“Dirty Teachers” Finished Our First Mud Run 5K

It seemed like a good idea, but crawling through mud? Hmmmmm, I don’t know. I especially doubted myself as we drove to the Lake County Fairgrounds on Saturday morning. Butterflies in my stomach and doubts clouding my head. Turns out it was fantastic! I should have been working out more, so we could run more. However, I am work with great teachers who walked when I needed to walk.

You wouldn’t believe how fun and liberating it is to slide down a giant slide into a pool of mud. One of the most fun things I have EVER done. I wish we could have gone back and done that obstacle again! I will be back again next summer for the Dirty Girl Mud Run. Now I must go clean out mud from my ears, again. ;P

A Snicker of Magic



I love love love this book!  Although the main character’s father left her, she realizes that she doesn’t need him to be happy.  Felicity realizes that the family that she does have is special and they love her with their whole beings.   The message is strong and the writing is beautiful! The writing is so strong, that I feel like the best way to share this book is to quote some of Natalie Lloyd’s passages.

Felicity collects words – it is her snicker of magic.  She sees words all over, words that no one else can see

In all my years of word collecting, I’ve learned this to be a tried and true fact:  I can very often tell how much a person loves another person by the      way they say their name.  I think that’s one of the best feelings in the world, when you know your name is safe in another person’s mouth.  When you know they’ll never shout it out like a cuss word, but say it or whisper it like a once-upon-a-time.  (p.86)

Although Felicity collects words and can put them together into poems, she gets tongue tied in front of people.  Her new friend has convinced her to participate in a duel reading her poetry, but she is doubtful of her own abilities.

“Don’t matter, anyway, if you do or if you don’t.  Stories aren’t peaceful things.  Stories don’t care how shy you are.  They don’t care how insecure you are, either.  Stories find their own way out eventually.  All you gotta do is turn ’em loose.”

I think this book would be perfect for fourth, fifth, sixth grade girls who love the idea of magic.  Although the characters and message are realistic, there is an element of magic on every page.

We might never look like a normal family, but I didn’t mind.  Normal was never one of my favorite words anyway.  I glanced up at the painted faces of all the people I’d come to know and want to know.  Home isn’t just a house or a city or a place; home is what happens when you’re brave enough to love people. (p.302)


Cognitive Coaching…Day 2

When the first day of the two day workshop ended, I was unsure of how to explain “cognitive coaching.”  After day two of cognitive coaching, I now feel a tiny bit more prepared to to explain and use these strategies in my life. 

Cognitive coaching is to assist a person to go from where he/she is, to where he/she wants to be by becoming more self-directed.

There were two main strategies that our wonderful presenter taught on the second day:  pausing and paraphrasing.  These two strategies can be applied when having a coaching conversation with another adult, or even a child.  She said that by using these two things, we would see a huge difference. 

Pausing basically means giving “wait time” even in a one on one conversation. 

And then paraphrasing, like you did when writing research papers, after a person is done talking.  This is really hard to do in conversations and it doesn’t quite seem natural just yet.  However, we were give many sentence stems to use and those helped a lot.  So, I will be making myself anchor charts to help me in my coaching this coming year. 

This was only two days out of maybe eight?  I hope to take days 3 and 4 next summer.  Great experience!

Guilty pleasure:  Bachelorette

Yes, I watch the Bachelor and Bachelorette.  Actually, my fiance and I watch it together.  Somehow he always picks the winner.  Hmmm.  Does he have some inside information?

So, this one guy is a farmer from Iowa, I think.  And it turns out that he is also Andi’s secret admirer.  He has been sending her these beautiful letters and flowers.  Awww.  It seems like Andi and the farmer are really connecting, so it gets me to wondering…  A farmer and an attorney.  Where will they live?  On a farm or in a city?  Its like a bird and a fish: They have nowhere to live.  As I’m voicing these opinions, my son pipes in, because he is always listening even if he seems to be playing with Legos.  “A bird and a fish can live together.  They just need to find a dock…” 

I love my little positive problem solver!



Cognitive Coaching…Day 1

Contrary to popular belief, teachers don’t spend their summers doing absolutely nothing.  Today I spent the day in a professional development for cognitive coaching.  What is cognitive coaching you ask?  Well, it is “coaching” people to be self-directed.  People ebing other teachers, students, parents, and even spouses.  Hard to explain exactly just yet, still have one more day tomorrow.  As a way to reflect on my learning today, I’d like to share three things I learned today and how it will apply to my teaching and learning.

1.  5 States of Mind:  Consciousness, Craftsmanship, Efficacy, Flexibility, and Interdependence

These are five states of mind that Cognitive Coaching says exist. The strongest, most self-directed people will have a balance of all of these qualities and as a coach it is our job to develop all of these in our coachees.  (not a word?) Sound at all familiar?  As soon as she started talking about it, I totally thought of Divergent.  So I keep thinking:  My goal is to make everyone Divergent.

Application: I really have no idea how to encourage these states of mind in other people yet, but hopefully I will have an idea after tomorrow.  I hope to be a mentor this year to a new teacher and will be able to encourage “divergence” in my mentee.

2.  Repairing Broken Trust:  4 As of Absolution

Admit it, Apologize, Ask Forgiveness, Amend your Ways

Application:  Although this seems like common sense, I think this is a social skill that our third graders need taught and modeled.  I think that these four steps will help our students build and repair trust with their peers.  This will become part of our first six weeks of school.

