Monthly Archives: March 2014

a new book…Soccer Star


SoccerStarI know that this is against the rules; but it is my last post and I’m so excited about this opportunity.  Last year during the ‘slice’ I got an advance copy of a book by an author that I greatly admire.  It was her third book and I was so excited to be able to review her book during the ‘slice’.  This year I wrote to a relatively new author after I was so excited about hearing of her new picture book coming out April 8th.  I told Mina Javaherbin about the ‘slice’ and she agreed to send me an advance copy for her new book, one I will use in my university class this April. So….I am breaking the ‘slicing’ rules on the last day, and sharing this amazing book.  It is about ‘futbol’, the game that the world plays.  Outside of the United States, the game of soccer reigns supreme.

Her latest book, Soccer Star, set in Brazil, arrives on the shelves April 8th.  This is her second book about soccer and it will score big in your elementary classroom this year, before the World Cup games are played in June. The story follows Paulo as he dreams big dreams of soccer stardom.  He hopes to become a star so that his mother won’t have to continue to work so hard and so long to put food on their very humble table.

The author note at the beginning of the book tells of many children in Brazil who work hard to help their families survive.  Many soccer stars world-wide continue to have the same dream as Paulo does.  Paulo works with a fisherman who also plays soccer with him.  Paulo then returns the favor and teaches his little sister the soccer moves and she teaches him math that she learns in school.  Of course his sister Maria begs to play with Paulo and his friends,  however, his team has one rule, “no girls”.  And then one day… This is a story of bravery, of hope and a story that your students, regardless of their social economic status will relate to.  They will beg you to read this story over and over again.  Books like Soccer Star and her first book, Goal,have special power to unite children around the world.  Students will see that we are more alike than different and that their dreams can really come true, for boys and girls alike.

…and she scores, again !

slice button this march


safe until I’m not


i never think,

i mostly always trust,

i think i’m always safe,

until i’m not…

today i walk,

i walk on a fresh




turning a corner i walk up hill,

using my arms,

pumping hard,

my head looks down,

i look up




alone i feel,

i smile,


i nod…wary

he moves

approaching quickly,

i scan the street,

no one


i look forward,

running still

up hill,

i don’t look back,

just forward,





gave up,

I didn’t.

slice button this march

poetry month is coming…


slice button this marchWhen I think of April I always think of poems.  I love the special month celebrations.  We can celebrate!!! Our state testing schedule is over.  Though I am a firm believer in integrating poetry all year-long, I love that April gives a special national nod towards poetry.

This will be the last monthly celebration of my career as a teacher.  I hope I can engage our whole school in Poem in Your Pocket Day.  Maybe I can get help a whole grade level celebrate with a poetry coffee-house.  I’ve always thought there is value in memorizing….it builds fluency and confidence.  Ken Burns of the digital Ken Burns Effect, evidently thinks so too.  This month he is celebrating the Gettysburg Address with a school for ‘gifted learning disabled students’.  Every year at this school the students memorize part of the address.  You can read about it here.  It is his latest digital project…it will be broadcast this April on PBS.

Scholastic and Read Write Think also have a myriad of  poetry resources at every grade level.  If you haven’t ever read the poetry of Amy Ludwig VanDerwater   you are missing out.  She is generous about sharing her poems on her blog and her first poem book has won several awards.  I am a big fan.

The ‘slice’ is coming to a close, however, we have poetry month to look forward to.

new assignment…


slice button this marchThe last several months I have been in search of what the second half of my life maybe will look like.  I’v gone back in time to understand my strengths and weakness along the way of my career.  It has given me insight.  I have prayed and asked God to direct me and to open and close doors.  I am graduating with a number of friends this year.  We’ve all talked about what’s next.  Many of us need to work, at least part-time.  So of course, substitute teaching is a viable option.

One thing however that I’ve discovered is that I’ve never been a ‘wing it’ type of person.  I’m not exactly what you would call ‘flexible’.  I feel the job of substitute teaching is best for a person that can go with the flow, a bit more than I am.  So I have decided that I will substitute only in the building that I have coached and taught in for the last twelve years.  I also want to give my calendar to my friends, so that they know that these are the only days that I am willing to come.

I also plan to still teach in the university program that I have worked hard to build.  It is not a program for the faint of heart.  It is an intensive program that examines and produces leaders in the field of  literacy education.  I am humbled to a teacher in this amazing program.

