Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Fathers Love

This was the fastest Christmas Day I can remember in a really long time! The boys woke up at 715, opened presents in 2 seconds, fought over presents, ate brunch, wrestled over presents, napped, ate cookies, fought some more, ate dinner and next thing I knew we were getting ready for bed! However, I have had the pleasure of watching and listening to my oldest son and my husband build Jabbas Palace- all 700 + pieces for the past two hours. There is nothing like the love and bond between a father and son. My husband is an amazing father whose wears his heart on his sleeve when it comes to the boys. If Nolan, the youngest, wants to play with play dough, Dave will create snakes, snowmen, and even sculpt batman for him. If Drew wants to pretend to be Luke Skywalker and wants to fight Darth Vadar, Dave grabs a light saber and fights away. Right now I can hear him voicing the characters of Jabba, Hans Solo and R2D2 has Drew creates scenes with his wild imagination. Dave continues to surprise me everyday with his love, compassion and commitment to our family. I thought I knew everything about him when I married him almost 10 years ago. I knew he would be a great dad, but his capacity as a dad and husband has blown me away. I feel so lucky- and I should probably tell him more often! Maybe less nagging should be my New Years resolution! 

This lego commercial is my husband and our sons...

LEGO Just Won Christmas With This Heartwarming Father-Son Commercial via @UPROXX

I am truly blessed to have these boys in my life. Cheers to another amazing Christmas! I am looking forward to 2014 where I am sure it will be filled with crazy adventures! Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Confessions of a Working Mom

This week has been particularly challenging. Just when I thought my husband and I had finally figured out how to parent two adorable boys and work full time, our house was hit with strep throat and a sinus infection. I missed two days of work to take care of Drew and Nolan, while Dave missed one. To top it off, we were hit with a snow storm on Tuesday that kept us from going anywhere. It was safe to say that by the time Wednesday rolled around I felt I was ready to go back to work! I couldn't deal with wiping one more nose, breaking up one more fight, or picking up another mess. 

Yet, I felt so guilty being back at work. And the whole time I was home, I felt guilty not being at work. Being a working mom is the toughest job in the world. I must make it 100% harder being that I am a perfectionist! 

I am 100% dedicated to my job as a Reading Specialist and find such excitement in reading professional books and sharing my knowledge with my coworkers. I thrive on  the joy and excitement my students exude when they are successful during reading class.

When I was home with my boys, my mind would wander to work. I'd have to remind myself to not check email, and not send email- to focus on Drew and Nolan. I had to take off the teacher hat and put on the mom hat full time. And when I did, I saw the bubbling happiness of my son Nolan when we read Elmo Says 5 times and danced to Mariah Carey Christmas Music, and the intensity and creativity of my son, Drew, when we played Ninjago and Legos. But what I loved the most was cuddling with the two of them, and just being.  

I know these moments with Drew and Nolan are not going to last forever. Someday they will be too cool to hug mom, or spend the day with me. I have to cherish these times- even though  there are days I feel like I have zero patience and may lose it!

Work is always going to be there. It's finding that balance that is hard. But what is extradinary to me, is that no matter how tired I am, cranky I am, or zoned out ( as Dave calls it), it's Drew and Nolan that put a smile on my face. There is no love like it. Maybe someday I'll figure out the perfect balance - just not anytime soon. But as far as I am concerned, I am perfectly happy the way my life is now. Who needs perfection? 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Rituals: #Nerdlution Day 6

On Friday morning, I was planning a lesson to teach in one of my friend Robyn's rooms on Monday (tomorrow!) . The 4th grade is about to begin their third unit on author's craft in both fiction and nonfiction. We want the students to discovery the amount of research author's do when composing either fiction or nonfiction. Author's need that just right word- because just any word or phrase will not do when trying to evoke emotions, images , or ideas from readers. This unit of study is grounded in the essential question- How do authors portray animals in writing? It seemed perfect that the book I was reading was The One and Only Ivan. (Thank you #nerdlution for kicking me in the pants to read this book!) Katherine Applegate is masterful at crafting story about an ape in captivity and raised like a human. She effortlessly and seamlessly personifies Ivan and the other animal characters through the intertwining of rich words, dialogue and imagery- all the while weaving in facts and information about all the animals held captive in a mall.

