Slice of Life: Receiving Book Love

On Saturday this was on the dining room table.

My son walks up. “I found it at the library sale. Thought you’d like it.”

“It’s beautiful!  Thank you, I just read about this (on Amy Ludwig Vanderwater’s blog). Let me pay you back.”

“It was a dollar. My gift to you. Want to see what else I got?” He pulls out two stacks of books. Tall stacks. Ten dollars worth.  “Borrow anything you like.”

After pursuing through his purchases, I head out. To the library.

The first Saturday of every month, the blessed local library hosts a book sale. Every time I go, I find something quite extraordinary.

Deep in the literature and poetry section, I hear a familiar voice. I walk over to look.


He looks up like he expected to see me. “Hey, I bought this for your kids. I thought they’d love it.” He hands me a great little book about the states.  “Oh, and I saw a Langston Hughes book in the back section. Did you see it? It’s back here.”

We walk back to dig and find gems.

He looks at me. “I’d promised myself I wouldn’t stay too long.” A few more passes through book boxes, and he pulls himself away. We say goodbye.

At some point after that, I’m at the register with an arm full of books.

“You’re a teacher?” the cashier asks.

I nod.

She counts my books. Mumbling to herself. Calculating. She looks up at me and says, “One dollar.”

I laugh. “Are you kidding?”

“You’re a teacher. Anything for the kids.”

Stunned, I walk to my car. Not at the cost of the lovely books, but at the book love I received.

Thank you, to the people in my life who think of me and give me books.It doesn’t get much better.

And, thank you, Two Writing Teachers for Slice of Life Tuesdays. And tRead more slices here.


DigiLit Sunday: Motivation

Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche suggested the topic of motivation for her Sunday DigiLit Link up.


I’m fascinated by motivation. What creates it. What kills it. I’m a witness to the power of it, and the lack of it.

Motivation is the reason we do.

Motivation is observable.  There are inadvertent sounds that signal engagement a prerequisite to motivation.

The groan that follows the end reading or writing workshop and
the cheer that follows “it’s time for read aloud” are clear indicators of motivation.

And the converse.
The groan that follows the beginning of a workshop and
the cheer follows the recess bell are signs of tired, unmotivated kiddos.

Both scenarios happen in my classroom. They indicate what’s working and what’s missing the mark. It’s up to me to hear them and adjust.

For the less vocal students, I have to listen in other ways. Through their work, their body language; what is done and undone.

“A” hasn’t finished a book in a week.
“B” doesn’t move from that book when the bell rings.
“C” is wandering the room.
“D” wrote more today.

Motivation that lasts through struggle is individual. Accessing it is complex.

We need inspiration.

I read Emmanuel’s Dream, the true story of Emmanuel Yeboah to my kids last week. They were fascinated. He was inspirational, determined, proud, outgoing. And the feeling, if he can do this, surely I can work harder in my world.

We need mentors to show how.
We need goals to measure our success.

My students are working on writing about characters. Thanks to the guidance of DIY Literacy, we created the character charts and micro progression together.  Next week, we’ll attempt bookmarks, using the micro progressions and charts we’ve developed.


Here’s my demonstration bookmark. The test of the charts and their understanding will be in what students create.

Motivation is complex. It takes work and hope. With observation and tools; choice and  inspirational stories we will find a road to access it.

Celebrate Time

Last night we drove downtown to meet the seven pm train from San Diego. Walking toward the art deco entrance, I looked south. Geography obscured the modern, skinny skyscrapers. Only City Hall, once the tallest tower, beamed in the distance.

Entering Union Station’s renovated building is oasis-like. High ceilings hold chandeliers. Doublewood ornate chairs with brown cushions line the waiting area. A courtyard garden offers outside seating, light, and air. Passengers amble to and from trains. Slow, TSAless travel.

On the platform, I pulled my sweater tight fending off the evening chill.

The weather and rhythm of school have replaced summer. Three weeks in, the year chugs toward schedules, timelines, checklists, and standards. Momentum will build, daylight hours will evaporate, and time will shrink. But this weekend, our holiday calendar provides an oasis. A respite to reflect and refine.

This weekend I celebrate the time to study and acknowledge my students:

their joy reading and writing anything they want,
their eager conversations on the way to lunch,
their edging towards beautiful language and meaningful endings,
their uninhibited sharing of themselves from the squirrel they caught to the brother they lost to the friendship bracelets I proudly wear.

I celebrate my students’ growing trust, enthusiasm, and hope.

I celebrate the great gift it is to be a teacher.

This week I celebrate with others @ Ruth Ayer’s blog Discover, Play, Build. Read other celebrations here.

Poetry Friday: Lists

This morning, my list-making started.

Up and writing, those lists infiltrated my notebook pages.
Onward to read After by Jane Hirshfield. “To Wake at 3:00” hit me.
Those things said and not said.
Things I should have done and those I can not undo.

To Wake at 3:00

To wake at 3:00
and not want to go back to sleep
is different
from waking and wanting
not to go back to sleep.

(read the rest here)

Driven by these thoughts,
I go to my uninhabited classroom to
dig through my poetry books.
I find Joyce Sidman’s book What the Heart Knows and this poem:

A List of Things That Will Set You Free

A voice.
A touch.
Not caring.

Saying to yourself:
I am too old to do this.
I am too young to do this.
I am too smart to do this.
It’s not my fault.
It is my fault, and  I will fix it.

I can do this.

Ah yes.

The List

started as
The week ended
At the top of
A notebook page
Manageable To-dos
One thing and

Details bleed into
The margins
Refusing to turn the
For fear they’d be

Off to do and read other posts found on this week’s Poetry Friday link up hosted by Penny Parker Klostermann.