About Me

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I taught for several years at a residential school for children with emotional disabilities before staying home after the birth of my second daughter. I returned to teaching, finished my Educational Leadership program in May of 2012, and now work as our district's Writing and Social Studies Coordinator. I have always loved writing and find constant inspiration from my family. Maybe someday, I will get to see my name on the cover of a book!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Slice of Life- Graduation was...cold!!!!

On Tuesdays, the community of Two Writing Teachers hosts the Slice of Life. Join the incredible community by writing a snippet of life, or even join with just a comment or two. Everyone is welcome!

"My expectations aren't very high," my second daughter Julia said, as we maneuvered through the airport. 

I nodded, trying to keep my own expectations in check. I put my arm around her. "I really appreciate you coming," I said.

Our oldest daughter was graduating from college, and she made it clear that she wanted her entire family there to celebrate with her. On one hand, it was a LOT to manage (and pay for). On the other hand, I loved that she's so connected. 

As it turned out, Julia gave up a lot to be there. Her friends from college decided they'd head to Boston for a Red Sox game. (Julia LOVES anything that has to do with sports.) They headed back to campus in time for some formals, and the weather in CT was reportedly beautiful. 

The weather in Michigan was NOT beautiful. In fact, during the 2 1/2 hour OUTSIDE ceremony, it snowed at one point. It was THAT cold. 

"This makes me REALLY want to make the post-season tournament," Julia said as we huddled on the bleachers. "The game should be around Thanksgiving in the freezing cold, and Larkin definitely HAS to be there."

Even though I'd have to be there too at another freezing cold event, I had to laugh. 

And then, there was another ceremony. At least it was inside, but after the first few graduates crossed the stage and said a few words, I realized those students were NOT representative of the class. EVERYONE was going to be saying a few words--some of them saying more than others. 

"I'm so sorry," I mouthed to my younger three daughters, Julia included, when I did the math and realized how long we'd be sitting there listening to about a million thank-you's. (Okay, maybe just a thousand...) For another two hours, we sat and listened to emotional graduates. 

By the next day, we were all mostly thawed, and Sunday's brunch was good food and a lot of laughs, but my hardest laugh was waiting to board the plane that would take us home. 

"I had really low expectations," Julia said. "The amazing thing is it STILL fell short of them."

Yep, sometimes that happens. She had to admit though, that we had a lot to celebrate just being us! And, truth be told, Larkin really was SO happy we were there. And, I'm pretty sure that we will NEVER have a colder graduation!

Happy Slicing,

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Slice of Life 2018- 31 of 31

For the month of March, I am participating in the Eleventh Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. That means that I am writing every day for the month of March in the good company of the Two Writing Teachers community. 

“You will have a story in there. . . or a character, a place, a poem, a moment in time. When you find it, you will write it. Word after word after word after word.” 
― Patricia MacLachlanWord After Word After Word

How amazing is this line? More than anything else, more than any of the other writing I do-- and I do a lot-- the March SOLSC gets me to live these words from Patricia MacLachlan.

At the beginning of the month, I wrote about the slicing community feeling like coffee shop customers in that we all develop our posting habits in the same way people show up for coffee on their way to their daily life. I stayed consistent with my morning posts for just about the entire month, and every morning I commented on the three to five bloggers who posted before me. There were other people I commented on as well throughout the day, but it was fun to have my virtual coffee shop of bloggers to get there morning greeting. I'll miss them. I'll look forward to next year.

Last year, I wrote my top ten reasons for taking this challenge. This year, I am going to try to write my top ten take-aways:

  1. The law of magnetism works even in communities like this. I relate and react to people with similar posting habits and writing styles. I need to do a better job fighting this law of magnetism. 
  2. Less is frequently more. Kevin's six word stories were super powerful, and I can't say I read every word of some of the longer posts. (I apologize for the length of this one, and if you skipped the top to get to the list, I completely understand.)
  3. Everyone loves a list. They're easier to read, and they provide information to brains in more consumable chunks. Note to self. 
  4. The third quarter is tough for me in all I do. My attention wanes midway through, and I need the end to be in sight to regain my energy. School years, games, projects, SOLSC's...
  5. I love watching people experience this for the first time, which is something that's also true in other arenas. (Peg and Georgia, that one's especially for you.)
  6. When we write about positive experiences or we share with humor and insight, we get positive responses and usually feel positive energy. 
  7. People read fast and frequently miss key details, and this shows up within the content of a comment. I have to think about this. We live in a fast-paced world. Do we as writers work to make our writing less subtle, less clever? I think not. I think we smile to ourselves and think, yep, they missed that one. 
  8. I don't need structures or sentence stems in order to come up with slices (funny that I'm writing this within the structure of a top ten list) but I do need the element of time. Time to pause, to reflect, to decide, to write. And sometimes it's the first three that take more time than the writing itself. An important takeaway for teaching...
  9. It's really, really hard for me to write multiple projects. My work on my novel suffered this month, and my professional writing went down. However, I know when I return to them, I will be better at them because of this, as long as I keep my writing pattern. I will keep my writing pattern. (You read it here, and you are invited to ask me about it in a couple weeks/months...)
  10. See #2--here's a 6-worder: That's all for now. Write on.
I'm a better person because of this community and the writing I do within it. Thank you to all who are a part of it. 

Friday, March 30, 2018

Slice of Life 2018- 30 of 31

For the month of March, I am participating in the Eleventh Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. That means that I am writing every day for the month of March in the good company of the Two Writing Teachers community. 

By Day 30, I thought I'd run out of things to say, thoughts to share, posts to write. And yet, even now as I sit at the keyboard, I'm debating between two very different posts. 

Dad, this one's for you. 

Lanny's beautiful post about his mother where he talks about the levy and its cracks makes this have to be for you. One of my first memories was heading to the levy in St Louis and learning the words to American Pie. We drove your gold Duster--I've written other stories about that car with the 'gator skinned-roof--and you told me to pretend it was a Chevy. 

Holidays bring out the cracks in my emotional levy. We'll have people for Easter, and I'll hide jelly beans around the house. I'll try not to hide in any in places where they won't be found. Mom used to find them for days after we got sick of looking for your more elusive candies, even though you tried to remember where they all were. "You're getting warmer---" a favorite phrase toward the end of the hunt.  The girls and their friends aren't quite old enough to hide a couple cases of ponies in the backyard like you used to do. Give me another couple of years, and I'll carry on that tradition. 

I'll see you later today. I'll bring a lily by. You used to walk in with too many to carry, and many of your shirts had the telltale signs of carrying lilies--those stamen stains really don't come out. I can't tell you I'll go to church--that was something I did only for you and only in your company, not in your honor. And I can't tell you that I'll go to Sunrise Service either, but I will wake up on Sunday morning before the sun rises, I have no doubt, and I will go outside, and I will think of you and greet you and miss you. 

Hard to believe that tomorrow will be the final post for the SOLSC 2018. 
Happy Slicing,

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Slice of Life 2018- 29 of 31

For the month of March, I am participating in the Eleventh Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. That means that I am writing every day for the month of March in the good company of the Two Writing Teachers community. 

"I can't believe how much your kids write," one of the teachers said to M as we came out of her room. 

Even our staff developer was impressed with the productivity and quality of writing in this first grade classroom. We had a professional development day with one of our TC staff developers, and Lisa'd done a demonstration lesson. The lesson had to do with the checklist, but she'd made a game out of it. We all thought the kids would enjoy it because it was a game. They did, but they were happy to stop playing and get to their writing. 

"I've got to get to my ending," I heard one of them say

I walked with the teachers and the staff developer back to the media center after the lesson. As soon as we got there, Lisa realized she still had the microphone around her neck that one of the students needs to hear the lessons, so I walked it back to the classroom. The students were in the hallway, chattering and getting ready for recess. 

"I love recess and writing workshop," one of them said.
"Me too," her friend replied. 

I can believe how much those kids write. They love it. 

Happy Slicing,

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Slice of Life 2018- 28 of 31

For the month of March, I am participating in the Eleventh Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. That means that I am writing every day for the month of March in the good company of the Two Writing Teachers community. 

There are days, like today, when technology feels unfriendly. 

I don't want to know how much time I have spent today watching the circle spin on my screen while something didn't load. 

I don't want to know how many times I've gotten that message from google asking if I want to kill the page or wait. How did they ever decide to use the term "kill the page" anyway?

I don't want to know how long I spent figuring out how to situate post-it templates in such a way that I could print perfect sticky notes for a lesson tomorrow because when I did finally create the PERFECT sticky notes and get them all set for printing, my printer gave the message that it was out of ink and I'd need to replace the cartridge before I could print---and, no, I can't email my document to myself and print it at school because my printer at school has been out of toner for TWO WEEKS and I'm waiting for the new cartridge for that one to arrive.

I don't mean to yell. 

There just are days, like today, when technology feels unfriendly. 

At least I have a good book. 

Happy Slicing,

Slice of Life 2018- 27 of 31

For the month of March, I am participating in the Eleventh Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. That means that I am writing every day for the month of March in the good company of the Two Writing Teachers community. 

For almost a year, I have run a student writing group on the last Monday of the month. We met at the library tonight, and split into our pre-assigned groups. Because everyone had went their writing in ahead of time and read each other's work before coming to the meeting, we had an extra ten to fifteen minutes before we were scheduled to end. These students are writers, through and through, so I do things with them I would not ordinarily do in classroom. 

One of the girls had started a new story. Her group agreed that the premise of the story is strong, and when she shared to outline of chapters she's already created (she's a sixth grader, and she has an outline of chapters--mic drop, there), we all agreed that the story needs to be written. 

The feedback she received was about holding off on some of the information in the opening scene. What is that the reader has to know right away, and what can we wait to find out? 

"How about if we all write a beginning for her?" one student asked. 

We asked A. how she felt about that, and she was all for it. We'd done this once before for another group member, and everyone loved hearing what the others created. 

Maybe someday I'll write a book about this group and what they accomplish as writers. Tonight, their beginnings blew me away. If you're ever stuck with how to begin a story, tell a group of young writers what the reader needs to know in the beginning of the story, and then stand back. 

Happy Slicing,

Monday, March 26, 2018

Slice of Life 2018- 26 of 31

For the month of March, I am participating in the Eleventh Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. That means that I am writing every day for the month of March in the good company of the Two Writing Teachers community. 

This morning's post is a letter to a teacher in our district. I plan to give it to her. 

Dear L,
Ten years ago, I returned to elementary classrooms as a half-time special education teacher. We shared a student, and throughout the year, we shared long off-the-clock conversations, brainstorm sessions, and tears. He was beyond us--even you whose classroom is the safest, calmest one I know--and he was outplaced in May, maybe April (but it felt like June!) I'm watching another student follow a similar path, and we'll see what happens. He's not in your classroom. He's in a first-year teacher's room, and it's easy for me to be empathetic. I don't have to imagine how she feels; I've felt it. 

Maybe what she needs to hear is that some students are beyond even the best teacher's reach. You have a lot of kids this year. Twenty-five third-graders is a big class for our district, and the needs are wide and varied. I walked in yesterday, and you were teaching writing. Since I've been in a fair amount this year, the kids all know who I am--that I love writing, that I love reading their writing--and you invited me to jump in. I wasn't there to jump in. I hadn't even told you I was coming. I had a couple of papers I wanted your opinion on. But I jumped in because it's so easy to do that in your room. 

I knew exactly what you were teaching, and so did your kids. All of them were loving to read the conclusion you'd written about why dogs make great pets. Your conclusion had funny parts, repetition, even a little story. They loved hearing your voice come shining through in your writing. Even a couple of the students whose minds might wander noticed and shared about how you used silliness to make your point. Thank you for being a teacher who writes. Your students' work is so much more than meeting standards. It's full of voice, humor, and confidence, and it's easy to see why. 

Thank you also for being a teacher who's interested in learning and not threatened by collaborating. It's hard for me to resist jumping in and my brain tends to think in charts. As your students read your work and started naming your craft moves, I headed to your chartpad and began listing them. Maybe I feel that comfort because you and I once worked that closely together on a more regular basis, but maybe it's also because that's just how you make people feel. Your classroom is a warm and inviting place to be--a place where we're all learners, listeners, and growers. 

While you read the pieces, your students moved into independent work time, and I conferred with R. He was having a hard time getting going. He and I talked about ways he could get started, and when I asked him what I complimented him on and what I taught him, he knew right away. You were listening as he explained his takeaways to me. I think you were interested in what he was saying--I was too--but I was also interested that he could talk about the conference that just happened, and that says a lot about you. He's engaged and interested in learning, even when it's hard, and that's a mindset that exists in your classroom. 

Yes, you have a lot of students in your room, and you also have a room full of intention and excitement in the work. Sometimes we don't take the time to step back and appreciate that. It doesn't just happen. 

Maybe what I need to say to this other teacher is look forward to look back. You'll make it through, and you can still be an incredible teacher. L is. 

Thank you for all you do.