Summer Suggestions

I wrote the below words for my ELA staff as an email this week. I would have rather taken time to sit and chat and share aloud with my colleagues. But time is limited during these last two weeks of school and way too busy, filled with end-on-year tasks. SO I sent them an email of FIVE SUMMER SUGGESTIONS. Thinking you also might like these suggestions, I share here, too. You are more than welcome to join in, especially for #1! And if you find yourself in the DC-area, please do #5

Dear Dorothy Hamm MS ELA Staff,
Summer is a time to rest. I also find it to be a good time to “work” on my own reading, writing and learning but always at my own slower, summertime pace.

Here are Five Summertime Suggestions:

  1. Consider joining my Summer Virtual Book Club, spotlighting 3 new books by Kwame Alexander. All the directions are on the padlet link. Also APS will award you 8 recertification points for completing the Book Club tasks. A fun way to read, think, connect and earn PD points!
  1. Consider attending The Institute for Racial Equity in Literacy – it does cost money but it is being held here in DC at the MLK Library so no travel costs are required. I’ve learned from Dr. Sonya Cherry-Paul before and I am registered to attend. The Reading Toward Freedom Session is July 16, 17,18* (Sun, Mon, Tue) – 8:30AM to 4PM and the Writing Toward Freedom Session is July 20, 21, 22 (Thurs, Fri, Sat) – 8:30AM to 4PM.
  1. Consider writing this summer. The TwoWritingTeachers blog invites you to post on TUESDAYS all summer long. I hope to write and post most Tuesdays. I’d love to read and leave you a comment!
  1. Consider being inspired by listening to podcasts. Here are ones I’ll be listening to this summer. Please send me ones that inspire you!
  • Pass the Baton – co-host Theresa Hoover used to be the Dorothy Hamm Band director! Even though ideas shared relate to teaching music, I find they also transfer well to teaching ELA.
  • The Black Creator Series – hosted by Dr. Sonya Cherry-Paul where she interviews black authors writing for children. I love learning the backstory of authors and learning about new books to read and share with students.
  • To the Classroom – hosted by Jennifer Serravallo where she has conversations with researchers and educators. I especially found episode 15 with Dr. Gholdy Muhammad inspiring. 
  • TwoWritingTeachers – Stacey and Melanie started a podcast this year, in addition to the amzing blog. I plan to take a listen this summer as I value all these two educators do. 
  • House Calls – hosted by Dr. Vivek Murthy, US Surgeon General with the mantra “because conversations can be healing”. I learn so much by listening to his interviews which all supports my own mental health. 
  • Feel Better, Love More – hosted by Dr. Chatterjee. This is the #1 health podcast in the UK and Europe. I also listen to him to support my personal health. 
  1. Consider meeting up with me this summer. I plan to be around. If you want to meet up to just chat or to think about and plan some for next year, send me an email or text. I’m up for meeting over coffee or a meal or meeting up at the library or a bookstore.

Happy (almost) Summer,


I started a breakfast routine on Fridays involving the nearby McDonalds. I order oatmeal, an unsweetened ice tea and a hash brown. Then I sit and journal about my week from 6:15ish to 7am. After a few visits, I noticed a gentleman, always in the booth behind me with a similar routine, his golden arches morning meal and the newpaper. He looked of retirement age and sat reading and sipping his warm drink.

One morning, I decided to say hi. “How’s the news today?” I asked as I stood up to leave for work. We chatted for a few minutes, wished each other a good day and I left him to his routine.

Back in February, I said hi again and shared how I’m a grandma now and showed him a photo of Aden. He listened as I explained how she lived in Amsterdam and I’d be visiting her soon. He shared how he used to be stationed in Kenya for work and has fond memories of visiting Amsterdam with his wife. He was excited I was visiting in March.

As soon as he saw me the Friday after I returned from my European trip, he sat down with me in my booth and asked to see all my photos. As we chatted, I learned he has a son living in PA and a daughter about to graduate from Stanford Univerisity’s Medical School. “Then she’ll be moving to Philly for work.” “So lovely to have both your children on the East coast! Is your wife living?” I asked. He smiled and his eyes twinkled as he proudly shared about Doris. “Yep. She likes to sleep in. She’ll be over here in a bit. She’ll sit over there with the ladies from St. Ann’s church,” he explained as he pointed to another area of the restaurant. I told him I’ll have to come later sometime so I can meet her.

A few weeks ago he was telling me how his neighbor is at Virginia Hospital Center and I could see the worry in his eyes. “He’s where he needs to be. I will go visit him later today. I hope the doctors can help him get better.”

