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. 
M

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Slice of Life 2018- 25 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. 



My newsfeed and social media websites are full of images, videos, and reactions to the Walks for our Lives that happened today across the country, and they should be. When my youngest daughter asked if we could go to the March in Hartford on Friday night, I said I'd take her. We made signs, and I ignored the nagging voice inside of me that wanted to tell me how much I dislike crowds and traffic and finding parking spots (oh my--). 

At first, I wondered why I was there. We were in a cluster of people in the middle of Bushnell Park, randomly chanting, listening in on conversations, and sharing the message on the sign Cecily held. 


Once we moved to the front of the capital and listened to the speeches, it became about so much more. Tyler Suarez, a student at the University of Bridgeport, ran the event from the steps. His aunt, Dawn Hochsprung, was the principal of Sandy Hook who was killed in December of 2011. He was eloquent, passionate, and poised in front of thousands of people. He even played guitar and sang a song he and Dawn's father wrote in her memory.

Many adults and politicians spoke as well, but the ones I'll remember were Isabella Segall, a student from Wilton and founder of Connecticut Teens Against Gun Violence. Her message about wanting to grow up was powerful and haunting. Her fear of walking into school and not walking back out was the backbone of a strong speech with a strong message.



I had moments of tearing up as references were made to Sandy Hook--I know I'll never get over that day in my state--but when Erica Lafferty, Dawn's daughter, took the mic and spoke about her mother, I was full out crying. I'd almost gotten myself back together when I met a close friend whose mother had insisted on coming. "My mom has a really good sign," Mary Lee said. Her mom turned around so that I could see her sign. "They're my twelve grandchildren," she said. My tears came right back.



I'm proud and hopeful when I see and hear our young people rise up and speak out, but Erica reminded all of us that this is a marathon and not a sprint. She stated that there'd be more school shootings--I wish she weren't right--but we have to keep fighting, keep pressing for change, vote out politicians who don't support gun control. 

Cecily and I had a good conversation after the event about why we went and what we can do next. We'll keep doing. I just wish we didn't have to. 



Slice of Life 2018- 24 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 had great plans for my gingerbread. 

Maybe my expectations stemmed from all that I had to do in order to make it in the first place. I'd tried it a couple weeks ago, and the woman who made it showed me the cookbook with the recipe. There were so many recipes in that cookbook that I went home and tried to order it. It was out of print. I really wanted that cookbook, so I ordered it from one of the second-hand sellers from Amazon, and I had to wait ten days for my cookbook with the Irish Stout Gingerbread. (Yep, that was too late for Saint Patrick's Day which was my original thought...)

Wednesday night in Connecticut had a nor-easter in the forecast, so I figured I'd be safe to go to yoga and get home at nine and make my gingerbread. I was short on ginger so one of my yoga friends brought me some to fill the ginger shortage. Naturally, everyone wanted to know what I was making. "Will you bring us a piece on Saturday?" Erin asked. "Of course," I said. Remember, I had great plans for my ginger bread. 

My doubts wiggled in when I had to bring a cup of stout and 1 1/4 cups of molasses to boil--can't say I enjoyed that smell much, but I kept beating the butter and sugar, sifting the flour with lots of ginger, cinnamon, and ground nutmeg. A little more doubt when I tasted the batter, but I convinced myself that baking it would somehow make it a little milder. (Those great plans...)

Even though the recipe called for baking the two loaves for 60-70 minutes, they looked and smelled pretty done after 50 minutes. "Smells good in here," my husband said as I took them out. He and I both looked at the gingerbread loaves. "Looks a little overdone," I said. 

When I turned the gingerbreads over on the cooling rack, they looked a LOT overdone. Sort of like a mahogony brick. Garth decided to pass on the taste test, but I cut into my creation, even debating whether to pull out the vanilla ice cream at 10:30. I was reasonably sure we'd have a delay in the morning, if not a snow day, so if I had a little late night sugar, it could be okay. 


I took one little bite. I tried to talk myself into the possibility that maybe it would be better in the morning, better with ice cream, better with some coffee and whipping cream. In the morning, it was even harder and even more of a colossal baking fail. 


Sometimes it's not worth keeping something, even when it's involved a lot of planning and some high expectations for greatness. Sometimes those high expectations are a set up for an even bigger feeling fail. Sometimes, it's wisest to just throw it away and move on. 

I'll try something new again in the kitchen--I have no doubt of that--but the next baking project might have to be the tried and true chocolate chip cookies. 

Happy Slicing!




Friday, March 23, 2018

Slice of Life 2018- 23 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. 


Thursday's Morning Edition on NPR challenged me to think about one specific technological tool that hasn't experienced what they called "creative destruction." I didn't have enough time to think of the answer, and I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't have come up with this particular gadget if I'd been given the rest of the day. Stop reading and see if you can come up with one small technological gadget that hasn't changed since 1994.

Here are a couple clues:
  1. It costs about $100, and the price hasn't changed. 
  2. It has no internet capabilities which is one of its selling features. 
Any ideas?

Here's an even bigger clue:

Almost every high school student in this country who takes advanced math is required to have one.
AND
It's the only technology besides a pencil that SAT takers can bring into the testing environment. 

If you're still wondering, it's the graphing calculator. 


SO: Let's think about this.
In real life environments, we want students to be resourceful and collaborative, and to not only know how to use cutting edge devices, but also to know how to access them. In a fourth-grade writing workshop, I watched ten year-olds use thesaurus.com, Google language apps, screen-sharing, side-by-side digital charts, and any other tool they could independently access that would make their writing better.

Does anyone else think there's something ironic or antiquated about the fact that on the highest stake tests of most students' lives, their only tool is one that was cutting edge almost 25 years ago? It just has me scratching my head about some of the systems and institutions that remain in place, possibly preventing our country's educational system from keeping up with the rapid pace of change around them. I even wonder about who's profiting since two companies produce and sell about six million calculators a year.

Would we ever say to a carpenter I want to see how you cut this wood, but you can only use a handsaw?

I'm being purposefully provocative, and I really am interested in some thoughts and debates about this.

Happy Slicing,

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Slice of life 2018- 22 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 could have easily been talked out of going to yoga at 7pm tonight. Dinner was ready, snow was falling, I had some work I would have liked to get done, some reading to catch up on---I had all sorts of reasons to stay home.

But I went.

Throughout the class, I was happy to be there. We had some laughter, some cursing about the snow, and appreciation for the balance of the day in the year when there's equal light and darkness--but my favorite part of the class tonight was the quote Amy shared as we came out of our final resting pose. I came home and looked it up, and found that it's a Swedish proverb:

Fear less, hope more; Eat less, chew more; Whine less, breathe more; Talk less, say more; Love more, and all good things will be yours!
I especially like the part about talking less and saying more. When Amy was reading it, I thought she was going to say talk less, listen more. I loved that I was wrong and that it was a little more subtle. Tomorrow I will practice saying more. 
Happy Slicing,

Slice of Life 2018- 21 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've been playing around with six-word stories for a while. Ernest Hemingway gets the credit for one of the most famous SWS, although there's some debate as to whether he actually wrote it. 

For sale: Baby shoes, never worn

Flash fiction was the topic for one of my MFA seminars, and we had fun packing a lot into small frames. There's a 53-word monthly contest   This month's topic is around luck if anyone's interested in making slicing a little harder! 

Here's one I've been tinkering with:

I sip my third margarita. There’s talk about diapers and IVF. We’re on a donor list, Amy says. Waiting for a match. For an egg? I ask. I’ll give you eggs. You’re in luck-- I have lots. Are you serious, she asks. I nod, gulp that margarita. I’ll call you in the morning.

 Here are some other SWW that I'm concocting as this next storm bears down on us:
 
More snow? How do we teach?

March snow? March storms? March madness!

Power's off. Schools are closed. Again.

I'm sure I could go on. 

Happy Slicing,



Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Slice of Life 2018- 20 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. 


Julia and I were able to sneak a quick birthday trip to the mall so that she could pick out a couple of things with her birthday giftcard. I didn't mind the first couple of stores--in fact I liked them. And then I got talked into just a quick stop at one of those teen-oriented stores. She headed straight toward a dress she tried on over the weekend and pulled it out so I could see. She held her phone up so I could see a picture.

"Look," she said. "Isn't it cute?"

Honestly, it looked more like a green tennis dress than a dress for a formal or going out. "It seems to be missing some fabric," I said. 

Julia rolled her eyes. 

Luckily, I didn't have to say too much more for her to happily agree to leave the dress behind. I know I can't prevent my girls from wearing dresses that reveal more than they cover, but she didn't push me to buy it for her. Instead we headed to the bookstore. 

"Make sure that you remember that on your birthday, I bought you books I might not love as opposed to dresses I definitely didn't," I said. 

She laughed and gave me a hug. "They probably last longer," she said.


Happy Slicing,


Monday, March 19, 2018

Slice of Life 2018- 19 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. 


March 19 is a special day in our house because someone has a birthday. Last year at this time, I had to write my birthday post for Julia from afar. 

Julia was a freshman in college, and she'd chosen a school that was far from home. I was incredibly grateful to Lisa Keeler, a fellow slicer and now a good--no, a great friend!  Lisa played the part of the mom when I couldn't. She made dinner for Julia and even got her a cake and candles.  

This year's a different story. On the even before Julia's 20th birthday, she's downstairs analyzing basketball upsets with her dad. They're having quite a time.

Deciding to transfer and leave a place that's not working well to forge a different track is brave. At this time last year, Julia's applications as a transfer student were complete, and we were in another high-stress waiting game. What a difference a year makes-- 

This girl. This girl is kind and wise and brave. She's resilient and and realistic, reflective and funny. Her six word story goes something like this: 

I can. I will. I did. 

Happy birthday to Julia! 


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Slice of Life 2018: 18 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 have a task I've been putting off. Some of you know my oldest daughter Larkin (who is not allowed to read this post this morning, but is probably too hung over to any way) and you know that she's graduating from college in a month. You might not know that I have to write a letter to her as part of her sorority's celebration for their seniors. This has been hard! No length suggestions! No clear indication of the purpose! No mentor texts.

I've started a couple a bunch of times, and I sound corny or sappy or like any mother's letter to her graduating daughter. I've tried to think of original things to say, specific anecdotes, and quotes from her--that's gone a little better, but I still end up spinning my words. 

This morning I think I discovered my platform and foundation for my letter, and it's a SOL community principle. I think it will work to begin and structure my letter with content that is in a snippet of the day.

This morning, I woke up to this texting exchange between Larkin and her sisters. (Garth and I slept through it and responded in the morning.) Larkin is at the University of Michigan, and their basketball team might have had the win of the tournament late last night. I can't quote the whole exchange because of the expletives, but it went something like this:

Larkin: GUYS
Clare: That was nuts
Larkin: Oh my God.
Cecily: That was crazy.
Larkin: UNBELIEVABLE

So much of Larkin shines through in this exchange--her passion, her enthusiasm, her emotions...I also love that she includes us in her moments of joy. I think I have the basis of my letter--wish me luck!





Saturday, March 17, 2018

Slice of Life 2018: 17 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. 

"Why don't you just shovel the driveway?" a friend asked me last Monday afternoon. 

We were expecting 5-10 inches of snow, and my husband is in Florida with two of our daughters. 

One of my life goals has been NOT to learn how to use his new snowblower. I believe that I wrote a slice about breaking the old one in a previous March challenge. If you look closely at the picture, you'll see the old one behind the shiny new TORO. If you look even more closely, you might notice that one of the cords has duct tape around it. That was my handiwork. Yep. That was me. I thought the cord was a starter and kept pulling until it broke. (I wish he'd just throw that old one out so I don't have to keep feeling bad!)


In any case, I got the new one filled up with gas, I started it without breaking it, and I got the driveway done. 


As I said to my mother afterwards, "It's not a Garth job, but it will do."

Garth and the girls came home on Thursday--I might have figured out a way to stay in Florida if I were them-- and they were impressed. I didn't tell them that there really wasn't much snow. 

I also didn't tell them that I kind of liked doing it. 

Happy slicing,