Posted in 2017, Classroom, Reflection, Slice of Life

#SOL17 What Was Missing

The day began with 40 of us standing on the sidewalk in the bright morning sunshine. Some of us were old friends, some acquaintances, some new faces. But every single one of us knew, as evidenced by the excited chatter and anxious looks on faces, that today was the beginning of something special. Today was our first day together on our journey to become a new family and open the doors of our brand new school.

Our principal stepped to the front of the crowd and explained what was in place and what will be coming. And then, just like that, the doors were opened and we walked into the building for the first time.

To say we were impressed would be an understatement. The smells of fresh paint and newly laid carpet filled the halls. Each classroom was perfect, filled with new, modern furniture and more storage than one can even dream of having. Bright colors filled the halls.

I stood in my new classroom, taking in all of the newness, all of the potential, and all of the excitement. I quickly snapped a few pictures before we moved on, something to hold onto until it’s time to begin moving my own things in.


We toured the whole building that day: the art room filled with light, the enormous gymnasium with its gleaming wood floors, the skeletal framework of a future playground.

But for every single one of the amenities and all of the promises the new school held, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing.

That night, when I told my own kids that I had seen the new school, my son requested to see the pictures of where he will attend kindergarten this fall. I scrolled through my phone, showing them the rug and the tables and the bookshelves.

“But….that’s not a classroom!” my 5-year-old son protested, flipping through the pictures once again.

“Of course it is!” I replied. “See? There are bookshelves, and tables, and a rug…”

“But, Mommy,” he said, “How is it a classroom? It’s missing all the kids!”

And there it was: the truth I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Even with state-of-the art facilities and a staff of teachers who can’t wait to move in and set up our new classrooms, it just isn’t quite a school just yet.

A school doesn’t become a school until it is filled with children. And I can’t wait to be there in August when they arrive!


I’m excited to join other writers every Tuesday (and daily during the month of March) in 2017 to participate in the Slice of Life writing challenge through Two Writing Teachers. Read all about how you can Write. Share. Give. on their website here.

slice-of-life_individual

I’m excited to join other writers every Tuesday (and daily during the month of March) in 2017 to participate in the Slice of Life writing challenge through Two Writing Teachers. Read all about how you can Write. Share. Give. on their website here.

slice-of-life_individual

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Posted in 2017, Slice of Life, Summer

#SOL17 Vacation Countdown

I awoke just a few minutes after 6:00 last Thursday morning, the second of our three cancelled school days due to flooding, to a whisper directly in my right ear, “Are we going to take my ba-jammies on vacation, Mommy?” I assured her that we would not forget to pack her pajamas.

On Friday, she asked where our dog will stay while we’re gone. I promised her he’ll have a great time relaxing with Grandma and Grandpa.

This morning her teachers asked me about vacation at drop-off, telling me that she’s been chattering nonstop about a pool and a beach. She confirmed this story tonight while I relayed it to my husband, adding that she’s also told all of her 3-year-old friends.

Maybe you shouldn’t have told her you’re going, my mom commented.

She’s going to drive us crazy, my husband warned.

True, I admitted to each of them. True.

But, even though the end of June is awfully far away, isn’t half the fun of vacation the time you get to spend looking forward to it?


I’m excited to join other writers every Tuesday (and daily during the month of March) in 2017 to participate in the Slice of Life writing challenge through Two Writing Teachers. Read all about how you can Write. Share. Give. on their website here.

slice-of-life_individual

Posted in 2017, Slice of Life

#SOL17 An Unexpected Decision

Today was a beautiful day. Sunny with light fluffy clouds that floated across a bright blue sky. A cool breeze and high temperatures that barely hit 70.

Anyone watching our kids run freely across the playground at recess would have been shocked by the calls and texts and emails that lit up our phones right before dismissal.

All of our schools will be closed tomorrow.

Torrential rains over the weekend have caused our rivers to overflow, rising high above flood stage and displacing thousands of people. Homes have been destroyed. Neighborhoods are cut off completely. Major interstates are closed. People have been told by authorities to choose a side of the river before going to bed tonight because they will be stuck there for the foreseeable future. Some of our students and many staff members live on the opposite side of the flooded river, leaving us too short on staff to operate.

