A Thank You Note

Dear Two Writing Teachers,

Thank you so much for inviting me to participate, once again, in the March Slice of Life March Writing Challenge.  At first I wasn’t really sure I was going to be able to accept your invitation. It’s not that I didn’t want to join you for this party, it’s just that I’m busy. I have work, my family, my dog, my friends, and taking care of the house.  I have to wash my car, do the laundry, clean up the yard for spring. I have to…… Well, that’s the point, isn’t it? Without your invitation, TWT, I fill myself with excuses for why I don’t have time in my day to write.  So, I accepted your invitation, and I’m so glad I did.

I wrote.  I posted something to TWT every day for 31 days.  It wasn’t great writing. A lot of it wasn’t even good.  But I experimented. I tried some poetry, some opinion writing, some writing about social justice, some slices were about my work as a Literacy Coach, a few posts about spring (or the lack of it), some observations, thoughts about family, and about life.  

I wrote with a community of writers.  More colleagues at work joined the TWT community this year, so we were able to talk about our writing – about how hard it could be, and how incredibly satisfying it could feel. We laughed together, struggled together, a few of us even wrote together! We read each other’s writing and commented and got ideas and grew as writers together. We made powerful connections with our classrooms and our student writers.  

I had the incredible support of the TWT writing community.  I so enjoyed reading other posts and commenting on them. I gained so many new insights, about people and about writing.  I know people now in ways I never knew them before. The comments on my blog kept me coming back. Some comments were encouraging. Some bloggers reacted in ways that I had hoped they might.  Others reacted in ways that surprised me and led me back to look at my writing in new ways.

I’m sad that this party is ending (although looking forward to a short writing vacation).  You have fed my need and desire to write. I plan to continue writing and participating in the weekly SOL as I’ve been doing for more than a year now.  I’m also hoping to spread my writing wings in some other directions this year.

Thank you for the invitation, TWT.

With love and gratitude,

A writer


The G4 Summit

“I just read an article about a woman who ate Chinese food, went home, thought she was having stomach pains from the spicey food, went to the hospital, and delivered a baby!”

“I sure hope that doesn’t happen to us tonight!”

“Morgan, I can’t wait until you see my new car.  You’re going to love it. You can take it for a drive this weekend if you want.”

“I’d love that! So fun!”

“I saw a Japanese film this week.  It was written in the 50’s. It was long, but it was really interesting. Have you seen anything you’ve liked recently?”

“Dad and I have been watching The Assassination of Gianni Versacci.  It’s so disturbing. I have a hard time watching some of it, but I feel like I need to keep watching to see how he became the person he became.  I know you’ve both watched it. Is it worth sticking with?”

Here we are.  Sitting around the table at Mission Chinese.  The four of us. Together. Again.

I’ve been longing for this day for the past three months.  Morgan has been away, working in Italy. Mackensie is busy with her job, her side business, and her friends.  Tim and I are busy with work and friends. I just don’t feel fully whole when we are apart. It’s like I’m missing some major body parts.  Don’t get me wrong. We manage fine as a “family of independent adults,” but there is something magical that takes places when the four Griffins gather.  

We have this shared history that no one else in the world has.  

We know each other.  

We accept each other.

We celebrate each other.

We care for each other.  

We annoy each other.  

We disagree with each other.  

We are interested in each other.

We enjoy each other.

We fundamentally and unconditionally love each other.

We are a family.


The G4 Summit has reconvened.  


A Time for Some Joy


In a post earlier this week, I explored my thinking in response to the following quote:

“It is true that education is serious and important, but we have lost the curiosity and excitement of learning and discovery.”  (Kirtman and Fullan)

Today I had an experience in a classroom that returned me to this quote, and caused  me to revise it a bit. (I hope the authors are OK with my revision!)

I was modeling a lesson on how to listen well to an audio version of a text.  I started the lesson by playing the song “This is Me” from the recent movie, The Greatest Showman.  After listening once, I asked the children a few questions (“What might this song really be about? How are you picturing the person singing this song?  How might she be feeling?”). The point of the lesson was to show students how important it is to listen, and then re-listen (maybe even multiple times), to a text in order to understand it at a deeper level.  

Then we switched to an audio book for some practice.  I warned the kids that the voice on the audio was going to present an additional challenge to their listening skills because it was quite robotic.  They seemed ready to take on the challenge, so I hit play. That’s when it started. One person started to giggle, covered his mouth, and tried to look away.  Then I noticed the girl next to him. Her shoulders were bouncing up and down as she tried to contain herself. Then another, and another, until it was clearly time to stop the audio and regroup.  The teacher and I were quite serious.

The teacher:  “OK, that’s enough.  It’s not that funny. Let’s get focused.”

Me:  “I know the voice is strange, but giggling is not going to help your ability to listen.”

I hit play. The kids seemed OK at first, but then it started again.  This time the giggling began in a different corner of the rug. I noticed the sweatshirt being pulled over the mouth to hide the giggles.  One person, then another, and another. I paused again. This time I tried something different.

Me:  “If you feel like you are going to giggle, just go ahead and quiety move back to your seat so that you are not disturbing other kids who are trying to listen.”

I hit play.  Half the class got up to go back to their seats.

That got me wanting to giggle.

Yes, this was an important lesson. I wouldn’t be teaching it if I didn’t think it was important.  And yes, education is serious and they do need these skills (The listening skills along with the skills needed to get yourself back on track after a giggling fit.), but the moment was funny.  The teacher and I asked the students if we should just forget about today and go for a “redo” on another day. They assured us that they were ready to get themselves into a serious frame of mind and listen.  We carried on with the lesson and they did a great job.

Sometimes it’s important to just laugh and enjoy the moment.

The revised quote –

“It is true that education is serious and important, but it’s essential to capture the curiosity, excitement, and joyfulness of learning and discovery.”



The On Demand Thing is Not for Me!

I’m no good at the On Demand thing.

Once I was asked by my daughter’s boss (in front of a group of people) to tell a funny story about my daughter.

I froze.

It’s not that I don’t have a billion funny stories about Morgan.  It’s just that I couldn’t think of the perfect one for that moment and that audience. (To be honest, I had trouble thinking of anything at all in that situation, much to my daughter’s disappointment.)

Once I was asked (in front of a camera) what I think is most important in life.

I froze.

I have lots of ideas and opinions about what is important and meaningful in life, but to choose just one, and quickly, and on camera?  No way.

Today I was asked to come up with an innovative idea that would have a positive impact on student learning.

I froze.

Innovative?  I’m not sure I even have the capacity to think of something new and purely innovative. The word is intimidating. I certainly can’t come up with something quickly, on the spot.  It feels so….. big. Other people in the group seem to have all sorts of ideas.  But are they really “innovative,” or are these just old ideas in new clothing? Have these people been working on these ideas for a long time, or did they really just think of them on the spot?  Did they read about them somewhere, or are they really able to just pull innovation out of their hats? What does it actually mean to have an “innovative” idea?

I heard a quote today that went something like this:  Action leads to inspiration.  Inspiration does not usually lead to action.  Is that my problem?  Am I trying to “be inspired” without doing something first?  If I do something, will that inspire me to be “innovative?”

I was hoping that sitting down to write might be the answer to my feeling of desperation and hopelessness.  I hoped that writing would be the action that led to inspiration that led to innovation, but alas….

I’m frozen.


Nurturing Curiosity

“It is true that education is serious and important, but we have lost the curiosity and excitement of learning and discovery.”

When I read this quote from Leadership: Key Competencies for Whole-System Change by Lyle Kirtman and Michael Fullan, it made me sit up and take notice.  It feels fundamentally true to me right now. Maybe it’s because it’s “Test Prep Season,” or maybe it’s because I’m at one of those points in the year when I’m just not sure that my work has a direction or is having an impact on kids.  When I start feeling this way, I try to dig deep and figure out what’s getting in the way of our work really moving forward. I think this quote has something to tell me.

I am very serious about my work.  What we do as teachers and coaches really matters in the lives of kids and in the future of our world. I believe that what we do does have a life and death kind of impact.  So yes, the work is extremely serious and important. However, if teachers, administrators, and students lose the sense of curiousity and excitement that lives inside of learning and discovery, we are losing the most important thing that we are trying to develop.  

Kirtman and Fullan go on to say that today’s companies are looking for curiosity, resilience, and entrepreneurial spirit, the ability to collaborate, and comfort with risk taking.  They ask, “Why do we kill the spirit of our students and administrators progressively through our educational experience?” (I would add teachers to this list.)

I’m giving some serious thought to several questions:

How can we be serious, and nurture curiousity?  

How can we believe in the importance of our work, and still revel in the excitement of learning and discovery?  

How can I, as a Literacy Coach, set conditions where teachers are wondering and discovering, and enjoying, and then sharing the power of that experience with their students?  

How can I help our students fully enjoy the learning experience?  


Spring Cleanup

Today we finally got outside and tackled some spring cleaning. It’s been a very long winter, and a really hard March for those of us in the Northeast!  A few of the storms that hit this month included ferocious winds.  They created a huge mess in our back yard.  There were many limbs down, debris scattered everywhere, and limbs still dangling from trees where they were not completely severed.  So even though the temperature was still cold and the snow was still on the ground, we decided to get spring started!

Tim got out his power saw and cut the large branches into manageable chunks.  I got the wheelbarrow and Tim got the tractor and cart and we started piling the branches in, moving them across the lawn, and dumping them in the back of the yard.  We must have taken over twenty trips each!  With each trip, my legs walked more slowly and my arms started to feel increasingly sore.  I almost stopped after one section of the lawn was clear, but couldn’t stand looking at all of the debris that was still scattered around the other section, so I continued on. When the work was finished, we both stopped, looked across the lawn, and admired how much better everything looked after a morning of hard work.

I spend a lot of time reading, writing, teaching, and taking care of indoor tasks during the winter.  I forget how rewarding it is to work outside, doing hard physical work.  It really makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something and that you’ve made your world a bit more beautiful in a very short amount of time.  In my work as a teacher, the successes don’t come quite so quickly and clearly.


It’s For the Kids

Sunday morning-

Up early,

Wrapping gifts,

Baking cookies.


It’s for the kids.


Madeleine is three today.

Celebrating with family,

 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,

Decorations abound.


It’s for the kids.





Singing Happy Birthday to You.


It’s for the kids.


Saturday evening –

Downtown late,

Candlelight vigil

Marching with the students.


It’s for the kids.




Groups of….

Yesterday I was working at my desk when I noticed a few robins landing on the back yard.  They were moving from the parts still covered with snow to the grassy patches.  Then more came…and more…and more.  I called to my husband, “You should see the group of robins on the back yard!”

He called back, “I was just admiring the large group that are gathering on the front yard.  There are at least 40 birds!”

“What do you call a group of robins, anyway?” I asked.

We just love some of the names that exist for collective groups of animals.  For example, I think a parliament of owls sounds pretty regal, and a murder of crows, so dark.  And  what about a tower of giraffes or a prickle of porcupines?  These names seems just perfect. So where did a richness of martens or a business of ferrets come from? There are hundreds of these terms, and I love reading them all!  Some seem so perfect for the animal and others so whimsical, and then some just ridiculous!

“A round of robins!” I yell toward the living room.

“Perfect!” Tim responds.  “They are actually standing in a circle.”


Some thoughts

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

-Victor Frankl

I attended a professional development session this afternoon. The above quote was shown as an opener to a session about how to regulate our emotions. It really made me think.

-Do I have that much control over how I respond?

-Do I take responsibility for my response to stimuli, or do I blame it on the stimuli?

-Do I recognize the power I do have to choose my response (and to thereby find greater growth and freedom)?

-How does this apply to our lives as teachers?  Are we making choices in that space, or are we just responding to stimuli?

-How does this apply to our student learners? Do we create the conditions in our classrooms and schools where children have the power to choose a response?

-Are we showing our students the power they have to grow and to be free?


The Challenge of Doing Nothing

Today we had another shortened day due to snow.  The minute I heard that another snowstorm was on its way, I started thinking of all of the things I could accomplish with the extra few hours.  Like Wallace, in Wallace’s Lists by Botner and Kruglik, I am a list maker.  I make lists at home and at work, lists of what to pack for trips, lists of items to remember to bring to school, lists of books I need to read and movies I need to see, lists of lessons that need to be planned and materials that need to be ordered, and even lists of what I need to add to my lists.  

Then, when I have some extra time (aka a delayed opening or early dismissal), I go to the list and I start attacking it, one item at a time.  Some items on the list take a few minutes (Call the vet to make an appointment for Bailey to have her nails trimmed.). Others might take days, weeks, or even months (Plan summer vacation to Ireland.), but however big or small the task, I love the feeling of accomplishment when I finish a task and cross it off the list, or when I finish the whole list, crumple up the paper, and slam dunk it into the recylcling bin (sometimes followed by one of those quarterback dance moves).

I pride myself on my ability to work hard and get things done, but it’s really kind of a disease. I’m terrible at relaxing.  I don’t know how to do nothing. I watch my husband on a shortened day, and he is able to just lie down on the couch, put his feet up, and do absolutely nothing.  He’s not watching the TV or reading a book or even checking his phone for text messages. He’s just relaxing. At times, it drives me wild and I start adding more things to my list and running around the house acting busier than ever (often adding stomping feet and a bit of extra force when closing doors and cabinets).  It’s like the act of seeing people relax makes me uncomfortable. I just can’t understand why he’s not taking care of all sorts of tasks that need doing.

One day at the start of summer vacation, my husband poured me a glass of wine and encouraged me to go sit on a chair in the lawn and relax.  “Just sit there? Can I bring a book?”

“Just try to relax for a few minutes.  Take in the day. Look around.” he suggested.  

I couldn’t even sit there for 5 minutes! I got up and started pulling some weeds.

I’ve read about the importance of mindfulness and being in the moment, about the powers of meditation and being peaceful.  This is a goal of mine.


I think I’ll add it to my list!