A Slice of Writers’ Club

Slice of LIfe
Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesdays are Writer’s Club days. Fifty or so third, fourth and fifth graders race to the All Purpose room after school to get started writing. We have a quick introduction, and then the kids decide where they want to go. They can go collaborate, they can write quietly on their own, or they can stay in the All Purpose room for an invitation to write.

Today’s invitation was character work. I brought ink pads, and a roll of white paper. And sharpies.

And yes, after the kids left and I was using hand sanitizer to clean off the sharpie marks that bled through the paper onto the cafeteria tables, I still told myself that it was worth it…Because there is something about a giant piece of paper, rolled out across a table, some ink pads, and a bucket of sharpies.

Three boys sat, 6 feet apart, making characters, collaborating on characters, creating stories, and laughing, There was so much laughing.

They looked up at me, eyes wide.

“Are we in trouble?” One of them said.

“Nope. I like laughing.” I told them.

Another boy said “Yeah, what do you think? Teachers don’t believe in laughing or something?”

And then they all laughed some more, before stopping again to make sure they weren’t in trouble.

An older girl walked in, and I asked her if she wanted to use the roll paper or her notebook. She held up her notebook and said, “I’m going to fill this whole notebook with character development.” She sat down and carefully wrote “Character Development” on the first page of her notebook.

She still started with some big paper, an ink pad and a sharpie though. There’s just something about that big paper!

She and a couple of other girls quietly filled their large papers with pictures and words, thumbprints and stories. The boys continued to laugh.

There was another writer who came over. He had needed some help writing earlier and was a little quieter than the rest. He wanted to sit at his own table, and only wanted to use his notebook and a sharpie.

“So what kind of character are you going to create?” I asked him.

“A famous one.” He said and he showed me his page.

“Oh! Wow!” I said. “That’s a great idea! Maybe you can draw a bunch of people all around trying to take pictures of him! He’s like ‘No pictures, no pictures!'”

I tend to get excited when working with kids as they create cool characters and stories. . .

He shook his head though. “No,” he said, “He’s rich. Not famous. Just rich.”

I laughed and asked him what the character’s problem was going to be, but he interrupted me to ask how to spell rich.

“R-i-c-h,” I told him, and he asked me to repeat it, and then wrote “Rch.”

He sat and quietly worked for a bit, and then showed me his page, where he had a whole story mapped out. I should have been recording as he explained. There was the rich guy, who was dropping his money along a path. There was an arrow to show the path, and another character picking up all the money, and more!

As we cleaned up to go home, the boys with the giant piece of paper were having a hard time deciding who would get to bring the roll paper home. The girls didn’t want to stop. “I’m not finished!” One said to me, with her eyebrows crunched with worry.

I told her she could take it home to work on, or leave it at school for next week. She quickly started nodding her head at the prospect of taking it home.

Lining up, I got to hear more about the rich guy story.

“That is amazing!” I said, “You have a whole graphic novel planned out! You could write each part on a different page of your notebook!”

He looked excited, nodded his head and then said, “Yea, but I might need a little help with it.”

I reminded him that that’s what we are here for, and he nodded again, and walked down the hall and out the door, then back in. He shrugged his shoulders and said “I forgot my backpack.”

The three laughing boys walked by and I asked them if they decided who would have the paper. They hung their heads and told me they couldn’t figure it out, because they all wanted it. I’m thinking their parents are all unknowingly grateful for the decision to leave it at school for next week’s work.

Tuesday is Writers’ Club. Today was our second meeting, and I can’t wait for next week!

A Slice of boundaries

Slice of LIfe
Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers Thanks for stopping by!

It’s cold in the morning
I pull on slippers, and walk downstairs, still yawning
My 2 cats meow.
Luckily, the dog is still sleeping upstairs.

I want to give myself a prize for remembering to set the coffee timer last night
I turn the heat up a few notches, choose a mug, pour my coffee, sit on the couch
with just a few of my mom’s crocheted blankets.

There’s not actually time to be lonely
Talula, the tabby, is content to sit near me for just a moment
She allows me one or two quick scratches on her soft, soft head
Theodore, the orange and white nudging fluff ball?
He wants constant attention
It’s harder than you think to balance coffee, a cat and a phone
So I alternate: Sip coffee and pet the cat; Flip through emails and pet the cat; Sip coffee and pet the cat; Flip through Facebook and pet the cat. . .

