Swimming & Snow

The most sought after summer accessory as a kid was the brightly colored wristband that gave the wearer the right to navigate the deep end of the pool.  With this, you were no longer restricted to the shallows and instead were allowed free reign of the diving board and slides.

Before you could obtain this treasure however, you had to pass THE SWIM TEST.  This involved swimming a certain number of laps, being able to jump off the diving board and not need rescuing and the most dreadful of all, treading water.

On the surface, treading water seems the most innocuous of all the tasks, after all, all you have to do is keep your head above the water.  No real skill, style, or bravado needed.  After even a short time of treading water though, it is clear that this is the most trying test of them all.  It’s not long before your arms and legs start to tire and your chin gets closer and closer to the water.

So what has me thinking of swimming and summer when I’m surrounded by the nearly three feet of snow that has incapacitated our area and cancelled school for the past three days?  It was a comment Jessica made about how we should be back to blogging by now but that she’s been feeling she’s treading water in her classroom and that it’s taking all she can to keep her head up.  Of course, if I can liken teaching to sky diving like I did here, I can pretty much tie anything to teaching.

The parallels are there. Diving off the board is like the beginning of the year when you can’t wait to just jump in. Swimming the laps is like when you’ve found yourself in a little bit of a groove and things are going well.  And the rest of the time, well, that’s when you are just keeping your head up treading water.

But as I’m starting at the mounds of fresh snow out the window, I’m wondering if treading water isn’t the most important skill of them all. How bad it is if, every once in a while, we dunk under water.  As long as we don’t drown, being immersed can be refreshing, a reminder of why we got in the pool in the first place.

It is with this perspective that I’ve decided a few things:

  1. Treading water is essential to becoming a strong swimmer and enjoying the deep end.  Feeling a little like it’s taking all we can just to survive is proof that we can do plenty but that we don’t have to be perfect at it all, all the time.
  2. Since we don’t have to be perfect at it all, it’s ok to share when we are feeling a little under the water.
  3. It is time to get back to blogging!


VSRA 2015: Pictures and Prose


A picture is worth a thousand words right? Well, I’m not sure a thousand words or pictures could really do justice in describing my VSRA conference experience.

Was it perfect? No. Was my presentation perfect? No. What was it?  Educational! Exciting! Inspiring! And it wasn’t the big name people or the fancy vendors who were really inspiring. It was the middle school librarian who told me all about her “literary lock-in” where kids get people to sponsor them to read a whole book while locked in the library for the night to raise money for books. It was the elementary reading specialist who showed me some word analysis tools to help my students unlock words.  It was the administrator who motivated me to use wordless picture books to help level the playing field and help students find meaning. It was the person who came to my presentation and was OVERJOYED to earn the book and the beard I was giving away.

But back to those pictures:

  • Celebrity and Me: Me and Richard Allington, literacy researcher, author, and former president of the International Reading Association, in pajamas at PJ/PD.  He has a masterful way of offending people and reminds me a lot of my grandfather (my grandfather was similar in both build and disposition).  I let him give me bunny ears to show how magnanimous I can be. What I really wanted to do was give him a piece of my mind, but it’s hard to be taken seriously when you’re asking for a picture and wearing pajama bottoms with Eeyore on them.  I know he knows his stuff, and I know he means the best, but he needs to gain a better awareness of his audience when he speaks.  What I wanted was a picture of him in his pjs as proof that he did come and he was in his pajamas, but he pulled me into the picture with him.
  • Reading Level Correlation Cards: I picked one up from a vendor my first day at the conference and was super excited.  I constantly misplace the paper copy of this chart and have to reprint it.  Now I can keep it with my school ID and be able to check levels of books no matter what.  When I realized what a gem I had found I went back the next day and unscrupulously pocketed plenty to bring back for my colleagues.  I got other freebies, but these are, hands-down, what I was most excited about.
  • My Badge: I got to go to an additional fee session by volunteering as a “Presider” which meant I stood at the door to collect tickets and held up signs to let the presenters know that their time was running out.  I also got a ribbon for being a presenter.
  • My Presentation: I wrote earlier to watch for the crash and burn.  Luckily neither happened in my presentation, though I did get a muscle burn lugging all those books from the hotel to the convention center. (I need something with wheels if I ever do this sort of thing again!)  The technology worked, the people participated, and I even had a couple of people stick around afterward to ask questions and let me know how much they enjoyed it.  Again, I was most excited that the librarian (such inspiring people, librarians) who won the Book and Beard I gave away was very, very happy to earn it and couldn’t wait to put it on.
  • Other Presentations: If only I had a time turner.  There were so many interesting presentations to go to, and so many of them happened at the same time!

I also won a door prize at one of the events and found out about a summer conference even closer to me that will feature one of my favorite children’s authors!  I’ll be riding this high for a while.


VSRA 2015: Jitters and Jubilation

Some people get their feet wet. Some people jump right in.  Me?  I lean so far over trying to get a good look and end up falling in.  Then I wonder what I am doing soaking wet.

This explains why I have so many Billy Crudup movies, why a month after my first 5K I found myself doing a obstacle 10K mud run, why I’m in a graduate program designed to make me qualified as a reading specialist even though I have no real intention of changing jobs and what I am doing at the 2015 Virginia State Reading Association (VSRA) Conference.

The jubilation is over the fact that I’m at a conference surrounded by like-minded book nerds and teachers.  It’s the first time I’ve ever attended any sort of professional conference.  The jitters are over the fact that I am presenting at this conference.  That’s right. Never before have I ever participated or attended a conference and here I am speaking at one.  It’s just a little one-hour concurrent session but it’s still giving me the jitters.

(Pardon me, I had to step away and ponder my life choices for a moment there…)

How did I get here?  One word: GULLIBLE.

Stay tuned for the crash and burn…