Not Convinced Diversity Is That Important?

I was walking on the grounds of one of our elementary schools this week, came across this line of trees and was in utter awe.img_2673

It struck me like a ton of bricks…diversity is beautiful.  We are intrinsically drawn to variation.  We may think  that sameness is great, until we are presented with the possibilities of diversity and can appreciate the depth of our desire for diversity.

Not convinced? Look at how we crave diversity in our lives.

Any one of these flavors would be delicious to us, but not if we were constantly limited to the same thing. If all we had to eat in our diet were Reese’s cups we might actually (gulp) develop an aversion to them!

Would you have been happy as a kid using the same crayon or paint color-even if it was your favorite? I mean, how many of us begged our parents for the most giganticus box of Crayolas? We tried hard to convince them that diversity was important to us.

If you have ever tried to arrange a bouquet or plan a garden, you can truly appreciate how diversity adds beauty and harmony to the design element.  They bloom at different times, they give shape and texture to the ensemble, they complement each other in ways that bring out the best in each flower.


We desire a diversity in the selection of tools we accumulate. We realize there is no one superior tool, they all bring a unique utility and application to meet our diverse needs.Sure we love hammers, but if that’s the only tool we have, everything is going to start looking like a nail to us.


I live in Maine.  The diversity of seasons offers us a variety of experiences and opportunities that people who live in the Arctic or the Bahamas may never enjoy. Sure, I have my favorites, but I also find deep pleasure in the experience of each.

Scientists and philosophers address the importance of diversity.


Nature thrives with diversity.


Our children embrace diversity…

1930574_10209305946025372_3573791951316148095_n.jpguntil they learn otherwise.

We can’t truly teach acceptance and diversity if we don’t honestly believe that it is important for our quality of life, our sense of community, and even for our survival. From a cellular level on up- we depend upon diversity to thrive and survive. It isn’t until we learn from others to disregard or disavow the importance of diversity that it becomes a political or moral issue.  I hope as teachers we can counter the messages (subtle and overt) that paint diversity into a “politically correct” corner. (And lately those messages are ramped up bigly).  Look into the faces of the children in your classroom and picture the world you want them to grow up in.

Be the change!

What’s On My Book Radar?

screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-8-45-58-amAs Brave as You by Jason Reynolds

I love this story on so many levels, but in terms of diversity, it is a perfect book.  Kids often get the message that diversity is a condition to overcome!  When disability, race, gender, or sexual identity is the central “problem” to the story, rather than just “who we are”, it reinforces the otherness that separates us rather than the common experiences that unite us. The windows and mirrors should be a connector, not a barrier. This story does that.

Genie and his brother, Ernie, are sent to their grandparent’s home while their parents take a trip to Jamaica in an attempt to salvage their troubled marriage. Grandpop is blind, but full of surprises that the boys discover as they get to know a man who estranged from his own son (their father). Jason Reynolds knows how to create complex characters that will stay with you, long after the pages close on their story.

When You Can’t Contain Your Booklove

14614517_10211135952343003_408002585_oYou love books. You talk books. You share books. So what do  you do when you can’t contain your booklove?  You hold a book bonanza!

This week we hosted an evening to celebrate our love of books with the Maine Literacy Council’s Fall Book Bonanza.  We wanted to share some of our favorite new books with teachers and librarians from schools and communities that support K-12 readers. The energy was palpable!  Getting together in a room packed with passionate book lovers is a great way to launch a school year, or to re-energize a midyear slump, or even prep for summer reading.  The idea is to create buzz for books that ‘infects’ everyone around you-colleagues, students, parents, etc!

Create your own Book Bonanza…

Invite book talkers. Find some colleagues who would love to share their passion for books and who would be willing to share a brief booktalk.

Research. Find out what is new and loved in the kidlitosphere.  Join chats like #Titletalk #MELit #ShelfieTalk #kidlitchat #bookaday #WeNeedDiverseBooks We also looked for what is new in professional books for teachers.  There are so many offerings, it is nice to hear from others what is helpful and who might find it valuable.

Read. (ok, this is probably the easiest step for most of us!! haaa)

Create a platform for sharing. We created a Google Slide so that book talkers could add their books and blurbs. We hyperlinked all books to Amazon (not because we want readers to buy from them necessarily, but so they can review the books they love more easily!)  We also created a Padlet. Our Maine Student Book Award committee created a Symbaloo to share their titles.

Find a venue. Think about who you want to invite and find a suitable space. Maybe it is your local library, your classroom, or a conference room.

Bring food. Breaking bread with others is a wonderful way to build community, create a festive atmosphere, and attract participants. You could make it potluck, look for donations, or make it yourself.

Have swag.  It’s fun to win or get “stuff”.  It adds an element of fun to an event, and makes participants feel appreciated, important and special.  I save ARCs from conferences I attend, I’ve saved gently used books, and I purchase inexpensive office supplies. I also reach out for donations, and you’d be pleasantly surprised at how willing others are to support teachers!

Play games. We raffled off some free items and our MSBA representative played a game of Kahoot with participants.  If you haven’t checked out Kahoot, you need to! You can create an interactive trivia or question/answer game in minutes!

Book talk.  Bring books, read books, share books with brief book talks that make your audience want to run out and get that title!! (no spoilers, please!) Then allow participants to share some of their favorites as well.  It shouldn’t be all “sit and get”.

That’s It.  Those are the basics for hosting your own Booklove Event.  Start small. Go big. Whatever is best for you. Sure it’s work and we’re all busy, but I can guarantee you that it will spark your own passion and spread an excitement for books that will ‘feed forward’ for a long time to come!

What’s On My Book Radar?


Fans of Raina Telgemeier‘s previous graphic novels are anxious to get their hands on her new book GHOSTS.

Catrina (Cat) and her family are moving to the coast of Northern California because her little sister, Maya,has cystic fibrosis and will benefit from the cool sea air. Cat isn’t happy about leaving her friends. As the girls explore their new home, a neighbor lets them in on a secret: There are ghosts in Bahía de la Luna!. With Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) coming, Cat thinks (worries?)she’ll get a chance to see them.

Long wait list at our library for this one!


Should We Replace Reading Logs?

Before you can answer that question, you have to ask yourself another question…what is the purpose for reading logs?  I asked this of the teachers in my district and got responses like these:

  • “To hold kids accountable for their reading.”
  • “For students to track their reading throughout the week.”
  • “To encourage children to read at home.”
  • “A way for families to track their at home reading progress. A way for the teacher to see this progress.”

But then I also got comments like:

  • “I don’t use them anymore, as I don’t that they accurately reflect student reading!”
  • ” I turned out to be more work for me and little return for the students in terms of reading achievement so I am not doing them this year.”

So I think questions we need to ask ourselves might include:

  • Are you finding as a teacher YOU are doing more work with reading logs than your students?
  • Are your students doing more tracking, responding, and ‘accountability’/documenting than they are actually reading?
  • “What is my purpose? Do logs meet that purpose?”

Let’s consider why we might want to track reading.  To do this, I reflect on why real life readers might want to do this.  I certainly don’t track the number of pages read for each book, but I like to keep a history of what I have read.  I like to look at my choices and reflect on them from time to time.  I like to get recommendations based on what I have previously enjoyed. I like to be able to share titles with others and see who has similar interests.

Let’s think about how real life readers do this. Well, I keep a running list of books I’ve read in the back of my journal, I am an avid Goodreads member, I post albums of books to Facebook, I tweet out titles during chats, I share photos on Instagram, I give book talks to teachers and students.  This tracking is a social connection as well as personal recollection.

If your purpose is that students will read more, read widely, share their reading lives, and enjoy reading enough to make it a habit, then let your choices for tracking their reading meet that purpose!  Here are a few ideas you could test out.


screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-8-35-07-amGOOGLE SLIDES   Kids can keep an ongoing ‘slide show’ of books that they have read during the year. Each slide could contain an image of the book jacket, a review or summary, a rating (1-5 stars) a link to a book trailer or author information. They can be as creative as they’d like.  The presentation could be shared with parents at conferences, to the class for inspiration, or printed out as documentation of reading.


screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-8-31-49-amBIBLIONASIUM   The Goodreads for kids! They get their very own virtual bookshelf, where they can keep track of what they’ve read, and what they want to read and can sort them by date, title, or author. The site suggests recommendations based on selections, creates challenges,  They can share book recommendations with friends and  can get your friends to suggest books you’ll like.  It’s FREE, and it is a safe.



PADLET  A virtual bulletin board/wall of the books you have read can be created with Padlet.  Students can track their books with links and see what others are reading. You could create a padlet for your read aloud where students could post comments or responses to questions. There are many great uses for Padlet in the classroom you can see if you click HERE or HERE.



SYMBALOO is a free cloud-based bookmarking service. Students could create a page of books they have read, and link them to the author’s webpage, a book trailer or a review so that if others click on the image they can get instant information about the book. You can check out other uses for Symbaloo in the classroom HERE.

Here are a few “non-techie” options to help document a reader’s history for the year.


ILLUSTRATED BOOK SHELVES  –  kids draw book spines that look like the original to help others “spot” these books.  Create different pages for “MUST READS”/”SO-SO”/”NO-GO” Or by genre, month, whatever! Be as creative as you’d like. Let kids determine the format, style, and function.


screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-8-51-26-am READER’S NOTEBOOKS If your goal is that students will think deeply or differently about what they read, provide them the space and time to respond to what they have read in meaningful ways. Let them design a Reader’s Notebook that reflects their unique reading identity.  Collect samples and discuss purpose, and then let students make them their own. Sure we could assign questions or formats, but these self-designed notebooks can give us a lot of information about how kids see themselves as readers, how they reflect or don’t,

screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-10-32-46-am‘PHOTO’ ALBUMS – Students use an index card or 4×6 sized paper to recreate the book jacket or create a mini-poster for their book on one side. Flip it over and rate it, review it, summarize it…on the other. They can even write the date they read/finished it. Slip the cards into a $1 4×6 photo album to keep a collection of book memories.


screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-10-46-34-amBOOK BUDDIES -If you want to build a reading community that talks about books and their reading lives, build time in your day for kids to do that.  One idea is that each morning kids meet with a ‘Book Buddy’ (could be same buddy each day for a week or so or rotates) for 5 or 10 minutes to discuss what they read outside of school or the previous day in school. Readers could mark places in the book or jot ideas they’d like to share. Some suggested sentence stems:

  • A summary of my reading last night starts with____ (summarizing)
  • Something I think the author did really well was____(attention to craft)
  • Something I learned/thought/recognized about my character was____(character analysis)
  • I think the setting is integral to the story/plot because______ (setting analysis)
  • This book is starting to remind me of____(connection to text, experience, real world)
  • Something we’ve been working on as readers that I tried/noticed _______(transfer)

If we want kids to be life-long readers, perhaps we can share approaches that mirror what true life-long readers do.  We sometimes document what we’ve read, or share via social media, or talk with others about our reading lives/interests/choices. I’d love to hear some other alternatives to a more traditional reading log that have excited your students and created a greater community of readers!

What’s On My Book Radar?


Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson has done it again…created a book that will reside in my heart for years to come. We meet August, a young girl who has moved from Tennessee to Brooklyn with her father and brother and becomes ‘sisters’ with three neighborhood girls. As the story unfolds we grow up with August, her brother, and friends and unravel the mystery of her missing mother. If you have ever heard Jackie read her work you will hear this story (which reads more like a poem) with her lyrical voice and passioned prosody in your head. Considered her first adult novel, I think it fits with YA as well. (Some of the topics are more appropriate for older readers.)

PD in my PJs!

9b407nfkqba6camy1c4khljlmzuzfonushhoojmbgttwsh2d2tkjult3d90nw-_e-_lk88imu9yw1630-h1222-noSo today was the Fall 2016 Educators Collaborative Gathering or #TheEdCollabGathering. I can’t believe I haven’t participated in this before! Chris Lehman and his incredible ‘Ed Collaborators’ put together a day of premium professional development delivered right into my home…and it was FREE!

The day kicked off with a passionate  talk from Chris to all of us. He starts, “Educators are people. We are humans. We are humans with concerns, and love, and identities, and families, and so much that make us human. And too often as educators we can walk into our school building or classroom and feel either by choice or by pressure of society or the culture in our school that we need to let go of those of those parts of ourselves, that we may need to let go of parts of our identity, or the things that make us laugh, or the people that we love, the families that we are in. There are times we have to, or feel like we have to let go. And what I want to suggest to you today…is that one piece of your humanity that you can’t let go of, we can’t stop being, is political. Because if you are not political, everything that is happening around us will become predictable.” In essence, Chris invited us to reimagine what being political means.  You need to hear it in his own words here:

Chris then introduced the amazing Katherine Bomer who screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-6-15-08-pminspired us with the a whole group session entitled “Writing is a Journey of Thinking, and the Journey is Everything.  She helped us rethink our concept of the essay and how essay is really literature- not simply 5 paragraphs! Her keynote follows Chris’ keynote in the video above.


After that we were free to choose from an screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-6-26-52-pmamazing lineup of workshops in each of the the next four sessions. How are you supposed to decide which session to choose when they are all phenomenal?? The good news is, every session is archived! So if you missed today’s #EdCollabGathering or you participated, but wanted to check out too many sessions at the same time, you can go back and watch every single session–as much as you want!!

Click HERE to head over to the AGENDA AT A GLANCE page that will link you to each and every session.

Now, I said this was free, but Chris did ask that we pay it forward by making a donation to a charity (since you didn’t have to spend anything on this great PD).

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-6-33-59-pmKatherine Bomer, chose the charity CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) and encouraged participants to consider this as one of the charities we might support in honor of this incredible day of learning. Click on the image or HERE to make a donation. These advocates are there for kids who are caught up in the court system and need someone who knows and cares about them to navigate the legal situation they never asked to be in!

Here are the sessions I participated in:


And if today’s sessions aren’t enough free PD in your PJs, mark your calendars for April 8th! That will be the day for the Spring 2017 #EdCollabGathering!  I can hardly wait! And in the meantime  here’s the link to all the past #EdCollabGatherings on YOUTUBE.

I STORIFIED my tweets here!

I stored my photos here!


What’s On My Book Radar?

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-8-40-09-pmAuthor Melanie Conklin knows just how to pull your heartstrings until you think they’ll snap, and then gently nurtures them back to a new normal with loving kindness. In her debut book we meet 11 year old Thyme, who’s brother Val has a rare and dangerous cancer.  He has just been accepted into a new drug trial-which is great news. But the family must leave their home and friends and move thousands of miles away  to New York City -which is bad news for Thyme and her sister Cori. All Thyme can do is count the days, and hope for a miracle for her little brother and a way for her to get back home to the life she loved. In the meantime she discovers new friends, a new boy, and a crumudgeon of a neighbor who all plant seeds in the garden of this new life and she must grapple with the guilt and confusion over these conflicting worlds. If this is a first book, I am SO excited to see what other characters Melanie will bring to life for us in her next, and next, and next!

It’s Bigger Than a Dot!

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-9-26-49-pmThis week, Sept 15 was International Dot Day. All across the world, classrooms were celebrating the creativity that springs from the initiation of effort-even the tiniest attempts.  “Make your mark!“became the mantra with students.  I believe that when we accept and encourage our children wherever they are and honor their efforts, great things can happen. Peter Reynold‘s brilliant book , The Dot , illustrates this so beautifully.  In this story, we are introduced to Vashti, a student who lacks confidence in her ability to draw. Her teacher encourages her to “just make a mark” and what happens after that changes how Vashti sees herself and her abilities. Talk about growth mindset! (check out the story below)


Worldwide, students heard that powerful message and experienced the potential of The Dot as the start of something wonderful.  These literacy events can be transformative for children everywhere, and the sense of community that comes from knowing we are part of something bigger than our classroom is empowering. When I tell kids that children on the other side of the world are reading this book today, or celebrating dots today, you can see the look of awe spread across their faces. Grab a globe and show them. Tell them about a child in Africa, or China, or France and watch them begin to think globally. We are all the same-we are all connected.

Sure, you might have missed Dot Day, but there is a year filled with events that celebrate literacy and our global community. Participation in these events means so much more than arts and crafts or reading a singular story.  Being a part of something bigger than ourselves helps us feel connected and important.  We can relate to others with a common story, idea, and message that becomes universal. We can identify ourselves as members of a larger, more inclusive community. We matter in the world.

So don’t worry if you missed Dot Day. There are many, many celebrations that you can plan for. You don’t have to do them all, but I encourage you to participate in something this year that lets your children become part of something bigger than their classroom. Maybe it is a school-wide or district event. Maybe it is something in your city or state. Perhaps it is a national or global initiative. You’ll be supporting their understanding of literacy while promoting the importance of humanity.

Some Literacy Initiatives You May Want to Check Out


International Day of Peace -Sept 21

Banned Books Week 2016: Sept. 25 – Oct. 1

Hispanic Heritage Month Sept 15-Oct 15

The Global Read Aloud Oct. 3- Nov. 11

Black Poetry Day – Oct. 17

Teen Read Week Oct. 9-15

National Day on Writing – Oct 20

National Family Literacy Day -Nov 1

Picture Book Month – November

American Indian Heritage Month- November

African American Read In- February

World Read Aloud Day – Feb 16, 2017

Read Across America Day -March 2, 2017

World Book Day March 2, 2017

World Storytelling Day March 20, 2017

D.E.A.R. Day (Drop Everything and Read) April 12, 2017

National Poetry Month- April

National Library Week April 10-16, 2017

Children’s Book Day- April 30, 2017

Children’s Book Week – May 1-7, 2017

You can also celebrate:

Author’s Birthdays, Book Birthdays,&  Book Awards

If you are like me, you love any excuse to celebrate books, authors, writing, and reading! Let’s ignite in our kids a genuine love of literacy. When we  rejoice and honor the role of literacy in our lives and our world we are giving our students an incredible gift.

What’s On My Book Radar?

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-11-52-20-amFans of Jennifer Nielsen will be thrilled with her latest book, The Scourge.  In true Nielsen fashion, it was a page-turner that I didn’t want to put down. Ani Mells lived during the time of the scourge- a plague from which no one recovers. When she is diagnosed with the scourge and sentenced to  Attic Island, the colony where victims live out the end of their painfully short lives, her loyal friend, Weevil, makes a brave decision to make sure Ani doesn’t die alone. But when Ani gets to the colony she makes some discoveries that may save others from her terrible fate, if only she lives long enough to reveal the secrets!  I am thrilled that this is a stand-alone book. I love a good series, but there is something satisfying with a well-told tale in a single text. I highly recommend this book to all middle-grade readers and their teachers! I think you’ll be mesmerized, too!


Creating a Readerdom!

This last week I was teaching in a 6th-grade classroom.  We are at the beginning of the school year and teachers are working on creating a community of learners.  I believe deep literacy learning happens best in a community where readers and writers feel connected to others and not always immersed in an isolating task.

I believe in the power of a Readerdom!

I wanted to get the students to connect with their reading identities as well as those of their peers. Together we engaged in 4 Activities.

“I am the kind of reader who___” We discussed what identity meant- with the students  defining it as “It’s who we are.” I added, “Yes, it’s all those things about you that make you uniquely you!” I shared some of my own characteristics that are woven into the fabric of my reading identity and then asked them to share some of theirs.  Most students wrote so much they had to use the back of their papers. Their teacher later expressed surprise at how much they wrote and how they reflected on who they are as readers.img_1432


“Who is_____ as a reader?” I then asked for volunteers to share what they had written. To encourage active listening and connections I had the other students make a list of those who shared. Next to their name they were asked to write something about that person as a reader. They could choose anything that resonated with them, or a summary.  I heard lots of, “Oh yeah, me too!” as students shared.


“Who else likes_______?” On a separate sheet of paper I asked students to choose ONE genre that they really like.  For many it was hard to narrow it down.  I told them I would have a hard time selecting one but it didn’t have to be a singular favorite, just one that they truly enjoy.  Then they had 10 minutes to circulate around the room to see who else really enjoyed reading books in that genre and collect their names. Afterward I told them, “Now you know who you can ask for recommendations.  These students will be a good source for you to get ideas and discuss books with.”


“Stranded on an island.” The last task was asking students to imagine they were stranded on a deserted island and they could only have THREE books there with them. Which books would they choose? Many students knew right away, but others struggled with thinking up titles or narrowing their choices.  This information told me which books they had either read recently, loved deeply, or were important enough to remember. The kids were fascinated by the choices of their peers. Expressions of “OH YEAH!” “REALLY?” and “OH, I FORGOT ABOUT THAT ONE!” permeated the room. img_1435

As you can imagine, it’s not just the responses that enlightened me about their sense of self as readers, but when I observed them thinking, reacting, struggling, or debating I could see them connecting with a part of their identity they hadn’t been in touch with much. They clearly are more aware of their reading traits and a greater connection to the reading community of their classroom

We were taking our first steps in creating a Readerdom where readers rule and books are the queen! Long live the queen!

What’s On My Book Radar?

screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-2-09-49-pmWISH by Barbara O’Connor
Speaking of queens, Barbara O’Connor is  the queen of empathy! She creates characters that help us walk in the shoes of others and ‘wish’ we could be better people.  In this middle grade novel, Charlie Reese is an eleven year old girl who has been making the same wish since she was in 4th grade. It’s a secret, and she needs to make it every single day or it won’t come true. She finds all kinds of ways to make wishes (on stars, clovers, and some unique old wives’ tales!) She is sent away to live with her aunt in the Blue Ridge Mountains when her mother and father can no longer take care of her. She meets a neighbor who becomes an unlikely friend and a stray dog that has yet to be tamed. But she still wants her one wish to come true.
All I can say is get to your favorite bookstore as fast as you can and get your own copy of WISH, you can thank me later!

Having Faith in Beginnings

It has certainly been a week of beginnings. I watched students pour into school to begin their new year. I spent the day with kindergarteners as they experienced school for the first time. I worked with brand new teachers as they began their careers in the greatest profession ever. I saw my son begin his sophomore year in high school and yesterday I dropped my daughter off to college to begin her new life away from home.

I had faith that each of these individuals who stood on the brink of these beginnings would move forward successfully-and they did. For many I stood beside them, available to help if THEY wanted it, being fully present in the moment. I was excited to watch them take these steps, and cautious not to take the lead. For those of us who have made that walk, it is tempting to try and be the guide. We can anticipate the challenges, we have observed common pitfalls, we have experience we’d like to share. We want to help.

I remind myself that it is their beginning, their journey, their turn to embrace the experience. So then I am freed up to observe and marvel at the unfettered enthusiasm and the skillful navigation untainted by familiarity. And if I am open and mindful I will find this an incredible learning experience of my own. That takes faith.

As we welcome new students and new teachers into our schools this year, it is my hope that we can learn along as we observe them maneuver through beginnings and steer uncharted courses. Yes, they’ll veer off track, they’ll hit bumps in the road, they may even crash at times-but how they adjust, correct, and renavigate can offer us all new insights and direction.  We can choose to always lead and we will stay on the same path, or we can share the lead and reach new destinations together.  That takes trust. That takes faith.Screen Shot 2016-09-03 at 9.12.30 AM

What’s On My Book Radar?


Rather ironic that as I focus on beginnings, I find this amazing gem that focuses on endings.Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson is one of those books I believe every teacher should read. We can all recall at least one teacher who touched our hearts and will stay with us always-that is what Ms. Bixby has done for her class. After finding out that their teacher is sick and will need to stop teaching to get treatment, three boys  (Topher, Brand, and Steve) come up with a plan to let Ms. Bixby know just how much she means to them. Told through each of their eyes, we witness how much of an impact the kindness and love of a teacher can have on the lives of their students.This was the perfect book for me to read as I begin my 29th year of teaching and strive to make a difference in the lives of those around me.  May it feel you with inspiration and appreciation. Just keep the tissues handy!




Let’s WOOP it up this year!

As we begin another school year, those of us returning to the classroom bring a wealth of experience, a stocked tool kit, and sometimes a little baggage or anxiety.  The new year brings opportunity to create the life in teaching we always dreamed of. We often rearrange our classroom spaces, revise our lessons or reorganize our schedules.  With a new year and new students we have a new blank slate upon which to create.

So it’s a great time to ask ourselves, “What works, what doesn’t?” And by that I mean, inviting ourselves to reflect on our practice and consider what was effective, engaging, and enjoyable- and what wasn’t.  Sometimes we fall into patterns of behavior and it is almost like going through the motions. “ I’ve always done it this way.” When we acknowledge past successes and take time to reflect there is a greater chance that they will repeat. When we are honest about what our challenges are, we can more purposefully address them. For most of us, this isn’t just a job. This is life.

So how do we create the life in teaching that we want? Maybe this year we could try to WOOP it up!

Over the summer, I had more time to read a greater variety books and listen to podcasts that weren’t about literacy or teaching necessarily. I found myself fascinated by the work of psychologist Dr. Gabriele Oettingen, author of Rethinking Positive Thinking:Inside the New Science of Motivation. She believes the obstacles that we think prevent us from realizing our deepest wishes can actually lead to their fulfillment, but we can’t just think positive thoughts. Ironically, she found those who have stronger, more positive fantasies about reaching their goals are actually less likely to achieve them. She and her colleague Dr. Peter M. Gollwitzer introduce me to a strategy called mental contrasting- a visualization technique that research has shown can increase positive outcomes for goals. But she wanted to move theory into practice so she created WOOP!


The 4 steps: Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, and Plan can be applied to situations in our classrooms for both the teacher as well as the students. The basics are:

WISH– What is an important goal or wish that I would like to accomplish in the near future (next few weeks)?

IMG_0928OUTCOME– What would be the most positive outcome? How would that make me feel? Imagine it as fully as I can.

OBSTACLE– What is the main obstacle inside ME that holds me back from fulfilling that wish or dream. Is it a habit, an emotion, a belief. I cannot control external obstacles, only those within myself.

PLAN– Identify one action you could take or thought you could think that would overcome that obstacle.  “If… (obstacle), then I will … (action or thought).”

So how might that look in action?

WISH-in the next few weeks I want to submit  two pieces of professional writing.

OUTCOME- I would feel a sense of relief and accomplishment if I created something worthy of being published. It would be exhilarating.

OBSTACLE- I know at the start of the school year I am not very good at prioritizing my time. I often feel like I have to say yes and I try to  front-load a lot of my work with students and teachers. I want to start things off on the right foot and I often take on too much.

PLAN- I am going to block off at least 1 hour in my schedule outside of school for writing each day. No email. No social media. No lesson plans or curriculum work during that hour. That time will be sacred.  “If I am asked to do something, then I will schedule it outside of that time -or even consider not doing it.”

I know that sounds ridiculously simple.  That’s the point. WOOP is breaking down the research behind mental contrasting with implementation intentions into a habit for thinking about how to approach your goals with deliberate focus. Oettingen knew that the acronym could help to trigger positive action because it is catchy and memorable. If there are things you would like to accomplish in your classrooms this year, perhaps you could WOOP it up!

She  has FREE POSTERS for your classroom and there’s even an app for that! You can check out a few videos from Character Lab on implementing WOOP in your schools here.



What’s on My Book Radar?

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

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Author Meredith Russo is truly writing from the heart with this poignant YA novel. Amanda is the new girl at her school in Lambertville, Tennessee.  She wants what all ‘normal’ girls want; friendships, a boyfriend, to simply fit in.  But Amanda wasn’t always your ‘normal’ girl. She was born Andrew- a girl trapped in a boy’s body. As she strives to live an authentic life, she wants to be honest. But with a bullied and tortured past, she is afraid to trust. Then she meets Grant Everett, she experiences life in a new way, and fears that honesty could risk it all. For anyone who has ever struggled with understanding  the concept of transgender or transsexual identity- this book will help you as you walk a mile in the shoes of one teen who will open your eyes and open your heart. A great addition to any high school looking to offer more “windows and mirrors” in their collection of texts to celebrate diversity.

Who Is Telling Our Stories?

Hardly a week goes by that I don’t hear some story in the news or online about teachers or teaching. These tend to fall on the spectrum of martyrdom to disgrace by spotlighting the heroic or the failed teacher. These stories sell newspapers or create enticing ‘click bait’, but they paint inaccurate or incomplete stories about what it is to be a teacher. Politicians, parents, and people everywhere can develop skewed perceptions of teaching that frequently leads to teacher-bashing, disrespect, and even cries for endless reform.

I would like to see that change…Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 5.52.40 PM

Our silence can create a vacuum that is often filled with angry or uninformed voices.  Too often teachers are painted as this monolithic group who think and act similarly. Look around our schools.  There is such a variety of experience, background, philosophy, pedagogy, and passion. I think the chorus of our voices create a rich song, if we are brave enough to sing it!

There is often a perception that teaching is relatively easy. We may be inadvertently perpetuating that myth when we don’t attempt to shift that belief. I am reminded as I watch athletes competing at the Olympics this summer that they make it look easy-sometimes even effortless. Though we know that is not the case, we might still be surprised at the time and work put into those performances. I think that is often the case with teaching. Though people rarely have the opportunity to see teachers in action, when they do visit a classroom, or when they hear their children talk about it, they aren’t grasping the effort that went into making that lesson or that classroom environment happen.

Now, I’m not advocating that anyone starts whining about how hard teaching is or Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 6.02.54 PMcomplaining that ‘nobody understands’. I would just love to see teachers share their process more. We all have dreams, hopes, reflections, guilt, epiphanies, doubts, inspiration, and ideas that our colleagues can appreciate. We don’t have to make ourselves vulnerable or uncomfortable to be more open and honest. Teachers have a great sense of humor-look at the memes that flood our Facebook walls!            (creds to someecards)

To start, I would first encourage a teacher to think about their audience and ask themselve, “Who would I like to tell MY story to?” (this will help you to consider format) It could be for your students as you share your writers’ notebook or sample pieces of writing. It could be for their parents as you create a newsletter of some kind. It could be for your community as you share newspaper articles or presentations. It could be for your colleagues with a Facebook or a Voxer group. It could be for an even wider audience with a YouTube channel, Twitter Chat, blog, or book. Maybe you simply want to write for YOURSELF. I have found writing to be an incredible opportunity for discovery!

We must, however, be cautious that we protect the stories of our students. They are not for us to tell. Their identities, perspectives, and thoughts are sacred and must always be honored. I will never use a students’ name and only use their work or image with the expressed consent of the parent and the student. I like the adage “Measure twice, cut once” to inspire me to “Think twice, post prudently.” There are many humorous anecdotes best kept private!

 In my district we have a handful of teachers who get together somewhat regularly to write. Some write poems to their grandchildren, journal about their lives, or work on projects they’d like to publish. We are a community. Several teachers I approached have expressed an interest in starting to blog about their teaching. As school begins I want to support them in this process. An easy place to get started is setting up an eduBlog. This YouTube video will walk you through it.

Regardless of your format of choice I want to invite you to write your story. Start putting those ideas, experiences, and feelings into words. It’s cathartic, it’s empowering, it’s important.  I welcome YOUR ideas for the encouraging this process as well. Write them to me!!

What’s On My Book Radar?

Summerlost by Ally Condie (author of the Matched series)Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 6.13.26 PM

The summer after Cedar lost her father and brother in a tragic accident, her mother buys a summer house in the town where she grew up. Cedar makes a new friend, Leo, at the Summerlost theater festival and together they explore the mysterious death of Summerlost’s most famous young actress and discover more about life than about death. A tender story about dealing with loss and the guilt that can sometimes accompany it. Ally creates beautiful characters that show how diversity doesn’t have to be the central theme of the book, but rather the real life experience and traits  of the characters within. For middle grade readers.


What is ECET2?

This past week I went to a two day conference on the campus of Colby College that was unlike any I had ever attended before.  The focus was on teacher leadership, innovative instructional practice, and honoring the dignity of of teachers and our profession. And it was FREE. This ECET2ME Convening was hosted and organized by Educate Maine and Maine State Teachers of the Year. So what is ECET2?

ECET2 stands for Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching (and the ME stands for my state of Maine). According to its website ECET2 has 6  Key Beliefs that are supported at these convenings:

  1. Nurturing trust among teachers
  2. Focusing on each teacher’s potential for growth
  3. Inspiring both the intellect and the passion that drives teachers in their work
  4. Providing time for collaboration and learning
  5. Putting teachers in the lead
  6. Recognizing teachers as talented professionalsScreen Shot 2016-08-13 at 8.13.28 AM

Every moment of these two days teachers were made to feel appreciated and respected.  Hosted by teachers, for teachers it was tailored to meet our needs so perfectly and make us feel like “royalty”.  We had inspiring “Cultivating the Calling” keynote speakers such as Shanna Peeples (the 2015 National Teacher of the Year) as well as local teachers, breakout sessions focusing on leadership, innovation, and empowerment, and facilitated colleague circles to discuss and problem-solve real and relevant issues in our schools.

And beyond all that learning there was time for networking and celebrating.  A lobster bake was provided on the shores of the campus lake and the incredible generous Stenhouse Publishers provided each participant with a free professional book of their choice and an opportunity to discuss it with colleagues. A free performance by the wildly talented improv group Teachers Lounge Mafia got us all laughing together and appreciating the humor that surrounds us each and every day. Toss in free gourmet boxed meals, more snacks than you could eat in a week, and plenty of coffee and infused waters.

We ended the convening with a showing of the film Most Likely to Succeed complete with movie candy and popcorn!  After the film, we had a live Twitter chat about it.  The cool thing about this was rather than telling participants about Twitter, they taught participants how to use it! A classic example of modeling and guided practice…brilliant!

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Thank you ECET2ME sponsors!

With funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and local organizations, the amazing ECET2ME Team, led by Karen MacDonald and Jenny McLellan put in countless hours and so much passion into making this event happen for 150 Maine teachers. I can’t thank them all enough. (and I truly apologize that I can’t name you all individually!)  Each of us  left the conference feeling inspired, empowered, and connected.  We are charged with going out and sharing what we experienced and learned with our colleagues and cultivating the calling of teacher leadership. We left with a stronger network to lean on and collaborate with as we navigate the challenges of teaching. We are dedicated to promoting teacher leadership, positive school culture, and the advocacy for what is best for our students.

If you get a chance to attend an ECET2 Convening- DON’T PASS IT UP!  It’s a game changer! Here’s my PHOTO ALBUM of the event so you can sneak a peak of what it’s all about.

In the meantime you can follow the conversations on Twitter:  #ECET2  #ECET2ME  and also with #EDChatME

More links on ECET2

What’s On My Book Radar?

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The Girl Who Drank The Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Every year a baby is left in the woods as a sacrifice to the witch to spare the people of the Protectorate from her terror. But this witch (the kind Xan) saves these babies she thinks are being abandoned and finds them loving homes on the other side of the dangerous woods. One year a mother fights to save her baby and is imprisoned for her rebellion and goes mad. Xan rescues this child as well, but she accidentally feeds her moonlight rather than starlight and she is enmagicked. Xan must raise ‘Luna’ and teach her the ways of magic. Meanwhile a young man wants to free his people from the evil witch by killing her and the mad mother has visions of the true evil in the Protectorate. All of these lives intersect with an incredible climax in this fantastic story that I cannot begin to retell with any justice. I hope this becomes a read aloud in many middle grade classrooms this year. It’s going to win a lot of awards.

Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 9.00.14 AMA Mindset for Learning

Kristine Mraz and Christine Hertz have explored the concept of growth mindset and what it looks like in practice in the classroom.  They explore habits/stances that we can build in ourselves that make us more successful and happier:

  • empathy
  • optimism
  • resilience
  • persistence
  • flexibility

and provide practical lessons and approaches to help us cultivate these stances in our students to become independent learners who embrace the challenges of learning. CAUTION: you’ll want a highlighter, sticky notes, or a pencil handy as you read!