Sunday, March 31, 2024

Beginnings and Endings 26/31

Image by Hans from Pixabay

Another March comes to a close, and I am reminded of beginnings and ends. Each finish line becomes a new starting line in races, in relationships, in life, and even in writing challenges. 

The month of writing stories ends, and the month of writing poems begins.

The connections between slicers ends, and the connections between poets begins.

The words stacked in stories ends, and the words beating with rhythm and rhyme begins.

Looking for the small things in my ordinary day ends and looking for small things in the sky begins.

I missed five days in the challenge for the first time in eleven years. I am disappointed but not devastated. I captured life as it happened. I watched old seasons in my life change and come to an end, and I watched new and exciting ones emerge. 

And isn't that really what finish lines are for?


Thank you to the writers at Two Writing Teachers for creating this safe place for us to meet, to share, and to grow as writers. Thank you to my Teach Write community for supporting me, celebrating with me, and holding me accountable every week during check-in. Thank you to the slicing community for reading my words and letting me know that they somehow touched you or inspired you in some small way. 

My next starting line!

In April, I am going to do my best to join many others in celebrating National Poetry Month by reading, writing, sharing, and celebrating poetry each day. On April 8th we will experience a solar eclipse, and my hometown is the longest totality in the state of Indiana. We are expecting several tens of thousands of visitors to my town of 17,000. I thought it only fitting to write about sharing my sky with them.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

All Because of a Diet Coke 25/31

In December we placed my mother in a memory care facility. At that time, she was addicted to Diet Coke. Many times, she would forget to eat, but she always had a can of Diet Coke in her hand.

Diet Coke was also the reason she was placed in a behavior unit. She was in her room with her recliner and her mini refrigerator stocked with her own Diet Coke. As she was getting up to get one, a nurse told her to sit down.

I know you don't know my mother, but no one tells my mother what to do. She has been too independent for far too many years while working in a male-dominated field for someone to tell HER what to do. 

That command didn't sit too well with her, and she became "violent." That started a downward spiral in which my mother has never fully recovered from and sadly never will. To this day, she can't walk on her own, she can't feed herself, and she can't carry on a full conversation. All because of a Diet Coke.

Today on my way to see her, I thought, "What if I take Mom a Diet Coke today? Would she like that? Am I starting something I shouldn't be?"

I pulled into the McDonald's drive-thru, still debating on whether this was a good idea or not. As I approached the speaker to order, I almost pulled out of line. But at the last minute, I decided to order her a small Diet Coke and me a Diet Dr. Pepper.

I pulled up to pay, and the cashier said, "Did you order the drinks?"

"Yes, I did."

"No charge today. The man in front of you paid for them."

When I gave Mom her first drink in almost three months, her face lit up, and she smiled and said, "That is good."

That man will never know how much joy he brought into the world today...all because of a Diet Coke.

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Friday, March 29, 2024

5-4-3-2-1 Reflection 24/31

It's Friday! What are you reflecting on? 

Today, I decided to try different categories to reflect upon. I typically use these thnking stems:

5 things that made me smile
4 words to describe my week
3 plans for the weekend
2 things I learned
1 goal for next week.

But thanks to Amy at Living Workshop, I decided to change it up a bit!

5 things I'm grateful for
  • warmer temperatures--we had beautiful weather today and expected for tomorrow.
  • playing cards with family and friends
  • quiet time at night
  • colleagues who think like I do
  • grading complete before the weekend

4 things on my mind
  • the number I saw when I stepped on the scale this morning
  • deadlines
  • poems for my National Poetry Month project
  • wall I need to do before we are invaded by the eclipse people in nine days

3 things to do tomorrow
  • enjoy an Easter celebration with family
  • finish revising my Choice Literacy articles (see #4)
  • take a walk

2 things I want less of
  • sugar (ok, this may be a need and not a want!)
  • cold, spring days

1 goal for next week
  • finish reading my book--Simon Sort of Says be Erin Bow
I love how this reflection allows me to think about my week but also leads to new slice ideas!


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Thursday, March 28, 2024

Dear Standardized Test 23/31

Dear Standardized Test,

Welcome to room 614. It is almost that time of year when you invade our classrooms across the state and take residence for two weeks or longer. So, when I say welcome, I am really lying to you. There is nothing welcoming in my greeting.

I look at my students today and see those students who are no longer on medication due to a nation-wide shortage and wonder if they are going to be able to sit through your grueling hours-long daily visit. I look at those students who came to me reading below grade level but are now showing so much growth and wonder if your reading passages are going to be a slap in their face and make them feel defeated before they even get started. I wonder if all my students will have parents who take away their phones so they will get a good night's sleep. I wonder if they will have a good breakfast waiting on their tables when they wake up. I even wonder if they will wake up and be at school on time.

I wonder...

I wonder...

and the list goes on.

I look at my colleagues who begin to question themselves. Questions like have I done enough? 

I refuse to be one of those teachers. A teacher who feels her worth is based on your visit into our classroom these two weeks out of an entire school year. A teacher who is asked to look at her students as a test score, an evaluation point, or merit pay compensation.

You cannot defeat me. You cannot question my ability as a teacher and my students as learners. You will walk into my classroom on April 15th. We will be cordial because that is what we are required to do. But we will open the door widely when our time together is over.

There is so much more I could say but the bell is about to ring, and my students are about to enter my classroom. We have more learning to do today.

We are approaching the end of year when we should be celebrating our time together as learners. And that is exactly what we will do.

Leigh Anne Eck
6th Grade English language arts teacher


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Wednesday, March 27, 2024

A Little Chuckle 22/31

Image by Jan from Pixabay

Starting a new unit with my students is full of anticipation. What new texts and new teaching ideas do I add this year? What do I want change? What do I want to do again?

To begin our unit this week, we immersed ourselves in reading argumentative texts. This year, I added one about changing Halloween to the last Saturday in October. Teachers would love that idea, and I thought students would enjoy reading it.

The only problem was that it wasn't well-written. I debated on how I was going to use it. Do I show it as a bad example, or do I let students figure it out themselves?

I chose the latter.

After dividing students into groups, I passed out a different text to each one. They were to read the text, find the parts of the argument, and determine its strength. As I passed out the text, I gave the Halloween text to a group of boys who are strong thinkers and problem solvers. I circulated the room yet tried to listen more to their conversation. 

"Is this the claim?

"I think so, but they say the opposite here."

"Why did they write a new paragraph here?" 

"Is this a new reason?

"This doesn't make any sense."

I let them struggle a bit, and then went over to tell them I gave them the more difficult example. After groaning, we talked a bit about why this argument wasn't strong, how the writer rambled, and how the text was poorly organized.

Finally, one student looks at me and says, "Is this how you feel when you read our essays?"

I laugh and tell him, "Yes, sometimes it is!"

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Sunday, March 24, 2024

Currently I'm... 21/31

Image on Pixabay

It is Saturday night. 

The house is quiet--my favorite time of day.

My spring break is just about over, and I sit here counting my blessings, and wondering what I am going to write. It seems like a "currently" post would be quite fitting.

Currently I'm...

listening to only the hum of the refrigerator.
thinking about participating in the Classroom Slice of Life Challenge.
reading Dear Student by Elly Swartz.
drinking a Dr. Pepper Zero
eating Utz Sweet BBQ chips
wondering if I should grade my students' constructed responses tomorrow.
loving watching basketball with my daughter in her new house
needing some warmer temperatures
wishing my latest book order would arrive.
hoping my mom continues to get good care at her new nursing home
leaving to go play online Euchre with my family!

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Saturday, March 23, 2024

From Bang to Bummer 20/31

Why am I always so ambitious in January when it comes to setting literacy goals and joining challenges and creating lists of possibilities? Then February comes around and I begin to struggle. 

And March...well if it wasn't for the Slice of Life March Challenge, I'm not sure where I would be.

One of my goals, or mantras, for this year was to "Read More in '24." January started out with a bang, and I thought, "Ok, I can do this."

But sadly, my reading life has hit the bummer stage. I went to my Goodreads account and saw where I have only read 6 books so far this year and I am five books behind my goal (although I have read two others but have not logged them).

Reading has always been my escape from the complexities of life. I am living through some challenging "seasons" right now, so I know I need a better escape plan. While shopping with my daughter this past weekend, I bought several books (that I didn't need!) and have a few more coming on Monday.

Now if only buying books could transfer to reading them, I'd be back in that BANG stage!

Here's what I'm currently reading:

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Thursday, March 21, 2024

Collage Bookmarks 19/31

"Creative people do not see things merely for what they are; 
they see them for what they can be." Julie Israel

A few years ago, I suffered from notebook envy. I belong to several writing groups, and I was always envious of their beautiful notebook pages. The artwork, the colors, the drawings. I knew I could never be that creative.

Until I found collaging. How hard could it be to tear paper up and glue it back in a different way? Well, it is harder than it looks. I began watching paper crafters on YouTube, and I was hooked. 

I began collecting all kinds of paper, stickers, and ephemera. And my creative life found a new spark.

Besides collaging in my journals and notebooks, I enjoy making bookmarks. Come along as I take you through the process of one I made tonight (which is why this slice is so late!).

I start with a premade blank bookmark.

I sort through my paper collection and find 3-4 different prints. I tear them in different shapes and lay them on top of the bookmark. I arrange and arrange and arrange.

I like the vintage, grunge look, so I ink the edges of the torn paper with Tim Holtz Distress Ink before gluing them down. My favorite in Vintage Photo.

Here is a close-up of what that looks like.

After gluing them down, I trim the edges, being careful not to cut into the bookmark. I round the edges and ink again all around the outside. 

Next is finding the ephemera to place on it. For me, this is the hardest part. It seems like I can never find pieces that look right together. I have been told collages don't have to make sense; you just keep adding and adding.

Then I top it off with a saying. For some reason, I can never get these on straight! And yes, I did take this one off and redo it.

Collaging is something that brings me peace and joy. I love the quiet time, the sound of the paper being torn, and the challenge of making it all come together--to see what it could be!

*If anyone reading would like one of my bookmarks, I would be happy to send one to you!

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Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Nest is Empty 18/31

"For everything there is a season." 
First dinner with mom and dad.
Nest is empty; heart is full.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Friday Night Donut Bust 17/31

Before I became a teacher, I was a stay-at-home mom. I loved staying home with my children and although we had to make sacrifices, I would not have changed those years for anything.

I had four years with just my daughter before we had our son. When Megan started school, I had "mom and son" time for almost six years. 

We live in a small town with a small-town donut shop--a little hole in the wall as many would say. Ethan and I would drop Megan off at school, and he and I would stop by the donut shop at least once a week. He would always get a cake donut, and I would get a yeast donut with chocolate icing and nuts. 

Every time.

On Friday nights, the donut shop would open up, and my husband would stop and get donuts to eat after our pizza that night. Sometimes, Mrs. Lancaster, "the donut lady" would have a box of donuts ready for him. Because he went every Friday, she knew what he would order. Plus, she didn't want to run the risk of running out before he got there.

On one particular Friday, my husband was off from work and took Ethan with him to pick up the donuts a little earlier than usual. When they walked in, she recognized Ethan from our morning visits. 

My husband ordered, and she looked at Ethan a little surprised. "Well, that's not what your mom usually orders," she laughed.


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Monday, March 18, 2024

A Mixed-Up Kind of Day 16/31

For the past 32 years, I could count on two hands the number of times my husband and I have NOT eaten pizza on a Friday night. Before teaching and when I was a stay-at-home mom, I could always count on not having to cook on a Friday. And even when I started teaching 17 years ago, I would come home from a long week knowing that pizza was on the menu.

My spring break started on Friday, and my daughter and I went to Tennessee for a long weekend to visit my sister. On our way home today, Megan asked, "Think Dad would want pizza tonight? I know it's not Friday, but pizza just sounds good."

"It sounds good to me too because I sure don't want to cook when we get home."

I texted him, and it was settled--pizza it was.

Isn't it funny how getting out of a routine can mix us up? Sitting down to write this slice, it feels like Friday. Pizza and a fire in the fireplace all add up to a Friday. It certainly feels like a mixed-up kind of day, and I know with six days left of break, this mixed-up feeling will continue. 

But I'll take it!

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Friday, March 15, 2024

Spring Break Has Arrived! 15/31

I gave myself permission to miss slicing today. My spring break started at 1:30 this afternoon I walked out the door with my students, and my daughter and I were on the road by 2:00. We are spending the weekend with my sister down by Nashville.

We arrived, went out to eat dinner, and now are getting ready to play cards. We have a whole weekend of shopping for items to go into my daughter's new house--still a slice to come!

But I just can't not slice.

So here I am with a late-night slice and hoping I hold good cards!

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Thursday, March 14, 2024

A Word Buffet 14/31

Since 2017, with the exception of 2019, I have held a March slicer party. To try and make it fun and different each year, I would ask my guests to bring something different to the party. This ranged from favorite things to favorite quotes to things in their best color. One year we even had to bring a special ID.

I have already been asked to host another party, and I think this one might just be my favorite yet, thanks to my writing friend Heather at Writing My Way!

A word buffet!

I hang out online with some amazing writing friends who love to play with words. I am a word nerd! I love finding, learning, and exploring new words. Imagine all of us slicers sitting together with our favorite notebooks and pens in hand and sharing our favorite words.  What better way to do this than with other word nerds and writers!

So, grab a notebook and pen and let's get started! Here is my addition to the word buffet:

serendipity--the occurrence of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way. I believe in serendipity, and I love to use this word in poems. Especially in a haiku (check out that syllable count!).

petrichor--the scent of rain. There is nothing like going outside and breathing deeply after a rain. I learned of this word while I participated in a poetry challenge a few years ago. It was nice to know this scent had a name.

incredulous--unable or unwilling to believe something. Have you ever had a word that kept popping up in books you were reading, like the bad penny? This is now I learned about this word and how it made my favorites list.

kaleidoscope-- a tube containing mirrors and pieces of colored glass or paper, whose reflections produce changing patterns. I love finding kaleidoscope-like images in nature. Sometimes it might take a twist, but they are there.

dandelion--a widely distributed weed in the daisy family. I love the strength of a dandelion, it's will to survive in hard times. But I mostly love this word because it is my favorite color of crayon. I was devasted when Crayola discontinued it, so I try to keep it alive in my writing.

I hope you consider joining me this month. When you have a day when ideas just aren't coming (and you KNOW you will), accept my invitation to the word buffet and write a slice sharing five of your favorite words. Just let me know you have joined, and I will include you on the guest list down below. I can't wait to see who else is coming!

Past Slicer Parties

2024 Guest List

Juliette at Gifts

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Wednesday, March 13, 2024

March 13th--100 Word Slice 13/31

Four years ago today, our world turned upside down. The rumors about places shutting down and events getting canceled started early in the morning. The more the day went on, the louder the buzz. 

By mid-afternoon, we were told our spring break was extended for two weeks. The kids were excited; the teachers were concerned. 

We left and never returned that school year.

I have written very little about the pandemic and want to keep it that way. But for me, March 13th is a date that will always be tethered to a memory, an end, and a different beginning.

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Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Writing about Reading 12/31

Writing about reading. I have been thinking about these words a lot lately. My relationship with them has been rocky. Definitely not a stable one for my students' reading lives nor with my own.

I move back forth between these two thoughts: 

  1. I want my students to think deeper about what they read.
  2. I want my students to just read and enjoy the book without having a task attached to the reading.
The past three weeks, we read The Watsons Go to Birmingham as a whole class novel. I taught specific standards and did not assess their reading through comprehension questions. We had rich whole class discussions about racism, life in the south, and the Civil Rights Movement. 

However, I did assign a one-pager during these last few days leading up to spring break. It was a way to spark creativity yet keep them on task...if you know what I mean!

I was pleased with my students' work, but I am not sure if this is an effective teaching practice or assessment. My students enjoyed creating them and they enjoyed the book and conversations we had. But I am still left with more "writing about reading" questions than answers, and I would love to hear what you do in your classroom!

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Monday, March 11, 2024

A Teacher's Heart 11/31

There is a lot of talk about teacher shortages across the nation. Here in my little town in southwestern Indiana, we have had a year of juggling teachers and placing non-certified teachers in classrooms, especially in my middle school.

Tonight, I attended our monthly school board meeting, and I think we might be seeing some positive changes. We hired teachers for positions we don't even have open, hoping to hire the best candidates before they are taken by other schools. 

I love seeing former students making their way into the education field, and I wonder if people ask them the same question that was asked of my daughter, "Why would you want to become a teacher?"

I think about this a lot, but especially these last few years. My daughter graduated with a 4.0 and received a full scholarship at our local university. Many people questioned her decision to be "just a teacher."

