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Tuesday, December 25, 2018

A Three Stanza Celebration

Boxes were stacked
Paper was torn
Smiles were big
and muffins were warm

Games put in bags
Packed for the road
We hopped in the car
Through flurries and cold

A dinner, White Christmas,
and a round of Eye Know
Then we all said goodbye
and went back to our home. 

This was one of the most low-key Christmas celebrations I can remember. It was nice. It was quick. It was full. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Fruit Salad

Sunday morning was a day for cleaning in the crevices. A good opportunity to do an extra scrub here and there. My parents were coming into town for my son's band concert that afternoon and the fog in the air hung longer than usual. I worried about the glaze of ice it might leave behind. 
Though it was a slower trip for them than usual, they made it to the concert and we listened and bopped to all the bands' holiday sounds. 
Following the concert, we all drove back to our house to visit. 
Whenever my parents visit, my mom always has something for me, my kids, or my husband. It could be something she saw at the store, a book, or an item she's been holding onto that's been in the family.
When we settled in at the house, she pulled out a bag saying, "Now, I just have a couple things to give you," and began taking out items wrapped in brown tissue with red stars. 
  • Two snowflake tea light candle holders. 
    • One is now in the kitchen, and one is in the living room. 
  • A snowman decorative teapot with matching cup base. The base has a sweater-like texture.
    • My daughter has already unwrapped it from the safety of its box and used it!
  • A Christmas table runner.
    • It now rests happily on one end of my dining room table. 
  • One Christmas gift bag.
    • My daughter is using it to take gifts to school for her friends. 
  • Cherry-O-poly, the board game. 
    • Both of my kids have already taken this out and looked over all the pieces. 
  • And last, a green glass bowl. 

The green glass bowl was actually the first item I opened up but it is last in the list because it was most certainly the best. When I opened it my reaction told me mom I remembered it. 
I think my first audible response was a half gasp and half "OOOOooooh."
"You remember?" she said with a smile. 
"Yes! I love it." 
I love the green bowl. At that moment I could see it at every Thanksgiving and Christmas on the tables of my childhood. It may have held many things in its lifetime but I remember it holding the fruit salad. Now, I get to hold the bowl and fill it with new memories. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Sparked by a Photo

Each morning when I get to my classroom, I turn on my computer and settle my things into their parking spots for the day. On my desktop, which is on top of a lecturn, my monitor displays a slideshow of photos. I always look forward to what the first picture will be each day when I flip on the switch.

Some of the pictures are of my own children at museums, outside of storefronts, or eating ice cream. Several are snapshots of students, some from years ago. Photos of kindergarteners gathered around tubs of blocks or markers, students proudly displaying a creation, and play dough smiles.

The first picture today was a snapshot from writing workshop many years ago. Seven little bodies all around a short table, each of them making books and drawings. Little cups of markers spill over the table, and everyone looks content. Some are smiling, some look like they are talking, others are focused intently on their work. Those same students are now in sixth grade, middle schoolers and I  sometimes wonder what kinds of stories they are writing now. I wonder if they ever huddle around a table together with markers and paper.

As their teacher, when they are five, you rarely are thinking about what they will be like when they are eleven or twelve. It's mostly about the present moment with occasional predictions for the future. It's always nice to run into former students, catch a glimpse of them at a school event or in the district newsletter. It's also nice to catch a glimpse of their little selves too.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Waiting for the Fizzle

Don't misread that title. It does not say, Frizzle, as in the ultimate bus residing teacher of young children, Miss Frizzle. Aaah...Magic School Bus. I absolutely loved watching that show with my own children when they were smaller. I used it as a teacher now and then too.
It was the perfect--
indoor recess
three classes
crammed into one room
almost movie,
television show.

But Frizzle will need to wait. Today I hopped on my blog because I'm hosting slice of life and I knew I had a couple of drafts in my queue. I wasn't sure I'd use any, but I had not looked at them in a while. As I began to scroll, I realized I have over a dozen drafts. A dozen entry points with no exit or aaahs (sighs) at the end for closure. As I began to read through some of them, I realized why. Many have slices or cuts of what could be considered a negative tone, or in some cases a dose of reality. They span from the end of July to the end of October.

One in particular, as I read it, restruck a cord. I remembered writing it and the feelings I was having at that moment. I remember deciding not to post it because it seemed like too much. Too harsh. Like I was waiting for the feeling to fizzle so I could come back and read it with fewer charged emotions.

I don't remember the trigger. Could have been a tweet, a comment, a moment. Regardless, I'm so glad I wrote it down because it was one of those bursts of emotion splattered out. One of those feelings that are not actually a singular feeling but a mixture of so many it had to go somewhere.

My concern with posting earlier was plagued with the thoughts of people feeling it was teacher shaming, or mean. When I read it now, I feel like I can say, with clarity, it is not meant to shame anyone. If anything, it is meant to make one think, or maybe throw their fist up in unity, or possibly ask a question. Below is the post which also happens to be a poem.


Our beliefs may not be shared beliefs, 
but we are all sharers of responsibility.
The shaping of individuals
deciding what to be. 

Teaching is a creative act. 
It is one,
woven into them,
We get to be part of it.

So I question, the person acting as a teacher? 
Is this your show? Director in chief?
Task manager in the wings?
Are you the best actor for an audience of laborers?

Is this your monologue:

"You should want to work for me. 
I am only here for you. 
Just swallow the bitter pill. 
Don't ask why with your dry mouth.
Take your drill and skill medicine. 
I haven't seen you smile with gratitude
for my selflessness yet."

I am not the best teacher. 
I do not claim to be the winner of all rubrics and the scorer of all points.
I am not.
I do not wish to be.
If I were, I wouldn't have anything left to learn.
If I were 
I'd be you.

Monday, August 6, 2018

End Game: When Superheroes, Football, and Reading Levels Collide

I was recently watching the movie Infinity War, one of the most recent releases within the Marvel series of action superhero movies. As a family, We like a lot of different movies. Some of my favorite movies don't necessarily always jive with the likes of my kids. That said, my cool mom status seems to tip forward a bit when I show great enthusiasm for a movie they are eagerly awaiting to see.

The movie spawned a desire to find and watch more Marvel movies. In our search, we stumbled onto an action television series featuring a superhero character named The Flash, who has incredible super speed. I appreciate that this show reaches for intensity while leaving a little to the imagination. 

In one of the episodes, a villainous character is routinely one step ahead while seemingly vulnerable. As the episode was nearing a close, The Flash became hip to the character's desire to indicate one end game while actually planning for another. After the episode was over, I was left wondering about the phrase, "end game." What's my end game? Not to be morbid, that's not where I'm going with this. I was actually thinking about readers. I know, major topic shift but I tend to take inspiration from strange and unlikely places once again confirming I don't always know the end result of a started endeavor.

So there I was, lying awake thinking about how often as teachers our end game is way different from our students. We think about accomplishments as end products. End game. We see passed reading level assessments as a means to an end. End game. We plan strategies and lessons for individuals so they can keep moving forward. End game? Really? Do we really think kids have, or for that matter, should have an end game in mind when looking at themselves as an eight-year-old reader? I mean really, does the letter P really mean you've reached the end as a third-grade reader and now you're one of the fourth-grade kinds? 

I'm not really here to debate the purpose of levels in a library, their existence or non-existence in your vocabulary with your students, or any of that. I have developed my own opinions on this subject, and I don't feel like yelling so I'll just tell you to go do the research if you still think kids need to know their reading level to achieve greatness as a reader. They don't. Period. (Redundancy with the end game of this statement was the best way I could taper my tendency to ramble).

What is the end game people? What's your end game? Let's pretend for just a moment that you're a football coach. (I'm channeling this from unknown places right now and have no business pretending to know how to coach football, but I can reach for a moment for the sake of intensity). When your team scores the winning touchdown in the final championship game, there is a lot of preparation sitting underneath that win. A lot. There were likely missteps along the way, fumbles, interceptions by the other team, buzzer echoes that muffled the sighs of a crowd. There was disappointment along the way at some point whether it was a practice or a game day. But you went back out there, and you and your team did it all again. And here you are, holding a trophy. The quarterback and offensive lineman are dumping the teams cooler over your head, and you're screaming hysterically. In that moment what are you thinking about? You are literally in a synchronized repetitive jump with your teammates circling you. I think you feel like you made it. I think you feel like the work was worth it. I also think it's not your end game. You're going to go back out there because that feeling is so awesome you want it again and again even though you know you can't always have it. It's worth the wait. 

Readers keep reading. It's not about an end game strategy. There might be an illusion of some end game accomplishment, but I dare say even in football when you are visualizing your end game win, it isn't the true end game. How can something be the end if it keeps going? Readers shouldn't have an end game either. There are touchdowns, and there are fumbles but if a reader is made they keep picking up books. They go season after season. We better start wrapping our head around the idea that our responsibility as leaders of readers is about getting them back out on that field of possibility.  

Tuesday, June 26, 2018


Edged with


Hands holding
Result of

*An acrostic poem that falls on my heart these days.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Accountability or Excuse?

I don't know. Am I?

I'm still learning a lot. If I ever felt as though I knew everything, I hope I would recognize this and remind myself that I function best when in a learning state. I also, don't need to be a finger pointer. However, I know looking in the mirror is a good idea.

I think most people recognize and follow the understanding of, people do their best with what they know at the time. We can all appreciate that our beliefs might change with new information. For instance, practices in education often vary and evolve. We learn more; we change, we grow and get better as educators.

Now comes the part I don't understand. Come with me to a hypothetical scenario.

So here we have a teacher who works hard, knows and understands students to the best of one's ability, and learns that a practice, which has become ritual-like in the classroom is, in fact, damaging to students. Research has come out, the method is not only detrimental to a child's self-image as a learner in most cases, but it also gives false positive results when practiced. Meaning, an immediate result might be positive but a month or even just weeks later, the skill is non-existent, and the student is unable to build on top of the skill.
The teacher is relieved, it never felt right, to begin with. This means trying something new is appropriate. The teacher tries out some different practices and ideas. The results are mixed, and there is no immediate fix, solution, or replacement. The old practice, remember, that one found to be incompatible with the education of students, didn't get great results, but it got results that were easy to report. The teacher has mixed feelings about it but doesn't have a better idea. The students weren't showing any new understandings with the new practices, and the teacher feels as though at the very least, the old ritual practice held students accountable. The teacher wonders for a moment what other teachers might be doing to solve this problem but decides to go back to the old method. When asked why, the response is, "My students weren't being held accountable, so I went back to what I was doing before, and they are once again doing the work I need for reporting. I see growth."

I don't paint this picture to cause angst or humiliation. I do wonder though, why? Don't we know so much now? Why would we continue practices that not only make us as teachers squirm but that are unsupported? Why would we convince ourselves that something proven to be damaging is worth the risk because we haven't found something better? Can't we add YET to this statement? Why would we stop looking for the best practice out there? I realize that there are transition periods within change. So? Let's acknowledge the transition phase and keep moving toward the better alternative. Don't give up. Don't use accountability as a crutch. Don't wait for permission to try something new. Challenge yourself. Ask for help. Amazing things happen when we show our vulnerability and that we haven't got it all figured out. This opens ourselves up to new learning. It's quite exciting actually.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

My Top 9 Teaching Tips

I saw on social media a call for teaching tips. There are so many, but I started to think, what would be my top tips for a new teacher, or a new to district teacher, or someone just needing a tip?

I have more, but nine seemed like a good number. Not a top ten, nine leave room for more. Ten seems like an ending number, nine is open.
So here are my top nine tips in no particular order.

  1. Don't be afraid to fail.
  2. Set high expectations but not any higher than you would expect of yourself. Evaluate this often.
  3. Little people are just smaller people. Treat them like human beings.
  4. READ-A LOT and write down your thinking. 
  5. Reach out to global education communities through Twitter and blogging. The spaces for learning are limitless and authentic research-driven instruction is waiting for you. Find it.
  6. If you realize you were doing something just because it was what was always done and you want to change...don't wait, change.
  7. Smile and laugh a lot with your students.
  8. Don't let adult problems dictate decisions for your students. They don't belong in the same column or conversation.
  9. Always be an advocate for yourself/students and what you believe in most but be ready to support your beliefs with real and practiced practices. You can't be an expert if you only talk about good ideas. You have to be a practitioner of those ideas.

Good luck.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Two Drafts Sit Waiting

It's funny. Well, maybe it's not funny. Maybe it's cowardice. Maybe it's fear. I'm not really sure. Maybe it's that when I put a message into the world I want to be sure it matches with my beliefs as they currently reside in my brain. Maybe that's it.
A week or two ago I wrote a politically charged slice of life story. Then I decided it wasn't a good idea. Today, all day, I've been writing and re-writing this message about educators and the role of passion in our practice. I may have gotten it right, but I don't think so. Then I begin to think, does it matter if I got it right? What would I tell my students?
I'm one of those people who really likes having face to face conversations, debates, and respectful arguments that challenge my thinking and the people I'm faced with. I like this kind of engagement. I don't like reading messages that seem emotionally charged and off base, misinformed, or shared merely as bait. I don't comment on these. I don't get myself wrapped up in arguments that feel one-sided.
Then I think, in terms of posting heavy opinions here, maybe this is me over-analyzing things. For one, very few people will likely read it, and since when do I care what people think? That's just it though. I might be unsure of my role at this moment. Am I a voice or am I a listener? Am I an activist or am I a coordinator? Well...I'm neither really of those second two. Maybe I need to venture out of my comfort a bit more. Little has stopped me in the past. Not sure why I find it so hard now.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Otherwise Never Told

I've been bouncing around this evening reading different slicers reflect on their month of writing. It is always wonderful to read how the challenge positively impacts so many people. The March SOLSC was certainly a life changer for me, and I'm always so happy to hear that it is an experience that replicates for so many others. 
There is something magical about writing every day. On those days when it seems difficult, finding an image or moment to write about always surprises me. They become words I never would have written. A story I'd never have told, yet I've told it. I think that is what I enjoy the most, writing and collecting stories and ideas I never would have otherwise. Writing every day and having the routine of collecting creates a treasure of ideas and is such a reward. 
Thanks again to this wonderful community who has fueled me for so many years and never disappoints. 

