Fall Down Seven Times, Get up Eight #sol18

download-5.jpgFall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight #sol18

March 20, 2018

Passing by in the hallway, my colleague says,  How’s your day goingTerrible,  I say.  Relief crosses her face.  Really?  Me too!  I just didn’t want to admit it.  Four snow days in five school days has made a Friday feel like three days. But sometimes, it’s more than that.  Sometimes teachers feel like they have run off the road into the weeds.

There are times when great teachers,  good teachers,  teachers teaching out there on the very edge of the proverbial frontier  feel  deep in their bones,  their gut,  their core  that they are getting it wrong.  So what?   Wait, what???

If we are going to get it right with a capital R, we have to be willing to get it really terribly wrong.   It’s all a huge experiment… or a small experiment and we have to be willing to have it… well,  fizzle.  That is so rough.  So many things come into play. Who we think is watching?  Who we think is judging?  Everything we feel about failure ourselves.

Epic tries occasionally produce epic(ish) fails.  It can be difficult to go back to the mats, start over step by step.  But the payoff… it’s so rich.

One of the things that happens when we never fail is that the kiddos believe that failure is not an option.  When we struggle with the lesson,  with the timing,  with our own words,  the students know that everyone does.  When we flat out say,  wow,  we need a redo,  kids feel that giving something another go is a viable option.

10,000 hours, Malcolm Gladwell, in Outliers, claims it takes to become a master of ONE PARTICULAR THING.   See more about it here.  That is approximately ten years.  The thing about the job of an educator is that we are constantly shifting what the target is.  We are changing curriculum at a break neck speed, adapting to all around us:  new students, new materials, new challenges.  One of my colleagues equates this to rebuilding the plane in flight.  Speaking of flight,  I have also heard the factoid that teachers make more decision per day than an air traffic controller, arguably one of the most stressful jobs.

Knowing all of this,  feeling this way (sometimes),  what do we do?  We do what we encourage our students to do when things don’t go well.  We keep going,  we try again, we persevere.  We rethink, review, retry.  Just like my heroes,  Lewis and Clark,  we proceed on.

I think about the teacher, the coach, the educator that I want to be.  After thirty seven year, I’m still a work in progress.  I hope I never stop being one.

Sometimes these feelings are a result of the season, the testing, lots of meetings, snow days.  Sometimes they happen when we are trying something new, challenging, daunting.  You know that saying,  more is caught that taught.  Catch me struggling.  Catch me striving.  Catch me when my reach is exceeding my grasp.


Reading Food for Thought:  A Mindset for Learning

Fall Down 7 Times, Get Up 8



Thank you to my writing community at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life.  This is day 20 of a 31 day writing streak in the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  Read some incredible Slices here.


OK #sol18

images.jpgOk  #sol18

March 19, 2018

I stare into the mirror brushing mascara across my lashes, not really seeing. My mind scrolling through the day: emails composing across my eyes, conversations practiced, list created, blogs realized. I hear him in the kitchen and then the hallway and then near the bathroom door.

Ok, he says.

I focus in the mirror, but he’s not there in the image.
Ok, I say.

Ok.  Just two letters but so much meaning.  Meaning built over 38 years together.  It says,  you’ve got this. It says, I’m with you.  It says, start fresh.  It says you look beautiful today.  All in short hand.   It says everything needed at any given moment.   OK?

img_1716-1This is blog post 105 for @readingteachsu.  I published my 100th post last Wednesday.  This is slice  18 of the 31 day Slice of Life Story Challenge.  View some wonderful slices every day in March and every Tuesday year round at Two Writing Teachers.


Checking the Back Seat #sol18


    1. Checking the Backseat #sol18

March 18, 2018

One extremely busy day a few weeks ago, I had seriously overcommitted my time, my talent, and my resources. I was at the edge of my proverbial pier. 6:30 a.m., having gotten up to make some baked good for today’s meeting. Packing our lunches, planning for dinner, making coffee. Wait, do I have my phone?  I rush to the car,  pull out of the drive, head down the street.  When I get to nearly half way,  it occurs to me,  those cookies are not in the back seat.  I have to have those cookies.  That’s my thing.  Treats for meetings.  I pulled over the car.  During my commute.  There really wasn’t time to go back.  Whatever the outcome,  there or not,  I would still have to continue on.   And yet,  there they were.  Plain as Life.   Waiting there in the backseat.

