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

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Digilit Sunday is hosted by Margaret Simon @Reflections on the Teche as an invitation for educators to share ideas for digital literacy and learning.

This evening, Margaret Simon Tweeted out her prompt for Digilit Sunday: What do you treasure?  just as I was about to begin a post for Ruth Ayres’ Celebrate This Week!  Luckily, what I celebrate this week coincides entirely with what I treasure, too, so here goes:

Time to write: both in my classroom as well as for me personally.  My kids took charge of their writing time this week, more so than usual, and watching them work with satisfied energy was so meaningful to me.  I talk to my kids all the time about how gratifying it is to live a writer’s life, and this week I feel they really got it…they really understood this:

“Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do—the actual act of writing—turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.”
― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and LifeTime to read

My online writing group: writing is a solitary endeavor, but it needs nourishing and encouragement, too.  I treasure and celebrate our writing group, which has now evolved into something more. We encourage each other to write, of course, but we pay attention to those other aspects of each others’ lives which interconnect and intersect and form the foundation of what we write about: our teaching lives, our own children, the books we read, and the noticings of our daily lives.  We live in different states and time zones, but we are on the same wavelength, and that is the magic of the digital age and its tools: Voxer, Google docs, etc.

Time to disconnect: I realize that this is my second reference to the inimitable Anne Lamott in one post, but I am finding ways to make time for this:

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I put my various devices away, free myself from the signals of each incoming message and notification, focus on being quiet and present, and find some gift left for me to  discover. Yesterday, it was a collection of bird nests high in a tree a few doors away.  Now I know where our blue jays and cardinals reside!










#CelebrateLu: A letter to my first class


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

Today, I celebrate my first class of kiddos:


Dear 2S,

All of you are now on your way to your  dorms, ready to begin your freshman year at colleges and universities far and wide. It seems such a very long time ago now that you walked into my second grade classroom, all bright eyed and squirming with excitement, ready to begin a new year with a brand new, first-year teacher.   Today, as I do at the end of every August, I unpacked this photograph of our class and placed it on the window sill of Room 202.  My new sixth graders will be curious about this picture, and I will have to explain that it is because I learned so much from you that I want to hold on to and remember every new school year.  And, in that way, I celebrate our special year of learning and the teacher I am today because of what I learned from you.

I remember starting our day with a good morning zydeco, dancing in our meeting area and clapping our hands to the beat. I remember snow dances to bring on snow days, and rain dances to celebrate buckets of rain pouring down just outside our big windows.  You taught me that joy, and laughter, and silliness were just as important to our learning community as reading, writing, science, and math.

I remember walking around the school with yard sticks, rulers, and clipboards to measure the perimeter of our building and play ground.  And, I remember trying to figure out how to balance varying cupfuls of water on hangers outside our classroom.  In my new-to-teaching enthusiasm, I didn’t realize that multiplication and  volume were not in the second grade curriculum. But, you figured it all out, anyway.  My ignorance gave you the freedom to push boundaries and learn; I had such faith in your abilities, and you rewarded me each time by delivering on each high expectation, you thrived on it.  You taught me to think beyond boundaries and have faith in my students’ innate desire to view learning as an exciting adventure.

I remember sitting under the big oak tree near the playground and taking time to read “Danny, Champion of the World” when Spring arrived at last.  I remember how you spread out on the grass, on your backs so that you could see the passing clouds and the just budding leaves of our “Danny tree”.  I remember whispered pleas to “read that part again”, and the conversations that would flow at the end of each chapter.  There were no prompts, or guided questions, just your curiosity and your hearts leading us to think about kids and parents and love.  You taught me that the heart of any reading workshop  was creating a love and wonder of story, and investing on the emotional atmosphere that cultivates love and wonder in story.

I remember your forgiveness when I made mistakes: lessons that didn’t pan out, unclear directions that led to confusion and chaos, and the times I misunderstood and misjudged.  You taught me that our mutual trust was a critical element in our classroom, and that my honesty in admitting mistakes was vital to our classroom culture, and our ability to learn and grow together. You taught me that I would grow every teaching year, too, because of the children in my room.

I remember the years after, too.  Nothing made me happier than seeing some of you back in my sixth grade classroom when you finally made it to middle school. And that joy was the same as you stopped by to visit as you made your way through middle school and high school.  I remember seeing fine young women and men in those last high school years, and marveling at this gift I had been given – to watch you grow up, and to be a part of your learning lives for so long.  With each college acceptance that you burst into my room to share, I felt a bittersweet tug; you would be moving outside the circle of my attention finally, even as you found your paths in life.  You taught me that teaching is all about building relationships with children; teaching is all about love.

So, 2S, wherever you are today, do great things, change the world, drop me a line from time to time, and come visit Room 202 when you are home and have the inclination.  Thank you for all you have done to make me the teacher I am.


Mrs. Smith

#CelebrateLu & #digilitchallenge: Milestones


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

diglit sunday

DigiLit Sunday was created and is hosted by Margaret Simon@ Reflections on the Teche – join the DigiLit Challenge of the day!

This Sunday, I celebrate the last two weeks of school, and the way my kids have taken ownership of their their learning.  My work is done, and, with the exception of Social Studies, I have stepped back completely.  From the moment they walk in, my kids glance at the “year end in process projects” list on the board to gauge what they need to attend to right away, where they need to prioritize their energies, and where they need to confer with me to clarify a point or two.  The class hums along with a purposeful rhythm – a year of leading my kids to independence and a classroom work ethic is paying off.

 I also celebrate what Margaret invited us to think about this Digilit Sunday: think about digital literacies and transformation.  The rest of today will be spent on Google Classroom, as I read over my students’ multigenre projects, offer comments and suggestions, and enjoy their writing pieces.  Often, a student will   log on even as I am commenting, and that becomes a conversation.  That’s the power of digital literacy.

Finally, I celebrate two milestones: yesterday I  marked my 100th. post for Two Writing Teachers.  Never in my wildest imagination did I think that anyone would care to turn to my writing about teaching as a source of inspiration and advice.  It’s been a wonderful adventure.  And today, I mark my 1,00th. post on my own blog, right here on A Teaching Life. It was a huge step to create an online journal of my teaching life, a place to reflect, collect and try out ideas, and share what I learn.  This blog was really the first step into the incredible world of an online PLN – and it transformed my teaching.   Many of us operate in isolation; it is hard to explain to people outside of the teaching profession that you can work in a building bustling with noise and exploding with people…and still be isolated and a teaching island all to yourself. Blogging, and Twitter, changed that.

#CelebrateLu & #digilitchallenge: A post about celebrating the “now” and the “to come”


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

diglit sunday

DigiLit Sunday was created and is hosted by Margaret Simon@ Reflections on the Teche – join the DigiLit Challenge of the day! This week’s DigiLit Challenge is an Invitation. You can create your invitation on the app of your choice.

On this double-duty post (because I love being part of both of these communities…and I am time-challenged these last two weeks of school), I take up Margaret’s challenge to create an invitation to summer.  I used Canva to create this, and a photograph that seemed to contain within it all I celebrate and look forward to this summer :

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Last week was full of completings and startings – all the  projects that become the last weeks of school.  I continue to celebrate the way my kids have embraced learning, so that a few directions and suggestions are all that’s needed from me, and then they’re off and running.

We began our multigenre writing projects, we continued our biography book club projects, and tomorrow we will begin our Civil War projects.  The room is abuzz with talk and laughter, we are at ease in each other’s company and comfortable with the idea that there is work at hand and that it must be attended to.  I celebrate that notion, and hope my kids carry it with them as they leave my classroom on the last day of school.

Even as I drown in grading and all the tasks that must be completed by June 17th., I celebrate the fact that I love my work and my kids, and that I get to live my favorite quote:

“Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” Theodore Roosevelt

Celebrate This Week with #celebratelu: Loosening the reins.

