Monday, August 11, 2014

The Norfolk Pine

  The phone call came from my mother and she was making some changes in her apartment.  (This was a shocker because my mother hates change.)  She wanted to give away this huge Norfolk Pine houseplant in her living room, to make some room in her living room space.  My older sister did not want the strange plant (apparently she had already tried to gift it to her first) and since my sister thinks the Norfolk Pine is truly ugly, surely I would want it for my classroom.  NOT!  I nicely told my mother that I was not interested in the Norfolk Pine and that I did not have the space or room in my classroom for such a large plant.  I did not take the plant.  I was shocked my mother was willing to give this thing away or to even be willing to make any kind of a change.  Had the world come to an end?  She was rather annoyed that no one would take this thing off her hands.  I  think she was shocked no one wanted this Norfolk Pine.  I personally think of it as the big ugly tree thing in the corner of my mother's apartment.  
  Now it was my turn and I did not know what to do. Let me explain- in a way, my daughter's viola and violin instruments were in some ways like the Norfolk Pine.  I knew that my daughters did not plan on playing the instruments, but found it incredibly difficult to think about selling or parting with their musical instruments they had played since childhood.  I knew I needed to let go of this one.
  My husband and I made the decision and we took the instruments to a music shop.  I was good with this decision.  I was good with it til I saw the instruments sitting side by side on a shelf on the other side of the counter.  There they sat, just like they had sat in my living room, kitchen floor, entry way,..... you get the picture.  This letting go stuff was harder than I thought.  I was determined to not let these musical instruments sit in my basement and mold away.  Someone should get some good use from them.  AND if one more person suggests I save the instruments for my Grandchildren, I just might vomit!  (I don't have any Grandchildren nor do I expect any, anytime soon.)
  So the instruments are gone now and out of the house.  The trip to the music store has moved the instruments into the hands of another musician.  I have moved on and maybe this is not like my mother trying to give away the Norfolk Pine?  I don't know. It all was more difficult than I thought it would be and the instruments represent far more to me that just musical instruments.  Who knew?!

Monday, August 4, 2014

New York City-Get a Rope!

  This last weekend of summer I spent in N.Y. city with my 2 daughters and husband.  What an experience!  It was fun to see the sites and to do major shopping, but it is absolutely wonderful to be back in Kansas.  I can walk outside and breath the air and it smells... clean.  I kept thinking as I walked around N.Y. that I needed to go gather up the dirty towels in the kitchen sink and wash them.  That smell kept coming up from the vents on the streets.  I think it was the subway below us.  The dirty kitchen towel smell was an overwhelming smell.  NY was a fun weekend vacation but truly "There is no place like home."!
  My favorite part of the entire weekend was spending time with my 2 daughters and husband.  The memories we made were fun and will last til I'm old and can't remember anymore.
  The first night there was good.  We had traveled by plane to Baltimore to get my oldest daughter and then by car to N.Y.  When we got to our hotel room, I could not believe how small the rooms were.  I think I was too tired to care and had a good night's sleep.   Everything in NY has little space but lots of people.
   In the morning we headed out for Central Park and it was beautiful.  I felt bad for the homeless people I saw on the sidewalks.  That bothered me significantly.  Central Park had  many things to do and see, not just the homeless.  I was glad we went.  When we came back, I showered and rested for a while but my husband took our daughters to H and M and did some afternoon shopping.
   I have pictures of my husband trying on men's Capri pants.  I am sure they will be in the Midwest soon (ha, ha) but for now my husband decided to not make a fashion statement and leave the pants in N.Y. I think this was a good decision on his part.
  We went to different restaurants and different tourist attractions.  We went to the top of the Rock and once I got past my dizziness, I thought the NY skyline was a magnificent site.  Walking along the sidewalks was a cultural extravaganza with different  languages (we counted 8 different languages) being spoken all at once around us during one of our shopping excursions.
  This whole trip was to celebrate my youngest daughters 18th birthday and was her graduation gift from high school.  It was also our summer get away vacation.  In less than 2 weeks, she will move to Lawrence to start her college career and my oldest daughter will return to finish her last year as a Kansas Jay Hawk.  I am thankful for the fun weekend we four spent together and the laughter we shared!  Time is changing and transitioning for all of us.  We will  continue to embrace it and move forward towards the next stage of our journey together.  

