Monthly Archives: February 2014

I look at him…


slice button this marchI look at him, those melty eyes.  The desktop is at his chin.  I’ve got to get another desk, to assess, to measure his progress.  He pulls his book pouch up, brings his sticker chart out.

I read, Mrs. Hatcher, I read.

He knows how to get to me, how to pierce my soul.  I hand the sticker to him and say,

Bud, I think you’ve got to get on your knees to be able to see the words.

He stands up on the chair, braces his hands on the desk and gets down, readied for the minute timing.  I brace myself.  I know it’s only one minute, but I mentally calculate how many more of these I will deliver to students before the end of my teaching season.  It is a disturbing number.  He, of course is using only one strategy because the words are tightly packed on the page, like a chapter book.  He reverts to tracking the text for fear of getting lost in the sea of text.  A minute is blessedly over.  I sigh, knowing that I will do twenty-eight more of these before the day is over.  He says,

Mrs. Hatcher where were you?

I had meetings, Bud, you know that I miss your group when I don’t see you…right?

Our meetings involve talking about all the one minute timings.  And it was a hard week talking about the dots on the line.  Buddy looks up with a smile,

I keeped reading, Mrs. Hatcher, I keeped on.

Every week, I have to spend an entire day giving an assessment that lasts one minute.  It is different than a running record, given with a book at their instructional reading level.  Running records inform my instruction.  I can tell whether my students are using their strategies that I am teaching.  The one minute timing creates anxiety, at least in my heart.  I will go to my grave saying that it is not designed for the emerging reader.  Some of that may be changing for us next year…I’m crossing my fingers and toes.

I treasure this little one, who leaves everyday for a house without a mom. He is ‘keeping on with his reading’ despite the fact that he shares a small bedroom with two brothers and cousins.  He takes pride in his little stack of books that get read over and over.  He has even found his special spot to keep his books safe.  I know that it will take years for him to develop into a reader and a writer of note (English is not his first language).  Will we be patient with him in our system?  It is longer than a minute.  I wake up about this.  I pray we will because he is so worth that effort.

Oly…not the usual tribute to the winter games…


slice button this marchShe normally was pretty quick, Oly the cat.

We got her before the winter Olympics, before we had children.  This story must be set in the late seventies or early eighties- whatever- I’ll have to do some research to find out when and where.

All I know is that I’ve always loved the name Oly (pronounced Olee) because they called many Swedes in my family that as a nickname.  Usually it was used sarcastically…like only a Swede would look at something, or eat something like that.  Have you ever tried Lutfisk?  It is a very nasty fish to eat, unless you are Swedish. Butter noodles was also a staple at my house and ‘ah yes’, I’ll never forget the hardtack, I think you can imagine that taste!  Throughout my life really I’ve worn my 100% Swedish heritage like a badge of honor until someone would say, usually in jest, your just a ‘big dumb Swede’, or Nancy, don’t you know that Swedes are cold and aloof people, just like the weather?  Well anyway, it was a perfect name for a cat that a person might get right before the Olympic games.

Now, back to the cat – we adopted this cat from Dave’s uncle.  We were habitually nursing cats back to health before we had our children.  We were experimenting or practicing parenthood.  Dave, who is only half Swedish has a very tender heart, and his uncle could also be called a tender-hearted farmer.

She came on a winter day, snow-white in color and as a matter of fact  had some ‘Casper’ like qualities.  Any time the doorbell rang she’d run and hide and we wouldn’t see her for a day or so.  Oly the cat was reclusive, just like her ancestors from the ‘motherland’.  When finally we did see her, I wondered if she had found some mice in our basement, she seemed so much bigger than when we got her from the farm.  And her behavior started changing.  I would pick her up and she would purr.  I would snuggle with her on the couch and she would stay…more purring.

Her personality was loving; she was no longer an aloof stranger in our home!

One Saturday I was snoozing on the couch.  The Olympics were playing in the background, ice and snow and skiers, kicking up powder.  Oly was laying prone in my lap.  Her tail was facing me, she was still a bit strange.

 Don’t all cats lay the other way? I remembered asking myself.

Suddenly, I was jolted out of my snooze, what had happened?  Had we won gold? No, I realized that my lap and pant legs were wet.  I’ll give a clue…it wasn’t snow, and it wasn’t ice.

It was warm and it was ….moving!  Oly had one, only one, big, dumb Swedish  kitten on my lap! Yikes, this had never happened, ever before in my lifetime.  Has it ever happened to you?  You might be wondering what I did.

I waited.

Oly eventually turned around and started to lick her newborn snow-white kitten, purring as she went, a definite pro. And it seemed to me, a light of intelligence was sparkling in her eyes.   After the licking she picked her new child up by the scruff of the neck, hopped off the couch, brought her downstairs to the laundry room where she had prepared a not so intelligent place for baby…on the cold concrete floor!  I really don’t want to say this, but  I’m back to that  big dumb Swede phrase again.

I’m not sure that I ever recovered from being birthed on.  I do remember Dave calling and telling his Uncle that the ‘white cat’ was completely recovered and we both would be dropping off Oly and her huge kitten, the next time we were down to visit.

Snip, snap, snout this cat tail is all told out.

PS  Did the research:  these Olympics were held in 1980 in Lake Placid.  It was memorable in so many ways- the birth of one cat and  our hokey team getting  gold medal when they weren’t favored (back then we played with collegiate players).  Eric Heiden also won 5 gold medals in speed skating.

PSS Daddy, if you are reading this, please excuse the word ‘dumb Swede’…even though you are the one who taught it to me.  And I think you raised 3 daughters, that also are the opposite of ‘cold fish’.  We are warm and loving women and one that has even put up with a cat delivery on her lap!

what would have happened?


slice button this marchDo you ever play this game in your head?  “What would have happened if…?”  What would have happened if I hadn’t placed my lunch in the back of the choir tour bus where Dave was sitting? Would we have met? Would we have ever found each other on campus? What would me life exactly look like right now if that first encounter hadn’t happened?

What would have happened if I hadn’t subscribed to Stenhouse Newslinks and I wasn’t checking the website when Stacy and Ruth’s first book came out?  Would I have ever googled their names to find out what they were up to? Would I have ever found the ‘Slice’?  Would I have ever been intrigued enough to start a blog on my own?

Every week your writing changes me.  It has taught me community can be built by putting words down, one at a time.  Comments connect us as much as the stories write.  We visualize each other’s lives in the corners of our country and beyond.  We understand the human condition better and grow wiser every week as we read and write.  It is something that we want to share with our students, and with our teacher friends that say, ‘there never is enough time,’ or writing is ‘just not my thing’.  

Looking back over the last few years at my writing is almost painful.  But, I also have also seen the growth…I’ve had some good ideas, however, it is so interesting how your stories have mentored and coached  me.  I am honored every time a person chooses to read my post, every time a person connects their story to mine.  What would have happened if I hadn’t met you?

PS This will be the third time I’ve done the ‘Slice’.  I  always get all these questions in my head…will I have enough time, will I have an idea every day, can I really make it, should I write some posts before we begin, I am I too old,  how can I keep exercising too?

PSS The answers…I’ve found that the answers do come along the way, however, a few things that I’m doing ahead are:   writing working titles for stories I haven’t ever written about in WordPress post section for easy access.  I also am going to go back on old slices and do some revising…I hope this is cool with Stacy and the girls.

PSSS If I look at this writing as my best ‘first draft’…like we talk about with our kids, I think I will be able to make it.  I’m looking forward to growing up more in this 3rd year of posting in the challenge.  The PS thing also really seems to help me 🙂 And I you haven’t ever noticed, I don’t always like to follow convention.

‘treasure box’


slice button this marchMany of you are familiar and many of you have the same ‘box’ in your classroom.  My students who come in small groups to my room, get a sticker every day if they remember to read their book from the previous day to someone at their house.  Repeated reading is an important aspect of our reading program.

We start every day with sticker happiness and ‘check-in’ with each other around the group.  There is also sometimes a count of how many stickers they have or how many days they have left until they get a pick from the ….’treasure chest’.

read this 1

My treasure chest is old and falling apart.  About ten years ago my mom told us that we could take anything we wanted from the basement in our summer-house in Michigan.  This quaint house is in a beautiful location.  We face a beautiful small lake that has a channel out to Lake Michigan.  We have had years of family fun at this wonderful little house that has remained unchanged on the inside since my Great Aunt and Uncle lived in it.  They never had children, but my aunt was greatly loved in this small town because she was the town’s beloved kindergarten teacher.  She had spent all her years living and teaching in Whitehall.  Her hobby along  with her husband was looking for antiques.

So…the majority of her antiques have stayed right where she had placed them.  My mom put those things that she deemed, “worthless”, down in the basement.  One summer day I looked at this peeling brown box and decided it was the perfect size for my treasure chest and it came home with me.

