I retired from teaching at the end of the 2013-14 school year. I spent the last nine years of my teaching career in 6th grade where I taught Language Arts and Social Studies. I'm an avid reader, a lover of learning, and a fledgling writer.
When the checker at Starbuck's called me by name on Saturday, I was shocked. I'm an infrequent Saturday morning hot chocolate drinker. I was shocked and impressed. How did she manage to remember my name?
And then she told me about her 3rd grade teacher who recently saw her and said, "Hello, Samantha!" Samantha was surprised that she would remember her name nearly two decades later. I'm rotten at remembering names. It's why I always told my students to stick out their hand for a handshake and say, "Hi, I'm ... " whenever they see me in the future. I told them that would allow me to relax and enjoy our conversation without searching my brain for their name.
This encounter with Samantha on Saturday led me to think about my ongoing attempts to declutter my teaching files. Yes, I know I retired five years ago. This task is ongoing and long overdue. I started in the Language Arts drawer, but soon realized that the Social Studies files would be easier to part with. I loved teaching both subjects, but literacy is where my heart is.
Many of the files were of project-based learning and while it was easy to part with the stacks of informational pages, the hardest task was parting with student samples. Names on papers circled in my head before landing in the bin. I felt somewhat like Miss Nancy on Romper Room. Only instead of looking in the magic mirror, I was looking in the recycle bin. Here are just a few of the names I can recall from sample papers I recycled! "I see Abbie, and Jeremy, and Priya, and Joshua. And there's Namya, and Nick, and Kylie, and Aaron. I see Rachel, and Charles, and Lauren, and Shawn. And there's Max, and Samy, and Collin, and Kajal. I see Nora, and Issac, and Homa, and Mariam. And there is Michi, and Brendan, and Margaret, and Dylan and Linh."
I'd better stop before I make you listen to all 500+ names of my former students. I'm rotten at remembering names, but their 6th grade faces are forever imprinted on my heart which makes throwing their papers in the recycle bin a bit easier.
It's my dream job. Just hanging around a bookstore (or a library) recommending books to other people. I know booksellers and librarians do lots more than this, but this is what I would want to do if I worked in a bookstore or a library.
I was in Island Books, our local independent bookstore, when I heard a voice, "Of course, Ramona is here!" After adding to the stack of choices for our Tween Book Club's August read, I stepped up to this individual (whom I hadn't recognized) and asked, "What did you mean by the comment? 'Of course, Ramona's here.'"
As she reassured me that a bookstore was a perfectly logical place to encounter me, I recalled that she teaches at our middle school (I always have trouble placing folks when I see them out of context). She shared that she will have three foster daughters arriving at her home soon. And just like that, I stepped into my dream job to scan shelves and share titles with her. It was a perfectly delightful way to spend part of a summer day!
I'm an inveterate library user. I think it's safe to say that I make it to our public library more than once a week. As the books I want to read always outnumber my ability to get them read, I've started using two tools more frequently that are offered through KCLS (King County Library System).
One is the For Later Shelf. I no longer keep lists of books I want to read. If I read a review or a blog post that piques my interest, I'll add it to my For Later Shelf. I currently have 71 titles on that shelf.
The other is a button that I can use, "Pause Hold." This allows me to put a pause on books that I've placed on hold. It still maintains my place in the queue, and I can unpause the hold whenever I'm ready. My strategy is to put the last day of the month as the pause until date. Then I try to look at my paused holds near the end of the month to determine if I'm ready to read any of them. If I'm not ready, I change the date to the end of the next month. When I reviewed the titles at the end of June, I unpaused a few and left nine there until the end of July when I'll review them again.
You would think that with these two tools I would have a manageable number of books checked out, but I still end up with more on my plate than I can possibly finish. I currently have 39 items checked out, but let me break those down for you:
21 are picture books - I read them first and then pass some along to grandsons Jack & Robby. Most of these are books that I request from book reviews and mentions by fellow bloggers. Here's a new favorite I just picked up yesterday from my holds shelf: On the Night of the Shooting Star by Amy Hest. (Check my upcoming Poetry Friday post for two new poetry picture books I adore.)
5 are middle grade books - My favorite genre of books to read... Am I just a grownup who never left middle school? Could it have something to do with the fact that I taught this age group for fourteen years? And that five years after retirement, I still lead a middle school book club? We're reading Kate Messner's Breakout for our July meeting. And the next two I want to read are The Bridge Home (this year's middle school choice for Global Read Aloud) by Padma Venkatrama and A Kind of Paradise (a book for lovers of books and libraries) by Amy Rebecca Tan.
8 are nonfiction - I'm currently reading Cathy Guisewite's Fifty Things that Aren't My Fault: Essays from the Grown-up Years and Habit Stacking by S. J. Scott. I'm having fun browsing Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount. It will live on my coffee table until it's due and I have to return it.
3 are Choice Reads books - Choice Reads are the candy store books! Our library describes them as "a quick, browsing collection of uncataloged paperbacks that are also represented in our cataloged collection." They are displayed with covers out and I always stop to shop this display. My current choices include Glory Road by Lauren K. Denton, Extinctions by Josephine Wilson, and The Forgiving Kind by Donna Everhart. And no, I won't get them all read, but it's fun to try.
