Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year In Review - The Most Popular Posts of 2011

Hey, y'all.  I'm deep into my plan to heavily caffeinate  myself in hopes of staying up past midnight.  (Sigh) The glory days are over...for now at least.  Okay, maybe not over over, but the glory certainly looks different nowadays. 

Regardless.  2011 was a year that was pretty light in the way of posting, something I hope to remedy in 2012.  But we went through a lot together over here at INAFAS.  Learning how to balance mommy-dom and work (Notice I said "learning" not "perfecting."  If anyone has "perfected," please  email me.  On second thought, don't.  I don't need to feel bad about myself.), finishing my doctoral work and officially becoming Dr. Mimi, expanding my writing career into magazines and other professional blogs, and, you know, complaining. 

Here is the most popular post from each month this year.  Remember, you did this to yourselves by commenting furiously on some fairly random topics.  And I love you for it.

Now, without further ado (and by "ado," I mean rambling):

January: The Cow Says Moo"
Unwavering in your support, you all listened to me bitch about discuss pumping at work.  (Sorry boys!)

February: Bloggers Beware
An open letter to teachers who should have really kept their mouths shut.  Blog carefully, lovies.

March: Falling Down the Rabbit Hole
An apology to you, my lovely readers, for my absence during a fit of dissertation panic.  Balance, shmalance, Mimi wanted to graduate!

April: Whoops!  What happened to April?  Can I claim temporary insanity due to lack of sleep?  (Mini Mimi, I'm looking at YOU.)

May: Someone Get Me A Cocktail, STAT
In my apparent Year of the Me Monster, yet another post about me.  (Although I do love the whole "STAT" bit.  You can say those things when you're a doctor you know.)

June: We Are A Group Divided
A celebration of the end of the year.

July: The Wall
A sad moment, when my beloved Barnsey ripped my heart in twain.

August: Facey Face
In which I negate former friends in the interest of not falling victim to Facey Face.

September: The Ugly Side of Multi-Tasking
In which I admit that I have a problem.  Constantly having too much on my plate.  And loving it.  Kind of. 

October: I Think It's Called 'Having A Chip On Your Shoulder'
In which I rant about people who talk shiz-nit about teachers in public.

November: An Open Letter to Anna Dewdney
Because, yes, Mini Mimi and I have already done several author studies.

December: We Teachers Have a Sickness
Admit it, we are incapable of sitting still.  Must.  Have.  Project.

I hope you all have a wonderful and safe night tonight.  Pour out a little champagne for me. 

To more posts in 2012!



Wednesday, December 28, 2011

We Teachers Have a Sickness...

...I believe it's called Can't Sit the Hell Down and Relax Disease.  Or maybe Restless Leg Syndrome.  Or possibly we just need to start a group called Over-Producers Anonymous.  O.P.A. forever! 

Whatever you want to call it, it's definitely a sickness. 

Granted the rest of the world prefers to imagine us kicking up our heels in order to better shovel bon bons into our face. (If you have ever uttered something related to, "Teachers have soooo much vacation time!  How can they possibly be tired?" please stop reading right now and go punch yourself in the face.  For me.)  I choose to think it is because said individuals are not strong enough to admit what they don't understand and therefore find it more comfortable to hide their ignorance in unwarranted and completely bullshit commentary.

However, those of us on the inside know that teachers too often look at "vacation" as an opportunity to get SO. MUCH. SHIT. DONE.  Wheeeeeee! 

Like the rest of you, I have a few days out of schools. Days I believe are intended to be used for myself, for time with my family, for sleeping in, for rejuvenation.  Yet I, like the rest of you, seem to have chosen to use this time to clean out closets, write more lesson plans than humanly possibly, read several professional books, catch up on my education blog reading and, you know, save the rainforests.  Or whatever.  (And that's before Thursday.  Watch out weekend!)

It is in these moments that I begin to think there has to be some sort of middle ground.  Where we find the time to relax and take a breath from our oh-so-demanding craft while also feeling as if we can go back to work ahead of the game and prepared for the balls-out-all-hands-on-deck push that is January.

And the quest for balance continues...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lessons From the Little Engine That Could

You may have to just smile and nod at me through this one, as I realize that my steady diet of nothing but tea and toast (NOTHING....just tea and toast, then toast and more toast and some tea) may be slowly killing my brain cells.  That and spending most of my time reading and re-reading the same books to my toddler (who is amazing but DEMANDING when it comes to being read to).

Long story short, stick with me here.  I believe I have a point.

This time of year is insane.  It's insane.  You're little friends are bouncing off the wall, all hopped up on holiday mania and visions of heinously late bedtimes and too much sugar dancing in their heads.  You are desperately trying to teach something, anything but secretly (or perhaps not so secretly) want to throw in a movie in and call it a day.  Get some filing done.  Make some plans for the new year.  Breathe. 

Believe me, I feel your pain.

I also know that this is a time of wrapping up loose ends in order to have a fresh start in January.  So let the list making begin.  Stop what you're doing right now.  Seriously, stop.  Okay, maybe read to the end of this post, add a comment and then stop.  Stop and sit down in the middle of your madness and (you guessed it!) make a list.   A list that includes everything.  Everything.   A list that threatens to intimidate every other list you have ever made.  Perhaps a color coded list that will be the envy of all your friends -  your deeply nerdy friends.  And then harness the power of the Little Blue Engine.  Just chug your way through it ('I think I can, I think I can...') day after day (I think I can, I think I can) setting goals and rewards for yourself along the way (I think I can, I think I can).

I know you can.

Good luck making it until Friday.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wait, I'm Supposed To Update This Thing?

That's right, I have a blooooooggggg. Riiiiight.

Wait, so remind me how this works again?  I write something, post it here and then you all read it?  And comment?  Well that sounds just fabulous!  I should do that more often.

HOLY CRAP YOU GUYS IT'S BEEN OVER A MONTH!  One of you should have reached out through the interwebs and slapped me!   Or punched me!  Or at least yelled threatening statements about unfollowing me or something...

So.  Where have I been?  Where have I been?  Ah yes, it's all coming back to me now.  Let's see...well, there was Thanksgiving.  And then a few mind numbing bouts of random pains that sent me to the emergency room in a puddle that intermittently moaned and shouted, "Do something!" at passing doctors.  Hmmm....and then what?  Oh, then there was toast.  Miles and miles of nothing but toast until the doctors figured out what was wrong with me.  (An upside to this "diet"?  Losing the last ten baby pounds pre-holidays....cha ching!)   (I realize that last statement is all kids of messed up.  However, it is also true.)  Okay, so after the toast, you're thinking things can't get much worse, right?  You would be wrong.  Can you say "stomach flu"?????? 

'Cuz I can!

Rest assured that Mrs. Mimi is slowly but surely getting her (skinny!) (So messed up!)  self back together again.  Also, rest assured that future posts will not detail my gastrointestinal woes as this does not seem like true educational fodder.  However, I felt you all deserved some sort of explanation for my absence. 

