Thursday, November 7, 2019

A Prayer Emergency: Yikes!

I feel pretty certain I can't be the only person this has happened to, but if not, it was definitely a moment worth remembering. As soon as the red splotches subsided from my cheeks due to utter embarrassment, a colleague said, "Hey! This is a story you can blog about!" So here I am, writing it down for posterity. Enjoy . . .

Image result for bob ross no mistakes

While attending my first school board meeting where the district leadership team would meet our new superintendent, a bit of a mishap occurred. We stood to our feet, and a trustee asked us to bow our heads for the invocation prayer. Oh no!, I thought, I forgot to silence my cellphone! Reaching into my purse, I held down the volume button on my iPhone and all of a sudden an SOS 🚨 sound blared. Mortified, I frantically clicked buttons trying to stop the madness. The next thing you know a trusted friend is nudging me because everyone in close proximity could hear the operator repeatedly saying, "Hello? Hello? Are you there?" I glanced down rushing to hang up. Pure fear enveloped me. I had unknowingly dialed 911. Colorful expletives raced through my mind, and I beelined it for the hallway, hoping emergency vehicles weren't waiting in the parking lot. 

A quick Google search revealed what you see pictured below. 

No one had attempted to call me back and red lights weren't flashing outside, so I took a deep breath and prayed I would survive the shame sh*t storm I was experiencing. A brief break in the meeting occurred, and gracious colleagues flooded the hallway, reassuring me everything would be okay. Needless to say, once my overactive amygdala calmed down, I found humor in the situation. Thanks, Bob Ross for reminding us, "There are no mistakes, just happy accidents!"

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Recollections & Changing Seasons


Day 15

In the hustle and bustle of an average Tuesday, I paused long enough to notice this perfect fall leaf positioned in the middle of the sidewalk. Leaning over, I gingerly picked it up, careful not to let it crumble. I grabbed my iPhone, snapped a quick photo, and went about the rest of my morning. 

Fast forward to 10:00 p.m., and I'm frantically trying to write something before drifting off to dreamland. After studying the photograph a little more closely and forcing myself to craft this blog, my mind wandered back to a childhood memory that occurred somewhere around 4th or 5th grade. 

My class was studying plants in science, and every student was charged with curating a robust leaf collection. I traipsed all over town looking for unique leaves. Back in 1988, there was no Internet, so I spent hours scouring encyclopedias, attempting to identify the plant species and tree names. 

Each leaf was carefully placed on the pages of a yellowing photo album, complete with adhesive pages. I remember thinking, "This is kind of a dumb assignment. Who cares if we know the names of all these trees?" But Nora, my saint of a grandmother, reminded me there is beauty in nature and we should never become so busy we don't notice. 

I still have that leaf collection and if I wasn't dog-tired right now, I'd go dig it out of my trunk of childhood memorabilia and capture an additional image for this blog. For now, my words will have to suffice. Goodnight readers.  

At The Exact Same Time

Day 14

I got into a Twitter war with a stranger today. After Tweeting out what I considered a powerful comment overheard during an  #ILA19 presentation, several literacy experts decided to chime and give their opinion. 

Although several folks found the quote validating and affirming, it didn't take long for naysayers in the Science of Reading camp to pounce. Don't get me wrong. Structured literacy is something I want to learn more about and study, but when people write crappy things, it's hard to stay positive. 

In an effort to take the high road and stand my ground, I quoted my favorite thought leader of all time, Dr. Brené Brown. I firmly believe I can believe in the Science of Reading and the LOVE of Reading at the EXACT SAME TIME. Perhaps the comparative adjective "even more" was problematic, and I can understand why this person took offense to the quote, but I am super tired of false dichotomies and extreme views. *Sigh* 

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Anyone Else Despise Compliance Training As Much as Me?


Day 13

Today's acrostic poem is dedicated to all the teachers out there like me who waited until the very last minute to complete the dreaded online courses mandated by their school districts. We will never get those eight hours of our lives back, but we can check the box ☑️, right? 

Completely and utterly BORING!
Obligatory practice with limited impact
Mundane and meaningless—not sure I learned a thing
Passive exercise.
Likely to have zero influence on how I do my job
Insufferable experience in which no authentic learning occurs
Annual torture and absolute waste of time
Necessary evil in a litigious world
Cleverly answer the quiz questions without actually reading a word
Every year I always wonder, "If I don't complete these, will they fire me?"

