#sol 17 – The Joy of Reading

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-42-06-amI’ve rediscovered the joy of reading this past week.  Wait, does that mean I had forgotten how joyful reading can be???  No, no, it’s not that.  I know exactly how joyful reading is.  I just haven’t had the time – or better yet, made the time – to enjoy reading for myself.  

I do love reading.  I didn’t always love it.  It always felt like something I had to do for school.  It wasn’t until my mom’s friend, who was a high school English teacher, brought me a book (that I can’t remember at the moment) and said  “give this book a try, you might like it.”  I’m sure I rolled my eyes at her, but I ended up giving it a try, and that was it.  I had felt the joy and fell in love.  Now, I love everything about reading.  I love the feel of books in my hands.  I love their smell.  I love reading to my daughter and 1st graders.  I love picture books, and professional books, and fiction books – my most favorite genre. I’m not as adventurous with other genres as I’d like to be.  There’s always room for growth!

So if I love it so much, why don’t I make the time to read books I want to read?  Why don’t I make the time to get lost in books like I tell my daughter and my 1st graders to do?  I have no problem sitting with them, radiating my passion for reading, while saying “now go, go get lost in your books.”  The answer is simple – other things take precedence and are the priorities (even if they shouldn’t be).  Well, until now…

This past week has been a tough one for our family.  Our sweet, sweet dog, Lucy, gave up her fight and passed away and my husband’s uncle had a massive heart attack and the prognosis isn’t good.  I don’t deal well with any type of loss (or bad news for that matter)- especially since losing my dad 11 years ago.  My anxiety quickly makes its appearance known.  I don’t sleep well and my mind gets filled with thoughts that make my anxiety worse and worse.  I try to be mindful and stay present – let’s just say that’s still a work in progress for me.  

So what did I do?  I turned to reading.  It’s the one thing that has helped me “escape” my thoughts.  Reading for pleasure and fun – just sitting with a book and getting lost in it. Letting the story take me away to another place – even if only for a short while.  Smiling and being happy.  Just me and my book.  I let go of the idea that I wasn’t paying enough attention to my daughter.  She was perfectly content playing, creating, and sometimes even reading alongside of me – lost in her own world.  I didn’t think about the sad things that had happened.  I “escaped” with book in my lap and coffee in my hand.  Reading brought me the joy I needed, and now I’m hooked again.   I don’t think I realized how much I missed it and how much joy it brings me – hence the rediscovery!  I guess I’ll have to find the balance between doing what needs to be done and getting lost in my books.  It will just have to become one of my priorities!

I’ll gladly accept any fiction book recommendations – I’ve got the reading bug now!  

Thank you to the team of writers at Two Writing Teachers for this wonderful writing community.  A place for us to grow together as writers.  Join us for SOL Tuesdays!

Celebrate ~ Rainbows

Screen Shot 2017-06-24 at 8.54.55 PMEvery week Ruth Ayres extends an invitation to share a celebration. What a great way to focus on something to celebrate!


This week I’m celebrating rainbows.  I simply love them.  When I was little, I always loved drawing a big rainbow arching from one little white cloud to another little white cloud.  My first graders are always drawing or painting rainbows of all kinds.  Entire papers covered with rainbows, rainbow hearts, diagonal rainbows, rainbow bracelets, and the list goes on.  Rainbows just make me smile.

In our family, we believe that rainbows are signs from our loved ones in heaven.  It’s their way of letting us know they’re ok.  In some ways, rainbows are comforting to us.  We also believe that the first rainbow we see after losing a family member is the sign that they are ok.  Whenever I see a rainbow in the sky, I immediately feel my smile.

Well, this past Thursday, we felt nothing like smiling at all.  We had to say goodbye to our loving dog, Lucy.  She had been sick for over a year, and fought the good fight, but on Thursday she decided she was too tired to fight anymore.  She was really my mom’s best friend, even though my brother brought her home about a year after my dad passed away.  Emma and Lucy have been best pals since Emma was born.  Losing her, our fur baby,  has been a tough pill to swallow.  There’s been lots of tears, lots of hugs, and lots of looking at pictures.  We’ve all been pretty gloomy and it’s been hard to notice celebrations.  But, just now, when I was outside on my mom’s porch, I looked up and there it was –  a bright rainbow coming from a white cloud.  The kind I used to draw when I was little.  That rainbow was our sign and it’s my celebration.  Even in sadness, there are still things to celebrate.

Today, I celebrate 10 joyful years with the most loving dog and rainbows!

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Camp Mommy – SOL #17

Yesterday was the first day of Camp Mommy.  What is Camp Mommy you may ask?  Well, my husband seemed to think that it was going to be similar to boot camp! But, nope.  It’s just days filled with me and my girl.  I’m not sure that choosing the Camp Mommy option will be the best, but we’re trying it this way for a few reasons.

  1. Em has had a long school year and needed some time to just chill.
  2. Em HATES – I mean hates mornings!  (I don’t love them either!)  A typical camp day starts in the morning like a school day, which means I’d have to wake her and then wait for the storms to hit.  Yelling and fighting about getting out of bed, brushing teeth, brushing hair, eating breakfast. The thought of those fights that I had the past 180 school days just made me cringe. Since she’s been out of school, she’s been sleeping in til 8:30 and waking up full of smiles!
  3. Structure and Schedules are great – even for me.  But, at Camp Mommy, Em gets to have more say in our schedule.  Now, I’m not saying she gets to do whatever she wants and is the boss of summer – she’s not even close to that!  But, she is always being forced into the schedules that the world makes for her, so why not let her summer be more at her own pace?!  She’s lucky enough that I’m home and don’t have to rush, rush, rush anymore.
  4. Relax, recharge, breathe.  The hustle and bustle of the school year was especially hard for her this year (and me too).  My post here explains a little about this.  I’m hoping Camp Mommy gives us both time to relax, recharge, and just breathe in everything around us.
  5. My one main reason for Camp Mommy is that I want to have time to enjoy my Em and fill our days with happiness.  Those battles all school year were hard on us all – just exhausting.  It became harder and harder to find the good and focus on the positives.  The goals of Camp Mommy are to be present, to laugh, to smile, and to find the joy in each other, every day.

Em said Day 1 was the best day ever and was full of smiles and hugs.  Today, we’re taking our first “Field Trip” to the zoo.  It’s going to be another great day – I can just feel it!  If you have any suggestions on other things that will make Camp Mommy a success, please comment below!


Thank you to the team of writers at Two Writing Teachers for this wonderful writing community.  A place for us to grow together as writers.  Join us for SOL Tuesdays!

Celebrate – 15 years of teaching

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Every week Ruth Ayres extends an invitation to share a celebration. What a great way to focus on something to celebrate!

I’m a first timer with posting a celebration.  I’ve come across some posts of people celebrating but until now, haven’t linked up a celebration.

Yesterday, marked the end of my 15th year of teaching.  Wow, 15 years already.  That in itself is a celebration!  The bigger celebration is that I still love what I do.  It’s still my passion and I continue to want to learn more and be a better teacher.

Saying “goodbye” to my kiddos each year is bittersweet.  The end of the year is hard for me – I’m not really a fan of “endings.”  I don’t like “goodbyes.”  But this year, it felt harder to let them go.

I had read some of their thank you cards during the day and the kids were making me lots of pictures.  One little girl kept announcing that she was sad to be leaving me.  This was the same little girl who had a tough time transitioning to her new school and cried and cried for the first month.   But, she soon became my best hugger (several times a day) and one of the most enthusiastic learners.  But that’s not what made me emotional.  I was doing fine until I took them outside to be dismissed.  Their parents started to come over with big smiles and phones out for pictures.  They were mouthing “thank yous” and putting their hands over their hearts.  The kids and I did a big group hug and posed for a “family” picture.  And then, all of a sudden, I found myself fighting back the tears and my breath was taken away.

