Celebrate: Books!

I believe there is always something to celebrate.  Today I join with Ruth Ayers and her commuity of writers who celebrate each weekend to celebrate the arrival of new books at our school.  celebrate-this-week-new


img_3012The first boxes arrived the last instructional day in December, right before our three-week winter break.

In the flurry of a holiday celebration on the last school day of the calendar year, the boxes were just one more thing. But after the last school bell rang out, and most of the children had gone off to their homes or afterschool care providers, a strange quiet began to settle over our central office.

“The books arrived,” declared the office manager.

“Really?  Which books are they?”

“I think they’re the libraries.”

“Oh?” I responded, not looking up from the report I was working to finish before heading out to the staff dinner.  But then… a few sentences later …it hit me.

“Wait! Did you say the libraries?” I queried.


“How many boxes?”

“There’s a lot,” she replied.

And so it was. Boxes and boxes of beautiful books had arrived for kindergarten hands and first-grade fingers and second-grade book baggies.  These are no regular libraries!  These are the new Heinemann leveled classroom libraries.  Here they were. Bright and beautiful, tiny treasures and crisp clean picture books for reading aloud sitting there so proud in their shiny new jackets.


…fast forward three weeks…

Tuesday afternoon, early dismissal for teachers to have professional development.  And on this particular afternoon, teachers came together for a book check-in party.  They stamped the books with the school’s name, laughed, shared stories and talked about the libraries.


“Can I take them back to my room?” one teacher asked.

“Are these for OUR classrooms?” inquired another.

Our resource teacher just stopped to read one of the books, Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins. “What a great story!  I can’t wait to share it with my kids.”

Teachers know the power of a book in a child’s hands.

Now at the end of the first week of our bright and promising new school year, the building is breathing in and breathing out with libraries that are growing, becoming, building to support the important work each of our students do every day.




Posted in Books, celebrate, libraries, Passion for teaching, Principal, reading, Students First | Tagged , , | 9 Comments


Caught in the rutted grooves of long traveled highways

Your desire to continue

Mine for change.

Conflict arises

Expectations and Traditions

block Connection

“We’ve always done _________”

crowds the season

“Remember how you used to _____________”

shades appreciation for evolution of the butterfly.

Let go.

Close your eyes and breathe in

Hold on to appreciation for the past

and then release

Cry if you must. But know that today brings opportunity for

A fresh look

New feelings of joy

Connection with





Posted in Poem, poetry | Tagged , | 3 Comments


Anticipation Anxiety

Rubber against roadway for two hundred and eleven miles

miles and more miles

College kids kick it on a long journey home


Try not to worry, momma

Just wait. watch.

Wait a little longer now.


Dusk settles tick tock

and at last just before midnight

Arrival and relief


Voices relay volleys of events and truths

expectations and hopes across this week at home

The ground shifts ever so slightly.


Midnight omelet sizzles and swirls


We settle in against each other

Plates clink against flatware

Shared meals and conversations

Hearts bump up against one another in a familiar dance


Days stretch out into a cadence of possible

Our souls are seated again

Smiles seal the simple joy of being under a roof


Hold on a little tighter, grip this moment just a bit longer

This is it.





Posted in celebration, Family, Holidays, Poem, Small Moment | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

This is Not a Political Post

I’m voting tonight.


Voting early. Only by a week. But early still.  I’m ready.

Well, at least I thought I was ready.  I began studying the issues, initiatives – there are 17 on our state’s ballot this year – a month ago.  I’m still studying.  Some of these are complex issues.  If you try to read through the language of the law chances are, no matter how well educated you are, you’re going to find yourself slightly lost.  Most people I know talk to other people or consult mailers or friends to figure out how to vote. But I’m not exactly sure because we don’t often discuss it.  Too polarizing. These kinds of views are closely held for reasons.

In addition to all of the materials the election people send, there are fliers and pamphlets from people who would like to weigh in on how I vote.  Do you get those too?

I appreciate the right to vote for issues that concern my city, county, state and country.

The process of voting early is in some ways less satisfying than going to the polls to vote. I love standing in line with neighbors, signing in, punching the ballot in that little booth.  I remember the days of dressing up my kids in red, white, and blue and taking them to vote with me from the time they were in strollers. They always got a pretend ballot and got to vote too.  We all got “I voted” stickers.  This is the first presidential election both of my children will be able to vote in.

I loved taking my youngest to vote for the first time.  Pretty sure she loved it too.

img_4957It’s gratifying knowing they know what they think and will cast their votes accordingly.

A friend of mine shared her early vote ballot with me. She sits with a friend of hers who is a judge and goes through each measure one at a time. They discuss the language of each measure and why it matters.  Sometimes, she says, “It is only a WORD that makes a big difference in whether it is a good idea kind of initiative or a not so good idea kind.” She handed me the copy of her ballot adding, “I’m extremely moderate.”


So tonight, I pull out the pile of ballots, fliers, pamphlets, articles, the friend’s ballot, log onto a couple of websites I think may be less biased and more informative, and I’ll make my decisions.  Then I will mark my ballot pamphlet. I’ll review it.  Then I will mark the numbers on that ballot without the benefit of the ballot box and the little puncher thing that marks it with ink right next to the person or initiative “YES” or “NO.”  Finally, I’ll place my ballot into its envelope, stamp and mail it.

I’ll save my “I voted” sticker for next Tuesday, November 8th. And I’ll proudly put it on before I head out to work in the morning.  Thankful for the opportunity to participate in our democracy.



Posted in democracy, thoughts | Tagged | 3 Comments

Learning in Public


I got to have a long-breakfast-lunch-time with a treasured colleague who’s become a heart friend last week. Thanks to a once in a blue moon Wednesday holiday from school, he – from the East Coast – Brooklyn – and me from the West Coast – LA – were both free with nothing to do but hang out together and talk about our journeys since last we sat together.

I am always inspired by this mountain of a man. He is fresh, he is genuine, he is kind, and he is so smart and engaged he always lifts my spirits, brings me new learning and in all sets my heart a loft with heady ideas connected to the real world.  I am better because of our connection.


Me with the Mountain – Cornelius – and my girl Demi

He got to talking about something he had done with a school that wanted to work with him. He gave a dozen of their students GoPro cameras to wear around all day.  Then he, and the administrator watched the footage.  You can imagine. They learned ALOT!


Talk turned to family. Back to our work. Well, it is not just work. It is LIFE the work we do. Getting to be involved in the educating of young people is nothing short of a gift. A great big huge beautiful wrapped gift that our growing body of understanding unwraps each and every day.

Then the topic of learning arose – as it always does. But this time was different.  This time, he said this:

I’ve become interested in the idea of learning in public.






Don’t you just love that?  And don’t you also feel a little on edge even considering DOING it?

When are we asked to learn in public?

SO much of our professional lives after school are about asserting our skills, knowledge, and abilities.  But this. Learning In Public!

What a courageous challenge!

The thought of it helped me hone my beliefs about learning.

Here they are:

  • Learn.
  • Even when it’s hard. Maybe, especially when it’s hard.
  • Repeat.

Sometimes people think you’re less-than when you allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to learn publicly.  Sometimes people don’t understand.

And yet, we ask students to do this each and every day they come to school.


I think it is important teachers and parents alike remember what it is like to do it. To learn publicly.  We need to know it in our bones. Because we ask the small people. The newest people. The just-now-becoming-people to do it every day when they step in those school gates.  We want them to learn. We want them to learn publicly.

We must be there to support, to honor, to cherish and to reflect their courage and brilliance right back at them as they do.


slice of life

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for a place to share my writing and thinking. I am better for you as well!  For more small moments, check out their blog.

Posted in Child Matters, Learning, Step up, lean in, lead., Teaching, thoughts | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

View from the Principal’s Office


PFgarden960-e1383594298644Being a Principal is



different than anyone can imagine. As different as being a teacher REALLY is than what everyone thinks it is. Teaching is a profession many think they could do. But it’s kind of like how you were such an amazing parent all the time…and then you had kids.


Being a principal is like that. There is just so much you can’t possibly understand or know before you step into the job. And much of it I can’t even write about here. There are laws about confidentiality. Protocols and procedures. They’re good mostly. They protect the people we serve.  But I can share that the sheer daily demands are really quite remarkable.

Being a great principal means you live and breathe it. You love it so much. You care so deeply about the students in your charge – you will move heaven and earth to make certain they succeed.  You care too about the teachers who work in your building. You support teachers each and every day. You get them what they need. Work a problem through together. Share what you know and hope to grow practices so that students benefit.  It’s really all about students benefitting.

You listen to parents and work to help them provide the best possible education their children can possibly have.  Families have BIG things happen. You counsel, you listen, you explain, you educate, you listen some more. You provide options and make plans. You give and you hold your ground. You follow policy but most importantly you serve. Being a great principal means you’re really good at serving others.


You work with employees who have challenges and problems and diverse personalities, skills, backgrounds. and expectations. You work to help everyone get along, but more than that – you work to help everyone work together. You support. You lift. You buoy.

People don’t always like you. In fact, some people genuinely dislike you.  Sometimes it’s the position. People have fractured relationships with education – with “the system.”  It’s hard for them to see the people who are working hard for their children, their community, their world.


We serve them too. Sometimes they take a lion share of our time. It’s okay. It IS the work.

Other pressures bear as well.  Building & Grounds, neighbors, facilities, signs. Did you know the crossing guard will not be on duty today?  (Who hires the crossing guard? The city? The district?  How do we contact them?) People are double parking again. Can’t you DO something about dismissal?

“We need to alert parents to two incidents of illness.” How do we work the all-call system? Who will send the message?


What if there’s an emergency? Can you all-call from your phone? Do we have enough supplies? Who will search and rescue?

What is the policy on cell phones for students? Who enforces it?

As the principal, you’re the go-to.

Staff members aren’t getting along. Can you weigh in? Can you help?

A parent is angry that a teacher “hasn’t taken care” of her child.” What will you do about it? Why aren’t you doing anything about the students in room 201?

The district is calling. They have information for you about getting the new program you put in motion months ago up and running. Could this culminate the months of work you and others have put into this assessment that will help students’ growth?

Someone’s opened surplus textbooks you boxed up last summer to be sent back to the warehouse. Now you need help to get them cleaned up again. Have to issue the order for them to be picked up. How many boxes now?



The plant manager makes you aware of a bathroom issue. Students are making a big mess.  How will you handle this? Class by class?  Whole school?  What are the possibilities?

The trainer you contracted is coming Thursday. Create a schedule. Get the copies made – holes punched. What room will you put her in? Are the subs hired? Do teachers have a schedule? Have we let them know yet? DO we have good subs? We don’t want a day without good instruction for our kiddos.

Is the website out of date again? Who will update it? Maybe I can get a little more done on it today. We want a Facebook page.

Remember! Payroll is due today (Again? These emails are coming daily now.)

Alta Sea, that exciting new research facility that wants to partner with schools in our community has arrived. Can we get connected to stream the research they’re doing into our classrooms? How can we partner?

Stacks of papers await action. Some await filing.  I like the ones I just have to sign. Those allow me to feel accomplishment.

A parent wants to be my friend on Facebook. Do I do that? How do I feel about that?  What does that mean?

Talk with a colleague who’s applying for a principalship. She has an interview on Friday. After work, we discuss how it might go. What questions may come up? Drill down to the essentials to showcase her skills and abilities. Hate to lose her to another district.

Presenting at a conference on Saturday. Doing research and some work with students this week before that.

I’m determined that I will continue to be involved in the instruction of students. I walk classrooms each and every day. I talk with students, teachers, and parents every day.  I wonder. Is it enough?



Teaching chart we worked with today in our Staff Meeting.                                                   Improving our Teaching a Lesson and a Child at a Time.


Every staff meeting this year will begin with instruction because THAT is the heart of what I do. Of what WE do.

As a principal, you never really leave your “kids” at school.  They’re always on your mind. You awaken in the middle of the night thinking about the thing that happened with that parent, that child. that teacher.

Being a principal is amazing, challenging, and different than I could have imagined.

SOL with website

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for a place to share and a reason to write each week.  Click here to read more SOL moments.

Posted in Learning, Passion for teaching, perceptions, Principal, SOL2016, Students First | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Anatomy of a teaching point

I received this text from a colleague this morning:

teaching point - how

What is the “how” in this teaching point? She queried.

I read the part right under “Name your teaching point.”

I thought about it. I have not read this entire lesson.  But I do know this. Often times the HOW to a lesson by Lucy Caulkins and the folks over at Teachers College can be found in the part of the Reading Units of Study lesson right before the “Active Engagement” part.   It’s when they say something like this:

“Students, did you notice how I…” then they describe the exact steps they took to do the thing.

Kate and Dana over at Powerful Choices taught me this tip. They’re helping our staff to hone our instruction in reading and writing by creating crystal clear teaching points that kids can replicate.

I responded to the text like this:

The “how” (to support yourself as a reader when reading for main idea in non fiction text) is to (1) jot down the strategies you already know how to use,  (2) choose one, and (3) try it with the text you are using.

But another beauty of this work is that another reader or writer who teaches readers and writers may create the “how” differently.  It depends on you, your process, your students. There is room in the work to “outgrow your own best thinking, as Lucy Caulkins once said.  I appreciate the encouragement to continue to grow as a learner and a teacher and a person.

I love the Reading Units of Study. I love the Writing Units of Study. They are the result of so much careful work and research across years by some incredibly dedicated, well studied, in-classroom educators with many students. They are complex and rich and can be difficult to use straight out of the box. We need to be having conversations about how we are using them, but we do need to use them. We lift the level of our instruction every time we do.

 What would you say is the “HOW” of this teaching point? 

How do you read non-fiction?

How do you support yourself as a reader?




Posted in Passion for teaching, reading, Students First, Teaching, Teaching Strategies, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment