World Poetry Day

slice-of-life_individualToday is World Poetry Day as celebrated by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization).  On Twitter people are asking one another to share their favorite poems.  While I love seeing and reading the variety and immersing myself in a cascade of poems, I am also troubled.  We don’t ask parents to choose their favorite child, how can we ask readers to choose A favorite poem?

So rather than choose and share my own, I am going to retweet as many poems and posts as I can today to share the love of poetry and celebrate the poets and readers who come together to infuse life and meaning into the words.

While I cannot say these are my absolute favorites, I’ll share two that resonate with me very strongly today (below). HAPPY WORLD POETRY DAY!  Do yourself a favor and savor a poem today! Or take the advice from this tweet I read this morning

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Try it. Play with the words.

See where they land. See where they light.




And one to listen to with loving ears and open heart:

Successful Parenting Stings

I was up for hours, knowing she was heading back this morning. She came down the stairs and made a quick breakfast. The dogs huddled around her feet as she tried to shuffle through the kitchen.

“Need any help?”

“Nah. I got it.”

She knelt down and rub her hand across  Murphy’s back.  He knows something’s up. He’s been loving that lap of hers all week long. She’s not sitting down. There’s no lap to leap on. She’s buzzing around without lighting.

She heads back upstairs. I wait a few minutes before following.  Her bags are packed and stacked neatly in her room.  Her Baboo sits atop the pile.  He’s been her stuffed companion since infancy. “No bear buddy left behind”. 

“Want me to carry some down?”

“Yes, please.”

We lug a week’s worth of clothes, textbooks, and “stuff” down to the door and plop it in a pile.  The dogs rush over to sniff and check it out.  She sits on the floor and they rush to her.  Murphy snuggles in tight.  Tubbie jumps about, snorting and wiggling. Oreo meows and joins the group hug.  She soaks it up…getting her fix of furry love for the next six weeks.

“Ok. You ready, dad?” She hoists her back back and adjusts a bag on her shoulder. She hugs her Baboo close. I snap a last minute selfie and plant a kiss on her cheek.

“I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

She and her dad walk to the van, loaded down. I stand in the doorway, loaded down. This is what all my parenting has been about.  “You’ve done a good job,” I tell myself. Success doesn’t always feel so good…at least not in moments like this.IMG_9735


Appreciate the Path

slice-of-life_individualI think the proverbial Road Less Traveled is overrated sometimes.  Sure it’s great to try new things and be original.  Breaking new ground or creating your own path can be rewarding in many ways. Newness keeps life spicy and fresh.  But sometimes it’s good to realize that there is great value in the variety of paths we can take-that each offers its own rewards if we mindfully contemplate and appreciate them. My snowshoeing yesterday brought this lesson home for me.



Creating new paths where none exist takes courage and strength sometimes. It is easy to get lost, it can wear you out quickly, but the anticipation of new experiences can keep you going.





Following the path of someone so different from yourself can bring insights and understanding. You don’t know where it may lead, but curiosity compels you to seek out new knowledge and understanding.




Following in the footsteps of a trailblazer let’s you learn from their steps and lean on their work. Somehow you feel less alone and more empowered to build on those steps and perhaps stray from the path when it is right for you.





Following a well-worn path may seem less adventurous, but remembering that there is often good reason for the shared pathway-it probably led others to joy or enlightenment. It was valued by many so perhaps we can trust that it is worth our time as well.


Whatever path you take today, I hope you take the time to appreciate it a little more.  We never know when the path may end, so enjoy and savor the journey.

PD À la carte


A few years ago I approached the administration in our district about bringing an EdCamp model of professional development to our staff. They wanted to give it a try for one of the few workshop days we have. They designed a mini-conference-style day of professional development where teachers were offered a menu of sessions ahead of time that they sign up for sandwiched between keynotes to kick off and wrap up. It has proved to be very popular and meaningful to staff.

Yesterday was one of those workshop days. It was also the first time I didn’t have to present and could just be a participant.  I loved it!  My choices were quite wide ranging…and probably would not have even been on my radar a few years ago.

