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.

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.


Launching Books #IMWAYR


Mentor Texts for the Beginning and the Long Haul

July 17, 2017

Every summer  I find a back to school mentor text.  Usually,  this text is a uplifting mentor about mindset for learning.  This year’s choices are no exception to that.  It’s the right way to go for the first few days.

Being a teacher for a number of years,  there are a lot of first days books in my library.  This year,  the hunt is different.  Let’s make these books go the long haul.  I want to return to them for meaning work, construction work, beginnings, endings, author’s moves, and theme.  That’s a lot to ask of one book.  However, the more familiar the story,  the more meaningful it is as a mentor tool.

the thing lou couldn't do Many of you will already be familiar with The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do and by its author,  Ashley Spires, author of the amazing, The Most Magnificent Thing, another well-used mentor text.  Without reading,  we can already do so much work on the cover,

lou thingloucouldntdo insert

right?  Essential Questions, Predictions, Foreshadowing.  This book doesn’t hold back,  Lou knows she can do the thing.  She avoids it.  She negotiates with it.  The best part is that (spoiler alert),  it doesn’t all work out in the end. It has a perfect Carol Dweck moment.  Read to find out.  Ok, all well and good but what else.  Taking just three ideas from Calkins UOS Reading 2nd Grade Authors Have Intentions, we can talk about theme.  (this will work for any grade)

Here’s where my practice is shifting.  I don’t have to have these questions answered to ask them.  The students often have better, deeper, richer ideas.  I think I know, but that’s not important.

jabari jumps cover

I couldn’t wait for my next title to arrive, Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall.  Reviews were awesome and LOOK at that cover.  So much to talk about after summer break!

But then there’s the first page,  and we can talk about Screen Shot 2017-07-17 at 8.30.37 AM.pngor  details in the story or crafting an ending. We can use dialogue.  I can use the preview of the book video to notice, and wonder with the class.


My last book is purposeful.  I’m committed to add an Amy Krouse Rosenthal book to as many lists and as

the ok book cover.jpg

many demonstrations as I can.  This book isn’t new like my other two choices and honestly,  I may have used it for back to school before.  The video of The OK book will be how Literacy Bootcamp  begins this year.



Because in the world of must be amazing,  it’s ok to be ok while you’re figuring it out.  Illustrations, simple repetitive text, a thoughtful ending.  One great mentor.

inside the ok book

Happy hunting for your mentors.  Remember to make them go the distance.

This is Too Easy

This is Too Easy

March 4, 2017


“Introducing a spelling test to a student by saying, ‘Let’s see how many words you know,’ is different from saying, ‘Let’s see how many words you know already.’ It is only one word, but the already suggests that any words the child knows are ahead of expectation and, most important, that there is nothing permanent about what is known and not known.”

— Peter Johnston

We might have oversold the growth mindset message.

My students are now convinced that everything should be hard and by hard, they mean difficult.  They now emphatically state that if the work we do isn’t hard for them, then it isn’t worth doing.  They want harder books,  harder problems, harder words to spell.  Their favorite thing to say to me is  This is soooo easy.   This is too easy.  Make it harder.  

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m all for challenges.  Setting a goal, seeing it through,  believe that you can achieve.  The whole enchilada.  But practice… shots on goal… doesn’t have to be difficult.  I can read for pleasure.  I can spell to get more accurate.  I don’t have to read an 800 page book to be a good reader… and neither do they.  

So I continue to promote a growth mindset along with the pleasure of doing something that isn’t all that hard.  The idea of baby steps not gigantic leaps.   The idea that all of it doesn’t have to be a challenge.

In her book,  Readers Front and Center,  Dorothy Barnhouse takes us on a constructivist journey emphasizing learning over knowledge, process over product.  So when my students say, This is easy,  I ask how do you know that?   How did you learn to spell because,  to read longer words,  to enjoy a book.  By doing this we help our students notice process and effort over product and ability.  They solidify their thinking through the process of explaining their learning.  This builds conversation skills, synthesizing skills, and a growth mindset.   The real growth mindset,  the one that says I’m always growing.  slice-of-life_individual.jpg

I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for all of March.    

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

Readers, check out their site, and start slicing!

The Space Between

The Space Between   March 1, 2017

I was working on coaching points for the next units of study in reading and writing for our elementary building when I began thinking about… the space between.  Sometimes it’s a rush moving from one unit to another, there really isn’t any breathing space for the teachers or… the students.

I feel rushed during the day, during the week, during a month, during the year.  How do our students feel?   I thought about this in earnest several weeks ago during a professional development day with our primary teachers.   Our trainer for the year and this day, Clare Landrigan said we need to create balance between destinations.  I began thinking about this balance and the concept of lingering began to take shape in my thinking.  

Oh,  I’m a lingerer.  I am a lingerer from way back.  Ask my husband.  I can spend an hour looking at yarn color,  recipe books,  dishes,  a sunset,  the list goes on.  So if I find peace, comfort, and inspiration from lingering,  why don’t I encourage it in others?

So I began in small ways to encourage the linger through my collaboration meetings.  I would say to a teacher partner, “we could spend another day on this and… have the students present their thinking to each other,  write long about what we talked about today, linger over one more mentor text.  I thought they would offer excuses not to,  telling me that we were “moving forward”,  “ground to cover”, and so on.  They really didn’t.  They exhaled… and they lingered with their students.

I had a lingering moment today with a fourth grade class.  We had worked through a novel prior to February vacation and the last day, the teacher had asked the students to write a ‘stickie’ about the theme and put in our their exit ticket board.  As the two of us read through the stickie notes, she said,  “They think it’s about getting a puppy. That’s what happen in the last chapter.”  We decided to sleep on it,  for real.  We spend the next week on break.  Melissa and I thinking sporadically on theme and the students enjoy the nice weather.  

Melissa saw a great idea about students writing an additional chapter for the book based on their thinking about the theme, but decided that the class needed a little more work prior to diving in.  I saw the short animation Oscar winner,  Piper, and could clearly see the theme in the movie.  So I suggested that we try to talk through theme, again and again moments, and life lessons using this short film with no dialogue.  When the students didn’t immediately jump to the lesson,  we asked,  what was the problem?  We went back and rewatched.  You get the idea.  Rewatching is like rereading.  
So here we are a few days later with several picture books under our belts along with some great discussions, some collaborative learning, and some breathing room.  Tomorrow we might actually go back to the novel…  There’s always next week.