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!”