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Workshop Wows and Woes

Every day is interesting when you're teaching sixth grade! And at the end of every day, there's always a lot to reflect on. Two years after this blog was first started, I'm still using it to keep track of my daily/weekly reflections. Teaching language arts through Readers and Writers Workshop, there's days when things go wonderfully (my wows!) and of course, some days, when things don't (my woes). This blog is a place where I can celebrate the successes, cry at the failures, and think through new ideas, because every year of Readers and Writers Workshop is certainly an exciting journey!

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Beginning anew...well, sort of...
by: nzkiwi, 02-24-2010

Well, I've decided to try something new. This blog has been collecting way too much dust over the past year, so I've decided to begin again, but this time completely anew. Although I love Proteacher and love having my blog here, I've also made the decision that it is time to start anew in a new location. Workshop Wows and Woes will still stay put (After all, I don't want to lose everything that has been written here already, and who knows, if I don't like the new location, I easily might choose to return home), but a new blog has been born!


It is my hope that all those who have visited this blog and have been interested in following my reading and writing workshop journey, will bookmark the new location and visit when they can. I'm really hoping a new look and a new address, will bring back some of the inspiration/motivation that has been majorly lacking within me for the past year. I need to get the momentum of my workshops going again, and maybe, with my fingers crossed, this is one way I can.


Day 30: Made it!
by: nzkiwi, 11-30-2009

With this posting, I have successfully completed NaBloPoMo! Took the challenge of posting each and every day for the 30 days of November, and although I have to admit I feel like post of what I've posted has been pretty uneventful and boring, I've made it.

If I make it to 40,000 with NaNoWriMo, I'll be happy...there's no way with everything else happening today that I'll make 50,000, but I'm proud still. I mean I began this month thinking I wouldn't take part at all this year and somehow managed to write even more than I have the last two years put together, I think.

Now, in about a half hour it will be time to head to the airport and head home. I'm sad. As I mentioned last night, I'm going to miss having company around me, and most of all I'm not looking forward to going back to work. I know craziness awaits me, as I'm going to be entering this week horribly behind (never a good way to start). Being away almost seems to make all the issues back at home disappear and I have to be honest, if I had the power to just say I'm not coming in tomorrow and leave it at that (without having to worry about sub plans and everything else that goes along with preparing to be out), I'd use it. But oh well, time to shut down the laptop, load up my bags, and head out. A new month starts tomorrow, and hopefully it will begin well? (i'm not so sure about that, but I'll try to remain optimistic)


Day 29: Almost the end :(
by: nzkiwi, 11-29-2009

It's nearing the time when I've got to head back home. I always hate leaving my parents (who I'm currently visiting) and heading home again. I miss them, of course, but I also miss time spent in a house filled with other people. My house is always so quiet, and just the general noise of others is a comfort I miss also. But oh well, there's nothing I can do about it: tomorrow morning I catch a flight and head home.

I have a sub arranged for tomorrow, but I'm soooo not looking forward to Tuesday. I haven't touched schoolwork over break, which for my mental state is probably a good thing, but at the same time that's going to make the rest of this coming week completely insane...something I'm not looking forward to!

But more info/reflections potentially tomorrow....right now it's time to go and pack, so I can then can get to bed.


Day 28:
by: nzkiwi, 11-28-2009

Well I'm posting a blog entry from my phone again. I'm bound and determined to complete nablopomo at least. I'm making peace with the fact that nanowrimo is almost certainly not going to happen. If I was at home I think it would have worked out but not while out of town visiting family...there's just too many other things that I'd rather be doing. Well rather might not be the right word--I'd still love to be working on my novel--but there's things I'm getting a chance to do now that I won't be able to do later in December for instance and well, they are taking priority right now. Unless I can write almost 10000 words on my way home on Monday (which I think is highly unlikely) a "win" for nanowrimo isn't going to happen but oh well--as I've told myself in regards to school many times before: family and friends always needs to come first.


Day 27: Trying to hang in
by: nzkiwi, 11-27-2009

I'm trying to hang in there with nablpomo and nanowrimo. I'm actually writing this blog posting from my phone to be able to get an entry posted today. (Internet connection has been troublesome on my computer). I have some MAJOR writing days ahead of me if I want to "win" nanowrimo (I'm slightly below 40,000 currently) but we'll see how things go. Had almost no time to write today but hopefully a bit tomorrow night and then there is Sunday and Monday still left too. I'm not feeling overly optimistic right now but I'm going to keep writing!


Day 26: Happy Thanksgiving!
by: nzkiwi, 11-26-2009

Just wanted to take time today to wish everyone a
Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope everyone has had a relaxing and enjoyable day.
(I know I have)


Day 25:
by: nzkiwi, 11-25-2009

First day of vacation!

And down to just 5 days left of NaNoWriMo & NaBloPoMo.

While, as long as I can find 5 more days of things to write about, I'm in good standing to complete NaBloPoMo, NaNoWriMo is still much more uncertain. I currently have 72% of my novel written. Got about 3,000 words written while flying out to see my family today, and that leaves me with 13,967 words to write....which factors out to about 2,800 words to write each of the following 5 days. It's in theory doable, but of course, that depends on much vacation gets in the way....

Oh well, no time to lose! I'm headed off to continue writing!


Day 24:
by: nzkiwi, 11-24-2009

I need to pack. I need to pack. I need to pack. BUT I'm sitting here on my couch watching TV and blogging.

Oh well, if I don't get much sleep tonight, I can always nap on the plane tomorrow. However, I also need to novel in every spare moment tomorrow so in actuality napping is probably out. I haven't even written 2000 words in the past two days, which is NOT good!!

I'm getting to the point in NaNoWriMo that I believe I'm going to feel horrible if I don't make it. I think it comes with knowing I'm past the halfway point. Although 17,000 words is still a lot to write, it almost seems like such a little amount left (with having 33,000 words already behind me)...and with only a little left, there is an increasing feeling that I just HAVE to make it. In my mind, I kinda know tomorrow is the deciding day though—I need to get caught up, or I have to likely make peace with not making 50,000—because while I'm away (minus the time on airplanes and airports) I'm not foreseeing lots of extra time to write.

But right now I need to focus on my first worry: I need to pack. I need to pack. I need to pack.


Day 23: Almost there...
by: nzkiwi, 11-23-2009

A half a day tomorrow and then Thanksgiving break arrives!! I can't express how eager I am for the break to start. I need an extended break to refresh & recharge a bit. I'm heading out of town for the entire time, so not much schoolwork or housework will done, but maybe that's a good thing. Escaping it all for a few days might be just the thing I need.

My to-do list of things to accomplish before I leave is unfortunately massively long though. I've barely had time to work on my novel today, which isn't a good thing. I've just got my fingers crossed tomorrow can be very productive—because let's see, I've got a 1/2 day to teach; 12 journals to grade, sub plans to finish (I'm missing school on Monday), packing to do, a few errands to run, a kitchen that needs cleaned, a load of laundry to do, and at least 3,000 words to write for NaNoWriMo to keep myself somewhat on track. Whew! Wish me luck!


Day 22: 45 Life Lessons
by: nzkiwi, 11-29-2009

I was all ready to blog about something else tonight, when a friend of mine shared this with me. As I read through it, I thought, wow, there's a lot here that I've got to remember sometimes when the going gets tough (especially with the constant struggle I have in trying to balance school and my life outside of school).
Written By Regina Brett, 90 years old, of The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio

"To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most-requested column I've ever written. My odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the column once more:

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and
parents will. Stay in touch.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.
8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.
12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.
13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God
never blinks.
16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.
19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one
is up to you and no one else
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no
for an answer.
21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.
23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.
24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.
26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words 'In five years,
will this matter?'
27. Always choose life.
28. Forgive everyone for everything.
29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.
31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
32. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you
did or didn't do.
35. Don't audit life.. Show up and make the most of it now.
36. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.
37. Your children get only one childhood.
38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's,
we'd grab ours back.
41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
42. The best is yet to come....
43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
44. Yield.
45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.
Otherwise, I must rush--have to still finish off finish lesson plans, make up a quiz ,and hopefully have time to work some more on my NaNoWriMo novel tonight. I'm at 31,700 words right now, and still hoping.


