Monthly Archives: August 2012

Editing, “there is work to be done”


Opening the paper this morning, I noticed the headline to the right One step changed the world, First man to walk on the moon dies at 82. My heart skipped a beat, Neil Armstrong, one of my earliest heroes was no longer walking on the earth.  Earlier this year, in March, I was moved once again by the famous story after reading Robert Burleigh’s picture book One Giant Leap.  I wrote a post about it during the March Slice of Life writing challenge because it is one of the new fantastic non-fiction books that has the realistic voices of the people who experienced the first moon walk.

As I was reading the story about Neil in our local paper this morning my mind was riveted by these words,

“I am and forever will be, a white socks, pocket protector, nerdy engineer and I take a substantial amount of pride in the accomplishments of my profession.”

My own dad, an 86-year-old nerdy engineer, will be visiting me today and will definitely be saddened by the death of Neil Armstrong, this humble man who I’ve quoted over and over in my classrooms throughout the years.

“That’s one small step for man-one giant leap for mankind.”

Today I discovered that I have misquoted his famous words.  Neil Armstrong has always said that he was misquoted on that day.  Neil Armstrong, who has led a quiet, life as a teacher of engineering  has said that he remembers himself saying in the moment,

That’s one small step for a man-one giant leap for mankind.”

It’s a subtle difference, but somehow I know that he would like it if I start putting it the ‘a’ in when I quote him.  Today I am going to make it right. I will edit my original post and when I read the book to my classes I will tell them that the people on earth didn’t hear the ‘a’ because of the static.  I feel like a precise engineer would be happy with that, remember I grew up with one!

I will also honor him tomorrow by reading Burleigh’s picture book to a group of students.  This book captures the intensity of the lunar landing in that exact moment when Armstrong needed to manually take over the module for a  safe landing.  I think it is so interesting that the computer had programmed  the module in a  dangerous spot and his years of practice and flight training took over in the end to save the mission with only 8 seconds of fuel to spare !

Yesterday, when I was researching his life I wanted to hear him speak.  He granted only a few interviews throughout the years, but I loved this interview he did with an Australian CPA.  Watch it with your students to honor one of America’s best space explorers.

PS  I know this is a small thing…but I wondered if he had planned his famous quote before the actual moment.  In the interview he said he planned it as he was leaving the module before he stepped on the moon’s dusty surface.

PSS More trivia, their footprints are still up on the moon 43 years later  because of the lack of  ‘moon weather’!

I know it’s hard; try to be brave!


My beginning of the year looks a little different from all the other teachers at my school.  The last ten years I’ve start out by assessing our kinders in Letter Identification, and then move to helping assess the new students to the school…I’ve had two full day meetings with the other specialists in the district, planning for writing rubric training…the list goes on and on just like everyone else.  We are never done, the list keeps rolling.

This year in our district it feels like an uphill battle, especially in our lower primary.  Class sizes in first grade have moved up to 34; we need 35, in each class, to open another section.  We are working without a contract…and class size is the most important item ‘on the table’.  I feel like there are audible sighs of weariness echoing through our school building after only one week.  My  plans for ‘wagging more and barking less’ seem almost like a broken promise that I’ve tried to make to myself and my friends.

On Thursday afternoon I heard yet another preschooler sadly sobbing in the hallway.  Suddenly, I heard this sweet voice of a kindergartener that I had just finished testing.

“I know it’s hard; try to be brave ! “he said to the very upset preschool child.

“Did I just hear that, or did I imagine it?” I thought.

Out of the mouth of a little boy who had just been at our school for only one week.

The preschooler stopped crying and I started.

Sage advice that I think  all of us need to move into our hearts.

