Thursday, July 24, 2014

On a Journey with God

As I was reading Holly's tweet and blog post this morning, I realized that my post will go very well along with what Holly is sharing today on the topic of Spiritual Journey Thursday. Join us to share about your spiritual journey.

This past Sunday evening was special. My niece's husband was ordained as Army Chaplain. This is something that he has been dreaming and working towards for many years. Now it is formal.

What do I see in Peter's future?

Peter is a man of God. He is always searching for God. He takes his job as a chaplain very seriously. He understands that the soldiers that he will have contact with come from many different backgrounds. Some of them will know God, and others will have no idea what a relationship with God means. He will encounter people who have a long journey with God and others that in the midst of their PTSD don't even know if there is a God.

Peter will bring hope. Life can at times be pretty dark. Only light can bring hope that will drive away the darkness. This is what I see Peter doing. His words, his actions, his testimony. He will be the messenger of hope.

Peter will bring love. When Pastor Jonathan was giving his charge to Peter during the ceremony, he reminded Peter of all the important things. But the most important, he said, is love. Peter will not just be the person who walks along with his fellow soldiers, but he will also be the one who brings them a message of true love; of eternal love; of Father's love. He will share the love that can conquer all. 

This is the beginning of Peter's journey in this part of his life. He will be shocked, devastated, triumphant, and everything in between. There will be trying times, and there will be times of great joy. All of these are part of the journey we take when we decide to follow God. Despite the trials, separations from family, and other difficulties, Peter can rest assured that he is not alone on this journey! God has promised to walk right beside him. God has promised to give him strength. God has promised to provide. God has promised to love and comfort. God has promised to never leave him or forsake him. God has promised to forgive. God has promised to be there until the very end.

Peter, you are in good hands; you are in God's hands.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Discovering My Inner Creativity

My friend Sarah has a drop-in art at her home on Monday afternoons. For a long time I have been envious of the people who have afternoons free and can go and work on their art projects. I always had school. When summer came, I have been planning to go to Sarah's every Monday, but something always seemed to happen at that time.

Yesterday, finally, the time was right! I had put this date in my calendar as I was taking two friends to meet Sarah as well. I was the non artist in the group. I took my canvas that I had bought months ago. I had some brushes as well. Otherwise, I was clueless.

I don't know what I really worried about as everyone was so helpful! They talked about colors, shading, color wheels etc. I listened and tried to incorporate their suggestions (some with more success than others). The only thing I put my foot down was the color orange!

My goal and my word for the year is DISCOVER. I have been trying to discover many new things this year. Yesterday I succeeded in discovering that, yes, I can paint! Not for anyone else, but for me! I had so much fun painting, trying different colors, difference brushes (even a toothbrush), and most of all, chatting at the table with the other ladies! We came from four different countries. With four different opinions, but we loved being together!

I am wondering what other artistic and creative thing I could try next??? I think a trip to Jo Ann's might be in order.

How do you continue to incorporate your word of the year into your life?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Discovering New Ideas


Attending nErDcampMI, participating in reading Reading in the Wild CyberPD and being part of a group that is reading Linda Reif's Read, Write, Teach, is helping to turn my summer into the summer of new discoveries! When you add collaboration with colleagues close by, my discoveries are spilling over my brain.

nErDcampMI gave me new joy and enthusiasm to keep on discovering new ideas, new books, new strategies, and new colleagues in the cyber world. By attending wonderful sessions, I discovered that it is okay to discard methods that are not working. Donalyn Miller even gave us permission to discard read alouds--or any book for that matter--that is not working. How true! After all, I am not wearing the pair of pants that no longer fit (use your own judgment to determine if they are now too loose or too tight, or they somehow just became too short). I mean, there comes a point when I will even use my old "holy" tights to mop up the dust from my wood floors before I throw them away. If I decide to throw away or return other items, why not books?

Participating in the CyberPD for Reading in the Wild, is giving me the chance to read other educators' opinions and discoveries. I am part of the conversation even if I am sitting at home. I am part of something that is hopefully bringing a change to my classroom this coming year. It also did not hurt that at nErDcampMI I heard Donalyn speak live!!! I now completely understand what so many educators and nerdy book club members have talked about for a long time.

Reading my group's comments and discoveries found in Linda Reif's book Read, Write, Teach is also producing more new discoveries. At first I was a bit skeptical on how this book would benefit me, ELL teacher who focuses on secondary students, but the margins in the book are no longer as empty as they were when the book first arrived on my doorstep. Ideas are swimming in my head even if I don't get to the pool. Reading has led me to search further ideas on Pinterest, blogs, twitter and yes, even on my own bookshelves.

