Prep for School Board Meeting

I encouraged my students to be Upstanders this month as part of our Social Issue Book Club Unit. Today I will tell them how I plan to stand up for them by attending tonight’s School Board Meeting. The school budget is being discussed. There isn’t enough money to go around. Cuts are proposed. I made these two signs to hold up at the meeting.

My librarian friend pushed me to attend and speak. I’m orally rehearsing what I’ll say if allowed but thought these signs can show my oppositioin to two of the cuts. I’m feeling empowered. I’m feeling proud. I have the opportunity to stand up for what I know helps the whole child learn. I’m attending my first school board meeting tonight.


Today’s Brian’s birthday!
UVA basketball fan
drinks an Old Fashioned
quiet thinker

Tonight, dinner reservations as a new Whiskey bar in town.
Tomorrow, 10pm game to watch.

Pretty good beginning to his double-number year!


I add my Monday sticker to my chart
and notice just 6 more remain.
Just 6 more days in this writing challenge.

I look up at the sky and see the half-moon shining.
Is he thinking about how many days until he gets to rest?
Until he’s half again? Until he’s back to shining full?

I step outside wearing just a t-shirt and a fleece jacket.
Yet the morning air is colder than expected.
And the car themomoter reads 39 degrees.
Is the morning air wondering how long until her warmer jet stream arrives?
Wondering, once it arrives, how long it will stay?
Wondering how long until it changes to the stifling heat of the next season?

In my classroom, I add to the day’s agenda.
Next to homeroom I write: Catchup Tuesday
Four days until the quarter ends.
Four more days to turn in any missing work.

My 6th graders realize after this week
Just one more quarter.
Then just two more years in middle school.
Or 8 more quarters.
Then just 4 more years of High school.

It seems the same for the moon, the air around me and those in front of me,
Always counting down.


March Madness

I rushed home from school on Friday.
I turn on the TV, ready to watch.
Alone, I text a family member, also a UVA alum:


At 3:10pm, I sit and watch my favorite team play.
As the 1st half ends, it starts to feel like deja vu???
Not again:(
Another family member, another UVA alum, sends me a text:


At the half, I go made popcorn.
At the half, I watched sleet begin to fall outside?
Yes, heavy sleet starts to fall!
Wasn’t it sunny a moment ago?
The outside world seems to be mimicing the on-court world in Columbia, SC.

Then the sleet stops and the sun comes out again.
Then my team returns for the 2nd half and wins the game!

March Madness is the perfect alliterative phrase for this time of year!


A friend emailed saying she almost quit this writing challenge yesterday. I got to thinking about quitting.

Yesterday, I wanted to quit the renewl process for my National Boards. It is due May 15th but I have a busy day job and have travel plans for Spring Break. I’ve set aside most weekends to write the 25 page document with 2 video attachments. But yesterday it felt like I still had so much to do. I wanted to quit and stop spending hours and hours sitting at a Starbucks on the weekend writing.

A few years ago, my husband and I wanted to quit building a new house. My creative, architect husband designed an energy-efficient new home for us but our contractor wasn’t making it happen and the site looked like this for far too long.

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With the house, we found a supportive contractor and he built the house to my husband’s specifications.

With my National Boards project, I texted my study buddy (a colleague also working on her Boards) and suggested a lunch break. We met for a burger and after eating, we both sat at a Starbucks and worked together for another hour. Before departing, we agreed to check on each other on Wednesday as we both made a plan for what we would accomplish next.

With my friend, she got her post in before midnight. Her email ended by saying, “thank you for your support – it’s in part my not wanting to let you guys down that has kept me going.”

Quitting. A natural response.
Support from others – priceless!

NOTE: Just picked up my phone to pick a photo as my “featured image” and the time is 8:11am. (something I wrote about on March 15th) I smiled and am ready to write more for my Boards as I sit now at Starbucks on a Sunday. I’m not quitting!

NF is fascinating!

“Today, read your new nonfiction chapter book, taking time to jot down what you find fascinating. I’ll set the timer. When it goes off in 35 minutes, we will take time to talk about what we find fascinating. Off you go…”

And they did go off and read, after they took the book they indicated was their choice after yesterday’s Book Tasting lesson.

In three of my classes, I took a book and did the work, too. Full disclosure: I love fiction, especially realistic and historical fiction. I currently find I spend most of my time reading the genre of fiction. However, after yesterday, I am turning the corner to embrace nonfiction.

Google It – I found it fascinating that the two grad school students at Stanford were looking for something to explore in 1996 when the world wide web was only 4 years old. Perfect timing for them to figure out a way to create a organizing system.

Lost Boy, Lost Girl – I found it fascinating how the South Sudanese Dinka culture accepts a man having many wives. It is also fascinating how hard the Dinka work to protect their cattle because raising cows and being farmers is their way of life. When given a choice between drought, flood or war, it explained how they would pick war because drought and flood hurts their farming way of life more.

A Few Red Drops – I found it fascinating that even though Chicago in 1919 did not have segregated bathrooms and buses like was occurring in the South, neighborhoods and beaches did seem to have a racial invisible line.

I’m looking forward to Monday when I can read more of all three of these books. I hope my 6th graders feel the same. Together, I hope we can both become the kind of readers who start and finish nonfiction chapter books.


“Where is this? Is this just a made up place? I mean it sounds like people are getting shot all the time. Are there really places like that?

“Sure…like Aleppo.”

“I think it’s Chicago.”

“Guys, we live in a bubble in Arlington. There are places like this.”

I tell the author that this was the conversation in my room as I read aloud his book.
“What do I tell them? I’m just a white teacher living and working in North Arlington, a mostly upper mid-class white school.”

