#Celebratelu & #SOLC17:Getting it done…

The Slice of Life March Writing Challenge @ Two Writing Teachers – 31 days of  a writing community.

Celebrate with Ruth Ayres @ ruth ayres writes  …. because we need to celebrate moments in our lives every chance we get.

We had a different sort of week this week: a blizzard on Tuesday, a half-day on Wednesday, and basketball March Madness which seems to have hijacked the attention span of my sixth grade boys.  It was also a week in which I’d hoped to wrap up projects and units in every subject area.  With all the distractions afoot, I remember driving to school on Wednesday and telling myself to relax and be prepared for getting very little done: it was a half day, after all, we could focus on one thing instead of many, and … que sera, sera (as the old song goes).

I asked my kiddos what that “one thing” should be, and just about everyone voted to finish our book club literary essays.  This surprised me, being that this was intense work – we’d worked through mapping out our thesis and supporting evidence the previous Friday, and moved through the introduction and first evidence paragraph on Monday.  I thought it made more sense to return to finishing up this work (two more evidence paragraphs and the conclusion) on Thursday, but my students had ideas of their own.

“I feel like we’re on a roll,”  Trevor said, “let’s just write it today.”  I looked around at other heads nodding in agreement, and decided to go for it.  We gathered at the reading rug for our minilesson and mentor text study first, and then dispersed to various desks and corners of the classroom to write.  For the next hour and fifteen minutes, our room was silent save for the sounds of rustling pages, writing, and the low hum of individual conferences.

By the time the dismissal bell had rung, a stack of reading journals had been piled high on our conference desk,and all of us (myself included) felt that our half day had been well spent…in spite of snow, a day off, and a half day to work with.  I celebrate that!

And here’s something else to celebrate – the delightful song that came to mind while I was writing this:

#SOLC17 and Poetry Friday: We talked about the fact… by Robert Lax

The Slice of Life March Writing Challenge @ Two Writing Teachers – 31 days of  a writing community.

Poetry Friday is hosted by Michelle@Today’s Little Ditty

Late yesterday evening, a teacher I had mentored some years ago called me to catch up on news: she loved teaching the new grade level was was assigned in September and anxious about at first, she was thinking of starting a blog and writing more, and (this was the part she had really called to talk about) she  couldn’t believe how much she was delighting in teaching.  She was sometimes surprised by this delight, she said, given that she had had such self doubt way back in the days that she first knew me, when she was just launching a teaching life of her own.

In those days, she reminisced, every day was a struggle. Every day was a new invitation to admit to defeat.  Every day felt like an admonition to stop teaching and find a new line of work.  We laughed about those days, and the emails we’d send back and forth: her doubts and fears, my feeble attempts at reassurance and advice.  We traded ideas about reading and writing workshop (she teaches fourth grade now, I still teach sixth grade), and new books to read.  By the time we’d signed off, my heart was filled with the joy that had travelled  across the many thousands of miles between us: I always knew Sarah was born to be a teacher, now Sarah knew this, and believed this, too.

Teaching requires juggling so many disparate skills, it is difficult work.  Even after one has been at it for many years, few of us can say that every day is a perfect day…in fact, it’s those imperfect days that tend to teach us the most.  Never the less, the longer we teach and the more we lean in to the heart and soul of our teaching lives, the better we learn to deal with even the imperfect with grace.   This is what I heard in Sarah’s voice – hard won self confidence in her craft, and the grace with which to navigate the bumps and turns  in the road.

This Poetry Friday, I share the poem below, which speaks (I think) to arriving at grace in the  craft of teaching:


We talked about the fact…    by Robert Lax

We talked about the fact that
it wasn’t the danger,
it wasn’t the skill,
it wasn’t the applause
that made the act what it was.
It was principally the grace;
the bringing into being,
for a moment,
the beautiful thing,
the somersault,
the leap,
the entrechat on horseback.
The skill,
of course, has something to do
with it. It is pleasant
to know you can do anything
so difficult. It is good when you
have mastered it, and you are
really in competition with yourself.

“When we make a mistake in
the ring we are very angry. The
audience doesn’t know, but we

But it is a pleasure
to do anything
so difficult
and do it

#IMWAYR & #SOLC17: The Crane Girl

The Slice of Life March Writing Challenge @ Two Writing Teachers – 31 days of  a writing community.

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?  is hosted by Jen Vincent @ Teach Mentor Texts

I love picture books for a variety of reasons, but I especially love picture books when I am so crazy busy that finding time to dive into a chapter book is both impossible (time? where to find time?!) and frustrating (how to carve enough time to dive back into a thought provoking novel when you have 15 to 20 minutes of time to spare?).  Besides,these days, picture books are such rich and joyous pleasure.  Here ‘s one I managed to read:


Curtis Manley’s The Crane Girl is a reimagining of a Japanese folktale with a twist. Yasuhiro comes upon a wounded crane who he rescues and treats with great kindness until it is able to fly away. The next day, a young girl arrives at the hut Yasuhiro shares with his father – she has nothing in the world, not even a home, and asks if she could stay with them.  Although father and son are struggling to eke out an existence, they agree to take in Hiroko out of the kindness of their hearts. But, the girl notices the father’s difficulty in finding work, and she offers to spin silk if they promise not to open the door when she is busy at the loom. Hiroko’s silk proves to be of the finest quality, and soon the father grows greedy for more – so greedy that he breaks his promise.  When the door is opened, father and son discover that Hiroko is the crane Yasuhiro had once saved, but she can no longer remain with the boy she has come to love and must return to her own people. Yasuhiro refuses to let her go without him, through the power of their love he is transformed into a beautiful crane as well.

Lyrical haiku are woven throughout the story, which is a lovely way to move the narrative and add to its emotional weight. Lin Wang’s gorgeous paintings are a feast for the eyes, as well:


The “twist” in this story? Here’s what Curtis Manley has to say:

I have loved these tales for many years but wanted to create a version in which it is a young boy who saves the crane and befriends and loves the crane girl, but who is not greedy or at fault when the girl’s true identity is revealed. Although the crane must leave, she is able to keep her connection with the boy who rescued her.

I loved this twist!  So often in these folktales, there is tragedy and loss at the end, brought about because of the betrayal of a character the reader has come to like.  Manley’s twist was a happy one – Yasuhiro does not fail the test, his kindness is rewarded, and he is able to be with Hiroko, the one he so truly loves:


her wingbeats –

my heart soars

A beautiful ending to a beautiful book…

#Celebratelu & #SOLC17:Celebrating joyful sound

The Slice of Life March Writing Challenge @ Two Writing Teachers – 31 days of  a writing community.

Celebrate with Ruth Ayres @ ruth ayres writes  …. because we need to celebrate moments in our lives every chance we get.

These days, my lunch time is given over to grim work: writing to and calling my Senators and Congressmen and urging them to fight for all the causes I hold dear, the causes I hoped they’d support once I had cast my vote to send them to Washington D.C.: public education, safeguarding the environment, protecting the rights of all Americans…and all those other causes that reflect the progressive values under assault by the current Administration.  Most of the time, the phone lines are busy and I leave a terse message, essentially reading aloud the letter I had just emailed. This lunch time work leaves me feeling depressed and joyless: will any of it count? is any of it going to make any difference?

On Friday, my students asked if they could begin using our classroom space to film scenes for their historical fiction book club projects.  They created a filming schedule so that groups could have the classroom to themselves to set up their props, dress in their costumes, and act out their scenes.  Friday’s lunchtime marked the first of these filming efforts.  I sat at my little desk while they went at it, picking at my salad and organizing my thinking for my usual lunchtime work.  But my attention kept getting waylaid by the scene playing out in front of me: my kids, deep in conversation about the book they had just read, discussing what they intended to do through their scripts to share the theme and the important characters of their book club book.  Serious conversation and then hilarity, then work, and then some more hilarity.  It was joyful sound.




I think I am ready to find another time in the day for my #Resist! lunchtime work.  I think I am ready to pay attention to my kiddos and their joyful sound instead.  For right there, right in front of me, laughing and arguing and playacting, is the reason I wake up every day to do the work I love.  Paying attention to joyful sound – that is my celebration for the week past, and the week ahead.


Poetry Friday:Infinity by Barbara Crooker

Poetry Friday is hosted by Jone at Check it Out


I am done with winter.

No longer will I talk of the beauty of snow as it falls and transforms our neighborhood into a Currier and Ives painting.  No longer will I speak of warm-by-the-fireside coziness, or of the pleasure of being bundled up in favorite sweaters or lacing up fur lined boots.  No longer will I think it charming to walk by children adding  final touches to their front yard snowmen.

