The Moral Imperative to Share Your Story!

Last night I listened in on the #IMMOOC Live YouTube event and walked away questioning and pushing myself even more.  I will admit, each time I participate in a book study or book talk with a group on this book I reread it.  So, this makes the 3rd time!  It’s true, friends. The coolest thing is that every single time I have read it I walk away with something new.

The Innovator’s Mindset is one of those rare books that you take away from it what you need at that time in your life.

So many things resonated with me in so many ways and I want to write about them all, but I will narrow it to one.  This idea came from what Dave Burgess said about Sharing Your Story.

He mentioned that so many people feel uncomfortable sharing their story of why they are so passionate, or the special things that help them have success.  People feel they are bragging or egotistical in doing this, but his point was about sharing our story and empowering others to do the same. I have a quote pinned in my Inspire Pinterest board that reminds me of this thinking.

If we have used this CHANGE as an opportunity to do something amazing and it was so incredible, how can we not share it with others?!  Sharing our stories is how we all grow.  Sharing doesn’t mean we think we are better.  It doesn’t mean we think this is the only right way to do something.

Sharing our stories says, “Hey, we are all in this together. We are all here to learn, grow, and to find what is amazing to bring out the best for kids. ”  It is a process and takes time.  More often than not, those who are sharing have been through the same situation and struggled through it and want to offer guidance so we do not have to go through it.

Sharing our stories also says, “Hey, here is what I am passionate about and why.”  in hopes of inspiring and empowering others to share their passions, dreams, and goals.  It is through sharing these similar passions, dreams, and goals that we find other people to connect with and share, learn, and grow.  For me, that was Twitter! When we find other people who feel this way, we feel validated.  We do not feel like we are on an island in our thinking. We feel like part of something bigger, and when we feel part of something bigger we feel inspired to try new things and share.
Sharing our stories is what creates the energy that spreads to others to inspire us to move forward.  I loved what Dave Burgess said about this:

I need to remember this myself the next time I hesitate to share my story. I can think, “Sure, some people will roll their eyes and judge and not want to hear it…but, most people won’t and I have a moral imperative to share it.  I am passionate about it and this is why!”

LOVED the first week of the #IMMOOC and looking forward to pushing my thinking even more!

 

Classroom App Toolbox – One More Way To Connect Classrooms

I used Amy’s template to create My Classroom App Toolbox a few years ago at the end of the school year with my second graders.  When I first created it, I made it blank.   I said to them, “Let’s clear out our iPads and only keep what we think are the best apps the next class will want to use.”  So it began……

The list was created by students for students!  I moved to teach first grade the next year, obviously learned many more app choices, and did the same thing at the end of that year.  This time I shared it with my friends.  Some of them talked to their class and added some apps.  Power of global connecting, right?!

The most powerful thing about this was not only connecting with other classrooms for ideas, but allowing the kids to make the choices.  I also sent this toolbox home with the kids for the parents.  This allowed them to see what was being used in class and in what ways.  Also, it gave them something to use over the summer for learning.

It is a FABULOUS tool to have for many reasons, especially if you are like me and like organized compartments for your learning. πŸ™‚

Here is my toolbox, view only, so you can get an idea of what we did.

My Classroom App Toolbox

Screencastify – Students Can Be the Experts & Teach

I woke up this morning and it hit me that I go back to work in 5 days! As I opened up my beautiful spiral full of things I wanted to accomplish this summer, I also realized I did way more relaxing and things for ME than I planned….and that is quite alright!!

So this morning I want to hit a few Virtual Voyage posts that I intended on sharing. The first one is about Screencastify.  I learned about this fabulous tool back in February when I went to Austin for the TCEA Conference.  I played around with it earlier in the year and shared a few with my campus.

Screencastify is a Chrome extension that allows you to record yourself walking someone through something while recording your screen the entire time.  I can see many ways students could use this to teach other students – to be the experts in an area and show others.  Isn’t that the purest form of securing our learning?  Here is my example of how to add the Distraction Free extension for YouTube.

