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.

Pandemic Hawaiian Dinner Party

“Let’s make the theme Hawaiiian and I’ll wear that shirt my sister gave me as a present after her trip to Maui,” my husband, Brian, suggested. For 2 years that cotton royal blue short sleeve shirt has hung in his closet. It’s not surprising he’s never chosen to wear it. It’s covered with bold yellow island flowers. But last Sunday, this festive, loud shirt became the catalyst for our dinner party.

First, I planned the dinner guest list. It felt safe inviting Brian’s sister. She lives a few miles away and has been safely staying at home during this time. And my daughter, Bridgit, too, who lives nearby and has been following the safety guidelines to a T. Should I add more? I think not. With just four, I can easily arrange the living room furniture so all can sit safely at a distance. Same goes for spreading out the seating around our long rectangular dining room table. If this were another time, my own mom and sister plus a few girlfriends would definitely be on my list But for this dinner party, four was enough.

Next, I planned the menu. My google search of Hawaiian food resulted in hours of clicking and perusing. Finally, I chose. Mai Tai cocktails, a Hawaiian dip and a watermelon-pineapple salad for starters. Then Hawaiian chicken, pineapple and peppers cooked in my cast iron skillet and served over rice for the main course. With a list of ingredients and my mask, I headed to the grocery store and the liquor store. As Brian swiffered and vacuumed, I prepped all the food in the kitchen. I diced the yellow, orange and green peppers.I cubed the pineapple and watermelon. I layered the ham, crushed pineapple, bacon bits and spring onion on top of the cream cheese for the dip. I sliced oranges to garnish the cocktails. 

Last, I planned my dinner party outfit. For months, my major decisions each morning has been which shorts I’d wear with which t-shirt. For this dinner party, I actually tried on several different summer, flowery dresses from my closet. I picked the plum sundress and chose my fancier sandals to wear. Then I opened my jewelry box and chose a dangling pair of earring to wear. The amethyst stone at the tip matched my dress perfectly.

All evening, my husband looked vacation-relaxed wearing his flowery island shirt, as did all the women dressed up in their summer Sunday best. We sipped our cocktails, enjoyed the colorful meal and chatted. As my sister-in-law departed she said, “Thanks so much. Tonight felt normal again.” I had to agree. Already, my wheels are spinning to plan the next dinner party.

I wonder what the theme will be. Any suggestions?

Click each word to see the recipe I used for my Hawaiian dinner party:

Mai Tai
Easy Hawaiian Dip
Hawaiian Chicken

A sign…a sigh…

Since March 13th, I’ve found comfort in writing about the signs I see.

New blooms while taking neighborhood walks.

Fliers and yard signs supporting BLM.

Little league pitchers taking to the mound.

Today, I hung this sign and ribbon on my front yard tree.

RIP, Congressman John Lewis. #GoodTrouble

What will be your #GoodTrouble??

Silver Linings

Today I glanced at my phone and saw MONDAY 13 on the calendar app and it hit me. I counted on my fingers to make sure. Yep. Four. It has been four months. Four months since the Governor of VA shuttered school buildings due to the virus and suggested that we all stay home to stay safe.

Looking back on these months, I do notice silver linings.

For one, I am now a better observer, especially when it comes to spring flowers. I might even go as far as saying I’m now an expert on when flowers bloom. To help me pass the time while being home, I started taking a walk throughout my neighborhood. This routine allowed me to notice so many trees and flowerbeds. Daily I snapped a photo of a bloom that caught my eye. Now my photofeed reminds me exactly when cetain flora comes to life. In March, the pink magnolia trees petals looked so lovely against the blue spring sky. Early April brought the cherry blossoms followed by the azaleas and dogwood. Then my favorite, the lilacs. In May, it was time for the rhododendron and the roses. June brings the hydrangea. Now it is July and the lily pads in our new pond bloomed for the first time.

Another silver lining involves my nephew. On June 4, 2019, he was the 151st pick in the Major League Baseball draft.

Last week, just thirteen months later, he got the call! The LA Angels told him to report to Spring training! I wonder if the world was still normal, would he have gotten the call. Maybe. Maybe not. No matter. I am so proud of Garrett’s dedication to playing a sport he loves.

I thought about this as I took my walk last Saturday morning. For the first time, I saw my neighborhood baseball field occupied. A little guy took to the mound and the ref yelled, “Batter up!” and the the supportive fans sat 6 feet apart.

What’s your silver lining?

If you have 2 minutes, watch this video to be reminded why baseball is such a great sport.


Note: This was my writing inspired by the Isolation Journals Prompt #97

Your prompt for today:
Picture the chairs that you sit in on a regular basis—at home, in public, comfortable or uncomfortable. Now pick one of those chairs, and write an ode to it, considering the physical and emotional sensations it evokes. Does the lumbar support ease strain on your lower back? Does the chair remind you of a beloved grandparent? Does it have a great view? Try to make visible the dynamics of sitting you’ve gotten so used to that they’re currently invisible.

Two bar stolls stand tall in my home at the raised counter between the dining room and kitchen. Each made only of metal, bent into a seat, a back, and bar across the legs, providing a foot rest. Its simple form provides a funtional design and matches the modern house they grace. It became a weekend habit of mine to sit in one while completing school work. As I sat, I easily glance up and across the kitchen to the large window above the sink and notice the neighbors walking their dogs down the street. Most often, my laptop is opened and I quickly read emails and type replies. My feet, unable to touch the floor, rest on the stool’s bar across the bottom. I hop down, grab a snack from the pantry and get right back to my work. Sitting with my back firmly supported and resting a bit higher off the ground, my barstool offers a winning combination for focused, weekend homework.

Currently, I sit in a different chair in my home to do my work. This chair is made of wood with an upholstered seat and is part of a 5-piece dining set. Its matching table and sister-chairs proudly stood in my dining room for 22 years. I sat in this chair at this table, happily eating all my family meals. But then we rebuilt our home and this dining set was demoated and stored in the guest bedroom. Now it proudly accepts a new job title – teacher desk. Since March 16th, I daily sat at this table in this chair and made videos to greet my students and answered emails asking questions about how to complete work from home. My feet rest firmly on the ground. My eyes focus on my laptop. I easily grab from a basket of colored markers and post-it notes to jot down my To Do list. When I glance up, a calendar hangs on the wall in front of me, reminding me of the date. Throughout the day, I rise from my chair and stroll downstairs to grab a snack.

My chairs. One metal and high and new. One wood and low and old.
I sit and work while at home.


NOTE: This is a start to Prompt 86 posted in the Isolation Journal and suggested by my writing club member Pencil On My Back Porch. Prompted to choose 5 words (see full prompt below), I did choose 3 – postcard, clothesline, and popcorn around the theme of vacation but share just one here today.

First, four postcards are purchased from the art museum’s giftshop. Then, like a magician’s card trick, “Pick a card, any card” action allows each – dad, mom and two daughters – with card in hand, to begin the mystery game. The winner, the one who most spies with my little eye the painting on a wall matching the one depicted on the postcard. The prize, an extra scoop of ice cream for dessert.

These are the directions followed to keep the seven and eleven year olds engaged as the family of four tour the Prado Museum in Madrid. The day ahead will include so much walking, so many large paintings of anonomous people and places, so much staring. Yet the postcard game keeps all actively engaged.

“I found it! One down, three to go!” she shouted. And the four countinue down the corridor with the vaulted, enormous ceiling overhead. Sleuthing and appreciating art, playing the postcard game.

Isolation Journal DAY 86. JENNY BOULLY
When memories make themselves manifest, they alight like butterflies—fleeting, momentary, ineffable, seemingly uncapturable. The task of the writer then, having had the epiphany embedded within memory, is to relate not only the message from the dream embedded within the memory, but to also articulate, in language, that nebulous nature of the memory. How then do we encapsulate the memory in a way that also preserves its transitory nature?

Your prompt for today:
Pick five items from the list below.

popcorn * lettuce * iceberg * cotton candy * puffs * sugar cubes * dandelions * buttercups * pallbearer * clothesline * National Geographic * fire ants * watermelon * sunflowers * ticket stub * campfire * satellite * fish scales * baby powder * quilt * broach * barrette * tin can * bingo * Ferris wheel * frisbee * legumes * lima beans * caterpillar * earthworm * mockingbird * wagon * shaved ice * envelope * rotary phone * silk glove * single shoe * postcard * diner * cheese * houseplant * canoe * sharpened pencil * glue * lunch box

Then, write one memory associated with the item—or write associations you have of this item—in 200 words or less. Limit the use of “I.” Refrain from stating any emotions. Like dreamscapes, rely on images to convey feeling. Assemble these memory fragments into a collage-essay. Give it a one-word title.
Bonus: For the future, or to grow your memoir-fragments, you can make your own lists of random words, pick words at random from various books and dictionaries, or have friends generate lists.