Hope you are all enjoying the panic and mayhem that has become our holiday season, particularly for those of us working in schools.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

An Open Letter To Anna Dewdney

Dear Ms. Dewdney,

I. Love. Llama Llama.

I was given a copy of Llama Llama Red Pajama at my baby shower. At the time, I thought the book was cute, but had no idea just how huge a presence you and your characters were to have in my life. As a mother to the smartest 17 month old ever, I now have all of your books memorized. If there is ever a Llama Llama emergency, I am your girl and can launch into a mean oral storytelling at a moments notice. Just something to keep in the back of your mind.

Llama Llama Misses Mama is the text that helped my little Mini feel better when Mama had to go to work. I'm telling you, she's making text to self connections already and if that doesn't blow your mind...girlfriend also recognizes your picture and says "Doo-ney!" every time.

Quick question- do you think you could crank out another Llama Llama book? While I LOVE what you've done, I have to admit that reading them one more time might drive me to drink more than I already do.

However, I'm not just writing to tell you that I would throw my arms around you if I ever met you in person. (Which I would.). I'm writing to ask if you want a partnership. Anna...can I call you Anna? Anna, we need to get more parents to read regularly to, with and in front of their children. The most common complaint I get from early childhood teachers is that their students come in with very little language and have limited schema to help them understand new books. Reading does not seem to be a valued part of their home lives. Now I know people are busy and lives are complicated but, can I be honest with you here? Sharing books with my Mini has been one of the greatest joys of my life. Watching her language take off, her eyes light up at a favorite character and having her grab my hand to read in our favorite chair makes my heart sing with nerdy pride.

We need to spread the word. How easy it is. How wonderful it is. How it can change so much.

Thanks for your time and for little Llama,

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

And the Blue Ribbon goes to...

By now you are probably all pretty familiar with my stance on teachers and capes, right?  If you're not, know that I believe whole heartedly that every teacher who is currently ROCKING IT in her (or his) classroom deserves a superhero cape because that is what they truly are.  You can wear your cape all Clark Kent style and keep it in the closet, or you can throw it on whenever you want just to make your badass-ness as evident as possible.  Your choice.

Well today, friends, Big Mama Mimi is temporarily trading in her superhero teacher cape (Are you really that surprised that I am the spawn of another amazeballs teacher?) for a blue ribbon.  Yep, Big Mama Mimi's school is being recognized as a Blue Ribbon School down in Washington DC today.

(As a side note, I gave her clear directions to shake his hand and then punch Arne Duncan straight in the face...I'm fairly certain she will let me down in this respect.)

In all other respects, I could not be more proud of Big Mama.  (She totally digs her nick name by the way.)  (Sarcasm police!)  She was chosen to represent her school alongside her principal because many of her fellow teachers feel that her work, both with students and teachers, is largely responsible for setting the bar so high.  She is an example to everyone she works with and works harder than most people I know.

How lovely to think that today there are teachers and schools actually being recognized for the good that they do, rather than demonized for many things that are beyond their control.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Where My Fun At?

Earlier this week, a colleague and I were talking about life in the classroom and she was all, "We have one of the most fun jobs there is!"  And I was all, "????"  And she was all, "Yeah, remember the fun?"  And I was all, "Riiiiiiiiight."

People.  It's November.  For most of you, that means report cards and possibly conferences.   Which means data, data, data, some progress monitoring, and more data.  Which means driving yourself insane to find moments to still do actual teaching in the midst of all this ridiculous assessing.  Which means piles of paper everywhere.  Which means that I-just-want-to-lie-down feeling hits you in the face every time you walk into your classroom and see those piles and think of that data which reminds you of report cards and for-the-love-of-all-things-holy-and-organized how am I going to get it all done?!?

Wait, where's the fun again?

The fun is with the kids.  Remember them? 

I wish I could take away your To Do List, or at least make it shorter, but I can't. What I CAN do is remind you to focus on your friends, because most of them are probably hilarious and amazingly talented.  Maybe re-frame report card time/ parent-teacher conferences as an opportunity to have more than one glass of wine tonight remember what it is that you love about each of your students and the progress each of them has made.  Start with that. 

Being the nerd Organizational Goddess that I am, I prepared a series of notes on each student for conferences.  Nothing crazy fancy, because we all know that Mrs. Mimi hates nothing more than wasted time, just something to help keep me focused through all those meetings.  (So.  Much.  Smiling.)  I had a space for each child in which I jotted a few quick bullets about their reading, writing, math, and content area work.  I also would make quick notes about behavioral issues (if any...) I wanted to mention and/or quick stats if we had an attendance issue.  (I wanted to give out free alarm clocks but The Visionary said no.  School starts at 8 every day.  Every.  Day.)  BUT....and here comes the point (finally), the first note was always a reminder about a funny or inspiring classroom moment that involved that child.  When I was speaking to the parent of my favey fave friends (because we all have faves, be real with me here...) or the parent of the friend who made me consider that extra glass of wine each night was a bit more challenging, I always led with this anecdote. 

I know we need to meet our deadlines and give assessments and be real with parents about the progress their children are or aren't making.  And we will.  But we also need to make time to remember and enjoy those moments when your friends are hysterically funny, incredibly kind or unbelievably smart.

Because our job is pretty fun. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I Think It's Called "Having A Chip On Your Shoulder"

Everyone is talking about education lately. Everyone. I'm in a local coffee shop- people are talking about how boring classrooms have become. (Their solution? More photography. I love photography but, wha?). I'm at Whole Foods about to blow my wad on three items with fancy yet irresistible labels- people are talking about report cards and how it's ridiculous that they actually have to go to the school and get them from their child's teacher. I'm waiting in line at the deli (a.k.a. the fourth circle of Hell)- people are talking about the behavior management system in their child's class.

And my gut reaction to all of this? To boldly insert myself into their private conversation and ask what qualifies them to have this conversation, to judge the way we do things.

Think I have a chip on my shoulder?

Don't answer that.

I guess these days I just assume people are going to shit on teachers. I assume they are going to complain without pausing to recognize what is working. I assume they will be all critique and no constructive thought. I assume they're going to blame it all on the teacher.

Jaded much?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Where's the Joy?

Yesterday I was walking out of a school, high on the fumes of learning (a.k.a. freshly sharpened pencils and glue) and feeling very productive.  I stowed my two overflowing bags (because any teacher worth her salt can't leave the classroom without a minimum of three projects) in the back of the car when I heard it.

I heard the laughter of children running around in the beautiful fall sunshine.  I stopped to watch two third graders run around the field next to their school attempting to climb a tree.  They were laughing and smiling and couldn't have a care in the world other getting up that tree.  And I thought to myself,

"This is bullshit."

Seriously.  Are you surprised?

In typical MeMonster (phrase coined by my internet BFF, the lovely Dr. Branstetter) fashion, those smiling, laughing faces made me think of myself.  They spent an entire day of school working and learning and trying and attending.  And now they get to fill their time with tree climbing, coloring, hanging with friends and stories before bedtime.  I spent an entire day of school working and learning and trying and attending.  And now I get to drive home, do a few loads of laundry, make dinner, write some lesson plans and get my read on because holy-cripes my professional book club meets next week and I haven't even broken the binding on that puppy!

