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 today...call 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 desks...so 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 porn...pics 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 realized...it 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!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Be Still My Nerdy Little Heart

Holy crap, you guys. I am going to wave my nerd flag today and I'm going to wave it proud. Seriously, where is that flag? Did I forget to pack it?

The Mimi family is currently living it up West coast style while visiting family. (To my East coast self, "living it up West coast style" involves waking at 5 am, eating many avocados, always wearing flip flops and peppering my conversation with language such as "dude" and "stoked". Other than that, methinks I stand out like a sore NYC thumb. Must be all the grit....)

Anyhow, we are in CA which means we recently survived a five and a half hour flight with a mobile and increasingly opinionated 14 month old. (Read: worked like dogs to keep the Mini entertained, fantasizes about wine post bedtime and were asleep by 9.). In true Mimi fashion, the list making began weeks ago. What To Pack lists, Food To Bring lists, Quiet But Entertaining Toys That Fit In An Overhead Compartment Sized Bag lists. At the top of that last list? BOOKS. My girl loves her some books. Literally,Where Is The Green Sheep is worn to bits and I have several of Sandra Boynton's greatest hits now committed to memory for the rest of my life. (Seriously, I do a mean oral story telling of But Not the Hippopotamus. Kills every time. Every. Time.)

Needless to say, we brought all her faves including Cat, which is big, but, if you ask Mini Mimi, is pure genius. Odyssey Shmodyssey. (Click here if you have a toddler and want a few minutes of happy page flipping. ANY momma/teacher worth her salt can, at the very least, clean a bathroom, start dinner, check her email and make a work call during those fleeting moments. We are like the most productive beings on the planet. On crack.)

Also in our arsenal was a lift-the-flap book filled with babies doing various baby things. One picture shows a little boy playing peekaboo with his Blankie. Mind you, we have looked at this book three hojillion times and never has this happened before. Never.

Are you ready for this?

My girl made a text to self connection!!!

Nerd alert!

Granted, it was not the deepest of connections, but it was a start, people. Basically, she stared at the page for a long time. Then she pointed at the baby's Blankie and looked at me. Then she pointed at her Blankie and looked at me. Then the baby's Blankie. Then her Blankie. Baby's Blankie. Her Blankie.

Here's my imagined version of what went down:

Mini: Hey mama, look! That baby has a Blankie and I have a Blankie!
Me: You're right, sweetheart. You do both have a Blankie.
Mini: That baby's Blankie must make the little boy feel safe, because my Blankie makes me feel safe and happy.
Me: (tearing up) Yes, honey, I bet it does.

What really went down:
Me: Mr. Mimi! Oh my God! I think she just made her first text to self connection.
Mr. Mimi: Her what?
Me: Text to self connection....it's when a reader notices something in a text...are you even listening?
Mr. Mimi:
Me: Hello?
Mr. Mimi: You're a dork.
Me: Um, noted. But this is HUGE.
Mr. Mimi: Just tell me what she did in non-teacher talk.
Me: She pointed at the baby's Blankie and then pointed at her Blankie.
Mr. Mimi: Genius.

I'm chalking his reaction up to a long flight.

Regardless, be still my nerdy little heart.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Happy National Book Lovers Day!

Alternative Title for this post - A Day That Fuels My Addiction To Children's Books: A Co-Dependent Celebration

I think I have truly earned the title of Book Lover. In fact, becoming a mommy to the Mini has taught me just how much I love books. Not only does my heart sing when I see her spending time in books, I never anticipated how much I would miss reading books myself. (Can you say "bye bye" to free time?) I find myself actually clamoring for ways to spend time in a book, catching up on my blogs, checking out a mag...anything!

A small story.

I'm in my local Barnsey. I'm with Mini Mimi who loves books but is also All. Over. The. Place. Luxuriously browsing? Uh, no.

As I take my little friend out of her stroller to check out some books together, I notice a gorgeous display of new picture books. I crane to see some titles while unstrapping. I push my never-the-same mommy brain to remember said titles. I squint to see the books on the bottom shelf as I watch Mini Mimi begin to move farther and farther down the aisle.


I scoop up my friend, swallow that inner voice that is telling me I am flying my Freak Flag waaaaay too prominently, take out my phone and take several pictures of all the shelves so that I can look them up online while Mini is sleeping.

True story. Aside from a few strange glances, can I just say, "winning?"

I hear a lot of people poo poo the e-reader. (Yes, I just said "poo poo.") They say that there's nothing like the feel of a book. Well, as someone who has no time for anything, I can say that in my world there's nothing like the time or luxury of reading, no matter what it's on. Seriously - I'd read the latest Jennifer Weiner if it was printed on baby wipes! (New business idea for moms??) Do I love the feel of a brand new, shiny picture book? CLEARLY! Do I like the look of my beloved books stacked neatly in bookshelves? SO MUCH THAT I FANTASIZE ABOUT BUILT IN BOOK SHELVES IN MY DREAM HOUSE!

But when it gets right down to it, do I just love to read? Yes. Do I want Mini Mimi to love to read? Do I care if my students are reading a magazine, a take out menu, a graphic novel or a piece of non-fiction? No. I care if they love reading and can really DO reading, if you know what I mean.

I think it will be a long time before schools do away with books. I work in some schools that don't have enough books - why would anyone think they would suddenly have the funds for an e-reader for each and every child? (I mean, if schools buy e-readers for kids before they buy pencils, I just might scream, so there's that.)

In honor of this fabulous day (in the midst of so many gloomy ones for us educators...can you even stand to watch the news these days?), let's share a title or two to kick of the new year. Any faves? Books you can't live without? Books you want to celebrate? (Pssst...I procrastinated for a solid 20 minutes and created this board over at Pinterest. Also a true story.)