As teachers, we learn to expect the unexpected. However, never in my fourteen years of teaching would I have ever predicted I would be spending a day at home in May, waiting for “historical and unprecedented” flood waters to recede.

Posted in 2017, Classroom, Literacy, Reading, Reflection, Slice of Life

#SOL17 It Matters To Be a Teacher Who Reads

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I have been a voracious reader as long as I can remember. My childhood memories are full of long and happy hours spent with Clifford the Big Red Dog, my friends in the Babysitters’ Club, and everyone’s favorite female sleuth in practical pumps, Nancy Drew. Middle school was spent living through the terrors on R.L Stine’s Fear Street, followed by a graduation to the true horror of Stephen King in high school. Quite simply, I can’t remember a time when there hasn’t been a book on my nightstand.

As I started teaching, I would have told you I brought my love for books into the classroom. I filled my classroom library with fantastic reads, both new and classic–or, at least, I was told they were fantastic. Some I read as read alouds; others I skimmed to prepare for working with book clubs. But way too many of the amazing books on my shelves were never opened by me–and, therefore, never opened by my students.

Fast forward to two summers ago. After eight years in the classroom and four years as an instructional coach, I thought I had everything figured out. I loved literacy and everything related to reading and writing. I felt confident in my knowledge of good instructional practices. I had a shelf overflowing with amazing professional books and was regularly leading professional development around literacy.

But then I attended the ILA conference and the world shifted. As I sat there, immersed in literacy for four days, the margins of my notebook quickly filled with title after title of outstanding books. Someone handed me a copy of The One and Only Ivan. And I began to really read for the first time in a long time.

I spent the rest of that summer reading middle grade and YA novels, then continued throughout that school year. Last summer I participated in Donalyn Miller’s summer #Bookaday challenge, the stack of books on my nightstand constantly threatening to tip over. I signed up for the selection committee for our state’s book awards and subscribed to the Nerdy Book Club blog for regular updates of new and upcoming titles. I read books that made me laugh, books that have made me ugly cry, and books that have taken me completely out of my reading comfort zone. I have held my breath as Peter and Pax tried to find their way back to each other and mourned Ms. Bixby. Over the past two years, I have transformed myself into a model of the kind of reader I want my students to become.

And, I learned very quickly, it matters.

It matters because of the student who had a copy of Raina Telgemeier’s Sisters on her desk whose face lit up when I asked her if she’d also read Smile.

It matters because of the fourth grader who visits my office to chat with me about Charlotte’s Web.

It matters because of the first grader who stopped and talked to me about our favorite Dog Man book in the hallway yesterday afternoon.

It matters because of the fifth grader who raised his hand to get my attention during standardized testing last week because he wanted to tell me he started reading The Honorable Perry T. Cook after I read a chapter aloud in his classroom several weeks ago.

It matters because of the third graders who showed up at my office door to borrow Fenway and Hattie after I shared a chapter with their class.

It matters because of the teacher who asked to borrow Pax for a class read aloud after I used an excerpt in a training.

And it matters for my own children, who I can only hope are someday inspired by teachers who love to read, too.

Note: Just as I prepared to hit publish on this post, this fantastic piece by Pernille Ripp popped up in my inbox with some outstanding ideas on how to be a reading role model!


I’m excited to join other writers every Tuesday (and daily during the month of March) in 2017 to participate in the Slice of Life writing challenge through Two Writing Teachers. Read all about how you can Write. Share. Give. on their website here.

slice-of-life_individual

Posted in 2017, Literacy, Reflection, Slice of Life, Writing

#SOL17 Stuck

After writing every day in the March challenge, I thought writing was getting easier.  But today…I’m stuck.

I want to write about my mom’s 60th birthday today and about all of the wonderful things she has done for me. I want to share my most precious memories and all of the ways I am thankful for having her in my life. But the words just won’t come.

I want to capture all of the precious Easter memories from yesterday, the looks of joy on my kids’ faces as they saw their Easter baskets and hunted for eggs and proclaimed the day to be “the BEST Easter ever.” But I just can’t put all of that into writing tonight.

I keep trying to sketch out the moment when my daughter, hands covered in melted chocolate Easter egg, decided to paint Simba on the inside of our car window “just like that monkey did in the Lion King.” But I just can’t seem to recreate that moment.

I wish I could reflect upon the testing that begins at school tomorrow, the hours of rehearsal and practice and tension and build up over the past weeks. But I don’t know what I would say.

