I Remember

Several of my colleagues and I are running a 30 Day Notebook Challenge for our students, teachers, and families.  It’s been so nice to return to my notebook to gather ideas, try out strategies, and just play with my writing.  This week, two of my colleagues suggested list writing, so I thought I’d try it here.

I Remember

I Remember my drive to school.

Time to think, catch up on the news, or listen to a good book.

I Remember stopping by to visit my dad and stepmother.

Sometimes before school for my dad’s famous breakfast of eggs, toast, sausage or bacon, and the best coffee you’ve ever tasted.

I Remember arriving at school.

Stopping along the way to my room to visit my colleagues and friends.

I Remember the kids arriving at school.

Their voices loud, happy, filled with promise.

I Remember being in and out of classrooms all day long.

Running up and down all those flights of stairs with my bins filled with teaching tools.

I Remember the end of the school day.

Often tired, but in that good way you feel when you’ve taught your heart out.

I Remember the drive home.

Again catching up on the news, reflecting on the day, finishing a good book.

I Remember the long after-work walk with my husband and dog.

A time to decompress, gather with others in the local park, get exercise and fresh air.

I Remember the rhythm of a different time.


What You See, and What You Don’t

I’ve returned to my writer’s notebook during this time of distance learning and COVID-19.  It provides me with a calm space to think and write and be. It’s also a nice way to get away from all the screen time.

One notebook strategy I remembered from years ago, was to paste a photograph into your notebook, and write off of it.  First write about what you see, and then write about what you don’t see.  Maybe it was something that happened just before the photo was taken, or immediately after, or something that you know that just isn’t captured in the picture.  I decided I would try this strategy over the weekend.

I started scrolling through my photos  from the last five weeks, trying to select one to put into my notebook.  There are lots and lots of photos.  Most of them are of our family of four (as these are pretty much the only people I’ve seen for the past 5 weeks unless I was on Meet or Zoom). There are pictures of wonderful dinners created by our daughters, walks with the dog along the shore or on beautiful trails.  There are pictures of us playing pool on Morgan’s miniature pool table and taking dance lessons or yoga classes.  There are pictures of the four of us playing games or putting together puzzles or completing the New York Times crossword puzzle.  There are a few shots of the fire glowing in the fireplace.

What would someone think if they looked at these photos of March and April, 2020?  Would there be any sense that the world around us is falling prey to an aggressive virus?  Would anyone imagine the many thousands who have died and continue to die as this virus rages on?  Would anyone envision hospitals filled with patients on ventilators?    Would anyone see a world that has changed fundamentally and may never return to what it once was?

My photos reflect the cocoon I have spun.  I’m afraid to emerge.  I’m not sure there is a butterfly on the other side.

Side by Side

“You’re the expert!”

I’ve never been comfortable with this statement when people use it to refer to my work as a Literacy Coach. Yes, I have spent years and years studying literacy.  I read the research, attend conferences, try out techniques in classrooms, and talk with anyone who will listen (and even a few people who would prefer not to) about literacy practices. But the label “expert” does not sit well with me.  To me, the word “expert” suggests a final state, an end, an absolute.  I am, and will always be, in the never ending process of learning.

I’m much more interested in the idea of learning with and from teachers and colleagues.  For that reason, this teaching and learning from home situation has been really exciting for me.  I’m certainly not suggesting that it hasn’t been REALLY hard, but I love the position it puts me in.  I am definitely NOT the expert when it comes to distance learning.  None of us are.  That means we are all in this, side by side, learning as we go, learning from one another, trying, failing, trying again, and getting a little bit better each and every day.

For me, this is the kind of coaching I like best.

Writing Small

“Maybe the single most important lesson you can learn as a writer is to write small.”  

           -Ralph Fletcher in A Writer’s Notebook:  Unlocking the Writer Within You

I’m planning to go back to my notebook and do some of the gathering work I used to do.  I want to live the writerly life, really pushing myself to pay closer attention to this world around me. I think it might help me through this period of quarantine and social distancing. I think it might help kids and families too.

Today I’m going to try to write small.  I’ve decided to take an ordinary object and really zoom in to write about it. I’ll see where this takes me.

A Post-it

The Post-it is a perfect square.  It is 3 inches by 3 inches, and there is nothing on it – no words, no lines, no quotes. The color is bright pink.  I mean REALLY bright pink.  It’s brighter than a neon flamingo sign I saw in Florida this winter. I’m actually having trouble looking at it for a long time.  It’s making my eyes sort of jump around.  That’s how bright the pink is. And of course it’s sticky, but not so sticky that it ever rips the paper.  It’s the kind of magical sticky that can be re-stuck over and over and over again on many different surfaces.  It boggles my mind the way this works.

I have Post-its everywhere.  I use them for lessons, I write myself reminders and to do lists, I leave notes on them for family members, and I love nothing better than completing everything on the Post-it and throwing it away.

I’m amazed at how many different types of these sticky notes there are. There are sticky notes that have lines, and some that don’t, some are tiny, some are huge.  They come in every color imaginable, and in all sorts of shapes.  I personally like the 3×3 plain square.

I wonder how the Post-it notes feel.  I hope they know how much I need them.  I can’t imagine my life without this amazing tool.  I hope they know how they help me stay organized, how they help me remember all of the things I need to remember and accomplish in this busy life.  I hope they know how much I rely on them to make my lessons clear and engaging for students.  I hope they know how lost and out of control I would be without them.

Here’s to you, square, pink, plain Post-it!



What Now?

Here we are. The last day of the 2020 TWT SOLC event.  Thirty one days of writing and posting and commenting.  What now?

What I want to keep doing:

Write every day.

Pay close attention to the world, and think, “I’m going to write about that!”

Stay close to my writing colleagues.

Write to remember.

Write to imagine.

Write to understand (or at least try to understand).

Write for fun.

Write to help others.

What I want to try next:

Spend more time revising and crafting my writing.

Work on one project over a number of days or weeks, or longer.

Try out some different genres.

Get specific feedback on my writing.

Revise it some more.

Maybe try to publish something (OK, I like to dream big!).


I do plan to continue posting some writing on Tuesdays with TWT.  I couldn’t even imagine my life without this community.



It’s hard for me to come to terms with the fact that the 2020 TWT SOLC is coming to a close.   I have needed this experience and relied on this community over the past few weeks in ways I never imagined. I’ve always enjoyed the month of March.  I’ve always felt proud of myself for writing every day for 31 days.  I’ve always loved the writers I have met along the way, some of us staying connected over many years. But this year was different.  This year, the TWT Slice of Life Challenge has helped me survive.  It has helped me feel grounded.  It has helped me stay somewhat sane.  And for that, I say  thank you, Two Writing Teachers (TY, TWT).

I remember back to February, when I was already starting to think about some writing projects for March’s challenge.  My plan was to do some of the writing work that we were asking kids to do so that I could use my writing as a model for instruction.  Who knew then what kind of crazy turn we  would take in March. I abandoned those plans pretty quickly, and began writing to try to figure out what my life was going to be like as it was now being hijacked by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Writing over the past few weeks has helped me to express feelings and try to figure out life in a pandemic.  Writing has helped me to work through some tough situations and also share some of the beautiful things that were happening in spite of (or maybe as a result of) this virus. TWT has helped me to connect with others, and to hear their stories and how they were managing through this novel event.  And then there were the comments.  Hearing how people were responding to each other made me feel so connected, and so cared for. Writing and commenting has helped me find meaning in the midst of this crisis.

Thanks to TWT, people from all over the world spent a month connecting with each other through writing and commenting during a time when many of us were feeling so isolated, so frightened, and so on edge.

TY, TWT!  I don’t know what I’m going to do without you when April arrives.


Party Time

The girls have decided that we should put together a fancy party tonight. The guest list is, of course, rather small.  OK, just us, but that is fine with me. They have decided on an event that includes elegant appetizers and champagne.  I think I heard one of them suggest that we all get dressed up (That’s not my idea of fun, but I’ll do it if it’s called for.) And I suggested that we end the evening with a dance party (That is my idea of fun!).

So today we are spending the day together planning, shopping. and cooking.  Daughter One has been in the kitchen most of the day chopping and making and simmering and putting together some sort of elegant galette!  Daughter Two is planning to put together some shrimp cocktail and baked brie.  Husband One (OK, there is only one.) is making dates wrapped in bacon, and my job is to bake the brownies (Not that elegant, but everyone agreed it would be a great way to end the night!).

I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday.  We’ve all been off screens all day (except maybe to look up a recipe or two), no one has had a Google Meet or Zoom Meeting.  We have just been hanging out together reading the paper, talking, and just relaxing.

Let’s pop that champagne and let the party begin!

Dear Friend, I’m Sorry

I am perseverating on my day.  I’m stuck in an emotional state that I don’t want to be stuck in. I’m feeling guilty and sad. I’ve taken a walk. I’ve played some ping pong with my daughter. I’ve tried to relax. I’m still stuck.  A friend and colleague and fellow slicer calls this state paralysis by analysis. This same person advised me a while ago that writing a letter had helped her improve her emotional state. I’m going to give it a try.

Dear Friend and Colleague and Thought Partner,

I’m so sorry.

I know we had an open and honest conversation this afternoon.

I know we are OK.

I know we will move forward and continue to do amazing work together.

I’m so sorry.

I know my flurry of anxious early morning texts were filled with stress.

I know my emails were confusing and maybe even a bit terse.

I know I wasn’t my best self.

I’m so sorry.

You did not make me upset.

I made myself upset.

I could blame it on a really hard two weeks of distance learning.

I could blame it on not getting enough exercise.

I could even blame it on COVID-19.

But I’m not going to do that.

I overreacted. 

I don’t really know why I got so upset.

Every day has felt confusing and unclear and hard.

I don’t know why I got so worked up today.

I’m so sorry.



Being Part of Something Big

As I sit working and Google Meeting and Zooming and Flip Gridding all day in my new “office” (a desk and chair I moved into the guest room by the window), I feel alone.  This is somewhat ironic because my house is more crowded than it has been in years due to the fact that our girls are home.  It’s just that during the day, I’m up in my office, sitting at my desk. I have been eating breakfast, and sometimes lunch, alone while I prepare for the day or try to eat something between meetings. I have struggled to learn some of the technology needed to do this work.  I’ve tried to problem-solve on my own. I’ve watched videos on Screencastify over and over just to try to figure out how to add the extension to Chrome. And that is only the very first step of actually using this technology! After the Meets and Zooms and Hangouts are over, there are SO many emails to read and respond to, so I sit at my desk by the window trying to catch up.

But this afternoon I felt anything but alone.  This afternoon I joined (for the second week in a row) the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project’s Office Hours with Lucy Calkins and colleagues. The topic was how to teach during a pandemic.  As the Zoom meeting started, educators started joining.  The list grew and grew and grew.  Hundreds and hundreds (possibly thousands) of teachers from around the world were logging in.  It was overwhelming and exciting and so very uplifting.  Lucy welcomed us all and, as always, inspired us to be our best selves so that we can help students and families navigate this pandemic.  She encouraged us to be innovative and to be responsive. Then teachers began to ask questions, and the TCRWP staff responded.  All the while, the chat box was filling with questions, suggestions, links, and ideas. Teachers are doing such incredible work in such desperate times.  They are creating materials since their materials are still in school buildings.  They are finding all sorts of ways to connect with kids.  They are providing support and professional development for families (as this is all new to them too), and they are teaching their hearts out.

This afternoon, I realized that I am not alone.  In fact, I am part of something that is big and new and important. I have colleagues around the globe. We are walking side by side, and we are all here to hold each other up.

Thank you, Lucy and TCRWP, for making me part of something big.

Loves and Loathings

Years ago, when I was a third grade teacher, I read something by children’s author Mem Fox about what she keeps in her writing notebook.  She shared a page that showed a list of things she loved and things she loathed (I love that word, loathed.  It just sounds so dark and bad and hateful.).  Here is that entry:

I love these things

  • My family and friends
  • World peace
  • A full moon
  • Green paper clips
  • Saturday mornings
  • ABC Radio National
  • Social justice
  • A clean kitchen sink
  • 19th century novels
  • Singing alone in the car

I loathe these things

  • The effect of war on children
  • Untidiness
  • Brown clothes
  • Economic rationalism
  • Cleaning up dog vomit
  • Racial intolerance
  • Identical letters from a class
  • Land mines
  • Mobile phones in airport lounges
  • Right wing newspaper column

I just loved it, so my students and I decided to try it in our notebooks. It led to some pretty good writing.  Kids especially loved writing about the things they hated! Maybe we don’t ask them about what they hate very often.

I thought I’d give it a try for our current pandemic-shut-in-distance learning situation.

I love these things

Waking without an alarm

Being surrounded by my family all day and night

Only concerning myself with my clothes from the waist up

The commute 

Learning new ways to deliver instruction

Not having to run errands

Playing games and watching movies with my family at night

I loathe these things

Sitting at a desk all day long

The absence of student interaction

Not seeing colleagues, friends, and family in person

Hours spent on screens

Everything taking me so long since everything is so new

Missing my dad

The closing of the town parks

Watching the news



What are your loves and loathings?