Musings from a K-5th Reading Specialist. I encourage my students to think, speak, read, and write, with my support.
I parent two amazing young adult daughters with my husband of 28 years.

June 20, 2017

Morning daughter, evening daughter #SOL17

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Two Writing Teachers
This summer both of my college-aged daughters are home.  It's been fun (and slightly frustrating) to cook and share meals and annoy them with my constant questions and conversations.
 (Can you tell I miss working with my students?  It's too quiet at home!)

My oldest is an early bird.  She's taking two classes, working on student government projects, and bouncing between two internships.  We share a pot of coffee in the morning as she fine-tunes her Spanish homework and I read two newspapers.  Today she wished she had decided to sit on the beach this summer.  I told her to start practicing, "Sorry, I can't help" but we both like to be involved and helpful.

My youngest would sleep ALLLLL DAAAAYYYY if she could.  She's babysitting and works camp next month for little ones with special needs.  Yesterday she went back to dance classes for the first time in three years.  Today she was on the couch, with legs that "can.not.move."  We spend time together in the evenings watching movies or singing along to music.

It's fun (but still, there's a lot of dishes) to have these two around this summer.  I know in a few years my house will empty (maybe?) and Jeff will have to entertain me.  But for now, I'm grateful for the summer and connecting with my girls.

June 13, 2017

Helping with smooth transitions #SOL17

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I spent yesterday visiting three schools.  When I pulled up to the first school, I was early.  I drove around the neighborhood, just to calm my nerves.

Two of my friends are transferring schools after many years at one building.  Their plans were to check in with the office staffs, scope out classrooms and walk their new buildings.  I was just along as a support person, but I couldn't help feeling jittery for my friends.

Once we got to the office, my first friend introduced herself to the secretaries and sounded confident. The two of us stood behind her smiling.  "Brought an entourage, huh!?" laughed the secretary.

"We're her team, her tribe!" I chuckled.

We toured, we checked out rooms, we compared schools.  We relaxed.  We eventually were brave enough to knock on the conference room door and introduce ourselves to the new administration. 

After smiles, introductions and handshakes, we left school number one.  We decided the visit was a little awkward but worth the time.  We then drove over to school number two.

At school two, we reconnected with staff members from other schools and checked in with the office staff.  The second school was fun to tour because we had more confidence.  We shared some laughs and jokes with the custodial staff.  My friend who will be moving to this school began planning furniture placement.  

The final school I visited was the one I left two years ago.  It was really sweet to catch up with the secretaries and AP.  As I closed the door firmly behind me, I confirmed that my decision to leave was right for me.  

Now I'm ready to help my friends transition to new schools, new staff, new students.  They are both bringing their vast collection of books, which they will find to be a bridge to making new connections and friends.  I will be there for them when they have celebrations and struggles, just like they have for me.  

As one chapter ends, another begins!

April 11, 2017

Humbled #SOL17

Read more Slice of Life stories at
Two Writing Teachers
My friend Wendy from high school publisher her first book last week.  HOORAY!  YIPPEE!  I attended her book signing at the Barnes & Noble near my school.

Our group was a party of six:  Sue (HS friend), Michelle, Nick and Sarah (work friends).  We enjoyed dinner and drinks before going to the bookstore.  It was fun to mix a group of young (<25) and seasoned (*ahem*) and teachers and non teacher for laughs, conversation and book love.

When we arrived at the bookstore before the event.  We hugged and visited with Wendy, hoping to calm her nerves.  Mona, another friend from elementary school, was right at the entrance.  A few more HS friends came through and I snapped a few selfies (I'm really no good at them!).

It was really fun to catch up with some book-loving friends, and see Wendy at a table signing HER book.  I couldn't wait to get to school the next day.  I had told my 4th and 5th graders that I would be attending a book signing of a "real author!"  Although the book YA romance and geared to high schoolers, I promised my students I would show them the book.

The next morning I hosted a group of my fourth graders.  Usually there are four girls and one boy, but my lone gentleman was not at school.  I showed the girls the cover and Wendy's signature and note in the front.  One of the girls wanted to start reading it (yikes!) but I gently recovered the book and flipped to the back, and summarized the"About the author" information.  E asked if they could hear some more so I flipped to the acknowledgements.  I scanned and pointed out how authors like to thank their families and publishers and others that helped them with the book.  All four girls were crowded around me, and all at once.  I saw it. My name.  In the acknowledgements.


I have to admit, my eyes started to tear.  I was overcome with emotions. At first the girls watched me in shock, and then I explained what I had found.   They squealed.  E jumped up, "YOU'RE FAMOUS!"  We decided to show Mrs. Hernandez, our library para.  The girls had to nearly carry me.

