Tuesday, March 31, 2015

For the love of blogging...

I am SO in love with blogging. I am also so thankful for my sweet friend Tenille for just simply asking, in a very nonthreatening way :), to be a part of the Slice of Life Challenge. Without even thinking what might happen, I jumped right in and never looked back. I believe this experience has made me a better writer. Well, maybe not better, more reflective. I appreciate a lot about my profession in ways I haven't before. Here are some examples...
1. The last few days I have spent a ridiculous amount of time assessing how I feel about our state assessments. I have decided that I am going to appreciate them for what they are: a snapshot of a moment in time. Are they imperfect? Absolutely. But guess what, so am I. So is everyone that I can think of. It isn't ideal, but it is what it is...
2. I appreciate the test writers. Here is why. They are people. They are doing the best they can. If I were in their shoes, I would hate my job. The funny thing is this. We (teachers) get so upset when we have parents who belittle us or say mean and rude things to us, but so often during the testing season, we turn around and do it to our fellow educators who are trying their best to write something that may be flawed, but the best they have to offer.
3. I appreciate my school more than I every dreamed I did. That sounds like a given to anyone who knows anything about Hawk Elementary. It is the most amazing campus I could hope to be a member of. (Yes, I know I ended with a preposition) My colleagues are learners; my administrators are warriors; my families are amazing; and my students are daredevils.
4. My teammate is the best teaching partner I could hope to have. She is thoughtful, funny, smart as a whip, and truly caring for all of our students, past, present and future. I didn't really have to be reflective on this one. I have known it for the 4 years we have worked together sharing those students and creating good citizens, kind humans, and well educated kids!
5. My Do the Write Thing team makes me laugh and challenges me to think more deeply about my instruction and be more reflective on my practices and what I truly believe to be what is in the best interest of my students and my fellow educators. I am constantly reflecting on the time I spend in their company. Having rich conversation is what helps me to learn and grow to be better.

That's a lot! I guess what I am getting around to is to say that I don't think I will quit my blog after midnight tonight. I find this platform as a really great space for me to share my thinking, imperfect as it is, and be accountable to myself, my family, my school, and my community. This month has ROCKED!

Tara Reed

Monday, March 30, 2015

Active Monitoring? - Day 30

After school today, I was charged with an opportunity to actively  monitor my Brody with his newly acquired skill of riding his bike with no training wheels (all day at school, I was actively monitoring our state writing assessment). Today he was working on getting the left pedal in the best position to start off on his own. In this monitoring opportunity, I shouted my encouragement and offered feedback on what he needed to do next in order to be successful. The little girl down the street was riding her bike alongside him, and she was the strong sample Brody needed to help him on his quest for independence. Time after time, Brody would look to me to provide him with feedback which he would then put into practice. Eventually, he did it!!! It was fun to be a part of his excitement in learning this new skill. The smile he shared upon success made my heart sing.

This process of allowing the student to be in charge of the learning, while staying alongside offering that strong sample and providing feedback to move the learner along until they achieve success is what I try and do with my students on a daily basis. It wasn't easy to keep my enthusiasm when I had given Brody feedback time and time again, only to have him fall one more time. However, I know it was much more stressful for him.

I believe in this model. I think the only way to ensure student success at anything new is to take the time to offer them ample opportunity to practice and become more confident in their abilities. Our students are much more able than we tend to give them credit for being. I know I am often quicker than I should be to offer the answer that I am expecting, rather than waiting for the student to create that learning on their own. 

Perhaps my active monitoring should be more with my own practice. I enjoy looking at the strong samples of my very intelligent and passionate colleagues. I appreciate when I receive feedback on ways to improve my craft, and I seek opportunities to practice what I learn to develop independence. After all, I am a learner too!!

