Sunday, October 15, 2017

There Was a Knock on the Door........

Friday the Thirteenth Fun!

Dear Readers,

Visualize the following scenario if you will........

Date: Friday October 13th
Time: 10:45 AM EST
Place: Ms. Gross' Classroom
Task: Read Aloud The Monkey's Paw from SCOPE Magazine

Setting the scene: turn off the lights, close the shades and play a thunderstorm in the background for sound effects (it helps to have movement as well, see link below)

You walk into the classroom to find this message and posting.

You are seated in somewhat of a circle in the darkest corner of the room. You have already read the short story. (see link below for full story)

We start to is a very general outline of the events.....

The story begins.........

  • The Whites are visited by Sargent Morris.
  • Sargent Morris has a Monkey's Paw that legend says is cursed.
  • Mr. White insists on having the paw.
  • However, before leaving, Sargent Morris warns him of its curse.
  • Mr. White wishes for money to pay off his house.
  • The Whites go to bed.

The following day.........

  • The Whites find out the horrific news their beloved son has died.
  • The company compensates the family with the exact amount of money they had wished for.
  • Mrs. White is grief stricken.

That evening........

  • Night falls and Mrs. White realizes they have two wishes left.
  • Mr. White wishes for his son to come back.
  • All of a sudden......they hear a knocking on the door.......

It is at this exact moment that a colleague banged on the door and the entire class screamed and jumped!!!!!! 
Two of my students raced to the door to see who it was. 
But nobody was we continued........

The End.......
  • Mrs. White frantically tries to open the door.
  • Mr. White makes his final wish, for "IT" to go away.
  • Mrs. White finally gets the door open when......

My colleague comes crashing through the door screaming, 
"There's someone at the door!!!!!!!!"
Everyone screamed and jumped in their seats.

"Ms. Gross we are going on a haunted hayride tonight!"
"That scared me!"
"I wasn't scared."
"Ms. Gross, did you plan that?"

Happy Friday the 13th everyone!


Monday, September 25, 2017

"Falling" into Reading

Building our Reading Lives in 8th Grade

Dear Readers,

As we near the end of September, I cannot believe we are almost four weeks into the new school year. It is a joy being back among the students and staff doing what I love.  As an 8th grade class, we have started to implement a few new ideas to build our Reading Lives together as a classroom. The part I love about looping........ having the opportunity to keep what we love, get rid of what we did not and try something new!

Book Corner

After reaching out to my PLN and receiving amazing feedback, I made some changes to the book corner. I decided to put some books with spines facing out. while I created baskets of others. In addition, I labeled the way I thought students would look for books-series, authors, vampires, adventure. etc. 

Reflection: It seems to be working well. Some students still wander aimlessly, but for the most part I see them pulling out bins and using the signs.

Student Recommendations

Last year, as 7th a grade classroom, we tried a few different ways to recommend books to one another. This year, I wanted it to be more visible and a place where we can actually put the books. Each student has a space to place book recommendations. 

Reflection: I think this is also a work in progress. When students were first looking for books, a few used recommendations from others. In fact, a student took HIS own recommendation because he was reading the second book in the series and wanted to refresh his memory. As with anything, I think we need to give this time as we get further into the school year.

Ms. Gross' Recommendations

Using what I knew from last year and the books students recommended at the beginning of September, I chose one book suggestion for each student. One of the greatest joys I have as a Language & Literature Teacher is putting books they will love in their hands. I am pleased to say many took my recommendations. 

Reflection: Over the years I have learned to get to know my students as readers and I love connecting with them through books. I spend so much time reading Young Adult Literature and making purchases for the classroom. I have had the pleasure of watching students who thought they did not like reading read book after book after book. Whether it be an author or series or genre I have hooked them on to. The time and commitment is priceless. 

I have also seen students sharing titles quite a bit the past few weeks. I love hearing, "I am waiting for _______ that _______ is reading. Can I take this one for now?" I also love hearing, "I want to read this next. Can you hold onto it for now?" Of course!!!!

Wildly Important Goal (W.I.G.)

As a Leader in Me and Lighthouse School, goals are an essential component of our school and classroom. A student created the format and structure and is in charge of keeping track. 

Reflection: We decided to keep the same goal from last year and see if we could improve. "As a class we will read ______ books by the end of the ______ quarter. However, we implemented some expectations this time to make it a bit more accurate and challenging. For example, students have to finish the book before adding to the count. Last year, they did it as they were checking them out so they would not forget. 

Bringing Book Love into the Classroom

Penny Kittle's recommendation for Status of the Class has worked beautifully! The students have 10-15 minutes of independent reading time every day. They look forward to that time and I read with them. It has really helped with a smooth transition into class. Every day we record the page number we end on in a log. It is a great formative assessment for me to gauge what and how much they are reading. I also post my reading status. 

