A slice of Before that

Slice of LIfe Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers.


I’m sitting at my (messy) dining room table, with an empty writer’s notebook in front of me. I’ve decided that typing a slice might be more productive.

Before that, I got home from a short dog walk, shortened because something about seeing a police car hanging out around the block made me get uncomfortable in the dark. I’m easily scared of the dark. The police officer in the car looked friendly and happy. It’s not her, it’s me.

Before that, the dog was bite-y

Before that, the dog peed on the rug.

Before that, I was working on random to do list items but without the actual to do list. I was  entering students into my classroom library database, and replying to parent emails, and thinking about how I should make an actual to do list.


Before that, the whole family took a year and a half to decide that we should just order pizza for dinner.

Before that, I tried to get L to put ice on her head because she was hit in the head with a basketball.

Before that, I was briefly sitting on the porch with E, listening to the sounds of happy basketball playing.

Before that, I was dropping my bags, and taking off my shoes, drinking water, and hugging my kids.

Before that, I was finally leaving school, with information overload, and too much left to do.

Before that, I was creating class lists, locker lists, labels, maps and presentations for back to school night.

Before that, I was on a tipping ladder, realizing one of the legs was up on the edge of a carpet.

Before that, I was on the floor picking up a hundred magnetic words.

Before that, I was on a ladder, re-positioning a giant question mark, when it suddenly fell and knocked everything off of the top of my bookshelf.

Before that, I was gluing signs.

Before that, I was in a meeting.

Before that, I was in a lunch meeting.

Before that, I was in a meeting.

Before that, I was in a meeting.


Before that, I was picking up friends to drive to our opening day meeting.

Before that, I was hurriedly throwing bags in my car, giving giant hugs and watching sad children as I drove away.

Before that I was rushing around wishing I hadn’t turned my first alarm off.

Before that, it was still summer.

The Giant Question Mark, the glued signs….

A Slice of August


Slice of LIfe Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers.

Yesterday someone referred to August as Summer’s Sunday. I’m not so good at Sundays. They are simultaneously the day I have finally relaxed into my weekend, and the day I remember all of the things I need to do for the week ahead. “There’s not enough time!” is my accidental mantra every August.

In the car, driving L to camp – over the mountain into the woods, she asked me if I had noticed the trees lining the road into the campus.

“They are such narrow trees, but such a thick forest.” She told me.

I hadn’t noticed. Yesterday picking her up from camp, I had noticed the tight one lane driveway, the way I had to pull over to let other cars through. I had noticed the forest, the way the light changed enough to make me take off my sunglasses.  I hadn’t noticed the interesting way the small thin trees stood close and thick and created the dappled light.

I guess I couldn’t see the trees for the forest. This must mean something.

So this morning, I noticed the trees in the forest, and decided I was so glad it was Tuesday… a day to notice slices.

I took the boys school shopping while L was at camp. I want to package up these little kids — resistant school shoppers who ended up really getting into picking their own clothes.  One day they’ll be borrowing my car, I guess… and running to the store to get their own stuff. I tear up just typing that. That is the day I want to pull out my package of slices. I want to laugh about H taking matters into his own hands to find a quarter for him and one for his brother, after I told them I didn’t think I had any. I want to remember their little selves, standing in fresh button down shirts off the clearance rack.

Slices were easy to see…

H standing in front of me, fresh from the fitting room where he wanted to go himself.  He’s wearing one pair of jeans and holding another. “If you’re wondering why that took so long to try these on? I took the other ones off – they were too small. I noticed they were inside out from taking them off, so I took all that time to inside in them. Then I tried on the other pair, and they felt exactly  like the too small pair. Then I realized I had just put the first pair on again! The ones I had just fixed! So I had to take that pair off, and start again! Phew. These feel so much better.” 

E searching searching searching for an orange shirt in his size, small. He couldn’t quite figure out how to tell which size something was. He kept bringing me shirts, and then realizing they were the wrong size. “Ugh. Mommy. I thought it was my lucky day for a minute! But this is an xs not an s!” Why did he want a bright orange shirt? To match the bright orange shorts he had picked out, of course.  “I just really like vibrant colors, mommy.” 

Even easier slices this evening at a local dam. I live in the same town I used to live in as a child. We moved away after fourth grade. Perhaps because I didn’t live here for a decade or so, I often feel like I’m time traveling when I watch my kids in the same places I went to when I was their age.

A slice: The drive up and down the mountain roads to the dam…turning off into a thickly wooded gravel road. The bumping of the car and the beauty of the woods just out of reach because your head starts to hurt from the sunlight popping in and out of the trees — just enough to make your eyes squint.