3.  Mirror Neurons

Ever wonder why people get so involved in sports and start yelling at the TV? I definitely have!  Turns out it is because of mirror neurons, also known as “monkey see, monkey do neurons.”  Basically these neurons in our brain make watching someone do something the same as us doing it ourselves.  These neurons tie our actions to feelings, therefore resulting in empathy.  (Please forgive me if you know about this and my explanation isn’t completely clear.)  So, this leads a teacher to wonder if these have to do with why kids with autism have trouble with empathy.  According to the video we watched, it may be because people with Autism have broken mirror neurons?  This is interesting and I will be doing more research regarding this topic.

Application:  Culture is a result of imitation.  Our classroom culture will be a result of not just what we teach, but also what the students see.  Therefore, it is another reason that I must be aware of my actions because I am always being watched by young, growing eyes.


More learning to come tomorrow…

Big Nate

I know that many parents and teachers question the amount of Wimpy Kid, Big Nate, and similar books that children read.  However, I think that these books are strong texts that reluctant readers love and adults should love too!  After finding Big Nate, my son has read three in the last few months and suggested that I read one of them as well.  So, here are some examples from the book that prove it is not only engaging for kids, but should not be feared by adults.  9780062267191_xlg

“Yeah  I know.  A couple months ago I had a total space cadet moment and DREW in a library book.  That went over like a turd in a punch bowl.”

Kid:  Hahaha!  Poop!  In a punch bowl!  He must have gotten in so much trouble! 

Adult:  A simile!


“Hear that?  Now THAT’S a best friend.  We’ll always be total opposites, but just because Francis is Mr. Clean, it doesn’t mean he expects ME to be.  He’s happy with me just the way I am.”   (Picture of Nate with a mess pouring out of his locker.)

Kid:  That’s like my best friend and I, but at least my locker isn’t THAT messy!

Adult:  Strong messages of friendship and acceptance.


Side Note:  My son learned about Achilles and the meaning of an Achilles heel because of another Big Nate book that he read.


The moral of this post:  Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.  Even if a book isn’t a great work of literature, it still has value.  And after finding so much enjoyment in a book, your child may be more inclined to pick up more books.

Let the reading continue!

The first book checked off my “Someday List” this summer was Wonder.

Then, in preparation to see the movie, I read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.  I knew it would be a tear jerker and it didn’t disappoint.  We’ll see how the movie compares later today.

Out of my Mind was next on the list, as a recommendation from a fellow teacher.  The main character is a nonverbal girl who can’t voice any of the thoughts running through her head until she finally get the technology to do so.  Although the main character, Melody, is a strong girl who overcomes the challenges life throws at her, it hurts to read how cruel people can be toward others.

Better Off Friends was a very YA novel, but a welcome change from the emotionally draining books I read so far this summer.  A girl and a boy become best friends and then have to deal with their feelings changing toward each other.  The book was a mindless, fun read.  I loved the structure that the author used.  Each chapter went back and forth from her point of view and his point of view, the font changing for each.  Then, in between each chapter is a short conversation between the two as if they are talking to each other while telling the story.

Next on the list..A Snicker of Magic and Big Nate.


What would you do with $5,000 a week for life?

This conversation started with my eight year old son the other day.  I think it stemed from my sister saying that if she ever won the lottery she would hire someone to do her laundry.  I’m not sure where the number 5,000 came from. Maybe an instant lottery ticket that he saw?

So here is what I would do first…

1.  Buy a limo and hire a chauffeur to drive me to and from work.

2.  Buy a house in Elmhurst, IL.  (Beautiful town, my dream place to live…)

3.  Pay off all debt and then go on a vacation. Where?  I’m not sure…


Here is what my son would do…

1.  Buy a limo and hire a chauffeur.  (This is the only place our lists overlap.)

2.  Design and buy a superhero suit.

3.  Hire a butler and call him Alfred.  No, it doesn’t matter what his name is, he will still call him Alfred.  Requirement of the job.  (Can you tell he is a Batman fan?)

4.   Hire a sidekick.  Job requirements:  boy, six years old, British.


None of this will ever happen of course, because we don’t buy lottery tickets.  It’s still fun to dream!  What would you do with $5,000 a week for life?






The progress students are making isn’t always obvious day to day, but looking back at the work students completed at the beginning of the year makes the progress clear.  We had a grand plan that the students would keep portfolios that we would add work to throughout the year.  Unfortunately, after the first few items, the portfolios were forgotten.  (New plan for next year!)  However, we did have a few things including on demand writing assessments from the beginning of the year and end of the year.

This was our first year of using Lucy Calkins Units of Study for Writing Workshop.  Look at these differences in just one year!  Regardless of their ability at the beginning of the year, the students learned and improved their writing abilities.  Using writing workshop and Lucy as our guide, we were able to differentiate for all learners!


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Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 7.38.27 PMInstead of lists and individual sentences, he wrote in a paragraph, focusing on one specific event.


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Wow!  In August, what she did write was done with a teacher sitting right next to her.  In June she wrote in sentences, albeit run-ons, without any teacher assistance.  She also focused on only one event.


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Again he focused on one specific slice of time – the first day of school.  He writes with such a strong voice!  If only he had time to finish!

My favorite line:  “This was one weird classroom.”

I can only imagine what will happen next  year when we actually know what we are doing!




Day 2 of Summer break and one book checked off my Someday list.  This only happened so fast because my son is still in school so I have had yesterday and today all to myself. 

I have been meaning to read this book for years, but it never happened until yesterday.  What an amazing book!  A boy, who looks different from other people, begins middle school and has to deal with the struggles every 10-11 year old has to deal with plus more.  The story is written from multiple points of view, but never flipping around too much to make it difficult to understand.  It addresses the themes of empathy, friendship, bravery, and courage in a realistic and heartfelt story.  A wonderful read for all ages. 

My favorite line/idea was from the main character, August.

“Everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their life.”