2 are library book bags - They are checked out to us for a year at a time and one of them is overdue. Do they charge me a late fee for that? I'm headed in tomorrow with book bag in hand.
It's safe to say that I will never run out of books I want to read. And isn't that a lovely prospect?
I requested the book several months ago, but the holds list was several hundred patrons long. I despaired of ever coming to the top of the list. And then this month, it finally arrived on my holds shelf! I haven't had time to read it cover to cover yet. But I've flipped through its pages, marveled at the art, delighted in the words and reached an important decision. This is a book that I must own! (In spite of the fact that we are constantly striving to whittle down our massive collection of books.)
And so today, I bring you a few excerpts from the poetic entries in these letters to a young reader to whet your appetite and send you to your nearest indie bookstore.
"Stories become our well-worn pathways, and our companions, too." "Dear Spacetime Traveler" by Lucianne Walkowicz
"It's lovely to read in the bathtub (but be careful the book doesn't slip)! "Great Places to Read Books" by Sarah Kay (I'm hoping to locate a print of Lisa D"Andrea's charming illustration for this poem.)
"But once it comes to rest In the nest of your hands The book is a bird" "To a Reader" by Matthew Burgess
"To read is a skill, a blessing, an invitation, an opportunity." "To the Open Minds of Tomorrow" by Aaron Koblin
"I stopped being lonely I met myself everywhere I got lost I got found" "Dear Readers" by Eve Ensler
"You become part of it- your fingerprints on the paper; your sneeze Your DNA Your lunch. ..." "Instructions Included" by Dona Ann McAdams
"A guide, a balm, a touchstone, a totem Nothing can beat a good book as companion." "A Book is a Magic Carpet" by Shirley Manson
"Books don't teach us about life, they just call forth what our mind suspects, our heart hopes, and our spirit knows to be true." "The world is alive, generous," by Tom De Blasis
"No other dragon watches curled Around such riches as are mine, My Word-hoard, my dear Library: For every book contains a world!" "Dear Reader" by Ursula K. Le Guin
It's a book meant to be savored slowly and reopened frequently. It's a book for those who delight in the written word and inviting images. It's a book that I believe belongs on your shelf!
I've met monthly for book club with a group of middle school students this past year. We started the year by reading Mock Newbery possibilities and then moved to March Book Madness titles after the Newbery was announced in January. We took a couple of months off while I was traveling and enjoying the arrival of my new grandson.
Last month, I asked the book club members if they would like to have a meeting before school was out. They were definitely interested. I thought it would be fun to feature titles set in summer or with summer in their titles for this final meeting of the school year. Unfortunately, only three titles (of the many I requested) arrived before our meeting in June. We planned to select a title for our July meeting from these titles. We meet at the public library during July and August.
The Summer of May - "An angry thirteen-year-old girl and her hated English teacher spend a summer school class together, learning surprising things about each other." (Follett)
Summer at Forsaken Lake - "Twelve-year-old Nicholas and his ten-year-old, twin sisters, Hetty and Haley, spend the summer with their Great-Uncle Nick at Forsaken Lake, where he and their new friend Charlie investigate the truth about an accident involving their families many years before." (Follett)
Cosmic - "Twelve-year-old Liam, tall for his age, is often mistaken for an adult, a fact that he uses when he finds himself in a group of children on the first manned spacecraft since Apollo 17. When things go wrong, some quick thinking by the kids averts a disaster. Likable characters, gentle humor, and the far-fetched adventure will hold readers' attention." (Horn Book Guide)
Our group selected Summer at Forsaken Lake, but when I discovered that it wasn't readily available in paperback we switched to Kate Messner's Breakout which just became available in paperback this month.
"In sleepy Wolf Creek, New York, a prison breakout sets the community on edge and brings racial tensions to the surface. Messner tells the story through letters, transcriptions, newspaper articles, and other items the three girl protagonists gather for a school time-capsule assignment. Doses of humor and details about the main characters' everyday lives help leaven the story, which delivers timely and relevant messages." (Horn Book Guide)
The day after our book club meeting, ten more books arrived on my holds shelf at the library. And because I can't resist sharing these books with someone, I decided to write this post. If you're in search of a good middle grade summer read, here's a pic of the stack of titles I picked up. I stacked them in order of publication dates with the oldest publication on top to the more recent titles on the bottom. I've read two of these titles, My Life as a Book and Three Times Lucky (click on the title for my 2012 review).
You may notice an excellent summer title, The Penderwicks, absent from the stack. I didn't include it because most of my book club members have already read it and loved it. I'm adding The Girls of Firefly Cabin which I just read about on Jana's #IMWAYR post. And one more title that I carried upstairs to read because it's about summer and a teen who has to spend her summer vacation volunteering at the library, A Kind of Paradise.
Happy summer reading! If you have a favorite middle grade summer read or if you've read some I've shared and want to recommend them to my book club members, let me know in the comments.