It takes a special person to go into the educational field, especially in our world today. I am a firm believer in "you either have it or you don't." You have to have a big heart because it seems each year, we give a little bit away. As I looked around the room tonight, I could see those hearts full of hope and excitement that belonged to these new teachers. And I am confident that we are heading in the right direction. 

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Sunday, March 10, 2024

A New Season Part One 10/31

My one little word this year is "season." I spent the day helping my daughter move into my mother's house--that is another slice yet to come!

For now, because I am exhausted, I will share a little bit of the spring explosion from this week. I hope Mother Nature isn't teasing this year, and spring really is on the way!

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Saturday, March 9, 2024

5-4-3-2-1 Weekly Reflection 9/31

Sometimes I like to end my week with a 5-4-3-2-1 Friday reflection in my notebook. It gives me a chance to look back and count the blessings in my week and to look forward to the weekend. This is also a great way to find slice possibilities!

5 things that made me smile:

  • reading aloud to students
  • connecting with former slicers
  • listening to Elvis with Mom
  • buying house stuff with Megan
  • reading a book

4 words to describe my week:

  • deadline
  • rainy
  • book-ish
  • spring-like

3 plans for the weekend:

  • spend time with Ethan
  • move Megan in to Mom's house
  • Gena's surprise party

2 things I learned:

  • middle schoolers still like to be read to
  • it's ok to ask for help

1 goal for next week:

  • survive the week before Spring Break

Here is a picture of my notebook page--minus two of the words to describe my week that I forgot to finish before I took the picture! 

For those of you who focus on counting your blessings, have you heard this song? I listen to this song every day at school before my day begins.

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Friday, March 8, 2024

A Radio Chuckle 8/31

Have you ever done this? Have you and someone else ever looked up and pointed at something in the sky or on the ceiling that really wasn't there? You know what happens. Anyone who walks by or sees you from a distance looks up to see what you are looking at. 

This morning on my way to school, I was listening to the radio. They were talking about "Happy Dance Friday" and taking calls from listeners. 

A woman called in and talked about her foot surgery. She was happy because she actually moved her toes for the first time since her surgery in August.

"You haven't been able to move your toes since August?"

"No. You know how you can move your toes up and down and spread them apart? I was finally able to do that for the first time this week."

The radio host says while laughing, "Oh my goodness. I am sitting here moving my toes. And I bet all of our listeners are doing the same!

Guess what I was doing? Yes, moving my toes up and down and spreading them apart.

Did you get caught wiggling your toes just now?

What's making you dance on this "Happy Dance Friday"?

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Thursday, March 7, 2024

A Gathering of Grandkid Goodness 7/31

I am delighted to once again be joining other bloggers for Spiritual Journey Thursday. I missed February (this post is part of the reason why) but I am glad to be back this month. Today's journey is hosted by Ramona at Pleasure from the Page. Please feel free to join us!

Before I became a teacher, I was a stay-at-home and a quilter. I quilted with my husband's grandmother and sister. We spent hours laughing and talking at the quilting frame while my daughter Megan played underneath. 

About 25 years ago, we began making picture quilts where we had pictures transferred onto fabric and then sewn into quilt blocks. Our first one was for the 50th wedding anniversary of my in-laws. It was beautiful.

We also made one for my grandma. This one featured a baby picture and a current picture of each one of her 18 grandchildren. That was such a special Christmas as no one had ever seen a quilt like this before.

Many years later, dementia took over my grandma's life, and she moved in with my aunt. I assumed she took the quilt with her. Sometime after she died, I asked about the quilt, and the search began.

My aunt looked all through Grandma's things. 


My aunt looked all through her closets and drawers in her house. 


The quilt could not be found. We assumed that sometime during the move to my aunt's house, the quilt must have been accidently thrown away. It was probably stored safely in a box or bag, and someone had mistaken it for trash or a donation. 

After many years now, I have come to accept that it was gone.

Over President's Day weekend, my siblings and I packed up my mom's house because we had just recently put her in a nursing home. We each took a room, and I was in the back bedroom with my nephew. Going through a closet that had extra bedding in it, I looked down and I saw corner of a blanket.

"No, this can't be!"

I pulled it out and started screaming. The quilt was at my mom's house all these years. My mom now has dementia, so I will never know how or when she got it.  I am assuming that since my mom is the oldest of her siblings, she took it and didn't remember.

I now have the quilt, but what a day it was:  a gathering of grandkid goodness!

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