I write ….to understand!

As I mixed the panko witht he parsley, salt and pepper and added the olive oil, I thought about what my friend said when I met her Thursday after school to catch up. “When I read or listen to a lecture, I have to take notes. It helps me to understand and remember it.” As she shared, I smiled and recalled the many reading and writing notebooks I have on my shelf.

As I smeared mustard onto each salmon fillet, sprinkled on salt and pepper, and topped with the panko mixture, I noticed the book I finished reading over the weekend. What did I want to remember after meeting Ravami and Virginia and the other six “midnight children”?

After cooking the fillets on the stove for 4 minutes in a hot iron skillet, I slid it into the preheated oven and set the timers for 7 minutes. Then I grabbed the Advanced Readers copy I borrowed from my colleague and my notebook and a pencil. As I skimmed pages of the book, I added stick figures for the characters that stuck with me. I added quotes that stuck with me. I added what I especially liked about this book and listed the other books I had already read and loved my this author, Daan Gemeinhart. All in pencil. Fofr now. Once at school on Tuesday, I can use my flairs to pretty it up!

Once the oven timer sounded, I fitted my hands with oven mitts and carefully pulled the heavy skillet from the oven and sat it on the stove. As I covered the skillet with aluminum foil, I thought again about my friend’s comment and about my notebook. She is so right. Because I made this page, I will remember this well-written book. Because I added sketches and quotes, the story of friendship and belonging will stay with me longer. Because I read and then wrote about it, I understand this book better.

As I added a salmon fillet and a scoop of salad to my plate, I smiled. What a great job I have. I get to read great books and jot down my thinking, all to understand better. I am grateful I got into the habit of writing about reading from attending workshops at TCRWP.

Salmon Recipe

A Ray

Last Tuesday, I enjoyed the slice by Chris Margocs (cmargocs). She wrote about goals. Instead of “beginning with the end in mind”, she emphasized the importance of focusing on right where you are. Now. Here. Right at this moment. “A goal is a mathematical ray.”

I always enjoyed the geometry unit in math. When teaching 4th grade, I vividly recall it followed the hardest computation unit – long division. Students struggled to remember alll the steps: daddy-divide, mommy-multiply, sister-subtract, brither-bring-down. Long division required doing every operation and raised the chance of making at least one math error. So speading time simply naming shapes and geometry terms, like parrallel lines and a ray, were a welcome change and a chance for success for my students.

Since reading Chirs Margocs’ slice, I’ve been imaging myself as a ray.….

Right now, I’m a teacher and my ray’s point is firmly grounded in promoting literacy in Arlington Public Schools in Virginia. Where will my ray take me? Into teacher meetings and classrooms. To Anaheim in November. beside a student for a conference. Among staff for a data discussion. And MANY, MANY trips to bookstores and libraries.

Right now, I’m a wife and mother. Where will my ray take me? Home from work to feed the fish and warm up a meal for two. On to an airplane headed to Europe after Valentine’s Day.

As a ray, I don’t need to know the answers to these questions:
How many more months / years will I teach?
How many more years will I live on 12th Street?
How many more months / days until I’m together again with my girls and their growing family?

Instead, the now is a lovely place to be.
In my current school.
In my current home.
Connecting with my girls via text messages.
Right at this moment.
I find it comforting to not “begin with the end in mind.”
To be a ray!


“You should give her a discounts. In my opinion, teachers should be paid like professional athletes.” the next-in-line customer spoke over my shoulder to the Macy cashier.

“I did!” I heard and as I looked at the total I needed to pay, it was half as much as I expected.

Fifteen minutes earlier, I was in the dressing room, trying on shirts and pants. Literally iit has been years since I shopped for back-to-school clothes. I awoke last Saturday and deicded I wanted to buy something new to wear to school. I could have driven miles to the outlet to get a bargain but I decided instead to go to the close-by Mall in my neighborhood. I parked in the garage parking lot outside of Macy’s.

Once inside, I found some shirts and pants to try on and headed to the dressing room. Quickly I learned that I was not the only one with this idea as the first and second dressing rooms I found had a line. But I persevered and found an empty dressing room space on my third attempt.

Quickly, I ruled out the pants. One was too tight. One was too long in the legs. A third was OK but I actually had a pair at home in the same color so I decided, no pants today. Next, I tried on 3 tops and really liked 2 of them. I then, for the first time, glanced at the pirce. Ouch!

Then this conversation occurred in my head. “You are already here. You are worth it. You could dirve to the outlet to save money but that will cost you gas money and more time. And your time is valueable.Plus, you haven’t spent money on clothes in years!” After hearing all this, I took the two shirts to the cashier.

