Reading is Controversial?

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In the US Read Across America day is celebrated on March 2, Dr. Seuss’ birthday. As an elementary reading specialist, I took advantage of all of these special “holidays” created around reading to promote books and fun to my students. (Another one is read for the record day which began with Eric Carle’s The Hungry Caterpillar)

I used to facilitate a school wide rotation of Dr. Seuss centers. At the time, we had an early childhood vocational program that helped create centers for the event for several years.

I have dressed up as the Cat in the Hat more times than I can count. If I look hard enough, I can probably find the newspaper clippings proving it.

On Tuesday evening while in the car I was listening to the Creative Kindergarten podcast and she was talking about how Read Across America day has changed from a Dr. Seuss focus to a more diverse focus this year. NEA had gotten complaints in some fashion about the connection to this author.

I do not have an objection to it being changed to be more diverse. We need more diverse books in classrooms. As my friend Lisa Vahey says, we need to have books that are windows and doors. Children need to see themselves in the text and they also need to learn about people different from them.

Personally, I like to read to learn about how others think. I want to know how characters would handle a situation I have never been in. I feel it prepares me if I ever AM in that situation.

I have always thought about Dr. Seuss’ characters being universal especially the ones that are …animals? As I write this I struggle for a word that describes Sneeches and the Lorax accurately. Larger ideas can still be discussed when reading Dr. Seuss.

As a writer, I am fascinated that Green Eggs and Ham was a writing dare to Seuss. He was challenged to write a book with 50 words or less. I love a prompt of a list of words to construct a story and I am certain I have given that prompt to students.

All of this controversy makes me wonder about people. The conversation needs to be had and the addition of more authors and types of books is a step in the right direction. But does name calling need to occur? Does being nasty about it make it more memorable? That idea is NOT what we want to be modeling for children.

Let’s keep the fun and the wonder. Let’s keep the positive and forward moving parts and then add where we are lacking with respect and kindness to everyone whether you would eat green eggs and ham with Sam I am or not.

Who Are Your Five People?

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On a creative group Zoom call last evening the idea that you are the sum of the 5 people closest to you came up. I have thought a lot about this idea since I heard it about a year ago.

I waver back and forth as to my belief in this statement. I do believe there is a circle of concern for the people that are closest to me. There is also a circle of influence that flows both ways. I influence others and they influence me. (Covey, anyone?)

I do know that I am more creative and business minded with my writing since I became part of my creative group last fall. The women in that group are all over the country and have perspective and know me in a way no one in my real life does.

[As an aside here – Does this phrasing bother anyone else? If my friends are online it is still my real life – I abhor the idea that since I am not in the same room they are not real! I vow to stop using it now.]

I have education people, writing people, creative people, personal people. Only a couple of them overlap.

Do you know who your five people are?

I challenge you to make that list today. Writing it down may surprise you.

5 Education Reflection Questions

I love questions. I love to ask them of others and to reflect on them in my own writing and mind. I have a question collections from reading and also from podcasts. The end of the year is a great time to think about which questions I want to ask more regularly.

Here are 5 Questions I am pondering lately:

  1. What gives me life at work?
  2. What wears me out at work?
  3. Is there anything I can do to eliminate or diminish the effects of #2?
  4. What do I truly want to change?
  5. What do I miss from my teaching life?

Number 5 is the one that is popping out to me the most lately. Being a coach I am often just outside the teaching. I co-teach with others and model lessons but there is something different about having students that are my own day to day.

Student action and reactions to what I plan is exciting to me. I truly look forward to the discussions I have with students.

One thing I did recently was to make the notecatcher for students look like sketchnotes. My model on the large chart paper looks like the student version.

I want my 7th graders to be motivated and I was thinking about how I would like notes to be more fun.

In my own classroom I used to take risks and ask kids in my class all the time to evaluate our practices and reflect. My goal was always to give them strategies they would use forever, not just for the next assignment or test.

I miss the day to day schedule and the micro movements to change students behavior and academic action. I miss family meeting time, the group written chart story and mini-lesson, the independent writing time and conferencing. I miss the many real alouds a day and writing practice time.

I need to incorporate a time blocking schedule to my coaching life. The schedule between 3 offices gets tiresome some weeks. I need to dedicate certain days to certain tasks to keep myself on track and get more focused work completed.

Questions 1, 2, and 3 had me thinking about my first teaching job and a life-changing conversation. A good friend and I in the first building I ever worked in, had a discussion about what I missed about college. She asked me specifically what I missed with the idea that I could incorporate those missed experiences into my life now. The idea was to take the essence of the actions and make it real again. I took that to heart and made some changes that were wonderful.