We started with a keynote ‘Responding to and Preventing Bullying’ that stressed the importance of intervening-even when we don’t know the ‘right’ thing to say.  Speaking up with respectful interventions and breaking the pattern of escalation is essential. The speakers intent was to open our eyes to how students experience coming to school in which hateful language and bias is prevalent and our role to awaken the empathy that allows it to exist.

Preventing Bullying Sketchnotes

ACTIVE SHOOTER simulations. This is a PD I hope I’ll never have to use, but was grateful to our local police department for offering it.  What would I have done if  was at Columbine or Sandy Hook? I don’t know, but I have a better sense of awareness and options to consider, now.  We experienced 3 real-life scenarios that happened in schools and then debriefed on what occurred and what we might do in those situations. It’s training teachers should never have to experience, but our world is changing so fast and guns are far too prevalent for us to bury our heads in the sand.

Another way our ‘local world’ is changing is with the influx of more and more immigrants and refugee students. A session on supporting English Language Learners was incredibly enlightening. Understanding why it is important for their entire family to acculturate together, the ‘affect of filter’ on learning, and cultural considerations that can impact our relationships with student were eye opening. I am more in awe of the challenges and courage of these families and I’m more determined than ever to support them.

After a session on Movie Maker (our school took away our Macs and replaced them with PCs so I felt like a novice again!) I think I can once again create teaching videos to share with staff.  We then ended with a keynote on Happiness Hacking. By the end of the day on a Friday we were already feeling pretty happy, but any tips for inviting more into my life is always welcome.

If your school district hasn’t tried this format for professional development, I encourage you to look into it and suggest it to the powers that be.  We differentiate for our students, why not differentiate for our teachers as well?  We are all learners. We all want some choice in what we learn! I’m proud of our district for recognizing and honoring that.

Clear, Consistent, and Convincing


If you clicked on this blog post today, chances are you are working on, or have achieved certification with National Boards for Professional Teaching (NBPT). When I thought about next steps/challenges for my teaching career I thought I might give it a try. I already tackled Reading Recovery training, multiple college degrees, and advanced coaching training. “Hey, let’s check out National Board Certification” I thought.

When I looked at the the 5 Core Propositions for accomplished teachers, I truly embraced and believed in all of them:

  • 1. Teachers are committed to students and their learning.
  • 2. Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students.
  • 3. Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning.
  • 4. Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience.
  • 5. Teachers are members of learning communities.

So last year several teachers from my district and I embarked on this journey together. We tackled components 1 (a grueling test) and 2 (differentiated instruction that never seemed good enough!) last year and now we are up to our eyeballs this spring in components 3 (the dreaded video taping) and 4 (being an effective/reflective practitioner).

It’s frustrating, exhausting, and truly eye-opening.  I’ve never dissected my teaching so many different ways. I’ve never questioned everything I did to the nth degree. (Well, Reading Recovery training may have caused as much guilt-ridden reflection, but enough time has passed that it’s all a pleasant memory now!)

I don’t think I could do it without my colleagues to collaborate and console, to nudge and to nag. Thank you Caroline, Katie, Maureen, and Gigi. We’re getting closer each day to that May 15 deadline. We’ll upload that last file, hit submit, and …

wait 6-7 months for the results!

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Here’s to any of you slicers who are trying to plug away at NBPT work and slice each day. You’ve got moxie and motivation! Now go back through your writing and make sure it is clear, consistent, and convincing!!


The Weary Colossus

slice-of-life_individualIn 1883, in an effort to raise money for the Statue of Liberty, Emma Lazarus was asked to write a poem. Initially she declined, but later penned The New Colossus that was read at an auction of art and literary works. Though the statue opened in 1886, it wasn’t until 1903 when a plaque that bears the text of the poem, was placed on the pedestal of the statue, reinventing the purpose of Lady Liberty as a welcoming mother to refugees and immigrants.