Day 21: Exhausted!
by: nzkiwi, 11-21-2009

I'm sitting here absolutely exhausted, and not from school this time around either. I went out geocaching with a bunch of others today. Only ended up with one find: a cache called "Pointless & Sadistic" which I don't know if it was pointless but it definitely was sadistic! We (there was 10 of us) hiked up and down this mountain area getting different stages of the cache. It was up and down, and back and forth so many times I lost count! I know my body is going to definitely be feeling the effects for the rest of the night and probably tomorrow. I like hiking and I like geocaching, but whew, this one was one long and tiring cache experience (I think we were out hiking around or sometimes just sitting around waiting on others for about 6 hrs. straight!)

Tonight it's back to my NaNoWriMo novel. I don't know whether it will happen, but I'm hoping to do some major catch-up, and maybe just maybe, make it near 30,000 by the time I go to bed. With only 9 days left, I'm starting to wonder if making it to 50,000 is going to happen, but I am going to still keep plugging along.

I've got some house cleaning ahead of me this weekend too, and of course, have some schoolwork and other odds and ends to accomplish. The weatherman is predicting rain tomorrow which, for once, I'm hoping it happens. It's much easier to convince myself to stay at home and work when it's icky outside.


Day 20: It's Poetry Friday!
by: nzkiwi, 11-20-2009

Okay, I'm actually jumping back into Poetry Friday once again. I randomly went searching this evening to see if any poetry had ever been written about one of the hobbies I enjoy: geocaching.

And what I first found was actually someone sharing this poem by Wallace Stevens. The person who shared it knew geocaching wasn't what Stevens was writing about of course, but I guess there is a hint of the hobby in there.
Anecdote of the Jar

I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion every where.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.
I also found a link to A Diversion by Kathleen Halme. It claims it's the first known published poem written about geocaching, and although it is not copied out, there are three cachers' reading of it posted.

I don't know if there's any other poems about caching or out there or not. I've never written a lot of poetry myself, even though I use poetry a lot in my teaching (we start every writer's workshop with a poem). Maybe the next time I model taking an idea off my territories list and turning it into a poem, I'll have to use caching a topic since there seems to be so few poems about the hobby out there.

Of course, right now my NaNoWriMo novel is my sole focus: about 22,000 words to still go right now and 10 days left. I don't know if I'll make it or not, but I'm really hoping I can win this year.

Poetry Friday is being hosted at The Drift Record this week. Check it out, if you want.


Day 19: 2 and half days!
by: nzkiwi, 11-19-2009

Hip hip hurray for the fact that there is only two and half more days until Thanksgiving break begins! As I wrote last night, I'm sooo looking forward to the break.

Of course, I'm looking forward to the fact that tomorrow is Friday too (it's been a long week!), of course, tomorrow brings a bit of fear too. Only 10 left for NaNoWriMo and I'm still horribly behind. I haven't had much time to write today. In fact, with my novel loudly calling my name right now, I think I'm closing this blog entry right here. It's a boring entry, I know, but oh well. I'm determined to make it to at least 25,000 words tonight, so I better get writing!


Day 18:
by: nzkiwi, 11-19-2009

I've been bad tonight. I have two sets of papers and lesson plans to finalize for tomorrow, and they all are still sitting in my schoolbag untouched. I've gotten stuck working on my NaNoWriMo novel instead. I'm still plugging away even though I'm majorly behind. I've got just over 22,000 words now -- about 8,000 short of where I should be at the end of Nov. 18, but at the same time, I'm just beyond my total number of words achieved last year, which at least guarantees I'm going to write more than I ended up with in 2008.

Overall, I'm still going one day at a time, barely surviving at school though. I'm just saying a prayer nothing majorly falls apart before Thanksgiving arrives. I'm sooooo looking forward to the break this year! I'm going away, so the amount of work I will be able to do will be limited, but just the time free to get my thoughts back together is going to be highly appreciated.

December is going to be busy: I've got a lot of things to get in order before January [I'm missing almost the entire first two weeks of school in January for an once in a lifetime travel opportunity—a trip I'm thrilled about, but at the same time slightly stressed about, mainly in how I'll manage to walk away from my students for all that time and preferably keep workshops running like normal]. But oh well, that's still too far in the future right now -- as I said, currently, I'm simply dealing with things strictly one day at a time.


Day 17: Portfolio Showcase
by: nzkiwi, 11-17-2009

I had the portfolio showcase this evening. Took over the library and spread out my students' reading and writing portfolios, and had sent out notices last week inviting parents to come by before the parent association meeting that also happened tonight. Wasn't sure what to expect, but now that it is over, I guess things went fairly well.

About 5 or 6 students and their parents came by from the 6th grade (there's 39 students in the 6th grade total) which wasn't a lot, but the ones that came seemed to like what they saw. Yes, I would have loved for more to come, but I also have to be honest and say this showcase was only partly for the parents. Hosting it was also a way to hopefully keep my administration happy (they now can't complain I never showed the portfolios to parents, like they complained last year). Now, that said, I never saw either administrator during our showcase; neither stopped by (even though they were invited). The principal did show up at the very end after all portfolios had been packed up to take back to the classroom, just to ask how things went, but of course, she didn't have a chance to actually see them while they all were spread out and opened up.

I did have one of the parents who showed up comment that she loved what I was doing with NaNoWriMo -- explaining that her son is extremely hooked. He said he's going to finish writing, type up his novel and then send it off to publishers and see if he can get it published. Yes, he's aiming high, but it's awesome to hear students considering themselves as potential real writers.

Otherwise, enough typing (my finger with the splinter in it is still quite sore! ).


Day 16:
by: nzkiwi, 11-16-2009

I think I'm giving up NaNoBloMo.

1. I have no ideas about what to be writing about.

2. I don't think anyone reads this blog anyways.

3. Due to a splinter under my fingernail that I got this morning, everything I type is now painful. I've tried every remedy I know of to remove it, but have had no luck. No one around to help remove it (i hate living alone), so I have to wait for it either to work itself out on its own, I suppose, or if doesn't, go see a doctor. But of course with our portfolio showcase tomorrow, I can't take any time off to do that until Wednesday at the earliest. It's slowing down my desire to do any work, and of course, majorly affecting my NaNoWriMo attempt too.

So needless to say this has not been a good day!


Day 15: Q&A?
by: nzkiwi, 11-15-2009

I'm honestly struggling to figure out what this blog should be about.

With all the hours I've got already invested in schoolwork, I'm finding that coming home and blogging about how things are going in Readers & Writers Workshop often isn't something I want to do. In fact, finding the energy to do any schoolwork at home is becoming more and more of struggle (I'm becoming too much of a master procrastinator!)

Being a blog hosted here on ProTeacher though, I feel like this should be an education geared blog though. Talking about other hobbies or how I spent my weekend, just doesn't seem like the kinds of topics that should be the complete focus of posts. Not to mention, blogging about my personal life is something that leaves me feeling a bit unsure most of the time anyways. I don't particularly want the entire world knowing all my business.

So, it kind of leaves me feeling stuck. I like the challenge of NaBloPoMo, but I have to admit: most nights when I sit down to write, I have no real clue what to write about.

Perhaps I should leave it up to whomever reads this (if anyone): What would you like me most to blog about?? Maybe turning this into a Q&A will help spur some more ideas —


Day 14: Procrastination?
by: nzkiwi, 11-14-2009

I'm telling myself I should be doing schoolwork right now, but no, instead I'm browsing the web, currently blogging, and I have a feeling my novel is going to be calling after this. (I'm at 17,000 words now!)

