It’s 11:35 p.m. on the night before the first day of a new school year. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be though, from time to time, my mind hovers over the thought that maybe I should have worked in my classroom this weekend.

There must be things I’ve forgotten to do, I tell myself. Labels I should have made. Signs I should have put up somewhere. Copies I should have ready for the first day. Or even the second day.

But when I finally stop obsessing over the mental list of all the things I think I should have done, I stop and remember what’s most important – to focus on the kids. Preparing for the first day all the way to the last day is really about being willing to take time, no matter how much, to build relationships with my students. How? By stopping whatever I’m doing to look them in the eye and to listen to them with an open heart. As long as I’m prepared to do that, everything will be fine. Everything will sort itself out.

I’ll be ready for whatever happens.


Crossposted to The Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Tuesday

First Team Meeting of the Year

It’s funny how the weather changes right before school is scheduled to start.

Or so it seems.

The air is crisper and the temperature drops just enough, but not too much.

Or so it seems.

The sun sinks into the horizon just a little bit earlier. Just enough to tease you, but not enough that you point it out to someone else.

Or so it seems.

August loses its luster. Chugs along like a tired, old man.

Or, so it seems.

I dig into my fall/winter clothing. Even though I don’t want to. And, because I’m in denial, it takes me longer to get dressed.

Or so it seems.

My official first day back is August 29th, but I went to school today to meet with my new grade level partners. We have never worked together before, but if today was any indication of what lies ahead this year, I think it’s going to be OK. I should know. Because I’ve had my share of years that have not been OK.

We talked about a lot of things. And, when we got to the topic of assessment, the conversation didn’t go awry as these conversations often do. Most importantly, we agreed that we have a lot more to talk about. Finally, each of us has a task to do before we meet again in a few days.

It seems that this year is going to be different. Looking forward to a fresh start.

Crossposted to Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Tuesday






Why I Tribe – #CompelledTribe

I am one of those members that has fallen short of my promised participation in #CompelledTribe over the last few months. Yet, I am here because The Compelled Tribe inspires me; it is bigger than me or any one of the individuals that comprise it. And, I want to be a part of something bigger, something with the potential to make an impact, to influence others. Together we can do that as we engage with each other’s content on social media and hopefully curate and create resources that will influence other educators, like the brand new teacher I have committed to mentoring this year.

The #CompelledTribe is made up of people that I admire and look to for inspiration. And, although there are many members that I don’t know at all and may never meet in person, just knowing that they’re there, being catalysts in their individual spheres of influence, keeps me motivated to want to do the same. Wherever we are in the world we are making a difference; that’s the compelled in the tribe. That’s why I stick around. That’s why this year I am recommitting to this PLN. And, even though this particular post is long overdue and my involvement in the Tribe has been scant and therefore my impact small, I am here.

This is a bittersweet time of the year for many teachers – the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year. We have so many conflicting feelings. But I’m ready! Here’s hoping everyone has an amazing, fulfilling and joyful school year.


Back-to-School Ruminations

I would be lying if I said I didn’t have mixed feelings about admitting that I’m looking forward to the start of school in a couple of weeks.

Mixed feelings about admitting that I’m looking forward to returning to school in a couple of weeks?


I am looking forward to returning to school in a couple of weeks!

There. I said it…at least in this blog…because saying this out loud in some circles may sound nerdy.

After all, who wants to return to work after a vacation? Who wouldn’t want to extend their vacation if they could do so?

Admittedly, summer vacations are my favorite time off from school. But, what teacher doesn’t look forward to summer vacations? They are stress free and rejuvenating. They provide a time to refuel, relax and reinvigorate for the new school year. They allow for extended travel time, reading – novels (adult and middle grades books for me!) and professional books – and for spending more quality time with family and friends. They are also a time to connect with other teachers through book studies, courses, and conferences – nerdy or otherwise.

First day of summer in June!
Best buds! 

So, yes, I’ve loved being on vacation, especially this summer vacation, which has been particularly memorable; my oldest daughter recently celebrated her wedding at the end of July and we hosted many out of country guests for about two weeks. The feelings generated from the wedding linger on and I hang onto them as summer officially winds down.
The day before the wedding.
Breakfast with my son-in-law’s family!

