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


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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!

va va va voom


when I was skinnyMy cousin Doug has been sending us a picture of all us for the last month very early each morning.  Doug in the stair step is sporting a fro.  I am the tallest, the oldest, Olson girl.   We always took our pictures in age order back then.  Lately,  I’ve been smiling and remembering when we were all so skinny and our lives consisted of friends, school and each other.

Life really seemed pretty simple looking back at the picture.  I notice it….we were all exceptionally skinny, I think it was because we were all encouraged to be so active, all the time, but especially in the summer!

My adorable,  younger cousins lived two blocks down from us.  I started babysitting for them when I was about twelve years old and it was always so much fun; being paid was a special extra perk.   My cousin Barbie loved to cuddle and read books.  My cousin Dougie and Glennie loved to wrestle.  I always thought that I had a part in Glen’s wrestling successes, a few years later he was a top state wrestler in Illinois.

But the biggest thing that we had in common was our love of the water and the brand new, Niles pool.  Most of the time we were allowed to ride our bikes and stop after, to buy the warm salted fries that McDonald’s has always been famous for.  A bit of trivia:  the first McDonald’s world-wide started in a neighboring town,  DesPlaines.  Our own McDonald’s. built-in the early sixties,  was  the best thing going, our fries were ready in a jiffy, and we saved our allowance to buy them at least once a week.  We also grew up near a n incredible park just a block away from both of our houses.  Our mom’s would make big bags of popcorn for summer movie nights in the park.  We got to light punks and saw many of the great Disney classics there every week.  Now that was really living!

Our dreams were very big, our cares were very little. The whole summer stretched endlessly before us. We had our families and each other; it was more than enough.

I’m the oldest….so I’ve been in all of the pictures.  Day 10 of the picture sending and this  the first one that I looked at and said to myself, ” Hey…I look pretty dang good.”  I’m not wearing my crazy brown glasses and I actually look okay in those super short, shorts.  I showed it to my husband…to see if he ever remembered me looking like that; because I certainly have forgotten.  He smiled and said, “va va va voom !”  That was early ’70s talk for…”wow, you were really hot“.  I forget, was that an 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s term?  Oh well, I still understand the vocabulary 🙂

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…really good stuff…


slice button this marchI hate appearing like a baby or a whiner, but I just got a magazine in my box at school.  It is sitting right next to me as I type.  The title implores me to open it up, saying with a star in front, Really Good Stuff, Essential Language Arts Resources for Today’s Classroom.  I can pass up Coldwater Creek, Talbots and even Pottery Barn.  On the bottom it even advertises Common Core for Literacy.  There is a fair-haired golden girl with a Magic ‘e’ wand and card set.  My girls and my boys would find it fascinating that the wand magically changes right before your very eyes.  

my last roomI am a sucker for new gadgets and want to immediately see what I could get that would delight my students next year.

Wait…there isn’t going to be a next year.  Never again will I walk in to my cozy, comfy room with my magic carpet and my ‘checking in stools.’  I’ll be back to visit and I will rush by 121 in a hurry, it will hurt to see another in my spot…yet I know it is time.

I turn the catalog over and push it away…oops…I see that I get a free gift when I order on-line.  Maybe I could find some stuff that Em can use with Sammie.  I turn the page…I start reading the catalog backwards.  I turn the page…

PS It has been excruciating trying to turn this page in my life this year, the hardest thing probably I have ever done.  In so many ways my identity has really been wrapped up in this job.  I have been teaching since I was 20 years old.  But I know the next step is coming on rapidly.  I love the work.  God bless those of you who love it also.  I will finish strong, in two months, I will be able to turn the page… I think I can, I think I can.  xo

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slice button this marchHe said,” we needed it.”

I say, “we didn’t.

He said, “the cabinets are not closing”  

I say, “lets just get new doors”

He said, “the counter has some stains”

I said, “okay, but I want granite.”

He said, “the microwave is giving off harmful rays”  

I said, “but the dishwasher is not cleaning the glassware,

and a I want a frig with water in the door and a new stove that really matches,

He said, “the hardwood needs sanding”

I say, “really?

