January 31, 2013

Do You Really Want to Know?

Today, I had to reprimand a student twice for throwing Starbursts across my classroom. After he told me I had them all the first time, I asked him to turn his pockets inside out to show me they were truly empty. The student was very reluctant to do so, which I assumed, was evidence of even more candy. Instead, he emptied his back pocket to reveal a condom... probably well beyond expiration... and a magnum, no less.

I have no words!

January 29, 2013

Overwhelmed by Grading

Even while I was a substitute (while in grad school to get my teaching license), I loathed grading papers. When I became a classroom teacher (after student teaching, when I didn't have as much of a say), the first thing I did was omit reading logs. You can read more about my decision here, but a big reason was because of the time spent grading fake work. 

Years ago, I attended an amazing reading and writing conference by Kelly Gallagher (seriously, he completely changed the way I teach. I can't say enough good things about him. If you can, attend one of his sessions!!!) Something he said that really resonated with me is that students should be creating exponentially more work than I can humanly grade. The learning, he says, is in the doing, not in the earning the grade. And it's better for students to have more practice than for me to worry about trying to keep up with grading their work. Since the conference, I've pretty much adopted this mantra; I try to give my students much more reading and writing experience than I actually grade. I tend to give a lot of completion grades so students earn credit for trying their work. I still read things, but I'm not as worried about giving specific feedback on every single assignment. 

In my current classroom, my students are (mostly) very motivated by grades. With the implementation of my daily centers, I've learned quickly that I have to grade all of their work to hold them accountable. This means, I can have up to 4 assignments per day for my grade book. 

Keeping up with all the paperwork is overwhelming! I'm not complaining about disorganization. My classroom is 100% organized. It's just the number of papers that's making my head spin.

When possible, we grade things in class. BUT... with the number of special education students I have (who, per their IEPs must receive extra time), I'm stuck collecting the same assignment for weeks, if not an entire quarter. I guess that's also part of my frustration; in years past, I was able to set a deadline and give everyone else a zero. I no longer have that luxury.

I swear that tracking missing assignments could be a full time job! I've given every student an assignment tracker, which they've stapled into their file folders. Every time I hand back papers, I remind them to enter their grades on their trackers, and still, on a daily basis, I have students asking me for their grades. For every assignment, I now make a list of students who have not submitted it, and I post it on the wall in the back of my room. As students submit the work, they're supposed to cross off their names... but, of course, this just becomes one more thing for me to manage.

My saving grace has been my early finishers who can help me with some of the grading. The writing assignments still take forever, but at least it frees me up from some of the grammar and reading exercises. If I had more time, I would train even more students in how to enter grades into our online system because it makes a huge difference!

I know I can't be the only teacher out there who feels overwhelmed by grading. Do you have any suggestions for how to make this process easier?

January 26, 2013

A Little Song and Dance

After my rough day with my magnet class, I was happy for this comedic relief the following day. Their math teacher came into my room at the beginning of class to make an announcement and told me I had to let them perform "Turkey Bacon" for me. Thankfully, she suggested I record it on my iPad.

For as much as my students can frustrate me at times, I really do love their big, lively personalities. They always keep me on my toes, and I would be lying if I said they didn't keep me laughing! This little performance was the perfect "reset" button for our classroom. It allowed us to put the previous day behind us and have a little fun together.

I hope this brings some laughter to your day!




January 24, 2013

Giving Students a Voice

Yesterday was a rough day with my magnet class. I started using daily centers in my classroom this semester, and this group has been giving me a lot of trouble. Although they are perfectly capable of doing my activities, which are differentiated for them, I have a hard time teaching in my "Work with Teacher" center because I have to keep stopping to redirect behavior (mostly constant, disruptive talking).

After weeks of "fighting" with them about why they need to use their time wisely, respect other workers, etc., I hit my breaking point yesterday. I literally told them I couldn't fight with them anymore because I was exhausted. I needed to hear suggestions from them about how to make our classroom work better.

What I learned from this discussion was actually priceless:

1. They do not like center activities. It makes them feel like they're in elementary school.
2. They miss reading books aloud as a class. We did this in the beginning of the year with A Child Called It, but since then, we've moved more toward reading workshop and book clubs. What they told me, though, is that they really like taking turns reading aloud (which they couldn't do when we read A Christmas Carol because they weren't able to read that text aloud with fluency) and discussing the books as a class. This is a VERY social group, and they love being able to share their thoughts with everyone.