When I first wrote down this story,  I thought it was a lesson in noticing, in being present.  Now, weeks later as I write it down,  the lesson has changed for me.  From the end, here it is plain as life.  The thing we need is often waiting there in the backseat,  in the brain spinning rush, we forget to look in the obvious place, our own reserve, the skills we carry.  Quick to dismiss them as inadequate,  we search for a bigger, mightier something.  In coaching,  we show up,  we have a plan or a halfway plan,  we start with How’s it going? and then… we have to repack the bags, stop halfway,  check the backseat.  In the quiet planning,  in the preparation,  we remember what our thing is,  but in the fray,  sometimes we forget.  Notice the forgetting.  Pull over the car.  Check in the backseat.  It’s there.  It’s always there.  If it’s not,  we continue on.


img_1716-1Writing as part of the 31 day Slice of Life Story Challenge.  Check out some amazing stories at Two Writing Teachers.


Rock in my Shoe #sol18

Rock in My Shoe #sol18

March 17, 2018

I click off the television via the remote between us. The house is silent then. I can hear the clock in the kitchen’s rhythmic ticking. It’s so dark. Potential blog post run across my consciousness like oranges on a conveyor belt. That might work, what would come next, too personal, possibly. A cold nose touches my face. It’s not time yet. I look at the clock. 5:00am. I put my feet on the cold floor. Every part of me protests. The two of us head out into the dark. In the predawn, we know the route. It’s a good thing because my mind is stuck in yesterday, replaying and replaying. I shake my head. Think of blog posts, think of recipes, think of grocery lists. No, that doesn’t work, it’s still there. My grandmother used to say you’ve got something stuck in your craw. I do. It’s lodged in there tight like a rock in my shoe. She senses the shift as if I am actually limping. I consider all the would, should, coulds. Why? They aren’t going to do anything now. Next time… I think. Next time. But next time, I’ll still lead with my heart and my enthusiasm. I will still think, you’re with me, right? I’ll be fully me. It would be easier if everyone else spoke fluent Susan. However, that is not the case. We turn around and head home. Gentle brown eyes look up at me as if to say. Just keep moving forward. That rock twinges, but we press on.

Deep. Moisturizing #sol18

Deep. Moisturizing. #sol18

March 16, 2018




deep moisturizing.

deep conditioning.

deep worries.


Lion’s share.


Shared worries.


Review moments.

Renew hope.

Release worries.


So much poetry in our slicing community inspiring us all. Today I’m considering Alice Nine’s pitchforks in a very lean way. I’m also considering Claire Landrigan’s post about worry.



This is Day 16 of 31 of the 31 day Slice of Life Story Challenge.  Be inspired at Two Writing Teachers.



Shared Worry. #sol18

download-4Shared Worry. #sol18

March 15, 2018

In the dim light of my desk lamp,  I scan over my notes from the last time we met.  I consider what’s happened so far this week and since we last met.  I think about the unit their on. I wonder about things that have gone wrong and glimpses of what has gone really well.  I think about the sandwich.*

The clock above my desk clicks onto 7:30.  I gather up my conferring notebook, my phone, my pencil, and my coffee and scurry down the hall toward her room.  She’s waiting.

I can see her notebook open on her desk, writers’ notebooks, books, the units of study.  I scan the empty desks on my way over, glancing up to smile at her and say good morning.   I put down my coffee,  my notebooks, my phone.  I get down a stool from her counter and sit down.

We look at each other and exhale simultaneously.  We want to start with the trouble. The Trouble.  I inhale and exhale again.  I scan my mind wondering if I can find some amazing words of wisdom that will make me seem like I know what I’m talking about, make her feel like she knows what she’s doing, and FIX. THE. PROBLEM.