He said, “yep, really”

I say, “okay…you always get your way.”

He said, “and you always love it”

I say, “I do.”

PS From the day we said ‘I do’, Dave has taken the lead with all the projects.  I he is pretty good at convincing me…talking, giving evidence and showing data.  In this kitchen project he did much of the grunt work, painting, taking the old out and creating new wainscoting (hours and hours of work).  We chose everything together and we both love it.  Dave is even starting to dabble a bit in the culinary arts.


favorite island now looks like furniture because a fabulous carpenter...

favorite part…my island now looks like furniture because a fabulous carpenter…

why I revert to a night light


slice button this marchWhen Dave is in Ecuador,

I try to remember my cell phone more often,

I  obsessively double lock the front door,

the back door,

the laundry room door,

and my bedroom door.

I leave the light on in  the hall compulsively.

It glimmers and peeps under

the crack, of the door.

She’s wondering, I’m sure

why she must burn brightly

all the very long nights.

The paper sits under

the cell phone to access in an emergency

if my fingers can’t find…

Contacts quick enough,

Morning light gloriously arrives,

I drink only coffee

thinking that

this is the perfect opportunity to

fast…to lose weight.

I give up on that idea and

open the fridge, my friend,

rationalizing that food will

make me feel safe, happy,


until Dave

returns home.

PS Today marks the half way mark of this vacation.  I want him to happily enjoy his vacation seeing Sammie, Em and John, but there is this irrational side of my brain that tells me that I feel scared and lonely too.  This will be the last time that we won’t be traveling together.  Here’s a picture of Dave and Sammie in 70 degree temperatures.  He is helping Em create a new garden in their backyard in the mountains outside of Quito.

PSS It is hard to deny our little Sammie her papa.

It looks like a cool garden already...but they are pretty weeds!

It looks like a cool garden already…but they are pretty weeds!

he brings…a book


slice button this marchToday he walks with a happy step, as I greet the group.  We take the elevator down to my room as a special treat.  They all are involved in happy conversation, except for one. I notice in his hands a giant book.  He shows me proudly.  I say, “Can I take a look?”  He shakes his head smiling.  He is mute in front of the rest of the children I have gathered for the test.

This child has much difficulty with speaking and does so rarely in a group.  Next I deliver the stated directions and we try a question.  Then  I ask if I could sit near him.  He says, “I like that.”

After it’s over, he points to his book.  He wants to share it with me.  I smile and say,”Pop -ups are my favorites, thanks for letting me see…Pop-up Facts Space, a Star Studded Journey of Discovery.  I see his classroom teacher’s name inside the book.  It is one of her treasures, I know.  He is also one of her treasures and she wants him to feel like he has a piece of her classroom with him as he goes to test far away from her .  He is proudly working away.  His marks are less angry than they were on Day 1.   We have a few minutes before we go back up to their classroom.  He demonstrates how the book works, by my side.  I am in awe of this demonstration and the reading of difficult captions.  He is beginning to trust, even me…ISAT tester!

my friends


The 5 are sitting before me.  I know them, they know me.  One student couldn’t focus for even 10 seconds in kindergarten.  He went to a private school, thinking that they would get tough, get him in shape.  He came back in 2nd. Semi-Sweet little pumpkin that really just thought learning her sounds, her letters was not muchslice button this march fun in kindergarten highlights happily now in 3rd.  Jet black hair, he sits silently, obediently, English is not his first language even though the family pretends their hardest that he’s not.  He tries so hard, but we know it will be at least 5 years. Another lad is finishing up as fast as he can.  If you could see the dot you’d notice the anger, the rage that percolates.  He too was moved from this school to a charter and now back again with his family here…but his home family is troubled.  One lassie is missing from the group  frail, fragile, her parent probably couldn’t move her out the door this morning.  I wonder if her family is deciding that she might have to stay home the whole length of the testing.

This is our reality for two weeks.  These children will try their best and feel somewhat discouraged, I’m sure.  The best part in today’s was the joy of opening the seal, unwrapping their candy, and  subsequently playing with the candy wrapper.   For me, it was seeing my young friends  from a few years back.  Now we are done, I’m checking the shiny black dots.  They want to show me the cursive they are learning.  Only one wants to read a book and that makes me a little sad.  I start talking about Babymouse…maybe tomorrow I will have some extra time at the end.  I’m dying for a time to read Carnivores.  I know they’ll love it!

we hold our breath


We hold our breath, we are a prayer weary school this year.  We wish it was songs of joy that we would be lifting high.  Lucky I am to be surrounded by women of faith in a world without faith…but right now we have cried out in prayer so long and so hard, that our eyes are dry with solemn looks.  This  I know…

You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.  Psalm 63

I cling to him today.  He will quench my thirst.  He will flood this weary building with new hope if we seek him with our hearts and lean in for direction.

Our strength comes from our God.  When it is dark, he shines .

We need continue to ask for healing for our dear friend.  He can, he willslice button this march



slice button this marchArctic blasts blow frosty,

but the sun peeks through,

sweet patches of brownish green,

grow larger, stronger,

saying, “we need to breathe,

we are weighted down by

brown sugar frozen ice crystals,”

no longer stunning, no longer glorious but,

weary and ugly from their

lengthy visit to Chicago,

sweet patches of green and the hearty

crocus are arriving soon,


we know you will win the contest,


PS  I think I wrote this too soon…jinx, another dumping this weekend…bye,bye sweet patches and last night!

Looking across our yards one patch is visible.  Yes, our Christmas lights are up still.

Looking across our yards one patch is visible. Yes, our Christmas lights are up still.

combining sentences with Heather Rader


First:  Choose topic and then narrow…I choose to write about someone.


My mom

Second:  Brainstorm phrases and sentences…


  1. Her mind a whirl of thoughts
  2. Slowly she ascends putting both hands down as she climbs the stairs carefully.
  3. My sisters say she’s failing
  4. “Enjoy every visit”
  5. In my mind I say she’s not
  6. I find a 3 page letter that states at the top The Life and Times of …
  7. Written ten years ago
  8. It is already yellow with age
  9. I read and cry and cry and cry giant sobs that shake my soul
  10. My mom is a writer just… like… me…
  11. I never knew
  12. I never commented
  13. I never saw
  14. Her words are difficult now
  15. She speaks in measured ways
  16. It is different, this foreign language
  17. But her love song is still intact

Try different ways to combine the ideas for a strong starter sentence.

I try, I want to write this raw, this really, really, rough draft.  Maybe I should start it with a gerund, a preposition or a simple noun.  Somehow I am not ready because the tears are simply in my way.  I will see my mom today, love her today.  I will bring her story, I will comment on her writing.  I will tell her again how she is the best mom a girl could ever have.  I will tell her…

PS  I loved this article by Heather Rader on the Choice Literacy website.  I am fascinated by combination of sentences and trying different kinds of beginnings.  I fully intended to do this for a starter sentence.  It may come yet during the ‘slice’, but not today.  I think we need to realize this during workshop, sometimes students are just not ready to move from the brainstorming step.  Sometimes they need a little nudge.  Sometimes they just need to sit still. And sometimes they just need to cry…like me.

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writing rampage


slice button this marchI’m on a writing rampage.  Why you ask?  What’s the hurry?  What’s the fuss?  The CHALLENGE IS COMING! It is coming soon.  Dave is gone to Ecuador.  Cat’s away, mice will…type!  Ferociously because I worry.  I’m having a stamina attack.  Worrying about it. Worrying that I won’t have….TIME.  This year before retirement I’ve tried.  I’ve tried to live.  What? What do you mean, Nancy?  I have become night busy.  Because I’ve had no life besides the school life.  So this year,  I have church on Saturday.  I have writing on Sunday.  On Monday I talk to Dave.  On Tuesday I go to Bible Study.  On Wednesday I go to Mid week church.  On Thursday I volunteer at the Food Pantry.  On Friday, I collapse.  This is my frantic routine.  This is the new life.  This is the new me.  This is me trying to get a hobby.   It is choppy.  It is crazy.  It is amazing and life- giving.  But I am on this all day rush.  How will the CHALLENGE go?  If I’m good I can write a bit ahead, especially while Dave is gone.  I can cut my TV consumption down to….Nothing! So how many slices can I get done in one week?  I’m going for fourteen.  It’s a goal.  I’ll write more at the end of the week.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  I am determined.  14 or bust!  I’m on a writing rampage.

