Express Yourself

Be who you are and say how you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.
--Dr. Seuss

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Gift of Time

The Gift of Time

I have looked at tons of posts from Facebook and Twitter about Hurricane Harvey. Many of them have focused on being able to be there for our students when we return to class. Many of them have given a list of suggestions about how to help our students cope with the aftermath of Harvey on their lives. I really found these articles and suggestions to be helpful, but the question still remains: how are we supposed to help the students when we haven't quite processed this horrible event in our own lives? The purpose of those articles was to give educators tools to help our students. Who is going to help us? How are we supposed to deal with all of this?  I am dealing with it all by writing this post. For me, writing is the key to helping me understand what has happened. It is cathartic.Yes, I know I survived an 800 year event and that it was catastrophic. It certainly was, but now I need time to heal and talk about what happened. Now I need to express the fears that I have. I need to express the fact that I wake up afraid. I have to remind myself that everything is okay and it is not raining outside. When we get the first real rain, I will be fearful, and it will bring back memories of being enclosed in a closet with my sister, nephew, two dogs and cats numerous times due to tornado warnings. It will bring back my fear of falling asleep to find my home inundated with water. It will bring back fear that I might have to climb on my roof and wait for help from the Coast Guard. Fear, yes, lots of fear. I know it will take time, as time heals all wounds. That is why I am writing this post to confront this fear and hopefully be able to move on.

 I want to personally take some time to thank my superintendent, Scott Muri, for recognizing that we all need time. Not only do our the students and parents, but teachers, staff, and administrators need precious time. We need time to process, understand, and begin to heal.  We need time to clean up and return as close as possible to normal. School starts back next week. I can't wait to get back to my students and get back to normal. I know with this extra time, I will continue with the healing process. Again, thank you Dr. Muri for giving us this time to recuperate and heal so that we can be the best for each other and for our students.

Rebuilding-Post Harvey and the Aftermath

I have never been more fearful of a storm than with Hurricane Harvey.  I am mentally, physically, psychologically, and spiritually exhausted. Sleep has evaded me numerous times. When I do dream, my dreams are sporadic and chaotic. I can't rest because I wake up hearing the pelting of rain even though it hasn't rained for a week. I peer into a hole that has been patched in my bedroom ceiling. I am the fortunate one. My repairs are nothing. Nothing compared to friends and family who peer into flooded houses and breathe in the toxic fumes of mold and backed up sewage.

The last week has been a blur. As of Sunday, I couldn't remember what day it was. I just wanted to get back to some kind of normal. In other ways, I feel shell shocked and somewhat paralyzed. I have binged watched KTRK Channel 13 News from Thursday, August 24th to Friday, September 1st. Face Book, Twitter, and group texting were my best friends. They kept me in touch with friends and family through this horrendous time. I am truly grateful for social media. With social media, I was able to stay in communication with so many.

I wrote a post on Thursday, when my sister and nephew were able to safely return to their home. I wanted to leave my thoughts intact on that day. Please read below:

View of the Bayou from my hotel Monday, August 28th
I felt extremely stressed thinking about the bayou behind my house, and if it would hold the flood waters from entering my neighborhood.The rain wouldn't stop. At times, we would catch a break, but that was mostly during the day, for about an hour or two. I feared nighttime. It seemed that at nighttime the rains were relenting. I kept vigilant and stayed up most nights. Chief Meteorologist Tim Heller, from KTRK Channel 13, advised the viewers to stay up because the water might creep in the house while we slept. I thought of Katrina and how people took shelter in their attics. They had to use hatchets to make a pathway to the roof. "Don't go to the attic," Tim Heller kept saying. I had my ladder ready in the garage in case we would need it to get to our roof. The rains we so unforgiving. I couldn't imagine staying on the roof in the cold night with rain pelting my sister, nephew, and me. It was so cold and harsh. I drove to the bayou to see what was happening. Each time, it seemed to hold, but the levels were getting close to bridge. We had about 12 inches to give. "Stop raining!" I kept thinking. During this time, I was able to find out how my friends were doing in Houston. We kept encouraging each other on Face Book, Twitter, and by text. We asked for prayer and words of consolation. My family in Ohio and beyond were also communicating with me through Face Book and texts. I left many posts begging for prayers. They came through in a big way.

Monday morning, at 2 am, my brother-in-law, who decided to ride out the storm in his trailer, phoned my sister to let her know that the water was rising in his neighborhood. In his area, it had never flooded, but the water rose to the middle of his car's tire and up the first step to his trailer. He didn't know what to do. Should he stay or go? If he left, he might encounter higher levels of water en route to my house. He wasn't a confident swimmer. Not only that, but an elderly neighbor refused to evacuate. After much consideration, my brother-in-law decided to stay and ride the storm out to help his neighbor.

