Sunday, March 31, 2013

Last Day :-(

So, today is the last day in March...which means it's the last day for the daily Slice of Life. I have to say, I'm proud of myself for blogging almost every day this month....but I'm also very disappointed with myself that I didn't blog every single day. :-(

I'd like to say that there is a valid reason for missing a couple of days, but I would be lying. Two of the four nights, I was really tired and fell asleep on the couch when I got home from work. The other two nights, I was dog/house sitting, and I didn't have the password to log onto their computer. I should have just used my phone, but I really don't like blogging/typing big things on it.

Oh well....perhaps I'll be more successful next year with the challenge. However, 27/31 days isn't too shabby!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring Break

It is officially Spring Break, and this is how I've spent my vacation so far:

  1. I have complete two deadly Crossfit trainings at 8:30 in the morning.  I have one more on Friday of this week.  What is wrong with me?!
  2. I have been house/dog sitting for a family that went to Florida.  Each time I've stayed there, I have ended up with dog fur all over my clothes and my body....including in my eyes and in my mouth.  YUCK!
  3. I have gone into work by 7:30 each morning....and have stayed there until 4:30 each day.  AAAGGGHHH!!!!
  4. I've completed all the official evaluation paperwork for my teachers....and it's on its way to the district office as we speak.
  5. I followed up with DCFS regarding a student.
  6. I've straightened up my office and thrown many things into the recycling bin.
  7. I worked with a colleague today and spent $35,000 on books for our school.  Gotta love Title I funding!!!
  8. I've read several outstanding books by Neal Shusterman....see previous posts.
  9. Some girlfriends and I have gone out to eat...and to see a movie.  This was a fun night!
Not much of a vacation, huh?  Well, at least I've gotten a lot of work done.  :-)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Call

Last night, I went to the movies with some girlfriends.  We went and saw the suspense movie The Call, featuring Halle Berry.  Check out this trailer:

It's about a serial killer who abducts teenage blonds, and Halle Berry is the 911 operator who tries to help the young girls.  Overall, it was a good movie....but the ending was bad.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Fantasy Book - must read

Last night, I started reading the book The Hunt for the Seventh, by Christine Morton-Shaw...and I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN!!!  If you like mysteries, ghosts, suspense, and children's chapter books, then this is a must read!

It is about a family (a father, a son, and a daughter) who moves into Minerva Hall so that the father can be the full-time gardener.  The son, Jim, comes across the ghosts of six Minerva children who have died every 30 years on the Summer Solstice.  These ghosts urge him to find the seventh child, and they give him clues throughout the story.  Will he find the seventh child in time?  What will happen if he doesn't?  Read the book to find out.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Neal Shusterman

This week, I've read three books written by Neal Shusterman:

1.  The Shadow Club
2.  Everlost
3.  Everwild

He is a literary genius!  Even if you don't like the genre of fantasy, you really need to pick up one of his books because he writes about crazy things that COULD be possible in our world thanks to all the crazy people out there.  Two of my favorite books are:

Thursday, March 21, 2013

HELP: Writing Scope and Sequence

Currently, our district does not have a scope and sequence for writing....or any kind of actual curriculum.  Although we enjoy the freedom of choice in Writer's Workshop, it can be frustrating to not have some kind of "plan" to help teachers better understand what should be taught/learned throughout the school year.  I'm wondering if any of you have a scope and sequence (K-5) that is linked to the CCSS.  Any suggestions/advice would be greatly appreciated!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I Love My Job!

How many people can say they LOVE going to work each and every day?  I hear people all the time saying they hate their jobs, they don't like the people with whom they work, they don't feel valued, etc.  This makes me so sad because you should feel energized and excited every morning when you wake up.

I LOVE MY SCHOOL!!!  In fact, I don't consider going to school a's not just a paycheck for me.  The people with whom I work are incredible, and we are truly all a family.  I enjoy that I can come in and work hard, laugh, learn, feel inspired, and grow as a person.  I feel very lucky!!