I explained to the girls that this amazing thing had happened to me for two reasons (I think).  One, I've tried to be a good friend, and 2) I read one of Wendy's books and provided some feedback.

I'm so humbled to be mentioned.  I'm such a little speck in the writing process, and I was truly happy to help my friend by reading!!  My heart is so full for Wendy.  She faced a bunch of waiting and rejection and realized her dream.  I'm so glad to have her as a role model for the readers and the writers in my classroom, even if I don't hand them her book...yet.  (I'll make sure their high school has a copy!)

March 31, 2017

That's a wrap #SOLC17

Today ends the Slice of Life Challenge
It's been fun to write (nearly) every day in March.
See you on Tuesdays, Slicers!
Two Writing Teachers
Today wraps up the Slice of Life Challenge at Two Writing Teachers.  I approached this challenge with my improved attitude:  do the best you can and everything will work out fine.

Today also ends the weekday portion of my spring break.  Today I'll open the teacher bag for a bit and look through the assessments I gave before break, decode the new-ish intervention program I'm using with first graders, and make some plans for next week.  Since it's a rainy, cold day, it's an easy day to curl up on the couch with my schoolwork.

This weekend I'll spend some time tending the soil in the vegetable garden plot (and get muddy!), attend two concerts, and do some grocery shopping.

I've enjoyed reading slices and writing them.  I'm hoping to keep up slicing on Tuesdays and write about more books I read!

Thanks to my readers and fellow slicers for your comments!  It's been fun!

I'm excited for April and better weather (more sunshine!!) and the warmth of spring.

So long, March!

March 30, 2017

Music-minded #SOLC17

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Write every day in March.
Crank up the music and write!
Two Writing Teachers
Michelle Haseltine's post, "What is your theme song?" took me down a wonderful path of music this week, and I'm so thankful for it!

I'm a huge music fan.  I will listen to nearly any type of music, but mostly pop, rock, hip hop, Disney soundtracks and Broadway musicals.  My daughters will sometimes tease me about my crushes on boy band music (there, I said it) but I don't care.  Even though I don't have a decent singing voice (my husband does!), I will sing along loudly to songs when the spirit moves me.

This week I've enjoyed entering some new genres into Pandora (like country) and blasting music through the house.  It's been fun to dance around and sing as I wash dishes, cook, and work on paperwork.

All this music fun makes me realize... I need to figure out a way to mesh music into my reading instruction.  I think some of my developing readers are driven by music as well:

  • A good number of my younger students will randomly break into song (especially if they attend their music special before my class), and many of them like to dance.
  • My fourth grade group figured out they could imbed YouTube music videos into a Google document.  They like told me they like to listen to music during centers.
  • Sometimes my classroom is too quiet and needs some background music to fill the silence.
Perhaps song lyrics will be our poetry for April?  I'm excited to try something new in my classroom.

And by the way, Michelle, my theme song is "Unwritten" by Natasha Bedingfield.
Drench yourself in words unspoken, live your life with arms wide open 
Today is where your book begins, the rest is still unwritten
(Lyrics from Google play music)

March 29, 2017

Create your own adventure #SOLC17

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Write every day in March.
Writing becomes a good habit!
Two Writing Teachers
I'm not totally hating my staycation.  I've turned it into more of a "create your own adventure" week.

Sure, there's been boring stuff like phone calls, appointments, cleaning, laundry and cooking.

But there's also been some fun!

Reading books, sleeping late, visiting friends, watching movies, no schedule.

Today I went to the library and pulled a couple random, grown-up fiction books in addition to some about gardening and eating well.

I went to Home Depot and bought my garden seeds and a seed starter pack.  (Let's grow!)

I'm heading to my friend's house for "puppy therapy"  (hang out and pet her dogs) and game night.

Am I jealous of my friends on the beach, in the canyons and at the House of Mouse?  
Yes, but I'm also having some fun of my own.  

March 28, 2017

Sunshine intervention #SOLC17

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Write every day in March.
Write to make your own sunshine.
Two Writing Teachers
We had sunshine on Friday.  Clouds on Saturday, Sunday, Monday.  This week calls for nothing but 



I left my "happy light" at school.

Double hmpf.

Since I can't force the sun to come out, I am trying to create my own "sunshine" and setting myself up for a "sunny" day.  My steps:
  • Streaming music (loudly!) from Pandora - trying some new genres
  • Dancing around to the music (it's not pretty)
  • Typing my slice to set my intentions for the day
  • Planning a trip to the library, lunch out with Allison and errands
  • Turning on every light in the kitchen
  • Drinking another cup of coffee
  • Adding books recommended by my Twitter peeps to GoodReads
  • Celebrating that today is a gift, no matter what the weather.
Wishing you a SUNNY day!

