Happy Birthday, Anne!

Twenty-nine years ago, on a Monday morning, at 8:07am, on January, 20, 1992 Anne was born at Fairfax Hospital, in Virginia. Valentine’s Day was her expected due date but she surprised all by arriving three weeks early. Despite this, she still weighed 8 pounds, 3 ounces and was 19 inches long. Her dad and mom named her after her dad’s dad’s mother, her great-grandmother. The first Anne McGreevey Donnelly was a strong Democratic political force in the Ohio State legislature, serving for five terms. She must have been lookin gdown from above with a smile on her face as Anne arrived in the world on this political-related holiday – Inauguration Day!

Anne’s 1st birthday lent itself to a family red-white-and-blue Inaugural-theme birthday party! The prior eight years were not celebratory years for her Democratic voting family. The White House then was occupied by Republican President George H. W. Bush. But now, as she turned one, her country was celebrating the swearing in of Democratic President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. Her namesake was again cheering from above along with her family in Del Ray, Alexandria, VA. To ensure a festive party outfit, Anne’s mom made a special trip into Georgetown to visit a shop that was selling all things inaugural. She purchased matching t-shirt for Anne and her older sister, Bridgit, to wear. Each white shirt had the presidential blue and red logo across the front, honoring the new leaders of the USA. Her Aunt Patti came to the party, wearing her Clinton/ Gore sweatersirt. She was happy to celebrate with Anne and even happier that all her community organizing had paid off to elect a democratic team to the White House. A Baskin Robbins ice cream cake was purchased with “Happy Birthday Anne” lettering formed in red frosting and trimmed with blue piping. Her godmother, Susan, looked on as Anne blew out the one candle, and big sister, Bridgit, was on-the-ready to assist if needed. Afterwards, Anne relaxed on her dad’s lap, looking so festive in her birthday-themed shirt!

Eight years later, the Republicans won back the White House. Needless to say, her Democratic-leaning family refrained from throwing Anne an Inauguration party in 2001 or in 2005. Instead, a new theme was needed. Ice skating was picked one year. Anne dressed warmly in her purple L.L.Bean winter coat with matching scarf and hat and metroed with friends to the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden’s ice rink. After lots of glided around the rink, all enjoyed cupcakes and pizza afterwards at Ballston Mall with the birthday girl.

Then in 2009, another Inauguration-themed birthday party did occurred for Anne. Though there are no photos to prove it, ALL remember her 17th birthday so well. It was January 20, 2009 and President Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States. Anne’s friends met at her house in the early morning. All were wearing red, white and blue hats, scarves, and gloves, along with their winter coats zipped up over long johns, turtle necks and sweathers. Boy, was it a cold day and because the plan was to be outside all day long , the birthday group dressed for it. They headed downtown on foot, first walking the one mile to the Ballston Metro. They joined a crowded subway platform as so many had the same idea, tp be on the downtown Mall and watch Barack Obama and Joe Biden be swore in as President and Vice President.

Anne’s group made it only as far as a jumbo-tron next to the Washington Monument. They stood shoulder to shoulder amongst a friendly crowd of mostly families. Everything happening just a mile away, at the opposite end of the Mall on the steps of the Capitol, was seen and heard by Anne and her friends. The lovely classical piece played by the quartet, led by Yo-Yo Ma, and Aretha Franklin, in her awesome hat, singing My Country Tis of Thee were perfect musical tributes. Then at 12 noon, the first African American man took the oath of office and become the 44th President of the United States. The crowd erupted chanting “Yes We Can”. What a great way to celebrate a 17th birthday!

Tomorrow is Anne’s 29th birthday. Thanks to 81 million American voters, her party theme can once again be a Democratic-inspired Inauguration party. However, a repeat of 2009 won’t occur. One reason is that Anne now lives in Toulouse, France. But a more complicated reason is that sadly, due to unprecidented events, the Mall is closed. The Capitol and its surrounding 2-mile radius is now surrounded by fencing and the National Guard. Anne’s namesake must surely be turning in her grave. However, Anne, her family and friends will still be wearing red-white and blue and watching on a screen as they sit safely at home. A glass will be raised to offer a toast to President Joe Biden. A glass will be raised to offer a toast to Vice President Kamala Harris, the first women Vice President.

And all of Anne’s family and friend will surely raise a glass to ANNE!!

Happy Inauguration Day!
Happy Birthday, Anne!
Raise a glass to freedom in honor of Anne’s birthday!!

