Peace… and Quiet

Peace and Quiet #notquiteaslice

October 9, 2019

After the rush of September, I revel in the disruptions of October.  October full of holidays lets us ease into fall quietly, taking each of these days to revel in peace and quiet.  With three days off in two weeks,  there is no rush to complete projects or use the days all that wisely.  We can casually mark the time in whatever way fills us.  As my friend told me the other night over dinner, we can fill the time with things that bring us joy.  Perhaps what brings us joy in these quiet days is completely different that what we might consider in our normal day to day.

My normal day to day is fairly atypical.  While I have regular types of meetings and duties on a daily or weekly basis, my day can vary greatly from Monday to Tuesday and so on.  One thing remains constant.  The days are full of talk, talk between adults, talk between adults and children, and talk between children.  Full, full of talk.  The talk is wonderful, stimulating, exciting and necessary.  I process many things through talking and doing.  For the most part it works out ideally, a varied day full of conversations moving us all forward in our work.  Very satisfying.

But then,  I have a day alone.  A day with completely my own agenda, my own timetable, my own dress code.  I don’t notice it at first.  The regular morning routine applies.  Dog walking, lunch making, coffee brewing, quick calls, checked email.  Suddenly everyone has left and it settles in… the peace and quiet.

Sometimes I linger in it,  pajamas on, additional cups of coffee, a little reading.  Sometimes I jump into it, cleaning out this or that,  emptying the refrigerator.  Even in that jump, I feel peaceful.

Today, I choose a few ‘start’ items that came to me.  I cleaned out last month’s magazines, looking at pages, reading articles, moving them to my husband’s reading bin or my book bag to share with someone at work.  When I took those magazines out to our recycling bin,  I swept the leaves out of the garage and trimmed a few rose bushes while I was out there.  When I trimmed the rose bushes,  I cut a few hydrangea blossoms as they show their fall colors, less bright, tinged in the softness of fall.  I took the dog for a walk and it struck me then.  I feel differently.  I’ve let myself relax in a completely different way.  The feeling isn’t quite my summer feeling, but it feels comforting like the sweater I toss on to move around outside.

Inside, I turn on some ‘ambient’ music on the television.  A slideshow and soft music fills the house.  I turn on the table lamps.  I consider adding to the hygge by baking some bread or sweet filling the house with comforting smell along with the sound and light.

We have heard all the research about our hectic education days.  We are compared to air traffic controllers with decision making.  We know that the days are full and busy and hectic and loud.

So when our bonus days of October are finished next month, let’s consider how to add peace and quiet to the lives of our learning community… in pockets.  A read-aloud to consider simple predicting or retelling.  A short movie clip to give the work life in another way.  A few stolen minutes to draw or color something for our latest writing.  A chance for quiet conversation.  Looking around our spaces and asking ourselves where can we all visually rest here, physically rest, spiritually rest.  Let’s make time to enjoy the peace and quiet in our home nest and the nest we create at school.



Losing My Way #sol19

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Losing My Way #sol19

October 1, 2019

One day last week,  I decided late in the day to have my GPS help me find the way home.  I was at a bookstore in a nearby town and the traffic was heavy.  I’m not sure why I programmed home into my GPS. I had driven both to the store and home from there many times over the years, but I sat in the parking lot and asked my technology to virtually show me the way home.

As you may guess, it didn’t go so well.  I was tired from… a long day, dehydrated, hungry, tired, talked out.  I programmed the GPS to my address and then immediately took a wrong turn.  Not to worry, I thought.  The GPS will just reconfigure and get me back on track.  The GPS did loop me back around, but then either I misunderstood for the second time, the GPS noticed the traffic, or fate was messing with me.  I got more and more off track.  I would close to a turn or street that was familiar and then the GPS would have me turn off.  Was I tired and mishearing?  This continued to happen until I knew I was way off track in a further away town nearly an hour away from home.  The roads were unfamiliar and this made me more and more hesitant and slow moving.  Finally,  I called out in the car,  I need help.  I did need help.  I was beginning to be frightened.  It was getting later.  The roads were busy. I was lost.

Unable to get myself back under control,  I called my husband and said, I’m lost.  Understanding and caring, he honestly said back,  I can’t tell where you are.  Does anything look familiar?  As he continued to ask me question, my breath regulated.  I realized I could figure this out.  Eventually,  I saw something familiar and I began to navigate with certainty toward home.

During that half an hour drive,  I thought about why I was so tired.  I thought about why my resources had failed me.  I thought about why for those few minutes I had felt like I couldn’t solve my own problem.  Then… I overreacted.  When I arrived home, my husband and son were worried and glad to see me.  They were full of helpful suggestions about how this could be avoided in the future.  I’m not sure what they said.  I know it was something about using a different navigation, giving myself time,  not overbooking, and I believe, something about antioxidants.  All extremely well meaning.  The truth was,  I had been lost coming from somewhere that shouldn’t be difficult.  What did it mean?

Perhaps it meant that my head was too full, my body too empty.  I tend to think of it as a life lesson.  We can get lost in the partially familiar and instead of relying on what we know, look to others to create our reality.  These other explain things in their terms, with their understanding.  Sometimes it looks familiar, but not enough for us to see the path forward with clarity.  We wander around in the weeds for a little while.  Then, if we are fortunate, we talk it over, we gain clarity.  Then we find our way forward, slowly, a little shaky from the experience.

Ahh, September.  So full of overcommitments, dark roads, and unsure steps.  Here it is October.  Steady as it goes.

5f9e283f-67af-4f49-b354-801430caeed6While my September has been inconsistent,  I write in the community of other writers who graciously accept me when I am lost, every Tuesday.  Please read other remarkable writing at Two Writing Teachers.

What’s Working and How Can We Do More of It? #sol19


















What’s working, and how can we do more of it?” Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Yet, in the real world, this obvious question is almost never asked. Instead, the question we ask is more problem focused: “What’s broken, and how do we fix it?” 
 Chip Heath, Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

What’s Working and How Can We Do More of It? #sol19

September 17, 2019

Two things happened simultaneously this last week,  a teacher educator came to interview me about the history of literacy in our district and a friend texted me a podcast out of the blue.  On surface, these two things don’t seem to be that related, but they both made me thing about my ‘public’ face and what motivates me. Those two things seem important as I seem to be in the business of motivation, the mere definition of coaching as it were.

When this lovely teacher educator showed up in the messy literacy center the other day,  I felt her eyes scan my endless piles of ideas and projects, my organized and reorganized personal library, and finally, my curious visage.  I asked her straight off, why me? Her answer was quick and definitive. I was told that you are a truth teller.  A truth teller? I thought.  Is that another word for troublemaker? 

As I began to answer her questions and fill in the history of literacy from definitively my school-based and literacy trained perspective, it occurred to me that much of the movement forward was disruptive behavior.  Perhaps I don’t mean disruptive behavior in the sense of protests or refusals, more of let’s just quietly give this a try and see what happens.  

With that behavior, most of the things that we tried were successful … and many people I was surrounded with were anxious to disrupt the status quo as well.  This leads me to the podcast.  My friend sent me a Hidden Brain podcast called Rebel with a Cause.  In the text message she wrote, to my rebellious friend.

Rebellious? I hadn’t particularly considered myself to be rebellious.  Willing to give things a go?  Definitely a let’s-go-for-it type of person.  But rebellious?  That sounds bad… In Shankar Vedantam from NPR’s Hidden Brain interviewed Francesca Gino, the author of Rebel Talent, discusses the idea of rebellion. Questions like why do we do this this way? How else could we complete this task? People who are successful rebels hang in that balance between expertise and experimentation. That’s where the magic is. Just like a few weeks ago when I was stepping outside my comfort zone. My new address.

Perhaps I am rebellious if rebellious means I have intellectual humility, the knowledge that there is still so much to learn. I am a rebel if to be a rebel means I believe that information is power and experimentation is important.

Today redefining myself as a rebellious truth teller. Stay tuned for tomorrow.

Just look for a strong beginning and a strong ending and get moving.

-Chip Heath

Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard.

Check Engine Light #sol19

Check Engine Light #sol19

September 3, 2019

The beginning of the school can be full of many logistically tasked, scheduling, getting materials together, meetings, training, planning. As a literacy coach I may be pulled into lots of desk time without noticing at first.

The first symptom is bone-tired fatigue. In the evening, I just feel exhausted. I don’t have any wonderful stories to share, no smile comes to me as I think of a charming phrase from a student. I’m in need of a tune up.

Luckily, I’ve become quite a mechanic. No, I don’t know how to fix a car, an engine, or a windshield wiper. I do know how to draw myself back to the meaning of my work.

Today, I took two steps to draw me closer to being refurbished. First I spent an hour in kindergarten. One solid hour taking little groups of freshly arrived kindergarteners on a little environmental print walk around their wing of the building. How many times did we see the word welcome? Quite a lot! We saw color names and their names. Pete the Cat and the word bus. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and the word room along with lunch and name and hamburger. At the end of the hour, the students felt like beginning readers, I had some formative assessment data, and my tank was filling up.

Returning to the literacy center at lunch time, I sent a quick email asking who would like a drop in read aloud and a grand conversation. In an hour’s time, I had an appointment calendar full of read aloud dates and the promise of a good deal of face time with some thinkers.

So here I am at the end of a day that didn’t seem so long, balanced between tasks, meetings, and some great reminders of what it’s all about, the promise of all those days of learning, doing, and listening stretching out in front of me. Importantly remembering what it really takes to get recharged. #selfcare19 as my colleagues say.

I write in the company of my writing mentors, inspirations, and friends led by the amazing team at Two Writing Teachers. We offer our Slice of Life each Tuesday. All are welcomed.

Stepping Forward… #sol19

Stepping Forward…  #sol19

August 27, 2019

My shoes are a little too tight this morning.  I’m worried if I will make it through the day with them.  They are shiny white.  They look great with these pants.  They have orthopedic insoles.  These shoes should be wonderful.  I put them on and took them off 3 times before I left the house.  At the last minute, I packed my old beat up sneakers in my bag.

My new shoes are like the new year,or more likely, a new initiative.  These shoes are subtly different than my old pair.  Most would say an improvement.  These shoes are leather, stronger than my old canvas sneakers.  These shoes have supportive insoles. My old sneakers didn’t have much support.  These new sneakers are bright and shiny and honestly make a really strong first impression. My old sneakers bear a strong resemblance to my lawn mowing shoes.  Those old sneakers have the beginnings of a hole in the toe.  The heel is starting to fray and I can’t quite keep them white anymore.

In short,  I really, really want to keep those old familiar sneakers and put those new shiny sneakers back in the closet.  It would be so much easier.  I can slip them on without tying them!  Maybe if I wash them one more time or leave them out with the baking soda in the sun, they will brighten up and be shiny and (almost) new again.

Screen Shot 2019-08-27 at 7.35.23 AM.png . This is the image one of our speakers at yesterday’s kick off showed us at the beginning of her talk. (@denasimmons) .  I am putting that front and center on my white board this morning.  I’m also wearing those new sneakers.  You can see right through my metaphor, and it is still true.  We cannot let the good keep us from the great.  I cannot let all the things that have been comfortably worked through the last nine years or even just the last one, keep me from helping us move forward to a shiny, new future.

So yes,  those sneakers, and those new initiatives feel super uncomfortable right now.  I believe that discomfort, that disequilibrium, is where the best work happens.  I have seen it time and time again in my career.  So I’m going to try them on,  I’m going to scuff them up a little, and maybe, tonight I’ll have to wear a bandage, metaphorically … and actually.  Those students in our changing population will be better for my rethink.  They will be better for my thoughtful consideration of their agency, their growth, their future over my own comfort.

You’ll recognize me in the crowd.  I’ll be rocking my new shoes.



I write bravely on Tuesday in the company of my Slice of Life community.  Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating this community.  Thank you to my fellow slicers that help me be a braver and better educator/writer all the time.

Start… What I Know For Sure

Start… What I Know For Sure

August 21, 2019

Today is really the last day of my summer vacation.  I’ve worked about a dozen days (for free) over the last couple of months.  Today, though, is really it.  I’m resisting the urge to get in the car and just start my fall routine… Today is the day for pre-game face.  The day for attitude adjustment.  The day for setting the table mentally.  The day to give my house and the denizens therein one more day of mostly me.  This post isn’t about summer’s end.  It’s about the start.

So many different starts in my life… and here we are at this start.  As Oprah may say, this is what I know for sure.

If I start and am not completely prepared, it might be rocky… and it will be fine.

If I start and can only see as far as my headlights metaphorically speaking… it will be fine.

If I start with doubts and worries,  it’s probably going to be hard to shake them. Sometimes that’s a good thing.  It keeps me focused.  It keeps me honest.

If I can keep the spirit of summer days and small miracles strong in my memory, it will give me strength.

If I open myself to change and different, change and different might equal improvement.

I have a good idea of what strategies work for me (and others)… one thing at a time if possible,  plan, then do,  listen, then speak.  I hope for an 80% success rate in remembering these.

When I don’t feel them, when I don’t use them,  when I don’t remember them,  I still  have strengths.  Thankfully, often others remind me when I stumble.

Everyone is fighting a good fight.  When I am vulnerable, it gives others permission to be vulnerable as well, adults and kids.

Beginnings are exciting.  A sunrise.  A journey.  A new book… a new school year.

So here’s to a new school year.  May we remember our strengths.  May we find joy in the journey.  May we learn much and travel far.  Read more and share more.  Laugh more.  Treasure more.

Off we go!

The Chaos Before the Calm #sol19

The Chaos Before the Calm #sol19

August 13, 2019

Yesterday I had a lovely afternoon in our traditional pre-fall book club meeting.  Once a year, five of us get together having read a ridiculous romance novel, have lunch, and talk over our summers.  It’s always great fun.  Silly, sweet catch-up.  One question inevitably come up near the end of our time together.  What are you going to do before you go back?  

Usually,  I can say a quick answer, go to Martha’s Vineyard, go to a ball game, even one more home project.  Yesterday,  I realized that I’ve already shifted into my ‘school‘ head without even noticing.  I quickly said, some interviews, a meeting with the other literacy specialists, new teacher training… My retired friend called me on this answer.  No, she said, what are you going to do in the remains of your glorious summer? 

I stopped and instead of looking ahead at the two weeks before school starts,  I glanced in the rearview mirror.  What had I accomplished?  I thought of the books I have read.  Dinners, lunches, day trips, dog physical therapy.  What was that thing that I still want to do?  Perhaps in this quiet summer, I have done it all.  Maybe, this year I won’t think of it as the end.

What if this year, I continue to give myself space to enjoy life even during the school year?  What if I actually create that elusive work-life balance?  What if someone asks me if I relaxed this summer and then gives me that skeptical look like she knows me, I’ll answer, I always take time to relax.  Truth is,  I think I do.

Sometimes, I binge watch TV.  Yesterday, I watched a night full of The Food That Built America.  Full disclosure, I was thinking about Milton Hershey, Heinz, and Marjorie Post and how I could work them into a biography project, but I also enjoyed every minute of the fascinating series, googling details as I watched.

Sometimes, I read picture books or kid novels or chick lits.  Full disclosure, when I read these, I’m thinking about coaching points, author’s craft, new text sets, post-it note reviews, and book talks.  The books are still fun to read and I enjoy every minute of them.

Sometimes, I swipe through social media.  Full disclosure,  I read literacy blogs, follow other coaches and teachers on Instagram, and read the TCRWP pages on Facebook.  I forward pictures and quick ideas to others I know will like them.  I share posts from my virtual PLN and new things I have discovered.  It doesn’t feel like work, it feels like growth.

Sometimes, I make lists or reminder stickies, or full length musings, full clearing of ideas about a topic.  Truthfully,  these lists and reminders don’t stress me, they help me sleep at night.  A little forethought and organizations reduces my often daily rush.

Sometimes I actually do legitimate work outside the normal work day.  I plan on my porch.  I take notes on my patio.  I arrange book bins at my kitchen table.  I take notes at stop lights.   I wear yoga pants and an old sweatshirt. I pet my dog absentmindedly. I get something to eat and drink when I want. When the ideas come to me, I have found that it’s best to give into it at the moment.  Again, I sleep better.

So as I move into the fall,  I can honestly say,  I did have a relaxing summer.  In my head I’ll add, and I’m going to have a relaxing fall as well.  

I write in community with an amazing group of writers led by Two Writing Teachers.