My dilemma is that I am required (because of IEPs) to include small group instruction. I have one student, in particular, who has been failing my class all year, and I have to show that I've been meeting all of the requirements of her IEP in order to justify her grade.

So, I made a compromise. I told students, we would spend the first part of our block (50 minutes) working on whole-group activities, and then we'd have shorter, individual or partner activities during centers in the second part of the block. This way, I can pull specific students and work with them during center time, but students can still get their main instruction in a whole-group setting.

I also promised them that I would introduce more whole-class novels for us to enjoy and discuss together. The trick with this group, I know, is that they like books that are "forbidden." That was the main appeal with A Child Called It. It was a shocking story, so they were invested in the story as if it were a bad train wreck. It also gave them plenty to discuss (I stopped them every so often just to let them have a 60 second talk break with their partners where they could share their reactions as we read, and they loved this.). So, now I'm researching some more books to introduce to these kiddos (since most of my go-to options have been passed around during DEAR time).

They were thrilled with this idea. And today's lesson ran much more smoothly.

I learned (not for the first time) how important it is to give my students a voice in the classroom. They aren't rebelling against learning, just the style. I think they respect me more for hearing them out and reacting to their concerns, which I think is crucial with this age group.

I'm feeling more optimistic today, and my fingers crossed that this isn't just a temporary solution!

January 21, 2013

The Span of the Knowledge Gap

Last week, my students read an interesting article in Scholastic magazine about how race is changing in America. In case you don't know, in 2011, for the first time in our history, more non-whites were born in this country than whites.

Since my student population is like 99.99% black, I knew they'd find this interesting. The article outlined reasons why this is changing (recent immigration, varying birth rates, an increase in mixed-marriages and children) and how it will impact our society. The prediction is that by 2050, there will be more non-whites in this country.

While most of my students were able to speculate how such a change can impact them in the future, there were some students who really struggled with this whole concept. I was having a really hard time figuring out why, until I sat down with one student, individually.

Me: In this section here, the article is talking immigration. Do you know what that is?

Student: (blank stare)

Me: You may have heard about illegal immigrants. They talk about that on the news a lot.

Student: Oh!! Is that when the weather man comes on the screen?

Me: (completely dumbfounded) Well, I'm not sure why the weather man would talk about it. They're talking about people who move here from other countries. Look in this paragraph. Can you tell me the three countries from which people are recently emigrating?

Student: (reads) Mexico, China, and India.

Me: Good! And what do we know about all these people?

Student: (blank stare)

Me: How would these people be impacting the racial shift in our country?

Student: (blank stare)

Me: What race are these people?

Student: White!

Me: Really? Mexicans are white?

Student: (Increasingly confident) Yes!

Me: And what about Chinese people. Do they look like me?

Student: (Very excited now) Yeah!

Me: And what race are Indian people?

Student: I don't know. I don't know what that is.

Me: (pulled up a photo of an Indian family from the Internet) Do they look white?

Student: YES!

And here's where I knew we had a problem. This student is not even able to comprehend race. To him, you're either black or white. And since the vast majority of his world is black (except for his teachers), he doesn't even know he's disadvantaged. As we worked our way through the rest of the article, he tried to tell me that black and white people are currently in charge of major corporations like Microsoft, ABC, and Apple. To him, nothing will change in the future... because it's not likely that his world will change.

This just goes to show you that even if the reading level is right, students can't comprehend material without adequate background knowledge. And this is the perfect example of a knowledge gap I never even considered.

Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness

Today, in conversation about merit-based pay for teachers, I realized how much my views have changed on this topic because of my current position. Back when I used to teach in schools that were passing the standardized tests, I thought it was a great way to reward teachers for a job well done and incentivize others to step up their game. Given my current situation, though, I think merit-based pay is incredibly unfair.

I've always been able to understand, on a logical level, that there are so many external factors that impact student performance in the classroom (and on these standardized tests), but I didn't really feel that burden until this year.

I may have already mentioned that in my school, students are grouped together in sections for the entirety of the day. That means they are tracked, not only for core classes but for ancillary classes too. I won't even get into how this is a burden for the classroom teacher because of the behavior problems it causes. Instead, I will address how unfair it is when you consider how teachers are paid based on student scores on the standardized tests.

In my grade level, there are two of us who teach ELA. There are 6 sections of students, and they are divided based on scores from the previous year. We have two "magnet" classes (meaning, they scored "basic" on last year's iLEAP), but she has the higher half of those students while I have the lower half. Meaning, my students are barely at basic, while hers are much more likely to jump to mastery or advanced. Of the four remaining classes, there are two with huge behavior problems (thankfully, I think these are equally split), and one that is an inclusion class (mine). So, of the six sections, I teach the three lowest at each level.

Raises and bonuses are given to teachers in my school based on student growth. However, since the state awards the most points for students who have grown from "approaching basic" to "basic," you better believe that's where most of the pressure lies for teachers as well. The problem for me, is that nearly half of my inclusion class scored a "unsatisfactory" last year, and no points are awarded for growing a student to "approaching basic." None. Zero.

So, putting all these kids in one class clearly gives those teachers a disadvantage. See where I'm going here?

Even if my students weren't tracked the way they are, I still wouldn't be a fan of this system.

Why?

My students are dealing with poverty, abandonment, starvation, unmedicated mental health problems, drugs, violence, gangs, etc. And that's before you even consider the academic inadequacies with which they enter my classroom each day. For many, the ability to read and write properly just isn't a priority, especially when they're aware of how far behind they are in the 8th grade. Instead, they're concerned with the realities of street life and all it brings.

Teaching these students is an uphill battle, even despite the great working relationships I've built with them. Their knowledge gaps are simply too wide to address in the confines of a school day. (Before you ask, these students are already identified for special education.)

I resent the idea that my effectiveness as a teacher comes down to how these students will perform on a standardized test. One that we already acknowledge is biased against this population.

I understand there is a need to hold teachers accountable, but you have to consider the fact that we're working with whole-persons here. Students are not computers; I can't just program them with the information and have them spit it back out on a test.

I wish I had the answer. I wish I knew of a better way to assess the value of each teacher. I just don't think it will ever be simple. How can it be?

January 18, 2013

Friday Favorites Linky Party

I was super excited to learn, yesterday, that I have inspired a fellow teacher blogger. Stephanie, over at Middle School Matters Blog, has created her very first linky party. The goal? To share your Friday Favorites!


I love that this topic is so inspiring, and I think it will be a great way to be exposed to new ideas and resources. That's the best part of this blogging world, right?!

My Friday Favorite for this week HAS to be my predictions lesson that I shared on Wednesday. I still can't get over how well that worked for my hard-to-reach crowd. I had them reflect on their rubrics about their success as predictors, and several students commented on how much they loved the short story we read because it kept them on their toes. They enjoyed having to be little detectives, looking for the sneaky context clues, and they accused me of "tricking" them when I revealed the end of the story.

So, you wanna join the linky party?

All you need to do is create a post about one of your "Favorites." Maybe it's a lesson you've found or created, a strategy that's worked for you, a new resource you're loving right now, or something that inspires you or your students. 

After you've created your post, make sure you copy the code below so you can link up! One of the things I love about her linky party is that you can submit your entry on any blog with this code, and you'll be able to watch the list grow on everyone's site. How cool is that for giving readers the ability to "HOP" from one blog to another. Just think of all the great ideas you'll find!

 

Don't forget to follow Stephanie's blog so you can keep participating!

January 16, 2013

A Lesson That Worked!

I'm writing with relief on my lunch break to announce that I finally had a great day with my toughest group. Okay, so some of my biggest problem children were suspended... but even the rest are challenging, so I'm still giving myself bragging rights!

Today, we were looking at why it's important to make predictions to help us be active readers. I started class with a game using my white boards. The game comes from a BBC show called What Happens Next? I showed a short sports clip, and paused it right before the climax of each video. Students wrote their predictions on the white boards in one sentence. Then, I have 3 multiple choice options, and they wrote one on the board. After showing the rest of the clip, students awarded themselves points for correct predictions, with a prize for the winner(s). They LOVED it!

Then, we read a short story called "The Captive" with the intention of taking our prediction strategies to our reading. Students were given stopping points in the story to try to predict what happens next. I love the story because the ending is always a surprise, and today, I actually had one student, who was able think outside the box, guess the correct ending! The rest of the class loved the surprise and was able to look back in the text for the clues they missed.

EVERYONE was on task for nearly the entire period. I didn't have to resort to any consequences today, and I'm pretty sure that was the first time all year!

I'm letting out a HUGE sigh of relief. I cannot tell you how badly I needed this today!!

January 11, 2013

I Love When They Entertain Me

Today, I was working with one of my ELA blocks in the computer lab with our school counselor to get them set up on a state website where they will make their five-year plans. It's a great tool they will use through high school to help them figure out their career goals and choose their colleges.

After getting them all registered, they were busy taking skill and interest inventories. Being the chatty (and this is an understatement) class they are, they, of course, couldn't help but talk as they worked. I didn't mind, though, because at least they were working.

Within a few minutes, though, I heard practically the whole class break out into a slew of 90's R&B songs. It was honestly hilarious to hear them mumble through some of the lyrics they don't know (kinda like I do with many of today's songs), but I was impressed at how many songs they were able to sing.

"How do you guys even know all these songs?" I asked them, "They were popular before you were even born!"

"Cuz there was some crackhead on YouTube singing them!" replied one of my students.

Ah... yes, because that's who we want to learn from! hahahaha

January 10, 2013

First Week Back

As if the first week after a break wasn't crazy enough, we had some extra challenges in our building this week.

Yesterday, we had a power outage at 9:45 that left exactly half of the classrooms dark, including mine. Of course, my entire lesson for the day involved students working on computers. The lab next door had power, so I improvised some centers while we were in there with some success. With no air conditioning (remember, I'm in the south now), everyone was hot and crabby. I finally gave up fighting with my last class and taught them the game Mafia.

Like magic, as soon as the busses pulled out of the lot, our power was restored. Just in time for our weekly staff meeting!

Today, we had two tornado warnings (which I have been told, on numerous occasions, that tornadoes only happen after hurricanes here...lies!) to wind up the students and still no working a/c. And just to make things fun, my projector decided not to turn on (I'm thinking there's a blown fuse from yesterday).

I can't wait to see what tomorrow will bring!! Haha!

January 8, 2013

Setting High Goals for a New Semester

I don't know about you, but when I was a student, there was nothing better than a do-over. It was the thing I liked best about a new year or a new semester: the chance to do it better. I think we all need a good "reset" in our lives from time to time... I guess that's the point of a New Year's Resolution, right? When I worked in Corporate America, I once told my boss that this was something I missed about school. Somehow, having an annual review and then walking back to my cubicle to continue the same work as before the meeting didn't have the same effect.

But I digress...

When I was a kid, I would always come back from a break (whether summer or Christmas... remember when it was still called Christmas break?) when a fresh attitude and resolve to be on my best behavior and get straight As.

I guess I expected my students to do the same. I don't think this was a lofty expectation because my former students also seemed to be re-motivated at the beginning of a new semester. My current students, though, not so much. They came back to school this week with the exact same attitudes and behavior problems they had in December.

Boo. Hiss.

I really wanted them to want to do better. I even tried to inspire them with a journal activity about their resolutions for the new year/semester. I thought, for sure, I'd get to read all their promises of angelic behavior and diligence. Instead, I read about how my boys were planning to "get more girls" in the new year. I wish I were kidding! I actually had to help a student "expand" this writing. I asked him how he planned to meet this goal, and his response was, "With my good looks. Everyone can't look like this!"

At least they make me laugh!

January 5, 2013

9 Teacher Management Techniques

Normally, teacher blogs are bursting with ideas about classroom management, but today, I want to talk about teacher management. This seems to be a hot topic in my building, especially after yesterday's staff meeting: how to address staff issues.

In my building, all staff members are assigned multiple duties. This is different from my previous schools where some of the duties are stipend (voluntary) positions, which spreads the responsibility out a bit more. In my current school, though, everyone is expected (unpaid) to do the following:

1. Morning Duty - teachers are assigned to check in, breakfast, or monitoring the gym (aka: The Holding Cell) for 30 minutes every morning
2. Hall Duty - all teachers are supposed to escort their students to their next class, leaving absolutely no chance to run to the bathroom between classes (passing periods are only 2 minutes)
3. Tardy Duty - we are expected to spend the first 5 minutes of our planning period waiting in the hallway to mark tardy students
4. Lunch Duty - we are required to walk our classes to the cafeteria, wait with them in line, and then monitor them in the cafeteria during lunch
*** Note: I do ALL of the above things, along with teaching 6 classes in a row and 20 minutes of DEAR, before I ever get a break!****
5. Pull-Outs - all teachers are required to use 25 minutes of their planning period, twice a week, to pull low students and re-teach them material they have not mastered.
6. Bus Duty - all teachers are required to monitor students as they board buses
7. Saturday Detention - thankfully, this position rotates, but it's a three hour duty on a Saturday morning... yuck!

The biggest problem in my school is that there are teachers that either a) don't come to duty or b) do not actively monitor the students. Instead of addressing those teachers directly, though, our administration implements these stupid micro-managing techniques to "fix" the problems.

I'm a rule-follower. I do what I'm supposed to do. So, I'm very resentful when I'm micro-managed in this way; I hate being treated like a child. In fact, that's not even accurate. I don't treat my students like that! If I have an issue with specific students, I will address those students specifically.

So, to my administration, I say the following:

1. If there is one teacher in the building who dresses (very) inappropriately, pull that teacher aside and give her specific examples of what's she's doing wrong and what she should wear instead. Don't keep reminding the entire staff to read the dress code section of the handbook. It's not helping!
2. Give your staff the benefit of the doubt. Technically, those skinny jeans are not in violation of the staff handbook, which only forbids leggings. Maybe she doesn't know that we can practically see her vajayjay or that her 13 year-old students are drooling over her in the hallway (ew).
2. If you're going to force me to use my planning time to meet with small groups, at least give me the flexibility of choosing which days and times I do this. Don't send me a "meeting" request so it shows up on our calendars, allowing you monitor my every move. You'll know if I did my pull-outs because I'm filling out your stupid paperwork every week.
3. Ask yourself (or even your staff) why the problem exists! Are your teachers rebelling because they're overwhelmed? (yes) Do they complain that they don't have enough breaks in the day? (yes) 4. Spread out the responsibilities! Make some stipend positions so everyone doesn't have to be responsible for everything all the time. Or, assign teachers to specific days or weeks rather than having,
5. Prioritize which duties are really necessary. Does everyone really need to be at bus duty? Can't the classroom teacher take care of her own tardies?.
6. Whole group redirections often don't work because it allows people to say, "They're not talking about me!" If you want specific teachers to change something, you have to deal with those teachers directly.
7. Reward those who are doing what they should. Give them some sort of incentive (maybe a day off of a specific duty?) for following your expectations.
8. Before implementing a new procedure, ask yourself if it's really going to make a difference with the teachers you're trying to address. Sometimes, the "solutions" just cause bigger problems because they anger the compliant teachers instead of fixing the problem at hand.
and most importantly...
 9. Remember that you need your staff to be on your side. Treat them as if they are valued assets to your school rather than the blame for all that is wrong. If your staff see you as the enemy, you have a hostile work environment that is unproductive for everyone.

January 4, 2013

Kissing My Weekends Goodbye

After two days of "professional development" (I say this in quotes because what qualifies for P.D. at my school is a j.o.k.e.) and classroom work time, I'm still feeling pretty overwhelmed about starting school next week. I spent a good chunk of time collaborating with a coworker today on center procedures and planning, but we need to meet more tomorrow (yes, on a Saturday) before either of us will feel ready for school Monday.

Speaking of Saturdays, I somehow got roped into teaching 9 of the 12 upcoming Saturday school sessions. I am not pleased about this, especially because I technically never sent in my availability for this "voluntary" position. I said I would help, not that I would practically do it all. And I was also very clear that I didn't want to add any more lesson planning. After one administrator told me plans would be provided by the department heads (to get me on board), I learned today that department heads are doing nothing to help us prepare for these lessons.

Outright lies, I tell you!

And although he's extremely supportive, I don't think Joel is very excited about me being at school 6 days a week. He already complains that I do too much lesson planning on the weekends.

Luckily, though, the pay is fantastic! I can't wait to get those paychecks!

January 1, 2013

Technology Rules for Children

My real-life and bloggy friend, Samara, posted a link to an article on Facebook today that I found fascinating. It was about a mother who gave her 13 year-old son an iPhone for Christmas, as many parents did. This phone, though, came with a contract, outlining 18 rules he is required to follow in order to keep using said phone.

I'm not yet a parent, but as a teacher, I think such contracts should come with every single phone. It's incredible how much my students do on their phones without ever having to answer to any adult. The dean of students at my school said that almost every single fight (we're talking about physical altercations here, not just the verbal ones) at our school has started over something on Facebook or a text message.

The argument is that we wouldn't give a child a car without first teaching him or her how to properly use it, so why would we do so with a phone or laptop? As a teacher, I believe in always being explicit in my expectations because what often seems obvious to us as adults is not so for children. I love the list this mom made. What are your thoughts???


Here's Janell Hoffman's full list of rules for her son:
Dear Gregory
Merry Christmas! You are now the proud owner of an iPhone. Hot Damn! You are a good & responsible 13 year old boy and you deserve this gift. But with the acceptance of this present comes rules and regulations. Please read through the following contract. I hope that you understand it is my job to raise you into a well rounded, healthy young man that can function in the world and coexist with technology, not be ruled by it. Failure to comply with the following list will result in termination of your iPhone ownership.
I love you madly & look forward to sharing several million text messages with you in the days to come.
1. It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you. Aren't I the greatest?
2. I will always know the password.
3. If it rings, answer it. It is a phone. Say hello, use your manners. Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads "Mom" or "Dad". Not ever.
4. Hand the phone to one of your parents promptly at 7:30pm every school night & every weekend night at 9:00pm. It will be shut off for the night and turned on again at 7:30am. If you would not make a call to someone's land line, wherein their parents may answer first, then do not call or text. Listen to those instincts and respect other families like we would like to be respected.
5. It does not go to school with you. Have a conversation with the people you text in person. It's a life skill. *Half days, field trips and after school activities will require special consideration.
6. If it falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs. Mow a lawn, babysit, stash some birthday money. It will happen, you should be prepared.
7. Do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Be a good friend first or stay the hell out of the crossfire.
8. Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.
9. Do not text, email, or say anything to someone that you would not say out loud with their parents in the room. Censor yourself.
10. No porn. Search the web for information you would openly share with me. If you have a question about anything, ask a person ? preferably me or your father.
11. Turn it off, silence it, put it away in public. Especially in a restaurant, at the movies, or while speaking with another human being. You are not a rude person; do not allow the iPhone to change that.
12. Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else's private parts. Don't laugh. Someday you will be tempted to do this despite your high intelligence. It is risky and could ruin your teenage/college/adult life. It is always a bad idea. Cyberspace is vast and more powerful than you. And it is hard to make anything of this magnitude disappear -- including a bad reputation.
13. Don't take a zillion pictures and videos. There is no need to document everything. Live your experiences. They will be stored in your memory for eternity.
14. Leave your phone home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision. It is not alive or an extension of you. Learn to live without it. Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO -- fear of missing out.
15. Download music that is new or classic or different than the millions of your peers that listen to the same exact stuff. Your generation has access to music like never before in history. Take advantage of that gift. Expand your horizons.
16. Play a game with words or puzzles or brain teasers every now and then.
17. Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you. Stare out a window. Listen to the birds. Take a walk. Talk to a stranger. Wonder without googling.
18. You will mess up. I will take away your phone. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. You & I, we are always learning. I am on your team. We are in this together.
It is my hope that you can agree to these terms. Most of the lessons listed here do not just apply to the iPhone, but to life. You are growing up in a fast and ever changing world. It is exciting and enticing. Keep it simple every chance you get. Trust your powerful mind and giant heart above any machine. I love you. I hope you enjoy your awesome new iPhone. Merry Christmas!
xoxoxo
Mom

Currently January 2013

In light of my blogging resolution this year, I'm linking up to Farley's Currently party. I've seen these on pretty much every teaching blog for months, but I've only just figured out how to edit my own. Forgive me, it's been a busy year! ;)


I've chosen the word "Focus" as my word for 2013. It's good for me to have this reminder to step back when I'm overwhelmed (and I seem to get this way often) and ask myself what's really important. It helps me keep my priorities straight and let go of things I can't control. It's like my one word version of the Serenity Prayer. Focus on what I can change and let get of the rest.