Tuesday, May 22, 2012


There is something about the school year ending that is exciting! While I am saddened to not see students & coworkers on a daily basis, it is invigorating knowing I have time to recharge my batteries before the start of another school year.  I have my summer days planned out of sleeping in a little more and waking up without an alarm clock, reading until late into the evenings, going for bike rides and walks, grilling out with family and friends and sitting on the patio reminiscing of past memories .... and of course how I will change my classes and teaching for the next school year.

I do wonder if all my students look forward to the summer as much as I do. Will they have a guaranteed breakfast and lunch in their homes, since they won't be in school?  Will someone be able to provide them structure throughout the day where they know the expectations as well as they do during the school year?  Will someone make sure they are reading books even though it is not for a grade?

This brings me to ponder the "time" students spend in schools.  I don't know how I feel about year round schools, but sometimes when I think about some students who need the structure & security of the school day, I am all for it.  Maybe by changing the number of school days required by each district should increase. With the demands of becoming a nation of global learners & educational reforms affecting districts, teachers, students, and families, maybe it would be okay to go to school longer each year. If that is the case, I am going to have to get some solar batteries that will recharge me each day and not just at the end of the school year!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Love of Reading!

I love to read! A perfect day for me is to be curled up on my couch or bed reading anything from a novel, a professional magazine or book, People magazine, or my local newspaper.  If it is raining outside with a few crackles of thunder it is an even better reading atmosphere for me!   This past year I have been reading many professional related books, partly due to the texts required for the classes I am taking, but also the desire to become a better educator. Whatever the reason for reading, it is enjoyable.

My parents were not avid book readers, but they were newspaper and magazine readers.  I knew at an early age reading was important, but it was never forced upon me by my parents.  My mom often tells me I really never wanted to play with Barbie dolls because I was too busy coloring and reading.  I guess I knew I was supposed to be a teacher at an early age! How many parents are models for their kids and read in their free time?  How many parents share with their kids how important reading is and that reading is a lifelong skill?  With many schools implementing Reading Counts, Book-It programs, and Accelerated Reader, do students still share the same love of reading I had in elementary school, or are they motivated only to earn so many points or a prize with the completion of a book?

My earliest memory of reading was when I was in the 4th or 5th grade. I remember I spent the whole day reading a Hardy Boys adventure book. It was the first book I had ever finished in one day.  As I turned the last page I looked at the book and was flabbergasted. At that age I didn't think it was possible to read a book in one day!

As I got older, I don't remember reading a lot of books in middle school or high school.  We were required to read Johnny Tremain and To Kill a Mockingbird, which I did not read as I hated being told what book I had to read.  These two classic novels are still on my current reading list, which I hope to enjoy as an adult.  I will be honest and tell you that Johnny Tremain is probably the last book on the reading list though!

Now when I read novels I escape with the characters to faraway places as off on a mini-vacation, and if I read a non-fiction book I sit with pen and a stack of post-it notes to mark the key points I don't want to forget. My bookshelves are to the point of overflowing which I am ecstatic about!

I found this year while teaching struggling 8th grade readers they really have the hardest time finding a book that will interest them.  There are two boys who want short books about sports or the outdoors. If the book is over 150 pages they feel it will be too hard for them to read. One girl loves to read realistic fiction, especially where the main characters are having a personal struggle, but the struggle cannot be about abuse because it hits too close to home for her.  Why hasn't anyone written a series about a farm boy and his adventures running the family farm with his parents, in hopes of one day becoming the 5th generation farm owner?  I have a student who doesn't love to read, only likes to read, that would probably read that whole series in a month!  Finding middle school level books, discussing middle school students' interests at a lower reading level has been my biggest challenge as a teacher this year. No wonder reading continues to be a challenge for these readers!  The search continues for the right adolescent book for each of the kids in my classroom.

Even with these few classroom struggles,  I have remained excited about reading and have motivated myself to read more during my free time instead of watching reality television. To continue to make it a priority, I decided to post a list of the books I have read this year to help me keep a running tally (and at the end of the year I hope I look at the list and am flabbergasted!):

* The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks
* The Principal's Guide to Curriculum Leadership by Sorenson, Goldsmith, Mendez, & Maxwell
* How Successful People Think  by John C. Maxwell
* The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make by Hans Finzel
* Between Sisters by Kristin Hannah
* 10 Traits of Highly Effective Teachers:  How to Hire, Coach, and Mentor Successful Teachers  by Elaine McEwan
* How Full is Your Bucket? Tom Rath & Donald Clifton
* The Highly Engaged Classroom  Robert Marzano & Debra Pickering
* Reframing the Path to School Leadership  Lee G. Bolman & Terrence E. Deal
* Readicide: how schools are killing reading & what you can do about it Kelly Gallagher
* Shifting the Monkey Todd Whitaker
* Diana Sarah Bradford
* You Don't Need a Title to be a Leader Mark Sanborn
* The Lucky One Nicholas Sparks
* Sammy Keyes & the Hotel Theif Wendelin Van Draanen
* The Wedding Dress  Rachel Hauck
* The Wedding Letters Jason F. Wright
* Strategies for Teaching Students with Learning and Behavior Problems Sharon Vaughn & Candace S. Bog
*  Heaven is for Real  Todd Burpo
* So Far Away  Meg Mitchell Moore
* Training Camp  Jon Gordon