Now, don't get me wrong --- I have bad days or situations that are frustrating....but those are so far and few between.  I love my Shark family and feel blessed to be following the path that has been set before me!!!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

McDonald's Coke

Happy Tuesday, Everyone!  I'm sitting at school drinking a Coke from McDonald's, and I thought I would blog about my experience.  Did you ever notice that a Coke (in a styrofoam cup) from McDonald's tastes so much better than any other Coke in the world?!  I mean it!  It tastes completely different from Coke in a can, Coke in a bottle, Coke from other restaurants, etc.  Why do you think that is?  Why does the Coke from McDonald's have a different flavor than Coke from Portillo's????  Do you agree?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.  

Monday, March 18, 2013

My Reading Buddy

Last year, I "adopted" a third grade reluctant reader, Jordan; and I told him I was going to change his point-of-view when it came to books.  Jordan hated to read for many reasons:
  • "It's boring!"
  • "I would rather play video games."
  • "It's too hard."
  • "Is it almost time for lunch/recess?"
  • "I don't understand this story."
These are just some of the excuses I would hear on a daily basis.  So, he told me to "Bring it on, Mrs. Allen" when I told him that I could get him to love reading!!!

It all started with meeting for lunch one day and going over an interest inventory.  Once I had that information at my fingertips, I visited the school Book Fair ready to purchase, purchase, purchase.  There were so many books about wars, dinosaurs, and hunting.  

The next week, I met with him to give him his special reading bag, a special notebook, and a special book that "I picked out just for you!"  Jordan was happy, but he became even more excited when I showed him that I also purchased a copy of the book for me.  We were going to read it together!!!  Wow --- you would have thought he won the lottery!  Jordan's eyes lit up, and he couldn't stop smiling.  He couldn't believe that he got to read with the Principal!!!

When we met the following week, he had already finished the book and was ready to discuss it.  How cool!  I couldn't get him to stop talking enough to eat his lunch.  After the conversation, I suggested we email the author to let her know how much we liked the book...he dictated, and I typed.  Sure enough, we had a response within the week!!  We printed it out and added it to his notebook.  

Let's just say, this was enough to keep him hooked!  Since February 2012, Jordan and I have been reading books together.  Sometimes he chooses the book, sometimes I do.  We find time to meet on Fridays for lunch and a book talk.  This is one of the highlights of my job!

Have I made an impact?  I think so.  How do I know?  When I came to school this morning (after being gone at IRC for the past few days), there was a book on my desk with a Post-it note on top:

Thanks for all the books you've given me.  Now, here's one for you!  Love, Jordan

That's right --- he visited the Book Fair while I was away and purchased me my first book!!!  Life doesn't get much better than this!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

I've Lost Weight!!!

WOOHOO!!!  I have lost three pounds!!!  Isn't that great?!?!  I know, you might be thinking:  Why is she so excited about three measly little pounds?  Well, I'm pumped because every little bit counts and makes a difference.  YAY ME!!!

Losing weight can be so difficult, and I feel like I've tried 

  • Dieting
  • Nutrisystem
  • Walking on the treadmill
  • Giving up pop
  • Going to a personal trainer
  • Bike riding
  • Drinking MGD 64 instead of the good stuff (YUCK!)

The list goes on and on.  Currently, I've shared with you that I have started going to Crossfit to help me with getting back into shape.  What makes this different from all the other things I've tried?  I've got two of my bestest friends going with me.  I think this is the key to losing weight and leading a healthier, happier life....friends.  I know that if ever I feel like giving up, Epstein and Shammas will be right there helping me to continue.  Gotta love your friends!

Again, it's only three pounds....but those are three pounds that I've been trying to get rid of for a REALLY long time!!!  

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Hanging with the Girls!

Today was such a relaxing day....just hanging with some of my girlfriends.  Isn't great to have a group of people that you just absolutely love and who absolutely love you for being you?!  I'm fortunate to have a few ladies with whom I can totally be myself at all times.  Here's what we did today:

9:00  Crossfit (ouch!)
10:15  Breakfast at IHOP
11:30  Manicure and Pedicure
1:30  Shopping

After a thrilling three days at IRC, it was nice to just relax today.  I can't think of a better way to spend a Saturday.  Thanks Shammas and Epstein!!!  Love you guys!

