Tag Archives: SDAWP

Annotations: NPM22 Day 24

Yesterday was day 2 of the SDAWP Advanced Institute that I wrote about in March. On this second day, we moved our work to focus on revision mindsets and building confidence as writers with the help of Chris Hall’s The Writer’s Mindset and Liz Prather’s The Confidence to Write. An identity as writer for a teacher has an important impact on writing instruction. Teachers teach qualitatively differently when they understand their subject matter from the inside out. Teacher-writers have experienced all that makes writing hard. They know how it feels to face a blank page–and then write through uncertainty and fear. And they can support students to develop a writerly identity too.

This morning I awoke to Jessica’s “found annotations” prompt for #verselove over at Ethical ELA. My first reaction was, “Oh no!” I’m not really much into annotating–and it’s not something I do with first graders. I do annotate their observations of weekly poems and encourage them to respond to text, but we frequently depend on oral language for those annotations.

But then I thought about some of the reading we did yesterday and I grabbed my copy of The Confidence to Write, picked a section in the chapter on the fear of the blank page called Breathe Through It, and started annotating. I then went back and let my poet brain wander through the annotations and my thinking. Here’s my poem:

Complexities of Simplicity

Breathe in

one, two, three, four

Breathe out

one, two, three, four

Feel the rhythm

the beat

drum drumming

refilling air sacs

lung pillows

calming, slowing,

pushing pounds

immoveable objects

pushing stress




Breathe in

one, two, three, four

Breathe out

one, two, three , four

Count each breath

like steps


through the sand

hear the tide

pushing in and out

dancing to the beat

of your heart

study says

breathing deep

increases productivity

by 47-62 minutes

Breathe in

one, two, three, four

Breathe out

one, two, three, four

Dive in

swim through

tap the rhythms

find the beat


in salty life blood

in salty sea water


with confidence

and breathe

Breathe in

one, two, three, four

Breathe out

one, two, three, four


Saturday’s Work: SOL22 Day 19

March has been a busy month with my Saturdays filled with writing project work. Today was the day for our much awaited Leadership Advanced Institute–a day planned to renew, reconnect, reenergize, and reignite the joy that we have experienced with our colleagues in the past. But three Saturdays in a row is hard.

Luckily we had planned the day we would want. A day filled with social opportunities, engagement with new ideas and thinking, opportunities to inspire writing, and feedback on those writing ideas from our colleagues.

This was our first large-scale in person meeting since the COVID shutdown in 2020. 32 educators gathered on a Saturday because we knew that interactions with each other would be salve to our battered teacher identities.

We created identity heart maps to allow us to connect or reconnect with each other. For some of us, it was the first time we had met off Zoom. A block party got us up and talking, catching up or meeting new friends. Later, we took inspiration from Brene Brown and Daniel Pink as we created maps of our journey from here to there–or there to here.

Our maps became a starting point for writing, sharing our stories–many filled with frustration, regret, and exhaustion. We listened to each other for those moments where the writer might go deeper or the writing might help to explore a complex topic. We talked and listened, knowing the writing would help us through whatever journey we chose to take.

After a lunch delivered–what a treat to sit and eat and talk with friends new and old–we wrote. Time to write is gold! This was not about homework. We will come back and write some more for part two of this Advanced Institute. But before we left, after recording our next steps in writing, we picked a single sentence to read aloud to the group. The symphony of voices and words touched our hearts, knowing we want to hear more, read more, write more. A day of work–but so much more than a job.

Growing Advocates and Activists: SOL22 Day 12

I love writing project work and the ways that teachers are the driving force behind proactive change. A conversation with a colleague a few years ago–about the need for climate/environmental education to become “ordinary,” something that students experience regularly, in all their classes, throughout their education career–has stuck with me. And as a result, this year in our local writing project, we convened a group of SDAWP educators to explore that very idea with an added twist: how can we make environmental literacy and justice both ordinary and also have writing at its center?

Today was our celebration and the opportunity to hear details about the work that teachers in this group accomplished. Each put together a 5 minute overview of the work, highlighting student engagement and involvement through writing.

Wow! I felt like I could see these young people growing into advocates and activists right before my eyes. They wrote and spoke with passion about our world, recognizing its beauty AND our need to take better care of it for their future. There were letters, informational pieces, persuasive essays, narratives, poems, artwork, speeches and more. I felt my heart grow three sizes just witnessing this incredible work facilitated by my writing project colleagues.

Our next step is to figure out ways to take this work beyond our group, to and beyond our larger writing project community, and to establish this as something students can expect throughout their schooling. The beauty is that these teachers did not take away anything they were required to teach, instead they worked this content into the learning the students were expected to experience anyway.

There will be more to come…

Surfing Pelican; @kd0602

On Saturday: SOL22 Day 5

It’s so hard to set that alarm clock on Saturday morning, and even harder to get up. Today was the San Diego Area Writing Project (SDAWP) Spring Conference, and despite how hard it was to get up, I knew that once I signed on and engaged that I would enjoy the experience. And my colleagues didn’t let me down.

As the SDAWP director, a lot of the work for the conference was already done. But today I still had some responsibilities to get the conference started and I had also agreed to introduce some of my colleagues and their work in the first and second sessions. I’m always nervous when I have to be in charge of Zoom stuff…luckily I was able to make my colleagues co-hosts and they took care of themselves. There were small glitches along the way–one of the Zoom rooms for the concurrent sessions wouldn’t work and we had to move it to another Zoom. But in spite of the technical difficulties, overall, things turn out well.

I so appreciate the SDAWP teachers who stretched themselves to present today. It’s such a hard time for teachers. We are tired and not feeling like our best selves in the classroom. It takes courage and a willingness to be vulnerable to share your practice with your peers in a conference setting. Our keynote by Christine reminded the teacher audience about the importance of teachers and their role in our society. She reminded us of Robert Fulghum’s credo All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten from 1990 and shared an update from 2003. We spent a couple of minutes reading the two and noting some of the important concepts like clean up your own mess (seems like some corporations might need this reminder) and don’t take things that aren’t yours (hmmm…some powerful people might need to hear this message again). She ended with some data about what parents say about teachers and their effectiveness during the pandemic (a lot of positive numbers)–some things that are not what we continually hear in our mainstream media. That short keynote session with uplifting messages for teachers set the tone for the three rounds of teacher-led sessions.

I was inspired by beautiful short-form writing (Haiku and 6-word compositions) written by students about nature and protecting the environment, I learned about the ways teachers were finding relevant texts to help their students see themselves and the diversity of voices in our world, I saw examples of students using writing and their voices to influence change in their community, and I walked away with a renewed commitment to the power of education to make a difference in the lives of our students and in our communities.

I was also reminded that the work of teachers will never be done. Sometimes successes are hard to see and some days do not go as we plan or as we would like. Some gains are baby steps, finding a glimmer of hope in students’ early attempts to put new learning into written form. Some wins are obvious–like the teacher sharing her student’s essay about the need to ban “lighter than air” balloons and a news clip of the student speaking at a local city council meeting where after she spoke it was announced that the ban was passed unanimously. But even with that obvious win…you’ll still find balloons on the beach, like I did on my walk after the conference.

I’m glad I got up early this morning and learned with and from my colleagues. I left the conference with more energy than I had when it started, which is good since there is still so much work to be done.

Brand Spanking New: SOLC #5

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, today was the day to head to the university to get a tour of our new offices and get keys. We’ve been watching the building emerge from what was formerly a parking lot for a couple of years now. Deep holes and mounds of dirt have been replaced by shiny glass and modern lines. This multi-use space includes offices, meeting spaces, retail, restaurants, and student housing along with underground parking. While we all worked from home, construction continued and the building has come in pretty much on time.

