The Promise of This Year #sol18o

The Promise of This Year #sol18

September 17, 2018

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Last week,  my very wise, mentor/cyber-colleague, posted this onto her twitter feed.

I responded with my gut, my instincts,  my heart…

“The Promise of This Year”

On August 30,  Colby Sharp retweet his own tweet from June 27, 2018

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I printed it out and hung it above my desk.

I am often chasing fixes.  Trying to solve all the problems within my purview.  That’s not what I coach folks to do.  I coach folks to think of one thing that they do sort of well and do it better and better.  I should take my own advice…

So I am declaring publicly that THIS YEAR,  I am going to think in that moment, with that teacher or that student, about what we are working on right then.  As Colby says, one read aloud at a time, one conference at a time.  One book talk at a time.  One mini-lesson at a time.  One small group at a time.  Every minute.

If it doesn’t work this minute, perhaps it will work in the next.  After all I am just planting seeds.  Planting seeds.  Casting them out and seeing what grows.

Last week,  I wrote down a meditation mantra from 10% Happier.  It was so simple, but it spoke volumes to me.  Right now,  it’s like this.  Right now it’s like this.  

Last week,  I met with the literacy team in my building. The internet didn’t work, the chromebooks wouldn’t all boot up.  One of them turned to me and told me a story about how she hadn’t planned a few weeks of her young sons’ summer days.  It seemed like everything was a little bit wonky.  She began to say, mostly to herself, I’m doing the best I can do.  I wrote than down on a white board and added… I’m doing the best I can do, right now.  

So perhaps tomorrow, a minilesson will flop or SOAR,  technology will glitch or work perfectly,  I’ll read a book that makes us laugh or smile or think.  And I’ll be thankful.  Thankful for Jessica Carey and Colby Sharp.  For the kids and their jokes.  For my colleagues that lift me up and the ones who keep me on my toes.

I’ll remember that it’s just this minilesson,  this strategy group,  this conference,  this read aloud.  I’ll notice a twinkle in someone’s eye,  a half smile, and an almost-there.  Because all I want is for everyone I work with,  kiddos and grown-ups to know,  I care about their success.  I’m still going to be here tomorrow and we can do it all again or something entirely different.

That’s where our strength lives.

Screen Shot 2017-06-27 at 8.32.28 AM I’m grateful to my social media giants who hold me up even when they don’t know it.  Read their amazing slices here at Two Writing Teachers.


Thank You for Driving Safely #sol18

DdeiXeuV4AEkG-BThank You for Driving Safely #sol18

September 12, 2018


Near our school and possibly yours there is a flashing sign to remind drivers that a school is approaching and the speed limit is merely 30 mph.  As I approach in the early morning,  it has become important to me to be under the speed limit and get the flashing message from the electronic screen,  Thank you for driving safely.  Thank you for driving safely…  The need to drive safely probably transcends that 500 feet patch of road in front of the school.  Perhaps, this too is a metaphor for September of every single school year.

A few weeks ago I wrote about taking off… literally,  how the take off in an airplane is fraught with a sometimes not small sense of fear.  It can be said for the whole month of September, a quote I will attribute to a colleague, September is hard.  

September is hard.  It’s full of expectations from us, the administration,  the parents, the kids, our co-workers.  For me, the expectation always seems to be that I should be more prepared, somehow better at everything after a leisurely four weeks of reading professional text in between gardening, walking the dog, and relaxing.  Perhaps the worst of it is,  that I really think that the year before I was better.  It’s the worst kind of mindset… and completely the opposite of what I want to portray to…well…everyone.

So here’s to a September, where we give everyone a break.  We do what Kelsey Corter so eloquently put, give it a soft start.  Kelsey was talking about writing workshop. Read more here.   The ideology I believe applies to everything, every day.  So here’s my September to do list.

Smile from the inside. 

       Why not?  The weathers beautiful, the bulletin boards are unfaded.  I can still wear                    sandals.

Embrace the messy.

I always say it, but yet I don’t want to leave my desk, my room, my projects unFINISHED. 

Smell the flowers. 

Ok, so this is a metaphor.  But our most important job of the fall is to get to know each other.  For real!  Have a chat.  A laugh.  A cup of coffee.  


Take a really deep breath.  

Right now,  it’s like this. 

This is my meditation phrase from 10% Happier, but it fits for most of the 20 hours I’m awake.  

I’m doing the best I can do… right now. 

This does imply I’m actually doing the best I can do, if you know what I mean. 

I get by with a little help from my friends. 

Jed S.  if you reading this,  this is for you and inspired by you.  Who doesn’t want to take advice from the Beatles.