It really is that simple!  I would imagine that the students getting the Chromebooks this year would be able to do a lot of amazing things to show their learning!  I might have to try it out on a few students. πŸ™‚

Literacy Feedback – ALL Learners Means ALL Learners

So often as teachers when we learn new information, create something, or have knowledge about a specific content area we think that everyone already knows this and we keep it to ourselves.  I mean, why would we share something everyone already knows? That would seem silly. Do you ever feel like that?  πŸ™‚  Well, DON’T!!  

Share those “Obvious To You” ideas!!  You never know when someone you think knows, actually doesn’t.  Or when something you say may resonate with someone in a different way because they were ready to hear it.  That being said, I am going to share (at random) a few really important thoughts from the recent literacy conference I attended.

Literacy teachers spend so much time getting students to read.  Pushing students to read faster and faster to meet that Holy Grail number of words per minute so they can report they are “On Level” that year.  Am I right?  This must stop.  We must turn our attention and efforts to what really matters in literacy instruction.  Building a love of reading, for one.  Second on the list, Comprehension!  Do you not agree that we read things to learn something and understand?  I understand that reading rate does have an effect on comprehension, but how many times do you see a kid that can read pretty fast and not understand a thing they just read? When I was listening to Dr. Jan Hasbrouck preach about this, I wanted to shout, “Amen!” I have asked over and over, “Does it really matter?  As long as they can comprehend what they are reading, does it really matter if they are 10 words short of meeting that little designated number?”  At this particular session she shared something that stuck out to me:
“When using the Oral Reading Fluency norms, there is little evidence that reading faster is better for a reader’s comprehension.  In fact, there is significant evidence that we need to help readers read fluently AT or NEAR the 50th percentile to support comprehension and motivation.”

WOW! So, Average is the Sweet Spot! You can search “Reading Fast or Reading Well Jan Hasbrouck” and read more about this idea.


We all know in order to understand what we are reading we must actually read the words correctly! Did you know what we are looking for in Reasonably Accurate reading accuracy is based on a study that shows comprehension WILL be impaired if reader does not read at this specific accuracy?

The average reader should not read below 95% accuracy independently on unpracticed text.

Emergent readers must not read below 97-98% accuracy!!  Do you know why? Readers who are learning to read should never become frustrated or walk away feeling defeated in anything they are reading.  They need to have a positive mindset about reading for one, but don’t we also want them to practice reading those words correctly!? Here is my biggest takeaway from her session.

Do you find it ironic that I listed Accuracy as second on my list, when it comes First?! Like I mentioned earlier, these are not in order of importance but in order of how my mind is flowing. 

So you might have gathered that Fluent Reading DOES NOT mean faster. Something to remember about fluency is that it really should sound like talking. It should sound like speech – our everyday conversational talking.  There are many other important components to being a fluent reader, but the biggest one I find a need for in many of my students is PROSODY!  

Prosody is the intonation, the expression used, phrasing, and pitch that mirrors spoken language and conveys meaning.   So, wait a minute….you mean, it is not okay for the reader to sound like a “robot” when reading?  πŸ˜‰ Not so much, and let me share a big   A-HA that supports this statement.  It does effect comprehension, and isn’t that what the whole point of reading is?!

This last idea might be my biggest takeaway and is also my biggest soap box and so I am not sure why I saved it for last, but I want to say this and say it LOUDLY!!!

Feedback on a child’s reading is important for ALL READERS!  If we are going to meet the needs of every learner/reader, then we must listen to every reader read.  More importantly, we must give them feedback on their reading. What does this mean exactly?  How do we accomplish this? I know what you are thinking…We have deadlines & expectations to meet with limited time and an overwhelming number of students in classroom.  Not to mention all of the other important needs crying out to be met. Listening to every child read daily/weekly is “ideal” and really is our best intention, but is quickly pushed aside when we run out of time after working with three groups of struggling readers.  If we are able to listen to every single child read every single week, how many times are we giving authentic feedback?  Let me share what I heard restated by Dr. Jan Hasbrouck this week. This is why we must listen to ALL readers read aloud AND give Feedback.  