A slice: The view. I stood in the dam, tried to quiet my anxieties about water and kids, wished I had my camera, and just focused on the view. Dark rippled water, the swimming section roped off, with more water beyond. Trees everywhere, and a blue sky meeting a mountain on the horizon. I wanted to take a picture, but forced myself to stay in the water just being there instead of walking to my car to grab my phone. Instead I begged L to take a mental picture so she can paint me this scene one day soon.

A slice: L with her friend, chatting in the water, building a sand castle, running into the water, splashing.  H searching for fish underwater. E floating along with his floaties saying “I’m glad you brought us here today, Mama. It’s so fun. I like lake swimming better than pool swimming I think.” 

It’s too much, these slices of time travel. I know I’ve gone too far into nostalgia when I start to wonder if the sand I’m standing on is the same exact sand I stood on 30 years ago.

“This is the same place I went to when I was a kid!” I tell Lilian – excited to see nostalgic things come full circle.

“Great.” She says, eyebrows raised in only the way a 13 year old can do it.

Apparently she isn’t pre-nostalgic for her own childhood quite yet.

Thank goodness. I think that means that we are still in the forest of her childhood.



A slice of the Subway, and accidentally fancy

Slice of LIfe Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers.
The Teacher’s Write prompt today asked us to walk 100 feet away from where you usually are then stop, observe, take notes, make connections, then write.
100 feet.
I’m 200 miles away from where I usually am. Distance makes me notice more.
New York City is different from my town. Difference makes me notice more.
I don’t know the rules of the subway.  Not knowing the rules makes me notice more.

On the train, I can’t help but people watch
in the silence
It’s so quiet!
Nobody talks
Serious faces in suits and uniforms,
Slices of life all around me, I desperately want my notebook
which is deep in my backpack
on the floor
stuffed between my feet

Sometimes you can see another train as you pass
My vision zooms out to see a tube of serious faces
My empathy makes serious faces into sad ones

I notice.
A tired woman boards, looks like she’s been cleaning all night –
I hope she gets to sit down soon
A man in a white t-shirt and suit jacket, keychains dangle
A child softy complains
I can’t help but notice people

Today, Matt de la Peña signed my friend’s copy of Last stop on Market Street. He wrote “Be a witness!” IMG_1740.JPG

Be. A. Witness.
I don’t think that’s the same thing as noticing, but maybe I’m getting close

Tonight there was more to notice. Thinking back, we maybe should have paid more attention to what we noticed
Picking a restaurant on trip advisor, I think we noticed the 4 $$$$
Instead we were busy noticing the reviews: “Worth it for the bread!”  “Best pasta in NYC!”
Walking up to the restaurant, we noticed we couldn’t tell if we were in the right spot until we saw the little sign
We should have noticed the nice man greeting us, a slight nod of his head assuring us we were where we meant to be

It wasn’t until we were almost to our table that we noticed that everyone else was fancy

Then we noticed our t-shirts and yoga pants and sandals
Feeling out of my comfort zone makes me notice more

My t-shirt’s tiny thread hanging, my pony tail
The  kindness of the waitstaff as they didn’t bat an eye at our yoga pants
How it really was worth it for the bread
and the basil
A 1:1 ratio of staff to customer
The way they wiped the crumbs from our placemat
The sommelier taking a small sip of each bottle he opened
Only one woman, our waitress
We wondered if we would be someone else’s slice tonight
Maybe the nice waitress has a blog tonight:
Two teachers in t-shirts at Scarpetta, eating spaghetti
Be. A. Witness.
Even if you happen to be accidentally fancy



A slice of chipmunks

Slice of LIfe Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers.

Chipmunks are supposed to be boring. Squirrels and robins too. My oak trees and evergreens aren’t anything special. My backyard is basically cut out of a forest… with mossy dirt for grass.

But when I opened the basement door I had a brief glance into a woodland. A chipmunk scurried away, a squirrel ran, and a robin flew. I felt like I was briefly visiting Snow White’s forest.

I see a dozen chipmunks a day, I think. And each time they make me smile. I don’t know why they are always running. The kids and I like to imagine them in their little home under the bush, sitting at their little kitchen table. Maybe the mother chipmunk is saying to her children, “I keep seeing all these people! I don’t know why they are always running!”

Chipmunks are supposed to be boring.

A slice of a Coaching Memoir

Slice of LIfe Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers.

On my last day as an Instructional Coach, I joked that now I can write a “tell-all memoir” entitled  Instructional Coaching: 6 Months on the Inside.

Although, after just 6 months on the job, there are so many things I still don’t know about being an instructional coach.

I don’t know how to open a teacher’s closed classroom door without an invitation – sometimes it’s even hard to knock. I don’t know how to tell for sure if someone is excited to try a new resource, or can’t believe I’ve mentioned one more idea. I’m not sure if now is a time to show my vulnerability too, or if I should show only my confidence. I don’t know if this is the best time for a mentor text suggestion, or if just one more moment of quiet wondering gives the opportunity for a self discovery. I’m not sure when to offer my help, and when to wait for an invitation. Is “help” the wrong word for some because it might make teachers think I think they need help?  Should I say “collaborate” or “work together?”  I don’t know.

My tell-all memoir would be full of insider information. Like did you know that everyone I worked with at the curriculum office really does put students first? That the work they do is authentically authentic? Did you know that when they ask teachers for information, it’s because they need it to help teachers and kids? The respect for the teachers is palpable and my time with my new lens on the district made me appreciate the work we all do even more than I already did.


I would also have a part of my book that tries to summarize the learning  I’ve been lucky to experience in this job. As I planned for reader’s workshop professional development sessions, I had the opportunity to read books, attend conferences, and reflect with colleagues. I would have a section of my tell-all called “Teaching Reading: What research says.” It could be way too long, but I might be able to boil it down to something like: Have your students choose books to read, give them time to read, talk to them about their reading, give them tools to become even better readers, all while helping your class become a community of life-long readers, and being one yourself. Wow. Even boiled down, that’s a tall order. Step away from classroom teaching for even 6 months and your widened lens will remind you how hard teaching is.

I’ve been wearing my”gratitude” bracelet every day, because I believe in the power of gratitude, and I sometimes need to be reminded.


On my last day as an instructional coach, my coaching team gave me a new bracelet. They say it wasn’t because my gratitude  bracelet was looking a little worse for wear


I’ve been thinking about this new word and wondering: How can we inspire each other?

When I first put my new bracelet on, I didn’t take my old one off. As I drove home I glanced down to an updated message:


My time as a coach has definitely inspired gratitude in me. I’m so grateful for the time I spent learning, the time I spent with teachers, and the coaching team. It has been a great slice of my professional and learning life. Experts say it takes 49 hours of professional development for you to outgrow your current practice, before you are trying new things that impact students.

I don’t know how many hours my 6 months of coaching has accrued, but I know it’s more than 49. Time will tell what impact it will have on my future students. We will find out after August when I welcome my new class of 6th graders. I’m sure my students will inspire me, as usual.

A slice of Mountains

Slice of LIfe Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers.

Notice these mountains.

I used to drive south on my way to teach 2nd grade. It was my first year teaching, and I would marvel each morning about how lucky I was: Best job in the world, best valley to drive through on my 20 minute commute… to the best school in the world. I’d look out and see the fields, the mountains, the sky and I would breathe it all the way in.

I changed schools.

They built a bypass.

I became a mom.

I noticed the mountains just a little less.

I moved 25 minutes away, where I can drive 4 minutes through a very pretty forest neighborhood to get to school. I don’t have time to marvel. I barely have time to transition my brain from mommy to teacher. Sometimes there is time to remind myself how lucky I am to have gained those 20 minutes of commuting time. Sometimes I miss those 20 minutes of quiet, or music, planning or mindfulness.

Early this morning before school,  I drove my cat to the vet: north on the road I used to drive south on to get to my first classroom. There must have been something about that early morning mountain fog.

I noticed the mountains.

They were magic in the clouds. The first sunlight hit them perfectly. You know the sight. The green explosion of early summer, muffled perfectly with early morning haze. I remembered those drives to my first classroom. I thought briefly of the early hours (and the late ones too). But mostly I just noticed the mountains. They didn’t have to mean anything, but I loved noticing them– the way they hit the rolling hills, the farmers fields.

Later today my son and I went the same way to pick up my cat.

“I love the mountains.” I mentioned to H.

“I love the rolling hills.” I added.

And we laughed, and sang.

“I love the mountains.
I love the rolling hills.
I love the flowers.
I love the daffodils.
I love the fireside.
When all the lights are low.

Boom dee ah dah. Boom dee ah dah…”

“That’s one of my favorite old camp songs.” I told my son.

“Me too.” H said. “We usually sing it as a round in my class.”

So we did.

And I noticed the mountains, I noticed the joy of the camp song. I noticed my son’s smile as he said “Hey! That was pretty good!”

I noticed the slice, and I promised myself I would write it.

Celebrating Tr. R

So happy to Celebrate with Ruth Ayres this weekend! 

Thank you, Teacher R

My kid is smart, he understands
thinks of others, helps at any need
He makes us laugh, he makes us proud
He might be just made to lead

and we love him

He doesn't do homework
is often late to school
reads below grade level
wants to make his own rules

and you love him

He engineers in art class
argues during games
speeds ahead when he should slow
and stops if the project is "lame"

and you understand him

He is righteous
thinks way outside any box
impulsively a perfectionist 
who talks, talks, talks, talks, talks

and you teach him

I want to add all sorts of words here
to show off your teacher value
"authentic, smart, kind, fair!
honest eyes, words always true"  

and he loves you

You "get him" and listen
show him how to get himself too
that it's okay to be different
and try things that are new

and he understands you

His future teachers have big shoes to fill
as they try to understand
who my child is, how to help him learn...
They better all be Teacher R fans

Thank you. 

A Slice of Shoes

Slice of LIfe Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers.


Suddenly we realized that everyone has needed new sneakers for awhile. I’ll accept my parent of the year award now.

L’s are too small. She started complaining 2 weeks ago, now that I think about it.

H has been wearing his non-sneaker shoes for months. But when he couldn’t find them on Friday, he squeezed into his sneakers. “These will be better for soccer anyway” he told me. Oh, yes. Soccer. It’s just the after school club, but maybe sneakers would be a good idea.

E’s toes are almost sticking out from dragging his feet when he rides his plasma car. I promise I tell him not to do that. Hey! At least I make him wear shoes.

So Sunday we went shoe shopping. The kids were mildly scattered, bringing shoes to the bench, trying them on, and I had a quick flashback to shoe shopping with my mom when I was a kid. I don’t know where we went, but I remember the shoe salesperson going to the back room to get my size, hopefully in the color I wanted.  My mom sat with me,  helping me lace the shoes, feeling for my toe when the shoes were on. Shoes we weren’t buying went neatly back into the boxes after my mom re-stuffed them with the paper.

So, I tried to feel for toes, and help the kids put the shoes back neatly. But somehow it just wasn’t the same.

L quickly found a few pairs to choose from, and then her boredom set in.

H was so excited to have sneakers again, “Look mom! I can run so much faster in these! I think they’ll be better for soccer.”

E found Star Wars sneakers, but he wasn’t sure of them at first. New shoes always feel different, tight. But, when he realized they not only lit up, but made R2D2 sounds too, he was sold.

H wanted to change into his new sneakers right away. E was a bit worried about the muddy park we were going to, so he stayed in his old shoes.

The next morning, getting ready for school, E asks me if it’s going to be a muddy day. “Is it going to rain, Mama?”

I say no, that it should be fine and he grins. He runs over to his new shoes, still in their box.

I want to pause that picture. That unabashed excitement for Star Wars sneakers.

It’s just too much, these little moments. Why is it so heartbreaking — the joy on my 6 year old’s face as he puts on his new shoes?

A selfish Celebration


This post is part of Ruth Ayres Celebrate Link up. Thanks, Ruth for this great opportunity to celebrate.


A selfish celebration. 

It’s April
and I’m not getting ready to proctor
state testing

I’m not
covering bulletin boards
reminding students that
testing days are different than normal day
and I won’t be able to help them
there will be no collaboration
no choice. 

I’m not whispering to kids that 
on testing days
I will seem mean, strict, stressed
but I will still love them. 

I don’t have a class. 
I’m not giving any speeches that
“This test 
doesn’t measure
your worth.”

I’m not reminding any 12-year-olds of all the work they’ve done
of how proud I am
of their 

I’m not in charge of any students
I won’t be pacing my classroom
sending a not-so-subtle message: 
“I used to trust you, but today I’m not allowed to.” 

I haven’t had to roll my closed eyes
or take calming breaths
while listening to reminders to
cover posters
collect scrap paper
never open your computer
put up privacy screens
and a “testing in progress” sign.

I have this testing season “off.” 
No proctoring for me. 
That doesn’t mean I can 
be quiet.

To the teachers in the trenches:
It will be okay.
You have done so much.
Thank you. 

To the students:
It will be okay. 
You have learned so much.
I’m sorry the state is wasting your time.

To the state 
It. Is. Not. Okay.
Please spend your
on something else 
Here are some ideas: 
more teachers
healthy food, clothing, shelter for those in need
art supplies, instruments, 
fill in the blank
Did I mention books?

Next year, I’ll be back in the classroom. 
I’ll follow the rules.
I always do. 
I’ll keep speaking out.
I always will. 


#sol16 March 31 A Slice of a Writerly Life

Slice of LIfe  I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for all of March.  It’s been fun!   Thank you, Two Writing Teachers! Readers, check out their site, and start slicing on Tuesdays! 



I live my writerly life in March
I notice slices

Conversations are lessons in March
I think, I write
I write, I think

I read stories and slices in March
I comment
reach out

I live my writerly life in March