2 Strategies to Increase Happiness!

Permission and Gratitude


Kim Strobel is a Happiness Consultant that I was excited to hear speak on Sept 15. Her company is called Strobel Education and she talks about a variety of topics.

There were two big takeaways from this session which is relevant to today because there are things that are already starting to unravel! It is too early in the school year for that jazz!!!


Increase Your Happiness – Strategy 1: Permission Slips

This one actually comes from Brene Brown – to write your self a permission slip like when you were in elementary school and going on a field trip.

So right now…on a post-it note write:

I give myself permission…



Increase Your Happiness – Strategy 2: Gratitude

On a different post-it note write 3 things you are grateful for – right now! The research shows 3 is the magic number – just like in writing.


What are your permissions to yourself and your gratitude list?





Jason Reynolds

Do you know author Jason Reynolds? Not only is he an amazing writer, but an inspirational speaker as well. If you have not listened to his commencement speech for Lesley University,  take 10 minutes out of your day and click play.


If you only have a couple minutes start at 7:20. This timestamp is where Jason talks about how some of us cannot fly and change the world because our wings have been clipped. He talks about how instead of flying high above everyone beyond the common understanding, to look around and Share Your Feathers so everyone is lifted up to a new consciousness.




I am grateful to the teachers I was surrounded with at the end of July who were totally absorbed in this speech. Not only did we listen and watch the video but we had the text in front of us and used it as a reference to write a response in various forms. There are parts of this speech that are heartbreaking and that will stay with you.

For my writing that day, I wrote a poem that I was able to share with a partner as a read aloud. I am still revising it. I wrote it to be so specific for that day’s activities so it wouldn’t make much sense to anyone that didn’t attend the meeting right now!

Who can you share your feathers with today?


Life Bubbles #SOL18

It’s Tuesday! A writing and commenting day I look forward to every week.

Time for the Slice of Life Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers.


I am up incredibly early today. It is the second day in a row I am up at 4 am. I have had coffee and I am thinking about the day.

Yesterday was a busy one. Today will be too. I have happily engulfed myself in the laid back schedule of summer which requires minimal driving, lots of reading and writing, rest, and exercise.

Today is different.

Today I have to go to work. I have to tear myself from my new “normal” routine and transition back to “work” routine and I am not happy about it.

It will be fine once I am on the road. I will naturally morph back into my coaching role today at the literacy retreat/workshop today and tomorrow. I will listen to my podcasts to and from work and make notes.

Don’t misunderstand. I love the people at this workshop and will be delighted to spend the days with them but there will be a part of me all day longing to be with my husband and children.

Today will fuel my writing and my plans for coaching for the upcoming school year. I have big plans, but I am not quite so ready to think about them yet.

abendstimmung background background image blur
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I like my bubbles. Most of the time the home bubble and the work bubble only exist next to each other. We will see if they collide today or continue to be friends.

My Brain Needs More Oxygen!

happy child fun boy
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Last month I attended an amazing workshop with Jack Berckemeyer and his colleagues. One of the main components of their presentations is FUN. As I was listening I started a list of funny stories from my teaching career. Every teacher has funny stories of situations with students and I have decided to write some of them down.

Laughter helps you lose weight, live longer, and lower your blood pressure. Bring on the guffaws!

My Brain Needs More Oxygen!

When I was teaching first grade many years ago I was honored to have a professional development coordinator in my district named Rita Brodnax. One of the many programs she brought to the district was Brain Compatible Teaching for Learning. One of the many practices I have adopted over the years is to share some of the learning with my students when I have attended a conference or workshop when I return.  I want the students to know that I am still learning and bringing it into the classroom for them and for me.

One concept I had talked to my students about was the need for the brain to have oxygen when thinking gets difficult. When we are learning new things our heads literally hurt because new dendrites are being formed. When this happens we need to sit up straight so out brain gets more oxygen to aid in the process.

I had a very unique class of cohesive learners that year and we were able to get to mastery levels with grade level material very quickly. They were sponges. We wrote and read every day. The kids were constantly making books. We had our family meetings in the mornings and then wrote a group chart. then the students wrote in their journals and we conferenced. The afternoons were filled with read alouds and math.

It was may and we had reached the end of the math book so I began material from the second grade standards to get them ready for the next grade. It was harder concepts, they knew it was second grade material but I was chunking it and things were going well.

This afternoon we were talking about borrowing in double digit subtraction and the students were working on a problem independently to check their thinking after the model part of the lesson. This was normal practice for our class.

Suddenly in the middle of silent work and productive struggle (there were lots of mumblings of process steps) my student Micah stood up abruptly.  It was so sudden it startled everyone. I asked him what was wrong.

(My name was Zack at the time)

Micah said “MS Zack, this is hard! My brain needs more oxygen” and with his missing tooth grin spread across his face his classmates and I laughed. I told him he could stand for as long as he needed to.

He stood for the rest of the lesson.

From then on, it became a thing for students to randomly stand. No one was alarmed when someone stood after Micah’s introduction to the concept in our room.

9 Read Aloud Guidelines for Parents and Teachers


  1. The story needs to be read at different speeds depending on the content. Sometimes a book needs to be read slowly or very fast! Pay attention to the punctuation and word placement on the page especially for picture books.
  2. If you are reading to a class it is usually a good practice to read the book to yourself first. Don’t just grab one off the shelf.
  3. A cold read can be valuable to have some teachable moments when you encounter unknown words, misread sentences and then teach the students how to deal with it.
  4. Children are never too old, or to young, to read aloud to.
  5. You can always come back to a book. There are many reasons to read. The brain loves pattern and many children enjoy hearing the same story over and over and over…even though we don’t always like to read that many times!
  6. Find spaces to read where you are less likely to be distracted.
  7. Having a set read aloud time establishes a pattern.
  8. Books can go with you anywhere – especially if you are reading to your children you can read in the car while waiting, or in line.
  9. Choice is important! Let your child, or the class, choose what to read. Modeling the choice will help when you want them to choose books to read independently.

Bring on the Book Flood! #SOL18


As a reading teacher, I always talk about how classroom teachers need to have quality books in their rooms available to put into little one’s heads and hands.

The book flood is a concept in which so many books are brought into space that there are more than enough for students to find a book that speaks to them. You will hear many professional authors talk about this concept: Richard Allington, Penny Kittle, Kelly Gallagher, Donalyn Miller. Just like a swimmer needs a pool to learn how to swim, readers need books to learn to read.

There are several options to make a book flood happen in your classroom.

1.Personal debt – not the best option but Amazon and the local bookstore will love you.

2. Garage sales

3. Thrift shops

4. Library – for check out and for book sales

5. Grants

I wrote a small grant a couple years ago to purchase a class set of books that were based on children’s author Lester Laminack’s favorite books. He had shared a list of his favorite books (at the moment) at a Professional educational partnership event at Valparaiso University in 2010. The books were purchased to demonstrate the link between reading and writing, mentor texts, and great read-aloud stories to be enjoyed.

The ten books were

The Barn Owls and The Harmonica by Tony Johnston

Image result for the barn owls bookImage result for the harmonica book

The Other Side and Our Gracie Aunt by Jacqueline Woodson

Image result for the other side bookImage result for our gracie aunt book

Koala Lou and Wilfred Gordan MacDonald Partridge by Mem Fox

Image result for koala lou bookImage result for wilfrid gordon mcdonald partridge book

What You Know First and All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLaughlin

Image result for what you know first bookImage result for all the places to lover book

In November and Scarecrow  by Cynthia Rylant

Image result for in november bookImage result for scarecrow book

After the books arrived we held a professional development session for some specific ideas of how to use this book set. All the activities could be used with any of the books in the collection.

  1. Author studies for the 5 authors
  2. General word study activities
  3. General read aloud guidelines
  4. Writing activities
  5. Suggested questions
  6. Some specific activities that went with each book

It was a great experience and I had hoped to continue the process with other authors.

The books were loved and read over and over again!

April Reflection and Next Steps

What I learned in Aprilpexels-photo-974198.jpeg



Camp NANOWRIMO is a month long challenge to tackle a writing project in a month. For Camp you set your own word count goals. Regular NANOWRIMO is hosted in November where the goal is to write 50,000 words.

I did not win CAMP this year. It was my first go around with CAMP. Regular NANOWRIMO in November was successful but I discovered through writing and gathering my research to write my professional teaching book I need more time. The format still doesn’t seem quite right. The next step is to use the content as blog posts. It will serve the purpose better at the present time. I am still moving forward with the project but it will look different. I am wondering if I should start a separate blog just for the teaching/coaching pieces of my life and keep the writing and reading blog.

2018StoryADaySidebar500.pngI am not gearing up for STORYADAY May and am super excited to have joined the SUPERSTARS group. I am hoping to make some real connections to some other short story writers. I have been collecting story sparks – as always and thinking about the excitement of having a stack of short story drafts by the end of the month.


