Monthly Archives: October 2013



love to write, love to think, love to SLICE... please join our community

love to write, love to think, love to SLICE… please join our community

I have not shepherded my ‘own’ classroom of children for about fifteen years now. I made the decision to leave my middle school team and work with teachers and students who were in their own little community of learners, but not mine. On some days, I am filled with envy whenever, I see a teacher with their flock hovering close, saying goodbye to their classroom teachers, on a Friday afternoon.

After school, I supervise a group of students who are waiting for their day care busses. Not one of these students are in any of my small groups. Many of them have a great deal of difficulty even understanding that I am a teacher in our building. Sometimes I feel lonely as I wait with them. Slowly, I am trying to build relationships… one student at a time as I ask them about their school day and see some of their books and treasures. But many days it feels like I am herding cats. They are tired and a wee bit cranky, especially the youngest. And when they are tired and cranky…you guessed it, so am I.

This last week as I turn the corner, I see a mom exiting our building with her children. They are smiling…laughing. It is one of my second graders and I say, “Bye, Charlie, have a great weekend.” His mom stops and looks at me and says,

“Mrs. Hatcher, you are magical.”

I’m speechless for a moment. I breathe in and say, “Thank you so much.”

This last Friday, a moment to savor.



Princess finally arrived at Midway Airport in a sweet, sleepy bundle. She immediately wanted to hold her Papa Dave and let me give kisses. Sam remembered us! She just has to be the smartest two-year old in the world. I do know one thing for sure after being with Princess for a week… she is the most exuberant two-year old I’ve known for many years. She is rivaled only by my firstborn, her mommy, Em.

She needs to be on the move constantly, navigating our two-story home adeptly. She has opened every dresser and cabinet drawer, unscrewed every bottle, opened ever door, climbed on top of every table and hung from the elliptical and tried to make friends with a mother and baby raccoon strolling through our backyard. And all that happened just in the two hours after I got home from school today. She is joyful, amazing, ambitious and has no fear,
Except… when her Mommy and Daddy are not in sight.

They are her rocks, they are teaching her to fly. This little girl has traveled more miles in her two year old life than I have in my uh…50 something years. In the last two weeks before they landed in Illinois she has lived in 8 different homes. Her security lies in the two most familiar faces to her, Em and John. On Friday night, Emily and John went on a date without her. When it was time for bed there was heart wrenching wailing coming from Sam’s little body and mine!

I never really thought that this would be our life. I thought Em would marry a boy from our town and live down the block. I thought that I would probably get to cuddle my grandchildren as much as I cuddled with my own grandma. I never thought I would hear my grandchild’s first word over a miraculous machine that lets us chat and see each other. Our lives are sometimes unexpected and different from what we thought they would become. I’m learning how to live like this…. and some days it is very hard.

One thing I know is this, I would never trade this little person and her two wonderful parents for all the coffee in South America! And I really, really love my coffee.

Oh, and Papa Dave? I would be kind of lost without him too.

Here are some pictures from the greatest pumpkin patch around…

PS Where is Sam in the princess costume??? It is not hemmed yet…she does not stand in one place long enough to pin it up. Hopefully, it will get done this week in time for Trick or Treating.

feeding the giraffe

feeding the giraffe

Corn crib is like one huge sandbox, but much cleaner!

Corn crib is like one huge sandbox, but much cleaner!

food is my life

food is my life

how can a CARIN can help


I saw this picture in my file.  It is from a camping trip out west.   It is called a ‘carin’.  If you are a hiker, it sometimes used as a marker to show that you are on the right path.  Hikers will often add a rock to a carin and help to rebuild a carin that is toppling. We can apply this concept of a carin to our lives in the classroom.

5 Rocks and a mountain range



With all this drama in schools today, I believe we need to stick to our ultimate goal…teaching our children to the be our new leaders, dreamers, researchers, care-givers, writers, readers on this planet.  Oh, I cannot forget problem solvers (that would involve some math, I guess).

How are we doing on this collectively?  I think we need to listen first to the individual voices of the children in our classrooms.  Are we listening to them?  Do we value them as learners and future citizens?

Stick to the path, put a rock on the carin as you listen and figure out what they need next.