A pandemic opening is a bit strange. We’ve all been invited in two or three at a time to be introduced to our new spaces. So instead of a busy, buzzing space, things were quiet today. And that seemed perfect. After a grand tour of all the offices and working spaces, Angela and I got a closer look at our writing project’s spaces. We puttered around a bit, getting a feel for the layout and began to organize and unpack a few boxes.

As a writing project, we’ve moved a number of times. The first place I remember was a portable building outside the Teacher Education Program building. When that building was demolished to make room for new construction, we moved into an old building in another part of campus, this time moving in with CREATE, our current (and forever) home department. When that building was razed to make room for yet more new construction (are you seeing a pattern here?), we moved to our more recent space–an old science building renamed to fit its new occupants–the Social Science Research Building. That place has been home for more than a decade, a place for meetings, for conversations with colleagues, and for all the “stuff” that accumulates from our work with teachers and students.

Even when we packed all our belongings in the fall, the move to a new space still didn’t seem real. We’d heard all about windows that opened, space for the entire CREATE family all in the same building, conference rooms and parking (I’ll still believe in its ampleness only when I get to experience available parking spaces once folks come back to school and work!).

But today…these new offices became real. And they feel just right. They are fresh and clean, even while piled with boxes and books that need putting away. They feel like a the promise of a bright future, a place to envision new ways to support teachers and students. A place to build on a more than 40 year history of successful professional development. I can do my work from home, but I am feeling excited about heading back to the university. To my brand spanking new office, to collaborations with my colleagues, to informal conversations in the common spaces, to a post-pandemic work life. Now, to get back in there and get those boxes unpacked! (And I’m pretty excited about having a window that opens…and a bit of a view!)

Pandemic Shelter (a Dandelion Poem): NPM 20 Day 18

Today we held our SDAWP Summer Institute pre-institute day…virtually.  And as part of our time together, we wrote some poetry.  And yeah…another dandelion poem emerged from my pen.  But honestly, I’m putting this out as today’s poem-a-day entry.  I’m just too tired from an over-the-top busy week to write another tonight.

Screen Shot 2020-04-18 at 6.13.34 PM

What kinds of poetry pours from your pen these days?

What Would You Hold?

During our first Make Cycle of the  SDAWP Invitational Summer Institute, we are each answering the question, “What would you hold?”  The make requires that we represent the answer to that questions with a photo of something precious held in our hands.

After too much thought and second guessing, here is my photo.


I’m sure that a photo of me holding my camera isn’t surprising to many of you.  But I want to press beyond the camera as a tool to make pretty pictures.  It isn’t the camera itself that is precious.  In fact, sometimes it isn’t even my camera that I use for photography…sometimes my phone works just as well (or even better).  But the camera represents a practice that I value.  Taking photos encourages me to slow down, to pay attention, to notice the value and beauty in the ordinary…and it gets me writing.

I try to get out with my camera every day: walking, breathing deeply, letting my thoughts roam.  With my feet moving and under the influence of fresh air, I can let my worries float away and use my senses to tune into the world outside of my head.  I seldom take photos of people, instead I try to capture moments that capture my attention.  (The exception would be the many photos I take of my grandsons–none of which I post on social media to protect their privacy.)  I often find that the photos I take become metaphors to express ideas I am thinking about.


With my camera I get low, checking out the vantage from the bug’s perspective.  I find myself thinking about times when teaching and mothering and living feels like pushing the world up a very steep hill.  Images of mythology fill my head and the strains and stresses of the day unkink, letting those tight muscles that run across my shoulders begin to relax.


Out on the playground with my students I get to bring my passions to my students.  Photography also helps my students look in new ways, and like it does for me, that looking generates ideas and language for writing.  This photo was an example of looking for natural frames for photos–a composition technique I wanted my students to explore.


With camera in hand, I learn…and sometimes I mourn.  Regular walks on the beach bring the realities of environmental damage front and center.  I see the daily human impact, the excesses of our disposable lifestyle, and get up close and personal with death and destruction. I am forced to pay attention to the lessons nature is teaching and encouraged to learn more as I walk with the rhythms of the tides and the seasons, appreciating the beauty and noticing the destruction.


