Day 31: The Journey

This March, writing daily became like breathing.
While running.
A marathon.
The terrain varied.
Downhill and uphill.

Some days took more out of me than others.
Some were worth it.
not so much.

My writing journey mirrors my teaching practice.
Both are challenges.
Writing about teaching helps keep both alive.
I suppose if I were to journal daily,
I would have a similar response.
But, writing in the company of others provides a dimension
that keeps me coming back
to write
again and again.
On difficult days.
On days when I think I have nothing to say. The community calls and welcomes all.

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers. And thank you, fellow Slicers, for the community and for journeying with me. Read more slices here.

A Journey

By Nikki Giovanni

It’s a journey . . . that I propose . . . I am not the guide . . . nor technical assistant . . . I will be your fellow passenger . . .

Though the rail has been ridden . . . winter clouds cover . . . autumn’s exuberant quilt . . . we must provide our own guide-posts . . .

I have heard . . . from previous visitors . . . the road washes out sometimes . . . and passengers are compelled . . . to continue groping . . . or turn back . . . I am not afraid . . .

I am not afraid . . . of rough spots . . . or lonely times . . . I don’t fear . . . the success of this endeavor . . . I am Ra . . . in a space . . . not to be discovered . . . but invented . . .

I promise you nothing . . . I accept your promise . . . of the same we are simply riding . . . a wave . . . that may carry . . . or crash . . .

It’s a journey . . . and I want . . . to go . . .


Poetry Friday is hosted at Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s blog The Poem Farm,

Day 30: The beauty of the end

There is this in-between time when students have finished one test but have more testing to do, that’s uncomfortable. They need to recover and there is not much to do. We’re in a holding pattern till the next test.  I want to let them go and play. And I did that as best I could with read aloud.

We’re at the end of The Wild Robot, and they’re captivated. Begging for one more chapter.  It’s that rush you get at the end of a book. The anticipation of the end is killing you, and we feel it as a community. It’s the best feeling times 30.

I’m holding them off. I want to squeeze and stretch it out. I want students to enjoy the drama of the story. The cliffhanger and emotional moments have students gasping and teary-eyed. Yes, I’m milking it. “Why do teachers always stop at the good part,” I hear one student stay when I close the book for the day.

For them, Roz is real. She’s a loving mother. Who selflessly protects her son. That is the power of story. Words that can bring an imaginary robot to life for a room of squirmy fifth graders.

The ending of any story is a reflection opportunity. We have gone on a journey that’s had it’s ups and downs. Tears and laughs. The end must leave us with a satisfied sense of learning, of self, of the world.

Day 30 of the Slice of Life March Challenge has that end of book feeling. We have been rushing to see what is next and now that we are just a page away from the end, we hesitate and take the journey in.

I fear, this month,  I have traveled the road too quickly, missing so much in the day to day rush. That said, it’s been a joyous journey. Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for the amazing journey offered by the March Slice of Life Challenge. Thanks to all.

Day 29: The Hidden Rug

This March I’m “slicing” a piece of my teaching day every day with the Two Writing Teachers community.11454297503_e27946e4ff_h

The rug is a the center of my classroom.

It’s a book shopping area as well as a read aloud and instructional meeting place.
It’s a place to confer with readers and writers.
It’s a place I can pull students close to instruct and to listen.
It’s where I can see them, and they can see me.
It’s a place to stretch out to read or write.
It’s essential.

To accommodate testing, desks now sit on the carpet; the bookshelves are inaccessible. There is no room to confer or talk. Instead of carpet space, there are aisles and lots of desks. The carpet is hidden. I hate this setup.

Students walked in and asked, “Where do we do read aloud?”

I love the fact that that was the first thing out of their mouths. No carpet, no read aloud. What will we do? I assured them we would find a way. They settled into their desks all facing the same way, and I looked out toward the back of the room, far, far away from me. I stood there and thought, Hello, out there! You in the back of the room, can you hear me?

On my left, I heard one student say, “I like it this way.”  His comment made me think. What is best for students? Pod seating is best for collaboration, but I can understand how it might not be best for singular activities, like reading.

Years past, I’ve had options. Some kiddos face forward. Others are in pods. And the carpet is there for all to use. Funny how we forget, what worked before, might need to be pulled out again. Funny how being forced to look at something you thought wouldn’t work could enhance your perspective.

Before I move everything back, I’ll see what kids think and perhaps, have them come up with a design that combines everything we need. Rug and all.

Day 28: What would you rather write?

This March I’m “slicing” a piece of my teaching day every day with the Two Writing Teachers community.11454297503_e27946e4ff_h

I polled my students today as they wrote their opinions on space exploration.

If you could choose, what would you rather write, a narrative, an informational piece or an opinion?

Approximately half of the students would rather write narrative and half preferred opinion writing. Only two students choose informational as an equal to story or argument writing. My next question was, why?

Narrative lovers said:

  • you get to think of what you want characters to do
  • you can plan out how you want it to be
  • it feels like you are in the story and you have to find the solution
  • you don’t have to do as much research
  • it’s fun!

Students want to dive into stories. Create the problem, find the solution. They are only limited by what they can imagine. That’s why fantasy is a blast. It not only allows them to create characters but also make impossible beings and situations. Why don’t I do more of this?

Argument lovers said:

  • you can write about what you think
  • my opinion matters
  • you can choose your side
  • research is fun

Students have opinions about all kinds of things and having the opportunity to put those feelings out in the world is an incredible feeling. What I heard again, and again was, “I can choose what I think!” Power for those who might feel powerless from time to time is intoxicating.

The few informational lovers said:

  • it tells what is true
  • research is fun

For this group of kiddos, informational writing is a difficult sell. Maybe it minimizes them. Maybe their research skills are underdeveloped and they find the facts boring to retell. Perhaps when they are more adept in research techniques they will be able to see that “facts” aren’t always simple and the “truth,” according to them, needs to be told.

This informal survey of sixty shows me a few things about the writing lives of my kiddos.

First, students love control.
Second, choice and voice are premium commodities.
Third, they want to play and have fun with writing.

A simple question offers  a lot of insight. It tells me where joy lies and what needs to be supported.

I want students to write. And write.

I want to see them light up when it’s time to write and complain when we have to put it away.

I want them to ask if they can work on it at home.

Every group of students tells a different story. And the story changes throughout the year. It’s important to remind myself that within all of the complicated work we do, with all the high expectations, to remember to ask the simple questions that can drive what comes next.





Day 27: A Notebook of Noodling

This March I’m “slicing” a piece of my teaching day every day with the Two Writing Teachers community.11454297503_e27946e4ff_h

Over the years I have hoarded bits of my kid’s lives. Notebooks, pictures, scraps of their writing. Little bits of their growing up. Their artwork still hangs on our walls. The larger items, costumes, hockey sticks, kick boards, t-ball stands, awards, and elementary school work, are stored in the garage.

A needed spring cleaning turned up one of my son’s daily school journals. My guess is this was how he started his day. Prompt on the board. It shows the progression of his cursive writing, random illustrations, reflections from weekend conquests to comments about characters in books.  It’s a snapshot of who he was then, hints of who he will become.

The teacher in me couldn’t help but notice that he used every inch of this notebook. That it was full of voice. That the only evidence of the teacher were the prompts.  I couldn’t help but think of my students and wonder, what they walk away with at the end of the year. What does their parent hold on to and store away?

There are their writing notebooks. But a lot of their random thoughts are in their blog posts or google docs.  These posts are filed away in the world of the internet. Eventually, students’ noodlings will be archived. Locked away. No one will open them up eight years from now and read the words written, reminisce about the past.

The artifacts of our lives matter. Journals, notebooks are tangible items. Things we can touch, store and discover years later. As much as I love our world of blogging, there is a lot of good to be found in a notebook of noodling.

As we come to the last few months of our school year, the last few months of my students; elementary school lives, I think a notebook of noodling is necessary. Something to take home, for mom to store away as a snapshot of who they are now.


Day 26: Burning Questions

This March I’m “slicing” a piece of my teaching day every day with the Two Writing Teachers community.

slide1111454297503_e27946e4ff_hFor her DigiLit Sunday Link up, Margaret Simon @Reflections on the Teche asked, What’s your burning question?

I question my teaching practice every day. In most cases, the questions result in the next step in the classroom. But recently my questions have been drifting towards the needs of teachers. What keeps teachers afloat?

The moments of discovery, of wonder, of connections, of books are the things that keep me going. Those moments are about the process of learning and the joy of being with learners. But there are days when that joy is hard to find, and I question the effectiveness of the work, I wonder what difference is being made this day for this child. And dark storm clouds roll in. There are these days. And usually, the next day is better. Purpose and vision return.  But there are days when finding the light takes more than what I’ve got. I could blame testing for the darkness at the moment. I can look forward to the week after testing, telling myself, life will begin after testing. And, most likely, that will happen. In the meantime, I need to be reminded why I’m here; why I need to be.

Like magic, a Voxer message popped up from Mary Howard about an amazing book to preorder. Then another message from JoAnne Duncan with a must listen to a podcast.

Like magic, I clicked on it and found exactly what I needed. Peter Reynolds and Matthew Winner discussing Reynolds’ new book Happy Dreamer.

Peter’s words reminded me of why I’m here.

His message lives in the belief that we all have stories to tell. That we need to find our stories; with a little scaffolding and space, we will.  And that is why I’m here.

Ask questions and like magic, the world, or maybe your Voxer group, will answer.

In the end, it’s all about the stories we tell and those stories we need to listen to.

Day 25: GLORIA

This March I’m “slicing” a piece of my teaching day every day with the Two Writing Teachers community.11454297503_e27946e4ff_h

A school community is held together by people outside our classrooms. They connect us to each other and to the outside world. They smooth out the bumps that could derail us.

At my school, the office staff of two deal with all the little and big people and their many needs. The teachers, parents and over 700 students. They handle humanity consistently with efficiency and kindness providing the oil the soothes and the glue that binds.

Yesterday marked the last day for one of our two office superheroes, Gloria. She’s one of those divinely inspired people who sees the good and makes good happen while dealing with all the troubles that filter into a school office.

Yesterday we honored her as best we could.
Teachers and students dressed in purple, her favorite color.
A morning assembly with a rock’n rendition of Van Morrison’s “Gloria.”
A kindergarten choral reading of a poem inspired by her daily tending to their many needs.
A staff celebration at recess in the lounge covered with purple heart messages from students.
It went on all day.

And she glowed throughout it all. This is her way through good and challenging times. Taking celebrate link upit in,
believing this is as it should be,
moving through it with grace.

Today I celebrate Gloria. Read more celebrations here on Ruth Ayres Writes.

Day 24: Of the Boy and the Butterfly

This March I’m “slicing” a piece of my teaching day every day with the Two Writing Teachers community.


Kids crowded around the drain pipe.
“You stepped on it!”
“No, I didn’t!
“Yes, you did.”

The back and forth of perceived injustice came inside.

“He’s got it.”


“In his desk.”

D lifted the dish for me to see, “Please can I have it after school?”

IMG_4880 (1)So close, so beautiful. It took your breath away.

I asked him to let it be,  but nothing could get D’s mind off that butterfly.
Nothing could hold him.
Off he went out the door and into the garden.
Came back.
Asked to go to the bathroom.
Came back.
Asked to get a drink of water.
Finally, he settled.

That evening, I sent the picture of the butterfly to D’s mom.
She had heard the story of the butterfly.
I hope she checked his backpack.

Of The Boy And Butterfly

by John Bunyan

Behold, how eager this our little boy
Is for a butterfly, as if all joy,
All profits, honours, yea, and lasting pleasures,
Were wrapped up in her, or the richest treasures
Found in her would be bundled up together,
When all her all is lighter than a feather.

He halloos, runs, and cries out, ‘Here, boys, here!’
Nor doth he brambles or the nettles fear:
He stumbles at the molehills, up he gets,
And runs again, as one bereft of wits;
And all his labour and his large outcry
Is only for a silly butterfly.


This little boy an emblem is of those
Whose hearts are wholly at the world’s dispose.
The butterfly doth represent to me
The world’s best things at best but fading be.
All are but painted nothings and false joys,
Like this poor butterfly to these our boys.

His running through nettles, thorns, and briers,
To gratify his boyish fond desires,
His tumbling over molehills to attain
His end, namely, his butterfly to gain,
Doth plainly show what hazards some men run
To get what will be lost as soon as won.

Read more Poetry Friday posts at Catherine Flynn’s blog Reading to the Core.


Day 23: Circle Time

This March I’m “slicing” a piece of my teaching day every day.11454297503_e27946e4ff_h

Every Wednesday, a group of ten to twenty girls comes to talk and have lunch in my classroom. It’s a tradition started in fourth grade. Feelings are aired and general silliness ensues. Girl’s Circle Time provides a safe place to deal with fifth-grade life.  The boys meet on Thursdays.

Yesterday had the feel of a sleepover. Giggly girls came in holding their lunch trays and set up on the rug. They gathered with lunches and special objects to talk from. Early in the conversation, one of the kids came up with a question to answer. Your scariest moment, favorite singer, some favorite place have been common lines of inquiry.

Early in the conversation, one of the kids came up with a question to answer. Your scariest moment, favorite singer, some favorite place have been common lines of inquiry. But today, the question that they came up surprised me.

What is your favorite word and why?

Mine is technology because writing is hard and that makes it easier!

Mine’s eggplant because it’s delicious.

Bathtub because I love the way it sounds.

Love because you can’t live without it.

Pizza because it’s pizza.

Grant Gustin because he’s so cute.

That’s two words.


Why because I can use it for so
many things, like
Why is it like that? and
Why does it do that?

I can’t remember them all; I should have written them down. But I love what I remember. Especially the word why.

Each response offered a hint into the child.  I immediately thought of how this could translate into the classroom. But maybe not. This question came from the magic of circle time. It might not play out in the world of the class.

Seeing girls without boys in an informal setting show parts of their personalities I would not have seen if I just knew their classroom personas. Just the fact that they show up says something. I see sides of them I would not have known.

Some are lonely souls.
Some want a comfortable place to stay.
Some want to be heard.
Some want the camaraderie

Some want to ask questions

Whatever their reason, I am grateful to host them every Wednesday.

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for the March Slice of Life challenge. Read more slices here.

Day 22: Demystifying Meaning

This March I’m “slicing” a piece of my teaching day every day.11454297503_e27946e4ff_h

We sat in the room and heard the same words at the same time.

I walked away confused and sad.  I came home and turned it over in my head. By morning I still didn’t know what to make of it. Conversations started first thing in the morning. Now I’m coming to understand, everyone heard the words differently.

I’m still trying to figure it out, but I learned something.

We don’t hear the same. No matter how clear our choice of words, we hear from our perspective. And our ability to listen is compromised when emotions are high. When we are vulnerable the meaning can get tangled in our own perspective.

Fortunately, because we want to work it out, what was intended had a chance of being heard.

I wonder. How often does this type of missed communication occur and we don’t bother to demystify the meaning? How often do we assume and go on with hurt feelings?  How does this affect young children and their social-emotional behavior and the ability to learn, to be successful, to take risks?

Our words move hearts and minds in ways we can not imagine, and in ways we do not intend.

Listening in the moment is hard; we need to take the time to check in.  Or how will we know what was heard was what we intended?

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for the March Slice of Life Challenge. Read more slices here.