Sunrises #sol18

IMG_0708Sunrises  #sol18

February 27, 2018

I’ve seen a lot of sunrises in my time but they are all still such a miracle.  I can never quite catch their beauty in my lens:  all the colors,  the gradual changes, the anticipation,  the hope.

That is how I feel today.,  just like that sunrise:  starting some gradual change, anticipating, and more than a little hopeful.

The team usually shifts a little after each round of assessments.  As a teaching and learning community, we see things closer, on the horizon, and maybe even in the past that focus our vision and cause us to correct our course.

For the last several years, my ‘course’ has most often brought me to the intermediate grades, but in this season,  I am heading to a primary classroom for the first time in a while. There will be new students for me to develop learning relationships , new challenges, and new discoveries.

I look forward to noticing with a new collaborator in a new setting.  I hope it will keep me fresh as a practitioner, a colleague, and a teacher.  New situations take time.  We adjust, we change, we learn.  Gradual is good.  Noticing elements, taking time, developing relationships to grow on. We are fortunate as teachers, students are almost always welcoming, open, and so honest.   I can’t wait to see all the colors of these new journeyers,  relish learning through their eyes, share joy.

So good luck to me.  May I continue to learn.  May I help others learn as well.   Today,  this morning,  I am full of anticipation, and hope… and joy.


Path Change #sol17

Path Change

November 21, 2017AlcoveSprngsWagonSwales DIles

They say there are nine places in the United States where you can still see the marks of the Conestoga wagons.  As you may predict,  most of them are in rural areas of the western edge of the midwest to western states of Kansas and Nebraska.  These ruts represent so many, many families and individuals that followed the exact same path out to what they hoped was fortune.

In education,  we rarely have the luxury of a known path.  We often have our path changed for us or realize because of situational phenomena,  it’s time to change ourselves.  The good news is that disequilibrium strengthens your core.  It’s true or so I hear.  The school building is full of yoga balls to strengthen our cores and heighten our engagement.  So a little change is good.

A little change is good, but often change isn’t little.  Several curriculums change at once,  your class changes,  your room changes,  your colleagues change. A lot changes.  So what do we do when change is hard?

They say that an unexamined life isn’t worth living and so perhaps is our attitude toward change.  We are all positive about teaching our students flexibility and positive mindset and ‘not yet’,  but when it comes to our own little patch in the sun,  we struggle sometimes.  I say, that’s ok.

Growth is a messy, imperfect process.  If we weren’t out there experimenting with change and new and a little scary,  what kind of example for our future innovators would we be setting?

So just for today, this week,  this month,  this school year, let’s take some teaching risks.  Let’s move away from the ruts of the paths of the past.  Let’s try some new things.

It’s a good time to think of that kindergarten book we used to love.

13. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.  

Robert Fulghum



Screen Shot 2017-02-28 at 9.10.00 PM Thank you to Two Writing Teachers and my fellow slicers for the forum and the  encouragement.  Read more slices here.


Technique Thursday: A Change will Good You Good


A Guide to (Teacher) Self (Workshop) Improvement

July 6, 2017

Let’s say you (or I) want to improve upon our writing workshop,  what might we do?

Apply anything you want to change to this model. 

When we think about getting better at anything, there are so many metaphors for improvement.  Insert your best improvement metaphor here.  What made you want to improve?  What did you notice that you didn’t like?  What could you keep but improve?  Make a list right now…

It’s difficult to target what might be getting under our skin about the workshop.  The workshop has 3-4 components:  minilesson,  guided practice which includes strategy groups and conferring,  and independent practice.  I would include share and a quick tip time too.  

In his book,  The Construction Zone,  Terry Thompson writes about focus, flexibility, responsibility (by student), and feedback.  The focus is our road map.  I often talk to newish teachers about ‘trying to teach everything’ until they have a solid vision of their destinations.  I want to amend that in light of clearer, more concise thinking.  If I could envision what I wanted it to look like and sound like,  what would that be?   Maybe you are in a place where you can picture that.  If not,  here are a few ways to get there.  

Reread  The Guide to the Writing Workshop by Lucy Calkins.  

Think about each part of your workshop:  minilesson,  gradual release, conferring, conferring notes, goal setting, independent work,  interactive writing, and share.

Think about how to leverage your reading work with your writing work

What strong minilessons and gradual release/strategy work do you have in your reading workshop that gets to author’s craft/technique/mind work?  For example,  if you can teach structure in informational reading,  it’s not a long journey to informational writing.  


Watch videos (TCRWP VImeos are great),  other teachers,  your students.  Have someone teach your students, video your own workshop, or watch someone else teach.


For me, planning is about assessment and observation.  IF you’re planning now for an unknown future class,  what did your last class succeed/struggle with?  One thing I’ve noticed is looking at the grade before and ‘pre/reteaching’ is so helpful.   It’s also helpful to do a quick/flash draft to see what your students are starting from.  Use a checklist or rubric to see what techniques you want to focus on?  


What is the most difficult thing for you?  For me,  it’s narrative.  Read blogs,  read books, practice,  write… One blog is key, Two Writing Teachers

One last word about success,  change,  and getting it right.  Generally,  if it feels wrong,  we should think… is this fun?  My friends,  Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan, reminded me last week to keep a playful stance about the WORK.  Good advice.  

Tear It Down (Coming Soon)

Tear it Down (Coming Soon)

May 30, 2017

The gas station on the corner that I pass every day is torn down. It had a Dunkin’ Donuts inside. The gas was always expensive. I think it used to have a car wash. I rarely got gas there. One morning there was a sign that a new station was coming. The next morning in its place was rubble. Today along with the two backhoes is a chain link fence and a sign that says coming soon. Coming soon…
We hold on to a lot of things. As teachers, we hold onto books we love, lessons we are familiar with, assessments that we have always done…we have always done. When things become actions we can do without thinking, sometime we do them without thinking. I like to think I’m not too bad with change. In my career, I have had a great deal of change come upon me not entirely expected. Perhaps we all think we are good with change. Granted we change those students in front of us each and every year. But deep change, I’m-going- reconsider-what-I’m actually-doing change might be more difficult.

This week I’m going to thinking about what I should tear down and what’s coming soon.

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.