SOL 2016 Day 23: Full Moon For a Very Full Day


Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.

Today I put in a 12 hour work day.  With the rest of our district's ELA Department team, I made a school board presentation this evening. As I walked outside and saw the beautiful full moon, I thought, "what a great thing to write about." That's when I realized I hadn't posted for today. It had completely slipped my mind.

By that time it was 8:45 p.m. Only 15 minutes to meet the deadline for today's slice. I sat in my car in the city hall parking lot, posting the following extremely brief post from my iPhone. I made it, but just barely:

School Board presentation tonight. Nuff said.

SOL 2016 Day 22: It's hard to know what to say...

Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.


Today I don't seem to find words. So I'm reposting my friend, Esther Cohen's blog for today. 

I’m Posting Someone Else’s Poem Today, or Muriel Rukeyser

by Esther Cohen
It's hard to know what to say about something as awful as the Brussels terrorist attack.
Poem
By Muriel Rukeyser
I lived in the first century of world wars.
Most mornings I would be more or less insane,
The newspapers would arrive with their careless stories,
The news would pour out of various devices
Interrupted by attempts to sell products to the unseen.
I would call my friends on other devices;
They would be more or less mad for similar reasons.
Slowly I would get to pen and paper,
Make my poems for others unseen and unborn.
In the day I would be reminded of those men and women,
Brave, setting up signals across vast distances,
Considering a nameless way of living, of almost unimagined values.
As the lights darkened, as the lights of night brightened,
We would try to imagine them, try to find each other,
To construct peace, to make love, to reconcile
Waking with sleeping, ourselves with each other,
Ourselves with ourselves. We would try by any means
To reach the limits of ourselves, to reach beyond ourselves,
To let go the means, to wake.
I lived in the first century of these wars.
Muriel Rukeyser, “Poem” from The Speed of Darkness.
(Vintage Books, 1968)



SOL 2016 Day 21: Kendama



Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.

Today I had back-to-back classroom observations. Traveling through the halls of a middle school during passing period is always challenging. Since I became an instructional coach last year, I've lost my chops. I'm surprised at how much the noise and craziness bothers me now.

Then after making my way through the mass of adolescent wildness, I walked into a language arts class in the midst of their mid-block break. Kids chattering and playing their middle school games, finally set free from adult talk for a few minutes. And as always this year, the kendamas were out.

I work in Daly City, California, a suburb just south of San Francisco.  About 30% of Daly City's population is Filipino, so it is affectionately known by some as "Manila by the Bay".  This means that Filipino culture figures very large in our classrooms. No school event is complete without lumpia and a few years ago students performed tinikling, a Filipino folk dance with sticks. (What I find humorous  is that when I was a student way way back in the old-time days in Illinois, that dance was part of our gym class, even though I had no idea where it came from.)

The latest student craze is Kendama. Although Wikipedia says that this game comes from Japan, in Daly City it's the Filipino students who have brought it to our schools. Every free moment students have, they start playing.

Today I saw the best incarnation yet: a kendama made from a highlighter, string and a roll of cellophane tape! Unfortunately by the time I could get my phone out to take a photo of the creative contraption, the bell had rung and it was time for writing workshop to start. Maybe I'll catch the same young man in action next time I visit.

SOL 2016 Day 20: Spring Equinox Haiku


Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.

I would have thought that on a Sunday I'd have the energy to write a long post, but sadly not. So here is a Sunday haiku instead:

outside the window
olive tree's arched branches bloom
inside poetry

SOL 2016 Day 26:


Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.

Today is family time:

1. Going to Open houses with brother's family 

2. Buying presents for my parents' 89th birthdays

3. Taking Mom to buy new dining chairs 

4. Family dinner tonight


SOL 2016 Day 25: Yea for Spring Break!


Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.

The first day of spring break, and here I am in Portland, OR visiting the family. This weekend I'll celebrate early birthdays with my parents who are both turning 89 next week. I've already gone to an open house with my brother and sister-in-law who are in the process of selling and buying houses. 

Today the weather was beautiful, which I didn't expect. After all it's March in Oregon. They've been having tons of rain lately, but today the sun was out all day just for me. As has become our tradition, we're staying in a vacation rental. Two years ago I rented an apartment in Washington D.C. for spring break. Last year at this time I stayed in a rental house in Sea Ranch on the northern coast of California. 

