Permission to Pause – A Journal for Teachers

Recently I purchased a journal for teachers called Permission to Pause by Dorothy VanderJagt. To be honest, I hesitated to buy it at first. After all, can’t I just take a blank notebook and start journaling? Give myself my own permission to pause and reflect about whatever is on my mind? But I was intrigued that it was designed as a journal for teachers and after reviewing a couple of the pages, I was hooked.

A page from Permission to Pause

And, I’m not sorry I bought it though I paid less than what is currently advertised on Amazon. Nevertheless, I will purchase another volume when I fill up the pages of this one. Why? you ask. Because this journal has some thought provoking prompts and probes that really get me thinking. Instead of using my writer’s notebook to write a daily gratitude and random reflections, which could still be valuable, I can dig deeper by thinking about the questions the author poses. And, it’s all in one place. Because each day is different I don’t get bored; this was beginning to happen when I was using my notebook.

I like writing a daily gratitude, even though the author stresses that you can choose to journal every day or just a few times a week. And, she asks us to consider this: if I’m grateful for someone in my life, have I told them? Hmm. Rarely, which makes me realize that I need to do that!

When thinking if I’ve made a difference to others, especially students, I can also reflect on how I can continue to make a difference. By asking this question, the author helps me figure out how I can continue to do that; what is it that will help me influence students in the way they want and need to be influenced?

Teachers can browse and borrow from the Appendix – Take Action Ideas or create their own to become a more mindful educator. My take action idea for the last two days has been to sit outside and soak up some sun! It was wonderful!

So, did I already say I love my new teacher journal? LOL!

Cross posted to Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Challenge.



Social Media Review

Every so often I make a resolve to say “No” to some things so that I can say  “Yes” to what’s truly important…to me. But despite my best intentions, I tend to get lost in the fray that is social media. Fueled by the energy of other educators, and the “fear of missing out” (FOMO), I end up filling my plate with lots of seemingly great things, but with little to no energy to carry them out. The result is frustration, a sense of failure and a lot of wasted time and money.

So, lately I am back to being more discriminating in the projects I take on, both online and off. Because of the times we live in, it’s become easier to say “No” when money is involved. I tend to pick and choose more carefully when I have to pay for a conference or a workshop even when there’s a sliding scale, which I truly appreciate.

It feels good to say “No” so I can dedicate my time to something else that will fill a need I’m experiencing at the moment or in the long run. That means I need to be clear about what’s important to me and go with those things that amplify what I care about. And, in order to be true to myself and find my focus, I have decided to stay out of what I call Twitter Wars.

Some things people say on Twitter go against my belief system and I want to respond. Sometimes I get into arguments with strangers because rather than learning from each other we are more invested in having the upper hand. It would be better to engage in a debate about an issue that we both care about, but it doesn’t seem that’s what people are after. We want to be right rather than help each other learn. I am embarrassed to admit this, but it’s true. Furthermore, though kindness won’t save the world, it won’t hurt it either. There’s too little kindness on social media right now.

Needless to say, these exchanges are exhausting. So, I am disengaging from threads that are about sowing conflict. Instead I have started looking for people who are sharing what I think are important and relevant information and ideas. They are out there!

Because every so often I review my social media involvement I know this may not stick forever, but I’m going to try to make it work as best as I can. Instead of reverting back to old habits (like getting back into Twitter Wars), I will make tweaks and adjustments to what I’ve committed to here. That means I will prioritize a few blogs, podcasts, Instagram accounts, tweeters, and FB pages (that’s already a lot!) to follow and engage with in order to address my professional learning needs.

I’m sure I’ll be writing about this again and not just on my blog. Maybe you want to join me.

Cross posted to Two Writing Teachers Tuesday SOL Challenge.

It’s a Perfectly Beautiful Morning

It’s a perfectly beautiful morning.

Yesterday’s rain is a distant memory.

It’s quiet, sunny.

A day full of possibilities.

I sit at my dining room table writing.

And think back to the last six weeks.

