Dare to Care

create, communicate, collaborate, and think critically

22/Aug/2017
by Denise Krebs
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Piling Metaphors

Piles…

The story of my life.

It seems I’ve lived with them for an eternity.

School papers, ministry details, family matters. Piles everywhere.

Are they a metaphor for a busy mind?

My busy mind?

Are they creativity, genius, and unlimited opportunities?

Or are my piles chaos, paralysis, and missed chances?

A little of both, but more often the latter.

At my age, should I just give up and embrace my piles?

One of my favorite fake Einstein quotes says,

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, what is an empty desk a sign of?”

I don’t know, but I pine for an empty desk.

Maybe I even long for an occasionally empty mind.

Today is my last day of summer.

I love the fresh start of a new school year.

The piles get filed.

Hope is reborn.

Productivity prevails.

How long will it last?

Not long enough, I’m afraid.

A clean desk. #cy365 #t365project #jjaproject A picture in a picture.

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16/Aug/2017
by Denise Krebs
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Time for Family and Home, Not Just School

I had an amazing summer. We have a two-month break from school, and for the whole time I was settled into my small desert island nest. You can’t drive more than an hour in one direction here before you get to the sea and have to turn around.

I was home for two months with time to spend cooking and baking for friends, including never-before-attempted recipes, spending leisurely time with people, cleaning and organizing my home, keeping up with daily household chores, reading, reading, reading, writing, eating out, taking long walks in air conditioned spaces, enjoying my husband, reflecting on U.S. politics and racism, reading the Bible, praying, and never feeling anxious or worried–except occasionally about the way our country is headed.

Our first time making California rolls.

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My summer is coming to a close, and I am a little bit dreading going back to the never-ending grind of busyness that the school year has become for me the last few years. Recently I read,  “Wrapping Up My Summer of ‘No'” by Katherine Sokolowski. It was like a rallying cry for me to join her fragile movement of finding balance.

Like Katherine, I can relate to making school not only my work, but my life and leisure, as well. My children are grown and live 7,000 miles away, and my husband is an amazing servant who can cook and clean and does. As a result, I have lots of time to work. And like Katherine, I love working. I love creating opportunities, preparing BreakoutEDU games, writing blog posts, publishing student blog posts, shifting the way we’ve always done it, figuring out how best to meet the needs of my English language learners. I am never satisfied and never feel finished with my work at school.

However, that life is less than complete. I don’t have serenity. I miss out on so many moments of joy. I don’t want the unbalanced life of all work.

I’m reading another book right now, The Four Disciplines of Execution. I believe it’s going to help me in my personal life, my teaching life, and my overseeing life as an English teacher coordinator. When we determine our wildly important goals–one or two of them at a time, we can have more success than when we try to do it all. More about that in a future blog post.

So, Katherine, for now, I pray I really will join you in saying no to the things that trip me up. I want to say yes to the wildly important goals that will help me live with no regrets.

10/Aug/2017
by Denise Krebs
2 Comments

Shift This Book Review

Thanks to Joy Kirr for a book that outlines her growth as a teacher over the last six years. I was privileged to meet her on Twitter in 2012. I have learned a lot about her shifts in education through her blog and on Twitter–with her more than 80,000 positive, affirming, and equipping tweets.

However, now there is something even better. She has invited me into both her classroom and her mind for the rich details. How does this look? How can I shift the classroom environment in my own situation? She wrote a book on it, called Shift This, published by Dave Burgess Consulting.

Currently reading and loving: #ShiftThis by @joykirr1 #cy365 #t365project #jjaproject

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For those who need more specifics on how to create a student-centered classroom environment, this is the easy-to-read, must-read book for you.

Joy begins the book with the beginnings of her journey and a challenging chapter about WHY and HOW questions to ask of your classroom practice. The book continues with chapters on these timely topics:

  • Classroom Environment
  • Classwork
  • Homework
  • Grading
  • Social Media
  • Student-Directed Learning

Finally, Joy ends the book with a chapter called “Resistance.” The opening story, a discussion with a parent asking about homework, is so compelling! It makes me know she has real-life experience with resistance.

Each chapter ends with a Reflection and Call to Action for the reader to write notes about their next steps. In addition, there is a further reading list provided for each chapter.

Joy is so personable and kind. She will always give teachers the benefit of the doubt. If you don’t want to give up your teacher desk, that’s fine, she’ll tell you. “You have to do what works for you…Furniture and walls really aren’t the key to a transformative culture in our classrooms. The key is how we treat students” (Shift This, page 42).

She will always be patient with and give respect to teachers, but when the students’ best interests are in jeopardy, she makes it clear to you. She will always come up on the side of the students. She will influence us, in her kind, personable manner to shift our practice to be more student-centered and student-empowering.

Like Joy, I’ve had more than 20 years teaching experience. I try to be like Joy in another way: Even with her many years of experience, Joy always has something new to learn. In Shift This, Joy consistently models her love for and need for her own personal learning. One thing that spoke to me poignantly was this quote I discovered on her classroom website, which she had linked to in the book. On this Scholars in Room 239 post, I love how she sought advice from parents:

Please help me grow as an educator. Although this is my 22nd year as a teacher, I know I can always do a better job, and I’ve already asked for your child’s feedback. I’d also love your honest feedback.