Question #4 had both a small and large impact on my thinking today. The small impact is a self-editing idea that I learned in high school. A teacher advised reading my piece one sentence at a time, starting at the end. Taking the sentence out of context allowed me to focus on the sentence itself without the content of the story surrounding it. I would be less likely to skip over important details this way.

I would love to be able to work from home a couple days a month but not sure that is possible with the new schedule.

I am always trying to improve my practice!

Please read this piece here.

An Education Opportunity – A Mastermind Connection

An Opportunity for Connection

I wrote this morning about my #oneword and how important this process has been to me. This year’s word was connection and it has made a huge difference in my writing community.

I have another community – my education community. I connect with other educators through the Twowritingteachers blog and Teachers on Fire podcast and Medium publication.

But I want MORE.

I want to have some real life discussions about things that matter to us.

I want us to share the sparkle and sprinkles of the day and the things that didn’t go so great and what we learned.

As a coach, I get to have conversations with teachers every day. I want to extend my reach and nurture some deeper connections before the end of the year.

Let’s Connect and a Do A Challenge

I love a challenge. We are looking at the last couple of weeks and we have influence on children before the end of the decade – let’s go out with a bang!

Sign up here for a 2 week reflection and sharing challenge. I will send you an email every day during the time frame of December 4-18th.

Each day I will ask you to record

-one energizing and impactful thing for students no matter how small

-one thing that didn’t go well that day

-something you learned about yourself, your teaching, or your students.

Three sentences – that is all!

You can share it on your own blog, email me, or join the Slack channel to share with other educators.

Click here and sign up!

I cannot wait to get to know some of you better!

Just Breathe #SOL

Yesterday I spent time on a video call with some of my creative companions. We were discussing how we can get overwhelmed by fear. One of the other people said we just have to remember to not look at the big picture all the time and we just need to focus on the next right thing. It reminded me Emily P. Freeman’s book and podcast of the same name.

Yesterday was a frustrating day of work. It was the day of unhappy morning meetings, lost orders, wrong orders, and classroom visits being cancelled. It was one of those days where you wonder why you got into your profession. It’s the day you fantasize about a job where you don’t have to think. I know I wouldn’t be satisfied with a job like that, but my mind went there.

Yesterday I had to assist with a standardized test given to a young third grade class. A group that had never seen scan-tron and didn’t understand the importance of filling in a bubble.

Words came back to me from my years of giving ISTEP+: Fill in the circle completely and make your mark dark. If you need to change an answer, erase your mark completely and make your new mark .

In between each of these 10-minute tests I led them in a breathing exercise as a brain drainer. I had them inhale, fill their lungs and hold the breath. Then we exhaled without any sound. We did three rounds and were all calmer. I’m a yoga teacher and I used to say many times “I need my own yoga today” at the beginning of class.

Yesterday was a day I needed my own breathing exercise. It took a group of young third graders help me along the way. It was the next right thing I needed to do to heal myself.

aerial photo of pine trees


What do you need to heal today?

How to Cultivate Writers


Yesterday I followed up on a coaching conversation from last week. A teacher had expressed concern about a student who has ability but does not produce much work product in class.

My intent was to watch her interact within the culture of the classroom to see if I could spot some strengths and possible insights to her reluctance before talking to her. Unfortunately, the teacher loudly announced my presence as I walked in.

I stood to the side for a bit waiting for the teacher to finish directions of reading material curated for them in connection to this week’s learning targets. Then he asked them to take out their writing and move to the floor.

I took this opportunity to have a quieter conversation with the little one. She brought her 2 books and her notebook. We talked about her day as we walked to my office. I assured her she wasn’t in trouble and that I just wanted to talk reading and writing with her.

This little one has a soft spoken voice and spoke like she is often interrupted – Heavy breaths lay in between her thoughts.

Her notebook didn’t have much writing. A sentence or two on some pages. Some only the date at the top with the label “Quickwrite”.

We talked about ways to make quickwrites easier for her. Then I wrote with her.

As we readied ourselves to write together she expressed a piece she had worked on earlier that she wanted to add to. PERFECT. I had her reread what she had written. I reread mine as well since I said I was adding to something I had started already.

I set a pretty hourglass timer on my phone in the middle of the table and we wrote.

Sometimes we need each other to do the thing – no matter what is.

Other ways to cultivate writing:

+Have them talk before they write.

+Use materials and resources that real writers would use – not just teaching resources.

