Slice of Life Day 9 – Calendar

Today’s Schedule

Walk dog, make lunches, drink coffee.

Early to school – prep for observation.

Grade level literacy meeting.

Educator Effectiveness formal observation.

Work with two at-risk students discussing the power of I’m sorry.

Husband delivers much-needed cup of coffee to school.

Coaching meeting.

Coaching meeting.

Work time.

Drink cold cup of aforementioned coffee.

Learning Support Team meeting.

[Insert after school looooooong walk in the cold sunshine.]

Son’s school carnival.



Today’s reflection: Drink coffee while it’s hot, especially when fantastic husband leaves his job to deliver.


Slice of Life Day 8 – Mac and Cheese

When I was in seventh grade, my mom enrolled in a full time MBA program in addition to her job in management where she routinely worked what seemed like 60 hours a week. My dad had recently started his own business and put most of his time into ensuring its early success. That left my brother, a year older, and I to fend for ourselves and to take care of many home duties for our family. Our lives, however, were full of privileges, so these small chores were not too much to expect nor any more than we should have already been doing.

One role we played was weekday dinner chefs. After weeks of tacos and mac and cheese, our parents declared no more. My brother and I dove into cookbooks and drew on our years of experience watching our dad, a master in the kitchen, to create more interesting and edible meals. By ninth grade we were both coming up with our own dishes and by the end of high school, it was second nature to cook for family and friends.

I missed my parents in the hours they devoted to their work and studies, but I am ever grateful for the time in the kitchen with my brother and my parents. I’m at home in the kitchen and not afraid to take on a complicated recipe or admit defeat after a fail. My own children have been wielding kitchen knives and making messes with me since they could safely sit on our kitchen counters.

Yet, with all this experience, I have had a hard time turning over my pans (and never my beautiful Kitchen-Aid mixer or beloved Vitamix) and counters to my children. We are chopping, stirring and cooking all the time, but I can’t seem to let them wear the head chef’s hats without hesitation.

Tonight was a typical night for a typical family. Kids had after school activities, mom had after school meeting, dad is out of town, dog needs walking, and sports practices for all in the evening. There was no way I could make it home from my meeting and make dinner for my youngest and get him to practice on time. So, I did what I should have done years ago.

“Do you want to make your own dinner before I come home?”

“YES! Is mac and cheese okay?”

Oh dear Lord, no appliances involved, please. “Um sure.”

“Mom, we’ve done it tons of times.”

“Yes, of course. I trust you.”

My meeting ended at 4:40, ten minutes past when I  was supposed to be on my way home. I called the kids to let them know I’d be late. “Mom, we’re just about to drain the noodles. See you when you’re home.” Click.

Ahhhhh, my babies draining boiling hot noodles without me? It took everything in me not to speed the short three miles home.

And, thank goodness I didn’t. Because if I had, I’d have missed this serene scene, as I walked through the door. My children at the table, no burns, eating their mac and cheese. A plate of cut veggies and hummus in the middle of the table and a salad and glass of water sitting at my place.

Was it exactly how I would have done it? No way. It was so much better. I’m so proud of their messy endeavors and vow to let them do it more often. It was a gift my parents gave me, and I owe the same to my own two mac and cheese lovers.



Slice of Life Day 7 – Migraines

Mind numbing head pain

Immovable involuntary throbs

Gritted teeth gnashing jacked jaws

Raging storm of debilitating imbalance

Aches aching after auras after aching aches

Imitrex ibuprofen icepack intensity immensity

Nausea queasiness disgust medical vomit retching

Essential oil of peppermint soothing calm coolness

Sensitivity stress symptoms sickness suffering sensations

Slice of Life Day 6 -Book Talks

We are between read alouds in my classroom right now, so my team teacher and I decided to dedicate read aloud time this week to book talks. We started out strong with book talks in the beginning of the school year, and books were constantly being checked out of our classroom library. Students talked about books, shared books, and, most importantly, read books.

Somewhere along the way, we stopped giving book talks as part of our routine. Every now and then I remembere to share a book, but it hasn’t been part of our class culture. And, it shows. Last week I looked around during independent reading time and noticed only about half of my students engaged in a book. I called a few students over to the classroom library to help them find a book. Three students and three book talks later, I had three more engaged readers. I knew it was time to ramp up the regularity of book talks.