Friday, March 15, 2013

New Picture Book --- MUST HAVE!

Today, I went to the Book Talks session that is put on by Anderson's Bookshops (  I LOVED IT!!!  Becky Anderson does an AWESOME job of sharing the new and notable books that have come out recently.  Here is one of my favorites that I had to buy immediately:

Open Very Carefully:  A Book with Bite
Words By:  Nick Bromley
Illustrated By:  Nicola O'Byrne

This is the story of an ugly duckling who comes across a BIG, scary crocodile.  The crocodile starts to eat the letters off the page, and he eventually starts to eat the words and sentences (see below).  How will the ugly duckling get him to stop?!  You'll have to check out the book to find out.  

The author and illustrator use so many creative conventions that the reader is instantly pulled into the book.  

What a great mentor text to teach voice!

The humor in the book will make kids AND adults laugh!

The best part of the book is the back cover be sure to check it out.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

I've Met Some Famous Authors and Illustrators Today

I am on cloud nine right now!!!!  It is only 9:10 in the morning, and I've already chatted with some famous authors and illustrators.  What a dream come true for a book addict!!!  Here is who I have chatted with so far:

  • Dr. Steven Layne (Love the Baby, Mergers)
  • Neal Shusterman (Unwind, Unwholly)
  • Candace Fleming (Oh No!, Clever Jack Takes the Cake)
  • Eric Rohmann (My Friend Rabbit, Bone Dog)
  • Dr. Maria Walther (Month-By-Month, Literature is Back!)
  • Sharon Draper (Out of My Mind, Panic)
  • Gordon Korman (Schooled, Swindle)
  • Jeff Anderson (Mechanically Inclined, Ten Things Every Writer Should Know)
  • Sarah Weeks (Pie, Sophie Peterman Tells the Truth!)
  • Pam Munoz Ryan (Esperanza Rising)
As I continue to meet people, I will update this page. I will also add pictures later tonight.  Woohoo!  I love IRC!!!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

So Tired

Insomnia will not visit me tonight

Am sore from Crossfit yesterday
Mind is starting to drift

Totally starting to relax
I can't believe I'm still awake
Really having a hard time keeping my eyes open
Energy is gone
Drifting off to sleep

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

IRC, Here We Come!!

Tomorrow night, three of my friends and I are going to leave after school and head down to Springfield for the Illinois Reading Conference!!  WOOHOO!!!  I am so excited!  I know you think I'm a nerd, but remember --- I'm the one who is addicted to books, so this is like winning the lottery.  Here are some of the speakers/presentations I plan on seeing while I'm there:

I am definitely going to see Sharon Draper!!! I absolutely loved the book Out of My Mind and can't wait to hear her insights on teaching reading and writing.

JEFF ANDERSON!!!!  I have to make sure I take my copy of Mechanically Inclined so I can get it autographed!!  We are going to use this book next year as a staff for some professional development with teaching conventions in an appropriate, meaningful way.  I'm excited to check out some of his other books.

Although I've never read anything by Sara Holbrook, I'm looking forward to learning more about her books and how she works with educators in the writing and performing of poetry. 

Gordon Korman is such a dynamic speaker!!!  I can't believe he wrote his first book when he was just 12 years old.  What a powerful fact to share with our young writers at the elementary level.  He is a must see!
I absolutely have to check out Becky Anderson Wilkins to hear her book-talk all the new books that have come out in the past months.  Every time I see her, I spend so much money on new and exciting releases!!  

This is just a short list of people I plan to see at the conference.  Some other authors that will be there include:  Sarah Weeks, Jordan Sonnenblick, Pam Munoz Ryan, Avi, Eric Rohman, Steven Layne...and the list goes on and on.  So many many little time!  

Monday, March 11, 2013

I Have $16,000 to Spend!!