Discoveries are good! I am starting to feel  more energized. New ideas no longer feel like a crowd is gathering in my brain; now the new ideas are welcome guests that I am happy to serve and entertain.

What new things have you discovered this summer?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Celebrate Life

Thank you Ruth for inviting us to celebrate!

Today I want to celebrate life!! I want to celebrate life with all I have!!!

This morning I went to a 20 year old young man's funeral service. For many years I would see Marcus come with his mother and sister to our single moms once a month dinners. He was this big guy who had presence. He was special. He came even when he could have stayed at home by himself.

Today I listened to Marcus's friends and family share stories about Marcus. I listened and watched the young people from the group home where he worked cry over Marcus. Marcus's uncle shared about Marcus's love for his mother and sister. Friends told how Marcus had been their fashion adviser, and more importantly, he had been their friend.

So today, I want to celebrate life!

After the funeral service I went to visit my friend H. who is staying at a rehab center recovering from her hip surgery. She was really excited as it was almost time for art! She excitedly showed me what she had done the day before in art.
There was a picture frame already on her dresser and a picture on the wall.

Today's session was coloring. H. and I sat at a table with three other ladies who were all coloring. For over an hour, we sat and talked. We found out how one of the ladies had come to America as a child. Another one had grandparents from Poland and Hungary. One lady has four cats. and she is glad to be going home in a few days to see them again. As I mentioned my dislike of cats, she smiled and said that her brother only has 20 cats!

One of the other ladies pointed to a lady behind me, and said: "She is my sister."
I did find out that they were not roommates, but enjoyed coming to do art or play rummy together. We shared stories about our lives; where we come from and where we have been. We found things that connected us to each other, and we saw art taking place.

In the morning, I celebrated a life that ended too quickly. In the afternoon, I celebrated stories. These stories connected us. These stories--both sad and happy--give meaning to our lives. Stories are memories that are meant to be shared.

What stories are you telling today?

P.S. When I went to buy a card for Marcus's family, I saw the mug (see pic above). I had to get it, because life really is a special occasion!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Reading in the Wild" Cyber PD Chapter 1 & 2

A little over month ago I heard about this #CyberPD that was going to take place. It sounded exciting. I had already heard so much about Donalyn's Reading in the Wild that I did not need much convincing. I ordered the book. It came.

Then came #nErDcampMI where Donalyn was the keynote speaker on Monday.

Need I say more? I now had to read her book!

Chapter 1

As I was reading chapter 1 (and also chapter 2), I kept thinking about my dad. He along with my mother really modeled reading for me. My father only went to school for five years, but every morning he would sit and read the newspaper. So I grew up reading while sitting on his lap. Later on, we would divide the paper into sections where I would get the comics first. My dad really incorporated reading into his daily life. He knew about so many things because he read the newspaper.

Donalyn talks about when students read daily, they "practice living like readers" (9). She further talks about how "students need to connect with other readers and participate in a reading culture that values them" (9). How can I make this happen in my classroom and in my small group teaching sessions?

  • I need to give students time to read in class, Translate this into giving students more time to read in class, and do it regularly
  • Confer with students regularly and help students set reading goals
  • Encourage students to monitor their progress as a reader --> maybe there is a new bulletin board or display coming to my new classroom
  • Daily note taking during conferences (28)
    • This will also help me to determine if a student is fake reading or avoiding reading altogether
  • Encourage wild and varied reading despite our AR requirements

I am not sure how all these new ideas will look like in September, but these are goals for me to work during this summer. Get my Evernote ready to record my conferences and daily notes is a high priority for me!

Chapter 2

"Students who cannot successfully choose texts that meet their personal and academic reading goals fail to develop a vital skill that all wild readers possess" (47).

This is a big problem with my English as a Second Language students. The older students want to be like everyone else and choose big books. They want to be seen carrying the same books as others in their class. They cannot, however, read these books.
How do I as their teacher guide them to the books that would be a good match for them? How do I develop this skill in my students to self select books that are good for them personally and academically?

I definitely don't have all the answers yet, but I am thinking about organizing my classroom library a little differently. Of course, I am always looking for books where the content and reading level would be appropriate for my students population. I have tried audio books, but students are not interested in them. Perhaps when (and if) we get iPads into our classrooms, students would think it cool to listen to books again.

My second big take home from this chapter is the read alouds. I have always done this with the younger students, but with my high school students I did this a few years ago, but then came the new requirements. I need to get back to reading aloud. I need to make time for this.

Donalyn talks about memories that we have with read alouds. I have great memories of my parents reading to me as a child, and reading with my daughter. Even today at my small group, we often read a selection out loud to everyone. So many of my life's great moments have to do with read alouds. I need to teach my students how to build these memories (whether they have had examples at home or not).

