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Friday, March 24, 2017

sol17 #24: bloomed from the mud

In the few minutes I've had today to myself so far, I've been consumed with the story of the Lotus flower. I noticed it on the cover of a book I'm reading (The Art of Coaching) and so when I was making my sketchnotes for my book club, I decided to look up this stunning creation of nature and find the story behind it so I could investigate the meaning of this cover art. What I found stopped me dead in my tracks.
"The lotus flower is one of the most remarkable creations of nature. Its beauty lies in its purity, because this magnificent flower emerges from the dirty and muddy bottom of a pond, yet still remains untouched and unstained by its soiled surroundings." source
Which got me to thinking, what a muddy week I've been having:

  • Got blown off for a first date.
  • Was stressed about my observation.
  • Was short-tempered when I should've been more compassionate.
  • Was overwhelmed with the amount of work to be done at school.
  • Carried around some negativity I should have let go.
But also, there was so much beauty this week. Namely, this morning when I got to spend some time with some of my favorite peeps, the Literacy Coaches. We had just finished doing a few Quick Writes to share our ideas about coaching when one of them came over with donuts and said, "Oh, how could I have forgotten? We're going to toast you now."

"Toast me? Why? Because I shared that modification for quick writing with you guys?"

"No, for your Golden Apple. Donuts are sweeter, so we picked these up and we all want to tell you what we love about you, and how you are golden to all of us."

I started crying before they even began. And continued all through out. They told me things like,
  • You made me a writer.
  • Not only am I so happy to work with you, you have been a dear friend.
  • You've told me you appreciate me and enjoy working with me; I can't remember another person who has said that to me recently.
  • I try and remember how you did things. I've learned so much from you.
  • You have taught me so much, I'm always learning when I am around you, there's always something to take away.
  • You have such a warmth and a glow about you.
And so just when I was thinking about how muddy my week had been, how I was feeling overwhelmed and wishing I could have responded differently in a few situations, and how there were too many meetings, too much information to share and too many lessons to plan, beauty blossomed.

And I'm reminded of all the beauty in this life we live. It's everywhere. Sometimes you have to look for it a little harder but sometimes it sprouts and grows right in front of you as if you were the sun and rain giving it just the right amount of everything it needed.

Today in our meeting, we talked about why we want to be a coach, and more particularly, why coach in district 100. For me, it's all about relationships. To the coaches: you have created a space for me to be myself, to be annoying in asking everyone to talk quieter, to be funny with jokes, to make mistakes and screw things up, to just be me, in my muddiness and in my moments of beauty, too. The relationships I have with you are a part of a wider community I feel here in Berwyn. There are so many teachers around the district who are some of my best friends, who have become almost family to me. These relationships and this community is why I coach and teach in District 100, striving to live at ease in the muddy water, knowing beauty is just beyond the surface.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

sol17 #23: math autobiography

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Thanks for the idea, Leah, who got it from Terierrol!

One...cup of coffee each day, although I really want three.
Two...scoops of vanilla protein in my shake for breakfast every morning.
Three...weeks till I see all of my family in Charlotte!
Four...years that I have participated with Slice of Life.
Five...more minutes till my bedtime.
Six...of my students have blogged every day this month!
Seven...the number of get-ups until spring break.
Eight...the number of hours I prefer to sleep, or more!
Nine...lights out at this time.
Ten...the number of days I'll spend in Spain this June!

Clearly I'm ready for bed! Good night!


Did you see my blog...a math autobiography? Try one out for yourself!

Check out the padlet for another idea or leave a comment for another student blogger!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

sol17 #22: gratitude lately


So many reasons to celebrate the blessings in our lives. Here are a few of mine so far this week.

Thankful for freshly squeezed OJ that goes into my protein shakes each morning. And blueberries. I love blueberries.



Thankful for the kiddo in my ELA class who walks into class every day, and whether I'm looking or not, says, "Hi, Ms. Brezek," all full of smiles.


Right back atcha, LF!

Thankful for my principal, who, during my evaluation, made it a point to talk to most, if not all of my students about what they were learning.




