A Thank You Note to NCTE14

Dear NCTE,

This was my first time at NCTE. I just wanted to thank you for attracting and organizing such an incredible group of educators in one place. It was a gift of knowledge, passion and hope.  I attended over twenty sessions, had hundreds of conversations, heard and read thousands of words. It was an honor not only to hear expert teachers and advocates for children, but to be with so many passionate people. It fed my teacher mind and soul. There is so much to process, to write about and try out with my kiddos. But for now, a few quick words of thanks.


Thank you to those who challenge our thinking.

The powerful “what if”  seemed to pop up everywhere, and the feeling it generated was pure possibility, pure energy.


Thank you to those who heighten our awareness of what we must teach that common core might not mention explicitly.

Lester Laminack, who can make you laugh and cry in the same moment, implored us to stop using the word bully and bullying inappropriately. We are overusing and abusing the word. We need to be talking about behavior that is kind or unkind. Don’t call anything bullying unless it is bullying, otherwise when it is bullying children will get no help.  Work on the bystanders. They are either “rocket fuel or extinguishers.” If a bystander is rocket fuel, a spark will accelerate bullying. Use story as a means to step inside and stand along side the bystander and help students re write the narrative to see we have choices.


Thank you to those who say things that must be heard, again and again.

Amen. Teaching takes lots of time, patience and sometimes it breaks your heart. It wears you down. Sometimes we come up short of what we know we need to bring to the table. That is why it should be a passion, an obsession. Teaching needs to be something you love more than things.



Thank you to Vicki Vinton, Fran McVeigh, Steve Peterson and Mary Lee Hahn for pushing me to reach up and join you in presenting at NCTE. The process has changed my stance as a teacher forever.  The power of inquiry and wonder is amazing: what we notice when we just take a risk, ask our students and really listen can make a world of difference. #teacherswonder



Thank you to teachers who know teaching is about learning and pursue it with passion.

Thank you to those who have the driving desire to share their knowledge, their questions and their beliefs to grow each other and their profession for the sake of our students.


Thank you beautiful teachers.







Slice of Life: Teacher Gifts

It’s time of Slice of Life with Two Writing Teachers. Thanks to Ana, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Stacey and Tara for a place to share our writing and our lives. Read more slices here.
11454297503_e27946e4ff_hA Monday, that faces a day-off Tuesday, makes students a bit off. I made room for that kind of day, planned for it. But there were some unexpected things.

I walked into the office, to distribute paperwork to boxes and desks, to pick up post its and pens; and in the small reception area, usually filled parents and student in transit, are a group of teachers.  I remember hearing something about being observed, but I guess it didn’t process as happening today.

I’m introduced as a “guru” of reading/writing workshop. Uh oh. Gulp. Good thing I didn’t know they were coming. I would have stressed. Now I’m just stressed in the moment, which is the good kind of stress. The stress that you don’t over think. The stress that helps in the moment and you just do.

The day was filled with the usual:


read aloud, amazing thoughts,

readers workshop, small groups,

writing, reflections, one-on-one conferring,


whole group,


lack of tech,



social studies,

good independent decisions,

bad behavior



in between.

The classroom just kind of moves from one thing to the next. Not perfect, ever. There are bumps. We got off course, maneuvered back. Some good moments, some things that didn’t work.  The students were who they are everyday. The thing that amazed me were how perceptive these teachers were. They “got” my students. They conferred, took notes, took pictures, listened in.

At recess we talked a bit.  And then back to the classroom, for my second group.

At the end of the day,

I found an envelope in my box,

and a purple Uniball pen.

After cleaning the room,

charging the iPads,

collecting some notebooks,

bags packed,

I opened

the note.

I was speechless.

What she said in her lovely hand written not hit on what mattered most to me.  She saw the work, the content sure, but she also saw all the rough edges. The reality of getting students to do the work of reading and writing. It is not Pinterest perfect. It’s real and messy. She saw work that was not complete, that was in process as valuable.  She saw students being pushed to independence. Really? You noticed? .

Teachers who notice the stuff that matters, and say so.

What a gift to have and to give.

Thank you.


Celebrating Independent Learning

Every week Ruth Ayers invites bloggers to celebrate their week by focusing on about the big and the small things worth holding up and celebrating. Thank you Ruth for this lovely ritual. Read more celebrations here.celebrate link up Today I’m celebrating independent learning..

One.  My students are still blogging and it’s summer. Technically they are no longer my students, but they are still blogging. One student has started a challenge – a do it yourself challenge a la Genius Hour! This student is putting herself out (a bit of a risk) to her peers with a challenge. No one asked her to. It wasn’t an assignment. She just did it. She is a writer and a creator all on her own and I hope forever.

Second. My own children are learning to handle life on their own. One son had to get through finals, job recertification (he’s a summer lifeguard and has to pass a open water swim test), look for a new house to rent (apparently “no one rents to male students”), and not feel well (probably stress) at the same time. He is dealing with it, without complaint. I worry but I’m proud of his independence.

Third. Teachers are choosing to spend the beginning part of their summer learning. These teachers came and worked all day with energy, learning a challenging but powerful way to teach writing. The extraordinary thing is that these teachers have lots of experience and success in their classrooms, BUT they aren’t satisfied. They have their sights on what is best for their students, and they are looking to raise the level of  instruction with Teachers College Reading Writing Projects’ Units of Study. I am inspired by their dedication to their craft and their students. These independent learners who came wanting more, left excited about what might be for next year, considering how to overcome obstacles and bring home the work to their school sites.

Fourth. The people and resources of TCRWP help us learn and push our teaching to higher levels. . With internet access, the classrooms and teaching of Cornelius Minor, Kate Roberts, and the coaching of Lucy Calkins comes to life for teachers, 3,000 miles away, to observe and learn.

Fifth. My  exceedingly talented colleagues work together to do masterful work teaching other teachers. Today, I celebrate their gifts and the magic that happens when it all comes together.