Saturday, June 25, 2016

JOY in Relationships {CELEBRATE This Week 145}

I'm glad you are here to celebrate! 

Share a link to your blog post below and/or use #celebratelu to share celebrations on Twitter. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. 

Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.


*****

My friend Patrick Allen says relationships is how he keeps his joy in the journey. I layered this thinking onto my own life, letting it color the way I see the world. Patrick is right; there is great joy in relationships.

This week, I celebrate relationships. It's been a week that seems like a lifetime with the different circles of my life intersecting and linking and bumping into one another.

This post is just the beginning of my reflection. I feel wisps of thinking and know I'm not going to catch them. Truth be told, this is usually when I say, "Check back later for a celebration post." I'm afraid I'm going to leave out important truth.

Sometimes I need to give myself more grace and remember I don't have to get this one post right...but it one more step toward living the kind of life I hope to live.

The week began with a writing retreat. I met some new friends, reconnected with longtime friends, and missed some dear friends. 


I also slipped into my writing world and was lost with stories and research and thoughts about structure and craft. I came up for air, going on walks and meeting with response groups. There are times when I have laser-focus as a writer and the days that follow are about needing to ground my feet back on the earth.

The next day the All-Write Conference began. Again, it was about meeting some new friends, reconnecting with longtime friends, and missing dear friends.


These women are so dear to me, because they remind me that my story matters. I'm touched by the way their encouragement does not end. It doesn't end. You may recognize...

Christy from Read Write Inspire
Rebecca from Pen Nguyen
Mary Helen from Book Savors

I wish you could see in this picture
Leigh Anne from A Day in the Life
Jennifer from Sweet Writing Life
Michelle from One Grateful Teacher

And we missed
Linda from Teacher Dance
Lori from Carpe Diem



My circles of relationships intersected. 

The bloggers who have become dear friends and then Tam, my mentor from my first year of teaching joined us because she's part of the blogging friends too. She writes at Clay Fragments.

And my friend, a fellow Stenhouse author, was there too. Patrick Allen visited with us, and met Andy and made the trip to the tiny library where my mom is the director. "Which one of you is Ruth Ayres' mom?" he announced walking up to the circulation desk.

Linda Urban, middle grade author of The Center of Everything, A Crooked Kind of Perfect, Hound Dog True, Milo Speck: Accidental Agent (and others) became a friend. I'm so grateful. 


Meanwhile, Andy and Sam have been "living it up," just the two of them while I've been out on writing adventures and the three oldest kids have been at camp. In fact, as I write this, Sam and Andy are having their last hurrah, just the two of them.

In a few minutes, we are going to go pick up the three oldest kids from camp. They've been in another world this week, too. 

We'll all find our way back to home, and be better because of the relationships we are privileged to have. 

Share your celebrations below.



Friday, June 17, 2016

Brains Can Heal {CELEBRATE This Week: 144}

I'm glad you are here to celebrate! 

Share a link to your blog post below and/or use #celebratelu to share celebrations on Twitter. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. 

Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.


*****


When we adopted Stephanie at age four, she was a spitfire. Steph survived her hard start to life by always being in charge. She determined what she wanted by doing the exact opposite of what anyone wanted her to do. She figured out this was usually the safest option, and she learned how to get her own way.

When we became Steph's forever family, she was attending a preschool for children ages 2, 3, and 4 with anger issues. Sometimes I have to say it again, because the words just don't make sense. Stephanie attended a preschool for young children with anger issues.

If I'm honest, I kind of liked not knowing there are preschools for two-year-old, three-year-old, and four-year-old children with anger issues. Childhood shouldn't be spent in anger. Childhood is for make-believe and laughter.  When you have a history of hard, it is sometimes difficult to make-believe and twirl around the yard pretending you are best friends with unicorns and butterflies.

We're grateful that Stephanie is a spitfire. Her strong will and fiery temper kept the girls safe in those early years.  When kids experience trauma, especially the kind of trauma that lands you in foster care and leads to termination of parental rights, your brain changes. Your emotional control center , the amygdala, enlarges. When the amygdala is enlarged, it leads to extreme emotions. The primary emotion children from hard places feel is fear. There are three reactions to fear: flight, freeze, or fight.

Stephanie is a fighter.

It used to be believed that once a brain was altered from trauma there was nothing that could be done to change it back. The best option was to learn to live with extreme emotions. It turns out this isn't the case!