I have been exploring a new job at my church and I signed a contract to work part-time just a week ago.  It also was a rigorous process, getting this position.  Just a few facts about our church…we are called a ‘mega-church’.  35 years ago when we started in a movie theater we grew faster than lightning.  At that time there were only a few Christian churches bigger than Willow Creek.  Many were critical at the time.  It was a place that we could bring anyone that was curious.  Our music, drama and teaching were second to none.  The daughter of our pastor recently wrote  about what it was like to grow up at Willow…she has become an amazing author and speaker.  But of course, when something grows quickly there are always problems along the way.  A couple of bumpy roads were size and leadership capacity.  Back then were all in our early twenties.  And one thing I know from having three twenty somethings…the brain is not fully functioning until age twenty-five.

So fast forward thirty-five years, obviously we stayed, grew stronger in our faith and raised our children at this place.  Some of you, who know me maybe wonder, did you ever miss being a part of a traditional type of church.  For many years, I really didn’t.  We got involved in small groups early on and it satisfied our personal need for connection…until the ‘crazy’ year  which I call adolescence.  My husband coached three seasons, my children were active, I worked full-time.  We became only Sunday attenders because we couldn’t squeeze anything more into our ‘during the week routine’.  And we really were okay with that.  On Sunday we could sit in the same place, week after week, shake hands with people at the designated time and we were good…until….the mass exodus of children away at college.  Suddenly we felt alone in our mega-church.  I craved and even missed so many things about the small church I grew up in.

Three years ago, a friend, that I shared the bleachers with from our high school asked if we would be interested in this ‘new thing’ at church…making the ‘big church feel small’.  So a spirited, woman, leader who was leading this new charge introduced herself to us.  We were a bit reticent at first because there had been many attempts through the years to get this community thing right.  But gradually we began to love this ‘section’ community.  It is an absolutely genius concept, because if you are a church attenders, you might notice something…everyone alway sits in the same spot.  Our church is massive in scale…main floor, mezz and upper deck.  Each section has from 200-300 seats in it, the perfect mid-sized community.  Every week there are new people who come to our church…we welcome everyone.  The section community and events are orchestrated by the Section Leader.  This is my new job.  Of course we have a fabulous ‘core team’ of people in every section that is devoted to serving as well.  The mid-size community is so important, because some people would like to know many people, but aren’t ready to jump into a small group just yet.  It has been what our church has needed for many years.  Just like in the beginning, it is so exciting  to be a part of something that is so ground-breaking.  I LOVE MY CHURCH!

So just a bit more about how my life seems to always cycle back.  Though I love literacy and reading and writing workshop for many, many years, I believe in ‘building a classroom’ and school wide community is even more essential.  Children thrive in an atmosphere where they are known and trust those around them.  They need to feel freedom to experiment, to use their creativity when they read and write.  The sky is the limit on learning in an environment like this.  I have very intentionally built community every single day,  in every classroom I have been in for the last fifteen years.

So it is with a full heart and buckets of joy that I start this new phase of my life.  I will give it my all and serve my God who sees my every need and blesses me beyond belief.

limping my way the last few days


slice button this marchHey Slicers,

I knew that I should have been more prepared, had more slices and drafts.  It is coming back to haunt me.  Remember I was trying to get fifteen ready when Dave was in Ecuador?  I created only 10 ahead.  It has turned out that I’ve needed all of them because I interviewed for a new job which chopped up a bunch of days. I  got a new job which involved extra hours beyond my days at school.  Now I am on vacation and though my husband promised me time to work, he didn’t tell me that he would get sick in the middle of the trip and we’d spend a day at the ER.  Not that I blame him for getting sick, but I have a tendency to match get ‘sick’ with worry as well

Some of you might be saying…well Nanc, “Cry me a river.”  That is the challenge; working through it all when we don’t have anything more to write, anything more to give.

Well, this is a pretty disjointed narrative, I know.  I’ve tried to follow the rules this year, but today it just seems impossible.  And I feel sulky at best.

I can turn it around.  I can be thankful.  Thankful that Dave didn’t need surgery and though it’s a serious infection we can treat it with antibiotics.  I am thankful that we can still enjoy a few more days and that we will be able to see our son in St. Louis, one of the biggest reasons we headed this way.  I am thankful that my daughter is very healthy and about to have our second grand-daughter and that even though they are far away from us…she works hard to Skype at least a couple of times a week.  I am thankful for a new job, even though it starts, right now.  I’m thankful that I will be  working with people I love  and at a church that I have loved for 35 years.  God is so good to me.

He even gave me a post…another post, when I didn’t think I had anything left to write.