Monday, August 8, 2011

We've Lost Our Way

I want to pull my hair out. I want to scream and stomp my feet. I want people to stop asking me what I think about "those terrible cheating teachers" and do I think that's "typical behavior?"

I mean, a girl can only take so much before a girl punches the next person who asks her in the throat.

I used to be a waitress. Back in my early 20s, cocktail waitressing brought in some serious cha-ching for a budding shoe obsession. If you've ever worked in a bar, you know that there is this weird little subculture of bar folk. (Ever read Waiter Rant?) At the time, I was working on my master's degree and, therefore, well aware of life outside of this particular bar. Yet, before long, filling the ketchups became the bain of my existence, the atypical lunch rush was worth talking about for days and Oh. My. God. Did you hear about how the brunch staff totally shorted the bus boys when it came time to tip people out?! What bar tender worked my shifts, and who made more tips than whom quickly became the center of my universe. More tips meant I was good at my job. More tips meant that I had a certain level of value. More tables meant more tips. Over seating my own section to get more table to get more tips no longer bothered me and the new girl can just suck it. Sneaking in a gratuity charge and not mentioning it to the table in the hopes that they would end up double tipping? No biggie. Who cares? I ended up with more tips, didn't I?

Am I not drawing a clear enough parallel? When you narrow the definition of success and then incentivize people and/or scare the shit out of people by threats of mass firings and nasty labels all of which are connected to this narrow little definition people will do jacked up things. Friends, I lost track of the bigger picture when I was slinging drinks...ya think it could happen to people who are doing their best to educate children in some crazy constricting circumstances?

In a nutshell - stop blaming the teachers! Should the teachers of Atlanta and Lord knows where else have erased children's answers? No. Should we tolerate that sort of behavior? No. But taking a very surface-y stance to this problem is NOT AN OPTION. If you think those teachers were doing their students a disservice by changing their answers, than imagine the disservice that may be done to the education system if the buck stops there.

From the Huffington Post - "The Atlanta report's conclusion that cheating resulted from a culture of fear, one spurred by rising test-score targets, fuels the argument that policies determined by test scores provide perverse incentives that are not in the best interests of students."

Can you imagine the conditions these poor teachers were working under? Can you imagine what it must have been like to drive people to do something like this?

Also from the Huffington Post - "'To be sure, there are lessons to be learned from these jarring incidents, but the existence of cheating says nothing about the merits of testing,' Duncan wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Post."

It's says nothing about the merits of testing because THERE ARE NO MERITS TO TEST THAT ARE THIS HIGH STAKES.

Can I throw a "dumb ass" on the end of that last statement or is that too much?

ENOUGH WITH THE TESTING! The thought that these situations have come to light and there are still people who are waving around those freaking ScanTron sheets shouting about the integrity of their precious data makes me want to poke myself in the eye, quit education and go get a job naming nail polish colors.

What about the integrity of education? What about the integrity of the work of teachers? It's amazing to me that politicians can set standards, impose insane amounts of testing in the name of accountability, tell us how to do our jobs and then when it all falls apart, still claim that their way was the right way and take no responsibility.

Is ignorance really that blissful?

Monday, August 1, 2011

One Of My Few Regrets...

Friends, Mrs. Mimi tends to say it like it is.  Or at least, I say it how I see it.  And, so far, I don't have many regrets.  UNTIL....the Save Our Schools march came along. 


You may have noticed that posting around here has been pretty sparse, sometimes bordering on non-existent.  These periods of silence are usually followed up with long rambly posts in which I apologize and promise to do better.  Cue a few more weeks with no posting and there you have it- my own personal shame spiral.

Few things mean more to me than the welfare of teachers and their ability to create dynamic, nourishing environments for their students.  I will support the shit out of you for the rest of my blogging days because, at my core, I AM A TEACHER.  Teaching has always come first for me....my little beloved friends, my Super Colleagues, my work in classrooms.  And then I had a baby.

Holy that-kicked-my-ass, Batman!

Mini Mimi is amazing.  But with her came the adjustment of a lifetime.  Within the last year(ish) I became Mommy Mimi, Dr. Mimi and ventured out of the classroom to work more closely with teachers.  Can you say, "Too many balls in the air?"  Okay, maybe not too many balls, really just too many NEW balls combined with a host of old ones.  (Did anyone else just hear me compare blogging to "old balls?"  Was that out loud?  I think you know what I mean though.)  Clearly, it has taken me awhile to get all the pieces to fit together in a way that doesn't have me routinely screaming into my pillow and/or lying on the floor paralyzed by my giant and multifaceted (albeit organized and color coded) To Do List.

This is a long way of saying I totally missed out on the Save Our Schools March and DAMN!  Was that shit up my alley!  I heard about it, read a bit about it but was so overwhelmed that I guess it just never went in.  And then, when I decided to scroll through old emails (and realized that one should really never let one's email go because then one is assaulted by an inbox so full that it really could merit a place on The Biggest Loser), I saw it.  My email invitation to join the movement, to speak, to promote, to be a part of this amazing event.


But it was already too late.  I had a new ball that dropped when I wasn't even looking.  I feel like I've let you all down.

Thank goodness for people with their shite together (such as Valerie Strauss) who posted about the event here.  Word on the street is Matt Damon brought down the house.  While he is not an educator, he is a lover of educators and because he is crazy famous, maybe someone will listen to him.  Plus, he's not so hard on the eyes.  Even bald.  You can watch him speak here or read a transcript of his speech here.  I'm going to be trying desperately to catch up on ALL THAT I MISSED, so stay tuned via my Facey page or Twitter for more. 

In my heart, I am hoping against hope that it is not too late for me to find a place within this amazing, inspirational movement of brilliant educators.  No regrets, right?

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