SOLC22 – day 11, playground foray

Yesterday, I followed my students to recess. Just curious. There had been some tension between a few kiddos, and I wondered who and what they would gravitate toward.

One group of girls walked toward the handball court, the source of most playground drama. Most of the 3rd and 4th graders were clustered in this corner of the field.

Sitting on the ground alone was L. “Are you ok?” I ask.
He nods his head. “I just don’t really like to play,” he says.
Methodical, sensitive L. has friends but wants alone time. His choice fits him. He’s a thoughtful kiddo. Still worries me. He’s been pulling his hood up in class more.

I walk around the corner on the way back to the staff room. The girls and boys bathroom is located here. I hear, “Teacher!”
The group of 4th grade girls look at me.
I look back. “Are you suppose to be here?” I ask.
I get a shrug.
“Shall I find out for you?”
“Oh no. We know where to go,” K responds.
“Show me.”
And off they go. Anyone who hangs out in the bathrooms is probably hiding something like a phone. They all know it, hence the alarm that was set off when they saw me.

I continue to the break room, thinking how a teacher’s presence creates such a stir. I had unintentionally caught them at something.

Walking on the yard during recess from time to time is a good practice. To disrupt the expected. To notice who is up to what. But, walking into their time and space felt invasive.

Both students and teachers need a break from the expectations of their respective roles.

SOLC22, day 10 – 17 things I’m trying to get to

Too often I find myself living life with the next step in mind. I know when I’m doing it.
I find myself thinking, when will I get to the part I want to get to?

Sadly, when I get to where I want to be, I don’t savor the moment. The next thing bares down and I forget to appreciate where I am.

I’m working on it.
Perhaps by naming things or times I want to get to, I’ll be more aware when I’m there.
In no particular order, here are 17 things (there are more) that I am trying to get to.

reading the Sunday Times with a full pot of coffee.
morning coffee with a friend
walking along the coast
listening to a student
shopping with my daughter
reading a new book in the morning
reading student writing
traveling to a place I’ve never been
visiting a museum
talking with my children
writing letters to a pen pal
sitting in the garden
sleeping in
watching a movie with my husband
working with a student
eating summer fruit
swimming in the ocean

SOLC22: day 9, flights of fancy

I sat in the back of the classroom, opened the lid of my desk, and looked inside. Not for anything in particular. I just liked opening it. It was a place to hide from the world.

Miss E raised her voice over the noise around me signaling time for read aloud. I put my head down and put my sweater over my head. The coolness of the desk radiated through my cheeks and forearms.

My mind skipped back to double dutch outside the fourth grade classroom. The click, click, click of the rope as it banged on the asphalt. I watched Diane move her hands in time with the rope. As if she was feeling her way into the space that would hold her as she jumped. And then she was in. Jump, jump, jumping to the count of ten. Then out.

I was next.

Moving my hands, watching the rope, I looked for that space. Reaching forward with the rope and back toward me. Again and again until my legs moved with my hands toward the click, click, click and I jumped, jumped, jumped. To the count of ten. Then out. Smooth. Running around to the back of the line. Click, click, click it went.

Recess receded from my thoughts as the words of the story floated in of Rudolf and his red nose. I prop my head up to see the pictures and the story takes over into the world of reindeer and the one outsider who became a hero.

Drifting along I hear, his nose so bright,
and I notice my hand moving around and around with a red crayon.
Slowly, I realize the round and round is on the tip of my nose.
My hands cover what I’m sure is a very red circle in the middle of my face.

I look around the classroom, panicked.
Did anyone see?
No one said a thing.
No one was looking at me.
I was alone in my shame.


This is a draft of the memoir I planned alongside with my students today. They love the fact that I did such a silly thing when I was older than they are now.

Looking back on this moment, so much has changed in teaching, but so little has changed in me. I still have a tendency to get lost in books. In fact it is a preferred state. I just keep crayons out of my hands while reading.

SOLC 22, day 8: cat battles

I have a thing about making my bed in the morning.
My cat has a thing about sleeping as late as possible on my bed.
Some days I can make the bed without disturbing him.
But yesterday,
I walked in with about 5 minutes till I had to leave and find him
on top of both the comforter and the sheets.

If I want to make the bed, he has to move.
Doing his best to deter me, he finds a particularly adorable position.
One that signals, how could you possibly…

I am not fooled.
Clear cat manipulation, I tell myself as I pull, tug and nudge.
Grudgingly he is forced to move.
Signaling his intense displeasure, he gives me his backside.

Undeterred, I continue.
I know I’ve got him.
With a few adjustments, mission accomplished.
He surveys the damage, and

takes control of his new domain.
As if it was his idea all along.

SOLC#22 – day 7, what we remember

I loved the jungle gym. The gray steel bars rose up creating a structure that looked like a castle. 

I was fascinated by it, but I never climbed it The bars were too slippery, dripping with morning dew, and the gaps between each rung were too big. Reaching up to climb meant letting go of a bar just long enough to give me a queasy feeling that would run from my fingertips to my toes. So, I spent my time on the ground, watching other kids climb.

One day, I had a different idea. 

No one was around. I walked toward the jungle gym. My red tennis shoes sunk into the wet sand as I stepped toward the empty structure. I grabbed the bar at chest level, and put my foot on the rung below. With one foot on the ground, I rubbed my shoe back and forth on the metal bar. Maybe this isn’t a good idea, I thought, and I took my foot off the bar. I leaned in and saw on the other side, James White reaching up and starting to climb. Snack time must be over.

Next thing I remember, I was at the top, facing James.
We had reached the top at the same time.


Memory is a strange thing. What we remember. What we don’t. How we remember and why. This is one of my earliest memories I dredged up for the memoir unit I’m writing with my students. When I read this to them, most thought I conquered my fear of heights. But I know it wasn’t that.

I still have a fear of heights. Rollercoaster are a no go. When I worked on the 40th floor of an office building, I had difficulty being near the windows.

I was a cautious kid. What my four-year old self did that day was decidedly out of character. Maybe that’s why I remember. It was so stunningly not me.

SOLC22, day 5: Super powers needed

One of my favorite parts of the day is our community circle.

Every day I pose a question. Would you rather have super sight or super hearing was a favorite this week. Do you want kids when you grow up was decidedly cringeworthy until I assured them that grown up is a long way away. The answers provide connections between students and understanding. Even the silly questions can offer a peek into a person’s heart.

Friday’s question was simply, how are you doing. I prefaced it by saying that you need to listen carefully so that you can not only know what your classmates are feeling, but possibly reach out to them if they are having a difficult time. Know that everything offered is given with the understanding that you hold their thoughts with care. Of course this is always the case but especially with this question. Many were good, ok, fine. Then there was

I’m tired
I’m anxious
voiced by a several people.

The reasons for each were specific for that child. Each explanation showing a window into their emotional state.

My students are resilient beings. Doing all they can; overcoming the daily obstacles of their school life. Yet, sometimes they rumble inside with something that could break them. The troubles can come up where you least expect it.

The heartbreaking news of Katie Meyer popped up on my newsfeed the day I asked my students this question, and I couldn’t help but make a connection. Our stars, our beautiful developing children have pressures on them we often do not see. A seemingly small thing to me, may be seen as monumental to child. Always having a child’s perspective in mind is crucial.

I can’t make their worries go away, but how I offer support could help.

I think I need super hearing and super sight, so I can hear and see how my students’ perceive their world.

SOLC22 day 4: writing is a willful child

I had planned to get home early to write, so I could read. You see I’m a creature of habit. But my writing is proving to be problematic.

I have my way of being. A structure I run by.
I swim or run at an ungodly hour. It won’t happen any other way.
I have the same breakfast and lunch. Only the flavor or yogurt changes.
My classroom structure is set, like a clock.
After school I plan and then

This is my way. The way I keep my mental house in order. I have if-this-then-that thinking ready for variations in expectations, aka reality. But I try to anticipate the surprises. Breaking things down into three-part steps or a sequence that builds on itself is something I do for fun. It’s the nerdy teacher in me.

This is to say, that slicing has taken a toll on my reading life, and I can’t figure out a way to right myself. I’ve considered setting a timer and just powering out the slice, but that is not my way. While I am systems driven in the structure of my day, writing is a process that resists. It meanders. Gets distracted by other ideas. Wanders off into definitions. Consistently fights with the order of a piece. Endings become beginnings and then the whole piece has to shift. This writing thing will not bend to my need for control and order. It has a mind of its own and will not listen to reason. I’ve laid out lists. Attempted to restrictions and incentives. But writing is a noncompliant, willful child. Out doing me at every turn.

Meanwhile, my reading life sits on my bedside table, quietly worrying where I’ve gone.

This slice was inspired by Elisabeth Ellington’s words — my way. Wander on over to her blog for a bit of distraction.

SOLC22, day 3: thorny thoughts

Those aren’t my people.

And then there is the converse, you are my people.

My people are those who listen, get my jokes, and share things I enjoy. Adding books, movies, recipes, restaurants, destinations, and other experiences to my repertoire of life pleasures.

And my people share my judgements. About choices others make. Of what is important, valuable, or worthy of time. My people can confirm my darker side. Validating a close door policy to things that just don’t appeal or fit in with how “we” see good.

We sit with our people.

I see this in my 4th graders. They self segregate: boys on one side of the carpet, girls on the other.

It’s human. We band together for solidarity. For strength. From an evolutionary standpoint, alone in the wild does not bode well for longevity. This desire to be accepted, taken in as one of a group, is a deep instinctual need. It is human. It is tribal.

I was thinking about this tendency as I read about the foreign students in Ukraine having difficulty getting out of the county. And about the ready acceptance of refugees who look like the natives. Again, human. Understandable. But at the same time, disturbing.

Last week, I saw a friend (one of my people) and she told me about how it was difficult for her growing up in a predominately white community. I had felt different as well for different reasons. It seems like in response to being an outsider, we found our groups. Our people. And made it a practice to stay in our spaces. All understandable and justifiable.

But when do we recognize the damage this creates? When do we take the chance and cross over to the side of difference and potential danger? When and if we have the power, do we let in those who are different? Those people?

You all are my people, so we can agree, these are thorny questions.

SOLC#22 Day 2: Uncertain times

I woke to the unusual sound of the radio. My mother stood in the kitchen staring into space. Also unusual. Something was very wrong.

That morning I learned that Bobby Kennedy was shot a few miles from my home. Assassination was a word I learned a few months before.
I knew about Martin and Malcom.
I knew about protests and the Vietnam war.
I knew the world was full of unrest.
I was nine.

My parents had lived most of their lives in uncertain times and I don’t think it occurred to them, to exclude their children from their nightly conversations about the news, no matter the topic. Every evening we got a full dose of politics, opinions and a bit of Walter Cronkite or Roger Mudd.

Times were and are uncertain. This is and will always be our world. And our young ones are aware. As the conflict in Ukraine had worsened into war my nine-year-old students have been asking questions. Looking at maps. Asking why. Many are making connections to what they are learning in our historical fiction unit. World War 2. The allies. This war sounds familiar. Students are thinking and talking about it. World War 3 comes up on the playground.

All of this pointed to the need to bring news into the classroom.

So we are investigating.
Maps. News articles. Who is involved, where is this, and why is this happening.
And all the skills we have been working on when reading history are being used to figure out the answers for the history we are making.

Each day we try to piece together our uncertain times.