Tuesday, November 28, 2017

#NCTE17 Take Aways


It has been one week since I returned from NCTE 17 and that special city with a catchy song, Meet Me In St. Louis. Memories vividly remain in my memory bank but for visibility sake, I captured them in a photo story, An Unforgettable NCTE 17 Convention Experience, that can be accessed here. The photo log illustrates the best moments of four days worth of learning, connecting, and having fun.

Before leaving for St. Louis, I created the following digital with Dr. Seuss in mind for my pre-conference blog.

While at NCTE 17, I not only had time to learn but to enjoy St. Louis. I may not have seen the arch up close, but I did get a beautiful view of the Mississippi River at night.


Now for some of my best picks of quotes from NCTE 17:

Jimmy Santiago Baca
True poetry happens in the mistake of life, when the mistake lets us step forward.
Teachers are the dream makers. Reading is your magic.
Tips to write a good poem / story: JUST write! If you want to write, WRITE!

Mary Howard
We all have a common denominator: books are the heart and soul of what we do and talk is intertwined in this experience.
Dialogue is informal, conversational, and invitational.

Ellen Keene
We need to make major revisions in the way we speak about ourselves and our students-re-think our language.
We must amend our deficit-based language to an asset-based language.

Kara Pranikoff
Turn the conversation back to your students. Developing student voice requires teachers to learn how to listen.

Justin Dolci
Create safe spaces in your classroom. Be visible to all. Technology can augment social identity and social justice.

Sam Fremin, #bowtieboys
Constraining students’ creativity puts the emphasis on vetting knowledge, rather than expanding it.

We need to arm our students with more stories to create a wider definition of who people are.

Kylene Beers
Choice never, never starts with "What's your level?"

Pernille Ripp
We, as teachers, are on the frontline of change. We must teach all stories.

Lucy Calkins
Community is about diversity. Let’s make listening instruction something that brings people together.

Katherine Bomer sums up the #NCTE experience: "It was a night to remember, sharing food and laughter (and even some tears) with my dearest old friends and stunning new friends. Just one of the joyous, meaningful perks of #NCTE17 & every year."

I always say that NCTE is the literacy educators' red carpet gala event, a time for literacy luminaries to light up the stage, educators to mingle, and enough books to make an educator's heart throb. The NCTE Convention memories not only fill the pages of my photo story but provide a "grateful living" and learning experience and a nice entry into Thanksgiving and Giving Tuesday.

Join me now for the Slice of Life at Two Writing Teachers where Betsy Hubbard posted the following digital inspiration.

I feel that I did follow Mary Oliver's advice while at NCTE.
I paid attention, was astonished, and now I am telling about it.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Heart Full of Gratitude

Now that the bright lights of NCTE 17 have dimmed and Thanksgiving decorations are being sorted and placed away for another year of celebration, I sit at the computer and write with a heart full of gratitude.  What came out of this reflective moment is a gratitude Buncee that you can access in its full animated version here.

Still image created with Buncee

Then, on the recommendation of our parish priest, Father James, who gave the Thanksgiving Day homily, I opened one of Oprah's SuperSoul Sunday podcast. What I found is an inspiring conversation between Lynne Twist and Oprah.

The following take aways were powerful thoughts from Lynne Twist:

-What bounty and blessings have I received from the universe that I want to celebrate and be grateful for?

-Don't bookend your day with scarcity.

-Wake up in the morning and be grateful for the sweet territory of silence and sleep.

She also quoted her teacher, the Benedictine monk, Brother David Steindl-Rast.

"Gratefulness is the experience of the great fullness of life." 
- Brother David Steindl-Rast

I needed to mull that over. True, I have found powerful #onewords to guide my journey each year: openness, listen, believe, joy and I did avail myself of the gifts those words afforded me. But now, I question if I was truly immersed in "grateful living" for I did spent some days floundering. Was I not able to fully grasp the crisp clearness of thoughtful action beyond those spoken words? Did I avail myself of the fruits of living and the opportunity to enjoy life, even in the midst of unhappiness? 

I now ask myself those deeper questions. Knowing that this is my new challenge, I commit to waking up each day this week, not with thoughts of what I did not accomplish or wasted minutes of what I need to do but with an open heart to what each new day will bring. Positivity will rise beyond the scarcity of thought, the not enoughs of each day.

Wish me luck as I continue to have a heart full of gratitude and an action plan to accomplish this. I #CelebrateMonday with a renewed spirit of what I can accomplish today with a positive spirit and hope you do also.

Friday, November 24, 2017

So Much to Be Thankful For

Autumn Is:
The season for enjoying the fullness of life -- partaking of the harvest, sharing the harvest with others, and reinvesting and saving portions of the harvest for yet another season of growth.
-Denis Waitley

Using the above quote, I created my own thoughts on Thanksgiving 2017.

Thanksgiving is:
The holiday for enjoying 
life living moments --
partaking of life's harvest,
sharing life's harvest with family and friends,
and reinvesting and saving
each part of life's bountiful harvest
 for the end of this season and
yet another one as I
understand there is so much
to be thankful for.
©CVarsalona, 2017


Thanksgiving Songs to Listen to:

Thank You by Brianna Hayes

Thanks to living.
Thanks to life.
Thank you for the joy inside of me.
Your give us hope.
You plant the seed.
You harvest every heart in need.
Thank you for the love you give in me.
-Brianna Hayes

(A Josh Groban Song)
(The Perfect Thanksgiving Song sung by Dallyn Vail Bayles with Scott & Ryceejo)


Thanksgiving by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

We ought to make the moments notes
Of happy glad Thanksgiving;
The hours and days a silent phrase
Of music we are living.
And so the theme should swell and grow
As weeks and months pass o'er us,
And rise sublime at this good time,
A grand Thanksgiving chorus.


I am signing off with an attitude of gratitude for Day 2 of the
Thanksgiving festivities begins again tomorrow when my grandbaby Sierra arrives at Grandma and Grandpa's house.

From today's Google Hangout


I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends. Now it is time to enjoy the Thanksgiving after-party with our Poetry Friday host, Carol  Wilcox at Carol's Corner.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Autumn's Change

Change is a measure of time and, in the autumn, time seems speeded up. What was is not and never again will be; what is is change."
-Edwin Teale


Using the beginning of the above quote, I penned a Golden Shovel poem:

Autumn brings change.
In seasonal cycles, change is
inevitable. It's a
juncture point to measure 
existence in a world of
everyday racing time
©Carol Varsalona, 2017

This Buncee can be activated here to listen to the song, 
Together We Can Change The World.


The following poems were featured here.

sashaying in
november walks with gusto-
pre-holiday chill
©Carol Varsalona, 2017

In 2013, I wrote a blog post, Autumn, A Time of Transitions, that will frame my thoughts as I close the collection of digital offerings for my Autumn Ablaze Gallery. The deadline for submission is November 28, 2017. Thanks is extended to all those who submitted image poems, inspirational quote, nature photography, artwork, and music. Also, I would like to thank Janet Wong for her welcoming efforts to gather poetry friends to join in this season's gallery writing. I am connecting with Janet and many poetry friends at #NCTE17. 

For those I am able to only connect with virtually, I offer this post to Poetry Friday's hostess, Jane at Raincity Librarian

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

"Meet Me In St. Louis"

Thank you to Dr. Seuss for the mentor text, "Oh, the Places You'll Go" that provided inspiration.

I am so excited for the opening of NCTE 17 and it is in a special city with a catchy song. But wait, I need to pack, gather my tech equipment, and create my schedule using the NCTE app. EEKs! Emails and tweets are coming in constantly. Plans are being made for meet-ups. Conference anticipation mounts and I am feeling both elated and nervous about getting ready for the trip in the midst of construction in my house.

So, I will s-l-o-w down,
take a breath, and
systematically plan my next few days.

Why the excitement over NCTE 17?

- The annual event is the Red Carpet gala for literacy educators.
- The convention is filled with literacy luminaries that I have known and followed for years.
- The Exhibit Hall is a bustling area of literacy products, delights, author signings, and enough books to make an educator's heart throb.
- There are colleagues to greet, new educators to meet, publisher reps to chat with, and four days of engaging presentations.

-Join the Wonderopolis booth to speak of the wonders of learning.
-Attend Scholastic's annual M.R. Robinson Reception and Dinner and listen to the inspirational message delivered by Dick Robinson.
-Meet up with the Poetry Friday poets.
-Enjoy the conference.

I am excited to chair and present an all-star panel of presenters on Friday, November 17th at 11:00 a.m. in the Convention Hall, room 275.

I will also present an individual roundtable presentation where I hope to make digital magic with participants who attend.

Once again, I am excited to be part of the NCTE 17 experience so stay tuned for tweets from the conference floor and a post-conference blog. For now, I am gearing up for the trip and listening to an old tune.

Today is Slice of Life Tuesday at Two Writing Teachers.
I look forward to meeting up with the slicers at NCTE17.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Celebrate Change

I have had a front row seat to the evolution of autumn show this season. From my upstairs window I have watched the trees change from a sunkissed summer look to this week's November chill. I celebrate the change that allows me to discover the many wonders of fall and continue to marvel at the brilliant, vivid digital offerings that come my way for my Autumn Ablaze Gallery.

sashaying in
november walks with gusto-
pre-holiday chill
©Carol Varsalona, 2017


A few days ago, I woke to a windstorm and chilled weather. The tree outside my window was moving back and forth, shaking its branches. I was sad to see the empty boughs but knew that change was inevitable. 

So too, in life, change comes sashaying in. We may not welcome it when it comes but life marches on. I see the wisdom of embracing change with positivity.  Do you?

Each week, I Celebrate This Week with Ruth Ayres. Ruth has exciting news about her new book at her blog site. You can read about it here

Friday, November 10, 2017


Home is where our story begins, grows, and is preserved. At this time of the year, when thanksgiving brings families together, my eyes scan this place I call home. Thoughts flood my mind.

I know it well! 
A feeling of comfort 
fills this house I live in. Sounds and smells
bring back memories of autumn past. recollect sweet moments
of family life. They flash before me: pumpkin-spiced days filled with faith and hope that blessed my home and insulated us from life's
cold snaps. Fall still lingers in corners of my home. I
uncover worn photos and artifacts tucked away-
reminders that one thought prevails:
home is more than just a house.
©CVarsalona, 2017, Long Island
What is home? 
It's my gathering place,
my collection space, 
brimming with remembrances.
It is the sweet abode
waiting for a new joy to arrive 
- a grandbaby -
so inter-generational love
can thrive again.
©CVarsalona, 2017, Long Island
As Thanksgiving approaches, I am in the midst of decorating my home inside and outside. I look forward to creating new memories honoring the spirit of family togetherness, for home is the place where my family's hearts will be filled with new life-living moments.

For me, the word HOME ignites a spirit of family togetherness! 
What does it signify to you?

Today is Poetry Friday and Jama Rattigan, the hostess with the mostess is serving coffee, donuts, and poetry for the Poetry Friday Roundup here.

I am also joining the #TeachWrite community this month to write about HOME.