I was thinking that I would go back to Fran McVeigh’s posts from last week and tell her about them,  how Fran was working toward a solutions.  I was thinking I noticed Monday and Tuesday that when she was explicit about her active engagement and link,  that the students were more productive in the release.  But then,  I started to think about what the small group said to me on Tuesday, that I had yelled at him.  Yelled at him.  Yelled at him.  I was definitely forceful,  definitely running thin on patience… 

Now it’s been nearly a minute and I haven’t said anything.   I look up at her.  I wait.  I’ve been working on that, waiting.  She says I’ve been thinking

And that’s the start.  We share our noticings and wonderings.  We share our feelings.  We share our ideas.  We share our worries.

Just like that, we have a new plan.  A new idea.  We fill the tank.  We move forward.  Together.

Every weekday morning,  I share a 1/2 hour with one teacher.  These times are scheduled and mostly standing appointments.  I always go to the teacher’s home turf  if I can.  That gives her power in our relationship. The teachers are in all different places in their teaching careers and have varying needs/wants.  I have had these standing appointments for years, shifting teachers as collaboration needs change.  I offer them up at the beginning of the school year and sometimes it takes a semester before the slots are full up.  Preparing for these varied meetings keeps me grounded in the curriculum,  the day to day struggles, our resources, and practice.  Most of these teachers and I will work together in their literacy block daily, but some just have this time to talk over big ideas, resources, worries, and whatnot.  It is the second most effective part of my practice, eclipsed only by the in class practice.  It keeps me grounded,  learning, and listening.  

*the sandwich- the idea that you share a compliment or a good thing, sandwich in the criticism or bad news, and then end with a positive comment. A sandwich.

Nudge #sol18

trh_nudge_artwork_wide-b9839d2a82c441c2574e4ae46edcb263fc5bfc03-s700-c85.jpgNudge  #sol18

March 14, 2018

A nudge is a gentle push in the right direction. This thinking is informed by a few things.  I’ll let you in on them in the beginning.  I am a big fan of podcasts.  This podcast,  Nudge:  Ted Radio Hour/ NPR, was recommended to me by a member of our fourth grade team.  It’s a longer podcast nearly an hour, but can be broken to shorter stories.  These stories contain snippets of Ted Talks and discussion with their subjects:  Richard Thaler, the author of Nudge and Carol Dweck, the author of Mindset.  I also have been considering the change model outlined in the book Switch.

So what does the author of Nudge say about change?  If you want to encourage people to do something,  make it easy.

The authors of Switch claim change is hard.  There are two systems at play in all change for folks:  the emotional system and the rationale system.  That’s why people can make a big decision like marriage, but have difficulty with diets.

I believe I am a professional nudger and change agent.  It’s a wonder that anyone ever talks to me.  My husband says about me pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. I would say,  hear that tiny voice over your shoulder that says give it a go. What’s to lose?  

It’s true I want change.  Sometimes the educators and students I work with do not.  That’s not it actually.  It’s partially that they don’t understand what change might do to improve  their instruction and they believe that what they are currently doing is working for their students.

It’s might also be about risk.  Risk is hard to take,  difficult to try.  Risk is messy.

The book Switch poses the miracle question,

“Suppose tonight, while you slept, a miracle occurred. When you awake tomorrow, what would be some of the things you would notice that would tell you life had suddenly gotten better?

Two things about this.  The changers have to see a problem, something they want to change. Then the changers have to be able to envision what better looks like.    Clare Landrigan wrote in her blog a few weeks ago about her own miracle question,  If successful we will…  That envisioning, drawing the light on what we view as success,  might be all we need.  That glimpse of what is wanted draws us toward it.

Here is my formation of this question,  What is the first small sign you would see, that would make you think “well, something must have happened,  the problem is gone“.  This question doesn’t ask you to describe the miracle itself,  it asks to identify the tangible signs that the miracle happened.  I also like this question,  When was the last time you saw just a little bit of the Miracle,  even if just for a short time?

That’s what I look for,  that little bit of the miracle,  the bright spot.  My friends,  if we are going to change anything,  students’ writing volume,   reading engagement,  curriculum,   school culture,  we have to start with that bright spot.  We have to recognize them, understand them, keep them in our field of view.


img_1716To my writing community of Slicers,  thank you.  To Two Writing Teachers and all involved,  thank you for creating this community.  This day 14 of a 31 day Slice of Life Writing Challenge.  Read some amazing writing here.