Being Thankful

I've been thinking for a few weeks about what would be in my blog post during Thanksgiving break. I am so thankful for my life, my family, my friends, my work and my health. I am really living my childhood dreams. Ever since I can remember (starting around age 5), my fondest wish has been to be a mother and to be a teacher. I am a mother of four and a teacher of many (adults and kids) at a school I treasure.

Happiness does not cause me to rest on my laurels. I feel like I am constantly pushing the envelope, looking around the corner for what's next and pondering the possibilities for new dreams. I haven't always been this way. I think working in a nurturing work environment and having like-minded friends is what gives me courage to dream bigger. Or...maybe it's just that forty is around the corner - haha

I ran across this video on Karl Fisch's blog and figured, if he thought is was worth was probably worth watching. He simply wrote, "It's worth your time." However, remember the part about the four kids? Well, my free time comes in snatches. I could see the video was almost TWO HOURS. I thought, well... I'll just watch a few minutes of this. The beginning isn't much, a few introductions but as soon as I met Randy Pausch, I was engrossed. He is a professor at Carnegie Mellon, an inspiring person just based on his work...and yet you would barely know if it wasn't briefly mentioned, he has terminal cancer. His message is: Living your Childhood Dreams.

I knew this may be a challenge for my readers to spend time watching, so I tried summarize the message, reflect, etc. I JUST COULDN'T DO IT. Even if you have to watch it in snatches, watch it. Even with the stop and go watching I the end, I sat crying at my computer and thinking about what Randy was inspiring me to do.

Happy Thanksgiving! Live your dreams!!!!


Haaaalllllooooooooo out there?

Sometimes when I log in to my blogger account I feel like Tigger. Inside my head I'm saying, "Haaaallllloooo out there? Is anyone reading this thing?" I see all of the hits on my clustermap, all over the world...but who are these people and what brought them to my blog? I have had over 1,000 visitors and 98% are unknown to me. It's a lonely existence. I wish they would at least leave a comment that says, "Visited your blog from ________(place) , I'm a _________(profession)."

So I think to myself, what can I do about getting comments... #1 Read more blogs to get to know other bloggers through commenting or twitter. #2 Write posts on timely topics that will generate interest. It definitely helps.

Recently, Dean Shareski wrote a blog post about commposting and the importance of tracking back to your comments to continue the conversation started. There is actually a website that provides a download to help you trackback to your comments called Cocomment. I plan on giving it a try. But the thing that had me gaping at my computer was where he wrote, "trying to reach my goal of 2 to 1." I mean, 2 to 1!!!! That is a lot of commenting, but conversation goes two ways and that is the difference between a blog and website. I think of my blog of a conversation with the world at large. Commenting is your way to talk back!

So please, give a girl a break, let me know why you're reading this right now. Don't be a closet blog reader, jump in and join the conversation. You'll be hooked!


Don't Judge a Book by it's Cover

When I taught 3rd grade, I was told that I would have to do an author study on Allen Say. I took one look at the stack of books and did something I always tell my students not to do. I judged the books by their covers. Don't get me wrong -- they have beautiful illustrations (one even won a Caldecott award), but it was immediately obvious to me they were nothing like the kind of books that were flying off the shelf in the library...fantasy fiction, series books, colorful lighthearted books. I reluctantly began my study with my class...

To my surprise, my students were captivated by the people, places and events in these stories --and so was I. But the thing that made me really love these stories was that they turned my class into THINKERS. They are rich with beautiful language, underlying themes and strong emotion. My students felt for these characters and wanted to revisit the stories to make interpretations, study author's craft and learn new vocabulary.

When we finished the author's study I asked my students to write Allen Say a letter telling him what they thought about his books and to ask any questions they may have. I had given this particular assignment in the past, and never really expected to receive a response since I never had from other authors. Several months later, I was amazed to find a letter addressed to Mrs. Holtsman's class from a publisher. It was a letter Allen Say wrote to my class. He thanked them for their letters and proceeded to tell them how busy he had been writing his new book: Kamishibai Man. He signed the letter with his signature and a drawing of himself. That was it...he became my new favorite children's author!

