Thursday, March 17, 2016


My fuel tank is empty.
I'm drained.

I spent the day facilitating a professional development lab day in a colleague's classroom.  This year, Sarah hosted a series of three lab experiences looking at differentiation through flexible small groups.  As a model classroom teacher, she is expected to open her classroom to groups of teachers looking to improve their practice. As the literacy coach, I am expected to facilitate these days.

I'm drained.
But in a good way.

We spent the morning discussing formative assessment strategies we've tried, our attempts at flexible, needs-based grouping, and then listening to Sarah discuss her plans for the day.  We talked about what we would look for when we were in the classroom with the children.

The afternoon was spent debriefing our observation, discussing an article from a professional journal, and then examining student work to determine what Sarah will do with her students tomorrow.

I'm drained.
My brain hurts.

We talked about possibility.  We talked about giving two students who often struggle a chance to shine and teach their peers something tomorrow.  We talked about when to teach a whole-class lesson and when to teach in small groups, depending on what students need.  We talked about our own insecurities and doubts that we are doing it "right."

Tomorrow, we'll reconvene and spend more time with Sarah and her students.  We'll learn some things together.  We'll talk about what we take back into our own classrooms.

We'll be drained.
But also energized.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Still Unpacking

We've been in our new house for about ten months.  I would like to say that we have completely unpacked all of the boxes and put things where they belong.

I can't.

I can say that is mostly true.  The main living areas are feeling like home, but the basement is another story.  We have boxes of books to go on shelves and boxes of photos an albums that need a home.  I have discovered I have boxes of pens, envelopes, and notepads, most of which will go back to school with me in August.

We have bins of things the girls couldn't bear to part with... yet.  Those will go up in the attic; hopefully this weekend.  I am getting itchy to have EVERYTHING organized, put away, and cleaned up.  I don't want to see any more moving boxes.

The crazy thing is that we MAJORLY purged as we were getting the old house ready list and as we packed to move.  I'm finding even MORE stuff to get rid of as I unpack boxes.  I think I was moving so quickly to pack that I packed things I didn't need to.

Honestly, it feels good to put things into the boxes that will be donated.  Knowing that while something I no longer have a use for may find new life with someone else makes getting rid of it a little easier.

I'm also pickier about the things I bring into the house. If I don't love something, I don't buy it.  I'm trying hard to just have less stuff.

And that feels good, too.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


Sometimes I worry that the internet is creating a culture of meanness.  One only has to look at the comments of just about any newspaper article to see horrifying meanness happening because it can. For example, I made the mistake of reading the comments under the story about the dad who stopped a bat from hitting his son in the head at a minor league baseball game.  Commenters were ripping into the 9 year old boy because he was looking at a phone.  Turns out, it was the boy's first baseball game, and he was texting his mom a picture to show her how much fun he was having.

Why would grown people feel the need to hate on a 9 year old boy celebrating his birthday with a day at the ballpark with his dad?  What do people get out of that?

I have found, however, that the internet has made it possible for me to make connections with people across the country that I would have otherwise never known.  Many of these connections were forged way back when on the English Companion Ning when it was a much smaller community, then migrated to Twitter where I had conversations and chats, and then, after meeting face to face at conferences, also ended up on Facebook.

These connections have made me a better teacher.  They have shown me different viewpoints and ideas and help me to see the world in a new way.  They have offered support when I needed it and celebrated with me as well.

I hesitate to list all of the connections I've made as a result of my social media use.  I'd be too afraid to leave anyone off the list!  These people know who they are.  I hope.

Maybe I should tell them. :-)

Monday, March 14, 2016


We've been getting hints of spring here in the Chicago area.  I have little bits of green popping up in my flower beds.  Of course, since I didn't live in this house last spring, I have no idea what those bits of green will turn into, but I'm excited to find out.

The weather has been warm then cold then warm again with a bit of rain thrown in for good measure.  March is often this way, but I know that rain is soaking into the ground, waking up the grass and other lovely green things that will make their appearance soon.

But will it be soon enough?  I'm impatient.  I'm ready for warm breezes and sunshine.  For green yards and tulips and daffodils.  For fresh air and open windows.

And yes... I'm even impatient for spring cleaning.

So I'll be here, waiting, impatiently, for spring to finally arrive.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Finding the Spark

I used to be really creative.  I used to do all kinds of crafts.  When my oldest was born, I made an amazing scrapbook of her first year of life (sorry, youngest....).  I used to do creative lettering with fun markers and colored pencils.  I used to .....

Lately, I feel like I have no creative spark.  When we moved into our house, I found a fun-looking project on Pinterest that I thought would look great on the wall opposite our front door.  I bought the canvases, the tape, the paint.  And all of it is still sitting in the basement.  I have coloring books and GOOD coloring pencils (still wrapped in plastic).

I keep making excuses as to why I don't give myself the time and the space to rekindle that creative spark.  I'm too busy.  My kids need more of my energy.  I have to clean the house.  I have books to read.

NOW, though, I have two reasons to get my artsy-craftsy mojo back in working order.  I still have things to do here in the house and I have a classroom to get ready for.   I need to practice my perfect handwriting (it's been a while since I've really tried to print nicely), I need to work on my basic figures for when I make charts.  I need to think about furniture layout.

I'm starting to get excited about this.  Maybe this afternoon, I'll get my colored pencils out and sharpen them up!

Saturday, March 12, 2016


I have a headache.  It's been with me on and off all day.  I have a feeling it's the beginning of my seasonal allergies.  With warmer weather comes pollen and mold and grass and all of the other lovely things that set my eyes to itching and watering and my head to aching.

It's hard to focus on much of anything when my head hurts.  It's hard even to concentrate on a book.

Unfortunately, life does not really slow down when I have a headache.  I had things to do today, things that included going to see my youngest in her school play and doing my regular housework chores.

Luckily, there is no reason for me to wake up early tomorrow morning.  I can sleep in and then make my way to the grocery store.

Hopefully, there will be no headache wanting to go with me.

Friday, March 11, 2016


For the twenty-two years, I have been proud to teach and coach at my school.  When I was hired in 1994, I was a new teacher, with just a year's experience.  Now, I am a seasoned veteran who has had the opportunity to learn and grow with amazing colleagues.  For the past four years, I have served as the literacy coach in my building, working alongside teachers to solve problems of practice and to figure out how to best serve our students.

This year, I've struggled.  I've cried.  I've thought and thought and thought about what should be the next steps in my career.  I talked to my principal.  I talked to my friends.  I talked to Dan.  And through all of this crying and talking and thinking, I figured out that coaching is not for me.  I think it important work.  It is hard work.  It is work I can do well.  But it is not work that brings me joy.

Ultimately,  I realized I felt very isolated.  Though I work with teachers all day, I am not part of a team of teachers who are working together toward a common goal.  I need that collegiality.  I desperately miss working with a classroom of children.  Kids and teammates bring energy and joy to my work.

So I am returning to the classroom in the fall, but not as a middle school teacher.  I am moving to one of our elementary buildings where I will be teaching third grade.  THIRD GRADE!!!!  I can hardly believe it!  I'm so excited about this new adventure.  I have so much to learn!  So many books to read! So many things to think about!

So wish me luck... it's going to be a wild ride.