March 27, 2017

Crazy productive...kind of #SOLC17

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Write every day in March.
Be a "planner" or a "pantser"
Two Writing Teachers
So it's Monday of my spring break staycation.  I have a big list of what I need to do.  A LOT of it is phone calls and paperwork related, so that's a bummer.  I get it.  We own a house, we have two college kids. There is going to be paperwork.  I'm an adult.  (SIGH)

I started the day in my pajamas (then put on some sweats).  I made breakfast for myself and then Allison when she got out of bed (MIRACLE).

Then I jumped between a few million different activities (I even fixed my bike and made a mini compost bin!) 

I'm beginning to realize that my younger daughter's lack of focus came directly from me.

I started making a list of all the different things I accomplished before lunch.  I'm not very good at crossing anything off lists, but this list was different.  I FINISHED THESE THINGS!

Finally, this afternoon, I slid some fuzzy socks on and went down to the office.  I made the financial planner phone call (not that bad).  I helped oldest with her tax return online.  I did some of the paperwork.

Maybe the next time you want to feel crazy productive, you could try my silly idea.  Simply write everything down that you do one day.  Fuzzy socks don't hurt either.

March 26, 2017

Soggy Spring #SOLC17

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Write every day in March.
It's the final week!
Two Writing Teachers

The rain has made the ground squishy and soggy.

The birds are excited to pull juicy worms from the dirt.

The green sprigs of daffodils and snowdrops peek up, some flowering.

The trees are covered with moss, their leaves beginning to bud.

The water in the stream gushes, splashes and flows over rocks.

The air is sticky and fragrant and gentle.

The rain brings new life to the earth.

March 25, 2017

Staycation plans #SOLC17

Join the Slice of Life Challenge
Write every day in March.
Rainy days can bring ideas.
Two Writing Teachers

My lunch time is the last one on the lunch schedule at 12:15 p.m.  I share my lunchtime with the math  & reading resource teachers and music specialists.  Friday's conversation with my fellow "right-brained" teacher was fun, as usual.

Everyone was describing their spring break plans.  The orchestra teacher is headed to New York with his wife and tickets to four Broadway shows.  The math teacher is bound for Florida with her parents and sister.  My fellow reading teacher is spending time with her teens and going on a college visit.  I'm faced with a week at home, with my youngest daughter at classes and my husband in another town. 

The teachers at the table decided to help me make a list of possible activities for my spring vacation.  They encouraged me to accomplish the items on my must do list (passport renewal, doctors appointments) as well as some more exciting items.  Our brainstorming included:
  • pay it forward at Starbucks, paying for the order from the car behind me
  • create a "car pool karaoke" video
  • sleep through breakfast and enjoy brunch each day (at home or out)
  • collect postcards of my town (if they exist!) and send them to friends
  • mix up some DIY skin treatments and have a spa day
I have a hard time finishing things I must do, so I'll be using these ideas to inspire me to get my to do list finished.  I'm also planning on binge reading a TON of books!

Looking foward to a week of sleeping without setting an alarm!

March 24, 2017

"Freedom!" #SOLC17

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Write every day in March.
Even the smallest slice counts.
Usually my oldest students (this year, 5th graders) are my most interesting students. 

This year is no different. 

Today, J walked into the room, raised his two fists and announced, "FREEDOM!"

"What are you free from?" I asked.

"Reading a book with my teacher.  She had so many questions."

"She makes our brains work too hard," K chimed in.

Can you guess that today was the final day of classes before spring break? 

Wishing a relaxing break to all who have finally arrived!  For everyone else, happy weekend!

March 23, 2017

Left hand, blue! #SOLC17

Join the Slice of Life Challenge
Write every day in March.
Write what POPS into your brain!
Two Writing Teachers
Left foot, blue!

I'm sitting on the floor of the gym.

Right foot, green!

It's family reading night, and I'm hosting the word game room.

Right hand, yellow!

No, Twister doesn't have words.  I planned to tape word card to the dots,

Left hand, red!

But figuring out two-step directions has proven hard enough.

Left foot, yellow!

Some little brothers and sisters help me spin.  They smile and giggle.

Right hand, blue!

Daughter Allison redirects the kids jumping hopscotch and balancing on foam beams.

Right foot, green!

I'm wish some parents would put down their phones and engage with us. <sigh>

Left hand, red!

A few jump rope or help their kids to play.  Others stay on the sidelines.  

Left foot, red!

I wave, smile, and share compliments of their children's enthusiasm.

Right foot, yellow!

I don't mind sitting on the floor of the gym.

Left foot, blue!

When it's for my students.

March 22, 2017


Join the Slice of Life Challenge
Write every day in March
Write from your heart.
Two Writing Teachers
I met Beth in 1973 when our parents bought new houses on the same street.  She lived on one side, and I lived on the other, three doors down.

We attended kindergarten together.  We played all sorts of dress up games, forcing my brother to be her husband or pizza guy or our pet dog.  We rode bikes, swam in our backyard pools and sang Billy Joel songs at the top of our lungs.

In 1979 (mid-4th grade) our parents both looked for new houses.  Would you believe they bought lots on the same street in a new town?  They didn't even find out this exciting fact (Beth and I squealed!) until each had put down a deposit.

My brain is a spinning top filled with ideas, music, books, words and worries.
Beth has a great way of clearly stating what needs to be done, she has a great flair for decorating, and she's generous with her time and advice.

In August, Beth moved to Arizona with her husband, cat and dog.  When she was here in Illinois, she was a 30 minute ride away.  We saw each other pretty often for dinner and other fun events.  I'm so glad for the internet, texting and good old phone calls to connect with my friend, especially when I get super wound up about life.

Thanks for being my BFF, Beth!

March 21, 2017


Join the Slice of Life Challenge
Write every day in March
Especially about unusual happenings!
Two Writing Teachers
In yesterday's post, I used sounds to emphasize some of Sunday & Monday's events.

Today, I start out where I left off:

I heard a noise behind me.  SQUAWK!

This noise didn't sound like the robins and sparrows that usually sing from the pine tree.  This was something really different.  After I set all my things in the car, I walked over to the source of the noise.

That's when I saw him.

A rooster.  Under the pine tree.  Really!

 I started laughing to myself.  What else made sense?

I realized that this guy must have flown/walked/been blown over to my house from the park district's historical farm across the street.  We had some pretty intense thunderstorms last night, so I'm glad he made it through the night under our pine tree.  I'm also amazed that he didn't perish as he crossed the four-lane highway!

I really didn't know what to do, so I got some birdseed and threw it to the rooster.  He eagerly chowed down on the seeds, clucking contentedly.  My daughter (the bird whisperer - another slice for another time) was asleep inside.  My hope was to wake her up and have her alert the park district about the escaped rooster.

I snapped these pictures and jumped in the car, already running late to work.  When I arrived, my principal was out for car duty.  I told her I had a great excuse for being barely on time.  "No way!" was her reply when she saw the pictures.

I'm hoping my friend, the rooster, found his way back to the farm.  My daughter didn't wake up until after 10:00 a.m. and at that time he had wandered away.

I didn't see him on my walk tonight, as I looked carefully through the woods around our house.

It's not every day you find a rooster in your yard!

March 20, 2017

A Slice of Sounds #SOLC17

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Write every day in March.
Two Writing Teachers

I finished my final paper for my ESL endorsement.  SQUEEEE!

I wrapped up the evening with a bit of basketball, watching Iowa lose to TCU.  BOOOOO!

I snuggled into bed under two blankets.   WARM!

I quickly fell asleep.  ZZZZ!

Approximately 2:00 a.m. Monday

I awoke to a terrible sound.  CRASH!

It was an intense thunderstorm with lightning. FLASH! BOOM!

Allison came to my room to chat and joke.  GIGGLE!

I fell asleep again.  ZZZZZ!

5:50 a.m.

I woke up to the alarm. BEEP BEEP BEEP!

I rolled over for 15 more minutes.  GROAN!

I got ready for the day.  SHHHHHH!  WHIRRRR!  

I drank a big cup of coffee.  SLURRRRP!

7:15 a.m.

I placed all my bags in the car. SLAM!

I heard a noise behind me.  SQUAWK!

Come back on Tuesday to get the rest of the story!

March 19, 2017

Pressing Pause #SOLC17

Join the Slice of Life Challenge
Write every day in March.
It's ok to walk away and come back.
Two Writing Teachers
I pressed pause on slicing for two days.  If were a different, earlier year, I would have booted up the computer and typed, convinced I had to slice, no matter what.

This year I'm giving myself more grace.  I spin a few plates and sometimes one crashes.

Friday I went to the pet expo with my daughter and her friend to pet dogs, interact with birds and just wander along.  We came home and watched The Edge of Seventeen, laughing and gasping.