I've been absent from this group for a few weeks, but I had to show up today to celebrate our newest US Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo, a member of the Mvskoke Creek Nation and our first Native American poet laureate. As a fellow Oklahoman, I feel a connection to her since I have roots in Oklahoma too.
"In an interview with Laura Coltelli in Winged Words: American Indian Writers Speak, Harjo shared the creative process behind her poetry: 'I begin with the seed of an emotion, a place, and then move from there… I no longer see the poem as an ending point, perhaps more the end of a journey, an often long journey that can begin years earlier, say with the blur of the memory of the sun on someone’s cheek, a certain smell, an ache, and will culminate years later in a poem, sifted through a point, a lake in my heart through which language must come.'" I love the idea that a poem can be the end of a long journey that may have begun years earlier.
"Perhaps the World Ends Here," one of several favorites by Joy Harjo, speaks of the importance of the kitchen table: "At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks." It makes me think of the hours I've spent around a kitchen table. You can explore more poems by Joy Harjo here. I look forward to her time as our US Poet Laureate and seeing what she will do as she serves in this position.
One of my favorite things to do each summer is to pick out my new planner. I'm one of those folks who loves to purchase a planner that begins in July and ends in June. Maybe it's from all my years of teaching or maybe it's because I like a fresh start in the summer.
For the last several years, I've purchased a Day Designer calendar. I love the pocket that's near the front, perfect for coupons. I love the two page spread for each month with a space for Notes & To-Do, and the inclusion of the prior month's calendar and the upcoming month as well. I like the two page spread for each week, with a space for This Week's Top Three (perfect for goal setting), the lines provided for each day's plans, and the daily To-Do list with boxes for checking things off.
As you can see, I have the ALMOST perfect planner! But, every year about this time, I get cranky with my planner. I NEED calendar pages for the three months ahead (July, August, and September). It's not yet time for my new calendar, but most of the events I want and need to enter are for future months.
I was totally excited when I picked up my new planner to see a bonus feature of two additional months. Hurray! They have finally seen the light and next year, I'll have the July and August planning pages as I near the end of my planner. But wait! The bonus month pages are for May and June of 2019. Now why would I want the previous two months when I start using my new planner in July???
While I was writing this post, I hit upon my own solution to this problem. I'll copy the July and August monthly planning pages from my new planner and glue them onto some of my blank note pages in the back of my current planner. But please, Day Designer, could you include those months in my 2020/2021 planner? It would make this satisfied customer extremely happy!
It's the first Thursday of the month and time to show up with my friends for Spiritual Journey First Thursday. I'm hosting this month and our theme is connection.
June 6th is a significant day.
Yes, it's D-day and this year marks the 75th anniversary.
It's also the day my parents married, June 6, 1941.
And it's also the day my dad died, June 6, 1980,
on their 39th wedding anniversary.
And so I chose significance as my theme for this month.
But each of these significant dates
(except for D-day) is highly personal.
So I switched our word for June to connection,
a significant word for our spiritual journeys.
Of course the first thing that comes to mind is connecting with God. And there are many ways that can happen. For some of us it occurs in daily quiet time and prayer. "Be still and know that I am God," is one of my favorite passages of scripture. Sometimes it happens when we are amazed by the glory of nature.
Sometimes it happens when we recognize the hand of God in our lives. This happened last month when I was in Texas helping my older sister move into her new home. We had just completed a shopping expedition to Target. She was exiting the mobile chair she used to navigate the aisles and the parking lot. I was getting into my seat on the passenger side of the car when I heard her call out, "Oh no, I'm falling." I couldn't get there in time to help. By the time I came around the car, there she was, on the ground, legs splayed in front of her. When someone stopped to ask how she could help, I sent her into Target to ask for assistance.
Suddenly, a man stepped over from the next row of parked cars and said, "I can pick her up." I immediately replied, "No, you can't. Someone is coming from Target to help us. Wait for someone else to help you." But he insisted that he could pick her up. Sliding his arms under her armpits, he lifted her up and held her there briefly while she gained her footing. I truly believe that the Lord was looking out for us that day and sent this man to help us. I'm sure that Target would have insisted that we wait for an ambulance. I still have no idea how he was able to lift her from a seated position on the ground, but he did. And I believe he was there at that time for a reason. He was our angel.
Another way that we connect with God is when we trust in Him, when we trust in the power of faith to overcome fear and worry. I love this verse, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." Anne Lamott says it this way: "...we do the next right thing. We tell the truth. ... We remember mustard seeds, that the littlest things will have great results. We do the smallest, realest, most human things. We water that which is dry." We connect with God and then we draw on His power.
If you're interested, here's a post I discovered when I googled connect with God. You take a quiz to discover your worship personality and then you're directed to a variety of ways to connect with God via your particular worship personality.
I'm looking forward to reading your posts about connection. Leave a comment with your link and I'll round up the posts. (Sorry, I don't know how to use Mr. Linky.)
I used to participate in a weekly celebrate post. When our group evaporated, I decided to do a monthly celebrate post. I knew I had two months to write about, but a look back at my blog revealed that it's been three months since I celebrated.