I struggled to find something to write about today. I sat here at my desk for about thirty minutes. After trying a few ideas that didn’t work, I pulled one of my favorite books, Kate Messner’s 59 Reasons To Write: Mini-Lessons, Prompts, and Inspiration For Teachers and began flipping through the pages. I stopped on page 114 and read one of Jo’s Morning Warm-Ups (Jo Knowles is one of the contributors to this book and one of the authors involved in Teachers Write). Jo’s Morning Warm-Up focused on fear and encouraged readers to “describe a fear you had as a child” (Messner, 2015,p. 114). Immediately, I thought of trash trucks and the Incredible Hulk. I wasn’t a child who was afraid of a lot of things. I never had a fear of the dark or monsters under my bed or in my closet. I didn’t have separation anxiety when away from my parents. But I was scared of a trash truck and the Incredible Hulk.
My family and I lived in an apartment when I was small. I can still remember the rumble of the trash truck when it pulled into our apartment complex. I can still see the dumpster rising up in the air and dumping its contents. That noise frightened me so much and every time I saw the trash truck approach, I dreaded the noise even though that’s really all it was—just a noise.
When I think about the Incredible Hulk, something about the transformation into the Hulk frightened me. I don’t know if it was the noise or the anger displayed by the Hulk or his creepy eyes, but I didn’t like the Hulk one bit!
Thank goodness that when the Hulk came on TV, I was already in love with books and could curl up with a story that made the Hulk disappear!
I decided to play with poetry to describe my day.
Dreary rainy day
Rushing creeks nearing their banks
When will the sun shine?
Sitting in meetings
Sharing progress with parents
And positive words
Waiting so impatiently
Is it ready yet?
Searching for dinner
The cabinets are empty
The drive to school was beautiful this morning. The sunrise was brilliant with orange and pink splashed across the eastern sky. The air was crisp, but not frigid and I was reminded that spring is finally here!
Then, I pulled into the parking lot at school and opened the car door. A smell assaulted my nose and I was tempted to hop back into the car. The fields surrounding the school had been sprayed with liquid fertilizer and the smell was intense! I tried to hold my breath as I grabbed my purse and bag and hurried up the sidewalk to the door. I breathed a literal sigh of relief after slipping through the door.
I remember the first time I was exposed to liquid fertilizer at school. I had morning car duty at the time and tried not to gag at the smell. Then, every time I opened a car door for a student, it seemed as though all of the car’s inhabitants gave me strange looks as if I was the one responsible for the smell. I remember hastily mentioning the liquid fertilizer on the surrounding fields, attempting to explain the powerful odor, and while I’m sure most people understood what was going on, it was, as one of my students likes to say, “awkward!”
At least I don’t have car duty this morning! By the time I have afternoon car duty at 3:00, I hope that the smell will be less powerful. But if it’s not, I may need to turn my turtleneck into a mask and be prepared for the strange looks!
I hit a bit of a road block when I sat down to write my slice today. I visited Christie Wyman’s wonderful Padlet of writing ideas and was reminded of a party invitation slice from Leigh Anne Eck. Basically, you identify five items that you would bring to a slicer party and it allows slicers to get to know each other. Even though we’re more than halfway through the challenge, I love any opportunity to get to know other slicers.
Favorite book: I’ve spent a lot of time with Tanny McGregor’s book, Ink and Ideas. At first, I was intimidated by sketchnoting, but I’ve realized that it’s not about a perfect product, but instead should reflect my thinking. I would love to share my thoughts about sketchnoting with my fellow slicers.
Favorite person: My Mom because she has always supported my writing and believes that I will one day be a published author. Her support means the world to me and I know that she would encourage my fellow teacher-writers. Plus, she’d keep us well-fed with her amazing desserts that range from chocolate chip cookies and brownies to Oreo truffles and the most amazing trifles.
Favorite food or beverage: Chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven! That’s one of Mom’s specialities and there’s nothing better than a hot, ooey-gooey chocolate chip cookie!
Favorite song: This one really stumped me at first. Finally, I thought about a song that I heard on the radio recently and how the lyrics spoke to me. It’s a song by Christian artist Mallary Hope titled “Me.” I also love the lyrics of her song, “Now.”
Surprise: I discovered Rocketbook notebooks completely by accident when I was Christmas shopping on Amazon. I love this reusable notebook and found that I wrote more in it than in my regular notebooks. I also love that I can scan the pages and send them to Google Drive before I erase them and start again. I would give everyone at the party their own Rocketbook and a selection of Frixon pens (which you have to use with the Rocketbook).
Will you join me at our virtual party? What will you bring?
Although I had a great time at #VSRA19, I missed my students and couldn’t wait to see them today. I looked forward to sharing my experiences meeting beloved authors and all of the things that I learned. I also couldn’t wait to show pictures and answer their questions. I was so excited to tell my fifth graders about meeting Josh Funk (they’re some of his biggest fans) and Katherine Applegate (they loved Roscoe Riley’s antics when they were younger) and Kate Messner (Ranger in Time!!!) and all of the other amazing authors at the conference.
When I went to the first grade classroom to pick up M at 10:00, he made a beeline to the door and hugged me, saying, “I missed you!” During our entire walk down the hallway, M repeated over and over how glad he was to see me and how much he’d missed me while I was at the conference. I was afraid that I was going to start bawling in the middle of the hallway as I listened to him. Thankfully, by the time we were settled at the horseshoe-shaped table in my classroom, I had composed myself to begin our lesson.
On Thursday night, we held a Paint Night with Caldecott honoree Gregory Christie. I do not have an artistic bone in my body and it was only with considerable assistance, did my final product turn out to look anything like the original picture. Gregory and Claudia were amazing teachers who patiently explained each step and guided us through the process. I discovered that painting this picture was a lot like writing. The first attempt was not perfect and really didn’t look like anything—just some swipes of paint across a blank canvas. Eventually, though, with attention, it began to look like something that resembled a lighthouse on a beach.
This picture was taken early in the process. There’s not much on the canvas and you certainly wouldn’t know that the end product will be a lighthouse on a beach.
Then, we added additional details, although we weren’t finished. At this point, I really wondered if the final product would look anything like Gregory’s example. However, I continued to follow each step carefully and asked for help when things didn’t seem to go according to plan. With a mentor and a mentor text, the painting began to evolve.
Now it’s starting to look like something, but I’m still not sure that it’s going to look like a lighthouse at the beach. More details are definitely necessary. I needed a bit of scaffolding as I worked on the lighthouse. At times, I was frustrated with my lack of ability (I can neither draw nor paint a straight line to save my life!), but was encouraged by my teacher to keep going and not to give up.
Finally, I finished the picture. It’s not perfect, but I made progress each step of the way. As Jen Laffin says, “progress not perfection.” I thought of her words a lot that evening! Just as with my writing, I couldn’t listen to the inner voice that said my painting was awful or that I could never complete this activity. Just as with my writing, I had to persevere and celebrate my accomplishments, no matter how small they seemed. I had to shrug off the inner critic that laughed at my “Leaning Tower Lighthouse” and oddly shaped windows. Instead, I patted myself on the back for trying and for not missing out on a fun activity with my friends.
I am a shy person (at least until I get to know you). Once (and really probably more than once) I was described as “stuck up” and those words have stayed with me ever since. That was in the seventh grade and those words have stayed with me ever since.
I’ve always pushed myself to try to overcome that shyness because I didn’t want to limit myself to all of the opportunities available for me. Eye contact is something that I still work on, even after all of these years and I’ve found that it’s all a work in progress. I participated in 4-H public speaking contests in middle school and was on the Forensics team in high school. I ran for and won a spot on my college’s Judicial Board. In recent years, I’ve gotten involved in my local and state reading councils. This year, I’m the President-Elect of VSRA and the annual conference chair. As a result, I’ve stretched myself and grown and gained confidence. I’m not letting shyness win and while I’ll probably always have to make sure that it doesn’t hold me back from doing the things that I love, I have come a long way and I need to remind myself of that and celebrate my evolution.
This week, during the VSRA conference, I’ve met authors, conference attendees from all over Virginia, sponsors, and exhibitors. I spoke during our General Sessions, Annual Banquet, and breakfast events with Josh Funk and Katherine Applegate. I participated in Paint Night with Gregory Christie. I approached sponsors and exhibitors to thank them for their participation. We had over 1400 people at the conference, but shyness didn’t win. Instead, I’ve made new friends, enjoyed long-time friends, and shared an incredible experience. Stretching myself to embrace stepping out of my comfort zone empowered me and allowed me to enjoy so many things that I would never have experienced otherwise.