Where is the joy I ask you?

(And if you tell me that you find joy in writing lesson plans, I will cut you.)  (Okay, I can find nerdy joy in a beautifully planned week or finding the perfect read aloud or even using a fabulous new teacher pen for the first time.)  (All right, and I can find joy in making progress with a little friend or watching a group of kids dig into a project I created.)  (And yeeeess, I do find joy in caring for my family...) (I'm starting to see your point.  I have a lot of professional joy and home life joy for which I'm very grateful.)

But still.

Mama needs a little joy for herself, don't you think?  Some tree climbing?  (Maybe not in these heels.)  Or a little art project?  Perhaps some yoga?  Sooooomething.

So, in true Mimi fashion, I began to list Possible Sources of Joy.

Okay.  I like art!  Let's see, there was that piece of art I started for the Mini that I never finished...where did that thing go?

I also fancy myself a bit of a DIYer.  Oh right, I could work on those stockings I started to make for everyone at chez Mimi.  They didn't quite make it to the mantle last Christmas so maybe I could work on those...

And I did love that hot yoga class, but it's at 7:30 and that's totally bedtime....hmmmm.

Mr. Mimi gave me that amaze balls camera but since the baby I seem to only take pictures of her, so I wouldn't quite call that a hobby anymore, so that's a no.

Tennis, anyone?

And scene on the list.

I guess at this point, there aren't enough hours in the day.  So, instead of climbing a tree, I'm going to enjoy the crap out of blogging.  Instead of running around playing tag, I'll savor using my favorite Sharpies.  Rather than curl up with a good book, I'll milk story time with the Mini and love every minute.    These days schools can be such negative places, I feel like we need to find the joy all on our own.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Confessions of an Uber Nerd

I read a lot.  A lot a lot.  We're talking total nerd fest up in here.

One summer, my brother in law could not get over the fact that I spent entire day on the beach reading a book.  Five hours.  Reading.  Same book.  In the sun.  And all I could think to say in response was, "I'm in heaven."

Nerd alert!

At any given time, you could find a stack of books on my bedside table that include a few professional reads, something Jodi Picoult-esque, an embarrassing amount of chic lit, a humor novel, a memoir, the latest People magazine, back issues of Cooking Light and the newest edition of The Reading Teacher.  (Okay, you can also find four or five half empty or totally empty water glasses.  It's a phenomenon.  They follow me and then can't seem to find their way to the dishwasher.  Whatevs.  At least I'm hydrated, right?)

Notice I said "could."  As in past tense. 

Then I got an iPad.  I heart my iPad.  HEART.  Now instead of a pile of books on my nightstand, you'll find a variety of books downloaded on my iPad.  (Sorry, Barnsey...I still hit your children's section pretty hard so I don't feel that bad.)  I read my magazines on my iPad.  I read my fave blogs on my iPad.  iPad, iPad, iPad. 

I felt all stream-liney and tech saavy.  

And you know what?  Last week, I realized that I actually read LESS.

Because now I can click over to my email and answer just one more, switch to Evernote and work just a little bit more, spend another second tweaking the page I put in Dropbox, and then shame spiral my way onto Facey Face before my little eyes start to droop and ultimately my iPad smacks me in the face as I fall asleep.  (Seriously.) 

So, methinks I'm off to the bookstore tomorrow to remedy my little situation.  Once a nerd, always a nerd. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Ugly Side of Multi-Tasking

Ah, multi-tasking.  It sounds so productive, doesn't it?  So efficient?  I can practically see The Powers That Be, kicking back with their checklist of Tasks Teachers Should Complete To Be Effective and drooling over the power of getting just that much more out of their all mighty buck.

Any teacher worth her actual salt (What does that mean anyway?) can get more done in fifteen minutes than most people can do in an entire day.  Give me fifteen free minutes before my little friends walk in the room and I could answer a bunch of emails, prep a math lesson, put a poem up on chart paper, sweep the floor, bake a few cupcakes, write a short story and probably give myself a freaking pedicure.  On a good day.

On a bad day.  Oh, ON A BAD DAY, it's a totally different story.

Let me clarify.  I don't mean you're typical teaching bad day wherein the children are bananas, staring out windows, picking their noses and generally more interested in the sounds one can make with one's armpit.  No. I mean a Teacher Bad Day wherein said teacher can not get focused because there are so many To Dos that all need to get done yesterday, most of which are partially completed but none of which have been crossed off the list because she has been multi-tasking rather than getting anything done.  Feels busy.  But in terms of actually getting stuff done?  Not so much.

Isn't crossing something off your To Do list the most wonderful feeling in the world?  Like Christmas, the last day before a vacation and your birthday all wrapped up in a warm cupcake with cream cheese frosting?

What were we talking about?

Right.  Teacher Bad Days.  On those sorts of days, give us fifteen minutes and we will partially complete many things, move around a bunch of piles that don't seem to ever disappear and maybe reheat our coffee.  We will then spend the rest of the day moping about those wasted 15 minutes and what we coulda, woulda and shoulda done if we could just get focused.

Friends, I am having one of those days.

Seriously, I've written three partial blog posts, read a bunch of stuff on my Google Reader, clicked around the internet, read half a chapter of a professional book, gone to Staples, organized some files, called some principals and sent out a bunch of emails but in all that STUFF, nothing has gotten crossed off the list.  In some sick twist of fate, I am my most productive when I have an absolutely mind-blowing, soul-crushing amount of work to do.  When I have a manageable list in front of me...well, it's an ugly display of looking busy under the guise of "multi-tasking" but really?  I'm getting nothing done.

Cry me a river, right?

So I guess I'm off to find more stuff to do so I can actually get something done.  We teachers are sick, sick people, no?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Weekly Wrap Up

Helllloooo lovely readers!  I know it's Saturday, but we're going to do the Weekly Wrap Up today - in all honesty, Mrs. Mimi spent the day yesterday totally nerding out with colleagues, so apologies for the delay.

Before we get into it, I want to announce the winner of the F in Exams giveaway.  Who will it be?  Can you stand the suspense?

And the winner is....

Lawn Mower Queen!!!  (Email me your info at itsnotallflowersandsausages at gmail dot com so I can get your prize sent to you.)

Thanks again to everyone for reading and entering.  Now that the giveaway madness is over, we'll get back to business next week.

The Friday Four
: The Beauty of Mistakes
I don't know about y'all, but I have had some friends who freak their freak when they make a mistake.  Cue the end of the world!!  I mean, I have seen children not only erase a hole in their paper but look like they're trying to erase a hole through their desk and into the floor so that they crawl into it and cry about making one teeny tiny error that is no big deal.  Sound familiar?  This Friday Five is dedicated to those friends - here are some fabulous books about the beauty we can find in our mistakes.

