Category Archives: Reflections on coaching

Are you allowed to slice twice? A Slice of Apple

Slice of LIfePart of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers


My backpack is torn, well-used, broken-in. I should buy a new one, but this one still works, so why spend the money?

“Clean out backpack” was on my list to do this morning, and since I’ve been working all summer I didn’t think it would be a big deal. I’ve been using my backpack a lot. I feel like I just cleaned it out a month ago.

That must have been when I put an apple in there for a mid-PD snack.

That apple died in my backpack. It was a terrible death, as evidenced by the disgusting paper towel I pulled from the bottom.

“I guess I can throw my bag in the wash tonight.” I comforted myself.

And then I pulled out my Coaching Institute notebook. The notebook that I use all the time. The notes help me frame so many things in my work: Purpose, inspiration,  feedback, balanced literacy, coaching in… The TCRWP Coaching Institute was the best Professional Development I’ve ever had!

My notes are mostly gone now – soaked away by dying apple juice.


This better not be an indication of how my coaching year will go.

This better just be an indication that I need to buy a new backpack. And maybe a lunchbox. And maybe it’s time to go back to Teacher’s College for another Institute.

A Slice of Coaching: Year 3 Begins

Slice of LIfePart of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

In-service starts today.

I miss my classroom.

Facebook memories kept popping up all August, and even though so many memories are of times when I wrote about how tiring and stressful it is to set up a classroom, they still make me miss it.


I miss organizing my library, touching every book.

I miss putting up bulletin boards, even though it usually means calling for a tall teacher friend to help.

I miss walking over to the teacher next door and helping them with their desk set-up, moving combinations until it’s just right.

I miss the multiple runs to Target to buy more adhesive label pockets.

I miss putting all the new school supplies in the cabinet.

Post-its. I miss gathering all of my post-its into the big bin and pulling some out to stay at my desk.

Sharpies. I miss those new packs of sharpies.

My mom sometimes makes fun of me, “You became a teacher for the supply closet!” she says.

And, I do like the supply closet. I like fresh back-to-school pencils and notebooks. I like perforating and laminating and cutting. (It’s not why I’m a teacher, but it is part of the job — a part I often enjoy)

I like classroom set-up because it’s fun and satisfying work and because it’s part of the rhythm of anticipating the real joy of the classroom: The students. Every label I make, every book I shelve, is part of the ritual. I know that soon the students will be choosing books from those labeled shelves, adding work to those bulletin boards, needing a sharpie, and jotting thoughts on those post-its.

Last week, a few teachers let me help them in their rooms.  I printed out some vinyl letters for them, helped them with a few odds and ends, perforated some math manipulatives, that sort of thing: Preparation!

I took a set of math manipulatives home with me to break apart. As I sat, doing the satisfying work, listening to the clicking of the pieces, I wondered, “Why is this so great? What is wrong with me that I am so happy to be sitting here clicking these pieces apart? Too bad there aren’t more new teachers who need me to do this job!”

IMG_3816 3.JPG

What’s so great? It’s no small thing to be trusted to put up a bulletin board, to take supplies home to organize. It’s no small thing to lay a hand in preparing for students.

I miss preparing things for my own classes of students,  printing out my class lists, and running my hand down the page — wondering who my amazing children will be!

As an Instructional Coach,  I don’t get my very own class of kids. I do get to share our kids though, and I can’t wait to see those kids fill the hallways next week. It’s year 3 for me in this role,  which means I’ve had the chance to get to know our children for 2 years. There’s something about watching familiar faces enter their new classrooms. There’s something about watching the new kindergarteners come in and find their teachers.

This week at in-service, I won’t be printing out my class list, but I will be reconnecting with my teachers. Maybe someone will have some math manipulatives for me to click apart, a box to unpack, library books to put on a shelf, class lists to print out. A coach can only dream…

Maybe I’ll print out a list of the amazing teachers I get to work with — the ones I’ve worked with deeply, the ones I am looking forward to working with more, and the ones I will meet today.


Mama Bear Slam Poem Slice

Slice of LIfePart of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers


Mama Bear Slam Poem

My question for you is about 
and if you're ever left 
if it's possibly 
to be a child with the 
to teach adults about the 
of differences being 

I strive to teach my kids empathy, compassion, truth. 