I’m in love with quiet mornings on the couch, and time with my cats without my dog’s jealousy.
(Is this betraying my dog? I don’t know…)
It’s cozy here, but I have responsibilities
Theodore purrs and settles in on my lap
He doesn’t understand that I have to shovel, salt, shower, take the dog out, feed the dog…
All before making sure my kids are up and ready for the bus

I look at Theodore, content and fluffy and I know.
I know that it’s time to set some boundaries
As I apologize and stand up, he runs away, disappointed
A few minutes later he is back in his own bed, asleep

Setting boundaries for your cat must be a
stepping stone
to a life-time of healthy boundary setting –
Right?


A slice of coffee

Slice of LIfe
Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers Thanks for stopping by!

Couch coffee used to be something to do together
And sometimes we still do, in these moments before he moves away
But soon I will be having couch coffee on my own
Well, with the cats

I walk downstairs in the morning
Happy that the Christmas lights are still shining
Cozy cheer to start the day
And end it

I fill the carafe with fresh water
He comes downstairs and finishes making the coffee
I’m still using my Christmas mug
The painted little mini Christmas lights match my tree

We sit on opposite ends of the couch
I remember we used to say we needed a love seat so we could sit closer together
We talk less and less each morning
Slowly ripping the bandaid



A slice of Goodbyes

Slice of LIfe
Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers Thanks for stopping by!

I’m terrible at goodbyes.
I’ve cried
when
I moved away from a best friend,
a best friend moved away from me,
I just missed my cats’ last few breaths, twice
I drove away from my dying friend – every time I drove away.

I’ve even cried
when
my plays were over
when
I said goodbye to my first class of second graders
when
The custodians threw away my classroom couch
when
movies end
when
grandparents leave family gatherings in dramatic commercials

Of course I cried
when
I dropped off my daughter at college.

I’m terrible at goodbyes.
I don’t like them.
I guess I’m
sentimental
sensitive
stuck – in the past

Somehow when my soon to be ex-husband
Took a couch, a chair,
a toaster oven
over to his new house
I didn’t cry.

Maybe I’ve gotten all the tears out over the last year, and I’m done.

Who am I kidding?
I’m terrible at goodbyes.
Sentimental
Sensitive
Stuck.



A Slice of Heartbreak

Slice of LIfe
Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers Thanks for stopping by!

These kids are breaking my heart.

It’s the way they call out my name “Hi Ms. Thought!” in the hallway.
Or pass me on the way to music and say, “Ms. Ona! I miss you sooooo much.”

Or, today when a class walked by me on their way to the library. They all waved and said hello. I told them I hoped library was super fun. The last boy passed me, waving. He said, “I don’t remember who you are. But, hi!”

It’s N, who comes in from book club, walks over to me, as I sit observing his class, and says “Can I draw? I want to draw a cherry.” I convince him to listen to the writing mini lesson instead, and he cartwheels over to his spot. When his teacher corrects his behavior, I think, “Oh no! He isn’t going to want to sit there now.” But instead he becomes engaged, helping with a shared writing. Later he is the very last to go to recess, because he wants to finish writing his book.

Last week I helped protect his toy all day in my office cabinet. He isn’t allowed to play with toys during class, but he really loved the one he snuck to school. He was hiding under the coats, and I coaxed him out, asking him what his toy did. He popped the toy out of the coats, pushed a button so the monster character started waving around. “Whomp, there it is!” he said. We walked the toy down to my office, and every time I saw him that day he asked me, “Are you still protecting my toy?” Every time, I explained that it was still in my cabinet, and that nobody would go in my cabinet, because everyone knows it’s mine.

“Is it locked?” he asked near the end of the day
When I told him that it wasn’t he looked at me and said, “I’m going to make you a key.”

It’s the way third graders get silent, revising playdoh builds of important, intriguing things they know and care about. Yesterday one boy worked so hard on making his cat, and said “she is important because she was my cat and now she died.” Yesterday he was so sad to squish his cat prototype back into the playdoh container.

“You’re going to make another one tomorrow!” I told him, “And you’ll remember how to do it, and it might even be better.”