IshIsh by Peter H. Reynolds
The Dot (Irma S and James H Black Honor for Excellence in Children's Literature (Awards))The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
Beautiful Oops!Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg
The OK BookThe OK Book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Other Bits of Fabulous From Around the Web:
Here's a lovely tribute to teachers in the NY Times.  Although in all honesty...sometimes I want to say, "Enough heart warming tributes and let's start make some real change!!!"  But maybe I just need another cup of coffee.

School Book is a new website that tracks what's going on in NYC Schools.

You know Mrs. Mimi likes an active classroom where our little friends can get their inquiry on.  Here's a more practical piece with some suggestions for improving your student's abilities to ask questions.  

Memories...What Mrs. Mimi Was Ranting About Way Back When

You know that feeling you get at the beginning of the year when you're Teacher MoJo kicks back in?  Me too.

Some love for the Naughty Boys!

More Naughty Boy fabulousness!
You know that feeling you get at the beginning of the year when you're given a list of assessments a mile long that must be completed with each child by the end of the week and you're thinking, "When the hell am I going to get to start teaching?"  Yeah.  I know that one too.

Have a wonderful weekend and an even better week ahead!


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Zen Giveaway Winner Announced!

And the signed copy of Awakened: Change Your Mindset To Transform Your Teaching goes to...

#12!!  Also known as Alison H!!!  Congratulations!! (Alison - email me your mailing address to itsnotallflowersandsausages at gmail dot com and I'll get your copy in the mail asap!)

AAANNNNNNDDD....because Angela is a ROCKSTAR and a lover of all you in Mimi Nation, she is offering a special discount (only $4.99!!) for any INAFaS reader who would like to download the ebook version of her work.  Use this link and enter the code MIMI.  The book comes in the following formats: ePUB, PDF and Kindle.

I don't know about you, but buying things on sale always makes me feel zen.  

Happy Back To School everyone!!!


Monday, September 5, 2011

Avery Giveaway Winner....

...can I have a drumroll please?

The winner of the Avery school supplies giveaway is lucky # 19!!

Congratulations to MarieMent!!!  MarieMent, email me (at itsnotallflowersandsausages at gmail dot come) and I'll make sure your prize is sent out to you.

Everyone else - thanks as always for reading and entering!  I was totes overwhelmed by the response and will do my best to dig around for others willing to donate a giveaway to our cause.  

Just because I'm an Uber Nerd, I whipped out my fave Sharpie and compiled a bit of a listy poo of what you feel are your most necessary school supplies.  I mean, did you really expect me to pass up this chance to make a color coded list of office supplies??  YOU GUYS TOTALLY KNOW ME BETTER THAN THAT!

Here's the scoop- according to you, my dear readers, these are the top 20 MUST HAVE school supplies for 2011:

20.  Bins, jars, crates and all things storage
19.  Glue sticks
18.  Stickers
17.  Construction paper
16.  Binders (and all things created to organize said binders) (*chills*)
15.  Colored pencils
14.  2-pocket folders
13.  Lesson planner and/or teacher notebook
12.  Note cards or index cards
11.  Crayons (Crayola only, please)
10.  Notebooks (although there is a great divide between the Spiral Notebook peeps and the Composition Notebook I smell a Sharks and Jets number?)
9.  Packing tape
8.  Markers (Mr. Sketch is a popular man...)
7.  Name tags/ labels
6.  Pencils (Ticonderoga #2 only)
5.  Clorox wipes
4.  Dry erase markers
3.  Fabulous teacher pens (Flair, gel, clicky...whatever gets you going!)
2.  Post It notes of all shapes, sizes and colors

And, the most popular school supply, the thing we simply cannot live without, the item we fork over our hard earned and too few dollars for??

You guessed it.

1. SHARPIES!!!!  

I knew our connection was solid.  I've never been so proud.  

Enjoy your Tuesdays, my lovelies!  (And to my NYC peeps - a special shout out to you as you go back to where the magic happens...)


Friday, September 2, 2011

The Weekly Wrap Up (Great Reading for the Cocktail Hour...or Hours)

I hope that where ever you are, your family is warm, dry and able to plug stuff in. If you're not, I certainly hope that all those things are on their way. I know for many of you, it's been a rough few days - complete with delayed openings. Can you imagine starting off the year with a few "snow" days?? Ugh.

I'm still in Back To School mode, and this week I have names on the brain.

The Friday Five: Five Fab Picture Books About Names
(Click images and/or titles for links)

A Porcupine Named Fluffy by Helen Lester
I have this puppy memorized and do it as an oral storytelling. Pretty sweet to have some of those in your back pocket to mix it up!

My Name Is Elizabeth by Annika Dunklee
This is a new book that's reviewed over here.

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
I remember having the rare opportunity to watch another adult (our beloved librarian) read this story out loud to my little friends. Talk about captivated. And talk about being able to milk some good book talk out of this one.

My Name Is Yoon by Helen Recorvits

The Old Woman Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant

Other Bits of Fabulous From Around the Web:
Ah, the beginning of the school year...time to whip our little friends into shape. And that means getting them to LISTEN. I saw this over at EdWeek and thought some of their tips were super practical.

The conversation about social media in the classroom continues.

One former teacher chronicles his horrific time in the classroom. Can you say "yikes"?

Memories...What Mimi Was Ranting About Way Back When:

In 2010:

In 2009:

In 2008:

  • This Just In The Seat Sack Crisis of 2008 or what I like to refer to as the year Sans Sack.

In 2007:

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Funnier Side of Testing? A GIVEAWAY!!

Ah, testing. IS there a funnier side of testing? I say there has to be, or we have to try to find it, because if we don't, I think we may all poke ourselves in the eye by December. I may have written about testing a time or two before (like here, here, here and here)

Friends, I may have found the funny. It's a new book called F in Exams. I'm sure you've gotten those email forwards where someone sends you a bunch of funny answers kids have written to various test questions? (And, upon receiving said email forward, I'm sure you either a) chuckled to yourself and sent it on, b) deleted it immediately because, seriously?? Email forwards are the worst, especially the ones with five or six FWDs in the subject, or c) sent a WTF email to your friend reminding them to cool it with the funny cat pics and inspirational poems.) Regardless, this is a light hearted fun book that you can turn to for a good laugh at home or in the teacher's room over PB and Js. (Come on, you know you eat them...)

Mr. Mimi and I spent some time this weekend flipping through this book and had a few laughs. (Man, we sound LAME, but it was funny stuff!) In between shaking our head with concern about the future of our country, here were some of our faves:

I mean, can you imagine being the teacher who sees this stuff? Can you imagine the amount of cocktails needed to erase this sort of ridiculousness from your brain and regain your Teacher MoJo?

And now I shall tell you my own story of test taking ridiculousness:

I was teaching my second grade friends a unit on geography. We were totally jamming with our dry erase maps and globes - everyone was loving geography! Groups were pumped on their 3D maps of the school and neighborhood, there was dried macaroni and yarn everywhere and yes, they could name all seven continents. Boo ya! Mid-way through the unit, I decided to do a little Check In and give a quick 10 minute quiz. (Wait, what? A quick assessment designed by a teacher to inform her instruction?? Where's the manual? Where's the Scan Tron? Where's the accountability?!?!) (If I could, I would join my internet BFF over at Notes From the School Psychologist and invent a sarcastic font. Please tell me you felt the sarcasm oozing from the screen? If not, this blog may not be for you...I'm just sayin')

I collect my quizzes and take them home to grade. I have my favorite Flair pen (in a lovely shade of magenta), a glass of wine and some Post It notes. I am ready to correct, to analyze and to adjust my plans. I breeze through the first few - check, check, check, these rock! My friends rock! I rock! And then...

I get to Muppet's paper. The first question reads: Name the four cardinal directions on the map. Mind you, we had a compass taped to the floor in the middle of our classroom, had been circling the directions on maps for weeks, had songs about north, south, east and west, you name it. I basically lobbed this one up for them to ease them into the whole quiz business. And yet...

Muppet wrote the following: Frank, Sam, Ben and Chub.


And while I was tempted to start doing shots bang my head into the wall, I laughed and simply made a note to spend some extra time with my little friend working on these directions.

I should have saved his paper and sent it in for this book, no?

Anyhow, the lovely people over at Chronicle Books have been kind enough to provide me with a copy of F in Exams to give away to one lucky reader. PLUS...they've also generously offered a special 25% discount (plus free shipping) on all their products just for INAFaS readers! Just click on over to the Chronicle Books website and enter the code: FINEXAMS. The discount is good for items purchased between 8/29 and 9/9, so get clicking!

To enter the giveaway, you can:
1. Leave a comment on this post, telling us your testing tales of hilarity or woe - you choose.
2. "Like" Mrs. Mimi over on Facey Face and then come back here and let me know you've joined our FB party in the comments.
3. All of the above.

You can enter as many times as you would like starting today. The contest will run through next Thursday, September 8th at midnight. I'll use a rando number generator to choose and announce the winner on Friday, August 9th.

Good luck, y'all!!

P.S. - For another review of this book, head on over to">The Nerdy Teacher tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My Quest for Zen: A GIVEAWAY

Yes, not only does my quest for Zen continue, but so does this week of giveaways! I mean,

Let's see, my quest for Zen started here and then continued on it's journey to here and here among other places.

I think it's fair to say that I struggle with the Zen. Some might even say that Mrs. Mimi can be a wee bit negative.

Shut the front door!

I know, I know, but really? It's true. I can be a complainer.

There were a few years in my teaching career where I was angry more than I was anything else. (Remember those?) I have always loved my students and the challenge of pushing them academically, but I have also always struggled with difficult colleagues, ridiculous administrators and the drama that is today's educational system.

So maybe I've got an issue with anger or a predisposition to throw around the word "douche". Who knows?

For me, this blog was a life saver. Instead of stewing for hours days weeks too long over the most recent feat of You Have GOT To Be Kidding Me, I would reframe my thinking to turn the situation into a nice juicy post. Very turn my frown upside down kind of stuff. I would get home, blog it out and move on. I feel like I should pay all of YOU for listening.

I know some of you are struggling with the same thing- you love your job, you love your students, but holy shitballs do you work with some doozies! And, seriously? No one ordered pencils this year?! Wait. You want me to "progress monitor" my friends how often???

What I'm saying is I know I'm not alone in having these feelings.

Enter Angela Watson (from The Cornerstone) and her new book Awakened: Change Your Mindset To Transform Your Teaching. Ta da! In this book, Angela takes on the destructive mental habits that many of us share and puts the power in the hands of teachers to change. What's that you say? Power to the teachers? Yes, please.

Check out some of these heavy hitting destructive habits straight from the old Table of Contents:

Taking things personally
Explaining setbacks in a negative way
Ruminating needlessly
Making presumptive judgements

Sound familiar? Come on, we're all friends here. You can be honest with Mimi.

Or what about these more positive habits, all covered in this book:

Separate practical and emotional problems
Train yourself to be difficult to offend
Accept that you'll never get it ALL right
Decide ahead of time how you're going to act

Sound like a recipe for a bit more Zen. I thought so.

Angela speaks candidly about her own journey, which was very spiritual in nature. However, this book is written from a very practical place and filled with concrete examples that will have you thinking, "I totally sound like that!" While written for educators, I definitely plan on re-reading portions of this book to help me be more positive in general. (But don't worry too much, Mrs. Mimi will still get her rant on when necessary.)

Don't get me wrong- there is a place for our frustration, our demands and our negativity, but we all know that place is NOT in our classrooms. So during this time when so much control of our day to day work lives is being ripped out of our fingers, let's embrace the idea that somethings are still in our control.

Angela has given Mrs. Mimi a signed copy of her book to giveaway to one fabulous reader in need of some more Zen. What a fabulous time to retrain your thinking and rediscover what you love about this truly special job.

To enter, let's take the first step toward releasing ourselves of some stress. In the comments section, share some aspect of your work that you'd like to change your thoughts about. What frown do YOU want to turn upside down? The giveaway starts today and runs through Monday, September 5th. I'll use a rando number generator to choose the winner and will announce the identity of the lucky reader on Tuesday, September 6th. Enter as often as you like and don't forget to enter the Avery school supplies giveaway too! Good luck, duckies!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Spending Spree 2011 - A GIVEAWAY

Hey y'all! Maybe you're already back and maybe you've got a few more precious days to sip cocktails and watch Golden Girls re-runs, but either way, it is time to get our shop on. Despite all the teacher bashing and lack of adequate salary, I'm sure all of you out there will continue to purchase much needed supplies for your little friends. Because you are amazing.

Each year, I would return to my classroom, all amped and ready to go, only to be greeted by a big pile of shit and a whole lotta mouse poo. Furniture would be haphazardly stacked in the center of the room, old pencils would litter the floor and my closets would be a disgusting mess. Welcome back to school, eh?

So what did I do? Did I bitch and moan? Yes. But what else did I do? I rolled up my sleeves, changed into my crappy clothes (because sadly, this was exactly what I expected) and got my hard work on. Because I am amazing and so are you.

At some point during the day, a box of "supplies" would be delivered to my room. Allegedly, these "supplies" were deemed to be all I needed to work my magic (read: teach a room full of children how to read, write, add, subtract, know basic geography and be good people who are inquisitive citizens of the world...or bubble in stuff?). I would poke through the pile of rubber bands, googly eyes, crappy glue sticks that dry up in three seconds and have caps that mysteriously disappear, the cheapest construction paper this side of the Mississippi and some clay.

I know what you're thinking - only the finest for NYC's brightest, right?

Uh, no.

When the day was done, I would head off to my beloved Staples, with whom I have had a long standing love/hate relationship, and get my shop on. Now that I had seen the most recent score, there was fadeless paper to buy, borders to pick out, construction paper for fun projects, a door to decorate, name tags to buy and money to be spent. And spent. And spent. Because someone had to spruce the place up and make it a joyful place for children.