I am the Principal at a Title I school, and I found out about a month ago that the district was giving me $57,000 to spend on our Title I students.  WOOHOO!!!  The catch ---- I had three days to figure out how to best use the money and to write detailed action plans.  Well, I immediately touched base with my BLT (Building Leadership Team --- not the sandwich), and we very efficiently spent the money.  It is amazing how quickly a group of six women can spend, spend, spend!!  :-)  We have purchased the following:

  1. About $37,000 of informational text to support our curriculum
  2. About $1,600 for professional development of staff in reading, writing, and diversity
  3. About $500 for a staff member to track test scores, grades, etc. --- data collection
  4. About $2,000 for small group tutoring for the last 11 weeks of school

So, you might be thinking....why is she blogging about this now?  Is she just trying to rub this in??

Well, the answer to that is a resounding NO!!!  I need your help!  I received a call today from the district office saying that $16,000 we put towards "Blessings in a Backpack" ( for our Title I community was not considered appropriate from ISBE because it doesn't directly affect academics.  

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!  How is "not having enough food to eat" NOT directly impacting academics?!?!  CRAZY!!

We were so bummed because we were going to be able to provide food for 187 children for every weekend over the next year.  :-(  

Anyway, there is nothing I can do to change their that leaves me with $16,000 to spend by Friday for Community Outreach.  This is where you can help!  Do you have any ideas of what we, as a school, can do to reach out to our students/families that will directly affect academics?  Is there something that your school does that we can implement for our Title I students?  How would you spend this money to directly impact some of your most struggling students?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

How Do You Keep Track of Your Books?

I have an addiction ---- buying books!!  I just can't help myself.  When I hear about a wonderful book that can be used as a mentor text for a child, I have to have it.  If someone is telling me about a great book they are reading for enjoyment, I want to read it, too.  In fact, I have accumulated over 1,000 pieces of literature over the past two years.  

I KNOW!!!  I told you --- it's an addiction!

Anyway, you might be wondering how I keep track of all these treasures since many of my students and staff members borrow my books throughout the school year.  It's simple --- I use a website called LibraryThing (  This site has made placed all my books at my fingertips --- no matter where I am.  Here are some of the cool things I can do:

  1. I can search for all my books by author or title.
  2. For each title, I have created tags that let me quickly search for certain topics.
  3. There is an opportunity to be an "Early Reviewer."  You can sign up to win books for free, and all you have to do is write a review after reading it.
  4. I can share my site with colleagues (and vice versa)  so they can see if I have any books they need.
  5. Adding new books to my collection is easy because I can scan them in with my Cue Cat.  (
The list goes on and on.  These are just some of the ways I use this AWESOME site.  If you are looking for a way to track all your books, I highly recommend checking it out.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Another Test?

It's Saturday morning, and I had to wake up at 6:00 in order to come into elementary help administer the CogAT to a group of students.  
And the testing goes until noon.

These poor kids!  Sometimes, it feels like all we do is give standardized tests to children...over and over and over again.  In January/February, our students took the MAP test.  If they scored high enough, then they took the CogAT to see if they qualify for Academically Talented services.  Currently, students are taking ISAT tests....which is a two-week process.  When we come back in April, they will all be taking the MAP test again.  
This doesn't even include all the testing that happens in the classroom on a daily/weekly basis (i.e., AIMSweb fluency and/or math, Words Their Way, reading assessments, math assessments, science, social studies, etc.).  

I understand the importance of assessing children, but isn't all of this overkill?!?!  There has to be a better way.  

Maybe I'm just crabby because I woke up early on a Saturday when all I want to do is lay in my bed on this cold, rainy day and watch Lifetime.  

Friday, March 8, 2013

80's Music

Okay, so you can sing any 80's song to the beat of MC Hammer's "Can't Touch This." For real! Try it with these songs:

  • Don't turn around uh oh
  • Ghostbusters
  • Like a Virgin
  • Push It
  • Ice Ice Baby
  • Super Freak
  • Safety Dance
  • Relax, go to it
  • I hear the secrets that you keep when you're talking in your sleep
  • Love Shack

If you don't believe me, check out this video from Modern Day Romeos:  

Can you come up with any other songs?  Try it! You will be amazed!!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

You Had to Teach Them What?!