I spent all day today playing, and with a forecasted wonderful weather day tomorrow, really want time to play outside tomorrow too, which of course, means some schoolwork needs done tonight. I've got a full week ahead of me!

Tuesday I'm leaping into something new. Every quarter my students create/add to a portfolio to show what they have accomplished in Readers and Writers Workshop. I've done this for the past couple years, but other than me and their future teachers, no one else has really looked at them. However, this year, that's changing. On Tuesday we're hosting our first portfolio exhibition: i.e. inviting the parents and whomever else is interested, to come in and view everyone's portfolios. My school has a parent/teacher association meeting that evening, and I'm taking the half-hour before to have an open viewing time. I'm excited but nervous about it. I'm not sure how many parents will come (if any) and I'm worried about what their reactions will be. I mean, most of the portfolios are really nice, but there are a few exceptions. And since is the first time I'm going to be putting the products our Readers and Workshops on real display, I'm also nervous about what reactions I'll get from others in the building or the administration. I'm still the only teacher in my building teaching this way, and feel, particularly this year, like I have to prove myself and my methods. After all, this year opened with me having to seriously defend workshops to my administration (I was almost forced to give it up). The assistant principal even told me (with the tone that suggested that it will be a command from him) that with the population of students that are coming toward me, that there will be no way I can teach the way I've been doing next year. So, I've got that added pressure on me as well . . .

But oh well, time to get to work. Lesson planning awaits!


Day 13: "Creation of the Teacher"
by: nzkiwi, 11-13-2009

I was actually searching for a poem to share for Poetry Friday, when instead I happened to run across this. With a lot of what's been going on recently, there were definitely a few lines that really rang true, so I'm sharing --

Author Unknown

The Good Lord was creating teachers. It was His sixth day of 'overtime' and He knew that this was a tremendous responsibility for teachers would touch the lives of so many impressionable young children. An angel appeared to Him and said, "You are taking a long time to figure this one out."

"Yes," said the Lord, "but have you read the specs on this order?"


... must stand above all students, yet be on their level
... must be able to do 180 things not connected with the subject being taught
... must run on coffee and leftovers,
... must communicate vital knowledge to all students daily and be right most of the time
... must have more time for others than for herself/himself
... must have a smile that can endure through pay cuts, problematic children, and worried parents
... must go on teaching when parents question every move and others are not supportive
... must have 6 pair of hands.

"Six pair of hands, " said the angel, "that's impossible."

"Well, " said the Lord, "it is not the hands that are the problem. It is the three pairs of eyes that are presenting the most difficulty!"

The angel looked incredulous, "Three pairs of eyes...on a standard model?"

The Lord nodded His head, "One pair can see a student for what he is and not what others have labeled him as. Another pair of eyes is in the back of the teacher's head to see what should not be seen, but what must be known. The eyes in the front are only to look at the child as he/she 'acts out' in order to reflect, "I understand and I still believe in you", without so much as saying a word to the child."

"Lord," said the angel, "this is a very large project and I think you should work on it tomorrow".

"I can't," said the Lord, "for I have come very close to creating something much like Myself. I have one that comes to work when he/she is sick.....teaches a class of children that do not want to learn....has a special place in his/her heart for children who are not his/her own.....understands the struggles of those who have difficulty....never takes the students for granted..."

The angel looked closely at the model the Lord was creating.
"It is too soft-hearted," said the angel.

"Yes," said the Lord, "but also tough. You can not imagine what this teacher can endure or do, if necessary".

"Can this teacher think?" asked the angel.

"Not only think," said the Lord, "but reason and compromise."

The angel came closer to have a better look at the model and ran his finger over the teacher's cheek.

"Well, Lord," said the angel, "your job looks fine but there is a leak. I told you that you were putting too much into this model. You can not imagine the stress that will be placed upon the teacher."

The Lord moved in closer and lifted the drop of moisture from the teacher's cheek. It shone and glistened in the light.

"It is not a leak," He said, "It is a tear."

"A tear? What is that?" asked the angel, "What is a tear for?"

The Lord replied with great thought, "It is for the joy and pride of seeing a child accomplish even the smallest task. It is for the loneliness of children who have a hard time to fit in and it is for compassion for the feelings of their parents. It comes from the pain of not being able to reach some children and the disappointment those children feel in themselves. It comes often when a teacher has been with a class for a year and must say good-bye to those students and get ready to welcome a new class."

"My," said the angel, "The tear thing is a great idea...You are a genius!!"

The Lord looked somber, "I didn't put it there."

I'm not participating this week, but this week's Poetry Friday round-up is being hosted by GottaBook. Even when I don't have the time to post myself, I love checking out the round-up when I've got time. Apart from allowing me to read some great poetry, I've discovered many other interesting blogs about reading/writing topics from these round-ups too. Check it out if you're interested.


Day 12: For smile purposes only
by: nzkiwi, 11-12-2009

Just sharing a few funnies & links in this post, as I'm out of inspiration for any other blog topic tonight —

This weekend a few friends showed me a couple cute youtube videos, which definitely each (in their own way) brought a smile and a few laughs, so as I figure we all can use a smile every once awhile, I'll share. None of them have to do with teaching, but oh well --- we all need to escape from the school topic sometimes too.

- Animator vs. Animation (ever wonder if your computer has a personality of it's own??)

- Simon's Cat: "Fly Guy" (I love the ending in particular)

- An Engineer's Guide to Cats

- Walk Like A Geocacher (Probably only fellow geocachers will get the humor)

Otherwise, off to go work on my NaNoWriMo novel. 13,000+ now!!


Day 11 of NaNoBloMo
by: nzkiwi, 11-11-2009

Well, we're officially 1/3 of the way through the November. My NaNoBloMo attempt is still on target (haven't missed a day yet), and I'm trying to catch up with NaNoWriMo (12,000+ words now). And, I'm feeling a lot calmer now too. Having today off definitely helped lower my stress level. I had time to get things straightened up around home, got caught up on most of my grading, and just feel in a better mindset for the rest of the week now. The weather didn't cooperate, so I stayed home all day, but staying home did give me some nice time to spend with my novel, which was a good thing too.

And on complete other note: I just noticed yesterday's posting put me in the senior member category too. Of course, I've also started to make another realization: the number of bloggers here has seemed to decrease a lot since I was last frequently blogging. I wonder is everyone just as busy as me? (yea, probably quite likely . . .)

Otherwise, hurray to tomorrow being Thursday. Only 2 days until the weekend. I think having a day off in the middle of the week, is the best way to go — four day weeks are always nice; but a four day week with a break in the middle is particularly awesome.


Day 10: How nice!
by: nzkiwi, 11-10-2009

Oh, how nice it is to be able to sit here tonight and not have to worry about going to school tomorrow! Yes, we are off, and I'm sooooo glad! I badly need a day to just get caught up on things.

I've already got my to-do list formed—it's way longer than I've got hours, but oh well, I feel like every hour tomorrow is a gift and whatever I get done is all bonus. This evening I've been working on cleaning house and also trying to add to my NaNoWriMo novel (I'm nearing 10,000 words now!). Tomorrow morning, schoolwork is going to be on the agenda and then hopefully (if the weather cooperates) I want to spend the afternoon outside just enjoying the day off from school. I hope things work out as planned . . .

Otherwise, off to relax and watch the rest of So You Think You Can Dance. I love that show! And tonight I can watch it without worry about having to get up early tomorrow morning. That's extra sweet!


Day 9: Reclaiming Spare Time?
by: nzkiwi, 11-09-2009

A friend of mine on Facebook shared an intriguing article earlier today. Particularly with my recent feelings of being very overwhelmed, the title particularly caught my eye: How to Reclaim Spare Time.

