Time to Rally #sol17


Good to Great SOL #23

March 23, 2017

let your dreams be bigger than your fears and actions louder than your words. 


I drove home Tuesday exhausted.  Not from the hard work but from a challenge put in front of me. I didn’t handle the challenge well, speak well, or really react well.  I talked it over on the phone with my older son.  I told him I felt stupid.  I can’t remember ever really saying that about myself before now.  He asked me if I was too old or really not smart enough to understand.  Both of those things cut me to the quick.  I wrote yesterday’s post about it.  I didn’t find comfort in any of my comfort routines.  I walked the dog.  I changed my clothes.  I didn’t even want to cook.  I fell asleep in my reading chair at 8:30 p.m. without reading anything.  This isn’t me,  I always rise… or do I?

Students are limited by teacher’s comfort zones.  

If that is true then when I am limited by my comfort zone, the teachers I collaborate with are limited by that discomfort and so are their students.  In other words,  SHAKE IT OFF RIGHT NOW!  I’m a thinker and a planner,  so I’ll avoid a little,  read a lot,  think some more, and then get on with it.  If I am assisting in creating 21st century thinkers, classrooms, learning plans, and environments,  I have to stretch myself.  I have to find my own zone of proximal development and dig in.  My enthusiasm is directly connected to some other humans willingness to give things a go.

So for today,  I’m going to walk the dog, make some dinner, read lots of blogs, and some other things, and I’m not going to be old, or stuck, or even stupid.  I’m going to put on different glasses and view things differently.

As a union organizer I know said, “We should strive to make hope possible instead of despair convincing.”  If you want that in a more global perspective than my little pity party, watch the Black-ish episode called LEMONS.

and lastly,


good to great



Grateful to be part of the Slice of Life Writing Challenge.  Thank you to Two Writing Teachers.  Read some exceptional blogs here.

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the space between #sol17

IMG_8441 (1)The In-Between Space

Thoughts on Change

March 22, 2017

Change is the end result of all true learning- Leo Buscaglia


While the weather could be the space between


snow on the ground and 55 degrees,  

this space between is

The metaphor

that gap you must leap

to change.


Change isn’t always easy

Even for the agents of change


Did i wear the right shoes?

Did i eat lunch?


What will I say next?


The in-between requires


And contemplation

But not too much


the in-between requires


And conviction

And trust


It’s always going to be

A hope

And a leap

in order to write this I changed my 


my boots

and my attitude. 


Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for sponsoring the March Slice of Life Story Challenge.  This is day 22.  Read more here.

Thank you to Clare Landrigan for being a tremendous catalyst for change.  Read her posts here.

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Truth Tuesday: ReWrite Your Job Description #sol17 #day21


inspire-curiosity-fbA Job Description for A New Century 

March 21, 2017

A few weeks ago, something Brian Rozinsky said on his blog,
A Cast of Characters, drew me in.   In his post, he directed us toward some ‘provocative’ videos, one of which was this Ted Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert about  curiosity .  In it, she says that if you don’t have one true passion,  forget about passion,  follow your curiosity.  Every day there is something that you are curious about, follow it. In the same chain, Glennon Doyle Melton explained in  The Most Valuable Thing a Parent Can Do for their Kids,  that perhaps parents have given themselves the wrong job description.

The intersection of these two truths hit me.  That’s what’s happening to some teachers,  they have assigned themselves the wrong job description.  In this job description, they have to be an expert, in charge, the guide, the cheerleader…   It sounds exhausting… and it is.

So what is our collective job description?  I can’t answer that for each of us,

but here is my stab at my one sentence job description.

To inspire curiosity, inquiry, wonder and agency  in those that cross my path through encouragement, questions, and resources.  

My coaching advice today…  follow your curiosity, find purpose, and on this day, rewrite your job description.


Elizabeth Gilbert 

So here’s my weird bit of advice: If you’ve lost your life’s true passion (or if you’re struggling desperately to find passion in the first place), don’t sweat it. Back off for a while. But don’t go idle, either. Just try something different, something you don’t care about so much. Why not try following mere curiosity, with its humble, roundabout magic? At the very least, it will keep you pleasantly distracted while life sorts itself out. At the very most, your curiosity may surprise you. Before you even realize what’s happening, it may have led you safely all the way home.

Dear Two Writing Teachers,  Thank you for assigning Brian Rozinsky to be my guardian angel.  He really, really is.

