Returning From Spring Break


Over the weekend, I spent time thinking about all the reasons I have for looking forward to going to work. I was facing a little bit of an emotional slump since I had been sick almost the entire break and was getting a little bit upset about the break being done. Since this was happening, I decided to intentionally focus on the positives. I started to list in my head what I was looking forward to seeing from each and every student. This definitely helped me to reframe how I was feeling about going back to school.

Then, yesterday, we had a great day. As always when you get back from a break, it took a little bit of reminding to get everyone back on track. But I told my class that I was looking forward to our reading time and I meant it. You see, I bought some new books over break. I knew especially that Amulet 7 would make quite a stir…it did not disappoint. We have a wait list going. I was so pleased with how we sunk right back into our comfortable and happy routines of independent reading.

Then, I discovered the boys that are reading The 39 Clues. When Peter Lerangis was at our school the week before our break, he talked about this book series because he has written some of the books. After he left, my boys found the basket and three of them started the series. Yesterday, they peppered me with questions about how to tell the books from the first series and if there were other series. We spent a few minutes by the basket and I showed them the Infinity Ring books. They are completely hooked. I love that the author inspired them to read the series. I had already made this recommendation to them a few times and knew they would love those books so I was very happy to see them reading them. They even asked me if I would meet with them as a group so they could discuss the books. When I replied that they could do this themselves, they looked at each other and said, “book club.” I love this!

Then, as I walked through the classroom conferencing, I paused for a minute by David. He had just gasped and was sitting there with the shocked look of someone who had just found out something big. I love seeing students sucked into their stories and reacting like this.

Then came the end of our independent reading time. There was the audible groan from many and a desperate plea from one of my students, “just ten more minutes, please!” He even tried to start a chant, “Let Us Read! Let Us Read!” Luckily, this particular student is just a little more intense than the others and the chant did not catch on. There is so much that happens inside of my brain when this type of thing happens. I didn’t exactly reprimand the student for the chant, just said that that wasn’t a likely way for him to get what he wanted.

We ended our day by watching the new big ideas video on ClassDojo and picking our new avatar on GoNoodle.

If you do not use ClassDojo in your classroom, you should check it out. They have been working over the past few years to add features that teachers will want to use. I love using Class Story to write down our recap each day and send out that summary to parents. The big ideas videos are about growth mindset. My students really like these videos and ask me to play the new one when they see it pop up on our page.

The same goes for GoNoodle. We use the brain breaks on this website every single day in my classroom. I especially love that they have started to add more Yoga and Mindfulness brain breaks. My kiddos love the Koo Koo Kangaroo videos the most.

Both of these websites support my efforts to create class community. These shared experiences contribute to our collaborative environment and make our classroom a comfortable and wonderful place to be.

All in all, I am super lucky to be a teacher and to have a job I love doing. Going back to work after a vacation is always hard, but it is much easier to get back in the swing of things when you can find the good in being there.




Selfish is as Selfish does (SOLSC30)


Join us in the Slice of Life story challenge. Every day for the month of March, bloggers all over the globe are writing their slices and sharing them on the Two Writing Teachers blog.

We are selfish. In our society, many people are focused almost entirely on themselves and instant gratification. People clamor for service to come to them instantly and are furious when they have to wait. The most popular kind of picture that we see on social media is “selfies.” Many times, when you are on your way into a building, the person in front of you drops the door in your face. Now, I don’t think these people necessarily mean to be rude, but they are so involved in their own thoughts and focused on themselves that they don’t even realize you are right behind them.

Just go to any public place and you will see it. People are maybe walking in groups and some of them might be talking to one another, but more and more you will see a group of people together, but entirely separate because each is wrapped up in the world of his cell phone. As we become more self-involved as a society, we also are losing the ability to empathize with others. This lack of empathy causes less kindness to others and a big problem is developing.

The lack of kind actions and words in every day life is appalling. The very fact that we have to encourage people to do “random acts of kindness” speaks volumes. Now, I am not saying that there is no one out there that is kind. I encounter kindness and know many people who do their utmost to be kind to everyone, even the rude people who are insulting them. I just think that there is a noticeable lack of kind actions in our society.

Because people are so wrapped up in their own lives and their own dramas, they forget to consider what the other person in their conversation may be experiencing– if they are even actually listening to the other person. We are so busy and our minds are constantly thinking about what needs to be done or that internet sensation that just popped up. We spend endless hours sucked into the vortex of social media and for some people, video games. We are so plugged in that we sometimes forget to unplug and unwind.

What is this doing to our kids? It is creating a generation of lazy and impolite people who use social media as a forum to air their dirty laundry and pick fights.

How do we combat this problem? Well, first and foremost, we need to create spaces in schools where students are learning about how to act in a way that is not selfish. We need to teach kids to empathize and consider the feelings of others before they act. As a teacher, it is imperative that I work to help students see how being kind can be the best choice in almost every situation.

There are many ways that teachers can work to help students learn how to be kind and productive members of society.

First and foremost, we must work to get students reading. The more you read, the better you get at empathizing. Putting yourself in the shoes of the characters in the books you read gives you practice thinking about how others might feel in different situations.

Next, we need to create safe places in our classrooms in which students learn to communicate in kind ways with one another. We need to create a space for do-overs and mistakes and learning how their actions affect others. How will students learn to empathize if we always punish them for unkind actions, without giving them chances to learn from their mistakes? We need to create spaces in which students are made to see why their unkind action was wrong and then given a logical consequence for that action. Many times, the consequence is as easy as working to make the situation right again with the person they have wronged.

Lastly, we need to create an environment in which kindness is valued. We need to model being kind. We need to help students to understand what it looks like to be kind. We need to help students learn how good it feels to do something kind for another person without expecting anything in return. We need to teach students that it is important to hold the door for the person behind them. We need to teach students about the adage-“You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

Let’s work together to create a generation of kind people who work hard to create a community in which we all work to achieve common goals instead of being selfish.


No Voice (SOLSC29)


Join us in the Slice of Life story challenge. Every day for the month of March, bloggers all over the globe are writing their slices and sharing them on the Two Writing Teachers blog.

I don’t have a voice today. I haven’t really had a voice in three days. Does this stop me from trying to talk? Nope. It just sounds ridiculous and no one can really hear me well so I end up repeating myself, which is probably worse for my voice. I don’t have a sore throat. I think it is just the extra mucus that I have from the sinus infection that has taken over my whole head.

I hate not having a voice. I like being heard. I also have phone calls to make and appointments to keep since I don’t have to work this week. My insurance agent called and I tried to stumble through the phone call but he could hardly hear me. Whoops.

I tried to go do a routine MRI today as part of my wellness plan with my neurologist checking on my MS. We had to stop the procedure. I will have to reschedule, there was too much gunk in my head and I couldn’t keep myself from coughing.

I don’t like to complain. I try not to wallow in the negative, so I won’t complain today. I will celebrate the fact that I had a nice nap. I will celebrate the fact that my doctor prescribed antibiotics. I will celebrate the fact that I do not have to try to get a classroom full of fourth graders to listen to me when I do not have a voice. I will relax and write and work on my writing voice and hope that this sickness leaves soon so I can get my physical voice back.


The House Concert (SOLSC28)


Join us in the Slice of Life story challenge. Every day for the month of March, bloggers all over the globe are writing their slices and sharing them on the Two Writing Teachers blog.

We put the address into the GPS and drove out of the city. We went down the country highways and curved through the countryside. The three of us were headed on a new adventure for a new experience.

We arrived at the front door and filled out a name tag. We put out the dish we had brought to pass. We grabbed plates and filled them with amazing food. We relaxed and enjoyed some time to chat with the other attendees.

It is odd to arrive at a strangers house and to then make yourself comfortable as if you were at a friend’s party. Everyone that was there was quite friendly, but it felt weird.

Then we filed down to the lower level of the house to pick our seats. The room was set up as a small, intimate stage with about fifty chairs set up.

The first performer was Rui Zhou. He played us two beautiful guitar solos.

Then Helen Avakian and Dave Irwin came up on stage. They played some instrumental songs and sang as well.

Then we had a short intermission as they got ready for the featured performer of the evening.

Stefano Barone is from Italy and he plays some really interesting and innovative guitar solos. He was using technology to create loops of himself playing a part and then adding loops until it sounded like there were multiple guitarists. It was so cool.

We had never heard before of house concerts. We set off on the adventure without really knowing what we were in for. But we are so glad that we did it.

Moral of the story: if you hear about a house concert near you, it is definitely something you should investigate further. I know we will be looking for more in the future.


Celebrating Celebration and Mindfulness (SOLSC26)

celebrate-image   slice

Join us in the Slice of Life story challenge. Every day for the month of March, bloggers all over the globe are writing their slices and sharing them on the Two Writing Teachers blog.

It’s Saturday and that means it is time to reflect on the week and celebrate things both big and small. Join our community and celebrate this week by linking up or just stopping by the host Ruth Ayres’ blog to read others’ celebrations.


I am sick today and have been since Tuesday. It is so hard to remain in the realm of positivity when you feel miserable, but that is exactly the reason that I celebrate today. Before I joined this community of celebration, I used to allow myself to dwell in the space of negativity. I have learned through my weekly reflections to look for and find the moments to celebrate and in so doing, I have found a way to place myself squarely in the realm of positive thought. So this week I am first celebrating celebration. The practice has helped me get through this week and enjoy life even when I feel crappy.

I started a series of free meditations for weight loss that Oprah and Deepak Chopra have come together to provide for people. I really love the centering thoughts and the reflections that they are providing each day. Find out more and register for this 21-day experience on the Chopra Center Meditation website.

On Wednesday, we had another author visit at my school. I am so happy that I connected with the local independent bookstore that works hard to sponsor author events throughout our city. What is awesome is that this bookseller is so excited about creating readers that he allows my school to participate even though he knows that we will not create the same volume of book sales as many of the suburban schools will. I have been lucky over the last few years to host many amazing authors. This time, we welcomed Peter Lerangis to our school. I had heard of the Seven Wonders series but had not read any of them. I am halfway through the first book at this point and am loving the series. Peter Lerangis had an engaging and fun presentation and it was so fun to hear the auditorium full of child laughter at his antics and his funny pictures. He spoke to the audience about The 39 Clues series as well, because he has written some of the books in the series. Three of my students are now reading Book 1 of The 39 Clues. I love the power that authors have to turn kids on to reading!

Yesterday started my Spring Break. I am so excited to have a week off and be able to work on writing and reading with a more leisurely pace. I started the vacation with a trip to my doctor for this bronchitis and I have a routine MRI scheduled for next Tuesday as part of my care for MS, but it is nice to be able to do some of these medical things without writing sub plans or working around my work schedule.

Tonight, I am looking forward to spending time with my Mom. She found out about a concert that some people are having in their house. It starts with a potluck and then a semi-private guitar concert. It sounds like an interesting time and I am looking forward to it. We also are spending Easter Sunday with my mom. We had gotten away from really spending this holiday with family in the last few years and I am glad we are coming back to it this year. I am looking forward to brunch with family and a church service and maybe even some coloring of eggs. I think we will probably also FaceTime with my sister and her husband and our nieces. That will be special as well.

Here are my posts from this week:

Creating Readers to Create Kindness–my blog manifesto

Silence, Trauma, and Forgiveness 

Where is the Muse?

The Importance of Community


The Best Laid Plans

What are you celebrating this week? I would love to hear from you in the comments!


The Best Laid Plans (SOLSC25)


Join us in the Slice of Life story challenge. Every day for the month of March, bloggers all over the globe are writing their slices and sharing them on the Two Writing Teachers blog.

I have worked hard to slice each day in March. I am loving the posts that I have done so far. I am enjoying the work I am doing to improve. I made it a priority to write every day. And then, this week I got sick. I was perfectly healthy on Monday. Then Tuesday morning, I woke up with a cough and congestion. By Tuesday afternoon, I was hacking up a lung. Wednesday and Thursday it was all I could do to be able to stay at school all day. And last night, I didn’t write. I was unable to write. I am sick.

The doctor gave me some medicine today. I will take it and I will hope to be able to sleep with the cough syrup helping me sleep. I hope to write a better slice tomorrow. Here’s hoping my lungs decide to recover soon and I will be able to finish out the challenge strong.


Monopoly (SOLSC23)


Join us in the Slice of Life story challenge. Every day for the month of March, bloggers all over the globe are writing their slices and sharing them on the Two Writing Teachers blog.

The Monopoly board came out and we started to talk. My grandma and I spent entire weekends playing this game and talking. When it was time to go to bed, we would leave the board out on the dining room table and come back to it the next morning. Neither of us were cutthroat players, the end result didn’t really matter. The talks were the reason for our games. I let her in on my hearts desires and my biggest heartaches from the weeks since I had been there before. She listened without judgement and gave me a safe place. Her advice always made me reflect and helped me navigate all kinds of twists and turns.

We each had our favorite properties. She always wanted the yellows and I always tried for the greens. We both celebrated when one of us landed on Park Place or Boardwalk, even if that meant that one of us was going to win soon.

I don’t recall who usually won. I don’t even know if we ever actually finished these marathon games. What I do know is that anytime I see the Monopoly board I think about my Grandma and miss those talks.


The Importance of Community (SOLSC22)


Join us in the Slice of Life story challenge. Every day for the month of March, bloggers all over the globe are writing their slices and sharing them on the Two Writing Teachers blog.

The last few weeks have been a little crazy in my classroom. The nicer weather, the approaching Spring Break, and some crazy schedules and different activities have really messed with our routines. I also have a class composition at this point of the school year of almost exactly 2 boys to 1 girl. This makes our class noisy and active and boisterous.

In the last weeks, this has meant that I have had to dig deep for the extra well of patience that I seem to be able to find when I need it. I have had to send students back to their desks to put heads down and calm their bodies and minds before we continued with the lessons. I have had to lecture about being safe and making sure that people are not getting hurt in our classroom when they are supposed to be working on math activities. I have had to send everyone back to their desks to work instead of being able to choose their spots.