+Writing as an experience –treat them like real writers and not just children. Acknowledge they have something to say.

+Teaching them to honor their feelings and imagination when they are in the younger grades can help them to not lose the spark that is their voice when they get older.

+Writing is not about having a formula and plugging words into it.  Don’t treat it or teach it this way.

+Write with them.

+Give them freedom and trust. They will produce amazing pieces that are heart felt and honorable. A group of fourth graders I worked with in 2006 had such great writers they sometimes moved me to tears with their insight and it was from ALL the students not just the ones you “expect” to be good writers.

+Performance is a true part of the writing process. Let your students shine that have this ability.

+Remember writing is hard and fun! Support them in both areas.

Happy Writing today!

Weekend Coffee Share

Join me for coffee and conversation!

It is Sunday again and the temps are a little cooler here. There is supposed to be a heat wave this week here in the Midwest later this week. I hope it stays away.

If we were having coffee I would tell you this weekend is the anniversary of me moving into the house I am living in now. It is not my forever home and I feel it. The birds do great us every morning as do the bunnies and the baby squirrels. There is lots of green which I adore.

If we were having coffee I would tell you it was a productive and busy week at work. Lots of conversation and planning which was positive.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I am in week 5 of the Artist’s Way program. I am doing my morning pages every day which are three handwritten pages of whatever comes to mind. It clears the way for the creative juice to flow. On Thursday night the ideas kept coming for articles and stories and I really wish I could have taken a writing day ALL DAY Friday to massage and nurture those words into pieces but alas the day job and other responsibilities called.

If we were having coffee I would tell you Storyaday is going strong. I have been writing to the prompts everyday and it has been going well. I enjoy the challenge and use it to try different techniques to foster my writing skills. I tried a new genre this week — cyberpunk. It was out of my comfort zone but a fun experiment. I wrote a 100ish word story and still do not like them! hahaha I have met some new writers through the group as well and that has been interesting. The Zoom call was Tuesday night. We did a lot of writing sprints — where we set the time and write all together — but there was some talking. I write in the morning on my own so I show up more for the conversation then the word count. It does get me some extra words. This week I worked on nonfiction during the call.

You can read the whole post here.

11 Questions Answered

clear glass bulb on human palm

Tim Ferris asks successful people 11 questions in his book Tribe of Mentors. I have answered his questions in order for you to know me a little better. I would love to hear your answers to these questions as well!

Comment here or on Medium!

“What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?”

I love books about life experiments and was immediately drawn to this book as soon as I heard about it. I believe in the idea that you are influenced by the people and books you surround yourself with. Megan had coffee with a new person to learn from them and also to make new connections.

“What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)? My readers love specifics like brand and model, where you found it, etc.”

  • Kaweco Classic Sport Fountain pen, black, fine nib
  • A pair of scissors in every room
  • $10 business cards that have writer printed on them — solidified the idea that I am really a writer

What new belief, behaviors, or habits, adopted within the last 5 years, have most positively impacted your life?

  • intermittent fasting
  • keeping only what I love
  • stop saying yes to things I want to say no to
  • study what is energizing and what is draining

What would you put on a billboard?

  • Everything is temporary — good and bad

Click here to read the entire Medium article.

10 On Tuesday #SOL19

A writing prompt and a routine memory:

When I had my own classroom I provided a journal prompt on Tuesdays called 10 on Tuesday. I would provide a topic and the students would write a list of 10 things that fit.

I had an option in my room if students were compelled to write something they could “chuck” the topic — they just needed to let me know.

Some students would write a list of 10 words, some would write a list of sentences. Some would take an item from their list and write more about it or simply tell the whole story.

It was a change in format which met the needs of all of my writers.

Now on Tuesdays, I listen to Laura Tremaine’s “10 Things to Tell You” podcast. Listening this morning reminded me of this past activity. My writing prompt this morning was also a list so this post seemed appropriate!

I was going to write 10 Things I am Grateful For but decided instead to take a spin from Laura’s “What are your intentions?” topic.

My 10 on Tuesday:

I intend to live my day with fire today.

I intend to do at least one yoga pose.

I intend to write.

I intend to have meaningful, life giving conversations with teachers today.

I will intentionally listen to what needs my teachers are telling me through conversations.

I intend to pay attention to my surroundings today.

I intend to write down 5–10 experiences from my day.

I intend to write down a random memory.

I intend to smile and say hello to as many students today to celebrate Llama Tuesday!

I intend to enjoy a beverage when I get home from work.

What are your intentions today?

You can read this post on Medium here.