Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Custom Jobs and Doing it Right #SOL

It's hard to believe that March is finally over. It feels like it has been at least 129 days long. Today will be the day that many will wrap up how this month of writing has changed them, has created new friends and new habits, and has awakened a new writing spirit in them. This challenge does this for me as well, and I am always better for having participated.

Today, I linger on some words of one of my students from an email today. We began e-Learning this week, and students have questions. But this is one that I can't seem to let go.

"I'm worried about doing it right."

I reassured her that there is no right way to this. We are navigating new waters, and we are doing it together. For that matter, is there ever just one way to do anything?

When it comes to writing and becoming teacher-writers, many get so caught up in doing it right. When I first began blogging and slicing, I had this same fear - am I doing it right? Am I writing something people will want to read? I have always been hesitant at keeping a notebook for the same reason - fear of not doing it right.

Today, as I was listening to John Warner, the author of Why they Can't Write: Killing the Five-Paragraph Essay and Other Necessities, on Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher's daily "talk show," John said, "Each piece of writing is a custom job." 

If it is a custom job, then it has to be right because it is what we, as writers, have made it.

These words are freeing. I will always struggle with doing it right, but participating in challenges like the March Slice of Life Challenge and the #100DaysofNotebooking and BEYOND help me to feel safe. Safe in creating my own custom job. Safe in knowing that whatever I write, it is right.

Thank Two Writing Teachers for creating this space for custom jobs!

Monday, March 30, 2020

Some Things Haven't Changed #SOL20

"Don't get mad at me for what I said at the end." 

These were the words in a message I received from a student today. I sent them a weekly check-in where I asked them questions such as How are you doing? Is there anything you want to tell me? and Do you have any questions about this week? I wanted them to know that I miss them and care about how they are doing.

When I saw B's message, I thought uh-oh, what did she say?

At the very end of the questions, I told them to stay safe and reminded them to stay home because it was very important.

Believe it or not, I have lived with the dinosaurs and come over on the Mayflower and run with the Romans. Or at least that is what my team teachers tell our students. They like to tease me about being the oldest on the team, and the kids can't wait to tell me what they say.

What does this have to do with B's message?

Miss you hope you are keeping your 6 feet because your old and you can get it lol

Even in a time of crisis, it is nice to know that some things haven't changed!

Please join Two Writing Teachers and the annual Slice of Life March Challenge.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Confirmation #SOL20

the clouds masking the past few days 
giving way to a welcoming sun

the winds escorting the rain and humidity
making room for refreshment

the deep breath
cleansing the fear, 
the uncertainty, 
the invisibility

until news 
of the confirmation

Please join Two Writing Teachers and the annual Slice of Life March Challenge.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Hope, Book Spine Poetry #SOL20

all we have left
a drop of hope
piecing me together

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay hopeful.

Please join Two Writing Teachers and the annual Slice of Life March Challenge.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Six-Word Walk-#SOL20

Mother Nature is oblivious to chaos. 

Please join Two Writing Teachers and the annual Slice of Life March Challenge.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Song of the Daffodils #PoetryFriday

With April just around the corner, I have been trying to get my poetry muscles in shape...again! This week I am participating in the Poetry Friday Round-up to get a jump start.  Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference has the round-up this week. T

I have been writing in my notebook with my students this week before we "go live" with e-learning next week. I have given them a prompt/spark/idea to write about each day. One of those was "tell me about green." 

I wrote a Tanka poem - not really about green, but I think it will work.

Song of the Daffodils

a fall-planted bulb
buried just beneath the snow
welcome mat unrolled
with your golden corona 
trumpeting spring's arrival

©Leigh Anne Eck, 2020

This I Miss #SOL20

This, I miss...

telling "B" to spit out her gum.
asking "C" to find his seat.
reminding "D" to stop tapping his pencil.

standing in the hallway laughing with my team
racing Melanie and Andrea to the bathroom 6th period
eating lunch with co-workers

sharing books 
sharing words
sharing learning

getting caught playing my 70s rock 
sharing "old" jokes with them
watching them leave for the day, knowing they are coming back tomorrow

This, I miss.

