Tag Archives: #sol15

My one sentence #sol15


Today’s slice of life post was inspired by Michelle Haseltine’s post at http://1gratefulteacher.blogspot.com.  Michelle posed the question “What’s your sentence?” and shared how she used this question when writing with her students.  Seeing the examples that Michelle and her students generated encouraged me to consider this question as well.  Like Michelle and her students, I drafted some ideas about my sentence.  After scribbling and then crossing out five or six ideas, the following sentence appeared on my page.

Shyness did not defeat her, no matter how hard it tried.

At first, I questioned sharing the sentence.  My sentence seemed so personal, and even kind of embarrassing to admit.  But then I thought about the times when I didn’t let being shy prevent me from accomplishing my dreams and goals and realized that I needed to acknowledge and celebrate this sentence because it represented overcoming an obstacle that could have prevented my from achieving so many things.  Had I given in to being shy, so many things from being a teacher, to pursuing graduate school, and even presenting at workshops and conferences would never have happened.  Shyness could have completely derailed my life, but it didn’t and I recognized that’s what the whole concept of this activity is all about.  So I am going to embrace and share my sentence.

Sitting in the drive-thru lane #sol15


This morning, I stopped by McDonald’s to get an iced tea.  I’m not a coffee drinker, but am addicted to iced tea.  I always seem to have a cup of tea on hand and before heading to school this morning, I needed my caffeine fix.

The line in the drive-thru at my local McDonald’s often moves slowly and usually there is a long line, so I frequently use the time to either read or write on my phone.  I have the Kindle and WordPress apps on my phone, so catching up on either task is easy.  Usually, I get a nice chunk of “edge” reading or writing done while waiting in line.  As the line moves, I put the phone down and advance forward.  I’ve never had a problem doing this.

I placed my order, picked up my phone, and started scrolling through a book as I waited.  When I finally had the opportunity to creep forward towards the window, I slipped the phone in its holder and moved up to pay the person at the first window.  Then, I grabbed my phone again and continued reading.  Well, I got swept up into the story and kind of stopped paying attention to my surroundings.  (I think) Several minutes passed by.  I don’t know what finally caught my attention (maybe it was the worker hanging out of the second window motioning at me), but I finally remembered where I was and what I was doing.  I could feel my face turning red as I returned my phone to its holder and pulled up to the window.  I apologized to the woman working the window as I reached out for my cup of tea and thankfully she seemed not to mind my lapse in attention.  As I pulled out of the drive-thru lane, I considered getting my iced tea fix somewhere else for a few days, but then realized that there could have been worse reasons for holding up the line.  At least I was reading!


Clothing challenges-#sol15


I am not someone who plans what to wear the night before.  I tend to fly by the seat of my pants when it comes to choosing outfits.  Additionally, there is little deviation in my wardrobe, so getting dressed in the morning is usually not a problem.  This morning, however, was different.  This morning, I was in a bit of a hurry.  I wanted to get to school early to work on several projects and I also planned to stop for a breakfast biscuit on my way to school (this was such a priority!).  This morning, I reached into my closet and grabbed a pair of capris and a black shirt and dressed quickly, never even turning on the bedroom light.  However, I really should have taken a few extra minutes to turn on that light and look in the mirror before leaving my house:)

When I got to school (with biscuit in hand), I started my computer and spread papers out on my table.  In between bites, I organized materials for the day and fine-tuned a couple of activities that I had planned.  I worked for at least fifteen minutes when I happened to glance down.  You know how cartoon characters are shown with their eyes popping out when they see something? Well, that’s what my eyes did when I looked down at my capris.  They were blue.  I shook my head, put my biscuit down, and looked down again.  They were still blue.  They weren’t supposed to be blue.  They were supposed to be black, just like the black and white shirt that I wore.  I thought that I had grabbed one of my many pairs of black capris, but in reality, I had on my one (one!!!) pair of navy capris—the pair of capris that I rarely wear and are usually not in an accessible area of my closet.  When I looked at the combination of colors, the first thing that occurred to me was that I looked like a big bruise.  Now I know that people do mix black and blue and it often looks great.  I wasn’t that lucky.  My black and blue clothes provided a pretty horrible mix.  I’ve seen toddlers dressing themselves picking out better combinations of colors!

I looked at the clock, but it was 7:15 and I knew that I didn’t have time to go home and change.  I  quickly calculated that I needed at least twenty minutes round trip with an additional five to ten minutes to get in my house and change.  We have to be in our classrooms by 7:35, so changing wasn’t an option.  I was just going to have to walk around all day like this.

Thankfully, once I started teaching, I forgot about the colors of my clothes and became engrossed in my lessons.  The day flew by as I worked with my kids and enjoyed getting back into our regular routine after a week of screenings.  I didn’t think about my clothes again until I headed out to my car and looked down when I hopped into the driver’s seat.  I realized that while it was embarrassing to look as though I had a complete lack of fashion sense, I know that this experience could have been worse.  Friends have since shared stories of wearing two different shoes or a shirt that was inside-out (now that would have really been noticeable!).  I’ve heard stories about wearing jeans with the strip identifying the size still attached to the front and I realized that we’ve all had similar things happen. The best thing we can do is laugh at ourselves and then keep on going.  Yes, I was embarrassed, but in hindsight, it really wasn’t a big deal.  I was able to go on with my day, which was pretty successful.  The world didn’t come to a screeching halt just because my colors were obnoxious.

Word Choices #sol15


During a recent conversation, I mentioned to a friend that I hadn’t seen a particular segment on the morning news because I was on my way to school at that time of day.   As the words came out of my mouth, I realized something that I don’t think I’ve ever really paid attention to before: I never say, “I am going to work” or “I missed work because I was sick” or “I was late leaving work.”  Instead, I include the word “school” in place of the word “work.”

I considered my choice of words and concluded that this is a way for me to show that teaching is not just a job for me.  Being a teacher is more than showing up, going through the motions, and collecting a paycheck.  School is more than just a place where I spend eight hours a day (or more) during the weekdays (and some weekends, too), but is an integral part of my life.  I am passionate about being a reading specialist and I consider being able to work with my kids a tremendous gift.  The words “job” or “work” simply cannot fully express how I feel.  So, I’ll continue to talk about “going to school” or having “a great day at school” and keep the words “job” and “work” out of my vocabulary!

A writing pep-talk #sol15


For the past few weeks, I’ve been in a bit of a writing rut.  Blinking cursors, empty pages, ideas that went absolutely nowhere…it seemed as though every time I sat down to write, I struggled.  I was suddenly writing with fear, worrying about my words before they even made it to the page.  When had that happened? I had embraced writing without fear, but here it was again.

Then, last night, as I scrolled through my Twitter feed, I came across the following pictures posted by Jen Vincent (@mentortexts).  The first picture made me smile as I thought of myself in a fighting stance, standing in front of that blank page.  I could hear myself saying, “Put up your dukes, blank page!” while bobbing and weaving (I am not the least bit athletically inclined, so this image really made me laugh out loud).  But I realized that’s what I have to do.  I cannot wallow in my writing rut, but I have to consciously work on writing.  I have to tackle that blank page.  Whatever that blank page brings, I have the tools to overcome it!

blank page

Posted by Jen Vincent (@mentortexts) on Twitter on August 24.

Then, I looked at the second picture.  This picture reminded me that I can write.  I can do this.  I do have something to say. I am a writer.  I am a writer.  I AM a writer! What I have to say may not be perfect.  It will probably need a lot of work, but there needs to at least be something on the page first.

I Can Write_Jen Vincent

Posted by Jen Vincent (@mentortexts) on Twitter on August 24.

Then, I went to Jen’s blog, http://www.teachmentortexts.com and came across the following line: “a first draft is perfect simply because it exists. Once we have something, we can go from there” (Jen Vincent, blog post, August 22, 2015).  This was the further kick in the pants that I needed and I realized that my writing rut was self-created.  It’s so easy to say, “Oh, I have nothing to write about today,” or “Not much has happened worth writing about.” When my students say those same things, I  work to show them that they do have a lot to write about.  We power through their writing ruts.  I don’t let them get by with those excuses, so I can’t let myself off the hook with excuses, either.  To use a cliché, I’ve got to practice what I preach.  Somewhere along the way, I lost that and Jen’s tweets and blog post helped me get back on track (ok, another cliché!).  I can write.  I am a writer.  The proof is on the page!

Currently #sol15


Today’s post was inspired by Susanne (Make.Share.Give) and was originally posted at the Two Writing Teachers site (twowritingteachers.wordpress.com) during the #sol15 challenge.  I’ve been in a bit of a writing rut lately and composed a similar post on March 20th.  I thought that I could also compare the days!

I sat down at the desk in my home office, ready to compose a post for #sol15.

Before that, I dragged in my school bag and purse, both of which seem to get heavier each day.

Before that, I pulled into the driveway.

Before that, I drove home from my grandparents’ house.  Thankfully, I didn’t have to dodge any deer and the roads were pretty quiet.  It was a peaceful drive home.

Before that, I spent time with my family.  We ate ice cream sundaes, watched t.v., and just enjoyed being together.  I cherish times like this.

Before that, we had dinner.  I shared about my last workday at school and getting ready for the first day of school:) A brief storm struck during dinner.

Before that, I drove to my grandparents’ house.  The skies were looking pretty ominous when I walked out of school and a quick check of the weather channel app verified that a storm was coming.

Before that, I packed my school bag and checked to make sure that I had my laptop.  I’m terrible about leaving things at school.  I often have to turn around and go back to school to get something that I have forgotten.

Before that, we had a brief meeting to review information for tomorrow.  I can’t believe that I’m starting my tenth year at this school and as I looked around at my school family, I was reminded that I am blessed to work with this incredible group of individuals!

Before that, I checked and updated my classroom Twitter account and created a classroom Instagram account.  I also checked over my classroom website and made notes of things that I need to change/add/delete.

Before that, I finished some paperwork.  I sent several documents to the workroom copier and trekked down the hall to retrieve the papers.  With as many trips as I have made up and down the hall today, I don’t feel too guilty about the bacon cheeseburger and fries that I had for lunch:)

Before that, I worked on updating our Title 1 School Plan, letters going home to parents about the program, as well as social media permission forms.  I e-mailed copies to my principal and the Federal Programs Coordinator.  I finished putting together the packets that will go home with my students tomorrow.  Checking all of those things off my to-do list was wonderful!

Before that, I went to lunch at Wendy’s with a group of teachers.  We piled into several cars for the short trip into town.  G’s son M accompanied us as he had been hanging out with his Mom and helping her in her classroom.  He kept us in stitches during both the ride and lunch! I enjoyed the time with my colleagues.  They are a wonderful group of people!

Before that, I made what felt like my hundredth trip down the hall to the workroom to retrieve papers from the Xerox machine.  Thankfully, the machine was working and everything was printed and waiting for me, something that doesn’t always happen!

Before that, I continued to work on paperwork.  I started my Title 1 Teacher file for the year and prepared individual student files.

Before that, I copied permission forms for Title 1 and started working on the packets that will go home with my students.

Before that, I arrived at school.  I fought the urge to swing by Hardee’s for a biscuit and got to school early.  I started mapping out what I wanted to accomplish for the day.  Paperwork was going to be the dominant theme of the day, according to my to-do list.

Before that, I dragged my school bag and purse out to my car.  I heaved them into the front passenger seat, wondering for the millionth time if I’d inadvertently thrown in a couple of cement blocks in addition to my laptop, books, and cords.  I reminded myself that I really need to weed through the stuff in both bags to make sure that everything really is necessary.

Before that, I woke up and got ready for the day.  I appreciated being able to wear jeans and tennis shoes for one more day:)

Car shopping #sol15


My Chevy TrailBlazer is twelve years old and has over 210,000 miles on the odometer.  It has made trips up and down the East Coast from Pennsylvania to Florida.  It has carried me through years of grad classes and conferences and shopping trips.  Every day, my TrailBlazer ferries me to and from school, nimbly handling the curvy rural road.  It’s been the perfect vehicle for me over the years!

However, I know that it’s time to think about getting a new car, although I am having a hard time imagining driving anything else.  I had hoped that my TrailBlazer would last until the end of my doctoral program, but I’m starting to doubt that will happen.  So many little things are requiring extra maintenance and the costs for those repairs are increasing.  I’ve gotten to know the folks at the repair shop on a first name basis and I think that I partially financed the recent renovation of that shop.  I’ve been exploring my options, but can’t seem to decide what I want to purchase.  I know that I spend a lot of time traveling and I’m pretty picky.  I’ve scoured car lots and the Internet, but haven’t been able to make a decision. other than I know that I want an SUV/CUV.  Now, whenever I’m out driving, I start scrutinizing vehicles.  I like the Nissan Rogue, but Chevy’s Equinox is also a possibility.  I’ve checked out a couple of Toyotas.  I once rented a Ford Escape to get home from the airport and I liked it, too.  There are just too many choices and I am waffling. When I bought the TrailBlazer twelve years ago, I knew exactly what I wanted.  All I had to do was go to the dealership, sign the papers and drive that SUV home.

So, now I’ve started taking notes to compare the different vehicles and I hope that the physical act of getting things down onto paper provide some clarity as I compare prices, features, gas mileage, etc. Writing things down usually brings about clarity for me, so I’m hoping that soon I’ll make a choice and that my TrailBlazer will hang on for a little while longer until I’m able to make a decision!

Thinking about ILA15-#sol15


Anne of Green Gables is one of my all-time favorite books.  I have re-read the books many times over the years and they hold a special place in my heart.  This week, as I reflected on my experiences at ILA in St. Louis, I was reminded of a chapter in Anne of Green Gables where Anne experiences what she calls “an epoch in my life” after a trip to Charlottetown and the Exhibition (Montgomery, Lucy Maud; Reads, Timeless (2013-11-27). Anne of Green Gables Stories: 12 Books, 142 Short Stories, Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, Anne’s House of Dreams, Rainbow Valley, Rilla of Ingleside, Chronicles and More (Kindle Location 3149). Timeless Reads. Kindle Edition.).

I thought of Anne’s phrase when reflecting on all that I experienced during my time in St. Louis because attending ILA15 was my own personal “epoch.”  From the pre-conference research institute on Friday to my last session (a panel on Evidence-based best practices) on Monday afternoon, I was   in literacy heaven.  The atmosphere at ILA was incredible!  The sessions energized and enlightened me and provided ideas that will enrich the upcoming school year for my students.  I loved listening to researchers like P. David Pearson, Lesley Morrow, John Guthrie, and Nell Duke and appreciate their work to connect research and practice.  I appreciated how authors like Ruth Culham, Kate Messner, Lester Laminack, and Candace Fleming shared so much of their writing lives, too.  I’ve included a few pictures that I snapped during the conference.


P. David Pearson is presenting during the Monday afternoon panel on best practices.  I’ve been in awe of him for years and his work has been a staple of my graduate studies.


Kate Messner is reading from her wonderful book, How to Read a Story.  This is one of my favorite books! After this, I was able to get a signed copy of Ranger in Time!  She is one of the nicest authors you’ll ever meet!


Dan Santat shares how a librarian encouraged his art during the Scholastic Breakfast.  All of the authors who spoke during this breakfast were amazing (also includes Pam Munoz Ryan, Jewel Parker Rhodes, Mark Teague, and Brian Selznick)!


Kathleen Krull, Candace Fleming, and Karen Blumenthal share about writing nonfiction.  These ladies are amazing!


Ruth Culham, Kate Messner, and Lester Laminack share about the use of mentor texts.  They were so inspiring!

I also presented for the first time at ILA and loved connecting with other educators who are interested in using technology to support their literacy instruction and parent communication.  I appreciate the active engagement of the participants as well as the kind words shared with me after the session.  Presenting at ILA was incredible and I am so thankful for the opportunity!

Finally, I had the opportunity to connect with my VSRA colleagues at ILA.  It was wonderful to share this experience with Tiffany, Stephanie, and Kim.  These ladies enriched my conference experience so much!  We not only had a great time talking about literacy, we also had fun exploring St. Louis (that will have to be my next post!).

Airport watching #sol15

I’m sitting at the airport in Atlanta trying to write today’s post for SOL15.  I’m on my way home from an amazing experience at ILA15.  I wanted to writeabout the conference in today’s post, but I’m still reflecting and considering all that I learned and experienced.  I don’t think that post has percolated enough in my brain and just needs a little more time.

My next thought was to write about people-watching at the airports while waiting for each of my flights.  There was a girl in St. Louis who sat in the floor at our gate and applied her makeup.  Now, she wasn’t just applying lipstick or eyeshadow-it appeared as though she was completely constructing her face from scratch.  I had a hard time not staring because this is not something that I would be able to do.  I have a hard enough time applying lipstick when looking in a large mirror that’s only inches from my face.

Then, there was a precious toddler who must have just been starting to walk.  Holding onto first Mom’s and later Dad’s hands, he explored the area around the gate.  He was as fascinated by the girl with the makeup as I was! His giggles as he walked around put a smile on my face.

I also noticed the glazed doughnut that another passenger was eating for breakfast and my stomach rumbled.  I hope that I didn’t stare too much but that doughnut looked really good, especially since I hadn’t had time for breakfast.  I needed to redirect my attention.  I had downloaded a variety of books on my iPad, so I tried to distract myself from thinking about glazed doughnuts by digging into a book.  I dove into a book about Abigail Adams and her sisters, which is fascinating, but thoughts of doughnuts    still danced in the back of my mind.

Now, as I sit through a lengthy lay-over in Atlanta, my thoughts have returned again to food and what’s for lunch.  There’s a BBQ place near my gate and I have  a feeling that BBQ is in my future.  Mmm-mmm!

Thanks, Mom! #sol15


This week, I’ve been working on finalizing my presentation for ILA 2015.  This will be my first presentation at this conference and I’m very excited.  Attending an ILA conference has been a dream of mine for a long time and I’m thrilled finally to have this opportunity.

Over the course of the week, when I reviewed my PowerPoint slides and timed the presentation, I drafted my Mom as a “practice” audience.  I ran through the entire presentation and Mom practiced the interactive activities built into the session. She not only gave me constructive feedback, but she also provided valuable encouragement.

Over the years, Mom has always supported me in all of my endeavors.  She’s read papers, listened to other presentations, attended countless functions, and has been my biggest cheerleader.  She has always taken the time to support me and for that I am so thankful.  So, as I head to St. Louis to realize a dream, I know that my Mom has played a huge role in achieving this dream.  Thanks, Mom for everything that you do!