Thoughts

Time…

“If you look closely, you can see it. You can almost touch it.”
“Some people pay a lot of attention to it. Some don’t.”
“The more you try to hold it… the better it hides.”
“I’ve shut my eyes, gone to sleep, stared at the sun, run backward really fast, but it keeps going.”
“Where does it go? Can we stay longer?”
(From FOREVER OR A DAY by Sarah Jacoby)

You cannot hold it and you can’t give it to someone else. You can’t get it back, but you can treasure it.

Time…  The time we have. The time we give.  The time we had with you.

Twenty-nine years ago, you captured our hearts. During the time we had with you, we shared many small moments and some big ones, too. When you were little, you spent a lot of time with us. We thought of you as one of our own,  and we saw the light and sparkle you possessed. So many memories, so many laughs and days we will remember. Even then, you loved fiercely and knew what you wanted. Your laugh was contagious and you already had a sense of style. You rocked the little black dress, way back when.

Over time, your beauty continued to grow on the inside and outside. Your laugh become a bit more infectious, the eye rolls a bit more pronounced, your opinions more impassioned. One thing that didn’t change was your love of children.  When you spoke about “your kids”, your eyes would light up. They were your mission.  As years passed, we’d catch up with a text or short visit – always special.  But, time caught up with us.

Cancer doesn’t care about time. It steals time from those we love. It robs us of the days ahead. But in typical fashion, you weren’t about to let that happen. Instead of letting time take control, you took charge.

You faced cancer head-on with humor, grace, determination, and strength. Even when you knew you were running out of time, you made sure that the time you spent on this earth made a difference. You knew the importance of making the most of the time you had. Your time mattered.  It continues to matter; it will always be part of us.

We thought we had a little more time with you, but we were wrong.  Just one more afternoon,  one more conversation,  maybe that would make us satisfied.  It would only make us wish for one more.  So, we treasure the time we had with you.

***************

***Susannah Levin lost her battle with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer on August 11, 2018.  She was 29 years old. Susannah’s final wish was to continue helping children, which was truly her life’s work. She didn’t want other kids and their families to suffer needlessly from this disease. Please considering donating to honor her memory and help a child.

There are two ways to do this.

1)Create your own team at
http://fundraising.stjude.org/susloveskids

Set a goal and start raising money to support kids and their families!!

2)Donate to the Levin family’s “team” at  http://events.stjude.org/susloveskids

Blogs, Thoughts

Going Home

IMG_4582I have lived in New Jersey for over 30 years, but “home” is still in Pennsylvania.  It is where I was born, where most of my family still lives, and where I have my roots.  There is a peace and familiarity to it; a calmness and comfort in its landscape.  When I am driving to visit, there’s a point in my ride that changes – I slow down, the road starts to curve and wind, my body starts to relax and I take in the scenery.  There are mountains in view, wide open expanses of land, cornfields and farmlands, and brilliant blue skies.  I forget the beauty of this area; the simple charm of the country.  I am home.

Home hasn’t changed very much in these past 30 years.  The door is still open and anyone can walk in and be greeted by my mom or dad.  Mom is in the kitchen, on her chair or on the phone.  Dad is puttering around out back, inventing something in the garage or “resting” on his chair.  Some things never change.

As I walked into the house this past weekend, I realized how very fortunate I am (at 53 years old) to have both of my parents in my life.  I am lucky to be able to spend time with them.  Throughout the weekend, I was reminded that they have their own routines and habits.   I come in on a whirlwind with suggestions and changes – “You should… You shouldn’t… Why don’t you…” My ideas are usually met with resistance. I realize I need to dial it back and slow it down, ask them what they need, not always what I think they should do. (As my sister and I learned, they aren’t going to do it anyway!)

We spent the weekend running errands, buying new phones (for the umpteenth time!), sharing lunches, dinners and just hanging out.  My husband came along this weekend, my daughter and her boyfriend also stopped by to visit.  It was a full house- even the dog was along this time.  The house was busy, chaotic and filled with activity.  At the end of the day, we were given the gift of a sudden snowstorm, which made everyone slow down and reconnect.  We sat around the kitchen table, played a game of cards, went for a drive in the worst of the snow and just hung out.  I loved watching my parents interact with our dog.  They insist they don’t like animals, buy my mother kept feeding him all weekend and my dad even took him outside on the leash – a sight that has never been seen.  They also talked to him whenever anyone wasn’t around.