“I know it’s hard; try to be brave ! ““I know it’s hard; try to be brave ! ““I know it’s hard; try to be brave ! “

XO nanc



The back story:  

Who couldn’t love both of these faces?  Four years ago, Jeff graduated from college with a degree in history and communication.  After a great internship in digital media, this excellent company that he hoped to work for, closed its doors.  Our economy was tanking and recent graduates were wondering what was next.  Jeff was among then.  We did what any loving parents would do, we bought him a beagle puppy.  She was the sweetest girl, but after about six months of struggling,  Jeff decided to leave the state…head west to Colorado to go back to school.  So Niia, his puppy moved in with us.  We had an older beagle that we loved and Niia… spent about a year of her puppyhood with us.

The second year Jeff was in Denver, he was able to rent a house that allowed dogs.  He wanted his snuggle puppy back.  I gave her back grudgingly, hoping that he’d take care of her, and I’m pretty sure he did!

I didn’t get to see her again until I went out for his graduation.  I loved when she jumped all over me, howling with excitement.  I don’t care what anyone says, dogs have a great memory for their best friends!  The first day I was there, Jeff went to work and I just took Niia for a walk, read and enjoyed my peace after just finishing a crazy school year…I had to save some energy for the late afternoon hike that we were going to take  in the foothills outside of Denver.

The hike:

When Jeff got home, all three of us hopped in the car.  I had my day pack and my new hikers on.  They were so comfortable and I’m so glad I had splurged on them before leaving Illinois.  We didn’t bring a leash, Jeff said, that Niia always stayed with him when they hiked together.  To my self I thought,

“Well, I had never let Niia, off leash, not once in the year I had her.  She was just too curious.”  Of, course I didn’t say anything.

We got up to the park.  I saw a sign that said ‘dogs must be leashed’.  Jeff said,

“Oh good, look at all these dogs up here off leash, we’ll be fine.”

Well, true to form, she really did hike like a Colorado dog, off leash, trotting a bit ahead of us and then waiting for us to catch up.  We were talking about Jeff’s job at United Way and about how much he loved being out west.  The sun dipped lower in the sky as we hiked up to a clearing where we could see Jeff and Niia’s new city in the valley the end of the day.  Sitting somewhat spent on a rock,  I suddenly noticed Niia wasn’t in view.  Jeff started whistling for her and no puppy came bounding of the forest.  We heard this baying and crashing through the brush.  Jeff said quickly to me,

“This isn’t good, she’s after something.  Mom, you stay here.”

Now in Denver they call the mountains foothills.  I’m from Illinois and I tell you, we were not on a hill….it was a mountain.  The side of this mountain was filled with scree , boulders, short pines, parts where there were major drops and gouges in the earth. We were not in the flat cornfields and I had this sick feeling deep in my gut. But because  Niia continued to bay, I knew that she was okay…maybe hurt but alive.  Jeff was yelling her name as he quickly made his way towards her.  Suddenly all went quiet.  I was nervously waiting at the top.  I started yelling….

“Jeff, Jeff, is she okay?”

He didn’t answer….so I did what any mother of dog and boy would do…it’s something that just wells up inside of us, it is our instinct.  I felt it,  something is definitely wrong, and I’m going to go down the mountain too…   I started to make my way  down the to try to find my boy and my pup.  I am not exactly the most sure-footed person east of the Mississippi, that is something everyone knows about me.  I was sliding, hitting my eyes with pine branches all the while I’m hearing in the back of my mind Jeff’s words to me, “Stay here, mom“.

My stomach started to churn and I thought, “Why do I always have a loose bowel attack when I get bad news?  So I did what any mountain woman would do.  I dropped my drawers, I didn’t have any other choice.  When the episode ended.  I thought… gross…now what, nothing to wipe with.  So I reach in my backpack and grab the Reader’s Digest that I had just read on the airplane and I crazily remember the story that I has so recently read.  It said in disastrous situations people often do the exact opposite of what they should and they get into even a bigger jam.  So I believe in signs, and after I tried wiping with the glossy paper I stopped making my way down the mountain and headed back up.  It turns out that I was pretty lost and no idea where I really was…I just kept going up.  I heard Jeff’s voice at the top as I came up over a boulder.  He still didn’t have the puppy.  I thought at least I had my son and he was safe.  However, our puppy friend was still missing.