I am done with snow every where, and cold all the time. I am done with the tiresome ritual of hat-mittens-scarf-boots-coat just to take out the trash or walk the dog.  I am done with snow melting into sloshy rivulets at every turn during the day and freezing into ice banks at night.  I am done with a cold and cough that will not seem to end.

But, it’s February…and winter is not done with me.

Feeling gloomy the other day, I turned to poetry and found this one by Barbara Crooker.  It captured exactly the weariness I felt about winter:


Another gray day, snow everywhere, the piles at the margins
deckled with grit. No sun, again. In the backyard,
crows are passing rumors one rough syllable
at a time. Spring is a language from another
country. Green is a vocabulary word on a flash
card. Crocus and daffodils, impossible constructs.
This is all there is: sky, the color of snow. Snow,
the color of sky. Every day, a few more inches
deposited in the bank. Accumulation takes on
sinister undertones. Finches cluster sullenly
at the feeders, won’t trade their shabby
cardigans for something yellow and silky.
The mind of winter is white and interior.
Silence fills the shadows. The sky lowers,
and look, more snow’s beginning to fall.

~Barbara Crooker

#celebratelu:The bookends of a blessed life


Celebrate with Ruth Ayres @ ruth ayres writes  …. because we need to celebrate moments in our lives every chance we get.

The last two weeks have followed a predictable routine: wake up-get to school-teach-come home-collapse.  I’ve been in the grips of a virus I simply can’t seem to shake, and I probably should not have been in my classroom at all in my condition, but…anyway, the kids of 202 have a way of making me forget how miserable I should be feeling, until I get home and have to crash.

Today, feeling as though I am finally in recovery mode, I read Ruth’s Celebration call of welcome:”I’m glad you are here to celebrate. Your act is one of claiming time.”   This weekend, I am claiming time by reflecting upon the two things that (truth be told) got me through this week.

The love and warmth of my kiddos, who left messages of encouragement all through the past two school weeks:

And a few photographs of our beloved farm, now winter bound.  It will be a while until Spring allows us to visit again, but a friend took some pictures so that we could imagine ourselves there:

This weekend I celebrate my kiddos and my farm…bookends to a blessed life.  Thank you, Ruth, for your call to celebrate, no matter what!



Slice of Life Tuesday: We’re back…now what???!!!


Slice of Life Tuesday is hosted by Two Writing Teachers


It is dark and dank when I leave for school.  A cold drizzle sweeps across the roadways, and I settle into the drive to the beat of windshield wipers.  My headlights pick up hulking shadows by the side of the road – Christmas trees dragged out the night before  in time for the final leaf pick up of the year just past.  They look spent, all their holiday sparkle now a distant memory.

Our classroom looks smaller, somehow, when I walk in. With a jolt I remember that I had forgotten to put our desks back in their usual formation the afternoon I hurried out for winter break: our “dance floor” greets me, as do the sticky remains of our holiday party. Our classroom needs to be brought quickly into 2017, and so I set to work.

Before long, I hear students climbing up the stairs and making their way into hallways.  Their treads sound lethargic, heavy  with regret and foreboding.  Their voices, usually filled with the boisterous exuberance of middle school, sound subdued and sleepy as well.  So, I am prepared for what walks into our classroom: sorrowful children, morose that winter break is over, unused to being awake when it’s still dark outside, and tired…oh, so tired.

Soon, the bell rings and our day officially begins with the Pledge and morning announcements.  We are on automatic pilot, going through the motions with whatever energy is there to summon…which is not very much, it seems.  And then there is a moment when we consider each other, quietly.

September’s shiny novelty has worn off: everything from our pencil cases to our lunch boxes are on their journey from “spanking new” to “well worn with good use”.  And, I suppose, you can say the same for us – the novelty of being together as a learning community has settled into the comfort and challenge of knowing all about each other, and working hard together anyway.

That’s the shift after winter break; all the adjustments and getting-to-know-each-others is out of the way; now begins the work of pushing ourselves to reach higher, to take what we have learned of ourselves as learners and set new goals rather than just settle in.

So, we consider each other.  We know each other well enough to know what we are thinking at this moment: here we all are, let’s breathe out the old year and let’s breathe in the new.

T.S. Eliot. Quote for the new year!: