Monday, December 30, 2013

Memory Lane: The Best of 2013

Flickr image credit quinnanya
So many of my blog posts are inspired by others- and this one is no different. I'm always looking for a great mentor text! This "best of 2013" post is inspired by Katherine Sokolowski and her recent "best of" post.

Best Books

Picture books: 

Chapter books:  

Best blog posts:
Katherine said, "Well, it’s hard to define “best” here. Most popular? My favorite that I wrote? How about one of each." That works for me!

My most popular post was: 
The Lone Nut and Moonshot Thinking: Lessons learned from #CUERockstar & #GAFEsummit  

My favorite that I wrote this year: 
My Rear View Mirror: 2013 Reflections post. I like it because it’s kind of poem-ish and not like anything else I wrote this year.

Best Professional Decision: 
After teaching K-5 students for 16 years, I left the classroom to become an administrator. I don’t love that title, I really see myself as a lead learner and am a teacher first. In my first year as an elementary principal, I learn every day. I am inspired! Natomas Charter School is an amazing place. I have waited my whole career to hear the kinds of things I hear all the time now. Teachers and students have access to technology- and innovation is celebrated. I loved my colleagues and students in my previous position, but I do not miss the constant battle to have things unblocked or explain why teachers and students should be able to Skype, blog, and tweet.

Best Purchase: Devices! 
This was the year of the devices for me. I once heard someone say that they needed to purchase books as research for their classrooms. I feel that way about digital devices. How could I possibly teach students and teachers about using the devices if I didn’t know myself? So, this year I did as much extra PD as I could and used that money to purchase different devices. Last year I bought a Chromebook when my laptop died-- and I LOVE it! This year I added an iPad an Mac Book Air. I also switched from my beloved Droid phone to an iPhone 5. I absolutely love the camera. Having different digital devices to explore has really helped me become a better teacher when it comes to tech.

Best Memories of 2013

Here are some of my favorite memories from this year. When I love something, I usually write about it, so I have included links to blog posts.

  • Read Across America Day and Dr. Seuss Night
  • The ALA awards and my first graders cheering for Ivan winning the Newbery
  • Having lunch with Kirby Larson in Danville!
  • CUE Rockstar Tahoe-- connecting with so many awesome educators in a fabulous location!
  • Jeffrey, one of my first graders shouting, “Hey, someone in Asia is looking at our blog!” when our map lit up
  • The Area 3 Writing Project #letsgetdigital advanced institute and GHOs with Linda Yollis and Troy Hicks
  • My book club-- every month I am excited to get together and talk about books!
  • My daughter graduating from Willamette University with her Master’s Degree and teaching credential-- and Donalyn Miller as the graduation keynote speaker!
  • Our Natomas Charter Mock Caldecott blog
  • Buying myself two #nerdybookclub shirts for Christmas
  • I finally have a book door!
  • Reading so many great books!
  • Twitter- every day I find inspiration there!

I love looking back-- it's been a great trip down Memory Lane. Here's to a great new year! I'm excited to see what 2014 has in store for me!

It's Monday! What are you reading? #bookaday-ish

Jen and Kellee host this weekly meme- be sure to stop by and comment on their wonderful blog:

I love, love my job. Really! But I really look forward to vacations for two reasons: sleeping in and reading! It is such a treat to not have to set an alarm clock! My crazy puppy gets used to sleeping in after a few days of vacation and we sometimes don't get up until the late hour of *gasp* 7:45 or so. Heaven! By that time, I'm ready for a cup of coffee anyways. Getting up is one thing... getting out of my pajamas is another! I try to take a few days each break to just lounge and read in my PJ's all day. Forget chocolate- this is my guilty pleasure!

I love Donalyn Miller's  #bookaday challenge for reading over vacation. Check out her #bookaday blog post for a more complete explanation, but here are the big ideas. Although she mentions summer vacation, it works for any break.

The rules (more guidelines, really) are simple:
  1. Read one book per day for each day of summer vacation. This is an average, so if you read three books in one day (I know you’ve done this!) and none the next two, it still counts.
  2. You set your own start date and end date.
  3. Any book qualifies including picture books, nonfiction, professional books, audio books, poetry anthologies, or fiction—children’s, youth, or adult titles.
  4. Keep a list of the books you read and share them often via a social networking site like goodreads or Twitter (post using the #bookaday hashtag), a blog, or Facebook page. You do not have to post reviews, but you can if you wish. Titles will do.
This break, my reading is more #bookaday-ish. You don't really have to read a book each day- it's more of an average. But I have crossed quite a few books off of my list. My goal this break has been to finish a few Book Club books as well as some of the Newbery hopefuls! Here's what I've been reading!

Recent reads

Currently reading

Up next!

Happy New Year! What are you reading?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Our 2014 Book Club Picks!

I missed the book club meeting where we recommended and selected books-- it was the night of my staff Christmas party-- which was tons of fun! In a previous blog post, I shared my suggestions for the upcoming year of reading. Here's the final list of books that our group selected! On a side note, they also selected a name for our group... "Friends With Nuts!" I am SURE that this is because we always have nuts as a snack, and not because we are a little bit crazy! You'll notice that we often have several books of a similar topic or genre rather than always reading the same book. I love that we do his and I think it's a great way to model the choice we should provide for students.

So let’s start the year off with a bang…







July--- Vacation!



Or any Jane Austen book...



Pick your favorite high school book list read

That's it! Happy reading! What books are you planning to read in 2014?

Rear View Mirror: 2013 Reflections

018/365 Rain
Flickr image credit ohvaleria

“Look at life through the windshield, not the rear-view mirror,”
Byrd Baggett once said

But I disagree. We must always look forward.
Yet we learn
By looking back

This was a year of
to people
Some I don’t even know

I didn’t know how much I needed them
On Twitter for example
4,796 tweets to 1,525 tweeps
A conversation
about anything
everything I needed to know
to read
to learn.

This was a year of new beginnings
taking risks
a new job in a new place
where my passion meets
my profession.
So inspired. So tired.
I love it.
The home I found
when I was not

This was a year of reading. So many books.
365 books was just too much for this year
Even though I have read
20 books since
107 books so far. Thank you #nerdybookclub
The year is not over.

This was a year of writing.
In notebooks.
Donalyn Miller said it best, “ The world doesn’t need me to blog. But I do.”
I would not be a writer without the Writing Project.
Or a blogger.
Or even a principal.

There are the things
I wished I had done
more running
a cleaner house
and more patience with my family

But I will do better
this year.

“Look at life through the windshield, not the rear-view mirror,”
Byrd Baggett once said

But I disagree. We must always look forward.
Yet we learn
By looking back

Looking for an #edugetaway? Try Valentine's weekend in Napa at Cue Rockstar!

5 reasons you'll love CUE Rockstar Napa

1. Location, location, location.
Valentine’s weekend? In Napa? Amazing! Spend the day being inspired with learning and collaboration. Enjoy the beautiful wine country in the evenings. It’s the perfect destination for fun and learning!

2. Low cost, hands-on learning
All three days consist of two, two-hour sessions allowing attendees to "dig in deep" and really get to know their topic and build resources to use immediately.  Morning sessions are repeated in the afternoon so that attendees have two different opportunities to attend a workshop. All for $159!

3. Small Presenter to Attendee Ratios
CUE Rock Star events are built so that there is one presenter for every ten attendees and the events sell out at 60-70 attendees.  This allows participants to get hands-on support and learn directly from knowledgeable educators.

4. Time for Collaboration and Networking
We purposely start late, end early, and take extended lunches so that all attendees have ample opportunities to collaborate and network as part of learning community. A continental breakfast and a delicious lunch are also provided each day!

5. It’s not your grandma’s PD
Professional learning for educators often consists of being “talked at” for hours on end with little or no interaction. At CUE Rockstar Napa, you’ll find no stand and deliver presentations. Be prepared for a brief instructional session and then plenty of time to work with support! You’ll be able to explore the tools and strategies you’re learning about and leave with something you’ve created! Also, everyone learns from each other at Rockstar. The smartest person in the room is the room!

CUE Rock Star Napa Valley

February 14-16, 2014

American Canyon High School, American Canyon, CA

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sunday, Blogging Sunday!

U2 360
Flickr image credit Robert Hensley

Can you hear Bono belting it out? Sunday, blogging Sunday! There’s nothing bloody about it. Every Sunday is blogging day for me. But it’s not like I sit down on Sunday and think, “Hmmmm. What will I blog about today?” I blog on Sundays, but it takes me all week to collect my thoughts. In Ralph Fletcher’s book “A Writer’s Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You” , Ralph shares these tips for getting started:

Use your notebook to breathe in the world around you. You can write about:
1) What amazes/surprises/anger you
2) What you wonder about
3) What you notice
4) "Seed Ideas" or "Triggers" to generate stories or poems
5) Small details that intrigue you
6) Snatches of talk you overhear
7) Memories
8) Lists
9) Photos, articles, ticket stubs or other artifacts
10) Your own sketches, drawings or doodles
11) Quotes or inspiring passages from books or poems

I have several “notebooks”, and I almost always write in  my composition book as I read, especially when I read professional books. But my go-to notebook is a Google Doc and my go-to strategy is writing from a list. All week long, blog posts are running through my mind. Each week, I start a Google Doc and jot ideas down, paste links to interesting and inspiring articles, and I collect pictures and video. If I’m not using my own images, I use the Creative Commons image search engine at to be sure the images I use are appropriate for use on my blog. And I always try to credit the source. Flickr is my favorite because the site generates HTML that cites and links back to my source.

Blogging on Sundays is a labor of love. I’m not sure if anyone really needs to read my posts, but I know that I need to write them. I love to write, even though it’s hard sometimes. I maintain three different blogs, each with a different audience. My Sparkly Star Staff Stuff blog serves as a weekly memo and update for the teachers at my school, while Star Academy News is my new blog designed to communicate important events and information for my K-3 school. And Lead.Learn.Sparkle is my personal/professional blog-- the place I post reflections about reading, learning, and leading. Each is different. Each challenges me as a writer.

Flickr image credit chillitpv
Not everything I write is amazing. I’ll never forget Edna Shoemaker and the day she said, “Sometimes you have to write a truckload of crap to get a teacup of beauty.”

It’s true.

But the more I write, the more confident I feel. I look forward to Sundays. Sunday, blogging Sunday!