Tuesday, December 31, 2013

OLW 2013 is Saying Goodbye

Irrigate was my OLW for 2013.
So, I watered my soul
with infrequent success.
I planted seeds of learning
that grew as my students' English improved.
I made new friends
who in turn irrigated my soul
deep down where it was dry.
I irrigated my plants
both inside and outside.
I watched them grow and multiply.
I started to irrigate my body
by watching my input and decreasing
my waistline.
On some days my steps increased and on others 
I needed fresh water in order to irrigate.

I irrigated my mind by ordering professional books.
Some have sticky notes on many pages
others are waiting to look a bit more used.
I shared ideas with colleagues.
Some thanked me for new ideas
and others where too busy to listen.
I wrote and read when my students did.
I gave them an example of a reader and a writer.
We even blogged in March as a class.

I said goodbye to my daughter
who left for overseas.
I adjusted to an empty house
that is only filled with my noise.
I have missed her terribly,
but I know God is now irrigating her soul.
I learned to irrigate my mind, body and soul
by being with others who feed
my spirit, my mind and my body.

So THANK YOU for irrigating me
by reading my blog and leaving a comment!
Your encouragement and kind words
have sustained me this year through many rough patches!
THANK YOU, my reader, for many wonderful ideas
that I have gathered while reading your blog. 
My life would not be as rich as it is 
without this blogging community!

Irrigate is saying goodbye as the OLW for 2013.
 OLW for 2014 has not visited me yet.
Hopefully I will get to entertain OLW 2014 very soon.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Many Reasons to Celebrate

Discover. Play. Build.

This past week has been wonderful! I have enjoyed having my cousin Matti and his wife Liisa--from Finland--with me. I loved cooking with Liisa, and then eating with the family. Showing Matti and Liisa around my state has also been fun (although cold at times). It has also been wonderful to just chat and talk about people that we all know and love; and also to talk about people that we all loved and  still remember with both love and tears in our eyes. There has been so much joy and laughter present in my life this past week; I think I have added a few years to  my life.

Here are a few highlights of our celebrations this week:

1. Spending an evening with international friends was so much fun!

2. Greenfield Village in Dearborn, MI during Holiday Nights. Matti was proud of "his new" car.

3. It was cold--even if you came from Finland. Actually, it was the Finns that felt the cold more than the others. But the cold did not hinder our fun even though it felt that the coldness was reaching the inside of our bones at times.

4. Hot chocolate, warm home, tiredness, and most of all, happiness was all over us when we returned from our excursion.

5. Having a good cup of coffee with a wonderful friends while exchanging Christmas gifts is always an enjoyable moment!

6. Christmas Eve Candlelight service. This is what Christmas is all about!

Photo by Donnell Wyche

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Traditions

This Christmas I am privileged to have my cousin and his wife travelling from Finland to spend Christmas with me. It's only been two days, and we have already laughed so much. My cousin's wife, Liisa, has reminded me so much of my mother. For some reason, Liisa's mannerism, ways of speaking, and her actions, are so similar to my mother's. It has been good to share memories with someone who was very close to my mother.

Yesterday (Christmas Eve Eve), we prepares casseroles. It always starts with Finnish rice porridge. I slowly cook the rice first in water and then in milk. I season it with salt and butter. At this point, everyone wants to already have a bowl, but after taking out enough porridge to make our carrot casserole, the porridge will have to cook for quite some time in order for it to be the perfect softness when eating. Nothing really says Christmas like perfect rice porridge for me!

Wouldn't you want to have some as well?

While the porridge is cooking to perfection, carrots need to be shredded and rutabagas need to be cut and cooked. The house is starting to smell wonderful! Carrot and Rutabaga casserole are always at my Christmas table. But this year Liisa convinced me to try something new: shredded beet, onion and blue cheese casserole! I was not so sure about the beets. After all, I don't think I have ever touched a beet that did not come from a vinegar solution! I guess I will find out later today if the beet casserole will become a new tradition or just a one time wonder.

By the time you read this, I might be sitting down for Christmas dinner, or putting the final touches on dinner preparation or gift wrapping. I wish you the best ever Christmas which ever way you celebrate this season. My your life be filled with joy, laughter, fun, peace, and most of all, LOVE!
Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Celebrations Continue

Discover. Play. Build.

It is four days until Christmas. I feel like I am running out of time. But then I remember, there are so many reasons to celebrate.

1. I don't like cleaning, but the end result is worth it. Looking at a room from the doorway that is clean and organized, gives you a sense of peace and accomplishment.

2. My cousin and his wife are coming from Finland this afternoon! As my daughter is overseas, there was a possibility that I would be home  by myself at Christmas, but surprise, visitors from overseas are coming! Maybe I will even get to enjoy some Finnish chocolate!

3. I have two weeks off. Time to enjoy great company, and recharge for the next few months. 

4.  One of my neighbors and friends saved me. I have been looking for a Christmas present for my overseas visitors, but had not found anything. Then my neighbor stopped by to show what she had made for a charity craft sale. Perfect item for my visitors! I didn't even go shopping!

5. I can't write this and not celebrate the  many wonderful coworkers that I have.  I came home yesterday with cookies (migraine kept me from joining the cookie exchange), chocolate, cards and a wonderful ending for a 2013.

What are you celebrating today?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

PD means seeing friends, learning and having fun

I was so fortunate to attend a professional development yesterday. For the last five years, our state's special population's office has supported a Train the Trainers cohorts. We started with SIOP (-Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol), worked on writing, and now, we are looking at WIDA and how we can integrate common core standards with the WIDA standards.

