Write About That

I sit here thinking, I’ve got nothing to write.

I sit here thinking about the weekend filled with face to face fun.  Write about that.  Write about the laughs that are had being off the grid.  Write about looking into people’s eyes, watching them smile, listening to their stories.  Write about that.

I sit here thinking about all the gorgeous sightings from the weekend.  Write about that.  Write about the sun casting the rays on the trail.  Write about the birch trees framing the trails all over the mountain.  Write about the quiet that can be found surrounded by snow covered trees when you stop mid trail.  Write about that.

I sit here thinking about all the laughs had in Hancock.  Write about that.  Write about the traditional dinner prayer that ends with “Everybody clap your hands.”  Write about apres ski in the “Fish Bowl”.  Write about reliving a highlight of the day with the “Best Run” report.  Write about that.

I sit here thinking about the once hesitant skier turned mogul monster.  Write about that.  Write about watching your 12 year old embrace her new found confidence on the mountain.  Watch her satisfaction in conquering blacks and double blacks.  Write about that.

I sit here thinking of the joy in my husbands eyes as he watched Megan sail down some of the most difficult trails, skis parallel, smile on her face.  Write about that.  Write about the pride in his voice as he admires Hannah’s form, ability, and energy.  Write about that.

I sit here thinking about the special birthday that my husband is celebrated yesterday.  Write about that.  Write about how blessed I am to call him my husband.  Write about all the laughter and passion and silly fun he brings to our family.  Write about that.

I sit here thinking about all that and yet I still think, I have nothing to write.

But I wrote.


Goals and Accountability

“Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.”     Henry David Thoreau

I didn’t want to go but I wanted to go.

“You’ll be glad you went.  You never regret having gone.  Just go nice and easy, you’re not out to break any world records.  You can’t go tomorrow, it’s going to rain.  Look outside, the sun is peaking through clouds calling you.  Go.”

I had to go.

You signed up with a team to run the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in DC.  You have to go.  You have to run 10 miles in 10 weeks.  You owe it to them.  You owe it to yourself.”

Doned in my fleece lined pants, black skull cap with the every important pony tail hole, mittens, Garmin, and of course my sneakers, I stepped outside.  “It’s not too bad”  I said as I walked down the driveway.”  I lifted my wrist and pressed the “go” button my Garmin and I started to run.

My senses were immediately heightened.

“34 degrees in mid February under partly sunny morning feels darn good compared to those single digits the crushed us in January.  It is all relative.”

Wow.  Listen to all the birds.  It sounds like spring.  Yes, spring will come, it always does.”

Before I knew it, I was up the first hill and already thankful I took those first steps out the door.

4.4 miles later I was done.

It’s a good thing I registered for that race!  I am not quite sure I would have gotten out here this morning if I didn’t have that 10 miler ahead of me.”

I was relishing in the after glow of a good run and I got to thinking about goals.

How do we set goals for ourselves as teachers, make that meaningful goals. Do our goals keep us energized?  Do they keep us striving to be better, to know better?  Do our goals help us maintain curiosity?

If we become goal setters then how do we evaluate ourselves.  To whom are we accountable?

I was still walking.  Still relishing in the runners high. I continued thinking about goals

How do we model goal setting for children?  I thought how can we help children set goals and work towards them if we don’t know the struggle that comes with working towards a goal?

What goals do you set for yourself personally or professionally?   How do you hold yourself accountable?  What do you learn about teaching and learning by setting goals?

My feet began to move and as Thoreau said, my thoughts began to flow.  I am leaving my thoughts with you.