Tara Reed      

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Day 29 - Targets

I spend a lot of time thinking about learning targets. When I originally started out creating learning targets for my students, I thought of it more as a tool that was similar to their assignment sheet (the place where they house what we did in class that day). Looking back over the last few years, I realize how much my view of those learning targets has changed. While I know it is still a work in progress, I do feel like I am making progress in my own understanding of the purpose of a learning target. I know that posting clear targets for my students allows them not only to know what we are doing but also to give them something to think about and offer a goal for where they will be at the end of the learning (hopefully including transfer!).

I am very fortunate at my school to have an administrator who is an expert on how learning targets should be created and used in the classroom. We have spent time as a campus working collaboratively to determine what the best targets have in them and how to use them effectively in the classroom. I believe that my students are better learners when they know what to expect. I know that in my own professional development, I am better able to attend to the learning at hand when I know what my end result with be. I see the benefit of having that target in mind along the way to use as my guide and help me determine where I am in relation to that target. I want the same for my students. I believe they are better equipped to focus on what is to be learned when they aren't worrying about what is coming up next and how it affects them personally.

This week (Monday and Tuesday) my fourth graders will take their state assessment in writing. What will my learning target look like? I am still thinking about that one. I have 13+ hours to figure that one out. :)

Do you post learning targets in your classroom? If so, what do those targets look like?

Tara Reed

Friday, March 27, 2015


Today is my mom's birthday. I am so thankful for her. I would be lost without her guidance over the years. Just like a little kid, I'm pretty sure my mom is the best of all moms. I hope I am half the woman she is. 

Happy Birthday Mom! Thanks for being you!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Day 26 - Thankful for smiles

Today was a tough day in 4th grade. It seemed like for every step forward, I was taking one back. I'm not a fan of days like that. I was so very thankful today for smiles. So I decided to describe the smiles I encountered on this glorious day God has given me.

First up was the smile that came from my 6 year old as I offered him a piggy back ride down the stairs. I didn't realize I would need to store this smile for later, but I'm glad I did!

Next came the smile from a very sweet little girl I met with early this morning. She came in grinning and happy to see me. Thank you, Avery, for giving that smile to start the school day.

Another awesome smile came from the best teammate ever. Her smile came during one of those moments when we were very seriously talking to a child and trying to make the other one break into a grin and lighten the mood. Thank the teaching gods for Melissa.

The shy smile of a student who wanted to know if she could share a great book series she discovered. Yes please!!!! Now I have a new book to check out from the library!!!!

When the storms come, I want to choose to be thankful for something. Today, I am thankful for smiles!

Tara Reed

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Roger the gerbil - Day 25

Roger the gerbil has been my class pet for 4 years. Over that time, he has seen lots of great kids come and go. Unfortunately, Roger died right before spring break. It was a sad time for the kiddos in the Reed Group. Each year, my zookeeper takes his/her job very seriously. They realize the importance of being the one in charge of feeding Roger and making sure he has water. This job is in high demand at the beginning of the year. This year my zoopkeeper has been a sweet boy named John Mark. He even had the honor of taking Roger home with him over Christmas break! As you may remember, we have been studying poetry for a couple of weeks, and the kids have been writing their own poems too! John Mark wrote a poem about Roger. Coincidentally, it was the day before Roger died.  I wanted to share John Mark's tribute to Roger. I think it shows how loving and observant these kids are.


I love Roger the little fuzzy ball.
He doesn't seem to mind that I'm here at all.
He always seems to have a hatred for his wheel
And for some strange reason he has a particular squeal.

He always moves his bedding and all
But hates it when his food level falls.
He is picky when he eats his food
But it makes him have a very good mood.

I am so thankful to have this reminder of Roger and his quirks. It seems ironic that this particular poem came the day before we said goodbye to our old friend.

Tara Reed

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Inspiration and the Wobble - Day 24

Inspiration is my word for today. I am lacking inspiration. I trolled through blogs of my friends looking for a spark. While I enjoyed spending time reading their words, I just couldn't find my own. So I went through my normal routine. Did anything funny or interesting happen today at school? Not really. It was a pretty typical day. Was there a moment that stood out at home? Not unless I counted a trip to Mr. Frosty's. :) Then it hit me. I want to talk about one of my students. For the sake of the world wide web, I will call him Parker. Every single day Parker comes bebopping down the hall grinning and giggling before the morning bell rings. He runs the last few steps to fall into my outstretched arms for a good morning hug. His expectations for the day are simple: It will be awesome! I happened to catch a moment today when Parker was just doing his thing. He doesn't really enjoy having to sit in his seat all day, so there are times when the music in his body overtakes him and he has to get it out. Today did not disappoint. He was inspired! As I looked his way, he began to embark upon a breakdance that would rival that of Usher himself. As he bopped and grooved, it was apparent that he was in his element. When I was pretty sure it couldn't get any better, Mr. Parker did the Wobble! If only I had been holding my camera! Once the moment passed, he went on about his business like nothing every happened. This small moment made my day. One of the most endearing qualities about this sweet boy is that no matter what the  day holds, good, bad, or indifferent, it doesn't dampen his expectation for the next day. He just assumes that I mean it when I say that every day is a clean slate. He is pretty secure that I will care for him no matter what happens, and if not, he will Shake it Off (pun intended). Oddly enough, there are lots of days that Parker is my inspiration. Today was one of those days!

Tara Reed

Monday, March 23, 2015

Day 23 - Revitalized!

Spring Break rocks!!! Can anyone disagree with me? It is a great opportunity to relax and spend some much needed time with my family. As anyone who is a teacher knows, you can't help but spend an awful lot of personal time focusing on the students throughout the school year. It is important to have that break to remind me that my own family is the most important part of my life. I have to say, though, that today was a great day. It was a fun day to be a 4th grade teacher. We did some reviewing for next week, but we didn't dwell. I was able to meet with small groups in both writing and reading, and it felt so good. My students were more relaxed than I have seen them in a while. It is so funny that the week before our state assessment, we are more laid back than we were before Spring Break. My kindergartener also told me, in his own sweet way, about how nice his teacher is because she helps him. I think the break was good for him, too.

I was so happy to see my students this morning, and I could tell that most of them returned with a pep in their step. That makes me smile. There were plenty of new haircuts to compliment and battle wounds to fuss over. Each child had a story to tell. What a great opportunity for them to add to their own Slice of Life journals! I can't wait to read them and respond. They love when I give them a note back, and they can see that their audience was interested in their writing.

I'm so glad we came back on a high. I wish it would last for the remainder of the year. Maybe it will... stranger things have happened!

Tara Reed

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Day 21

Day one of basketball was a long one. Our team won both games. It was so fun watching Bre play today, but I am tired. I'll be a better blogger tomorrow, hopefully...

Friday, March 20, 2015

Day 20!! Car trips and memories #sol15

I remember as a child loving to go on trips. My dad would drive us, and I could just sit back and enjoy the ride (or ask every 10 minutes how much farther we had to go). Now things are different...very very different. Today Bre (my 16 year old) and I hit the road for Houston. We started our 200+ mile trip with smiles and laughter. Once we were near Houston, I felt like we would never get there! I just didn't think I could finish the journey. Sharing my day with my daughter, however, was priceless. I know we don't have many of these times left before she is technically grown and Scotty and I are once again packing up one of our babies and waving goodbye.  We committed this year to spending a large part of the summer taking Bre to tournaments around the country. This was a goal of hers (remember her tenacity from yesterday's post?) and we are excited to watch her play on this big stage. Tomorrow is the beginning of a fabulous season of basketball and memories. I'll take a 6 hour car trip (supposed to be 4 1/2) to see her smile and watch her follow her dreams. Go DFW Elite (her Nike team for the summer)!!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Tenacity, Day 19, #sol15