It improves Fluency, which is critical for Comprehension. 

Sure, we get the 1st bullet. No problem.  That makes sense. The 2nd bullet hits a little harder. – Silent Reading NOT sufficient.  (Let me add the word ENOUGH.) It does not mean stop having children read silently.  It means that we must not only have our average and above average readers read alone or with peer groups without any feedback. Humor me, and let me say this again a little louder.

Why? Because ALL LEARNERS means ALL LEARNERS.  Everyone deserves an opportunity to be heard.  How else will your average and above average readers acquire new vocabulary and skills? What fluent role model are they hearing read to help them learn expression, phrasing, and such?  ALL READERS need to hear fluent reading, new vocabulary words, and practice oral reading.  Maybe my next post should be on how to manage this in the classroom, what it looks like, and how easy it really is to achieve?! πŸ™‚ One last reminder – Literacy is not just reading, but writing as well.  I LOVED that Dr. Hasbrouck said this and shared this amazing quote that I will end with.  Let’s not forget all of the important research on the role our brain plays in learning!

Part I: Looking at the Whole Child reflections

I expected to gain new insight on Literacy and Dyslexia.  I expected to tie this all to what I am most passionate about – The Whole Child!  I expected to learn new things, but I did not expect the information to be so closely tied to the other topics I am so passionate about: the brain, positive mindsets, ADHD, and Executive Functioning! Boy, was I in for a treat!
I know that when we learn things we need to “unpack them” and put them in their spots to be able to mentally hold on to the information. So, this post is just Part I of my reflecting about the Whole Child part.  Part II about specific reading skills is coming!! I am going to use the idea that was recently shared on Twitter by Jon Gordon.
L – What LEFT an impression on you?
E – What ENERGIZED you?
A – What do you want to ASK more about?
D – What will you do DIFFERENTLY as a result of what you heard?
L – I was surprised at how the keynote speakers shared how important having a positive, growth mindset is not only for the reluctant readers, but for the teachers who teach these readers.  Personally, I have been preaching this for years and understand the benefit, but I haven’t heard it much in the world of literacy and dyslexia instruction, so it was incredibly refreshing and exciting to know that we are all getting there. 
E – Anytime you go to a learning conference or event in the summer where it is the choice of the educator to be there, you will find educators who are passionate about what they do.  Passionate People – that is what energizes me!  
Learning about how ADHD and Executive Function Deficits link with Dyslexia is incredibly insightful!  I could sit for two days and listen to people speak about these topics and the Whole Child and be completely inspired!  Oh wait…that is what I did!  πŸ™‚ 
It ENERGIZED me to learn new insight about how these connect and what we can do as educators to help our students.  ALL STUDENTS…whether they are students with dyslexia, reluctant readers, strong readers, or students with active bodies and minds that need a little more guidance. 
A – You know, I am always asking questions.  About everything.  Let me share a quick story of Serendipity from yesterday.  I like to hand write my notes on paper because I believe in the connection between memory and writing by hand.   As I write notes, I star questions I have to come back to later or ask. Then, I go back and reread my notes between sessions to make connections and reflect.  
As I reflecting during a break I saw a question I wrote during the ADHD and Executive Function Deficit session: “HOW? Where do we find ideas of how to directly teach these things?”  This had been sitting on my mind for awhile at that point. 