Then weeks went by and my own husband was dealing with helalth issues and my Friday routine got interrupted. Yesterday I started it up again and happily Ed was there, too. He kindly sat down, viewed my newest photos of Aden and I listened to his news about Doris, his son and daughter. I asked him about his sick neighbor and I told him about how my husband had his own visits to Virginia Hospital Center recently. He’s still worried about his neighbor who has been moved to a nursing home for rehabilitation care. Again, the worry could be seen in his eyes. “I visit him every day. I believe it is important for him to have a visitor so I keep going.”

As he got up to get his breakfast order, he offered me one more piece of advise. “I know from experience, be sure to take care of yourself as you take on the extra duty of supporting your husband. Let me know if Doris and I can be of any help.”

Ed, a retired Black man who reads the Washington Post each Friday at the McDonald’s on Wilson Boulvard, is now a part of my community, all because we have the same morning routine. As I walked out to my car to drive to school, I felt very lucky. If I am ever in need of a very caring friend, I know exactly where to find Ed.

NOTE: I’ve been listening to the podcast, House Calls by Dr. Vivek Murthy, the US Surgeon General and many of the episodes remind the listener of the importance of making connections with other humans. My story today is such a connection. I recommend listening to this podcast, as well as, being open to making connections with those humans that cross your path.


A while back, I started using this hashtag – #AuthorsAreRockStars – because for me, they are. They create a story that magicly leads me to understand my world better. Once I started attending author visits and hosting them at my school, I realized how hard authors work to write to get them published. Stars, indeed..

Next Monday, I get to host author, Margaret Peterson Haddix. My local independent bookstore, Politics and Prose, is sending her to our school for free. I’m not sure if my school community realizes what a gift this bookstore is to us. Just this year, they sent us: Alan Gratx (via zoom), Kekla Magoon, Nic Stone and now Margaret Peterson Haddix!! Four authors, all for free. In return, I just agree to post the link to our website to pre-purchase the author’s books. Then I also promote the author at my school, ususally by making a slideshow for teachers to show their students (like this one I made for Margaret Peterson Haddix). Oh, I also make a reserved parking space sign and posters to hang to welcome the author. Plus, I research and write the author introduction and send out multiple invites to teachers so they will remember to bring kids for the assembly. Oh, I also drive over to Politics and Prose and retrieve the pre-purchased books the day before so they are at school to be signed by the author and I ensure the microphone and AV equipment is set for the assembly. But in my opinion, it is worth doing all these small tasks so my middle schoolers and their teachers can meet an author in-person!

Margaret Peterson Haddix is promoting her 2nd book, Falling Out of Time, the sequel to Running Out of Time. As I researched, I learned that in 1995, she published Running Out of Time as her FIRST BOOK ever published. I find it fascinating that now, in 2023, 28 years later, she is publishing a story as its sequel and she chose to set it in the year 2193. I can’t wait for her to share with our students Why Now? Why 2193?

This got me thinking about my own writing. Might something I wrote this March during the Slice of Life challenge get added to a sequel in 2051? I’ll only be 88 years old. Hey, that’s the age of my own mom now.

As I typed that last paragraph, I wonder if all my March moments are like little sequels. Today, by reflecting on the amazing author Margaret Peterson Haddix, I’m looking forward to celebrating my writing work, come March, 2051! How about you?

A Lucky Day

If you read my blog, you know that I especially like the number 11 – a double number and my birthday number. Whenever I see it as part of the time displayed on a digital clock, I smile. For a moment, it feels like the universe is speaking and telling me all is OK. So when my husband’s recent surgery was scheduled for 5/11, I took it as a positive sign.

But still, one’s mind will wander. As part of the pre-surgery prep, I listened as the anestheologist explained, “As with any surgery, there are risks” and then had my husband sign his form giving consent for his cocktail which would put him to sleep.

“The surgery will last 1 hour and 10 minutes,” was also explained. I reminded myself of this as 75 minutes had passed since I received the phone text stating, “Case has started, everything is going as planned.” Then 85 minutes…

To distract myself, I opened the NYTimes app and pressed Play and I chose Wordle. I looked around the space I was sitting in as a way to brainstorm 5-letter words. Many chairs filled the waiting room. Some with partners also awaiting news like me. A flat-screen TV projected a grid filled with 6-digit case numbers. Next to the number I was focused on, 333366, was still Proc and not Recov.