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Access & Equity: ILA In My Pj's


Day 12

It's not every day you get a chance to hear from some of the most brilliant minds in literacy, so when I woke up this morning I quickly tuned into the 7:00 a.m. live-streaming session at #ILA19 which included a panel discussion featuring the world-renown researchers, P. David Pearson, Nell K. Duke, Sonia Cabell, and Gwen McMillon. My biggest takeaway from their discussion came when David Pearson said, "For too long now, literacy has been a bully—pushing science and social studies off the stage. It's time for literacy to evolve from a bully into a buddy." 

As a passionate advocate of literacy, these words stopped me in my tracks. I'm afraid at times, I've fallen victim to this truth. When I consider the number of teachers who constantly tell me they don't have time to teach science and social studies, and I passively allow literacy to dominate, I suppose I am complicit. Needless to say, I was deeply convicted by this statement, and I will need to do some serious soul searching in the weeks and months to come. 

Ever since I enrolled in graduate school around 2009, I have been a long-time fan of Nell K. Duke's work. As she cautioned us to consider the role confirmation bias plays in our lives and reminded us about the importance of "weight of evidence" in research, I found myself thinking about how critical it is to have professional research mentors. In her closing statements, she said, "Our field is in a very tumultuous time so we must commit to civility even in the face of the uncivility of others. Many people talking about the science of reading have never opened a research article or done so w/o a confirmation bias." I will heed her words and do my best to remain open and willing to evolve.

Following the research panel, I tuned in to hear Tricia Ebarvia's featured session titled, We Need MORE than Diverse Books. Boy, oh boy, did she bring the heat! 🔥 




There were so many Tweetable moments, but the thought that lingers the most is this question: How can I unlearn the dominant narrative and relearn a more complete narrative?"

I am grateful to be a part of a collective learning community that transcends time and space. 

Writing Publication Parties


Day 11

In the last few weeks, I've been invited to several writing celebrations across the district. Thanks to fearless leaders who nudged their teachers to set publication dates and dedicated educators who went above and beyond to create buzz around the event, kids were excited and nervous to share their narrative writing with an authentic audience.

Yesterday, as I walked into Decatur Intermediate School, I was thrilled to see parents gathering to hear their children share their writing. Palpable positive energy permeated the room. It was almost like attending a piano recital or a karate competition where parents proudly stood by to celebrate the accomplishments of their children. Some of the teachers used their own money to provide refreshments, and the kiddos were eager to have others read their stories. What was not lost on me was the simple fact that these writing events were occurring in fifth and sixth-grade classrooms. You see, STAAR writing is not currently tested in these grade levels, and historically writing has been neglected everywhere except 4th and 7th grade.

My next stop was Rann Elementary, where enthusiastic first-grade kiddos stood before their classmates and read their small-moment books. Their teachers had created a backdrop that read, "We Are Writers", and each child was invited to sign the poster, adding their name to a list of famous authors such as Eric Carle, Kevin Henkes, and Dr. Suess. I've heard it said that what gets celebrated gets repeated. I feel certain these students felt seen, heard, and valued today because their teachers went out of their way to shine a spotlight on their writing.

Amidst a tsunami of change in language arts and a plethora of competing priorities, these teachers carved out time to create positive energy around a subject area that is often associated with drudgery and stress. As Mel Levin reminds us, "Writing is the largest orchestra a kid's mind has to conduct." 


A Fully Developed Brain

Day 10

My bonus son, Hunter Luke Shade, turned twenty-five years old today. Since his preteen years, his dad and I have reminded him often that he should not make any major life decisions until his prefrontal cortex became fully developed. You see, his parents married quite young while they were still in college. His dad was 19 and his mom had just turned 20. Fast-forward 13 years, and as their marriage dissolved, their children were the casualties. Chris and his ex-wife did a decent job getting divorced, but their son and daughter certainly did not escape the situation unscarred. Years of counseling during their early twenties have helped them heal, and I am certain their parents never intended to cause them harm. As young people themselves,  they just weren't able to evolve at the same pace, and as their own brains matured, life presented some insurmountable obstacles. Today, both Hunter and Chandler can express how their parent's divorce shaped them—yet neither kid wishes they had stayed together. 

Thus the reason we cautioned them regularly about waiting until at least twenty-five years of age to determine who they might marry or what kind of career they truly wanted to pursue. Hunter's birthday marks a major milestone for our family. He's a quarter of a century-old now, and next year, we will drop him from our insurance. He and his sister will both graduate from Texas Texas this spring. Hunter will have his master's degree in counseling and Chandler will be a certified Texas teacher. As a bonus mom, I couldn't be prouder of these two emerging adults. I'm deeply grateful for the role I've been privileged to serve in their lives, and as they transition from emerging adults to full-fledged grown-ups I anticipate joys untold. Happy birthday, boy!