These kiddos were a special bunch with very supportive parents. We had a wonderful year together and formed a close bond.  I guess some years are just like that.  So my celebration is them!  They have grown in all possible ways during our 10 months together.  Every day they amazed me in one way or another.  They became stronger readers, writers, and thinkers.  I hope they’re celebrating all they’ve learned as well.

Today, I celebrate successfully finishing my 15th year of teaching and my special group of 1st graders who made this year amazing!


End of Year Tired

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-42-06-amEnd.  Of.  Year.  Tired. – Yup that’s what I am.  Three days left – well, there are really 3 half-ish days.  So much to do, so little time.

I’ve been teaching for 15 years, and I still don’t have a “good” end of the year system.  I make the usual “to do” list, but don’t really prioritize what needs to happen.  I then start bouncing from thing to thing.   I’ll be organizing books in the library, and I’ll go put some books into my closet, where I will see something else I need to do and BOUNCE – there I go!  Wherever I look, there’s something else to do, so there I go BOUNCING all around. I’m like a bouncy ball bouncing from job to job.

I usually start off the pack up process strong.  I file my papers and organize my library, and organize my supply closet.   I pack my teaching books according to unit of study.  I label boxes and really try to keep myself organized.  I start off strong in the beginning of the week.  By Thursday and Friday afternoon, I change from “organizer” to “shover”.  I just start shoving things in boxes and labeling them “stuff.”  I shove things in drawers and think to myself “I’ll organize this in August.”  Does it ever happen? Nope!  I always have the best intentions!

Anyone else “bounce” around like me?  Who can offer me some helpful End of the Year suggestions or tips so I don’t feel like a bouncy ball?

Anyway, I was going to skip writing tonight, because, you know I’m tired, but I just had to BOUNCE into this slice.  At least the cleaning and packing up the classroom distracts me from realizing how much I will miss my kiddos!

Thank you to the team of writers at Two Writing Teachers for this wonderful writing community where we can write and read slices and grow together as writers.  

Slice of Life Tuesday: Mad Libs

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-42-06-amThis slice is brought to you by…..Report card procrastination!

Yes, you read that right.  I’m still working on report cards because my school year is not yet over.  8 more days to go and surprisingly, I’m not in full on panic mode.  My to do list just keeps getting longer and longer.  Anyway, back to my slice….

Who remembers Mad Libs?  My brother and I used to have books and books of these.  I feel like we begged my mom to buy us new ones every time we went to the store.  We were obsessed with them.  We’d fill them out together all the time and even took them on road trips.  Of course, we just had to come up with the most ridiculous nouns, inappropriate body parts, and silliest adjectives and verbs.  Reading them back would cause us to double over laughing and tears would be streaming down our faces.  The more ridiculous it sounded, the more hysterical we’d be.

I had forgotten all about Mad Libs until recently, when one of my girls, L, brought in a Mad Lib she had done at home.  She couldn’t wait to read it to me and was belly laughing the whole time.  I think most of her plural nouns were bananas or hot dogs. This little girl has the most amazing sense of humor.  Anyway, she asked me if I had any Mad Libs in the class.  Of course I didn’t (because I had forgotten about them).  But what did I do? – went right to my computer, did a search, and printed out a bunch.

That afternoon, my class was buzzing with chatting and laughter over these Mad Libs.  L was the ring leader – getting every one excited.  The excitement did fizzle a little bit, but yesterday interest sparked again when L went to the pile of printed Mad Libs and asked if she could do one with me.  We sat at my table while she asked me for verbs, adjectives, plural nouns, etc. and wrote all of my responses in the spaces.  When it came time to read it back, she started to giggle before she even began (which then made me giggle, too).   It’s like she just knew it was going to be funny.  She read smoothly, with intonation, and even stopped to point out how parts didn’t make sense.  More and more kids started to come over to our table as they heard us giggling. All of a sudden they all wanted to do Mad Libs again with each other.  They were working in teams and the laughter just brought a smile to my face.