She’s left a link to an anonymous survey for all the parents of her students. Brava, Joy! You are inspiring us to all be more humble and thriving as educators!

Here are just a few things I’ve gleaned from Shift This for this new school year, which will start in a few weeks. I want to just list them here to help me remember and so I can hold myself accountable:

  1. Choices of material, length, level and more in independent reading. We’ll take a challenge of how many books to read, rather than the traditional one every two weeks. Students will share their “book reports” in informal book talks with peers and other ways to share books they loved.
  2. My teacher desk will become a modified student station, as it was last year. I’m trying to take it to another level, though. Still a work in progress.
  3. Organize my student web page so there are no questions about what we did in class and what is expected of students. Right now, there are still too many unanswered questions on our Grade 5 News page. My excuse: I was new in grade 5 last year. I can’t make that excuse any longer.
  4. Homework each day will be reading an English book for at least 20 minutes. This will be more intentional and monitored than last year. Last year I gave very little homework, and there was little to no resistance from parents and students. I think it is a good decision.
  5. Grading is developing in my school, too. Another work in progress that I will continue to push for and develop is standards-based grading, collecting evidence of mastery.
  6. I will choose a volunteer photographer for each week rather than trying to do it daily as in the past, which didn’t work so well.

Shift This is the kind of book you can read over and over. As you make shifts in your classroom this year, you will see the benefits. Then next summer you will read the book again and see ideas that last summer seemed out of reach. But next fall…you will be ready. (So be sure to date the entries on the Reflection and Call to Action sections. You’ll be back.) On this journey as the chief learner, each fall you will be able to make your classroom a more safe, student-centered, joy-filled, learning-owned-by-students environment.

You can bet, I will return to this book again. For the sake of my students.

08/Aug/2017
by Denise Krebs
11 Comments

A Day in the Kitchen

I have so much I could have done today–write a Slice of Life post, write an #EdublogsClub post, finish Shift This by Joy Kirr (I’m close), or work on school work (that’s a whole other to-do list).

Instead, I did what I’m good at and what I love. I stayed in the kitchen. (Am I an expert? My husband thinks so.)

I made Spanish rice, chicken fajitas, black beans and salsa and all the fixings. I baked tahini chocolate chip cookies for dessert. (That is a magical little recipe, by the way.) I even cleaned out the Tupperware cupboard.

Each Tuesday evening this summer, we host our pastor and his son who are home while the rest of their family is in the U.S. We have them over for dinner with dessert. Then we send the leftovers home with them for the next day. They are always so appreciative, and I love cooking for anyone with a good appetite.

Today Keith was giving the tour of the buffet line. “We’re having Mexican rice bowls. It’s like at Chipotle’s–you just put whatever you want into your bowl,” he said.

Minus the E. coli, I thought to myselfthough I didn’t want to say it aloud.

After dinner and the dishes, I sat down to write this post. Since today’s Capture Your 365 theme was “Relaxing,” I took this picture–one of the first times I relaxed today.

Relaxing. #cy365 #t365project#jjaproject

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01/Aug/2017
by Denise Krebs
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A Wondrous Hidden Mud Puddle

I wrote the post below today for Teachers Write, but I thought I would share it here because it’s a slice of my life, though 20 years ago. I was thinking of Arizona a lot today because I baked a lemon meringue pie and because the weather is really hot and steamy here in Bahrain, a little like Arizona during the monsoon season. When I saw today’s prompt, this wondrous mud puddle came to mind.

A wondrous puddle is hidden in the Bermuda grass most of the year. Who would have thought there was magic in that small bald patch of yard? The patch near the naval orange tree where the grass can’t grow has the approximate diameter of a large kiddy pool, but the comparison ends there. There is nothing tame about this piece of earth when the rains come.

Unfortunately, Mom never let them flood it with the hose. Otherwise they could have enjoyed mud baths all summer long, mud baths that were simultaneously exhilarating and restful. Mud baths that put grit in their teeth, long-lasting cakes under their fingernails, and the smell of magic in their nostrils. Instead, these girls were forced to pray for rain.

On this day, monsoon winds come. Dust is in the air. Finally, raindrops the size of 50-cent pieces splotch the deck around the pool and back porch. And, yes, the drops are even noticeable in the sticky caliche soil near the orange tree. The girls watch from the French door windows, willing the drops to keep falling. Please not another false rain alert is their unspoken prayer. So often the muddy drops end as a vain attempt to wash the dirt out of the sky, a tease of petrichor they can feel and smell even in the house. More often than not, in Phoenix, the summer rains stop not only before they wash the dust out of the air, but well before they fully wet sidewalks or muddy the hopeful spot in the yard.

This time, though, it’s different. The magic is working. Not just pitter patter. These drops are thunk thunk thunking on the roof, ping ping pinging on the tin cover of the A/C unit in the yard, and quietly invading the dry soil around the orange tree. It is a real monsoon rain. Finally. The season came late this year, but today rain will win the battle to uncover the wondrous mud puddle.

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