It was the little things I was thankful for: helping my mom with  the wash, putting away the leftover items from Christmas, “making the beds”, and yes, even inputting dads phone contacts manually on his newest flip phone.  I know that coming up on a weekend once in awhile isn’t enough.  It can’t compare to the daily responsibilities my sister has because she lives close by.  But, maybe, just maybe it is enough for that moment.  For a fleeting time, my parents’ weren’t sitting alone, the house wasn’t so quiet, and maybe they were just as happy to have me there as I was.

I can still “go home”.   I know that needs to happen more frequently.  As I was leaving my dad kept thanking me for coming and held on a little more tightly as we hugged goodbye, my mom said she wished we could come more often.  That’s all they want- the gift of our presence and time.  “Go home” if you can.

 

Thoughts

Reconnecting 2018

It’s been awhile since I even looked at this blog.  Time, family, and everyday living took me away from posting.  2018 is my year to reconnect.  Reconnect with family, friends, and also other teachers.  I have been inspired to share and learn from others lately.  I love the power of connection.

I work with an amazing team of educators.  It was while I was out on disability leave for 11 weeks (total knee replacement) that I realized how important it is to be “connected”.  I am an absolute “control freak” and was very worried about leaving my classroom and the staff that I consider my family.  Eleven weeks was a long time – I didn’t even miss that much time when I had my two children.

Luckily for me, those eleven weeks were a gift.  A gift of time to heal, rejuvenate, and reflect.  During my time recuperating, I had time for me.  I was worried I would lose my connection to my class and my school.  I shouldn’t have worried.  From frequent text messages from by colleagues telling me they missed me to opportunities to Face time with my class to emails that kept me in the loop!  Everyone made me feel like I was still a part of my special “work” family.  I also stayed in touch with the academic world by following many teacher groups on Facebook and following Twitter to keep me motivated and interested.

I could come back to my class rejuvenated and ready to try out some new ideas.  I am eager to jump back in to the mix!  My goal is to get back to blogging, sharing and connecting with others.  2018 is the year!

Thoughts

The Best Time to Shine…

It was two days before winter vacation and all through the classroom, students were learning and sharing… the best time to shine!

Yes! What a novel idea!  Learning and sharing, working and writing before vacation time?  A few disgruntled parents took to social media to complain that their children had a project due two days before winter break.  (No one mentioned that it was assigned a month ago.)  Well, I disagree.  Why shouldn’t students be working in class before winter break?  We have over ten days off – that’s the time for a break.

Anyone who has every spent any time with children knows how hard it is to keep a class focused during holiday season.  I want my kids to continue to stay engaged and active.  This time before winter break was perfect for a long term assignment.  Complete the work BEFORE the break.  Work hard; then play.  That’s my philosophy.

My students love to learn and enjoy the challenge of learning and exploring new information and ideas.   I capitalized on their lead.  They were excited about their assignment, so much so that many of them came to school early or stayed after class to work on their project.  This project was theirs to complete.  They could do it!  I had faith in them.  I set the bar high, but not too high that they wouldn’t be successful.

Today, I listened and observed my students sharing their projects and investigations with each other and the other classes in our school.  I knew I made a wise choice.  My students couldn’t wait to showcase their work.  They wanted to see what their classmates had done.  They were proud of the effort and care that was taken to complete each part of the assignment.  The quality of their research, creativity, and originality were top notch.  Everyone marveled at how each person’s project was unique. Every student put their own “stamp” on this assignment.  They met the expectations with flying colors.

Today was a blur. The day flew by so quickly. And…

All through the classroom my students were learning, not a student was bored or wasting their time.

It was the best time to allow them to shine!

 

Connections, Thoughts

The Power of Connecting

quote-connecting

Create connections.  What does that really mean?  “Being connected is about getting to know new people who can stretch your thinking but also sharing knowledge to help make schools stronger than they once were.  Being connected is about sharing best practices.

No one person is smarter than the collective ideas and thoughts of everyone together. Individually we may have expertise, but that expertise is made stronger through connecting and sharing with others. (DeWitt, Peter – 15 Reasons Why Educators Should Be Connected, Link: http://corwin-connect.com/2015/03/15-reasons-why-educators-should-be-connected/?utm_campaign=shareaholic&utm_medium=email_this&utm_source=email))

I always felt that I made positive connections and shared with others, but I tended to play it safe and work with those in my immediate surroundings.  However, in the process of planning for professional development, I made a conscious effort to connect “outside my comfort zone”.   What if I partnered with someone I didn’t know that well?  What if I branched out and tried something new and different?  What if a fifth grade teacher and a high school art teacher had something to share with others? Well, it was worth a try.  Instead of joining the colleagues I worked with every day, I chose someone from across the room, someone who was sharing ideas very similar to mine.  The minute I sat down with her, I felt like a met my match.  She had already sketched out ideas and made a list – just like I had done.  Her “wheels” spin as fast as mine do.  The more we talked, the more I knew that this new partnership was going to be a “game changer”.