What Happens When We Write in Celebration…

This past weekend, I was blessed, to see my daughter and her High School Dance Team compete at the UDA National Championships in Orlando, FL. They were one of fifteen teams to compete in the large Hip Hop division.  Teams came from all over the country – Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas and more!  Back in June, the team attended an official UDA camp in Boston MA.  It was there that they received their bid to attend Nationals.
As first time attendees at Nationals, they were honored to just be there.  They left it all on the floor on Saturday night.  Their hard work, dedication, and passion for the sport payed off as they become finalists who would compete again on Sunday.
At the awards ceremony on Sunday night at 10:00pm, the Fairfield Warde Dance team was awarded the 10th place trophy in the large Hip Hop division.  This is an incredible accomplishment, twelve years in the making, for this team, their coaches, and all who came before them.
So, as the other moms and I waited in the Orlando airport this morning.  Two of us wrote a letter to the Headmaster, Athletic Director, the Superintendent and our First Selectman.
We believe that the success of this team is the success of the whole school and the town of Fairfield – and this gives us all reason to celebrate.  So we wrote:
Dear Mr. Ebling and Mr. Fry,
We are sitting in the airport after having witnessed Warde Dance Team history.  Our girls, your girls, are coming home tonight awarded with a 10th place trophy from UDA Nationals.  This means they are ranked as the 10th best team in the nation!
The 2018 Warde Hip Hip team, is the first, “first time attendee”, to make it to large group Hip Hop finals in their first appearance at UDA Nationals.  This has been twelve years in the making.  They have made history in the world of High School Hip Hop.
As you know, the journey to get to Orlando has been consumed with hours of practice, week after week.  Each practice is filled with memorizing and executing complicated skills and stunts all while demonstrating passion for the sport.  Their hard work individually and collectively has brought them to this incredible moment.
Their sportsmanship has also been an incredible asset to them and Warde High School on this journey.  At our first competition this season, they were awarded the Spirit/Kindness Award by the host team.  This positive energy is another incredible asset that fuels these girls as they continually dedicate themselves to the sport.
We were hoping that the the school, in some way, would join in the celebration and recognize the team this week.  We were thinking a homemade banner welcoming them home as UDA National Finalists.  Another athletic team or two could make this banner.  This would bring athletics together in celebration. An announcement or two this week would spread the word so that all of Warde could feel the love the UDA has given to these girls and hence, Warde High School.
Please let us know if there is anything we can do to support this recognition and celebration.
In Celebration and Pride, 
Dawn Sherriff on behalf of Warde Dance Moms
As we flew up the east coast and eventually landed, we began to see the celebratory message of our letter spread on Twitter, Facebook and even the Fairfield Public Schools webpage.  We even received emails directly from the Headmaster as well as the Athletic Director.
Yes, when we use the written word to celebrate, celebration spreads –

There Goes a Reader

It’s 2:05 on Friday afternoon.

I’m standing at my desk with my schedule.  I’m looking back at the week that was and looking ahead to the week that will be.

“Hey Mrs. Sherriff!”

I hear this chipper little voice.  I look up and turn my head towards the door.

Walking towards me is Mason, his open red book bag is dangling in one hand and his reading log is held firmly in the other.

“I filled in the last one!” he proclaims, juggling and struggling to hold on to all he has.

He continues towards me and I move towards him.  By the time we meet, he has tucked his book bag under his arm and has a firm grasp on his reading log with both hands.

He turns it towards me.

Look!  It’s all finished!”

“Looks like you and mom were in the book nook at home last night!”

“Yeah!  I read all three books!”

Mason and I sit down.  He purposefully places a small smiley sticker on his log.  I hand the stamp pad and the smiling sun stamp to Mason.  He presses hard on the ink pad and even harder on the paper.  He slowly lifts the stamp to reveal a perfect orange smiling sun at the top of his reading log.

In my role as an interventionist, my work with first graders includes an at home reading component.  This piece of my work with each individual reader, supports the balanced literacy work across the first grade.  The purpose of the reading log is two fold.  One it provides simple communication between parents and myself.  Young readers need to know that their parents and teachers are the cheerleaders on their team.  Two, the reading log can help parents become the assistant to the reader.  The assistants role is simple, help remember and find time to read at home, together. For me,  the reading log creates an opportunity to celebrate each growing reader.

“Oh, can I take this one?”


“Let’s look for one more.” I am capitalizing on his energy and excitement.

Mason and I thumb through books.

“Can I take four?” he energetically asks.

“You want four books for the book nook?  Really?  You can read that many books?!?” I reply in a playful tone.


We flip through more books.

“How about this one?”  he asks, pulling out a level A/B book.

“Well, that’s a book you read last year in kindergarten.  Actually, that’s  good book for your brother and sister, they’re  in kindergarten.”

“Yeah!  I can take them and they can read in the book nook!”

“Well, that’s a great idea!”

Mason packs his bag with the 4 book he has chosen for himself.  We clip the 3 simpler books for his brother and sister together and he packs those, too.