 Morning view of Bayou on Tuesday, September 29th 
Finally, after three days of constant rain, I decided to see if there were any hotels with vacant rooms near my house. The first two hotels were overbooked. On the third try, The Days Inn near me gave me a room on the third floor. My sister, nephew, and I went out in the pouring, pelting rain to bring what we could to the hotel. We made four trips. When I finished, I was completely drenched. My adrenaline must be overtaken me because I don't remember feeling cold at all. I was determined to do what I could before a potentially flooding situation. While in the hotel, I met so many people that were fleeing the flooding in their areas. One man told me that he had driven for 8 hours to get to the hotel. He only lived 5 miles away from the hotel. His apartment complex had completely flooded out and roads were difficult to traverse. I met so many people who were worse off. Others feared that their areas were in imminent danger of flooding.  I felt a sense of relief knowing that I would be safe on the third floor, but wondered how bad the flood waters would be if we received the twenty-five inches of additional rain that were forecasted. "We can't take that much rain!" I thought. I begged my family and friends to pray, pray, pray! There was nothing else we could do. It wasn't up to us anymore. We were helpless. Monday night, during the weather forecast, Travis Herzog (KTRK Meteorologist), announced some good news. He stated that Harvey moved onto the East and that the Northwestern parts of Houston would receive less rain than projected. I eyed the bayou. It was holding steady and the water levels weren't increasing. The next day, I woke up at five am to watch the news cast. I peered down at the bayou and it seemed to have lowered! I couldn't believe it. I watched Travis Herzog show us how Harvey was moving away from us and was headed toward East Texas and Louisiana. That was fantastic news.  By noon, I could actually see the reeds in the

Afternoon view of Bayou on Tuesday, September 29th

middle of the bayou. What a gift! 

Finally after 6 long days, I breathed a sigh of relief!  My family was fine, but at the same time, many people were suffering. Many of my friends had to rescued after Saturday/Sunday/Monday rains. They were rescued by boats floating through their once dry neighborhoods. One friend, had to flag down a boat to help her with her two elderly parents who could barely walk much less swim. They made it to the George R Brown Convention Center. In Face Book posts, another friend chronicled how the water inched closer and closer to her house and neighborhood. By Monday, flood waters entered her house. She was rescued by boat. Still others friends evacuated their homes because the Barker and Addicts Reservoir released tons of water over multiple days. The initial days of rain from Tropical Storm Harvey didn't overwhelm their neighborhood, but the reservoir release brought in droves of water. They waited on street corners for boats, dump trucks, and jet skies to rescue them. Many are displaced in shelters or are staying with family and friends.

When I arrived home from the hotel, I appreciated my humble abode even more.
Blue skies emerge in Cypress, Texas on September 30th at 6 pm.
I appreciated seeing a blue sky emerging from the clouds on Thursday evening. I appreciated being able to drive to Hart's Chicken and order the greasiest comfort food of fried chicken and red beans and rice. I appreciated seeing my neighbors talking to each other outside swapping horror stories. I appreciated the great gift of family and friends who checked up on each other. I am truly grateful.

As the water subsides in Houston, I know that we will not be the same. Mine life, for one, has changed. Although I am grateful, I feel afraid now, and an uneasiness fills my soul. What if my house had flooded? What would I do? How would I survive? Where would I live? When will the next storm hit? Will I be as fortunate? Parts of me want to pick up and move, yet I want to dig my heels in and fight. Maybe this feeling of uneasiness is normal, and quite possibly it will subside. I don't really know. We will see. All I know is that I survived an eight hundred year storm with catastrophic implications. In the next storm, will I be as fortunate? Only God knows. One day at time.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Pre-Harvey Post

Hurricane Harvey is all over the news tonight. It makes my heart skip a beat or two thinking about the excessive rainfall and the flooding danger. Everything is going wonderfully at school and beyond. Why does Harvey have to come along and ruin it all? Who knows how long we will be out of school next week.  Who knows if I will have a house to live in after the projected 12-25 inches of rain falls. The calm before the storm feels like Ike and sounds like an Allison. I knew what I was getting into with Ike since I had some time in Houston. I had lived through Tropical Storm Francis and Hurricane Rita. I fled to San Antonio during Rita because I saw what a hurricane could do to a city in Katrina. Luckily, Rita turned toward the Texas and Louisiana border before landfall. I know where Sabine Pass is because of this. I don't think we will be as lucky this time. To me, this is an Ike moment combined with an Allison. I would take another Ike moment if it means that my house will not flood. I can live without electricity for a few days. I can't, however, survive flooding with 25 inches of rain. Between Ike and Allison, which was worse?  For me, Allison was more egregious. Allison seemed to never end. The rains were bruising my roof. The Doppler Radar showed a constant, menacing red. At 1:30 am, it wouldn't stop. I feel asleep at 3 am not knowing what to do. I was exhausted with fear. Finally, Allison subsided. I survived the storm with minimal damage. Not all residents of Houston could say the same. Some of my colleagues were heavily flooded and lost their houses. I felt fortunate compared to some people. This time? Who knows?

Come Wednesday of next week, will I be sitting here posting the after effects of the storm counting my blessings in a shelter or in my home?  Will my friends and colleagues fair as well or worse than me?  Will all of my students be safe along with their parents?  The first week of school has been crazy. We had an lunar eclipse the first day of school and now, to round out the week, we have an uninvited bully named Harvey. Will he be kind or unmercilessly relentless? I just have two words for Hurricane Harvey: HAVE MERCY!  SMH and hold my heart. We will see.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

My New Team

My team met today for our first grade level meeting. Sometimes grade level meetings can be fun and informative. Others can be rather dreary and akin to extreme root canals. The former is what I experienced today. I am looking forward to working with this dynamic team. 2017-2018 will be a great year. Plus I found a fellow Twitter kindred spirit. The photo that I am posting comes from one of her tweets today. It will be an exhilarating year. You can Tweet that to the bank!

New TEKS for Language Arts Available on the TEA Website

The new ELAR and SLAR TEKS  have been published on the TEA Website.  The TEKS for ELAR K-8 and SLAR K-8 are available. I am going to start reading them tomorrow.  I have uploaded the PDF on my Drop Box account for download. It will a nice read. It may even be full of suspense. Will they or will they not include Figure 19 or will it be banished to Area 54? Read the document for your Close Encounters of  Language Arts Kind. I won't, however, quote the document for Goodreads though. No Reading Graffiti for me!

Monday, August 7, 2017

STAAR 2017 Tests Have Been Released!

I am so thrilled. The STAAR 2017 tests have been released. You can go to the Texas Education Agency Website or download them from my Drop Box account. I have grades 3-5 tests and answer keys uploaded in English and Spanish Reading, Writing, Math, and Science. I also have STAAR Reading and Writing in grade 7 uploaded.  I will be printing them and analyzing them pronto. More to come!  Enjoy!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Indelible Moments-Reading and Writing Institute

I made a Stupeflix Video about Indelible Moments that we experienced at the Reading and Writing Institute at Edgewood Elementary. I wanted to try to capture what we did. The idea for Indelible Moments is found in Gretchen Bernabei's Story of My Thinking. We wrote down memories that were triggered by using artifacts such as paper plates, wrapping paper, coffee filters, luggage tags, school paper, thank you cards, memo pink slips of missed phone calls, and other mementos. The writer then writes about memories that flood the brain. We had so much fun mining the memories. Enjoy!

Reading and Writing Institute at Edgewood

I conducted a Reading and Writing Institute at Edgewood this week. We started on Monday and finished on Wednesday. Teachers  from grades 3-5 attended. My colleagues from Edgewood also attended. We worked on understanding expository and narrative text structures from a Reading and Writing perspective.  We wrote about important stories in our lives and explored topics to develop in our writing. We used common objects to be utilized as artifacts to help us trigger memories. These Indelible Moments from Story of My Thinking by Gretchen Bernabei were fun to explore, write and share. We also learned several revision techniques including RADAR, Pitchforking, and Renaming.

We also learned more about the teaching of grammar in relevant and natural ways. We studied Jeff Anderson's work titled Mechanically Inclined and Everyday Editing. We used the sentence constructs from Dr. Joyce Armstrong Carol in Acts of Teaching, and Gretchen Bernabei's work from her book Grammar Keepers. We also study parts of speech using mentor sentences and the Invitations to Edit. In addition to that, we study nouns, verbs, and explored proofs and conversations to help  interiorize language from Grammar Keepers. Finally, we brought it all together in an Express Lane Edit.

Also we studied each other's sentences and kernel essays by sharing continuously with partners and in triads. We vacuumed the residue with the 3, 5, 7 brainstorm and top ten list. Then we studied sentences using Sparkling Sentences. We had some really wonderful peer writing to highlight and analyze. It was a fun filled 3 days of learning. I can't wait to do this again possibly next year!  I do, however, need to get some rest! I am bushed!

Indelible Moments

Sharing a Moment Using The Memory Kernel

Revising Using RADAR and Tracking the Movement of the Mind

Vacuuming the Residue

Sharing Collecting Signatures

From Three to Joining the Triads to Vacuum More of the Residue

Invitation to Collect and Celebrate-Mentor Sentence Share