I’ve been waiting to get away, just with Dave, for quite a while.  We were off to a great driving start and made it to the destination.  The sun was shining and we were able to have the good car talk that I have learned to crave.  It is undivided attention and for some reason we are able to listen to each other carefully and weigh our words more thoughtfully as we drive.  Dave drove until lunch and after I picked up the pace.  This is our pattern.  We need continuing talk when he drives because he has a tendency to be lulled into falling asleep on the open road.  My eyes need to fix on his because it can happen at really any moment.  I am also used to when I drive, the radio is my biggest companion.  He promptly takes out his book, reads and then falls asleep because he is comfortable in the fact that I am way too tense a driver to fall asleep.

Today was different however.  He tried to read to get drowsy, but the sleep didn’t come.  He said that he wasn’t feeling so great, that he had a funny pain in his lower stomach.

We got to our destination.  I thought sleep would help.  It really didn’t.  I thought maybe, food poisoning? No other symptoms except for the lower abdominal pain.  It is pretty mysterious, because he still wants to eat, still wants his coffee.

So of course I start googling.  I leave a medical 24 hour clinic on my computer as I turn the lights off on Day #2.  This morning we eat, walk around.  Maybe he should call his Dr. from home.  He grimaces and says, “no, I think maybe I feel better.”

I wait…I type…


thinking about my ‘one word’



the way I want my


to live.

not merry a cliche,

or merry a reminder,

of the hectic




the merry that is

life-giving, not taking.

the merry that  is


the merry that

voices the right


looks forward.


not back

I wear merry happily,

I write the merry


and check them one

at a time.

heart happy,


relational growth,


halting the hectic?

the box is empty,

it needs a mark to be merry,

change is needed,

then peace will usher,


my merry.

slice button this march



slice button this marchI teaching ‘evaluating literature’ at a local university.  This is not your typical, pay the fee, get the degree master’s program.  We like to call it doable intensity.  Not every student is accepted into this Master’s in Literacy program, either, yet everyone survives and thrives.  Over 50% of the students are published in reading and writing journals every year.  Best practice is taught, best practice is expected.

Last year my k-3rd grade section dipped their toes into the blogging world, or at least the commenting world with great success.  Each week, I wrote a post on the book of the week and the students commented about the book and wrote down ways that they would use it with their class…or what lines in the book demonstrated or mentored a writing move that their students might try.  We built a community much like our ‘slicing’ friends.

Week one we talk about book awards and the criteria for the award.  Of course everyone knows about the Caldecott award given for superior book illustration.  I know that this year we are not supposed to do book reviews for the slice, but here is one I can’t resist.  I predicted and loved that Locomotive won the Caldecott.  It also won an honor medal for the non-fiction Sibert award.  How fitting that it won in both categories.  The story has detailed information on both of the end papers and the entire length of the book.  Train aficionados will love this book.  Any little boy or little girl who has a train set up in their basement or around their Christmas tree will love this book.  It has a bit of a narrative imbedded in the book.  The children will notice and even wonder why the family highlighted in almost every page wear blank or very serious expressions on their face.  They will understand why, by the end of this delightful winner.

My new tradition is to get the new Caldecott for my granddaughter every single year.  Oh how I love the book present.  Oh how I love to give books !

PS  My class get 21 brand new books for the class.  I’m the lucky girl who gets to pick them out and give them out every year.

hi, I’m …


slice button this marchI may have told you before.  I’m not so loyal to people when I get my hair cut.  I am more loyal to my schedule and I definitely have a hard time scheduling a haircut, getting a hair cut or even sitting in a chair for very long.  I would prefer to sit and wait for the next stylist than to plan.

Today that might have changed.

Laura and I were getting to the salon at the same time.  It was pretty early in the morning, with snow on the ground.  I logically inferred that most wouldn’t be thinking about hair on a day like this.  She greeted me warmly and I wondered if she was the greeter or the cutter.  She was the cutter.  I wonder if I should try layers again.  I feel bored and need a change, but a too drastic change would absolutely FREAK ME OUT!  I just decided to ask how she felt she did with layers.  She responded very confidently, but then asked a question I didn’t know the answer to, “Do you want just face framing or all over layers.  I looked confused, and said, “I’m not great with my hair, especially in the back.”  What do you think.  Again, very confidently she responded, ” I think we should do the face framing, dry it and then you can see if you want more and I like cutting even after hair is dried.”  Sounds great, I said.

This girl was obviously a second language learner with beautiful curly hair and a smile that dazzled.  She was curious about me and I was very curious about her.  She wondered if I had been in before, I told her lots of times, but the story about me not being very loyal.  I told her that my husband was the opposite of me and he always went to a specific stylist.  She smiled and said Dave’s stylist was her favorite friend at the shop.

