Before that

My friend texted me: I enjoyed it! She’s so amazing

Before that, I sent this text to my friend: That was lovely!! Thanks for letting me know about this.

Before that, she shared how a picture books takes her weeks to six months, Brown Girl Dreaming took three years and Before the Ever After took three years and LOTS of research.

Before that, she answered her why of writing is so many things, including allowing readers to know “I Matter” because I can see myself in a book.

Before that, she explained that football is both a beautiful sport and a brutal sport and her advise to parents of children who want to play this sport is to first do some research and walk into it informed.

Before that, she shared how the topic of CTE (Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the term used to describe brain degeneration likely caused by repeated head traumas) was not a topic seen in literature before and how many black and brown athletes suffer from it.

Before that, she was introducted by the VA Festival of the Book moderator as an award winning author, having won the Newbery, the National Book Award, the Astrid Lindgren Award, a MacArthur Genius Award, the Children’s Literature Legacy Award, the Coretta Scott King Award and was named the National Young People’s Poet Laureate and the National Amabassodor for Young People’s Literature.

Before that, ten days to be exact, my friend sent me an email saying: Good Morning, I registered you for an event via the VA Festival of the Book. This year it is virtual. It is Jacqueline Woodson discussing Before the Ever After on 3/16 from 2-2:30pm.

Author Marc Boston interviewing Jacqueline Woodson
as an event at the VA Festival of the Book, March 16, 2021

Since Last March

Inspired by a poetry form, Since Last March… written by Fran yesterday, I’m going to give it a try today. This will be my quick draft. I know it can be better once I really research all I did since last March. By here goes, off the top of my head….

Since last March,  I’ve been all over.
France to see Anne
Brooklyn to see Bridgit.
Louisville to see extended family.
The Upper West Side to see my educational family.
and La Jolla to see the sunset.

Since last March, I’ve said good-bye.
Good-bye to my dear friend, taken too soon by Alzheimer’s.
Good-bye to waiting for approval or invites.
Good-bye to practical and predictables.

Since last March, I’ve said hello.
Hello to a finished modern home.
Hello to the new mantle, rug and sectional sofa.
Hello to new sod and shrubs and 2 new trees.
Hello to the entire family visiting over the holidays.

Hello March!

Where have YOU been since last March?
What have you said good-bye to since last March?
What have you said hello to since last March?


Women – take 2

I wrote a poem called Women on 1/8/19
Today, I tried to revise it by starting each stanza with dialogue, then character description, and end with my reflection. I also got some help from my writing club, two wonderful woman writers – Thanks!

“Can I go to the restroom?”
The quiet, middle-schooler asked
with her cat-ear headband
poking up from each side of her curly blonde hair.
A good 15 minutes late, she returns to class,
headband in place
and her gym uniform in place of her jeans.
“Must has gotten her period,” I think to myself
and I give her a reassuring nod.

“Sad news…we are losing the baby”
I read in a text from my colleague.
Just last week during lunch she told me
“It’s the size of an avocado and
can make a fist and suck its thumb.”
I tremble as I text back “How can I help?”
knowing full well I can’t.
Her news makes no sense to me.

“Congrats to a new Arrival!”
I read in the email message line
then click and I see another colleague and his wife smiling
as they hold their new bundle.
“9lbs, 21 inches long” I read in the email.
Perfect weight and size I think
and what a family photo is supposed to be.

“Is it hot in here or just me” I wonder to myself
As I remove my sweater and toss it on the chair.
Thinking about these three women
and on the miracle that allowed me
to bring my own two into the world.
I nod my head, so overwhelmed.


End of our Reading Celebration

At the end of our Reading Celebration today, I said something like this:

Readers, I want you to have this poem as a bookmark to use as a reminder of this unit. As I read it aloud, think about why I think this poem matches some of the things we discussed during the unit, things like:
* how when reading we stopped at the trouble in our stories and noticed the relationships between the characters involved in the trouble.
*how we noticed who has the power and its effect on the trouble,
*how we named the groups the characters belonged to and the social issues that sometimes come about because of these groups
*and how we identified moments when characters were victims, perpetrators, bystanders and upstanders.

