Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Sometimes it drives me crazy that on top of making sure my little charges reach benchmark academically, for some reason I am expected to provide them with gift making opportunities.  Thus the Hallmark title.  Grump grump! I'm about $60 into our gingerbread houses (no graham crackers here!), Christmas tree magnets, Shrinky Dinks (I still have mine Alli from our kindergarten year!), beaded candy canes, and Polar Express Santa bells, but I don't really care.  Now that I'm into the week and I hear the little squeals and see the grins that come along with making Mom's present it's worth every penny, every minute standing over the oven baking, every bit of glue from the magnets I peel off of my fingers.  Look how cute they turned out!  Abby asked me today if my job is fun.  What do you think?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Ashlyn captured how I feel this week-before-break- report-cards-due-gingerbread-house-making week!  It was sharing time last Thursday and Ashlyn was sharing one of her beloved 21 stuffed animal ducks.  As she told the kids all the things she likes to do with her duckie, she posed him like this and said, "STRESSED!" It was really funny but what made her say such a thing? What do first graders know about stress? My guess is they know that their mom's aren't quite as patient these days of advent.  They know that when they go to the store with Dad there are a lot more people moving a lot faster than they usually do.  They probably know that their teacher is talking way too fast and taking more "teacher time-outs" than she usually does.  So this week we are going to all just slow down a bit and enjoy the season.  After all, they only get one week-before-Christmas-Break as a first grader.  I plan to make the most of it for them! Bring. It.On.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

That Time of Year

our still life subject
It's the end of the calendar year but the school year has not quite hit mid-stride.  September is all about new routines.  October is assessment and conferences.  November is when I hit the academics with gusto.  Then comes December...

Me: Sentences end with a period.

First graders: Santa is coming!

Me: Subtraction means you take things away.

First graders: Santa and Rudolph are coming!

Me: New plants have five parts: seed, root, stem, leaf, flower.

First graders: We got our Christmas tree last night!

Me: A tree is like a plant.  One of the symbols of Christmas is the poinsettia plant.

First graders: I see the leaves on the poinsettia plant... and Santa is coming.  He's bringing me presents!

sketches outlined with black crayon
wax resist paintings

the finished product
Me: Let's get out the paints...

Sunday, December 4, 2011


I've been running since my senior year of college; 20+ years.  Running has been my greatest friend, my worst enemy, my task master, and my sanctuary.  My favorite time to run is early in the morning, before anyone else in the house is even considering waking up.  I gear up; including my head lamp, reflective vest, and pepper-spray, and run just under 4 miles during the week. On my solo runs, with music from my iPod blaring in my ears, I get some of my best thinking done. During those 40 minutes, my mind becomes my sanctuary. I figure out how to help students overcome their latest struggle, how to fit one more standard into my lesson, what to cook for dinner, what to say in a conversation I'm worried about having with Tom.  As the cool air brushes my cheeks and my breathing falls into a rhythm my mind is sparked with creativity solving all the problems of the world! At least that's what it feels like.  I haven't been able to run for 4 months due to a major surgery I had in August. My body can't handle the jarring of a run.  I've been walking but it's not the same.  This week I started swimming.  I swim efficiently enough for it to be exercise. The pool at the gym has become my sanctuary as I raise my arm, turn my head and kick, propelling myself across the pool.  There's a rhythm to it just like running. Stroke, stroke, stroke...breathe.  Stroke, stroke, stroke...breathe.  The water surrounds me like a cocoon, suspending my body while I glide through the lane.  It's not the same as running but I'm liking it more and more.  I find myself looking forward to it and plotting my activities for the week around my trips to the gym.  I am so thankful for the opportunity to exercise again.  It feeds my soul.  There's no music blaring in my ears and somehow my mind can only focus on the act of swimming instead of the effortlessness that running has become to me. All I can hear is the air I force out of my nose and the giant gasp as I turn my head and take in air after that third stroke.  Breathing in and breathing out.  I guess it's like running just without the world-saving ideas. I think I'm too busy (one) making sure I don't lose count (two) of my strokes (three) until I take that (gasp) breath.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Oh Fudge!

This has been a stressful week for me.  One that caused me to say to my student teacher, "Run! Run away to another major.  This job is SO hard!"  Behavior troubles with multiple students that flow over into troubles with other student's families who voice their concern for their first grader that's being bullied in my classroom.  How did that happen on my watch? Standards based reporting pilot, iPad grant, assessments for report cards that are due NEXT sad song could play on and on.  But that is not what I want to say.  That is not where I want to go.  That is not who I want to be.  I need to take the time to reflect on my day like this even when I feel like there is no time.  Stopping for just the few minutes it takes to write gives me the opportunity to glance back at my day and think of all the good that has been infused along the way.  Emily and David moved up a reading level. Gracelyn successfully used her counting cubes to solve a subtraction problem. Ashlyn, Spencer, Madie, and Raelyn practiced their Little Red Hen reader's theater parts with gusto and a pig-like voice reciting, "Not I! Said the pig."  Ella's mom sent in some homemade fudge wrapped in a simple red bow. Isabella ran back in after music class and after the bell just to give me a hug and say, "I love you, Mrs. Ortner!" What was it that had me in such a dither?  With a list like this, I'll be back tomorrow.  And so will Miss Click!