I read it and it definitely got me thinking. The writer made many observations which I found myself going, "yea, I know."

Among other things she mentions is declining happiness levels...making the observation "no wonder we aren't happy--we don't have time to be." She even goes on to write (in one of the parts I like the most): "Sometimes being happy is kind of like realizing your nagging headache is gone. The insight is not dramatic, like a bolt of lightning, but comes in a quiet, gentle awareness of relief. Happiness is like that. It takes a healthy dose of spare time to find it."

Because, in some ways, I feel like that's a lot of my problem right now. School is consuming every waking moment. Even when I'm not directly working on something for school, the back of my mind is still thinking about the things that need done. I'm not really ever escaping it. Even when I take a day off and tell myself I'm leaving it all behind for awhile, my subconscious doesn't forget about it.

I guess, as the article's author put it, the real key is surrendering: embracing Spare Time. But, for me, figuring out how to get my mind and body to actually do it -- well, that's still the fundamental struggle right now.


Day 8
by: nzkiwi, 11-08-2009

This will be a short post because my must-do list is already longer than I have hours left tonight. I'm feeling very stressed right now. I enjoyed this weekend, but as a result, I'm now sitting here with a huge list of things that must be done for school that I've barely touched. My house is a wreck, my pile of grading continues to grow, lessons plans are only mapped out in my head (not on paper yet), I've got grades to update online, and a potentially stressful writing committee meeting to finish preparing for -- not to mention the other odds and ends that that are still waiting to be done. I mean, I posted about being so optimistic about NaNoWriMo on Friday night, but I'm now feeling extremely doubtful -- I think I've written about 100 words during the past two days, when to stay on schedule it should have been about 3,500. Right now I'm just praying I survive tomorrow and then survive Tuesday. Wednesday is thankfully a day off, although at this point, it looks like it's sadly going to be a work day for me nonetheless.

"AHHHHHHHH!!" Perhaps letting out a loud scream help calm me down??


Day 7
by: nzkiwi, 11-08-2009

I seriously believe there should be regular 3 day weekends. It's only Saturday night and I'm already feeling work stress for Monday. I didn't touch my schoolbooks today—had two different events I chose to go to instead (to have fun)—and with a meeting taking up all of tomorrow afternoon, it's looking unlikely that I'll have much time to get stuff done tomorrow either. I survived last week feeling horribly behind, but now I'm looking toward Monday thinking already: I can't have a repeat of that constant feeling of stress. I know there's a point where this one-day-at-a-time focus is going to bring a giant mess cascading down on me. I feel it building, I just don't know when everything is going to slide. I really do envy those people who can walk away from work on Friday afternoon and have weekends completely free without this stressful feeling of guilt (and right now: also impending doom) following them. I love teaching, but as I've lamented before, I'm getting tired of all the hours it takes to do a good job.


Day 6: First Milestone Reached!
by: nzkiwi, 11-06-2009

So, as I've posted before, I'm participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) again this year. I first discovered NaNoWriMo two years ago and immediately decided to get my language arts classes involved. I wasn't so sure how it was going to work the first year I attempted it, but by the end, I was absolutely blown away by what my students accomplished. The excitement for writing definitely flowed strong! So, my students (a new batch of them) and I did it again last year (with even more outstanding results) and, of course, I decided to get them involved again this year too.

Now I'm handling it a little bit differently this year, because I've made it optional, but we're still off to a good start. My one language arts class has almost 90% of the class participating and the other language arts class probably has about 40%. And best yet, I've had a few past 6th graders (now 7th graders) even come and ask whether they're allowed to participate again this year.

I've participated alongside my students both years, although I've never won yet (i.e. never made the adult 50,000 word goal), but I have to say, this year, I'm feeling the most optimistic I've ever felt about potentially making it. And it's sort of funny, because prior to NaNoWriMo starting, this was the year I seriously considered not participating at all because I didn't think I'd have the time.

I'm still behind where I need to be, but I'm still celebrating tonight: my first milestone (i.e. 10% completed) was reached earlier this evening! Knowing I only made 12,000 my first year and only 20,000 last year . . . being at over 6,000 words currently, makes me very happy!


Day 5: Not enough hours!
by: nzkiwi, 11-05-2009

There never seems to be enough time in the school day! I know it's a regular teacher exclamation, but ever since I've switched to teaching through workshops, I seem to think it more frequently. It seems to happen with particular frequency in regards to mini-lessons. I do limit myself to mini-lessons (on average 10 minutes on one topic), but there are just so many lessons that I would like to teach and that I feel my students need and, of course, only limited days to do so.

Take now for example: with it being NaNoWriMo, we're currently in the midst of a genre unit on writing fictional short stories. I have enough time in my yearly schedule to spend about 5-6 weeks on this unit, which equals out to be about 20 mini-lessons. When I start planning, that always seems like a lot to play with, by the time I get going, those days allotted always disappear so quickly!

Of course, I know part of the problem is our school's organization. Even though it's never directly recognized as such: language arts has one of the lowest priorities in our middle school schedule. Math is first priority (we NEVER can miss math class), but even social studies and science seem to rank higher. Because language arts is a double period, I think others look at it as "oh, there's all this extra time" in our class period, so it's okay to take away from it when needed. But that gets me so frustrated sometimes!

Don't they realize, we need more time vs. less!?


Day 4
by: nzkiwi, 11-04-2009

I guess it's a sign of how much I've been dealing with things one day at a time: I just realized tonight that a brief break is actually in sight! No school next Wednesday, which will be sooo nice. I'm at a point where I definitely need a day just get my feet back under me again.

For one thing, I've got grading to catch up on. My students are struggling a bit with hitting a lazy point themselves: late and missing work is becoming epidemic with a few of them. Tracking it all down is becoming a pain. I wish I was allowed to just leave a 0 in my grade book when something isn't turned in, but my school presses us teachers to follow up on missing work to make sure the kids eventually do it. I personally think sometimes that ends up punishing us more than them, but unfortunately there's nothing I can do about it. I just wish my students would all realize they'd make life so much easier on themselves (not to mention me) if they just did the work on time the first time around. But oh well, getting them *all* to reach that conclusion, well, I think that's just wishful thinking!


Day 3
by: nzkiwi, 11-03-2009

Papers await grading. A couple lessons for tomorrow still need the finishing touches put on them. A quiz needs revised. But when I came home this evening, I found the exact same lack of motivation that's been plaguing me a lot this fall waiting for me. I leave school with great intentions, telling myself I'll sit down and make tonight a schoolwork night and get everything done, but then, I get home and by the time I get dinner, that positive energy has left and no matter how hard I try to force myself, I just can't get myself motivated to do it.

Following my traditional pattern: I then tell myself going to bed is the best option; I can get up early tomorrow and finish it, but then following through with that getting up early part is often just another struggle, and so I then begin the next day feeling just as behind as I was the day before. It's a vicious cycle!

Of course, I have found one positive in all this mess: it's inspired the beginnings of a workable idea for my NaNoWriMo attempt this year. It's almost strange: up until November 1, I really felt doing NaNoWriMo just wasn't going to in the cards this year—my calendar for this November was already so jammed packed. But then I sat down on Sunday and just randomly started writing, literally beginning with the line: "It had just started out as a crazy idea." And then, I found this character and plot idea developing and it's just taken off from there. I'm only 1,220 words in at this point (already behind schedule) but am feeling much more optimistic about my chances of finishing than I have other years. This particular story idea is actually calling to me — unlike the last two years where it's felt much more forced.


