a visit

walking

side by side

strolling

side by side

his arm reaches up

his hand rests

thankfully

on her shoulder

he pulls her close

the faint giggle

their secret giggle

hits my ears

my eyes

my heart

soak it in

a father

a daughter

reunited

Looking Back, Celebrating Now

I came into teaching thinking writing was something you were taught to do. It was not something that could simply be experienced. It was through a collaborative inquiry group, The Community of Teachers Learning (COTL) that I not only began writing, but I began to experience what it felt like to be a writer. No one was telling me what to do, I was drawn to write and discover. Every meeting had a dedicated time for quiet writing with invitations that lured you to write. For me, it was awkward at first, but slowly, I began to feel the allure of the experience. With each monthly meeting, and new invitations, I began to feel like a writer. Being invited to write felt different than being taught to write, so I wrote. So began my belief in teacher as writer.

That experience meandered its’ way into my both my second and third grade classrooms. Every day, children were given invitations to write and sketch. I noticed, all those years ago, that children, like me at the COTL meetings, rarely had difficulty getting to work. There was something about an invitation that was less intimidating than being taught to write. I felt it and I saw it in the children.

Fast forward twenty something years, and in 2017, Teachers Who Write, a summer writing group was born. It was Ralph Fletcher’s, Joy Write, that inspired the original question “What happens when a group of teachers comes together to write and research?” This group has met for three years. Each year, the summer “work” we do as teacher-writers has found its’ way to children in our schools.

Teachers (and their kids) Who Write

This summer, thanks to The Covid. We found ourselves in a virtual world of Teachers who Write. What happened this summer was unexpected yet incredibly welcome – my colleagues’ children began to write with us. The invitations we offered at each meeting welcomed writers of all ages. The choice embedded in the invitations was inspiring exploration, play and discovery. Each meeting, of course, would end with a share. There, in our virtual world, feedback went from 50 year olds to 5 year olds, from one generation to another. I was in awe after every meeting.

And then we found ourselves in school – in a hybrid model, and just this week, I was struck with awe again.

I learned that our fifth grade team, Peter, Denia, Emily, and Val had taken it upon themselves to bring an experience, similar to our summer “work”, to their 5th grade classes.

Slide inviting 5th graders to write, think, discover

A fifth graders exploration of the WOTD “work”. “When I hear the word work I think of computers and data charts. I also think of coffee, traffic, and the seven AM rush. And finally, it makes me think of the number 5 (You know, because you have to get up at 5AM?)”

A fifth graders response to Invitations

Together, over time, my colleagues and I have given space and time to grow confidence and creativity for ourselves and the children we teach. What a gift it is to explore alongside them and to see them explore with their children. Reflecting on where we started leaves me wondering where we will go…

It started with a question and a brave, curious group of teachers.

*I can’t thank Jess Carey, Peter vonEuler, Jess Marino, Denia D’Alessandro, Erika Griffin, Elena Wetmore for their shared belief in growing writers, starting with themselves. And one more special thank you to Jennifer Laffin for her inspiring WOTD #DWHabit (Twitter).

hanging on

predawn chill

morning darkness lingers longer

squirrels scuttle gathering nuts

suns rays illuminate changing leaves

gardens dwindle and fade

birds flock, soar

dusk sneaks up leaving early darkness

evening chill

fall is here

yet…

the endless summer hydrangea hangs on

They Are Essential

It’s 11:03, Ashley and I scoot scoot out of our room and head to our respective morning dismissal duties. As we boogie down the hall, we pass Al and Ted and a yellow cart loaded with cleaning supplies. We share a hallway hello. They are ready, they are waiting for empty rooms so the cleaning sprint can begin on the first floor. Far down the hall, I spy Rafael organizing for the morning dismissal. Upstairs, on the way to Emily’s room, I pass John and Chris and another yellow cart spilling over with cleaning supplies. More hallway hellos. They, too, are ready for their cleaning sprint. Al, Rafael, Ted, Chris and William, attack the midday cleaning of every desk, every chair, every piece of plexiglass in every classroom…every day.

In early August, I stopped by school to pick up books. I remember clearly the scene before me. All our custodians, gloved and masked moving furniture in and out of rooms, in and out of storage. I remember their sweaty brows and determined way. Al, always friendly Al, took the time to chat, telling me we’d definitely open. He proudly showed me the cafeteria turned faculty room. Socially distant tables for staff, mailboxes on the far wall and way in the corner, the lonely copier. When I left that day, I was really in awe of the herculean work Al and his team were doing so we could have a chance to be with kids in our building.

Al, Rafael, Ted, Chris and William are all-important members of our school community. They have given us the chance to get back to in person teaching and learning. Every day, their presence and their work is applauded. Their work is essential, they are essential. Thanks to them, we get to be in the company of children.

tiny triumph

10:30, morning intervention block.

She sat in the quiet room. Two blond pony tails and one glittery cat ear head band on her head. Her eyes glanced up and then down. Up then down. Checking her letters against the hanging alphabet chart. I watched through the plexiglass. I watched her work. I listened as she sub vocalized which letter she was on. I watched as she pointed and and sung the alphabet, checking her own work. I watched her self correct. I watched her skip a line on her paper. I watched, in silence and learned.

11:15, morning dismissal.

Time to talk, connect and learn. One has garden at home. His family loves to garden. They grow cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini. One is a rubber band – she waits for her bus in a split. One shares stories from swim try outs and practice. Morning dismissal, time to chat with a new fourth grade teacher. Chat and learn about what she learned from coaching work with Jess yesterday, time to listen and learn about what she tried on her own. Time to listen to her questions. Time to listen to her ideas and plan. Time to connect and support.

1:45 5th grade intervention block

An opportunity to push into classrooms. Time for assessment conferences in the classroom. Time to observe Jess model and coach a new teacher. Time to know a reader to see their strengths and plan for next steps. Time to appreciate a quiet community of readers.

On August 27, school started 2020-2021 school year….the Year of the Hybrid. We planned, prepared, as best we could, and on September 8, children filled the school. Teaching and learning is meant to be done in the company of others. We were torn apart in March. For the past nine days, observing, connecting and teaching, in the company of colleagues and kids, has given me tiny feelings of triumph, triumph over The Covid.