Monthly Archives: March 2016

#sol16 March 21 A Slice of Synthesis

Slice of LIfe  I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for all of March.  You should do it too!  Thank you, Two Writing Teachers! Readers, check out their site, and start slicing! 


On my way to school my mind was spinning with all of the inspiration from The Saturday Reunion. I was trying to synthesize it all. I was thinking about love and acceptance of my kids, both at school and home. Andrew Solomon’s words resonated with me as soon as he spoke, and then last night we read Michael Hall’s Red.


Have you read this? I hope you have, and if you haven’t – go buy it now. Then buy a copy for every parent and teacher you know. Or, I guess you could lend your copy out… but wouldn’t it be fun to just start handing out this book about love and acceptance and being your true self? Give it to everyone you know who works with children…

Thinking about Red led me to think about Lucy Calkins quoting Maya Angelou. IMG_7296.JPG

Which of course made me remember the rest of Lucy’s talk,which is only partially represented in my notes:


I started dreaming of the traditions I can start when I go back to the classroom next year. I reflected on my beliefs about reading and writing and how school needs to be an authentic place for challenge and for joy.

As I walked into school, I smiled dreaming up the toolkits I can make, a la Kate Roberts. I was brainstorming skills, strategies and processes that I can pull together, using the structure that both she and Cornelius Minor demonstrated on Saturday. Cornelius reminded us that teachers have tenacity and we need to take what we do invisibly as readers and make it visible for students. Kate showed us tangible ways to do that with purposeful, practical tools.

I made my way to my office thinking about Carl Anderson’s message that assessment means to “sit beside.”

Then BOOM. On a nearby door, I’m hit with another message:


Oh, Pennsylvania Department of Education… Please go to a Saturday Reunion. Listen to Lucy. Help teachers “build worlds in their classrooms,” where students can find their power as readers, writers and learners. Lead teachers “not with mandating, but with influence – bring out the great talents of your people!”

I know it’s just a little yellow sign. But it made me wonder if there is an emergency TCRWP hotline. Kate Roberts? Cornelius Minor? The departments of education in this country could use a little shaking up. I’m not afraid of working hard, and I expect my students to do the same. “There’s no easy in being an effective teacher.” Kate said it. I agree.


So, tonight as H drew a superman sketch, E practiced drawing cubes and Mr. Thought challenged L to draw different emotions, I started taking some more notes on my Saturday Reunion learning.


I know I’ll learn more as I synthesize, and I also know that I’ll never ever get the markers back in order. That’s okay. Learning is messy.


Then before bed, E read me Little Quack. As I listened, I realized Mama Duck has been to the Saturday Reunion. She loves and accepts all of her children. She is in the water with them. She knows her ducklings, and her content. She breaks down the skill and encourages them to jump in, to just start. She even has a mini lesson. (Look closely, and you’ll find some math too.)

I decided that this was the perfect way to synthesize my day, because a book and a bedtime snuggle might be the best tradition of all.


#sol16 March 20 Slice: Select All. Delete.

Slice of LIfe  I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for all of March.  You should do it too!  Thank you, Two Writing Teachers! Readers, check out their site, and start slicing! 



Type type type type type type type

Select All.


I’m inspired. But, I have to sleep.

Oh –  I want to tell you about New York. I want to tell you about my Beyoncé day, my friends, my sessions, my learning. But my thoughts are still scattered in my notebook, my iPad photos, and the google docs my friends have shared with me. So, I type type type type type. Select All. Delete.

I’m so tired. But, I have a slice called “Left! Curb!” One called “The bad french fries.” and even one I like to call, “The Cupcake Engagement.” Plus, I know you can’t wait to hear me gush about Kate Roberts and Cornelius Minor – and I even have pictures that illustrate how they are my new BFFs.

But every time I type a slice, it doesn’t work. So I type type type type type. Select All. Delete.

I have to sleep. But I have good stories to tell! Like, last night,when we couldn’t seem to find a bathroom even though it was desperately needed. I want you to help me count the Starbucks that we tried, and tell me why I can get coffee in my hometown late at night but in NYC Starbucks closes at 6:00.