Then I read aloud the poem, emphasizing the pronouns:

Screen Shot 2018-03-13 at 5.12.45 PM

What are you thinking, I asked. Their replies:

“I think she’s short.”

“I think he might be blind, like the grandfather in As Brave As You”

“Maybe she’s in a wheelchair so he didn’t see her.”

“I think he is the kind of man who is only seeing his world and doesn’t care about anyone else.”

“Yeh, he’s too important and is acting selfish.”

“I think if the man hadn’t said “Oh my God” then he would just be rude but since he said that, he isn’t so rude.”

“I think the cashier is an upstander.”

“I think if the poem was longer, he’d become an upstander, too and let the lady go before him in line.”

I ended by telling my wise students something like this:
WOW! When I read this poem by myself, I focused on a man not seeing a woman and thought about the women’s movement and the social issues related to gender bias. But now discussing it with you and listening to your comments, I realized this poem could be about so much more. And that’s why I hope all of us keep reading and discussing in clubs. We are better readers when we can do it as a book club! Promise me you won’t only form a club when a teacher tells you to. Read and encourage your friends to read the same stuff and then talk about it.

Finally, my hope is that as we go forward, we rewrite the last line of the poem, “I really didn’t see you” and instead resolve to really seeing all the yous we encounter each day. Let’s try to do all we can to see each other and to stand up for each other.

NOTE: If you’d like to read more about the Social Issues Reading Unit I taught, click HERE for more on ending,
HERE for prepping for celebration
and HERE for Book Tasting.

December, 2017

My daughter send me a text with the link to this poem by Ken Nesbitt:

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 12.54.16 PM

She is teaching English to students in France so the list poem can give the kids a laugh, as well as teaching them vocabulary. This poem gave me the idea to change the last lines to:

So that’s my list
of everything
I love about

Here’s my Poem…

December, 2017

Neighborhood houses aglow with lights.
Roofs outlines and door frames wrapped.
Porch rails draped with pine branches.
Some have elegant, simple wreaths at windows.
Others have over-the-top giant, inflatable characters
squatting on their lawns.

In my kitchen, dough is mixed and dropped onto the tray.
Then red and green M&Ms added on top and baked.
Cream cheese is mixed with chopped green pepper and pineapple
and rolled in pecans, making the best holiday cheeseball to spread on crackers.
Both pair nicely with hot chocolate, stirred with peppermint sticks.

On the radio, carols stream 24/7
from Thanksgiving to the 25th.
Yo-yo Ma’s Dona-Nobis-Pacem instrumental
reminds me of singing this song as a three-part round
during my Catholic Elementary School Carol Night
40+ years ago.
I can see the church lights turned low
and the tinsel sparkling on the altar.
And feel the student body and myself
transformed to angelic beings,
at least for the hour performance.

On a brisk morning, the search for the tree begins
walking the lot on a farm, hours from the city.
Gloves used as spotters for the ones liked best.
Then a decision and a signal to the farmer.
His ax cuts the trunk
and the tree is secured to the car roof
and home it goes.

This year, an asphalt lot is walked
just ten minutes from my home.
The tree fills the living room corner
and a scent of pine fills the air.
White, blue, and green strings of light
Weave throughout the tree.
Some twinkle.
Then balls are added and ribbon, too.
And the angel is placed on top.

Now I am ready.
Ready to plug in my porch lights.
Ready to hang my wreath on the door.
Ready to share cookies and cheeseball snacks.
Ready for gifts to cover the tree skirt.
Ready for family and friends to gather.

So that’s my list of everything
I love about Christmastime.



Columbus Day Weekend

A friend texted me: Columbus Day weekend is a huge milestone in the year!

As a teacher in a new school and a new grade, I agree.

To me, it means I survived the first half of the first quarter of the middle school year.

To me, it means I now can call most of my 116 students by name.

To me, it means I now know which students are the strugglers and which ones can soar.

It means I still have seven more half-quarters to teach and guide all the strugglers and the strong.