Day 2
by: nzkiwi, 11-02-2009

Sometimes I wish I could rewind time. I'm struggling right now with how some things are going in my life. As I posted yesterday, I'm unhappy with how so much my life revolves around school. I love teaching, but as I get older, the many hours over the years that I've put in are beginning to take their toll. My life outside school seems nonexistent. I want to keep things balanced, but more than ever, feel like everything is just falling apart. I just don't seem to have the energy to keep everything going like I used to. There are times when I do wonder if I'm starting to get burned out. I do know the feeling that I need a break seems to come much more frequently than it used to. I mean, there's a part of me that says I need a change, but at the same time, I know that I feel very comfortable teaching where I'm currently at and am truthfully reluctant to leave (mainly because there are many good elements that I don't want to take the chance of losing). I have to admit: I really wish elementary/middle/secondary teachers could get the same sabbatical opportunities that most college and university professors get. Being able to take a semester or year off, and go teach elsewhere or pursue something else for awhile I sometimes think would be sooo nice. But oh well, as sabbaticals aren't possibilities, I guess I'm stuck trying to come up with another solution . . .


One day at time —
by: nzkiwi, 11-03-2009 last blog posting was from when last year's NaBloPoMo finished. I guess that shows how crazy things have been. Only now, with this year's NaBloPoMo starting up, am I back to making a posting, even though I honestly I don't even yet know if I'm really up to participating again this year. I'm mainly posting today just to give myself the continued option.

I can't quite put my finger on the cause(s) but over the past year I've mainly been feeling like I've just been going through the motions of one day and then another and another; barely having the time to reflect much. I'm still teaching through workshops and trying out new things, but just keeping my head above water seems to be the main challenge.

I always heard the first couple years of teaching are the hardest, but I'm honestly not so sure about that in actuality. I think my first couple years were perhaps the easiest so far. When I started teaching, I taught mostly from the textbook. My lesson planning mostly involved reading ahead to see what was coming up next and then grading the worksheets and the tests that went along all of it. Now doing workshops: it's planning almost everything from scratch; continually searching out what resources I can find and use; and trying to keep up with 39 individual students reading and writing all sorts of different things.

I love what teaching through workshops does for my students. I enjoy seeking out new resources. When I have the time to get engrossed in it all, I love planning out lessons. But I also sometimes wonder, by the way I teach, what toll is it all taking? I mean I always figured that definitely by my 9th year teaching (which it now is) that things would be easier. Early on, when school seemed to consume my life, I always just reminded myself that after a couple years things would settle down and it would be easier. But I don't think it has . . .

Yes, some aspects are more simple, or go quicker or seem easier, but overall, school still seems to consume my life. Most days I feel like I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place: when I limit my work hours, I often have to face the feeling that things are falling apart at school (which stresses me), but if I work on schoolwork and get that part of my life calm, then I have the stress of feeling like school is consuming me to then deal with. Keeping a happy medium is quite a challenge!

But oh well: I'll keep moving forward — one day at a time.


by: nzkiwi, 11-30-2008


I took on the challenge of National Blog Posting Month, and with this posting, I have won!! I have successfully remembered to blog each and every day during this month of November. I have to honestly say, it's been tough. Many times, I have felt like I have had very little to share with the world this month, but nonetheless, I have done it. And, actually, not only here, but with my personal blog too.

NaNoWriMo's totals are still being tabulated. I've got a couple updated word counts from students (some 50,000 words added to our previous totals so far), but I won't have a complete total until Tuesday, when I get back to school. I'm not making my goal (50k), but I've currently got over 20,000 words, and I'm pleased with that. It's more than last year, and with how busy teaching has kept me, I feel good about the 20k. It will give me room to improve on for next year -- since I already know, next November, I'll be back to novel writing and daily blogging again. After all, I still love these challenges!


by: nzkiwi, 11-29-2008


Browsing the web tonight, I ran into the following write-up talking about using GPS in the classroom:

It was an interesting read. I often slightly bemoan the fact that I don't teach science anymore, because there's so many things that I'd love to teach that seem to fit in easiest with that particular subject. As an avid geocacher, GPS and GIS is one of those, and I liked being reminded about how interconnected things can be.

I emphasize that fact with reading and writing almost constantly, and as a social studies and language arts teacher, definitely do my fair share of integration between those two, but I sometimes overlook all the possibilities that exist elsewhere also. It's nice to get reminded.


Poetry Friday!
by: nzkiwi, 11-28-2008

Once again it's Friday, and after a day of movie watching, a bit of shopping and then relaxing for awhile with the family, I'm late in joining the round-up this week, but oh well -- I'm still in.

On this particular Friday, I share a poem I just discovered this evening about one of my favorite places -- Avonlea (of L.M. Montgomery/Anne of Green Gables fame).
by Tammie Lynn Vaughn

In my imagination
is a place called Avonlea
I go there for sweet reprise
and always know the way
there are castles to explore there
with sky filled crystal towers
and puffy clouds make pictures
over fields and fields of flowers
I sleep in a friendly forest
where gentle creatures are
I lie on the velvet floor
beneath a canopy of stars
daybreak brings new adventure
sun shines on a glittering sea
a tall ship is anchored nearby
I know it waits for me
my senses awaken to fantasy
in a place I cannot stay
the magical, mystical, wonderful
place called Avonlea
I absolutely love the setting Montgomery created in her books and people like Kevin Sullivan, created in his movies/tv shows. I often think: how wonderful it would be if a real Avonlea existed in the world!

You can read other poems over at Under the Covers, where the round-up is this week.


Happy Thanksgiving!
by: nzkiwi, 11-27-2008


Today I'm keeping my entry short. It's a day to enjoy spending time with loved ones, and therefore, I'm not spending much time on the computer today -- just long enough to post and say, I hope everyone has a wonderful day and
Happy Thanksgiving!


Beginning to celebrate...
by: nzkiwi, 11-26-2008

I have a feeling that NaNoWriMo's final days have the potential to be amazing!

We're all on our own now. On Tuesday I gave one last pep talk to my students and encouraged them to keep writing, mentioning how I was going to continue to challenge myself to meet my goal, but of course, I had no idea how much anyone would actually write.

Well, today, just a little over 24 hours from the beginning of break, I got a note from one of my students telling me she had just reached 50,000 words!!! I honestly was shocked. Going into this craziness, at the beginning of the month, even though a number of my students set that goal for themselves, I honestly didn't believe any of them would truly reach that point. In fact, as of last week at this point, there were only two who had broken the 10K mark (and she wasn't one of them). I'm just so happy about what she has achieved, and so pleased with many of my other students' progress also. The quantity they are producing is amazing (as an entire grade: the count was over 209,000 on Tuesday!), and as a believer in quality starts with quantity, I can't wait to see what these novels get polished into. My "winner" (as NaNoWriMo titles those who meet their goals) asked permission to keep writing too. How wonderful is that!?

And on a completely personal note, I'm proud to have actually gotten my word pace picked back up too. I was at 13k as of Tuesday morning and now I'm already near 19k! (I really want to get to 20k by the time I head to bed). Maybe, just maybe, I'll make it too. At least, my one student definitely gives me motivation to continue to push myself.


Thanksgiving Break is Here!
by: nzkiwi, 11-25-2008


Thanksgiving break has arrived!!! Left school at 2 p.m today, and don't have to go back until next Tuesday! (I ended up taking one extra day off because of the way flight schedules worked out).

I'm so looking forward to a few days off to recharge and get things back in order! I'm almost on my way out the door right now, but with no net access later tonight, I've got to get my blog entry in now. I'm hoping a blog entry without much of a topic, still counts for nablopomo?


4 hours!
by: nzkiwi, 11-24-2008

Well, I got through one day and now only have 4 hours left for tomorrow I'm in the middle of hurrying around trying to get everything done to leave right now. It really didn't help that we had a meeting after school today. But oh well, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!