I had given up hope and my feelings were all tangled up in knots.

  • My mother’s death.
  • My slower than expected recovery (by me) from cancer.
  • My resolve to prioritize what’s important and finding it hard to do so.
  • My failure to show progress on my thesis and my decision to put it away for now.
  • I wasn’t eating.
  • I was barely moving. In fact, staying in bed was all I wanted to do.

Now, I sit at my dining room table. I feel myself returning to life. Or maybe life is returning to me.

At my lowest point, and out of desperation, my daughter said: get better for us because it’s clear you don’t want to get better for you.

That hit me like a dagger to my heart.

Maybe it was the reality check I needed. I don’t know.

What I do know is that my appetite is back, my energy is improving every day, and I feel closer to my self even as my self evolves into something new and better.

So, on this perfectly beautiful morning…

  • I welcome back hope.
  • I celebrate life.
  • I affirm the desire to live again.

It’s a perfectly beautiful morning.

Imposter Syndrome

2323d-11454297503_e27946e4ff_hHave you ever experienced a situation where you procrastinated, but for a good reason? I know. I know. We rarely, if ever, procrastinate for a good reason. But I promise I had a good reason. My good reason was that I had misplaced a digital document that would make revising efficient: the feedback on the print copy was not easy to read. The words were either cut off in the printing or I had no idea what part of what I wrote the feedback was addressing. That was a good reason, right? But what happens when you finally find the digital document (in the last place you thought to look, of course) and now you have no excuses to procrastinate?

Now what?

Now, you have to stop procrastinating and get to work.

This is my current dilemma. This is when the fear sets in and the imposter syndrome rears its ugly head. Because it is a “thing” that has a head and it’s ugly. So, I will try to acknowledge the imposter monster and let it go. Put him, yes it’s a him, in my mind’s balloon and let it go so that I can focus on making progress. Getting things done.

Yet, the worry that I am an imposter and that pretty soon everyone will discover the truth persists. And, when they do, they will know that I know nothing about teaching and learning, reading and writing. Everyone will point at me behind my back and whisper as I walk by: “She is an imposter”. Once that happens, I will have nowhere to hide. Right now, I can hide behind my inaction, more commonly known as procrastinating. As long as I do nothing, no one will know what I know: I’m an imposter.

But here’s the thing…if I keep repeating that mantra, it will become my reality. In fact, it already has. That’s why affirmations are so important. They are like aspirations. The places I want to go and that I have yet to get to. Repeating affirmations will shift my mindset and set me on a path of healing.

I write down three affirmations every day, but that’s not enough. The trick is to keep repeating them to yourself several times a day.

I usually write my own affirmations based on what’s currently happening in my life. At other times, I borrow them from other places. Here are the three that I wrote down for today:

  • I forgive myself for not being perfect because I know that I’m human.
  • I accept what I cannot change.
  • I make the best of every situation.

Do you practice affirmations? If you do, and you’re so inclined, I hope you will share one in the comments section.

Crossposted to The Two Teachers of Writing Tuesday Slice of Life Challenge.

It’s the weather or is it?

The weather here has taken a turn.

It was getting warmer and sunnier and perfect for being outside.

Then, all of a sudden, a couple of days ago, the weather turned. (It feels like it turned on me! Like it targeted me for  a string of low-energy-negative-attitude days.)

It’s cold.

It’s raining.

It even snowed yesterday, but since it can snow at any moment in Calgary that’s not so out of place.

I’ve been in a funk since Friday (the day the weather turned).

I’m feeling a bit listless.

Zoomed out.

Cold to my core.

I am reading and writing but, for a big chunk of the day, I just sit around.

I think it could be the darn weather that’s getting me down.

Or it could be that this quarantine is dragging me down.

Or it could be that things feel uncertain and I don’t do uncertain.

Whatever it is, I am ready for it to be over!

Crossposted to the Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Challenge.