And I see the power of small children making a difference.  Little efforts, like teaching students to compost their leftovers from lunch will help them make the world a better place. (My students thought this photo was gross–but when I explained what it represented to me, they found it more interesting.)


My camera also lets me celebrate life’s pleasures and express my gratitude.  My husband is an amazing cook and nurturer.  Some days result in food that doubles as works of art!

Mostly, though my camera helps me make space in my life.  Space for observation, space for an exploration of the senses, space for listening and learning, and space for making and creativity.  It gets me outside and keeps me moving.  It helps me connect with others–in person and online.  It reminds me to play, to take action, and to appreciate all that life has to offer.


Things I Love: SOLC 2019 Day 7

Thursdays are my SDAWP day.  That means that I spend the day at UCSD doing my work as the director of the San Diego Area Writing Project (SDAWP).  Inspired by Margaret Simon‘s list of things she loves in her slice the other day, I’ve been thinking about things I love about my SDAWP work.


I love being on campus at UCSD.  I’ve taken so many photos of the library–it’s unusual architecture means it always makes an interesting picture.  This one was from this morning–I wanted to capture the billowing clouds to the east.  As I neared the library, I could hear music.  If you look closely you’ll see the people singing.  The acoustics of the cement building made their voices soar, those few people sounded like a concert…before 8am this morning.

I love the many opportunities I have to talk with educators across disciplines, across educational roles, across levels.  Rich conversations about access and equity, what constitutes success and how to bridge the instructional gaps that happen along the K-college pipeline for some students.

I have a love/hate relationship with writing grants.  I love imagining the possibilities and creating structures to support teachers and students.  I hate deadlines and the institutional hoops you have to leap through just to submit–and that doesn’t even ensure the grant will be awarded.  I’m deeply in the writing process of a grant right now…and probably should be writing that right now instead of blogging.  Wish me luck!

I love working with and supporting teachers.  I especially love talking educational pedagogy, best practices, and all things writing.  I love reading the latest research and thinking about both tried and true approaches and new ideas that I haven’t yet tested for myself.

I love that my doctorate didn’t pull me out of the classroom.  With my dual (or more) roles, I get to retain my expertise and credibility as a classroom teacher and stretch beyond my classroom to work county-wide, state-wide and nationally.  There is never a dull moment with my multiple hats balanced on my head.

And I love that on my way home I can stop off at Torrey Pines Reserve for a walk on the beach.  The cliffs at Torrey Pines are spectacular!  Today I chatted with a photographer whose camera lens was the size of a small child.  He was watching a mating pair of peregrine falcons, waiting for a chance at a perfect photo.  He patiently waited and watched, chatting with beach walkers as they passed.  I’m grateful to have gotten a chance to see the falcon–although my camera lens wasn’t able to capture it.  The view below is of a raven.  A pair of them were swooping and diving…and I’m sure I saw them carrying twigs or other nest building materials in their beaks.


The tide was low today so I was able to walk to the southern end and catch a glimpse of tons of hang gliders in the distance at the Torrey Pines Glider Port.


Don’t think for a second that this is a comprehensive list of things I love about directing the SDAWP…I’m sure I could go on and on and on!  I do love my work.  What would you include in a list of things you love today?

What to do on a Rainy Day?: SOLC 2019 Day 2

What to do on a rainy day?  If I’d had my druthers, as I woke I would have snuggled back down into my covers and listened to the melodic drip drop pattering of raindrops on the roof until I was lulled back into a decadent lazy rainy day sleep.

Instead, when my alarm went off at 5:30 am, I got out of bed, heard the rain–with a bit of dread–and got myself ready to head out.  This is the day of the San Diego Area Writing Project annual Spring Conference!  We don’t do rain well in San Diego, so when my husband said my phone was buzzing as I emerged from the shower, I worried that people were contacted me to let me know that they wouldn’t be attending.  (That wasn’t the case.)  I made my way through the raindrops and occasional imprudent rainy day drivers to the university.