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OLW – Structure

It’s my 7th year to choose a One Little Word.
2015 – Responsiveness
2016 – Transparency
2017 – Routine
2018 – Active
2019 – Confident
2020 – Here / Hear
2021 – Structure

Married to an architect, buidling structures come to mind when I think of this word.
That part of a building that is essential. That part that holds it all up.

As a reading teacher, text structures come to mind.
The organizations. Which one did the author use?
Chronological order, classification, definition, process, description, comparison, problem/solution, cause/effect.

When helping students, I provide tools as a support, as a structure.
Graphic organizers, sentence stems, timers, agendas, rubrics, checklists.

Personally, I have tools I turn to for support, as a structure.
The goodread app structures my reading life.
The health app counts my steps and strucutres my exercise.
Padlet holds onto useful links in a structured way.

When a structure is in place, I believe a stronger outcome occurs.
Because I want 2021 to be a good year, I am choosing STRUCTURE as my OLW.
I plan to be on the look out for structures to offer me support.
I plan to have a strong, structured 2021.

How about you? What is your OLW??!!

OLW – 2020 reflection

I started picking a OLW (AKA one little word) back in 2015 and each chosen word has served me well.
2015 – Responsiveness
2016 – Transparency
2017 – Routine
2018 – Active
2019 – Confident
2020 – Here / Hear

I wrote HERE about my 2020 word as I reflected on my 2019 word and now realized I never wrote about it again. I guess I was distracted by a few other things during 2020. Today I decided I would write about my 2020 OLW. I also think my 2021 OLW has found me. I’ll reveal it at the end!

What a difference a year makes. During 2019, I chose confident as my OLW and as I reflected on it on Dec. 31, 2019, I named many proud accomplishes I made confidently related to both my professional and personal life. I then ended the blog post naming here/hear as my 2020 OLW. I found it clever to choose a homophone:
HEAR….verb….to listen with my ears and maybe hear with my eyes, too, to notice more and maybe hear with my heart, too, in order to feel more for others.
HERE….noun…this place, this world, this life, this present….to live in the here and now.

In 2019, I felt so often that technology and social media removed our physical presence. We text. We email. We communicate. But no physical gathering occured. As I began 2020, I decided to make a point to not just type Happy Birthday and an emoji when facebook sent me an alert. My OLW would remind me to call the birthday person and invite them over or agree to meet up on a Saturday for an in-person lunch. Then once together, in the here and now, I’d listen, notice and hear them.

A push for this OLW was to specifically take time to see old friends again. Sadly, last December, a high school classmate suddenly died. I couldn’t attend her funeral in Texas so a few local friends gathered in her memory. We sat and prayed the rosary. Then we shared old stories and laughed together. As I drove home that day, I thought about how silly it is to wait to see old friends at a funeral. Instead, in the the here and now, I wanted to make time to gather and connect in person.

Then just three months into 2020, the here and now changed. Suddenly, it became no longer safe to physically gather in person. Thanks to technologies like zoom and google meets and social media like instagram and twitter, I began to safely connect with family and friends across screens. Suddenly h-e-r-e here tranformed to keep us all safe and well.

As I continued to adjust to the new 2020 normal, I do think I got a little better at using my ears to h-e-a-r hear. As my husband and I both began to work from home, we naturally started spenting more time sharing, discussing and wondering together. Back in 2019, by the time we both got home from working all day long, we didn’t feet like talking about our daily work particulars so we didn’t share much. Now, suddenly, as we eat all our meals together, we chat about our online work. And I find myself trying to listen well, with my ears, my eyes and my heart, too.

With just days away from the beginning of a new year, 2021, I’ve been thinking about my next OLW. As I reread my 2019 OLW reflection, I noticed a few things. In 2019, I read lots. I wrote lots. I traveled lots. I shared lots through presentations and blog posts. And it felt like a good year!

As I look more closely, I notice that when I have a structure in place, I do the things I love. For example, this TwoWritingTeacher Tuesdays and March Slice of Life structure keeps me writing. Recently, 2 friends suggested we write on Monday afternoons using Google Meets. This structured calendar invite ensures a regular day and time to keep us meeting and writing. I set a reading goal at my daughter’s suggesting using the Goodread app. This structure counts the books I read and charts it with my personal reading goal in mond. The Call for Proposal structure nudges me to apply to make presentations to share with others. So many structures catapult me toward the things I love to do.

I am picking STRUCTURE as my 2021 OLW. As I reflect on my personal goals for this upcoming year, I will ensure I have a structure in place to support me. I’m feeling it is the perfect word for me to add to this sixth year of choosing a ONE LITTLE WORD.
2015 – Responsiveness
2016 – Transparency
2017 – Routine
2018 – Active
2019 – Confident
2020 – Here / Hear
2021 – Structure

How was your 2020 OLW?
What’s your 2021 OLW going to be?

My Addiction

The prompt: What can you not stop doing?

The answer that comes immedietely to mind is buying books. Looking back on just this month (which is only halfway over), I’ve already purchesed a total of 20 books. That’s more than a book a day. Yikes.

It started on Election Day. With a day off from teaching, I treated myself to a quick trip to my favorite bookstore, Politics and Prose. I had heard author, Kwame Alexander on NPR the day before discussing his newest YA novel, Becoming Mohammed Ali, and I had to get it. I ended up buying it, plus 3 more. As a reading teacher, I easily justify my purchases. It’s my job to recommend books to my students and how better than to buy the newest by the best YA authors. Unfortunately, my job does not come with an expense account.

One would think these four new texts would last me for the month but no. As I scrolled through my twitter feed days later, I saw the librarian friend’s post: Virtual Book Fair beings today! Wanting to be supportive, I scrolled through 24 pages of online options and soon filled my electronic cart with 15 books. “All orders over $30 will have FREE shipping” it stated as I checked out. I easily met this requirement, times eight.

That adds up to 19. Last Friday I bought 1 more book. I had to.

It was Friday, Period 5, my last class of another long week of teaching safely from my spare bedroom using TEAMS. Staring at my computer screen, I only saw multiple circles, each filled with two intials, each centered on a gray rectangle and in the bottom left hand corner in 6pt font, a student’s name. I glanced at the clock and noticed just five minutes with my faceless 6th grade reading class. I glanced back and noticed C was here today! I’ve been worried about C. Actually my whole middle school team has been worried about him due to his sporatic attendance and his incomplete assignments piling up across all seven of his classes.

“C, how’s it going? Do you have a book to read or can I help you find one?”

A whispered voice replied, “No, I need help.”

“Great!” I answered. “Let me share my screen and remind you how to access the school’s library catalog. If you pick a book today, it can be ready for pickup during Monday’s Curbside pickup.” As I demonstrated the clicks needed to get to the catalog, I recalled conferring with C weeks ago and how the Diary of a Wimpy Kid was his favoirte series.

“Hey, C. The newest Diary of a Wimpy Kid book came out. Want to search for it?

“Oh, Yes!” an excited voice replied.

The catalog showed the school library did have a copy but it was already checked out. I voiced directions to help C successfully place this title on hold and now he was on the Wait List. Then it was time to end this class and head to lunch. I wished C a good weekend and his gray restangle, showing his initials, left my screen. I pressed the red LEAVE bar and ended our online reading class.

However, C’s “Oh, Yes!” stuck with me as I headed to the kitchen to make my lunch and happily return to my home classroom because all I had left to do was a planning period and then begin my weekend. I returned to my computer and checked C’s online file. Discovering he lived just a mile away, I impulsively grabbed my wallet and my mask and drove to my neighborhood Barnes and Nobel. They, of course, had a big display of this popular book. I quickly grabbed one, headed to the checkout and was safely back in my car in record time. (With Covid, I try not to spend too long inside a store.) Sitting in my car, I printed out this note to stick in the book:

C –
I wanted you to be the first
to borrow my classroom copy of this book.
So glad you are in my reading class.
Mrs. Donnelly

Then I sheepishly drove to the address listed in his file. Though it felt a little bit like stalking, I knew he would like getting this special delivery. So I knocked and when a woman, I assumed to be his mother answered, I simply said, “This is for C” and I handed her the book and left.

My count was 4 on Election Day. Then it grew to 19 after my impulsive book fair purchased. Then Friday’s purchase brought it to an even 20. What can I not stop doing? I can’t stop buying books. It seems like an expensive vise. Yet, I’m OK with it. Having students like C benefit from my addiction makes it perfectly OK for me.

