Thursday, March 23, 2017

Spring break means

Spring Break
somewhere warm and sunny 
for some
no school for some
no work for some

but, for others, 
Spring Break is just
another week
of work

Sometimes I wonder
how I go to be 
so lucky to
still celebrate 
Spring Break

Last year, we took a trip
to Norfolk
I needed to 
get away
I needed sunshine

This year,
I am staying home
Family is requiring 
too much of us 
to get away 

But there will still be
time for fun
Beauty and the Beast
Girl's tea
Nonna time
Spring baking

Spring break
No matter where or when
means rejuvenation
means family and fun

I am ready
tomorrow at 3
Spring break begins

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for the opportunity to share this slice of my life

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


Every time I hear the phrase "non-negotiable," I think of the staff at Teacher's College. I am not sure who I heard it from first (Lucy?), but it is a phrase I really appreciate. What is non-negotiable?  What am I not willing to budge on?

This morning, a group of teachers met to discuss non-negotiables in Reader's Workshop -- what belongs in a book box, how often students should get new books, what should a class library look like, how long should students be reading, per trimester, per grade.  We each shared what we value (the student) and how we can best meet the needs of all of our students. We created a list of non-negotiables that we could all agree upon.

Tonight, I am considering other non-negotiables. What is non-negotiable in my personal life?  The health and well-being of my family.  That's the big one that I can not, will not sacrifice.

But this feels a bit more blurry than the discussion this morning.  My husband and I are balancing a lot of things right now - my brother's health and long-term care, aging parents, our daughter's upcoming ankle surgery. All of these involve the health and well-being of our family. How do we determine what we are not willing to budge on?  There are so many factors that we have absolutely no control of that.

I have complete trust that we will get through this - because there is one other non-negotiable in our life - -our faith. At, bottom line, that is the one we need.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for the opportunity to share this slice of my life.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

My Day by the Numbers

One parent meeting
at 7 AM
talking about how 
reading and understanding a 
math problem
is as important
(more important?)
then doing the math

Two tutoring sessions
practicing for PARCC
reading a Newsela article
classifying triangles
discussing why the Roman Empire collapsed

Three grand conversations 
talking about Freedom Summer
and why it was important that 
John Henry brought his own
for his own
ice pop

Four items on my 
to-do list
getting paperwork ready
as a newly appointed
co-guardian for my brother

Five new books
from the library
in anticipation of
additional reading time
over spring break

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for the opportunity to share this slice of my life.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Keep Going

This is my first year to participate in the Slice of Life Challenge. I thought about it in other years but never really took the plunge.  I must admit, I have missed two so far.

One night, I got home after another 15 hour day and was simply so tired I just crawled into bed.  As I curled up, I remembered I hadn't sliced yet and thought, "I am going to just miss this one."  I gave myself permission to skip.

Last night, I forgot to slice too.  I woke up early and worked quietly on lesson plans and grading in the hotel room, while my son slept in.  Then we started our day. I wanted to go to The Strand, because I always go to The Strand when I'm in New York.  I bought The Love U Hate; I am forcing myself to wait and read it this summer with a girl I tutor.   Then we went to Stephen's old job so he could see some friends.  

By the time we got him it was early evening and I simply had forgotten. 

But, twenty days in, I am starting to lag.  I am wondering if I have enough to say.  I am questioning my purpose in this endeavor.

I imagine that is how our students feel at time.  Why am I doing this?  What is the point?  Weariness - of the body and the soul -  can be debilitating.

I know why I slice.  I believe that, to be a better teacher of writing, I need to write myself.  However, this year, I don't teach writing - just reading.  So - again - why am I doing this?

Maybe to be a part of a community? I do enjoy reading others posts.  I enjoy reading the comments left on mine. I feel connected when I realize I am not the only teacher that wants nothing more than a quiet Friday night in front of the TV after a busy week.


It's important that we understand the why behind what we do.  

I introduced the idea of writing a letter as a readers response today.  From a character to a character.  To a character from you.  From the character to you.  All sorts of options.  One 2nd grader asked, "Can I write a letter to the author?"

"What do you want to say to the author? What would be the purpose of your letter?"

"I would tell her what I learned from reading the book."

"Yes, that would be a great readers response."

So, tonight, I search for my purpose.  I don't want to "phone it in."  I want my commitment to participate in the 2017 Slice of Life challenge to have meaning - to me mostly. Even though I am struggling, at times, to think of something meaningful to say, I keep going. Because sometimes the purpose it just that - - to keep going until you discover it.  Or it discovers you.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for the opportunity to share this slice of my life.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

So many take-aways

Take-aways from the  Saturday Reunion at Teachers College

  • create a baggie of books - specifically series books -  that I have read and "marked" up.  I can use these to teach what readers need to do at each level.
  • instead of a book talk, book talk the series.  Introduce characters, setting, what kinds of problems they have, what tricky things the reader can be on the look out for.  This allows the reader to do the hard work that is required of them.
  • Everyday Diversity: I need more books in my library. I want to spend time this summer working through which books I will use to teach mini lessons and for small group instruction .
  • Expand my own writing and conversation to invite a wider world into our discussion.
  • Start books clubs during read aloud with partners.  Expand to read aloud communities.  Then branch out to partnerships reading same books.  Move into partnerships within series. There are many ways to facilitate and grow independence in book clubs.
  • reimagine units of study to build in my social injustice work for our younger students.  Implicitly teach through carefully chosen read alouds.
  • teacher collaboration: try learning walks and study groups
  • teacher collaboration should be teacher-directed; administrator supported
  • start with a short study group - meet every other week for 8 weeks
  • set specific goals and expectations of members; determine how to maintain accountability

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for the opportunity to share this slice of my life.

Friday, March 17, 2017

TC Bound

There are a few places in my world that, now matter what, bring me great home and the homes of my children.  The beach.  Those are probably my top choices.  But, coming up pretty close behind, is a visit to Teachers College at Columbia University in NYC.

I first came to TC a number of years ago, for a reunion weekend with some co-workers.  It was a phenomenal experience and really changed me.  I have a better understanding of what literacy instruction can be.

I have since attended three Reading Institutes. I come to at least one, if not both, reunion weekends each year.

This year, when hemming and hawing if I should come again - mostly because of everything that is going on in with various family members, my husband asked, "Do you always get something out of your time there?"

"Yes!" I responded without hesitation.

"Can you afford the trip?"

"Yes, I can."

"Then why wouldn't you go?"

I had never thought of it quite that way.  I love coming to TC.  I learn so much.  I meet people with like minds.  I reconnect with friends I have made at various institutes and reunions.  I become re-energized.  I have no reason not to come, and many reasons to come.

Previously, when coming to TC, I was double excited because I was able to visit my son, Stephen.  He attended NYU and then, after graduation, stayed in NY.  I stayed with him, wherever he happened to be living, each time. Later, I stayed with him and his wife.  That was an added bonus to each visit.

Stephen and Julia now live in Chicago. I wondered, at first, if my desire to come to TC would diminish because they were not here. But, happily, I have found that it has not.  I am still excited to be here and learn tomorrow.  I have already perused the offerings and made a noted a few of my favorite choices - - we all know some decisions are based on proximity.

There are many kinds of joy.  Learning at Teachers College is one of the joys of my life that I am happy to be able to relive many times over.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers
 for offering this opportunity to share a slice of my life.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A different morning

Still tired

I'm not going to school today
Doctor's appointment with Lauren

Another surgery
Sooner rather than later is the goal

Sleep in?

Gotta get up
Throw in laundry
Fix lunch
Type up lesson plans for tomorrow's sub

Chat over coffee and breakfast
with Rod

Too much going on

Need to stay focused 
in the moment

Can't let my mind jump
too much ahead

We can handle 
whatever is thrown our way
We are Suttons

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers 
for the opportunity to share this slice of my life.