Where I’m From

I am at the Boothbay Literacy Retreat experiencing the most awesome professional development EVER (and food!). Being supported by Kylene Beers, Bob Probst, Kelly Gallagher, Penny Kittle, Teri Lesesne, and Linda Rief (along with the Heinemann staff) is truly uplifting. Not to mention the inspiring words (that had me laughing and crying) from Chris Crutcher and Kwame Alexander.

Kylene gave us homework (which was not a choice– she’s not Penny Kittle, after all) to create our own poem using the mentor text, Where I’m from by George Ella Lyons. After much hemming and hawing, erasing and scribbling, here is my not-quite-finished, but has-to-be-good-enough poem:

Where I’m From
I am from dirt roads
winding through sun and shade
I am from wildflower-filled fields
(colorful, swaying
tickling my cheeks).
I am from butterflies
the birds and the bees
whose dances and songs I remember
as if they were my own.

I’m from rocky shores
slippery from hidden treasures
I am from Atlantic ocean waves
that freeze off my ankles
And take my breath away.
I am from pink beach roses
with fragrant kisses
and deceiving seagulls that badger me.

I am from cool brooks
bubbling through woodland forests
From scampering creatures tolerating
the presence of me
feasting on blackberries along their paths
Tiptoeing trilliums
and delicate lady slippers
To discover a soft patch of moss
that will hold all of my dreams.
I am from these moments
Playing outside endlessly
until being called back in.

New Year’s Resolution

Well, it is the start of another year. It is time to reflect back over my life this year. I know that I should not be such a black hat and celebrate all of my accomplishments. However, if I could sum up one word about my life last year it was… STRESSFUL. And when I ask myself the question, “Am I truly happy?” I guess I am truly not.

So, back to the drawing board… I need to highlight and fix some parts of my life that are causing me the most stress.

Stressor 1: My job- Being a teacher is hard work. I get that. But I always feel like I am behind the 8 ball. I want my students working harder than I am, and right now that is not happening. Lessons are disjointed, and my students are struggling with learning independently. Its January and they still can’t follow basic procedures for learning even though we have been practicing them since September (and there are anchor charts!)

Solution 1: Thank god for Matt Miller and the Ditch That Textbook Digital Summit. I realized that I could utilize technology to help me achieve my goals in the classroom thanks to @mrmatera@hollyclarkedu@tanyaavrith@ericcurts@jcorippo@kellyihilton ‏,  @lhighfill ‏, @SARAHLANDIS, and @spencerideas

So, I am taking some online courses and becoming Google Certified (Level 1). I am going to work smarter so my students can work harder and more independently.

Stressor 2: My books- I know this seems really crazy, but I am a book whore. One of the professional highlights of last year is that I was accepted on the Maine Student Book Award Committee. I use a lot of books in my teaching, and I am always looking for the next best book to convert non-readers to readers. To quote one of my darling students, “I don’t hate reading, but I just like reading this book.” The problem is I don’t have enough room for my books, and I can’t find the right book when I need it. Some are in storage, some are at school, some are at home. And of course, what I need is not where I need it.

Solution 2: Build a bookshelf at home. I have designed a book shelf that will cover one part of my living room wall and will house over 600 books. Phew! Now,  I will be able to find everything I need and catalog my books.

Stressor 3: No energy- Well, I have been feeling a little depressed and dumpy lately. I’ve turned into a couch potato and have been eating like one. It’s time I treated my body with respect.

Solution 3: Eat healthy meals and workout. One of the best presents I gave myself is Beach Body on Demand. I used to do P90X, and I loved it. But it is expensive buying the next program and the next. And sometimes it is nice to just try something different. I also got a Fitbit Alta for Christmas and it is helping me to track my lifestyle decisions… It also looks like I need to drink more water and get more sleep 🙂

Stressor 4: Empty well- I really don’t take enough time for myself to recharge. I notice that I don’t have as much patience with others most days. My days are filled with obligation, after obligation. I know when you are an adult you have responsibilities, but it is unhealthy to always be adulting every second of the day.

Solution 4: Read. Read. Read. And take naps, cuddle with my cats, write, go for a walk, hang out with my friends and kids, cook something new, go see a play… I am going to choose one thing that I can do for myself to bring me peace and happiness, and do it. No questions asked!


Teachers Write 7.10.17

I am so excited that my sister asked me to join Kate Messner’s Teacher Write 2017.  Today’s focus is how setting can provide a vehicle for character development/analysis. So today, I took the perspective of one of my teenage daughters. I recently moved to a small town about 1.5 hours away from our “original” home that was a bedroom community for a small city. Both of my daughters have struggled with the change of scenery, and the transition from their dads (in the city) to my house (in the country). This writing piece is a work in progress because I haven’t quite accomplished the effect that I wanted to create (resentful and lost to finding solace and a sense of belonging or home).

Here is my very rough draft:

I’m in the middle of absolute no-where.
Blocked in by trees
Frustrated with the lame internet service
Nothing is loading…
My texts are not sending…
Why did my mom even move to this place?
So far from civilization, from my friends
In the middle of freakin’ no-where.

As I sit here on a screened in porch
Birds are chirping, animals are scurrying, bugs are zooming by
But I’m not getting any notifications
I’m not going anywhere.
Trapped by the wilderness.
All alone.


Day #31: Last one

Phew! I can’t believe it has been 31 days already.

The research states that students should write everyday. Participating in this writing challenge has given me a first-hand perspective on what it means to write every day.