DIY-Birthday Cards

“I need 2 bananas, a loaf of bread, extra sharp cheddar cheese, chicken thighs, the ones on sale, and more postage stamps. And I needs another packet of blank cards from Michaels.” I jot down my mom’s list and place it in my purse with her credit card. Since last March, my routine has been to stop by my mom’s condo, just 3 miles from where I live, on Thurdays. We enjoy the take-out meal I bring, followed by a card game of 2-handed Pinochle. Currently, I am winning by one, 14 games to 13. Then I leave with my errands list to execute on Sunday. Always to the grocery shop and sometimes a craft store errand. This allows my mom, at age 85, to stay home and safe which is the best antidote for staying well during this pandemic.

My mom has always kept track of her friends’ birthdays, long before facebook began sending electronic reminders. Even though wishes can easily be sent now through an email or a text message, she still utilzes snail mail to send her friends paper birthday cards. And she isn’t letting this pandemic stop her. Instead, she has turned this kindness into a new pandemic hobby. I call it “DIY-cards”. First, she searches through her many photo albums with her birthday friend in mind. After finding a kodak moment, she removes the photo and glues it to the front of a pre-folded cardstock blank card which the Michael’s craft store sells. After adding a personal handwritten note to the inside, she slides it into the accompaning envelop, adds the address and then walks it down to her condo mailboxes to place it in the outgoing mail.

This month, I became the recipient of one of my mom’s creations. Immediately, I recognized her slanted left-handed cursive writing as I retrieved the mail from my mailbox. As I pulled the card from its holder, I was surprised to see the photo. It was of my two daughters, probably at age 12 and 15 and a much younger me, all smiling. Sporting their favorite college-wear, Bridgit was in her much-loved Columbia sweatshirt and Anne in her UVA soccer t-shirt. Me, looking through my wire-rimmed glasses, look vacation-relaxed. And in the background flowed the Mississippi River. This photo took me back to our All-Girl Road Trip to see the St. Louis Arc over a dozen years ago. My mom, often asking us to stop and pose, did so here as we departed the Tom Sayer Riverboat, our lunchean spot after touring the St. Louis Arc.

Looking at this handmade birthday card, I paused and instantly I was back in Missouri. standing outside the sleek silver structure, climbing into the small capsule which took us up the one side of the arc, disembarking to peer out the windows, revealing a birds-eye view of St. Loius. Then climbing back into another capsule and sailing down the Arc’s other side. This one birthday card took me back to this other time and other place. What a lovely birthday gift!

On Sunday, wearing my mask, I stopped first at Safeway and gathered all the grocery and then stopped at Michaels. As I grabbed a 10-pack of blank cardstock cards and headed to the checkout, I wondered who would recieve a photo memory from my mom next. Whoever it was, I knew the recipient would enjoy where my mom’s creativity would take them. To another place, at another time and that is definitely the kind of birthday card that is needed in 2020!

Summer Ends – School Begins

This summer
summer of 2020
pandemic summer
productive summer
summer of PD
summer of home cooking
summer of long neighborhood walks
staycation summer

This school year
school year 2020-2021
pandemic school year
school year like no other
school year to teach 6th graders
school year to teach Reading
my 29th school year.

Here I go!

Word Wall Needed

Last Spring I took a graduate course to learn The Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP). It is a specific protocol designed to support English Learners in the classroom. One part of the protocol is to explicitly teach content vocabulary.

As I spent last week in a variety of county PD to help prepare for the upcoming school year, I felt like an EL student at times. Maybe I need a word wall. Something like this:

Remote Teaching Word Wall
activate participants….asyncronous…breakout room…Canvas….channels….

internet outage….live steam….lobby…..log on…..meeting link…..password….


Exactly a year ago, I was stapling bright yellow material to the bulletin board in Room 129. I used magnets to hold the A Day and B Day schedule to the white board. I shelved the fantacy books to one bookshelf and the realistic fiction to another. I stacked the composition notebooks on a table to distribute to anyone who forgot to bring one. Next to the stack, I placed post-it notes and flair markers and a big bin of pencils. My classroom awaited my 6th grade readers.

Now I sit in a bedroom in my house. I placed the old dining room table in one corner and a bookcase opposite it. Now, as I participate in TEAM meetings, my backdrop is what I love. Books! My table holds my laptop and my iPad and my iPhone. These three devises will help me connect. On the table is also a basket holding post-it notes, another holding flair markers, the tape dispenser, a box of crayons and a basket of index cards. On the wall is a calendar and a clock. My remote classroom is ready.