I think I've done my due 
as one of two respectful, kind 
in teaching my kid not to look for 
not to give in to 
to take all the varied 
even when they are ridiculous or 

I strive to teach my kids empathy, compassion, truth. 

Listen up, people! I can't, I can't I can't
I can't 
So I'm letting Mama Bear take 
She's ready to tackle the problem 
at hand
She doesn't stand on ceremony, you 
She has a strong voice and one 
She knows her kid - will take a 

I strive to teach my kids empathy, compassion, truth. 

Because, I'll tell you what's 
I'll give you a general
Kid asked to take the high road, be 
While adults judge from down low, it's 
If you didn't know your impact, that's 
But now you know, so it's 

I strive to teach my kids empathy, compassion, truth. 

I hope you don't feel
I know kindness isn't in your
But I don't want my kid having 
to this kind of negative 
Time to decide how to snap
Maybe apologize - it's time to 

I strive to teach my kids empathy, compassion, truth. 
Am I in charge of teaching you too?

#sol19 March 27 A Slice of writing with kids (From My Chair)

Slice of LIfePart of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers March Slice a Day Challenge!
I’m slicing every day this month. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂


From this teacher's chair. I see
a paper clip
flair pens
teacher's guides
a read aloud

Bells, chimes
a small salt lamp all set
on this teacher desk.

From this teacher's chair. I see
pencils move 
eyes wander 
heads down- write
boys whisper - share
girls laugh - then write
5th graders slice.

From this teacher's chair. I hear
pencils on pages
keyboards tap
chromebooks open
students giggle
5th graders slice
in (relative) silence.

From this teacher's chair. I miss
my teacher desk
my read aloud
my students. 

#sol19 March 25 A slice of your slices

Slice of LIfePart of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers March Slice a Day Challenge!
I’m slicing every day this month. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

March 25 

It's that day in March
stories overload my mind 
The only problem is
These slices 
aren't really mine

Writing doesn't always fit
the roles I take in life
a coach, 
a teacher
a mom and a wife

If I write my stories
and actually hit publish
I've broken the 
we thought we established

So I'll keep my mind closed
and my stories at bay
So your hopes 
and your dreams
aren't on display



#sol19 March 22 A slice of memories (AKA I taught 2nd grade once!)

Slice of LIfePart of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers March Slice a Day Challenge!
I’m slicing every day this month. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

I’ve been thinking this week about the teachers and classes who have come and gone in our district and wondering where all those memories go. What impact do we have as teachers, as classroom communities?  Where do we hold the personal and institutional memory of all of those beautiful times, all of those beautiful teachers we’ve had and worked with?

My first year teaching was in a beautiful old school. I had a group of second graders and the most amazing para.

I remember working in my new-to-me classroom: Room 16 that summer when the principal walked in and asked me if I’d rather have the experienced para, or the new one they needed to hire.  It was a hard decision, but she needed a decision right then and there.

“Experienced.” I finally said — and what a miracle to have gotten the opportunity to work with Mrs. Cross that year. She brought so much knowledge, joy and laughter to our days. She taught me, Ms. I-student-taught-in-6th-grade how to teach second graders.

Once, I slapped a template on a piece of tagboard and told the kids to use it to cut out the shape.

“I think what Ms. Thought means is,” she said kindly, “Place the template down, hold it with your hand nice and strong. Then take your pencil hand and with a good 2nd-grade grip, slowly trace the pattern….” Ahhhh. Yes. I learned a lot that year.

Mrs. Cross made corn cob compound words, and set up marble painting stations on special days. There was something called a green pickle party, and her word study station was meticulously organized. At lunch she read aloud to the kids and changed all the names in the book to the names of the kids in our class.

When I proudly made tagboard binoculars for a goal-setting activity, she helped me hang them up in the hall. When the art teacher walked by and asked me why I had a display of bras hanging up, Mrs. Cross snapped a picture and laughed with me, “BRAnoculars!” we howled. We often laughed as a joke or pun sailed over the kids’ heads and straight to each other.

It’s lucky for me because one of the second grade teachers I work with now has Mrs. Cross has her para, and it’s like reconnecting with the magic.

In Room 16, we had a castle made of cardboard boxes, a fairytale ball, and we spent the last month or so of school rehearsing an adaptation of Swimmy by Leo Lionni.