PS  I better work on some sentence combining too.

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’.

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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….

Part 2 How I survived and stayed…


The next few weeks I am in reflection mode…wondering what is next for me in education.  Will I do substitute teaching (we have wonderful retired teachers that sub)?  Part-time private? Move to Ecuador…work internationally? Be a tour guide to school groups on field trips at the Pumpkin Farm? Undergrads at our local college? The list is endless and I just told Dave, ‘I just want it to fall into my lap’.  So last week I started looking back and maybe I can see some things along the way, some strengths perhaps that might help me open the new chapter of my life book.

Last week I pretty much stated that my first year was a discipline nightmare.  I wasn’t looking forward to going back to teaching that first summer out.  But I had to because Dave was planning to go to grad school full-time and then we’d both be considered a ‘hippie couple’ if I didn’t have a job either.  As it turns out, he got a teaching job and decided to put grad school on the back burner, because after all, we did need a television…especially for football season and a hippie van, that was purchased one night when I was at open house.  Can you even imagine???  In other words, we were broke and had school loans from undergrad to pay off and now a hippie van.

So I reluctantly started back my second year.  My principal moved me back a year from 6th to 5th and decided that maybe my noise level was just too much of a gamble in the ‘open space’.  I had a self-contained classroom next to two teachers who would become my ‘team’.  In 1977 we had just started talking about ‘team’ and that word would become an essential part of my vocabulary for years.

However,   I moved to yet another dysfunctional team.  One teacher loved to work and the other didn’t (she just liked to take).  It became clear to me early on that it would be very smart of me to become more of a ‘worker’ than a ‘taker’.  So I asked questions…every day…all the time of my friend and co-worker Sandy.

“How do you get your kids to walk quietly in the hall to specials?”  Our school valued quiet halls.

“Easy,” she said, “I walk backwards and I don’t budge if anyone is talking.”

So I began to imitate Sandy, her every move outside the classroom.  I walked backwards.  I stopped if they were out of line and talking.  They stopped talking because they wanted to get to gym, music or lunch.  We became a semi-team of two.  She willingly planned lessons with me, we both gave things to the third wheel of the team when she asked, and I learned how to share my thinking with a fabulous mentor teacher.  In the late seventies the word ‘mentor’ wasn’t in our ed lingo yet.

I need for a minute to go back to the students that I had.  Just like today, I taught in a diverse middle class neighborhood.  In most of the families two parents were working.  For the most part these families valued education and really respected teachers.  That summer before I started back my second year I read my first professional book, by Glasser who discussed Reality and Choice Therapy.  I also read something else, possibly in Teacher magazine about class meetings.  That second year, I decided to start every single day with a class meeting.  This class meeting became an essential way for us to discuss behavior issues , what our day was looking like and plan for ‘fun’ events.  Back then I intuitively knew that if they could talk in a group about grievances and start to set goals, behavior would be better than it had been the year before.  They created the rules together and together we also created consequences and rewards.  Class meetings would continue throughout my entire career in some shape or form.

Teaming and mentoring is also a value I hold high.  It takes work to team…difficulties occur on a team, and they are worked out.  I wouldn’t begin to understand that until my 3rd year.  They hired a third teacher, moved us to 6th grade and back into the open space.  We had a dream team for two years in a row.  I didn’t know how good it was until after it was gone.  We helped each other fly.  We looked at our individual strengths and helped each other, loved each other and cried with each other.  Back in the open space teaching our desks clustered easily in the middle for teacher planning.  We held morning meetings with all of our students on the stairs in the middle open space.  We were a giant classroom trusting each other to be the lead teachers of our science and social studies unit, collaborating and changing groups every two weeks in math based on student need.

What about reading and writing you might be wondering about.  Oh…pretty much it was called reading and spelling and punctuation in those days.   In the middle and late 70’s we followed leveled basals.  We each had 5 reading groups and they had to pass an assessment to make it to the next level.  We grouped for reading- 4th, 5th and 6th grade.  That’s right folks…4th graders were sometimes in a 6th grade group.  We were on a fast and furious pace back then…not all good, but not all bad either.  The one thing that the reading specialist in my building had never heard of was ‘read aloud’.

Once I innocently asked her, “do ya think maybe I could read aloud Blubber to my kids?” “what are you talking about Nanc…no time for that…just make sure they pass those end of level tests.”

All of in open space, however, began to open up our read aloud daily and, I might add,  somewhat on the sly.

My world had changed with my students.  We had Book Love Mania and it was contagious.  It fueled me, my team fueled me and every single day my students encouraged me to grow, change and read more and more so I could learn how to better serve them.

For years after leaving my beloved first school I had dreams that I was hired back and in the  Open Space.  I still miss this school so much.  These people mentored me and loved me.  Administration??? We had five principals in the twelve years that I was there. So we basically ran the place, and years later, they finally got smart and hired my friend Sandy, much later in her career.

Okay…so I’m just a third of the way through.  It dawns on me now, that I have never quite had that perfect team again.  I’ve gotten close, but somehow I’m wondering why I don’t see those kind of teams in our schools today.  It is more self-contained than ever.  Control your own kids academically; control your own student’s discipline and depend only on yourself!  It could be so much lovelier, I think.

I might just have to have a few more posts on the second and third parts of my life in school.

But something is standing out to me today…mentoring and team building… really important to me.

Looking back to move forward…


I actually had to get out a pen and subtract, the year I started, the year it is, to make sure it has actually been that many years…First thought, I’ve always hated subtraction with a zero in it. Second thought…REALLY? It feels like a nanosecond, my career.  It is time to look behind me a minute to see how I have arrived here, 4 months away from leaving the day-to-day classroom work that has literally filled almost every crevice of my brain for the last thirty-eight years.

I finished college in three short years, where I learned that I loved to learn and that research and writing was something that I actually enjoyed.  I started when I was only a 20-year-old with a class that was only eight years younger than I was.  They quickly noticed that.  I did not work with a team of teachers that even liked each other in a giant room called an ‘open space’.  The library was in the middle of this room.

My friend the librarian came up to me one day and secretly told me that the principal was taping me every day, to see if my classroom’s noise level was under control.  Guess what, it wasn’t!  But every time he put the tape on, she gave the signal and I would try my hardest to rein in their voices. I felt like I was living in Watergate (some of you don’t even know about the Nixon years).   In those days teacher wisdom, or best practice was not to  ‘smile until Christmas’.  That must have been where I went wrong because I remember literally crying in front of my entire class teaching a math lesson before Easter.  However,  if you can believe this, math became one of my favorite subjects to teach because, I totally understood those who didn’t get how to subtract with zeros.

Somehow, I made it through that year only with the help of my mom  who still gave me hugs, fed me, tucked me in at night and a husband to be that planned our entire wedding without me.  It is interesting that fact has never changed about us…Dave still plans everything; because I’m still planning for school or finding a new book or writing the next post or planning for school or the next inservice or the next university class.  God Bless my mom, God Bless my Dave.

This is just my first installment…my second… How I Survived and Stayed.

PS Today we were off to pick the granite for our new kitchen.  I got the exact kitchen I wanted if I agreed to the remodel and learning how to cook 🙂  Dave was driving and I was going on and on about just why I wasn’t so satisfied my part of the Friday inservice…and how I just don’t exactly feel ready to be done with all this.  We were out-of-town and close to the school that I got started in.  I begged him to drive by it, just so I could look.  Dave said, “Maybe…if you promise not to keep talking about school the rest of the weekend.”  “I will try, I muttered.”

PSS We picked our slabs of UBBA TUBA granite.  I just love the sound of those words!  I got my wish.  Today I will try my hardest to keep my side of the bargain.

This is where it began in 1976  G. Stanley Hall School…Oh, how I came to love this school !  It looks like the open space needs a few more bushes and some awesome trees to dress it up a bit. GSH