Last week, a surprising thing happened.  A cardboard piece fell out of the chest and one of my cuties said,

“Mrs. Hatcher, this piece fell out, what do I do?”

In the middle of something else, I sighed, and walked over to have a look.

read thisBelieve it or not, I had never seen this part of the box.  It was staring up at me and it said, “READ THIS” !  The first thing I did was read the date.  It was dated 1889.  I was in shock and in awe.  I knew that it was old, but not this old!  I knew that the Civil War had ended about twenty years earlier.  I had shivers, realizing that the box that contained weird little treasures that my kids like…was a treasure itself.

To be truthful, my kids that day were more interested in what the box contained.   But I declared,

“This box is old, even older than Mrs. Hatcher.”  The second graders just looked at me.  I continued,

“It was 1889, how can we figure out how old this box is?”  They were pretty much befuddled.  I said,

“It’s a math problem, how can we solve it?”

One said timidly…”we add???”

“Nope, I said…guess again!”

Another said, “Well all I’ve got is subtract if you won’t let us add.”

“Right, I responded, What number goes on top?”

One said, “I don’t get it.”  I thought, so much for CCSS math stuff we have been working on for 2 years!

Exasperated,  I said, “What year are we living in?”

“2104!” they chimed together.   Finally we were getting somewhere.

I said, “2014 is bigger than 1889 so we’re putting it on top.”  Of course, we had to regroup (I hate zeros in subtraction, I always have and always will)  I did the regrouping and then we subtracted.

This box was very old, 125 years old, to be exact.  What was in the box?  I read the information and we did some second grade Close reading on the paragraph.  This is what it said:

Read This 2Wow, a sword blade, a uniform.  I know I was amazed.

“Boys and girls, we have a mystery…why did this person need a uniform and a sword blade?”


“Common, give it a try.”


“Well, how can we find out?”  I was waiting, hoping beyond hope for an amazing answer… one that would involve the word ‘research’.

One little one smiled and said, “Mrs. Hatcher, you don’t have to sweat it…just ask your phone.

“Oh…I smiled, Good answer! Go ahead, friends…  you can finally pick your treasures.”

Later on that day I went on a treasure hunt of my own.  I am guessing from the information that I found is that the uniform was a Mason uniform and the blade was a decorative part of the uniform worn back in the day.  I saw a treasure chest on-line that was sold in an auction that looked just like my trunk, only in better condition.  It went for about $150.00 about five years ago with the uniform and blade still in it.

It was a fun treasure hunt for me to go on, thinking that I had something that was of real value.  A good lesson for me. And who would have thought… just another way to use my phone!

slice 3


slice button this marchFor those of you just tuning in today, I have been on a writing quest…trying to figure out what is next in my career.  I will be retiring from the day-to-day in June.  Many days I just don’t feel ready.  I thought that maybe by writing about my career, I would start to see the new path a bit more clearly.

In writing we try, or at least when I taught 7th grade to apply slow motion to a scene.  I’m going to try the opposite,  kind of like middle of the night thinking for me….loved school…loved team…wasn’t sure about having my own family…pregnant…oops…feisty strawberry blonde chickie Emily Anne...DIVIDED HEART…long drive and woes in the snow…yikes…oops…big boy Jeff came home in a Bear’s uniform (last time they were good)… double DIVIDED HEART and a husband that coached all year and graded papers every after church while watching Bears and Bulls (who were good)...DIVIDED HEART , punished by a toddler who wanted his mama more than just two hours a night…resignation…multiple jobs…Lamaze teacher…YMCA toddler teacher…


teacher supervisor,



besides children,

I’m in love with adults,

teaching all sorts of crazy things,

and then…

no more hour and half commutes in the snow and ice, torrential rain and wind,

a half time reading opportunity



half time really is code for no plan time, lunch, or insurance

are we all ready what full-time means?

yes and no…

Nancie, Smokey, Donald early pioneer leaders,


preparing my way,

my itching,

for my life of  teaching


13 year  olds,

who some claim

are the selfish years,

the testy years,

 and yes sometimes

the craze of hormones challenged my love,

but is still lingers there,

even today

 as I do a lesson

in reading closely,

I crave the age where they learn far more out of the classroom

than in

what a blessing they were,

an all-consuming, harrowing ride,


my child was in the same grade,


they got more of my soul

than my own




it was

time to


Draft 3

somehow I’m

…always revising….