We cannot do this job alone…educating.  We need our administration, our families… but more often than not, we need to work and understand special talents that those around us possess and that we possess…our team members.

Stick to the path, put a rock on the carin as you figure out your strengths and then share them with your wonderful teacher friends.

Some us sometimes tend to admire the problem and linger a bit too long in the muck.  I know I do.  Make a determination inside of yourself that you will fight this tendency.

Sitck to the path, put a rock on the carin as you wage war against complaining and ask yourself, “Does whining ever help?”

I know that there are other areas in being a teacher that I need to improve and that is the point.  We will never stop growing and learning and that is exactly what we want every child in our classrooms to come to understand.  We are their models, they look to us to lead them down the path.

Look to your successes. Put rocks on the cairns. Learn from the failures, and keep walking.


Waiting for Princess

love to write, love to think, love to SLICE... please join our community

love to write, love to think, love to SLICE… please join our community

Waiting, not so patiently, waiting…  I know that I’m not so patient with so many things, but waiting for my saucy, rosy hummingbird, Samantha, has kind of put me over the edge.  She lives so far, she smells so sweet, milky skin so satiny smooth…almost like a Disney princess.  For Halloween her mother, my daughter thinks she would really like to be a Disney princess.  Now do two year olds really get Halloween yet?  I don’t think so, but I know that she loves to dress up…because her mother did for Halloween, all the way through her high school years and then into her teaching years.  Halloween…not my favorite holiday.  I think everyone should be mummy and be done with it.

So now I think back and remember the last costume that I sewed from a pattern was for Em when she was 4.  My husband taught Middle School back then and he had to supervise the dance.  He wanted Emily to go and he wanted her to be a cute white bunny that had pink ears.  I got the pattern stitched it up, even though it was hard for me to get through each day because Jeff was born in September.  I’m sure Davethought, “After all …what did she (being me) have to do all day.” (I had taken a leave from teaching 6th grade).    So I whipped up the outfit at record speed.  At the dance, Em asked Dave if he could bring her to the washroom.  As they were moving to the door she said, “Daddy, my hands really hurt.”  He looked down at her hands….”THEY WERE PURPLE!”  I had sewed the elastic too tightly at her wrists.   She was now a cute pink eared bunny with purple hands.   He quickly found a scissors and rescued my poor baby bunny.

So I hung up my sewing shears and neverI used my sewing machine for making clothing.  Until now… until Princess.  I thought I would give it another try.  My grandma had taught me how to sew.  She taught first that every direction needed to be followed.  She taught me also how to used a tiny instrument called a ripper.  She also talked to me about how important it was to rip when necessary.  This is what separated an excellent seamstress from a mediocre one.  In the process of getting Princess done, yes, I had to be a ripper.  Yes, I had to read the directions over and over.  And yes, whenI didn’t follow a step that required basting….I was in trouble.

It took patience.  It took a knot in my stomach.  I had to stop the process, take a break and then try again.  It is very similar to what I do every single day with my sweeties in small groups.  It is what all need to do when we are learning something new or trying again after many years of avoidance.

But next Sunday I will be able to welcome Princess and zip her up as Cinderella.  At least I hope I will be able to zip her up.  Notice in the picture I’m not letting you see the beautiful zipper work on the other side.  But patience did prevail as I hope it will while I wait… one more week for Princess Samantha.


Stapling Close Reading


Five minutes before I had to go out on bus duty I had sweet, beautiful new teacher in the hallway stop to ask me about close reading, which she was going to try, because she had seen a little bit of it last year.  I’m assuming that was when she was student teaching, because in our district it is determined that we will look at math common core first…because it is so different.  I was intrigued because I have been reading everything I can on reading and writing common core but as far as I knew, most of my teacher friends in the classroom were mainly experimenting around with math and have been so inundated that reading as been remained status quo, for now.  She quickly explained how she would be doing a non-fiction read with her social studies textbook.  I said, “Awesome….so glad that you are trying….”