On the way into work this morning, I was listening to Eric and Kathy on the radio (101.9).  They were talking about random things about which children nowadays are clueless.  Here are some examples of things adults have had to teach children:

1.  A girl didn't know that she can make ice by putting water in an ice tray and sticking it in the freezer.  She thought the refrigerator just made it on its own.

2.  When a mom said she didn't have enough money to buy something, her son told her to just go to the machine to get some.

3.  One child was taking pictures with a disposable camera, and he couldn't believe that he couldn't see the pictures immediately.

4.  When the car needed to go into the shop, the mom had a rental car.  Her daughter was sitting in the back and asked what the knobby thing was.  When the mom turned around, she was shocked because the child didn't realize that it was the handle to roll down the window.

5.  A mom had to teach her 17-year old son what the busy signal was on the phone!

6.  When the dishwasher stopped working, one girl took the dishwasher soap pod and threw it in the sink with water and dirty dishes.  She didn't realize this wouldn't clean the plates --- that you actually had to scrub them in the sink.

SERIOUSLY?!?!  I couldn't stop laughing at these stories.  I tell you, though, they made me feel old!!  Here's the podcast in case you want to check it out:

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

How Can Summer Already Be Over?!!

So, I have a group of girlfriends that are just the best people in the world!  We are all a little quirky and have our differences, but we love and respect each other so much.  Due to these strong bonds, we have decided that we need to plan a "Girls Night Out" every now and then.  We have decided that on these nights, we need to totally be judging each other in any matter what.  I tell you, it's amazing to have people with whom you can be open and honest about everything!

Anyway, we were trying to pick dates for a summer getaway (we went to Galena last summer), but we are having a REALLY difficult time finding two to three days that work for all six of us.  How can this be?!  Summer hasn't even started, and we are all booked already...with work, vacations, swim meets, ballet recitals, family visits, etc.  this just blows my mind because it's only the beginning of March....and we can't find a time in June, July, or August.  

How can Summer already be over...
before it even starts?!?!  

Perhaps we should start planning for summer 2014 already so we can get it on our calendars!!  I'll have to keep you posted on what the final outcome is.  

Does anyone have any suggestions of where we should go if we can find a date?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

What Do You Do During a Snow Day?

Shovel the driveway
Nap on the couch
Open mail that has been sitting on the counter for a few days
Watch Jerry Springer and other quality t.v.

Dive into a good book
Answer emails
Your turn - what do you do?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Southbury Shark Makes It to Nationals!!!!!

How often do we have the opportunity to say that someone we work with and admire has made it to the USA 2013 Track and Field Nationals in Albuquerque, NM?  Well, I am so proud of one of my P.E. coaches --- Jake Winder!  He went to this national meet over the weekend, and he came in SECOND PLACE for the Men's Pole Vault!!!  WOOHOO!!!  Check out his stats:

As a school, his principal, and a friend, we are just so proud of him!!!!!!  Jake is an amazing person who always puts his family, students, and friends first....and I just want him to succeed in everything that he does.  He jumped 17'9" to qualify for the meet; and today, he made a jump of 18'2.5" to come in second place.  Way to go, Coach Winder!!!  We love you and are so proud of you!!!  Check out his video from Sunday afternoon:  

On Wednesday, when he's back at school, we are going to surprise him with a cake, card, and many congratulation hugs!!!  See, good things DO happen to wonderful people.  Keep up the good work, Jake!  We'll be here supporting you all the way!

Here are some current articles in case you want to read more about this phenomenal Southbury Elementary School P.E. Teacher!!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Exercise....Do I Have To?!?!

Since I've become an administrator five years ago, I have put on a few pounds.  Okay, if I'm being honest, I've gained quite a bit of weight.  It seems like no matter what I do, I can't lose this flab that is continuing to grow around my stomach.  I mean, I try to eat healthy (i.e., pizza, Sunkist, potato chips) and try to work out everyday (i.e., I have to walk to the kitchen to get my food), so I really don't understand the problem.