Tenacity is a word I like. It is defined as persistence, determination, or grit. My own definition includes something about having a "stick to it" mentality. I think that in order to do my job effectively, I must be tenacious. I am preaching to my students, and my own children, quite often that if you want to be successful in life, you must be tenacious...there is no other way. The world that our children are growing up in is not necessarily the world we are showing them. Not everyone wins every time. There will be instances when they fail, big time, and that is part of learning and growing into the citizens I hope they become. Throughout these trials and tribulations of growing up, our kids need to realize the benefit of sticking with something and not giving up when it becomes difficult. If we deprive our kids of the lessons learned through hard work and dedication, then what have we taught them really? Each player on my daughter's basketball team had to come to practice one day with their word. Bre chose tenacious. That is who she is. I would love to take credit for this, but I think Scotty is the one who has instilled this is her, actually in all 3 of our kids. They have seen through his example how persistence pays off. I want my students to see, also, how being tenacious will benefit them. They need to believe that anything is possible if they are willing to work hard for it. This is the lesson I want these kids to walk away with from 4th grade... I can, not because someone did it for me, but because I can do it for myself!

Tara Reed

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Confessions of a voracious reader Day 18 #sol15

I love to read. Ask anyone who knows me well, and they will tell you that I enjoy reading a wide variety of genres and talking about the books I read. The smell of a new book is enticing, while the sound of the pages turning makes me smile. I will admit that I do a lot of my reading on my iPad these days, but I much prefer real books. It makes me sad to think about kids who may never develop the enchantment I have with books because of the easy access to an ebook. There is an upside to ebooks, I guess. Kids can have a book in their hands at all times if they are in the vicinity of a mobile device. 

The students in my class are always welcome to bring their own device for reading, but I notice most often that the kids gravitate to book books. Yea! I have iPads loaded with rich literature available for students to checkout during Read to Self, but these kids also seem to enjoy turning the pages in a book. Research has shown that turning those pages helps to internalize learning. My kiddos practice the skill of tracking their thinking in their books, and that is much more fluid with a book in hand. 

I will continue to offer a variety of access to text for my students. I believe it is important to offer my students choice, not only in what they are reading but also in the way they choose to receive the text. I just will not be one of the many educators I hear of who throw so much technology at their students it becomes fake or forced. Our kids deserve authentic experiences with text, and sometimes that means letting them decide - even if that choice is a good old book!

Tara Reed

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

I hate the internet! #sol15

So... it is no secret that I am no technology wizard; however, I hate the internet. First of all, I was unable to blog yesterday due to the fact that our internet service here in my fair city was out. How can the whole internet connection for all of Corinth be out? I find that hard to believe. That, however, is what they said when I went on my phone and tried to figure out the problem. Today, the internet is fixed (again, how can ALL of the internet not work yesterday?). Now, my problem is that I can't work my Satellite tablet/computer/laptop dream piece of equipment... What happened to the days of paper and pencil? At least with paper and pencil, there was no, "Oops, the whole internet is out" or "Sorry, you are not capable of using your laptop". I am not a totally incompetent adult. I have a career, raise 3 children and a husband, manage a home, and maintain a thin layer of sanity while doing these tasks.

My friend, Mandy, teases me and my problem with technology. I just figured out Google docs last year, and it is still mystifying. The Cloud?? Don't even get me started. I am not allowed to talk about it in front of my teenage daughter. She has threatened to throw out any Apple products I own if I don't figure out how to use them properly. I guess my point is, why must everything be so difficult? I want simple. I just want something that works when it is supposed to work and work like it is meant to work. I really don't think that is asking too much. Do you?

Thanks for reading my rant. Sorry for the negativity, but I give up! (not really, I'll be here tomorrow with a new attitude!)

