Category Archives: Slice of Life

A slice of not writing

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

Some things I did instead of writing this evening
washed the dishes
yelled at my kids to help with the dishes
checked facebook
prepared the make-your-own pizza supplies
made pizzas with the kids
cleaned up dinner
washed more dishes (what?!?)
played hide-and-go-seek with the dog
covered his eyes, told him “no peeking!” while my daughter hid
hid while my daughter told the dog “no peeking!”
decided to call that game “no peeking!”
snuggled with the dog
laughed at the dog
discussed random things with Mr. Thought
remembered to sponsor my kids’ fundraiser since it’s due tomorrow
listened to kids play some sort of made up board game upstairs
told kids to brush their teeth
told kids to brush their teeth
told kids to brush their teeth
(you get the picture)
sat with H while he fell asleep
snuggled E to sleep
fell asleep
woke up from the dog going crazy barking at the cat’s meow
the actual cat’s meow
tucked L in
read a few chapters
ate a few junior mints
drank my water
sent a few emails
refilled my water

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A slice from my chair

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

From my chair, I see
An empty grape juice bottle, not in the recycling bin
A red and grey backpack, not hung up
A sweatshirt that should probably go in the laundry
A dishtowel too.

For some reason there are 2 folding chairs and a folding table
folded up, and just leaning

and a basket of Mr. Thought’s clean laundry. Folded!
(So many things folded… does this mean something?)

From my chair, I see Mr. Thought working in the other room,
the lights from his computer
brighter than the old floor lamp leaning there

I’m not sure why this room is such a mess.
My books from my classroom are still sitting here
and even though I should be annoyed at how they spill out of their bins,
I’m not
Because it reminds me of how the books have been lent and given
to teachers
to kids
to friends

From my chair, I see
this computer
with my blog window covering up
my calendar
my to do list
my email

I wonder if it’s still called procrastinating
if it is writing?

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A Slice of Life, It’s Not Easy!

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

You know what’s hard?

It’s hard to do algebra when you’re 39, re-learning it on the fly
to help your 9th grader with radicals – simplified
“This is stupid! When will I ever need this in life?” She asks.

It’s hard not to answer her with sarcasm,
“Well, when your 9th grader is crying to you about algebra,
You might wish you paid a little more attention!”

It’s hard to push back your own memories of hating. math. class.
so that you can say instead,
“Algebra helps you in later math classes, and the logic behind it helps you in life…”

It’s hard to hear yourself sound like a cartoon mom
saying some sort of script instead of
the inspiration you wish you could be.

It’s hard to watch your child try and try
struggling, worried, stressed
with new teachers, new classes, new expectations.

You know what’s hard?
High School.
High School is hard
Learning, that’s hard
Parenting, teaching,
having patience,
perseverance,
knowing when it’s okay to fail, when you should try harder…
when it’s time to ask for help.

Slice(s) of Elementary

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

How are you? Without a classroom? How are you?

I’m fine! I’m good! It’s weird, It’s different. But I’m good.
I am in constant wonderment of the teachers around me
My eyes are teary because
I don't want to sound dramatic, but 
elementary school is magic 

Little people walk through the doors
Each morning -- Hundreds of them 
The first day, they are dressed up ---
Bows in their hair, little ties, dresses, tutus 
Even the 5th graders are dressed up -- 
Dressed up by dressing down 
just so
casual 
Oldest in the school now, leaders -you can tell by the way they walk and talk
I don't want to sound dramatic, but 
elementary school is magic 

And the littlest ones,
New to school, they look for their kindergarten teacher 
Who greets them, of course, like they are 
The one they have been waiting for
(because they are the ones they have been waiting for. All 20 of them) 
First graders hug their kindergarten teacher from last year before walking down the big kid hall
They carry their backpacks and their breakfasts on little trays 
They look happy. They look worried. They look excited. They look nervous. 
A fifth grader walks by, 
looks at her friend, and all around the hall
"I've missed this place." she says, shaking her head with joy.
I don't want to sound dramatic, but 
Elementary school is magic 

I spend my days popping in and out, slices accumulating in my tired brain….
A second grader looks at me with utter confusion, each word emphasized with a furrowed brow.
"Who are you?" 
A kindergartner makes plans for catching the gingerbread man who got away today. 
"I have a cage. I can build a security camera." 
A fourth grader says "Can you help me spell division?" and then in almost a whisper, "Are you H. Thought's mom? I'm Abby from school. I started a new school now." 
I walk with a first grade class to recess 
a sweet boy talks to me about his star wars game, 
He quietly grabs my hand as we walk
I don't really know him yet, but I love him. 
I don't want to sound dramatic, but
Elementary school is magic

 

A slice at the Grocery Store

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

 

There’s only one register open at Wegmans, and it’s a little bit slow. E and I can handle it though, and while we wait, a pregnant mother of 3 kids pulls her cart behind me. Her toddler keeps throwing things on the floor. So, when it’s my turn to put groceries on the belt, I ask her if she wants to go in front of me.

“No, that’s okay. They need to learn to be patient.”

“Are you sure?” I ask, “I only brought one of my kids with me today, so you are welcome to go first.”

“Nope, I’m kinda hoping they open another register. Usually they open registers when there are lines.”

The cashier rings up my groceries, and the woman has to start loading hers.

“Can you get those things on the bottom? No the bottom. The very bottom of the cart.” She explains to her kids. “Grab the milk from your sister before she drops it.”

I’m pulled out of my noticing by the cashier complaining about the line. She needs a price check for one of my items, so now she is the only cashier and her lamp is blinking. Another worker walks by, and my cashier yells after her.

“Is anyone going to help me?”

The woman walks away, saying “I’m going to accounting.”

“It would be great if you said something.” the cashier tells me. “That will make them listen. This is crazy. I’m all by myself.”

I nod. “It really puts the pressure on you.”

“That’s true.” she says to me, and then turns her head towards customer service, calling out the name of her manager. “I could use some help!”

Her voice is stressed, and snippy. The manager looks up, takes a deep breath and says “I’m with a customer. And then I can help you.”

The cashier grumbles to me some more, and I don’t really know what to say, so I just tell her that it must be so hard. The manager walks over, a smile on her face, asking what she can do to help me.

“I’m the only one on register.” the cashier says as the manager walks away, looking for the price we need. When she gets back, she asks the cashier if the item got on my order.

“I have no idea. I’m the only one on register. Can someone please come help over here?”

The manager checks that the item is now on my order, turns to the cashier and talks in a very patient voice, “More people are coming on. It will be okay.” She walks away.

“I hope your day gets better.” I tell the cashier as I walk away. E looks at me, eyes wide and rolling a little. It’s the look he gives me when we witness something a little odd. So, we talk a little about how hard it must be to be the only cashier, and how hard it must be to be the manager trying to get other people on the registers.  In my head I think about how patient the manager was, and how stressed out the cashier was. I wonder if this was supposed to teach me something. Is it ironic that the manager was all smiles to me, and on the patronizing side of patient with her employee? I don’t know. But, I noticed.

E reads this over my shoulder. “That’s sad” he says, and then, “Why are you writing about Wegmans? Write about something else.”

 

 

A Slice of just stopping by

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

I was just stopping by, a quick summer visit. Camp was in session. I am not a part of the camp. I was just stopping by. A quick meeting or two.

A boy was wandering the hallway, with a look a teacher can spot from a mile, or at least a hallway or two away. It’s the look of “Maybe I’m doing something I’m not supposed to be doing, but I’m a little lost, I don’t really know. Am I in trouble? I don’t want to be in trouble, and I don’t want to go where I’m supposed to be or do what I’m supposed to do.”

I’m just stopping by. I’m just here for a couple of meetings. I’m not involved. 

A camp counselor came out of a door at the other side of the hallway, and she called out “Mark! Mark! Where are you going?” (Names have been changed, of course.) He said nothing, just wandered further away, closer to the outside doors.

“Get back here, Mark! Where’s your counselor? Where are you supposed to be? Upstairs? Come here. You need to find your teacher. Does she know you are here? You have to come here.”  She kept repeating these kinds of statements, then said something I couldn’t understand, and walked back into her room for a moment.

Mark just kept walking, almost out the door.

I’m just stopping by. I’m just here for a couple of meetings. I’m not involved. 

“I don’t think you’re supposed to leave.” I said, and then I called out, “Is he supposed to go out here?” (Sometimes we have to ask obvious questions…)

“No! Are you with him?” the counselor asked me, and I started to wonder… who is with this boy?

I’m just stopping by. I’m just here for a couple of meetings. I’m not involved. 

Mark walked back, as the counselor walked away and up the stairs. I watched him, but he didn’t follow. He walked slowly towards the outside doors down the other hallway. I easily caught up to him.

“Hi.” I introduced myself. “I’m Mrs. Thought. Is there something I can help you with? I’m a teacher, and it looks like you might need some help.”

“I lost my lunchbox.” he sniffed. “I left it outside, but I don’t know which door it was.”

I’m just stopping by. I’m just here for a couple of meetings. I’m not involved. 

We talked a bit, and as I was convincing him to not go outside until he found his counselor, another woman rounded the corner.

