Writing About Nothing

Writing About Nothing

Usually, I write about something important to me.  But, I really spilled my guts in yesterday’s post, so I feel drained. Given that the Slice of Life Challenge is starting this Thursday and I have signed up to participate again, I thought I would just take today and write about nothing all that important. Another reason I do not have a lot to say is that I have a paper due for my Place Based Learning Instructional Strategy Course on Wednesday.  I have not gotten very far on it.  I love the subject matter, but seem buried in other obligations – two other grad courses, a conference presentation on March 10th (not started yet), and a trip tomorrow to visit my son at Iowa State University.  We are going to see Motown the Musical on stage at Stephens Auditorium, which is a wonderful venue.

I am looking forward to being on a college campus for a few days and spending time with my oldest son who is in his first year of graduate school. I figure that I will work on my presentations and course work in the union.  It will be relaxing and hopefully, productive.  We will meet for meals and do some fun things together, like the musical. I’ll go and have coffee, take some winter photographs, and buy some Dutch Licorice Drops at STAM Chocolatiers in Downtown Ames.  I’ve needed this getaway for a while now and excited the time is near.

Today will be about getting as much work done as possible, so I can freely relax and not worry about what needs to be done. My school obligations will all fall into place whether I worry about them or not. So, here’s my Slice of Life blog about nothing at all.

The Amazing Brain: A reflection on why mine is writing speeches while doing laundry!

The Amazing Brain: A reflection on why mine is writing speeches while doing laundry!

Even though I know my brain needs a lot to think about on a steady basis,  and that amount is probably more than the average person, I think I might be headed towards overload.

Saturday, I was in a craft show and getting packed up for that while at the same time, I was doing laundry and stopped to write down an introduction to a presentation that popped into my head while folding towels!  I am speaking at a gardening conference next month and have yet to work on my spiel!  Since January, I have had two graduate courses underway and another started yesterday. I was also contacted by a friend who referred me to be a judge for our regional NHD competition – an offer I could not refuse, so I put that obligation on my board, as well. I applied for a state-wide consulting job that would entail helping schools to make/use outdoor learning spaces.  I am very anxiously awaiting to hear about that opportunity, having already followed up once.


My research study, something I really wanted to do, has unintentionally been pushed to the side. I am in the middle of coding the data from my responses – something I am learning to do as I do it and it seems tedious, even though many of the responses were enlightening and do back up my hypotheses.

All this and family life, too. Laundry is the never-ending job. I finally got grocery shopping back on a schedule – Mondays. And, we are reorganizing a room for me to use as a writing space/office – that is coming along more slowly than I had hoped. But, we are waiting for furniture to be delivered anyway. So, it really doesn’t matter. My husband started a new job just barely a month ago, training has ended and he (we) are trying to establish a new “normal”. Although, I have begun to realize that there just isn’t any normal at all.  Normal is as normal does! (Is that a line from Forrest Gump?)

High school is ending for my eighteen year old. Scholarship applications are finished. He has “committed” and sees the light at the end of the tunnel. But, there are still courses to finish and tasks to complete, jobs to arrive at, and exercise regimes to continue. The spring sports will soon be underway. He will have tennis to occupy his free time, too. There will be track meets for our youngest, who seems able to balance a full schedule better than I. We are busy! I am busy! Is it any wonder I just cannot shut my brain off?  I feel like my head is spinning out of control – writing introductory remarks for a presentation while doing laundry – that seems pretty commonplace for me these days.

The days are noticeably longer, which might make it easier to put more on my plate, such as the NHD event. But, for now I need to stop adding and start finishing.  I think I am ready for a new phase in life, but I have to get through this one first. Wish me luck!

Slice of Life: Tuesdays



Not An Ultimatum, Just Another Way to Contact Me. ( A.K.A. Good-bye, Facebook!)

Not An Ultimatum, Just Another Way to Contact Me. ( A.K.A. Good-bye, Facebook!)

Today, I am going to do it. I am getting “off” FaceBook for a while, or maybe, forever. This is something I have been toying with for quite a while. It has been just a week over seven years that I have been a member of the FaceBook crowd. I joined it when my eldest son wanted to join. Neither of us knew what we were doing but together we found out what it was all about.  He was a sophomore in high school, about to participate in his first musical theater performance. I think we both figured it was a way to share photos and stay connected with friends. It also coincided with his decision to apply through open enrollment to complete high school virtually. Perhaps, it was a good way to stay in touch with his “brick and mortar” friends.

