Thursday, February 20, 2014

Damn You, Twitter... but Hello Sunshine!

I have digressed from an active Tweeter to a lurker since my second child, Jackson, was born.  In fact, Twitter, which once excited and inspired me to do better and be better makes me feel bad about myself these days.  I hear my inner voice saying, "You make yourself feel bad about yourself, Sarah, not Twitter," and that's true, but I blame Twitter.  I lurk online and see amazing chats, awesome conversations, and inspiring blog posts.  And then I feel bad
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about myself.  I'm at a place where I'm working hard to balance my duties as a wife, mom, daughter, sister, and friend.  Then, I try to balance all of that with another huge identity for me:  being a teacher.  A good one.  I'll be honest; for the first time, the lifelong learner in me is taking a break.  I order the texts that I want to read on Amazon, I really do.  I start them, but I can't finish them. I fall asleep.  It doesn't matter how miraculous they are or how well they are written. I can't keep my eyes open.  So I blame Twitter.  Why, you ask?  Well, for inspiring me buy the book because I love the authors and the Twitter Chats that I imagine I might be able to do one Monday, Wednesday or Thursday instead of feeding Jackson and putting Anna to bed.  And damn you, Twitter, for hosting these chats that force me to read the few pages that I can get through before I fall asleep reading it, and then feel badly about myself that I can't juggle it all.  Look, I'm just saying that Twitter makes me realize how much better I could and should be because I see how awesome educators are across this country, and I feel sad that I'm not part of it more frequently.   It's the mirror that I wish I could ignore.  And sometimes I do.  Then, add feelings of inadequacy about a blog that you can't possibly find the hours in the day to update as much as you want to and you get a real, true example of writer's block.  So that's where I am living:  between a state of frustration, inspiration, motivation, and sleep deprivation.  I'm right there in the middle.  

And then something wonderful happened.  Two followers of this blog world gave me a small shout-out through the rays of sunshine movement by nominating me for a Sunshine Award, and it made me feel loved for a moment.  For a moment, I was out of the middle.  Thank you for that.  Melanie Meehan of Two Reflective Teachers  inspires me with her knowledge,  zest for literacy, and skillful use of instructional strategies and Lisa Maples of Teaching with Technology teaches me how to apply that information with exciting technological advances.  I truly look forward to their blogs, and though I don't have time to interact with them on Twitter as much as I once did, I love to receive their emails every couple days to learn something new or validate something old.  Though it's taken a really long time to return the favor, I'm finally here to say thank you, and I would like to (albeit finally) complete the task and spread the sunshine.  

The specifics are:
1.  Acknowledge the nominating blogger(s).
2.  Share 11 random facts about yourself.
3.  Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger created for you.
4.  List 11 bloggers who inspire you.
5.  Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they’ve been nominated.  Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

And off we go.  Here are 11 random facts about me:  
  1. I am a mom of two beautiful children:  Anna (3) and Jackson (7 months) and a wife to an exceptional husband, father, and friend.  
  2. In eighth grade, my parents talked my best friend (Melanie) and me into trekking to Woodstock 94 with her older brother (Jeremy) and his best friend (Chris).  We obliged.  Though we weren't mud people, our tents were positioned right outside the mudslides. And, there's a picture of us in the Woodstock 94 CD.  We're the small specks in the middle.  On a side note, that "best friend" (Chris) ended up as my husband, though many, many years after Woodstock.  
  3. My grandfather, Donald B. MacMillan, was the original designer of the BlackHawk helicopter.  He was fired from Sikorsky shortly after because he went over his boss's head with the idea.  The big-boss liked it, his boss, not so much.  He never had a patent for it, and he died wishing that he could have some recognition for his work.  
  4. I have never smoked a cigarette. My grandmother died of emphysema when I was in sixth grade, and I was traumatized.   I vowed then to never smoke.  In fact, my essay was chosen to be read at DARE graduation about it.  I'm like the one true graduate of DARE's "Just Say No" program. Ha.  
  5. I'm obsessed with the Olympics.  Every two years, I become OCD-like obsessed.  Thank goodness for DVR during the Winter Olympics.  
  6. Until I was married, I slept with a very large stuffed mouse named Fievel.  He has traveled the world with me, though he's now tailless, pant less, shirtless, and very faded.  Now he sits on a shelf in Jackson's room, and some days I feel guilty about it.  
  7. I bleed blue and white. I graduated from Penn State in 2002.  While there, I danced on my feet with no sleep for 48 hours to benefit Penn State Dance Marathon (THON), which is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world to end childhood cancer.  One of the best experiences of my life during four of the best (or most fun) years of my life.  
  8. I hate leftovers.  Unless it's chicken fried rice, I won't eat them.  Though I struggle with cooking for only two, so there are always leftovers.  
  9. Both my parents and my husband's parents have been married for over 35 years.  We have great role models for love in our lives.  
  10. I believe that the gay-rights movement is the Civil Rights movement of our time.  I get physically nauseous when people argue about this on social media.  I do not engage because I can't control my anger about the issue, but I do not believe "ignorance is bliss."  I believe "ignorance is hurtful."
  11. I hate to exercise and diet.  If it were up to me, I'd be fat and happy.  Unfortunately, I've been fat, and I wasn't happy.  So I exercise.  And I'm actually learning to like it again.  Well, I am tolerating it.  For now.  