Recent brain research shows that brains can heal and that amygdalae can shrink back to a normal size. It's not easy, but it's also not complex. The way brains heal is the same way healthy brains are developed in the first place. They are well-nourished and needs are met.

When we meet the needs of a child from a hard place, we begin to heal their brains. It isn't instantaneous, and I know first hand that it isn't easy. Children from hard places can be very difficult to love. Some days it's so difficult that I wonder if it's true that brains can heal.

Then I saw Steph go outside with her music, colored pencils, and intricate coloring book. She slammed the door a little too hard, the only sign of her anger. I watched her while the minutes disappeared, and I remembered the little girl who learned in the therapeutic preschool for kids with anger issues to sing as a way to self-soothe. I watched her lips move along with the song. I watched her color and stare at the sky and smile as a bunny hopped across the yard.  She took deep breaths and colored more. 

I find her remarkable after eight years of learning to love her more. Day after day of ignoring the fight and believing in filling her needs. Offering her hugs instead of what she deserved. Finding grace and mercy in deepest parts of my soul and offering them to her, while the enemy whispered that we enable her and she will never be grateful and she will always be filled with anger.

I step outside, with 12 year old Stephanie. "I'm okay," she says.

Tears brim past by eyelashes. "I know," I say.

She turns back to filling the butterfly wing with turquoise. I snap her picture.

She looks at me. "Why'd you take a picture?"

"Because I want to remember what healing looks like."

She smirks at me and says, "You're so weird."

I laugh a laugh that is too loud, and I hug her. She giggles. "Like, really weird, Mom."

Stephanie is healing as her needs are met again and again. I celebrate this healing.

And there's an even bigger reason to celebrate -- teachers can heal brains too. There are many children who are still in hard places. Their last hope of healing may be in our classrooms. As teachers meet needs, brains heal. As brains heal, the trajectory of a child's life is altered. 

And, I believe, the world becomes a better place.

Here's to celebrating teachers, because we change the world.

[Just FYI, my new book is a lot like this blog post -- only much longer with stories that are told as close to my bones as I can tell them. It is a collection of stories, much like this, and a call to action for teachers to heal brains, help students tell true-er stories and share their messages with the world, by enticing all students to write with practical leaps of faith in writing workshop. (Can just say, it makes me smile to pair the word practical with the phrase leaps of faith!)]

I'm so happy to celebrate with you!


Friday, June 10, 2016

CELEBRATE This Week 143


I'm glad you are here to celebrate! 

Share a link to your blog post below and/or use #celebratelu to share celebrations on Twitter. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. 

Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.


*****

I'm going to write my celebration post in the morning. Until then, link-up below.

*****



Friday, June 3, 2016

Hello Summer! {CELEBRATE This Week: 142}

I'm glad you are here to celebrate! 

Share a link to your blog post below and/or use #celebratelu to share celebrations on Twitter. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. 

Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.


*****


Hello Summer,
It's so nice to see you again --  we've already jumped in with both feet!

We've been to the skate park and the library. We grabbed lunch at the school and walked through the park. We've planted flowers, went for a run, and swam in the neighbor's pool. We mowed yard, did a little laundry, and watched the world go by from the front porch. We cooked dinner together, lingered at the table, and had a family movie night.

I love you, Summer! I have high expectations.
  • Finish writing a book (!)
  • Choice Literacy Writing Retreat
  • Professional learning at All-Write Summer Institute and the Diane Sweeney conference and the PBL conference
  • Teacher Book Club reading, plus that stack of professional books that are calling my name
  • Email Pals weekly notes and something new I'm cooking up to help teachers with conferring.
  • The GIVEAWAY that is ending soon
  • Switching my blog to a new platform (Yikes!)
  • Running a 5K with the kids
  • Trying new recipes
  • Pies are waiting to be made and cookie perfection to be claimed
  • Canning spaghetti sauce
  • Freezing blueberries
  • Keeping the pots of flowers alive
  • Holding on to every single moment with the kids
  • Adding to their school albums and collecting more memories for our scrapbooks
  • Claiming adventure
  • Reading books
  • Visiting people
  • Exploring places
  • Family Genius Hour (Sam insists)
  • Selecting topics
  • Dipping into research
  • Dreaming up my own project, too
  • A visit from Karianne (our 2011-2012 exchange student) and her mom
  • Welcoming Martha, our 2016-2017 exchange student
  • Kings Island
  • Tennessee
  • Church camp
  • Boy Scout camp
  • Football camp
  • Band camp


Summer, I celebrate you, not just for all that you hold, but for the way you hold me. I slow down, linger with my coffee, scribble in my notebook, and watch the world go by. Thank you, Summer, for letting me live this one precious life as fully as possible.

