Before That…A Slice-of-Life Review


I’ve read three last-day-of-the-challenge slices before sitting to face this blank page. There is so much to say. It feels too big to whittle down. Kathleen Sokolowski captured the month perfectly in a poem, Here’s to Us. It was the first thing I read this morning, and I felt so happy to be included in the “us.”

Elisabeth Ellington wrote a list of learning that included this:

If I show up, something is going to happen. This is a lesson I have to learn again and again as a writer: trust the process. Maybe someday this will sink in?

I think “showing up” for all 31 days has changed me “for good” as Kathleen Sokolowski called out in her slice. There have been so many benefits from showing up each day to “write aloud here.”

Catherine Flynn did a wonderful job of pointing out all that she LEARNED in this month of writing. She organized her thinking through the following words, which came from a message she found on We Are Teachers: Reflect, Solve, Create, Grow, and Think. If you align the words on top of one another, the word LEARN appears vertically like an acrostic. I could relate to all that she gained from this month of writing.

So, as I reflect on my own learning, I think I will use a format that Aileen Hower used in a recent blog. “Before that” is a way to go from the present and walk backwards. I think I can see where I’ve landed if I go back to the start.

In this moment, I am surprised that this slice is taking as long or longer than my first slices. I have learned to write quickly this month, out of a need to “Get it done!”, but when I am processing my thoughts, it takes me a LOOOONNNNGGGG time!

Before that, I was reading Catherine Flynn’s slice and before that, it was Elisabeth Ellington’s slice. Their ideas made me want to stop and get my thoughts down. That was two hours ago!

Before that, I was at a strategic planning meeting and was excited to be part of some new initiatives that I believe will benefit our students in significant ways.

Before that, I was leaving my classroom, and my students were excitedly using Comic Life (a computer program) to write what they choose.

Before that, I had lunch outside with my students who took on the slice of life challenge, and who advocated to include the students who had not participated, on account of they shouldn’t be left out of a special lunch outside, and they all signed up for the NaPoWriMo challenge! I left my classroom with tears in my eyes, telling my students I love them!

Before that, I was reading Kathleen Sokolowski’s tweet and slice, and rejoicing over our collective accomplishment. I had personal doubts over how I would achieve this!

Before that, I was writing through jet lag. Returning from my trip to Japan proved harder than I anticipated!

Before that, I was writing, while in Japan, and trying to make time for slicing and commenting, even as I struggled to keep track of the 13-hour time difference.

Before that, I was bleary-eyed and stressed, trying to write through a week of conferences and getting ready for my trip.

Before that, I was hitting my stride. “I have this,” I thought. Little did I know how hard it would be to maintain my writing during my trip, and then through my post-trip exhaustion.

Before that, I was struggling. “How will I ever get through this month?” I wondered, in my blog, and out loud to myself, and close peeps who listen to my worries.

Before that, I was enlisting my students to join me in this writing challenge. “Who’s with me?” I wanted to know. When 15 said yes, I was unprepared for how personally supported I would feel. (Thank goodness for the suggestions of Erika Victor!) When we had lunch this past Tuesday, As we went around and polled the group on what was “most challenging about the challenge?” I was amazed that it was all the same things I’d experienced. Coming up with ideas. Finding time to write. Keeping up with commenting. Writing EVERY DAY! We were connected through our experience. So glad I asked my students to join me in my first year of the challenge!

Before that, I was training for Slice of Life with #EdTime2wrt, which Dana Kramaroff suggested. Every day, from January 24th through February 29th, I wrote a “sticky note” message and tweeted a pic of it. I thought I would be ready, and then sat to write my first slice, and doubted my thinking! “What made me think I could blog for 31 straight days?” I wondered. Sticky tweets are not the same!

Before that, I was having conversations in a Voxer group started by Kathleen Sokolowski about the value of educators being writers. How can we enlist others to write, too? We thought of ways to educate, inspire, and influence the actions we felt would benefit students, and ourselves as writers.

Before that, I was reading Kathleen Sokolowski’s blog post entitled, “Should Educators Be Writers?” I had been pondering the post that inspired Kathleen, written by Donalyn Miller, and entitled “Get on the Bus.” In Miller’s post for Nerdy Book Club, she implored educators to walk the talk. Teachers need to be readers, which is why Kathleen got the dialogue going about teachers as writers. I am a fan of both of these inspirational teachers, and I believe the message they promote.I am part of their choir. Yes, teachers need to read and write and walk the talk.

Before that, I was at the KSRA conference in October. Clare Landrigan encouraged and inspired me to start slicing on Tuesdays. If you write, our community will support you. I will support you. She was true to her word and has retweeted me, and commented on my blog. I am forever grateful.

Back to this moment…I did it! I am still suffering jet lag. This slice has taken hours to write and revise, and my head has drooped forward numerous times in a desperate attempt to sleep. But, I feel happy to write that I got here. I’ve learned so much about myself as a writer, and about teaching!

My students and I will take on a new challenge for April beginning TOMORROW! No foolin’!

Each day we will write a poem. We will learn from each other and from ourselves.

Educators need to be writers.

When Lenore Look, on an author visit to our school on Tuesday, told students that the single most important thing they could do as writers is to keep a writer’s notebook, my students lifted their notebooks and waggled them in her direction. They were excited to know that they are already doing what this author recommends.My students are a reflection of the messages I promote. We live like writers, We keep notebooks. We share. We support each other. We grow because we write. Together, we have benefitted from the Slice of Life Challenge.