At this point darkness surrounded us and it was starting to rain along with crashing thunder.  We hiked back to the car, drove around the mountain near the base, talked to people, went up the mountain again, went down the trail in the darkness calling her name.  Five hours after we started we were about to give up.  Jeff started crying then and mumbled,

” I just can’t leave her out here alone, mom.”

We prayed, we called everyone.

Jeff is so much like his Dad in situations that are tough…he just doesn’t give up. It is never his instinct to give up.   He had one last idea. He  took our 4 runner and backed it up near these metal posts at the base of the trail.  They were there for a reason and we both knew it, but we got the car through with just about a half an inch leeway on either side.  He did a three-point turn and started driving up the trail.

I couldn’t believe my eyes, down the trail  I thought I saw  Niia’s green eyes shining through the raindrops on the windshield!  She was limping down the trail.  Leaping out of the car we  sprinted about  fifty yards.  She fell into our arms, completely dehydrated, but alive! I fed her bottle caps of water as we made our way back to Denver.

Jeff looked at me, “I know, I know, I promise I’ll always keep her leashed.  Thanks for not giving up, Mama. I think I need a pizza.”

“Sounds like a deep dish night.” I said happily.  Chicago pizza, my boy and my pup…life doesn’t get any better than this,  another miracle in our lives together.

what keeps us going


We start this week, I feel like we are the only district around the country that starts this Thursday.  I’ve been working on my room/the book room  all summer because I’ve had to take the intermediate book room and move it together with the primary book room to free up a classroom.

There were times when I just didn’t think I could accomplish it.  But I created my teaching areas:  one for ‘checking in’, breakfast and word work and another for guided reading.  In my forty-five minute blocks I like to move them around, and I guess, come to think of it, I like to move around also.

The book shelves with all our little books are imposing, so I have hung my fabric from Costa Rica, and my striped canvas to shelter out the long shelves that cut the room in half.  Teachers can access the book room when I’m teaching, so my make-shift drapes keep the kiddos from being distracted.  When I’m in the small group they face me and I’m the only person that can see a teacher picking up books.

My friends who are used to me having two rooms think it looks a bit crowded, but I love it.  I have a long, kind of ugly couch that I have placed giant Scandinavian looking pillows on.  I have an antique chair that I painted and  red, yellow and purple to give it a contemporary look.  The low wicker rocker is pretty uncomfortable, but my young friends don’t seem to mind it.  I also have three low stools that I have covered in fabric with a batting underneath.  These were salvaged from when our district was in the construction mode (they used to have electrical wiring on them).  We use them for many things…breakfast tables, performance and just sitting.  A wide green and white striped chair is also a favorite when they are re-reading their little books every day.

Hanging from the ceiling are banners with the strategies, a soft plastic shoe rack that are houses for the stuffed animals .  I have four different blue pocket charts that will get filled with various sorts and short poems that we love. My books are scattered in baskets so they can easily be accessed while they are ‘reading to self’.

One of the most important areas I shall call ‘artifacts’.  It is the area surrounding my computer.  I have a picture of three of my buddies, from Buddy Day eight years ago.  One of the little boys in the picture passed away at the end of that school year.  It reminds me every single day that having students build relationships with me and each other is a strong value that I hold.  I have a new mug that says, Mor Mor on it (Swedish for grandma). Hopefully, I won’t lose that mug this year- not too many Mor Mor’s hanging around Liberty!  I have colorful magnets holding people and verses that I treasure.  This is my work station…but it reminds me every day that moments at my computer count, but people matter.

I thought about a picture for this post, but right now it is missing the most important part of the picture, and I think you know what that is.  Just a hint:  it will never be this clean again!  Happy start ups to all.