He didn’t believe me.

Today, a few minutes into our playdoh revision, he said “Ms. Thought, you’re right! I do remember, and this time it is even better!”

It’s L, a first grader who I knew in remote kindergarten, who can’t seem to keep his mask over his nose for longer than a minute, but dutifully pulls it up every time he’s reminded. He’s working hard to learn his letters and sounds and last week he took me over to the word wall to point out the words he had made. “All the ones in black sharpie are mine!” he said with so much pride I almost started crying. Then he asked me if he could get the Woody toy again, to help him write his piece, “How to play with Woody from Toy Story.”

It’s fifth graders who joke with me, and get my sarcasm.

There’s the kindergartener I helped on the second day of school during the fire drill practice. He was scared, and I held his hand. Now every time I see him, he waves his hand intensely and calls “Hi! Ms. Ona!!!”

When I’m lucky, I get to see kids walk into school: Kindergarteners carrying huge backpacks, and paper trays overflowing with cafeteria breakfast, primary students waving goodbye to their siblings, fifth graders chatting with friends on the way upstairs.

I can’t tell if feeling this much heartbreak about kids that I’m lucky teachers share with me means that I’m in the right profession — or the wrong one.

Breaking up

Slice of LIfe
Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers Thanks for stopping by!

When I was 18, or soon to be 18, I was at home with my young sister for a few days before Christmas.

The house must have already been decorated, my sister already asleep. (How did I get her to go to bed, but my own children never sleep?)

So, of course, I decided to make Chocolate Chip cookies.

I think cookies were a serious part of Christmas at that time in my family. We had an enclosed front porch that was freezing in the winter. That’s where we kept the Christmas cookies, frozen for weeks, ready to be made into platters to gift family, friends, neighbors, teachers…

I don’t remember much about decades ago, but I remember the house smelling like a chocolate chip cookie, my dining room table full of cookies. I was making so many cookies, they were spread like playing cards cooling on foil. For quite avwhile, baking chocolate chip cookies triggered sadness.

I don’t remember if Mr. Thought called, or came over.
He wasn’t Mr. Thought then, just a boyfriend.

Well, he was a boyfriend before I made the cookies, and maybe during a few batches.

But then — he wasn’t.

He wanted to see other people.
Explore. His. Options.

He was done with us.

I was devastated.
Christmas was ruined.
My parents came home the next day, we celebrated Christmas and my 18th birthday. They gave me a beautiful silver bracelet.
We went to my grandma’s, where I was a teenage zombie, with a broken heart.

I spent time with my blinds drawn, blasting PJ Harvey that winter break. “You’re not rid of me…”

Good grief
breakup grief
18-year old’s grief
Christmas grief
heartbreak grief


A slice of a bonus action

Slice of LIfe
Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers Thanks for stopping by!

I’m listening to David Sedaris on my trips from school to school.

He is such an honest writer.
Brave.

In D&D a month or so ago, our Dungeon Master said
“Talk is a bonus action.”

I mean, he also said “Roll for your crocodile.” But focus, please:
“Talk is a bonus action.”

I think maybe writing is too.

So I’m writing in little spaces
Bravely, I hope.

I don’t have any D&D dice to roll in my regular life
which is all for the best since I still ask
“A D20?” after a year of playing

So instead of rolling for insight or perception
I’m writing
sometimes in secret
little spaces

One day I’ll share
even though
Talk is a bonus action.

A Crossing Guard’s Wave

Slice of LIfe
Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers Thanks for stopping by!

When I arrived at school today, the crossing guard waved me through the intersection and I waved. He waved back, just like he does every time I happen to see him. The crossing guard I see at the end of the day waves back too. When I see him, it’s usually between the elementary and middle school dismissals. He is sitting on his chair waiting for the next round of kids. He looks up, I wave, he waves back. I’m pretty sure these crossing guards don’t know who I am. I might wave to them with familiarity and a feeling of shared responsibility for these children on their way to school, but they have no idea that I’m a teacher. I guess crossing guards just always wave back?

