Monthly Archives: March 2018

Reflections: Keep On Keeping On

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This year the Slice of Life Challenge seemed harder than the past two years.  At the beginning of the month, slices seemed rusty and not really what I wanted to post, but the deadline loomed. Comments seemed fewer and farther-in-between than in the past.  Those comments really do make a difference, even when the slice isn’t the “best” ever.  

 

In one slice, my writing reflected my thinking about those differences and comments, or the lack thereof.  Interestingly, a few of the comments that I received on that slice reminded me that I should be writing for myself, not for another’s comments. So true!  Another person commented on my obvious commitment to myself to write everyday and to persevere. So true!  The comments I read that day gave me the shot in the arm I needed to keep on keeping on.  My perspective shifted. My focus did, too. I knew I would, but I committed yet again to keep writing.  

 

And so I did.  I kept writing.  I kept commenting.  In fact, I decided to be part of the solution.  I tried to comment faithfully and thoughtfully on posts that I read.  The suggested, “Comment on 3 other blogs,” became a starting point. Could I do more?  I’m busy, too.  What I found, as I’m sure many of you have, is that the more I commented, the more enjoyable the month became.  Ideas seemed to flow more easily off my fingers. I experimented with different forms of writing, some weren’t perfect, but I had fun trying them out.  I took those risks. I accepted that everything wasn’t going to be perfect or even the best. I just keep on keeping on.

 

Then, other blogs gave me inspiration. Ideas were inspiration.  Forms were inspiration. Reading really great slices was inspiration.  Suggested “read this blog to for ideas” by the Two Writing Teachers was inspiration.  By reading slices, I realized that everyone has challenges, everyone has a day or days when the ideas dry up.  What do we do then? Keep writing. My writing still needs to grow and be refined; I’m not there, yet, but I’m working on it.  I just keep on keeping on.

 

Most importantly, as I kept writing, writing, writing, some fellow slicers did stop by.  They did comment. They did encourage. I was happy, but now, not dependent. I thank them all, all the wonderful people whose lives are busy and stressed and full of life’s activities, for stopping by. I thank them for taking time to read and offer those heartwarming comments.  I thank them for reading my slices that were full of risks, and, probably in all honesty, not all that great. For the kindness and the caring, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

 

Finally, I want to give a huge shout-out to all the Two Writing Teachers staff who planned and organized and emailed and commented.  No one can know, unless they have done it, how hard it must be. It seems easy on my end. Not seeing the countless behind-the-scenes workings, I can only imagine, and, I thank you.  

 

Simple Pleasures

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A lazy start to the day,

Snuggling in flannel sheets, cozy and warm.

 

Steaming coffee, rich and smooth,

Its inviting aroma hovering in the air.

A hurry-free breakfast,

Its colors feeding the beauty-thirsting soul.

 

A to-do list, the schedule for the day,

Full of washing,

And cleaning,

And planning

for the anxiously-awaited guests.

 

A conversation, written in words, sent as a text.

The video of a granddaughter

Smiling,

Toddling,

And saying, “Hi!”

 

A porch with pansies on its step,

Petals-golds, purples, violets, ambers-

Politely calling, “Spring, spring, spring!”

Robins, hopping in the lawn,

Cheerily chirping in reply.

 

Sunshine dancing on the ground,

Clouds floating in the sky.

A restful day,

A peaceful day,

A day to remember.

 

A day to remember 

the One

Who made this

Friday Good.

 

©B. Donaldson, 2018. All rights reserved

Satisfaction

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Today, I presented a professional development session to the K-2 teachers in my building.  I tried a new deliver technique where each grade level team was given, after a brief overview, a specific task to research, discuss, and into which to dig in.  Being unsure of how the new format would be received, I was a little nervous, but yet, I felt confident that I want to model with teachers what I want them to do in the classroom.  Constructivist, collaborative learning is so much more powerful than sit-and-get lectures.

When the session was over, satisfaction settled down on my shoulder and gave me the inspiration for this slice.  I decided to play with comparisons for “satisfaction.”

 

Satisfaction

settles soothingly

like a blanket

swathes me

on a frosty morn.

 

Satisfaction

tarries tenderly

like the rosy glow

lingers

in the darkening sky.

 

Satisfaction

pads peacefully

like the brook

bubbles

beside the shore.

 

Satisfaction

chats contentedly

like the wind

whispers

to the trees.

 

Satisfaction

rests refreshingly

like the whiff of boxwoods

on the wings

of the wind.