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

This week I celebrate loosening the reins.  All school year long, I make it a practice to start teaching two minutes before the bell rings.  I’m all about letting my kids know that I take their learning time seriously, that there is an urgency to our need to get to the work we must begin right away:reading great books, talking about them with passion and curiosity, writing from the heart, and learning about history – how things got to be the way they are, what we can do to bring about change.

That was then…

Now…with a few short weeks to go, it’s time to  loosen the reins.  My kids are exploding with summer excitement, and weary of the school routine.  For all the love that has grown between us, they do not wish to be in the classroom any more.  So, I step back, take a deep breath, and loosen the reins.  Like high strung thoroughbreds, they can sense it.  And they respond beautifully.  There is definitely more laughter and chattiness, but a word or a look from me brings them back in line.  No one wants those reins to tighten again.

On Friday morning, I looked out over a roomful of sixth graders prepping for a quiz.  They were dutifully going over notes, and I started to feel guilty.  What was I thinking? How mean was it to schedule a test the Friday before a long weekend? Ugh! So, I changed gears.  The test became a group project.  Here’s how we covered divisions between the North and South on the eve of the Civil War, the meaning of Lincoln’s great “house divided” speech, and the impact of Lincoln’s childhood on his character and outlook:


We had fun.

Yup, loosening the reins is definitely something to celebrate!

Celebrate This Week with #celebratelu: Of dreams and new beginnings…

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

This week I celebrate this…

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Photograph by Jon Katz: http://www.bedlamfarm.com/

bedlam Farm-Spring

Photograph by Jon Katz: http://www.bedlamfarm.com/


This is Rose, border collie extraordinaire – one of the most famous residents of Bedlam Farm.

There are not many places in the world that I can call home.  We moved around a lot when I was growing up, and I learned the habits of adjustment and observation, rather than settling in and putting down roots.  My father used to joke that our family reunions took place in airports where we would run into family on their way in as we were on our way out.  As a child, I used to think that was a funny, even glamorous, joke. But, as I grew up and then had a family of my own, I came to see the underlying sadness in that joke instead; reunions like that  do not lead to deep connections to people or places.

I feel at home in big cities – New York and London.  I love the  energy, pace, and stimulation…also, the anonymity of city life: people are on their way to something and busy living their lives, you do not need to connect with anyone…unless you want to. Perfect.

And then, six years ago, we visited Washington County, NY.  “Upstate NY”.  This is where my husband Scott grew up, and this is what he still calls home.  I was reluctant to go at first; as a teacher, the summer holiday is the only time to really travel, and I was thinking of France, Italy, maybe Turkey.  But, we had deferred a holiday in Washington County many times on my account, so we rented a house on a lake, packed up the van with the kids, the kayaks, the dog, and drove up to upstate New York.

There is a point where the road into Washington County crests, and the rolling hills, red barns, green pastures and golden cornfields come into view.  That is the point at which I fell in love.  We had to stop the van and pause to drink it all in.  And suddenly, just like that, I felt at home.

We saw the house we are buying, Bedlam Farm, on one of our many drives.  It sits overlooking a valley, and it is hard to miss. The writer Jon Katz lived there, and had made this pre-Civil War farm famous with his best selling books about raising dogs, sheep, donkeys, and discovering our deep and abiding bonds with the animal world.  We felt we knew the place, and loved it, too.   Whenever I thought of Washington County, I thought of the landscape, Bedlam Farm, and home.

Now, we are buying that home.

And I celebrate…

Celebrate This Week with #celebratelu: The first “real” week of Spring!

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

I’m celebrating making it through the first real week of Spring – every day was lovely, with warm breezes, sunshine, and chances to take long walks and garden.

I celebrate that Sophie can sunbathe in the yard:


I celebrate that I could finally wash down the front porch and open my outdoor office for the season:



I celebrate that our Olivia will be home for the summer this week, a successful sophomore year of college behind her:


I celebrate that we crossed our fingers and jumped in to make an offer on a place we’ve always loved. Whatever the outcome, we gave it our best shot:


I celebrate that as we ease into the last two months of school, my kids are still with me – ready to learn, ready to try, even though their hearts and spirits are yearning to be outdoors glorying in  Spring.

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