****






Friday, May 27, 2016

Sharing Stories in Person: CELEBRATE This Week: 141



I'm glad you are here to celebrate! 

Share a link to your blog post below and/or use #celebratelu to share celebrations on Twitter. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. 

Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.


*****




I love getting to work alongside teachers and coaches as we figure out how to teach writers even better than the day before. I'm fortunate to spend my days with teachers who open their classroom doors to me year after year. In addition, I've been blessed with the privilege to work with educators across the country. I started the week with the Missouri Reading Initiative. They're passion and curiosity was contagious and the days flew by.


elsie is one of the trainers for MRI and an amazing hostess. She and her husband spoiled me as their house guest. I tried to savor as many moments as possible. elsie made me her famous grilled cheese and a perfect cup of coffee. We had taco night with the other trainers and went out for Korean food served in hot stone bowls. We tried to sit outside as much as possible (but storms rolled through) and we stayed up and talked. 

I love getting to share stories with elsie through blogging and in person.


Speaking of sharing stories in person -- who is planning to attend the All-Write 2016 Summer Conference? I can't wait for our paths to cross!




Friday, May 20, 2016

I See Change {CELEBRATE This Week: 140}


I'm glad you are here to celebrate! 

Share a link to your blog post below and/or use #celebratelu to share celebrations on Twitter. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. 

Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.

*****


The 2015-2016 school year is over for my kids. The are officially in grades: 5, 6, 7 and 9. This makes me officially a momma to big kids. I'm not sure when it happened. I know that's what everyone says. 

I'm celebrating that they are growing up. There are less meltdowns and more moments of security. There are less pounding fists and stomping feet and more using words and walking away to calm down. There are less arguments and more doing the right thing.

There is more laughter.

If we use laughter to gauge our growth, then we have broken the scale. These kids have developed remarkable humor. Not a single one has the same sense of humor, but they each have developed their own humor and wit and sauciness and goofiness. 

I love it. 

It is easy to believe the lie that they aren't healing, that things aren't ever going to be okay, that maybe their history of hard will be a stumbling block for-always.

I gather up old photos, and I see change. I see survivors. I see courage. I see healing.

I celebrate that I get to be their forever mom.

***********

Will you help me spread the word about the Stenhouse Complete Collection of Streaming Videos giveaway? One person will win a one year subscription for their entire school!


I'm looking forward to reading your celebrations!




Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Be Careful Not to Miss the Growth of Your Student Writers

May is busy. There isn’t time to do the things already on the schedule, let alone any space to think about the things that don’t have a mandate or a deadline or a requirement attached. 

But if we pause, just long enough to take a deep breath and to sit and breathe again, then we’d remember May is what we are hoping for each August. It is the possibility of growth that  keeps us starting again with each fresh school year.

Tweet: "May is what we are hoping for each August." Don't miss the chance to see growth in student writers. http://bit.ly/1XnbifE 

We became teachers to see this growth. If we’re not careful, we’ll be so busy at the end of the school year that we just might miss it. We might miss the growth.

And if we miss the growth, we miss the celebration, and we miss the reason we start all over each fall. 

May isn’t going to stop being busy, but we can choose to collect the growth in our students.

I’ve put together a Google form for you to use to collect a little data about your students as writers. Remember to save a copy to your drive so you are able to collect and use students’ responses. With the new Google forms, the results are automatically graphed to make seeing the whole picture a little easier. You can delve into individual responses to see specifics for each student.


(This is ideal for grades 3 and up. I’d love to hear how primary teachers adapt this kind of data collection for their students. Please share your ideas in the comments.)

Google form to use for data collection with your student writers.

Once you’ve collected data from your students, you can use it to answer the following reflective practice questions.
  1. Note the perceptions students have of themselves as writers. Positive self-confidence is built through a steady diet of solid feedback, celebrating success and nudging growth. How has your feedback influenced the responses to the first two questions?
  2. Consider any trends in the data about writing process. What stage of the writing process do you support students in the most? What stage of the writing process would you like to be more intentional about teaching to students in the future?
  3. Looking at the categories of writing, what does the data show you about your focus on types of writing? To what type of writing would you like to expand your focus?
  4. Consider the responses regarding writing notebooks. Then consider your own use of writing notebooks, as well as the amount that you share your notebook with students. How does your notebook use compare to students’ responses about notebooks?
  5. Take note of your most popular lessons. Why do you think these lessons were so “sticky”?
  6. Do a variety of mentor texts resonate with your students? How much of an impact did mentor texts play in your writing instruction?
  7. The final question asks students to write a reflection about their learning. Prepare to settle in and linger over their answers. Take note of the primary feelings students have about writing workshop as well as why they feel this way. If their feelings are not positive, consider ways to help shift mindsets about writing.
With the use of technology, it is more convenient than ever to collect student data. Even if you are in a classroom with a single teacher computer, you can still have students take turns to complete the online survey. Once you have collected the data, plan to spend an hour reflecting on your writing instruction with the above guiding questions.