My excitement for this lesson was building as I worked out my plan using a guide from Falling in Love with Close Reading by Chris Lehman and Kate Roberts. I just knew I could not wait until Monday to teach the ritual of reading for word choice- I had to teach it at day. Literally jumping out of my seat, I almost sprinted down the hall to my friend Kelly's room,the fantastic first year teacher I am mentoring, I asked her if I could borrow her classroom for about an hour. And of course, Kelly said yes!  ( Now that I am reading this over, it sounds like a marriage proposal the way I just wrote this!) So in a flurry of making copies, enlarging the word choice reference chart and sentence starters, and finding the two perfect commercials to show the students, I was ready to go in about 30 min flat. I have to thank my husband Dave and my two children, for loving Legos, because I chose the Lego's 2013 Christmas commercial. ( If you haven't seen the Lego commercial, you need to go to youtube and watch it now!)I followed Chris and Kate's suggestion of using the Lalaloopsy commercial as well. The two commercials couldn't have been more opposite- making them absolutely perfect for this lesson.

The students learning, engagement, excitement and discussion during this lesson was remarkable. They highlighted text, the spoke about the text, they connected back to the commercials.  They built on each others ideas and the LISTENED to each other. Kelly and I merely facilitated the class. After a certain point, we fell into the background and the students led the lesson. It was amazing to be a part of. They fell in love with Ivan all over again! Kelly, had actually been reading the book aloud to her class, and by rereading the one chapter, Stella, reignited their love for the character. They walked away with a deeper understanding of the character and how Applegate chose such specific words to tell Ivan's story and Stella's story.

Now by no means, was this lesson perfect. I immediately know what I will be doing differently in Robyn's room tomorrow. But to just watch the students take ownership of their learning- to be so engaged with the lesson that they were actually sad when it was time to go to lunch- and asked me back to finish the lesson speaks volumes.

So many times, teachers say students are unmotivated and they are lazy. I firmly believe that any student can be engaged and can be motivated if given the right tools and materials to work with. Every student can learn and any student can be actively engaged in a lesson. It is us as teachers that need to tap into those students and not give up on them. Kylene Beers made a point that NCTE that has stayed with me. She said that struggling students have a negative attitude about reading because of how we  work with them. We pull them out of class. We give them texts they can't access. We lower our expectations and sometimes give assignments that are too easy. We need to meet these students where they are. We need to put books and texts in their hands they can access. We need to give them the tools and strategies they need to access these texts. We need to expose struggling students to higher level skills. We can set the same expectations for our students but recognize students may take different paths to get to the same point. My former Supervisor of Reading and Language Arts said, " It doesn't matter how you get there. Some may take a minivan and others may fly. What matters is that we all get to the same place and learning." I couldn't agree more.

At the end of our lesson, Kelly and I actually got a round of applause from her students. That has never happened before! One student jumped out of his seat, and said, "Thank you Mrs. DiBartolo for teaching me today. Please come back!" How often does that happen??

I am thoroughly excited to continue my exploration of different lesson models/guides from my reading idols: Keene, Beers, Robb, Miller- just to name a few! I want to do right by my students- and I can only do that by improving my pedagogy and constantly READING! I have now added a list of books to my #nerdlition:
The Book Thief, Counting by 7's, Now is the Time for Running, Extra Credit, An Elephant in the Garden, Hound Dog True, Bigger Than a Bread Box, The Lions of Little Rock, Word After Word After Word, and The Magicians Elephant.

Thank you #nerdlution for changing my plans as a reader and teacher!
“I like colorful tales with black beginnings and stormy middles and cloudless blue-sky endings. But any story will do.” 
― Katherine ApplegateThe One and Only Ivan

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Nerdlution #3- It is all about taking risks

In our district, we have what is called the COACH program. In the COACH program, a tenured teacher works with another tenured teacher to have professional conversations about instructional practices and work together to improve instruction. I am lucky enough to be the COACH of one of my dear friends, Theresa. Theresa is a dynamo fourth grade teacher, who's creativity astounds me everyday. However, she has become my COACH when it comes to blogging! I have to give her the credit of designing my page, as well as convincing me to blog as much as possible. Theresa twisted my arm to share my latest endeavor in school- so here goes!

Over the past few months- and even last year- I have been reading every professional book imaginable about the CCSS, reading strategies, writing strategies, and school leadership. The three books that have come my reading bibles are Notice and Note, Falling in Love with Close Reading, and Talk about Understanding.

These books have transformed my teaching! Because I am reading specialist, I do not have my own classroom. I get to share classrooms with amazing teachers in my school, but because I am pulled in so many directions I find that I cannot consistently be their rooms to co-teach, and support students. While at PF Changs with my husband, during lunch break at NCTE, I said to Dave, "Man, I wish I had my own classroom. I am dying to try all the strategies I am learning with students in a consistent period of time." Dave's response, " So do it. Take over a classroom. Who is going to tell you no?" And so Strategies in Action was born! I presented the idea to my principal. My plan- to take over a classroom for 1 hour a day for two weeks were I could implement a reading workshop model, and incorporate specific reading strategies. But I didn't stop there- I wanted the teachers to see this. I wanted to work through these strategies and this model with my colleagues. My principal and I are going to devise a schedule where teachers from all content areas will be able to come into the classroom and watch me work with the students. But even more important, we would discuss what we saw in PLC later on that day. It is that conversation about the strategies and reading workshop model that will really have an impact on everyone! Modeling is one thing- but breaking down the structure of lessons, the purpose of lessons, and examining student work is what moves our teaching! So not only did my principal ask me to present this to my staff, but she also informed our Superintendent of what I would be doing. He wants to come watch as well! But wait it gets better- she wants to film my classroom too! YIKES! I haven't been filmed since the awful days of BEST Portfolio, here in CT. To this day, I cannot watch the videos of me teaching my second year of teaching. My stomach turns over at the thought of watching myself! When I presented this to the staff at the staff meeting, I presented it as, " I am not perfect. I am taking a risk and putting myself out there!" This is hard for me to do, as I am a perfectionist, and have such a hard time when things don't go as planned! But I want the staff at my school to know that we are all in this CCSS madness together. We have to work things out together, and always keep in mind the best interest of our students. It's the students that come first! I would not be doing this without the inspiration from reading idols met at NCTE, #nerdlution, my co-workers at school, and a lunch a PF Changs! I start my "Strategies in Action" in January and cannot wait to start. My hope is to keep track of all the happenings on my blog- and just maybe I can help other teachers that are muddling through the CCSS too. Just as the saying goes.. " It takes a village to raise a child," I think the same goes for teaching, " It takes a village to build life long learners and readers." Hats off to taking risks! Thank you #nerdlution!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Special Delivery

Today, when I pulled into our driveway after a particularly long day, I was thinking,"How many hours until bedtime?" And sighed when my two boys started whining about not wanting to get out of the car and eat dinner.  I began to drag myself out of the car and unload my heavy school bags, already thinking about PLC agenda I need to put together as well as other school work.

Then, I saw it! Sitting on my front porch was an amazing Amazon box filled with the new books I ordered for myself and books I ordered for my two boys. My desperation to speed up to bed time, turned into excitement for bedtime! I was going to be able to read a new book to each of my boys! 

So tonight, after watching Cailou with my 4 year old, Drew, we are going to read about the adventures of Lego Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and R2-D2. I love watching his face light up with the Star Wars adventures we read about. His imagination goes wild and I love it! 

Nolan, my 19 month old, loves reading 
Elmo Says, Shake a Leg and Barnyard Dance. He amazes me at his ability to anticipate the coming action on the next page. Everytime we read his favorite books, it is like we are reading it for the first time. Nolan sweetly and enthusiastically touches he's nose, waggles his fingers, and flies a plane. He laughes hysterically as he waves Nigh Night to Cookie Monster, Elmo and Big Bird. 

I wish I could bottle up my sons enthusiasm and love for reading and keep it forever. I don't want them to ever think of reading as a chore. I see the magic reading brings to them every night.  
How can I say no to Drew when he says, Momma, please one more book? And Nolan has books strewn around his crib that I hear him pick up and read to himself. I sneak in and watch him cuddle with Animal Sounds and wonder what is he dreaming about? 

Pure happiness! 

So,no matter how crazy busy or awful my day is, it's reading to my boys that makes me incredibly happy and forget the dramas of the day. Who knows, maybe some day I'll even be able to quote accurately from Star Wars!  

Monday, December 2, 2013

Day 1 of #Nerdlution

I am not going to lie- all day I kept thinking about- What am I going to blog about tonight?  I have been looking forward to the moment after the kids go to bed, when I can sit, relax and now- BLOG!

Being part of #Nerdlution has been a complete inspiration for me. All this time, I thought I was the only crazy person who was obsessed with reading. The only crazy person who gets excited walking into Barnes and Nobles and has to pick up and read the back of every new book released. I could spend all day browsing the aisles for books! I would probably save our family a ton of money if I just went to the library- but then I wouldn't be able to keep the books I treasure the most to read over and over!

Tonight, I am looking forward to getting under the warm blankets of my bed and reading The One and Only Ivan. My good friends from work, Liz and Theresa, love this book and after reading the reviews online and joining in on #titletalk, there is no way I could not read it.

So now that I have written a little, it's time to go read a little- and I probably won't be able to put Ivan down! (Which I hope does happen!)

I will try to end each blog with a favorite quotes. And to prove I have a life outside of reading here is quote about my other love- fashion!

“Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.” 
― Coco Chanel

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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Happiness is..

Ready, Set, Go!

Well, here goes...My first blog!

I have been lurking on Twitter and many of my reading idols blogs for sometime now. I kept wondering, "What's the point? What's the big deal?" And now after attending NCTE and joining in Twitter Chats- I GET IT! A blog creates a community- it connects people.. I have been connected with fellow teachers, readers, writers, and moms and I have learned so much! It has been truly amazing!

As part of my "ripping off the bandaid" and joining the world of blogging and Twitter, I am joining #nerdlution. I am embracing my inner nerd and planning on writing daily, reading The One and Only Ivan in two days, and blogging at least once a week. I am diving head first into #thenerdybookclub community and try to learn as much as I can from fellow readers and writers. ( I wish #thenerdybookclub was around when I was little- I went everywhere with a book. Snuck in from pool parties to read, hid under the covers at night to read, and even read at the dinner table until I was told to put the book away!)

I could talk books all day- and I am thrilled I have finally found the place to do that! Next to being with my family, getting lost in a character's story is one of my favorite things in the world! One of the best feelings in the world, is when you just can't put a book's a guilty pleasure of mine to sneak in a little reading here or there during the oddest times of the day. I always have a book on me.

My hope as a mother and teacher is for my two boys and my students to fall in love with reading. I want them to meet characters that will shape their lives. I want them to be best friends with Jesse in Bridge to Terabithia, or to admire Charlotte Doyle. I want them to love Charlotte and Wilbur, and Anne of Green Gables. They need to know Brian from Hatchet. I grew up with these characters and they were at times, my best friends. I want this for my two sons and my students. You learn lessons from reading. Reading shapes lives!

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.” 
― John GreenThe Fault in Our Stars