Tara Reed

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Anniversaries #sol15

Do you believe in second chances? I do! If it weren't for second chances, my husband, Scotty, and I would not have shared 12 years of marriage as of today. Sometimes it seems untrue to say we have been together for 12 years. Our story goes all the way back to two young teens learning how to care for someone other than themselves, only to be separated by all that life has to offer. Fast forward 20 years, and we were married :). There are so many reasons I am thankful for Scotty. He chose to spend his life with me and Tripp and Bre, and for that I am eternally thankful. Without him, we wouldn't have Brody who has added so much joy to our already crazy family. One of the main reasons I am thankful for Scotty, however, is that he reminds me to have fun. Sometimes I can take life (and myself) way too seriously. Everyone needs to make good choices, do well in school, be a good friend, be respectful, and so on. Scotty is the one who is there to lighten the mood and remind me that life is meant to enjoy and not always worry so much about the 'rules'!  I am a firm believer that God has a plan for each one of us. I think Scotty and I being married and having a family was God's plan, we just chose to ignore it for a really long time. Happy anniversary, Scotty!!

Tara Reed 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Capes of awesomeness #sol15

Today was fun. Our school has an award for teachers that goes out each week. If you are chosen the Powerful Maverick of the week, you not only get to park in front of the school for a week (woo hoo!), but also you get to wear an awesome glittery CAPE all day on Friday. Who wouldn't love to wear a cape??? This week I was honored by one of my colleagues with the Powerful Maverick award. The very best part was that it was presented by students of mine who had some very sweet things to say. I think the kids loved my cape as much or more than I did! They felt like it was their award too. 

It would be cool if we could all walk around in a cape and feel awesome. I want my students to realize that they are the real Powerful Mavericks. They are the ones who are putting in the work to be the best they can be. Over our spring break next week, I am going to create some sort of mini cape for them and give them to my students before we take our state writing assessment on the 30th and 31st. Maybe that will remind them that they are powerful and capable of flying to the highest places imaginable in their very own awesome and glittery capes of knowledge :)! 

Tara Reed

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Great day for poetry... #sol15

Today was a good day in the Reed Group. You never know what you are going to get right before spring break, but we rocked our day! As I have said previously, we are studying poetry. We have talked about several different forms of poetry and what to look for, different poetry terms, and these brave souls have tried their hands at writing poetry. Today we began to shift our focus to analyzing poetry. This is a super hard part of being a fourth grader. I must admit that I was not feeling excitement in my gut at the thought of tackling this mountain. Well, let me tell you what. These wonderful minds really blew me away. They were inferring (deeply, I might add), making connections to articles we had read early in the fall (WHAT!), and talking collaboratively with their peers while defending their opinions about the poet's message. The conversations were rich and full of passion, just like poetry itself. At one point I realized that one of my students who was pretty sure he was going to hate poetry was the one leading the discussion at his table about the reason why the poet decided to write this poem in a shape, rather than stanzas. After I caught my breath, I sat back for a moment and relished in the now. These kiddos didn't need me in their way, they had it under control. They were passionate, yes, but they were respectful of each other and willing to listen. They were quick to defend their thinking, but most of the time willing to at least listen to a differing viewpoint. They were talking about schema and synthesizing their thinking. This time with my students was certainly a great way to get ready for spring break, and I feel like today made a difference!

Tara Reed

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Read to Self #sol15

I have a reading problem. By that, I mean that I am a voracious reader and feel that all other people should be as well. It is unfortunate that my husband and oldest child do not share this love of books. I would love to have long stimulating conversations about books with my husband (like couples in the movies do), but that isn't his thing. He has other interests that are pretty cool too, like hunting and football, and most recently a new Jeep. I am so thankful, however, that I do have friends who share my love of reading. Personally, I enjoy a wide variety of genres. I have an abundance of professional books (one friend calls it my sickness :)), a classroom full of children's books, and an assortment of books on my ipad. Most recently I have been reading either biographies or murder mysteries. In my school district, I train other teachers about best practice in reading instruction. I always tell those teachers that while it is definitely best practice to stay abreast of the latest research and new books on reading instruction and assessment, you also need to have your fun time reading. I am a fiction reader at heart. To be honest, I have always been a sappy fiction reader. To be brutally honest, I am a closet romance novel aficionado. No matter the genre, you just can't beat a good book. There is nothing better than getting lost in a story. I don't even mind the bags under my eyes after staying up way to late to finish another chapter in the book I am reading.