“Mark! You can’t just leave like that! You have to stay with me.”

I’m just stopping by. I’m just here for a couple of meetings. I’m not involved. 

“He thinks he lost his lunchbox outside.” I explained.

She looked at me and shook her head, mouthing, “He didn’t lose his lunchbox.” in a way that meant, “This isn’t about a lunchbox. Don’t believe everything this kid tells you.”

I’m just stopping by. I’m just here for a couple of meetings. I’m not involved. 

She walked away with Mark, and I heard her softly say, “Do you want me to go outside with you to look for your lunchbox?”

I’m just stopping by. I’m just here for a couple of meetings. I’m not involved. 

His camp counselors have it covered…

But wow, I would really like to know the rest of this story, the rest of his story, and if there was a lunchbox out on the playground.

A slice of getting ready

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

Every time I go to target, I find myself looking at the dollar spot. I look at the cute wooden signs, and the fun mini clips.

“I don’t need any of these things!” I whine to my kids. (Which, Mr. Thought would argue is what I should always say when I think I should get something for my classroom.)

Summer is a weird time for a classroom teacher with no classroom of her own.

Every time I read a blog, a school idea floats through my brain, or I see a great deal on colorful pens, I pause. I wonder a little about my choice to take a break from the classroom and move to an instructional coaching role for awhile.

Seems silly, for sure — that a few mini clothespins with cute pencil tops could make me question my life choices — but I think it speaks to my love of creating a home for my students and me. My mom might raise her eyebrows here — she knows I have a deep love for office supplies that lives alongside my altruistic teaching heart. However, I think my school “nesting” each year is a way for me to ready my brain and my heart for a new year.  The Reggio Emilia approach to education tells us that the environment is the third teacher, so I try for a bright, organized, calm and inspiring space in hopes that it will help students learn and work. (Considering how hard it is for me to concentrate on writing this right now, on the tiny space I’ve carved for myself on my dining room table in the middle of the mess of a new floor installation … I tend to think the environment really does matter!)

Lucky for me, almost every time I’m at Target, I bump into a teacher I get to work with for the next few years! Usually it is one teacher in particular, but I’ve bumped into several. So, even though I might stare longingly at the book bin labels, a few minutes later I will be reminded of how cool this job is! These teachers are amazing!

When it’s almost August, and my teaching year is on the horizon, I like to think about the 50 kids I’ll be spending the year with. I look at the class list, and make conferring forms and checklists. The promise of a blank-slate-school-year always feels exciting. So, I reorganize my classroom library, and get ready for back-to-school night.

But, now it is almost August, and it’s my coaching year on the horizon. So I’m thinking about the teachers I get to spend the year with – the creative, hard working, smart, kind, welcoming, kid-loving teachers! And guess what? Each of those teachers spends their day with 25 kids or so… so the reality is, I get to spend my year with about 35 teachers, and about 875 kids. How lucky can you get?

 

So I’m readying my brain and my heart in a new way. I’m helping a friend set up her classroom – it’s getting those organizing and setting up needs out of my system.  I’m reading a lot of resources, and focusing myself on learning across a breadth of grade levels, I’m working on curriculum writing teams, getting to know the curriculum, and the teachers. I’m turning my brain into my classroom, I guess! (Hey, the analogy works, until you realize that my brain doesn’t have any cute paper clips.)

…I may have also bought some cute ABC and ruler ribbon from Target, just in case I need to wrap up a little mini “Back-To-School” treat for teachers. I couldn’t help myself.

A slice of a summer night.

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

 

Summer nights come suddenly. I’m just relaxing into the evening with kids, and then BAM! It’s 10:00, and I’ve failed at bedtime — again.

A bad headache equaled a late dinner tonight which made a late bedtime inevitable, so I decided not to care. We sat on the deck, as the light faded, and I just chatted with the kids:  Chairs pulled close together, legs resting on laps.

I wanted to see the stars come out, but the clouds were in the way. One big cloud, actually. So, I closed my eyes,  pretended my headache was gone, and just listened. We talked about makeup that L wants to try, “just for fun,” and the sphynx documentary the boys had watched earlier, and the smoothie E had just made, “even better than my smoothie from yesterday because instead of two ice cubes, this time I added two extra pieces of frozen mango.”

While we chatted and the wind stirred up, the magic wasn’t lost on me. In the back of my head I was noticing that this… this is what they mean when people tell me I’ll miss these days.

 

A (flashback) slice of “bullying”

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

A flashback slice! 