In Room 16 we had a morning letter, and song that went something like this, “Chatty, chatty, chatty, chatty, room 16!”

In Room 16, we had guided reading even though I really didn’t know what I was doing yet. We had math stations, and sometimes we watched Magic School Bus.

In Room 16, we laughed a lot, and I read aloud more than once a day. We had 2 computers, and kids took turns using them for something… Kid Pix maybe?

In Room 16, I sobbed on the last day of school, and hugged each kid goodbye.

I’ll always remember Room 16, even after next year when the building isn’t a school anymore, even if they tear it down.





#sol19 March 19 A Slice of a Right Now Lesson

Slice of LIfePart of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers March Slice a Day Challenge!
I’m slicing every day this month. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂


I got to write with kids today. I love being invited in as a guest slicer. It’s become a little tradition for me to show kids a “Right now” slice. (Last year’s is here.)

We brainstormed “ing” words, filling the whiteboard.

“Don’t judge my spelling yet. This is a brainstorm,” I told them.

I showed them how you can complete any “ing” thought with something that makes sense for you. Sometimes you have to cheat the phrasing a little, but they are all possible.

They tried it, while I challenged myself to fill the brainstormed list with complete thoughts.


We came back together to talk about revision. “You could go through your work and circle ones that seem to go together.”

We found a theme in . mine: I’m tired. This isn’t shocking to me. 

“Maybe you should add ‘wishing for coffee.’ one of the boys said.

I love writing with kids.

Below, my revised shorter “Right Now I Am” Slice.

Right Now I Am. . . 
falling asleep at my desk
starving for sleep
running out of energy
dying to go to bed early
living day by day
waiting for time to sleep
aging more rapidly than I want
wailing when I'm annoyed - have I mentioned that I'm tired?
talking too much
doing too much
sleeping too little
Right now I am tired

#sol19 March 17 A slice of Jason Reynolds

Slice of LIfePart of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers March Slice a Day Challenge!
I’m slicing every day this month. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

My 12 year old is so impressed that I got to hear Jason Reynolds speak at Teacher’s College.

“Ghost!” he proclaims

And I tell him how it was amazing to hear the author talk about where his books came from, his story, his family and friends. I mean, H isn’t a big fan of reading, but he did love Ghost.

I want to tell him about how Jason Reynold didn’t read either as a kid, and about how none of the books his teachers gave him were mirrors. “Why would I want to have a relationship with literature if these books don’t want to have a relationship with me?” he had asked a church full of teachers. And then he told us how he later had realized that he didn’t hate reading, he hated being bored.  I want to tell my son that doesn’t like reading that Jason Reynolds said that the greatest gift to give is yourself.

I think I’m going to need my notes for this sharing.

“But, did you see him?” My 9 year old asks for the second time.

“Well, I heard him present.” I explain. “I was in the back of the church.”

“So, you saw him,”  he says, “from the back of the church.”

“Well… ” I started. “Actually…We were on our way back from the bathroom, back to our seats when who should walk right by? Jason Reynolds.”

“Did you say hello?”

“I mean, Jason Reynolds, mom.”

I have some explaining to do. “I didn’t want to bother him as he was getting ready to start his presentation. He was walking and talking with someone, making sure things were ready to go. I wanted to respect that.”

The boys shake their heads, disappointed.

Mr. Thought says, “I get it.”

And then I admit, for the sake of authentic learning and full transparency, “It did take every ounce of my self control not to reach out and touch his shoulder though.”

“What?!” everyone asks.

“I mean,  Jason Reynolds.” I tell them.

Mr. Thought raises his eyebrows.

I just keep talking about how powerful it was to hear him speak. I start talking about Queen Latifah and rap in the eighties. “He told us this is a history lesson we need to teach our kids – and not in February.”

I explain how rap music saved Jason Reynolds, and how he talked about Hamilton and rap: “It hurts my feelings when I hear all these people when they say how brilliant Hamilton is. I mean, it is brilliant. But we’ve been saying that for 30 years.” 

My Hamilton loving kids look at me, and I think, “Yep. I’m going to need my notes.”




