Saturday, February 16, 2019

What's saving your teaching life right now?

This week has been one of those weeks that seems like it had an extra day (or two).  One day we even found ourselves asking if there was a full moon.

It was also one of those weeks when I found myself repeating, "I can't do this anymore...I can't do this any more."

I'm tired, and I feel defeated.

And I have no answers on how to fix it.

Then today as I was scrolling through my Twitter feed, I clicked on a tweet from Tricia Ebarvia about blogging in her classroom.  She linked to a post on the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog. This post tells about how Barbara Brown Taylor, the author of Leaving Church, was asked to speak on the question, "Tell us what is saving your life right now?"  I began thinking about my teaching life.

Many times it is easy to name what is killing our teaching lives.

For me this week, it was disrespectful students, crazy schedules, being spread too thin, and behavior issues. This was the root of my negativity at the end of Friday as a group of us sat at the end of the hall, thankful that the weekend had finally arrived.

But do we ever stop to think about what is saving our teaching lives?

That same day, after the hall became clear of students, we began talking about our weekend plans. I looked down the hall and saw someone walking toward us.

Although I couldn't clearly see him from that distance, I knew who this was. I would recognize that walk anywhere. I hollered out, "Is that you, Dante?"

"Yep, it's me, Mrs. Eck." he replied with a big ole smile on his face.

It was a former student, and I stood up gave him a big hug.  Dante and I have a history, a rocky history.  He is one of the students I had as a 4th grader and as a 6th grader after I moved to the middle school. He is one that has a special place in my heart.  It has been awhile since I have seen him, and he has changed, he has grown, and he has become a young man. We talked for several minutes, and as he hugged me goodbye, he told me how much he missed me.

I walked into a colleague's room and tried to hold myself together.  We were both holding back tears as we acknowledged the power of that epiphany.  How did he know I needed that moment?

We all have a Dante, a student who reminds us of why we became teachers and why we keep coming back, even after we have had a bad week.  As teachers, we know that relationships matter.  They matter every day, but sometimes they matter even more when we, as teachers, need them the most.

Right now, it is students like Dante who are saving my teaching life.

What's saving your teaching life right now?

Saturday, February 2, 2019

...alone

I've been thinking about friends lately. 

Not my friends. 

But my students' friends.

Or the ones who have none. My heart is heavy.

I have three students who are friends. They are rather unique as individuals, yet have similar stories. They carry different colored suitcases, yet have similar baggage. Two of the students no longer attend our school.

And I'm worried about the one because he hasn't been the same since they left him...

alone.

I sit in a parent conference and share their child's progress and how well their child is doing academically. The parents are concerned because their child has no friends.

Never invited to birthday parties or sleepovers.

A tear slips out, and the mother asks, "Do you see him...
alone.

I walk into the cafeteria.

No matter how hard we stress that no one eats alone, I see a student sitting at a table with others, yet not talking, laughing, or leaning in to share a secret with someone. She is with others, but still...

alone.

Middle school is difficult enough without sharing it with friends.  These are the kids who break my heart.

I can teach writing skills.  I can motivate readers. I can be a positive and highly effective teacher each and every day.

But I can't teach how to not be...

alone.

It is in these moments when I feel helpless, when I feel I don't do enough. Why are these kids the ones who need us the most but are the first ones to shut the door?

These are the kids who remind me of why I teach and why I'll return again on Monday.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The Privacy of Reading Levels

Reading levels are surrounded by controversy.  Many discussions have taken place in the education world about the use, misuse, and abuse of labeling students according to their reading levels.

I am sure I cannot add anything new to the discussions; however, I had a light bulb moment tonight and felt the need to write about it.

My students are getting ready to write open letters where they can combine their research skills with argument skills and write about an issue that concerns them.  Believing that teachers should be writers, too, I set out tonight to research articles on Accelerated Reading.  Yes, I am writing a letter to my superintendent arguing that we should do away with AR.

I wanted to find an article about the inconsistencies of the reading levels with age-appropriate levels of books.  I was immediately disheartened (but not surprised) by the number of images of color coded stickers for classroom libraries that came up in my initial my search.

Reading further, I came across a position statement on labeling books by reading level by the American Association of School Librarians.  It states the following:

"Labeling and shelving a book with an assigned grade level on its spine allows other students to observe the reading level of peers, thus threatening the confidentiality of students’ reading levels. Only a student, the child’s parents or guardian, the teacher, and the school librarian as appropriate should have knowledge of a student’s reading capability."

I began thinking about the teachers who level their classroom libraries, school libraries with non-standard shelving practices and the students who select books from those shelves, and students who carry around cards or name tags identifying them by reading levels or colored dots.

All of these practices are public displays of confidential information.  If I were to tell a student or a parent another student's test scores, grades, or even their address, I would be breaking the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).  Yet, we are making confidential information public for all to see in our classrooms and in our schools.

I have always believed that reading labels should be for books and not students, but honestly, I never thought about it as breaking a law.

Until tonight.

For more reading on this same issue, check out this article by Dr. Molly Ness. 

Friday, January 25, 2019

Time #PoetryFriday

Join Tara at Going to Walden for this week's Poetry Friday Round-Up.

After a year of academic writing and writing from my head, I still find it quite a struggle to write from my heart. My creative side may still be a little rusty, but I'm hopeful it will return.

Today, as I was visiting Margaret's space, Reflections from the Teche, I learned a new poetry form called a Skinny.  You can learn more about a Skinny at the The Skinny Poetry Journal.

Margaret challenged us to write a Skinny using a metaphor that she and her students created from her metaphor dice.  Although I didn't keep it as a metaphor, I still used the same words - Time is an impossible super hero.

Here is my first attempt at a Skinny...

Time, an impossible super hero, is
power
of
healing
hearts,
power
of
hope.
Who says
power
is time, an impossible super hero?



Monday, January 21, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR 1-21-19


Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts and Kelle and Ricki at Unleashing Readers co-host It's Monday! What Are You Reading? Be sure to stop by and see what others are reading and recommending this week.

It was a slow reading week, but the snow day today helped me finish this one!



The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

I recently posted about how my boys felt that my classroom library lacked "boy books." While I don't believe in boy/girl books, I do feel that a gap exists. This was a book that I had in my TBR pile and moved it to the top so that my boys could read it. I don't think they will be disappointed. 

The Boy Who Dared, based on a true story, is about a how a young boy resists the Nazis by using the power of words. Though in the end, people called him a fool because a 16 year old boy could not change the government. But I think he believed and knew that there is power in words and even more power in the truth. 

That is what I want for my students, and I hope that by reading this book, it will help them to understand Helmuth's story and courage, but to also understand the power they each have in them.

Books (still) On Deck



Happy Reading!

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Narrowing the Gap

Right after Christmas Break I had my students go book shopping. I was blessed with a grant to purchase books for my classroom library, and along with books from Scholastic book orders and my own purchases, I had quite a stack for students to browse through.

As students were shopping, I heard a boy say, "These are girl books." I dismissed it and kept moving throughout the room. Then I heard a similar comment from another boy. I replied, "There is no such thing as boy books or girl books. There are just books."

It happened again during the next period, so I thought it was time to take a look.

And I found out they were right.

I saw that many of the books had female protagonists and many of them were realistic fiction - both which had been influenced by my own preferences and interests. I have always tried to be cognizant of the genre gaps because I tend to avoid reading certain ones. It seems in the process, I have unintentionally overlooked what books might appeal to or interest my boys.

I knew I had to take a look at my library and evaluate its access for all of my students. Research shows that boys tend to not read as much as girls, and they have lower reading achievement scores. Having classroom libraries that do not include the interests of all students adds to this problem.

There is a lot of emphasis on creating diverse libraries that represent all students, but that same diversity must stretch across interests too. My students pointed that out to me. Today, as I placed a new Scholastic book order, I am happy to say I am narrowing that gap as the order includes many new books recommended by my boys. I can't wait to see what they say now.

Monday, January 14, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR 1-14-19


Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts and Kelle and Ricki at Unleashing Readers co-host It's Monday! What Are You Reading? Be sure to stop by and see what others are reading and recommending this week.

It has been awhile since I have participated in #IMWAYR because I have been working on my Master's degree. That work took a huge chunk of my reading time, and I am excited to get my reading life back and to share with other readers.

Here is what I read last week:



Front Desk by Kelly Yang

I have heard a lot of Newbery talk about Front Desk, and I can certainly see it as a contender. One of the things I like most about reading middle grade books, are the lessons I learn not only as a reader, but also as a teacher.  This book had several (the spelling notebook and the choosing of the monopoly pieces), and I will be writing about those in another post.

Mia's family are Chinese immigrants, and this story confronts injustices of immigrants, racism, and poverty, all social issues that are important for students to read about. 

Mia is spunky, and I like spunk. She sets out to fight the discrimination against her and her friends who stay in the motel her family runs. The very last paragraph of the author's notes is a lesson we can all learn.

"Often during tough times, the first instinct is to exclude. But this book is about what happens when you include, when, despite all your suffering and your heartache, you still wake up every morning and look out at the world with fresh, curious eyes."



Dry by Neal Shusterman

Neal Shusterman is quickly becoming a favorite author of mine. Although I typically do not like to read dystopian or science fiction books, I have devoured everything I have read of his.  And Dry was no exception.

California is experiencing a Tap-out and find themselves with no water.  Desperation is at an all-time high as families and neighborhoods turn against one another in their effort to find water. Alyssa, Garrett, Kelton, Jacqui, and Henry all have to work together, but how can you do that when you can hardly trust each other?

Dry is one of those books that makes you think and makes you wonder, what if...?

Books on Deck:




Tuesday, January 1, 2019

My Writing List for 2019


A new year always brings new goals, or at least thoughts about what we want to accomplish.  Many reading communities that I belong to create reading challenges. I love creating reading lists because it gives me a plan. Now I want a writing plan, which is the reason for #letswrite2019.

Here is my writing plan for 2019. I know I will not accomplish everything, and I know I will wrtie many other pieces not mentioned here.  But it is a plan, and it will help keep me focused and guide me throughout the year.

  • Write at least 100 blog posts.
  • Rethink the purpose of my blog and write more about literacy for literacy teachers.
  • Explore more professional opportunities. 
  • Open my eyes to the small things around me and write more poetry.
  • Keep a writer's notebook.
  • Complete the Slice of Life March Challenge.
  • And now for the biggie - I have wanted to write a professional book, even if no one ever reads it!  My goal is to write an outline and look into the publishing process.
That's it!  Seven areas that I want to explore, improve, and expand in my own writing life.

If you would like to join #letswrite2019, check out this post.

Let's Write in 2019!

#letswrite2019



For the past several years, I have participated in a reading challenge with Carried Gelson at There is a Book for That.  I love making a list of books that I want to read, share the progress, and then celebrate.

But what about those of us who also write?  Where are things like this for writers?

Thinking about this, I decided to create a writing challenge for this year, although I wouldn't really call it a challenge.  It's more like creating a writing plan, but with the support of a community of writers, much like my Teach Write community. Each day the Teach Write community has a place to share what we write, and I will continue to do that.  But I see #letswrite2019 as more of a panoramic view - a bigger picture.

So how about joining me? Where do you want your writing to take you in 2019?

Maybe its writing a certain number of blog posts?

Or finishing a book?

Or trying out a new genre?

Or writing more of what your students are writing?

Or completing a thesis or a dissertation?

Or venturing into professional writing?

Or taking a writing workshop?  (Here is link to a good one!)

No matter what your writing list looks like, it is the spirit of the challenge, support from other writers, and the celebration that matter. Pulling goals out of a notebook and putting them into the world can be scary. Who cares what I want to write? And that may be true. When we make our goals and plans public, we create a type of accountability that some of us may want and maybe even need if we want to truly expand our writing life. And having the Teach Write community to cheer us on each day is an added bonus!

Think about what you want to accomplish in your writing life this year. If you would like to share it on your blog, then contact me via Twitter at @Teachr4 or leave a link here in the comments, and I will add you to our #letswrite2019 community.

Don't have a blog? Not a problem. Maybe make an image of your plan and send it to me, and I will include it in the list of participants. Or just write your plan in the comments.

The important, yet optional, part will be celebrating our success. I learned about writing celebrations from Ruth Ayes, the queen of celebrating the small things.  So I will have four update posts where we can celebrate together, the big and the small.

First Celebration:  March 31st
Second Celebration:  June 30th
Third Celebration:  September 30th
Final Celebration:  December 31st

So what are you waiting for? Let's Write in 2019!

My post is here: My Writing List for 2019

Check out Kendra Limback's plan here:  Let's Write

You can find Sarah Valter's post here:  #letswrite2019:  Refocusing on Writing

Ruth Ayres is joining us here:  let's write 2019

Margaret Simon is writing from the bayou:  Let's Write 2019

Kali Sosa has joined here:  It's all about VISION & MISSION: #letswrite2019

Trina Haase's plan is here: #letswrite2019

Here is Brent Gilson's plan for an "unplan": Plans a #letswrite2019 post

Check out Michelle Olson's goals:  Books on the Backporch


This is also space for those who do not have blogs. Send me your plan and I will post a picture!

Melissa Wood-Glusac's goals:


Melissa Sawetch's goals:

Hannah Johnson has her goals in her bullet journal:




#MustReadin2019




It's that time of year when resolutions are made, goals are set, and reading lists are created. I am joining Carrie Gelson at There's A Book for That and many other readers to create a list of books that I want to read in the upcoming year.  Click on the image above if to take you to Carries's round-up link.  Please consider joining us or taking a peek at some great book recommendations! But beware - you risk your list growing exponentially!

My list for 2019 has a little bit of everything, and I currently own all but one.

Making a list is the easy part; completing the list is much harder!  Especially when I still have boxes of books just waiting to be read as well.

But I still enjoy participating.

Last year I had eight books on my list, two for each quarter of the year, and I read six of them. This year I have 16 books!  My reading life should get back to normal now that I have completed my Master's degree!

Here is my Must Read in 2019 List:



Still a Work in Progress by Jo Knowles
After Zero by Christina Collins
The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater



Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman
Resistance by Jennifer Nielsen
The Truth as Told Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor



Mapping the Bones by Jane Yolen
Front Desk by Kelly Yang Read January 2, 2019
The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart



Blended by Sharon Draper  Read January 23, 2019
Dry by Neal Shusterman Read January 12, 2019
The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti Read January 21, 2019


The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe
The Third Mushroom by Jennifer Holm
A Very Large Expanse of See by Tahereh Mafi


Happy New Year and Happy Reading!

Monday, December 31, 2018

One Little Word Reflection - A Big Step


Today is the last day of 2018, and it's time to reflect on how my one little has served me the past 364 days.

Choosing one little word gives me a reflective way to approach the new year and a focus to carry me through the year.  This year has been no different.  My one little words in the past years have been:

2013 - Search
2014 - Reach
2015 - Turn
2016 - Intent
2017 - Rise

This year STEP was my word.  I chose this word because I was starting a new journey, and I believe that every new journey starts with the first step.

When I chose STEP, I was three months into graduate school.  There were many days when I questioned my decision.  After all, I was 54 at the time, and old minds just don't work the way they used to.  There were tears. And so many doubts.  

I not only learned about curriculum and instruction, but I also learned what it was like to be a student again. I was walking in the shoes of my students, and I followed in their metaphorical steps.  I think I have become a better teacher not necessarily because of my degree, but because I understand my students in a whole different level. I understand the struggles of analyzing and summarizing, reading difficult texts and writing about them, and staring at a blank page - wishing the words would just come to me. I understand about the power of feedback and how important its timeliness is. I understand about doing things that are just downright hard, yet persevering.  And I understand the power of learning.

We take one STEP at a time!

As I say goodbye to STEP and 2018, I can't wait to share my word for 2019!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Giving Grace

It is the night before New Years Eve and a time where everyone is sharing their favorite books of 2018 and completing their reading challenge on Goodreads.

But not me.

This past year, my reading life was placed on pause while I worked on my Master's degree.  I remember tweeting about my personal dilemma one day, and Donalyn Miller replied. It said something about how our reading lives ebb and flow and giving myself some grace.  She then led me to her Nerdy Book Club post about her own reading slump.

I wouldn't really call mine a slump; it was more of a guilt trip. I felt guilty reading when I knew I should have been reading or studying for a class or writing one of my many papers.

I know that my own reading life plays a large role in the reading lives of my students, and this bothered me. It is much more difficult to get excited about books and share them with my students when I was not reading. I felt like a fake reader. The door of our classroom, where I display my reading life, remained pretty bare the entire year. I would have former students come in, look at the door, and say, "Mrs. Eck, you're slipping."

And they were right.

Then I took Donalyn's words to heart, and I gave myself some grace. She reminded me that our reading lives ebb and flow, "alternating between reading binges and dry spells."

And that is OK.

So tonight, I look at that Goodreads reading challenge and remind myself of the reason for the dry spell. (Yes, I graduated on December 11th - one year, three months, and eleven days.)

And that is OK.

I spent some today cleaning, sorting, weeding, and re-shelving many boxes of books. I have a plan.  I welcome 2019 because I am ready to binge once again.

And that is OK.


Thursday, December 27, 2018

Looking Through Poverty and Seeing Possibility

Many of the middle grade books I read impact me as a reader. Then, there are those that impact me as a teacher. This was the case with The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden.

Zoey is a 7th grader and has more responsibility than any 7th grader should ever have. She takes care of her younger siblings so that her mother can work and keep her family together. Times are tough for Zoey at home, and she thinks her life would be better if she were on octopus with eight arms to tackle all of her responsibilities.

Zoey tries not to draw attention to herself at school because she thinks she doesn't belong in the world of rich kids. However, one her teachers wants her to join the debate club. Zoey does not want to participate and even "forgets" to bring her form to school.  Eventually, the debate brings Zoey to see things in new ways and to find her own place in her unfair world.

This book is about poverty, which many of my students can relate.  Braden's writing illustrates what many of my students live every single day.

Kids in poverty typically have little control over the events in their lives, and this lack of control can often bring out behavior problems in school.  One way that Zoey finds control is in storytelling.  "And telling stories means I get to spend time in a world were the person in charge of what happens is me." 

How can we give kids in poverty control in our classrooms? What decisions can they make that would make them feel like they have control?  How can we use writing and storytelling to help them?

There are times when I get frustrated with my students when they don't return forms, or complete assignments, or come to class on time.  Reading this book reminded me that students in poverty are not thinking about these things.  They are thinking about taking care of siblings, having food on the table, or having electricity and running water.  When Zoey doesn't return a completed packet about an animal she thinks, "Some people can do their homework. Some people have crushes on boys. Some have other things they've got to do."  This is the life of my students.

Reading this book also brought me hope. Braden created a teacher who cared and who looked through the poverty and saw possibility.  Isn't that what we should all do?

"Important.

Me.

Once the teacher is gone, Ms. Rochambeau turns back to me. She says things, but I'm not listening. No one has ever connected me with being important. The things that they want me to do are important - do my homework, bring a pencil, wear sneakers for PE.

But this somehow feels different."

Kids in poverty need to feel important, and sometimes teachers may be the only ones who can provide that.  Kids in poverty is not commonly found in middle grade books, and Ann Braden wrote a book that is greatly needed. A book where many students, and hopefully teachers, can see themselves. 

#MustReadin2018 Wrap-Up


Several years ago Carrie Gelson of There's a Book for That started the "Must Read Challenge" which is way for book lovers to create and share their reading list that they didn't get to that year.  I have "participated" the last five years.  And I use the word participated very loosely.  I always made a list, but each year that list became shorter and shorter, in hopes that I would have more success.  

Last year I narrowed my list to eight titles - two for each quarter of the year.  

I read six of them, and I'm currently reading the 7th.  This is quite an accomplishment because my reading life was put on hold while I worked on my Master's degree.  I had to learn how to give myself some grace along the way.

The books I read from my Must Read in 2018 were:





My favorite out of all of these was Scythe by Neal Shusterman.  After I read it and book talked it, I had to buy multiple copies to keep up with the demand in my classroom.  I have Thunderhead, the next one in the series, and Dry, his newest book in my TBR stack.  Look for those in my Must Read in 2019 list in a couple of days!

Making a reading plan is something I teach my students to do because having a plan sets the tone that reading is important. And this is the reason why I make this list every year with "Carrie & Company", and I look forward to making a new list for 2019!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

When We Make Reading a Competition

Unlike most of my family members, I am not a competitive person.  Competition does not motivate me, nor does it make me attempt anything with more effort. However, I know the same cannot be said by others, even some of my students. It seems like intrinsic motivation is becoming more difficult to find in my classroom.

I ask why? Why do my students expect something in return for their educational progress? Why isn't learning something new worth their time and effort?

With the first grading period recently ending for many of us, I began to see prizes or rewards or incentives being doled out for reading. I saw the results of reading becoming a competition.

I know that competition motivates some students. But when reading becomes a competition, we do not create lifelong readers. We create students who get to go eat lunch with the principal or go on a special field trip or get a pizza.

When reading becomes a competition, our students have their eyes on the prize, not the lifelong rewards of being a reader.

When reading becomes a competition, we create winners and losers.

And when it comes to reading, no one should ever be labeled a loser.

When we hear experts in the field say that volume matters, and then we hear teachers who make reading a competition say, "But look how much they are reading" how do we defend that? Because in some convoluted way, they are correct - students are reading.

Yes, we want students to read voluminously. Yes, we know a relationship exists between reading volume and reading achievement. But when we attach reading volume to a competition, no one wins.

For many well-meaning teachers, this is the way they have learned to motivate readers. I don't blame them for their efforts.

If you are a reader of my blog, or a Twitter follower, then I know we have many of the same values and ideas. Let's try to encourage these teachers to try something different. Let them know that...

When we talk about books, we create intrigue and curiosity.

When we live and share a reading life, we show students how reading can change us.

When we share the joy of reading, students have a better chance of becoming lifelong readers.

And isn't THAT the ultimate prize?

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Looking at the Heart

Deadlines. Seems I've had many of those these last few weeks.

But this morning, with visions of fall break swimming in my cereal bowl, I felt like I could breathe a little easier, take things a little slower. Lesson plans are done for our two-day week, grades are finalized for the first grading period. I seem to be caught up...at least for the moment.

My fingers feel the itch to write something besides my Master's work and my research study. I thought maybe a blog post might be on the morning agenda, seeing how it is the National Day on Writing.

As I clicked on my own blog, I found my way to Ruth Ayres' blog. In her blog post, she wrote about her encounter with A.S. King at a literacy conference this past week. It seems they both presented on similar topics, as Ruth also presented about kids in trauma and how stories heal. Once again, her words went straight to my heart.

Then I saw this tweet over in her sidebar. See those words, "what if we looked at the heart instead of the behavior?"  I read those eleven words, and I lost it. The release of the frustration and the helplessness and the feelings of defeat from the past few weeks just took over.

Then came the guilt, exposed by these same words.

I have students who come from hard places:   places without love and loved ones, places without safety, electricity and food, and places without hope.

I know that.

But lately, I have been looking at their behaviors instead of their hearts.

I have been taking the easy way out.

I have been blaming them.

I have been looking outward and not inward.

...and that needs to change.

I wrote a post about how everyone needs a Ruth in their lives. I still believe that, but I think it is time to change that statement to "How can I BE a Ruth?"

Thank you, Ruth, once again for sending your words out into the world and for opening my eyes and my heart in those moments when, yes, I need a Ruth.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

What's In Your Backpack?

There are times when I read a book, it makes me think. It makes me cry. It makes me wonder. It makes me want to do something.

Then there are times I read a book while other thoughts in my life are pushing through, and somehow the two things become connected and become life-changing.

I recently read Through the Cracks by Patti Bell. This book tells the story of a young girl in the late 1990's who suffered abuse from her father, a doctor, and her stepmother, a nurse. The abuse was reported by the girl's teacher. But nothing was done.

When the parents began to feel threatened, they would move.  And move again, making it difficult for the state to track them.

Sadly, the abuse continued with their second child and ended in murder.  The abuse, which came from medical professionals who had taken an oath to protect and take care of people, was so horrific, I can't even begin to tell about it.

The book tells the story of the teacher's suspicions; the reports she made, which were ignored by the very system that was supposed to protect children; and the testimony and events of the murder trial.  It tells the story of the sweet little girl who fell through the cracks.

The story began in my own hometown.

Tonight, on the eve of my 12th year of teaching, this story continues to haunt me.  As I see commercials and advertisements for school supplies, I can't help but wonder what is really in my students' backpacks.  Yes, they come with supplies, but they also carry in those same backpacks abuse, poverty, homelessness, loss, and responsibilities too heavy for young people.

After reading this book, I wonder if I have ever missed a sign. Would I see the signs? Have I had a student who was living the same life of these poor girls in this book?  We, as teachers, have such an important responsibility. We not only are responsible for their learning, but so much more.

I have thought a lot about Mrs. Bell and the relationship she had with Danielle, the oldest child and the first to be abused. I truly believe it was this relationship that saved her life.  She knew something was wrong. Mrs. Bell saw what was in Danielle's "backpack" and acted on her instincts. Sadly, it was not enough to save Danielle's sister.

As my students arrive this year and as we begin our year of learning together, I know this book and these two girls will continue to linger in my mind.  Their stories will challenge me to look inside my students' backpacks.  And maybe, just maybe, challenge me to lighten their load.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Five Year Slicing Anniversary



Five years ago today, I wrote my first slice of life.

I remember starting my blog and hitting publish for the first time.  It was exciting, yet terrifying. I, typically a very private person, was sending my words out into the blogosphere for other people to read.  What in the world was I thinking!

I wrote my first introductory post in April and didn't find the confidence to write another until June, which was when I tried to participate in Kate Messner's Teachers Write. That lasted one day! I began to doubt myself and again, wondered what in the world was I thinking!

Then in July I branched out and wrote my first slice, and my life as a writer was forever changed. I have met some incredible people through this writing community - in my virtual life and in real life. Because of them, I began to see that my words did matter, even on those days when I was the only reader.

My writing and my blog have provided me with so many opportunities. It is through my blog where I realized that to be called a writer, one only has to write.

And I have.

And to think it all started with a silly slice about milk jugs!

Time has a way of slipping by, and the older I get, the faster it goes.  And NO I did not believe that when my grandparents would say those words when I was a child.

I have this quirky way of watching time go by...especially as it relates to school--reading the date on the milk jug.

We go through about three jugs of milk a week at our house and paying attention to the dates is just something that I do.  Those dates have a way of marching through time.  At the end of the school year, I can't wait until I finally see May, then June with the anticipation of summer break.

Last week I grabbed two jugs of milk and I couldn't believe my eyes...JULY8th!  I gasped, my heart started racing and I broke out into a cold sweat (well maybe I just gasped!)  It couldn't be!  I blinked to make sure I was reading it correctly.  Yes, it did say July.  I knew then that it was all down hill from there.  Summer was flying by and not even a jug of milk could stop it.

This week as I timidly approached the refrigerated section and opened the door, I opened one eye and then the other.  Oh no...July 18th!  I slammed the door shut and said, "No thanks, I think I'll try the OTHER store!"