Getting ready for the best year yet

Passion and being passionate is the theme for our new school year. As I have been working in my classroom and with my colleagues, I have been trying to plan with that theme in mind. I have to admit that passion is easily lost in the mountain of paperwork that I have to do every fall before students arrive and also in the first few weeks of a new school year.

Checking home language surveys and playing a detective to locate information from other school districts in order to place newly arrived students correctly. Then there are the new students from overseas; how much English can they speak? Can they read and write as well? When are they available for placement testing? Then there is the new MTSS screening that we need to implement this year. Will that apply to me and my students as well? I guess I will find out on Wednesday.

What about the new curriculum or an old curriculum with a few revisions? What did I learn last year that I promised to change for this year? Oh yeah, there were a few things:

  • keep better records of conferring with students (forms for me are just waiting to be printed)
  • implement a dedicated time for independent reading and writing daily (reading/writing journals are waiting for students to arrive)
  • more book talks–wonder if we could even make book trailers…..
  • get the Notice and Note materials ready

Then there are the parents that are waiting for an opportunity to get involved. For some it is learning about American high school and college. So we need to organize a college night early in the year. Dates are getting locked on Wednesday.

Really, there is so much to do. When shall I get to organizing my classroom? Oh yes, that was mostly done in June!! My teaching assistant and I organized all the papers ready for the new school year. It means that I need to plan my first day and first units, clean my tables, bring in the plants, and get materials ready for my students. Of course, I still need to find places for all the new books that I have collected over the summer! But, I think there will even be some time to relax over the holiday weekend!

I am still looking for a quote about passion that I could display in my classroom. If you know one, please share it with me!!!


Last Day of Vacation

This is today. My last day of summer vacation. Officially. So, what is on my agenda for the day:

  • Take my daughter to doc appointment and then to work
  • Go meet at the admin office about after school program
  • Deliver a few more supplies to my classroom (just to get them out the my house)
  • Shop for avocados that are on sale
  • Enjoy reading and commenting
  • Organize the papers that I have printed for their respective binders
  • Pick up my daughter from work
  • Cook dinner
  • get lunches ready for Wednesday
  • go to sleep early

What I should do but will probably not end up doing:

  • go to the gym
  • iron my classroom curtains
  • paint a bookshelf in my classroom
  • mop the floors
  • take the stuff to Goodwill that is sitting in a box in my bedroom (there is always Saturday, right)
  • pull weeds

What I might do if the mood strikes:

  • read a book (Nine, ten: A September 11 Story is waiting for me)
  • read another book (just for fun)
  • Go get that free coffee–and make it a fancy one
  • Sharpen some pencils–should really try my new pencil sharpener
  • Go buy that toolbox that would help organize my supplies in my classroom and print the pretty labels for it
  • take a nap
  • watch a movie–there must be something free On Demand

And then, get ready for teacher meetings in the next few days and students after Labor Day. What does your day look like?

Neighbors are a Blessing

HN quote

This summer neighbors have been a real blessing to my family and I! Here are just a few examples of neighborly love:

  • We are trying to manage with just one car this summer. Mostly we have done well, but when I was in a training in another city, my wonderful neighbor Sabrina gave my daughter a ride to work!
  • My garden fairy has made many appearances again this summer which means that my flowers are not just surviving but thriving in this hot summer! Reminder to self, post pictures real soon.
  • “Do you need eggs?” This is my neighbor who brings me eggs directly from her brother’s farm! Of course my answer is yes!
  • Last week I pulled a muscle that was very painful and needed to go see a doctor. My daughter had taken the car to go to work, but happily my friend and neighbor, Linda, was home and willing to drive me to the doctor and pharmacy!
  • One other day this summer when I could not get to pick up my daughter from work, and traffic was in stand still all around our city, my neighbor was more than happy to go pick her up at the last bus stop!
  • Another neighbor asked when I was driving her to the airport if we’d want to use her car while she was gone. Yes!!
  • Last Friday I needed to move two sofas! One needed to go to a charity shop and the other one was coming to my house from a friend. But wait, I was still not moving normally (the pulled muscle), and I was not sure I could move even one sofa to the door. Then came my neighbor Jim and his brother. Together they moved both sofas. I only had to sweep under the sofa:)

These are just a few things how we help each other around my neighborhood! Wouldn’t you want to live in my neighborhood?

Remembering an Extraordinary Friend

A week ago I had a totally unexpected phone call. My friend Connie called to tell me that our dear friend Sarah had suddenly passed away. I did not know what to do or say. I mean, we had plans. We had so many things that we still wanted to do together. There were the plans to help someone learn how to drive, organize an art afternoon with some friends before I go back to work, figure out a way to get a new bed for a different friend, and so many other things.

sarah with flowers

Sarah was a teacher, a mother, a friend, a colleague, art therapist, Stephen minister, small group leader, confidant, American-Mom to many, intercessor, outgoing, talkative, joyful, colorful, (and lover of color), easy to approach, my birthday double ( I will miss celebrating our birthdays together), and really, Sarah never met anyone she could not talk to. I have been comforted by reading the comments that people from all over the world have left on Sarah’s Facebook page. She left a mark on so many lives.

sarah in a canoe

Sarah did not act her age (she was 72). She loved nature and outdoors as much as she loved having people over at her house. It might have been an art class, small group meeting or a mystery dinner. There was always something special about going to Sarah’s house. She loved diversity and it showed in the people that you would meet at her house or the food that you would get to taste there. I always left Sarah’s house feeling better that what I felt when I arrived!

Sarah, I will miss you terribly, but I also know that you are now crafting some new heavenly art that will most likely have even more colors than you could have ever imagined here on earth!

Sarah close up

Remembering my friend with photos courtesy of Sarah’s Facebook.


Learning the Fun Way

Last week I spent three wonderful days working with other educators learning how Academic Language can be made accessible for English Learners! We came from all over our state because we are committed to our immigrant and migrant students. We want to learn new ways to help them succeed at school.

Our fearless leader, Kellie, along with our train the trainers team, presented for 3 days while keeping us moving and engaged. We learned strategies and then we got to try them in action. We made mini-books, and then we got to keep the template so that we can modify it to use in our own classrooms. We practiced close reading, and then we got the bookmarks to help us remember how to do it with our students!

We worked hard, laughed a lot, ate good food (either brought in by attendees or at a restaurant), enjoyed chatting with old friends and making new friends. We planned together and individually. We exchanged ideas and shared resources. We encouraged each other and networked for future endeavors.

I am now in a planning mood! I am planning how to use my resources, printing, making copies and even laminating the big ones. I want to be ready in a few weeks to begin the school year with new energy and with new ideas.

I already know that both nErDcampMI and this workshop have influenced my plans for the first day of school. I want to read on the first day! I want my students to write on the first day! I want my students to work together on the first day! I want movement on the first day!

If you are teaching this fall, what are your plans for the first day?


Blog renewal-Reclaiming my Writing Life


3.28 Plant #2

Renewal, reclaiming, restarting, rebirthing, rejuvenating, or just plain getting back to it. These have been my thoughts for the last few months.

I finally decided that getting back to blogging would be a good time to refresh my writing platform thus this new blog (still under construction).But I had forgotten how time consuming it can be to learn the ins and outs of a new format.

I had to figure out my new widgets, locate my dashboard (yes, but even here a quick Google search provided great results), pick my theme ( I tried a few, and I am still not sure if this will be the final), and all the other small things that go into learning a new platform. Have I mastered this format yet? Absolutely no, but I think I am on my way. Just like the tulips on the above photo I am reclaiming my writing life and getting back to blogging after almost a year just writing with my students or with my small group.

I am so grateful for the little comments and tweets that have asked if everything is okay when I was no longer posting weekly. These reminders have been at the back of my mind when I have pondered my writing journey. They have encouraged me and pushed me to return after being dormant these past months.

I am looking forward to new blooms blossoming in the next few months, sharing and being part of a community that writes!

#nErDcampMI 2016


#nErDcampMI 2016–what a tremendous experience again!

My biggest gift at #nErDcampMI this year was the focus on diverse literature for children and young adults!!! So many presenters talked about the need to “flood” classrooms with books that our students can relate to. After all, what is the point in having books if none of them relate to the students that walk into our classrooms.

Thank you @ProfessorNana and @donalynbooks for many wonderful recommendations!

I teach English Learners who do not speak Spanish (except one). Most of my students speak Arabic, Kurdish, Somali, and Urdu. A few also speak Mandingo and French. Finding books for my secondary students, that would be at my students’ reading level AND would interest them, are hard to find. But, this is a MUST!!! The above picture shows a few of my new books that arrived this week. I am eager to read them and get my students  books shopping with new books at the beginning of September!

Do you know books with Somali or Arabic main characters? What about Kurdish or Urdu characters? Please let me know!