Reading Book Love by Penny Kittle reminds me that I don’t have to read every book I book talk with students. Reading a passage or the back cover aloud, and sharing my thinking on why I chose the book, can be just as effective a hook as having read the book.

The four books (two I’ve read and two I haven’t) I chose to talk about in our sixth grade classroom today are:

  • The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
  • Lion by Saroo Brierley
  • House of Robots by James Patterson
  • Gaby Lost and Found by Jennifer Cervantes

All four books were checked out and being read after I finished the book talks. We even have a class waiting list started for Lion! Book talks matter. As Penny Kittle says, “Your passion is contagious…Becoming a community of readers and writers invites the participation of all; I know that students are developing reading lives when their to-read-next lists are filled with books I’ve never heard of…I know how short my time with them is.”


Slice of Life Day 5 – Camper History

Camper History Form

Camper is…

A son, brother, cousin, nephew, grandson, cabin mate, friend, and camper.

Able to swim four laps and tread water for 10 minutes.

Allergic to food, medication, dust mites and his sister’s nagging.

Anxious about being away from home for two weeks.

Attending with his older cousin.

Eager to dominate at roof ball.

Expecting mail every day and at least one care package.

Hopeful to paddle the Trout Lake Circle.

Protective of the outdoors.

Proud of being a third generation camper.

Returning for his second summer.

Unhappy about having to clean toilets and showers during morning detail.

Camper is more than a camper history form.


Slice of Life Day 4 – Discovery


Last summer my daughter watched a national YMCA youth gymnastics championship and decided that she wanted to be involved in a national Y sport. Her two choices were gymnastics and swimming; instead of the tumbling mats, she chose the pool. This season has been one of discovery for her. She has learned that many swimmers start on swim teams at five years old, while others start as teenagers. All are valued and respected and embraced in the YMCA’s core values, no matter their speed or form. My daughter has discovered that while she is an awesome recreational swimmer, mastering strokes and turns and entries is a lot of hard work. She has discovered that her mom needs a GPS to find YMCAs around the state. My girl has made new friends, uncovered lean muscles and learned lifelong skills. It has been a season of discovery for her.

Today between events at my daughter’s last swim meet of the season, I was reading Book Love by Penny Kittle. This book is definitely my top professional read this school year; every time I open it, I find more inspiration. This quote in particular struck me as I read, “Writing is discovery.” Kittle goes on to quote Donald Murray, “When we write, we uncover what we didn’t know we knew.” It’s so true. Even this post. I started writing just about Book Love and quickly realized all the discovery in my daughter’s swim season this year. I love writing. I love having a topic and watching it grow across a page. What I need to work on is sharing this love with my students. How can I continue to help them discover what they didn’t know they knew?

A year ago I never would have pictured myself cheering for my girl as she splashed across a small town YMCA pool. But she discovered a talent and a passion for being part of a Y team. She just had to uncover what she didn’t know she knew. Surely I can do the same in sharing my passion for writing. It has to be easier than a flip turn.

Slice of Life Day 3 – Letters to Pax

Yesterday in our sixth grade class we finished our read aloud, Pax by Sara Pennypacker. Our students enjoyed the story of a boy and his fox. We all predicted that the book would be a feel good tale of a boy separated from his animal and reunited at the end. No one predicted that it would ultimately be a story of loss, kindness, war, and the power that fear holds over a child. After a culminating class conversation about the book, I asked my students to write a letter. They could choose to write a letter to: the author, characters, a friend, or someone of their choice, as long as the letter conveyed their understanding of theme using evidence.

In reading their letters about Pax, I found lots of language that reinforces to me the importance of teaching readers to be writers and writers to be readers.

“I’m wondering if you added this for meaning…”

“I have a good connection to the end of the book…”

“I was surprised when I heard…”

“I would like you to write another book about…”

“A lesson the character learned that I have also learned is…”

I highly recommend Pax as a read aloud for sixth grade. But more importantly, our classroom of readers highly recommends it to you.