It means the can sleep in on Monday and soon celebrate a Thanksgiving Break and a Winter Break.

Today the air is crisp, the leaves are falling and I bought pumpkins to decorate my front porch.

Happy Columbus Day Weekend!


Prior to that…

I am teaching Reading 6 this year
in a middle school in Arlington, VA,
my first middle school experience.

Prior to that I taught 3rd grade
at a brand new elementary school in Arlington, VA.
The year that the school opened and then one more.

Prior to that I taught 5th grade writing
at an amazing elementary school in NW Washington
a DC Public School in a lovely upper-class neighborhood.

Prior to that I taught 4th grade,
returning to the FCPS ES where I 1st taught in FCPS
I was tired of teaching teachers and wanted to teach kids again.

Prior to that I was a FCPS Reading Specialist
2 yrs at Churchill Road, 7 years at Stenwood and 2 years at Westgate
Got to help teachers teach using Reading and Writing Workshop well.
Also spent 2 years documenting my work and earning my National Boards
Also started to regularly learn at TCRWP  sharing all I learned with my co-workers.

Prior to that I taught 4th grade
in FCPS, my first time working in a public school.
I also went to night school at GMU
and earned my Masters in Curriculum & Instruction
with a Reading Specialist endorsement.

Prior to that I taught K, 3, and 4th
at a Catholic School in Arlington.
I brought my girls to work with me
and together we all learned.

Prior to that I had 2 girls
worked odd jobs and daycare jobs,
jobs I could do more easily with kids.

Prior to that I taught Kindergarten
at a different Catholic school
the summer after the first year, I got married.
the Fall after the 2nd year, I had my first daughter.

Prior to that, I graduated with a BS in Education
from the University of Virginia
Curry School of Education.
Go Hoo’s!!

Prior to that, I spent 2 years at the University of Richmond.
Go Spiders!
I spent 4 years at O’Connell High School
I spent 8 years at St. James Elementary School.
I spent 5 years playing at home, especially in my backyard playhouse.

Prior to that, I was born on October 11, 1963.

Making this list makes me realize how I am ready for tomorrow!
I happily am standing on the shoulders of so many great educators
who taught me so much and I have tons to share with my 6th grade Sailors.

Where are YOU in your teaching career?!!

NOTE: I got the idea to write this list poem while sitting in my New Teacher Orientation meeting a week ago. One of the APs introduced herself using this pattern- “Prior to that….Prior to that….” Today I recalled that structure and made this list poem.

Afterwards, my daughter suggested that I listen to the September 1, 2017 This American Life podcast called Private Geography. The summary of it states: Everyone walks around on their own private map of the world. The places we’re from and how they made us, whether we like it or not. The podcast connects to this idea that we are who and what we did before. Do you agree??

My Stats

Inspired by this facebook post by slicer, Michelle Haseltine:

Screen Shot 2017-08-08 at 6.52.38 AM

here are my 2017-18 teaching stats:

25 – number of years as a teacher
12 – number of different classroom
8   – number of schools
4  –  number of school districts
2  –  number of titles: Generalists in ES and Reading Specialists in ES
5  –  number of grades taught: K, 3, 4, 5 and coached teachers K-6
8 –  number of Principals guiding me
1 –  number of states: VA
Current Position – 6th grade Reading at Swanson Middle School, Arlington, VA

I could also add these stats:

1 – number of parents still living
0 – number of grandparents still living
3 – number of siblings: sister and 2 brothers
3 – number of pets growing up: all dogs
1 – number of states I’ve lived in: Virginia
5 – number of cities in VA I’ve lived in: Falls Church, Richmond, Charlottesville, Alexandria, Arlington
4 – number of countries visited: Italy, Spain, France, Mexico
2 – number of sports I play: swimming, softball
10 – books I’ve read this summer

I can see this exercise as a classroom warm-up during the first week of school. I post mine as an example and share Michelle’s. Then give them time to write. Encourage them to add more lines beyond what Michelle and I listed. Then share with a partner, with another partnership. Maybe I’ll push them to complete this sentence:

Based on his/her stats, I can tell that _____ is the kind of person who ______.

What do you think my stats teach you about me?
What other lines could/should I add to my stat list?
What do YOUR stats look like?!?

A poem inspired by Judith Viorst

I read this poem by: Judith Viorst from Sad underwear and other complications (1995)

What Dads Do

Make bookshelves.
Make burgers.
Make money.
Make funny faces that make you laugh.
Scratch your back when you can’t reach where it itches.
Lift you up on their shoulders.
Snore when they’re sleeping (but say they don’t).
Pitch but not so fast that you can’t hit their pitches.
Play tickles with you when you feel like a silly person.
Snuggle up close with you when you feel like a sad one.

Dads explain electricity
And peninsulas
And help you count the stars.

I wish I still had one.


I decided to change it to a list about what moms do and end it with the line:
I’m glad I still have one

My poem:

What Moms Do

Bake pies
Crochet afghans
And play a mean hand of pinochle

Mine drove me early, very early to swim practice
daily, before school.
Mine bought me new dresses,
especially for the first day of school.
Mine stood for hours in white clothes
timing at the summer Saturday swim meet.
Mine now makes great company
on all our road trips.

And now, most of her time is spent helping others.
keeping lonely friends company.
driving sick friends to the doctor.
offering condolences at funeral wakes.
And always having time to visit and help out in my classroom.

Moms – I’m glad I still got one.

Tomorrow, I’ll be reading this aloud during my 3rd grade classroom’s Poetry Celebration!
And my mom is coming to hear it!

Revised Ballad

Time to update this poem. Years ago I was helping the 6th grade students at my school understand what a ballad is – a songlike, narrative, poem that has rhyme, rhythm, and a refrain. In the process, I wrote this ballad-like poem, inspired by my daughters, Bridgit and Anne!! I love that it records for me the best part of being a mom, getting to read-aloud so many stories filled with so many great characters with my two favorite readers. Three years ago I added an additional final stanza. Today I add another final stanza to record us as readers (and writers) today in 2017. Enjoy reading with Sally, Bridgit and Anne from 1993 to the present!

My daughters, at 4 and 1
Lick their cone of ice cream
Listening to me read The Tweedle Beedle Battle
And the adventures of Spot and his mom, also Sally,
While taking turns to open the flaps.

The clock chimed eight.
I said good night, sleep tight, and turned out the light.

Once they turn 6 and 3
They spooned their jello
As I read everything by Donald Crews
and rode his train, plane, boat, bike, and carousel.
Then listened to the troubles of Arthur and DW.

The clock chimed eight.
I said good night, sleep tight, and turned out the light.

Soon both could read at 8 and 5
Yet, they still listened, munching on popcorn
As I read of Elmer on Wild Island
And we met Samantha, Molly, and Josephina
Living in other times.

The clock chimed eight.
I said good night, sleep tight, and turned out the light.

By the ages of 10 and 7
We met Ms. Jewels, Louis and the 28 students
in that tall, skinny wacky school.

Also, Anastasia and her funny brother, Sam.

The clock chimed eight.
I said good night, sleep tight, and turned out the light.

Time flew by, and suddenly they were 12 and 9.
They made the cookies we munched on
As I read-aloud the adventures of their newest friends:
Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

The clock chimed eight.
I said good night, sleep tight, and turned out the light.

Three years ago, they were 25 and 23.
The clock chimes 2:00am.
I’ve been asleep for hours
Closing my eyes after reading a chapter alone on my kindle fire.
Bridgit tweets the latest news of the day.
Anne posts a TEDtalk video to her facebook wall and grabs a play to read.

Good night, great readers.
Sleep tight.

Now they are 28 and 25.
The clock chimes 9pm in VA and 3am in France.
I head to bed to read,
after drafting my latest Slice to post tomorrow for my blogging friends to read.
Bridgit downloads the S-town podcast
for us to listen to as we take our rode trip to Chicago tomorrow.
Anne celebrates making her own homemade version of CLUE to play with her French students and blogs from Marseilles.

Good night, great readers across the globe.
Sleep tight.

How many books you can name from the poem clues??!