Choosing Both a Moment & Kindness

As this month comes to a close, I am most amazed by the wealth of ideas I have for possible slices each day. I started the month trying to figure out what to write about each day, but at the end of the month, I find the biggest challenges are: choosing only one of many topics and making time to write every day.

Tonight, I will choose the most recent moment, even though there is still more to write about our author visit. And, there was the lunch I had, yesterday, with my students who are also slicing. And, there are still so many moments to share from my trip to Japan, especially my visit to an elementary school. It looks like I have found the tools I need to keep blogging! Maybe I will challenge myself to another month of daily writing? My students tell me they will join me for NaPoWriMo! But, that is also a slice for another day.

The most recent moment just wrapped up in my classroom. Eight families came together for our second meeting of our family read aloud book club. We are reading Wonder. The evening began with the energy of third graders excited to come to school and see each other again…at night! My energy was barely there since jet lag hit me like a wall on day three of my return from Japan. I soaked up some of that giddy joy and the happiness that is talking-about-books, and got our meeting started.

We settled in at the tables in our classroom, and I showed a video to set up the theme of our meeting. You can watch it here. We discussed what we’d noticed, and students shared what they noticed. The words I asked them to focus on were, “I could do something,” which is the message of the video, and a theme of Wonder.

We moved to our group meeting area, and I read the chapter, Choose Kindness. As I read, students were reading in their own copies of Wonder. At one moment, I looked up to see every child in a comfy position, sitting or stretched out on mats in front of me, intently focused on their books. The moment literally caused me to get goosebumps. This, I thought, is why I share books. I felt like there was a current connecting us through words.

When I finished the chapter, I told them that the words, “Choose kind,” and, “I could do something,” were rolling around in my mind, and I wondered aloud, “Are these words rolling around in your heads, too?” Heads nodded. I added, “I have two quotes I’d like to share with you that I think are related.” These are the quotes I passed out on small sheets:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world.

Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead

“The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of

the people who don’t do anything about it.”

Albert Einstein

We focused in on the Albert Einstein quote, noting the connection to the words: “I could do something.” With that in mind, we returned to our tables to make some posters. On one side, students and their families wrote the question, What are some examples of times when it is hard to choose kind? On the other side, they wrote, What can we do to help ourselves make kind choices? Then they discussed and brainstormed ideas, listing them on their poster papers. Ideas that were shared included: It’s hard to choose kind with my siblings. It’s hard to choose kind when you feel shy. It’s hard to choose kind when others are older and bigger.

So true. We took these thoughts with us when we returned to our group meeting area for one last book: The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig. If you’ve never read it, head to your nearest library or bookstore. It is excellent, and a powerful tool for discussing the realities of school and ways that students can do something kind. These were the words I left my group with: I could do something kind. These are the words that I will be repeating now, when our whole class comes together tomorrow, and I read The Invisible Boy to all my students.

As we creep closer to the weeks of standardized tests, I am reminded that there are things we teach that will never show up on a test, but they might be the things that matter most. Imagine if we all lived these words:

  • Everyone is a genius.
  • I could do something kind.

I know we would all live better lives.


Lenore Look Inspired This List


SliceOfLifeLogoLenore Look, author of Alvin Ho, visited our school today! It was an awesomely inspiring assembly. When we left the auditorium, my students and I returned to our classroom and sat in a circle to share some of the highlights. Then we went outside to write! Here is a list I wrote that was inspired by Lenore’s suggestion to write lists of all types. I will write more about this in a future slice, but for now, here is the list I wrote this afternoon…in the moment.




Writing Through Jet Lag


Finish it. Please. Finish. Set a time limit and stick to it.

These are my husband’s words as I nod off again while commenting on a slice. I thought I would start with comments and then write my slice and be finished before 9:00 PM, but jet lag is getting the best of me, and I keep falling asleep, eyelids dropping in parts until they close fully and my head flops down.

It is 10:00 AM on Tuesday in Japan. I have swollen ankles from the 15+ hours of flight time, and the throbbing, tingling feeling is surprisingly not enough to keep me awake, but I need to stay awake long enough to get this slice written and posted.

Here’s what I am wondering as I ponder this challenge and my push to complete it:

If it weren’t for the challenge, I would be in bed, sound asleep by now. I think that would be the right choice if I weren’t so stubbornly trying to finish all 31 days of SOL. When this challenge is complete, I know that there will be nights when I give myself a pass on writing. What’s most important is minimizing the number of passes I give myself. I want to maintain the momentum and commitment I’ve gained this month. Maybe what this challenge has taught me is how much writing I can do, and how many obstacles I can work through.

Tonight, I pushed through jet lag to string together words and write my ideas. I think I’ve earned a good night’s rest now.

Returning From Japan


NOTE: This is a writing exercise I learned through Teachers Write Camp (#teacherswrite). You write 3 words per line, and when you are finished, you have a piece of writing that may have started as narrative text, but comes out more like a poem. Cool, right?

Returning Home

I have been
in transit since
8:00 this morning,
but that was
yesterday, I think.
Let’s see, I
started on Sunday
morning in Japan.
It is now
Monday there, and
the time is
8:46 in the
morning, but for
me, in the
U.S., it is
Sunday night at
7:46, which means
I’ve been traveling
for just over
24 hours, and
all I can
think about is
a shower and
the dinner my
husband has cooked
because I am
exhausted and ravenous,
and even though
I would have
stayed in Japan
for much longer
with my baby,
I am relieved
to be back
to the comforts
of my home.
In Japan, it
is tomorrow, and
here it is
the day I
left Japan, which
gives me a
few hours to
share stories of
my trip before
returning to work
routines and the
probable jet lag.