Saturday was spent cleaning the car, crafing a paper, spending time with my parents, and attending my nephew's Boy Scout crossover ceremony.

I couldn't bring myself to slice for two days because I had to get away from the computer.
I've been spending TOO much time working on my final paper for my final ESL class.  I've been over thinking and not typing enough.

And now I'm faced with a deadline of 12:00 midnight.

So I offer this little peek into my brain with this slice.  It's not a tidy place.

I'm in the big green chair, window open to listen to the birds.  I'm determined to finish the paper and send it on its way to be graded.  No more overthinking.  Just typing.

March 16, 2017

Sherwood Lane Little Free Library #SOLC17

Join the Slice of Life Challenge
Write every day in March.
Take a walk first, you'll get ideas!
Two Writing Teachers
In February, the weather improved to 60 degrees one day.  I nudged nagged pleaded with my husband, "Can't we put up the little library todayyyyyyy?"

He obliged.  He's proud of his work (he built it!!!) and the adorable embellishments painted by my cousin Sara and her husband, Dennis.  It's truly a work of art.

As Jeff was pounding in the post to support the Little Free Library (LFL), neighbor Mike walked on over.  He's a mailman, and he has the gift of gab.  After he stopped by, neighbor Dean dropped by.  He promised to tell his grandkids to bring books.  Later, neighbor Jeff rang the bell.  "Tell me about the little house in the yard!"

I decided to go with a "soft open" instead of a grand opening.  I simply put books in the LFL.  I posted a picture on my personal Facebook page, I tweeted and I sent texts to my closest friends.

Today the lake effect snow melted from the sidewalks and the temperature reached 48 degrees.  I saw neighbor Dean on my quick walk (it was chilly!).
"Your little library has had quite a few customers!"
"That's great!" I replied.  I hadn't seen anyone use it yet, but books have come and gone.

As I rounded the block, my house came into view, and two adults (grandparents?) and an upper-elementary boy were checking out the library.  ("CUSTOMERS!" I squealed silently.)

I didn't know what to do, so I smiled and kept walking. The boy looked at a couple of books, but didn't take one.  
Here's to warmer weather, more LFL customers and maybe some bravery (on my part) to talk with them!


March 15, 2017

Thanks for your inspiration, Juliette! #SOLC17

Join the Slice of Life Challenge
Write every day in March.
Sometimes you will be an inspiration!
Two Writing Teachers

First, I must tell you, my cheeks were a little pink on Sunday.  Betsy used one of my slices as the example on the call to slice link.
Next, you should know, I usually construct my slices on the fly (I plan nothing) and I write as I go.
Furthermore, I admit, my heart jumped when I saw my name connected to a slice on Sunday.

I immediately clicked on Juliette's Gifts.  I believe Juliette lives in another country from what I can gather from her slices.  She got inspiration from my Spring is Approaching slice and blogged about her summer.

Juliette mentioned traveling to Mallorca.  I love geography and searching for places, so I had to look it up.  Just LOOK at this gorgeous place!

a rocky bay in north mallorca
Image from See Mallorca
I've always been a guppy** when it comes to travel.  My husband went to Europe with our high school choir for his first airplane trip.  I've only traveled the US with white knuckles on the airplane and restless legs in the car.

But Juliette's slice got me thinking.  There's a whole world out there that I need to see.  I may need some more coaching when it comes to cross-country and overseas travel, but I think it would be worth it.  I can picture myself standing at the top of Cal Boquer Beach in North Mallorca, staring out into the blue, clear ocean, 

Thanks for your inspiration, Juliette!

** ("Flounder, don't be such a guppy!" The Little Mermaid)

March 14, 2017

I almost didn't write (but I did) #SOLC17

Join the Slice of Life Challenge
Write every day in March.
Quick.  Write before the moment passes.
Two Writing Teachers

Woke up this morning to a bunch of snow (but less than New England is expecting).

Taught lots of kids, some more squirrely than others (but it was an overall pretty good day).

Met husband and daughter for dinner.  Cheeseburger and fries (but they were small).

Curled up on the couch.  Passing time until This is Us records (but I can't wait much longer).

Almost forgot to submit a slice.  No big deal (but why not write!).

I have a paper due soon (but it can wait until tomorrow).

I almost didn't write a slice (but I did).

March 13, 2017

Prior knowledge...activated! #SOLC17

Join the Slice of Life Challenge
Write every day in March.
Write about the small moments
that fill your heart.
Two Writing Teachers
It was easy to get back into my small group reading routine today.  
Nearly all of my students came 
bursting into my little room, eager to get back to 
30 minutes out of their classroom to talk my ear off (otherwise known as "reading intervention").

My 5th graders were pretty chilled out due to the time change.  Our next text in the LLI red intervention kit was Six Snakes That Share Our World.

Little did I know that I have a huge snake fan in my small group, G.

G has not had the easiest time transitioning from English to Spanish, especially because our district's bilingual program currently ends after second grade.  G has great ideas, but decoding gets in his way.  He is soft-spoken and very curious.  I had no idea how a text about snakes would light up this kiddo's brain.

G started the conversation about snakes (pythons versus boas, what they eat, how they move).  Then J and C even chimed in with more facts.  We previewed the pages, and C noticed a map that noted there are no snakes found in Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, Antarctica or New Zealand.  The facts and questions and discussion was happening so quickly, I could barely keep up.

"I think Kakapos (the New Zealand bird we read about last week) are not threatened by snakes, based on this map," stated C.


I looked at K, the only girl.  Even she had lots of questions for the snake crew.
"Did you hear him?" I asked her.  "I need to drop the mic!"
"Here, Mrs. Rayner," K handed me a pencil and smiled. "You can do a pencil drop!"

Here's to my students showing their genious.  Even after a week of PARCC testing.  Even after losing an hour of sleep this weekend.  Even if it took a book about snakes (ewwwww).

March 12, 2017

Calm before the storm #SOLC17

Join the Slice of Life Challenge
Write every day in March
Even when you lose an hour of sleep
Two Writing Teachers

This morning it was really chilly, but beautifully sunny.

I haven't walked much since last summer for a list of reasons:  unmotivated, hurt feet, walking buddy moved, crummy weather.

I decided to lace up my shoes and just go.  I turned right instead of left.  Past the street I would usually turn on.  Then I trodded up the hill.

The sun was shining, but it's warmth didn't do much against the fierce, cold wind.  I was glad for my mittens, but I was missing my scarf and hat.  The wind kept pushing my hood farther back on my head.

I was the solo walker out this morning.  Few neighbors drove by in their cars.  

I walked to clear my head, listen to the birds and move my legs before I came inside to do homework and other computer work.

Tonight we expect a snowstorm.  I can't belive the lack of snow this season, but winter still has a tight grip.  We are in for 3-6" by Tuesday.

I enjoyed the blue, brilliant sky.  The calm before the storm.

March 11, 2017

Spring #SOLC17

Join the Slice of Life Challenge
Write every day in March.
All slicers welcome.
Two Writing Teachers
Spring is approaching
The sun is warm but the air is cold
I step outside, gloves on hands
and pull down the dry, jagged branches 
of the monster clematis that clings to our fence.

Spring is approaching
I try to connect the hose
failing more than once.
I finally line up the treads
twist, twist, turn on,
big spray, wipe eyes,
now the water is flowing.

Spring is approaching
I take in the sights and sounds
of my yard.
Birds chirping,
grass turning green,
plants pushing through the soft dirt.
What will I plant this year?

Spring is approaching
Time to finish up the indoor projects
and move to the outdoor projects.
Some planned, some spontaneous.
Some long overdue.

March 10, 2017

Collaboration #SOLC17

Join the Slice of Life Challenge
Write every day in March
What will you write about today?
Two Writing Teachers
I usually run reading groups back-to-back from 8:15 a.m. until 12:15 p.m.  Then I emerge for lunch and return to my room for two more groups at 1:00 p.m.  I travel the hallways with my kinders and first graders, but I usually don't see my coworkers until after school.

This week, PARCC testing adjusted our schedules.  I didn't see as many students, and I had some opportunities to reconnect with some staff members inside and outside my building.

I adore my students, but this reconnection reminded me that there are many great minds and ideas around me.  I've been planning our spring reading night with just a couple of colleagues.  Today I started brainstorming with three others, and the ideas were phenomenal.  A couple more teachers stopped by my room while their students were in specials and we planned an entire spirit week.

Standardized tests threw off the whole school schedule, affecting students and teachers (!).  I'm grateful for the reconnection with my staff across small moments this week.  Our students and their families will benefit when they attend our reading night!

March 9, 2017

Tackling a Classroom Library #SOLC17

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Write every day in March
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This week I've assisted our new-to-teaching third grade teacher, Sarah, administer the PARCC assessment.  (Why yes, my legs and feet are sore!  How did you know?)
It's been neat to be part of a classroom community for three days.  Today I decided to spend the entire day with the class and help out Sarah organize her classroom library.
"Do you mind if I cause some chaos?" I asked Sarah.  She was game because she has LOTS of books and wasn't sure where to start.
With an hour between testing and lunch, I invited the class to grab a stack of books and divide them between fiction and non fiction.  After a few minutes of struggle and confusion, I clarified the difference.  We then organized fiction into chapter books, picture books and series.
Next came non fiction.
"Is that real or fake?" someone piped up.
We clarified non fiction and decided to have three big categories:  people, science and animals.
Lunch time and specials came and went.
The kids returned to class and started another PARCC session.  I moved a few books and made more of a mess in non fiction (sorry, Sarah!) 