My own ancestors passed through Ellis Island from Ireland and England, with few possessions and courageous hope. Almost everyone I know can claim descending from immigrants. We are a beautiful melting pot! And so this last year has caused my heart to break as I see nationalism and xenophobia on the rise, as I cringe at the push to ban Muslim immigrants and label them as dangerous, as I hear chants of “build the wall” to isolate us from our neighbors. So to deal with my angst I joined forces with Emma Lazarus to write this poem to my daughter,and for myself.

Writing can be so cathartic.

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“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

Through tear-filled eyes she strains to see

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Who seek solace and nothing more,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

From devastated lands they flee

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Downtrodden refugees of war

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

In spite of those who refuse to see

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Which America should shut no more

Our Life of Pi

slice-of-life_individualOur family has always found a lot of joy in traditions.  Some have changed as the kids have grown, but we try not to put age limits on fun!  Yesterday we didn’t let Stella get in the way of a simple pleasure. Yes, it was Einstein’s birthday, and that alone is cause for celebration, but it was also March 14th. All you nerdy teachers and math geeks know what we commemorate..


Pi Day!

For some it is the recognition of 3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944592307816406286 208998628034825342117067982148086513282306647093844609550582231725359408128481 117450284102701938521105559644622948954930381964428810975665933446128475648233 786783165271201909145648566923460348610454326648213393607260249141273724587006 606315588174881520920962829254091715364367892590360011330530548820466521384146 951941511609433057270365759591953092186117381932611793105118548074462379962749 567351885752724891227938183011949129833673362440656643086021394946395224737190 702179860943702770539217176293176752384674818467669405132000568127145263560827785771342757789609173637178721468440901224953430146549585371050792279689258923 542019956112129021960864034418159813629774771309960518707211349999998372978049 951059731732816096318595024459455346908302642522308253344685035261931188171010 003137838752886587533208381420617177669147303598253490428755468731159562863882 353787593751957781857780532171226806613001927876611195909216420198938095257201 065485863278865936153381827968230301952035301852968995773622599413891249721775 283479131515574857242454150695950829533116861727855889075098381754637464939319 255060400927701671139009848824012858361603563707660104710181942955596198946767 837449448255379774726847104047534646208046684259069491293313677028989152104752 162056966024058038150193511253382430035587640247496473263914199272604269922796 782354781636009341721641219924586315030286182974555706749838505494588586926995 690927210797509302955321165344987202755960236480665499119881834797753566369807 426542527862551818417574672890977772793800081647060016145249192173217214772350 141441973568548161361157352552133475741849468438523323907394143334547762416862 518983569485562099219222184272550254256887671790494601653466804988627232791786 085784383827967976681454100953883786360950680064225125205117392984896084128488…

But for literal literacy geeks like me this is how we celebrate Pi Day!

I say, “To each his own!”   Hope you had a delicious Pi Day.

(Even if Stella shared it with you!)

What’s Up, Mother Nature?

I live in Maine.  We don’t even talk about spring until April makes its entrance.  When Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow and forecasters cry, “Six more weeks of winter.” we all scoff,  “If only!”

But last week we had days tapping 60 degrees.  The two feet of snow on the ground surrendered to the sun leaving only gray piles of abandoned road sand and islands of icy patches.

Yesterday I heard the call of a Red-Winged Blackbird. For me, THAT is the siren of spring. I raced to the window  to spy the songster. I tried hard not to let myself get excited. There he was!  “Conkareeeee!  I’m back!” he sang out, over and over.


I can’t get spring fever yet!  Stella is on my doorstep and she’s visiting with a vengeance. Now someone else is singing out! Hang on little blackbird, it’s going to get nasty!


What Makes a Hero?


“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crises, maintain their neutrality.” -Dante

“We must learn that passively to accept an unjust system is to cooperate with that system, and thereby to become a participant in its evil.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

slice-of-life_individualIf you know me, you know there was a day not too long ago (November 8, 2016) that shook me to the core. That day shattered my perception of America as a land of hope and compassion and upended my sense of reality.  I had to confront some hard truths…we are not as kind and inclusive as I thought we were and truth is not as important to people as I envisioned. I felt actual grief at the death of this perception.

In the days, weeks, and months since I have not felt better. The shock is subsiding, but the horror and dismay continues. I have come to believe this statement might actually be true

I am stunned at where we find ourselves in this world now.  I couldn’t begin to address each fear/concern in this post, they are just too numerous and frightening. But where there is fear, there is hope.  Where there is evil, there are always heroes. One of best assurances of this came to me from author Tracey Baptiste. She posted a video days after the election in which she reminded me…

“In every story there is a moment when everything has gone wrong and the protagonist feels totally broken, completely devastated and feel like there is absolutely nothing they can do. They can’t physically or emotionally or mentally muster up the strength to do whatever the next thing is that they have to do.  There is no hope. There is no way. There is no path. But in every story, as we all know, this is the moment when heroes are made.”

And I am sure it was no coincidence that she was wearing a Gryffindor shirt in the video!

There are great heroes in literature (Harry Potter, Atticus Finch, Celie, Matilda) in movies (Luke Skywalker, Mr. Smith, John Doe, Forrest Gump) and in history (Mahatma Gandhi, Abe Lincoln, Oskar Schindler, MLK) who rose to greatness in response to evil and oppression.

Philip Zimbardo is a contemporary social psychologist and founder of the Heroic Imagination Project who believes that there are two kinds of heroes: 1. Impulsive Reactive Hero (who make a split second courageous decision) and 2. Proactive hero (who reflects, gets information, and has to get other people on her side to right an injustice).

We’d like to think we’d have the courage to be an Impulsive Reactive Hero if faced with a terrible circumstance, but we can all be proactive heroes who refuse to look away from wrongs that are being perpetrated and plan a course of action to address it. We are faced with challenges or situations everyday in which we need to decide if we want to get involved. We don’t know if what we choose to do will even make a difference.

When asked what makes a hero, a young Senator Obama once said, “We never know how our actions are going to ripple over time. But each of us can take some responsibility for making sure that we are pushing a little bit in the direction of justice, and in the direction of equality, and in the direction of tolerance. When we do that we may surprise ourselves with the amount of influence we actually have just by standing up or speaking out.”

Most of us cannot quit our jobs and abandon our families to focus on fighting for social justice, but we can create or embrace opportunities to make a difference in the lives of someone we don’t even know. It may cost us some time and energy. It may subject us to ridicule by others. It may feel uncomfortable at times.

“Heroism is about one thing. It’s about a concern for other people in need, a concern to develop, to defend a moral cause knowing there is a personal cost or risk. And you do it without expectation of reward.” –Philip Zimbardo

If you follow me on social media you will notice that I refuse to be a bystander at this time in our history. I don’t necessarily consider that heroic, but I will stand up, speak out and get involved. That will be my ripple effect.

See Philip Zimbardo’s TED Talk “Heroes” here. I strongly encourage you to watch this and ask yourself, “What will my ripple effect be?”



Calming Critters

slice-of-life_individualRoutines keep me going when things get hectic and occasionally overwhelming. Monday mornings especially, are driven by routine to get me up and out of the door and ready for my day. Getting in exercise when I feel like I’m just too busy, is helped by the routine of walking at lunch and snowshoeing after school. But one of my favorite routines isn’t to help me stay task-driven- it is to help me STOP.

Weekend mornings I grab my cup of coffee and make my way to the couch.  All I need to do is sit…and they come! The snuggle brigade. I have two cats and two small dogs and they all vie for a spot on my lap. My only “task” is to keep my coffee from splashing on all of us.

At first it is a flurry of furry activity, but as I wait they each settle in and find a spot on, beside, or behind me. The dogs sigh a deep cleansing breath.  The cats curl their paws in and close their eyes. I am “trapped”.  I can’t DO.  I can only BE.  It is only when that coffee cup needs refreshing that I even contemplate a move. Even then, I don’t worry because upon my return from the kitchen, process repeats itself.

And so I savor this Sunday morning with my fur babies. I can’t imagine life without my calming critters.