Join the March Slice of Life Story Challenge at Two Writing Teachers!

#sol15: March 31, 2015 – We made it!!

Well, here it is, March 31st.   I’ll admit, that there were days when I’d glance at the calendar and despair – so many more days, what am I going to say? what do I have to write about? will I make it?  Of course, I knew that there were many slicers who felt the exact same way as I did, and yet, when I logged on to Two Writing Teachers, there they were.  And that was motivation enough to get going on a post, to write.

So, here it is, March 31st.  I’ll also admit that there is a part of me that will miss this daily connection with so many writers.  We come from all over the place, and most of us have not had the chance to meet face to face, and yet I feel such a bond with all of those whose blogs I have read every day. Writing gives us so many pathways to learning about each other, and supporting in each other.  I’ve been so moved to tears so many times by the open honesty of some slices, and have laughed out loud at the hilarity in others.  I’ve learned about hobbies and children, pets and dear friends, new books to read and places to travel.

Our community of writers enriches my life.

We, at Two Writing Teachers, believe that we must practice what we teach. Writing is hard work, but it  thrives when practiced and nourished.  It is easier to practice when one is a part of a community like this.  When all of us, no matter how busy and distracted and pulled a hundred different ways by work and family commitments, take the time to read and comment on each others’ efforts, and support each others’ commitment to grow our writing craft.  We benefit, and our students benefit.

And here it is, March 31st. The last slice of the March Challenge. Here’s to all of us!


Join the March Slice of Life Story Challenge at Two Writing Teachers!

#sol15: March 30, 2015 – Is it time for Spring Break, yet?!

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On Thursday my son Ben and I will leave for London – a Spring Break with my parents.  Between now and then I will:

  • get the house organized in such a way that my husband can find what he needs (my creative organization has to be less so).
  • pack for April in London, never an easy task.
  • decide what to read on the way there, there, and on the way back.
  • get a haircut, always a traumatic experience.
  • chaperone a sixth grade musical and drama event.
  • finalize plans for the mid April sixth grade field trip to Philadelphia.
  • get the girls’ rooms ready for their Easter stay (these rooms are part of my creative organization – so I’ll have to clear all the stuff that I’ve tossed into these two rooms to make the rest of the house look tidy. Thank goodness Ben will not be needing his room! Instant storage!).
  • find a way to keep my students attention on what we’re doing in the classroom, even as their minds wanter to what they will be doing come Spring Break.

Ready, oh so ready, for Spring Break!

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Join the March Slice of Life Story Challenge at Two Writing Teachers!

#sol15: March 29, 2015 – Our “Keeping Quilt”


One of my favorite moments from yesterday was when Patricia Polacco reached into her red bag and unfurled the keeping quilt.  The  reaction from every educator present in Riverside Cathedral was the same –  delighted oohs and ahs.  All of us know the story, and have read it to our own children and our students more times than we can remember.  The Smith family copy of The Keeping Quilt now lives in Room 202, and has been reached for and read again and again, a treasured and beloved story.

All the way back from Manhattan, after a day of crisscrossing 120th. Street from Riverside to the magnificent brownstone edifice that  TCRWP calls home, I kept coming back to that moment and our collective delight in the keeping quilt.  To Patricia’s family, the quilt represents family roots, traditions and stories.  It tells of where they’ve journeyed from, who they have loved along the way, and how they have have celebrated new beginnings and even the letting go’s.  Patricia’s family needs only to see the quilt and feel its familiar embrace to know, once again, the comfort of belonging, the feeling of being part of a firmly bonded tribe.

And it occurs to me that we teachers come to events such as the Saturday Reunion to feel just such a sense of being part of a firmly bonded tribe.  We want to remember the roots, traditions and stories – to celebrate the best of our teaching practices, to learn about new beginnings and how to hang on to the best parts of the old ways.  We want to feel the embrace of our own metaphorical keeping quilt, to know that we belong to a tribe that soldiers on sustained by all that connects us, sustains us, inspires us in these very difficult teaching times.

I am so grateful to all the presenters who shared their wisdom, but I am most grateful to all my fellow teachers who gave up their Saturday to fill a cathedral and a teaching college with their brave and joyous spirit.  For a short time, we wrapped our selves in our keeping quilt to remember why we do what we do, and why this work matters.  At the day’s end, we boarded buses, trains and airplanes, and journeyed back to our homes, ready to face what Monday brings: new mandates, new standardized tests, new modules, scripts, evaluations and directives.   Teaching in public schools today is so very difficult.  But, come Monday morning, we teachers still show up, ready to bring our best selves to the children we teach, ready to  open our classroom doors and try, again, to remember the power and comfort of our keeping quilt.

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Join the March Slice of Life Story Challenge at Two Writing Teachers!

#sol15: March 28th., 2015 – It’s all about the people…


I raced up 120th. Street this icy Manhattan morning, my sights set on the spires of Riverside cathedral.  Blue balloons fluttered in the breeze, beckoning me into the stone and stained glass splendor of the place.  I moved forward with the crowds, my spirits buoyed by this:

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The great space was filled to the rafters, literally, with teachers, teachers, teachers everywhere. Book bags, conversations, excitement.  And then I spot a welcome sight – fellow slicers, Twitter and blogging friends. We greet each other with affection and anticipation. What could be better than spending a day learning with a group like this?

It’s all about the people….

Patricia Polacco speaks, and she has the Keeping Quilt!  As she spins her stories, we are enveloped in the magic of the familiar and the power of her message.  “To this day when there’s something I can’t face, I feel George Falker’s hand in the middle of my back,” she tells us, and that is what, really, we hope to be: the hand in the middle of our students’ backs, sustaining and encouraging them in their quest to learn.

It’s all about the people….

Session by session, we circle from one inspiring speaker to the next.  We are rapt, engaged, galvanized. Each session is a window into yet another “ah-ha!”.  Time seems to fly by.

It’s all about the people…

Back at Riverside, we find a spot in the front row. Heaven.  Kylene Beers begins her closing, and soon we hang on to every wise word:

“A curriculum built on test prep might raise scores, but it will fail to raise curiosity, creativity, and compassion.”

“Wantability will always be more important than readability.”

“We always have to strive to outgrow ourselves and be the best we can be – we need to take the stance of learner.”

“Learning to navigate your life is learned as you read the life of others. Literature let’s us become.”

It’s all about the people…

the people who inspire us

the people who sustain us

the people who walk beside us, in this journey to be great teachers.

Join the March Slice of Life Story Challenge at Two Writing Teachers!

#sol15: March 27, 2015: Poetry Friday with Mary Oliver – “I Happened to be Standing”

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Poetry Friday is hosted by Jone at Check It Out

The March Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by Two Writing Teachers

So much going on in March, that it is difficult to just sit still, be centered, and allow the mind to wander and to wonder. Yesterday at lunch, I gave myself the gift of listening to Krista Tippett’s interview with Mary Oliver, which included ar reading of one of her new poems:

“I Happened to Be Standing” – Mary Oliver

I don’t know where prayers go,
or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep
half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opossum pray as it
crosses the street?
The sunflowers? The old black oak
growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world,
along the shore or under the trees,
with my mind filled with things
of little importance, in full
self-attendance. A condition I can’t really
call being alive
Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,
or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that’s their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep. Maybe not. (you can read the rest of the poem here.)

and listen to it here:

How wonderful to be able to greet each morning as a kind of prayer!

Join the March Slice of Life Story Challenge at Two Writing Teachers!

#sol15: March 26, 2015 – Sometimes, they just blow you away…

We kicked off our “Family Stories” writing unit today, a first time endeavor.  I had asked my kids to bring in copies of old photographs so that we could begin digging into and imagining the stories buried in those sepia toned pictures. Things got off to a rocky start when two thirds of my kids couldn’t find a photograph (they’re buried in the attic, in Grandma’s basement, or in a box somewhere in the house).  So…Plan B:

Google images…vintage photographs.

After a bit of talking through the process: notice details, key in on expressions on the faces and body language, try to gauge mood and emotion, focus on the perspective of one person who really grabs your attention.

It was slow going at first.  My morning class took a while to get into the spirit of the lesson (the curse of period 1, when they are barely awake), but something changed when they began to imagine a perspective and write.  That was the point at which they threw themselves into the project and wrote some beautifully evocative “heart of the story” possibilities:

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Sometimes (actually, more often than not) they just blow me away….

Join the March Slice of Life Story Challenge at Two Writing Teachers!

#sol15: March 25, 2015 – Heaven often is just a pile of chocolate wrappers…


I meant to eat one…just a little treat

at the end of a very long day.

But, 50 Feature Article final edits,

many reading and writing


two parent phone calls,

five student melt downs

and four student



I discovered this -

the shameful vestiges

of a high-stress day.

This is just to say,

the luscious wafer covered


did the trick.

Heaven often is

just a pile

of chocolate wrappers.