So, seven years. Seven years of navigating the fickle, finicky, sometimes fabulous and oft-times, frustrating world of social media. Seven years of sharing, commenting, friending, liking, following, unfollowing, and also, learning to keep one’s mouth shut. Seven years of being exposed to neo-liberalism, far-right taunts, fake media, and dealing with people ~ friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers ~ who think they can say anything they want, but quash others who express a view different from their own.

Seven years, FaceBook, seven years. And, I have finally had enough.  My son was smarter than I, although I have always known this to be the case. He got off FaceBook last fall. His reasons – the negativity, the nastiness, the anonymous-ness of saying what you want whenever you want to say it, to whomever you want.  In essence, as he told me in his esteemed 23-year-old wisdom, “FaceBook does not make the world a better place.”

I tried to hang on. I like how I can contact an old friend or see what they are up to. I like the ease of messaging. I like sharing my photographs and my blog. I like reading the ideas of others – some of which I agree and some of which I do not. I like learning what others think and knowing how they think differently than I. But, there is much that I do not like. I found that some posts and some people in particular bothered me. So, this past fall, after a great deal of internal debate, I unfollowed. In general, it was better. But, still, I am bothered by the judging, the assuming, the criticisms, the questioning, and the general negativity. Do we not want to stay away from doing all these things?  I know I do. And, that is why I am saying good-bye.  Every. Single. Word. Is. Judged. It is just not necessary. Truly, it is a game. And, I have never been a good game player.

I posted a note on my FaceBook page yesterday, telling my “friends” what I was going to do and how they could contact me otherwise. It was not an ultimatum, just a notification that I will not be manning my page, reading theirs, or any others for a while. I am sure I will find other things to occupy my time. I hope I will be less angry, less judgmental, less assuming, less negative, and less critical after some time away. I know I will not be fed any longer by these same traits others are actively employing.  I know not everyone on FaceBook is bad. On the contrary, I love my friends! I know I will miss being in contact with quite a few of them. I enjoyed much of my time on FaceBook. But, it is time for me to take a well-intended and much-needed break.

And, that is exactly what I am going to do today.  Good-bye, FaceBook.  Hello, Life!

Written to share on Slice of Life Tuesday sponsored by Two Writing Teachers blog.

Share Your World (SYW) 1/23/18 for a Slice of Life (SOL#18) Post

Share Your World (SYW) 1/23/18 for a Slice of Life (SOL#18) Post

Blogging Challenges, Prompts, and Patterns

During the last eleven months of blogging almost daily, I began to participate in some blogging challenges as well as set a pattern to some of my blogging posts.  One pattern that seemed firmly established until this week was my Silent Sunday posts, within which I only post photograph based on a theme of my choosing. These posts have been some of my most popular and I look forward to creating them. However, sometimes sifting back through thousands of digital files is sometimes both daunting and time-consuming. Some of my favorites of the past year are Sunrise, Sunset and Favorite Places.

The blogging challenges I participated in included The Weekly WordPress Photo Challenge, again based on theme, but of The Daily Post’s choosing. Again, I have enjoyed these and my participation has definitely garnered more followers for my blog. Ping-backs are encouraged, as you link your post to the page offering the challenge. These are primarily offered mid-week.  Examples of my submissions for the words “waiting” and “layered” can be seen by clicking on each. I love words, photography, creativity, and interpretation. So, these challenges are a great fit for me!

And, the challenge you are all familiar with is the challenge that started my blogging journey; The Slice of Life Challenge of last year. March 2017 still ranks my highest month of readership, according to my WordPress Insight page. I continued to offer a slice on Tuesday where sometimes I have comments and sometimes I do not (we are supposed to comment on three other blogs.) Still, I consider Tuesday’s as a special day during the week to connect with other bloggers invested in the world of education. Participation information for this year’s challenge can be found on the TwoWritingTeachers.org blog.

A New Challenge: Share Your World

Yesterday, I found a new challenge offered on a blog that usually offers daily photo challenges. This was called Share Your World. The author, Cee’s Photography, proposes several questions one may use as prompts to enable other bloggers to share their world.  I decided to participate. Here are my responses to the 1/22 SYW Challenge:

List two things you are happy about: 

#1 – It snowed today! It is winter after all and if it is going to be cold, I would like to have some of the “white stuff” around!  The world looks so pretty after a freshly fallen snow!

#2 – My boys seem to have recovered from a bout of this year’s flu! Luckily, it seemed to take only 3 days to get over most of the respiratory symptoms, leaving only some residual headaches. Maybe those doses of Tamiflu helped.

Have you ever owned a rock, pet rock, or gem that is not jewelry?