Humor me for a minute, I promise you will learn something: Here is an example of a minute in my ADHD brain. I decided to google some info on this, but as I went to open a tab to search I clicked on the Tweetdeck that I had open from the day and started reading my feed.  I saw a post from someone I follow responding to someone else. 
Her response made me curious (about what, I don’t know!) and I clicked to see what she was responding to (because that was so on task), which led me to a tweet of a lady talking about a blog. Maybe it was the phrase she tweeted that drew me in? Do you see why I end up learning about the most amazing things, yet I cannot explain how I got there?!  
I ended up clicking on the blog by @StuartShanker and reading this incredible post! Here is the crazy thing…..WAIT FOR IT.…… It was about Self -Regulation!  He gave a few resources to read, which sent me to Amazon, which offered other books that are helpful! The crazy thing is that I already owned 3 of these at home!  
I would just like to document that for once, my internet searching/ open tab ADHD came in quite handy!  The exact question I was searching for fell into my lap because I was led astray!  LOL!
This was MY QUESTION! Where to get info on HOW to directly teach these executive functioning skills that our children need in order to get to the point of Self-Regulation and do this themselves. 
The BEST resource on this is this book!  I LOVE it and refer back to it often!
Here are a few more I have that they suggested that are great reads as well!
                  
D – What will I do Differently? As a Literacy Specialist who serves children with Dyslexia and children who require a little more direct instruction in reading skills, I do not have as much freedom in my time spent with students to focus as much as I would like on teaching these skills.  I will do what I do best, and share all of the information I learn with my friends and do what I can.  Little by little.
However, as I reflect I also know that I will be even more mindful of my actions on how I respond when a child comes to me already shut down or with a negative mindset.   Learning how this originates, why it happens, where in the brain it starts, and how even when we think the child “knows” and “should be able to control this”….there is so much research that shows they truly don’t.   EVERY little interaction we have with a child can be the ONE thing that outlines their path of success.  
If you have never considered the role Executive Function Deficits plays in a child’s learning, I strongly urge –  no, I BEG you to research this a little more! πŸ™‚


 

Give Yourself Grace and the “Okay” To Play

Fighting for Grace – As a Child of God, As a Daughter, As a Wife, As a Parent, As an Educator….you name it.

I seriously have fears that my daughter is growing up missing out on something (not really sure what, but something) because I am an educator/parent-AKA “teacher mom” and she a “teacher’s kid.”

I felt so relieved when I read this great article,  7 Ways to Survive the Teacher Mom Guilt because it hit me that there are others that feel this way too! I am not alone. Recently I started reading For the Love by Jen Hatmaker.  She uses humor and just plain realness to urge us to give ourselves grace in this unattainable Pinterest life world of impossible standards. It’s like she is encouraging us Teacher Moms to UNITE and stop this ridiculous guilt we place on ourselves. πŸ™‚

It’s not only just the Teacher Mom Guilt.  There is the dreaded technology time battle.  I’m just going to be real y’all. Sometimes she wants to do something on it and I instantly answer, “You need to do something else.”  It doesn’t matter if she hasn’t even been on it that day!  #truth  I have no reason other than my fictitious belief that a “good mom” is supposed to tell her child not to get on her device and do something outside.  Right?  Isn’t that how we grew up?  πŸ˜‰ You hear that voice in your head too.

  • It takes away family time.  
  • We played games outside growing up.
  • Too much screen time these days.
  • It isolates them. 
  • They aren’t using their brain.  

Then the other day something happened.  I decided to say  you know what, I can fluff the laundry one more time and just “play” with her what she was playing on her device.

Two things happened:

1.) What I judged as a mindless activity, was actually igniting her creativity.  She was using her creativity in ways I am not sure I could have done, and quite honestly barely understood!   This also led to me see a passion she had for something I didn’t know about. πŸ™‚

2.) I got to see this when I stopped and gave myself grace to just “play” with her, like Jen talks about in her book.

Which leads me to the biggest realization that day, and that is that I realized our children are living in a different time.  A different world.  That is just the truth.  Accept it or not, but it is not necessarily always a bad, evil thing.

Before you mumble under your breath, this lady is crazy suggesting technology time whenever…..please know that I am not advocating for kids to be on their devices all the time.

I am a big believer of everything in moderation, but this was the “quality time” that my child was wanting from me.  That was it.  Times have changed where quality time CAN happen using devices, and it does way more often than we imagine if we open our minds to it.  Think of all the amazing things that come from YouTube creations, and lately the musical.ly videos that all kids are completely loving!