We're into week 4 of NaNoWriMo now, our final week! As the month comes to close, I'm beginning to look back on the craziness that has been November. It's been different than last year -- but still a good experience, I think. One big difference is I actually have a lot more of my students handwriting their stories this year than compared to last year (that group really liked the computers). A number of them decided to start out their stories in composition books (a decision they made, and that I was honestly a bit apprehensive about because it goes against our normal W.W. expectations), but in some ways I think it's turned out to be neat, because they already have a real book forming. I'm not so sure how the revising process is going to work out; but that's a hurdle I'll figure out a way over come December!

I think what I'm especially curious about at this point is how much will be written in the final days. Writing time is going to turn optional for the rest of the month after tomorrow. I'm going try to give one final pep talk to my kids to encourage them to continue throughout the rest of the month, but I'm not putting down any homework assignments or requirements that they write during break. It's going to be completely up to them, and I'm VERY curious to see who is invested enough to write over break. I know I will have some who will, but how many? Again, I'm definitely curious. Two of my students came in today and shocked me: one wrote over 10,000 words this weekend and the other wrote about 9,000! I was thrilled! Putting both classes together our total is somewhere over 209,000 words right now!! That's now more words than last year's crew!


One and half days!!
by: nzkiwi, 11-23-2008

One and half days!! That's all I have left before Thanksgiving break begins!! I can't wait. I'm at the point where I need a break, a few days off to get away from school and refresh my mind. As I've complained previously, I feel like we (my class and I) have been in sort of a rut recently, and I think a fresh restart after a break is what we all need at this point.

Of course, I've got a TON of stuff to get done in that one and a half days. I'm heading out to visit some family over break, and not only have to get packed for the trip, but of course have all sorts of other odds and ends to get done before I leave too, which includes hopefully most of my lesson plans for the week after break -- since I *really* don't want to have to take much, if any, schoolwork along with me! It's going to make for a busy day tomorrow, but I think I can do it. I'll just keep quoting the little engine that could: "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can . . . "

Right now, it's off to get ready for bed and then curl up for awhile and write -- I don't think I'm going to get to 50k anymore (I'm only at 13k currently), but I'm determined to keep writing on my NaNo novel nonetheless. I want to make it to at least 25k!


napoblomo continues
by: nzkiwi, 11-23-2008

Like many other past Saturdays, I haven't gotten a lot done today. There's a pile of social studies notebooks waiting on me right now, but all evening I've been collapsed on my couch, browsing the web and watching movies. One of them had the following quote in it, and I love it

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond imagination."

I think it just might go up on my board at school next week. I always like inspirational quotes. I've had the following one (from Harry Potter) up all year --

"It is our choices, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."

I hear quotes I like so often, but don't always jot them down. I really should be better at that though. An idea on yet another thing to try to improve on, I suppose!


Poetry Friday!
by: nzkiwi, 11-21-2008


It's Poetry Friday!

On our full days of language arts class, we always start with a poem. It's a new something I've started this year and I love it. I've been mostly using poems from Nancie Atwell's Naming the World, and we've been currently in a "unit" talking about the influence of William Carlos Williams. So, I figured it only fitting on this poetry Friday to share a poem by William Carlos Williams. I ran into this one randomly tonight --
The Poem by William Carlos Williams
It's all in
the sound. A song.
Seldom a song. It should

be a song—made of
particulars, wasps,
a gentian—something
immediate, open

scissors, a lady's
centrifugal, centripetal.
I particularly like the first line: "It's all in the sound." It's so true! I have to admit I didn't really get Williams when I first read him, but through this whole study with my kids, I realize I'm learning too. It's not just my students, I'm also gaining more of an appreciation of poetry.

"Say it -- no ideas but in things."
That's what we've got quoted on our board right now. And hopefully (once NaNoWriMo is over) it will begin to appear in my student's poetry too.

Poetry Friday is hosted this week by Brimstone Soup. Head on over to read other poems!


Warning: Major Venting!
by: nzkiwi, 11-21-2008


I don't think I've ever been so frustrated/mad at our assistant principal, as I was this afternoon. The past two weeks have already been full of multiple interruptions (I blogged earlier on all that), and today we had yet another interruption that took away an entire class period. We had to go to the gym at 2 o'clock for a fundraising award assembly, and were asked to pack up and bring all books, coats, etc. along with us for dismissal. My students did that, and we went down, and sat through the assembly, which ultimately only took about 20 minutes.

Now my last period class has a big test tomorrow. So, especially with the fact that I have missed seeing this class already multiple times within the past two weeks, talking to my grade level partner, she suggested I take them back upstairs to spend 15 or so minutes, at least, reviewing for tomorrow's test. So, wanting to make sure we'd be back in plenty of time for dismissal: I went up front and asked if there was going to be any changes in dismissal times (since everyone was already down the gym and ready), and our assistant principal said "no".
So I continued, "Is it okay I take one 6th grade upstairs then?"
Him: No!
Me: "They have a test tomorrow, and with all the other interruptions in our schedule, we haven't had much of a chance to review,"
Him: No, you can't leave.
Me: (gesturing towards a whole school of students sitting and loudly socializing), "Do you mean we are just going to sit here and talk for the next 20 minutes??"
Him: "You can NOT leave."

At that point, I just turned around to head back to my class, completely frustrated -- I almost was ready to cry, in fact, if I was alone; I probably would have.
But the craziness wasn't over: he then decided to have all teachers come forward and stand in front of the gym, facing the kids, and then pulls out a dictionary, explaining to them: Guess what? You know how spelling is a big focus this year? (it is a school wide improvement goal) Well, the teachers are going to participate in a spelling bee! He hands the dictionary off to our development director, who randomly opens it and starts giving words to the line of us, while the students watch (and still talk)

Now, I'm all for having fun occasionally -- but an unannounced, completely out of the blue, teacher spelling bee on an afternoon where I seriously could have used the time with my students in class, was just completely mind blowing! I know anyone looking at me, at the time, probably could have determined I was mad, but I'm not apologizing for it. After all the hours of class we've already missed because of other assemblies, reward afternoons, etc., I just can't understand how the assistant principal actually thought this was a good use of school time.

Thankfully, the teachers in line before me, took long enough, that I never had to spell -- which is good. I hate spelling bees to begin with (and have since I was a young child, since I'm not a good out loud speller), but putting it on top of missing out on a class we would have had time for otherwise -- well, my mind kept telling me (although I know I would have *never* done it, especially with all the students there) that if a word had been given to me, to look at the assistant principal and spell out: "F", "U". That alone shows how upset I was -- I'm hardly ever someone to use profanity! But, again, this afternoon was simply frustrating. I need to find a school that actually values instructional time, because mine definitely doesn't!


NaNoWriMo Update
by: nzkiwi, 11-23-2008


We're up to a grand total of 144,517 words!

I think, overall, the number of students who reach their goals will be smaller this year, but the total number of words and the novel lengths will be greater. The biggest challenge comes in the fact that with the way Thanksgiving hits, most of the last week of November I don't get to see my students -- we have 3 more class days, and then they are totally on their own until NaNoWriMo is over. Some of them I know will continue to write, but I also know I'll have many who will add their last words to their stories on Nov. 24. I have two students who have surpassed the 10,000 word mark already; most in the 2000-4000 range; and only one who is still below 1000. I myself am almost at 11,000, still far away from where I like to be, but oh well. I think teaching and novel writing just don't mix very well . . .


Yet more ramblings . . .
by: nzkiwi, 11-18-2008


Yet again, I'm sitting here in front of the computer with little idea about what to blog about. This November is turning out to be a lot harder than last November!

Time is part of the issue: I don't feel like I have much of it this year. I can't put my finger on the exact cause: but I can't seem to get rid of the feeling that I'm drowning -- I'm continually feeling behind on work! (and tonight is no exception). I just can't seem to get caught up, and I don't know: I love teaching, but I found myself, at one point this morning as I was getting ready for work, asking myself: can I really continue doing this for another 20 some years?

