Teaching and Living in the Middle

A National Board Certified Middle Childhood Generalist Teacher . . . in the Middle of My Teaching Career . . . in the Middle of Life . . .
and Life in the Middle is a wonderful place to be!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Slice of Life is a weekly blog hosted by a couple of wonderful writing teachers.  Click on Two Writing Teachers to learn about this wonderful writing community, and how to use it to build a community of writers in your classroom!

I think I am back to reality - making my own coffee, and counting those calories.  I am no longer feasting on gourmet Italian food, stuffing my face with cannoli, and returning each evening to a freshly made bed and clean towels.  My evenings of gazing across the Hudson at the beautiful New York City skyline's magnificent towers and twinkling lights have faded off into the distance.  There are some things though, I will keep with me - always.

Yes, it is good to be home.  I missed my family and my routine.  However, the opportunity to be pampered, honored, and yes - valued at the Mickelson Exxon Mobil Teacher's Academy (MEMTA), is one I will never forget.  It wasn't just that they (Exxon Mobil, the National Science Teacher's Association, and Math Solutions) wined and dined us, and provided the most amazing accommodations at the Hyatt Regency, Jersey City Hotel, and the Liberty Science Center - it was that they kept telling us over and over, "You are great teachers.  We value you.  You are important and that is why we are doing this."  I can't recall every feeling so appreciated and respected in my entire teaching career, and next year will be my twentieth year.

They valued and respected me enough as a teacher to provide state of the art professional development.  They invested in me.  That is such a key word for me.  The five days of outstanding training that was provided sent a message that said, "We respect you and your abilities enough to put our money on you.  We know you will take this and use it to serve kids."  I see far too much requirement in my teaching, and little or no investment. Perhaps this is what made this experience stand out.  

Finally, I met some of the most amazing, intelligent, and friendly people.  To top it off - they were just plain kind.  There was no professional jealousy (at least that I could see), no one-upmanship, and no snarky or negative comments.  These were top-notch teachers at the top of their game, and they acted like the professionals that they are.  We were there to support each other's learning.  And that is exactly what we did.  I have met some people that I hope I can maintain contact with, and always call "friend."

I wish that every teacher could have this experience, particularly our young ones.  I believe it would give them hope for the future.  We need more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) training like this, more investment in our teachers, and more kindness towards each other and our individual journeys.   It is my profound hope for our students, and the profession that I love, that we will one day get there.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014


This little red folder is ready to go into my carry on!

     Getting so excited for the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teacher's Academy.  Today we had a webinar with 151 participants where we learned about the National Science Teacher's Association Learning Center.  It is an amazing resource full of content learning, lesson ideas, journal articles, professional development, and a whole learning community of teachers.  The options for teachers who want to learn to be better instructors of Science are endless.  

     Tomorrow I will begin the task of not only packing my own bags, but making preparations for my developmentally disabled son for the week I will be gone.  This includes medication prep for 7 days, a medical power of attorney, emergency contact numbers, and a week's worth of "sub-plans."  I think I am going to be napping on the plane!

     I can hardly wait though for the exciting week of learning ahead.  Jersey City, here I come!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Slice of Life is a weekly blog hosted by a couple of wonderful writing teachers.  Click on Two Writing Teachers to learn about this wonderful writing community, and how to use it to build a community of writers in your classroom!