It’s a good story, but after I type type type type type, I just select all, delete.

I’d love to slice about how I almost got out of the city but veered the wrong way, so we drove back in. But you know… select all, delete.




#sol16 March 19 A Slice of Who knows?

Slice of LIfe
Woke up in NYC with a few friends.
We have our 1st choices mapped out for a day of learning – but if the last time I went is any indication, we are in for some pleasant surprises. I have a memory of running up 5 flights of steps, only to find a session full with the door closed. So we made a quick change, and that’s how we ended up seeing Cornelius Minor. What a stroke of luck! 
Who knows what the day will hold! A million slices of learning. I can’t wait! 


#sol16 March 18 A slice of Ready to Learn: TCRWP Saturday Reunion

Slice of LIfe  I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for all of March.  You should do it too!  Thank you, Two Writing Teachers! Readers, check out their site, and start slicing! 


TCRWP Saturday Reunion is tomorrow!
bags packed
snacks packed
iPad charged
pens ready
car washed
car vacuumed, mostly
maps printed 
yes, printed 
(better safe than sorry) 
TCRWP app downloaded
(there's a schedule on there!)
slice written

#sol16 March 17 A slice of spring

Slice of LIfe Slice of LIfe I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for all of March. You should do it too! Thank you, Two Writing Teachers! Readers, check out their site, and start slicing!
This morning’s rush came to a stand still.

“There’s eggs!” L called, and we all ran over.

It was a great interruption to our normal crazy morning.

A little later, I started to get worried. The wreath has fallen before — it’s only on a magnetic hanger. And it can’t fall now! There are babies in there!

So, after school we made it sturdy. Maybe not pretty… But sturdy and hopefully, safe.

And look!

3 babies. (Although that might be a crack on one of them… So we aren’t sure…)

We did some research, and think it’s a house finch family. It seems like it will be a good month before we can use our front door. That’s nothing compared to what Albert does in one of my favorite books.

Have you read this? I try to read it whenever possible in my literacy workshops. You can do so much with this book. Talk about theme, character development, signposts. You can closely read for word choice, or character thoughts. Or… You can read it to just enjoy the story. Imagine. That.

Albert is selfless in this story. I love him, his story, his kindness, and the illustrations.


L already read the book when she got home today, and I will read it to the boys tonight, even though I’m a little worried that it will make them think they should pick up the bird’s nest.

We are all enjoying this little piece of magic on our front door. I hope that you find some magic this spring too.

Note: I am trying out my wordpress app on my iPad tonight… Getting ready to slice from NYC  before or after the TCRWP Saturday reunion! Will you be there? I went 2 years ago (You can read my slice of the city here, when I saw Kate Roberts here, my thoughts on PD here, and the keynote by Diane Ravitch here.) I’m so excited to go again!  (And I’m hoping that I won’t have technical problems with slicing!) 

#sol16 March 16 Slices of Being at Grandma’s

Slice of LIfe  I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for all of March.  You should do it too!  Thank you, Two Writing Teachers! Readers, check out their site, and start slicing! 


I keep thinking about the way my grandma’s staircase turned and how her house felt. I wonder how great writers articulate their grandma’s house.

Do they describe the carpet? Do they remember the TV cart with a few VHS tapes piled? Are the white pillars leading from the living room to the dining room as important as the toys that are under the sideboard? Would a great writer pause to describe the glass containers on the kitchen counter – one always with saltines, another with cookies if you were lucky? Are great writers bothered when their memory fails, and they aren’t sure if they are making up the creak of the basement steps? Do their memories of their grandma from 30 years ago, when she seemed so old get mixed up with their memories from now, when she is in her 90s?

If every memory is a slice – a small painted picture – a part of a history. . . how is it fair to just write one?