Reflection: I have seen a huge increase in the amount of reading! Some students have already read several books (depending on the genre). They can get comfy on the pillows and floor or sit at their desks, they can choose their reading spot. I even had one student say to me the first week, "I can't believe I just read for 15 minutes straight!" I had another student say, "I wish we could read all period!" This is definitely a practice we will continue.

Warm Reading Wishes

We hope that you are enjoying reading as much as we are!


Saturday, September 2, 2017

Bittersweet Fall Memories

"Don't Let the Last Chapter Write the Book"

Dear Readers,

"Don't let the last chapter write the book." That is something a friend used to say. We both lost loved ones to suicide and the message was, do not let that define their lives. I lost my father 12 years ago October 26th. He was a son, a husband, a father, an uncle, a brother, a cousin, a nephew, a grandson, a friend, a carpenter, a colleague and much more to many people. We always have to remember who are loved ones were before tragically leaving us forever.

Recently, Paul O'Neill posted a Question of the Day on #PLN365 that made me stop and reflect. 

Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall....which is your favorite season of the year and why

Fall has always been my favorite season. I love the cooler weather, fall clothes, football, changing of the leaves, pumpkins, hay rides, back to school, pumpkin flavored coffee at Dunkin Donuts and scarecrows. I love driving down a tree lined road as the sun lights up the different colors-red, orange, yellow-on the trees. I enjoy bundling up for a Friday night football games. But hands down, one of my absolutely favorite sounds is crunching leaves. I am that person who will "wade" through a nice deep pile of leaves. I refrain from jumping in them as to not destroy someone's hard work. 

In 2005, it was just like any fall day, the unthinkable happened. It was Wednesday October 26th and a phone call divided my life into before and after. I was devastated to hear the news regarding my dad's passing. It has been 12 years and it does not get easier, it is just a way of life now. The anniversary will always be there, the feeling of loss and knowing I will never see him again.

Over the years I have watched a remarkable transformation in myself. I have turned that loss into being a voice and advocate for mental health awareness. I have volunteered for AFSP and participated in the Out of the Darkness Walks. I have moderated chats (thank you #ImpactMatters) on the topic of suicide and been a participate in mental health awareness chats (thank you "PeopleSkills). I have been to conferences and Survivor Days. I have done research and shared resources. I wanted to learn and do as much as I could.

Parallel to these wonderful actions though, there was always a feeling of despair and sadness that I could not quite shake. The questions that would never be answered. The feelings of guilt, anger, sadness. Feeling like my world was turned upside down and was no longer living in the world I once was. The feeling that I could no longer relate to peers. I struggled with feeling like a member of an exclusive club I did not ask to join.

Somewhere over the past few years, my perspective has changed. I need to remember, although it was a traumatic, life changing event when I lost my dad, it cannot define my fall. It is one aspect that I will always have with me, but it is up to me to decide how much it is going to impact me. 

Members of my PLN have been instrumental in helping me move forward. You know exactly who you are. You have supported, encouraged, pushed me and been an amazing friend to me when I needed it. 

Now, when I get teary, it is not because of my loss. It is because what I have gained. I am overwhelmed sometimes by the friendships that have developed with people I still have not met! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you do for me.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

A Glimpse into My Twitter PLN

Learning, Sharing & Growing Together

Dear Readers,

I would never have imagined the connections I would make via Twitter. It has completely changed my life and I do not say that lightly. I have found, over the past few years, summer is an amazing time to make new connections and strengthen old as we participate in book studies, chats and conversation. Here are a few people, out of many, that I am thankful to know. You inspire me, you support me, you brighten my day!

@Mr_U79: You are an amazing teacher. Your blog pulls at my heart strings, the relationships you build with your students is magical! I am honored to follow your flash-mob journey each year. Hopefully I will have front row seats one year!

@mjjohnson1216: Meredith, thank you for asking me to join you on the #BookCampPd journey. It is an absolutely pleasure and delight to collaborate with you. 

@EmilyfranESL: Emily, you are so positive and I love seeing your tweets go through my feed. You always capture the positive moments and share them with the rest of us. Your passion is contagious. 

@PaulOneill1972: Paul, you challenge me daily with the #PLN365 Question of the Day. There have been times where the answer comes easily and others where I really need to reflect and think! It was a pleasure having the opportunity to moderate #PLN365. I look forward to more challenging questions!

@tishrich: Tisha, you are an absolute joy to know! Just looking at your happy face makes me smile. I just adore the #XPLAP community. You are patient and and welcome anyone regardless of prior background knowledge. I learn so much from you. I look forward to our GHO later this fall!

@ElemCoach: Elaine, it has been an absolute pleasure getting to know you through #BookCampPd. Your positive energy is contagious! I look forward to learning from you and connecting this school year!

@D4Griffin3: Dennis, it was a pleasure meeting you through the #InPraiseDuFour book study. I enjoyed your insights and contributions every week. It is a pleasure learning from you. I look forward to connecting this school year!

@_KELewis: You are an absolute joy to know! I am so excited to connect again this school year. Your GHO with my students at the end of the year was amazing! I am looking forward to future collaborations!

@tolbertplant: Michelle, I am always excited to connect with other Middle School ELA teachers! I have enjoyed the conversations we have had so far. I look forward to further discussions this school year. Maybe we can figure out this student blogging thing together!

@historycomics: Tim, I love seeing how you incorporate Graphic Novels and Comic Books into your instruction. It is a genre I am not super familiar with, yet like to provide my students with many text options. I look forward to continuing to learn from you! 

These are just a few of the amazing individuals I have the honor to interact with and learn from. Thank you for being part of my PLN! May you all have a wonderful start to the new year!


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Collaboration: Analysis, Perspective, Celebration

Lucy & Miley

Dear Readers,

I am fortunate to be staying at a friend's house to watch their two precious pups while they are on their family vacation. Lucy, a sixth month old chocolate lab, happens to live next door to her sister, Miley. They truly are best friends. 


They play together, cause mischief together and just make me laugh out loud. I was watching them the other day as a ball fell into the pool. It reminded me of teams.

1. Analyzing the Situation: What Should We Do?

So many times we see a problem and want to jump in and solve it as quickly as possible. When we see that ball floating in the pool, sometimes it's better to sit back and patiently consider our options. Do we jump in after it? Do we wait for it to come to us? Do we walk away and forget it? It helps to look at the big picture when faced with decisions we must make. It can also be easy to make a decision without consulting others. A true collaborator sits beside his/her teammate(s) and waits. They approach the problem together. 

2. Change Your Perspective: Do We Need to Look at this From a Different Angle?

Sometimes it helps to look at different perspectives. Perhaps someone sees something that we do not. Looking at a problem from a different angle can provide many possibilities and opportunities! It doesn't mean we jump in just yet, we still patiently consider the options. If I look through a different lens can I see the solution coming closer? How do I communicate to my team that I see an answer to the problem? How do I gain trust and respect so my team will share in my discovery with me?

3. Come Together: Problem Solve as a Team and Share in the Celebration


When we have a plan, it is important to implement it as a team. Considering all the options, what would make the most sense? How can we all benefit? Does it propel us toward our vision, mission, goals, etc? Sometimes we have to listen, process and consider taking someone else's idea because it is the best one. One of the most important stages of the journey is celebrating! Celebrate small and big successes!

May you all have amazing collaborative teams to go back to this year!

Teresa (Lucy & Miley)

Saturday, August 12, 2017

I Was Never Told.........

"Well behaved Women Seldom Make History." ~Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Dear Readers,

Yesterday I visited the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, NY. It was an incredibly powerful and moving experience that I have been reflecting on today.

These are just a few of the incredible women I found myself surrounded by.

From there, I went to Elizabeth Cady Stanton's home. 

After that, I went to the Wesleyan Church where the first demands for Women's Rights was held. It was a powerful experience to be in that room where so many gathered so long ago.

The Declaration of Sentiments was etched into a never ending waterfall outside.

One of my favorite moments was visiting the statue of the "chance encounter" between Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

I was able to see the newspaper when Susan B. Anthony was arrested in Rochester, NY for trying to vote.

I have been reflecting today on my experience. 

I was never told:
  • I had to get married.
  • I could not get divorced.
  • I could not own property.
  • I could not go to college.
  • I could not vote.
  • I could not be a lawyer.....a doctor......a astronaut......
  • I had to wear certain clothing.
  • I could not wear make-up.
  • I could not join the military.
  • I could not practice the religion of my choice.
  • I could not learn to read.....write.....speak.......
  • I could not be a nurse......a journalist......a politician.

This was a powerful display at the visitor center that caused me to stop and reflect.

I was never told:
  • I could not play with dolls.
  • I could not play with trucks.
  • I could not like pink.
  • I could not like blue.
  • I could not play with Barbies.
  • I could not play with action figures.

This display in a local store also moved me.

I was never told:
  • You cannot marry a man if that is who you love.
  • "I could not find an appropriate card for you and your husband to be."
  • People close to me would be victims of violence and prejudice based on who they love.
  • How lucky I was to be born into the "right body" and feel comfortable in my own skin.
  • That people close to me would be told they would not make "good parents" because of who they chose to spend their lives with.
  • People I love and care about would be judged because of who they love. 
  • I would be scared for people I love and care about. 

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." ~ Mya Angelou

"The best protection any woman can courage." ~ Elizabeth Cady Stanton