". . .the word of God is not bound." II Tim. 2:9b

Friday, August 4, 2017

Pinterest Boards Full of Back to School Goodness for Teachers

If you're like me, you're already scouring your Pinterest boards for fresh teaching strategies for the new school year. It seems like I'm constantly digging for helpful articles on organization, classroom management, lesson planning, and content area resources. Then in the middle of the school year, I head to Pinterest for glimmers of inspiration to help me get through the tough stuff of school. Whether it's a promise from the Bible or a funny baby animal meme, there's something in my boards to put a smile on my face.

In case you're looking for some Back-to-School teacher goodness, here are links to some of my favorite boards! Enjoy!

Teaching HS (primarily ELA-focused)
High School Drama
Writing Fiction
Teacher Supplies (Okay, I love this one!)
Classroom Decor

For the Teacher's Well-Being
Christian Teacher, Public School
Smart, Professional Clothes
Healing Garden (Take a walk in my garden! It's soothing!)
Blessings (Can I get an "Amen"?)
Books to Read in My Nonexistent Reading Nook When It Rains

I hope you enjoy these Pinterest boards. Have a favorite teacher-pinner? Share the boards you return to again and again!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

How I Use Famous Shakespeare Quotes to Teach Literary Elements

Visit Brevity on TPT!

Just a few more hours to scoop up savings at Brevity and other stores on Teachers Pay Teachers at the Back to School sale! I've already found lots of great resources to help inject some Core-aligned energy into my lesson planning.

First Folio, cardboard cutout, the Bard, teacher
Me and Will Shakespeare
One of the units I teach every year in 9th, 10th, and 12th grade English is Shakespeare. They say "Necessity is the mother of invention," and necessity certainly inspired some of the Shakespeare unit resources I've created. I wanted a memorable way to teach literary elements and introduce students to the plays they would be reading before they ever got to the prologue.

I also wanted a way to build character through quotes from the play and the discussions the quotes would ignite.

The wall docs I created for Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and Julius Caesar help make connections for students, which is always a good thing. They build understanding of terms students will work with throughout the Shakespeare unit, and they help students remember what they learn.

How I Use Literary Elements in Famous Quotes Wall Docs in My Classroom

At the beginning of the semester, I hand out the full list of quotes and their corresponding literary elements, such as metaphor, symbol, or rhyming couplets. I explain that students will not be expected to memorize the quotes, but that they will need to be able to match the literary element to the quote that demonstrates it.

I then post the first quote doc on the wall and ask the class to read the quote aloud with me, either from the wall doc or from the handout. We then discuss the quote, the literary element, and how the language of the quote exemplifies the literary element. That's it for Day One. 

Macbeth quotes on my classroom wall
Each day, we repeat the reading and discussion for one week. On Monday of the next week, I introduce a new quote. Periodically, we review previous quotes and the terms that match them.

I assess students on terms and quotes as I see fit. This resource allows the teacher to use informal assessment daily without imposing an extra quiz on stressed-out students.

The beauty of working with specific famous quotes in a targeted way is that before students even read a line of the play, they become familiar with some of the famous lines and plot elements. Then, when we read the play and come across these quotes, light bulbs go on all around the room. Students see the quotes in context, understand the richness of the language, and remember the mechanics behind the poetry of Shakespeare. As an added plus, my students often tell me, "I was watching Sponge Bob and they quoted Shakespeare!" I love it when kids recognize literary allusions in the world around them. It's all about making connections!

Purchasing Shakespeare wall docs and other teacher resources from Brevity helps keep me blogging and helps keep ads on ChristianTeacherPublicSchool to a minimum. To take advantage of the Back to School Sale, just enter code BTS2017 at checkout! Thanks for your support!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Back to School Sale at Brevity on Teachers Pay Teachers

Welcome to August, teachers!

I'm excited to announce the Back to School sale at my shop, Brevity, on Teachers Pay Teachers! It's the first time I've participated in this fun sale, and I'm offering a 20% discount off all items in my store! The sale runs for just two days, so I hope you'll swing by and check out all the great deals and steals August 1-2! Remember, TPT shops offer freebies, too, so do yourself a favor, stock up and make your life easier this school year.