Absolutely! I had a whole set of “rocks” from a science kit when I was young – there was pyrite (a favorite due to its glitteriness), limestone, agate, malachite, jasper, lava, sandstone, obsidian, and a geode!  They each had little identification cards that described their “hardness” and other attributes (whether they were igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic.  I loved science as a kid and still do!

Are you a hugger or a non-hugger? 

I am a hugger to other huggers! Does this make sense? I just mean that I am aware of the people I greet and if I know them to be huggers, I hug. I think I have grown into being a hugger.  We have friends that upon meeting us for the first time, hugged us! They are definitely huggers. We hug them in return, to say both hello and good-bye. However, we have other friends, known to us for sometime that we have never hugged.  It is strange. You can just get the feeling that they want to preserve their “space.” It is important to realize this if you are a hugger. Some people just do not like to be hugged!

What inspired me this week? 

Glorious Sunrises. Almost each day this week, we experienced a burst of early morning color in the Eastern sky, just before sunrise. The days are getting longer!

January Sunrise 18

Inspiration is also due to: Cee’s Photography  and Slice of Life Tuesday for 1/23/18

Currently, I’m……..sol#18

Currently, I’m……..sol#18

Last week, a fellow educator-blogger wrote a currently post with a twist. Since it was enjoyable to read, I thought I would give my own currently list post a try.

Currently, I’m…….

Eating……Raspberry Yogurt

Drinking…..Hot Black Tea

Sitting ….. in my Den off my Kitchen

Watching…. the cursor blink on my computer screen

Reading ……T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton

Listening to ……the snow plow clear the new road next to our yard

Sensing …… the quietness of the house after the boys leave for school

Thinking about …… my research study & the now closed data collection window

Anticipating …… getting out of the house today

Celebrating …… my husband’s last day of shift work after 30 years

Thanking ….. the gracious people who will serve as a reference for me

Feeling ….. the coziness of my pumpkin colored fleece blanket on my legs

Considering ….. getting my day started

Creating …… some new jewelry

Storing …… holiday decorations

Waiting ….. to start new courses for this term

Feeling ….. content, happy, and grateful

Besides being inspired by wahooliteracyteacher’s blog last week, I wanted to keep my writing short today. Yesterday, I wrote quite a lengthy post on some Advice on Choosing an Elementary School, which was partially in response to a question I received recently.  And, last Wednesday, I wrote about writing shorter blog posts, which was something I thought I would set as a goal for the upcoming Slice of Life Challenge.  If you have time, you can check out those posts too!

Thanks to TwoWrtingTeachers.org  and the Slice of Life: Tuesday posting opportunity to connect with other educator-bloggers. I am approaching a year of blogging and have found much support and openness in this community.





How Do You Invest?

How Do You Invest?

We are at the start of a new year, but the middle of a school year, nearing the end of the first semester, or second quarter, in most places. I would like to ask if you think you are investing in your students? Research has shown that teachers who show their students they care about them as people enjoy greater success for their students. This makes so much sense to me. When I look back on who I felt made a difference in my life as a student or who has made a difference in my boys’ lives as students, I find the answer in teachers who invested in me or my boys as people. This meant they did not treat us as numbers, or test grades, or a “brain”, or a “problem”, or someone who already “gets it”, or someone who is “struggling to get it”, but as people – with all the complexities of being a person, just like those who are doing the teaching.

I have experienced much success in my student groups – over thirteen years of a garden club and seven years of writer’s circle – largely due to the fact that I really, and I mean really, care about my students. Students are savvy. They can easily pick up on who really cares for them and who doesn’t give a rat’s ass – and it is just putting in time between eight in the morning and four in the afternoon. Now, I have a new student group at a new school. I am only there once, possibly twice a month as an after school co-curricular club advisor.  I am happy to be there, but am struggling to connect with the students and their families.  I want them to know that I am willing and able to invest in them.

So, in what ways are you showing your students that you care? How are you investing in them? This requires some thought because what might be seen as an investment by the teacher sometimes is not recognized as such by their students. I really think to contribute to the success of the students, the teacher has to be seen by their students as someone who really cares.


For example, a teacher might feel they are investing in their students by being available to them before school two days a week and after school two days a week. This action is admirable and one can perceive why the teacher thinks this time is an investment in their students. However, if the teacher is only there because they are required to be (often students do not realize what is required of teachers and what is not), and not because he/she wants to be and shows this attitude through their interactions with the students who come for help before or after school, then it is really not an investment. And, the students will be able to tell! I assure you!