Today's reflection on our work:  It wasn't very quiet.  It wasn't totally productive, but it was a great effort.  I am seriously impressed by the size of Sarah's library.  She is quite the book finder!

March 8, 2017

Put your butt in the chair #SOLC17

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Write every day in March
A slice is a small piece of writing
Two Writing Teachers
I think I have found the key.

The key to finishing homework, assessments, lesson plans, emails, slices and other paperwork:

Put your butt in the chair.  Then do it.

It isn't as easy as it sounds.

I'd rather be doing anything than sit and work for longer than 15 minutes.  My brain races and spins and tries to come up with an excuse to get up and move.

Dishes?  Laundry?  I'll take care of both and then I'll get back to work.
Copies?  Chocolate?  I think I'll go print and grab a snack before I start on that paperwork.
Friends?  Coworkers?  I just go ask her in person.
Phone ping?  Chocolate craving?  I'll start that homework later.

Yup.  It's true.
I have comfy chairs and rolling chairs.
I have an office, a big table, a clear desk and a laptop.
But I don't have
the ability to prioritize.

Huh.  Makes me feel for the kiddos who feel the same way, day in and day out, at school.

March 6, 2017

Fuzzy buddies #SOLC17

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Write every day in March
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Two Writing Teachers
My shoulders and elbows are a little bit stiff today.  Nope, I didn't play tennis or work out yesterday.  I spent the afternoon gluing googly eyes to pom poms.

Yes,  you read that correctly.

Last year I was wandering the aisles of Hobby Lobby, looking for something to make for my students about to take the PARCC assessments.  I considered...
  • stress balls (too bouncy)
  • balloons with flour (too messy)
  • candy (too much sugar)
  • erasers (too small)
Then I remembered a little fuzz ball with feet and antennae that I got from the fun fair in elementary school.  That was it!  I would make a fuzzy buddy!

Allison (my youngest) helped me glue eyeballs on pom poms last year.  Then I gifted them to the intermediate students at school.

"See, they don't have a mouth, so they are quiet!" I explained.

By the end of the week, some of the students had built little houses for their buddies, and even the "coolest" 4th grade guys were being protective of their new fuzzy pet.

This weekend I bought supplies and received help from Mikayla, a friend of Lindsey's on spring break.  We crafted over 200 fuzzy buddies.  Today I slipped into the 3rd-5th grade classrooms.  I started in 5th grade with kiddos who had a buddy last year.

I showed them a pencil kit from the principal, and then I held out the bag of buddies.  

"Hooray!  Cool!  Oh, yeah!" resounded through the room.

My sore shoulders are worth it.  My heart is full!

March 5, 2017

Hanging with the Hawkeye #SOLC17

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Write every day in March.
Try your best - I missed a day - it's OK.
Two Writing Teachers
On Friday night, we hopped in the car and headed to Iowa City, home of my oldest, Lindsey.  She's in her junior year as a Communications Studies/Political Science major at the U of Iowa.

It was really great to spend time with this kid.  We ate well, and we shopped.  We discussed the full gamut:  politics, her campus involvement, her classes, her possibilities for a summer internship, and her plans for the alternate spring break trip she's facilitating.

When we tried to get a word in edgewise or talk about other things, she pointedly changed the subject, "Let's get back to discussing me!"

Now some would think she was rude, but she wasn't. I get this kid.  I may be wrong, but it was her way of saying,

I am feeling a bit stressed, please let me vent and strategize.
I haven't seen you in person for awhile, and I need to get you all caught up.
I need you to validate (in a small way) all the things I am involved with as well as all my plans.

We did leave after lunch on Saturday because it is midterm week.  Lindsey had lots of papers due on Monday, and we didn't want to be in her way of completing anything.

There's nothing like seeing your kid at college, especially after their first two years are behind them.  My daughter has become an individual (see, Lindsey - I got the message!) who is capable, empowered, involved and insistent on making her mark on the world.  We parents get to ask questions and hear the details, but she makes all the decisions.  

March 3, 2017

Sloth Love #SOLC17

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Write every day in March
Doesn't that sound like fun?
Two Writing Teachers

Hubby Jeff started working in San Diego last week.  It's been a little bit of transtion to a quiet house for me because he was working locally since December.