Please join Two Writing Teachers and the annual Slice of Life March Challenge.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

I Remember Ryan White #SOL20

This week I began writing in my notebook along with my students. Today's writing prompt/spark/idea was 

"Begin with this:  I remember..."

I remember Ryan White, a boy who contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion that he needed because of a blood disease called hemophilia. At the time, 1984, little was known about this new disease. Ryan was one of the first children to have been diagnosed with AIDS, and the country was scared.

Ryan became "famous" due to his fight to return to school. The school district, after succumbing to pressure from students, teachers, and parents, banned Ryan from attending school. The White family filed a suit, but the court said they first had to go through the proper procedures. The Department of Education allowed him to return; however, on his first day back, many of the kids did not attend in protest. It got very ugly from there.

I was in college during the hearings, and I wrote about this for one of my papers. I attended a few days of the hearing with a roommate, who was from the community where Ryan lived. Her father was a school board member for the district who initiated the ban. 

My paper was about whether Ryan had a right to go to school or if the school district had a right to protect the other students. This was a scary time as little was known about the spread of the disease, and the public was not well-educated, which caused the fear to get out of control. I am embarrassed to admit I wrote that I did not know what I would do if Ryan was in my classroom. I was in my early 20's, young, ignorant, and naive, but my fear was real. 

As we sit in our homes today, fighting the spread of a virus we know little about, I remember Ryan White. April 8th marks the 30th anniversary of his death. I remember that day. It was a beautiful, sunny Palm Sunday, and I was driving back to Decatur, Illinois where I lived at the time. The announcement came across the radio while I was on a country road, surrounded by barren fields. At that moment, I remember mourning for a boy back in Indiana, a boy I did not know.

More information on the Ryan White HIV?AIDS Program

Please join Two Writing Teachers and the annual Slice of Life March Challenge.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Tell Me about Green #SOL20

Today I share the words from one of my students, Jillian, who wrote to a writing spark today. 

Breathe in the hope they bring and let them be enough for today.

Green makes me think of the outdoors. It makes me think of climbing to the top of the tallest tree in the woods and looking down at all of God's beautiful creations. Green also makes me imagine myself frolicking in a pile of leaves, hair down and glistening in the wind. The color green makes me happy.

Please join Two Writing Teachers and the annual Slice of Life March Challenge.

Monday, March 23, 2020

I Need a Good Book! #SOL20

I received an email Sunday with the subject: "I need a good book."

Hmmm...this should be interesting as we are not in school right now.

This email from my student went on to say, "Remember how you said at the beginning of the year you wanted to get to know our personalities so you can help us pick out books. Well, I think you know me pretty well, and I need help finding a book that I will stick with and enjoy.

Yes, you do have trouble sticking with a book, and I know you help with this.  But how am I going to help you when I can no longer physically suggest and hand books from our classroom library to you?

"The last book I read was A Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, and that was a great book. Now I need a new one. If you know of any good books you think I will enjoy reading, please send them to me because I'm in need of a good book."

Yes, Long Way Down is a great book. 
Do I know of any good books?!? Of course, I do, but how am I going to get you a book?  

I suggested a new-author-to-me, Elizabeth Eulberg, whose books I won in a Twitter giveaway and look really good. But still, how would I get them to her. Then I suggested The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. I told her about the online app from our public library and suggested that she try it.

My heart was breaking because here was a student who needed my help with choosing a book, and I could not look at our classroom library, pull out book after book, and make suggestions. I take this part of my job seriously, and I felt hopeless.

I did what I could with what I had.

Today I get another email with the subject:  I found a book! 

She used our online app from the library and checked out The Poet X. I know she will LOVE this one! 

She ended the email, "I hope we get back to school soon."

Yes, so do I.

Please join Two Writing Teachers and the annual Slice of Life March Challenge.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

A Short Game Day #SOL20

A silver lining to the pandemic is the time families are spending together. I have read so many stories of parents and children taking walks together and talking. I mean really talking. Families are reading and writing together. Families are playing games and learning new things. 

