don’t underestimate



“Bye Mrs. Sherriff!”

Eve waves at me.  Mom has come into the scene.  We’ve been “together”, Eve and I,  for the past half hour.  We’ve reread a book from last week, played See It, Say It, Write It.  We’ve guided each other in where to hold a paper up so the other one can see it – “No, up a little little bit Mrs. Sherriff.  Yeah.  That’s good.”  As switch back and forth between present mode and meet mode,  she’s so patient.

Eve is climbing on Mom now.  She’s got her head nestled right in her Mom’s neck.

“It’s always a good day when I see you, Eve.”  I mean it.  My Monday is starting off right.  I want her to know that she’s made difference in my day.  I want her Mom to know, it matters, that she has done the work to set Eve up.

“Well, we feel the same the same about you.”  Mom replies.  Her words take me by surprise.  I was just sharing a good bye laced with a thank you.

When it comes to teaching and learning, the power of the human connection is not only essential, it’s priceless.






“Artful living is an endless source of energy.  It is an endless source because we are in the process of seeing and making the world anew.”  The Energy To Teach, Donald Graves

On Friday, March 6, hard working, forward thinking colleagues gathered to create four weeks of modules in case of a school closure.  On Monday, March 9, there were faculty meetings at each of the elementary schools for the modules to be shared with teachers and staff.  We never imagined that two days later we would close indefinitely.

With the closure, parents suddenly had to share our work as teachers.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to google meet with kids and families.  That first week was rough.  I had a vision but no direction.  I reached out via email and began a conversation about how we might share the work of teaching their child. Some families were ready at the start, while others, with who knows what else going on, needed time.  I respected each families place. I believed we could and would grow in time.  I believed we could share this work of teaching and learning.  I believed we could and we would.

The second week things moved from rough to bumpy.  Initial emails and phone conversations evolved to google meets.  Seeing kids and families renewed my energy and fed my vision. If parents were ready, we worked together to set a few scheduled meets where I could support the google classroom work and or provide some targeted reading work or simply connect.

Yesterday was the beginning of week three and the google meets I had were loaded with connections, conversation.

“I got to see my whole class!  We had a class party for Z’s birthday.”  a second grader beamed as he shared.

“I’m going to help my dad plant a garden.”  a kindergartener blurted out randomly in the middle of our meet.  “What are you going to plant?”  I asked.  Excited to be in this conversation.  “Well, ya know, he just might plant violets!”  she answered.  “Why would he plant violets, V?” I asked, playing along with her.  “Why?  Well, maybe because he loves me!”  she giggled.

“I’m still reading that fat Houndsley and Catina book.  Ya know, with all the stories?!  Thank you for sharing it to me.”  another second grader casually shared while meeting with me in her bedroom.

Connections and conversations have grown as well some partnerships around teaching and learning.

On Friday night, I received an email from a parent with two attachments.  I clicked on the first attachment and read –


I clicked on the second attachment –


I read it over and over.  My heart was filled and smile was wide.  This mom took an experience and used it as a natural place to teach some snap words, encourage her inquisitive and creative child all while growing a writer!

In his reflection at the end of The Energy to Teach, Donald Graves writes, “Take energy from what our students bring, knowing every day that our students do learn.  Let us sharpen or perceptions in order to see what they have and what our colleagues have to over.”  In 2001, I’m sure he never imagined how those words could be so powerful in the midst of ever evolving distance learning.

On this final day of the March Slice of Life Challenge, I want to say thank you to all the co authors, Stacey Shubitz, Betsy Hubbard, Beth Moore, Kathleen Neagle Soklowski, Melanie Meehan, Lanny Ball, Kelsey Corter, Marina Rodriguez, Amy Ellerman, and Therapi Zaw-Kaplan for providing this space for me to find energy.

I want to say thank you to every slicer who named a feeling on any given day. Reading your words made me aware of my own feelings and thoughts.  I want to say thank you to every slicer who showed up to write, even when you thought you couldn’t, you did.  Reading your slices gave me a glimpse into your world, where I got to know you a bit better and we became partners in this journey as teacher writers – teacher writers who will create and define distance learning so that in the end it is an energy giver.