The conversation grew into a discussion of family and education.  I told her about my daughter being a missionary in Ecuador.  She asked how she the language difference.  I responded by saying she was learning and it is better being immersed daily.  She smiled and told me that her first language was Spanish, but she had worked hard in high school to learn English.  Her parents moved her back to Mexico for a while and when she came back to the states, it was hard again, causing her to drop out of high school and enroll in beauty school.  Suddenly, in the middle of beauty school, she decided that she wanted her degree and went back to high school and she said, “I finished!” very proudly.  I was proud of her too and said, “Well, you are a very lucky girl to have two degrees…one from beauty school and one from high school.  She bent down low, “I’m going to college to become a nurse now.”

A success…a great haircut for me… and an example of a hard-working bi-lingual student that continues to move forward in her aspirations to better herself and help others.

I have just become a very loyal customer.

Kelly Marie’s gotcha story 2


I’ve been working on so many different things this month…slicing, commenting, new things surrounding my new job at the church I love and last but not least planning my for my class that starts the first week of April.  I have wanted to work on some old slices and drafts….but I am finding that harder than working on new slices.  But one of my favorite old slices from the first year I joined the challenge has always been my favorite.  I was intending to revisit, rework this slice, but something wells up inside and says,” no”.  

Where does this come from?  I believe in full scale revison.  

Then I remember that one of my favorite books was never edited at all.  After Robert Newton Peck wrote The Day No Pigs Would Die, it was typed from his yellow legal pads and brought to Knopf.  At 11 that night Peck was awakened by the editor’s call, “No one will ever dare to try to change a word.” And no one did.  So I will not edit my work on this story.  I want you, who haven’t read our third child’s gotcha story to read it just the way I wrote my best first draft.  She was our best ‘third draft’ and this story continues to unfold in our lives.

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

This was unusual for Dave…after a Sunday message at church he turned to me and said,

“I don’t know what, but I think God is going to be asking us to do something big- that’s gonna change our lives.”

I do remember thinking that this is definitely out of character for my guy that makes sure that he is well researched before making any big decision at all.  He checks the money, he checks the mood, he consults his mother, he wants me to ask my father… yep, God must really be talking loudly today for him to even be telling me this.

The next week, he came home on Tuesday and told me that he found you sitting at a table in the Media Center at school.  You had wanted to stop and let  him know that you wouldn’t be able to play for him this season because they were placing you in another foster placement out of our school district. Dave knew instantly that no…she would be definitely living at our house instead.

We got you and set you up in Jeff’s old bedroom upstairs.  Dave told you that he would paint the room whatever way you wanted. You chose ‘Pepto’ pink with stripes down one side of the wall.  I didn’t like hot pink.  Dave just smiled and painted away.  Your clothes were moved in.  I noticed you were a ‘keeper’ like me…a trunk of cheap stuffed animals and all the dresses and dried flowers from important events.   You said, not to worry, that you wouldn’t get in our hair.  You said you’d be off to college soon and that you were an ferociously independent type of girl.

You hung your pictures back from Jr. High…friends and more friends of every nationality, every creed.

Dave wanted to be your dad, he even looked like you.  You called him ‘Papa’.  You called me ‘Nanc’.

You gave your story to us that told of the day when you thought you were going on a fun mini-trip to a hotel.  You remember that you had your ‘swimmies’ on your arms when you were pulled away from your mother. You thought you were meeting a new friend in a giant building called ‘court’.  You’ve been waiting all this time to be back with your mommy.  It’s been years of waiting and now you are in another placement- my family…and that dream still continues to pulse inside of you.

Don’t worry sweet Kelly, “You can call me Nanc. I know you have a mom.”  I want that dream to stay alive- for her…but I’m fearful of all things big and little… realizing early that years in a group home and then in placements that hadn’t worked out had to have taken a toll.  One day I asked you if you had any pictures of your little girl self.  You said , “not a one…but you said you looked just the same only smaller.”  I tried to imagine, but didn’t want to imagine, a little curly-headed girl with swimmies reaching out to a mom that was walking away.

I think we’ve come to the place eight years later that you are my girl and I am your Nanc , and I’m very happy about that.  Now you have a different dreams that includes a vast array of friends and older folks that have fed into your life for many years…you hope and yearn for the day when you will be a mom, who will hold on tight and never let go….never let go…never let go.

PS because I like them….I am proud of my girl…tell your story…tell it to the world- a story of strength, of perseverance, loyalty and love.

