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16 Oct

In the 24 conferences I had last week, several parents brought up their child’s handwriting. A few asked, “Do you teach cursive?”

I gave them our standard 6th grade answer: Yes, their work should be neat. No, we don’t teach cursive – we ask that they use whichever form of writing is neatest.

During one conference I had a sudden realization. The papers each of the three Core teachers had prepared perfectly illustrated my point. The Math teacher printed his comments by hand, in red pen. The Science teacher wrote hers on the computer, in Apple Chancery, a friendly font. My comments were written in cursive, green ink on green paper. They perfectly illustrated the point I was trying to make.





2 Oct

I have snippets of stories everywhere.

I don’t mean the myriad tales of my life tucked away in my head. Yes, there are lots of stories there, many of which have yet to be told.

I mean written-down snippets – long and short pieces. Some at home in a journal. Some here in this blog. Some in notebooks at school.

And those notebooks served me well yesterday.

Grade 6 Personal narrative unit.

We were doing a lesson on elaboration and adding scenes. I looked over the narratives I’d been modeling for the class. They’d been thoroughly revised and didn’t really have what I needed, so I culled through my old writer’s notebooks at school and found the just right piece. It was a narrative I’d written in 2015 and had an ideal place for me to elaborate on a scene and another where I could add a scene.

Sometimes, teaching feels like performance art and yesterday I was at the top of my game. I pulled out that notebook. With my students seated in the carpeted area, I stretched my hands out to grab my invisible steering wheel and I rehearsed the story of my drive to the emergency vet. My hands shook. My body was tense. My voice quiet.

When they went back to their seats, they were at the top of their games, too.



Life on the move

24 Sep



Kids shouldn’t have to wish for a toilet, but Felix does. That’s because he and his mom are living in their Westfalia van. They’d had a house, but  due to a series of unfortunate events, they became homeless.

Nielsen does a great job illustrating what it is like to be homeless – how to tay clean, eat, cover-up that you aren’t – in a way that let’s the reader understand how exhausting it can be. I loved Felix’s voice. He felt like an authentic 7th grader and I pictured him in the halls of my middle school, trying to keep everything together. When you pick up the book, keep an eye on Mr. & Mrs. Ahmadi. They are the real heroes of this story.



Thank you, Universe!

11 Sep

I may have mentioned my deal with the universe, the one where, if the Universe let me stay in 6th grade, I would go to Outdoor School this year and not grumble about it.

There were many reasons why I didn’t go last year. one of them had to do with compensation. Teachers had to be away from home for three nights, with no financial compensation and I was going to be out-of-pocket for Lucy’s boarding fees. All teachers were given was an additional personal day.

Yesterday, at my union meeting I found out that we are going to be remunerated for those three nights at a rate that made me cheer.

I have several months yet to think up the woodsy name I will put on my wood cookie nametag.


Look out Outdoor School. Here I come!

Middle School (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah)

9 Aug

Moving to a new team feels like Middle School  and I have to find my place all over again. A lot is changing. I am excited about a new grade but worry about losing the friends I will no longer be working with. Oh, middle school!

Trudy Mixer, the protagonist of Ann Hood’s She Loves You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah), is in the same boat.


This was a really great read and I think that kids today will be able to connect, event though the book is set when I was still in diapers.



7 Aug

Turning the kitchen calendar from July to August felt traumatic this year. It meant only two weeks of summer left. August is transition time, the Sunday night of summer.

Over the summer we learned that, not only were we getting a new principal, the whole office staff is changing: secretary, two VPs, student supervisor, and principal. It is unprecedented in my career. Also unprecedented was the email from our new principal inviting us to sign up for a time to come in for an informal, on-on-one chat. Wow!

My meeting was yesterday.

I tend to spend the summer in athletic shorts and t-shirts, but I arrived at school in Bermuda shorts and a striped shirt. Casually professional. I wanted the first impression of me to be a good one!

Our chat started off informally, with each of us giving a little bit of our background and me talking about my three-year experience at my school. We knew some people in common, even though we’d never met before. Education is a small world.

She concluded with two specific questions about communication practices and conference scheduling. Two things people had complained a lot about last year. I told her what I’d heard as a union rep and what I thought.

I had walked in hoping she’d surprise me by saying I could stay in 6th grade. I’ve spent the summer coming to terms with my grade change. I left feeling optimistic about the new school year, new admins and new grade. This is going to be a good one!




Summer movie summary

3 Aug

I usually have big plans about movies I will see at the theater in the summer. My plans usually fail and I end up watching them at home months later. But not this summer. This summer I went to the movies THREE times!

The first one was a definite summer movie:


This one won’t win any awards, but it was fun to watch – and sing along.

The next two were documentaries. I saw both in old-fashioned, classic theaters : the Laurelhurst Theatre and the Academy Theater.

My sister and I saw the Mr. Rogers documentary at the Laurelhurst.


Yesterday, I went to the Academy Theater to see the documentary RBG.


RBG and Mr. Rogers have very different personalities, backgrounds and life histories, but they are both about making a difference in the lives of ordinary people. It won’t surprise you to know I laughed and cried at Won’t You Be My Neighbor.  It might surprise you that I also laughed and cried at RBG.

If you haven’t seen either, I highly recommend both. I think middle schoolers might like both of them

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