2. Mindset Matters

Winter is still here in Northwest Indiana. I had to shift my mindset when it came to running this month. I kept getting myself excited about running outside and then the weather would not cooperate. Finally, I had to decide that my running routine will be sprints and HIIT workouts on the treadmill. If the weather is pleasant then I would run outside, but I would look at it as a surprise or a treat rather than the expectation. This has led to much more pleasant gym visits and the workouts are consistent rather than all over the place and me being angry about it.


3. Reading RunDown with Links!

The Hazelwood

The Hazel Wood: A Novel by [Albert, Melissa]

Written on the Body


Long Way Down

The Rules Do Not Apply

The Year of Less

Betwixt and Between Essays

Lillian Boxfish Goes for a Walk

On Being a Writer

Stranger in the Woods


4. New Podcasts with Links!

Real Talk Radio

Don’t Keep Your Day Job

Earn Your Happy

Being Boss

That What She Said

5. Favorite Podcasts with Links!

Emily P Freeman’s The Next Right Thing

Julie Duffy’s Story A Day

Rachael Herron’s How Do You Write?

Looking Ahead:

There has been a lot of planning for PD and formats for next school year. All the planning makes me excited to get started…but I have to wait. I finally had to break down and start a 2018-2019 notebook to make notes for next school year. It is going to be a great year!

Imposter Syndrome #SOL18

db4de-slice-of-life_individualAs defined by Wikipedia:

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and have a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.


I have suffered from this “syndrome” unfortunately in several ways throughout my professional life. There was a time that I didn’t feel worthy to give any teaching advice because “I didn’t have enough years.” When I was asked for my input early in my teaching career for professional development, or to have a student teacher, to lead a cadre of teachers to be in charge of new teacher orientation training, or to take on a leadership role I thought that someone would find me out and send me to the corner.

Professional writers deal with this all the time. I cannot count the interviews with authors, even famous ones like Neil Gaiman, who don’t feel like “real” authors. Writers who have books on the New York Times Bestseller list even.

I am writing my professional manuscript about teaching writing for #CAMPNANOWRIMO this month. Last week over spring break it occurred to me and I tweeted:


As adults, we struggle with imposter syndrome. As teachers of writing, we struggle with imposter syndrome. How many colleagues say, “Well, I am not really a writer?” The TWO WRITING TEACHERS host the March Challenge for Slice of Life to help teachers feel like writers with the support of the blog and the other teachers who comment.

As we move forward we need to remember to support our student writers. The impact of one strong piece of academic feedback and encouragement we give to students can literally make or break a writer. In fifth grade, a teacher praised my descriptive writing. I HAVE NEVER FORGOTTEN THE COMMENT and think about it as I write in my journal, a blog post, a letter to a friend, or my book.

Sometimes we have to get out of our own way.

If we write, students see us as writers.

If you wrote blog posts (1-31) in March, you are a writer.

If you write on Tuesdays for Slice of Life, you are a writer.

If you write in a journal, you are a writer.

If you write short stories, you are a writer.

If you only write as models and WE DO’s with students, you are a writer.


Own it, and pass it on.

Sunday, Sunday

This past week I was on spring break. My main goals were to read, write, run, and sleep. I did get more sleep than normal. I did read a lot. For CampNANOWRIMO I am up to 18,000 words. The weather was cold and windy so I did not run as much as I wanted. The weather should cooperate today so I can get some miles in.

I did get a screw in my tire Friday which put a wrench in some scheduling.

I have some reading posts for this week scheduled to talk about my books and my reactions. I will continue to work on the manuscript too.

One of the new teacher books I treated myself to is Poems Are Teachers by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater. It came in the mail yesterday and I am super excited to dig in. Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher’s new book is on the way too. The #teachwrite chat on Twitter is to blame for those purchases!! Ha ha

One of the epiphanys I had was to start a questioning coaching cycle. I will work on starting Monday. There are measurable pieces and a definite need. I am thrilled to have a new project.

I also have some more block scheduling research to conduct.

I much prefer the schedule at home but must return to work tomorrow. I will wring as much out of Sunday as possible!



My Favorite Question #SOL18

db4de-slice-of-life_individualMy favorite question to ask students and teachers is:

What do you notice?


I use it when I model lessons for teachers.

I use it when I am asking students about text.

I use it during a brain drainer [defocus to refocus] to reflect on a quote from Marianne Williamson.

I use it when I debrief with a teacher after a visit.

I use it with teachers when examining student work.

What is your favorite question to ask??

A bonus question: Instead of What do you do? I like to ask: What are you most passionate about? What gets you out of bed in the morning?