PSS because I just can’t resist…our girl continues to thrive, working in the front office of one of the biggest school districts in the country.  She is our go- getter girl, our joy!  Kelly has friends in so many different places and they all matter to her.  But there is something these days that matters even more than her friends, that us…she is ours and we are hers forever…

Papa and KB

I love lucy wannabe…


slice button this marchI was super pumped, the kind of pumped I get before a big show.  Desi was even going to be by my side kick  in this one.  We were going to be captured on the big screen and go world-wide.  And that really isn’t a lie.  Our church actually does have a global reach.  We were asked to tell a story…our stories involving ‘community’ and building relationships.  This Saturday is the big debut and Lucy, uhhh me, couldn’t be more excited.  I had written my script and Desi uhhh Dave, had written his.

Two hours before the movie making I rewrote and wondered how all of our stories could possibly link together for this.  However, I had a plan for how we would do ours…and it involved practice.  I went down to Dave’s office.  He just was staring at me…I said, “Let’s practice, it will make you feel better.”  So we practiced.

Desi doesn’t always like it when I get my Lucy crazed look about me.  I was just about ready to say,”let’s do it again”.  He interrupted me and said, “I prefer not to think about this at all.”. “Whaaat???? I said in my head, I have rehearsing this in my head for 3 days and you prefer not to think?”  But God directed me to shut my very large mouth and finish making dinner.

The silence was broken when Dave said…”my story is just ordinary.”

“Ordinary is good…many will relate to it.” I respond.

Well, at this point we were extremely nervous.  My brain was pacing, back and forth, back and forth.  I asked God for help.

He came through for both of us in the form of a gentle producer who, though she knew the stories, asked great questions.  Dave, who always gives himself time to think, does very well in this process.  So great at one point, that I had tears…because his story was extraordinary!  Besides that, he was looking pretty cute to me in his blue- striped shirt.

I on the other hand felt like Lucy and your most ADHD child in your classroom this year.  I wasn’t in control of the situation, the producer was, and that felt very  uncomfortable.  I guess the secret is out; I am a control freak.  We spent quite a long time in the process….thankfully she never raised her voice, never said CUT in a loud voice.  She was a very patient personality.

I concluded in the end by saying to this lovely producer, “now go and do cutting, cutting and cutting, I wanted to be edited, I would be content with just token line or two.

She smiled at me and said, “Oh, don’t worry, we will.”

Saturday night, I’m going to church in a wig, sunglasses and a trench coat.  The wig will be red and Desi will be speaking to me with unintelligible Latino words.

PS Probably another post is coming about this. xo

Keen Agers


slice button this marchExperiencing life with my parents ages 84 and 88 is so precious to me lately.  This summer my mother-in-law unexpectedly passed away.  I’m watching my father-in-law live courageously without the love his life.  We all miss her so much.   So, each time I’m with my mom and dad I selfishly want to be just with them, soaking in these precious stories and moments.

This weekend I was planning on having them to dinner…getting them out of their house.  We all have been so cooped up.  So I was surprised when I called them and my dad said, “Nancy, your mom has to go to an outing at church.” I had heard about Keen Agers; the polar opposite of Teen Agers, at least in age.  At their church they get together for a wonderful meal, short devotional and entertainment…the kind of entertainment that 80 year olds like.  Friday night was Mardi Gras and my mom wanted me to go with.

We entered a room filled with canes and happy older folks. Centerpieces adorned every table and all of us were given beads to wear. I did notice that women did seem to outnumber the men.  I was greeted and no one said anything about me being… hmmm… decidedly younger.  I didn’t know what to expect but there was lively conversation at all the tables… my parents introduced me to some of their friends as we found our seats.  These people were new friends of my parents, not the people who I grew up with.  My parents went to a different church when I was at home, and most of their best friends sadly  have passed away.  We ate a delicious meal of Jumbalya, a bit spicy for my Swedish parents, but the rest of us at the table loved it.

We then were treated to the local High School’s jazz band, playing some old standards.  There was foot tapping, clapping and it all came to a close with a standing ovation.  It took a while for everyone to get to their feet, but there was joy in everyone’s faces at this event.  In fact the whole night was just ‘peachy keen’ , a new fantastic memory with my mom and dad and some of their new friends.

Make new friends, but keep the old.  One is silver and the other gold.  I still want to grow up and be like my parents.  

Dear Friends,


March 17, 2014

Dear Friends,

At the risk of being a little preachy I would like to offer a bit of advice, from one who has experienced the good, bad and ugly in my lifetime.