Here is the beauty of the lesson I learned.  We were doing something she loved and saw as quality time instead of spending quality time only doing things that I felt met the “criteria.” What criteria, you ask?  Oh, just the expectations I felt I had to meet that were not mine! Thanks Jen for giving me that okay to give myself grace to do it our way without feeling like a bad mom!

We had more fun in those moments together than any of the ones I had created this summer on our list!  She made the comment about how much she has wanted me to play that with her.   That hit me pretty hard.  I “play” things with her, but I never realized how many of them are things I encourage because of my own agenda. (Have to multi-task while I play, want her to learn things and create, use critical thinking, practice her talents, want her to read or write, math, etc….teacher mom problems). There go those impossible standards again.

Quality time is not seen as quality time to our children if they do not connect with it, and if they do not view this time together as happy and fun does it really become a precious memory? Maybe.  Maybe not.

Times have changed. What some children enjoy and can do for hours is like nothing we could have possibly imagined.  Yet, if we open our minds to stop and “play” we might discover just how passionate and creative they are being.

All they want is TIME doing the things THEY love WITH us.  Making moments.  The moments that will carry us on and become precious memories. These moments might look different than we know from our childhood, but different is good. I know my goal is to embrace it and give myself grace!

Balance: The Struggle is Real Y’all


Maybe it is just me, but I seem to be constantly working on balance in my life.  If you know me, you might have just laughed out loud.  Really though, the struggle is real y’all.  I feel constantly torn between loving what I am doing and stressing because I know I need to not be doing it. 

Funny story, I went to coffee with my dear teacher friend after yoga the other day and I said, “Here are my steps I am taking in July to take a step back and you know, spend some days where I am not doing something all the time. I am constantly going.  I want to really try to not constantly do stuff.”  She looked at me and said, “Do you mean relax?”  We couldn’t stop laughing!  So sad, but it’s the truth.  


Here is the problem with passionate educators: We find JOY in reading and learning about education. It just runs together.  It IS RELAXING for me to learn, create things, and read things on Twitter and blogs. 

So, in my attempt to be intentional about getting better I decided to sit down and read more about how people do this.  I was headed to the internet app when my ADD finger hit the Twitter icon and no kidding the first tweet that pops up is from someone in my PLN discussing how they need to balance their life better.  (I mean, maybe that was meant to be!) I click the comments and it is a strand of 7 people, all people I think highly of and are incredible educators that I feel have it all balanced, talking about how hard this is for them and how they are constantly working on it.  I hate to admit it, but I felt relief.  I am not the only one who struggles with this!! 

Guilty pleasure alert: Aside from turning to my faith, I like to read quotes on Pinterest to calm my mind. πŸ™‚ I ran across this one and it stuck with me as I was thinking about this situation.

At first I thought, I AM doing what makes my soul happy.  I really love learning and using my creativity.  I love reading about how to do more exciting things to empower kids.

Then, I began thinking about this more.  I need to be really honest with myself and have no fear of being judged.  I asked myself, “What things do I do outside of education that make my soul really happy?”  Here is what came to mind.
I realized that music is a huge part of my life in so many ways.  I know a good beat starts my morning off right! The perfect song can take a bad mood and shake it off! I knew this, but wasn’t aware that it is so influential in calming my soul.  I need to make more time for this than I do already.  I know when I consistently read God’s word and do not let anything get in the way of my devotional time, I am truly fulfilled. I know that I love hugs and time with the ones I love the most.  All of these things are what makes my life pretty amazing!

It is a little scary, but I chose to be very open about this so that I am held accountable for making time to do more of the things I love with my family and things that make my soul happy.  Number one being sitting down!  Even if it is just to watch t.v. without multitasking.  Reading more fiction novels instead of only professional reading.  Not thinking about the list of things that need to get done.  As a person who is an “active person” and cannot stop moving, just sitting is a HUGE thing for me.  If I am not moving, my mind is going nonstop.  