Tonight I am just stuck. Maybe tomorrow will bring the right words my way.


I’m excited to join other writers every Tuesday (and daily during the month of March) in 2017 to participate in the Slice of Life writing challenge through Two Writing Teachers. Read all about how you can Write. Share. Give. on their website here.
slice-of-life_individual

Posted in 2017, Reflection, Slice of Life

#SOL17 Dandelions

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I came home from class the other night to a gift. On the kitchen counter, neatly wrapped in a damp paper towel, were two vibrant yellow dandelions, collected for me by the kids during their evening walk with Daddy.

Today as I picked them up from school, my daughter glowed as she pulled another wilted dandelion from her cubby. Holding it up with pride, she practically exploded as she told me, “Look, Mommy! I picked it for you on the playground today and I putted it in some water but it broke. Do you love it?” I, of course, told her I did.

The gifts of dandelions from my kids are countless. On walks. As we get in the car. At the park. On the soccer field. There is no shortage of dandelions this season.

To most people, dandelions are just weeds. A nuisance.

But to me, they are a precious gift from my children. Beautiful. Selfless.

Imagine if…
My face didn’t light up when one of my kids picked one just for me.
I told them it was just a weed.
I compared it to other, more beautiful, flowers.

Years from now, my son and daughter might not remember what kind of flowers they picked for me. But they will surely remember how I received their gifts with open arms, a smile, and a thank you. They will remember that I saw their generosity, their love, and the effort they put into doing something special for their Mommy. And maybe, if I’m lucky, they will always be able to look at dandelions and see a thing of beauty.


I’m excited to join other writers every Tuesday (and daily during the month of March) in 2017 to participate in the Slice of Life writing challenge through Two Writing Teachers. Read all about how you can Write. Share. Give. on their website here.
slice-of-life_individual

Posted in 2017, Classroom, Literacy, Reflection, Slice of Life, Writing

#SOL17 Day 31: 31 Lessons in 31 Days (Part 2)

This is the third year I’ve participated in the March Slice of Life Challenge through the Two Writing Teachers, and I can’t believe what a powerful month it has been each time. As I sit here and reflect on what this month has meant, what I’ve learned, and how I hope it has changed me as a writer and teacher going forward, I’m going to spend the last two days reflecting on the 31 most important things I’ve learned by participating.

