In Their Words: Reflections From First Graders

“We are educators who believe in passionate and playful practice.  W value inquiry and exploration.”  A Mindset for Learning, Mraz and Hertz

It’s Friday afternoon. There are 4 1/2 days of school left.

The room is quiet.  The lights are off.  First graders are scattered all over.

They are writing reflections.

“We are curious.  We need to know from you what you discovered during Journal Time.  We need to know from you what your journal is to you. We want to know from you what Journal Time meant for you as a writer.”

All eyes are on Leigh-ann and I.

“Close your eyes. Think back to all those Friday Journal Times.  When you think back, what words come to mind.”

We waited as the closed eyes slowly began to open and the hand began to go up.  One by one, kids shared their words and we collected them.


“Now, you are each going to get special lined paper to write on.  Use one of the invitations here to get you going.  Are you going to write what you discovered about yourself as a writer?  Are you going to write about why you liked or loved Journal time? Or, are you just going to write about your journal?  It’s up to you, and again, there is no right or wrong, just write about what you think and feel as you reflect.”

Leigh-ann and I put thought into how we would word the invitations to reflect.  We knew we had to keep them open enough so that the children would be able to explore what they experienced with their journal throughout the year.

One by one, with little questions, writers took their “special lined paper” and began to write their own reflections.

Honestly, we weren’t quite sure what these first graders would be able to produce in a written reflection.  We knew they were capable of reflecting orally, but would they be able to capture the essence of their individual experience as a writer during Journal Time?

We weren’t sure, but we were willing to find out.  We had embarked on this shared inquiry with the question “What happens when a group of teachers reads Joy Write by Ralph Fletcher?”  In summer 2017, 12 teachers, including Leigh-ann and I met three times as teacher researchers and teacher writers.  As teacher researchers, we were working to synthesize the ideas in Joy Write with our curriculum.  As teacher writers, we were exploring our own writing and stories through words and pictures.  Throughout the year, Leigh-ann and I devoted Friday afternoon for Journal Time.  It was, in Ralph Fletcher’s words, a greenbelt time.  I time for choice, play, and discovery.  Each week, invitations were given.  The invitations were opened ended choices that would, we hoped, inspire each writer uniquely.

We observed writers at work discovering ideas, voice, and habits through pictures, observations and words.  We watched as each child became one with their journals through words and pictures.  We watched as children made mistakes and worked through them, independently.  We questioned children about their choices, about their thinking, because we were curious.  We wanted to learn from them what they wanted their journal to be.

So this past Friday, they reflected, they told us exactly what Journal Time did for them.

These reflections are evidence to me that these young writers valued Journal Time and experienced the purpose of a Journal.   In Bring Life Into Learning, Donald Graves wrote, “Without an emotional attachment to learning, lasting learning simply doesn’t happen.” These writers had an emotional attachment to their journals.  I can only hope their attachment remains and they continue to draw, write and discover.



The cobblestone street is bustling with diners, drinkers, and shoppers.  The jazz bands are playing.  They are spread out so as not to compete with each other.  The sky is blue, the temps are in the mid seventies, and we are a lunchin’.

“What are you going to get?”

“I’m not sure, but I might go with the Black Bean Burger or the Caprese Panini.  It’s the sourdough bread that the panini is on that is drawing me to it.  The kaiser roll for the burger, not cutting it for me.”

“Well…” she says with a snicker “If you get the Caprese Panini then I can’t get it because we can’t get the same thing.”  She raises her eyebrows and gives me a sarcastic look.

“Well…”  I snicker back at her.  “What are your other choices?”

This menu game is getting fun.  Maybe it’s the sun, maybe it’s the jazz band playing, or maybe it’s because it’s just the two of us.

She glances down at the menu.  “I could cure my restaurant pasta craving and get the tortellini?”  she raises her eyebrows at me with a another look.

“How about the Barnyard Chicken Sandwich?”  I suggest and raise my eyebrows at her.

“Where are you seeing that one?”

I point to the right side of the menu.

“Oh!  That one looks gooood.”

“I’ll tell you what, you order first and if you go with the panini, then I’ll get the burger.”

We are here, in this place, on this cobblestone street because she has thought long and hard about it for the past year.  She will be a freshman at the University of Vermont in August 2018, class of 2022.  She has just finished her orientation weekend.  She is ready to embrace all that the next four years have to offer.  She’s ready to explore UVM and it’s opportunities. She’s ready to call Burlington, VT her home away from home.

Yes, she’s thought long and hard about it and she’ll have the Barnyard Chicken Sandwich and I’ll have the Caprese Panini.

A Hug and A Kiss

Today started with a hug and ended with a kiss.

5:30 am Burn Boot Camp

I walked into Burn Boot Camp.  It was raining hard.  I could’ve stayed home and had a leisurely morning but I went.  I walked in.  I checked myself in.  I put my hair up in my usual topknot and took my place.  We went about our warm up, butt kickers, high knees and knee drives.  Alyssa explained the workout, Jackie and I paired up and I headed over to the pistol squats and the heavy pulse squats – aka Station 1.  As I was passing Tara she abruptly stopped me, looked directly at me and said “You’re wearing a heart!” I must’ve looked completely confused because she repeated herself, this time a little bit louder with a little more force, “You’re wearing a heart!”

The second time it clicked, she was talking about my necklace.  I reached for it and felt only the heart.  The cross was somewhere on the chain behind my neck.  While I was reaching and fumbling for the cross, Tara explained, “You’re wearing a heart and my mother gives me hearts all year long and today is my mother’s 75th birthday!” With that proclamation, she reached toward me an gave me the biggest hug and I gave it right back.  As we stepped back, I said to her, “That heart was really meant for you, because,”  I fumbled again for the cross that was stuck behind my neck, “the heart is usually hanging with this cross!”  I showed her and then swung the cross to the back of my neck and let the heart stay there for Tara from her mom.

4:30 Barnes and Noble

It was Saugatuck’s day at Barnes and Noble.  Many parents and children had come to help support our school library.  The entire staff had come.  Teachers were acting as personal shoppers, gearing kids – and parents- up for summer reading.  Teachers were manning game stations, and book mark making stations, and reading stations.  The entire school had come together on a Monday afternoon all in the name of literacy and community.  Around 4:30 parents made their way to the checkout line and the teachers slowly made their way towards the door.  I stopped to talk to a few colleagues and Jess was standing right in front of me, a box of stuff in hand.  I leaned down to grab something from my bag, Jess leaned in towards me.  I didn’t even notice the lean with the chaos surrounding us.  She laughed and said,  “I thought you were leaning in to give me a kiss!”  “You want a kiss?”  I asked not needing a response.  I leaned right in and gave my friend a peck on the cheek.  We laughed at our silliness and went our separate ways.

Today started with a unexpected hug and ended with an unexpected kiss.

Embrace the unexpected.






I think, that, sometimes, the hardest part of being a writer is sitting.  I did sit yesterday.  This is what I saw, heard, and thought as I sat.

As I sit here now, going public on my blog, I wonder what the pots and flower garden will look like in a month or two?  Will I see the changes daily, like the amaryllis in the winter?

Time will tell.

I think, that, yes, the hardest part of being a writer, for me, is sitting.



Monday Night Planting

it’s that time of year

the pool is open

the pots and garden need tending, we want to tend…


the bobos


the bagonias


the marigolds


it’s just the beginning

the tomatoes

big boy, san marzano, beef steak, and early girl

the parsley and basil

await their turn

there’s only so much we can do on a Monday night