Thankful for my awesome friend who does yoga with us after school. It's the perfect community to be a part of 




Thankful for online shopping. Need a confirmation gift? Shop online. New leggings? Shop online. Your skin care line? Shop online. All delivered to my school, too!



Thankful for longer days and sunshine. Summer is on the horizon, friends!


What are you thankful for?


An idea for writing today...what about one like my post? Make a list of the things you are thankful for, especially better if you include pictures, too!

Check the padlet for ideas! Leave a comment for someone else!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

sol17 #21: a letter to the birds

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Dear birds who reside outside my bedroom window,

I'm so happy you're back, and on the first day of spring! What perfect timing! I was happy to hear you cheeping and chirping outside my window this morning, but, I wish you could have waited a little longer before the songs commenced. You see, I woke up in a start to an alarm of bird tunes, thinking I was late for work, but then as my eyes adjusted to the light, I could tell it was still dark out. I checked my watch, and to my surprise it was only 4:30. I was excited to have another 45 minutes to sleep, but kind of upset that I was disturbed in the first place.

I dozed back into dream land, and then was awoken once again, but this time to my alarm. I perked up my ears to listen for your songs, but you must have decided 4:30 am was too early to be awake and so you went back to sleep. Unfortunately for me, I wasn't afforded that luxury.

So one request, my neighbors in the trees outside my second floor apartment: can you keep your music quiet until 5:15? Then, I can sleep soundly until the ringing of my alarm. And you can enjoy a longer evening of peaceful sleep, too.


Warm regards,
Your neighbor


An idea: Did you see my post? Try and write a letter to someone or something! Check out my example above.

Check out more ideas on our padlet and don't forget to leave a comment for a blogging friend!


Monday, March 20, 2017

sol17 #20: ode to the Shamrock Shake



Oh Shamrock Shake how I
love thee, minty green goodness
topped with fluffy whipped cream and
sprinkled with sparkly sweet crystals
so cool and refreshing
available for a limited time only.

Lucky for you, Shamrock Shake, I
gave up drinking for Lent and so I
indulged in you - the toxic cocktail - 
on just one occasion this season: St. Patrick's day
I celebrated
with an American tradition
also know as
the tasty green goodness that is
deliciously minty,
festively green,
dazzlingly delightful;
the one and only
Shamrock Shake


Kiddos! Do you look forward to holidays for any special food-related reasons? Share about those today!
And you can check out more ideas on the padlet or leave comments for other bloggers at Two Writing Teachers.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

sol17 #19: silver lining

I found out last fall that I was nominated for a pretty special award, the Golden Apple, which is from a foundation local to Chicago. Even though I wasn't sure who nominated me, I applied, and found out in February that I had been named a finalist. Such an honor, I felt so thankful for that nomination, especially when I found out it was a former coteacher who I just adore. Those days teaching with her were some of my fondest memories of teaching. Thank you, Julia, for thinking of me this year!

On March 1st, two colleagues of Golden Apple visited my school. They met with my principal and assistant principal, and also panels of teachers, students, and parents. They spent over an hour in my classroom observing. As nervous as I was the night before (didn't sleep much) I was set right at ease when I met them. I had a great day, and so did all the people who participated on my behalf!

Following that, there was a brunch to honor the 33 finalists, a group selected from 600 nominations.


I heard from the founder that day, and really liked what he had to say about education. My big takeaway was that it's relationships that drives all the work we do, and I couldn't agree more. That's the best thing I love most about the work I am privileged to do each day.

For the past six months, I have been only sending positive energy at this possibility. I remember telling a friend a few months ago, "I don't want to get too excited, there's a bunch of amazing teachers in the running for this award," to which she responded, "No, Michelle. Envision it happening. Only think positive thoughts about it. Manifest this award that you are very deserving of!" Since that conversation, I have only been thinking that I would win, that Golden Apple would visit my classroom, a visit without my knowing, to tell me that I had become one of the ten fellows of their foundation.

So, when I got the call last week that I had not been named a Golden Apple Fellow, you can imagine the disappointment I felt. I thought back over the past few months, and really, until that moment, I hadn't thought that I wouldn't receive this prestigious opportunity.

That being said, I can't forget what an honor all of it is anyways. I was nominated - one of my peers thought I was good enough to be named golden. Then, my application essays created the opportunity for me to be part of a small group of finalists. People from the foundation spent a whole day with me and the people at Heritage. How amazing!

And so, even though I did not become a Golden Apple Fellow, I am still proud of the work I've done, not only this year, but in the 13 years prior. Work that led me to amazing relationships with awesome teachers, students, and parents, people who have taught me about myself and how to be a great teacher, peers who taught me to how live the most positive life, friends who shared an office with me or had a classroom down the hall who taught me ways to teach a child to read and love to write, colleagues who taught me the importance of consistency and compassion. Students who made me slow down, laugh, and have fun. Administrators who pushed me to be better today than I was yesterday.

All of that has brought me to be named me a Teacher of Distinction by Golden Apple, and will offer me an opportunity to collaborate with them in the future. I can't wait to find out more about this, and hope they don't mind if I continue to tweet to them, since they had me at their #teachgolden hashtag.

And just one last note to all those who cheered me on the past few months... the teachers who embraced me in the teacher's lounge, who high-fived me in the hallway or just shared a bright-eyed congrats... and to those teachers, students, and parents who showed up for me on March 1st, I continue to grow with all of you by my side. Thank you. xo.



Hey there kiddos! Here's an idea for Sunday:
A time I was really disappointed was.... but then I realized that something good came from my disappointment...

And if you don't like that idea, check out the padlet. And don't forget to leave some comments for others!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

sol17 #18: pb & j friends

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My bff Katie and I had a bet once. Well, I'm sure we've had lots of bets, but I remember this one because I won. Yep, that's right. I won. I outsmarted her. She wouldn't want to admit it though, but the secret's out!


You know those Uncrustable sandwiches? These:




Well, the schools I worked at in Phoenix always has these. One day, I didn't have a lunch, so I got one, but I didn't like it. It was waaaay bigger than the ones that you buy from the store. It still tasted the same, but the filling was just too much - too much peanut butter - too much jelly.


Katie and I used to live together. Some time after I had this Uncrustable at school, I was at home and hungry, and happened to have some of these in the freezer. I got one out to thaw and eat, and I mentioned to her how the ones you buy at the store are smaller than the ones at school. She said, "No they're not." I told her, "Actually they are." We went back and fourth arguing about this for awhile before she finally bet me about it. That was an easy bet to take, so we shook on it and that was that. I couldn't wait until Monday to make her wrong...I knew I was so right!


The following Monday, at lunchtime, we headed down to the lounge which was conveniently right next to the cafeteria. I grabbed one of the sandwiches and took it to the lounge, and waited for Katie to get there. By this time, I had let all the teaching friends know how wrong Katie was about to be....so everyone was waiting for her to arrive to meet her fate.


She walked in all proud, but I was quick to show her the ounces on the Uncrustable from school.... I was jumping around all excited because I was right, and more importantly, she was wrong. She's always winning bets, so don't feel bad for her :-) I haven't been right many times, so I never forget this instance.


So that has been our little joke ever since. Now, we find little peanut butter and jelly pictures online and post them to one another's facebook, including this one that she posted on my page on my last birthday:





One of my favorite things about friends are all the little jokes you have with this, and this one is one of my faves!


And so, few years ago, we had Thanksgiving together. Katie's taught me how to make the turkey, stuffing, and all the sides. I thought that since we were going to make the whole thing ourselves, I should find a gift that would be useful for us today....so I scoured the Internet high and low and found this:






It's our PB & J and I found an lady on Etsy to put it on an apron. Love it!


Want some inspiration for Saturday? How about a post about why you are writing for Slice of Life! Check out this post from Sejin who is blogging from Malaysia!


 If you don't like that idea, check out more ideas on the padlet. You can also read posts from other bloggers like you on the Two Writing Teachers blog!

Happy Saturday, bloggers!
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