These stays have also helped me start another tradition: buying flowers for each of my stays to help make it feel like home even for a short stay. Since it's spring, tulips have become the flowers I look for. What could be more cheerful and welcoming than them?

SOL 2016 Day 19: Poetry Workshop with Ellen Bass


Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.

This is my latest Slice so far. I just got home from an all day poetry workshop at the home of the wonderful poet, Ellen Bass.  I sat on a very hard folding chair for 7 hours with 13 other poets while Ellen talked about poetry and gave us strategies and advice on taking our poems from the purely personal to be more universal. It was so inspiring.

Luckily I sat facing her front window. Outside she has the most beautiful olive tree. At one point in the afternoon I managed to write a few lines about it:

Olive tree coming into bloom
outside the window,
leaves silvered by sun low
in the afternoon sky.

I wish I had a full poem to share about this day, but the 1 1/2 hour drive each way has left me tuckered out. There's always tomorrow.


SOL 2016 Day 18: Tiny of Slice of 17 Syllables


Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.


great gallops of fog
rides roughshod over hillsides
luring ocean scent

SOL 2016 Day 17: Stop and Look Around You


Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.

When I was in Rome last summer, I wondered if Romans paid attention to the beautiful monuments and ruins they lived among. Or, with the pressures of daily life, did the Coliseum or Forum start blend in to the background for them? Could the Italians ignore the beauty surrounding them?


Today I had a doctor's appointment in San Francisco, and got there early. After parking my car, I decided to take a walk for a few blocks - actually the few level blocks before the street plunged down one of San Francisco's famous hills to the Bay.  

In that respect, San Francisco is like Rome: lots of walking up and down steep hills, although I think San Francisco's hills are steeper. The sidewalk I was walking on actually turns to steps to walk down. 



It was a glorious, sunny day, and for once I didn't ignore the beauty around me. Maybe it's the Slice of Life Challenge, but today I stopped and took in the view. There before me spread the water of the bay dotted with sailboats. The hills of Marin County rose in the distance. Who couldn't love living here?




So, I've decided that Romans must have those moments as well. There must be a day when a woman walking to her doctor's office comes up short when she rounds a corner, and the Coliseum rises up in all its majesty before her. How could she not?

SOL 2016 Day 16: Today I Was Not Inspired


Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.

Today I Was Not Inspired

not by the bumblebee rolling in shaggy blooms

or  flowers orange as little suns
not by the stone dog guarding a neighbor's house 

or the purple burst of irises
No, today I was not inspired

SOL 2016 Day 15: Sometimes Writing Time Turns into Reading Time


Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.

There are days when the 5:40 a.m. alarm seems crueler than other times. On those days, when I sit down to write, I can tell right away that I won't get much writing out of my sleepy brain. Today was one of those days.

When this happens, I know what to do: read. I have a pile of poetry books next to my chair. All I have to do is choose one, and then spend a half hour immersed in words, even if they aren't my own. 

Today I chose a literary journal I received in the mail a few weeks ago. I hadn't made time to read it, but this morning was the right time. Reading poems by several different poets kept me on my toes, having to pay attention to diverse voices and styles. 

By the time I was done, I was wide awake. And I had an idea for a new poem of my own. Yes, sometimes writers just need to read.




SOL 2016 Day 14: What Writers Need


Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.

Today two of my coaching meetings got cancelled at the last minute, and I was the only one in the ELA Department office for much of the day.  So I spent time doing more research on writing workshop, finding information and advice for my coachee teachers. Some of that research included reading  What A Writer Needs by Ralph Fletcher.  The introduction to one chapter leapt out from the page: 

“Too often in classrooms we give children little squirts of language,” Bill Martin says, “We squirt at them, and they squirt back.”

This is precisely the problem. For too long, we have not been willing to give children the time they need to develop their skills. We expect that squirting copious amounts of information in their general direction will give us the results we desire. Too often we think that equals teaching.  

Those squirts won't help our students become better readers, better communicators and better writers. Why are the powers that be in this country's educational system so afraid to slow down and give children time to grow and learn?

Reading this today made me think of all the times I was guilty of "teaching" like that. It made me more determined than ever to coach teachers to grow beyond that. It made me want to repeat over and over "mea culpa, mea culpa" as I watch students in the classrooms I visit scribble long and hard in their writer's notebooks.

SOL 2016 Day 13 - For Poetry: A Day in Poetry Workshop


Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.

For Poetry

Driving flooded streets,
windshield wipers whooshing,
Waiting on train platforms,  
boots shushing in pouring rain,
umbrella fighting winds.
All to meet with poets,
drenched in line breaks,
sonnets, imagery,
talk of metaphor.
Refreshed, reverse
Remember.

SOL 2016 Day 12: Dinner Party Tonight


Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.

Tonight we are having a French dinner party. My sister is cooking up a storm: duck with prunes in wine sauce, homemade goat cheese, tarte tatin.  My brother-in-law has chosen the wine pairings for all courses. 

My jobs in this endeavor?  I create flower arrangements, arrange the furniture, set the table. Aside from partaking in the delicious food and wine, those are my talents.  
So this post must be short and sweet. Only a few hours until guests arrive, and I still have much to do.  I hope everyone enjoys their weekend. Don't forget to turn your clocks ahead tonight. 

SOL 2016 Day 11: Rainbow - a Lesson in Student (Dis)engagement


Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.

Today was another day of professional development in reading and writing workshop with Amanda Hartman of Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. I was not as enamored with learning as I was yesterday. Two days of leaving the house at 6:30 a.m. to get a ride to the train station and then a shuttle after the train. Two days of drenching rain and winds. Two days of listening to so many ideas that by the time lunch rolled around, my brain was full. I admit it. I was done. I couldn't concentrate anymore. Now I know how my students sometimes felt.


Our sessions were held on the 14th floor of a hotel with sweeping views. In the afternoon, we were in the middle of a reading activity when I turned into the proverbial bad kid who got everyone off task. Completely disengaged, I turned around just as a horizontal rainbow appeared over Berkeley. I'd never seen such a phenomena before.  I turned to my work partners who were still trying to make sense of the story we had read, calling for them to stop and look. They jumped up as well. Soon I  had half the room of teachers up out of their seats looking out the window. 

Amanda handled it with grace. After all, she's been a primary teacher so she must be used to such a flighty behavior. Since I'm not a five-year old (well, not physically), I felt pretty embarrassed. I was going to apologize to her in my evaluation at the end, but then (more child behavior) I forgot. 

So, Amanda, if you ever find this blog, I'm I hope you'll accept this apology. I've had it happen to me so I know how you felt. 

I'm sorry I disrupted your lesson.

SOL 2016 Day 10: Tales of Teachers College Reading and Writing Project Groupie


Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.



 One more reason I love my job: today I got to attend a workshop led by Lucy Calkins and Amanda Hartman of Teachers College Reading and Writing Project fame. Never mind that I was one of about 250 people in a hotel conference room or that I had to get up at 5:30 a.m. so I could take public transportation instead of battling Bay Area commuter traffic. Never mind that I got drenched while waiting in pouring rain for the bus this afternoon. All day I was in the same room with two of my education heroes.


Those two women are amazing, speaking eloquently for over five hours without any notes. As a coach I have to present at professional development sessions all the time, and I live by my notes.  I was impressed by their ability to keep a large audience engaged for hours. 

Really, though, what impressed me most was what they said, talking about reading and writing instruction in a deep, intelligent way. Right now my brain is tumbling around from everything I heard today. I have 12 pages of notes to go over, and many discussions to have with my colleagues. 

Right now, however, I want to dry out in front of the fire before getting ready for tomorrow, because I get to go back again for another session. 






SOL 2016 Day 9: The Joy of Technology


Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.

I just ended a Zoom call with two of my friends. The amazing thing is that one of them lives in Southern California and one of them in Australia. Since I live in Northern California, this call was the only way we could see each other's lovely faces. How fun! 

I've Zoomed several times now, once with nine people. With each of us in our little square, we looked like we were on Hollywood Squares or the beginning of The Brady Bunch (I'm dating myself here. Those of you too young to know these, Google them!) 

Many teachers and parents bemoan the fact that young people seem to be glued to their phones or text each other while sitting right next to each other. I worry about that too. I also worry about all the parents I see walking with their small children while talking on their cell phones. What about talking to the kids, pointing out things around them? I wonder what will happen to those children without that kind of interaction.