Wait. What? Get to the freaking giveaway already? You've had a long day of moving furniture and setting up your class room and don't have time for my ramblings? You're covered in mouse poo and just want me to get to the point?

For you? Anything. First, Avery is sponsoring a Back To School Promotion! Click here to check it out, but in a nutshell - all you need to do is vote for your favorite school. The top five vote getting schools will receive $10,000 worth of Avery School Supplies, 10,000 Bonus Box Top coupons and $1,000 worth of gift cards. The top 25 runner-up schools will win 5,000 Bonus Box Top coupons. Can you say "cha-ching" and "show me the good construction paper?" So, go get your click on and pimp out your school. Shamelessly. Do it for the good glue sticks.

And here's THE GIVEAWAY! Because INAFaS readers are the bomb diggity, Avery is generously offering a Back To School gift bag for one loyal reader. This gift bag will come stocked with Avery Glue Stics, Hi-liters, NoteTabs and dry erase markers. Whoo hoo! That will help to erase the memories of all that mouse poo, eh?

Okay. How to enter? Simply leave a comment on this post sharing a few of your Must Have back to school supplies. You can enter as many times as you like. As. Many. Times. The contest starts now and will go through Sunday, September 4th. I'll announce the winner on Monday, September 5th. Because fair is fair, I'll use a rando number generator to choose the winner.

Good luck, y'all!!

My Experience With Irene:Catastrophic::Most Classroom Observations:Effective

Disclaimer: To those of you readers out there who suffered through a terrible weekend, I hope you and your families are now safe, drying out and cleaning up. The images I saw of the storm as it hit the Southern portions of the East Coast looked awful. Up in Mimi country, however, the storm turned out to be one big waste of a weekend.

The coverage of "Hurricane" Irene was brilliant. I mean, they had dramatic introductory graphics prior to each broadcast. I found myself glued to the screen as wind tunnels crisscrossed before my eyes and waves crashed into a giant red sign announcing the arrival of Irene. Ominous music played as broadcasters went live to their colleagues who clearly drew the short straw and were made to stand outside and think of forty different ways to say, "Yup, it's raining and windy."

Because I am a teacher, we were prepared at Chez Mimi. We're talking patio furniture moved to the garage, candles at the ready, batteries newly purchased, flashlights in convenient locations, coolers filled with ice, non-perishable goods (read: piles of carbohydrates that I normally keep away from), and more cat food and diapers than you can shake a stick at. We were all, "Irene, get your storm on!" And for what? Hour after hour after hour, we watched weather maps colored with fifteen different paths that Irene might take. Fifteen? Yes, Mini Mimi could have literally drawn them with a crayon herself and called herself a meteorologist. They were that accurate. I say that because the consensus of those fifteen potential paths all converged on Mimi Country and yet I found myself repeatedly asking, "Was that it? Has it hit yet?"

By Sunday midday, the sun had come out, there was virtually no sign that it had rained at all and we went for a walk. Again, for those of you that are currently cleaning up and surviving without power (or worse), I'm sorry. I know we are the lucky ones.

As I waited for something that looked like more than a passing shower, I had a strange feeling of deja vu. Why, this was almost exactly like waiting around for The Weave to conduct my formal observation for the year! The parallels were uncanny! Observations were always proceeded by several hormonal unnecessarily bitchy assertive emails that announced their arrival and what one had to do in preparation for The Big Event. Then there was the actual preparation. Oh, the preparations! Instead of waiting in endless lines at various grocery stores buying food I normally wouldn't but was told to, I would spend hours crafting a lesson plan that fit into The Weave's narrow vision of what she wanted to see that day. Just like I wasn't shopping from my authentic, usual grocery list, my annual formal classroom observation demonstrated very little of my normal interaction with my little friends. Rather, it represented my ability conform to whatever buzzword bullshit was hot in education that The Weave had latched on to and decided was the only way to determine if I was effective or not.

Then there was the waiting. The waiting always feels the same. And I'm so not good at it. We would schedule a date and nothing. I would re-write the lesson, schedule a new date and nothing. New date. More nothing. Until one day she would just show up, look through my work folders rather than watch me actually teach and then write up some mystical version of what she thought she saw complete with little to no constructive feedback. Ah, yes, the accountability was impressive, my friends.

So while I think that basing teachers' ratings on the tests students take is ridiculous, I am very well aware that our current system is flawed. Kind of like those weather maps.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Weekly Wrap Up (Great Reading for the Cocktail Hour...or Hours)

In my spare time (read: when I should be doing other stuff during the Mini's naptime), I like to check out The Bloggess for a few laughs. Granted, her humor is not for everyone, but I love the idea behind her weekly wrap up, so I thought I'd try one over here at INAFaS. What do you think? Yay or nay?

The Friday Five: Five Back To School Picture Book Winners (click images for links)

Llama Llama Misses Mama
by Anna Dewdney
Little Llama is sad about his first day of pre-school - he doesn't want his mama to leave. (Cut to me tearing up at the very thought of my Mini going off to school someday!!) Of course the story has a happy ending (can you imagine a back to school story that didn't?) and all of Llama's new friends show him how fab school can be. Personally, I heart the Llama series. Heart the rhyme, heart the drama, heart the illustrations. So much potential.

First Day Jitters by J. Danneberg
Sarah doesn't want to get out of bed to go to school on the first day - she is too nervous! She is forced to get out of bed, eat breakfast and is driven to school. When she gets there, the principal greets her and takes her to her new class and guess what? Sarah is the TEACHER! Okay. Total. Surprise. Ending. I mean, it totally got me and I'm not afraid to admit it. Now THIS is a book that takes the nervous teacher angle and rocks it. Plus there is some super vocab and great places to stop and have a conversation.

I Am Too Absolutely Small For School by Lauren Child
Lola and Charlie are an adorable sis and bro. While the story line is predictable (Girl afraid of school. Girl doesn't want to go to school. Boy helps girl see how great school really is. Girl has happy ending.) The bonus about this book - cutey cute illustrations and it's a series. Do I smell a character study for our smallest of small fries?

Skippy Jon Jones Class Action by Judy Schachner
I love me some Skippy Jon Jones! When the Mini was super mini, we'd snuggle up and read Skippy Jon and it would make her laugh and laugh. I haven't read this one yet myself, but how can sharing an inevitable laugh with your new friends be a bad thing?

David Goes To School by David Shannon
I mean, how could I not include David. I think during those first few days of school, coming together to share a book and laugh is about the best community building you can do.

Other Rad Stuff From Around the Web:

Steve Job's speech at Stanford - Wouldn't it be wonderful if schools allowed people (teachers AND children) to follow what they are passionate about instead of bubble shit in on a test? Here's one of my favorite parts:

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

A fun video about the power of positivity - Couldn't we all use a little positivity to get our school year off to the right start?

In light of our recent blogversation (That's conversation but bloggified.) (Yes, I am taking liberties with the English language it Hurrican Fever.) about the use of Facey Face and expanding the definition of what it means to be literate as well as what we consider to be valid text, I found this USA Today article pretty interesting.