Melanie asked 11 questions, and here are my thoughts on each one:  
  1. If you were going to write a book, what would it be about?  This is a tough one. I've always wanted to write a book, and I hope that one day I'll have the time and confidence take a stab at it.  Sometimes I envision the book to be a satirical account of the classroom (David Sedaris like), with the intended audience being colleagues or parents.   I think it would be really funny.  I have some good stories, as we all do,  that are in my back pocket for that rainy day when I sit at my computer and start to pour them out.
  2. What is your most vivid memory from elementary school?  Interesting question.  This one really makes me pause.  Honestly, my most vivid memory was the time that I forgot my homework for the first time (and quite possibly the last).  I called my mom, who was home but lived 20 minutes from school, and cried, begged and pleaded for her to bring me the assignment.  She refused, and told me that I wouldn't forget it next time.  "It's your homework, not mine,"  she said.  I vividly remember standing in the cold white office on the pea green rotary phone in shock.  Tears followed.  Mean mom, right?  You might say so.  But, I don't have another memory of forgetting my homework! 
  3. What is your favorite question to ask during an interview?  I sit on a lot of interview committees and my favorite question is, "What is your favorite professional text that you have recently read, are currently reading, or would like to read next?"  I find it so telling.  I feel so strongly that we, as teachers, are reflective learners, and the types of books that people read (or don't read)  tells me so much about their goals, philosophies, and methods.  
  4. When you are busy--too busy--what is the first aspect of your life that suffers?  Great question.  I think the easy answer here is "me."  But isn't that true of all moms, and maybe even especially moms of teachers?  If I'm being totally truthful, though, it's not really "me"  as much as it is "my hobbies."  I love to be on Twitter chats and blogging, for example, but that's the area that has recently taken a back seat when I only get a half hour of kidless, diaperless, husbandless wakefulness.
  5. What is your favorite store?  Target.  Hands down.  My husband has banned me.  I go in looking to pick up some mayo, end up buying $200 worth of (what can only be described as useless) crap, and then have to stop at the store on my way home for mayo.  ;)
  6. If you could go anywhere on vacation, all expenses paid, where would you go and why?  I have wanted to go to Napa or Tuscany for so long.  It was supposed to be my 30th birthday present to myself and then I ended up pregnant.  Then it was going to be a maternity leave "push present" but we couldn't afford it (and I didn't want to leave the kids for that long).  Do I really need to answer why?  It's Tuscany!  Napa!  Wine, anyone?
  7. At the end of the day, what are you most likely to say to yourself?  "Good work, you made it."
  8. When something goes really well at work, who are you most likely to tell and why?  My husband is my best friend and confidant about all work related things.  He's a great partner, and he shares the highs and lows of work with me on a daily basis, even if his eyes are on his iPhone while I tell the longwinded story (brevity is not my expertise).  
  9. Same question as 8, but when something goes really badly?  Same answer as question 8.  :)
  10. What is your favorite poem?  I can still recite most Shel Silverstein poems from my elementary school days.  I love him, as juvenile as his poetry may be.  Honestly, my favorite "poem" is "Oh the Places You'll Go" (which is also a book) by Dr. Suess.  I read it to my eighth graders each year, and I hope that they will forever move mountains.  
  11. Who was your favorite teacher up until college and why?  I feel so fortunate that I've had such wonderful educational experiences over the years, and I've loved many teachers along the way.  But, the "favorite teacher award" has to go to my kindergarten and first grade teachers:  Mrs. Hobart and Mrs. Emerich.  While Mrs. Smith helped me learn how to write creatively in sixth grade and Mrs. Dopslaff taught me how to  analyze Hemingway in high school (which ultimately led me to become a teacher of literature) it was Mrs. Hobart and Mrs. Emerich who instilled a love for school and learning from the start.  Right out of the gates, I loved learning, and it's due to their encouragement and care.  My sister is a kindergarten teacher now, and I love that she will inspire gaggles of other little kids to be little lifelong learners like Mrs. Hobart and Mrs. Emerich did for me.