What will you find at Brevity on TPT?

greeting cards
8 Encouraging ECards for Teachers, Summer/Fall Collection

What else is new at Christian Teacher, Public School?

Dalene Parker (left) with Amy Ballard

I just got back from a wonderful visit with family in South Carolina and Kentucky. One of the added blessings of the trip was finally getting to meet my friend, author Dalene Vickery Parker, for the first time! Dalene and I talked about teaching, family, faith, and lots of other things over coffee at Due South Coffee in Taylors, SC. It was great to see her and talk with her instead of just exchanging emails and texts. 

If you haven't had a chance to read Dalene's books, please visit her on Amazon. Christian Teachers in Public Schools is a fantastic resource and an encouragement for the heart of the busy teacher. Words to Live By is a devotional focusing on one spirit-building word per week.

During my stay at my parents' home in Kentucky, my sister took me to an open mic at Etcetera Coffeehouse in Paducah. I got to read several poems from my chapbook, Landlocked. The room wasn't packed, but the crowd was great. And I highly recommend the coffee!

In other news, I decided to get off Facebook, so that means Christian Teacher, Public School is also off Facebook. You can still reach me by clicking on "Comments" below each post, or through my Web site, amyballard.com. Thanks for following!

I was recently challenged to organize a prayer walk to invite God's watchcare over staff and students at my school for the upcoming year. We'll see if my busy life can take that on, but in the meantime, let's all stop and pray right now for the new school year. I wish you all the best as you begin teaching soon!



Wednesday, July 12, 2017

More Fun at the P20 Educator Conference 2017

This afternoon I get to present Choose Your Own Adventure: Writing and Publishing Narratives Using Digital Technology at the P20 Educator Conference in Twin Falls. It's always fun to hear other teachers share strategies for teaching writing while we learn to hyperlink and create alternate-path stories. Narrative writing is such an adventure!

Want the slideshow? It's yours! Go to https://goo.gl/c49wS5.

For more encouragement today, one of my favorite conference-related posts is Avoid Burnout and Get the Most Out of an Education Conference. At the P20 conference, I don't expect to feel burnt out. It's only two days, and the sessions have been awesome! Hope you get as much out of your conference as I already have! Share in the comments some of your take-aways. I'd love to hear them!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

P20 Conference 2017

Amy at the P20 Conference
The P20 Educator Conference at the College of Southern Idaho is going full steam ahead, and I'm excited to share my presentations. This morning it's Faith and the Public School Teacher, followed by Choose Your Own Adventure tomorrow afternoon.

In today's session I'll give away a copy of Words to Live By: 52 Words That Lead to an Extraordinary Life, a wonderful devotional book by Linda Gilden and my friend Dalene Parker. Don't miss Dalene's first book, Christian Teachers in Public Schools: 13 Essentials for the Classroom.

Looking forward to an awesome conference with my fellow Idaho teachers! May the Lord bless us as we gather tools and strategies for the coming school year.

Words To Live By

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

April: The Downhill Slope, or Uphill All the Way?

Easter, egg, daffodils, vintage, the graphics fairy, April, May, spring
April showers bring May flowers

April showers may be falling, but teachers and students can't slow down to go puddle stomping just yet. It's state standardized testing season! The juniors at your district may be taking the SAT, and everyone's talking about prom, academic fair, concerts, and drama plays to wind up the year. Next thing we know, it'll be final exams and graduation! Where did the time go?

From my white board
During this frenetic month of April, I'm constantly reminding myself to pause and pray.

If I don't, I'll lose sight of God's care over me. I'm praying for my students to learn empathy, to do their best on their ISATs, and to learn their lines for drama. For my own kids and myself, I always ask for a good day. No matter how rushed we are in the morning, I stop the car at the stop sign on our road (our "praying spot") and my sons and I pray for God's blessing on our day.

How thankful I am for the bright spots coming our way this stressful month! Students showcase their learning, teachers celebrate improvement, and we all start counting down the weeks till the end of school. April is National Poetry Month, National Child Abuse Prevention MonthAutism Acceptance Month, Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month, and, ironically (to me at least), Stress Awareness Month. April 24 is Idaho's Day of Holocaust Remembrance, a great opportunity to learn about a very dark time in history so we can prevent its being repeated. The message couldn't be more timely.

