To List or Not to List

“As teachers, our responses and teaching flow from the font of children’s noticings.” Patterns of Power, Jeff Anderson

Last Friday afternoon, I had about 20 minutes alone in my room.  I had Jeff Anderson’s book, Patterns of Power sitting in a pile.  There had been a buzz about writing and conventions throughout the building over the course of the week.  I had also had some hallway conversations with colleagues about conventions.  I guess you could say I had conventions on the brain.  So I picked up Jeff’s book and read.  He believes that at the heart of teaching conventions is noticing.  He offers a clear approach to implement the noticings.  As the bell rang for dismissal, and the voices and energy of the children faded, I closed the book.  I left the building thinking about noticings.

On Saturday morning, Megan and I are walking through the grocery store.

“Do I have my list?” I had said only moments earlier before getting out of the car.  I unzipped my bag, pulled out the white pieces of paper that held the lists – one for the grocery store, the other for what I had hoped to do before I hit the soccer field.

“You grab some bananas and I’ll get an eggplant.”  Megan and I parted and chose our respective produce.  We met back at the cart and I pulled out the list and crossed off two items.  We casually walked along the back of the store, pausing at each aisle, referring to the list, walking just far enough down to grab what we set out to grab – Crangrape Juice, Frosted Flakes, Pipette Pasta, Yogurt etc.

When we had crossed everything off our list, I said “OK that’s it – let’s head out!”  No sooner did the words fall out of my mouth did I spy the 1/2 Entemanns products.  “Hey Megan, want anything?”  She turned and perused the shelf and snagged a box of chocolate covered donuts and ploped them in the cart.

Later that night, back at home, Billy was getting ready to grill up steak tips.  “What are we having with the steak?”  He asked.  It’s Saturday night and that meant casual.  “Maybe french fries?  Not sure.  Hadn’t really thought about it.  I’ll figure something out.”

I found myself standing in the kitchen, thinking.  Then it hit me.  I said to no one, “Crescent rolls!  That would be perfect with the steaks.  Steaks, crescent rolls, and fruit – perfect casual Saturday night dinner.”  I knew as I am whispering the words that there was one problem with my casual genius idea – we didn’t have any crescent rolls.  They weren’t on the list, so I didn’t get any.

The absence of crescent rolls got me thinking about teaching.

It got me thinking to the balance between planning and responding.  I go into classrooms with a plan for small groups, or journal writing, or sometimes a read aloud.  It’s important to have a plan, an understanding of the reading and writing lessons that ground our teaching.  It is equally, if not more important to make our teaching responsive to the children in front of us.  To be open to the possibilities that come from conversations and observations.

If I had not been so focused on the list last Saturday, and maybe more focused on the ideas and possibilities that can come from just being surrounded by all the ingredients in a grocery store – I just may have gotten those crescent rolls for our casual Saturday night dinner.

I guess my weekend trip to the grocery store was a reminder to me about the constant work teachers do in the name of following curriculum and allowing our teaching to “flow from the font of children’s noticings” as well as our own.



Watching Maci

She’s resting

Suddenly, her head pops up

She twists her body

She looks behind her

Returns to her resting position, sprawled out

That position lasts seconds

She stretches legs out front, legs out back

Chin hanging off her bed

She hears the clanging in the kitchen and pops her head back up

She scoots off her bed

Slips into resting position on the hard wood floor

Finds a pink stuffie

Once a baby toy, now hers

It rattles as she chews and swings her head side to side

She whimpers as she looks at Megan doing her homework

She wants her to play

Back on the floor, on her side, feet sticking out

Content, happy, resting

Welcome home, Maci

Maci’s space – for now…
We welcomed a new puppy to our family! Maci!



I was one of 16,000

there to run

Through tunnels of cherry blossoms

I ran elbow to elbow

no one running for a PR

everyone there

simply to run

Through tunnels of cherry blossoms

I looked to my left

I looked to my right

and the blossoms cheered me on

I gazed across the water

and the blossoms waved me on

I was one of 16,000

who ran from

and to

the Washington Monument

Through tunnels of cherry blossoms

ten glorious miles

Through tunnels of cherry blossoms

Back Home

The March Slice of Life Challenge 2018 is over.  So today I opened my journal, sketched and wrote.  The journal was the home where I grew as an artist and writer.  The pen was my tool to harvest ideas and plant seeds.  So today I went back home:


Reaching, Discovering


I embarked on the #SOL18 challenge because, I believe, I have always believed, that we need to walk the walk as teachers.  We need to live what we teach.  I teach readers and I teach writers – it is my responsibility to read and write.  It is my responsibility to grow as a reader and writer – it is my responsibility to learn alongside my colleagues, to grow and discover.

So I took on the #SOL18 because I wanted to grow as a writer and I wanted to learn alongside my colleagues.  I decided, that for the month of March, my research question would be, “What happens when I embrace the March Slice of Life Challenge?”

I have grown.  My blog is called “let’s observe”.  I choose the title because it was art that was my way in to writing.  I learned alongside colleagues 26 years ago, the power of a line drawing to slow me down and connect with my thoughts and ideas.  This foundation solidified over the years and I began to write more.  I kept the majority of my personal poems and pieces in an anthology.  I shared them in teaching when it was right for the kids, the teaching and the learning.  I went public with writing that was about teaching and learning.  I shared it with colleagues through memos.  I enjoyed my writing life.

Enter Two Writing Teachers.  I joined the Slice of Life Tuesdays last April.  For months, it became my routine to think all week, to look all week for possible slices.  I found myself thinking more about observing, writing, sketching all the time.  Sundays took on new life.  Sundays became the day I began to throw my ideas down.  Sundays became the day of discovery – discovering what words I could pull together to tell a school story.  This past year, I primarily, used Slice of Life Tuesdays to pull together my research.  I used Slice of Life Tuesdays to be the voice for classroom teachers and their stories.

Enter #SOL challenge.  This is where it got personal.  Having to write every day meant I had to be quick, I had to be on the ready to write.

I did some planning.  I pulled out my Poetry Anthology, snapped pictures of poems and pictures of the past.  I loaded my blog with “just in case” pictures, sketches, and words.

As February came to a close, and March made opened it’s doors, I opened my lap top and wrote.  I posted each morning bright and early.  I read slices each morning.  I became connected to other writers and I was inspired by other writers.  I grew “writerly close” to colleagues who were knee deep in the challenge with me – Lynn Inspired , Faith Free Your Mind Writing, Erika ebgriffin, Peter humbleswede, Elena standingtall47 , and, of course, Jess jcareyreads.  I got to know them through their stories – stories that don’t lend themselves to hallway conversations.  Stories that sound different when they are written not spoken.  Their stories were powerful, loving, funny, sarcastic, joyful, and simple – they were everything stories can and should be.  Reading their slices, grew my respect and admiration for each of them.

March is over.  The challenge is over.  I did it.  We did it.  My belief in teacher as writer is even deeper.  Not only because it makes us better teachers of writers but because it makes us more connected as colleagues.  That is priceless.