Because we humans can be a gloomy lot when it comes to change, every new technological innovation seems to portend doom for "civilization as we've known it." And of course many technological "advances" have been horrific: the atom bomb, nerve gas just to name a couple. 

But then there is the technology that lets me Zoom call with my friends from far away. Then this blog post going out to hundreds of people I've never met. And the blog posts I will read and respond to tonight. These advances I am happy I've got.

SOL 2016 Day 8: Applause Please - Yesterday in Writing Workshop

Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.


 Sometimes while coaching, I feel like a proud mama bear. There is nothing like observing a teacher coachee, and see her progress as she strives to improve her craft. Yesterday, I got that burst of pride moment.

My coachee has been working on getting writing workshop mini lessons down, making sure to include all the important parts, using the language, making the teaching point clear. All while trying to keep the lesson to 10 minutes in length.In front of 30 seventh graders (twice in the day).

This time she nailed it. She taught with gusto, and her students were engaged and thrilled they understood the lesson. When I walked around asking questions later, I could see that many of the kids were already busy incorporating the new strategy into their writing

I can’t take credit for that teacher’s dedication to being the best she can be. Sure I’ve tried to advise her, but she’s done the hard part. 

Still, can’t help myself: proud mama bear.

SOL 2016 Day 7: Practicing Mindfulness Everywhere

Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.

When I became ELA coach, I really had no idea how I would structure my day. In fact, in my interview before getting the job, I turned to the coach who was part of the  panel and asked her, "What do you do all day?" 

I had been in the classroom so long (23 years) that I couldn't imagine my day without the bells telling me where to be with whom at what time. When I think of it, it's rather like the army or a convent in its rigid adherence to a daily schedule. 

It didn't take long before I got that hang of it: making my own schedule, keeping a daily calendar of meetings and observations, observing different teachers at different times throughout the week. I even  have to pay a little attention to school bell schedules just so I know when I can meet with my teachers. It has turned out to be a satisfying change.

However, one thing I didn't count on was having to drive more. As my family will attest, I've never been that fond of driving. I will always let someone else take the wheel if they are willing. Commuting back and forth to work is fine, but on the weekend or vacation I would be perfectly content to never drive. As a coach who travels to different schools all over my district, that had to change. 

What I've noticed: I'm getting more and more short tempered about my fellow drivers. I have found myself barking at people who didn't use a turn signal or barely tapped their brakes at a stop sign to make the infamous "California stop". It doesn't matter that they can't hear me, I still yell at them as if I really thought it would do any good.

Today I was particularly cranky. After all, it was Monday.  I fretted and fumed over some idiotic traffic move when I realized that this can't go on. So I tried to think of how to practice mindfulness while driving. 

I know the term "mindfulness" is rather over-used these days, but I do think the theory is a positive one. I've been trying some centering or meditation exercises in my daily writing practice, and they do work. Of course, it wouldn't be a good idea to close my eyes to concentrate on my breathing while in control of a car, but there had to be something I could do.

Just at that moment, I rounded a corner and the coastline of California spread out before me. Because of all the rain we've gotten recently, the hillsides are bright green. Clouds like great animals galloped across the sky. I started breathing slowly, I started counting with my inhalations and exhalations, keeping my eyes on that lovely green before me.  I serenely watched as the driver in front of me made a U-turn without signaling. 



SOL 2016 Day 6: The Solace of Daily Life

Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.




Today still trying to cope with the news of my friend's illness, I have found myself relishing today's round of household chores. Washing dishes, grocery shopping, changing my sheets, doing laundry: these mundane tasks I often resent seem important to me today. 

They sooth me with their assurance that there is still some part of life not rocked by fear. 

I'm sure my friend would welcome the chance to choose the perfect apple or smell sheets fresh from the dryer. So I will do all these things for her, hoping that soon she will be at home again lying in her own bed. So this poem is for her:


The  Promise

Slide crisp sheets fresh from the wash,
snap the wrinkles out and let
the top one float gently to rest.
Smooth over corners,
tuck them in taut, clean folds.
Slap and fluff the pillows,
slip them into their cases
still unwrinkled from a sleeping head.

Dare to take a new journey.
Traverse the map of night
to descend streets of dreams,
as you lie on sheets
sweet smelling,
cool and soft as longing.