Friday, March 30, 2018

Ghost Notes

Looking through
a sliver view
of opened window.
Sun touched leaves
embraced by the setting day
jitter outside
through the pixelated screen.
A bud-less branch
tickles and interrupts
the rays with sway.
And I sit
in this ghostly corner
where notes would flutter
up and out a different window
with the same name.
Keys, black and white
emoting a song,
now reduced
to a speaker
across the room.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Hitting Reset

It was a good couple days for a poetry break!

I had these big plans of some final flash drafts before spring break to review a few things from our information writing unit. Then all the disruptions hit. They were all good disruptions, just poor planning on my part.
I realized on Tuesday morning there was no way we were going to be able to carry out the reading and writing plans I had. So, we wrote color poems. I love the classic poetry book, Hailstones and halibut bones, by Mary O'Neill. There are so many examples of figurative language and kids usually get inspired by a color. Using O'Neill's book as a mentor is one of those very approachable yet still open for choices kind of prompts to get them going.
As always, when I do a poetry mini unit (two days this time) I always think, "I must be crazy. There is no way kids will get this. I am teaching way over their heads." Yet, I do it anyway and I am always surprised by their creativity and all that they take away.
Kids were making beautiful comparisons in their writing and even my most reluctant kids on the last day before break were pumped and motivated to make it all the way through the writing process and get a published piece before they left. Kids who don't normally share were running up to me at the close of our workshop to ask if they could read a line. It was a nice way to finish out a short week.
The afternoon came and we had our board game celebration during our math block to celebrate spring break's arrival.
Fist bumps, high fives, and hugs were delivered as kids shuffled out to the buses.
I am so grateful we all get a break. A reset is needed. And, better yet, I have several days planned already for when we get back because nothing I had thought I'd do this week happened! Win! Win!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

80’s Day

For an end of the month celebration, our school decided to have a dance party to celebrate March is Reading month. As a school, we read over 2,300 books and my third graders read well over 100 as a class, which was our goal as a group. In a fun twist, one of my third-grade colleagues offered up the idea of dressing like the 80's for our dance party.

Let's just say, the party started at lunch as a few of us "blasted" (you know as high as our phone would go), some of our fondest song memories from childhood. I REALLY wish I had videotaped my teaching partner's amazing renditions of several of her favorite hair band melodies. It was a sight to be seen and needless to say, I didn't eat much because I was laughing most of the time.
This we a nice change of pace from our usually quiet lunchtime conversations.
Many of my students reminded me of a nine-year-old version of myself today with pink leg warmers, ribbon clips, and side ponytails. When I told them this, they could not believe I would have ever dressed like that ON PURPOSE! 
Fun was had by all!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Cupcake Night!

For the past few years, my "little" girl has been evolving as a baker. She loves baking shows. Her eyes gleam at the thought of unique designs and sprinkles.
For Christmas, she got a special piping bag that supports three colors for a special swirl effect. Tonight was the night to try it out for her special unicorn inspired cupcakes.

She becomes a different kid when she's baking. Patience and glee are her best friends. She doesn't get rattled and instead is confident and excited. I love watching her get creative.

She did most of the work and when all was said and done we had forty cupcakes! Lucky for me she only needs thirty for school tomorrow.
We all agree they are delicious and this nearly eleven-year-old is a baker extraordinaire.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Foot Rubs and Head Scratches

When I was younger and living at home my mom and I would sit on the couch together with our feet outstretched to each other. It was foot rub time! I would often comb and brush my mom's hair, give her shoulder rubs, and we would draw pictures for the other to guess on our backs.

My daughter loves foot rubs or a good back scratch. She will often lay her head in my lap and I will stroke her hair and scratch her head in a sweeping motion. It reminds me of when I would sit in the back seat of the car with my great-grandma on our way somewhere as a kid, and she would stroke my head, tuck my hair behind my ears, and gently rub my forehead. She had such soft skin, it would just glide through my hair. Pure relaxation. I see that relaxed expression on my daughter's face now.

When my mom and I get the chance we will still comb each other's hair and give each other a foot rub. It's like old times and each of us knows just the right spots.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Baby Love

A beautiful day to celebrate.

My daughter and I went to a baby shower today. The sun was shining, and there were many smiles. The location was the same as the lucky parents-to-be wedding day. It’s a beautiful place. 

And of course, what’s a baby shower without games? We played: baby gift bingo, measure the belly, how many goldfish in the fishbowl, and baby supply total. Some of these were new to me, and I really enjoyed them. 
The food was delicious and felt like spring! Salads, croissants, cheese, and crackers made for a light and tasty meal. 

Each of us wrote a little tidbit of advice for the mom to be. Above are our "things to remember."

Then the day ended with a car drive home that knocked out this little cherub of mine. It's been a busy weekend but lots to enjoy.

Saturday, March 24, 2018


Like many people I know, my phone is my alarm. I purposefully have set my alarm sound to be the same as my incoming call sound. At 5 o'clock sharp my began to ring. Somehow I knew it wasn't the alarm. Maybe I was already half awake. Maybe I was expecting the call. Maybe I knew it was Saturday.

"Oh, hi, I wasn't expecting you to be awake."

"Oh, well, I wasn't. What's up?"
"Oh, wow, that was fast."

The conversation continued. It registered very quickly who was on the phone, and I knew I was going to be getting dressed and heading out the door. My daughter went to a sleepover last night. She had been a bit nervous about going. Although I am very familiar with the family, she wasn't. She was ready to come home.
So I threw on my clothes from yesterday, made a quick cup of coffee, brushed my ponytail out, took out the dog since my coffee wasn't done, and headed toward the cold car. Heated seats are truly a gift.
The drive was going to be about 40 minutes in the dark. I wasn't super thrilled and yet I didn't mind. I saw three dead opossums, and a very living raccoon ran in front of me the last ten minutes. No deer, thankfully.
We made a quick exit, said our thank yous, and drove home in mostly silence. Some couch sleeping and snuggling ensued when we got home and all was right in the world again.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Key Turns the Day

Schwit, click

Blurred trees
slow turns
lights looking for deer.
Occasional jumpy leaves

Light creeps
in, grays
blue tints
slice between trees
whispering morning.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Morning Routines

Each morning before school I get up and make the lunches. Sometimes, I'm way ahead and have several items prepped. Lunches take less than ten minutes when this occurs. As much as I love having items prepped, I haven't been doing it lately. So instead I wander out to the kitchen, bitter that I didn't bag, rinse, or spread. My time is easily doubled, and I silently groan about how much I despise making lunches. It's one of those things I feel good about after having done it but before and during I don't like it all that much.
From the lunch counter, I switch to the coffee counter to start brewing my cup. Then it's time to go search for the dog. Out he goes, and some days he just takes his sweet time. Another groan in my head, sometimes audible, in hopes my desperate tone will make him go faster. 
At this point, I get a few minutes on my computer and take the first sips of coffee. I watch the clock. I push it to the limit but finally find my way to the shower after making sure the kids are awake. My shower is usually quick, especially if I've left myself little time for clothes, hair, and makeup. 
Out of the shower, the real mad rush begins. We almost always make it out of the door with lots of time to spare, some days a little more than others, but there is a surge of energy once I'm in the final stages of my morning. All the thoughts of all the things needed and remembered. 
Start the car, get your bag, where's that binder, do I have my good pen, folder in the bag, purse, keys--OH, start the car...the car is running, "Get your shoes on," I need to fill my water, is my next cup of coffee ready to go, what's stuck to the counter, "Okay, gotta go."

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

New Routine

Since March began and slicing season was in full force, my own two children have been more intrigued. They are almost 11 and 13, and this is the first year I feel like they really understand what it is and have noticed a little more about the process.
My daughter has been especially interested. She loves when I come in her room at tuck-in time and read several slices to her. I tend to click randomly, finding some of the later day slicers. I read her my comment and then go on to the next.
It's very different from listening to her read or sharing a book with her. It's little bits of life. I have been able to share so many wonderful stories and pieces of our community with her. I'm so happy she gets to participate in this way, as a listener.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Parable Writer?

I sat down and wrote the draft of a parable today. It was swirling around in my head this morning on the way to school. I don't think I have never written a parable, that I can remember. 
I often think of things in terms of comparisons and I was rehearsing a conversation in my head that I was going to have later in the day. I kept making different comparisons to try and figure out the best way to articulate my point without offending the person on the other side of the table, without putting them in defensive mode. 
As I rehearsed the conversation it started to turn into a story. I started telling the person a story to help her see my point. Mind you, this is all going on in my head, not really happening. The whole thing started to roll around in there and I realized I was writing a parable. It was quite possibly the most bizarre creation of a story I have ever had. 
I kept thinking about the story all day. Rewriting, changing the point of view, from second to third, then back to second. 
I got home and told my husband the story and then I typed it all out. It ended up different than the many tellings in my head but close. It's in the third person since that seemed more authentically parable-like. Again, I'm not a parable writing master. I will say, the idea is a keeper, but the draft definitely needs some work. 

Monday, March 19, 2018


You know how sometimes people will describe a conversation and end it with, "and there were crickets." Meaning, no one responded or no one had anything to offer. In essence, we use the word crickets as a synonym for silence. Maybe because crickets are like a background noise, when present, and if no one says anything, all you can hear are the songs of the crickets.

Then there are the crickets in my son's room. I don't know where these guys came from but they are full of conversation. I can barely talk to my son in his room when it's dark because it sounds like I'm in a field in the middle of July and I'm surrounded by the echoing and disorienting scream of a choir of crickets. There are literally about 40 of them, and apparently, they have a lot to say. I think this is going to significantly hinder my ability to sleep tonight. I kind of wish I could say something profound to shut them up.

Sunday, March 18, 2018


When I was little I grew up about two miles from an army base. We had helicopters flying over our house on a regular basis. In the center of town was the library and next to it sat a huge tank. Kids would climb on it and jump off. It felt so risky and exciting.

My children were reminded of a tank memory the other day as we were driving to a nearby town. We passed a random tank on the side of the road, it looked to be an old memorial, maybe recently moved to the area.

"Hey mom, remember the first time we saw that tank going down the road?" Janie asked me.

Beating me to respond, Elliot said, "Yeah, remember that? We were like, 'Oh my gosh, a tank' and you were like, 'big deal."

"Ha, yes I remember." I glanced over at my husband, who also grew up in the same town.

"Wait, you guys saw a tank driving down the road?" He was so bewildered. "We never saw tanks driving around!"

"NO, not driving. It was on a big trailer. There were a bunch of them going down the road one day. I hadn't realized they'd never seen a tank before. Well, out in the wild!"

This little exchange was a reminder of how our childhood has been so different from our own children. Also a reminder that it isn't getting any more similar either.

Saturday, March 17, 2018


Each year on the seventeenth day of March I write a little slice about my grandmother. March 17 is the anniversary of her death in 1990. It was so long ago and yet when the day comes it feels closer. We are currently piano shopping and a wonderful store is in the same town as the cemetery where she is buried. She is joined there by her father and mother, my great-grandparents.

We had been talking about visiting the piano store on this particular weekend for a couple of weeks and I had not put two and two together until I woke up this morning.

"Hey, we should visit the cemetery today."

We all got into the car early this morning and made the drive. We tapped on and listened to several pianos all of which made me a bit teary, I miss my piano. Then we piled back in the car to make the short drive two miles down the road to the cemetery.

"Do you remember where it is?" Shawn asked as we got closer.
"Yes, it's been a while but we just need to stay to the left unless things have changed."

I was picturing the turns in the drive that mazed around the cemetery. I could see where the water spigots were in my mind because I often filled milk jugs when we would water the flowers. I wondered as I imagined. The dirt path, was it a road now, or still just dirt? As we pulled in it looked the same yet aged from greening moss. We slowly made our way to the back.

"Here, stop near the middle of this section, it's right up on that hill."

We got out and walked up to the three flat stones with urns on each side. The headstone nearby had somewhat recent flowers left behind. A neighbor from my mother's childhood who died too young. I talked to my kids about who we were visiting, when they died, what we did together when I was a child.

It was nice to visit and even nicer to visit today.

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Basket Weavers

Last night was a night full of conversation and laughs. As we talked, we began to share memories about the restaurant we were dining in and I revealed that I had not been since childhood. It spilled into conversations about the town, a town not far from where I live now. A town I visited every summer of my earliest childhood memories.

*      *        *         *         *          

When I was a child we visited small and large towns each weekend in the summer. My parents were both teachers and we had a happy living on teacher salaries supplemented by my parents business in the summer. Country Creations was my parents business. They made baskets and cradles to sell at craft shows throughout the summer months. This family business pulled us on the side of the road to pick up walnuts that had fallen on the ground later to be made into dye for the reed. It meant summer weekdays were spent filling pots with warm water and soaking the reed for my parents to later weave together. It meant watching my mother's hands "braid" together pieces of wood, bending them into shapes. The snapping of wooden strips on the counter was a common sound. The smells of boiling walnuts brewed into dye is a memory burned into my brain. Loops of reed hung in all sizes on nails from the floor joists on the basement ceiling. I'll never forget the time both of my parents were in the basement (their usual workspace) and I answered the phone:

"Hi, are your parents home?"
"Yes, they are 'dying' in the basement."

My mother's footsteps up from the basement upon hearing my response to quickly explain they were in the process of dying reed.
I have many basket weaving memories. I loved going to "shows." My sister and I in the back seat of our cavalier covered in baskets with little room to move and if it was a good show, we had all the room we needed on the way home. The weekends where rain poured down and we had to cover everything in plastic and few came to buy. The orders. The awe of my parents' craft. The passion and dedication they showed for their art. These memories are far away now in time but permanently present in my mind.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Evening Smiles

Tonight I got to...