I know the first step is admitting it, right?  Likewise, making changes will require small steps. I am taking baby steps.  The first step is a BIG one for me.  I am headed to the beach soon.  Every summer we go with our same group of super fun friends and seriously have the MOST AMAZING time goofing around and doing nothing! While on the beach that week, I normally catch up reading my professional books.  This year I am taking a fiction novel!  (I’ll let you know how that goes!)

There ya have it.  My new word for the next 6 months is BALANCE.  I will be very intentional to make more time to do things that make my soul happy.  I would love to hear from anyone who struggles with balance as well.  We are better together, so all ideas are welcomed! πŸ™‚  

As always, my motto is…..

Learning To Love Podcasts

I had to share my newly acquired interest and love for Podcasts! I will admit, I had tried to delete the purple Podcast app from my phone many times, but it just doesn’t go away.  I never used it, wanted to use it, or thought I could ever listen to something without seeing it at the same time. I am clearly not a big audiobook listener.  THEN….I attended Kerissa Bearce’s Humanities Institute session on podcasts, and my interest changed.

I thought, hmm…this seems fun.  I loved the one that my daughter took part of for Student Led Conferences. I will check this out.  What I didn’t expect was to walk away with TONS of resources for myself as a teacher to use in the classroom that ties to the curriculum and a list of so many podcasts!

Since this was right before George Couros was coming to our district I decided to listen to one that he was on called Educators Lead, and have my daughter listen as well.  We pulled up to gymnastics class and I turned it off. Sofie reached over to my phone to start it back up because she wanted to listen some more!  It really surprised me that she would be so into a podcast.  Kerissa shared in her class how there are podcasts for children and I cannot wait to sit down and start finding cool things we both can listen to and learn together!  I will have to write a follow up as to how this goes. πŸ™‚

I can see how using this with your students can give them a huge sense of ownership in their learning and connectedness by sharing their learning globally.  It hits so many components of our Portrait of a Graduate.

 If you are considering ways to use podcasts, I highly recommend reaching out to @msbearce (Kerissa Bearce)!  She does amazing things with our district to showcase awesome students!

Elementary & Secondary Teachers Sharing Best Practices….(gasp!)

This past week was our district Humanities Institute that ran 4 days!  You are probably thinking – What?!  Are you crazy? It’s the first week of summer break. Apparently, I am not the only crazy one because there were over 170 educators there to learn and teach incredible sessions!  

Let me tell you the best thing about this week.  Elementary and Secondary teachers shared best practices in the same room!  (gasp!)  That’s right, we all shared and learned together! It was professional learning, discussing, connecting, reflecting, and sharing across district from Pre-K to our Collegiate Academy! 
I want to publicly thank our fierce leader, Dr. Suzanne Newell, for taking this approach this week.  I am not sure if she realizes just how powerful this one little thing was.  As I listened to others and talked with people, the most amazing thing happened….we connected the dots between elementary and secondary.  This still is my most favorite quote because of how true it is!
  • Teachers in first, fourth, seventh and high school were sharing best practices they used that could help each other.
  • Teachers were meeting new teachers and putting a face to the name.
  • Teachers were exchanging emails and ways to communicate and connect their classes.
  • Teachers were developing empathy for other teachers…discovering that when we communicate we realize little things we may never have known before.
  • (The biggest, in my opinion) Teachers began to understand the links from elementary to secondary and the importance of common language and Common Instructional Expectations!  
We have heard of these Common Instructional Expectations many times, but SEEING exactly how they begin in kinder and extend all the way through was incredibly powerful!  Having time to discuss with others and time to reflect made all the difference in securing this learning.  
I know this might seem obvious, simple, and you might already do this….but if you think about it, there are not many opportunities that place Pre-K through HS in one room to learn together and share vertically how things apply.  Powerful!  So incredibly happy I was able to be part of this and learn so much!  I walked away from this week with many new connections, more secondary knowledge than I came in with and how to start connecting elementary and secondary goals so that we can transition our students effortlessly.
One of the most amazing educators I have the privilege of learning from in my tribe is Bethany Hill.  You can find her on Twitter  @bethhill2829  This quote came from her and how true it is.  
I just posted an article by @SaneeBell about leadership at all levels and how much she learned from being given the opportunity to be an elementary principal when she had only known secondary.  As she exits she feels she is a better educator having spent her last few years in elementary learning so much!  It was a great connecting thought for me as I thought about how much elementary and secondary already do that is similar and could really help one another if we verbalized these connections with our students.  It also made clear how we could tweak a few little things to help our students even more.  All it took was communicating in the same room with others and developing a strong personal learning network right here within our amazing district! 
I look forward, even more now than ever, to the awesome things to come in GCISD.  Thank you Dr. Newell!  πŸ™‚

My Heart Can Hold Them ALL!

April came and went…no blog.  May is almost over….what have I been doing for the past few months!?  Let me tell you.

It is no secret that the end of the school year is full of responsibilities, meetings, events, awards, planning, and everything else.  So, here I am tonight writing about something heavy on my heart because writing helps me work through things.   I have been struggling through something that I know many teachers who have left the classroom feel constantly.  It is a normal thing when you start having students and parents express their gratitude at the end of the year.  Every year I cry like a baby at the end of the year because I can’t imagine my kids leaving me.  They are MY kids.  Always.  
This past month has been an emotional one, but especially the past few weeks because of the different situations in my life.
The first one: I attended the high school graduation of a student I had in first grade and then looped up to second grade with.  Spending two years with your students makes for a tough release. πŸ™‚  I was thrilled when I was invited to drive to Oklahoma for this graduation and see him graduate Valedictorian and all the honors he received.  We were able to talk about fun times in my class and he told me things he remembered about me and my class.
The second one: I switched schools this year and so all of my babies are not here at this school. However, just the other day the Dove Dynamic Drummers came to my new school to perform.  It was a reunion of kids and families I had!  When I saw my kids and parents with tears in their eyes, I knew it was going to kill me…but I kept it together.  I hugged them so tightly and we caught up on things going on.  I held it together pretty well, until they walked out the door. I walked back to my room and broke down.

The third one: I drove back up to Oklahoma to attend two more graduations of students of honors and Valedictorians from that same 1st/2nd grade loop class. (You know, it would be too easy to have them all graduate from the same HS!)  Not only did I attend the graduations, but I was able to attend their family functions and parties to be able to have face time catching up.  Like the first trip, we all laughed about things and they retold stories about what they remembered about my class and how much I meant to them.  I felt incredibly old sitting there with these little adults now!  These kiddos are my babies (still) and their families are family to me.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

All of that makes this an extremely emotional end of year!!  I don’t even want to go into the fact MY own child is completing another school year, making her grow up even faster.  She’s my baby.  The only one.

So with all that being said, I try to think about the blessings through all these tears – tears of happiness, tears of sadness, and tears of pride and joy!  I remind myself that THIS is why my heart and decisions are always centered around relationships.

Building RELATIONSHIPS.
Nurturing RELATIONSHIPS.
Growing RELATIONSHIPS.
Keeping RELATIONSHIPS.
This is my number one focus.  When all of my students tell me what they remember are things like: how I loved them, how I told them everyday I loved them and we are family, how we hugged every morning when they came in and afternoon before leaving, how we cried when I told them I was not teaching them in 3rd, how they had fun in my class, how it was always fair in my class (funny, given we know life isn’t always fair!), how we danced and sang and it made them feel better…..I know I am focusing on the right things and glad I have made that impact!  I know they learned and it was BECAUSE we had that relationship first.  
I am so proud of all of my babies….past, present, and future!  I hope they know they will always hold a special place in my heart.  There truly is room for them all!! πŸ™‚
Cherish these last days with your babies!