And as is always the case…there is amazing energy in teachers coming together to learn on a Saturday morning!  Close to 150 educators dodged the raindrops for continental breakfast, coffee, and comradery…along with opportunities to learn together.  And we were in for a treat!  The hardest part of the morning was choosing which sessions to sit in, there were so many good choices!

Storytelling strategies, using mentor text to improve student writing, inserting craft in non fiction writing, amplifying student voice (with students sharing their process and outcomes), harnessing the power of technology to support young writers, and employing thinking routines for social justice in the classroom were all options this morning.  And thirty years into my teaching career and with almost as many years with the writing project I continue to learn and be inspired in this community of educators.

As always, Christine inspired the audience in her opening, reminding us that it is wholehearted connections that make the biggest difference in learning.  I am grateful for the opportunity to spend a rainy Saturday morning in the company of dedicated professionals.


I didn’t get to sleep in this morning, but I am refreshed and inspired by a morning spent learning with colleagues.

I Used to Be…

Summer is the time for the San Diego Area Writing Project (SDAWP) Summer Institute (SI), a place where a group of teachers (K-16) dives deeply into the teaching of writing.  Part of that experience means sharing an aspect of your own teaching practice through a demo lesson.  Today’s lesson, presented by Nicole, invited the group to consider the idea of change…I used to be, but now I am.  As I considered that prompt I was reminded of an experience a few weeks ago during our visit to the Pacific Northwest.

My eyes scanned the horizon, I was hoping against hope that I would spy a whale out on the Puget Sound. Would I see an orca breaching or a humpback emerging for one of those infrequent breaths? That endless blue remained endless, unbroken by emerging whales.


As we neared Victoria by ferry, my attention was drawn to the sky. I heard that familiar buzzing that I recognize as an airplane. But wait! This wasn’t the usual biplane or other small plane I am accustomed to seeing off the coast at home. The plane clearly had something on the bottom of it…pontoons. This was a seaplane and I watched it bank and turn, get lower and lower until it was right above the water and at that moment transformed from a plane to a boat.


Walking around Victoria after leaving the ferry, I kept noticing these seaplanes taking off and landing. Standing on a bridge, I noticed one land nearby and braved the conversation with my husband. “How much do you think they charge for a ride in a seaplane?” He replied in his typical, “It’s probably more than $250 a person” fashion. And then made a comment that I continue to think about. “Why do you ask? You wouldn’t want to ride in one anyway.” I pursued the idea, “Let’s go find out!” A walk down onto the pier led to a miniature airport where we found a seaplane airline offering flights into Seattle and Vancouver…and tours of Victoria. It wasn’t long before we had our boarding passes and a boarding time.

So why did he think I wouldn’t want to tour the island in a seaplane? I do admit to a fierce fear of heights. I’m reluctant to walk to the edge of a railing, to look over the edge of a cliff, even to watch someone else do those things. My hands sweat watching people scale heights on TV! But in spite of that fear, I have been climbing higher and working to endure the discomfort in order to appreciate the thrill and view that heights have to offer. Last summer I stood 103 stories up on a clear plexiglass platform in the building formerly known as Sears Tower in Chicago…and that was after a Ferris wheel ride view of the city from Navy Pier the day before. I’ve been hiking up mountainsides and inching closer to the edges of railings on rooftops and bridges.

And I’ve taken a seaplane tour of Victoria! Seatbelted in the plane wasn’t fear invoking at all—it felt much like a commercial airline flight, only better. The small plane meant I had both a window and aisle seat—and plenty of opportunity to see the island from a variety of angles.


From the plane I had a breathtaking view of the beauty and variety that Victoria has to offer.



I’m working to change my narrative from fearful to risk-taking. I’ve even been toying with the idea of skydiving…just once, for the experience, inspired by Esther who skydived for her 80th birthday. But for now I’ll just keep inching closer to the edge (and carry a small towel to wipe those telltale sweaty hands!).  So…I used to be afraid of heights, but now, even though I’m still afraid, I’ll keep climbing!