Monthly Archives: April 2014

A slice, value added.

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

I spent the first part of my afternoon reflecting on, celebrating the process of and planning for the future of some ELA curriculum work that is so respectful of students and teachers. It is time well spent, this work that is focused on the journey of a child K – 12. I spent the second part of my afternoon learning more about the new teacher evaluation.  I almost didn’t slice at all about this. First of all, I’ve sliced before about my feelings on value added assessment. Second of all, I’m mad and my slices don’t necessarily need my sarcasm level right now. But, when I got home I realized that this truly is the slice that sticks out in my day, and I need to slice it. So I wrote a poem. Straight from my gut. 
Right Now I am:
Listening to a robotic voice tell me about value added assessment
Feeling my eyes roll
Watching my colleagues’
Eye Rolls
Mouths open
Shocked stares
Wrinkled noses
As we listen to the robot tell us 
what it means to plan instruction 
verify our roster
have integrity
and take responsibility for the proportion of our instruction based on enrollment but not attendance or weather

I am still:

Wondering why the robot is proud that the assessment system is part of the largest privately held software company in the world. 
Comparing the state of education to the Hunger Games
Assuming I would be the first one killed by the “Peacekeepers” 
Attempting to understand the math 
the point
and how this will help my students
May the odds be ever in our favor*

*My apologies to Suzanne Collins

Dear Breeze


Dear Breeze, 

I remember 15 years ago, coming home from my honeymoon and meeting you. You were a fluff of black and white fur, and obviously  the cutest pupper-dog ever ever. Your energy was unbounded. We all practiced the “dominance hold” with your head under our arm, as we taught you that we were the boss. But mostly we just played with you, pet you and snuggled you. I didn’t get to live with you, Breeze, but I loved you like a dog-sister. I loved you for your quiet tail-wagging and your loud barking (only when you had something to say). I loved you for your soft fluffy-ness, and your soft demeanor with my children ever since they were babies. I loved the way you growled as you played with your hard plastic ball in the backyard. That indestructible ball was all yours. I loved the way you chased tennis balls, and pulled on the leash to go where you wanted to, but always tried to listen. I loved how you knew when it was time to go hang out at the farm when mom and dad were going on vacation. I love the way you loved us when we came to hang out.


We walked over this morning to say goodbye. L was crying before we even left our house. Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.  We pet you and scritched your soft head. I think you knew. We tried not to cry, tried to stay strong for you. I wanted to say goodbye, but I didn’t want you to be scared of leaving. Aunt C came too and sat down next to you. She scratched your head and said “Oh Breeze. We’ll see you on the other side, girl.”


None of us wanted to leave to go to school. Leaving meant that it was real, that we wouldn’t get to snuggle you. I spent the drive to school crying. Thoughts popped in my brain;  your fluffy puppy days, how it has been so long since I’ve heard you bark, seen you  jump or play. 

. . .

At school, I go outside for recess and look up in the clouds. I imagine you romping around, like you used to love to romp in the snow. The snow. It just stopped being cold, and you won’t get to play in the warm weather ever again. I hope there are ways to get scratched and snuggled, walked and played with wherever you are.

So many people talk about loyal dogs and masters. I’m sure you were loyal, and I know my parents were in charge where you were concerned… but I don’t believe animals have owners. I do believe you were our dog, though. You are part of our family. Always. 


To Do List

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

For days. . . 

I sit with my computer open to my grading program, and my papers piled on my desk. I have to do lists. I have blog posts to check in and respond to, and reading letters too. I have a small stack of math homework, already corrected during class, but calling my name to be checked in. I have report cards due that need comments (well comment codes which tell so much about my students). I even have 2 bookshelves that need to be built, and a push-pin poetry board to put up.

But I also have ideas. So I push away my to do list and plan instead. I plan a close reading lesson with “Stray” from Cynthia Rylant’s Every Living Thing based on Kate Robert’s presentation at the  #TCRWP saturday reunion and my coach’s help. (We won’t talk about how I asked her for help an hour before I wanted to teach this lesson, because my last-minute inspired planning is a post for a different day!) I plan a follow up investigation into setting after our close reading of Stray because when we really work hard with setting, it becomes obvious that there is more than meets the eye. Also obvious is that my students expect the setting to jump out of the page and into their brain. I read through Nancie Atwell’s Naming the World book to gather some poems we can use for our work with setting. I cry as I read and decide to go within the theme of pets that started us off with the short story “Stray.” Students will need to read closely to find the setting, and I have a feeling they will feel connected to these powerful poems.  I also plan the start of my annual huge “Muppet” project (still so much work to do!)  I plan a lesson on verb continuums based on a pin that linked to this.


Tonight I open my computer, with my same to do list.

So I slice.

If only I were slicing!

A Spring Sunday

I miss slicing
each night
I miss taking all the things
I notice all day
and deciding
what to slice
what to write

If it were still slicing time, my slice today would be about this spring Sunday.  I would tell you about how each year we finish our fall raking in the spring. I would write about how amazing it feels to rake all the old leaves away and see green. Green!

Image 2

If I were slicing, I’d tell you how part of spring clean up is throwing toys away that have accidentally been left out all winter and are broken or rotted. I would tell you how the soccer ball should be in the trash can, but how I couldn’t do it. It’s old and gross, yes. But, it is the soccer ball L got after her week of summer soccer when she was 3…. One of my worst parenting fails ever. It was this amazing soccer camp, with coaches from across the ‘pond.’ We arrived on Monday and were told we had to put the shin guards on L’s feet. L didn’t want shin guards, so she cried and screamed for 15 minutes. At which point the coach mentioned to me that it was really okay if she didn’t wear them. (Too little, too late, buddy!) At that point it was too late. Her attitude was wrecked, and she spent the rest of the week on the sidelines, watching. I spent the rest of the week wondering what I should do. I watched as the coach yelled, “Are you ready, Team?” and all the other children yelled back, “We were born ready, coach!”  I was embarrassed that L wouldn’t play with all the other children who lined up with the coach. On the last day she was dribbling the soccer ball next to the field.  When third grade came around, L was excitedly playing soccer at school. Yet another lesson in letting children grow according to their own pace! 

If I were slicing, I’d tell you how every spring, my children go directly to summer games. As soon as it is above 40 degrees, they are ready to play with water. Today was no exception. Image 1I would mention in my slice how this is a well known problem with my children, how the neighbors turn their outside faucet off to prevent my children from enticing their children to start water play. I’d tell you how water tables become mud makers and hoses become rain makers. I’d describe how this is such a mixture of endearing and frustrating to me; creative kids, tangled hose, imagination, muddy grass, constant reminders, broken umbrellas…. But laughter and fun makes up for the mud and mess. I guess.

Image 3

If I were slicing, I’d talk about how amazing it is to make time to throw things away. I’d tell you about the hour my husband and I spent filling hefty bags in our cluttered barn. Who knows how we have accumulated so much stuff… but getting rid of it is our spring priority! I’d ask you if you secretly throw away kid’s old toys too, and if you still hold on to sentimental things like the jewelry box the ring box came in for your engagement ring. (We threw it away. It’s in one of those bags in he picture…)



If only I were slicing! I’d have so much to tell you!

A slice of tomorrow

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


Tomorrow I will wake up early
or on time
I will peacefully pack lunches
I will remember to pack mine

Tomorrow I will have time to stop for coffee 
and I will have time to drink it

Tomorrow I will save energy for making dinner
and cleaning up 

Tomorrow I will talk in a way that 
helps my children listen

Tomorrow I will smile
Tomorrow I will say yes

Tomorrow I will wake up early