Today we had three wonderful presenters: Kelli, Maura and Nadra. Their goal was to instruct us in close reading, WIDA standards and, of course, common core. These three ladies are amazing! They are full of knowledge on how to best instruct English Language Learners in content area classroom while still supporting their English language development.

My day yesterday was NOT:

  • boring
  • dragging
  • same old, same old
  • full of wasted information

But my day yesterday WAS:
  • fun
  • entertaining
  • educational
  • fun
  • learning experience
  • did I say fun already
  • energizing
I came home with so many ideas on what I can do to teach my students better, prepare lessons that are aligned both with common core and WIDA standards, and how to share these ideas with classroom teachers in order for our students to learn as much as possible. I think I am now ready to start planning for the two PDs that I am responsible during the first week in January. I needed this spark to start my creative process. I needed the encouragement of fellow ELL professionals. I needed someone to validate my work.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Celebration Saturday

Discover. Play. Build.

There is so much to celebrate! Here are a few highlights from this past week:

  1. The varsity boys basketball game last night was soooo close! It was fun. What made it even more fun, was sitting next to wonderful students who totally energized my Friday evening.
  2. Great coworkers to share soup with at lunch. And let's not forget the pizza that was delivered to my room on Thursday while I was trying to crunch numbers in order to meet a deadline for the state.
  3. Text exchanges at night to remind to get my gym clothes packed and ready for a workout after work. And a few additional texts after work (to make sure I am really leaving work and not just working:) Great coworkers make great friends!
  4. Small group ladies! They always make me laugh! They care, share coffee and tea, and pray!
  5. Seeing students  who have already graduated! One of them told me last night how he is getting great grades in college (his first semester). He is now actually focused on his studies!
  6. I am also celebrating snow that is coming down! I LOVE SNOW!!!! Everything will look so much brighter with new snow on the ground! It just might be white Christmas this year.
What are you celebrating today?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Human Rights Day 2013

20 years

Did you know that today is the United Nation's Human Rights day 2013? I didn't. I know about human rights. I know what it is when you don't have them, and what it means to have them. I teach students who come from countries with no rights, some rights, and a few of them even come from countries where human rights are honored. This past week, I was again reminded about the importance of human rights by Nelson Mandela.
In my Sheltered English class, we have been studying real-life writing purposes; what they are, where we can find them, and how do we know what the writer's purpose is. So this idea came to my mind: could I devote a few days to human rights in the middle of this unit? What would the lesson look like? Would it include writing? What about reading? What would be the end product? 

Good cup of coffee, comfortable chair, Internet, laptop on my lap, and I was on my way to planning this week. Very soon it became apparent that the inclusion of videos would greatly enhance my lessons. As I watched YouTube clips, listened to music and read declarations, I became even more convinced that this is really something that I need to study with my students.

This week, we are delving into the rights that all human beings should have. We are interviewing family and friends, teachers, other students and staff about what human rights mean to them. We will complete mini research on human rights issues that we will then share in class. We will make posters to hang in our classroom and in the hallways to remind everyone about the rights that we all have or should have. And through all this, we will look at the real-life writing and reporting that is happening even today in countries where citizens are still fighting for their basic human rights.

Will you help us by sharing what human rights means to you?

I wish that I had learned earlier about all the resources that are available for educators, but here is one great resource in case you would like to check it out.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Celebration of Heros

Discover. Play. Build.

I did not have to fight for my rights when I was growing up
I already had the freedom
I did not have to fight for my right to vote
I already had the freedom
I did not have to fight for my right to worship in freedom
I already had the freedom
I did not have to fight for my right to sit at the front of a bus
I already had that freedom
I did not have to fight for my right to attend a school of my choice
I already had the freedom
I did not have to fight for the right to speak my language
I already had the freedom
I did not have to fight for my right to live in a place of my choosing
I already had the freedom
I did not have to fight for peace in my country
I already had the freedom to live in peace

So, today, I celebrate you 
who had to fight for your rights
I celebrate you
 who had to fight to get the right to vote
I celebrate you
 who had to fight to worship freely
I celebrate you
 who had to fight to go to a school of your choice
I celebrate you
 who had to fight for the right to live freely and in freedom
I celebrate you
 who had to fight for peace in your country
I celebrate you
who went to prison to make sure I can keep my rights

"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."     -Nelson Mandela-

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Are you a Thinker or Browser?

Have you heard of Kelly Gallagher? Have you ever visited his page? Looked at his resources? Browsed his collection of current event articles? In case you haven't, here is the link to his page: Kelly Gallagher. I am a  regular lurker on his website. I am always looking to find the next article to read with my students.

A few days ago, my high school students read a current event article together. The title was "Why being a thinker means pocketing your smartphone." Very intriguing. The article provided tons of discussion material. We started talking about what we do when we have a few minutes with nothing to do. Do we reach for our electronic devises? If we do, what do we do with them?

The second thing we discussed was the statement made in the article: "smartphones kill creativity." As my students wrote their responses to the article, many of them mentioned that you don't have to think as much because you can "just Google" it. Others said that when you need to do a creative project for school, you just go to YouTube and watch how to duplicate something that someone else has already done.

When I started thinking about my creativity I came back to my cooking. Maybe it is because I feel too limited by following a recipe (unless it's a cake or another fancy dessert). I love the freedom I have when making soup! Little bit or this, some more of that, and oh, there are some frozen peppers left in the freezer as well. Add a little variety of spices, and voila, soup is ready to serve! If it is looking a little strange with its multitude of ingredients, blend it and make smooth pureed soup!

What are you doing in your classroom and in your life to foster creativity and curiosity? What is something new that you have done in the last few weeks? Did you join the #nerdlution? Or, have you been just browsing and lurking?