Daring Myself: Be Too Happy

I have a superstitious thing about being too happy because if I am, that will surely tempt the demons lurking and show me. On the other hand what good is it to live that way. Why not be joyful when it is so obviously present.

So here’s to a whole lot of good showing up this week.

First – The community of writers at Slice of Life (SOL)  sponsored by Two Writing Teachers is simply beautiful. This group has given me a space to share my family, my work, and my thoughts. To be something I didn’t really feel I could be, a writer.  And they in turn share things that add so much to my life. I use to go workout or sleep in on Tuesday mornings. Now my Tuesday mornings are spent reading and often crying over pieces written by the lovely people who contribute to SOL.  Thank you, thank you Slicers. I you have added so much to my life.

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Second – The Nerdy Book Club’s 2013 nominations inspired me to spend some time and money ordering books this weekend. They are trickling in now thanks to Amazon Prime. Every night I come home to packages. Yesterday it was God Got a Dog by Cynthia Rylant and Marla Frazee and My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish by Mo O’Hara.

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Today Stitches by Ann Lamott and Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo showed up. These books are like chocolate cove2013-12-17 20.38.28red carmel. Absolutely perfect. The thing is, as I open each book to give it a look see, read the first or first several chapters, I think, “I must give this to…” I then wrap it  and make a note to reorder another copy for me.

Third  – My students did a post assessment in information writing today. We have been working on the report writing unit from TCRWP’s Units of Study. These post assessments fill me with a combination of excitement and dread. Excitement: I want to know what they can do, but also dread: oh no what if they haven’t grown.

I read through them just to get an initial feeling for the work, and for the most part, it is good. I’ll slice and dice them over break with the TCRWP’s exquisitely designed rubric, but the overall verdict is thumbs up.

Fourth –  A skype with Ryan Scala and his third grade writers about information writing was the high point for my students’ Tuesday. My season starved kiddos were so excited to hear that there was snow falling in New York. They still are boggled by the time difference.

It was also a treat to talk with Ryan about all things literary as we prepared for our classrooms’ first meeting. The technology is great but it is nothing without the human elements attached. Connecting with passionate students and teachers is simply wonderful.

Fifth – Nerdlution continues.nerdlution-button-tiny-01-1

All this and it’s only Tuesday.

Celebrate: Our First Classroom Skype

celebrate link upToday I want to celebrate my classroom’s first Skype adventure. We (eventually) Skyped with students in New York on the book Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper.

I have to admit, I was worried. I was worried because we were Skyping on a book that we were just finishing that day. I was worried because I hadn’t prepared my students for what they would be encountering and how to be good Skyping partners. (Largely because I wasn’t sure what a good Skyping partners looked like.) I was also worried because when technology is involved, something can and probably will go wrong.

Fortunately, I had a very understanding teacher and classroom on my side, Erin Varley and her class of 5th graders. They were old hands at this (they have done it once!). “Don’t worry it’s just me,” she DM’ed me on twitter days before the scheduled chat. But I was worried. I didn’t want to fail her or our students.

At the planned time, 10:00 am PST, 1:00 pm EST, my students are all on the carpet, ready for the call. 10:05 nothing. We call. No connection. My students, who were at first quietly assembled on the carpet, are getting a little restless. I DM Erin. Do I have the right Erin Varley? I check. I try. Still nothing. Students and two adults, who came to watch, are all getting a little more than restless. We try. We test with someone else. Try again, still nothing. I DM Erin with lots of confused thoughts. The combination of failing technology and noisy students makes my thinking jumble. Students are offering suggestions of what to do. Time is passing. The noise level is rising. The focus is diminishing.  But we keep trying. Time is passing. Keep trying.

At 10:25 am PST, 5 minutes before recess. The call goes through. Yeah!! Erin’s class is lovely, sitting quietly on the carpet, and we all see Erin looking calm. My kids are going berserk. Waving and elbowing for the tiny screen in front of them. Erin thankfully starts us up with a question from one of her students.

Eventually we get the idea of what to do. The chat continues. And I breathe a sigh of relief.

Even though I lost some students to recess, a core group kept chatting till recess ended. They learned about the three hour time difference. Some found it amazing that Miss Varley’s students didn’t have recess when they had recess.

For you Skyping veterans, this may seem like a big yawn, but for my students and me it was awesome.  Student questions were thoughtful and answers interesting. My students loved seeing the students they had been blogging with for the past two amazing books — Wonder and Out of My Mind. Thank you Erin and your students. Can’t wait to do it again!