My love of reading is important to me. I want my students to feel the same love of books that I feel. During the school day, we are always talking about books. If I ask my kiddos what my favorite thing is, they would probably answer reading. They often comment that my name is a perfect fit, even if it is misspelled. Sometimes former students will stop in to share what they are reading, so I know that my book love has carried on to some of these kiddos. I wish that all kids loved to read and would grow to be voracious readers. I firmly believe that my job is to help my students find their niche as readers and develop that love at least a little more deeply by the time they leave 4th grade. If I can accomplish that, I have made a difference!

Tara Reed

Monday, March 9, 2015

Day 14 #sol15

Happy Pi Day!!! That is all...

Tara Reed

Change #sol15

Life is full of change. Sometimes we can't wait for the change, like becoming a teenager, your wedding day, or the birth of a child. Other times there are changes that are not as welcome. People say change is good. Change is necessary so we do not become complacent with our lives. I'm not so sure. Change is scary. Venturing out into the unknown takes away the safety and comfort of what we have grown accustomed to in our lives. I know that change is inevitable. I also know that change can be exciting and exhilarating. It can bring with it opportunities that might not have been there before. If you are of the growth mindset, you should grab ahold of change and run with it. Right?? I believe in the power of change.

Tara Reed

Gushing #sol15

I LOVE THE SLICE OF LIFE CHALLENGE! I was so scared to start down this road, and I really do love it!! I enjoy reading different blogs every day and learning new things about my own friends that I didn't know before. This window into the lives of others is really very fascinating. I was reading a post yesterday about a girl's love of nail polish and I was thinking how I felt the same way about the wonderfulness of freshly manicured nails. Another post I read was about a woman who ran over 48 miles in a weekend. WHAT! I couldn't run around the block, I am pretty sure. I know the world is a very diverse place, but it is never more clear than when you can sit at your computer and click on such a wide variety of posts and see other people's thoughts, passions, and just what goes on in other parts of the world. 

I am so thankful to my friends for challenging me and supporting me along the way. You guys make this a worthwhile experience. I would highly recommend it to everyone I know. Take a chance and try something new. You never know what you will learn about yourself or someone else.

Tara Reed

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Sticks and Stones #sol15

I have a problem with the adage, sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. While I know its purpose is to teach children that words can only hurt them if they allow it, it just isn't true. Words have power. Words hold an amazing amount of power. Words change the world for the better and for the worse.  

This morning, I was watching a news story on the march at Selma. I can't even pretend to understand what it took for people to march there. Their bravery and dedication to a cause much larger than themselves is inspiring. While I do not have a personal attachment to that march, it still moves me to tears when I see the images or hear the words surrounding that day. I can't help but wonder if that march would have ever happened without the words of Dr. King and other civil rights activists reminding people of their worth in the world and insisting that a change be made. I know that Dr. King's words changed a nation. That is powerful.

Napoleon Hill, a now deceased author on success, said,"Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another." Those words still ring true today. It is a heavy burden that educators carry with them every day. Our words set our students up for success or failure. While I realize I am an imperfect teacher, I do hope that more students feel that I am in their corner than feel I don't believe in them. It has taken me some time to realize the power of my words. I used to believe that my students weren't really moved by my words; however, I have come to realize that my opinion matters to them. That is an amazing power that I do not take lightly. 

My goal is to be more judicious with my own words. I want to grow thoughtful, well-adjusted, hungry for knowledge citizens of our nation. I want my students, and my own children, not just to accept someone else's words, but form their own opinions and their own words. When they realize that their words are powerful, then they can decide for themselves how best to battle those sticks and stones.  