As we have gotten to know each other during the summer, we have found many more similarities than differences.  We compliment each other.  We work well together.  We challenge each other’s thinking.  Together, we are an inspirational whirlwind – look at there’s always something brewing.

We are a symbiotic pair.  We both benefit from our collaboration and newfound friendship.  The power of our thoughts and ideas increases, grows, and develops.  I am excited to see where our journey may lead.  Thank you Karen, for traveling with me!

Reflecting, sharing, and collaborating are at the core of good teaching and learning.  During this year, we hope help each other to tell our stories.  As you head into the start of a new year, create some new connections.  When sharing thoughts and ideas, make sure you add some new chapters to your story.  Look outside your “circle”, connect with someone from across the room, widen your horizons, and remain open to new possibilities.  As this new year begins, challenge yourself to try something new, create a new connection. Who knows where it will take you?

Thoughts

The Teacher I Am Today

IMG_1408Yesterday, I had the pleasure of having lunch with this wonderful group of women.   These women are intelligent, kind, funny, brave, strong, independent, and amazing.  Who are they?  For many years they were my colleagues, teaching alongside me. Along the way, we became friends.  Today, all but one is retired.  They were there when I was getting started as a teacher.  They were the “experienced” ones and I was the new teacher.

Coincidentally, later that afternoon I was scheduled to welcome the new staff to our district.  One of the reasons I felt compelled to volunteer to greet our new staff was because of these ladies.  I wanted to give back what they had given me.    These women played such an important role in shaping me as a educator and human being.   They were the veterans and experienced ones.   This year,  I will be  the “veteran” teacher in my school and I hope I am able to do for others what was done for me.   They taught me what it means to be a teacher by their words and more importantly by their actions.  I was blessed to have such wonderful role models and guides.  Each one taught me something special and unique.  They weren’t assigned to be my mentors, but they “took me under their wings” and contributed a piece to my puzzle.  I learned so many things from my unofficial mentors – organization, parent communication, classroom management, interacting with peers, standing up for myself, identifying learning problems. pacing my lessons, connecting with students, loving my job – the list goes on.  They helped me develop my core values and beliefs about teaching and learning.  They taught me the importance of asking questions, getting involved, showing confidence, and respecting others.  They celebrated my successes and stood by me in difficult times.  I learned that a good teacher is first a good person.  I learned a good teacher is always a learner and lover of knowledge.  I learned that if I did what was in the best interest of my students, I was making the right decision.  So today, I say thank you to the “retired” teachers.  Thank you for sharing the best of you with me.  Thank you for making me the teacher I am today!

Thoughts

Summertime classroom

Well, it’s almost that time again, so I decided to pop into my classroom for my annual inaugural visit. I love coming to school in the summer when no one else is there.  Even after almost 30 years of teaching, there’s something magical and serene about being in my room.  I still need to spend that first day sitting at my desk, looking around, twiddling , my thumbs, pondering the thought of a new group of students, another new year.. I “putter” around a bit, but nothing actually gets accomplished that first day.  I love the quietness and opportunity to reflect.  The classroom is filled with empty  desks spread out into rows, but they won’t stay that way for long.  The challenge this year is – where to put everyone ? Six more desks than last year.  Who will be sitting in those seats? What will this class bring to the table?  Will they love reading and writing? What should we do that first day?

I start to unpack a few boxes, rearrange some furniture, dig through my closet and find all the items I hastily tossed at the end of the year.  You’d think by now, I’d be better organized.  I come across pictures, notes, and letters from last year’s class.  I reminisce a bit – it’s always time for them to move in to middle school.  My thoughts linger on certain ones- how will they fare? I worry about some in particular, others I know are up for the change.  They are still “my kids”. However, I know they always come back those first days of the new year to touch base and share their stories.

I move a desk here and there and then get distracted by something else.  I dust off the shelves in the library. I unpack another box or two, move one pile from one part of the room to another making way for a new crew.

It’s not long before the heat gets the better of me, and I decide to call it a day.  I know there will be many more visits before September.  Today was my day, just for me.  It’s one of my most treasured days- I still get excited that I’m really the teacher in this room and can’t wait for another year filled with adventure and learning new things.