#sol19 March 16 A Slice of #TCRWP

Slice of LIfePart of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers March Slice a Day Challenge!
I’m slicing every day this month. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

TCRWP Saturday Reunion 

You sip your seltzer water at the end of the day
wondering how you would ever pick just one slice

Your notebook is full and messy
your finger still hurts a little – why did you press that flair pen so hard?

Your brain is full
with Jason Reynolds, Eric Hand, Lucy Calkins, Mary Ehrenworth, Cornelius Minor, Marc A. Brackett

You flip through your notes
remember the day
and hope to blog about it later.





#sol19 March 14 Mini Slices of a Mega Day

Slice of LIfePart of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers March Slice a Day Challenge!
I’m slicing every day this month. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂


Mini Slices of a Mega Day

My alarm was set for 5:00. But I wake up with a start at 4:45.

My dreams were just as busy as my night had been, and my day is about to be. This week, I can’t even get a little rest time when I sleep, I guess.

I head downstairs, poor my coffee and I’m in front of the same google docs, notebooks, post it notes and books that I was working on before I went to bed 5 hours ago.


I’m in front of 4 kids and 25 interns, a few more teachers, and look, there’s the Media and Communications Manager with his camera too. Teaching always has an audience, but this is an audience.

I have the lesson plan, and I’ve already explained to everyone that learning is messy, that learning labs are vulnerable places. But now I have to actually be vulnerable and messy. 

I look up to welcome the kids and I zoom in on them.  They are nervous too, being in front of all these people.

“This is weird, right?” I say and then we begin and I forget (mostly) about all the other grown ups.


We are back from the classroom, the interns are reflecting on the lab they just participated in. I know that interns are good at reflecting, but I wonder what they will have to say.

As we write in our journals, I hear the kids in the hallway. I think the melody of kids moving around a hallway is comforting.

We open up the discussion.
“The kids were sharing and talking…they were so thankful to have us there…” 
“You don’t know what you can do until you do it…” 
“Refreshing to do a mini lesson with different kids…” 
” I was being vulnerable with the students…” 
“I had the lesson plan, but it’s not a script. I don’t have to say everything from the plan…” 
“This was a confidence booster…” 
“We learn so much from our peers…” 

By the time the interns are talking about the power of co-teaching and how wonderful it was to share the teaching point with kids, my paper is full of their comments, and I am feeling emotional about these new educators about to graduate and impact the lives of children in their own classrooms.


I’m in front of another 4 kids, this time I’m teaching 2 and then turning the lesson over to an intern who will mirror my lesson for her 2 kids.  These kids are fourth graders, and they had to walk into a room full of about 35 adults, take a seat and get a strategy lesson on vocabulary. I mean, could I have done that when I was 10? I don’t know.

They give each other high fives when I ask them to read their books, and one looks at me slyly and says, “Are we teaching teachers?”

“You are teaching teachers!” I say. “We are all learning something today!”

I look up and notice my friend is videotaping me with her phone.

I guess I forgot to tell her I didn’t want to be filmed. Oh well!

“You are in the last part of 4th grade, can you believe it?” I say.

Before I can go on to tell them that this means they are reading so many books, and the more books your read, the more times you might come to a word you don’t know, one boy interrupts.

“No we aren’t!” he says. “We have 60 days left.”


I’m exhausted. But I have to run to the grocery store (before I go home, and do my laundry and pack for Teacher’s College, and make dinner, and record my #findthejoy video and slice.)

I pull into a parking spot, and get out of the car. I’m so excited that it’s sunny and warm! I don’t even need my jacket! I grab my keys and my phone and head in to the store. I walk in to the store, happy to not be loaded down by winter accouterments.

I’m almost done when I realize that my purse is still in the van.


I’m home, about to start dinner. We are trying to eat really healthy this week. After all, it’s almost spring and we just had spring break full of car snacks and too much sitting. Even my 12 year old is packing salads and tofu for lunch.

The girls from next door are on my porch,  with the girl scout cookies we ordered last month.

“Thank you!” I say, and I joke. “Maybe this can be my dinner!”

I take the cookies inside and the family goes wild.

“Why did you buy 2 boxes of thin mints?”

“How are we not going to eat these?”

“Can I just have one?”

“This is going to be really hard.”

We put the cookies in the chest freezer, and I think we’ve already forgotten about them.