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Lazy Saturday #sol15

Very short blog tonight. I spent most of my day either being lazy on the couch (which was awesome) or listening to my kids laugh and fight and just be together (which was even more awesome). I miss having them all 3 home every day. The cutest part of all is how Brody reacts every time Tripp leaves the house. Tripp has spent every waking minute, except when we were at school, with Brody since he got home on Wednesday. Today he went and hung out with friends. Brody was heartbroken. It was difficult to explain that his big brother needed to see his "big" friends too while he is home. So sweet and sad at the same time. I love how much he loves his brother and sister. They are both the best older siblings a little boy could ask for.

Tara Reed

Friday, March 6, 2015

Poetry is for 4th graders... #sol15

We have been studying all things poetry in my classroom recently. It is always a fun unit of study for me. I like to start the unit with Tanny McGregor's lessons from Genre Connections which suggest introducing poetry with a concrete object like a glass jar. The students learn that the jar is a place for holding things, like their thoughts and feelings. This year, we decided to give them examples of various forms of poetry with space on the page for the students to use to create. Having that model right in front of them has been a tremendous benefit for my students. Before setting them free to create, we look at mentor texts with great examples, pour through poetry books seeking out examples and identifying what makes it fit into one form or another. Our literacy block is filled with rich conversation about rhyme and stanzas, about word choice and structure, and most importantly about how they would choose to attack each form of poetry. Finally, they are ready. Coming up with ideas is never a problem for poetry (unlike their "prompt writing").  The most amazing part for me is when my students grasp the idea that poetry is a place where they are encouraged to express themselves in a way that is much more free than other genres of writing. Sometimes children crack themselves up with their own words, while other times the power of the writing brings them to tears. Often they want to share their poems with their peers, but there is always one young poet who asks for only me to read their tender words on the page. I always feel honored to be the one with whom they choose to share those deep thoughts and feelings.

My students' love of poetry is such a contradiction to my own feelings. I love reading the beautiful words and carefully crafted text, but I am scared to death at the thought of writing it myself. I think I have too many years under my belt to approach it with the same wild abandon that I see when my students give it a try.  What happened? When did I become so guarded and worried about how my words would be received? I am so thankful for this blog opportunity. It is already giving me more confidence in my ability to write. Who knows, maybe someday I will jump in with my students and give it a try...maybe.

Tara Reed

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Snow Day! #sol15

I am from Texas. This means I am definitely not a snow expert. When snow hits Texas, usually once or twice a year, EVERYTHING shuts down: schools, churches, stores, you name it. I know anyone from 'up North' would laugh at us and our paranoia of driving in the snow. While sitting at home this morning doing exactly what I advised others to do in my post yesterday (snuggle with my youngest), I was certainly grateful for our snow day. I spent time in the moment with all 3 of my own kids and enjoyed every minute of it! This impromptu mental health day has helped to recharge my nearly drained battery. I am looking forward to returning to school tomorrow and hearing my students share about their snow day and how they spent it. I think we will take some time to read our Good Fit books  and write about the joy of a surprise snow day!

I hope your day has been a blessing to you!

Tara Reed

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

He's 19??? #sol15

Today is a special day. My oldest son turns 19. 19!! I can't get over that. Now that he is away at college, I find myself picturing him in my mind as a much younger child. When I close my eyes, I see him at 3, or 10, or maybe 14, never 19! I remember when he was younger always thinking to myself, oh I have lots of time with him. No need to dwell right now, I have lots of years before he leaves home; and now he has. To be honest, it isn't my favorite thing. However, there are some pieces of this young man that he has become that I love! Sometimes he calls or texts me just because. To me, this says that he acknowledges my need to keep him near, and he is doing that on his terms. Also, when he comes home, he cleans up after his little brother. Whoa! Where was that when he lived here??? When he was at home for Christmas, he went shopping afterward for the sales. He brought me home a Texas Tech tshirt that he had bought for me with his Christmas money. I cried. So I am hopeful that the man he will become is kind and thoughtful. We'll see, but it is looking promising.

