong kind of goodbye

As a teacher I am used to saying goodbye.  Students move in and out of the district, always coming and going.  Farewells naturally occur at the end of every school year as I pass along my little cherubs to the next lucky soul that gets to touch their lives. Often times I ignore my feelings of loss and try to focus on the next batch of students that lie in wait.  However, when I lose a student to death…well, that is just the wrong kind of goodbye.

I recently attended the funeral services of a sweet young lady named Danielle.  A senior at my high school, she had yet to see her 18th birthday, had yet to recieve her diploma, had yet to live her dreams.  I taught Danielle when she was a freshman and although there is a certain detachment that occurs between student and teacher when the student is no longer a regular in the classroom – there is always a connection as our life paths have crossed.

Filling the needs of students drives me as a teacher.  Sometimes I fill their minds with knowledge and growth.  Sometime I fill their heart with love and acceptance.  Sometimes I fill their bellies.  Sometimes, honestly, I don’t know what I am doing or if I am making a difference in their lives at all – but they always, always make a difference in mine.  I carry hope for all students that enter and leave my classroom that they live long lives, find joy and love, reach their goals, and live free from despair.  So, when I say goodbye to them because they move on to another grade – I never really say goodbye – until it’s the wrong kind of goodbye.

Danielle drove off the road and into some trees.  Two passengers also died.  One survived.  Danielle’s speed led to the accident and an unforgiving road on a sharp turn sealed her fate.  Our community loses too many young people to these roads.  We say too many of the wrong kind of goodbyes.  As I sat at her funeral service and looked at all of the beautiful flowers, I was surrounded by current and former students. Oddly, I focused on a wasp thavasflowers-colorful-sympathy-casket-spray_maxat had found his way into the chapel.  This wasp, rather than hovering on the mounds of colorful blooms that were gathered around the coffin, sputtered at the ceiling as if trying to escape the pain and suffering in the room.  I remember thinking that his flight path was staggered and haphazard; misguided and misdirected – simply all over the place, as if a strong, shifiting wind kept him from going his intended direction. It seemed so symbolic of life sometimes.  Determined, however misguided, he pounded himself into the white ceiling again and again to no avail – no escape.  Eventually, he gave up and landed on the chandelier and remained motionless, as if he had found peace.  When the preacher began to speak I lost sight of the wasp as I focused on the words of the man.  Tears do not scare me, nor do I shy away from public displays of emotion, especially in a situation like this.  But, I was trying to be strong for the students around me.  So when I found myself overcome with emotion I searched for the wasp again in an attempt to distract myself. However, much to my disappointment, I could not find the wasp.  The wasp was gone.  The wasp had found his way out; he was free.  Right then, as my eyes swelled with tears, I realized that Danielle is also free.  She is free from all of this pain and suffering.  Her struggles have ended and she has found peace with her Savior. Still, I remain, looking at her grieving parents, and cannot help but feel that this is the wrong kind of goodbye.

When I returned home I did as expected – I hugged my chldren, cried into their shoulders, and told them that I love them.  I spoke to them about speeding and reckless decisions.  They are teenagers, afterall.  “Please don’t ever do that to me,” I told my son.  “I would be lost without you,” I told my daughter.  They heard my message; they felt my love and despair for Danielle and the wrong kind of goodbye.

 

**The featured photo is of a banner that the students signed as a way to help them greive and say goodbye to their friend, their classmate. Sadly, this has becomre tradition.

 

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Arms waving, feet flying – This is my life!!

Rome, Italy: Picture this  – a 10 year old American boy running full speed down the cobblestone street – arms spread out and waving in the air – excitedly and repeatedly screaming at the top of his lungs “This is my liiiifffffe!”,   “This is my liiiifffffe!”

I wish I would have snapped a photo of this little boy. Happiness consumed him until he actually burst and could no longer contain himself.  Pure joy.  And pure energy. After we witnessed this, my travel buddy and I decided to strike this pose whenever we were feeling overcome with that joy of realizing how amazing it is that we can visit and experience such beautiful places.

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This is our life – in Florence, Italy

Travel with us through this blog!  So far, you can climb to the top of Mt. Vesuvuius, visit the ruins of Pompeii, or spend a day in England visiting Stonehenge, Abbey Road and the home of Sherlock Holmes.  I lead student tours through Europe – follow me to see where we go next!

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