I think that being steadfast in all that I am planning to do will create better results. I think I can combine the technology standard with book commercials. Perhaps newscasts about important book awards or new releases (oral language practice combined with technology). I need to be mindful of the actions that I take so that they do not become just another "thing" to do. I need to keep in mind that the goal is to foster wild reading in our whole school not just in my classroom.

#nErDcampMI Reflections

It all started the summer of 2013. I kept reading about this event called #nErDcampMI. I had no idea what it was. Perhaps a technology camp. I had no smartphone or iPad; I did not believe that it was for me. Then came the reviews, blog posts, and all the other wonderful things after last summer's camp. It was for me! I could have gone. It was then and there that I decided to go in the summer of 2014!

There was so much buzz about the #nErDcampMI! I was getting a little nervous. After all, I teach English as a Second Language; I do not have a regular classroom. Still, I was determined to go. At the last minute (well, maybe the last day or three), my coworker said she could go on Monday.

My first session had to do with high school English--argumentative writing particularly. Erica Beaton (@B10LovesBooks) was awesome! I learned so much from her. My mind was trying to process all the different ideas that I could use for my Sheltered English class this coming fall. Erica, you were my introduction to #nErDcampMI! It could not have been any better!

Couple of the other sessions that I attended, were also geared towards secondary. I loved listening to collaborative education happening in every session. Everyone was an avid listener, contributor, and learner. When I would mention something about teaching ELLs, others talked about ELLs in their classrooms or how they are working with other at-risk students. I felt valued in every session.

Then there was the impromptu Evernote session. Perfect timing! I have already shared the information and power points slides with many other teachers. Plans have already been made how I can increase communication with other teachers using Evernote. Thank you @katsok!

After listening to Donalyn's keynote on Monday, our drive home (yes, I live close enough to commute), felt almost too short as we had so much to talk about. We now have ideas, ideas that we want to share with the rest of  the teachers. I have tons of books in my classroom, but I want to be more intentional on how I talk about them with my students. I want to organize my classroom to be more students friendly (gladly my DIY niece has promised to come and help).

Passion for books, passion for relationship building, and passion for sharing are my special gifts that I take home from #nErDcampMI. Coming home with a bagful of books was the icing on the top!

And needless to say, 2015 #nErDcampMI dates are firmly on my calendar!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Mindful Discovery Part 1

Thank you Holly for making me think about important things; being mindful. If you would like to read more posts on the same subject, please visit Holly's Blog.

This past week a lot has happened: nErdCamp close to my home, father-in-law in a hospital after unplanned surgery, visiting friend in hospital and rehab center, working on the test items that I need to submit and revise, read professional books for cyber PD, read for pleasure, meet with friends, work on a fall conference, think about how I can improve my classes in the fall, exercise, plan and cook healthy meals, discover my creative side, watch the DVD series that I borrowed from library, discover a deeper relationship with my creator, and get ready for the young man's funeral I will be attending on Saturday.

What happened to my summer or relaxation and discovery?

I think it is time for me to take back my summer days and discover mindfulness!

I can't do everything. So, mindfulness today means that I can do what I can; I don't have to measure up to every other educator on twitter. I can set my own schedule. I can read an adult novel, not just YA books. I can meet friends for lunch instead of writing a blog post about the next great PD book. I can stay home and enjoy the quiet.

Or I can go and sit by my father-in-law's bedside for a while to give my mother-in-law a break. So today, I am being mindful about my relationships. People always come first!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

It Is Time to Celebrate

Thank you for Ruth Ayres for inviting us to pay attention to those big and small things in our lives that are worth celebrating.

Today I celebrate:

Neighbors who are there when you need them! This morning I locked myself out of the house when leaving for gym. I had my purse and my car key, but the car keys with the house key was still hanging on the wall. Thanks to my great neighbor, I got back in when I returned from gym!

Sunny summer days! I love waking up to sun peaking in through the curtains. The loud birds not so much, but because it is summer vacation, I just can't get too upset about their noises. This week we have had some really beautiful days. I can drive windows open and breathe in the fresh summer air. What could be better?

My friend and co-worker's surgery that went well. I wrote about in more detail here.

Working out regularly! Going to the gym this summer has been one of my priorities, and this past week workouts have been regular. I am feeling energized!

Coffee and conversation on Saturday morning. This morning I was having coffee with my friend Faith at our usual place. While there, another friend send a message about wanting to meet me at the coffee shop. This was a great start to this weekend!

