Saturday, June 23, 2012

Not Quite #bookaday

So there's a great challenge on twitter that you can follow with the hashtag #bookaday that, obviously, encourages people to read a book every day over summer vacation. What a beautiful, beautiful challenge.

To sit and read a book in one day is heaven to me, and I do it often. It's not unusual for me to read 30 or 40 books over the course of summer vacation. I'll fill up the baby pool we have, pull out a beach chair, and switch back and forth between enjoying the sun (with sunscreen, of course) and enjoying the shade of our patio umbrella. Throw in some of my favorite tunes, and you can easily see why summer is my favorite time of the year.

I have an email folder just for my Goodreads newsletters and updates I get from friends. I'm so busy reading kids' books and mentor texts during the school year that I feel like I can't really give books of my choice the attention they deserve from September until the beginning of June. And by "the attention they deserve" I mean I will sit and read them until I'm done, completely ignoring or forgetting any other responsibilities. Once school is out I dive into that folder and make a list of all the books I would like to buy or find in the library, and I can't wait to get started.

With the changes we've experienced this year, my list of books to buy has been put on the back burner for now. I'm hoping to find some of them in the local library or to borrow some from friends, but they may just have to wait until Christmas. To fulfill my never-ending desire to read lots and lots of books, I'm trying a new approach this summer.

Because of some very kind and thoughtful students and families I have a few gift cards to Barnes & Noble that I will lovingly use very soon. But until I get shopping I've decided to take a step that, prior to this, I had refused to take: I'm venturing into the world of e-readers. I love the feeling of having a book in my hand, hearing the spine crack the first time you open it, the smell of the pages, turning down the corner to mark my page, and seeing just how much farther you have to go to find out what happens! But, desperate times call for desperate measures.

I have an iPad from my district so I went into iBooks and started downloading all of the free classics that I could get my grubby little paws on. From Les Miserables, to A Tale of Two Cities, to Hukleberry Finn, I found 23 classics that piqued my interest. Some, like Little Women and The Secret Garden, are my favorites so I thought it would be interesting to try them on in an electronic version. Others, like War and Peace, are simply classics, and I thought it would be fun to give them a go. I'll admit, I tried that with Grapes of Wrath last year, and it didn't work. We'll see how much luck I had with some of these.

My tally to date is two books: 50 Shades of Grey, in traditional paper form (go ahead and shake your head, I just needed to see what the hub-bub was about!), and The Secret Garden, in electronic form. I do still love the feeling of a book in my hand, and I can't say I'll be taking the iPad with me into the sand for beach reading. But I didn't hate e-reading as much as I thought I would. Maybe I'll read a few more classics and learn to love books in the electronic format before this summer is out.

We'll see.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Glutton for Punishment?

I'm still trying to run. I started in 2009, and here I am three years later. Even though every time I finished a 5K I swear it's my last one and I swear I'm never running again, I am still giving it a go.

I'm not very good at it. I don't think my form is bad (at least I don't FEEL like I look like some of those people who jog past you on the trail flailing a variety of body parts), but I am S-L-O-W. As a snail. And I don't seem to get any faster. I don't particularly love the activity, but I don't especially dread it like I once did. It frustrates me to no end. I feel like I'm doing better but don't see improvement in terms of time or distance. When I don't get the positive results I'm expecting my spirits drop and I ask myself, "You are a glutton for punishment. What in the world are you doing? Why do you keep doing this?"

And believe me, I have asked myself these questions a lot. A LOT.

So you might be wondering what answers I keep coming up with to continue to fight what I often feel is a losing battle.

Believe me, I'm wondering the same thing. The only thing I can I come up with is that if I keep plugging away at it I've GOT to get better. If I put in the effort eventually I'm going to feel successful and meet my goal. Right? Not sure I believe it, but I keep trying just because I have that goal and would really, really like to meet it. 

So I guess I kind of am a glutton for punishment, or maybe I'm just stubborn. I could easily walk away and find something more enjoyable, something that's not quite such a challenge. But really - what fun would there be in meeting a goal like that?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Baby Steps

"I know it's hard to see it now, but everything happens for a reason."
"Every ending is a new beginning."
"It's a rough start, but this will end up being a great new opportunity for you."
"What doesn't kill you will make you stronger."

Those are just four of the many, many supportive comments my husband and I have gotten over the past week. These last seven days have been filled with some of the most frustrating, sad, angry and challenging moments that I have ever experienced in my life. It continues to astound me how people are more willing to choose dishonesty and drama over transparency and honesty in their lives. While it is so, so tempting to stoop to their level we will not. The lies that were told were simply a feeble-minded person's attempt to discredit Jerry. What he doesn't realize is that there are too many people who know and support Jerry for his weak comments to make a difference. When Jerry is ready to start his own business there are people all ready to help him be successful.

But we aren't there yet.

Right now, we're just trying to figure out what our new life looks like. Silly as it sounds, we're trying to figure out where we're going to buy the food for our pets, and we're worried about the well being of the animals we left behind at the store. We're very, very sad that we won't get to see Piggly and Wiggly, the guinea pigs, or Bobofish, the Oscar, ever again. We're sad that Jerry didn't get the opportunity to buy the business like he was told he would be able to, and we're sad that the years he and his dad gave to the "family" were thrown away for the right amount of money. We're sad that somebody who barely knew Jerry saw him as such a threat that he fired him and then spread nasty rumors about him. We're sad that another, who needed the job, has also lost his job just because he would not stoop to the new owner's level. And we're sad that people we helped during difficult financial times and thought were our friends really were not.

