Noticing #sol18

IMG_0967Noticing #sol18

March 31, 2018

Lily and I have the luxury of a walk this morning heading out to our woodsy trail.  We haven’t been this way in quite some time impeded by snow for so long. Today spring is breaking through.  Under foot wet soggy leaves make me hesitant, not Lily. She’s confident, leading the way. Twigs break under foot. My eyes  drawn to the the trees overhead, noticing their raw wounds from recent storms. Tiny islands of snow crop up here and there, spring will not be denied now. Lily’s keen nose and sharp eyes notice far more than mine stopping her to smell a branch or rock, look out into the woods that surrounds us. My eyes are drawn to the brilliant green and subtle difference of the moss on every rock. The moss senses the change. 

 I notice myself composing as I walk,  the silence opening up the words that flow across my consciousness. Small phrases worked over like smooth pebbles in a stream.  Not quite right yet. Composing, switching phrases, juggling imagery. Would I have done this before?  Would I have noticed like a wordsmith, like a chronicler, like a writer?

I am sharper, keener, more observant.  Noticing more around and thinking more deeply about how I express myself, not just in my print, but in my words everywhere.  Space for contemplation matters more and so I give it more generously. Thoughts have more space to grow, perhaps flourishing or lying in my notebook for other opportunities. Revising  more, thinking about sentences days later and returning to change word order, clarity, tense seems common place now. Changed as a writer. 

As I thinking more about writing, I consider more about teaching writing as well.  Talking first, rehearsing. We did this before but it feels differently now, more like a sharing, a collaboration, joyful.  Bringing what I’ve  noticed to the daily practice of writing. 

Last year,  I composed in documents, careful, hesitant, concerned.  Now my thoughts come and I begin to compose not caring if I discard them later.  More will come. Just then, clarity. What I’ve learned, just like spring,  more will come. 


And just like that it’s over,  day 31 of 31. I am forever grateful to my writing mentors, encouragers, and fellow journeyers in this the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  Special thanks to Two Writing Teachers and the amazingly talented writers that curate that site not just during March but throughout the year.  See for yourself at Two Writing Teachers.

What I Learn From Other Slicers #sol18

IMG_0944.jpgWhat I Learned From Other Slicers #sol18

March Year 2 Edition March 30, 2018

The intimacy of sharing a writing community and reading someone’s writing each day across time and place is profound.  Images and ideas stick with you long after you have left.

I have learned so much from so many bloggers this March. Last year I was so focused on just getting the writing done I didn’t allow myself enough space to just enjoy other writing and other perspectives.  This year I let go other reading to really read blogs consistently, reading between 20-25 blogs every day and sometime more than that.  Reading deeply in one genre gives you a stronger understanding of craft.  Here are 10 highlights from a month full of so many, tucked into my blog journal, my electronic folder, and my reading list. They will remain there for some time. 

From Alice Nine I learned about many different types of poetry, my favorite of which was golden shovels, My Daddy’s Golden Shovel.  In addition,  Alice has a wonderful way of weaving teaching techniques into her blog and respond to comments in a way that continues to teach.   To everyone else that wrote, explained, and taught me poetry techniques I am truly grateful.  Special recognition to Fran McVeigh, Lynne Dorfman and others.

From Lanny Ball and Stacey Shubitz, and others,   I learned true slicing,  those truthful everyday moments that hold so much meaning and sentiment.  Stacey let us into her little family and allowed me to peek at moments in young parenting that are long past for me. Last year, Stacey taught me how to make those watercolor illustration for my blog.

From humbleswede and Fran Haley, and others,  I learned that my dog could have a say which leaves the possibilities open for so many other things.  Lily still hasn’t gotten her say, but she has received honorable mention.

From Darin Johnston &  JCareyreads,  I learned that we can be PLN friends,  share ideas, and strengths, and hopes with each other.  Their honesty and thoughtful responses are the hallmark of what makes this challenge so meaningful.

From mbhmainepersistence and pedagogy,  and others,  I remembered about the variety of the slice techniques. So many of these techniques are squirreled away for a Tuesday.

From comments  like those from ureadiread and others, I was affirmed, supported, and taught.   5 star commenting from Brian Rozinsky for this whole solid year.  ( I have still yet to learn brevity from him)

From ebgriffin, saavyteacher and others,  I learned that we can talk over virtually what we are thinking, rehash what we wished, and have a virtual redo.

From mrspalmerponders and others,  I thought about the true depth of mentor texts.  Her How-To about blueberry picking will stick with me.

From my friend,  Clare Landrigan,  I continue to learn that you can accomplish what you set your mind to, that encouragement means everything, and you can know a person, but learn a lot more from their writing.

From my little welcome wagon tribe,  I learned that affirming someone else feels pretty great.

Bonus:  There were so many blogs that I truly enjoyed like this one from Anita,  Frog, Toad, and Vygotsky  I hope I told each of you when you wrote them.

This year blogging after school and posting in the AM worked for me as did reading  blogs throughout the day.  This technique was encourage by my welcome wagon crew being spread across the country posting at all different times. 

I learned a few things about myself too,  but I’ll save those for day 31.  

img_1405Day 30 of a 31 day challenge.  Writing with my writerly friends as part of the Slice of Life Challenge.  Read even more of their amazing blogs at Two Writing Teachers.  Thanks to Melanie, Stacey, and Lanny for coordinating so much for so many and encouraging me personally.

Grocery Lists of Dreams #sol18

Grocery Lists of Dreams


March 27, 2018

Today I am going to write about something completely different. Today,  I introduce you to me,  food blogger.  Oh,  none of those step by step things, just a girl, a list, and a plan.

In my dream world,  I am a food blogger.  I test recipes and post amazing instagram pictures of food that I make. I am a woman with a subscription to several cooking magazine and a love for food blogs. My instagram does have quite a few food photos, but as they say,  I’m not going to quit my day job anytime soon.

On the weekends I plan our next week’s meals.  I make a list that currently looks like this.  Some things to note here.  The circled recipe on the top is one I bought the ingredients for and have yet to make. Sometimes life happens.  Meeting candy is written twice on this list.  Forgetting candy for curriculum meetings that I host is very  bad.  Today I remembered that one teacher loves Cadbury Mini Eggs.  extra points That odd note under Friday reminds me that on Easter there are always sweet rolls shaped like bunnies.  Saturday is blank because on Saturday,  I am wined and dined by my number one.

The list is divided into crazy arbitrary sections that probably made sense in some Illinois grocery store, but only make tertiary sense in New England.  I wrote all the orange items on Saturday and then the pencil items after I looked a few recipes on the internet.  Sometimes I flip the days.

Sunday night I made the bacon wrapped tenderloinSorry no photo available.  

Monday night we had this

IMG_0939 Chicken Pot Pie Pizza.  I made it more difficult by not having precut vegetables or precooked chicken.  Still yummy.  Here’s what the critics said.

Mr.  K:   You know what you should do next time with this recipe. 

Me:  (Eye Roll)  You know there won’t be a next time. (I rarely remake anything)

Mr. K:  (unfazed)  Well if there were a next time, you should drizzle extra gravy on the top. 

Me:  I did this time. 

Mr. K:  Well,  you should have made more gravy.  You know there can’t be too much gravy.  Remember those Centerville Pies,  they come with a container of gravy.  You can’t have too much gravy. 

Me:  The Centerville Pies don’t have any gravy inside.  I made twice as much gravy as the recipe.  

Mr. K:  Well,  you can’t have too much gravy.  You know,  you could have bought a jar of that chicken gravy. 

Me:  (sigh)

The day before The Critic had purchased a peanut butter cookie at Starbucks.  I said, I can make peanut butter cookies. He said, This one has chocolate in the center.  Lucky for him,  he got these Classic Peanut Butter Cookies anyway.
IMG_0936I may never quit my day job and become a food blogger, but that cookie jar in the kitchen is always full and most meetings and Mondays at the school are accompanied by a home baked treat.

That critic doesn’t know how good he has it.






Maintaining my day job as a literacy specialist and slicer for now.  Day 27 of a 31 day writing streak in the Slice of Life Writing Challenge.  Read some amazing blogs by my PLN, the other bloggers at Two Writing Teachers. 

Why I Became and am Still a Teacher #sol18

awesomeWhy I Became and am Still a Teacher #sol18

March 25, 2018

Sunday OpEd  SK style

Today my fellow blogger and spiritual younger brother though we have never met, Darin Johnston posted the following OpEds on his twitter feedMamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Teachers.  Both posts are seriously thought provoking.  I’ll let you form you own opinion about them, but thinking like this is important.  In our challenging profession prone to hyperbole from the outside, we need to know who we are as practitioners and why we continue.   If we don’t know what we stand for, what we believe as educators, and how we see ourselves in the greater good,  it will be difficult to not be downtrodden by the myriad of trials mostly external that weigh on us in our changing field.

This prompted me to consider my own circuitous path to my current dream job.  I say that without any sarcasm.  This job is the highlight of my career.  I love it, even on its worst days.  But I’ve begun at the end.

I went to college with the plan of becoming  a human rights attorney.  I majored in Economics at the University of Illinois and until my junior year had every intention of continuing.  In that year, a series of events drew me to reconsider my trajectory.  How else could I contribute to society and the world without that plan?  Through a crazy notion of reading the entire undergraduate program catalog, a feat no one could do today,  I changed my major to child development, the cousin of early childhood education, with a speciality in special education.  Honestly,  I never looked back.

I’m not one of those people who dreamed of being a teacher since childhood or held school with her cousins or dolls.  I’m the child that was dreaming of changing the world.  I met Angela Davis when I was in elementary school.  All of my early childhood memories are rooted in community activism.

My parents didn’t want me to become a teacher.  My mom, aunt, and grandmother were nurses.  They had particular feelings about mostly feminine careers.  As early feminists,  they didn’t want those experiences for me.  I remember when Bob and I attended a cocktail party once in the late ’80’s,  another professor asked me what I did,  when I told him I was working on my masters in Child Development and Family Studies, while teaching at Head Start,  he was overtly dismissive.  Many have been.

I proceed on  from  teacher to administrator to reading teacher to literacy coach.  In that move from administrator to reading teacher,  I spent eighteen months working in an insurance company as a personal assistant to the president.  He had never really known a teacher and I had never worked in an office.  What I learned about who I was,  the transferable skills we have as educators, and what work looks like for many other people, was invaluable.  My ability to multi-task, view a problem systematically, prioritize, and problem solve were gifts I had learned from education work.  To read something quickly and synthesize, summarize, and apply were things I had learned and taught.  The experience also taught me what I knew even when I was administrator,  I am fueled by interactions with children.

So in our climate of change,  I  see evolution.  In our climate of expectations, I see a stronger application of brain theory.  In our climate of assessment,  I see the potential to think like scientist, differentiate, experiment, activate.   I see a place to continue to change the world.

So,  I am not giving up on teaching.  I had a teacher ask me to chat with her about her career arc this past week.  My advice,  just think about the next five years.  Not because I think she will want to leave, but because it’s a brave new frontier.  I told her that time in that classroom with those kiddos will teach you so much about yourself, about children in general and specific,  it will build your toolkit for whatever next step you want to take.

Will I recommend teaching to the next generation?  I would ask someone,  do you want to be on the ground floor of world changing?


Slicing daily in March as part of the Slice of Life Story Challenge. Inspired daily by the slices of my fellow bloggers.  You may be inspired 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.


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.



Hero #sol18

thumbnail_IMG_6575Hero #sol 18

March 4, 2018

Today’s writing challenge: write about a hero, someone who has changed your life. I watched  some of the PBS videos on We’ll Meet Again.  Inspiring… truly.  They aren’t my hero story.

My hero didn’t rescue me from Mt. St. Helens or an earthquake.  In fact,  my hero doesn’t know my name.  She couldn’t pick me out in a crowd.  In the last eight years, we have spoke to each other four or five times.  The longest exchange was yesterday.  We spoke for about ten minutes.  She gave me her full attention.  She asked me what was going on in my school. And then she moved on to the very important work she had to do.

I wanted to ask her for a photograph together.  I have thought that every time I’ve seen her for these six-seven years.  I am not sure why, but I can’t ask her for that.  If I had one,  it would be on my desk and perhaps on my phone because this one singular woman has changed my life.

If you read my blog or know me personally or were in the crowd at Riverside Church with me yesterday,  you already know who I mean.  Lucy Calkins.  I contemplated writing in all caps or a different color or some other way to type in a way that I say it.

Sixish years ago, my friend MaryLynne,  convinced me to get up at 3:00 am,  drive to New York (235 miles give or take) and spend the day with 3,000 other educators shuffling around at Columbia,  eating a bag lunch,  furiously taking notes, and trying to slip into our consciousness the utter brilliance that is the thinking, speaking, acting, existing that is the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project only to process the 200 miles home arriving after 8 pm.   MaryLynne was already aware,  she had attended.  She knew the project members and the buildings and New York.

Back to Lucy.  I know,  shouldn’t I call her Dr. Calkins or something?   All of us seem to call her Lucy.  Lucy’s words,  her colleagues,  the people she draws together,  the books she’s inspired,  the speakers I’ve met that have worked with her,  all have come together to inform my current practice as a literacy coach.  Her reach is amazing and all of it is grounded in a simple and profound place.

Yesterday I wrote down just three lines in her twenty minute speech.

Intimacy is when someone listens to your writing. 

Love is when the difference between giving and taking is as little as it can be (Siddhartha)

It’s the personal that matters. 

I am certain that Lucy Calkins and I will never have a thumbnail_IMG_0789.jpgpersonal relationship.  However,  her sharing of her beliefs,  the path she choice,  the words she speaks and writes,  will be a part of all of my coaching and my teaching.  I know she knew that in those moments we spoke yesterday.  I know that she doesn’t take that responsibility lightly.

So Mrs. Calkins,  how is it going in my school community?  What I should have said is that it’s growing exponentially because you took an interest in growing my practice, in encouraging me to help others grow their practice, to care about the personal.  

Screen Shot 2017-02-28 at 9.10.00 PM  Today,  day 4 of the 31 day Slice of Life Writing Challenge,  thank you to all of the bloggers and readers and learners and writers that fuel my learning because it’s through writing that I explore my thinking.  It’s through writing that I think about teaching writing.  When I become a writer,  I join a community.  Here’s to the writing community created by Two Writing Teachers.