When my brother and I were playing with Mad Libs, I’m sure we had no idea that we were learning at the same time.  We didn’t realize we were learning about adjectives, nouns, plural nouns, verbs, and adverbs.  Or that we were practicing reading with fluency.  We were even noticing (through laughter) when sentences didn’t quite make sense or sound right, but ridiculous or not, those sentences followed the grammar rules! To us, we just were having fun.  I’m sure my kiddos don’t completely realize the learning that’s happening either (unless I point it out).  Learning in a playful way is just amazing.  We have to strive to find ways to keep learning playful, fun,  and exciting for everyone!

Thank you to the team of writers at Two Writing Teachers for this wonderful writing community where we can write and read slices and grow together as writers.  

The Teacher/Mom struggle

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-42-06-amSometimes it’s hard to be a teacher mom….

So, my daughter is finishing up second grade, and this has been a more challenging year for her (and in turn for me).  Increased academic demands, some girl drama emerging, reading struggles, and attentional struggles really coming to the surface.

I’ve always suspected potential attentional issues from the start of her academic career, but tried not to jump to conclusions and let my “teacher brain” be in charge.  She’s always been a kid who marched to her own tune.  She’s a stop and smell the roses kind of girl and time means nothing to her.  We’ve always had struggles with things at home such as stopping one task and transitioning to another, getting dressed, brushing teeth, etc.  She’s always needed redirection at home with these tasks.  It’s definitely been hard to decipher if it’s in her control or not and if I’m expecting too much of her.  But, this year, the attentional issues started to impact her learning.

Her struggles with reading showed up early during 2nd grade.  In 1st grade, she made steady progress, but the battles about reading at home started to happen.  I’m like a literacy junky, but couldn’t help my own daughter.  When the summer came, the battles about reading just got worse.  “I just don’t love it like you do Mommy!!  It’s too hard.  I just want to play and draw!” she would yell on a regular basis.  My heart broke.

I will admit that the teacher part in me freaked out a bit – But, she has to read.  She’s made so much progress.  She’s gonna lose it all.  Ahhhh the summer slide.  I started to panic.  Then the mom side swooped in and reminded me to breathe.  I realized that arguing and forcing her to read was just going to make her hate it even more.  We compromised – I read to her daily and without her knowing, I was helping deepen her comprehension.

But, of course the summer slide happened.  So much of her progress gone- exactly what I knew and feared would happen.  After the first reading assessment her teacher conducted, we set up a phone conference and she shared the reading regression along with some difficulties focusing, and that’s when I shared all of my concerns and told her about the struggles with reading I saw at home.  Her teacher is simply amazing.  She put a good plan in place and before we knew it, Em was receiving reading support outside of the classroom and her attitude about reading started to turn around.

While the reading was improving, the attentional issues continued to show up in different areas.  Finally, my suspicions about the attention piece was definitely effecting her learning in school – not just making me crazy at home.  After many months of hard work and collaboration between her teacher, the school support team, my husband and I, and our pediatrician, Em was diagnosed with ADHD – inattentive type.

Despite her challenges with staying focused, she has made tremendous progress this year and still loves learning!  We now have accommodations in place for next school year to keep her on the right track.  Success happens when the school (teachers, support staff, administrators) and parents work together!  I often wonder if I wasn’t a teacher would I have been so attuned to the struggles with attention as early.  Hard to say.  But while being a teacher mom can be hard, it is also great!

Thank you to the team of writers at Two Writing Teachers for this wonderful writing community where we can write and read slices and grow together as writers.  



Life Lesson for Today


I thought I was going to have nothing to write about for today’s Slice.  I mean I could write about how my daughter made her First Holy Communion this weekend.  It was a great time – but, ehh I wasn’t really feeling that slice.  Or I could write about how PawPaw and Grammy flew up from South Carolina for the weekend for the communion  – but, again, ehhh I wasn’t really feeling that idea either.  There’s too many parts and I could write a few slices about it, so I’ll save those for another day.  So, there I was last night thinking to myself “What in the world am I going to write about tomorrow?”  And then this morning happened….

It was just a typical morning in our house.  I was running around like a lunatic trying to get myself ready for school before waking up Emma.  “Am I going to get happy Emma or mad Emma?” I thought to myself.   Luckily, happy Emma decided to show up this morning – well, for the most part.   And thank goodness for that because of course, I was running a little behind schedule. Why does this always seem to happen when I need to get to work a teeny bit earlier?

Anyway, while Emma was brushing her teeth and hair in the bathroom, I was trying to fix my hair in the hallway (we have another mirror there).  Since I was running late, I decided it was going to be a ponytail day – quick and easy (or so I thought).  While I was brushing my wet hair into the ponytail, I started to get what felt like a muscle spasm in my back by my shoulder blades.  But, instead of stopping what I was doing that was probably causing the pain (because that would’ve been too smart), I continued to brush and brush and then attach the hair band, as the pain worsened.  I, apparently, just couldn’t abandon the hair – a decision I now regret.  Once I finished twisting on the hair band and put my arms down, I couldn’t bend my neck or turn my head without feeling pain radiating down my back, up my neck, and through my shoulder blade.  I tried to stretch – it got worse.  I tried to lay flat and stretch – it got worse.  Today was my first graders show for their parents, so I gathered the rest of my things (slowly), took some ibuprofen, and got on my way.

I completely believe that everyone learns something new every day.  And all day today, as I was trying to manage the pain, I was trying to figure out what lesson I was supposed to learn from this morning’s turn of events.  Here’s the two life lessons I came up with –

  1. I need to make sure to stretch before brushing my hair (and all other activities that may require movement).
  2. I need to do some (ok,
    a lot of) strength training exercises so I don’t injure myself carrying out my day to day activities.  I mean, if I can get hurt doing my hair, imagine what could happen if I were to clean the bathroom?!?


Thank you to the team of writers at Two Writing Teachers for this wonderful writing community where we can write and read slices and grow together as writers.  

How Many More Days???

“Momma – How many more days til PawPaw gets here?”screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-42-06-am

Emma’s favorite question for about a week now.  To say she’s excited that he’s coming to visit would be an understatement.

Whenever I’ve answered this question, her usual response has been loud groaning and whining “Ughhhhhh, that’s too long.”

And I totally get it.  She’s frustrated that he isn’t here yet.  I probably should have never shown her the countdown app on my phone.  She’s 7 and doesn’t exibit that level of patience (at times I don’t either).  She misses him, wants him here, and there are just too many days left on that count down for her.  You see, she hasn’t seen her PawPaw in over a year – and of course that feels like an eternity for her.  Yes, she gets to talk to him on the phone – not as often as we’d like to.  And yes, she gets to occasionally FaceTime, but it’s not the same, and she knows it.  We have to keep reminding her that Grammy is coming too.  It’s not that she isn’t excited about Grammy (she absolutely adores her), but the bond she has with her PawPaw is indescribable and he just takes precedence – over anyone and anything.  (My two previous posts The Reunion and Precious Moments might help explain the bond a little more)

Last night, while PawPaw and Emma were on the phone, I really got to see how much she adores him.  The laughing, giggling, jokes, and small talk all while smiling.  (I imagine he was beaming on the other end too).  They haven’t spoken in a little while, but it was like no time has gone by at all.  I found myself getting teary listening to them towards the end of their convo.  Here’s a little snippet:

Emma (dramatic whining): “How mannnnny more daaaayyyyys til you’re here?”

PawPaw: “Miss Emma, I’ll be there in four more days.  All you have to do is wake up 4 more times and you and Daddy will be picking me and Grammy up from the airport.”

Emma (whining and throwing her head back): “Ugggghhhhh, that’s tooooooo long.  Toooo. Many. Days.  I wish you were here now!  I haven’t seen you in sooooo long!”

PawPaw: “I know, PawPaw wishes too.  I sure do miss you.”

Emma: “I miss you sooooooo much.”

They said their “I love yous” and “see you soons” and talked about getting/giving their “sugar” and got off the phone.  I couldn’t help but tear up and smile at the same time.  It’s just amazing to listen to them.

But, seriously, thank goodness they’ll be here Friday morning and the countdown can come to an end!  They are flying in for Emma’s First Holy Communion and staying for a long weekend.  We’re looking forward to a s-l-o-w four days of spending time with PawPaw and Grammy.  I think there may be a teeny bit of spoiling, but I know there will be lots and lots and lots of hugs!


Reflecting on my Writing Workshop

I just finished reading Joy Write, by Ralph Fletcher and am in love with it.  I would recommend it to every writing teacher.  Even if you don’t agree with all he talks about – he makes you think, reflect, and wonder.  In this short book, Ralph managed to get me to shout “yes this is what we need” over and over and over.  He got me to reflect on my current and past writing instruction.  He got me to question.  I put down this book thinking “this is what we need.  How will I make this happen?” I’m not totally sure yet, but I know I will find a way.

I’ve been teaching for 15 years and my favorite time of the day is Writing Workshop.  I remember my first year teaching kindergarten in the Bronx – I was skeptical.  Can my kindergarteners really be writers?  My mentor led one writing workshop while I observed – I was sold and never looked back.  Yes kindergarteners are writers – all kids are writers.

Reflecting on my Writing Workshop – I now teach 1st grade, am still a believer in the Writing Workshop, and writing remains my favorite subject to teach.  But, I think I may have been letting the joy of writing slip away a bit.   I think I may have been teaching more formulas – more unit plan than joyful writing.  I think I may have been having them too focused on editing and publishing and the end product.  I think this may have blocked their voice from emerging.  I think I may have forgotten how important studying mentor texts are.  I think I may have been over focused on curriculum calendars and units of study.  I’m not sure why this happened.  Was it because of the curriculum calendars and scripted unit plans?  Was it because I just have more learning and growing to do?  Was it because I never considered myself a writer? Was it because I never experienced the joy of writing myself? (well until the March Slice of life challenge!)

I think the answer is yes to all of those questions.  And now I want to apologize to all of my past kiddos for letting the joyfulness go to the side a bit.  Yes, there is a definitely possibility that my kiddos didn’t know the difference and still had fun writing.  They definitely still wrote and wrote and wrote and would groan when Writing Workshop was over.  But kindergarten writing and first grade writing is in many ways naturally fun (for most kids).  They’re drawing pictures and writing words and creating stories, poems, or informational pieces.  Their pieces weren’t graded in the way older grade children’s writing may be graded.  We celebrated our published pieces, and I told them they were writers.  There’s still some revising to do to my writing instruction but luckily during this school year, I began some of my revision of teaching writing.

Here’s how my road to revising my teaching of writing began…This past summer I was part of a curriculum writing team.  I was one of two people who wrote a procedural writing unit for our first graders.  Writing this unit, and spending time with good mentor texts for this unit is what jump started my revision.  I realized that I wasn’t using mentor texts enough.  I wasn’t highlighting the craft moves. We weren’t reading as writers.  This When I taught this unit earlier in this school year, I made sure to read the mentor texts to the kids first as readers, then as writers.  We pointed out the techniques we saw the authors use, and then the kids went off and wrote.  They experimented with craft techniques.  They used the texts as mentors in so many ways. They laughed while writing.  They couldn’t wait to share their ideas.  They smiled and you could feel the joy in the room.  It was contagious!  To quote Ralph from Joy Write, I “cut ’em lose, and let ’em write.”  Of course I taught mini-lessons, taught strategy groups, and had conferences.  But this time, I let them do more writing first, rather than jump in to the mini-lessons that were written on the unit plan.  I let them drive my instruction, rather than the scripted unit plan (which I was a writer of) – Duh, right?!

We need more of the writing Fletcher writes about in Joy Write.  We need a balance between curriculum units of study and low-stakes writing.  We want our kids to feel like writers – to be writers.  We want them to know that writing isn’t just producing narrative pieces, or informational pieces, or opinion pieces.  Writing is more than that.  Writing is a process.  It’s personal.  It’s a way to communicate, to express ourselves, and let our personalities show.  Writing lets us think, create, and figure things out.  Writing is so many things and it can be full of joy.

Let’s do what Ralph Fletcher suggests in his book – “cut ’em lose, and let ’em write!”