Last night he returned with a bag.  Inside the bag was some fur and something rectangular.

"When I landed in San Diego on Sunday, he was sitting in the window of the store," explained Jeff.
"I had to bring him home."

Such sloth cuteness!  I've got some jealous friends at school who are big sloth fans!

And the book!?  Hooray for nonfiction!  I can't wait to spend some quality time reading about sloths with my new fuzzy friend.

Thanks, darling husband!

March 2, 2017

Grocery shopping #SOLC17

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Write every day in March
You know you want to try!
Two Writing Teachers
Image result for i never met a carbohydrate i didn't like
(Button art by Sandra Boynton)

Yup, I'm a foodie.
I love to eat, but
I really don't like to cook.
I leave that super power to my husband, Jeff
We call him Cheffrey (get it!?)

Unfortunately Jeff travels each week to his consulting job,
so I'm left to be
creative?      brave?    desperate.

Frozen pasta + frozen cooked chicken + pesto in a jar = tonight's dinner  YES!

Allison eating out with friends?
I'm on my own for dinner?

Scrambled eggs + English muffin + fruit ... for the WIN!

Tonight I must hunt, forage and collect food at the grocery store.
I'm overwhelmed by the choices.
Even though I can more easily walk through the bakery
(my sweet tooth is tuned to dark chocolate)
and I can choose healthy veggies, fish and chicken,
it's still a challenge.

I'm all set to go.
Wrote my list, gathered my reusable bags,
laced up my gym shoes.

Off I go to the grocery store
a place that should be fun, but to me
it's just a place
where I overthink
the daily BIG QUESTION

What's for dinner?

March 1, 2017

Here We Go (YEAR 6 ?!?!) #SOLC17

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Write every day in March!
Two Writing Teachers
Holy moly, guacamole!

I just zipped to the SOLC data form and had to count on my fingers
 (HEY - it's a strategy)
to figure out this is year six for me.

Huh.  I didn't realize how time has FLOWN by!

Because I have not been a weekly slicer for a while
(you did see the name of my blog, right?  The subheading should be Life of a Super Procrastinator)
theres LOTS of topics to write about!

Here's a sneak peek for March, friends:

  • The Sherwood Lane Little Free Library is O P E N  (*throws confetti*)
  • I will have Spring Break all to myself
  • I {heart} chocolate, books, and coffee
  • Grad school (halfway through 2nd masters)
  • college-aged daughters
  • stress, ramblings, silliness
  • making vacation plans (San Diego in May)
  • anything my brain churns up
So welcome to the chaos, the stress and the F U N of slicing!!

So glad you're here, and I made it in time to write!

February 14, 2017

Love #SOL17

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Two Writing Teachers

Love is...

  • taking a late night call from your oldest to catch up on her day and provide support
  • not getting mad at your youngest for swiping your conditioner from the shower
  • sending your husband off with best wishes for a healthy heart checkup
  • coming to teach in the morning when you reallllyyyy need another hour of sleep
  • teaching your developing readers and writers how to write a kindness note
  • watching them think and encourage and decorate and help each other write notes
  • helping students deliver notes to pleasantly surprised staff members
  • getting messages of love from your family over social media
  • spending dinner with your daughter and laughing over messed up quesadillas
  • browsing at the bookstore, choosing just the right books for the upcoming baby shower
  • warming some milk, chocolate and cinnamon for a delicious hot cocoa
  • writing a slice showing gratitude for a really sweet day

February 7, 2017

One Little Word? Not yet. #SOL17

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Two Writing Teachers

2017 started yesterday, right?  Yeesh - I'm 38 days late to that party!  Whooosh - this new year is already flying by.  Lots of excuses and reasons I haven't written on the blog or read a lot of books:
  • grad school AGAIN (ESL endorsement 84% complete)
  • new principal ('nuff said)
  • second year at new school
  • too much paperwork I keep putting off
  • lots of political tweets and news and events to follow
  • everything else has bumped writing out of the way
This year I'm trying something new (because I'm refining and trying strategies every day) of stopping and thinking before I jump in to:  answer for someone else, raise my hand to volunteer or help a child or adult do something that they are capable of doing themselves.

So that leaves me with the question... what IS my One Little Word for 2017??

Is it...
  • stop
  • pause
  • mindful
  • reflect
  • choose
Calling all readers ... do you have some advice?  I tend to talk about being intentional with my fellow teachers, but I'm too impulsive for that one.

Thanks for listening.  It was good to write and get this out of my head.