I guess all of that is to say this... Please enjoy the time you have your kids at home when they are little. Just stop the madness and sit down and read with them, play ninjas, snuggle, or just be together. It will pass before you know it. The good news for you guys with teenagers, they WILL come back to you, I promise!


Tara Reed

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Making orange juice #sol15

Today was a make orange juice out of oranges kind of day (see how I very cleverly turned the lemons to lemonade analogy into oranges to orange juice for the sake of the Slice of Life Challenge), so let's just skip to the end of the school day... My LA teammates and I did some intervention together with a small group. Originally, the three of us came in with less than happy hearts. Our plans were shot, and we were scrambling.  I have to say, however, that for me, it quickly turned into orange juice. While the three of us were sitting with our 8 or so kids, we made it kind of like a campfire moment. We all gathered in a circle and just talked about what the word 'narrative' means and what good writers put into narratives. We discussed what it should look like or sound like when you are writing about a small moment and how to know if we are 'doing it right' Were we thinking about seed stories or big ol' watermelon stories? Our small group became more animated and engaged the more they talked and we listened. I realized today that I don't do enough listening to my students, and it really is ok if the way they interpret my fabulous and meticulously planned lessons do not exactly match my vision for the perfect day ;).

There are always going to be oranges, so I need to work harder on making orange juice!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Colleagues #sol15

Last spring, one of my dearest school friends retired. Truthfully, I had been dreading that day for several years. There are an abundance of qualities to love about her. For example, she is one of the funniest people I know; plus, she can sing and play the guitar! She and I are very different people, however, when it comes to teaching styles. There have been many times we have butted heads about philosophy or best practice.  One of the great strengths of our relationship was always our ability to compromise. We both have a great deal of respect for the other, and we listen. She has made me a better educator.

There are many colleagues I treasure and hold close to my heart. I think we all need those people to keep us accountable and call us out on the carpet if we need it.

On Day 2, I'm thankful for my tribe!

Tara Reed

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Nerves and Reflection

Today I woke up with a stomachache. I know the cause. Stepping out of my comfort zone causes me all sorts of stress. Over the years, I have tried to attack this type of stress like a Bandaid - just pull it off quick and you won't notice the pain! :) My friend, Tenille, challenged me to participate in the Slice of Life Challenge. I am a writing teacher, so this should be a breeze. Oh wait. Yes I teach writing, and somewhere in a deep corner of my heart I may have considered writing for other people to see, but blogging every day for a month is giving me a giant case of nerves and doubt. What if I fail at this? Are there "rules" for blogging? What will happen if no one looks at my blog, will I get my feelings hurt? How will anyone even know it is out there? What if, heaven forbid, I make a grammar or spelling error??? Yikes! After all, I am the self-imposed grammar queen of my school, so I would imagine there will be someone out there looking for mistakes in my commas or semicolons...

All of this discomfort about sharing my writing with the world leads me back to my students. If you are a teacher, you know how most things you do in life wind up reminding you of a student, lesson, or class. While I sit here riddled with doubts, I am reminded how often my own students have probably sat in my classroom with the same feelings running through their bodies. Have I been the teacher who alleviates those fears and empowers them to give it a try? I hope so. I preach to them all year that words are power. Words give them the ability to change themselves or the world. I know that every year I watch my students in June, full of their newly complete 4th grader selves, reflecting on their early writing pieces with awe and laughter at how "bad" they felt they were. They are then able to look at those pieces through an editor's eye and see the errors or places that some revision would have been a good idea. We talk about how they weren't "bad", they just didn't know everything they needed to be a fourth grade writer back in August. I know they learn, I just hope that they also felt like I was in their corner, and they could do anything with the power of words.

I'm going to thank my friend, Tenille, for challenging me (as she always does) to move away from where I am most comfy and at least try to share some of what I see and feel as I move through this month. I know it won't be perfect (I'm going to try and deal with that) and there will be some errors (please forgive them). 

Wish me luck!!


Tara Reed