March 30, 2015 Day 30 Slice of Life Challenge


Making Choice and Time a Priority 

Last week our building hosted our staff developer, Maggie Beattie Roberts from Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.  As a TCRWP affiliate school, my building has been very fortunate to work and learn from Maggie for several years.  As a literacy coach I have learned so much from her over these years, she continues to push my thinking and supports my professional development as a coach.  After Maggie’s previous visit we reflected and brainstormed a bit and came up with a plan for these two days she would be with us. This plan provided for choice and time for teachers, similar to the choice and time we believe is essential to running successful reading and writing workshops.

Consistency has been critical in our literacy development as a building and along with consistency that Maggie and I bring to the building is also responsiveness to the building administrator and the teachers. Challenges we face are the size of the building and the number of teachers on a grade level, because it is a building where all the district’s 5th and 6th graders attend. Staff development involves around 18 teachers because we include special education, ESL and reading specialists in our training.  This most recent visit was an extra special treat because we had two days back to back scheduled.  We have been trying to think outside of the box and thought of ways to provide choice and time for teachers in a more individualized manner, meeting the teachers just where they were as we do for students.

This makes total sense of course.  We look at students, we consider their zone of proximal development, then give choice and time in order to develop literacy skills. In working in the same way with teachers we can set up important components that will best support their work as learners in their professional development.  I created a Google form based around topics that Maggie and I thought would meet the building, teacher and student needs.  Teachers received the link for the survey in their email and responded.  Google magic provided me with a response form that I used to create a schedule of study groups and labsites.  The schedule was a bit trickier than usual, but it worked out nicely and everyone received their 1st or 2nd choice.

Groups were set up around the following topics:

  • Test Prep: High Leverage Last Minute Strategies
  • Small Group Work in Writing: Revision in Informational Writing
  • Poetry Anthologies (5th) and The Sounds, Images and Ideas of Poetry (6th)
  • Planning Read-Aloud

Both days were successful and I received a lot of positive feedback from the teachers. So moving ahead I am following up with a new Google form and will plan my follow up work around the building.

This week in our professional learning communities we began our discussions sharing out work from the different groups.  Today two teachers who were part of the planning team around Poetry Anthologies (5th) and The Sounds, Images and Ideas of Poetry (6th) were in our PLC and shared the planning around the upcoming units.  During the planning session with Maggie we worked across the two different grades and curricular calendars.  Planning out an immersion bend for the unit was a great beginning.  We split into partnerships and planned out a poetry shop, a performance day and some centers and curated materials to share.  During PLC today we extended the work that we started with Maggie and teachers  are excited to begin this new upcoming unit.  Today teachers volunteered as the point person for certain responsibilities around the planning, implementation and celebration of this unit.  I am looking forward to watching this unit unfold and to the literacy celebration at the end.

Tomorrow in PLC I am looking forward bridging this work but also sharing out work from the small group sessions since some members of tomorrow’s PLC were in other groups.  For now, I will get that Google form sent out.  Solicit more feedback from teachers in ways that I can extend this work and also plan for the next two days we have Maggie back with us in May!

Time and choice need to be a priority for both students and teachers as we move forward in our teaching and literacy learning.  Forging ahead I will continue to push myself to ensure that teachers have the time and choice that will best support their professional learning and also their students’ literacy learning.

AmyandMaggielabsite 101


March 29, 2015 Day 29 Slice of Life Challenge

Awesome Owen Teaches Me


Tonight I treated my nephew Owen to ice cream, his 1st grade report card and his informational book about baseball were the reasons to celebrate.  Tonight he shared his science fair project with us, of course it was amazing.  I am resisting sharing photos right now because he will be bringing it into school and I cannot reveal it prematurely.  But trust me it was awesome!

Owen is the youngest cousin in the family and I am his godmother and so I always get to brag and gush over Owen.  My brother Rick and his wife Eileen told us early on the pediatrician diagnosed him with PBS (perfect baby syndrome).  As you can imagine Owen receives (and deserves) much attention from all of us.  He is an awesome 1st grader!

Owen taught me something really important about myself when he was about three.  I told you he has PBS so it is highly likely he would be educating his aunt who is an educator.

One night, after we had dinner together at my house  I heard Owen’s footsteps coming down the hallway.  My husband and I were in the living room talking with Eileen and Rick, we looked up as Owen ran into the room.  His eyes were lit up and he had the most excited 3 year old grin on his face.  He was holding something in his hands.

“Look what I did!”  Owen announced proudly.

“Let me see,” I replied.  He walked over and showed me this “thing” that he broke into to two.

“Look, two!” He shouted raising his hands up higher than his head.

I cannot remember what this thing was, but I know it was mine and I know he actually broke it.  I only remember that because I remember Rick and Eileen apologizing (briefly because you know their son has PBS).  I can’t remember what it was and I did not even care that he broke whatever object this was that belonged to me.  What he showed me that day was that the one thing I truly am passionate about, the one thing that makes my heart sing and that is learning.  I can watch learning happen, I can be learning, I can be talking or sharing about learning, I can be guiding the process of learning, but in all ways this is what brings me complete and total joy.

Owen in this one small action and reaction made me realize what made my heart sing and what I was truly passionate about—learning.

Fortunately, I am in education and every day I am lucky to watch learning happen.  I watch students and adults learning around me everyday.  Even more, I get to learn everyday and reflect on that learning as I stretch myself a bit further than the day before.  Learning, all parts of the process, all the messy parts then the glory when the learning is realized and then the messy part again as we reflect and learn more.  Always learning.

This passion I am so grateful for because not only it is present in education where I work, but it is present in my everyday life.  It is woven throughout my existence no matter where I am or what I am doing there is always opportunity to experience learning in some way.

This story about Owen leads me to reflection of this week.  I was involved in so many learning experiences professionally that I could not conceptualize a way to share all I learned in one post.  I think Owen’s story leads me to the place where I can allow myself to reflect on each of the experiences individually, rather than all at once.  Giving each experience the space and reflection it deserves.  This blog post is the beginning of a series on learning experiences from this week that should finish off my Slice of Life Challenge and then lead to a more weekly commitment of blogging.

In a way of a challenge to myself I will continue to work on posts to reflect on the above professional development experiences I participated in this past week.

Thank you Owen for teaching me and showing me what makes my heart sing.  I also have to thank my brother who reads my daily posts and gives me feedback each day.  Tonight he gave me some feedback about the last two days and suggested that because I was writing everyday that maybe my writing was not at the same level because I was valuing quantity over quality in my writing.  I explained that it was not really about that, it was more about making the commitment to just write and make time for it in my life each day.  Creating time for it everyday is how I developed the “habit” and while he may like some posts better than others it still developing me as a writer.  I am learning, in the mess of it and working out the rough edges taking risks and trying some more.  I do know that no matter what I wrote here it is awesome because Owen taught me about my passion. Perhaps I am also ensuring positive feedback from my brother since this entire post is about his son, Owen teaching me. Crafty, yes?  Either way, I learn lessons in literacy and lessons in life and always they are woven together.


March 28, 2015 Day 28 Slice of Life Challenge

Gathering Thoughts and Reflecting

I am almost at the end of this Slice of Life Challenge.  As it is just about midnight, I realize I should really have been just a day ahead.  Early on I had some drafts, they have been used, reworked and used or just never developed beyond the idea I generated.

Today I would have really liked to reflect on my day of learning.  I wish I had my laptop out with me while I was out unexpectedly for the last 3 hours.  My completed Slice of Life would be published.

Tomorrow, I will reflect on my day of learning, and give it the space and thought it deserves.

Tonight, I will publish this.

March 27, 2015 Day 27 Slice of Life Challenge



Energy rises

Eyes tired

Energy rises

Mind wired

Energy rises

Feeling inspired

Poetry is not a genre I typically write but this quick little poem came to my mind tonight as I was writing my post for the Slice of Life Challenge. Originally I was writing about a conference I attended today. Then my mind wandered.  I will save that post for tomorrow, for today feelings of anticipation caught hold of my mind and then inspired me to write a poem.

March 26, 2015 Day 26 Slice of Life Challenge


When does the tide change?  When does the shift happen? When are you at the edge of glory? Ok that is a bit dramatic, I know.  But that song worked for Lady Gaga and when she sang it she emotionally connected with those words.  So often a change is in progress that is moving towards a vision that we want to reach.  There are so many forces along the way that challenge the change.  So many that are beyond our control.  We can be right at the edge of glory and all of a sudden, right in front of us there is something that presents itself, something out of our control that prevents us from crossing that edge.

The key is to keep going, keep your vision in front of you and keep moving with the tide, even when it changes again.  Because when it changes again it brings us closer to the real shift, closer to the edge of glory until finally we cross over and see real change that can be  sustained.

It is through the perseverance that we fine tune our intentions and strengthen our desire for the vision we created. It is though the perseverance where we hone in on our skills.  This is the place where we work the hardest and make the most sustainable growth.  It is during the perseverance where sometimes we fall to the ground and feel that we cannot continue on, it is there that we pick ourselves up, stare at the edge and suddenly we can see the over the edge.  It is then we know we are just about there.

March 25, 2014 Day 25 Slice of Life Challenge


Intellego in Latin means to understand.

As I was helping my son study for a Latin test we reached the word Intellego, which means to understand.  Often when I help him study we talk about derivatives, of course this helps to remember the meaning of the Latin word, but also increases our knowledge and application of words in English.  So when we came to this word intellego suddenly my thoughts about this word and my view of the word intelligence took on a whole new meaning.

If we consider that the English word intelligence is derived from the Latin word intellego then we have to consider our own thinking and views about intelligence.  Perhaps as educators when we consider intelligence we should think deeply about understanding.  Students as they struggle to understand are actually moving towards understanding.  It is a messy place for students to be, learning is hard, learning is uncomfortable and learning is at times avoided for these very reasons.  Pushing thinking is not easy, but if we think about understanding, perhaps it is still uncomfortable to learn but just a little less so.  If we can talk about understanding, then when students think they are “not intelligent” or “not smart” the use of this word makes intelligence more accessible.

In the book Mindset by Carol Dweck, Dweck shares that Alfred Binet, the inventor of the IQ test actually believed,”education and practice could bring about fundamental changes in intelligence.”  This matches very closely to a definition of understanding in the Latin word  intellego, because it suggests a more flexible view of intelligence.  Understanding seems more flexible of an idea than intelligence.  As we shift (or return) to this understanding that intelligence is flexible perhaps looking at the Latin word intellego we borrow the meaning of “understanding” we open our minds to the change in our understanding.


March 24, 2015 Day 24 Slice of Life Challenge


Making Decisions

Currently I am reading several books.  Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, Talk Like Ted by Carmine Gallo and Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt — there are a few more that I am reading in between these, but these are the top three.  Each of these books speaks to a different reading path I am on.  I could almost call it a personal reading project, but it feels more like a path or a journey right now.  I am not sure of the end of the journey, but I know each book has a place on this journey and I cannot decide which one to focus on tonight, especially since the moments are slipping away.  At some point I do need to sleep, at least a short nap.

Today was particularly busy and I now as March 24, 2015 is about to be crossed off the calendar, here I am without a post for the Slice of Life Challenge.  Sure I still have some drafts sitting out there tonight, but the ones that are left are pretty limited.  Not sure if they are worthy of being called drafts, essentially they are still ideas.  The problem with these particular ideas is that they are not speaking to me tonight.

What is speaking to me tonight are these three books.  The quicker I can complete Day 24 of the Slice of Life Challenge, the quicker I can read one of these books.

In between the sentences I type for this post, I pick up a book, in Fish in a Tree I read over the inside of the cover, “Everybody is smart in different ways.  But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.”  I really want to read this book, now!

Then I read over my jottings in Talk Like Ted and begin putting post-its on pages I want to reread and think about more.  I want to read that, watch some Ted Talks that Carmine Gallo refers to and read more.  I settle for post-its and a plan right now.  I have to meet this challenge.

“Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder.”  This is a quote that Sherly Sandberg uses from Pattie Sellers. She is making the case that the term “career ladder” although the common metaphor for careers are actually more like a jungle gym.  This resonates with me.  For many reasons.  My professional journey for one, and then also because there is so much talk right now about creating career ladders for teachers.  Why not create a career jungle gym?  That seems to explore so many more options.  Imagine the talent that could unleash if teachers had career jungle gyms. This is a line I marked up in my book and did so much thinking around.  I feel the need to linger there a bit, think, read and write.  Maybe I should have blogged about that tonight.  Then I resort to a post-it and mark it to return later.

Making decisions…which book?  Well, I think for tonight I will make time to read Fish in a Tree, I marked up the other two books with post-its and a plan.  I could use the company of a good story tonight