I am proud to be participating in the Two Writing Teachers 31 Day Slice of Life Story Challenge.  This is day 21.  You can check out some amazing blogs here.

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It’s Not Me, It’s Them #sol17

#IMWAYR  (It’s Monday,  What are You Reading?)

March 20, 2017


Screen Shot 2017-03-19 at 5.11.36 PMFor fans of What Readers Really Do? , you already know that Dorothy Barnhouse is nothing short of amazingly inspiring.  In What Readers Really Do,  Barnhouse taught us to be observers and listeners creating student agency with questions such as “What are you working on?” and “What are you thinking about here?”,  then naming their work in ways that give them power and truth and a foothold.   In  Readers Front and Center, Barnhouse brings us to intentionality, to in-your-face realization of the person doing the work is the one learning.  Through chapter after chapter entitled  Teaching Smarter,  Barnhouse shows us clearly how to do just that.  There is so much that is great here and I’ll be straight, it’s not a straight through kind of read.  Her description of the stairway to text complexity and how we don’t have to use a hard text and a hard task was an idea I go back to again and again, with colleagues, with administrators, with students, and with parents.  

Page 8

“Our students need to become the center of our teaching- not the texts, not the standards, and certainly not the assessments.”  

This isn’t a call to abandon all these things, but to teach in that place that includes them, but gives the standing they are due, behind the student.  

“Let’s think of a pebble through into a pond.  The pebble is the student and the pond is the text.  When that pebble hits the surface of the pond, we see ripples.  That’s the thinking the student is doing as he reads.  By paying attention to those ripples-and doing so by listening to the student-we can get a better understanding of how that text might be complex for that students… As teachers that’s what we need to see- our students interacting with texts.  That’s where our teaching needs to start.”

Our role is to help students take on identities of learners.

To pay attention is our endless and proper work.”  Maxine Greene

For Teachers Who:  Want to build agency,  strengthen conferencing

Screen Shot 2017-03-19 at 4.43.29 PMI also read The Tree Lady during my story arc biography work in fourth grade.   This book tells the story of Kate Sessions, the woman instrumental in establishing the diverse tree population in Balboa Park in San Diego.  It is a visually stunning book with a clear story arc and a repetitive pattern if you wanted to teach into craft moves or structure.  The story itself is amazing and would fit into curriculum studies in biomes, trees,  ecology, botany, or women as leaders.  The students are questioning my constantly choosing books with strong women.  I think it goes without saying what my purpose is.  

Teaching Use:  Mentor text for biography, story arc work, craft moves of repetitive lines



Thank you to Unleashing Readers for the #IMWAYR inspiration.

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for the March Slice of Life Challenge. Read more slices here.


Posted in It's Monday, What are You Reading?, literacy, reading instruction, Slice of Life #SOL17 | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Forever is Composed of Nows #sol17

I loved this post format from Kristy at Midwest Heart in Dixie  so here’s my spin. xo

Forever is composed of nows-  Emily Dickinson


March 19, 2017

Watching: Legion(and rewatching to understand), Martha Bakes,  America’s Test Kitchen,             Treehouse Masters, The Middle(not sure why),  Big Bang Theory, and the sunrise

Listening: My George Winston and Bob James/Earl Klugh shuffle list on Pandora, to the Yarn       podcast, Quiet Leadership on Hoopla and to my colleagues

AppreciatingMy husband, time, and the view from here

LovingFriday evening date night,  on-demand,  online reading, 7:30 am meetings and this whole                    blogging thing

DrinkingSauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, COFFEE,  Coke Zero, and water

Wishingmy view included permanent warmth, sunshine, and spectacular sunsets along with       sand between my toes and for a upstanding woman president

Planning: Units of Study, demonstration lessons, what to bake for Monday, to enjoy today

ReadingReaders Front and Center,  Picture book Biographies (The Tree Lady) Thinking Fast and Slow, Calkins Units of Study in Reading/Writing,  lots of blogs,  along with 600 books on                   my to read list…

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers along with the March Challenge blogging community for encouragement and inspiration.  Read more blogs here.

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The view from here #sol17

Perspective Taking

March 18, 2017

wait a minute



take another look

perhaps from another angle

now I see

the view from here
In my haste and preoccupation yesterday morning,  I caught a glimpse of the sunrise through our kitchen window.  As I continued my morning routine,  I saw it next slightly redder and more magnificent through our bedroom window.  Then,  as I was going to the garage,  I caught my last look from another perspective.  I don’t have one little word for this year but if I did, it would be linger.  Lingering changes our perspective, our goals, our inner gyroscope.  Apply liberally- sk  




Words cannot express my gratitude to the Two Writing Teachers and the amazing community of bloggers that are encouraging my journey.  Read more here.