Invite your colleagues or an instructional coach to join you in analyzing your data. You will be able to pinpoint celebrations and begin to make plans to make your writing instruction even better.

If we aren't already Email Pals, you can snag my weekly newsletter and a link to the data collection tool by completing the form below. (Plus I'll send you a bonus PDF version if you want to collect data via paper/pencil.)

I'd love to hear how this goes with your students. Please leave a comment and let me know what you're realizing about your writing instruction.

Friday, May 13, 2016

We've reached 500+ Email Pals! {CELEBRATE This Week: 139}


I'm glad you are here to celebrate! 

Share a link to your blog post below and/or use #celebratelu to share celebrations on Twitter. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. 

Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.

*****





Wow! Over 500 Email Pals!
It is beyond what I could even imagine.
I love getting to help make teaching writers manageable + enjoyable. 
It's such a dream come true!
To celebrate and help me say thank you in a big way, 
Stenhouse is offering this unbelievable giveaway. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I love to celebrate the ordinary. However, from time to time, it is good to celebrate the extraordinary. I'm so glad we have this space to celebrate each week. Looking forward to celebrating with you this week.



Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Enjoy the BEST YEAR EVER with a Mantra

For years I've claimed a OLW (One Little Word), but mantras also seem to attach themselves to me. (You can see some of my past mantras here...and long, long ago here, here, here, and here.) 
Lately it's been this:
{Be faithful in small things}
As the school year speeds to a close, I'd like to invite you to pause and claim a small mantra. I do my best thinking in my notebook. If you do too, then grab your notebook and jot down a few wisps that come to mind.
  1. What are some of the important things about the work you do?
  2. How do you wish you felt at the end of most days?
  3. If you had a magic wand, what is one thing you would change?
  4. What is virtue would you like more of in your life?
I'm a firm believer in never extending a writing assignment to another that I haven't done myself. So here are my answers...
  1. ​Making connections; empowering others to write; making others smile; lifting stress; breaking down big processes into manageable steps
  2. Peaceful; joyful; relaxed
  3. Feeling like I don't get enough done
  4. Peace; contentment
It's not surprising how my current mantra found me. When we slow down and jot a few reflective thoughts on paper, we make space for positive changes in our lives. You are not too busy to reflect. You are not too busy to claim a mantra. In fact, this might just be the thing that makes the end of this school year the best one yet!
Take time to choose the path you will walk these final weeks of the school year. I'd love for you to share your mantra with me and others. Just leave a comment below.

I've fancied up my Why I Write mantra (inspired by Jeff Goins). I shared it with all of my Email Pals (I love to share goodies like this). If we aren't Email Pals yet, today is a good time to sign up. Just fill out the form below and I'll send you the printable version of the Why I Write mantra.

Don't forget to share your mantra in the comments. I can't wait to read them!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Learning to Treasure {CELEBRATE This Week: 138}



I'm glad you are here to celebrate! 

Share a link to your blog post below and/or use #celebratelu to share celebrations on Twitter. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. 

Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.

*****



I don't know what to celebrate. I've started this post three times. That's not like me. I started to write about Hannah and high school next year. I deleted the 73 words and decided it's not time to think about that yet.

I started to write about the grey skies that are still wrapping around us. I deleted the 19 words and decided I don't have the grit in my soul to write the grey with joy.


I began a list.


  1. Hannah won a county-wide writing contest. 
  2. Sam finished reading Bird.
  3. Andy promised me dinner out with some friends.
I decided this wasn't fair either. There is a wisp of a celebration right in front of my nose and I'm having a hard time weaving it into something real.

This happens sometimes. We are distracted and the celebrations wave from a distance. We are grey and the celebrations sleep. We are tired and the celebrations slip through our fingers.

Instead of hurrying-up, I'm choosing to slow down. I'm going to linger.

Treasure.
Treasure.
Treasure.