That's a lot to be sad about. And it all happened right around Father's Day so that made things even more challenging. But the good news is that after all the sad, we are starting to turn a corner. We're making baby steps.

Jerry has started working on his business plan to start his own business, he has a potential partner, and he also has some leads on jobs to help us out until he can get things up and running. As I mentioned earlier, he has a tremendous amount of support from people in the industry. I still have my job, with benefits, and we both have our health. We have an amazing network of family and friends who have been nothing short of incredible these last few weeks, and we have our puppies who keep us exercising and laughing.

Trust me, there are still sad times, but they are getting shorter and shorter. What doesn't kill us will make us stronger, and more resolved than ever to start a business run by people who do things, not because they want make a buck, but because they are honest and care about people and their animals.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Officially Over

It's hard to believe that the school year is officially over. For the first time ever we didn't have to attend extra inservice days after the kids ended the year. When I finished yesterday, I walked out knowing that I didn't need to go back today or tomorrow unless I wanted to. Of course we're going back tomorrow for some final clean up and to start planning for next year, but it's our choice.

I also walked out of school yesterday knowing that the challenge I talked about had just gotten a bit bigger. Now, with about 15 hours between me and the initial shock, I know there's nothing I can do about things. Thanks to my wonderful friends and many repetitions of, "Everything happens for a reason," and, "There's no sense worrying about things you can't change," I think I'm finally starting to believe those things. With all the bull out of the way, we can really focus on moving forward towards my hubby and our friend starting their own business. Scary, for sure, but I know my hubby has the knowledge and skills to do it... the money, not so much, but we'll work that out. Any backers out there interested? Let me know! :)

So last night when I couldn't sleep I decided to take some time to finally catch up on my Google Reader. I can tell all my education friends were in the same boat as I am with busy ends of the school year because I wasn't nearly as far behind in my reading as I expected! I was also really excited to find some great posts, and I saved those tabs for this morning. It was easy to read at 1AM, but I wanted to make sure my comments were somewhat coherent so I saved those for this morning.

Here the posts that really struck me last night:

The 90-9-1 Rule by Laura at Musings About 21st Century Learning. This post really spoke to for a couple of reasons. First, this year during my PLP work in my community and as a coach we discussed the idea of lurking at length: what is the value, when do you move on from lurking, are you shortchanging your community if you are a lurker, and how do we help community members move on? I've also seen a great deal of the 90 in my real life. I'm interested to reread this post and the comments and add my own two cents based on my personal experiences.

Teacher As Travel Agent by Sheryl at 21st Century Collaborative. Sheryl always brings up amazing points about balancing learners' passions with the knowledge they need, but what struck me in this post was the comment:

Why does it always go back to what we learned when we were in Kindergarten?

I have pondered this thought long and hard this year because my kids struggled to "play nicely" and share. Why does it go back to kindergarten? Because those building blocks are a vital key to success.

If You Could Not Fail by Cale at The Learning Nation. After opening up this tab and continuing to read I believe I found the back story to this post that's coming out of Canada, although sadly I didn't keep that tab open and don't have it handy to link right now. In any respect, I thought it was interesting because I just did my own post about this topic, and I can't say I ever thought about the *need* for kids to fail. In my mind I saw it more as if you keep working towards a goal, here's what you can achieve. I'm very interested to continue reading this thread to see where it goes.

Virtual Schools: From Rivalry to Partnership by Tony at Transleadership. I had the pleasure of "meeting" and working with Tony during my PLP coaching work, and I am very interested in learning all I can about his virtual high school. In an age of choice and vouchers, I personally feel like public schools need to branch out and provide more opportunities for all learners. Different doesn't equal wrong, and I'm looking forward to participating in this discussion.

A Wicked Problem by Shelley at Wright's Room. The interesting part of Shelley's post is that everything she mentions as necessities: administrators who are visionaries not managers, deeply engaging experiences for students, and encouragement and support for risk-taking students; are all the roadblocks my partners and I experienced while trying to bring change to our school. I love when Shelley says,

There were other times it felt disasterous, but here’s the thing, we all survived. It’s hard to change; It’s hard to wrap our minds around something so foreign to the traditional school system so many of us are products of, but our students need us to engage in the hard work. 

Despite the road blocks, my teammates and I have pushed on, and I am curious to read the comments and see how others have started the ball rolling to change their schools. I'm sure we're not the only ones to get the backlash that we did, and I'm curious to hear how others weathered the storm.

So there they are, my top 5 midnight finds. Now to go back and add my comments now that it's light out!

Friday, June 1, 2012

New Month, New Challenge

School is flying by! I cannot believe that my first year at the new school will be over in 8 days. I'm proud of myself, proud of my two teammates, and very proud of my kiddos. I think back about all of the challenges that we have faced together, and we truly have a lot to be proud of. It wasn't easy, and it certainly wasn't without drama. But we did it, and we're already looking at how to make next year even better.

I've often heard it said that every ending is a new beginning, and that is absolutely true for me and my husband right now. Last night, after closing his store, he and his coworkers got some shocking news. Thankfully, for now anyway, the four of them still have jobs and allegedly things won't be changing. However, everything that he has been working for over the past year and 2 months is gone. And nobody gave him any hint about what was happening. It just happened. When I asked him what he was thinking last night he said, "It doesn't matter what I'm thinking. As of tomorrow it's done." Once again I'm shocked at how people cannot be open and honest with one and other. Why do we hide things?

So now we go forward to find a new path. It's strange to be focused on one thing for so long and then suddenly have that focus removed. But, every ending is a new beginning. Everything happens for a reason. My hope is that the new beginning presents itself soon, and we can see the bright reason behind this latest challenge.