What do you remember about 7th and 8th grade? I’m closing my eyes and I can see the hallways of my Junior High School. I can glimpse a classroom or two. I remember my Social Studies teacher giving detentions to people who said “Shut up.” I remember that Latin was all the way down the hall, on the second floor, I think. I remember my math teacher slamming a ruler on a desk and screaming “Divided BY!” I vaguely remember display cases across from a water fountain. I remember the cafeteria, and the “lunch ladies” getting so mad if you went to the bathroom instead of outside for recess.  And I remember just a few of the kids.

I don’t remember all of their names, and I barely remember their faces. But, there were these girls who decided they didn’t like me. I mean, there were plenty of people who weren’t especially nice to me… but these girls seemed to have it in for me! Snide remarks, sarcasm, a constant stream of jokes at my expense, and (maybe worst of all) a fake friendliness in between every insult.

 

There was that time I accidentally put my chair leg on the sleeve of a leather jacket. That girl looked at me, lips curled up, eyebrows furrowed. I don’t remember her name, I don’t remember her face, but I remember that expression. I remember how mad she was.

There was that time they made fun of me for not wearing a bra. I think I went shopping for one that weekend.

There was that time they cornered me, accusing me of stealing a tube of bubble gum and a dollar from their gym locker. I had no idea what they were talking about. Somehow we were in the stairwell, 3 of them, blocking the door, in front of 1 of me.

This was 1990. Was that really almost 30 years ago? I don’t remember much, if anything, academic from 7th or 8th grade, but I do remember how mean these girls were!

So, this was bullying, right? I’m supposed to tell you that I was targeted, a victim. I’m supposed to call these girls bullies. My parents were supposed to have demanded consequences.

Fine, I was targeted. They were mean. I don’t know what happened to them at school. I don’t know what happened to them in life. I don’t know if they still think I stole that tube of gum, that dollar. I don’t know what they remember: the stairwell, or what they learned in Social Studies class?

I won’t call them bullies though. I will hope that they are all doing fine in life, happy and healthy.

I’m doing a lot of thinking about bullying… This piece in Teaching Tolerance has a powerful perspective. 

 

 

 

A slice (or 2) of that crazy puppy, Finn

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

Sunday evening, I was sure I had a slice for this week. A puppy slice! That day, we had finally decided enough was enough with our couch. Sure, Finn loved to sleep on the couch. He loved to snuggle on the side, sometimes propped with pillows. It was adorable to watch him nest himself in for a long cozy puppy nap.

But, a few months ago, he spent a good deal of effort destroying parts of the couch. And even though he seems to have stopped that craziness, the couch did not heal.

So, we took the couch to the curb this weekend, much to Finn’s disappointment.IMG_6640

Then, we continued to try to teach Finn to sleep on his soft (and expensive) doggy bed. It’s the one he tried to eat 6 months ago, but will sometimes rest on for short amounts of time, when given a lot of praise.  Sometimes.

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At last, a little before Mother’s Day dinner, Finn did rest on his bed, after we covered it with his favorite blanket. (It used to be my favorite blanket, just saying.) But, then we got a wee bit distracted by dinner with my parents, and we might have left the dog in the family room with his bed a little bit too long.

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After watching us rake the family room (and sweep, and vacuum…Thanks, Mr. Thought), Finnegan decided he didn’t need any couches or beds, because he had our Ikea chair, and he had me to put a pillow under his head.

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So, I thought I had my slice about Finnegan, the crazy Puppy. Oh that puppy!

But then we took Finn to check out a doggy day care out in the country this afternoon. It was beautiful. A classic rolling hills farm:  green grass, blue sky, wonderful people. He ran around with a few dogs while we talked to the owner. The kids ran off with the owner’s kids to look at the kittens in the barn. Finn wasn’t annoyingly interested in the kittens — he just licked them hello and went on his merry way. Bucolic. Peaceful. Perfect.

And then he caught a rooster.

I watched in horror as he chased, then caught it in his mouth. “Oh, it’s just a rooster,” the woman said, highlighting the differences between my vegetarian family and her farm family. “He can kill the rooster.”

We tried to catch Finn, and the rooster did get a way, a few times. And then someone caught Finn, and the rooster walked slowly into the pasture. A pile of feathers was left behind.

“I’m so sorry!” I kept saying. My kids were wide eyed and her kids were smiling, “Oh, it’s okay. it happens all the time.”

“Does this get us kicked out of doggy daycare?” I asked.

She laughed and said, “No! When can he start?”

We met her husband and when I told him we were all vegetarian, he remarked, “Well Finn’s not!”

True. He’s not.

They thought the rooster would probably go off into the woods and die pretty soon.  I think the image of my sweet puppy running with a giant rooster in his mouth will not die soon enough.

Please, Finnegan, stick to killing couches and doggy beds.