Moments and mistakes that you’ve made in the past can surface quickly.  Quickly say to yourself, “yes, I did do that and I learned from it.”  Then quickly as thought came,  replace it by a memory that was so sweet, that you had wished you could bottle and give it to a friend.  In other words, turn it around and change your thought process.  Have you ever looped up with a group of students?  It was the best and hardest two years I have ever experienced.  I couldn’t say to myself, “well I won’t have him next year and good luck to the next one who does”  I had to work at building our relationship, taking small steps towards a healthier, more peaceful relationship.  It worked.  Those two years will always be a treasured memory.

The second thing I want to say is this…take every opportunity to learn more.  Be a learner yourself.  This very week I was asked to be out of the classroom to go to inservice that our county is offering on CCSS and integration of content areas.  I have done a ton of professional reading on this subject and after all, I am retiring.  I shouldn’t care,  some would say.  I do however.  Even if the leader of the inservice only has one worthy and quotable statement it is worth it- it is!  Being a person that leads groups myself, I am impacted by small presenting nuances, positive or negative, they all help me grow.

I am now 58 years old…YIKES!  But my mind is 30 years old.  I want to be like my dad.  He is 88 and he has a mind of a 58-year-old.  We recently bought him a brand new Apple desktop.  He tinkers every day.  He gets to Skype easily with his great-grand-baby in Ecuador.  So, yeah, if you want a brain like Bob…keep learning and take every step to read and go to conferences –  especially if you are only two months away from retiring.

It is a mindset, I know, but if you can…approach every day as it is your last.  Don’t put off today, and say that you will enjoy it tomorrow.  When you get to be my age:) you know one very important detail…there are no future guarantees on the length of our lives… and I know you don’t want to hear it… but someday we will all be leaving a legacy.  What do you want yours to be?

Remember this is only the opinion of Nancy E. Hatcher, however, it is supported with facts and life experience.

Make it great today!  DeWanna Oliver  (miss you, come back from Florida soon) 

Sincerely and with lots of love,

Nanc xo

slice button this march

my lens is less foggy


slice button this marchHave you ever been to the eye doctor when they’ve dilated you eyes?  I’m pretty sure that they do this so that the Doc can look into your soul to see what’s up.  It is horrible after this appointment because someone has to drive you home because you are so incapacitated.  Sunglasses help, but the even the light in the waiting room is hurts and brings tears. Gradually, the medicine keeping your pupil large wears of and your vision returns.  You can breathe again.  The last few months have felt dark, and on the best of days, it’s been dim. But my vision is returning.  And I’m not talking about my eyesight.  If you have read my blog for a while you know that I have been look back at my career to look forward.  I have used writing as a tool to uncover pieces that I’ve forgotten.

One thing that I’ve noticed is the concept of ‘team’ or community.  It has been one of the tenets of my career.  I believe that in order to grow and learn to full capacity, a child need to have a relationship and trust their teacher and their classmates.  I also believe in choice…especially reading choice and writing choice, perhaps not in every part of their school day, but at the very least, for a portion of the writing and reading block.   I also believe that teachers need to have some autonomy in lesson design.  And yes…creativity is absolutely and essential characteristic of a teacher that will be able to make it over the long haul.  Creativity motivates and encourages others to try out and to learn more.

So what you might ask?  Well, I’ve realized that I can’t just exit stage left in this career.  Truthfully, I have too much that I still want to share. So, perhaps, I will not close the door on consulting or coaching.  I will hopefully continue to teach at the university.  I will substitute, but probably just in the building that I’m leaving.  I have taken a position at my church that specializes in ‘building relationships and community.’  I will travel.  I really want to see the schools in Finland and Australia.  And best of all….I will write, I will write, I will write!

My lens is clearing.

why the 50-50 gets me going


slice button this marchWe need to have a 50-50 split with ELA  CCSS, I get it.  It is kind of like in our dual language classrooms it starts at 80-20 and then moves to 70-30 and eventually lands in the 50-50 range in our district.  In dual language it means the percentage of the day the students are taught in Spanish vs. English.  In these classes we also have a 50-50 split of native speakers; someone out there likes those numbers 50-50.

I’m not certain how I feel about percentages actually, and inside of my heart, I’m so glad it isn’t me sitting in the seats of the classroom because I do not want to be dictated to.  I want story and I want to choose it and I really don’t even want it assigned, because as some of you might recall, the nosedive or dip our reading took as we entered high school and college.  I can sum up the late sixties and early seventies in one word….TEXTBOOK READING.  Did we like textbook reading?  Did we highlight and fall asleep right in the middle of the 200 pages assigned per night in college?  Did we fall asleep as the professor droned on and on?  I know your answer is YES, just like me!   And I happen to love history, because it is a STORY.