(By the way, where did the term "love handles" come from?  
Does anyone actually LOVE them?!?!)

I hit an all-time low when one of my students walked up to me, pointed at my stomach, and said, "Mrs. Allen, do you have a baby in your belly?"  AAAGGGHHH!!!!  I politely smiled and said, "No, it's just time for Mrs. Allen to lose some weight."  Kids, gotta love 'em, right?!?!

Anyway, I have these wonderful friends who are determined to support me to actually make some healthier choices when it comes to eating and exercising.  So on Thursday, we decided to join Crossfit Oswego.  What were we thinking?!?!  After a 60-minute "trial," we were all coughing, breathing heavily, and ready to throw up.  This wasn't even the full-blown workout that everyone else was doing!  

Well, I thought for sure that I would be hurting the next day; but, to my surprise, I wasn't the least bit sore.  My friends, on the other hand, were having trouble going up and down the stairs at school.  Wow, I was so impressed with myself!  I haven't worked out in months, but I must be in good shape if this workout didn't bother me, right?  WRONG!  I woke up this morning with a sore lower back, sore shoulders, and sore legs.  I've been hydrating, stretching, and popping some Advil to loosen my muscles.

What is the saying?  No Pain, No Gain, right?  I have until Tuesday to be able to walk, move my arms, and feel my back because that's the next time we'll be going.  What, did you think I was going to throw in the towel so quickly?!  Wish me luck!!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

I Don't Know What to Write About?!?!?

I can't believe how nervous I am to write on this blog!!  I have a few other blogs, and I don't have any anxiety when it comes to creating new posts.  Is it because either no one follows them or because they are only shared with friends?

What makes the SOLC so different?  I am sharing my random thoughts, my fears, my stories, my life with the thousands of followers on the Two Writing Teachers site!!!

OMG - That's pretty scary!

Will people be interested in what I have to share?  Does this make sense? How does everything flow?  Have I spelled all the words correctly?  What about my punctuation; would Professor Cawley be proud of me, or is she cringing as she reads this?!?!

Then I stop to think:  Isn't this what our students go through EVERY SINGLE DAY as we ask them to pick up a pencil and put it to paper?!?!  Don't we reassure them that their writing is important, and we want to read what they compose?!?!  Don't we encourage them to share their inner thoughts and let their voices be heard?!?!  Don't we let them know that spelling and conventions aren't important at the beginning - as long as they are working on the meaning of their story?!?!

If I am asking students and staff to be vulnerable everyday as they go through the writing process, then I can do it, too!

So, starting tomorrow, you will get a better glimpse into who I am and what's going on in my brain and my life.  Are you ready to take that journey with me?!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Sharing Writing with Parents

Okay, so I told Ruth on Tuesday when she was at my school that I was going to participate in this year's Slice of Life.....but I'm nervous that I won't live up to the challenge!!  However, I'm willing to try because I need to write, write, write.  So, here goes:

Sometimes, I suffer from insomnia!  There are many nights when I wake up at 1:00 in the morning and can't go back to sleep until 5:30.  The problem with this is that I need to get up at 6:00 to get ready for work....being a Principal in an elementary school.  Although I tend to have LOTS of energy and enthusiasm, I start to burnout after weeks of this happening.  Why can't I sleep?!  Well, because I'm either reading a book, or my mind is thinking about how I can better support my students and staff to be the best they can be.  This is what I've been losing sleep over for the past two weeks:

When it comes to Writers Workshop, how do we share everything that is going on in the classroom with parents, while at the same time ensuring that the materials come back to school so the students can continue to work on their writing every single day?

Several of my teachers are afraid to send "works in progress" home each week for one of two reasons:
1.  The parents will give TOO much support to the child.
2.  The pieces of writing won't come back to school.

So, I'm curious what other people do to share the Writers Notebooks, science notebooks, and other pieces of writing with parents.  I look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas!