Celebrate: Fridays, Fresh and Clean, and a Bit of Nudging

A few quick celebrations today with Ruth Ayers and friends. Find more celebrations here.

celebrate link up

1. Friday Netflix.

We don’t have television, only online streaming and videos. Shamefully, I love binging on a good series or several movies on a Friday night. I came home after a week of very long days and fell on the couch.  My husband is in charge of finding the entertainment. I watched/dozed through two dystopian movies and woke up for the romantic comedy.  A good way to end the night and start the weekend.

2. Clean2014-11-08 09.08.24 car.

We had a smattering of rain recently. This combined with parking outside made for a very dirty car. I normally don’t notice or really care too much about this kind of thing, but when I am afraid to brush against it for fear of getting my clothes dirty, it’s time. Now it sits, bright and shinny in the garage.

3. Blue skies. See the blue reflecting in the window? Los Angeles is hot and desert-like these days. That is our reality. But sometimes we get very blue skies. Something to notice and celebrate.

4. New notebooks.

2014-11-08 09.05.00-1Our first semester ended yesterday.  The majority of students have almost filled the Reader’s Notebooks they got fifteen weeks ago. That in and of itself is worth celebrating. I used to give students new notebooks as they filled them, but this year so many are almost filled and most are really, really worn/torn, I figured let’s start out the new semester fresh with clean slates, new goals and beautiful notebooks.

5. Focused Genius Hour projects.

This is my second year of genius hour and I have learned a bit about nudging students in their work. Some students have problems finding ideas, others give up on ideas. While I don’t/can’t direct their work I try to steer it in ways I hope will work out for them. This year I wanted it to be passion based but directed at making the world a better place.  This has focused a lot of the work. When they come to me with their ideas I say, great. Now how will this help the world.  They have to think about that. How can their passion, be it video games, art, reading, or gymnastics, help someone other than themselves. Makes them think, research and plan.

Here’s one example of a2014-11-07 15.20.56 group of Minecrafting students who are looking to teach us teachers how we can use it in our classrooms to help students learn. Really cool. Not sure what will come of it, but we all will be learning.

Happy weekend and to finding celebrations.

Slice of Life: Moments That Bubble and Pop

It’s Tuesday and time for Slice of Life. I wanted to write a small moment personal narrative; what my students are currently working on. Tomorrow they flash draft.

I dove into my notebook to find something story worthy, but the story walked into the room and announced itself. After writing tonight, the anger of the moment is largely diffused. Emotions didn’t escalate as the same situation might have a few years ago. Dare I celebrate that fact? What follows is a teeny slice of parenting life. A story that irritates momentarily, and dissipates quickly.


I’m tired. It’s 8:31, but feels like 11:31. Monday  evening and I just lost it with my daughter.

I’m sitting in the living room, dressed in my pjs and sweat shirt,  checking emails.

She walks up to me and asks, “Can we go to Trader Joe’s?”

“Wait I tell her,” not really listening, “I need to respond to this.”

She walks away.

Time passes.

The door creaks open and she walks out of her bedroom. She stands over me,  the keys to the car in her hand. It dawns on me she wants to drive, and for some reason, tonight I just don’t want her to. It’s not that driving with her is that bad. She’s really good, for a 16-year old. I just don’t want her to drive now and tell her so.

Her reaction is immediate: the look on her face, the tone of her voice.  I can see her digging in her heels.

Most of the time, I don’t fight this kind of a battle. It just doesn’t come close to registering on my things-to- die-on-the-sword-for gage. But tonight, I’m just not in the mood to give in.  “No, I’ll drive,” I say.

“Fine,” she said.  “I’ll starve,”and walks to her room.

Mind you, our refrigerator is full. But not with the particular dietary needs she requires at this time.

I’m irritated but that passes as I sink into writing.  Interesting to note, the door to her room doesn’t slam shut. Just a quiet and normal sounding shut. Clearly her request wasn’t worth the fight.

I’m relieved. A small moment that might have blown up in the past, just slipped away.

For those of you who have or have had a teenage girl, I hope you can identify with this silly clash of wills. I hope I’m not alone. Sometimes these moments just walk in unannounced, rising up from who knows where and then slink off.

The beasts go to bed. Sleep should provide transformation by morning.




Thank you Two Writing Teachers for this space to be and become writers. A place to share moments, the good and the not so good.

Thank you Tara, Stacey, Beth, Anna, Dana and Betsy for your wonderful blog. Find more posts and add your own here.

Slice of Life Day 7: Overflowing Brain

For the month of March, I am writing daily with Slice of Life bloggers. Adding daily writing to everything else is interesting. My busy brain is always overflowing. Now I’m working to hold on to a slice to remember. Read other slicer’s writing here at Two Writing Teachers.
11454297503_e27946e4ff_hToday I woke up groggy, my body and brain begging for more sleep. I don’t want to give in to fatigue.

Wanting to swim, I get my bag and in 10 minutes I’m out the door. Traffic lights are the only thing that disrupt my drive.

I think as I hurtle down the street, this has got to change. I keep adding to the “to do” without taking anything away, except sleep. 

I’ll shave a bit off the workout, I think. I‘ll leave 15 minutes early. 

Pool time provides a rare opportunity: I don’t think. My mind turns off, and I just go.

The back and forth, lulls my brain into a state of calm. The water nulls out distractions and concerns. I suppose that’s why when I get to that moment, that moment I should get out, that I don’t. Just one more, because I’ve forgotten all those thoughts I had on the way here.

It isn’t until I’m on my drive home that I remember and think. I calculate my time.

I turn off of one busy street, onto a less busy street, surprised by pedestrians in my car-oriented world.

Up on the left I spot a drive-thru Starbucks. I love this spot. Terrible me. It’s decadent. I don’t even have to get out of my car. Waiting in line, cell phone in hand, I read a post. I pull up. The face at the window is my former student Evelyn. We’re surprised to see each other, and we exchange updates on her and her siblings (they’re triplets).  Her brother’s in the Marines; her sister’s in college studying acting. She’s in college too, English major. This moment made my morning.

Filled up with news and coffee, off I go with time to spare. I think about the day ahead and how to parse my school day. So much to do. I don’t want to give anything up. I just seem to think of more. Long gone is the grogginess of the first minutes of my day. Now I’m filled with all kinds of will dos and must dos. I know my plate is full. Too much

Tomorrow when I wake up, I’ll accept the fatigue as an outcome of me. This how I make things go, overflowing, too much.

Fun playing with Tagxedo


Slice of Life Day 3: My Limits

Day 3 in the Slice of Life Daily Challenge. Today my thoughts are on limits. Where are mine?

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hToday I ran on the treadmill in the garage, rain falling outside, cool air drifting in.

I ran in middle school, high school, college, and after.
I’ve run short, medium and long.
Fast and not so fast, but at the time, it was never fast enough.
I’ve moderated to accommodate injury, illness, my limitations.

Limitations. Where are mine now?  I don’t run as much as I use to, but while I’m running, there is a focus and a fluidity that doesn’t happen anywhere else. I think. I realize. I make lists. I change plans. I clear my head.

As I start running, I  worry. Yesterday my knee was swollen. This knee has been problematic, an old injury that acts up when I do too much or push too hard. So I approach the treadmill tentatively. I increase the pace slowly watching out for any pain. Nothing so far.

I get to a mile.

My thoughts wander off to the flash drafts the kids are doing on the blog.
I don’t want these drafts altered without preserving the original.
So that means I have to print them out. Shoot.
I need Google docs. I tell myself for the millionth time.
Note to self get the name of the tech guy to Yolanda.
How to print them out… wifi messed up the printer.

18:24 on the clock.

My thoughts shift to reading.
How to mix in non fiction while maintaining the lit clubs…
Switch to Monday, the longer day...

I look down, 25:34. Oops lost track of time.

My thoughts shift to running, and limits.
I don’t want to push to it.
Just one minute more I think.  
One minute, just one, just one more before time runs out.
Then as the minute passes, I add one more.
Just one more I think, just one more minute.

I get to 4 miles. Enough.

I cool down. Strangely a slower pace is a jolt to the system. I speed up to cool down. Then a bit slower, slower till I stop in comfort.

Where are my limits? In running. In life.  Today’s run was good, and I am grateful. Here’s to the next run and stopping just short of my limit.

Slice of Life: Day 2 Filled with Piles, Files and Treasures


Day 2 in my first slice of life daily challenge. I am so impressed with the numbers who slice. I just wish I could read more of them. All such gems. So proud to be a part of the Slicing community at Two Writing Teachers. Thank you Stacey, Dana, Tara, Elizabeth, Anna and Betsy for helping me become more of a writer.

Today it rained, hard. It hailed. Today there was lightning, thunder.
Today I filed papers.
What do these things have in common? All these things don’t happen very often.
Truth: I am terrible at putting things away.

I am one of those people who loves organization, but hates to organize. I’m one of those people who instead of putting things away in their place when I get them, I put things in a place that I will eventually put away. Today was eventually.

Today I filed.

My bedroom was awash in student work, absence notes, random mentor texts, charts, cards.

Stacks were made: memoir, informational texts, poetry, fantasy, etc.
Found: a random poem written by my middle son in 4th grade -his ode to Lord of the Rings.
Ummm. I sit and think. Where to put this treasure? I place in a pile of other un-categorizable papers. A pile to be discovered another time. I think that is fine. I’ll find this again. Next time.

Now, where is that book? I’ve been looking for it for days, weeks. Searching the bookshelves and other places I pile books. I know I have at least one copy of it.  Every time I start looking, I get distracted by another book.

Today I found The Boy on the Porch.  Hmmm… I sit down in the corner. Just a little break from organizing I think.

As I read I wonder. Who is this boy? He’s magical, alien, and other worldly all in one. I think of the wondering work my students would do if they read this book. He’s a secret treasure to this couple who find him mysteriously placed on their doorstep. Mute. Its magical quality reminds me of  Cynthia Ry;ant’s  Van Gogh Cafe.  The secret, sweet part of Jacob reminds me of the sweet spirit of the character in Feathers, by Jacqueline Woodsen. I’m wondering if he is part animal, related to the cow and the beagle. And why does this couple receive these gifts? Will they get to keep them? Should they?

Time is slipping and the papers are on their way to being filed, but you can’t walk on the ground without stepping on one.

My husband walks in clearly disgusted, “We have to leave at 5:45,” he says

“It’s  3:30,” I say.

He knows me too well. Irritating. So I put the book down, focus on the papers, get them off the ground,  and in files that are named.

Now I can read and someone can walk on the ground. Now I can go back to the book I can’t put it down.

But wait, what was I looking for? Oh yes Bird by Bird. It is driving me crazy. Did I loan it to someone? If so, please return. Now back to the book.

Celebrating Randomness

Every Saturday Ruth Ayers hosts bloggers who look back on their week with an eye for moments to celebrate. It is a wonderful way to honor, to notice and celebrate all the good things that happen. Click here and find out how you can start this practice. 
celebrate link up

This week’s list seems random. No real theme here. Just life. Kinda nice.

1. Parent Conferences are almost over and, in my opinion, overwhelmingly successful. Students led their conference by talking about their progress and their work to date. Students worked in front of their parents, evaluating their work right there on the spot. Goals were stated relative to Common Core expectations and in most cases the next steps involved in meeting the goal was discussed in a “how do you think you could achieve this goal” and “what can we do on Monday to start reaching this goal”  manner.

This was a one-on-one conference my students with parents listening intently. Data was gathered for teaching, parents attentiveness was clear and if nothing else this spotlight on their child was appreciated by both parents and students. The level of anxiety was apparent with some of the students, but most parents felt it was important for them to be able to talk about their work.

Only a few parents asked what grade their child would be receiving.  The focus was on the work and the process of learning. What could be a better thing to celebrate in education.

So much of this work was aided by a questionnaire the student’s filled out prior to the conference. It got them thinking and was used by some to talk from during the conference. I developed my conference  forms from the forms provided by Pernille Ripp in her post on how to do parent conferences. Thanks again Pernille and Leigh Ann for pointing me in the right direction.

2. Teachers College Reading and Writing Project released their Summer Institute Brochure  and videos of their work aligned with the Charlotte Danielson framework for teaching. Wow on both counts. Here’s to celebrating the continuing work of TCRWP and Lucy Calkins. Always challenging themselves and reaching for more. Now the tough work of choosing which institute.

3. My colleague Cathy started a blog. I’m so proud of her for jumping in and doing something for herself and the education community. I celebrate Cathy who is now a creator not just a consumer of media. Check out her blog here. Hopefully she’ll join us at #celebratelu soon.

4. Rain came to Southern California. I heard it the other night. It sounded strange, foreign. I thought, rain… but no, couldn’t be. I looked out and sure enough the ground is wet. Yeah! Our record low rainfall has those who keep track of these things all in a tizzy. While this short burst won’t fix the drought, it was nice to have a little winter-like weather.

5. My daughter’s brace is off and she’s in the pool. Thankfully she’s healing nicely. The surgeon is pleased. While she’s still in physical therapy and has limitations, the first part of this recovery is over. Her  return to the pool was exhausting. I came home to find her in bed at 6:30. She says she’s slow and it’s hard. Hopefully her desire to return to her former swimming self will be rekindled. No matter what she pursues, I’m grateful she is becoming whole again.

6. Next week will be normal, at least in terms of school hours. While conferences were good, teaching time was limited. I celebrate our return to normal school hours and predictability for our students.

Here’s to random celebrations, a wonderful weekend and more for the week ahead.

Christmas Afterthoughts

I forgot I love honey. My dad loves honey. But I forgot that too.

I love honey on toasted bread. I forgot that as well.

Even when I opened it yesterday, I didn’t remember.

Even when I tasted it last night, I didn’t remember.

But this morning, I slowly remembered, because I got some honey for Christmas.2013-12-26 10.53.07

When I reached for another piece of bread, because I hadn’t had enough, it started to dawn on me.

When I thought, maybe I’ll just take a spoonful of it, or perhaps lick the knife.

Then I remembered.

I remembered I love honey.

And that reminded me of my dad’s love for honey. It is something we share.

Thanks to my son, who gave me honey, unknowing its power, Christmas isn’t over.

This memory was an unexpected gift, delivered the day after.

The best gifts reach beyond Christmas day. The presence of people we don’t see much of and time to savor simple things, gives reminders of what we love and what others love.

Now, I’m on the look out for other gifts I haven’t noticed.

And, I think I’ll go get my dad a jar of honey.

Sunday Night Thoughts

The nerdlution thing has got me cornered here.  So many ideas lurking in my head and the week hasn’t even started.

More often than not, my Sunday nights are bursting with ideas, worries, and theories. My challenge right now in this post is to focus my thinking into something hat will make sense for me and my students.

I’m processing a conversation I had with my husband about a student’s writing. This student’s manuscript is extremely difficult to read. He looked at it, read it aloud slowly. He kept looking at it, processing it. He said, “You know this is actually quite beautiful, visually. Impossible to read, but beautiful.” After bit more examination he said, “his thoughts are really good, interesting.”  I had never thought student’s manuscript as beautiful. My husband went on to say, “He’s very creative, an artist, sort of an impressionist.” Coming from my husband, a bottom line kind of guy, I was a little surprised. He saw an artist in this boy. Surprised but grateful for that new perspective on this student. So I’m seeing this child through new impressionistic eyes. He is doing the writing work in a joyful manner. The conventions of form are not his concern.

I’m processing the #caedchat on great teachers. Great teachers empower, inspire, are passionate about learning, have high expectations, experiment, ask why, listen.  These are just a few of the comments I favorited.

Ask why and then listen stand out for me. Too much of the time i’m so concerned about getting our message across, I forget or don’t give the time to stop and listen.

  • Lessons need to be made with a questioning heart.
  • Leave a big space for why in every lesson.
  • Enter every conversation knowing students have a reason for their actions or inactions. It is my job to figure out why by asking and listening.

Tomorrow starts a week of festivities. Practices, performances and celebrations will be the focus from Wednesday through Friday. So what do I want my students to hold on to as they leave for a three week break?

  •  to enjoy their families as I plan to enjoy mine
  •  to rest and grow
  •  to want to read
  •  to want to write
  •  to miss their friends and routine by week two
  •  to want to get back to school before they come back

Still sorting out these ideas along with the nuts and bolts of tomorrow.

Looking forward to it.