We even had a problem solving class meeting about their behavior. Students were honest and reflective in the meeting, but soon went back to their wayward ways.

But the biggest mistake I made in the last week was to skip our sharing in the morning meeting. I told students that we were not sharing because I could not trust that they would be respectful listeners when their classmates were sharing (which was absolutely true). I could not even get through one sentence without being interrupted and that let me know that they would not do the listening that was needed. But we all missed the chance to share. I was asked multiple times by multiple kids when we were going to get to share again. I unfairly put us on a punishment that didn’t fit. I silenced their voices instead of giving them a chance and letting them prove that they could listen, at least to a few students at a time.

Then, yesterday, we started out crazy again. So, I talked to students and reminded them of our class norms. I took the time to talk to them about why I am worried about our behaviors. We talked about how it is my job to make sure they learn as much as they can and how their behaviors have lately stood in the way of that happening. I told them about how we are already 2/3 of the way through our school year and we have so much more work to do so that they can reach their best level by the end of the year. I told them that we only had 180 days together so we had to make it count. One of my students replied, “Wait, it’s only 180 days of school? But I thought it was more because it’s like 10 months.” I think this number clicked with this particular student.

Then, we shared. Students were more ready to listen and did their utmost to make sure they were being respectful of one another. Almost everyone shared. We usually have at least a few who pass when we go around the circle, but this time only one passed. We had long stories to share because we had pent up details from last week. But, the energy shifted and I realized that I had inadvertently changed our climate when I stopped the conversation.

This morning I made sure that we got right back to our routine of a morning meeting complete with a sharing circle. We reminded each other about our class norms. We remembered that we are all in this together and our behavior affects the learning of everyone in the room. And we proceeded to have a wonderful day full of learning.

How very important that community is to all of us in our classroom. I am so glad I listened to the voices of my students clamoring for their chances to share. They reminded me that it is in the craziness that we really need to take time to build our communities and listen to our stories.




Where is the Muse? (SOLSC21)


Join us in the Slice of Life story challenge. Every day for the month of March, bloggers all over the globe are writing their slices and sharing them on the Two Writing Teachers blog.

My muse abandoned me today.

She has been working overtime

giving me ideas and powerful words.

She must’ve finally thought

that she deserved a vacation.

But why must she take a break

in the middle of my month of slicing?

I hope she will be back tomorrow.

I hope she isn’t sick or hasn’t up and quit.

Maybe she is just focusing on report cards

Like I should be.


Silence, Trauma, and Forgiveness (SOLSC20)


Join us in the Slice of Life story challenge. Every day for the month of March, bloggers all over the globe are writing their slices and sharing them on the Two Writing Teachers blog.

On Friday, my professional development was thought-provoking and gave me a lot of food for thought. Part of the morning was about Trauma-Sensitive Care in schools. This portion of the morning gave me a lot to think about and made me reflect quite heavily on the trauma that I experienced as a child and teenager. Hearing the information about how certain things might trigger a child even if they are in no apparent danger, really brought me back to my late teen years and even the early years of my marriage in which we navigated some muddy waters because things in our home would trigger my trauma brain.

Then, later in the morning, we were treated to this Ted Talk as part of our training about Educator Effectiveness in Wisconsin. We were delving deeper into the Professional Responsibilities domain of the Danielson framework and in the training we were to reflect on how this message might relate to how we advocate for our students. I thought this message really went hand in hand with the trauma care piece of the morning. If you haven’t seen the Ted Talk “The Danger of Silence” go watch it now. Go ahead, I’ll wait.



Some great things to think about here, right? I think what struck me the most about this piece was the way this teacher asks his students to “Tell Your Truth.” I love the spoken word poem and I love the way he focuses on the silences and times when he should have spoken up. Don’t we all have times in which we should have spoken up, but we didn’t?

This training, both pieces of it, struck a chord in me. I have been hemming and hawing and turning some ideas over and over again in my brain. I have some truths to tell. They have been buried in me and have been clamoring to get out since early last fall. But I struggle with the truths. How much of this stuff is not mine to tell? What if telling my truth hurts someone? It is possible that this could be the case.

The biggest truths that I have to tell have to do with forgiveness for wrongdoing that never was acknowledged as such by the person who did it. My truth deals with trauma that changed the way I reacted to other people. It changed me into someone who avoids conflict. It gave me a part of my brain that had a panic reaction with certain triggers. It traumatized me. And, the truth is that it is still something that I have inside of me. I thought I had moved on from it. I have healed myself, I have become confident again. I had even let go, I thought. Until I started to meditate this year. Some of the guided meditations I did brought up the resentment that I thought I had done away with. So now, I am thinking about forgiveness. How do you forgive someone for something that affected you so much? Is it too late to forgive them if they have already passed on? And if you stay silent, how dangerous is it really if it only affects you?