Monthly Archives: June 2013

Summer Manifesto

Tomorrow at noon I will be officially on summer vacation. To say that I am excited to be on break would be an understatement. (See here for an end-of-year reflection where I try to come to terms with my feelings surrounding this very challenging school year.) At the same time, the end of the school year is always bittersweet. There is the mental and physical exhaustion that comes with having spent an average of 180 days of the year with students and adults in a very closed environment that often breeds the worst and the best in all of us. Then, there is the anticipation of renewal as we look forward to the summer months full of days without having to be regulated by an alarm clock. Yet, the truth is that many of us may still get up at the crack of dawn to attend to graduate work, personal and/or professional writing, or just to steal a few minutes of peace before everyone else in the house wakes up; this is not much different from what happens in my house during the school year.

The summer is always over way too quickly for my taste. It seems that September rolls around before I’ve had a chance to get into a routine that feels comfortable. I end up with a pile of books I intended to read, still unread. I have appointments that I planned to make that end up getting pushed to the fall. My “to do” list of projects barely has a scratch on it.

So, my new goal this summer is to take one day at a time and to try to enjoy that moment to the fullest. I will have some projects to work on but I won’t bathe myself in disappointment when I find that I couldn’t finish all ten projects and that, of the 20 books I had lined up, I only read two or three. Instead, I pledge to take each day as it comes and to do as much as I am able without getting frustrated, disappointed, or anxious. I’ll remind myself that, ultimately, I am on vacation, a well-deserved one at that, and I will carve out some time each day so that I don’t forget this simple fact.

So, there you have it. My summer manifesto, of sorts. What’s yours?

Posted to The Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life

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End of Year Reflection

I’m trying very hard to finish this year on a positive note. I don’t want to leave for the summer feeling sour and negative. However, when at every turn it feels as if doors get closed faster than they’re opened, it’s not easy.

Teaching shouldn’t be so hard. Teachers should be supported in their work and administrators need to be the ones to do that. I am feeling disheartened despite repeated attempts to brave the storms. I have even considered quitting my present job in order to gain some perspective on my professional and personal life.

But something is holding me back.

Is it pride in my past accomplishments? Possibly, but it’s not the determining factor. Is it that I don’t want to let down my ESL students, most of whom will be with me next year? Very likely. Is it the thought that this year has been an anomaly and the hope that next year has to be better and so let’s give it another shot? Possibly.

What is certain is that I will be doing a lot of soul searching this summer about how I’m going to approach the coming school year. Nothing new here. I do this every year just like most teachers I know. However, as I look ahead to my vacation, it’s starting to feel small and crowded: too many projects lined up and not enough time and space in which to do them. But, that view is from today’s hectic end-of-year perspective. Once I wake up Thursday morning and realize I am finally on vacation, I will be able to take a deep breath and start the necessary work that will get me ready for the coming school year. Some of this “work” will be “play” for myself and my family, and some will be professional reading and planning that teachers do every summer. One project I will be involved in is Teachers Write, which starts tomorrow, June 24th. Come join us.

And, I’m off and running.

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Filed under reflection, summer, support, Teachers Write

Twitter

I think I have begun to understand the power of Twitter.

First, a little history. I’ve had a twitter account for several years now and, although I would occasionally tweet or retweet a post, I rarely engaged in much conversation. I was always worried that my tweets weren’t witty enough or correctly written, not to mention that it took some effort to parse them down to 140 characters. I was never quite sure what hashtag to use or who I was supposed to mention in my tweet – the contemporary version of a faux pas. 
I have only participated in a tweet chat once and, even then, I couldn’t stay the full hour. But, those 30 minutes that I was online, reading and posting, were amazing. So, while I have yet to make twitter chats a regular part of my repertoire, it is coming. I have connected several times with other educators via direct message and although it felt good to reach out, it didn’t generate lasting connections or enhanced learning opportunities.
Last week, however proved to be a turning point for me. I was invited to tweet about myself, my school and my particular teaching situation in South America for an entire week. I tweeted every day, for an average of three times a day, which while usual or low for some, was a challenge for me. But, I didn’t only tweet on the guest twitter account, I also tweeted on my personal account. Some people tweet throughout the day and still work at the same time. I truly don’t know how they do that! In any case, this situation forced me to experience what it would be like to tweet, respond to tweets, engage in conversations and make new connections. So, I have vowed to continue to post and respond as often as possible throughout the day. My goal is three tweets a day; it still takes time to compose a tweet!
This week I am participating in a Twitter chat with Sir Ken Robinson being sponsored by Adobe Education on June 13th and I am participating in the Twitter book chat for Teach Like a Pirate #tlap that starts June 17th. Look me up on Twitter @elisaw5 and let’s connect.
So, have you found the power of tweeting? Tell us about it in a comment below.
Happy tweeting!

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Reflections on the past year

Almost a year ago we relocated to Quito, Ecuador

after having spent six years living in Calgary, Alberta.

Image from: http://bit.ly/19cIuyP

Those six years in Calgary were wonderful; both my husband and I had amazing jobs and we made some good friends while we were there. I could write an entire blog post about the great things going on at the Calgary Board of Education and how that quickly changed about three years ago to look more and more like what’s happening in the U.S.

The first year we were in Calgary, after having lived 10 years in Quito, were undeniably challenging and surprisingly so. There were so many adjustments to make – the weather, the culture, the educational system, just to name a few. Yet, we faced them all with such aplomb that at one point late into those six years I even considered just staying on for the long haul. However, family and friends here called out to us and we realized that we needed to return to our home base.

The move back to Quito was no less dramatic and fraught with its own challenges. My job situation was less than ideal as my job description changed radically just a couple of months before our move. And, although I tried to be optimistic, I was definitely disappointed. That disappointment followed me throughout the year as the school struggled to accommodate to my son’s strengths and needs, and I struggled with a school that, although known to me, seemed to be focusing on the wrong things. Now, at the end of the school year, I can safely say we are on the other side of all those seemingly heart wrenching decisions (we moved my son to another school mid-year) and we are settling in to living here.

The coming school year will bring other challenges, no doubt, but I anticipate a sense of renewal as the summer approaches. Although the next few months promise to be very busy (I need to finish revisions to my research proposal for my EdD), I will also make time to spend with my family and to recharge my batteries, so to speak. I plan to do lots of pleasure and professional reading as well as participate in Teachers Write and do some planning for my classes next year. I’m also exploring some other possibilities that I will write about later if they come to fruition. In the meantime, I am staying positive by following the adaptation of the Serenity Prayer that was recently posted on the Calgary Centre for Spiritual Living:

God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it’s me.”

So how’s your year been? What are you planning to do this summer to recharge your batteries? Post a comment below to share.

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Filed under Calgary, Calgary Centre for Spiritual Living, challenges, Quito, reflections, serenity prayer, Teachers Write

ESL Ruminations #3

OK. I’m on a roll. I have been energized by thinking and writing about what’s working and what isn’t going so well with my ESL classes. I have enjoyed trying out new routines and activities with my students. I’ve written about some of my ruminations and attempts to improve learning for my students here and here.

Today I want to share about an old but new-to-my-students activity: collaborative story writing.

My instructions were simple: start a story and pass your paper to the person on your right so they can continue it. We talked about making sure that there was a beginning, middle and end, and that the middle involved the problem and the solution. We talked about setting and characters and that ample details make a story more interesting. We talked about the importance of each subsequent section fitting in with the previous sections. In other words, the story had to make sense. We talked about printing legibly so that their group members would be able to read their writing.

I had two different groups engage in this activity. One group was composed of eight children in fourth and fifth grades, and the second group (two different classes) only had 3 students all of whom are in the sixth grade. The smaller group completed four rounds of exchanging papers and finished their stories. The larger group had a later start, more questions about the process, and was not able to exchange papers. They did, however, write the beginning of their stories and shared these orally with each other. All of the students in both groups are beginner ESL students.

As a result of these two experiences, I have decided to divide the larger group into two smaller groups. This will allow them to finish their stories in one sitting and hopefully result in fewer distractions.

I’m thinking that the next step will be to have students pair up to revise and edit their stories. They could also add illustrations and come up with a suitable title for their stories. We could publish them and share them with other classes, families, and friends.

Here’s a variation of the collaborative story writing we did yesterday.

Have you done anything similar to this with your students? How did it go? Any suggestions for improving this process with ESL students? Please share in the comments section below.

Cross posted to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/2013/06/04/writerwithabigw/

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Filed under collaborative story writing, ESL, writing