My children were home one day this week. Megan is a teacher, and Ethan is a behavior coach who works with at-risk kids, so they are both working from home. Ethan lives an hour away and while he was home, they decided to play a game together.

"Do you want to play Mancala?" 


He goes and gets the game out of the closet and sets it up. He goes first.

"What are you doing? That's not how you play?"

"Yes, it is."

"Why did you take those?"

"Because you can do that when a spot is empty."

"No, you can't. I'm not playing anymore. You are making up the rules."

"No, I'm not."

I ask, "Are the rules in the box? Read them." Sounds like a logical thing to do when there is a disagreement over the rules.

He looks in the box and pulls out the rules. He takes a minute to read them and then puts the game away.

"Hmmm..." I think. "I wonder who was right?" I knew better than to ask.

And did I mention that my children are 27 and 23 years old?

Please join Two Writing Teachers and the annual Slice of Life March Challenge.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

And of Course, She Did #SOL20

We have been on spring break this week, so this whole eLearning has not been a focus for me...yet. However, I did put out a post on our Team Facebook Page with a Padlet for kids to share writing. 

An email arrived in my inbox Friday night from a student asking what I wanted her to write about in this space. I told her it was a free write, and she could write about anything she wanted.

I knew Kyndall several years before she became my student. She went to a summer camp for high ability students and was in several of my creative writing sessions. Kyndall loves to write poetry and often asks if she can write when we have a few extra minutes during class. We emailed back and forth for a while, and I got tickled when she asked if she could write more than one on the Padlet. 

And of course, she did!

I shared a poem that I had written about middle school love notes with nothing but questions. I suggested that she might try this craft move too. 

And of course, she did!

I went back to copy her poem so that I could share it with you here today and to see if she had written any others.

And of course, she did!

Here are two that I have chosen to share with you today.


I have a story 
and it has many pages 
I flip the page of my story 
my curiosity awakens 
I look at the page
and my eyes open
I think more and more
until my story opens 
and until my imagination has blown
Creating a wonderful world 
with its powerful words 
on this page I can see
it can give me a place to go 
when I have no where 
I feel opened 
I feel happy 
I feel like the world has melted away 
and it gives me a space to grow and to play
where I can let my imagination 
And fly away


sometimes you look everywhere 
sometimes you can't quite find yourself 
sometimes you look inside and out
to gather yourself
and sometimes 
when you gather yourself 
you find yourself

Many of the poems Kyndall wrote deal with middle school problems - feeling alone and finding themselves. Looking forward, I know as a teacher I need to find more ways for students to express themselves through poetry. I am honored that Kyndall has let me share her writing on my blog and blessed to have read it.

Please join Two Writing Teachers and the annual Slice of Life March Challenge.

Friday, March 20, 2020

You're Invited to a Spring Fling #SOL20

In the past couple of years of the Slice of Life March Challenge, I have held a party to kick the month off. I didn't do that this year but have been asked to host one again. Here's a look at the party in 2018 and in 2017.

At the beginning of the month, none of us had any idea we would be where we are today, and I think we all need a virtual party. With it being the first day of spring, why not have a Spring Fling. And since our lives have been turned upside-down, I thought a self-care party was something we could all use right now.

So imagine all of us sitting on the beach, or on my front porch, or in the mountains, or anywhere you want to imagine with no virus looming in our lives and sharing ways to better care for ourselves. How powerful would that be! 

Here are my ideas I want to share:
  1. Write - Being a part of the #100DaysofNotebooking group has taught me that writing is very therapeutic. Writing helps me to work through the rough times in my own life and think about what really matters. It helps me to reflect and identify what I have learned along the way.
  2. Take a bath - being in water has always had a calming effect on me. Pour in a little fragrant bubble bath and Mr. Teal's Sleep Lotion, I am set. 
  3. Get outside - I think it will become even more important to find some time to go outdoors, to breathe, and to lean into those people who matter most. 
Thank you for stopping by today.  I hope you consider joining me sometime during these last 11 days and bring along a few friends. The more who participate, the more fun the party! Don't forget to RSVP when you post by either commenting here or tweeting me @Teachr4.  That way I can include you in this post and we can all share how we are practicing self-care.

And if you feel the need for a hostess gift, toilet paper is acceptable!

Welcome friends, new and old!

Terje from Just for a Month
Brian from Cast of Characters
Elisabeth from The Dirigible Plum
Diane from Newtreemom
Trina at Trinarrative
Ms. Chiu from Chiubooka Writes
Please join Two Writing Teachers and the annual Slice of Life March Challenge.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Meeting a Friend from Across the Ocean #SOL20

I started writing a slice about the things that haven't changed because of the COVID-19 virus, and then this happened!

I am a part of TeachWrite, which is a group of teacher-writers who support each other in their own writing and in the teaching of writing. It is a community that I have learned from and leaned on. The founder and friend, Jennifer Laffin, has been providing pop-up writing sessions during our time of isolation. The sessions start with introductions and goal setting, and then we just write! 

When Jen posted her session for today, I saw that Deb Day from Coffee with Chloe was going to be there. I was so excited because I "met" Deb thorough the Slice of Life, yet I had never met her in real life. 

I would also be writing with Andy Schoenborn, Michelle Haseltine from #100Days of Notebooking (my TeachWrite Team), Tracey Voglegesand from Every Day Counts, Paula from Lit Coach Lady, and Jen Greene from GreeneLit, Amy Ludwig Vanderwater from The Poem Farm (all whom I met at NCTE) and several other new teacher-writers.

Then I began wondering if Terje from Just for a Month would be able to join. Terje and I connected through Slice of Life when I first began blogging in 2013. She was and continues to be a supporter of my writing.  She even sends me virtual nudges when she hasn't seen me writing in awhile. But she lives in Estonia, and I know I would probably never meet her in real life. This was my chance!

I had no idea what the time zone difference would be in Estonia, but I thought it was worth a shot. This morning I sent her a message and asked if she would like to join us. She messaged me back and asked for a time connected to a city so she could convert.

I replied back, "It starts in five minutes!"

I logged into the Zoom conference and waited anxiously to see if she would arrive. And she did! Finally, I was able to see and chat and WRITE with my blogging friend from across the world! 

During this time of fear, of the unknown, and of isolation, thanks to technology, we can still come together and connect beyond the sharing of our words.

Please join Two Writing Teachers and the annual Slice of Life March Challenge.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

A Text Message Memory #SOL20

For the past two days, I have watched the Penny Kittle and Kelly Galagher videos that they are making and sharing with educators. It's a conversation that I know I will be looking forward to each day. They saw the need for teachers to build a community in this time of uncertainty just like the ones we are trying to build for our students. They make a point to do a book talk and share notebook pages - how cool is that!

Penny showed a page that was a "hand map" of birthdays. I created the same page in my own notebook, only she had ten, and I am doing well to remember five!

But I do remember one very clearly. When I was nine or ten, we found a mouse in our house. My mom squealed, and my dad said that she just "had a piece of hair hanging in her eyes." Well, there really was a mouse. 

Tonight, I texted my brother and two sisters and asked them if they remembered this birthday.

Me: Do any of you remember my birthday when there was a mouse in the house?

Older Sister: In the bar? Dad said it was mom's hair in her eyes?

Brother: Was that the day I was looking for it under the couch and it ran out in front of my face and I started crying?

Me: Yes! That's it!

Little Sister:  I don't remember anything.

Brother:  Scared the crap out of me. It ran all the way to my nose.

Big Sister:  I'm laughing!

Me: Little Sister, you may not have even been born yet.

Brother:  Poor Little Sister, she missed out on all the fun stuff!

What followed was about an hour of text message memories from Little Sister breaking scissors off in the trunk while looking for Christmas presents to Brother hitting a pretend homerun and knocking Little Sister out and Big Sister dry heaving while cleaning out a freezer full of spoiled meat.

We laughed, we remembered, we were together...even while we were apart.

Please join Two Writing Teachers and the annual Slice of Life March Challenge.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Spaghetti Bread #SOL20

I spent Saturday morning grocery shopping, hoping to complete the task before the craziness set in. I strolled down the aisles amazed at the empty shelves. No bread. No eggs. No potatoes. No peanut butter. No toilet paper.  All the things that I needed - not things I was hoarding.

I was stocked and ready for our self-quarantine for several weeks. Or so I thought.

Sunday afternoon was the day to make spaghetti sauce. The fragrant onions and garlic sauteed in the pot while I mixed the spices of oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. I add the tomatoes and let it slowly simmer filling the house with its tangy aroma.

Monday I realized I had forgotten the "spaghetti bread" when I shopped on Saturday. I was faced with a dilemma:  do I go back out to the store or do I stay home and eat the bread we have. My husband and I were just talking about the new announcements on closing restaurants in Indiana and staying home and the importance of taking social distancing seriously. I know I need to cut down on my frequent trips to the store, especially to get just one item.

But I just wanted spaghetti bread.

Our meal with homemade spaghetti sauce and cheese ravioli was complete...along with the spaghetti bread. 

This is going to be so hard.

Please join Two Writing Teachers and the annual Slice of Life March Challenge.

Monday, March 16, 2020

A Welcomed Visitor #SOL20

I sit at the kitchen table, and my skin starts feeling prickly. I feel that eerie sensation that someone was watching me through the kitchen door. Out of the corner of my eye, I think I see him, but shrug it off.

I knew it couldn't be. He hadn't been here for so long and for sure wasn't expected to return today. 

Oh, how I miss him. I long for those days being alone with him and basking in his company. Just the two of us. I miss his bright smile, his warm caresses on my arms, and his kisses on the tip of my nose, leaving a sign of his presence. 

I feel it again, only this time much stronger like he is coming out from behind something. I turn, look over my shoulder, and gasp. It's true. It IS him!

Welcome back my dear sun! Oh, how I have missed you!

Please join Two Writing Teachers and the annual Slice of Life March Challenge.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Rules for a Pencil Party #SOL20

One of my favorite things to do is to create poems from words and phrases found in magazines. They usually tell a story of some sort, which I think can become a slice. I cut words and phrases out of magazines and mailers, and I keep them in envelopes. I typically just place them on black paper so I can reuse the words. Occasionally I glue them in my notebook. 

Here is my newest creation.

Rules for a Pencil Party

Rules for a
pencil party

breathe deep
optimize imagination
dream in color

enjoy the satisfaction of making
something totally original

don't fear
the challenge of possibility

think outside the box
anytime, anywhere

cue the drumroll:

wth confidence!

Please join Two Writing Teachers and the annual Slice of Life March Challenge.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Because We Still Need to Celebrate #SOL20

My friend Ruth Ayres used to do a weekly Saturday round-up that celebrated the small moments in our lives. Even among the chaos and uncertainty of the days ahead, we still need celebration. 

Today I share a few small celebrations from my week.

  • A former student who is now an 8th grader came to my room and asked if she could get a book. I love that students feel comfortable enough to come to me and know that I will share my books with them even when they are no longer my students. She left me a little note on my desk. 
  • The day before break we watched the movie of the book we finished this week. A student said, "Mrs. Eck you did a good job with the voices of the characters when you read parts of this."
  • I found out that I won a book giveaway on Twitter - perfect delivery time since I will have a little extra time to read.
  • We had early release yesterday, and I was able to come home and take a nap.
  • I found two new recipes I want to try this week. One of my commitments for the year was to try a new recipe a month, and this has not happened yet.
  • I was able to buy toilet paper this morning at the store - not because I am in a panic, but because we are in need!
I hope you manage to find some celebrations this weekend, no matter how small they may be.

Please join Two Writing Teachers and the annual Slice of Life March Challenge.

Friday, March 13, 2020

An Expected Announcement #SOL20

The school day began by telling my students that they needed to take an extra book home with them for spring break...just in case we end up not returning after break.

The middle of the day began by finding out that administration was called to a meeting with the superintendent and the school board.

The day ended with the announcement we were expecting.

No school until April 6th.

Please join Two Writing Teachers and the annual Slice of Life March Challenge.