It's my word of the year, and I'm not sure I'm living it. Google defines treasure as a quantity of valuable objects. Treasure is about abundance. If I'm choosing to live treasure, then I'm choosing to embrace an abundance of valuable moments. It's not only about digging one celebration out of the mire, but about claiming another celebration and another and another.

If I live treasure, then I collect an abundance of celebrations. 

My kids are growing up. We are ready to flip the page on this school year, and they will be headed into 9th grade, 7th grade, 6th grade, and 5th grade. They are working their ways out of childhood and into adolescence. Time is marching. 

I want to treasure these moments just like I've treasured the moments that have gone before. Parenting takes endurance. It is through finding an abundance of celebrations that I will learn to live treasure.

So here's to finding one moment then another and gripping them, then looking closely enough to find all of the other glimmers of grace and raw beauty and unexpected joy. This is how I will learn to treasure the rocky year we are living.

I can't wait to read your celebrations. You give me abundance and it fuels me!


Monday, May 2, 2016

Start Planning for an End-of-the-Year Writing Celebration

(Note: This is similar to a previous note that went out to my Email Pals.)

It's not too soon to begin planning for your final writing celebration of the school year. Writing celebrations offer positive energy for student writers, so it is worthwhile to end the year with one. This way students will carry self-confidence and good memories of writing with them throughout the summer and into the following school year.

Primary Writing Celebrations

For the youngest writers, I prefer to have a BEST BOOK EVER celebration! It just so happens that I enjoy launching writing workshop with an invitation to write the BEST BOOK EVER. Check it out...I'm sure you can use it as a springboard for planning an end-of-the-year BEST BOOK EVER celebration. 

If you would like a Celebration Prep Guide, click here to receive a lesson list and timeline to prepare for a Best Book Ever celebration or complete the form below.



Intermediate Writing Celebrations

For older writers, I invite them to complete an end of the year writing reflection and create an anthology.  Students consider four categories and select a project from the school year that meets the following categories.

  • My Favorite...
  • I Learned the Most by Writing...
  • Most Meaningful...
  • I Wish I Had More Time...

Students may select a different piece for each category, or the same piece might fit more than one category. For example, "My Favorite" and "Most Meaningful" might be the same writing project.

If you would like the Year-End Reflection, just complete the form below.

Students can collect their final projects (or print fresh copies if they have their work on a device) to compile an anthology. The reflection will serve as the opening pages to the anthology.

This isn't a project to rush. Plan to spend 5-7 days for students to complete a thoughtful reflection and a meaningful anthology. Depending on time and the students, you may invite them to add different parts to make their anthologies complete. Consider including:
  • A fancy cover
  • Table of Contents
  • Dedication
  • Introduction
  • Back cover with an author bio

The Formal Celebration

During the formal celebration, I prefer to give students an opportunity to share what they have learned as writers throughout the year. Primary students share the BEST BOOK EVER. Older students share the title of the project they selected for one category, their rationale for selection, and the writing project.
With a little forethought, you will put together a stellar final writing celebration. As always, I love to hear from you. Leave a comment and let me know:

  • When will you start preparing for your end of the year writing celebration?
  • What questions or thoughts do you have about an end of the year writing celebration?
Please share pics and comments from your writing celebrations with me on Twitter. Just tag @ruth_ayres.

Friday, April 29, 2016

This is my Story. This is my Psalm. {CELEBRATE This Week: 137}


I'm glad you are here to celebrate! Share a link to your blog post below and/or use #celebratelu to share celebrations on Twitter. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.

*****


Last week I delivered the message at my church. It was part of the This is my Story. This is my Psalm. sermon series. It was a privilege and an honor to get to speak about faith and adoption in my home church. 

I was also thrilled to have my friends, Jasmine and Becca, there to encourage me. They are giants of faith and have helped me heal in many ways. Before them I thought I was a really terrible friend. They've shown me so much truth about friendship, and I hope someday it will be the topic of a book. 

If you want to hear my story and my psalm, you can listen here. Just select the link under my name. I claim Psalm 150 -- the last chapter in the book-- as my Psalm. It is a Psalm of pure praise and has the verse: Let everything that has breath praise His name. I tell the stories of our adoptions -- Sam from birth; Hannah and Stephanie from kindergarten and a preschool for children ages 2, 3, and 4 with anger issues; and Jordan, a child I didn't even know we had until we were told to go find him. 

Also, this was delivered without notes. God wanted me to trust Him completely with the words. He is a good Good.

Celebrate with me by sharing your link here.