So was there ever a time that I enjoyed reading out of a textbook?  It changed in a child development class.  It changed because of yes…a teacher.  I soaked it up every day because of the strategies she used with the information that we read.  She gave practical examples of how Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was important research for any aspiring teacher to have in her tool-belt.  And we processed our learning in discussion daily.  It was innovative, fun, active learning and absolutely never a snooze!  I wanted to be like Professor H…I couldn’t wait.  It was the start of wanting to read professional books and journals because I yearned to know about my chosen field.  My dad loved reading anything on coal plants because he designed safety equipment for coal plants; he also had a want and a need for ongoing instruction in his chosen career.

Today I examine former feelings in light of CCSS mandates or suggestions, if you will.  There are a few important things that have changed in recent history.  The non-fiction books of today are absolutely phenomenal.  They are colorful and designed so children gasp in delight.  We even have poems for two voices which teach scientific concepts.  One of my all time favorite journals, National Geographic, are the new go to books in our elementary library.  Non-fiction is in vogue, and it attracts our young students who gravitate to learning about disasters, blood and guts and animals.  I would be remiss if I didn’t include those whose tongues hang out when they look at the stars and have dreams about their favorite cars and trucks and how they are assembled.  Our picture books of today sometimes also have a fictional narrative running across the non-fiction text; my personal favorites.

The emphasis put on using historical documents, photos and primary sources is amazing.  Students feel like detectives as they try to uncover what a person was trying to say, using vocabulary that makes them seem like they almost were from a foreign land.  Speaking of that….I really believe that non-fiction can bring us closer as a citizens of our world.  Don’t you just want to visit the Amazon rainforest after reading about it?   Or maybe not.

My palette for non-fiction has changed in the last twenty years.  I continue to research new best practice by reading professional books and magazines.  I haven’t cracked a history textbook in a while, but last night, I couldn’t put down the National Geographic article, The New Science of the Brain. One of my friends has recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor and I am thirsty for knowledge about our brains and recent discoveries.

So here I am at the end of this little non-fiction rant smiling, because I just read my first paragraph over. So much for supporting my opinion with facts.   No I don’t want to be dictated to, I love choice in what I serve up to myself and my students.  However, I love the non-fiction of this age.  It offers so much, it is amazing and it is something I definitely choose to read…every single day.

So I guess it is just TEXTBOOKS that are just so annoying! Sorry for that boost of confidence, Pearson. Yeah, Wonderopolis.  Yeah, Tumblebooks.  Yeah American Memory.

have you ever…


Dreams and wishes,

Wishes and dreams,

Sometimes they work

and sometimes they don’t.

You never know how they’ll turn out

in the end.

…from Jubal’s Wish by Audrey Wood

Dreamy child would be an accurate description of me, for most of my life.  I loved staring up at the stars and singing to the moon.  I knew there was a God, from a very young age, because I could feel his touch.  Does that seem impossible?  I believed in magic, fairy tales and castles with moats and towers.  Though reading didn’t come easily to me, at first, I started to devour my picture story books and easily could place myself in the scene.  I wanted to live on Betsy’s block.  I named the ducklings and cared deeply about Stuart and all the scrapes that he would get into.  My parents would leave me alone in the big chair with my blanket and snacks, knowing that if I was immersed a story, it was “all good”.

Did I dream of being a writer back then?  It probably wasn’t a fixed dream until I read Little Women.  I longed to be Louisa May Alcott or Eleanor Estes or Madeline L’Engle.  I still do.

Here is a picture that my talented

niece drew after she read one

of my picture book drafts.

It is the new logo for my consulting business that I will be starting May 29.

Do you feel the yearning?


I’m sorry that I couldn’t embed this.  Hopefully if you click the link, you can see the art!

when you don’t have it all ‘sewn up’


slice button this marchDave left, took his 6 by 6 bulletin board pictures down.  The pictures, newspaper clippings, notes from students, notes from friends neatly fell into rubber banded stacks in Box 1.  His organized binders of plastic – sheathed basketball and soccer ideas fell in on top.  Box 1 was taped and sat ready to go.  Poetry binders and journals easily filled box 2.  One thumb drive and a lanyard were tossed in after the mini paper-cutter he adored.   Box 2 was also taped up.  Dewey, his giant library fish along with his  tank were handed over to his special needs library helper for safe keeping forever.  He turned the key one last time, leaving his media center,  and coaching life that he had loved so much…forever.  He had it all sewn up, all buttoned up.  He chose a new path; one that would provide just enough money for travel.  He felt ready.