Well, that's it for me, my friends. I'd say "See you Monday," but I'm afraid I might blow away over the weekend. Okay, I'm fairly certain I won't blow a way, but I have a feeling my internet connection will. I hope you're all safe and dry where you are!


PS - Don't be shy - share your thoughts about this new Wrap Up idea. Help me help you. Kisses!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Facey Face

A few years ago, I became the ultimate Me Monster and started a Facey Face page for Mrs. Mimi.(That's Facebook for most of you...thank you Rebecca, my internet BFF, for the genius term "Facey Face".) I love me some Facey Face. Talk about the ultimate tool for Procrastination. I also have my own personal Facebook page that I use for virtual eavesdropping - seriously, people post some insane stuff as a status update. While I don't always understand why we need to know you had a flat tire on the highway today, I usually find these updates to be pretty entertaining and/or a great distraction from my pile of work.

However, due to some really poor decision making, Facebook has meant the end of some teachers' careers. I know some peeps are on the up and up when they friend current or former students - they want to stay in touch and hear how former friends are flourishing. I get it. Buuuuutttt....methinks it's a slippery slope and pretty much a bad idea.

My recent dilemma:

Several former students from The Best Class Any Teacher Has Ever Had EVER friend requested (is that really a verb now?) on Facebook recently. I LOVED these kids. LOVED. Like take them home and keep them forever love. I wanted to friend them (seriously, I can't believe I'm repeatedly using "friend" as a verb), I wanted to see their pics, read their statuses, make sure they were okay and being responsible consumers of social media, but there was something holding me back from clicking "accept." A feeling in the pit of my stomach, kind of like when I eat too many wings...

I didn't accept their request. But for the next few days, the whole thing bothered me. Am I virtually rejecting them? They were so important to me and I'd like to think I was important to them, important enough to friend request at least for whatever that's worth. All that being said, I still didn't want them to have access to a picture of me with a glass of wine or see something that someone wrote on my wall that may stray from appropriate. These kids are still not adults. Clearly The Mimi is cool and hip and all that with social media, but this territory feels foreign with my little friends.

I know some teachers have separate Facebook accounts for their teacher selves that they tightly control, but frankly, I don't need another social outlet or alternative self to monitor. So what did I do? I accepted their friend request to get access to their email address. I sent them an email explaining why I felt uncomfortable being friends with them on Facebook and gave them my personal email address so that we could stay in touch. Then I promptly unfriended (defriended?) them. I'm so hoping they'll email.

I think there are so many possibilities to use various social media and other online resources in our classrooms. Actually, I think there is a NEED to do that, so we can create and develop responsible and digitally literate little friends. (Granted, this means having computers in your classroom that are NOT loaded with Logo Turtle and, you know, actually turn on.) And I'm someone who embraces these tools for my work with adults, but with kids....I go back to having that too-many-wings feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Maybe this is a topic we can take on as a little community. Discuss and share ways to incorporate these new tools rather than shun them. Think about how we can set up ground rules that not only make these tools truly useful, but also teach our friends how to be critical users as well. I know there are some of you out there who don't have enough pencils, books or even what do we do? How do we move forward and stay current?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Can I Get A WTF?!

Pardon the language, friends, but I hope you appreciate my restraint in using an acronym. No? I guarantee that once you read this, you'll be throwing around your own "WTF" or any other incredulous statement of choice. Trust me.

Recently, a reader (who wishes to remain anonymous) emailed moi about some disturbing new happenings going down at her school. When our fellow Super Colleague returned to work, she learned that her school would be putting surveillance cameras in every classroom, the hallways, and the parking lot. She was informed that not only would the school office be able to watch it, but that Central Office will be able to see it as well.

I know. Take a deep breath.

I'm totally on board with the parking lot thing. It gets dark crazy early in the winter and in general, I think parking lots are shady. We won't even get into my somewhat irrational fear of parking garages but, honestly? No good can come in those shadowy, creepy places.

I'm on the fence about cameras in the hallways. Some schools are bananas in between classes and maybe cameras would help with security and/or be Big Brothery enough to dissuade sticky fingers and nasty mouths.

But cameras in the classrooms?


My first thought? I have former Super Colleagues who have PUMPED on their preps in their locked classrooms (while simultaneously correcting papers or checking email because we are awesome with a capital Kick Some Ass). Who wants to see that? I take that question back. I don't what to know who wants to see that. But still. Pumping is an act that cannot be unseen.

My next thoughts? Holy crap, what are they thinking?? What is the purpose behind these cameras? Is this the ultimate in "accountability"? Has the Teacher Bashing gone so far that we now want to watch teachers every single move? Because we're all raging morons who hit kids, pick our noses and talk on our cell phones while all hell breaks loose as soon as no one is looking?


As if morale wasn't low enough in our profession, this teacher clearly feels violated and resentful of the presence of cameras in her classroom. She asks:

How is the district affording this when they have laid off a large number employees this summer?

Are the administrators going to have cameras in their offices and let us watch them pick their noses, too?

Is it 1984? I thought that was just a book scenario.

Do they really hate us this much???

It's that last one that really gets to me. How many other teachers are entering their school year thinking that their own administration hates them? What kind of culture are we creating for teachers as professionals??

And who is watching these cameras? Did this district hire an entirely different group of drones to sit in front of TV screens while simultaneously firing classroom teachers due to budgetary issues? Are we going to have cameras to watch the cameras to make sure those individuals are also held accountable? Are we going to have cameras in the homes of our students to make sure their parents feed them a reasonable breakfast, help with homework, read to their children, feed them a nutritious dinner and put them to bed at a decent hour?

Riddle me that, Batman.

I second Angela over at The Cornerstone when I say that my classroom was my sanctuary. It was my home away from home. It was (hopefully) my friends' home away from home. And that meant that sometimes we were sitting together in a circle discussing a behavioral issue instead of working on math, and sometimes we lost ourselves in the joy of a story and began science a little later than planned and sometimes we were just plain being silly in the way that only seven and eight year olds can. If these cameras are a mechanism for "increasing efficiency and accountability" and making sure that teachers stick to a rigid schedule in the name of covering more material and pushing pushing pushing, then today is a sad day.

Thoughts??? I know you have them...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Oldies But Goodies...

...or at least I think so.

Friends, I promise a new post tomorrow, but for today I am sending you my most positive Back To School vibes via these old Back To School themed post.

If today was your first day back (as it was for Big Mama Mimi), grab a glass of wine, put your feet up and know it will all get done. You deserve a break and a laugh.

If this isn't your first day back, grab a glass of wine, put your feet up and know it will all get done. You deserve a break and a laugh.

Are you seeing a theme?

Off To a Positive Start??? - My attempt to start things off in my most Zen like state (read: now with less gossip).

Ready, Set, SHOP - A back to school shopping list like no other. Be sure to check out the comments for things that Mrs. Mimi missed.

The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of - More Back To School shopping from a jaunt through the aisles of Staples.

My Biological Teacher Clock is A'Tickin' - Can't you just feel Back To School season in your bones??? I believe it's one of our many gifts.

An Open Letter To Staples - My love/hate relationship with this popular office supply chain continues. Oh, how Back To School season challenges our tenuous relationship!

What A Difference A Year Makes - Memories from the first day of school in 2007.

Just Some Poop and Me - Nothing says Back To School like cleaning up old mouse poo, am I right?

Adventures In Planning - Despite our best efforts, Back To School season seems to come earlier and earlier each year, doesn't it? Can you say "caught off guard"?

Hope these (and the wine) help make your Back To School as fabulous as possible.


Your Child's Writing Life Giveaway Winner

Yahooooooo! I know I'm late with the big news, but can we say LOOOOONG FLIGHT HOME?!

The winner is #35!!!

Congratulations to Edris Goolsby Harrell, Ph.D.!!! Please email me your information (itsnotallflowersandsausages at gmail dot com) and I will have the publisher send you your copy asap. Enjoy!

Thank you to everyone who entered- I thoroughly enjoyed all your responses. Totally pick up a copy over here to jump start your year.

Annnnnnnd, Mrs. Mimi has more to give away - four more fabulous new titles and a Back To School gift pack from Avery Office supplies. Stay tuuuuuned!!


Monday, August 15, 2011

Pardon The Interruption

As I think about Back To School (cue the ominous music here, please), I always try to mentally prepare myself for each aspect of my day, perhaps invent a new and improved system that may make that part of the day flow better than ever. As a teacher, the one part of the day I could never quite conquer was the morning announcements.

Is it just me, or do most teachers, upon hearing these three little words, often turn to the intercom with a look on their face that screams, "Oh yeah? Well, pardon this!" and you can almost see them imagining themselves flipping off said interruption with a big old middle finger?

Or maybe that was just my reaction. My bad.

I have been to visit some schools where the morning announcements are not an assault on one's senses. (Yes, they exist!) I've seen pairs of children literally skip down to the office and grin ear to ear when the principal hands them the microphone. They dutifully make their way through the pledge and remind everyone about a bake sale, or book sale or some other after school wonder and then sign off with a jaunty yet original goodbye that you just know took them hours to come up with. When I'm in schools during these moments, I half expect Mr. Rogers to appear from around the corner and burst into song as all the other children file into the hallway to hold hands and sway in rhythm to the music. (And yes, I'm aware that Mr. Rogers is no longer with us, but if anything could channel him back from the beyond, it is moments like these.)

HOWEVER, I have also been to schools where the announcements are not just part of the morning routine. They are a constant presence. Kind of like that fly that keeps buzzing around your picnic, except imagine a really relentless and angry fly with just a hint of bitterness. These sorts of announcements usually pertain to a) hallway sweeps where presumably serial wanderers are "swept up" only to be disposed of? returned to where they belong? subjected to listen to a reel of announcements to learn their lesson? b) tickets to a dance c) the behavior yesterday when it snowed and everyone went batshit crazy d) hallway behavior e) cafeteria behavior f) auditorium behavior and, my personal favorite, e) angry reminders to turn in a stack of forms that could have nicely been handled in an email.

Does that disconnected voice located in a land far far away (aka The Office) not realize what a terrible tone these types of interruptions are to our day? Do they not have email accounts or a bulletin board or some other less public and more quiet vehicle for their rants?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Your Child's Writing Life - A GIVEAWAY

In need of some Back To School inspiration? A little motivation? A little mojo for your flojo! (Don't ask about that last one, I thought I had a thing going...)

I recently previewed a copy of Pam Allyn's latest book Your Child's Writing Life and while it is written primarily for parents, it is just the ticket to start your teacher engines. Plus, there's a ton of great information and ideas about how to get your newest little friends totally jazzed about writing. (I'm talking about some ideas to sharpen up your current workshop, some tools to help you remember what's truly important when it comes to the teaching of writing - here's a hint: it's not all about passing The Test - plus some great titles you may want to add to your repertoire. Can you say "jackpot"?)

As I was reading this book, I couldn't help but think of my own writing life. I didn't always love to write. Back in my school days, we rarely wrote except to answer comprehension questions or respond to a very structured prompt. Some day remind me to tell you about the first time I was asked to truly WRITE something in high school. It may have involved some shoe throwing, a temper tantrum and Big Mama Mimi having to Lay Down The Law. But look at me now! Blogger, author, frequent user of the term "douche bag"! I mean, could Big Mama Mimi be any more proud? The point is, I did not know what it was like to truly experience the joy of writing the written word. Cut to my student teaching experience. The teacher had children freely creating and writing their own stories. About whatever they wanted. And I was all, "Where do the five paragraphs go? You mean these kids are totally free balling it? That's madness?!" And then I was genius.

A few years later, in my own classroom, there was no formal writing curriculum. Wait, there was no writing curriculum. So what did The Mimi do? The Mimi squeezed in a Writer's Workshop every day, closed the door and kept her mouth shut. We just went with it, writing what came to us and learning along the way. To this day, the freedom and love of writing I experienced with those kids are some of my greatest teaching memories. Ten years later, when I was still in the same classroom teaching Writer's Workshop, a former student from that year came back to visit me. He had been one of my most favorite (and most infamous) Naughty Boys. Seriously, boyfriend had some crazy frenetic energy! Except during writing- when we wrote he channeled all that energy into his work. Granted, his toes were usually tapping, bit he was definitely into it. During his visit, he gave me a CD filled with his own original rap music. He wrote the music, he wrote the words, he did it all himself. One track in particular was like a thank you letter to me for teaching him to love writing and tell his life in his own words.


I had this friend in my head and my heart as I read Pam's book. If you like my story, you'll love the stories that pepper Pam's book. She shares beautiful and touching moments from her own classroom as well as from the classrooms has visited around the country and around the globe.

A quote from Pam's book that's going on my cork board at home:

"Let us influence our children to fall so in love with words and stories and ideas that they can't help but want to put them somewhere, like little treasures."

Isn't this what we all want for our little friends? Isn't this what learning to write is all about? Isn't this so much more inspiring than focusing on some test as the end goal? And won't our friends be better writers, citizens of the world and, yes, better test takers, if we allow them the time and space to just write?

I'm lucky enough to be able to giveaway a copy of this fabulous book to one of you lovely readers. Ready for the rules?

* The giveaway begins today and runs through next Friday, August 19th.
* You can enter the giveaway as many times as your heart desires.
* To enter, simply respond in the comments section to one of these creative prompts pulled right from Pam's book:

Write about the safest place in the world to soothe scaredness.

Write about one of your favorite recipes, maybe with a description of the food.

What do you most want to change in the world? What is one thing you could do toward this?

Your entries don't have to be long, just long enough to flex those creative writing muscles! A sentence or two will do or you can really let her rip.

I'll use a random number generator to pick the winner to be fair.

On your marks, get set, WRITE!

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