“It is in the giving of energy that energy returns to us.” Donald Graves



I had a slice

I lost it

I want it back

I had a slice

I don’t know what I did

It’s gone

Grace tried to help

She tried, I tried




Till tomorrow


I will

get it back

Cabinet Makers




Apparently we are cabinet makers.” Hannah looks up at me from her place on the cold garage floor.

Last weekend, our first full weekend home, together, thanks to the pandemic, we found ourselves in project mode.  Hannah, home for the rest of the semester, wanted to update her room.  “If I’m going to be spending so much time in there, I gotta change it up.”  She set to work painting covering an accent wall to match the rest of room. She enlisted Megan’s help in creating wall hangings of CD covers and the carefully covered one wall with maps – ya know the old, hard to fold, maps.

While the paint was drying upstairs, Billy and Hannah got to work updating the downstairs bathroom. The painted the wood wainscoting white and the red walls went from a deep red to gray.  Then a trip to the garage revealed old barn wood that we had harvested from our uncle PJ’s barn in Vermont.  From that, came the accent trim dividing the wainscoting and the wall.  It was the perfect updated, rustic touch.

That was last weekend.  Today, with the rest of the barn wood,  Billy and Hannah got to work on the medicine cabinet.  They worked all day, cutting, gluing, measuring, laughing. problem solving…creating.  Just before dinner, their masterpiece was finished and hanging.

“Apparently, you two are cabinet makers, Han.”


Reconnecting, Reinventing

slice-of-life_individualI’ve known Peter Humbleswede since I started teaching 27 years ago.  He was a 4th grade teacher.  I was a 2nd grade teacher.  We really did not have many opportunities to work together in my first few years. Then, thanks to the brilliant teacher research mind of a colleague, Karen Ernst (daSilva), Peter and I found ourselves at Community of Teachers Learning meetings together.  There, we would share work from our classrooms, question and learn from each other, and write quietly together and then share some more.   That was way back when.  Since then, Peter and I have always worked in the same building but our collaboration, our teaching and learning together, have been sporadic.

Tracey Push to Write walked into my 3rd grade classroom way back when to teach a demo lesson. She was in the middle of the “interview” process.  It was warm out, probably late May, early June, she was wearing a long floral dress.  My class, that year, had some unique personalities. I loved them, because I knew them.  I worried a bit for the candidate that was about to get to know them.  I sat back and watched as some of them revealed themselves to Tracey.  I sat back and watched how genuinely she worked to know them, leaving bits of the lesson to wait.  I knew she would be a great colleague.  She was hired and we had the gift of working together, in the same school, for a few years.

Jess Where There’s Joy was in the background of my teaching for a few years.  She was an interventionist in another building when I fell into the role of interventionist in my current building.  We would be in the same company a few times a year when the district would pull us all of us together.  I knew then, that we had similar beliefs around teaching and learning.  Then, when our district moved to a coaching model, Jess moved from the background of my teaching to the forefront when she became the Literacy Coach in my building.  The rest is history.

Peter, Jess, Tracey and I have each embraced the March Slice of Life Challenge this year.  I think Jess has been at it four years, Peter and I three, I think.  This is Tracey’s first year.  With the April Classroom Slice of Life Challenge looming, the four of us had a “meeting” – aka google meet – today.  We hoped to be able to invite children in our respective buildings to write for thirty days.

I sat in my guest room, turned classroom, with the three of them on my screen.  It was odd, it was.  Right in front of me, were three people who had shaped me as a teacher.  They each had impacted my work around teaching and learning over the years.  We were “together” because we share a belief in teacher as writer.  We were together because we believe in creating opportunities for children to see the themselves as writers outside of school. We were together because we believe in writers.

In the middle of a global pandemic, we found ourselves planning, remembering, creating, reinventing what the April Classroom Slice of Life could like…together.