Monthly Archives: June 2016

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.