“Tell them this book is based on a shooting that happened in Suitland, MD, just miles away from your school. And keep reading and talking!”

Then he signed my Reading Notebook page that I made after reading his book.


Thank you, TCRWP for bringing Jason Reynolds to speak and sign books on Saturday.
So glad I got to have a conversation with him. So glad I get to read aloud his books with my students. Reading and discussing to understand all the places where…


Nonfiction Read-aloud

I launched the Tapping the Power of Nonfiction Unit with my 6th graders yesterday. The first lesson is a read-aloud of the Introduction of Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. The suggested teaching point is for readers of nonfiction to generate questions and ideas as they orient themselves to the cover, the table of contents and then read the introduction asking,  “How does this part fit with the topic of the book?”

If you were in my room, you would have heard:
Look at the cover – what questions do you have? I don’t know. If you did know, what questions would you have? (learned this move from Ellin Keene). Maybe… and a little bit of a response. Repeated with the Table of Contents and got similar almost non-responses. Then the book starts with a photo of Cheyenne Mountain and a captivating three paragraph description of it. Apparently, in the 1950s the mountain was hollowed out and inside is now the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station. I paused and asked students to turn and talk with the question in mind. Immediately I heard, “It doesn’t” Period. No “Perhaps…” or “Maybe…” and how come we know about it if it is so top secret?

As I read on, the author’s point that fast food is now found all across America, even at the high-security mountain hide-away is revealed. The reader had to work at being hooked as the book took paragraphs to map out their point. My students showed me their stamina for reading may be a bit weak to sustain them through a longer nonfiction book. But why? They have been reading with me for three quarters now.

My student’s lack of curiosity and grasp of what is real was also revealed. So many questioned the the facts I was reading about the Cheyenne facility. Is it really a real place or is this a fantasy story. Why was this their reaction?

These kiddos are 12 years old. They live in a world where they hear “fake news” and where they spend hours playing games.  Games like Fortnite which look real but aren’t.

Yesterday I wondered if these kids, 6 years away from voting age, can pay attention long enough, can be curious enough about a topic, can come to understand what is real and what is fake?

Then I reassured myself that yesterday was just the first lesson in the unit and I still have another quarter with them before the school year ends.

What Color are You Feeling?

I heard Yale professor, Marc Brackett speak on Saturday. He was the closing Keynote at TCRWP Reunion Saturday in Riverside Church.


I knew nothing of his work. Since Saturday, I keep thinking, “What color am I now?” after he introduced me to his Ruler Method – a Mood Meter. The x-axis is a measure of how pleasant one feels. The y-axis is a measure of how much energy one has.

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YELLOW – how I felt after I made my presentation at VSRA.
GREEN – how I felt listening to Marc. I was so tired by Saturday afternoon but loved my day of learning at Teachers College.
RED – how I felt the day after my Fair at school as I read an email complaint and tried to remind myself that you can’t please everyone but I was still annoyed.
BLUE – how I felt standing on my crowded subway car after leaving Riverside Church as a man very, very loudly cursed others blocking his way (the F-word seemed to be his every-other word) and sadly the rest of the subway car felt like me – powerless to move him from his RED rage.

Then another man, probably feeling BLUE, too and holding a jar, asking for spare change spoke to the RED-raged man. Why you need to shout, man? Sure, it is annoying to have the doorway blocked? As I stood frozen by the shouting, the two men continued to converse, one loudly, the other calmly and soon the loud man was laughing. Then in two stops he exited the train and I felt relief and GREEN.

Marc reminded the 2,000 teachers gathered at Riverside church how kids can’t learn when they are afraid. He also spoke to us. As teachers, we can’t teach when we feel exhausted and annoyed. Then he shared how through breathing, eating well, sleeping enough and exercising we can set ourselves up for more YELLOW/GREEN times. And then we can be a role model to our students.

I’m glad the panhandler was a role model for my subway car on Saturday.

At the Subway Turnstile

As I sit down to write, I had a plan. I would work on revision. I’d take this story written in another March and try to tell it again but from a different point of view. I was orally rehearsing it in the shower. I had a plan for how would sound telling it from the point of view of the woman in line with me at the grocery store. Instead, I just reread the story. I like it as it is, I guess because it is my story, my perspective.

However, rereading it takes me back to Friday and another women. So instead, I’ll tell that story now. I guess that other story helped me to brainstorm this story!

As the subway doors closed, I glanced at the map. My stop is the next stop, I remind myself. I glance into my purse to ensure my metro card in tucked into its space in my wallet and I zip my purse closed. I pat my right front thigh to feel my cell phone in my pocket and I stand and walk to the exit door. In moments it opens and I exit and look to the right and left. Seeing the EXIT sign to the left, I head toward it. A set of stairs appear and I head down them, remembering that here in Queens the track went above ground so it is down I step to get to the street level.

Then I see her. As I walk through the turnstile, a woman shorter than I am with dark black hair and tanned skins smiles and says something in a language I don’t understand and moves her hand. The motion of her hand mimics the movement one makes to swipe a card to get into the subway.

My mind recalls the $13.75 that showed on the screen when I entered to ride seven stops back. It also recalls how the subway rules are different in NYC. Unlike D.C, you just swipe to get in and don’t need to again swipe to get out. Because of this, multiple people can use the same card. It also recalls my recent reading lessons about power imbalances and being an upstander.

Instantly, I unzip my purse, pull out my card sticking up from my wallet and hand it to the lady. She smiles, swipes herself in and hands the card back to me saying one word I do understand, “Gracias.”