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Me, Myself and I-- Personal Narrative

  Let me introduce myself.  My name is Barbara Kay Brown.  My maiden name was Barbara Kay Long. I am a white female.  I am 47 years old and have been in education most of my adult life.  I am a member of Shawnee Heights United Methodist Church.  My spiritual life/journey is a significant and important piece to my life.  I enjoy working with kids and being an instructor in the classroom!  I graduated from Baker University with a Master's of Education in 2005.   This school year I will get the fantastic opportunity to teach 8th grade language arts.  Yesterday I worked with my 2 new department colleagues and collaborated a little with our brand new Principal and Instructional Coach.  I am very excited!
  My immediate family is my husband, Jeff, of 25 years.  We have 2 daughters, Aley and Erin.  Aley is 22 years old and Erin is 18.  Both will be attending KU this fall.  Aley is in her last full year at KU and will be graduating with a business degree and emphasis in  human resources.  Erin will start KU this fall and has already been accepted into the business school program, also at KU.  Rock Chalk JayHawk!!  My husband has worked about 19 years at Payless Shoe Source.  He is an I.T.  (information technology) manager and manages several teams at the Payless Corporate office.  Both my parents are alive and live up in Hoyt, Kansas where I grew up.   My parents are divorced.  My sister lives there also with her husband.  Both of my sister's boys, my nephews, are grown up and married and they too live in Hoyt, Kansas with their wives and children.  Everyone lives there but me. 
  My friends are varied.  I think my very best friend is  my husband of 25 years.  Probably the reason we have stayed married so long, is because we are good friends. I have friends that are colleagues that I currently teach and work with, and friends that I have worked with in the past.  I have some childhood friends that I still keep in contact.   I have friends in my  neighborhood  and we get together, particularly during the holidays and celebrate life in general.
  The hobbies that I like are walking and running.  I try to get my Fitbit to hit 10,000 steps each day and I usually make it.  I also like my dogs and love to play with them, although I'm not sure that is considered a hobby.  I have 2 dogs named Barney and Oscar,  I  also have a cat named Rosie.  I have a beautiful yard that I use to love to plant and take care of everyday.  I seem to not be as interested in my gardening in the yard and I'm not sure why.  It feels like sometimes that it is just one more thing in my life that I'm required to do and I'm not sure I want to mess with it any more.
  I hope this short narrative helped with you knowing me a little bit better.  I know that when we ask students to write this, it is great to start the assignment off with an example. This is my example.  I am happy with knowing what next year will move towards and also thankful for my family and for the fun career I have chosen.  It is a great day to be a Shawnee Heights teacher and to get to work with the great students that attend Shawnee Heights Middle School.  It promises to be a great and fun filled school year!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Summer of 2014-The Summer of Phog

  I have another dog in my life. That officially takes my dog count up to 3.   Her name is Phog and she is a miniature dachshund.  She belongs to my oldest daughter who could not take care of her for the summer due to an internship.  My husband and I agreed to take her in for the summer.  She is currently five months old and full of puppy energy.
  The things I have learned from Phog so far this summer, are numerous!  Everything happens for a reason and Phog was needed by me, to laugh and heal up a little bit this summer. Heal from what?   I don't know and I'm sure there is something specific but I don't want to go there right now in this blog.  Thinking that much will hurt my brain during the summer.  Isn't avoidance fantastic?
   Phog found her tail this summer.  She literally chased the thing for a solid day.  She then transitioned to lightening bugs.  She discovered lightening bugs in the back yard and they were the most wondrous things for her to see, chase and try to catch.  Does anyone remember the excitement as a kid chasing lightening bugs, catching them, keeping them in a coke bottle and then turning them all loose in your bedroom that night?  Phog's experience chasing those lightening bugs made me remember.  It was a good memory to remember.  It was fun.
  Phog also likes to chew everything.  I had some bridge work done in my mouth this summer.  It has been a 2 1/2 year journey on trying to figure out what to do about my missing lower left molar.  I now have a bridge, or artificial tooth, that allows me to now chew on the left side of my mouth.  I understand why Phog likes to chew so much.  I know she's a puppy and her teeth and mouth are growing and changing and she needs to chew and so do I.  I get it when she chews on tennis shoes that have been left out in the middle of the living room floor.  Lesson learned about leaving your shoes out:  pick them up!!  No, I am not chewing up shoes but being able to chew food on the left side of my mouth is wonderful.  I now get the chewing thing more than ever.
  One of my favorite things learned from Phog is our cuddle time.  She loves to cuddle on the couch with me especially if I have out the blue Jay Hawk blanket. She is a natural Jay Hawker.   Napping is important,  especially when you are a growing puppy.  Cuddling and napping should take high precedence in not only a puppy's life but mine too. When you work or play hard, you should rest easy and often.
  Another lesson from Phog is to dig in the dirt.  Dig as many holes in the dirt as possible and often.  It is therapeutic and a natural remedy for boredom and the blues.  I too realize the importance of some good dirt digging and have added to my lovely yard some more beautiful flowers.  I feel much better about my life after digging in the dirt.  My purpose is to beautify my yard while Phog's purpose is to find something to pull out of the ground, shake it til its neck snaps and then give it a toss in the air.  I think this miniature wiener could be on to something?
  Last but not least, Phog's love and joy for everything is contagious.  I needed to remember this summer what that was like.  What it felt like.  I needed to see it and practice it from throwing a ball for Phog, to catch in the back yard, to taking a long walk on a sunny day.  There is fun in everything if you look for it and I think Phog has found it by the wiggle of her tail as we strut down the street together for a morning walk. She likes me and I like her.  I needed to feel that this summer.
  It will be difficult in August to giver her back to my daughter when she returns from her internship.  Phog belongs to my daughter and Phog loves to face time her by use of my IPhone.  They miss each other and in August I will tell Phog good-bye and hand her back.  She is a dog of the 21st century as she looks for my daughter in my IPhone, beside the IPhone and behind the IPhone during face time.  Phog looks at me during face time as if to ask, "How did my Aley get in that phone and how will we ever get her out?"  I will miss Phog but there is a reason for everything and I will not forget this summer and the lessons I have learned from Phog the wiener dog.  