  1. You have to be forgiving of yourself when you don’t write. Just like any good habit, it Image result for finish line beginning of whole new racewon’t always happen. Life gets busy. I’m committing to continuing my writing, but I also know that I will only stick with this commitment if I learn to forgive myself during the busy times when I can’t always squeeze it in. Each day is a new opportunity to write–even if you didn’t yesterday.
  2. Writing is always a work in progressFor years we have used the Units of Study mantra “When you think you’re done, you’ve just begun.” Living as a writer has shown me just how true this is.
  3. Technology has taken writing to a whole new level. Without blogging and Twitter and Two Writing Teachers, I might never have found the right tools and forum to have the courage to write and share my work. Technology connects us in powerful ways. We can’t forget that.
  4. Incentives are great, but the prize is the writing. I love how TWT includes little challenges along the way to push our thinking and help us connect even more. But there’s no disappointment or discouragement if a prize isn’t part of the experience. My reward is the work I’ve done and the things I’ve learned along the way.
  5. Writing makes you a better reader. We know, of course, that the opposite is true–the more you read, the better you write. But I have also begun to notice over the past few weeks that I’m noticing the craft of the writing in the books I’m reading more than ever before. (This makes me think about cooking–how much better things taste when you know the effort and love that went into creating them.)
  6. Writing captures who we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re hoping to go. My writing this year isn’t like the writing I did last year. My writing next year will not be the same as the writing I’m doing now. Our lives change, we grow, and our writing lives on as a snapshot of our current reality.
  7. Developing myself as a writer will make me a better teacher of writing. I look forward to sharing with my students the power of being a writer myself, the challenges, and how I work to overcome struggles.
  8. Writing isn’t just something you do, it’s something you areI’ve always considered myself a teacher who gets to teach reading and writing. Now I love thinking about myself as a writer who gets to teach children how to write, too.
  9. Each new piece of writing is a blank slate. It doesn’t matter if the last piece of writing was prolific or if it was a tremendous flop. Every time I click the ‘Write’ button to start a new piece is a fresh beginning with endless options.
  10. Powerful messages aren’t always told with words. Some of my favorite posts this month that I have read have included powerful images. I have to constantly remind myself of the power of visual media and work on thinking of ways to incorporate this more into my own work.
  11. Writers support each other. Even more than just an audience, the other writers this month have formed a support system. I can’t forget that in my classroom–there is just something so powerful about knowing there are people out there who are waiting to read your work and willing to be your cheerleaders.
  12. Goals don’t have to be shared to be transformative. I’ve kept pretty quiet about this challenge to my family and friends. I haven’t talked a lot about making myself write every day for 31 days. At one time I think I kept it to myself because I was afraid of not making it to the end, but I really think it’s because this goal was so personal that I didn’t need a push from anyone else to help me achieve it. I completely owned this goal.
  13. It is so important to share the power of writing. For the past two years, I have tried this challenge alone and have been afraid to share with the people around me that I was doing it. Part of me was a little intimidated that someone I know might read my work, and part of me was worried that the people I shared it with would think I was crazy for wanting to take something like this on. This year, however, two of my teaching friends–a classroom teacher and our instructional technology coach–have tried the challenge with me, and I have loved sharing this experience with them. I can only hope that more people will join us next year!
  14. Sometimes you have to take the time to look back at how far you have come as a writer. Participating in this challenge for three years means that I have hit publish 63 times (plus a few here and there as I’ve done the Tuesday challenge). As I sit back and reread my very first post from 2015, I can see how much more confident I am, how much more committed I am, and how much writing has come to mean to me.
  15. I am a writer. I could easily say I’m too busy to write. I have two small children and a husband at home. I’m finishing my doctorate. I’m returning to the classroom. I lead PD after school. My kids have activities almost every afternoon and on the weekends. But in spite of all of that, I have made writing every day for the past month work somehow. And there’s no reason at all to think I can’t continue to write regularly. After all, not only am I a mother and a wife and a student and a teacher . . . I’m a writer.

I’m excited to join other writers every Tuesday (and daily during the month of March) in 2017 to participate in the Slice of Life writing challenge through Two Writing Teachers. Read all about how you can Write. Share. Give. on their website here.
    slice-of-life_individual     

Posted in 2017, Literacy, Reflection, Slice of Life, Writing

#SOL17 Day 30: 31 Lessons in 31 Days (Part 1)

This is the third year I’ve participated in the March Slice of Life Challenge through the Two Writing Teachers, and I can’t believe what a powerful month it has been each time. As I sit here and reflect on what this month has meant, what I’ve learned, and how I hope it has changed me as a writer and teacher going forward, I’m going to spend the last two days reflecting on the 31 most important things I’ve learned by participating.