Slice of Life

     Today wasn’t a bad day  - I went to a great writing workshop with a couple of colleagues and really enjoyed it.  But yikes I was tired when I got home.  The dogs needed to go out and be fed, I had to run to the store, it was hot outside, I had a headache – yada – yada – yada. 
     So I decided to sit down with a nice cold glass of chardonnay and do something mindless – like look at Pinterest.  I happened upon a post my sister-in-law had pinned.  I call her my BSILF (Best Sister In Law Forever).  Well, she is actually the only sister-in-law in my life at this point – but she is still the best.  She makes me laugh. 
     So today her pin was on a board that she had titled “Stuff That Makes Me Smile.”  I decided I needed a smile day, so I took a trip on over to her board.  I can’t repeat some of the stuff she pinned – suffice it to say I laughed so hard I had tears coming out of my eyes.
     There were irreverent posts about annoying things that husbands and co-workers do, things to do with leftover cake molds that were only appropriate for risqué bachelorette parties, silly memes, the inane, the peculiar, and the downright that-is-so-damn-funny where did you find it? posts.  
     Time to go cook dinner, and to be thankful for humor, and laughter and the joy it brings to a summer afternoon.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Mickelson Exxon/Mobil Teacher's Academy

 Friday, June 27, 2014

 Let the countdown begin!  I will be leaving for Jersey City on July 19th and returning on July 25th.  If the facebook posts from the participants of the other academies around the country are any indicator, I am headed for some amazing experiences!  I can hardly wait to share them with you.

     I have already received an email that I will be attending a Learning Center Web Seminar on July 16th.  I am also being asked to bring 2 lessons with me that incorporate Math that I will enhance through my experiences. I can tell we will not have a single moment of down time - just the way I like it!

Better Lesson Master Teacher Project - Oh My!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

     Met with my coach yesterday.  Yep, for the very first time - ever - I get my very own coach.  I can't tell you how exciting that is!  I have two deadlines.  First, I have to complete a workplan that lists the number of units and lessons I will create throughout this year.  I need to create somewhere between 90-100 lessons.  This workplan has to be finished by Monday, July 14th.  Second, I have to create the first lesson of my first unit and have it submitted by Sunday, July 13th.  Oh boy . . . I guess I had better get busy.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

     Oh boy - just a few short weeks ago, I learned how to take a "selfie" on my iphone.  I have now had 3 days of intensive training from the folks at Better Lesson.  I now have Dropbox downloaded to all of my devices (and as you can see above - have figured out how to use it with my new "selfie" skills), have discovered search functions for Google that I never even knew existed, and have learned about a whole 'nother world of technology and applications that will (?) make my life easier.  Yes, I know they will!  The real challenge is . . . can I remember all of the passwords?

Um . . . I guess I should have deleted some of the cell phone photos before I clicked the Dropbox icon.  I have a little work ahead of me - deleting about 600 pictures.  Ugh!

For my teacher peeps - here is the link with a video on how to read the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).  I think we are going to need to refer to this one a lot!


Sunday, June 29, 2014

     Ten years ago if you would have asked me what it was like to attend a virtual meeting  (webinar) with 55+ people from across the country, I probably wouldn't have had any words to describe it.  Cool - it's way cool!  This webinar begins my experiences as a Master Science Teacher with the Master Teacher Project at Better Lesson.  

     I learned that the 65 Master Science Teachers have 683 years of combined teaching experience, and come from 24 states and every geographic region of the U.S.  That is a lot of brain power!

     I will be training via self study materials using the Google platform, and will then be working with 4 other teachers and a coach to begin developing the unit and lesson plans that I will then carefully craft, work with the folks at Better Lesson to videotape, and then post for my colleagues to access from across the country.

     What an amazing opportunity to publish a body of work that will allow me to reach out and touch the future!


Slice of Life

A Slice of Life is a weekly blog hosted by a couple of wonderful writing teachers.  Click on Two Writing Teachers to learn about this wonderful writing community, and how to use it to build a community of writers in your classroom!

Um. . . so new to blogging that I thought I could just create a separate page for these.  Guess that isn't going to work!  A big thanks to JenniferM for the heads up. Oh boy do I need to take that blogging class that they cancelled.  I hope I have time to take it when it is rescheduled in the fall . . .

My Slice for Tuesday, July 8, 2014

     As I stir the silky golden mixture, I feel it push back against my wooden spoon.  Sure enough, I lift the spoon and drizzle a small amount across the surface and see it trace, the shimmering lines that signal that this mixture of benign and caustic elements are beginning to transform into something entirely new and beautiful - soap. 

     I open the bottle of essential oil of lavender, and its scent wafts upward, mingling with the warm breeze flowing in from the window above the sink where I work.  I measure out the exact amount, and pour in the pre-measured oatmeal and dried lavender, working quickly before the mixture begins to seize.
     “Ma, watcha doin’ Ma?”  Zach hovers nearby.  He knows not to come too close when I am making soap – heeding my many warnings about the dangerousness of the lye mixture I work with. 
     “I’m just making some soap Zachy boy.”
     “I’m not a boy, I’m a man.” The last word lilts upward as it exits his mouth, enunciated into the air with pride.  Shoulders lift, along with his hands . . . and those graceful fingers that make conversation in the air.  He punctuates his sentences with them – decidedly an exclamation mark for this one.    Zach has a separate language, a grammar and set of conventions that are all his own.
     I scrape the last of the mixture into the mold, tapping the containers on the counter to release the air bubbles.  “Can you hand me the plastic wrap, please?”
     “Oh yes, mother dearest,” he says with a giggle.  He knows I hate it when he calls me mother dearest.   It’s my punishment for calling him a boy.
     “Zach, are you trying to yank my chain?”  And all I hear is a mumbled reply.  Our teasing interlude is over now.  Something outside the window has caught his attention.  I look out and see nothing there.  And for perhaps the zillionth time, I wonder what he sees, what he is thinking.  I wonder at the mystery of this boy, this man who is my son.  That there is so much more inside of him than autism will ever let us see, I have no doubt. 
     After thirty years though, I am no longer saddened by these thoughts.  Acceptance has given me the luxury of wondering what is, without the sting of wondering what could have been.  I am much like the soap I now craft in my kitchen sink.  The disparate elements that characterized the expectations and fears I held as a young mother, and then the young mother of a severely disabled child, have made their peace.   Hopes and fears have joined together to create something of profound beauty.  And like my soap, tracings of the person he is are there as well – luminous ribbons woven into the fabric of my life. 

My Slice for Tuesday, July 1, 2014

     I hear the door creaking as he opens it ever so slightly, a sharp squeak in the silent morning air.  "Ma, Ma, are you up Ma?"  His question floats out of the crack between the door and the molding.  
     Only when I say, "Yes Zach, I'm up," does the door open.  Zach unfolds himself out from behind the door.  That's really what it is - an unfolding.  His six foot tall frame slides out a section at a time, first the neck, then bony shoulders, followed by those long fingered hands.  Wings really.  Zach's hands are more like the wings of some great bird, a heron perhaps.  They flap in excitement, buzz with anxiety, and hover with uncertainty - a barometer to Zach's inner world.  They are also the first outward sign, the first clue to his Fragile X-ness.  Fragile X - that strange genetic quirk unfolding in my DNA, then Zach's DNA and all across the landscape of our lives.
     We have our morning routine, Zach and I.  I put on the tea kettle as he empties the packet of instant oatmeal into the bowl.  He reaches into the cupboard for the bag of brown sugar.  I eye the bag, wondering if he remembered to close it yesterday - and if I remembered to check it.  Guess not.  One too many times of forgetting, and the sugar has hardened into a lump.  The microwave door clicks shut.  It hums steadily as I heat the sugar, and the tea kettle begins to whistle.  Leaning over, Zach stops to sniff my hair on the way to the silverware drawer.  The coffeemaker hisses.  I pour the boiling water from the teakettle into the bowl of oatmeal, add the sugar, and splash in a little milk to cool it off.  I give it a quick stir, and set it on the table. 
     "Where's my princess?" Zach chirps.  And right on cue, Schnitzel, his adoring miniature dachshund, sits on the floor next to him.  She is waiting for that scrap of food that usually isn't far behind when Zach and mealtimes coincide.  I pour a cup of coffee for myself, look out the window, and smile in contentment at the sun that has risen on a beautiful new day.