Oh Tannenbaum, Oh Tannenbaum

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree,
How steadfast are your branches!
Your boughs are green in summer’s clime
And through the snows of wintertime.
Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree,
How steadfast are your branches!

Maybe it’s the steadfast branches.  They are strong and easily support the ornaments, some heavy (especially those that the kids made when they were in elementary school) and others so very delicate (like my daughter’s favorite Wedgwood Figure Skater). The branches support the sparkling lights and precious glass. The arms are strong and steady, unwavering.

Or maybe it’s the green of the Christmas tree in winter that I love.  There’s something magical about having a green tree standing tall inside your dining room while the cold, dark winter whirls around outside, most trees bare of any color or leaves. Just dark pencil marks against a cold, gray sky.

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree,
What happiness befalls me when oft
at joyous Christmas-time
Your form inspires my song and rhyme.
Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree,
What happiness befalls me.

Of course it could be the happiness that comes with Christmas.  The feeling of the family together celebrating traditions that have been going on in this family for hundreds of years.  Maybe this is what I’m hanging on to.  And there’s the joy I feel every morning and every evening when I plug in the lights and the tree glistens in the dark.  There is happiness in the light.  The presents are gone and the family has dispersed, but the light remains.

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your boughs can teach a lesson
That constant faith and hope sublime
Lend strength and comfort through all time.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your boughs can teach a lesson.

I’m not a religious person, but I am spiritual and eternally hopeful.  Maybe the tree does signify a sense of hope and optimism.  The world is cold and dark, and the days are short, but we have a tree inside our house.  A tree, still filled with ornaments of years gone by.  Ornaments from my parents and grandparents, ornaments the kids made when they were little, ornaments from almost every trip we have ever taken. There is the knowledge that next year we will gather again to place these ornaments, and hopefully a few new ones from trips we will take in 2019, to a new, but similar, tree.

I’m not exactly sure why I continue to keep the Christmas tree up and lit well after the holidays have passed, but I know it brings me strength, happiness, and hope. That’s reason enough for me.



Coaching Days

Today was one of those great coaching days.  I spent the afternoon moving from classroom to classroom, trying out different ideas with different kids and teachers.  In the first classroom, I demonstrated a mini lesson on how writers can use mentor texts to make their own writing even stronger. This teacher has been working with mentor text, but felt that the teaching wasn’t really transferring, so we tried to push for more transfer into student writing. Then I moved on to work with a teacher on small groups in writing.  She has some students working on poetry and wanted to push them to do some revision.  I modeled a small group showing students how they might write two or three different poems trying to get a similar feeling.  Then she tried it with another group using some of her own writing. In the next classroom we tried out a student-led Read Aloud.  These teachers are working on building student talk and I had seen this idea in the upper grades.  We tried it out in second grade and the students were “on fire” with their thinking and talking.  Finally, I ended the day coaching a teacher as she tried to build a better partnership conversation with two of her students.

I spent some time this evening reflecting on why this afternoon of coaching felt so good.  I think it was the positive energy coming from the teachers (kids too). These teachers are so open to learning new things and willing to try things out in their classrooms.  This work can be messy and difficult, but today I felt like I was working shoulder to shoulder with teachers to try to improve student learning.  We were in this together.  We were working hard.  We were learning.  And we were really enjoying it.

I hope tomorrow goes like today did.


A Winter Squall

On Sunday morning, I sat at my desk in the kitchen catching up on some work.  My desk sits in front of a large window that looks out onto our back yard. As I was working, I noticed that the sky was becoming increasingly blue and streaks of sunlight were appearing across the lawn.  I smiled as I thought about the walk I was scheduled to take with friends in about an hour. OK, I thought, stay focused for the hour, and you’ll get this finished before you break for some exercise, sunlight, and time with old friends.

I put my eyes back on the computer screen and got to work.  After about twenty minutes, I heard the wind picking up and noticed the trees starting to sway.  I looked up. The sky was ominous. A dark gray line of clouds was marching across the sky, and quickly.  The wind continued to pick up, now howing through the branches. My dog started to bark. Then I heard it, the gentle clicking sound of hail.  I stood up and walked to the back door. The hail was coming down, and hard. The entire sky was a deep charcoal gray, almost black. There goes my walk, I thought.

Then the world went quiet.  The hail and rain stopped. The trees were still.  As I looked to the back of the lawn, I saw a line of clear blue sky marching across the lawn just as the dark clouds had done moments before.  Within about twenty minutes, the sky was a clear blue and light was streaking across the yard.

The last few months have felt a bit like this morning.  Things were going well in November, Thanksgiving was lovely with my family gathered, and then the Christmas holidays were approaching.  That’s when the line of dark clouds came. My stepfather of close to 40 years was suddenly in Intensive Care, and completely reliant on a breathing tube.  Our families had to gather and make the hardest decision of our lives, to let this dear man go. The world went dark and cold. The holidays were nice, but a strong reminder of my stepfather’s absense from the family gathering he loved so much. It’s been almost a month now, and the sky still seems ominous.

I need to remind myself that there will be sunshine on the other side of the darkness.


It’s January 1st.  A new year filled with new promise and new plans.  I want this to be one of the best years yet.  And so I make plans.  Plans to exercise more and eat and drink less.  Plans to travel and have new adventures.  Plans to work on my writing in a more serious way.  Plans to work on the house and yard. Plans to improve my coaching work and continue on my career path.  Plans. Lots of plans.

One of my plans for today was to select my OLW for 2019.  I wanted to find a word that would work personally and professionally.  A word that would fit with my plans.  This year I have decided on the word, BECOMING.  Yes, you guessed it, I am reading Becoming Michelle Obama by Michelle Obama.  My daughter gave it to me for Christmas (which I consider quite a nice compliment). Michelle has already started to inspire me.  Her focus and clarity as a young girl in Chicago is impressive.  And the fact that she is still becoming is inspirational.

Becoming works for me.  I am a learner.  I love to gain knowledge and skill, try new things, go new places, meet new people.  I always want to outgrow myself.  I want the teachers I work with to always think of their work as becoming.  I want my students and my own children and grandchildren to always see themselves as growing…becoming.

So it is that BECOMING will be my OLW for 2019!