 

Satisfaction

pauses patiently

like the reluctance

to close the cover

when the story ends.

 

©B. Donaldson, 2018. All rights reserved

 

Weary Eyes

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My eyes are bleary,

Yes, weary.

Long hours I’ve spent

Staring at text,

Editing,

Suggesting,

Commenting.

 

My head is achy,

Yes, shakey.

Long hours I’ve spent

Thinking,

Writing,

Typing,

Encouraging.

 

My thoughts are jumbly,

Yes, tumbly.

Long hours I’ve spent

Considering,

Contemplating,

Postulating,

Populating.

 

My eyelids are droopy,,

Yes, loopy.

Long hours ahead

I”ll spend in my bed.

So off I’ll go,

Not a bit too slow.

 

©B. Donaldson, 2018. All rights reserved

 

 

For This Today

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Today, like many other days, after getting ready for school, I walk down the wool-carpeted flight of stairs from the upstairs to the main floor.  Feeling a little creeky and not fully awake so early in the morning, my hand loosely holds onto the rail for an added bit of reassurance. A muffled footfall echoes in the foyer as my slippered foot steps onto the hardwood floor.  (I’m fully dressed for breakfast except for my feet which luxuriate a few more minutes in my comfy slippers.  Just for a few more minutes before the on-my-feet-all-day shoes are put on.) So begins my day.

Later, when a scheduled meeting ends a full 45 minutes early, hee-hee, I head happily for home. As my red Sonata approaches the familiar two-story, gray house, the signs of various School Board candidates remind me that I need to vote before I leave on break. So, on a spur-of-the-moment whim, my foot pushes down gently on the accelerator instead of the brake, and I drive right on down the street toward City Hall where I know I’ll be in time to vote by absentee ballot.

I enter the glass doors of the stately, three story stone building. Its marble staircases and brass handrails beckon me onward to the second story. After providing the usual information, I enter the voting booth, carefully filling in the bubbles before the names of the candidates I support.  Placing the ballot in the provided envelope, my tongue wets the glue, and I seal and return it to the receptionist. She stamps it with today’s date. I smile to myself. I know it’s silly, but a voting pride swells my chest as I think how I’ve done my duty as a citizen yet again.  I think of the men and women who have fought over the years to give me the privilege. A warm feeling spreads inside me like maple syrup over pancakes on a winter morning.
I turn and trip lightly down the stairs. I think how wonderful it is, if just for today, that I can almost dance down the steps.  Not needing to grab the handrail, I feel like a teenager zipping down these marble treads. Tippity, tippity, tap.  Even the sounds sing out to me, calling me back to a time when injured knees painfully cried out with every step, up or down.  Then, the rail was my friend who supported me, helped me. I clung to her, then. Those were the times when I never thought I would be able to do this simple task again, pain free.  Tippity, tippity, tap. But now I can! And everytime I do, I thank God for this time, just this one time. Maybe tomorrow, the gift will be gone.  Who knows? But for this day, this today, I am thankful, and I skip merrily down the rest of the stairs, easily and carefree and joyful.   

Food Needs to Look Pretty, Too!

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I am a creature of habit.  I like to make the same two or three things for breakfast everyday.  It changes over time, but for a while, it stays the same. Of late, my go-to breakfast is one egg, sunny side up, and about 1 ½ cups of fresh spinach sauteed in 2 t. olive oil.  (I could say, “Fried,” but that sounds so unhealthy so I’ll stick with sauteed.) It is rather pretty with white and golden yellow and bright green. I don’t ever remember caring much one way or the other whether my food looked pretty until recently.  Now, I do. Now, it has become an unspoken goal that I strive to attain at each meal.

Let me explain.  I wanted to break out of my routine the other morning, so I decided to have oatmeal with chopped apple and walnuts, rounded off with a dash of cinnamon instead of my standard egg-spinach combination.  Really, I was craving some carbs. When I got my bowl out of the microwave, I could barely eat it. It was so bland looking. The cinnamon aroma was enticing, but visually it was a dud. It got eaten. I’m way too frugal to throw perfectly good food away, but it wasn’t very satisfying.  It reminded me of what you might see in a care facility. Not appetizing at all.  

In contrast to that meal, I attended a food tasting for my daughter’s upcoming wedding. One of the appetizers was a skewer with this pattern: one mozzarella chunk, one leaf fresh basil, one cherry tomato, one fresh basil leaf, and one last mozzarella chunk.  A balsamic glaze, rich and mahogany, was drizzled artistically over it all. Beautiful! After being asked which were some of my top choices of the tasting, my first response was this skewer.  I actually said, “The skewer was easy to eat, delicious, and so gorgeous with the white, the red, and the green.  Think how that would look on the buffet!”  Compared to the tannish cheese-filled rice ball or the whitish noodles with tan bolognese sauce we also tasted, it wasn’t even a choice for me.  Give me those lovely, inviting colors, paired with delicious taste any time.

So this morning, to my usual work week breakfast combo, I added 3 cherry tomatoes. Now I had golden yellow globes in pure white frames accompanied by bright green spinach, and cheery, cherry red tomatoes.  Wow, that was pretty. It tasted great and was so satisfying.  Yes, food needs to look pretty, too!

P.S. Here’s a photo of a similar breakfast from another day. I didn’t think about snapping a picture this morning. Besides, it was so gorgeous, I couldn’t take the time. I had to eat it. 

Food Needs to Look Pretty Too!#

 

 

I Wonder What She Would Say?

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Walking  this morning over a course I have taken many times before, I noticed amid ranch and two-story houses, a cream-city brick house that was startlingly out of place.  Sitting high on a hill, overlooking a now, house-dense neighborhood, was a quiet house of yesteryear. She seemed to be in solitary, sleepy repose as the world moved quickly on.  She seemed content to be the matron of the neighborhood, content to let the younger generation, the grander and more fashionable homes, share her once barren hills.

But, what if this house could tell me her story, what would she say?  What would she have seen over the years? Did she feel sadness or joy as men broke ground for newer construction?  Did she smile when those new homes were filled with young families whose children’s laughter filled the air? Did she whisper with the wind at their funny antics?  Did she invite those playmates in during a stormy day? Did she protectively watch as they played on the tire swing that hung from the maple tree out front? Did she listen to them read their stories on the wicker chair on the front  porch? Did she wonder where the years flew as the saplings grew tall and strong and broad? Did she cry as the grown-up boys marched proudly off to war? Did her windows wear a blue- or gold-starred service flag? Did the Stars and Stripes decorate her front porch rail in anticipation of their homecoming?  Did she mourn the flag-blanketed coffin?

Is she now content, old and fading?  Content with her crackling paint and crumbling mortar? Content with her memories?  Content with the trees surrounding her? What if this house could tell me her story?  I wonder what she would say?

 

©B. Donaldson, 2018. All rights reserved

Ten Fun Facts

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I’m getting good at using other people’s ideas for inspiration.  I got the idea for writing “Ten Fun Facts” facts about myself from https://confessionsofarealteacher.com/2018/03/09/10-fun-facts/  Thanks, confessions of a real teacher blogger.  If you think it looks like a winner, give it a try!

  1. I have lived in 13 different states and 3 foreign countries, including France, Germany, and Greece.  I loved it all! Thanks, Dad, for serving our country for 33+ years and for giving me the opportunity to “see the world!”
  2. My favorite kind of dog is a Golden Retriever.  I am not really a dog person, but I am a Golden lover.  I got nipped as a little girl when I tried to pet a dog, and I think that really scared me.  My husband LOVES dogs-all kinds of dog–so…we got our Golden Retriever, Gracie, mostly for him…and the kids.  Surprisingly, or not surprisingly if you know this breed, she also won my heart right away. I loved her. She was a part of our family for 15 years and, sadly, died last March.  I don’t think any dog could ever replace her for me.
  3. I have been a lifelong watcher of my weight.  That watching has included all kinds of fad diets (egg shell, orange/grapefruit, etc….I know-crazy!) and other healthier ones (Whole30, Weight Watchers, and TOPS). I want to be healthy and to fit in my clothes, but my ultimate goal is to eat like a thin person.  I, however, am still watching… I haven’t arrived, YET!
  4. My favorite sport is biking or, to be exact, cycling.  (I didn’t know biking meant Harleys and motorcycles and such at first.)  My husband bought me my first “real” bike when we were expecting our first child on my birthday. (That was one month before she was born.  I think it must have been pretty funny for the salesperson.) We rode with the kids on the back of bikes, in buggers, and alongside us. Now, we ride as a couple on the beautiful bike trails in our state.  I love going fast, by the way.
  5. Order, minimalism, and cleanliness are my jam, but I have trouble working that out day to day.  My house never seems to be totally clutter free. My desk has a never ending pile of paperwork and a book or two on display.  I never seem to squeeze enough hours in the day to get it all done. But, in my heart, I am orderly, neat, and clutter free.
  6. I resigned from my first teaching job and chose to stay home with our children when they were young.  I loved, more than anything I have ever done, being that stay-at-home Mom. It was draining and exhausting and full of work, but it was rewarding and joyful and happy.  I am so thankful I made that choice.
  7. I am in a job that I really enjoy.  One time I heard a speaker who, when asked how she got where she was, answered that when a door opened, she walked through it.  I have tried to take that advice to-heart over the years. So, as my little ones shut the door behind them on the way to college, I walked through my open doors.  The door to being a teacher again. The door to getting my Master’s. The door to Reading Recovery training. The door to Literacy Coaching and training. The next door?  I’m not sure, but I want to be ready to walk on through when it opens.
  8. I love to travel.  I would rather go somewhere than to get something.  I am about spending time with people and experiencing things.  With such a big family, I haven’t always been able to travel as much as I would like, but if I can travel, I do.  The beach is my favorite destination, by the way.
  9. I love change.  I know that sounds weird.  Most people despise change.  They like the comfort of what they know and how it feels. I like mixing it up.  My daughter says I have TCK (third culture kid) mentality. She hypothesizes that I am the way I am because of my experiences moving every two to three years when I was growing up. About every five years, I want things to change.  This has meant new wall colors, new type of teaching job, new furniture, etc. I’m wondering what will be next. This is my 5th year as a Literacy Coach.
  10. I love to learn.  Learning to me is fun.  Attend a conference? Sign up.  Hear a speaker? That’s a yes. Read a book?  Mmm.huh! Learn? Yes, yes, and yes.

©B. Donaldson, 2018. All rights reserved

 

Inroads in Coaching

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Coaching can be a lonely road to walk. It wasn’t anything like I first imagined in my naivety when I accepted the newly created role of Literacy Coach in our district.  The path looked bright before me, sunshiny and light, a brilliant walkway in a world where teachers were excited to collaborate and learn and welcomed me in.

The path has not been, in the least bit what I imagined.  It is not wide or easy with friends along the way. The tail has been steep and rocky and dark.  Suspicions and resentment and fear clouded the thinking of those with whom I had hoped would walk and talk with me about best practices and  improved instruction and higher student achievement. Although the door to my office has been perpetually open, rarely did one enter who was questioning or seeking or wondering.   I tried different approaches; I changed up professional development; I persevered in my coaching role. Still, it seemed, very few shifts had occurred. At least as many as I wanted.  I just am too stubborn, however, and I refused to give up.

Trudging along, trial and error became my friends.  Trial and error. Trial and error. Trial and error. It is beginning to pay off.  The way, lately, has become brighter. The look of coaching became less of an in-and-out, 3 meeting approach to a more I’m-here-to-stay-for-awhile approach.  The result…relationships! These resulting relationships have been the “abra-kadabra” to the door of powerful coaching. These resulting relationships have given opportunities for some magical moments in coaching.

Let me highlight just one of those moments.  After reading this, you may say, “Aw, this is nothing!  What is the big deal about that?” Well, to me, even this little inroad is a big deal.  Let me explain.

Yesterday, I opened an email from a teacher who asked me to meet with her and her colleague to discuss 2 students who are not growing in reading.  Replying right away, I suggested 3 possible meeting times. The teachers chose the earliest opportunity which was this morning before school began.  I met with them to discuss theses 2 students for whom they are doing everything they know how to do (even some ideas we brainstormed earlier in the year), but who haven’t grown one reading level all year!!!  That is a concerning. They are concerned. I am concerned. The teachers had running records in hand, ready to show me. We analyzed them together. We brainstormed. We created a plan of action. While nothing about the children really changed with this one meeting, the path is open before us.  We were a team. We are thinking together about students. We are making inroads into coaching. I was celebrating in my heart! I still am.

Today, the sun is shining brightly on the way before me.  There is hope for me, for them, and for our children.

A Recipe for Spring

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I used “Recipe for Writing a Spring Poem,” by Georgia Heard from Falling Down the Page as a mentor poem.

 

One teaspoon gentle breezes,

One tablespoon golden sunshine,

A pinch of Old North Wind.

 

One teaspoon chirping robins,

One tablespoon crocus blooming,

One dash of snowy flurries.

 

One teaspoon cloudless skies,

One tablespoon longer days,

One splash of April showers.

 

One cup childhood laughter,

One pint smiling faces,

One gallon of May flowers.

 

Oh, yes, a recipe for Spring!

 

©B. Donaldson, 2018. All rights reserved