As I compare last year to this year, some vocaularty is the same. Lots is different. I do hope by September 8th, I comprehend enough to allow me to teach well.

Window / Mirror Reading

As I read books this summer, I tried to also make Reading Notebook Pages to practice showing my thinking I tried a new structure based on the idea that a book can be a mirror and allows me to see myself in it and a book can be a window into a world unknown to me. This is based on Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop’s writing about Windows, Mirrors and Sliding Glass Doors HERE. The last book I read allowed me to record my thinking using both the window and mirroe structure. If you haven’t read Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heligman, I highly recommend it!

I am proud of all the reading I was able to accomplish this summer. I made this reading log and graph to show all I have read since the pandemic began on March 13th:

This format allows me to reflect on volume, genre and author identity. I read 28 books in 5 months. This equals about 1.5 books per week. It could be more. However, I have found my pandemic reading focus to bit strained so I will give myself some grace. Going forward, maybe I’ll aim for 2 books a week. When I made the target graph, I assumed I would read a variety of genres. But I should just admit it. I love HF and RF and I am starting to like NF more. I tend to read YA but keep nudging myself to include adult books, too. Going forward, I think I will leave off Mystery and Fantasy on my next bullseye. They aren’t the genres that I’m into right now. I do want to read more poetry, so I will keep it on the target. As for reading with a diversity lens, 15/28 books were by non-white authors. I will continue to be aware of the author’s identity and choose books by authors different from me.

FInal note: This edutopia article offers ways to incorporate the Sliding Door – maybe that is my next step! How did my perpective change because I read this book? What might a sliding door notebook page look like?

IJ Prompt #105 – The world we want…Imagine it.

Let’s write a description of the world we really want. Let’s be exuberant, and dare to create it. Picture it, and be as particular as you can. Gardens on every city roof? What is growing there—corn? flowers? trees? Enjoy every detail. It is possible if we imagine it. – from Isolation Journal #105

I imagine a world where no one is limited by lack of money, where travel is free and available (again) and where the more education one has, the more value they have.

So often when I have a big idea or a dream, I hear myself saying, “If only I could win the lottery.” What if, in my imagined world, I did win.
What would I do?

I would travel….

…to my backyard. I’d hire workmen to install the firepit finally and have the lawn reseeded and I’d visit the garden center and load up my car with so many new plants and it would be a quick trip because I never look at the price tag, wasting no time to find the cheaper plants. And I’d buy not just 2 but 4 or maybe 6 Adirondack chairs.

…to France because in my imagined world, European travel is allowed again. I would reconnect with my daughter in France and then move on to Venice. After months of having time to breathe and cleanse itself from all the toxins caused by tourist, I so would walk along the cleaner Grand Canal and enjoy this unique city once more.

…to the classroom, where in my imagined world, education replaces money as status and any uneducated words spoken aloud would be major embarrassments. Students would spend all their time researching their passions and listening and fact checking and one’s word would be expected to be true. Teachers would guide and would be the most valued in the community.

What’s your imagined world look like?

My Inner Child

I buttoned my Peter Pan-collared white shirt. I pulled my maroon and gray plaid jumper over my head. I pulled up my matching marron socks, slid on my loafers and slipped my arms into the maroon sweater. My 7-year old self felt ready for school. As I arrived, all the girl’s outfits matched. We lined up next to the boys dressed in white shirts, navy slacks and maroon ties. It looked like we were on the same team. I felt like I belonged on this team. Belonging is important.

However, my adult-self wonders about that child. Sitting all day in her classroom taught by white nuns and surrounded by white kids. Learning to read with the Dick and Jane readers to then graduate to textbooks sharing a one-side white history of America.

This summer I’ve been reading antiracist history books and listening to antiracist podcasts. Now I see that girl in the jumper differently. Now I see my adult-self as someone who needs to know more. Someone who needs to wake up and stand up for all. 

  NOTE: I wrote this piece during a PD called Trauma Informed Writing Workshop offered by Arlene Casimir, a staff developer at TCRWP. (She is offering this PD 2x more on Friday, August 14th, $50. I recommend).

1. With my non-dominate hand, sketch myself as a child. (a quick 1-minute sketch)
2. Name the age of the child in my sketch.
3. With my non-dominate hand, write the story this child wants to tell.
4. Ask yourself after writing, what does this child need to hear?
I followed these steps and also added my own adult-self reflection in this slice.