I do not have it all in two boxes.  I want to still engage in a search for a new principal. I am still interested in helping my teacher friends discover new ways to attack ‘close reading’.  I am still willing to fight for assessment that informs our instruction.  I am still worried because writing workshop is so fragile in our system.  I am still wanting to engage in all the new tech tools that we have, to engage students.  I worry and wonder if I will still continue to be relevant in the Master’s program I have taught in for seven years, if I am not in the classroom.  I worry.

I don’t think I’m really done yet.  There maybe will be something more.  It may be stitched together differently than Dave’s ,and I know that it might take me a while to get it ‘all sewn up’, but somehow I know that I’ll eventually arrive in the spot where God wants me to be.

Their faces still fill me with joy.  Joy like this can’t be packaged in a box.  I’m taking it with me…along the way.


pretend shopping


slice button this march‘Pretend shopping’ is a term my daughter coined in our family.  Em is a girl who has always loved beautiful things…beautiful hair, make-up, clothes, interior design, magazines, good-looking movie stars and such.  In my mind I used to think…”how did we raise such a ‘material girl’?”

I’ve prided myself on being pretty easy to please.  I didn’t really ask for much growing up and I was pretty determined to save money instead of spend it throughout most of our marriage, however, that has changed a wee bit since our kids are now out of college.   Our son Jeff was determined to move to my favorite state, Colorado.  Immediately, I started researching real estate in my beloved state.  I was going to help Jeff find a place to live…and he has.  I didn’t help find the place, but I thought by ‘pretend shopping’ on-line I was discovering things that he might be interested in.  I’ve kept my on-line connections and have  had to wean myself off of the  listings.

That all changed yesterday.  After a long day of testing.  I walked in the house to a very excited Dave.

” When you’ve got time I  want to show you…I’ve been ‘pretend shopping’.”

Oh no…my instincts kick in, we just got finished with a new kitchen…what is he going to be building this time? Will it be another pond?

My guy sure knows where get me when I’m weak.

“Look at all the places I’ve been researching in Colorado.  I think we can do it.”  He even had started to research the money end of things.  I know I should have said, “Slow down a minute…have you thought about the ramifications of all this?”

But I just looked at him square in the eye and said,

“I want to  ‘pretend shop’ too!”

i’m so weary


i’m so weary,

of tests,

of candy wrappers,

of accommodations,

of very blank looks,

of extended response,     

that is abbreviated,

finished in five seconds 



an 8-year-old doesn’t 

yet understand…

square area,

i’m so weary,

i can’t 

remember simple things…

like capitalization,

it is over today,

i will have my teaching

and learning life


slice button this marchslice button this marchslice button this marchslice button this march

National Geographic and me


I grew up with stacks of bound National Geographic magazines stacked up in my basement as a child.  They were black and white and my grandpa had his bound for my dad as a wedding present.  My dad, grew up with the love of the whole world in his field of vision, in other words, he loved and was fascinated by all different cultures and ways of life.  It was a natural intelligence as well.  We’d try to stump him spinning the globe or looking at the atlas.  slice button this marchWe’d say a city or a mountain range and he always knew where they were. This little boy who grew up reading National Geographic would dream about the adventures that he would have all over the world.  Though he fought in World War 2 he didn’t experience traveling out of the states until after he went to school on the GI bill and became an engineer.  He explored countries in South America and Canada,  but more often than not, our own wonderful country.  Much later in his career he was able to visit Australia, New Zealand, Japan and his very favorite place…China.  The dreams of a small boy were realized.

The stacks and stacks of National Geographic stand tall in my house also.  They are not bound; we have used them throughout our lives for special projects  – cutting the pictures to mount on school project boards.  This was absolutely forbidden when I was growing up.  My dad would always say, “We can’t look back, if we cut them up.” But when I became the parent…this rule changed.

My own children have both yearned for the rest of the world, much like my dad.  As adult children they also love the world, and most important to me, the people in it.  Thank you National Geographic, thank you Dad.

PS  I got my first passport at age 56.  My grand-daughter at age 2 has 8 stamps in hers.  I hope to at least get 8 stamps in mine, before it is all said and done.  Collectively all of my dad’s grandchildren have traveled extensively, not just to sight see, but to help in Haiti, Vietnam, Thailand,Zambia, Peru, Ecuador and India.  And it all started with a an amazing magazine in their hand.

PSS Best website possible for kids… National Geographic for Kids , I also love so many of their books for our students…and when they have choice they always choose them!