So there it is,  not earth shattering,  not perfect.  However,  let’s really begin.  Begin to use the same rules and philosophies on ourselves that we use so freely on the kids.  Give it a go.  Let’s see what happens.  Mistakes are how we learn.

Welcome September!


Screen Shot 2017-06-27 at 8.32.28 AM  a day late, but inspired none the less by my amazing tribe at Slice of Life and Two Writing Teachers.   Be inspired yourself here.

Time for Take Off #sol18

IMG_2366Time for Take Off #sol18

As I left our ‘kick-off’ day yesterday contemplating the presentation and all that the beginning of a new school year means to me and to the students and faculty I’ll encounter this year,  a white trail from a rising plane crossed the beautiful summer sky.  It moved so effortless across the expanse, nearly out of my sight before I reached the road.  This sight made me contemplate how that take off seems so effortless from a distance, but from my seat in an airplane, not so much.  That initial lift off, for me,  is fraught with that catch in my stomach,  the fleeting sense of what if’s.  The acceleration, each bump, jolts me into the reality that this huge machine filled with humans and jet fuel is being flung into the air.  Yet each time, in mere seconds, we are airborne.  The view is amazing and I take that next breath I didn’t know I was holding.  It’s exactly like every single school year beginning I’ve ever had.

So with all that in mind,  I contemplate the ‘take off’ of another school year.  I fill my heart with a summer full of learning, smiling, and refilling my own tank and then I plunge into that perfect collection of rooms and first day outfits and promise that is the beginning of a school year.  Here’s what I carry with me this year.

What if?   The beautiful questions that Debbie Miller so wonderful poses in her new book, What is the Best That Could Happen?, invite more questions.  What if we fail?  Oh, what if we succeed?

The moves don’t have to be big.  Tiny small trials and efforts can make a ripple of difference that we might not see at first.

Relational moves.  Our superintendent asked us to think about relationships that we had formed that changed everything.  Every relationship changes everything.  Again from Debbie Miller, Teaching is about relationships with children not rigid structures.

Thinking about those relationships, I consider my mantras from last year:  noticing and sharing.  The more I notice those around me, their feelings and their struggles,  their successes, and their desires,  the more I can help them move forward.  The more I share the stage, the pen, the work,  the more of us will rise.

So here we are at the take off.  It may feel a little bumpy. Let’s fill our hearts with ambitions and be brave… The journey is worth it.

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Thank to Two Writing Teachers and a host of Slicers that inspire me every day.  Read more slices here.






Two Left Feet #sol18

IMG_1910.JPGTwo Left Feet #sol18

August 21, 2018

One afternoon a few weeks ago,  we got into the car to take our dog to the dog park not far from home.  As I often do in the summer,  I picked up my shoes from inside the front door and carried them out to the car with the dog leash.  When we got to the park,  I bent down to put on my shoes, but I had brought one left shoe from my pair of sneakers, but the other shoe was my husband’s shoe.  If it had been his right shoe,  I could have put in on and clumsily managed to walk around at the park.  As fate would have it,  it was also his left shoe.  So there I sat looking down at the shoes in my hand, worthless to me, and my bare feet.   I could not get out of the car at the park so I had to go home without a visit, effecting all three of us.

This little scene struck me as rich with metaphor and honestly, life lesson.  I rushed out of the house, ill-prepared, paying little attention to my needed materials and was caught up short at my destination.  As I reflected on this,  it seemed like a bigger message from the universe.  I mean, two left feet, come on.

We rush out semi-prepared thinking we know what the needs of this task are.  We can rush on grabbing what we need as we go, starting before we are fully prepared.  Where do we end up?  In the car at the park on a sunny day in August, with two left shoes or in other words, disappointed.

Our district is embarking on a literacy curriculum journey. We’ve pushed the boats off the shore, provisions in hand.  In the early summer, the literacy specialists made a pact to read the units of study in narrative reading and writing for kindergarten through fourth grade as well as thoroughly explore the reading/writing pathways books, and the guides to the workshops.  Not a small plan or a small task.

Yesterday, we came back together with the literacy leadership in our district.  One of us did a break out in pathway assessments,  one of us did a breakout in the architecture of the mini-lessons, and one of us did conferring/small group in the workshop.  We talked to teachers in groups of 5-7.  We listened,  we highlighted resources in the unit kits.

Afterward, one of the teachers reflected that the energy in the specialists and in the room was high.  It felt productive and exciting.  It made me think of those two left shoes.  I didn’t go to that meeting yesterday with my two left shoes.  I went having watched videos and read books,  thinking, discussing, and planning ahead of time.  I looked down at my feet, placed those metaphoric shoes on and laced them before I stepped out of the door and so did everyone else in that room.

We elevated our talk.  We built on a firm foundation.  We pushed those boats off the shore with only a little trepidation, mostly excitement.  I can’t wait to see what’s next.


Screen Shot 2017-06-27 at 8.32.28 AM I write alongside my Slice of Life community each Tuesday.  Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for having the vision to begin this community and the enthusiasm to sustain it.  That is the secret to success.   Read more amazing slices here.

What I Know for (Almost) Sure #sol18

IMG_2270.JPGWhat I Know for (Almost) Sure #sol18

August 14, 2018

This might be titled Way Out of My Comfort Zone but that wouldn’t be exactly fair or accurate.  That is how I felt yesterday morning.

As a literacy specialist,  I have participated in facilitating our yearly new teacher literacy bootcamp for nine Augusts.  As a educator past the active mom years, this late summer duty many years fell to me alone.   There is some ease to planning alone.  Your ideas are your own.  You have a flow.  You absolutely know who is going to do what.  But the benefit to the participants is slim.  They only hear one voice and one perspective.  As teachers, we can work in isolation, when working together makes us stronger.  That’s what we hope for with our students.

This year, I had a partner.  A partner in idea generation.  A partner in planning.  A partner is bring the plan to fruition.  A partner is presentation.

We had agreed early on to increase the level of participation by the new teachers.  As with many of our recent professional development presentations, we are making a conscious effort to mimic the work we want to do with students with adults.  We want students to do the thinking, the heavy lifting.  We know this builds capacity.  We believe that is true of adult learners as well.

We also agreed that the content is dense.  Our ability to explain philosophically and practically what is entailed in the reading and writing workshop, implementing the units of study, planning for the workshop, assessment, conferring, and small group is a lot to take on… and take in.

My partner had an idea.  What if we let the participant pick what they wanted us to expand on.  What if we took a few topics in the reading and writing workshop and let the rank what they wanted to talk about,  direct the talk, and very extemporaneously lead a discussion on that topic.  What?!?!  My initial response was… I can’t do that.  I can’t just whip up knowledge about a topic out of the air.  

However,  it wasn’t completely out of the air.  I have hours and hours of experience co-teaching and observing in classrooms during workshop planning and implementing lessons in the units of study.  My colleagues and I committed to reading the entire first units in reading and writing kindergarten through fourth grade over the summer where we had once read pieces well, piecemeal.  I have been to Teachers’ College many times and heard the authors of the units, practitioners, and enthusiasts speak about implementation of the units and workshop.  I follow amazing educators through social media.  I have read and read and read.  I know some things.

And so yesterday,  the new teachers decided that they really wanted to know more about conferring and small group.  That’s encouraging.  So I sat down with first the intermediate teachers and then the primary teachers to have a chat about conferring and small group.  Something happened in the first moments.  Something I want to hold on to.  Something important.

I hesitated.

In that moment,  I gathered my thoughts. I unconsciously gave everyone else a moment to be present as well.  It felt like the moment when everything settles to the bottom of a snow globe.


an example of my spontaneously, perhaps messy, thinking and demonstrating.

Then…we talked.  Authentically talked.  Did I impart wisdom with a capital W?  No.  I talked about a few things that have helped me organize my and colleagues thinking around individualized learning in literacy.  I hope I made it seem like  a colleague that was just offering up some maybe try this suggestions.  It felt collaborative.  It felt genuine.  It felt natural.  It felt like the best idea I didn’t have in a long time.

I might stay in that rarefied air outside my comfort zone for a while longer.




Screen Shot 2017-06-27 at 8.32.28 AM.pngThanks to my writing community, my fellow encouragers, and for helping me thrive outside my comfort zone. Read their amazing insights here.


IMG_2272Welcome to our new elementary teachers.  May your career be full of spontaneity on the edge of your comfort zone.

Noticing #olw #sol18


August 7, 2018

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about noticing.  Up until this past week,  I had the gift of time.  Time allows for noticing.

Most mornings I take my dog, Lily for a mile walk down our long street and back.  She has her own way of noticing, head down, sniffing along as we go.  I notice neighborly things, new driveway,  phlox blooming, green acorns starting to fall.  I capture these images, sometimes in my IPhone and sometimes in that sweet fleeting summery essence of consciousness where tiny miracles are collected.

I’m thinking about that repository this morning because summer is essentially over.  While I am still mostly living in my sneakers, t-shirts, and shorts world, I have actual deadlines again.  Meetings, plans, emails, all signaling the approaching year.  So I’m trying to fill up the marvelous reserve of summer.

I had summer goals this year.  Some accomplished.  Some I might still finish.  Some that will carry on into the fall and perhaps the winter.  But one goal, one goal spoken to few,  I accomplished and I want to hold on to why I choose it and why I feel it is the most important goal of all.

I took a month away from school.

An entire month.

I read blogs.  I read books.  Mostly,  I lived in the world.  I went on vacation with my husband.  I talked to him,  laughed with him.  I noticed him. We’ve had a lot of moments together.  Thirty seven married ones tomorrow and some more before that.  We’ve been married more than half of our lives.  We have memories and experiences.  We have routines and responsibilities.  This summer I wanted us to have moments.

So what about these moments and those noticings do I hope will sustain me over the course of this school year?

Think about this moment I am in right now.  Not the next moment, not the ‘to-do’ list, be present with the students, the teachers, the parents, the colleagues that I am with at the moment.  Observe.  Notice.  Wait for things.  Let things reveal themselves.  Exercise patience.  Give this gift to them, but also myself.

Notice the little things.  New shoes, yes.  Also, attempts.  As the district as a whole opens themselves up to the possibilities of embraces a curriculum together, be in the approximation.  Release the agenda, the should’s, and live in “did you notice that?” WOW!

Listen.  Listening is an important noticing.  Eyes on, mind cleared listening from deep within myself.  Not thinking about what I am going to do or say next.  Just listening.  Most of the time people can work it out themselves.  Kids and adults.

Keep hold of the connections.  That invisible thread that runs through our school community,  our curriculum,  the days and weeks that blend into the year.  Noticing what develops in the weaving, slipping out mistakes and reweaving strengthening the fabric of our experiences.

So I am going to keep that baby blue jay,  that glimpse of bright orange oriole, that sunset, that morning glory, those puppy eyes in a proverbial jar on my desk to remind me of what I’ve learned.  What I hold dear.  What I can be.

This year,  year thirty eight,  I will be noticing.

Screen Shot 2017-06-27 at 8.32.28 AM.png Thank you to Stacy, Beth, and the Slice of Life team for creating this amazing inspirational place and to my fellow slicers who encourage me to write and celebrate all my approximations.  Please read more of their slices here.

Seeing What Comes Up #sol18


Wild Rudebeckia in my garden

Seeing What Comes Up #sol18

July 31, 2018

I like to say that I’m organized, a planner… sometimes.  This morning I told my husband that I like a loose plan, some structure and some room for…what?  miracles? surprises? change?  In truth, I might crave more of the structure than I like to admit.

Call this the story of two … invasive species…  Our house is surrounded on two sides with woods, a small forest.  A small forest that would like to take that plot of land we stole back.  It’s a fairly constant struggle between us and the flora and fauna.

Often, little unidentified plants creep into my flower beds and start sprouting.

Most of the time,  I unceremoniously rip those sprouts right out of there.  I have a Plan.  I plant things I remember from my childhood,  things I planted in the Midwest, things I long to see as I pass by.  Many of those things don’t make it.  Those plants transplanted by me, watered, nurtured,  just don’t make it in this soil.  Those sprouts dropped by birds, carried in fur, washed by rain, do.


Solomon Seal, a delightful surprise

Sometimes,  I notice something in them.  A familiar leaf.  An inkling.  In those moments,  I leave them in peace.  Sometimes,  this leads to a big reward.  Like last summer,  Solomon Seal decided to take up residence in my side garden.  Nearly annually some truly wild flowers make themselves at home in our front garden. Today, a black eyed Susan and a bright pink Phlox are blooming with abandon.  If I planted them in my flower bed in the backyard,  they would wither or become a deer snack, but there where they weren’t planted,  they thrive giving joy to those that stop to admire.


Bright Pink Wild Phlox, a favorite of deer

This reminds me of my school life.  We plan, we “plant”, we nurture what we want to grow.  We rarely let the ‘weeds’ of what students want to do interrupt our plans.  Seeing what come up can be nerve wracking.  There are just weeds, invasive, troublesome weeds. It’s difficult to know what’s what. Maybe that’s the point.  Whose to say? I don’t let it all grow.  I still have a plan.  Some of what I do let go amounts to nothing spectacular. It reminds me of what Ralph Fletcher says about greenbelt writing.  Just like those greenbelts we are trying to nurture around our cities,  we have to nurture that writing in the wild,  those unexpected things that start to grow in pockets of time we give for just that wildness. We weed some, we nurture more.  We observe. We notice.

We don’t know what that sprout will grow into.

Let’s be surprised.



too much of a good thing?  a story for another day