If I tell you about one visit to my grandma’s when I was 5 or 6 (or 7 or 8…?), what picture will you have?  I remember standing  at the fridge looking for the ketchup. My grandma kept her ketchup in a crystal lidded vase-like container. (Google is not helping me find an image here – you will have to use your imagination.) Many of my aunts and uncles were around – cousins too, I’m sure. My dad is one of 10, so family gatherings were often big, crowded, noisy but not loud. No, you didn’t yell and carry on at grandma’s. I picked up the crystal ketchup, and it dropped to the floor. Ketchup went everywhere. I have no idea if the crystal broke. I only know that I felt so guilty, so ashamed for dropping the ketchup. I’m sure I was reprimanded by 5 or 10 adults. I had lived down to their expectations of what a 5 or 6 (or 7 or 8…?) year old could (not) do.

But if I close my eyes and think of time at my grandma’s house, I don’t think about the ketchup. I think about walking in, and feeling the softness: The carpet under my feet, the soft hug from grandma, her soft hands. The way she immediately wanted to feed every guest. I think about the kitchen table, and hot milk cake. I try to eat vegan now, but it would be hard to pass up a piece of my grandma’s hot milk cake; not too sweet, the perfect texture, and topped with the most delicious chocolate icing. If I close my eyes I can hear her ask me how school was going, and if I wanted some pretzels with my ice cream. The dishes were blue and white, and everyone helped to wash them after a family dinner. With my eyes closed, I can hear the chatter of my dad and his brothers and sisters. Jokes and stories while they washed, rinsed, and dried. I might have helped a few times, but I was most likely hanging with my cousins. We might be on the third floor, in a giant bedroom with remnants of our parents’, aunts’,  and uncles’ childhoods. Or, we might be outside taking a walk around the block. We would come back to someone opening a large bag of hand me downs to pass around. I remember leaving grandma’s house in the dark, always with a hug, an I love you, and my grandma’s voice calling “God bless” as we left. Often we were handed a ziploc bag of burned chocolate chip cookies. Grandma always said that you can give the burned cookies to family.

A great writer could tell you about the smell of the house, and you would be able to see the porch, where the whole family could gather. They would find the truth in the stories stuck in their brain. Like, did my uncles really carry me and my cousin all the way around the block to pretend to throw us in the dumpster? Was the shed haunted? What about the basement? What exactly did my cousins and I play? What did we talk about? What were those toys under the sideboard?

I wish I had a better memory, and a more articulate mind.  But, if I close my eyes I can feel the soft slices of being at my grandma’s. Maybe that’s enough.


#sol16 March 15: 30 second slices

Slice of LIfe  I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for all of March.  You should do it too!  Thank you, Two Writing Teachers! Readers, check out their site, and start slicing! 


30 Second Slices 

30 seconds at home before school…

I run down the stairs, find my boots, slip them on. Zip them up. But where’s my phone? Find my phone. Grab the coffee. (Thanks, Mr. thought!) Kisses and hugs. And time to move ’em out!

“Did you pack E’s inhaler? Did they load their backpacks?”

Make everyone drink some grape juice (wards off the stomach bug, knock on wood) and it’s “Van time! Come on! Get in! Strap in! Let’s Go! We’re late!”

(Later I will notice that they all forgot their jackets.)

30 seconds in middle school…

Students wave and call my name. Some ignore me. I walk into a mindfulness class with a few students I know, some I don’t.  We settle in and the visiting mindfulness teacher tells us that mindfulness is about paying attention. “Ask yourself: What do you notice? What do you need?” 

30 seconds in the primary hall…

A girl swings her purple jacket around, she’s dancing a little jig – her jacket hits me, but not hard. I smile, and her teacher scrunches her face in an “I’m sorry.” I assure her that it’s okay, no big deal. We should all dance a few more jigs going down the hall. 

A  boy walks towards me, says something in the way of a hello, and gives me a great big hug. I don’t know him, and think he might be mistaking me for someone else. . . but when a first grader gives you a hug. . . you just hug them back.

#sol16 March 13 A slice of a book on a shelf

Slice of LIfe  I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for all of March.  You should do it too!  Thank you, Two Writing Teachers! Readers, check out their site, and start slicing! 


I’ve finally been ordered. Taken off the warehouse shelf, slipped into a box with other books. We are silent on the truck, anxious to get to school. Soon! Soon children will choose us! I think I have a good chance at being a top pick. My cover is shiny, and my blurb… well, it makes you want to open me and find answers! I’m exciting – a real adventure.

I don’t like to brag, but since it’s just you and me… My characters are unmatched. There is friendship, and perseverance and that’s just in the first few pages! Now, I’m not technically a true story — but in the children’s hearts I will be. I just know it. I wonder whose favorite I’ll be. I heard that one of the books that went to a classroom last month has a waiting list of kids who want to read it! Wow… to be that famous!

I feel the box being unloaded. A school! We are at a school! There must be readers here… real readers. I wonder how often they get to read. I wonder how long it will take until the edge of my cover is worn. Then I’ll know I’ve really arrived.

Being put on a bookshelf at a school is even better than I thought it would be! Books on my left, books on my right. I feel myself getting comfortable, even though it won’t be long before a real child picks me up! I’m ready!

Wait. This is a pretty dark, pretty small room.

Is this a closet? I can see and hear grown ups coming in and out a bit, but not kids. They must be teachers, since they are wondering which book will go with their lesson. They picked another book.

That’s fine. I mean, I can wait.

Someone picks me up. She’s not sure if her children will like me. She tells someone she needs to read me first before she lets the kids read me.

That’s fine. I mean, she will be very careful with me, I’m sure.  That’s good.  It must be weird to have a lot of kids reading you, talking about you, learning all sorts of different things.

I hear more teachers talking – they need to be sure that the book they pick goes with their lesson, That makes sense. What if they weren’t talking about friendship and perseverance but they read me?  They say they aren’t sure I’m the right level. I might be too hard, or too easy…I’m back on the shelf.

That’s fine. I mean, I’m sure they know best. What if a child was reading me and didn’t know some of my words?  What if they read me too quickly? What if the children disagreed about my message, or my theme, or my characters’ motivations? Yikes.

I’m a book. I don’t know… was I meant for all of that thinking?

I do wonder though. I wonder when I’ll get to come out of this closet. I wonder what it would be like to be chosen by a child.


#sol16 March 12 A slice of Saturday

Slice of LIfe  I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for all of March.  You should do it too!  Thank you, Two Writing Teachers! Readers, check out their site, and start slicing! 


I started a slice over 6 hours ago – when the Advil and Sudafed had finally kicked in. I took my books and laptop out to the deck while my kids played in the yard. I read a bit about vocabulary instruction, underlining passage while I watched my children get to know the neighbor kids. It was a slice for sure — my reading about teaching while I parented. So I got my laptop out, and started to write.

And then…

And then E fell and bumped his head, I got ice, kids went to the neighbors, I had an actual conversation with my husband. The kids came back to eat sandwiches before racing back to play.  I tried to listen from my spot on the deck to make sure my kids were playing nicely. Then L called me over to look at a cool swing. I stayed to watch the boys play basketball, then to talk to the neighbors. Then E fell again and hit his head at the bottom of the slide. Kids played some more and we met the neighbor’s dog. When we got home, we watched some Netflix, made some dinner, watched some more Netflix. (Hey! No netflix judging!  Did I mention I’m sick?) I tried and failed to solve some sibling conflicts and then got everyone ready for bed. E said he felt dizzy, so I was worried (re-read the head bumps part above). Mr. Thought reassured me that E’s just tired. But, E was too busy making up riddles to sleep.  Most of them started with “There’s a man stuck in a room with nothing in it but….How does he get out?” I knew I should tell him that it’s time to go to sleep… I knew I have to write my slice. But man, he was so cute and serious about these riddles.

Mr. Thought kindly brought me my laptop. I told E that I have to write my slice. He asked “What’s a slice?” and as I explained he curled up near me. “Oh, so it’s called a slice because it’s a slice of a story? Can I tell you another riddle? There’s a man stuck in a room  with one window, and all he has is a shadow. How does he get out?… I didn’t tell you what the shadow was! It was the shadow of a tree, and he climbs out!”

Soon, he was asleep, and then I wrote my slice.