Lessons Learned

When classes were cancelled, I didn’t pay too much attention to the ever increasing posts on social media or the webinars popping up everywhere about remote learning and teaching; I’m on medical leave and don’t have a class of students at the moment. Yet, as this pandemic has continued its course and everything has become uncertain, I realized that something like what we’re experiencing now may happen at some point in September or later in the fall.

So I started paying attention.

I started listening to teachers talk about how difficult this is. I started reading articles and blog posts that attempted to help teachers make sense of the new digital reality we are living in, and I continued to read about equity and what that means during COVID-19. I began to participate in webinars, joined sessions on FaceBook live and inserted myself into the conversation.

I have been learning from other educators about the importance of focusing on social-emotional learning and trauma informed teaching; how to make effective teaching videos; and how to keep things simple and not expect a business-as-usual focus at home. I started keeping a legal pad of notes, that is quickly filling up, and that reflects what I want to keep in mind as I think about the fall, whether or not we are in remote learning mode or back at the school house door.

Yet, my most significant noticing during these last few weeks has been the heightened awareness by educators of the importance of connecting and building relationships with students AND their families. I want to emphasize the fact that we should have been connecting and building relationships with students and families when we were safely ensconced in our classrooms. If you are now realizing this, during a pandemic, I wonder what was happening in the classroom before this health crisis. And I say this, with a lot of love and grace, because if it’s challenging to develop connections with students and their families when we’re in a face-to-face environment, think how much harder it is to begin to do this NOW when we’re in crisis mode. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t try, but it is my hope that this experience serve as a reminder to all of us that relationships do matter. Authentic connections do matter.

At the same time, and from my limited perspective, building and cultivating relationships can still happen online because we don’t have another choice. But they require a lot of work on the part of the teacher. Let’s not forget this when we return to school in the fall because even if teachers forge relationships with students and families, there may be one or more students for whom that doesn’t happen. And I repeat, trying to do that now is very hard. Again, this should serve as a lesson to make sure we intentionally connect with all students and especially with the ones that we have a hard time connecting with.

So many factors to consider. Let’s remember to show grace to ourselves, our colleagues, our students and their families.

This ain’t over yet.


Cross posted to the Two Writing Teachers Tuesday SOL Challenge.

So. Many. Plans.

No matter how carefully we craft our plans, they sometimes go awry. Or there might be things beyond our control that just don’t cooperate with what we have in mind. Sometimes our carefully crafted plans have to be put on hold. Sometimes they need to be reworked or simply cancelled. Sometimes, we have to go back to the drawing board and start all over again.

That’s OK because the truth is: life happens.

Case in point: After my cancer treatment was finished at the end of 2019, I had so many plans for the new year.

  • Plans to travel.
  • Plans to finish my dissertation by the end of this calendar year.
  • Plans to submit a book proposal, get it accepted, and start writing the book.
  • Plans to start an educational business that would eventually allow me to quit my job and dedicate myself to educational consulting full time.
  • Plans to spend more time with my husband and son before he heads off to university in three years.

So many plans.

And, yet, I don’t feel sorry for myself. Maybe just a little disappointed. The truth is that I am beyond grateful for what I have as I look forward to following through on some of those plans, but at a later date than I had originally anticipated. And, that’s OK. After all, plans are made to be changed, adjusted, rescheduled, and brought to fruition…or not. I just need to let go of the idea that if things don’t happen as planned on the date I had on my calendar, then somehow I’ve failed.

It’s time to move on from the mental frame of “failure = bad because it can be paralyzing.

Yet, how many times have I said this and how many times have I let it immobilize me?

Too many to count.

Yet, that’s what this is about, isn’t it? Falling down and getting back up again. Starting over. Picking up the pieces. Not giving up. Taking baby steps, if necessary. Each success moves us forward.

Cross-posted to the Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Challenge.


Bruna, bailando por el mundo – Dancing Around the World by Evelyn Sanchez-Toledo – Book Review

Bruna, bailando por el mundo – Dancing Around the World by Evelyn Sanchez-Toledo


Bruna, Bailando Por El Mundo – Dancing Around the World is a lovely picture book about Bruna, a little girl who on a rainy day is sad and bored because she can’t go outside to play. In the best tradition of how grandparents can save the day, Bruna’s abuela (grandmother in Spanish), suggests they experience the traditional dances of different countries as they travel the world in their imaginations. At each stop on the journey, Bruna and her abuela appear dressed in the clothing of that country’s dance so the reader starts to associate a country with a dance, its instruments and a little bit of the rhythm of the music.

The pair travel to several countries, three of which are Spanish speaking. Initially, I had expected this picture book to take the reader to Latin America to showcase dances from various countries there. Although my expectation didn’t match how the story develops, I must admit I was a little disappointed that Latin American countries weren’t the backdrop for all the dances. Perhaps the author thought it best not to “stereotype” this book to only represent countries in Latin America, but simply to highlight the variety of dances all over the world. I would love to know how she decided on the countries she selected. Since she is a teacher, albeit retired, she may have wanted to represent the countries of students she has taught in the past.

I enjoyed the rhyming text in Spanish and appreciated that the Spanish appeared above the English to emphasize Bruna’s culture and language. I also noticed that the translation into English was not a word-for-word translation, which gave each language its own unique perspective rather than simply translating one for the other.

As a Spanish bilingual teacher, I am always on the lookout for books written in Spanish, or bilingually, that my monolingual English students who are learning Spanish as a second language can access and enjoy. This is one of those books. Furthermore, after reading this book aloud to my students as an introduction to dance and music from various countries around the world, I can envision posing the following question to them: “Which Latin American country’s dance and music might you want to investigate and write a short piece about?”

Although not every book lends itself to a class writing assignment, I think this one does. Students can write in Spanish, or in both Spanish and English, and can conduct their research in English. The research could be done online, via a book, and/or through interviewing adults from the country they’ve chosen. For example, there are many teachers at my school that represent a variety of Latin American countries. Once each child or pair has finished writing and illustrating their story, they could share it with their buddy class and, of course, with their parents.

Although the illustrations seem to fit the country they are intended to represent, student partnerships could research the dance, costumes and music of each country highlighted in this picture book before they start their own research. This would emphasize the importance of precision when doing research for a writing project. Next, they could share with the class what they discovered about the dance’s accuracy and detail as communicated in the words and drawings in the story. This could be an initial activity before each child or pair of students starts their own investigation and writing project. So, while I didn’t start this review to see how I could use this book in my grade 5 Spanish bilingual classroom, it certainly took me in that direction!

The pastel colors used in the illustrations gave the story a convincing feeling of the imaginary that rendered it believable. In other words, the illustrations fit with the text and aided in the reader’s journey through the dances represented here. I sincerely hope the author considers another similar Bruna story on other topics, such as “eating around the world” or “playing children’s games around the world”, and that it’s written in the same bilingual tradition as Bruna, bailando por el mundo – Dancing Around the World. Hmm…this might be an invitation I might offer my bilingual students. I am sure some of them might be interested in taking this on…

In summary, Bruna, bailando por el mundo – Dancing Around the World, would be a great addition to any Spanish bilingual classroom and has the added advantage of offering multiple entry points for writing projects. There are so many places this could go. It’s a great opportunity for an interdisciplinary project; my mind is exploding!

*This book was gifted to me by the author Evelyn Sanchez-Toledo. Many thanks!

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2020 (1/31/20) is in its 7th year! This non-profit children’s literacy initiative was founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen; two diverse book-loving moms who saw a need to shine the spotlight on all of the multicultural books and authors on the market while also working to get those book into the hands of young readers and educators.

Seven years in, MCBD’s mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves continues.

MCBD 2020  is honored to have the following Medallion Sponsors on board


Super Platinum

Make A Way Media/ Deirdre “DeeDee” Cummings,


Language Lizard, Pack-N-Go Girls,


Audrey Press, Lerner Publishing Group, KidLit TV, ABDO BOOKS : A Family of Educational Publishers, PragmaticMom & Sumo Jo, Candlewick Press,


Author Charlotte Riggle, Capstone Publishing, Guba Publishing, Melissa Munro Boyd & B is for Breathe,


Author Carole P. Roman, Snowflake Stories/Jill Barletti, Vivian Kirkfield & Making Their Voices Heard. Barnes Brothers Books,  TimTimTom, Wisdom Tales Press, Lee & Low Books,  Charlesbridge Publishing, Barefoot Books Talegari Tales


Author Sponsor Link Cloud

Jerry Craft, A.R. Bey and Adventures in Boogieland, Eugina Chu & Brandon goes to Beijing, Kenneth Braswell & Fathers Incorporated, Maritza M. Mejia & Luz del mes_Mejia, Kathleen Burkinshaw & The Last Cherry Blossom, SISSY GOES TINY by Rebecca Flansburg and B.A. Norrgard, Josh Funk and HOW TO CODE A ROLLERCOASTER, Maya/Neel Adventures with Culture GrooveLauren Ranalli, The Little Green Monster: Cancer Magic! By Dr. Sharon Chappell, Phe Lang and Me On The Page, Afsaneh Moradian and Jamie is Jamie, Valerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, TUMBLE CREEK PRESS, Nancy Tupper Ling, Author Gwen Jackson, Angeliki Pedersen & The Secrets Hidden Beneath the Palm Tree, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 by Mia Wenjen, Susan Schaefer Bernardo & Illustrator Courtenay Fletcher (Founders of Inner Flower Child Books), Ann Morris & Do It Again!/¡Otra Vez!, Janet Balletta and Mermaids on a Mission to Save the Ocean, Evelyn Sanchez-Toledo & Bruna Bailando por el Mundo\ Dancing Around the World, Shoumi Sen & From The Toddler Diaries, Sarah Jamila Stevenson, Tonya Duncan and the Sophie Washington Book Series, Teresa Robeson  & The Queen of Physics, Nadishka Aloysius and Roo The Little Red TukTuk, Girlfriends Book Club Baltimore & Stories by the Girlfriends Book Club, Finding My Way Books, Diana Huang & Intrepids, Five Enchanted Mermaids, Elizabeth Godley and Ribbon’s Traveling Castle, Anna Olswanger and Greenhorn, Danielle Wallace & My Big Brother Troy, Jocelyn Francisco and Little Yellow Jeepney, Mariana Llanos & Kutu, the Tiny Inca Princess/La Ñusta Diminuta, Sara Arnold & The Big Buna Bash, Roddie Simmons & Race 2 Rio, DuEwa Frazier & Alice’s Musical Debut, Veronica Appleton & the Journey to Appleville book series  Green Kids Club, Inc.

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

Co-Hosts and Global Co-Hosts

A Crafty Arab, Afsaneh Moradian, Agatha Rodi Books, All Done Monkey, Barefoot Mommy, Bethany Edward & Biracial Bookworms, Michelle Goetzl & Books My Kids Read, Crafty Moms Share, Colours of Us, Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes, Educators Spin on it, Shauna Hibbitts-creator of eNannylink, Growing Book by Book, Here Wee Read, Joel Leonidas & Descendant of Poseidon Reads {Philippines}, Imagination Soup, Kid World Citizen, Kristi’s Book Nook, The Logonauts, Mama Smiles, Miss Panda Chinese, Multicultural Kid Blogs, Serge Smagarinsky {Australia}, Shoumi Sen, Jennifer Brunk & Spanish Playground, Katie Meadows and Youth Lit Reviews

FREE RESOURCES from Multicultural Children’s Book Day

TWITTER PARTY! Register here!


Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

It’s Time for a Change

I’ve been on medical leave since June 2019 and before that I’d been on an extended sick leave. I kept stretching out my initial leave thinking that in a week or so I would be well enough to return to school. By the time I finally accepted that I wouldn’t be going back to work until September 2020, I had experienced conflicting feelings and multiple scenarios about my health and my unrealistic, even damaging, attachment to my job. I was in denial about my medical condition and the thought of not working for more than a year was unconscionable; my doctors set me straight.

Although I am now at peace with the decision to not go back to work this year, I am struggling with how to schedule my time in ways that are useful and enjoyable to me. I don’t want to let my job rule my life. I know that achieving a work-life balance is challenging and often a source of anxiety for many of us. That’s why I am figuring out ways to prioritize self-care in the form of leisurely activities and exercise now so I don’t have to figure it out from scratch later.

Furthermore, I am using the next few months to make headway into three major projects I am committed to accomplishing this year. But, I’m not going to lie…this is hard. I’ve been working since I was 15 and to all of a sudden have open blocks of time on my hand to organize as I see fit has been a challenge. Sometimes my day doesn’t start until after 10:00 am and it ends past midnight because I’m reading and writing or having a hard time falling asleep. How did I ever get up early before? And, how will I be able to get up early when I start working in September?

This is not an exercise for NOW. The fact is that I am making a significant shift in how I approach my personal and professional life that favors the personal going forward. I owe it to my well-being and to my family.


Cross posted to Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Challenge.

What’s Your Superpower?

If you could have one superpower in the classroom, what would it be and how would it help?

This question was posed on Twitter a while ago. I don’t remember who posted it or even when it was shared. I just know that I immediately wrote it down as a prompt for a future blog post.

I know that this is going to sound odd, but if I could have one superpower in the classroom it would be to listen carefully and intentionally at all times. Now, what does this mean to me? Throughout my teaching career, active listening and its various iterations have been the focus of many conversations and even professional development sessions for teachers. On an intuitive level, we know the importance of listening to others because we know how it feels when someone listens to us…without an agenda or interruptions. It seems to me that in our busy world we are constantly interrupted from listening carefully to each other. Sometimes the interruptions happen in the course of the school day and sometimes we interrupt our listening because our brains are so full of to do items that we have forgotten what it means to be in the moment. Instead of listening when someone is talking we’re often thinking about what to say in response or about the list of items that need to get checked off by the end of the day or we’re so distracted from constant browsing on social media apps that our brains have a hard time concentrating. What could be so important that we can’t let go of it long enough to listen to someone else? And, I mean really listen without an agenda or self-interest. Listening with our minds as well as our ears, without interrupting or needing to jump in and offer advice or an opinion.

I have been painfully aware over the last year or so of how difficult it is for me to listen to others when they’re speaking. My mind seems to wander often to inconsequential matters and when I tune back in I realize that I had been daydreaming and don’t have a clue as to what was being discussed. (This sometimes happens when I’m reading, but I can go back and reread. It’s hard to do that in a conversation without giving away that I have stopped listening.) I have decided that this needs to change. My family has been telling me to listen better and not interrupt when someone’s speaking for a long time. But, you guessed it, I haven’t been listening! I aim to do better, both at home and at school.

Is this an odd superpower to wish for myself in the classroom? Perhaps. After all, teachers are supposed to be good at listening. That’s one of the ways we pick up on students’ moods and nascent understandings of what we’re teaching. It’s one of the formative assessment techniques that we use to figure out how well our students are doing and where we need to adjust our teaching. Yet, we live in a world were busyness is the order of the day. The busier we are, the more important we are and the more successful we are, or so we think. Well, it turns out this isn’t necessarily true. Some of our busyness is just moving things from here to there and has little to do with productive and significant work. So, the busier we are means that our brains are inundated with a plethora of things that we think we need to get done, but that may not add value to anybody’s life, including ours, that of students or our own families. Instead, we need to commit to fewer projects so that we have more time to do things that matter.

So, all this is to say that slowing down and cutting out unimportant tasks or, at the very least, limiting those tasks, will make room for what truly matters to us. I believe that this downsizing, if you will, will allow us the mental space to listen better and respond authentically to those around us.

Cross posted to the Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Challenge