Later that week I went into her room so that she could watch another teacher do the DRA2 which she was going to administer to her students the next week.  When I was in her room I smiled, a bit sadly, I admit, at her very little bookcase filled with a scant amount of books for her students to borrow for independent reading. Irritation filled me…new teachers need more books and a budget…one of my pet peeves.  As I was looking at the titles ,I did spy one of my favorites that I used when I taught middle school over 16 years ago.  Oh how I loved using this book for powerful beginnings.  You want to know the title… I know all of you do.   But the title is going to remain a secret  because of a few little problems I encountered along the way.

When this first year teacher came back to the room, I asked her if I could demo ‘close reading’ with this very beloved title that I treasured when I taught seventh.  It was easily a hard text for most of these fifth graders.  I had just listened to Franki Sibberson’s pod cast with Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts.  I was going to plan, using some of their ideas.  Their book will be coming out with Heinemann soon….Falling in Love with Close Reading.  This is just an aside, I know, but I have always been in love with reading closely.  My mom always has said, that I just “think too much”.  My dad always has said, “Can’t you just read and stop looking for the ‘underlying meaning’? I’ve always loved poetry…not writing, but reading from an early age.  Well, I probably should have planned this close read with a lyric or an ancient poem favorite, but I didn’t.  I wanted my old favorite to bring me and the fifth graders happiness.  Yep, I wanted them to fall in love.

So last week I planned, scanned part of the story from Trelease’s Read Aloud Anthology and tried to figure out the Smart Board.  I put the title on the first page along with the words…giving Close Reading a Go, I speak Australian when I’m excited.  I was going to chunk, re-read, re-read, re-read with only part of the text.  When we do ‘close read’, I think it is so important that we ‘don’t kill the text’.  I also think it is important that kids get this internal structure going of re-reading and asking themselves questions after each reading.  I was flipping through the book, because, after all, I hadn’t read it in a very long time…since high school.  What?  you may be asking now….I thought you said that you taught it in middle school.  Nope, I only taught the opening scene in conjunction with teaching ‘leads’ in writing.  So I noticed that there is some infidelity going on in this book.  There are a few swear words too.  Doing further research I noticed that this was on the ‘banned book list’ many, many years ago.

“Yikes….what have I gotten myself into this time?”

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a prude, but I don’t do books with fifth grade kids that have references to affairs,  I have been talking about this for years…know the books that you are using…blah, blah, blah.  There are so many books out there…be choosy and don’t expose our kids to things that you are not ready to talk to them about.

Sigh…this was Thursday.  I talked over with some of my first grade friends.  One of my friends said, choose another book…could, but I didn’t have time and I just couldn’t wait to use this favorite with them, I’m stubborn. Then she said,” just use the book but don’t give the title.” Hmmm, this had possibilities.  So I quickly changed the first page, copied the first page again, now just with, giving Close Reading a Go.  After all, I know I have heard it many times, don’t give background information when you close read…so the back ground information just wouldn’t include the title.  JUSTIFYING.   I hadn’t figured out yet what I would say if they did ask for the title.

Friday morning I pulled off all the cover sheets from the packet.  I copied the new cover sheet and changed it in the presentation.  I began stapling the sheet back on, feeling really pretty guilty.  I finished about ten and ran out of staples.  I put in more staples in my, older than dirt, stapler.  I put it upright and shot the stapler as I always do to make sure it was working again.  My index finger on my left hand was sticking straight up in the air.  I looked at my finger again after I felt the pierce.  Well, I guess this is what I get for trying to be so sneaky, my punishment, my penance.

I went up to talk to the new teacher about why I wasn’t going to mention the title of the book.  I don’t know if she understood my angst, but then she hasn’t the prior knowledge that the rest of my staff does about knowing your books….blah, blah, blah.

You may be wondering about how it went.  Yep, we close read only page one and this predictably  engaged their minds and hearts like I knew it would.  We finished with me reading aloud and them doing T and T (turn and talk) and I left them hanging and begging for more.  You could say, “I stapled it on that day, reading one of my favorite treasures.”

But then came the dreaded question, I felt it coming on like a winter wind.  “What’s the title? I want to read the book”  I looked at the little sweet girl and calmly said, “Oh my middle school teacher friends would be so mad at me if they knew I got you into this book before seventh grade….I think you’ll just have to wait for this one.”

She said, “Well, I’m not sure I like that answer.”  I thought, “I’m not sure I like that answer either.”