Eleven Bloggers Who Inspire Me: 

Please, bloggers, don't feel pressure to complete this task unless you have the desire to do so. I follow many blogs that have surely been nominated before.  Nonetheless, I hope this will bring a smile to your evening or morning.  

  1. First and foremost, I must nominate Melanie Swider of Two Reflective Teachers. Especially since I can't nominate Melanie Meehan, her partner,  I know I must give credit where credit is due to Melanie Swider.  She doesn't have to respond, but she should know that she's partly responsible for my blog.  She made a blog seem possible as we walked down Amsterdam Avenue a few summers ago, and her (their) blog inspires me every day.  
  2. Chris Lehman's blog is my go-to source for all things literacy.   So much of my learning comes from Chris.  Every post and every tweet is thoughtful and important.  Other than Lucy Calkins, I think Chris Lehman may be the other voice in my ear as I strive to be better and do better as a literacy specialist.  He's the consummate professional and educator and I have the greatest respect for his work.
  3. Kate and Maggie Roberts of Indent motivate me to be a better teacher. I know that she's been nominated already, but I wouldn't be true to myself if I didn't recognize these amazing educators.  Through the Vimeo videos, professional texts (most recently the co-authored text, Fall in Love With Close Reading) and through their blog, I reference their work on a daily basis as I coach teachers and converse about workshop.  Just. Plain. Amazing.
  4. I echo Melanie's words.  Stacey Shubitz, along with the rest of the bloggers of Two Writing Teachers are the definition of reflective educators and writers.   Though I don't engage in their amazing community as much as I would like, their posts keep me energized to read, write, and learn on a daily basis.
  5. Though there's been a changing of the guard this year, I love to read The Nerdy Book Club blog.  It's as simple as that.    Lots of great ideas, great reading, and great conversations happen here, and it's a blog that I frequently recommend to other professionals who are avid readers.
  6. Granted... And.  Grant Wiggins is a guru of curriculum design and his blog posts are ones that I have to sit in a quiet place and read with a pencil in hand.  The content is deep, meaningful, and thought provoking at its least.  As a curriculum writer, I live with Grant's words as I develop curriculum to inspire and challenge teachers to tap into student potential.  
  7. Though not really a "blogger" per se, I would be remiss to not include Chartums.  I visit the blog weekly, if not daily, for new ideas and shared resources.  I love to share the charts with teachers to challenge them to improve the learning environment for our middle school.  
  8. Another resource that I frequently point teachers to is the Teach Mentor Texts blog.  It's pretty self explanatory, but this site is updated so frequently with amazing new texts that teachers can use to teach craft, elaboration and structure in narrative, information, and argument writing.  
  9. Cool Cat Teacher is a fun and energetic blog where I steal so many teaching ideas.  Vicki Davis is the author and every time that I go to her blog, I have an ah-ha or "why didn't I think of that?" moment.  Just flawless.
  10. I'm not supposed to nominate Teaching with Technology blogger, Lisa Maples, because she tagged me earlier this winter, but I can't help it. I love her blog and I glean so many exciting ideas from what she shares.  
  11. Last, but certainly not least, I must give credit to my friend, Art's, blog.  Though I secretly hate him for leaving me and "retiring" last year, I find him to be a colleague that inspires me to think deeply and meaningfully.  His blog is a math one, yet it always forces me (and more importantly, students) to think outside my/our comfort zone(s).  Isn't that what good teaching does?  And for that, and many other reasons, too, I love him.  
And my eleven questions that I pose:  
  1. If you could be an Olympian, what sport would you choose?  Why?  (I may or may not be watching the Olympics right now)
  2. What author do you "follow"?  (Perhaps you have read three or more books that they have published?)  What kind of writing is this?
  3. If a student was about to enlist in the military, what would be the one last sentence that you would send them off with?  
  4. What is your favorite professional text that you have recently read, are currently reading, or would like to read next?
  5. If you could live anywhere in the world for just one year, where would it be?  Why?  
  6. What was/is the hardest obstacle that you have overcome?  What advice would you give to someone trying to overcome the same one?  
  7. If you could give your younger self one piece of advice that you would apply, what would it be?  
  8. Do you wish your family was bigger or smaller?  Why?   
  9. What ONE thing do you feel should be changed in your school?  Is it possible to change it? 
  10. If you had to define your life in one word, what one word would you choose? 
  11. What is your favorite type of music?  What is your favorite artist within that type of music?  
Whoa, that was a lot.  I made it.  Did you?  I know that many of the bloggers above have been nominated for this before, and perhaps the window of Sunshine Awards has passed.  But I do hope that the nomination has made you smile, if even just for a couple seconds, and bring you some sunshine on these snowy, cold days.  And for those of you who have made it here, thank you for following this blog. I promise to be better. I do.  And, thank you, Melanie, for nominating me and for believing in me, too.