To my left was a hospital worker. She was holding a long handled dustpan and a broom with black bristles. As I glanced at her movements, sweep-sweep-sweep, my mind thought BROOM…that’s a 5-letter word. But it has a double vowel. That seems like a wasteful strategy. But I still typed it in, too tired to be strategic today.

I pressed enter and the B turned green. Then the R, both OOs and then the M, too. ALL green! My phone screen showed a fireworks display and read, “Congratulations!”

My FIRST EVER 1st try WORDLE WIN!! Clearly a positive sign for this morning! Moments later, the doctor came out to the waiting room and sat down next to me. “All went as planned. He’s in recovery now and they will text you to come back soon to see him. We’ll keep him overnight and you can take him home tomorrow.”

May 11, 2023 – a lucky day!

My Thoughts on Michelle Obama’s Newest Book

I’ve been struggling to write lately. The other evening, I instead scrolled through Netflix and decided to stream the documentary of Michelle Obama being interviewed by Oprah about her newest book, The Light We Carry.

Because I was viewing it on my MacBook Air, I could easily pause, rewind and listen again to such wise thinking. I started to take photos of my favorite lines as they appeared on the screen (I always view with closed caption turned on.)

Here are a few of my favorites. I know, this may be a bit of cheating but to make it more “my writing”, I’ll add my thinking to the captions. It’s the compromise I seem to need right now as I find my writing routine again.

Such great advice….just a small thing…not the whole big project…and just focus on what can be in MY control.
I so agree. As social human beings, we need to connect. It is one reason why I love the month of March. It is one reason why I love Tuesdays. It is the reason I am drawn to reading new books and going to meet authors in-person as they launch their newest books. I connect to storytelling so much!
Michelle was so honest. She admits that before she can “GO HIGH”, she sits with her friends and hashes out all the craziness which she calls her “go low session”. Then, after talking it all out, she can finally go high. It is inspiring to hear her honesty.
It is always a choice….sometimes it is a harder choice to make than at other times.
As she states this at the end, I felt how it is real work to protect myself from the poison. And she reminded me how connecting with family and friends I trust is the perfect support, the perfect protection.
I do carry the light. So does Oprah. So does Michelle. So do YOU! I have gifts to share and I was glad to view this documentary to be reminded to keep shining my light. I also will be adding this book to my summer stack! Thank you, Michelle.

Back to Writing Again

After writing every day in March and showing up for three Tuesdays, I skipped two. But I will attempt to get back at it today. Another thing I skipped for a while was monthly documenting my literacy life. I did it each month for the past two years and then September to December. And then skipped a few. Last week, to prep for hosting a consultant, I cleaned up my classroom and took time to make this to hang on my door – a March and April Literacy Life sign:

March of course was FILLED with LOTS of writing. I also viewed a few movies, thanks to that trip to Amsterdam. I can never sleep much on an airplane so I filled my time with movies! I regularly walk to the bakery on the weekends listening to podcasts. But it wasn’t until my April Spring Break that I was pushed to read. While at a winery one Saturday with my husband, his brother and wife, all had read A Gentleman in Moscow. I hadn’s so that evening, I began reading it on my kindle and finished it the next day. At the same time, my daughter recommended Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Lessons in Chemistry. I devoured them both next as both were page turners! And looking now at my top row, my favorite authors got me reading, too – Nic Stone, Clint Smith and Lois Lowry.

As May begins, I’m glad to be back here writing again. I’m glad to be returning to my monthly (or bi-monthly) habit of recorning my reading life. I’m grateful for my family and friends that nudge me along.

What keeps your habits going?

We got this!

I saw the cutiest video on instagram.
It wasposted by actress, Viola Davis with the words “Never give up”.

My Spring break officially ended on Sunday.
Then Monday was a telework-day to complete the 3rd quarter report cards.
Today I return for one more quarter, 10 weeks, 48 teaching days.

As a little inspiration, I sent the following email yesterday to a few of my colleagues:

Happy last day of the quarter….just one more to go.
We got this!

Here’s a video I saw on Instagram to inspire:

Let’s persevere, just like the little cutie in the video!

In reality, I think I sent this as I am mostly trying to convince myself…
Just one more quarter in what feels like a very long school year.


Last month, while visiting Amsterdam to meet my granddaughter, Aden, I spent a day expoloring the city on foot. At one point as I walked, I came upon this memorial and took the above photos. As I walked the labyrinth, I was taken by a few things.

One was the rectangular bricks each printed with a name, a day and an age. Name after name after name after name. Later I researched and learned there were 102, 000 names in otal plus 1,000 empty bricks to honor unknown victims. I also learned that during the time of WWII, there were only 140,000 Jews in the Netherlands. As I read the names on each brink, I noticed the same last name across many bricks. I inferred WWII affected entire Dutch Jewish families. So many people of all ages. It started to take my breath away.

The shape of the memorial had me wondering why? Then, I discovered, after researching HERE at the designer’s website that the two meter high walls were in the shape of four Hebrew letters spelling לזכר which means “In Memory of”. Visitors literally walk in the shape of and in memory of these named Dutch Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

Then I noticed the mirrors added across the top. I was taken by this because as I looked up, I saw myself reflected in the mirror. I am here and the names in front of me are not. The mirrors also reflected the sky above and the nature around, like the budding cherry tree. Lifting my eyes toward heaven, I was taken by seeing myself honoring these lost Dutch men, women and children and also felt a bit of comfort in the natural world being reflected. Life goes on and here we pause to remember.

Yesterday, I met up with a friend who is Jewish and she shared how her oldest grandson just celebrated his bar mitzvah. Such pride as she shared the particiulars of this celebration. I also reread Stacey’s slice about her daughter’s bat mitzvah. She shared many reasons why reading hebrew is such a challenge. And I looked again at these photos I took 3000 miles away of a sacred space created to remember those who did live 75 years ago. But then an evil war took their lives, just because of their chosen way to worship.

Read more about the memorial which opened on 9/15/2021 HERE.

I Did It! Year 10!

I realize that I tend to spend the 31st day of this challenge, celebrating and reflecting.
(Click HERE to see past year’s relections).
This year, 2023, my 10th year, I will do the same.

As I look across the last 30 slices, I see I wrote on these topics,
which Nancy Atwell would call “my writing territories”:
my new granddaughter, Aden – 8x
my school – 6x
my visit to Amsterdam, where Aden lives – 5x
my reading and writing life – 4x
author visits – 4x
and once each, about nature, numbers displayed as dates, and Covid.

As I look across the last 30 slices, I notice I wrote in these styles:
small moment narrative – 13x
poem – 9x
nonfiction – 5x
letter – 2x
list – 1x

For fun, I tallied the number of commenters and times they commented:
65 different slicers!!! WOW!! I can’t thank you enough.
You allowed me to feelseen through my words.
And your kind words back to me kept me going!

And the prize for commenting to me the most:
1st Place – Fran McCrackin – 22x
2nd Place – Erika Victor – 21x
3rd Place tie – Fran McVeigh and Glenda Funk – 16x each
Runner-Ups – MsChiubookawrites with 13 and Megan Kroger and Denise Krebs with 12 each
If in person, I would be pouring YOU each an orange Aperol Spritz!

March 2023 was unique because I traveled to Amsterdam
and met my first granddaughter!
I co-hosted with Fran McCrackin a zoom call with other slicers on St. Patrick’s Day.
I am so grateful for my virtual and in-person writing community.
I could just journal and keep all my writing to myself but with this nudge to share it within this lovely community
of readers and writers, my writing and reading like a writer is getting stronger and stronger.
I feel I owe this community so much!

Thank you, Stacey for starting this community and keeping it going.
Thank you, Morgan, Betsy, Jenna, Beth, and Sarah
for your inspiration and guidance all month long.

I definitely plan to keep writing on Tuesdays throughout the rest of this year and into 2024.
I plan to be back here next March. How can I not?
It will be my 11th year (which is my birthdate/favorite number)!

Happy Spring, all!! Let’s all keep writingand sharing the stories only we can tell!!


(receipe for making an Aperol Spritz – my TwoWritingTeachers signature drink!)


Inspired by Megan’s slice which was inspired by Terje’s slice, I was reminded that in the past I have written a poem like they did. I titled mine Currently HERE and HERE which then reminded me that my daughter, Anne once took this slicing challenged and used this poem structure HERE.

So today, I give it try. Again.


:: realising I am only 1 day and 2 hours away from a much needed Spring Break

:: looking forward to having personal time to do so many things, like my taxes

:: savoring the view of the pink buds against the blue sky outside my classroom window

:: saddened by the news of guns and killings that nudged my own daughters to make a life for themselves in Europe

:: cheering for my students as they complete three quarters of a school year and are having fun discussing books in a club

:: appreciating the support I have at work as I reflect on year four and gear up for a lucky fifth year

:: sensing an excitement in the air as all (students & teachers) await for the bell to ring tomorrow at 2:35pm

:: finishing my protein bar as I read poems by Clint Smith during my quick lunch break

:: going to stop now, walk downstairs and assist in a math classroom during Period 5