My daughter throwing the bridal bouquet at La Casa del Árbol,Baños, Ecuador.

Yet, I contain my excitement about checking out my new room, getting a hold of my class list (have to wait a little bit longer for this) when I try to imagine the person behind the name, gathering new school supplies, and figuring out how to incorporate all of the (free and online) professional learning I have done this summer.

Some of the new books I got this summer!


I contain my excitement about the unveiling of the new furniture I requested that will make for a flexible learning environment for my students.

I contain my excitement about a new teacher in my division who is also interested in flexible seating and may make for a new partner in crime this year. Shout out to Nicole!

My first read aloud of the year!
Source:Wonder by R. J. Palacio

I contain my excitement about the first day of school when I get to greet my new class of 5th graders who are probably equal parts eager and apprehensive, as I am.

I contain my excitement as I anticipate getting past the formalities and awkwardness of that first day as we adjust to learning and living together.

I contain my excitement about my son moving to middle school because I know how fast that goes.

I contain my excitement about finally starting my field research for my doctorate. Since my research is happening at my own school, I look forward to making an impact in my school’s collaborative and professional learning environment.

I contain my excitement about the new middle grades and professional books I ordered at the end of last year.

I contain my excitement about organizing my classroom library so that it’s pleasing and accessible for my students.

These are some of the books my students read last year and
that I am eager to introduce my new students to this year.

I contain my excitement about getting back to the teaching I know how to do and weaving in new learning ideas from this summer. Think DIY Literacy, Who’s Doing the Work, The First Six Weeks of School and other mentor books that I will be leaning on this school year.

I contain my excitement about the possibility of sponsoring the newly minted Student Leadership group that was formed last year with the passion and hard work of some of my former students.

I contain my excitement about #GRA16 and reading Pax, a book one of my students recommended I read aloud to the class last year; it was a huge success. Thanks, Willa!

And, finally, I can’t contain my excitement any longer! Bring it on!

So, don’t contain your excitement any longer! What are you looking forward to this school year?

My Contribution

At a September back to school session on school culture, our director asked each of us to reflect on the following question:  What will be your most important contribution to the culture of our school this year?

I found this question so intriguing at the time that I decided to write a public response on my blog…that I never finished and therefore never made public. In light of recent challenging personal and professional events, it’s time I finish my response to this question and, in turn, reflect on whether or not I’ve been successful in taking up the challenge offered by my director.   

At the time and in the space I found myself, the answer to this question was quite simple:  be positive.  Perhaps, this is too trite and therefore meaningless but after a full year reflecting on what gives me joy in all aspects of my life, I have found that the simplicity inherent in being positive – looking at the bright side – resonates well with the road I’d chosen to travel. 

Or, so I thought.

The human mind is highly susceptible to all kinds of influences and it doesn’t take much to distract us from our determination to develop (or maintain) new habits or ways of seeing the world…if we aren’t careful. I don’t think I would be wrong to say that it’s sometimes easier to fall back on old and unproductive habits of mind than to struggle at developing new ways of responding to the world. If we look hard enough, we will always find something to veer us of our course and to break our determination. 

So, maybe that’s what happened to me or maybe the circumstances were such that I had no other choice but to hunker down and dig in my heels. The old dichotomy – who is the victim here and does it matter? In the end, we only hurt ourselves when we allow outside events to rule over us or, as my kids used to say, “be the boss of us”. 

Which is to say that I lost my resolve to be positive and instead found only negatives to bolster my arguments. Not that the negatives weren’t there but I let them eat at my insides until I became sick, literally and figuratively. Who gained? Who lost? Right now, it doesn’t seem to matter. Suffice it to say that by losing sight of what’s important, I once again find myself picking up the pieces and what seemed oh, so important isn’t so important anymore. 

It’s all about perspective 
and response 
and, yes, it’s about being positive.

I have another opportunity – we always do  – and I won’t mess up this time. 

Cross-posted at SOL – Two Writing Teachers.