Having time to watch both the World Cup Soccer games and Wimbledon tennis matches! I celebrate Canadian TV station that allows be to watch more soccer than my few American channels. I try to coordinate my workout session so that I can watch tennis while riding a bike or doing other cardio equipment. Isn't this what summer days are for? Choosing how and where to spend my time.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

God is Definitely Capacious

Holly invites bloggers to share their Spiritual Journey on her blog on Thursdays. Come read how others are travelling on this journey, or write your own spiritual journey post and share with others.

I came home tonight and read Holly's wonderful post. In her post, Holly asks, "How has God made your life capacious?"

I started to think.......then I thought some more......

How can I really write about this topic.......???

And then it all became very clear:

One of the teacher assistants at my school has had a problem with her hip for many years. Finally she was going to have the surgery. She was really worried how she as a single mother would manage all that it entails. My friend and I had promised that we will help her out this summer and make sure that she is well taken care of.

Yesterday was the surgery. Everything went well. Throughout the surgery I believe that she was resting in God's capacious hand. But here is where the story gets even better:

We went to visit her this afternoon. There she was, laying in bed, but so happy to see us. She wanted us in the room when the nurse was talking with her.  A few minutes after that two other friends came for a visit. As we talked, one of the other ladies said that her daughter works at the same hospital and will bring her special food tomorrow on her way to work. It is Ramadan and everyone is cooking special foods at home. This same friend also mentioned that her son works actually at the same floor as our friend H. is staying.

Then came to OT. What a sweet woman she was. I realized that I know her boss very well! Then came the rehab coordinator. I was not shy and I asked if she could arrange transportation to the rehab facility on Monday. An hour later we found out that the transportation was ll set!! The came the doctor. She gave H. her e-mail address in case she has questions as she won't be at the hospital for the next three days. Are you starting to see God's hand--his capacious hand--in all this?

H. was also very happy that they are keeping her at the hospital until Monday because the rehab facility is not taking any new patients during the holiday weekend.

Then came the above mentioned friend's son for a visit. Through him we found out that he had recommended a private room for H. And she got one! It is definitely easier that she does not need to worry about being covered all the time. He can also speak Arabic if H. would need that assistance.

As my friend and I were getting ready to leave, three more ladies walked in. I recognized as mothers who have children at our school. One of then came bringing food for H! This made H. very happy!

I think H. was starting to get tired, but she was rejoicing in the visitors and phone calls that she had received while we were there. I think her brother's call from overseas made her especially happy.

I know that I wrote about many details, but as I think about these details, I really see H. resting in God's capacious hand! God is holding H. in his hand; she is secure and well taken care of. God is showing her how much he really loves her. 

For me, this is showing again how God cares about both the small and the big things in our lives. God is again demonstrating that no detail is too small for him to take care of. As the OT left, I went to talk to her to request that H. could have a female OT this weekend (as this one was off for a couple of days). Today's OT understood and promised to make that request. When I shared this with the ladies, we had a few good laughs about how important it is to learn how to put on your underwear after hip surgery, and how much easier it will be when a female OT is the one teaching you how to do it! 

Today, I am happy that I am on a journey with a capacious God!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Do I Need a Magnifying Glass When Driving?

During the school year I drive the same way twice a day. In the morning the road is more quiet as I try to leave early, but when I am driving home in the rush hour traffic, I can glad I am driving south as the north side of the road is often bumper to bumper traffic for a few miles.

Around middle of May I began to see these strange sandwich signs along the road.

Oh, you can't read it.
But most of you who are reading this blog are somehow involved in teaching reading or writing. What is your problem? Do you think this picture would be better?

Oh, you still can't see the text? 
I have had this same dilemma for the last few weeks. So, Annika and I decided to actually stop and take some photos on a Sunday morning when there is hardly any traffic on this road. Perhaps if we were to step really close to the board (as there really was no traffic to hinder us from stopping), we could actually be able to read the sign. As you can see, this distance does not give me any clues to the topic of the sign.

Annika walked right up to the board. 
Yes, she had to deal with some weeds that had  grown in front of the board. Still, Annika had a hard time reading the post.  If we had a hard time seeing the text, would could a driver who drives 45 miles/hour see from his/her window? 

I am taking this photo as close to the board as I can in order to fit it all in. Still, I am really having a hard time reading the text. I can see that it is about a public hearing of some sort, but, seriously, this is the format that they (township etc.) came up with to publicize the meeting?

The other day when I was again driving this section of the road, I counted 12 signs on a three mile section. I have never seen a car stop, or even slow down, to read the sign. I continue to wonder who made the decision to design and place these signs along a very busy road. Couldn't they have used twitter or other Internet based social media to inform their constituents? Using a format that public can easily access, and where the text is readable? 

So, should I start carrying a magnifying glass in the car? And I don't mean a pocket size one to read the menu, but a letter size one that would help me to read the signs along the roads. What do you think?