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

In My New Classroom

  I am changing from being an Instructional Coach the last four years to going back to the classroom this August.  I have been hired to teach 8th grade Language Arts in my school district and I am super pumped about the challenge that lies ahead.  I have missed working with students for quite some time and I can't believe I am finally getting the chance to go back and do what I truly love.  I did enjoy Instructional Coaching and will miss all the great relationships I have been a part of and all the mentoring and professional growth that I have gotten to be a part of, in teacher's everyday classroom lives.
  With that said, I am pumped about getting to work with students again!  Yea!  It sometimes feels unreal to walk into my classroom and start setting it all up. (I sometimes wonder if it is real and if the bottom is going to fall out of this whole thing.) It is truly like riding a bike and amazes me how my brain kicks back into where will this happen in the room, and how will that work, and would students really get it if I do it this way.  Walking into that room must be like what an artists feels like with a blank canvas laid out before them.  My mind races from here to there and I get distracted easily with the new books I have purchased for my corner reading area and the new technology that I will be using for the first time. There is also the part of my thoughts that asks myself what am I going to leave for my students to do so that they take and feel ownership in this classroom.  It needs to be real for them, for me, and not picture perfect but a work in progress. What's going to work in this room for all of us?
   My brain feels exhausted this evening as I write but it is a good exhausted.  It felt right for the first time in a very long time being in the classroom today.  I can't wait for those first couple of weeks when we really get to know one another and figure out how we will collaborate and support one another as we grow and learn together. The road has been too long and I am ready to move on and have some fun with an 8th grade crew.  I hope they are ready for me!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

My Favorite Holiday-The 4th of July

                                      My Favorite Holiday-The 4th of July   

  I went for an early morning walk  thru my neighborhood today and witnessed that some of my neighbors had put out their 4th of July d├ęcor.  I began to get excited.  I too have certain things I place out on my porch and throughout my yard.  It is my favorite holiday.  Let the fun fest begin!  This afternoon I found myself down in my cold basement, trying to locate the rubber maid tote with all my 4th of July stuff.  I found it and red, white, and blue has begun.
  Why would the 4th of July be my favorite holiday?  I think it is because of the low stress level.  No gifts to buy, no turkey to bake and no costume to make.  I don't need to feel lovey, dovey about anything or worry that I forgot to wear green and my butt will be pinched. School is out.  Everyone is outside enjoying the weather (at least in my suburban neighborhood) and let's not forget blowing stuff up.
  I am not a pyro maniac but there is something exciting about lighting the wick with your punk and then turning around and running like your rear end is on fire.  Next you stand back and watch as the display of lights rivets your attention, and everyone around you.  OOO and AHHHH are the sounds you hear. Instant gratification.  I also like the smell in the evening time of the sulfur from blowing stuff up.  I don't know why.  It's similar to the feeling I get in the fall when neighbors start to burn their fireplaces.  (Don't try to analyze the smell thing.  It will just scare you.) 
  Another reason I think I like the 4th of July so much is the food.  Nothing is better than a hot dog with just a little crispy brown burnt stuff on it.  I could write a whole other blog on the ways to fix hot dogs and what to put on them.  For the 4th, I like a straight line of mustard on my hot dog with a little bit of dill pickle relish.  Watermelon with my burnt hot dog is very good, too.  I only like the kind with seeds because seeded watermelon is sweeter than no-seed watermelon.  Plus you get to spit the seeds out (or at someone like your sibling) when you are done eating the soft and sweet fruit in your mouth.  Cold ice tea goes great with all of this along with some salty potato chips.  My oldest daughter this year has requested my homemade cold pasta salad for the 4th.  It is the bomb diggity and delicious. 
  My oldest daughter will be flying in from her internship in Maryland to share some time with us and her puppy wiener dog, Phog, this 4th of July.   Yes, she named her mini-wiener  dog after Phog referring to  KU and Lawrence, Kansas.  She is a true Rock-Chalk Jayhawk.  My daughter that just graduated high school will be joining her at KU this fall.  I get to feel the Phog daily with this wiener dog while my oldest daughter completes her internship in Maryland.   I have become the wiener dog whisperer.  (Again, another blog topic for me.)  This 4th of July, our daughter will be flying home, meeting her friends and boyfriend at our house.  I really look forward to the fun time we will have. It will be nice to have both my girls along with my handsome hubby at home for this holiday.   Between the blowing stuff up, being outside, the good food and family, I will be blessed and surrounded by people who are fun and relaxing.  The 4th is my favorite holiday.    

Monday, June 16, 2014

Back to the Classroom

Yes, that's right.  I'm headed back to teaching in the classroom.  It was my choice and my decision.  I should have known when I started blogging last summer and put into the title of my blog "WTF-Where's the Fun?" that something was missing.

Anyway, I am looking forward to teaching 8th grade language arts with a fabulous staff of teachers.  I truly miss working with and having direct contact with students.  We will see where this blog takes me next.  For any of my followers, please wish me luck in my new adventure.  Barb Brown  

Friday, February 7, 2014

Coaches Need to Coach Self

Well, if you are an Instructional Coach and have coached for long, you know there are times when you MUST coach yourself.  You must think at the end of the day all the good things you've done.  From being a part of a leadership team designing a new multi-tier support system flow chart to providing feedback while observing a teacher do a new Kagan structure to listening to Special Education teachers meet over their lunch to collaborate on meetings and services, you as a Coach must learn to take care of "Self". Take care of Self and do it selfishly!!  Find some other Coaches and have a lunch to just be around those who do what you do.  Write in a journal at the end of your coaching day and list all those lives you touched with your coaching expertise and positive attitude.

Currently I have been asked to help recruit new Coaches into my district, and as I pursued a possible prospect and asked if  they had ever thought about being a Coach the sarcastic response was, "All the prestige, respect and extra pay you get?  I don't think so."  Yikes!  Trying to orchestrate the true view of what I do and who I impact is difficult.  So much of what a Coach does is confidential.  I do work long hours and I am paid the same as classroom teachers.  (Teachers also work very hard everyday!) It is hard work and one of the most difficult challenges for me is the fun I had daily with my own classroom full of children.  I truly miss it and the connections made with my students.  I hate to admit this but we adults in general just don't have that much fun.  Some do have big fun and some refuse.

This takes me to my point:  there is a dark side to what we do as a Coach.   Don't stay on the dark side.  Move toward the light.  If a teacher is mad or your Administrator won't talk to you anymore and disregards you, ignore it.  Let them sit in there heap of stuff and figure it out.  Self Coach yourself away from the negative and shift it to the positive.  First draw yourself a door that is open and imagine all the "dark  side" stuff being on one side of the door.  Now in you mind slam the door shut and leave the negative on the other side of the door!  You have bigger and better things to do.  Next think of the most fun teacher in your building and their students.  Go there now and sit in a desk and be a part of that classroom.  Be a kid and see it all thru a child's eyes.  Enjoy it!  Belly laugh on silly stuff.  Go get inspired.  There are lots of great teachers doing great things.  If you focus in the positive, that's what you'll get (and vice versa).

Be kind to yourself all of you fabulous Coaches.  Don't forget to Coach yourself because you're worth it!  Find the fun!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Common Core and the Gradual Release

  With the New Year comes new goals and challenges.  One of the big challenges for educators is the Common Core.  I think it is easy to say, most of us are trying to get a grasp on what this means and looks like in our schools and our classrooms.  Frustration at times runs high but we must remember the gradual release model in dealing with the rigor and the complexity of the Common Core standards.  Our students may not be able to write at a level in which they can show mastery by comparing or defending nonfiction content.  "My kids can't do this!"  They may struggle with defending their mathematical reasoning when writing why they chose to problem solve a specific way.

  My response to all of this is GRADUAL RELEASE.  First the teacher models, then the class does the assignment or writing with the teacher and LAST the students do it all independently.  It can take 3-4 months to gradual release response writing to a quality level and that is OK.  Students are being required to work at a more complex level with increased rigor.  No more multiple guess or identification and regurgitation.  It's hard work and we must help each other along.

  Not only is it a gradual release with our students, but a gradual release with our colleagues.  We must slow down and help each other with the Common Core standards and the depth of knowledge required to understand how we develop lesson plans, become great facilitators and assess the knowledge students have gained.  It will be a year of continual growth and fascinating challenges.  We can do it!  Barb Brown