One of my greatest suggestions is that teachers who have children of their own need to think about how they would want to have their children treated by those who are educating them. This is how the children in your class should be treated; as if they are your own.  Students spend a large part of their waking hours with you. They deserve someone who is invested in their future.

So, as we start a new year and soon, a new semester, I ask: how are you investing in your students? I would love to know. Happy New Year!

The Amaryllis Project 2017

The Amaryllis Project 2017

Last year, a parent donated 220 Amaryllis Kits to the after school garden club I ran at our local elementary school. It was not the first time she had made such a donation, but the volume this time was much larger! 220 Kits! Wow! I had about 40  students enrolled in garden club and knew I wanted the kits, but also knew I needed to find people with which to share the abundance of these colorful and majestic holiday plants. I went about doing just that and reached out to some teachers I thought would be interested in a presentation and planting session and/or just receiving some kits for their class.

I am friends with a fourth grade teacher at one of our district’s other elementary schools – we have four. It is not the school the garden club was based at.  She jumped at the chance to have me do a presentation and help plant the bulbs. Soon, the two other fourth grades were on board as well. So, I spent a few hours one day last March talking about flower bulbs, the plant life cycle, and planting Amaryllis bulbs.  The forty I used for garden club (last December) and the 75 I used with the forth grade classes did not add up to 220 bulb kits. So, I contacted one of our high school math teachers with whom I have regular educational philosophical discussions and asked if he could use some of the amaryllis bulbs. He took 100 of the kits to use with his Algebra II students in a joint project with the Ag-Tech teacher at our high school. We are fortunate enough to have a green house in which the plants were cared for and measured for the 6-8 weeks it takes for the plant to reach full  height and bloom.  From what I understand, they did rate of growth measurements and calculations that only the type of equations solved in Algebra II can solve!  Reportedly, it was a success and a popular project with the students. Lastly, twenty kits went to a first grade classroom in a near by district, again because I am good friends with this teacher and had contacted her about the possibility of this type of project.

I jumped the offer this parent made the year before because I had her daughter in garden club as a third grader. She had contacted me in December of 2015 about left over Amaryllis Bulb Kits at a local distribution center at which she works.  She needed to find a place for them or they would be thrown out! Her classroom teacher had been contacted as well.  This was my first experience with extra kits and large donations. So, I took enough for garden club that year (25), plus some for the other two third grades in the school in which her daughter attended and I had garden club. These three teachers are the same cohort in which I have taken their students for a writer’s circle for the last six years. They are huge supporters of my student enrichment efforts. I felt almost 100% sure they would accept the donation and also allow me to present to their classes on the bulbs.  And, they did!

Amaryllis are beautiful holiday plants and much can be gained from a plant life cycle lesson using them as the base. External plant parts can be seen and readily identified, as the growth proceeds.  The flowers are large and showy, resulting in a flush of pride for the student. The first year we did this, it was timed so well that the plants went home with the parents just before Easter/Spring Break, after they were presented to the respective adults at parent teacher conferences.

Just before my presentation, I realized the Amaryllis project was a great opportunity to reinforce some basic math skills. So, I came up with a standardized measurement sheet. Students would take and record height measurements 2x per week for the six weeks we grew them in the classrooms. I asked for both inches and centimeters. Additional observations were asked for as well, such as date of bloom.  I visited classrooms once a week and recorded their progress by taking photographs of the plants.  At the end observation period, the measurement sheets were collected. Of course, some of the data was missing and some made no sense (for example, the plant shrunk instead of growing). But, by all accounts, the students enjoyed the project and some really took it and ran with it., accurately measuring their plants without teacher guidance on the designated days. I ended up with amaryllis data points for 75 plants, which was enough to formulate a few math questions on growth (not rate of growth like the algebra II students were able to do the following year), but simple addition and subtraction problems that applied nicely to the everyday hobby of gardening.

So, why did I choose this as my slice today? Well, yesterday I posted some of the Amaryllis photos as part of a Daily Blog Photography Challenge in which I participate. It is also that time of year when this kind parent has contacted me about the bulb donation.  I am wondering what will happen with it this year, as I ended the garden club this past June. She has my email and I have a new set of students at a different school. I am sure they would love to plant the bulbs, as well.  But, time moves forward, with things and people changing in the process. If I do not hear from her, I will grab some paper white bulbs, just as I used to do every year before we had The Amaryllis Project! It has been such a worthwhile lesson for my students.

The Amaryllis Project 2016. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2016.

Thanks to the TwoWritingTeachers.org Blog for hosting Slice of Life Tuesdays.