  • it’s ok if student struggle with topics to write about
  • it’s ok if students can’t “write”
  • it’s ok if students don’t “finish” their writing
  • it’s ok if students write in different formats

The best way to support students with their writing is to provide options, examples, and encouraging feedback within the framework of a community of learners.

Day #30: 9 years ago today…

Don’t ya just love Facebook.

Today, as I logged on, there was an amazing memory of me from 9 years ago just waiting to be reposted. To share all over again that glorious moment.

I’m guessing that Facebook uses some code to pull up random memories for you. Because if people actually are “stalking your memories” to post, they seriously need to be retrained or they have a sick sense of humor.

Here is my amazing picture memory…


Nine years ago today I got out of surgery.  I was at home ready to endure a minimum of 6 weeks of bedrest after rupturing my Achilles tendon right off the bone. I guess I am not really ready to talk or write about that incident (and for those of you who have not had the pleasure of this injury, I suggest you pass on it. Yeah, just cross it right off your bucket list.).  It is one of those unintended-kind-of-consequences incidents when you are never the same. Besides bearing the physical scar, I also have an emotional one. Although the one on my skin has faded, the one inside is still raw. Maybe if you have ever been a competitive athlete and received a career-ending injury, you would understand the pain and loss- the change.

So, here I am 9 years later. Hoping that in 9 years from now, I won’t be posting the other leg. Reflecting about my life and the events that have “defined” me.

Thank you, Facebook.

Day #29 Almost there…

Well, here I sit. Staring at a white screen.
Waiting for a muse to come and slap me upside the head
With a brilliant idea.

Would I even feel it?
That is debatable at this point.
I am exhausted from a long day at school
Then being a mother to two (plus one more) girls
Supper and a band concert.

Did I even stop to go the bathroom at all today?
It’s not just my mind. My whole body is numb.
My eyelids heavy with the promise of sleep.

I stare at the screen, not so white anymore.
Hoping my thoughts are coming across the space

Day #28

Am I training my students to have learned helplessness (or a fixed mindset)?

Yesterday, I started reading a professional book about reading instruction (Who’s Doing the Work? by Jan Burkins & Kim Yaris) that really got me to thinking. Am I denying my students the problem-solving process that leads to learning (and independent, life-long reading), because I am uncomfortable with their struggle?

I know better. I really do. Maybe it is the pressure of meeting the standards/targets. Maybe it is the pressure of time. Maybe it is the pressure of fitting in. Maybe it is the pressure of responsibility. Maybe I just forgot who I am as a teacher and the art of teaching.

I need to go back to my heart. To what feels right, and makes students grow as readers. I have to remember that learning is a journey, and we are all in it for the long haul. Together, as a community of readers.

I am so happy that I found this book (shout-out thanks to my sister). It has realigned my teaching compass. I am back on the path. I can’t wait to chart my new course for tomorrow.

Day #27: Off-Schedule

Have you ever made the mistake of eating later in the afternoon than anticipated? Like around 4:15 pm when you are planning to have supper at 5:30 or 6:00 pm. Your tummy is grumbling, but you know you could just ruin your supper opportunities.

Yeah, I did that today.

Have you ever made the mistake of taking a nap too late in the afternoon? Like around 4:30 pm when you are planning to go to bed around 8:30 or 9:00 pm. You are so tired you can’t even keep your eyes open, but you know you could just ruin your sleep opportunities.

Yeah, I did that today.

So here I sit. Starving and deciding whether or not I should eat supper this late.
So here I type. Sleepy, but not tired enough to go to bed for the night but morning comes way too early.

I guess there is something to be said about sticking to your schedule…

Day #23 When you love someone

This song always makes my daughter cry. She refuses to play it even though she really likes it. The lyrics hit her in too raw a spot. And I don’t blame her, because I feel it too.

Come home early after class
Don’t be hanging ’round the back of the schoolyard
I’ve been called up a teacher
She says she can’t even reach you cause you’re so far

My daughter’s perfect world imploded in 2012 when I shouldered the responsibility of ending a less-than perfect 15-year marriage. We lost the house and she had to move into two different apartments in two different towns with two different parents. This is one case when having two is not better than one.

It don’t make sense, but nevertheless
You gotta believe us, it’s all for the best
It don’t make sense
The way things go

She complained that it wasn’t fair. It just didn’t make sense to her. We never fought, I never cried; the status quo should be just fine. All of her other friends had intact families, and she would be the only one from a broken home.

Sometimes moms and dads fall out of love
Sometimes two homes are better than one
Some things you can’t tell your sister ’cause she is still too young
Yeah you’ll understand
When you love someone

At 14, her older sister saw the tension, the excuses, and the pain. She knew about the lies, the empty bottles, and broken promises. She knew that other dads would play catch, would celebrate birthdays, would read bedtime stories, not just moms. But 11-year-olds don’t really understand infidelity and alcoholism and what real love means.

There ain’t no one here to blame
Nothing is going to change with your old friends

Maybe I should have told her that just because I asked for the divorce, it did not mean I wanted it. Maybe I should have told her that both your dad and I deserve to be happy, even though it means it is not with each other. Maybe I should have told her that sometimes you are stronger when you just let go, instead of hanging on.

So now at 15, traveling back in forth in the car. She refuses to play this song. Because even though her friends haven’t changed; all of the other parts of her world are NOT the same.

*Lyrics from James TW’s song “When you love someone
** Ideas for this slice came from . Check it out at her blog