Wrapping Up the Year

Well, here we are. It is almost June. We are heading into the end of another school year; and unfortunately it was another school year plagued by COVID-19. People are tired. Teachers tell me they are ready to wrap up and move on to summer. I’m left wondering how to wrap up this school year in a way that leaves teachers and students with a sense of celebration and closure, but also energy and joy and (maybe most important of all) a sense of hope for what is to come.

Do we schedule some visits between classes and grade levels in order for students to see where they are going and teachers to see where next year’s students are coming from?

Do we create some new activities for our summer reading and writing unit?

Do we schedule some celebratory walkthroughs?

Do we create some book tasting events for kids and teachers?

Is there time for one more (quick) coaching cycle?

Can we do a few things to start looking ahead to next year?

Or….do we just let the year come to a close and worry about all of this next year?

I have to ask teachers what they think. Is any of this realistic? What do you think? I’d love to hear what you are doing to wrap up this school year.

Celebration

This week, my daughter will graduate with a Master of Fine Arts degree in dance and dance education from New York University. I am beyond proud of this young woman. I want to share my joy and pride with the world, so I thought I’d write her a note and share it with this community.

Dearest Morgan,

At the end of The Summer Day, a poem by Mary Oliver, the reader is asked,

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

With your one wild and precious life?

You are answering this question with energy, guts, talent, and joy.

I know it was a huge and life- changing decision to leave your life and career in Italy to study dance and education at NYU. You weren’t sure, but now I think you know that this is the work you are meant to do. There is no question that you are meant to dance and to live the creative life. Watching you perform last week in your final school performance, knowing that you were responsible for every single piece of the show (down to the creation of your own theater curtain-lol) was certainly proof of that! Your movement is stunning, and your ability to dance in different styles and interact with the audience in a variety of ways was beyond impressive!

I congratulate you on finishing your course of study and earning a Master of Fine Arts degree. Wow! You are following your heart, and pursuing your dreams of being a dancer; a creator. I’m excited to see what you will do next, but for now I want to pause and bask in your incredible accomplishments. You are really making something out of that wild and precious life of yours!

I am so proud of you. I hope you are proud of you too!

I love and admire you,

Mom

Many Moms

Today I wish a happy Mothers’ Day to the many women who have acted as mother figures in my life.

First and foremost, of course, is my biological mother. She was pretty incredible. She was beautiful, smart, caring, athletic, artistic, and incredibly fashionable. She had an amazing career as a fashion designer in New York City and did a great job balancing that work with being a very attentive and supportive mom (I know, a hard act to follow!). Mom (along with my dad) provided us with a pretty incredible childhood. We had chores and were responsible for things around the house. She made sure we worked if we wanted something. But at the same time she gave us so much. As we both grew older, we became the best of friends. We could talk about almost anything. We were honest and supportive and caring. She was truly my model for what motherhood could look like.

Then there was Thelma. I was three years old, and my sister was just a baby when Thelma arrived. She would spend the next ten years co-parenting us so that my parents could work and feel confident that we were well cared for. Thelma was one of the most loving human beings imaginable. Don’t get me wrong, she could be firm. Thelma had high expectations for us and a no-nonsense approach when it came to right and wrong, but when you got that “Thelma hug,” you knew you were safe and well-loved. Thelma quickly became a member of the family. Eventually she went off to become an RN and then Director of Admitting at a local hospital. We grew up and went on our own journeys, but we stayed close. Thelma was present at many holidays and events, graduations and ceremonies, baby showers, weddings and funerals. We often met for lunch or talked on the phone. When my mom died, she stepped up as the best back-up mom you could imagine. Right up until her final days, she was looking after me. She always made sure things were OK, checked to make sure that I got home after a visit, and made sure all was well with the Tim and the girls.

And then there were/are my dad’s next two wives. First there was Annie. She was young, so initially I didn’t see her as a “mom,” but we quickly became close friends. Annie was a very talented painter and an incredible cook. She looked after me in a different way. She showed me how to cook gourmet meals. She fed me great books by strong female writers (Anais Nin, Isak Dinesen. and Anna Quindlen to name a few). She took me to plays and dance performances. She taught me how to think about art and ideas in ways I hadn’t before. We took long walks with her dog and talked for hours. She bought me beautiful things when she and my dad traveled to France and Italy. She always looked after me. She always cared for me.

And now I have Beatrice, my dad’s current wife. She is wise, smart, an incredibly talented artist, and speaks four or five languages fluently! She has always opened her house and her arms and let me in. She is always there for me. She is honest and direct when I ask for advice. She is always thoughtful and kind. We have developed such a close friendship, but one that seems special because she is married to my dad. She is “mom-like” and “best friend-like.” We have the best of both worlds.

So on Mother’s Day, I share my gratitude to these women who have helped to raise me and pushed me to become the person I am today. I thank you all for being there for me, for being honest with me, for pushing me to be my true self. Everyone should be as lucky as I have been to have many moms!

These Kids are Writers!

Toward the end of March, one of my colleagues (and fellow slicer ) suggested to our principal (also a fellow slicer) and me that we see if some of our students might be interested in trying out the April SOLC. We decided to invite fourth and fifth grade students. I really wasn’t sure if many kids would sign up, and if they did, I wasn’t sure that they would stick with it and write on a regular basis. I’m happy to say, my doubts were completely unfounded! Lots of kids (about 60!) signed up and many came to the library in the mornings to write together. One student wrote every singe day (including weekends and during a week long vacation!). They came, they talked, they wrote, they laughed, and they shared.

We didn’t require children to write every day, but we set up the space and time for them to write in the library during the first 30 minutes of school. We created a place for them to write (a Padlet), and we invited them into the experience. As they say in Field of Dreams, “If you build it they will come.”

Today (the first Monday in May) we invited kids to join us if they wanted to talk about how to keep their writing habit going now that the April experience had come to a close. A few students came and talked about their plans. They talked about wanting to write 6 days a week, how writing helps them calm down when they are feeling stressed (either by writing about what’s causing the stress or writing to distract them from stress), how they are going to ask their teachers if they can carve out some time during the day to “slice,” and how they are already looking forward to next year’s April SOLC!

These kids are writers! They love to write. They write for a variety of reasons. They write because they see value in it, not because it’s something the teacher wants them to do. They are living writerly lives!