Slice of Life: Five Things I SHOULD Have Said at Work Today


It’s Tuesday and time for Slice of Life. What a gift it is to be able to write and link up with thoughtful bloggers at Two Writing Teachers! Thank you Dana, Tara, Betsy, Stacy, Anna and Beth  for this and all you offer on your blog. Read more slices and share your own here.

Yesterday I started to shift instruction: edging toward a heavier dose of informational reading and writing. Every year this is uncomfortable. Not because I don’t like the work. It’s just moving the ship in a new destination without tossing out all we have done is tricky and makes me a bit uneasy. With a color coded plan in hand, and belief that we can hold tight to what we have done, I enter a grey Monday.

I walked by two colleagues who were immersed in conversation. I didn’t really notice them. I was alone in my thoughts. I didn’t notice until I was in the copy room, punching cards, and I tuned in to the conversation. It was about a book he was writing. The fact that I wasn’t included hurt a bit. The little grey cloud that was hovering over me got a little bigger.

Morning minutes ticked by. The air felt stagnant. Everything that met me seemed a little off.

Students walked by. Not quite the same smiles. Distant?

The day hadn’t even started, and I had a feeling that the direction I was going in wasn’t good.

The day happened. Sort of kind of what I had planned, but not quite right. After a union meeting and a parent conference, I sat in my classroom mulling it over. I try to think in a linear way. But I’m more of a circular thinker, which can make me crazy. You know a what if, then, and what about that thinker. The possibilities are endless.

To blame someone or something for my funk would be easy, if only it worked. My circular logic keeps running through this not quite right, now that I think about it, actually really awful day. I’m irritated with the why and what next feelings,

Home I go. Think. Read. Write. Troll around the internet. I read a few posts, and fell into Kelly Wickham’s post on Five Things I Said At Work Today. Fun stuff. Could be a slice some day.

But today’s slice is five things I should have said (done) at work today.

I should have said, how can I help?

I should have said, here’s this book, I think you’ll love it.

I should have said, read this post, it made me think of you.

I should have smiled, a lot more and a lot bigger than I did.

I should have said something. Caught up in my own world, not wanting to complicate what I was trying to figure out, I realize I didn’t talk to colleagues today. I sort of holed up inside. Ironically, that inward motion magnified the dissonance. Rather than breaking out and letting a little light in, I kept the door closed.

Today made me realize how much I power I have in creating my life.  It made me think of most days when it seems like the whole world just looks me straight in the eye, smiles and offers up possibilities. Today wasn’t one of those days. Lesson learned, at least for now. Tomorrow, I promise I will be looking out not in. And it will be much better.

Celebrate: Breaks and Colleagues


celebrate link up

It’s Saturday! A day to find moments in our week worth celebrating. Join Ruth Ayers and others  here.

One. Spring Break!  I always think breaks are when I will catch up.
This never happens.
I may finish up and clean up a few things, but I tend to start things too:  projects and thinking that can leave me feeling like I actually got behind!
Strange as this may seem, I celebrate the opportunity breaks give me to find more.

Two. Teachers. One day this week I visited Tim Bedley’s 5th grade classroom.
I follow him on twitter and was intrigued with his work.
I knew he was geographically close, so I contacted him asking if I might observe his class.  He generously opened his room to me.
That act of trust shows so much.
I walked out of his classroom with ideas to process, but more importantly uplifted by his willingness to welcome me into his world.
I celebrate the spirit of educators who share, show, and teach by doing.

Three. Social Media. The other day one of my colleagues mentioned how I seemed more at peace with my teaching, and he wondered might have caused this.
I knew what he meant.
Twitter and blogs I told him. He just looked at me, completely blank.
He has no idea. How could he?
Not being a participant in this world he just can’t understand.
Before social media, the only voices I heard were in my school and mostly at my grade level. Now the voices are from many places and my thinking is pushed, yet at the same time supported. I don’t feel alone anymore.
I celebrate all of you out there who have opened my world of teaching, writing and reading.

Four. My colleague Amy. I am the one at my grade level who tends to push for something more or different. This could be a real pain. But my colleague Amy not only goes with it, she makes it better. Just yesterday (a day off), we met to talk about our next challenge.
I asked her:
Is this the best use of our time?
Is is the best thing for kids?
Should we change it?
Eliminate it?
Difficult to think this way when you only have seven weeks left in the school year.
But we sat down and for the next few hours we wrestled with possibilities. I love this about my colleague Amy.
I celebrate her energy and openness.

Five. #TeacherPoets. This is the first year I’ve really embraced poetry.
Today’s Teacher Poet Google hangout with Chris Lehman was inspirational.
Check out the link, view the videos, and join in on the next two sessions.
My hat’s off to Michelle Haseltine and Betsy Hubbard.
To hear them read and workshop their poems in this virtual writing world was brave and beautiful.
I am honored to be a part of this process and I secretly hope to have a poem workshopped–some day.
I celebrate all of us who work at poetry leaving our emotions on the page, looking closely, living in specifics, and describing things as best as we possibly can.



Slice of Life Day 20: Staying Calm

It all started with a fire alarm. I pull up, the alarm continues. Strange I think, a fire alarm and I’m unlocking the door and going in. It stops. Parent conference, need copies, bell rings, chaperone dropped out of field trip, PE data due, Future Leader nomination due, oh and don’t forget to get your book wish list in for Open House Friday, apps need to be down loaded, tech team.

Stay calm and ….copies in hand, my students meet me and we walk to the classroom.
Deep breath, let’s go.

We do what we do first, same as usual: breakfast in the classroom, I ignore that — vocabulary, I’m all over it.

The difference in my classroom today is the team of my colleagues watching. Today we started instructional rounds. They watched with their own lenses of discovery and then moved on to four other classrooms to observe. This was the first time these teachers, who had been teaching together for over ten years, had EVER seen each other teach.

Nine o’clock. I go with two of my students to do a podcast with Robert Bravo and Rudy Rizzo on twitter and blogging (yesterday’s slice). It was fun. What could be better, talking about something I’m passionate about and want to share with the world. The fact that I got to tell someone that can move the message further, all the better. My students rocked it.

Back to class by 9:30.

Fast forward to the end of the day, the two groups of teachers who did instructional rounds today meet in the library.

We talk, clarify, listen.

My big question for my colleagues was – did you like the experience?

I loved it I got at least three gems from each room.

Now I know what book clubs look like in the next grade. Now I know what I’m getting them ready for.

I just want all of the charts.

Everyone works so hard. There are no wasted minutes.

I’m just a sponge

Bottom line today was a really good day. Thanks to twitter,  edcampLA, and @MrZiebarth’s great resources for instructional rounds. Thanks to my terrific colleagues and great leadership.

What started with a fire alarm ended just about as good as I could have expected.

A happy ending for today.


Celebrating Connections

celebrate link upThanks to  Ruth Ayers and all who contribute to #celebratelu. I am thankful for the opportunity to think back on the week and find the gems worth holding on to.

1. I’m celebrating connections with my “family” community. I am lucky to have three kids who have friends that feel comfortable being in our house.   Last night neighbor kids, old friends of our oldest, my daughter and a few of her friends hung out and talked — about sports, local gossip, and college aspirations. We’ve known some of these kids since they were in preschool. They are like an extended family. They walk in, often without knocking, because they know they are always invited.

2. I’m celebrating connections with former students. Being a fifth grade teacher, I’m the end of the road for elementary school. I always wonder what happens in their lives.  Friday, a young man walked up to me, looked me in the eye, shook my hand, and asked me how I was doing. He told me his plans of going on to college and perhaps medical school. This may not seem earth shattering, but this young man was a struggling elementary student. He had significant learning disabilities and was multi-lingual, the combination of which made understanding English extremely difficult. I was beyond impressed, not just for his academic goals but for his poise and presence. Everything and anything is possible, don’t count anyone out.

3. I’m celebrating connections to my students through writing.  Reading their memoirs yesterday I was struck by my students’ resilience and honesty.  Many told of times when they had disappointed someone, got angry with a friend, or got in trouble. Quite a few recounted getting in trouble with a teacher.

One of my new students (he’s been with me for three weeks) wrote how a teacher mistakenly thought he was doing something wrong; how teachers don’t understand him and  “that’s why I hate school.” Never would have known this if we didn’t write.

Another wrote of a time he had to do homework, but he didn’t want to because his whole family was doing something else, so he didn’t. He then told how the teacher had screamed at him and he cried as his mom watched. A bit melodramatic perhaps, but his perspective is his reality.

Another told the tale of her dad’s struggle with alcoholism. This isn’t easy stuff.

They felt safe enough to share. I am honored, and I celebrate the power of writing.

4. I am celebrating connections with my colleagues.  I work with amazing teachers. We are a team and work to meet the needs of our students daily on all grade levels. I am proud to be a member of this group.  Today, I want to thank Dayna Wells (@daywells) who taught a social studies lesson to my students. WOW. I learned so much that I will attempt to capture in another post. I celebrate Dayna for her curiosity, energy and risk taking moves that has allowed her to bring this work to me and my students.

5. I am celebrating connections with you all who contribute to #celebratelu. Reading your posts is a joy. I always smile and sometimes cry.  Happy Saturday.