  1. Audience matters. Knowing that someone would read my writing every day was really important to me. I have thrived on comments from strangers, friends, and colleagues over the past month, and greatly appreciate everyone who took the time to read my work.
  2. Writing helps you learn about yourself. Unfortunately, time to really sit down and reflect is rare in the busy lives we lead. By setting aside protected time over the past month to blog every day, I have had time to really examine my beliefs, my worries, and my philosophies on teaching and life.
  3. Writing helps you learn about othersSome of the other writers in this challenge were strangers. Some were colleagues and friends. I learned something from and about every single one of them.
  4. Not all writing is your best writing. Spring Break fell right in the middle of this challenge for me, and I must admit that some of the writing I did during this “down” time was not the best writing I did during the month. However, no matter what, each piece developed a little something in me as a writer that wouldn’t have happened if I wouldn’t have stuck with it.
  5. Writing is about pushing yourself to try new strategies. I’m not the same writer I was at the beginning of the month. I have tried different formats and thought about things I never would have explored before this year’s challenge started.
  6. Revision really is important. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m kind of an “I’m done” sort of person. As much as I like to read, I don’t often reread books. When writing papers or doing work for class, I’m more likely to hit ‘Submit’ than to look back over it with a fine tooth comb. But I’ve gotten into the habit of revision this month more than ever before and started becoming a writer who can’t reread any of my own work without thinking of a little something I want to change or improve.
  7. Writing comes from the heart. The pieces that mean the most to me this month weren’t driven by what was on my mind but by what was in my heart.
  8. Everyone is a writer–but some people don’t know it yet. I’ve seen many different blogs from many different people from many different positions and places in life, and am amazed at the growth and insight people can gain from just a month of taking a risk and trying tImage result for writing quoteshis challenge. Myself included.
  9. Inspiration is everywhere. I was inspired this month by other blogs, by the books I was reading, by things happening at school, and by my own family and experiences. All you really need to do to find inspiration is look around you and look within.
  10. The best inspiration is from unexpected places. This month I’ve taken time to write about Breakout Edu in kindergarten, my grandpa, Lucy Calkins, and all of the changes taking place at my school. Each of these posts was inspired by something happening in my life at that moment.
  11. Writing is truly “living with your eyes wide open.” As I’ve looked around me over the past month, everything has seemed a little bit different. Sharper. Stronger. Worthy of being captured with words.
  12. Writing is healing. The changes taking place right now at my school are ongoing and won’t be settled for several months. I’ll never stop missing my grandparents or wishing my kids would stop growing up so quickly. Writing about each of these things has helped me embrace all of the things going on in my life.
  13. You have to find your own writing habits. After doing this for three years, I know now that I love to write late at night and always make sure to stay about a day ahead of the challenge.
  14. You are your own writer. Yes, we study mentor texts. Yes, we borrow ideas and formats from other people. But every writer is unique. No two writers could ever create the same piece of writing in the exact same way. That’s the beauty of writing.
  15. Once you start letting them in, some ideas that just won’t leave you alone. The day after I attended the Lucy Calkins workshop, I couldn’t get the things I wanted to write off my mind. I thought about it from the moment I opened my eyes that morning until the moment I hit publish.
  16. You don’t have to know where you will end up before you start. Many times this month I started with a seed, a little idea that inspired me. Some days I just sat down and began writing and let the words take me where I needed to go.

To be continued tomorrow as we cross the March Finish Line….


I’m excited to join other writers every Tuesday (and daily during the month of March) in 2017 to participate in the Slice of Life writing challenge through Two Writing Teachers. Read all about how you can Write. Share. Give. on their website here.
    slice-of-life_individual     

Posted in 2017, Family, Reflection, Slice of Life

#SOL17 Day 29: Grinched

My daughter, at barely past her third birthday, has a vocabulary that absolutely blows me away. Maybe it’s because we’ve read to her (a lot). Maybe it’s because she tries to keep up with her older brother (always). Or maybe it’s just who she is (most likely, especially since this theory is backed up with videos of her jabbering in her bassinet at barely 4 weeks old). Whatever the reason may be, my daughter loves to talk.

Even though she thrives on learning new words (some of which I wonder where she even heard them), they don’t always come out just right yet. As we walked the streets of Chicago last week after our visit to the Field Museum, she made all of us slowly repeat “tri-cera-POPS” over and over with her as she worked this word into her vocabulary.

She also has a few special words that she has consistently given an extra syllable. At the zoo, she insists on seeing the “elephanants.” She’s also a big fan of “dolphinants.”

But sometimes she just mispronounces a word completely,

Although she’s been out of diapers for going on a year, she still occasionally has an accident during the night. She woke me up two nights ago at 2:30 in the morning, a soft little, “Mommy?” drifting into my room as I tried to catch a few hours of sleep before our return to school from Spring Break.

As soon as I went into her room, I knew that her bed was soaked. I got my husband up to change the sheets while I gathered her up and grabbed some clean pajamas. I took her in the bathroom, both of us still half asleep, and tried to get her changed as quickly as possible.

All of a sudden, she looked at me with her big sleepy brown eyes and asked (quite pitifully), “Mommy, how did I get all grinched? My clothes are just grinched!”

I couldn’t help it–I had to smile. Sensing my amusement, her giggles kicked in, too. In spite of being grinched and losing a few minutes of precious sleep, suddenly our time together during the night didn’t seem so bad.

Even though she’s learning so many new words every day, it’s the ones she makes her own that I cherish the most. She is a constant reminder to listen closely–you never know what treasures you might hear.


I’m excited to join other writers every Tuesday (and daily during the month of March) in 2017 to participate in the Slice of Life writing challenge through Two Writing Teachers. Read all about how you can Write. Share. Give. on their website here.
    slice-of-life_individual