“These are lovely,” the cahsier said. As I agreed, I mentioned I was buying them to wear to work as I am a teacher. That is when the person behind me made her comment. As I swiped my card, I realized I was given a $20/off each shirt. I was actually being charged as a buy-one-get-one-free sale.

What a lovely first shopping trip after Covid!!

Are you back to shopping again?

2022 National Book Festival

In-person on Saturday! I filled my red bag with snacks, wallet, iPhone, notebook, pens, my mask and a fleece jacket. My husband agreed to drop me off and in less than 30-minutes after leaving home, I departed our electric car ready to enjoy a day among my heros – authors!

I entered the mamouth DC convention center – 4 blocks long and 4 double height floors high. As I joinined a short entrance line today, my mind recalled the last time I was here for this annual event. It was November, 2019 and that day the author with the biggest draw was U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the line to enter the fesitval was wrapped around the center. Eventually, I got in and spent the day on the lowest floor, enjoying moments with children’s authors. Due to crowds and high security, I arrived too late to listen to RBG or explore other floors that day. On this day, without such a crowd, I explored all four floors, meeting authors for children, young adults, and adults, attending a total of 7 presentations from 9:30am-6pm. And I did take a moment to fondly remember RBG who passed away 10 months after the last in-person 2019 National Book Festival. (Thanks to the Library of Congress, I took time to watch the session I missed that day in 2019 as it is recorded HERE.).

One presentation I was drawn to related to this book:

I am a big fan of John Lewis (another amazing great American who passed during the pandemic) and I wanted to know more about the friendship he shared with a young black boy named Tybra Faw and then written about in this book by Andrea Pinkney. Tabre Faw, now age 14, was on the stage with the author and a LOC moderator. In their 30 minute exchanged, I became so inspired by this child who wanted to meet his hero, John Lewis. I learned he was asked to recite a favorite poem by John Lewis at his funeral. The moderator found the first published book of the poem Invictus in the LOC and gave each a photo of that book’s page. I quickly found this link from the funeral and am planning a lesson with my student readers to include this book, the March triology by John Lewis and a discussion on how today, in 2022, we can be inspired to get ourselves into Good Trouble!

Ruby Bridges – Her book, I Am Ruby, comes out this week. After hearing her speak, I will buy it! She shared how she intentionality wrote it in first person as the 6-year old in Louisana on November 14, 196o, the day she atttended an all-white elementary school. She shared how knowing her story is still important as we are still dealing with issues of race.

Clint Smith – if you haven’t read his book, How the Word is Passed, order it now and read it! I so enjoyed being in his presence, listeing to him share why he visited actually sites as fieldtrips and then wrote about each place with regards to slavery. I also learned he hosts a course called Crash Course – Black American History. It is 50-episodes, all a combo of animation and primary source photo. I’ll be viewing these this fall to learn more.

Kwame Alexander – so amazing! His newest book comes out at the end of the month. His TV show based on The Crossover is coming out on Disney+ and he is launching a reality TV to find new authors! I was able to record a few things he said while being interviewed by Nic Stone. (See slideshow at end…I think the videos will open for you? If not, let me know and I’ll figure it out!)

2022 Award Winners and All Women of Diverse Background – three women writers, all 2022 award winners, were interviewed by Dhonielle Clayton, the COO of We Need Diverse Books. So inpiring!! All are using their voice and their writing to not allow their backgrounds to be erased. Donna Barba Higuera is Mexican American, Darci Little Badger is Apache American, and Malinda Lo is Chinese American. Darci Little Badger‘s comment is still with me. She stated that she had read in a history book that Apache’s were extinct. She explained that this was a olonial message trying to erase native voices and is wrong. “As a writer, I will keep at it.”

Authors of Blackout – WOW! I did not know that these 6 authors had all collaborating to write Blackout. It was the brainchild of Dhonielle Clayton who invited/told Nic Stone, Tiffany Jackson, Ashley Woodfolk, Nicola Yoon, and Angie Thomas (Thomas not at the festival) to work together to write one novel. I bought it and read it on Sunday! I can’t wait for their next collaborative work to come out called Whiteout. They also happily shared how Obama is producing their book as a TV and movie. They were motivated during Covid to write a novel with Black teenage characters in love. These women know how to write for Young Adults!!

Jason Reynolds – he was the perfect ending session for the festival, saving the best for last!! HIs newest book, Ain’t Burned All the Bright is a collaboration with his white, redhead friend also named Jason, Jason Griffin, an artist. During Covid, they both had trouble being creating, writing, making art. They talked often and something Jaosn G. said about needing an oxygen mask helped Jason R. to write 3 rather long sentences. He copied them down without any punctuation and handed them off to Jason G and asked him to add art as an artist response. This is now the book!. He felt the world was suffocating due to Covid, George Floyd, the tightening economy. When one is hyperventalating, taking 3 breathes can bring you back to equilibrium. This books is structured into three breathes with the purpose to bring us back to having hope. Get it and read its brilliant words and artwork.

I also create this slideshow to share with my students.


Know Our History

The site of my school has a history. On February 2, 1959, four black students integrated what was then called Stafford Junior High, an all-white secondary school. It also was the first integrated secondary school in my town and also in the entire Commonwealth of Virginia.

Four years ago when the buiding on this site was being renovated and an addition was being added, the district decided the school would become a middle school and it needed a new name. Dorothy Hamm was the strong advocate would fought against school segregation and her name was picked. Now I proudly teach at Dorothy Hamm Middle School.

My principal is dedicated to ensuring all staff and students know who Dorothy Hamm is and what our school history is. This year, she proposed teacher teams participate in a Scavenger Hunt to be reminded of our history. I took her idea and made these directions. Then my collegues ran with it! I am so proud of all the exploring and learning that occurred during pre-service week! ALL their photos on this Padlet made me smile.

Do you know your town’s history? Specifically, do you know its civil rights history? I encourage you to be curious and do some research. At our staff meeting on Friday, I awarded a few teams with prizes – 1st team to complete this homework, team who visited ALL the sites on the list, team with the most creative photos and the one with the most inspiring sentence description. Then I reminded all of Maya Angelou’s quote:

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

I do feel that by knowing my town’s civil rights history, I can and will do better.
How about you?

Dorothy Hamm – she fought and won to integrate Arlington, VA schools

New School Year = New Products

A great thing about being a teacher is the fresh start each Fall. After a summer to rest and reflect, I am ready to start again. New group of students. New families to meet. In two days, we hold an Open House and then Monday, the 2022-2023 school year begins.

A frustrating thing about being a teacher is the many new initatives shared at the start of the Fall. After just three days of pre-service meetings, I feel a little overwhelmed. New staff to support. New schedule to unpack. New resources purchased by the district to start using.

One resource is called PAPER. I dutifully logged into the zoom meeting at 12:30pm yesterday (as my tummy rumbled thinking I should be giving it attention) to learn about it. The perky product rep taught me that PAPER is an educational technology company that partners with schools and school districts to provide students with free, unlimited, 24/7 tutoring. The platform has more than two million users across the United States. The company is headquartered in Montreal, Quebec and has operations across North America. And with further research, I learned that their tutors are paid $17.50 per hour and one can hold an undergraduate degree or be working toward it. I also learned that this platform works much like when I chat with my cable company. I type in the chat box. They type back. I wonder if they are really there? or is it just a computer generating responses?

As my 3rd day of teaching meetings ended, I am feeling excited to support my staff and students this year in person. I wonder if online support will soon replace the way I’ve been able to teach my students for the past 30 years? I wonder if a company like TEAMS will soon offer online schooling to replace the brick and mortar community I have always worked in? What is the future of education?

For now, I will greet day 4 of my pre-service time with a smile and the determination to make the 2022-2023 school year the best I can.

A Sunday (EV) Drive

Prior to 1908, saddling a horse or driving a horse-drawn carriage was the way to move from point A to Point B. Then a thing called a Model-T was invented. Soon gas stations sprang up as support and now they dot most corners of every town and are sprinkled at every highway exit.

Back in September, 2021, our one gasoline-powered car died and we decided to replaced it with an electric vehicle (which I have learned is shorted to EV.) My husband uses it mainly to drive from Point A (home) to Point B (office, 5 miles) a few days a week. With its overall battery range of 130 miles, he simply needs to plug it into the electricity outlet on our front porch over the weekend, it recharges within 20 hours, and it is ready on Mondays for another week’s commute.

This Sunday, we thought we’d take our BWM i3 out for an actual Sunday drive – its first road trip. We picked a scenic drive down Skyline Drive in Virginia. It was a 64-miles drive to the entrance. The peaceful drive through this National Park included scenic overlooks, colorful wildflowers, and many deer. Then, we quickly learned what those first Model-T owners must have also learned. A plan must be made to ensure this new vehicle has enough power to get its passangers back home.

At the midway point of our day trip, we began googling locations of charging stations. Luckily, our google map said this national park had two free charging stations – one at Skyland (mile 40) and one at Big Sky (mile 50). When we drove into Skyland’s parking lot, another EV car was happily recharging but there was a 2nd cord. But wait – this cord was only compatible with Teslas. Really – why can’t there just be one plug-in option. (I guess this is what we say about iPhones cords and about plugging in anything when visiting Europe). We decided to head 10 more miles to Big Sky’s parking lot. But once there, found the charger covered in plastic, with an Out of Order sign on it. Great 😦

So we returned to the first charger, happily found the prior car gone and began charging our car. Luckily, there was a restaurant, so for an hour, we grabbed some lunch and our car got a feeding too. We thought we were all set. However, this free charger was not a supercharger, meaning it was just as fast as when we plug it in at home which is not fast at all. This one hour gave us a little more juice but not enough to get all the way home.

So back to google maps. We found a supercharger station in a Walmart parking lot close enough for our current battery range to reach so off we drove. And of course, as we drove, we passed MANY gasoline stations where, in less than 5-minutes, a tank can be refilled. But our GPS voice shared the lefts and rights to make to find the supercharger. Happily, it had a total of six cords, all compatible to our i3. With a swipe of our VISA card, we spent 35 minutes connected and $4. This time I simply sat in my EV car while it recharged and I marveled at this new way to travel. I also wonder, if predictions are correct, and 8 out of 10 cars will be EV by 2030, will EV charging stations soon dot our roadways? I hope so. Do I need to buy an adapter to use the many Tesla charging stations currently available? I think so.

Have you gone EV?
Any advise for this novice EV owner?
All tips are appreciated!


Last week, my daily inspiration from Senator Cory Booker’s daily instagram post would make this community smile. His message, 5 Steps to Be a Better Writer –> 1. write 2. write more 3. write when you want to 4. write when you don’t 5. keep on writing. His message of consistency is why at the end of March, I feel like I am a better writer! (Grateful to the March SOL Challenge!)

This week I consistently completed participation in my self-created Summer Virtual Book Club. it started years ago, after a TCRPW Summer Institute, to practice writing about reading. One book, a notebook page and writing instruments. Read. Think. Place thinking onto the notebook page in words and/or images. Such would help the reader read closely and remember.

For the past three summers, I made the conscience effort as a white woman to read about African American history during my summer virtual book club.
Summer of 2020- Stamped.
Summer of 2021 – How the Word is Passed.
Summer of 2022 – How to Raise an Antiracist.

Yesterday, I posted this image after reviewing this read-aloud I made of These Hands, illustrated by the amazing illustrator, Floyd Cooper. I do believe I am getting better at writing about reading. I do think I know more so I can do better. #ConsistencyisKey

*Note – Feel free to ‘steal” my idea to host a virtual book club. I recommend ALL these books. ALL deserve a close read! Feel free to reach out and join my 2023 Virtual Summer Book Club. I encourage you to read ALL picture books by Floyd Cooper (Jan. 8, 1956 – July 15, 2021). Feel free to share my read-aloud with students or look for this book in your public library to do your own read-aloud. I plan to share it as school opens. It will allow us to discuss African American history and reflect on what our hands can accomplish this school year!

Moving Week

two men and a truck

hired for Wednesday

32 boxes

a bedroom set and desk

a dining room table

the living room coffee table wirh two matching end tables,

all to be moved to the new condo.

But today

two gals and their cars

(AKA the daughters)

successfully transported all her clothes

Another step closer…


I Could Do That!

She stands as the exit gatekeeper.

Smiling as each cart approaches.

All know the drill

She reaches out her hand and the person steering the cart hands her their papers.

Slowly she reads each name listed on the tail-length report.

Then her eyes glance to find the matching reality in the cart.

She glances back and forth, back and forth.

The cart owner, shifting his weight back and forth.

As another parks at their bumper and then another and the line grows.

Finally with pen in hand, the gatekeeper abruptly draws a line down the long tail

and returns it to the cart owner with a smile and the words, “Have a nice day”

The cart is allowed to move again and exit the cavernois warehouse.

“I could do her job,” I think to myself as I wait, 4th in line, for my turn to exit BJs.

Maybe because I am still tired from an exhausting school year, but lately I’ve been noticing non-educational jobs, like the exit cashier at BJs. I find it appealing becuase it is a job where I could feel powerful and a job where those I would interact with would feel grateful for my efficiency.

What job do you dream about doing?