Fast forward five years...I am now the literacy coach for third grade at my school. I introduced the Allen Say author study to my teachers this year. A whole new group of kids is discovering the magic of Allen Say. Recently at our Literary Pumpkin Festival, two of my classes chose to do their pumpkin on Allen Say books. They turned out adorable.
I guess there really is something to the book behind the cover thing...I'll never do that again. In honor of the works of Allen Say, I have recorded a voicethread of my favorite Allen Say story, the one he told my class he was writing, Kamishibai Man. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I'll have to bring your own sweets...


Bumping the Lamp

The last several weeks, the leadership team at my school has been studying the book, The Disney Way by: Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson. It is an inspiring thing to peek into the thinking that drove Walt Disney to create his dream - Disney World. Very simply, his four steps were: Dream, Believe, Dare, Do.

There are many parts of this book that I could refer to as powerful points for reflection, but sometimes my mind gets stuck on one certain thing... Since reading about it, I am continually asking myself, "Are you bumping the lamp?"

Let me back up a minute and explain. This curious phrase came about when the film, Roger Rabbit, was being made. In this scene, the character bumps his head on a hanging lamp. Initially there were no shadows in the scene, then creators caught their error and spent the countless hours it took to add the drawings with shadows. Viewers may never have noticed the missing shadows, but they would have noticed something was off... "Bump the Lamp" became the Disney nickname for making things right down to the detail.

I have always valued the details in my job, but recently I find myself constantly repeating, "Are you bumping the lamp?" I think I do pretty well with visual details (because I enjoy them), but my challenges are paperwork, planning and following up on tasks I initiated. Bumping the lamp with paperwork, for me, means that even if I don't value it...someone else I need to treat it like it is important to me too. When I plan for teaching or professional development...yes, I can do a pretty good job even if I wait until the last minute to get things together...but I also know from experience that if I am far enough in advance with my plans I usually improve upon them before delivery. I love to brainstorm new ideas and frequently put them into action or encourage a colleague to take it on...but then the adrenaline junkie in me is ready for the next brainstorm. I need to stop and nuture new things that have begun and the people putting them into action. Even when I think I'm doing well, I am frequently looking for a way to bump the lamp and put more heart into my details.
I am absolutely a failure at "bumping the lamp" taking care of myself. No shadows there at all. I am starting today by pulling out my sketchpad to do the hundreds of drawings it will take...but when I'm done I'll be exercising regularly, eating healthier food, spending more time playing with my kids and looking for ways to stop and smell the roses more often.

Let's all take our cue from the Disney Imagineers. How do you think you could "bump the lamp" in your life?


Web 2.0 Open House

In the fifteen years I have been teaching I have done my yearly Open House so many different ways. I have done the speech thing (hate that), children do performance as main part (kinda like that but it takes a lot of prep), children explain the things I would have said (they always forget to say something I want them to say) and showed video of "day in the life of our students" (like that but takes forever to complete).

This year was the birth of Web 2.0 in my we had to shake it up. I wanted the kids to build their presentation and I wanted a short (don't want to bore them) pointed message about the importance of digital literacy from me. I used voicethread as the vehicle for the students to get their message across and here was the final product.

Not only was the message more powerful than any I ever had at Open House, it was completed in less time and was able to be shared with parents that missed it that same evening from our class blog.

I decided for my part, that the most powerful, poignant way I could deliver the message about digital literacy would be to show Carl Fisch's short video: Shift Happens. I watched the faces of the parents from the side of the room where I was the most engaged I had EVER seen a room of parents be. I really feel like between the two presentations (all took about 25 minutes) I had the most compelling message I had every delivered. I can't wait to see what next year will bring!