And for the believer, Easter reminds us of God's resurrection power.

Luke 24:5-8 says, "and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, 'Why do you seek the living One among the dead? 'He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.' And they remembered His words, and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest."

May we all seek the Lord this Easter season and know His power to raise the dead and save the lost.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Unpacking Idaho's 2017 Federal Programs Conference

 It's great to be back from the 2017 Federal Programs Conference in Boise! Now to unpack what I've learned. . . .

First some highlights for those of you who wonder what it's like to go to a conference like this.

  • Keynote speakers Charlotte Danielson, Luis Cruz, Diane Staehr Fenner, and of course rapper MK Asante brought inspiring messages encouraging us to be "merchants of hope," to remember that "If you make an observation, you have an obligation," and to keep doing the work that makes such a difference in the lives of our neediest students. 

    Amy with the great Charlotte Danielson
  • Breakout sessions deepened our understanding of topics under the Federal Progams umbrella (and at this conference, special education). I learned about reaching English Learners, using multicultural literature for inclusion, leveraging score changes in WIDA Access 2.0, apps that support student accessibility, and Socratic Discussions with my friends Wendi and Kim from the Idaho Coaching Network.

  • I presented Choose Your Own Adventure: Writing and Publishing Narratives Using Digital Technology to a great bunch of teachers. Want the slideshow? It's yours! Go to https://goo.gl/c49wS5. The hostess at my session gave me a goody bag with The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore inside. Can't wait to read it!

Amy's presenter badge
  • I got to catch up with some of the great folks from CSI who put on the P20 Educator Conference last summer. They're gearing up for this July, and I'll be presenting Choose Your Own Adventure and Faith and the Public School Teacher there again this year.

  • Came home loaded up with freebies like animal-photo posters from Discovery Education, a coloring book for my daughter, and oodles of books from Stan Steiner's session, "What's New in Multicultural Children's Literature." More on that session another time!

Multicultural literature
  • I got to explore Boise and meet new people. Networking is a huge part of why we go to conferences at all, and I try to take advantage of the chance to get help with issues I'm facing in the classroom, school, or in my district as a whole. (Okay, in my small community, the school and the district are one and the same. But you get what I'm saying).

View from the parking garage near the Boise Centre

What I'd like to see at next year's conference? A session called "Federal Programs 101." After all, some of us (me) are newbies to Fed Programs, and we need to know how to prepare for an audit, manage input from staff members, and make sure our school is doing the best it can to meet the needs of all learners.

More from the conference soon, but in the meantime, what do you think new Federal Programs Directors need to know about their job? Leave comments below! We newbies thank you!

Further Reading:
From eSchool News: 5 technologies to avoid in the classroom-and what to use instead
What Happened When I Interviewed Hip-Hop Artist MK Asante (And a Truck With a Confederate Flag Drove By)
From Dayspring.com: What's in Your Easter Basket?

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Who Is My Neighbor? Better Information Means Better Compassion

But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Luke 10:29

nonfiction 2017 book reading Europe Syria
The New Odyssey
Just finished reading The New Odyssey: The Story of the Twenty-First Century Refugee Crisis. Patrick Kingsley's reporting goes beyond information to find the heart of the story, the individuals and families who seek asylum from political upheaval and terrorism.

In addition to telling a captivating story, this book is a vital handbook to response for elected officials, students, humanitarian volunteer workers, prayer warriors, donors, voters, and people who simply want to be better informed about their world. Teachers of current events and world history in public high schools should consider making this book part of the curriculum.

Reading this book did not change my mind about what I think my own response to the refugee crisis ought to be. It informed my thinking and (although it is not a religious book) reinforced my belief that Christ calls us to compassion more often than to safety. If my neighbor is in need, I hope to be a Christian who shares what she has, rather than one who shuts the door and ignores my neighbor's knocking.

Who is my neighbor? The example of Jesus and the parables He told reveal that we must sometimes cross cultural and religious "borders" to help our neighbors. If biblical precedent is not enough, may books like The New Odyssey help believers everywhere to set aside their fears, cross borders, and offer aid to the world's most vulnerable.

Link Love
Follow Amy on Goodreads.

On March 8, read Amy's guest blog post "Getting To Conflict: The Absolute Necessity of Unpleasantness in Fiction" on The Artist Unleashed.

Sit in on Amy's narrative writing session at the Idaho Federal Programs Conference at the Boise Centre April 7. Teachers will learn how to use Choose Your Own Adventure story structure to teach ELA standards in narrative writing. Hyperlink your story's alternate endings using Google Docs and you have a current take on a 1980s reader favorite that inspired the gamebook genre.

Monday, February 20, 2017

New Tab: Autism Resource Links

"I will give thanks to You, 
for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well."
Psalm 139:14 (NASB)

We've added an Autism resource tab to the top of the Christian Teacher, Public School blog. This small effort won't lead to the most exhaustive list of Autism Spectrum resources on the Web. Instead, I hope it helps readers of this blog form connections at crucial times in their journeys with autism (whether as parents, teachers, or as people on the Spectrum themselves) and to help others along the way.

Interested in writing about autism in the public school setting? I would like to connect with guest bloggers who are teachers or who are parents of public school children on the Spectrum. On the Spectrum yourself? Even better.

Here are some tips on writing about Autism for Christian Teacher, Public School:

  • Be clear: Who are you and why are your writing about this topic? What's your point? What are you helping/asking readers to do?
  • Be current and accurate in your research, citing sources as appropriate
  • Explain acronyms on the first use
  • Be personal, revealing actual perspectives of real people on the Autism Spectrum, not assumptions
  • Obtain permission, change names as appropriate, and be accurate in your representations of others
  • Connect readers to resources (lesson plans, accommodations, blogs, books, local chapters of Autism organizations, support groups, conferences, etc.)
  • Keep a positive and constructive tone
  • Be original (only your own work that hasn't appeared online before)
  • Keep the audience in mind. We exist specifically for Christian teachers who teach in public schools, although others may find us helpful. Our preferred content is uplifting, spiritually-relevant, and biblically-literate. We believe that God created all neurotypes as a reflection of His creativity, uniqueness, power, glory, and love. We celebrate autism as a gift from the creator. Not every article need express this perspective overtly, and "preaching" is not wanted. Just let your light shine.

How to Submit
Please query before sending submissions for consideration. Contact Amy Ballard by email at amy (at) amyballard (dot) com. Nominal payment may be available for quality content on Autism in the public school, especially if written by teachers or students (current or former) with Autism. We'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Stepping Stones: Children's Books on Immigration and Refugees

"And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward."  Matthew 10:42

In keeping with my recent readings about the refugee crisis, I thought I would pass along a superb roundup of children's books about refugees. Jen Gann at NYMag.com's The Cut praises titles such as Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family's Journey by Margriet Ruurs for help with "explaining to children that the heart and soul of America is to welcome others to our country who need a safe place to make a home."

Stepping Stones

How can teachers use books like Stepping Stones in the classroom?
  • Read aloud and notice how illustrations enhance the narrative
  • Make predictions about what will happen after the end of the story
  • Pair with art lessons; allow students to illustrate part of the story in a different art medium
  • Conduct a Socratic seminar using the book and related texts to explore the facts and controversies of the refugee crisis
  • Give an art show displaying student interpretations of the story in art and poetry
  • Pair with current news articles and photos
  • Create a classroom newspaper with students' articles about the refugee crisis
  • Springboard to writing assignments like song lyrics, diary entries, letters, and research essays

From the blurb for Stepping Stones on Amazon.com: 

This unique picture book was inspired by the stone artwork of Syrian artist Nizar Ali Badr, discovered by chance by Canadian children’s writer Margriet Ruurs. The author was immediately impressed by the strong narrative quality of Mr. Badr’s work, and, using many of Mr. Badr’s already-created pieces, she set out to create a story about the Syrian refugee crisis. Stepping Stones tells the story of Rama and her family, who are forced to flee their once-peaceful village to escape the ravages of the civil war raging ever closer to their home. With only what they can carry on their backs, Rama and her mother, father, grandfather and brother, Sami, set out to walk to freedom in Europe. Nizar Ali Badr’s stunning stone images illustrate the story.

Know of a good book to help children understand current events? Have a strategy for teaching current events through nonfiction? Share!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Nonfiction Book Pick for 2017: The New Odyssey by Patrick Kingsley

Nonfiction Book syria europe migration refugees
The New Odyssey
In my senior English class, I always assign students to read a biography or other nonfiction book of their choosing. The greatest benefit of the assignment may be that students find for the first time the unexpected thrill of enjoying a book.

Secondary benefits they experience include:

  • learning new things, 
  • "traveling" from the comfort of home,
  • becoming an expert on a person, 
  • finding a hero, 
  • having fun conversing with their peers about their chosen books,
  • and understanding the world around them better than they did before. 

Biography, more than other genres, imparts wisdom to the willing reader.

The assignment has its downside, too, though. Vivid memories of desperate conversations with librarians about overdue inter-library loans come to mind!

To help my students along, I always read a nonfiction book at the same time. One year, it was Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. I chose it because it was highly praised by critics and was being made into a movie, and because I had read and enjoyed Seabiscuit: An American Legend by the same author. Still, in a sense I was taking a gamble. It paid off.

All the benefits I hope my students will enjoy, I enjoyed. I learned about the Pacific War, I became an expert on Louis Zamperini (a man I had never heard of before picking up the book), I found a hero (both for his will to survive and for his eventual faith in God), I enjoyed chatting with a student who had chosen the same book and with the class as a whole about our book picks, and I understood the world better for my reading.

nonfiction book wwii japan atomic bomb paperback buy amazon common core standards
Additionally, I built on prior knowledge about the War in Japan that I had gained from reading Hiroshima by John Hersey. Unbroken presented another element of the story.

This year, I wanted a specific type of book to read. The nonfiction book I wanted would teach me about the lives of refugees, the facts of the related current events, and the culture of the countries refugees call home. As a bonus, the book would reveal needs that compassionate Christians could help meet.

I found what I was looking for in The New Odyssey: The Story of the Twenty-First Century Refugee Crisis by Patrick Kingsley. After reading a glowing review by Christianity Today's Bethany Hoang, I immediately went to Amazon to purchase the book.

I'm partway into The New Odyssey now, and it's every bit as spellbinding as the review indicated. It's my nonfiction book pick for 2017 because it's opening my eyes to the reasons why refugees are fleeing their home countries and to the problems facing the nations who take them in (or choose not to). By interspersing chapters about a real Syrian refugee among chapters about the refugee crisis as a whole, Kingsley puts a human face on the story. The book hardly mentions the religious aspect of the situation, but as a Christian, it's helping me to view refugees with greater understanding and compassion. As a teacher, it's giving me much-needed background knowledge I can share with students as we learn about our world.

More to come as I continue reading!

In the meantime, what nonfiction books do you recommend—for students and for teachers? What biographies and other nonfiction works have influenced you the most? How so? Please share in the comments!

Further Reading:
Leadership in Band of Brothers Unit
What Happened When I Interviewed Hip-Hop Artist MK Asante (And a Truck With a Confederate Flag Drove By) (By the way, it looks like MK will be back in Idaho soon for the Federal Programs Conference! You won't want to miss his keynote!)
Balance and Boundaries: An Interview with Dalene Vickery Parker

Monday, February 6, 2017

Idaho Coaching Network Offers Resource-Filled Blog For Idaho Teachers

This week brings a wider audience to my recent blog post, "Shoveling a Path Through the Snowdrifts for New Teachers." I'm privileged to share my thoughts on teachers as mentors on the Idaho Coaching Network blog. The blog is a helpful resource for Idaho teachers, especially in the ELA content area.

Christian Teacher, Public School also offers links to helpful resources for Idaho teachers. Check out the Idaho tab at the top of this page. Know of other Idaho education resources? Please share in the comments!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Triple Entry Journals for Character Analysis in Lord of the Flies

Need resources for Lord of the Flies? I've just created a character analysis tool that will get students talking and writing about the text. Triple-entry journals are fun and easy, and they put the focus where it should be—on the text. The journals in this pack are designed for each of the four main characters in Lord of the Flies, but here's an open version you can use with any novel to analyze any aspect of the text.

Visit my store, Brevity, on Teachers Pay Teachers for more resources that are aligned with the standards you need to teach!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

When Teachers Question God: Wilderness Times in the Believing Teacher's Life

Bible clipart image picture painting public domain wilderness leadership
"Moses and the Burning Bush" by James J. Tissot
We question God. It's natural. Men and women of faith have been questioning God since the beginning of time. Rather than discouraging questions, God welcomes them. He even responds.

From Moses's time in the wilderness (Exodus 3) comes a discussion with the Lord about needs and fears that are close to every believer's heart. During times of wandering, these needs and fears come to the forefront.

The Christian teacher may ask some of the same big questions that Moses wrestled with when he met with God at Horeb, the Mountain of God:

"Who am I?"

  • Am I called to be a teacher?
  • How can I juggle my career and all my other roles?
  • Which role is most important?
  • What do you want me to be when I grow up?

"Why are the people I care for being treated unjustly?"

  • How can I stand up to bullying in my school--from students and adults?
  • How can I show compassion to the downtrodden?
  • How can I exercise my First Amendment rights and inspire others to do the same?

"Do you see me, Lord? Do you hear?"

  • What do you see when you look at me, Lord?
  • Do you remember my frailty?
  • Why is it so hard to carve out devotional time in my day?
  • Are you hearing my prayers? Nothing seems to change.
  • I feel like no one listens to me. Are you listening?
  • The world is darkening. How can I maintain hope?
  • I'm hurting. How can I find your comfort?
  • I'm burnt out. Where can I find rest?

"Why am I in this wilderness?"

  • Is this the place you want me to be?
  • My desires are not being satisfied. Why?
  • What are you trying to teach me, Lord?
  • Am I willing to listen?
  • Am I willing to change?

"How long will this season last?"

  • I get impatient. Will you give me a glimmer of hope to keep me going?
  • Am I learning patience? Am I learning the other lessons I need to learn?
  • Am I drawing close to you?
  • Do I believe that you have something good in mind? Do I trust you?

"Where are you leading me?"

  • Am I teaching at the right district? In the right grade level or subject area?
  • Is it time to look for something different? Or to rest in you right here, right now?
  • Is there an area of passion that you are calling me to explore?
  • Do I trust you to lead me when I don't know the destination?
  • Can I remember that your timing and your purpose may look different from my expectation?
  • Do I trust that you are all-wise, all-powerful, and good?

seasons of life, desert, wilderness, wandering, Moses, photography, images, devotional aid, devotions, inspiration, spiritual
Deserts of the Heart
Right now, many of these questions are settled in my mind, but I can vividly remember times when some of them blazed in front of my eyes every day, keeping me from being effective as a teacher, wife, and mother. Having wrestled with these questions, posed them to God, and learned His will for me, I am a happier, more blessed person for having been led through the wilderness. Yes, I still struggle in my calling at times. Yes, I still have days of confusion and questioning. But I remember the lessons from the desert, and they bring me peace.

Facing the wilderness?
Sometimes we need to ask the help of another Christian friend or two or three to steer us to a place where we can ask these questions. Sometimes God will steer us there directly, by removing responsibilities, by sending obstacles, by bringing us to a desperate place so we have to look to Him.

If you're there now in that desperate place, I hope you will run to the wilderness as Moses did. Allow yourself to thirst and hunger. Wait for God to meet you. Treasure His word. Ask your questions. Believe that it has a purpose.

For further reading:
Devotional Aids for Every Christian Teacher
Teaching As Calling
Exodus Chapter 3 (Bible Gateway)
Deserts of the Heart: Finding God During the Dry Times by Pamela Reeve

Monday, January 23, 2017

New Kindle eBook: The Swans of Starlight Lake

ebook, kindle, swans, birds, Amy Ballard, kids, fairy tale, story, book, new, fiction
The Swans of Starlight Lake
When my daughter was very small, she began drawing ducks and swans, teaching herself to draw by constant practice. We had printer paper all over the house—drafts of swan necks and wings, nests, eggs, swans in flight, nesting swans, swans on water, frightened swans, and proud mother swans with newly-hatched eggs.

Today I feel like one of those proud mother swans. My daughter and I have self-published a fairy tale we wrote together—about swans, of course. The Swans of Starlight Lake began as a bedtime story, evolved into an ebook typed and illustrated for our own enjoyment, and now comes into its own as a Kindle edition.
kindle, children's, kids, books, fairy tales, nest, birds, swans, feathers, girl power, hero, adventure, castle, princess

With fairy-tale tradition entwined throughout, this new story by a mother-daughter team is a classic tale of adventure and love.

Readers ages 5-10 will wonder what's going to happen next as Muriel, Leo, and their mother set out to rescue two stolen swan eggs from a reclusive noble who hides beneath a feathered cape. The kids work together to thwart the guards and bring their treasure safely home to Starlight Lake.

The Swans of Starlight Lake contains several vintage, color illustrations and has a 14-point font for little eyes. Get it for Kindle for .99¢, or free with Kindle Unlimited.

If you read the story, please consider leaving a review on Amazon.com and using social media buttons to share. Thanks for helping our story reach a wider audience!

And the Winner Is. . .

It was lots of fun talking poetry with readers of the Overcoming With God blog last week! Carrie Fancett Pagels was so kind to invite me to guest post about my new poetry chapbook, Landlocked. The winner of the giveaway was Debbie M. —Congratulations, Debbie!

Want to get the book for yourself? For a limited time, save 20% when you purchase Landlocked from the CreateSpace store. Just use the code RMH99YW4 at checkout.

Coming soon, I'll be announcing a new Kindle Edition of a children's book project my daughter Reagan and I have just completed. For a sneak peek, visit my Web site, www.amyballard.com and click on the tab for The Swans of Starlight Lake.

Blessings on you this winter day, my sixth snow day this month.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Shoveling a Path Through the Snowdrifts for New Teachers

"The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." --II Timothy 2:2

Record snowfall, sub-zero temps, high winds. . .the perfect recipe for a snow day. My southern Idaho district has had a few of them this year--five, to be exact--and the weather forecast indicates prime conditions for another snow day tomorrow. Some of my fellow teachers are sick to death of snow. And it has been inconvenient. But then, I know a farmer who prays every year for just such an "inconvenient snow" to give moisture for the summer's crops. This year, she sure saw her prayers answered!

Yesterday, I uncharacteristically picked up a shovel and cleared a path through some three feet of snow (deeper in places where the wind had drifted it) to the woodshed. The experience reminded me how wimpy I really am (had to take a break half-way through, and by the time the path was clear, I was so tired I didn't know if I could survive the actual carrying-the-wood part). How much more grateful I am today for my wood fire because of the effort I went to to get it.

Now, my three kids can use the path I cleared. This morning they each brought me an armload of wood from the shed--something they would not have been able to do if I had continued to ignore the arduous chore of shoveling that path.

In teaching, sometimes, we need someone to clear a path for us, too. As a young teacher, I often found myself struggling with classroom management, organization, or maintaining student engagement. Teachers with far more experience offered a listening ear and the much-needed use of their tool-kits at the moment when I was most frustrated. God placed compassionate, skilled mentors in my life who had shoveled that path, clearing the way for me to find success in the classroom. I'm so grateful!

If you've been teaching for fewer than ten years, you probably don't feel like an "expert" yet. Maybe you never will, because teaching is a constantly changing world, and wise teachers know they must continue to learn and grow throughout their careers. But even with a few school years under your belt, you have the needed perspective to help someone newer than you.

In fact, you might already have put in the grunt work to clear one of these paths for new teachers:

  • Identifying priorities in work and in life
  • Aligning lessons to standards
  • Lesson planning
  • Creating effective plans for subs
  • Communicating with parents
  • Meeting the needs of diverse learners
  • Implementing character education or other program
  • Getting the most out of professional development
  • Planning for efficient use of prep time
  • Using formative assessments effectively
  • Reflecting on successes and growth areas

You've been down that path. You had a tough time, and it was work. Real work. Now it's time to take on the role of a mentor and help someone else get through the same snowdrift.

What "snowdrifts" could you help another teacher through? What drifts do you need help shoveling? Share in the comments, then go get that shovel!

Image credit: The Graphics Fairy, a wonderful site for vintage clip art!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Speaking Schedule: Federal Programs Conference April 5-7 in Boise, Idaho

The snow is falling thick again, as if four snow days last week were not enough! Meanwhile, I just found out I'll be presenting at the 2017 Federal Programs Conference in Boise in April. As always, I'm thrilled to be able to share my session on Choose Your Own Adventure: Writing and Publishing Narratives Using Digital Technology with a wider audience. Some 900 teachers, administrators, and other school personnel will be attending. Teachers, I hope to see you there!

Going on right now, I'm talking poetry with readers on the Overcoming With God blog. Stop by and leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Landlocked, my new poetry chapbook. You can also buy the book now.

So blessed yesterday to present Using Mentor Texts to Enhance Creativity (free to you here) at a hub meeting of Idaho Core Teacher Network teachers in Twin Falls. Our little group of participants worked hard, laughed a lot, and wrote some moving poetry, too.

Want to book me for a conference or professional development? I speak to writers' groups and Christian ladies' groups, too. Email me at amy @ amyballard .com [remove spaces].

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Fighting the Natural Urge to Protect Our Wounds

So blessed this morning by a book excerpt by Kristen Strong on Dayspring.com (affiliate link). Just read the title, and you'll understand: "When Wounds from Women are Hard To Forgive." Kristen relates how a conference with another child's parent about a bullying situation went wrong and the hurt she felt from another woman's words.

This part stood out to me:

"You find yourself picking those slights and slanders up one by one with your hand and stacking them like firebricks around your heart. With one brick you say, 'This will teach me not to open up to friends.' And then with another you say, 'Lonely is better than looking like a loser.'"

Haven't we all been there? I know I have. It happens in teaching situations and in our lives outside our jobs. It even happens in churches.

Kristen's answer to the urge to build up a firewall to protect our hearts is forgiveness.

In a recent situation, I felt hurt by something another woman said to me. My natural inclination was to protect myself, to defend, to defy, to prove. But I believe fundamentally that Christ-likeness demands a humbler response. It demands a heart that forgives. Right now, I'm still in a conversation with God about it all. "Help me forgive," I'm praying. "Help me lay aside pride so that I can be an example of the believer in Jesus. Help me be a channel for your spirit to work healing on both sides."

Dear Lord, work in our hearts and keep them tender to your leading. Don't let us build walls around our hearts to protect ourselves, but let us remain open to loving and forgiving as you have loved and forgiven us. Amen.

For further reading:
Showing Compassion
Coming tomorrow, Amy Ballard guest blogs on Carry Fancett Pagels's blog; she'll give away a free copy of her poetry chapbook, Landlocked.
Find Amy's poem "A Feather" on p. 18 of the newly-released Winter Poetry Issue of GNU Journal

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Guest Blog Post and Poetry Giveaway Hosted by Carrie Fancett Pagels

poetry, maine, idaho, place, home, homesickness, chapbook, new, 2017
Landlocked: Poems by Amy Ballard
What's the antidote to four snow days in a row? A visit to another great blog!

Next week, I'll be guest blogging about my new poetry chapbook, Landlocked, on Carrie Fancett Pagels's blog. Carrie is an inspirational fiction author you may know from titles like The Blue Ribbon Brides Collection from Barbour and The Substitute Bride, a Christmas novella. Carrie has also agreed to guest blog here on Christian Teacher, Public School in March and share with us about her fun novella, The Fruitcake Challenge.

Poetry is close to many a teacher's heart, so grab some friends and swing on by Carrie's blog on Monday for a chance to win a copy of Landlocked, my first poetry collection. I'll share why I think everyone secretly likes poetry and how God is still transforming me as a Christian woman living in the West.

What's a chapbook? It's a short book or pamphlet (mine is 34 pages) containing poems or fiction, usually on a single theme. The theme of Landlocked is my feeling of being uprooted when I moved from Maine to Idaho as a newlywed and the ways God is still teaching me contentment. Other motifs in the book include postcards, water (and sometimes the lack thereof), and specific flowers that grow wild in Maine and Idaho.

For more information about Landlocked, please visit my Web site, www.amyballard.com.

Let your friends know about the free book giveaway Monday!

Tweet this:
Enter to win Landlocked: Poems by Amy Ballard at https://cfpagels.blogspot.com Jan 16 #BookGiveaway #Poetry

Thanks, and blessings upon those of you who aren't snowed in and have to teach today!