Today after the intersection wave, I suddenly remembered my middle school crossing guard. My bus stop was oddly on an island in the middle of a Y in the road. This seems like a strange, maybe even dangerous place to wait for a bus, but that’s where I went each morning. I wish I remembered my crossing guard’s name. I remember shat I enjoyed seeing her at the bus stop. She was kind, I felt like she knew me. I have vague memories of her smile and her bouncy wavy hair, and did she have conversations with my mom sometimes? Did my mom walk me to the bus in middle school? Why am I so old now that middle school is a faded memory? Can I go back to middle school to assure myself that one day I will have forgotten most of that part of my life?

But today, before I grabbed my stuff and walked into school, I texted my mom to ask her if she remembered my middle school crossing guard’s name. A few minutes later I noticed her reply:

Are you kidding me?
No
I don’t
Sorry

(I mean, you think you can count on your mom in these situations. . .🤪 )

So in honor of my amazing and kind middle school crossing guard, I will continue to wave to all the crossing guards I see. I have a feeling they will wave back.

A Slice of Waiting

Slice of LIfe
Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers Thanks for stopping by!

“Stories are all around us.”
That’s what I tell every class I write with —
And, friends, there are
many
stories
all
around me

But I need to watch what I write about
I hope you can see me tongue sticking out at myself in defiance
I need to watch myself
I might accidentally overshare
I wouldn’t want to overshare
I shouldn’t overshare
yet

I believe in the power of yet
Do you?

My stories all around me are swirling, suffocating, asking to be written.

The stories have to wait.
I have to write.

So
I’m going to tell you about the hot cocoa that my eleven year old just made me.
Homemade, stirred on the stove
I don’t even care that I have more dishes to do now

I’m going to tell you about the dining room table cleared for homework
Two boys, ready to work – and a cat,
Plus one hot cocoa

I’m going to tell you about a dog sitting under my desk as I work
pretending not to stare at the cat
as jealousy pours out of his half open side-eye

I’m going to tell you about the hot cocoa mug
empty on my desk and
The boys singing and whistling as they work

The stories have to wait.
I have to write.

wait
write
wait
write

It’s hard to wait
But, I can do hard things.

Just you wait
I will write those stories
because they are
all
around
me

A Slice of Adulting

Slice of LIfe
Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers Thanks for stopping by!

Yesterday I was so proud of myself for getting all the way to school without spilling my coffee, which I had brought in a regular mug. Stupid, I know – but my travel mug wasn’t washed, and I didn’t want to be late, and I have a large cup holder. I pulled my Prius into the spot reserved for fuel-efficient cars, put on my sunglasses, got out of the car, put my backpack on before reaching for my mug. I was so careful. So proud. I thought to myself, “This is going to be a good day!”

A student and her mom walked by, headed towards the front door, and I said a friendly, “Good Morning!” as I grabbed my mug and it hit the radio dial and splashed all over the front seat.

At least I had a box of tissues, wedged conveniently under the driver’s seat. I’m not sure how it got there, or why I haven’t moved it yet. However, those tissues do come in handy.*

Last night I made sure to wash my travel mug.

Today I knew I had just enough time to finish something at school, drive to pick up my kids, take them home and get home by 4:00 for a phone meeting. I cut it close leaving school because I just wanted to finish the last tiny sticky note I was writing. But, I got to my kids’ school and they weren’t the last ones there and E said “You were only 5 minutes late, it’s okay,” when I apologized.

Somehow I didn’t get caught at the light I always get caught at, and I got home at 3:55! I ran inside, put my bag down, grabbed my laptop, and reached into my pocket to get my phone, which wasn’t there.

I retraced my steps, explained to my family that “yes, I know I didn’t leave it at school – I was playing music from it in the car!” We looked in the car, we called it 6 times.

I’ll spare you the suspense. H found it on the garage floor, where I guess it had fallen from my pocket, unnoticed. No, I don’t know why I didn’t hear it fall.

I was only 5 minutes late for my meeting, and my phone wasn’t broken. So there’s some good I guess.

Listen, Readers, I don’t have a call to action for you here. I’m sure you wash your travel mugs, clean your car, leave when you are supposed to leave, and don’t let your phone fall out of your pocket. But my adulting seems to be a little more whimsical.

*My computer keeps wanting me to correct “tissues” to “issues” and now I’m wondering if that is the heart of my slice, that “those issues do come in handy.”