#GYST

If you know me well, you know that each year I have a new theme. My life is a work in progress and I’m always on a quest to squeak out just a little more juice from the orange.

goddesses2015 was the year that I discovered Goddesses Never Age by Christiane Northrup, M.D. I’ve always enjoyed listening to her wisdom. But, what has become known as “the goddess book” in my circle, really changed my way of thinking, especially now that I’m feeling my age. I have found any excuse to gift this book to other women in my life. It’s that life-changing. Get a copy today. I’m serious.

2016 was the year of not giving a f*ck. I did read Marie Kondo’s decluttering book. I’m not a natural hoarder so my friends got a chuckle out of me further simplifying. What can I say? I really don’t like “stuff”.

fuck-bookBut even better than the decluttering book was Sarah Knight’s parody, The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*uck: How to Stop Spending Time You Don’t Have with People You Don’t Like Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do

It goes without saying that if you don’t like the eff word, then stay away from this book. But if you have an open mind and are able to grasp the bigger concept, then I can’t recommend this book enough.

This book made me realize just how much time I was wasting worrying about ridiculous things that simply don’t matter. We all spend far too much time worrying about what other people think of us and not enough considering what we think of ourself compared to … ourself. Where are we on our own life’s journey?

Last year was the year that I set aside other peoples’ opinions of me and focused on what I wanted out of my life. Boy, was that life changing!

Well, I have a new mission for 2017!

shit-togetherThis year continues with more from Sarah Knight: Get Your Sh*t Together: How to Stop Worrying about What You Should Do So You Can Finish What You Need to Do and Start Doing What You Want to Do. (I think we can all agree that Sarah likes long titles.)

I have both the DTB (dead tree book) and audio version of this book as well as the super cool prize promo pack from Little Brown. Thank you, Little img_6183Brown!

I’m not going to ramble about this book or write a review. Instead, I’m going to focus on what I got out of it and how it has already impacted my life.

The biggest thing for me was taking a look at my already crazy busy life and finding ways to make more time for the things that I want (e.g. writing). My life almost always feels like it’s spinning out of control, and I’m constantly treading water just to keep my head barely above the surface.

But I want more. I really do want this writing thing to take off and become a thing for me.

So I had to get my sh*t together this year. It was either that or just give up.

Action 

I joined a secret Facebook writing group that is all about creating a habit of writing every single day. It’s not focused on the number of words written or even the quality of those words. It’s about showing up every single day and putting your butt in the chair and fingers on the damn keyboard.

The admins of this group have outdone themselves. They have created the most elaborate Excel spreadsheet for hundreds of people to track their progress every single day. We are divided into smaller accountability groups with a leader who monitors and pokes us when needed. They also cheer us on every. single. day.

We are supposed to record our daily word count along with the number of hours spent editing our own work or critiquing others.

Here’s my breakdown for January:

Daily goal: 600 words

Days wrote: 22 out of 31

Total words for January: 12,773 (goal 18,600)

Highest day: 1,838        Lowest day: 27

Now, I could look at those numbers and cringe that I let 9 days go by without writing a single word. Not even one. But I’m not going to cringe. Nope.

How does #gyst play into this? If it wasn’t for me reading that book in December and setting a personal goal to do this, I might not have even written the 12,773 words I did complete in January.

#gyst has forced me to look at my day in a whole new way. I have reprioritized the things that I do so that even 5 minutes here and there can be spent writing words.

For example, it’s amazing just how many words I can write on my phone while blow drying my hair. I’m not kidding! (And, yes, I do have a lot of hair)

Where else have I found time to write: in the car (dictating into my phone), lunch break (5 minutes), 5-10 minutes before I pick up my son from school, getting up 30 minutes earlier, and of course before bed.

If you have a dream that seems to be growing stagnant, or is waving to you in your periphery saying, “Look over here! Look at me! We can do this!”… don’t ignore it. If you need a push, find an accountability partner. If you’re not sure how to make it happen, grab a copy of this book, and I promise it’ll help you view your time and days in a whole new way.

Love Me Some Lester

lester-2I’ve lived in the South for a very long time now and the phrase “Love me some …” makes my eye twitch.

I guess it’s a Southern thing. I’m from Maine. There you go.

But when it comes to Lester Laminack, no one is more Southern than he. And when I think of Lester and all that he has taught me over the years, without even knowing who I am, the only words that come to mind are, “Love me some Lester!”

Last Saturday, Lester visited with 150 teachers in my school district to talk about the power of the read aloud to children. This was the third Lester event that I’ve attended in the past year. He acknowledged those of us who stalk … I mean, attend his other events and said there would be repetition because he has the same brain, the same mouth, and only knows so much shit.

That’s why I love Lester … he keeps it real.

Because, you know what, teaching can be hard. There’s a lot of pressure. We all feel it. But if we can get back to basics, then maybe it won’t be so hard.

I’m a firm believer in working smarter, not harder. And Lester reminds me of just how to do that in my classroom.

The Power of Picture Books

Come on … let’s be honest. We all love picture books. It doesn’t matter how old we are, we never get tired of reading a beautifully illustrated picture book with words that practically sing off the page. I’m a sucker for them. Seriously, you should see my own kid’s book collection. (I’ll save that for another blog post.)

Let’s remember this love when we’re working with our students.

Many of our kids just don’t have the prior knowledge and vocabulary that we’d like when they arrive to our classroom.

Lester says that picture books give exposure to language and scaffolds by building an image bank that our kids just can’t get if we only read aloud novels to them. They need to see the pictures. So that means even fifth grade through high school students need picture books read aloud to them.

Movie Read

Lester is big on doing a “movie read” the first time a book is read aloud to children. That means we as teachers can’t stop and ask our kids a billion questions about the text. We can’t ask our students to turn & talk. They’re still processing the book the first time, they’re learning the characters, they’re making connections in their head, and they’re letting it all sink in.

He suggests we read the text once through and let it simmer. Let the kids come to their own understanding over the next day or so. We can plant seeds about our own questions, and that will help foster excitement and thoughtfulness about the text within our kids.

Lester reminds us to ponder just who has a right to decide what is important in a book? Let students discover that for themselves.

As for holding them accountable, thus using turn & talk all the time, well it’s sometimes normal for kids to get lost during a read aloud. We learn through experience when to tune in and listen. The act of getting lost, and realizing that one is lost, will teach kids to not get lost next time.

“If you’re teaching for the right answer, you’re teaching wrong.” ~Lester Laminack

If you want them to regurgitate a response, you might as well just tell them the answer.

Art

Reading aloud is an art. We need to be so familiar with the text we’re sharing that we can accurately convey mood and tone, that when we read dialogue it is as if the characters are truly speaking, and we must know when to pause.

Gatekeepers

Probably the most significant thing Lester said, the thing that really struck me, was that as teachers we are the last gatekeepers of print. So much of the world has converted solely to electronic devices for quick entertainment.

Libraries are closing. Book stores all around us are closing.

But we are the keepers of the printed book, and we have the power to keep it alive by what we do with our students. And that will have a ripple effect.

Reading matters. Reading to children matters. One of the greatest gifts, I think, we can give our children is the gift of story through a book. It teaches them to feel, to connect, to compare and contrast, to recognize relationships, to reflect, to wonder, to guess. And let’s not forget, to be able to hear the beauty of language.

An expansive vocabulary will serve a child very well in his or her life. To be able to communicate with that many more people because that child has the gift of words on his or her tongue and can easily access them. What a powerful way to bring people together! To increase understanding and empathy by being able to communicate clearly.

I may not be able to change educational policy, but I can create and foster change within myself. I can keep my focus on my students and what I know good teaching to be.

And I can read to my students—a lot—and often.

Thank you, Lester, for reminding me of the power that I do have.

*If you’re a teacher, I highly encourage you to sign-up the next time Lester is in your town. It’s an experience you will never forget!

If Lester isn’t scheduled to come to your area, then check out his books. My favorites are below:

Superheroes

batman

My son turned 4 this month and is completely obsessed with superheroes. Superman, Spiderman, Batman, and on and on. I blame his preschool experience for his obsession with superheroes…he didn’t even know what a superhero was until he started bonding with the other boys in his class. Peer pressure starts early, folks!

I did the obligatory cupcakes but he wanted more. Without infringing too much on his teachers and their day (hey, I’m a teacher, too, and I totally get it), I discovered these superhero lollipops. My boy and I were immediately hooked when we saw them.

I don’t get very crafty these days, but after spotting these on Pinterest, I knew this was something we could handle. Yes, we. I’m all about him pulling his weight when it comes to this crafty stuff…within reason, of course. 😉 And he loves it!

The blog Two It Yourself had the capes that I needed. There was a wide variety so I had all of my bases covered and didn’t leave out any of his favorite heroes. When I opened up the downloaded pdf, I used the text feature to add a birthday greeting.

I love the masks from ZakkaLife. Her printable is designed for Valentine superheroes but the masks worked well for the Tootsie Pops we picked out.

Unfortunately, the capes were a little small for the larger Tootsie Pop sticks, so I ended up hot gluing them to the stick. Not a problem and I think that worked out better so the capes actually lasted until we got to school.

My son’s favorite was Superman, of course. Up, up and away!

superman

 

 

 

 

Best Day!

IMG_0570Yesterday was an amazing day! I woke up to a world lightly dusted with sparkling snow. As a Mainer, I almost felt like I was back home. Just a little bit. That alone automatically should’ve made yesterday perfect, but wait…there’s more.

The times when my kiddo is gone can be tough. I have found that staying busy is best and it keeps me productive. Let’s face it, there’s always plenty of “life” to do on the weekends. So this weekend was no different.

Except that it was.

Yesterday I decided to let “life” just sit and chill for a moment while I took the time to do what I wanted to do. Shocking, I know. But if I want to make a career out of writing, and believe me I really, really do, then that means that my regular life will have to sit and stay quiet for small moments while I struggle and squirm in my writing chair.

I admit that I stayed in my PJs all day, not completely unheard of, and sat with my manuscript and worked on my book for about six hours total. That’s six hours of time spent in the world I created and talking with my characters as I cleaned up the story. Six hours! That never happens!

Sure, I took small breaks to change over the laundry. And then there was the dog.

IMG_0636This dog right here.

Who can focus with these eyes watching and pleading? This ball of fur wanted nothing more than to be outside in the snow before it melted away. I forced her to come in periodically because it was 20 degrees out and she is arthritic. When she was ready to return to the arctic temps, she let me know.

IMG_0629Enjoying the blizzard.

So, life did sneak in a few times. Overall, I am extremely proud of myself for shooing it away and staying focused on my book. And I realized that I really, really do want to do this full-time. It was the first day in a long time that ended with me feeling proud and content.

Status update: I’m over half-way with my edits/revisions. Soon I’ll be ready to hand it over to some readers for feedback.

In the meantime, I’m going to practice pausing moments in life while I figure this stuff out.

Happy writing to all of my writing friends! We can do this!