Listen to stories
Eat yummy food
Have real conversation
and then laugh some more

One of my greatest influences as an educator was in town this week. When I first met Geri I was struck by the way she spoke to teachers and to children. There was a spirit that is rarely found in human beings and she had it. I decided then and there I wanted to do everything I could to create environments around myself where I would never stop growing. Watching a passionate educator decades past me in her career still walk with the passion of a learner helped me realize I would never be able to stop if I wanted my flame to stay lit. It started with a meeting and my then curriculum director brought her to us. I thank him for seeing something that we needed and being an agent of change. It continued as relationships grew and connections were made. Tonight I got to listen, laugh, and learn and my gratitude is overflowing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Conference Week

It's been a pretty busy couple of weeks. Report cards and insurance claim work was last week. This week I've been focused on conference prep and meetings with parents. Conferences are always so tiring. Being ON all day with students and then remaining ON for parents is draining. I don't need to tell any other teacher about the work involved or the energy. We all know what conference week means. My friend Robin, over at Teaching Tomorrow's Leaders, put it perfectly the other day referencing the dirty dishes that pile, and extra coffee. 
I have witnessed both occur as the week unfolded. Dishes sat, meals were quick, and coffees were extra large. Shoulders are achy, my back is stiff, and my eyelids are much heavier. The weekend will be a welcomed getaway of sleep-ins, coffee sips (not gulps), and leisurely meals. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Should of Started Sooner

My class this year isn't full of a lot of "interrupters." I have had groups in the past who blurted out, made noises, and had little control over questions or concerns they had even if I was clearly unavailable and working with a student or group. It's been a nice group of kids and I didn't really feel I needed too many tools for kids to stay out of the way as far as conferring.

Until two weeks ago.

Suddenly kids were standing near me, or coming over in the middle of a small group and talking to me. I ignored and then acknowledged when I was ready. We talked. We problem solved. It didn't work.

I always keep a little set of sticky notes or notecards on my desk for kids to write me notes. For instance, "I had a problem at recess," or "I need to talk to you." I realized today I needed a public notebook for the little things like, "My book is in my locker," or "Are we using the Chromebooks in math today?" Questions they feel like they need answered right then, but actually, don't. I think there was some relief when I said, just write down you are going to your locker and go! Just let me know you are wondering what math tools we'll use today. It worked like a charm. They just needed to be heard and reassured that I trust them and I want to help when I can.

Monday, March 12, 2018


I read the other day that someone was in a dinner rut. I realized we are in a bit of rut here as well and it prompted me to click on the Taste of Home Most Shared Recipes link, and the Twelve Tomatoes website to try and get some inspiration. I printed so many recipes. I think I was hungry at the time and it's actually very unlikely that I'm going to deviate much from my current situation. It's sort of like going to the grocery store without a list when you are hungry. Many things can end up in your cart if you are not careful. For me, it would be chex mix, mixed nuts, or sweet and salty mix snacks. 
What do you throw in the cart when you're hungry?

Sunday, March 11, 2018

And the Beat Goes On

I spent most of my day looking at numbers, abbreviations, totals, and contents. As I did this, I came across a receipt. I didn't realize at first the receipt I was looking at and then I was taken back to the moment.

My hands were on the cart. I was void of any emotion other than bewilderment. I stood and stared at shirts, pajamas, socks, and pants. I looked at the shoes, on my feet, now blackened but wearable. Would I buy shoes today? No, I needed socks more than I needed shoes.

I started randomly grabbing items. Toothbrushes, four, into the cart. Pens, paper, and a folder, into the cart. Shirts, two packs of socks, and a long sleeve shirt since the one I had on wasn't even my own but belonged to my neighbor.

Circling the aisles I'd forget what I was doing there, overwhelmed by feeling like I had nothing, needed everything, yet wanted nothing. It's what you do in moments when you don't know what to do. It's what you do when you don't know what might happen in the next five minutes, hours, or days.

And now today, I sat at my newer table, with my newer mug, with my newer computer and entered numbers into spreadsheets. I can't be filled with anything but gratitude now, but I still remember.

Saturday, March 10, 2018


I have done little else today that did not involve staring at my computer screen. If I wasn't working on slice of life and TWT co-author responsibilities, I was typing in items on our insurance claim form and reviewing all the items I put on before. I was staring at receipt after receipt writing the line items next to the items we've re-purchased.

You might remember if you were a slicer last year and read any of my posts, that all my March SOLSC slices revolved around things that were no longer mine. We lost our home to a fire in November of 2016 and our claim is coming to an end in a few weeks. We are trying to get all our T's crossed, and I's dotted. We have let a lot wait until this point, and now we are pretty much out of time. To say it's an added amount of stress would be an understatement.

I think when it is all done I will feel a whole lot lighter. All last year while we were planning and building our new home I remember thinking we would never reach this point. This will really be the end of a long and very drawn out process. We moved into our new home a few weeks into September 2017, and I remember a few days after we moved in I realized how much better I felt. It was like I could breathe a little easier. I remember thinking, now if we can just get through all this paperwork and the claim process we will be passed this entire ordeal. And, now we are there.

I really hope the air around me gets thinner and easier to take in because right now I feel like I might be surrounded by thick fog that won't let up.

Friday, March 9, 2018

A Night of Music




Hold breath

My son had his seventh-grade band festival this evening. It was the first time he participated in a band festival. He was VERY excited. The band sounded great and was rewarded with a Straight I rating!
It was great to listen to them play their prepared music but I really enjoyed watching them during the sight reading portion. The students were handed envelopes with the music and distributed it through the rows. They had five minutes to work the song together starting with about 30 seconds to a minute of talking among each other and pointing out key signatures, key changes, and time changes through the piece. Then the group sang portions of the song. To watch the group work together and sing followed by playing the song so well was impressive and fun to watch.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Giddy Book Love

A few weeks ago I ordered a large number of books from Scholastic. I had a whole bunch of points that I had been saving. I ordered a variety of information texts, picture book biographies, some series books that had peeked the interest of a few different students in my room, a couple of books related to baseball and football, as well as some other popular or new release chapter books.

My formal observation was scheduled and the week was planned. This was a couple weeks ago, and I had forgotten to check the arrival date of the books. The day of my observation came, and I walked into the teacher's lounge to check for any mail. There on the table was a big beautiful box! It was all my new books. I thought, "Maybe I should leave it here. I can't bring that in the room. I will get totally distracted, and everything will get thrown off. Wait...who am I kidding. I'm not leaving these books in here. He can come in for my observation, and we can be drooling over the new books."

I brought the box, which by the way was a challenge, all the way back to my room. I had left my room earlier and turned off the lights, so it was dimly lit by my lamps. It felt like perfect mood lighting for my book reveals. While my students were in music, I started displaying all the titles on the bookcase and front table. I was giddy. I fanned out the books that were in multiple sets and balanced the series books on their spines so all the titles could be seen. It was quite beautiful.

I started to walk toward the music room to get my class and saw my principal.
"See you at 10:30," he said.
"Yeah, just a heads up, a great big box of books came, and I decided to deviate from the plans I sent you. We really need to look at the books. I know it will get them excited."

*          *          *          *          *
When we debriefed after my observation, I wondered if he would mention the fact that a good 20 minutes of my reading block was spent not "instructing." I wasn't holding formal small groups, or conferring sessions, but a lot was happening. I wasn't all that surprised when he told me how much he appreciated the fact that I let my passion for reading and readers make the decision instead of waiting because I had an observation.
I'm glad I didn't second guess my decision to go with it and crack open the box. I did hesitate for a moment, but I knew the right move for kids was to open up all those new and shiny, beautiful books.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Turn if Off

You know that student. The one who struggles academically knows things don't come easily but tries to save face. Circling answers and drawing random geometric shapes to just get it done. Grabs the biggest book and stares at its pages.

Anything to look like his peers.

I wish I could show him what I see. A student who loves to draw. A kid who has a sincere desire to learn. A boy who wants to find his way.

Instead, he raged. Instead, he yelled. Instead, he punched the desk and became red-faced. My hands on his shoulders I said, "I want to hear you. I see you." He relaxes. He laughs it off fighting his anger.

Anything to look like his peers.

I walk him to lunch. He tries to chat. He tries to gear himself up for a break, but he can't break his anger. I want so much for him, and all he can hear is the self-defeating dialogue that runs in his head non-stop. I say, "I'm right here, and I can stay." He yells, "No one hears me, no one cares."


He breathes. Fighting tears. Fighting stares. Fighting.

I wish he could see all that I see. All the unique parts that make him who he is.

Maybe someday.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

A Lost Glove

6:30 a.m. "Keep me posted on how things go at the appointment, love you."

6:40 a.m. Drive to work

7:30 a.m. Arrive at work

8:35 a.m. My students arrive

8:46 a.m. Phone rings:

"Hey, what's up?"
"Do you want to hang out with me for the day?"
"Huh, I hadn't planned on it" I legitimately thought he was joking with me.
"Well, I'd like you to come. They are sending me to the ER by ambulance. They won't let me drive. There was a problem on the EKG."
"Give me 15 minutes, and I'll be on my way."

8:59 a.m. Get in the car and drive.
I forgot my water on my lectern. My mouth is dry, and my stomach feels like it might turn inside out. I really wish I could sip on some water, but I don't have time to stop. I just have to get there. 
9:55 a.m. Park the car

10:00 a.m. "Hi, who are you here to see?"
"My husband was just brought in by ambulance..."
"Okay, yes. Room 25. Go straight down this hallway to the end, turn left and it's on your right side."
I am so aware of my inability to focus that I am hyper-focused and I hear every direction, every sound, every conversation around me. Beeps echo like a slow-motion scene in a movie, and I stride with long steps to the end of the hall.

Time speeds up.
"Here, let me get you a chair."
Almost immediately I am told the EKG in the ER is fine. Bloodwork has already been done.



"Hi, are you Shawn? Can you tell me your birthdate? I'm taking you for X-rays."

Loud bangs and jerks, the untangling of wires. We wave with little-unsettled grins, and he disappears down the hall.

On the floor is a single blue glove. Just there. Wasted. Hidden, now revealed.
I stare at it for a moment. 

More time passes. All results are good. Atypical symptoms. Stress test ordered for later. 
Like a wasted glove, I feel a bit lost.