There's days when I feel trapped in a vicious cycle: take a break from schoolwork and enjoy myself (and then feel guilty and stressed because I'm falling further behind) OR continue working and feel better about school (but then feel like I have no life other than school). I keep telling myself that there has to be a happy medium, but in 7 years of teaching, I haven't been able to find it yet.

But oh well -- enough time spent rambling for tonight. Schoolwork does await!


More randomness
by: nzkiwi, 11-17-2008


I'm writing this quickly tonight -- I honestly don't have time to be blogging, but I'm yet again, determined to successfully complete NaBloPoMo, so I have to post. I had a geocaching dinner to go to tonight (or a dinner I wanted to go to, to more realistically phrase things), and therefore I wasn't home most the evening to get anything done, even though I have lots of things that still need to get done for tomorrow.

So, I'll share a quick funny again: someone else here on PT recently shared this video, and as a big fan of The Sound of Music, I love it! Gave me a good laugh when I watched it last night. So here it is: The Greatest Teacher. Enjoy. I've got work to get to . . .


Random ramblings
by: nzkiwi, 11-16-2008


I'm beyond the halfway point in November now! My NaBloPoMo attempt is going very well; my NaNoWriMo novel isn't. I'm WAY behind. I'm still under the 10k mark. I wanted desperately to get past that point this weekend, but I haven't made it. My to-do list asked for 2000 words today; I wrote about 1000. I guess I should be happy for what I have done (I mean, I'm definitely posed to pass my total from last year), but at the same time it's slightly frustrating not be further. But oh well. At least today was productive. I didn't get everything marked off my to do list, but I got a bunch of it done. Hopefully this upcoming week will go well. It just dawned on me: it's actually only 7 school days until Thanksgiving break!


To do!
by: nzkiwi, 11-15-2008


I seriously need to get better motivated on Saturdays! For the past few months, Saturdays have been the most unproductive days ever. I wake up with a plan of many things I want to accomplish, and then end up in the evening looking back on the day and realizing that I've done almost nothing.

Today was definitely that way, and so I've got a long to do list for tomorrow. I figure if I post it here, maybe it will keep me motivated tomorrow . . . so here it goes:

1. Create & post social studies study guide.
2. Type up social studies test.
3. Organize social studies lessons for this week.
4. Post new Readers Workshop blog question.
5. Locate my read-aloud texts for this week.
6. Finalize Readers and Writers workshop lesson plans
7. Type up end-of-quarter award certificate
8. Respond to 8 reading response journals
9. Grade reading calendars
10. Update grades online.
11. Post class schedule & homework for week online
12. Add at least 2000 words to my NaNoWriMo novel
13. Do laundry
14. Straighten up kitchen

Will I accomplish everything? Well, I'll see tomorrow night. Writing it out actually makes it look doable right now (unlike earlier, before I started this blog entry, when I was just thinking about it), so hopefully tomorrow afternoon will be productive. I'm going to keep my fingers crossed!


Poetry Friday!
by: nzkiwi, 11-14-2008

I'm leaping back into Poetry Friday today with a special poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye:
Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.
I learned earlier today that one of my college professors passed away this morning. Although I never had her for class, I still had contact with her and got to work with her on several occasions. She was an awesome person!

Honestly, it's days like this, that just make me stop and appreciate all those who I know -- friends, family, aquaintances, etc., and also remember those special people in my life who have passed on and still watch over me today. I absolutely love this poem for its message!

Poetry Friday is being hosted today by Yat-Yee Chong.


What do I write tonight?
by: nzkiwi, 11-13-2008


I know this youtube video has been posted on PT before (I think that's actually how I first became aware of it), but I'm suffering from a lack of inspiration tonight about what else to blog about, so I'm using it to spur a post. Here it is: What Teachers Make. It's a great one to listen to when I need inspiration.

I think it's likely the result of two back-to-back long days, but my mind and body just don't want to think/deal with school stuff tonight, and that includes reflection on recent happenings. I'm looking forward to sleep tonight and then the upcoming weekend.

With all the interruptions we've had, I'm trying to deal with a schedule that has me seeing one 6th grade much more often the other this week, and unfortunately it works out the same way next week too.

With the one class I see more, we've had a lot of generic Writers and Readers Workshops this week. From past experience, I know I have to keep my classes together simply because I begin to go crazy when both classes are at majorly different points, and I refuse to add that stress into my life. But at the same time, when I'm not presenting an official minilesson (which often happens in these generic workshop days), I begin to lose my energy/passion for it all. I end up feeling like we're just going through the motions and not really progressing. So, I don't know what the solution is. I'm just looking forward to a full, regular week!! (unfortunately: it probably won't come until January! )


A long day!
by: nzkiwi, 11-12-2008


When I pulled out of the school parking lot tonight, I realized it had been almost 12 and half hours after I first had arrived. Yes, today was a LONG day! It was a regular day of school (minus two interruptions for church & then an assembly), and then a faculty meeting for about an hour after school, and then later in the evening, a PTO meeting, which I knew if I went home in between the workshop and the meeting, it would have been a struggle motivating myself to go back, so I stayed around in between the two and worked in my classroom, and *finally* a little after 8, I was able to go home --- 12 and 1/2 hours after I first arrived. Whew!

Combined with my long day yesterday, I'm now just completely exhausted. Other than my laptop and my gradebook, I ended up taking nothing home with me. And I think I can count on one hand the number of times I've done that in 7 years of teaching; I'm someone who always seems to take stuff home with me, even when I'm pretty certain I won't get to it. But not tonight -- my bag was almost empty. I'm doing my NaBloPoMo blogging, adding a little to my NaNoWriMo novel, and catching up a few emails tonight and then heading to bed. I'm so looking forward to coming home at a regular hour tomorrow (hopefully!)


A quick post before bed
by: nzkiwi, 11-11-2008


It's 10:45 p.m. I just got home. I'm tired. I'm going to bed. But to continue with the challenge of NaBloPoMo, I've got to post an entry before doing so, since I haven't blogged today.

Today we had the day off and I didn't touch a bit of school work. Went out and spent the entire day geocaching instead. Although part of my head tells me my time might have been better spent working on schoolwork and odds and ends at home, I decided to ignore all those thoughts today. Every once awhile, I know an escape from it all is good -- and that's what I did today. Paper grading/lesson planning/house cleaning/etc. can all wait until tomorrow. Today I chose to forget about it for awhile . . . and I enjoyed it!


monday musings
by: nzkiwi, 11-10-2008


Another Monday just about over. Of course, honestly, when a Monday is followed by a day off, it's not too bad of a way to start a week.

Today actually went pretty well. It was the first time in awhile where both Writers and Readers Workshop seemed to go well. They've both been suffering a little from a mixture of I'm honestly not exactly sure what. They haven't been going badly, but it's almost like we've just been going through the motions and not really progressing for the past couple weeks. But today, it seemed like things were finally coming back on track, which is good.

The NaNoWriMo excitement seems to be mostly holding. I think I've got a couple who are beginning to tire a bit (ex. one who asked if December can be no writing month), but others are only increasing in their determination. Overall, one class currently has a little over 32,000 and the other has over 47,000 words. Which when I read back over postings from last year at this time, is so much further beyond where we were last November.

I was happy to finally reach my own first milestone today too: I'm now *finally* over 5,000 words! I'm still sooo behind where I should be at this point in time, but, just like with my kids, I think I'm beyond where I was last year at this point -- so I guess I'm still making good progress. We've still got 20 days left in the month to continue work. So, there's still time left. I'm beginning to get really excited to see where we all end up!


Sunday Night
by: nzkiwi, 11-09-2008


It's Sunday night. Have I gotten as much done over the weekend as I would have liked? Nope! But I'm also learning that *never* happens either.

All the interruptions we have coming up in the next two weeks is making planning horribly difficult. I've been plugging away all day, and making progress, but the amount of hours I've spent doesn't seem to equal the amount of plans done. I really wanted to get all my ducks in a row (to use that figure of speech) this weekend, so that I would have little or nothing to worry about lesson planning wise this week. I have a bunch of non-school related odds and ends that really can't get put off much longer that I am hoping to get to this week, and I need time for those things.

I also badly need to find some time to sit down and work on my NaNoWriMo novel. I haven't written at all during the weekend, and that's going to make getting to 50,000 words now even tougher! As of Friday, I had 5 students ahead of me in word counts, and I think there's likely to be even more now. Although, overall, I am happy: as of Friday, combining both language arts classes, my students' cumulative total is over 50,000 words now!


Just for a smile . . .
by: nzkiwi, 11-08-2008


A friend of mine recently sent me a link that made me smile --

Might have to keep it bookmarked for when those terrible, horrible, no-good very bad days occasionally roll around.

Otherwise, it's off to do lesson plans. I got wrapped up in a mystery of sorts today (completely non-school related), that has left me with no schoolwork yet accomplished and not a lot of time tomorrow to work, so although it certainly makes for a less than thrilling Saturday night: lesson planning awaits.


Friday! :)
by: nzkiwi, 11-07-2008


Friday!! Today was a long day, but at least it brought on the weekend, and I'm *finally* now home (at 10:30 at night!). Our school had a dance for the middle schoolers this evening and I got roped in to help/chaperone. It wasn't too bad. I always kind of like watching the students. The first dance of the year is always a completely new experience for my 6th graders and it's fun getting a chance to see how they act outside the classroom and the constraints of the school day. And then of course, there's the older kids (7th & 8th graders) who I've had previous years and it's always interesting to see how they change. One always discovers a lot about who has a crush on who during these dances!

I'll be glad for tomorrow though. I so enjoy the time to catch up on stuff that weekends provide. I've certainly got plenty to do! Right now though, now that my daily posting is done, it's off to bed. More from me tomorrow . . .


Is there such a thing as a regular week?
by: nzkiwi, 11-07-2008


Every year I expect lots of craziness and interruptions during the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but this year it seems to be starting so much earlier!

This past Tuesday we were off; tomorrow we're having a big fundraiser thingy during the afternoon which will take an hour of the day and change around our lunch schedule; then next Tuesday, we're off again; Wednesday brings mass and also an assembly; Thursday is a middle school reward afternoon; and then comes the following week where we have an awards assembly on Monday morning; another liturgy on Tuesday and who know what other interruptions I might be forgetting that week. And then, of course, the following week after that is shortened because Thanksgiving break begins. So ultimately: no regular school weeks between now and Christmas!!

I often get to thinking: when in school are students actually supposed to learn?!? The number of interruptions and special functions seems to increase every year, and the time we have in class continually decreases with it, although of course what I have to cover never does!

Even today, on what was supposed to be a normal day, my poor last period class got so much less accomplished than my homeroom (who I see earlier in the day for the same subject) just simply because of interruptions. Within a ten minute period we were interrupted 5 times: first by an announcement over the loudspeaker about a change in the dismissal policy; then by my grade level partner wanting to ask a question; then by a student with a note from another teacher that needed an immediate answer; then by our school's head of development who was bringing around supplies for tomorrow's big fundraiser thing (the supplies which needed explanation, so it wasn't just a quick drop off); and then finally my grade level partner once again, needing a couple students to pack up for the end of the day.

It just all gets so ridiculous sometimes! I'd often love to put up a huge "do not disturb" sign on my door, but I have a strange feeling it wouldn't do any good. It all mainly just makes me wonder: when am I supposed to really teach?


Day 5
by: nzkiwi, 11-05-2008


Put both classes together and we're just over 40,000 words now! I'm so proud of my students: they are simply blowing me away. Of course, I wish the excitement that's in the air with NaNoWriMo would continue into other subject areas. I feel all the attention we've been putting on writing recently has caused Reader's Workshop to fall into a rut. It's still running, but not like it could be. I really need to find time this weekend to sit down, relook at things a bit, and decide where I'm going next. We've kind of lost focus during the last week or so, and I badly need to figure out how to get it back on track. Although I feel bad complaining: my students are so wrapped up with what they're writing, that they're often begging to write versus read, and their attention during R.W. is lacking because of it.

Our daily poetry discussions also need to rediscover a bit of energy: I'm still getting some good discussions, but the comments are always coming from the same people, and the ones who aren't participating are tuning out and I need to figure out some way of keeping them accountable for keeping themselves focused on the discussion. I often wish I had a magic wand and I could just wave it and my classroom would instantly become like the one Nancie Atwell writes about. That's the kind of atmosphere I'd love recreate. I try to keep reminding myself that it's still early in the year: that we've got a long way to still go, and results don't come instantaneously. So, I hold out hope that maybe, if I'm lucky, by May/June I'll have such a classroom. Ultimately: I guess I'll just continue to practice patience, and we'll wait and see.


curriculum mapping
by: nzkiwi, 11-05-2008

I ended up spending a good chunk of my day on curriculum mapping today. Our school is initiating the process this year. I see the value of it, and actually I think it's long overdue we started, but at the same time I'm struggling with it. We're using this computer program to help us, but I'm finding it difficult to fit Readers' and Writers' workshop into its strict format. It's not set up for the variance in lessons and skills that gets taught daily when using a workshop format.

Take Writer's Workshop for instance: on a typical day I sit down and conference one-on-one with normally 4 to 6 students. For each one of those students, in my conversations with them, I choose a skill or two to teach -- but it's definitely not the same skill for each. Each conversation is different and different lessons come out of each conference, but individual instruction just isn't built into this computer program we're using. So ultimately: I'm left feeling like my curriculum map only shows half of what I do; not the whole picture (which is what we've been told it should).

Having almost no one at school that teaches the way I do, makes it difficult to get my questions answered also. Too few truly understand workshops, and so there's no one around to give me a way to solve my struggles. How do you mix all we accomplish in a workshop with a computer program that's built for a traditional language arts classroom? I don't know. All I know is that this is one of those times I wish I taught where Readers and Writer's Workshop was used across the board. That would be sooo nice!


On our way!
by: nzkiwi, 11-03-2008


We're already past 18,000 words!!

NaNoWriMo seems to be off to a great start. As my kids filed in this morning, already some of them were talking and comparing word counts: meaning they wrote over the weekend!
Yes, some of them didn't start their stories until today, but I figure at least a third of them got started over the weekend, if not more. I already have a couple of them that are ahead of me!
There's this great energy already building, and that just makes me happy. Just one school day into it, they were asking to have more writing time, a few of them carried their notebooks out to recess, others sat at dismissal time and wrote, and I honestly am giddy with excitement about what this month might bring. If we can keep this momentum going, I am foreseeing some mind-boggling totals from these kids by the end of the month. I definitely feel I have some budding novelists this year.


Productivity: Where are you?
by: nzkiwi, 11-02-2008


It's Sunday evening and I'm completely lacking energy to do anything. Not lesson plans, not paper grading, not house cleaning, not anything except collapsing on the couch, with my laptop in my lap and wasting time. It's somewhat fustrating as I have tons of things I want to do and also some things that have to be done by tomorrow, but again my body is just completely resisting.

I took yesterday off and headed to an event in D.C., and so today was supposed to be my one work day. I had all intentions of getting a bunch of stuff done today, so that I could enjoy my day off on Tuesday, but now it looks like Tuesday is going to have to be a complete work day.

I just hate when I get in a rut like this; I really need to have better willpower to force myself to sit down and do schoolwork when I don't want to. I badly need a productive day to roll around soon -- one of those when I'm totally wrapped up with what I'm doing, and am excited about doing lesson plans (yes, those do come). It just obviously has not been today!!



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