Reading Doors

Thursday, November 27, 2014

I Am Thankful...

As Thanksgiving is fast upon us, I find myself busier and busier, trying to wrap things up nicely for my students before their break. This is making it very hard to take the time to slow down and appreciate what I have, to be thankful in the midst of this holiday season. My principal seemed to have picked up on this in many of us teachers. He created a shared Google Document for us to take a moment and record what we are thankful for. His request was that we all take the time to add to it. I have included what I wrote for that document:

I am thankful for my family, who support me even when we don’t see each other often, and for my friends. I am thankful that I am able to make the long drive to work and back safely each day. That I have a work environment that is fun and fulfilling with people who I truly enjoy spending all of my time around. I am thankful for Barb and Kelly, that they laugh with me and struggle through the stressful, rough days with me. I am thankful that God made my experience with melanoma a short one that was taken care of without harsh treatments. That I was able to go to work less than a month after my surgery. I am thankful for the gardens around my house and the flowers that start to mark the coming of spring. I am thankful for spring and fall days in the midst of the heat of summer and the freezing cold of winter. I am thankful for being able to spend summer mornings sitting on my back porch with a cup of coffee, a good book, and the cat and dogs curled up at my feet.

A Happy and Safe Thanksgiving to Everyone!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Slice of Life: Accident

Slice of Life Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Join in and write your own slice.

Yesterday my mom was in a car accident, not one that ended up causing much physical, bodily damage, but an accident none the less. It snowed in Ohio yesterday, the first real snow of winter. Half the state got a good amount of snow, the other half not much. 
I had no school due to the amount of snow in that county, and the fact that it hit at just the right time, when the buses would have been out. I got considerably less snow at my own house.

My mom, like myself, works a good way from where she lives. She was just about to work yesterday morning, on a straightaway, when the car coming towards her lost control, hit the brakes (which only makes things worse on slick roads), went into the ditch beside the road, corrected her mistake only to come back onto the road, cross the middle line, and smack into my mom's car. This sent my mom into the ditch, over the other side, and into the corn field. As the airbags went off, she saw the dim outline of something tall and thick in front of her and tried to swerve and miss whatever it was. After going several yards into the cornfield, she finally stopped. She had missed  the tall, thick telephone pole by 4 inches, probably saving her life, or at least avoiding major injuries. The police officers said that the other driver would have had to be going at least 15-25 miles faster than she should have in order to go so far and cause so much damage, while using her brakes, even with the added ice/snow. 

Both cars were totaled and are completely missing their front ends. My mom has a small abrasion on her left arm and the other driver went to the hospital with a knee injury, but is otherwise okay. They were very lucky.

My mom called me after she made it home, telling me what happened, but prefacing with, "There is no emergency, everything is fine, but..." As my mom told me about barely missing the telephone pole she said, "At one point I really thought, 'This is it.'" Even knowing she was okay, hearing this, knowing how close she was to major injuries or actually being killed, was hard. It reminds you how precious life is, how uncertain and unpredictable it is. 

For me, snow days mean staying home, catching up on things neglected, relaxing and enjoying the picturesque view out the window. But snow days, in all their beauty, are still dangerous. And this particular snow day was a reason to pause and appreciate all the little things I take for granted.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

African Children's Choir Performs

Today, the students at the various River View Local School District elementary buildings got the unique and special chance to watch the African Children's Choir from Uganda. This choir has been in existence for 30 years. They help "Africa's most vulnerable children today, so they can help Africa tomorrow." I have added a link here to their web page.

The performance was an incredible one! There was no denying the enthusiasm, fun, and hope shared by the children who performed. No matter what they did, whether dancing, singing, or simply standing waiting for the next song, the children always had a smile on their faces. These children were great examples for my own students. In addition, these students are on tour, away from their families, for 10 months at a time. This only adds to how impressive these kids are!

Not only did the students get to watch a great show choir, but they also learned a little about Uganda and the children's lives there, as well as the children's dreams and aspirations. The children wanted to be doctors, lawyers, pastors, judges, accountants, pilots, and even teachers. Two of the choir members shared what their home lives were like in Uganda. Some of them lived with families of 5 in a one room house. The choir director reminded our students that not everyone in the world has houses like we do.

In the words of my principal, "It wasn't just the performance, it was how the kids carried and handled themselves that spoke volumes to me. To hear them talk about their aspirations and what they wanted to become when they grew up truly touched my heart." Talk about living a "rich" life. "These kids get it. They make the most out of what they have, instead of focusing and worrying about what they don't have. Our students learned a lot from this experience."

All of my students had a wonderful time at the concert. They were enthralled by the performance and by the lives of these kids. If they could have, I'm sure they would have asked all of the children to come back to the school and spend several days with in our classroom. Over and over again, I heard my students say "This is so cool." What an affirmation that the experiences we try to provide for students are worthwhile!

Slice of Life: World of Possible

Slice of Life Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Join in and write your own slice.

Last week, Scholastic presented a live webcast with special guest Usher, entitled Bigger Than Words. During this special program students learned "how to take informed action, become reading advocates, and help make a difference in their schools, communities, and the world." I had heard about this program through multiple outlets and shared a short commercial video with my class to determine the interest level of my students. They were thrilled, of course. I was able to rearrange our schedules in order to make this special event happen.

The day of the webcast (Thursday, Nov. 6th), my students were anything but still and attentive. They were all looking forward to the live webcast. In class, we discussed the books that inspired them or books that are their favorites. We shared why these books had lasting impressions and what made the adventures so memorable. The students then decorated a small book cover for the book they had chosen and we decorated the classroom door with reminders of what books inspire them. 

The greatest moment came when a student told me that the book we are reading in a small book group, Masters of Disaster by Gary Paulsen, is a book she just can't put down or stop reading. This book has inspired many great conversations and more than a few laughs in our little book talks and is one I love as well.

Two of the big questions that were asked during the webcast were: 1. Why do we read? and 2. What can we do to open a world of possible for ourselves and for others? What great questions! The following day my students wrote about and then discussed with each other their own answers for these questions, taking ideas and inspiration from the webcast. 

Scholastic will be continuing their World of Possible initiative with a plethora of resources on their World of Possible website and with four "calls to action" that will be released online throughout the year. Here is the link to the webcast and first call to action. Teachers, parents, and students will be able to take small actions that will have big impacts on the lives of children!