Posted in Slice of Life #SOL17 | 16 Comments

Does Anybody Know What Time it Is? #sol17

9507Someone asked me today if I kept a timesheet.  I hope I answered graciously,  no, you’re just going to have to trust me.  This  made me think about what it might look like.  

TimeSheet for March 16

4:45 What day is it? What meetings do I have? what lessons?  What students? 


5:15  Home routine and mental day check of students, teachers, lessons

6:00    Social media and coffee

6:30   Post blog

6:45   Sherpa time  bagel, coffee, water, two bags of books, lunch in hand, sort of,  leave for work

6:47   Darn!  realize it’s garbage day.  Go in the house get garbage and leave

6:50-7:10   Commute drive to work,  listen to NPR,  think about lessons, teachers, students,                                          paperwork, future blog posts, and crazy drivers

7:15       Head in the game: plug in laptop, turn on lights, make two anchor charts,  write                              stickies for said  anchor charts,  empty bags, sign on to network,  take two sips of                                     coffee, head to  coaching meeting

7:30-8      Collaboration:  Meet with my Thursday morning teacher regarding student                                            progress, curriculum plans, resources, yesterday’s professional development,                                            master  teacher program, mindset for learning

8:00-8:15    LOOK she’s in her room!  Talk to 3-4 drop in teachers about progress                                                     monitoring, book resources,  lessons, student concerns, and… prep for a                                                       meeting at 8:20

8:17            Stop by the copier on my way to the meeting to get benchmark charts, say                                                   good morning to secretaries

8:20-9:10    Meet with parents, psychologist, classroom teacher, evaluation team leader                                              and principal to coordinate plan for student learning

9:10-9:30     2nd grade intervention group;  4 students, book bags, ideas, oral reading,                                                   progress tracking, celebrating, informational reading

9:30-9:50     2nd grade intervention group; 3 students, book bags, ideas, information                                                     reading, sharing, oral reading, celebration, tracking progress

9:50-10:15   Focus lesson in third grade:  Winn Dixie,  Opal Big hearted, text evidence,                                             journal writing, web creating, long writing, interaction

10:15-11     student conferring, book talking, idea sharing, teacher coaching, voice overing

11-11:10     read email, hall conferences with 3-5 people

11:15-12:15   Focus lesson in fourth grade, biography mapping, Malala explaining,                                                   story arc adjusting, video discussing, conversation facilitating,  on fly planning

12:15-12:30   Reading: Check email, read 2 biographies

12:30-12:45    Reading time with third grade;  check in, get ready for lunch

12:45-1:30      Get ‘er done: Print reports, look for video, answer emails, write two goals                                                 sheets, email them

1:30                Might be Lunch Heat up coffee,  eat a sandwich while printing and reading

1:40-2             Third grade group:  Stories Julian Tells; so, what’s up with that? Oral                                                        reading, fluency charting; one student missing in action?

2-2:10             Collaboration:  Meet with teacher about goals for students

2:10-2:40       Witness preassessment  Seesaw mash up with two third grades                                                               regarding American Revolution  take Twitter pictures; discuss hand raising,                                           remind student I can’t wait to discuss her google slides

2:45-3:00       Bus Duty;  wrangling;  bonding; wondering

3:00-3:30       Random discussions and meet ups with guidance counselor, psychologist,                                        and evaluation team leader about reports, progress, and meetings

3:30-4          Meet with teacher about her observation lesson tomorrow; wondering,                                                    encourage, discuss

4:00          Minutiae  Print reports, email reports, send plan for tomorrow to classroom teacher,                                tweet photos of day; straighten books, desk, pick up printing. drop by a class,                                             admire teaching, talk about weather to custodian


4:50          Early Release:  take home only one big bag full  


Posted in Slice of Life #SOL17 | 5 Comments

Call on Me… Please #sol17

28f9b38ff1b5c09afb557ff77fd38b06Raised Hand SoapBox

March 16, 2017

I want to get something off my chest.  I am on a mission to stop making student raise their hands to talk.  Once I was subtle about it.  I would go and teach a lesson in a class or facilitate a conversation and I just wouldn’t have the students raise their hands.  We would just start talking and that would be that.  Then I moved to a possibly more creative position.  The students would turn and talk to each other,  I would say things I heard (and didn’t hear) them say and then I moved on.  

I guess I knew I was on this soapbox, but it started to become clearer to me this year.

In classrooms,  I noticed who raised their hands… and who was called on.  Honestly, no matter how “fair” you think this is,  the same students are raising their hands… and the same students are being called on.  What’s happening to all of the other students?  I have a theory.  Some of them are checked out.  Some would NEVER raise their hands and have everyone look at them and evaluate what they are saying.  Some do that super stretch accompanied by an “oooh,  oooh,  I know, I know,”  which makes you not want to call on them.  Some of them need more time.  

Ladies and Gentleman, time, as they say,  is on our side.  We can ask some thinking question,  have the students turn and talk to each other,  insert ourselves in conversations that are stalling or going off track, and as if by magic,  every single student’s thoughts spilled out of their heads and were tried on someone else.

One teacher said to me,  oh, no,  it works great when you do it,  but it would get totally out of hand if I did it.  

Me:  In what way?

Teacher:  Everyone would be talking at once.

Me: and?

You see where this is going.  I am a zealot.  In no business meeting ever, except our staff meeting which I am also going to work on,  do adults raise their hand to speak.  If we have empathy and respect, we can manage this.  

What’s so great about not raising hands to speak?  Everyone is speaking, everyone is listening.  Everyone articulates their thinking.  It prevents “volcano mouth.” It gives everyone some processing time.  And wait for it,  this is the money shot,  all that happens in the same amount of time as the teacher calling on ONE INDIVIDUAL student.  Just saying…



Amazingly, to myself, I’ve made it halfway!

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for the March Slice of Life Challenge.

Read more slices here.



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Reading Biographies with a New Lens #sol17


IMG_8271Reading Biographies with a New Lens

March 15, 2017

The fourth graders are reading biography this month.  What should a competent reader of biography know and do?  As Dorothy Barnhouse writes in Readers Front and Center,  the classroom is the place where we teach students how to read, not what to read.  All understanding about reading seems to stem from noticing and naming.  So what to notice and what to name?


Biographies consist of a classic story arc positioned on a historical significant timeline which defines the person.  Splitting the focus lessons into those components, first story arc understanding, followed by character traits, significance of biography subject, main idea, and details related to the historic context.  Laying a flexible design on our outline, we planned to started with an assisted lesson on applying story elements to the story of Ruby Bridges.  Rethinking text Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 7.17.17 PMcomplexity as outlined by Barnhouse,  more complex tasks/simpler texts.



A short video about Ruby Bridges Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 7.36.55 PMprovided an auditory scaffold to the
learning.  Using a Newsela article about Ruby Bridges,  the class investigated the story elements of Ruby Bridges life.  Checking for understanding, the next day featured a review of the first day’s work using the story arc graphic.  Even simple visuals can pack a powerful punch.


Reviewing the elements of the story arc, the students were given a laminated story arc template, a Newsela article about Malala Yousafzai.  Work was structured in teams with IMG_8272completion including  applying elements of the story arc: rising action, climax/turning point, falling action, and resolution to the story.  In the organization of the Newsela articles, a synopsis is included in the beginning of the article with no introduction.  Setting up texts as problems to be solved develops agency and critical thinking in students.  


Criteria for evaluation included students abilities to articulate the story elements in their foursomes and understanding the story structure.  IMG_8274

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for the March Slice of Life Challenge. Read more slices here.

Thank you to Melissa Quimby, @QuimbysClass,  fourth grade teacher, for continuing to develop curriculum through experimentation with me.

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Requiem to A Bright Bright Light #sol17

home_bg1.gifRequiem to The Most Hopeful Spirit I’ve Ever Met

March 14, 2017

“People are just dying everywhere, all the time, every which way,” she wrote. “What can the rest of us do but hold on for dear life.”

Amy Krouse Rosenthal


A 1-2-3 Project for MissAmyKR





I thank you for that random day in the earlier 2000’s that I met you in Chicago and you shine that effervescent smile and encouraged me to press on,  to write, and to be an optimist.  

I thank you for The WONDER book, and the Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, and Duck Rabbit.

I thank you for everything and everyone that you left behind better for reading, knowing, and admiring you.  



A huge Thank You to Two Writing Teachers for your vision, your encouragement, and 30 days of writing.



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