Monthly Archives: September 2015

Little Words – Little Miracles


“When I didn’t get up you should have gone to Mrs. Skubik and told her I wasn’t listening.”

“You should have listened to me.”

They were both angry. One had just dumped the other out of “his” chair and onto the floor. We talked some more, and I tried to help them get to the idea that there were other ways that the situation could have gone.

“Well, I guess I could have listened to you.”

“Yea – I could have sat somewhere else too.”

“I guess we were both a little at fault.”

“Yea, I’m sorry.”

“Me too.”

This part of teaching is so important. It takes so much time. It is invisible to those outside of the classroom. It isn’t sexy, fun, cool, it’s untwitterable, and it doesn’t show up on test scores (well- not directly), but it is the life blood of a functioning classroom. And it is rewarding, but in the tiniest doses, like taking an 81mg aspirin for a migraine. It takes a lot to get some relief.

Earlier in the day during independent reading time, I watched J get up out of her seat, go and grab two books off the shelf, and walk back and slap them down in front of her partner. “This is what we are going to read now. Put the other ones away ’cause I don’t like them.”

“Well, I do. I don’t want to change books!”

I shot them a look. They stopped talking. When I was finished with my conference, I went over and sat down. Lots of anger. Lots of misunderstandings. Clearly, this partnership was not working for either of them. I usually try to help partners work their way through it, but you know –know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em– I told them I would work something out to change things up. I knew the problem was mostly with J, I knew her interactions with others was often problematic. She had a lot of difficult things going on in her nine-year-old life. I asked her if I gave her a few names, would she be willing to find someone she could work with. She nodded.

Turns out, there were two boys she thought she could work with. I went and asked them how they felt about adding a third person to their partnership.

“Oh sure, we could work with her.”

“Yea, and she could help us. She’s really good at reading.”

Wow, right under my nose, and I had no idea she had fans. How did I miss that?


Last year I posted up our favorite “words of the wiser” words from our read-alouds, those signpost words that help readers get to the most important messages a book has to offer. I am thinking this might be a good year to add our own words of the wiser, the words we use when we are being kind and lifting up our better angels.

So today I celebrate those words, those little miracles every day.

celebrate-image-1Thank you to Ruth Ayers for reminding me to celebrate. There are more here, and today is the 100th celebration day! WOW!



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Drama Uninvited


A Slice of Life from last week. Lots of folks share slices here. Check it out if you don’t already.

          I usually don’t check my phone when I’m at school. Once 2:40 rolls around, I look at it. Then I am ready – who needs me? What do they need? But before that, I am all about my students.

Most of the time.

At lunch one day last week I made the mistake of looking at it. Here is what I saw:

Water is turned off.

Making sure bill is paid.

We did not have your ss number.

What? What kind of cryptic message is that? I DID pay the bill. I quickly checked my app for the credit union. Yep. Bill paid, 8/28. And why is my husband referring to himself as we? And why can’t he look in the file labeled SOCIAL SECURITY? Perhaps it would be in there? Grrr….

Then this.

I gave Disney Papa’s ss.


Now they think I’m dead.

My daughter, the college sophomore, just got a job with Disney. And she gave them my father’s social security number instead of hers. Why you ask? Because I had it stored in my phone when I was taking care of the business you take care of when someone dies, and one day I accidentally gave it to her when she asked for hers.  She obviously didn’t get rid of it the first time she handed it out – to her summer employer. And why is that folder so hard to find?

Then another one.

Make an appointment with the orthodontist for tomorrow.

How about a please? But, crap, I have been meaning to do that for her. Okay, I made the call. The receptionist informed me that she had just made an appointment for my daughter a few minutes ago. Hmm. Made instead of make? What a difference a D makes.

Then this:

DWP had a problem with water pipe at Weymouth Corners.

Love you.

Also, picked up your stuff at the pharmacy and the dog food.

and this:


Also I fixed the ssn.

Redeemed. But not before my heart rate and my blood pressure shot up. Geez!

Tomorrow that phone is staying in my purse. Drama can wait until 2:40.


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The Amazing Thing


Another Saturday, and I can breathe and celebrate after the first three weeks are down in the books. There are lots of other celebrations here. Thank you Ruth for reminding me to follow a path of gratitude.

Starting off the year with fourth grade writers is always daunting for me. I am faced with such little people! The memory of the ten and almost-ten-year-olds I wrote with for nearly ten months is still fresh from June, and the overgrown third graders that are sitting in their seats are so, well, new. I know where we are going, but I feel paralyzed and unsure how to get going. Weird, huh? Every year.

I tackle it by jumping into conferring right away. Easier to say than to actually do. Almost no one can write yet without turning and talking to their neighbors. And we did that, yep. If I let them get away with chatting during the writing time of writers workshop, it sets up a difficult to break habit. Writing is so much easier when it’s quiet. They get it. But they don’t know how to do it. So, it’s a conference interrupted by lots of quick-trips to tables to remind the team that we are writing, not talking. Getting them to remind each other helps too, but early in the year that often takes the form of whiney and loud shushing that adds to the noise. We are not yet a well-oiled machine. We aren’t even poorly oiled. Heck, we are missing big pieces of machinery – forget about the oil.

This week I am grateful to one of my writers for giving me hope and reminding me in her sparkly-eye-way that this situation will get better. We will become writers capable of great and small things. We will. I could see that she had an idea for her personal narrative involving something with our local Boys and Girls Club.

“So, what are you working on right now?”

“I am writing a story about how great the Boys and Girls Club is. It was so much fun this summer. We had lots of fun trips. We made crafts. I went there every week and played games too. I love it. It is a great place to be in the summer.”

“You are already writing an essay! Oh my goodness, we haven’t even tackled that and you already have an idea for one. You are so ready to do that kind of writing. Can we put that solid idea for a thesis on hold for a minute, until next month actually, and try to find a story in it? Can you think of a one-time story you could tell about something that happened this summer at the Boys and Girls Club?”

She got a big smile on her face, and looked just over my shoulder, as if she was seeing it all again. “Yes, I can. I can think of something really good. And…” She paused, looked straight at me, and I swear her eyes twinkled. “Something really amazing happened. A really amazing thing.”

I shivered like any hot-blooded writing teacher would. Holy smoke, a really amazing thing? This was so easy!

“What was that amazing thing?”

A pause. It stretched out a few heartbeats. Then a few more.

“I kind of forgot.”

I tried really hard not to laugh, or flinch, or let out the breath I was holding. I wonder if I was successful with the breath thing.
You forgot the really amazing thing?” I said with as much natural curiosity as I could muster.

“Yes, I did.” Big smile. Her eyes looked right into mine. A flash of guilt but also a look of confidence. As if to say: “It’s there, I just have to remember it.” Most importantly, she knew it could be there, even should be there, and with just a little time and encouragement, it would be there.

A little patience, maybe a lot, and it will be an amazing thing.


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