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Slice of Life 2013

Slice of Life April 30, 2013: Living in the Moment

Slice of Life

I’m participating in the Slice of Life 2013, hosted by Stacey Shubitz and Ruth Ayres at Two Writing Teachers.

I am not what you might call a spontaneous person. I am often accused of being “in my head” a bit too often, and have a difficult time extricating myself from the past or the future, whichever state happens to be the most threatening to me at the moment.

That’s one of the many reasons why I love Rosie, my six-month-old golden retriever.

With Rosie, I can be present, engaged, in the moment, in ways I haven’t been in the past. When I am with her, I can’t help but be in the moment watching her play with her friends at the dog park, learning new skills, or just being her loving, adorable self.

Since she joined our family, much of our free time revolves around her and her needs. We spend several days a week traveling to the local dog park so she can get in some “wrestling” with her friends, or just running free. This past weekend we took her to her first “swim” with other goldens. This event was sponsored by a local golden rescue group. Rosie was one of 150+ dogs who were having the time of their lives fetching balls and sticks and jumping in and out of the lake. Rosie swam for two hours non-stop, and we watched her the whole time, loving every minute of it. The whole time I was right there with her, in the moment just soaking up the happiness I could see on my dog’s face. I don’t know who had more fun, me or her.

Without Rosie, I would probably spend more time than is healthy worrying about things I can’t change and fretting over things that might never happen. She has taught me to enjoy the now, to be present, to have fun again. I think I tend to take life a bit too seriously, and having fun has always seemed like a luxury I couldn’t afford to have if “everything was going to get done.”

Now I can see how having fun is so vital to my well-being, and I so look forward to every outing with Rosie. She has taught me so much already in her six short months of life.

Thanks, Rosie!

Rosie swim

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Slice of Life April 23, 2013: Testing Season Begins

Slice of Life

Slicing on Tuesdays with Two Writing Teachers.

Writing feels like…

Work right now. The ideas aren’t there and the words feel like pulling teeth.

No, that’s not quite true. I have things I want to say but feel like I can’t shouldn’t say them. Why? Well, who might read them? What will they think? Do I really want to put it out there?

I guess what’s really on my mind is the sad reality that “testing season” has begun in earnest at our school. Last week, our students took a three-hour test to predict how they will do on the test next month. Our End of Grade (EOG) Test in reading is one month from today. Four short weeks to get it all done, to make sure my students have mastered the CCSS.

Recently, we got to see a “released” version of the new test. It looks somewhat similar to our old test, with a few updated question stems (to align with CCSS), but mostly the change is noted in the length. On our 7th grade test, there were at least three passages that were over three pages long (front and back). Any language arts teacher worth her salt can tell you that a struggling reader will take one look at that and crumble. We’ve all seen it before. No surprises here. But the sheer length of the test is worrisome to most of us. We know that struggling readers, even if they can read the passage and answer the questions correctly, will see those LONG pages of dense text and they will shut down. Since it is a new test and norming will need to be done, these students will not have to suffer through re-takes. We don’t anticipate scores until sometime in October. (Something to look forward to!)

No, the kids will be okay regardless. We tell them they must pass the test, but we don’t really mean it. They will move on to the next grade level as planned. Everyone knows that the real accountability does not rest with the students.

But this is not true for the teachers. In my state, accountability is almost exclusively for teachers. Seems that our legislators have been extra busy this week ensuring that those of us who don’t make the cut, whose test scores are not superior, will lose our tenure. I heard that it was an almost unanimous vote against teacher tenure. Really? There are that many bad teachers in our state? The state that boasts the highest number of National Board Certified teachers? Oh, and speaking of NBCT’s, one of the DPI’s recent proposals for salary restructuring suggests dropping Master’s pay and NBCT pay differentials. I am sure that will do wonders for the quality of teaching professionals in our state.

Yesterday we sat through a one-hour training on a computer tracking system that allows the state to determine just how much “accountability” we have for every one of our students. This allows the state to determine our “teacher effectiveness rating” which is now a permanent part of our performance reviews. Right now my “teacher effectiveness rating” shows a big RED box: INEFFECTIVE. This rating was the result of a combination of my students’ scores and the entire school’s rating. Our school as a whole did not meet “expected growth” and that pushed everyone in our building into the “ineffective” column.

Most of the time I try to stay above all of the craziness going around in education circles in our state and our country. I know why I teach and I try to be the best teacher I can be for my students. But as testing looms in our not too distant future, the pressure can’t be denied. Talking with my colleagues, I see the worry on their faces; I overhear the conversations where their very real fear can’t be missed. It makes me so sad.

This is not the way it’s supposed to be. We say it can’t last, that everything in education swings on a pendulum and sooner or later things will swing back in our favor.

I used to believe that.

I’m not so sure anymore.

 

standardized-testing

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Slice of Life 2013: April 16, 2013: Thinking of Boston

Slice of Life

Slicing through the year on Tuesdays with Two Writing Teachers.

Here we are again. Glued to the television, watching the same horrific scenes repeating over and over.

This time it’s the Boston Marathon.

Many slicers have written about their sadness and horror over the senseless tragedy that took place yesterday during the Boston Marathon. Three dead already, 140+ injured, many of the injured serious/critical with several amputations. The crime scene has been described as something out of a war zone.

Today, teachers at my school murmured the thoughts that most of us have…we’re not safe anywhere anymore. We say this every time there’s a senseless tragedy like this one, and every time we live through another one it brings it all back. As time passes, we tend to put these tragedies out of our minds. We secretly hope that this one is the last. Nothing could possibly be worse than this.

We want to believe it can’t happen to us, it can’t happen in our town. But it’s simply not true. It can happen anywhere at any time. Of course deep down we all know this, but we don’t want to acknowledge it. It’s much too scary.

Naturally, as parents we want to protect our children. We want to do all that we can to keep that protective bubble around them and keep out danger and evil. So I wasn’t surprised that in the wake of this latest tragedy that my husband said, “I don’t want Katie to move to _____city!” Our daughter is in the process of applying for jobs in a major metropolitan city. In fact, she is on her way there right now for an interview. My husband is fearful for her as it seems that these big cities are often terrorist targets. While I can go there when I am operating out of fear, I gently reminded him that it wasn’t long ago that a madman terrorized an Amish one-room schoolhouse. If you aren’t safe in an Amish one-room schoolhouse, you aren’t safe anywhere.

At times like this I am so grateful for my faith. When I find myself operating out of fear I remind myself that fear is not from God, nor is it the way he intended us to live. Difficult as it is, I have to choose to move forward with faith and trust. It’s what I must do.

Tonight, my thoughts and prayers are with all of the people affected by this tragedy.

candle-light-live-wallpaper-10-2

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Slice of Life 2013 April 9: Why Do You Write?

Slice of Life

On today’s Slice of Life posting, Stacy asked the question “Why do you write?”

I write because there is no better way to make sense of my world. Writing helps me to process, clarify, and ponder life.

I write because writing is a challenge. While I love to write, I am always intimidated by the blank page and usually feel like what I write won’t be good enough. Still, I love the creative process of crafting a piece of writing and the satisfaction I feel when I am able to produce what I set out to do.

I write to connect with others. One of the things that I most admire in writers is their ability to write words that so perfectly capture a mood or experience that I’ve had in my life, and perhaps have never been able to adequately articulate. It’s like that moment when you read a perfect line and say to yourself “yes, that’s exactly how I felt!” For example, I love this line from Elizabeth Strout’s latest novel, The Burgess Boys:

“Perhaps if she was still young she would be driving by the home of Charlie Tibbets, but there was no sap left in her. The thick sugary pull of life had gone.” (Italics are mine)

Don’t you just love that description?

The written word allows us all to connect. I feel less alone in the world when I read others’ writing. My goal is to share my experiences so that maybe someone else will realize they are not alone, either. I am drawn to the redemptive nature of writing.

I write because I have a strong desire to be heard. I grew up as a hearing child with two deaf parents. Communicating with my parents was challenging, and their ability to fully understand me and my siblings was limited. They lip-read and we spoke to them. They did not teach us sign language and we only learned basic finger-spelling. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized our inability to sign essentially created a situation where we had parents who spoke a language we didn’t fully understand. While we could communicate, we lacked depth to our conversations and much of what we discussed was surface-level, easy to share information. The deeper things like thoughts and feelings never quite made the translation. Wanting, no needing to be heard became paramount in my life. Writing fills that void for me.

When I write I feel that I am doing exactly what I was born to do.

writing

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Slice of Life 2013: The Slicing Continues…

Slice of Life

Fellow SOLC writers: I don’t know about you, but for me it was very weird not writing my daily slice yesterday. While it was nice to have a day off, I felt oddly out of sorts. This morning when I got up, I realized that I wouldn’t have any comments to read on my post.

Bummed.

It’s funny how quickly something becomes a habit. They do say that if you want to develop a habit or break a bad one, you need to give yourself 30 days. I think that’s what happened. My daily writing was becoming ingrained into my life, and without it I felt kind of lost. Writing has a way of doing that to a person. While we may struggle to find the words some days, it always feels better to write, doesn’t it?

I am on spring break this week so I have time to think, reflect, and wonder about things. I know that I want to keep up with this blog I started for the Slice of Life Challenge. I am not sure how often I will post (although I hope it is often), but I do know that it means a lot to me to keep it up.

I am so glad that SOL continues for many of us. I love reading your blogs and admire your heart and your talent. You inspire me!

P.S. For regular readers of my blog, an update on Rosie. She had her surgery yesterday and she is doing great. You would never know that she just had surgery! She has managed to chew through her “cone” on the first night, so not sure what we will do next. Life with a dog 

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