Have fun in the book nook this weekend!”


I watch as he heads out the door, off to his weekend, hugging his stuffed book bag, reading log and all.

“There goes a reader.”




It Always Comes Back to Balance

I was in pain.  Heading into the Ocean Road 10K, I was doubting my bodies ability to handle 6 miles.  There was this voice, my inner cheerleader, telling me, “You can do it.”  But, that nagging ache and pain in my left hip, honestly, had me worried.

My nagging hip nagged, it didn’t scream, so I finished.  Not in the time I had hoped, but it was a good run.  From October to December, my running slacked.  I knew what had to be done.  I needed to balance out running with strength training if I really wanted to continue to run.  I contemplated my options.

Lucky for me, a new fitness joint was gearing up to open in town.  It was all about strength training.  I believed that this was it.  These classes were going to help me build muscle, which in turn, would allow me to continue to be a runner.

The 45 minute work out had me moving constantly.  I was encouraged to give 100%, to push myself  for that extra repetition, that extra 10 seconds.  Each morning, post workout, I was sore in places I never new I could be sore. Evidence that running was a 15 year habit that was working the same muscles mile after mile.  All the other muscles were screaming for attention.  My body was calling for balance.

Sunday morning’s breakfast read was Vicki Vinton’s latest blog post, Looking Forward to a Rebirth of Literacy Teaching and Learning.  Inspired by an invitation to present at a conference whose theme is Literacy Renaissance, Vicki, reflecting, also found herself wondering,  “If we’re in or entering a Literacy Renaissance, what was our Classical Age and what were our Dark Ages?”  She categorizes the Dark Ages as those filled with data and mandates and accountability.  She goes on to explain, in her eyes, the Classical Age,  as a time when  teachers “took time to listen carefully to children, not just to find an opportunity to teach them, but to more deeply understand their thinking.”  She references many who mentored me from afar – Donald Graves, Tom Newkirk, Ralph Peterson and Maryanne Eeds.


I was raised in the Classical Age.  I was raised to listen to children. I was raised as a teacher researcher.  It is ingrained in my practice to ask children “What were you thinking here.  What inspired you to…?”  I can’t help myself during a writing conference or a read aloud to say “Tell me more.”  Curiosity takes over.  I believe that the children often know more than we do and if we can just, honestly, shut up and listen, we will learn what they bring to the table, we will learn their stories and they in turn will know they matter – they will know their literacy lives are at the heart of our teaching and learning.

Vicki’s piece had me reflecting not just on my 26 years as a curious teacher but also on this weeks “reads”.

Danny Steele, an Alabama principal, tweeted:






And The Writing Round Up this week featured this (inspired by Matthew Johnson’s post “Relationship Based Writing”)

“Establishing strong relationships between yourself and your student writers is important if we want our students to grow in writing, be willing to take risks, and be brave enough to share their words.”  https://www.teachwrite.org/single-post/2018/01/21/The-Writing-Round-Up-12118

This week, I had the pleasure of facilitating Journal Workshop in two first grade classrooms.  Ben had chosen to observe the river out the window.  I watched him work.  He looked out the window, he looked at his journal.  He made marks on the page.  I walked by him 10 minutes into the workshop.  His journal page was his view of the river.  Ben came over to me 15 minutes in and said, “Here’s my journal page.”  To me it didn’t look like much, honestly.  But thanks to my Classical Age experience, I engaged in conversation:

“Tell me about this.”

“It’s the Saugatuck River.”

“What were you thinking or feeling as you worked?  What does it remind you of?”

“It reminds me of Daphne.”

“Who is Daphne?”

“Daphne is my neighbors dog.  She died.  She loved the water.”

His journal page:


I am thankful that our relationship was one where Ben was open to sharing his thinking.  His observation was so much more than an observation.  His observation led to a memory of dog who he clearly loved and missed.  I got to see the empathetic side of Ben thanks to his journal page.

I agree with Vicki Vinton. We are entering a Literacy Renaissance.  Even with unit driven curriculum, I see teachers who are talking to children about their work, not solely to make the writing or the reading better, but to understand the reader or the writers perspective.  Teachers are working to uncover the stories that each child holds.

I believe that teachers are not only seeking, but finding, the balance that will relieve the stress of covering curriculum and replace it with the joy of knowing children.