Tag Archives: students

On the National Day on Writing

Today is the National Day on Writing–a day to celebrate all that writing offers.  My students were excited this morning at the thought that they would get to write today.  In fact, they were already excited about the writing they had done last night in their Learning at Home notebooks. We started the day listening to a short story by a student about a leaf, a leaf personified, who travels from a tree branch to a construction site and eventually back to a leaf pile with the help of the leaf blower.  We could have spent the entire morning listening to stories written by students…but we had writing to do!

Inspired by Red Sings from the Treetops by Joyce Sidman, we began writing our own color-inspired poetry earlier this week.  Today we took those bits and starts and worked to craft them into a whole piece.  Some students were spectacularly successful, some had moments of brilliance, and others veered away from color and still wrote some interesting accounts of things they are interested in.  They wrote, read to a partner, and eventually created a short video of themselves reading their poem on Flipgrid.  And while their first attempts are not ready for “prime time,” I am proud of all they accomplished today and their enthusiastic and creative approach to our day.

Here are a few glimpses:

In winter, yellow sighs, I’m done.  None of my sunlight can peek through clouds as dark as the oceans’ most shadowy blue places.  It’s time white takes his place..

(Third grade boy)

In summer yellow shines from the sky while blue splashes .  Colorful plants explode with power and beauty.  In summer blue wraps around my ankles.  Red rises from green…

(Third grade girl)

In the morning gold wakes me up with his paws and barking, “I’m hungry.” And with his pink tongue, gold wets my face…

(Third grade boy)

At the beach, green is sly.  It slithers by surfboards, sneaks by me and ties a slippery knot around my legs…

(Third grade girl)

Students left today wanting more…begging for more opportunities to write and share.  My students remind me that writing can be playful and creative, an opportunity for social interaction and experimentation.  They remind me that there are lots of reasons #whyiwrite!


Watch Them Soar

I can watch them for hours as they coast on the air currents high above my head. They seem to play with each other…follow the leader, tag, red rover red rover won’t you come over… Some arrange themselves in perfect formation, vees of aerodynamic perfection performing intricate maneuvers in mid flight. Others fly solo, seemingly free from the attachments of family or community.


Birds are hard to photograph.  Maybe that’s the draw for me.  They don’t sit still and the slightest movement sends them to the sky.  They seem spare and compact, unlimited by the constraints of time and space.

“In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence.”

Robert Lynd

Birds require patience and silence.  I have to sharpen my senses, still my heart, and settle into the landscape to have a chance to watch them in action.  And when I pay close attention I learn a lot about the unique qualities of the birds I am watching–and maybe something about myself too.


Watching birds is a lot like teaching.  The most important part of my work is getting to know my students.  I have to recognize the subtleties of their behavior, knowing when to let them grapple productively and when to step in and offer support–a place to perch until their wings are ready for the next flight.  I have to remember to be still and let the learning come rather than force my pace. Patience and silence are important here too.


Like students, birds often seek cover, blending in with their surroundings rather than risk standing out in the open, exposed and vulnerable.  But when the space is safe enough and if you listen carefully, you’ll hear their song.  And with time you recognize those voices, even when you don’t see them.


When the light is right for a mirror-perfect reflection, I realize that I love birds in the wild but resist the idea of caging these creatures. Yeah, they’re easier to get close to and photograph in a cage–but something essential is missing.


But mostly, birds and students give me hope.

In the words of Emily Dickenson:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

Watching birds reminds me to expand my self-imposed limits and to give my dreams flight–to take to the metaphorical skies and soar.  And that’s what I want for my students too.  Their lives are awash in possibility. I hope that my small breath under their wings helps lift them to pursue their interests and passions.


So they can soar.

Playground Life

I spend three mornings a week out on the playground watching children play.  These early morning duties are generally calm, giving me an opportunity for reflection and observation.

I notice children making up games, resolving their own conflicts, and through their play, improving their coordination and fitness.  I see the same early arrivers most mornings and watch the seasonal changes in the sports of choice.

Balls are always popular, the current favorite ball games are wall ball, basketball, and a blacktop version of baseball that requires no bats or mitts and involves a large rubber ball.

I wasn’t sure this morning that the kids would get to go out and play.  We had a rare rainy day and I ran my windshield wipers all the way to work.  But by the time kids arrived, the sky was still dark, the ground was still wet, but as long as no drops are falling, the kids can play.

rainy playground

The day turned out bright and sunny–and I am doubly glad that I stopped to capture this wet, cloudy moment of children at play.  And so this becomes my Street Life for the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.

It’s supposed to rain again tomorrow.  We need the rain so badly that I’m not complaining about the inconveniences of rainy day schedules.  Instead, I’m looking for the silver linings…


The Strength of Violet

Violet always seems so gentle, so calm…like flowers budding in the spring.

The color of these mussels surprised me.  Sometimes they can look almost black…other times a deep indigo or rich blue.  But on this day, in the warm winter sun they looked violet, understating their strength and resilience.

I admire these creatures who survive in the intertidal zone.  They live part of the time under the sea, covered completely by briny ocean water.  And they live part of the time exposed to the sun and wind and birds and people, holding tightly to the rock.  They have an otherworldly look…like they belong to a time before people walked the earth…and perhaps they did.


Sometimes we miss the beauty of strength, the ability to adapt, to hold tightly and conserve resources.  Mussels, like some of our students, are stoic.  They don’t complain or call for our attention.  They aren’t showy or dramatic…they’re almost common, easy to overlook.

Who are you overlooking in the classroom?  Which of your students takes care of business without attracting your attention?  And what would happen if you were to notice?  What would you see and learn?

While We Wait

We do a lot of waiting.  In line at the coffee shop, in the lobby at the doctor’s office, to get through the TSA screening at the airport, for meetings to start, movies to start, for our kids to get home…

Sometimes I welcome the opportunity to wait.  It gives me a chance to catch my breath, check in on my email and social media, read a few pages of my book, text my sons, daydream, or just take the time to reflect on my day.  These trees remind me of that good waiting…patiently waiting in line, enjoying the sunshine and the view…


The worst kind of waiting is when you have to stay alert and attentive.  When you’re waiting in traffic, about to board your flight, trying to be on time to that afternoon meeting and behind the person with 50 coupons in the grocery store…  At those times you can’t turn your attention to something else and take advantage of waiting as down time.

My students do a lot of waiting too.  They wait in line after recess for us to pick them up and walk back to class, they wait for directions, they wait for their classmates to take their turns ahead of them…

So I find myself thinking about good waiting and frustrating waiting…and wanting to make sure my students have time for reflection and to catch their breath.  But not spend precious time spinning their wheels when they could be doing something more productive.

Today my students were amazing.  They were about to embark on a sewing project (I’ll expand on that in another post) and needed to wait for supplies and wait for help with needle threading, knot tying…  And yet, they were not frustrated.  Instead I saw them watching carefully as they waited, making plans as they waited, and studying every move of someone nearby who started before them.

Attitude is everything.  They were ready to wait today.  They knew waiting was inevitable given the complexity and newness of the task ahead of us…and they waited with joy and anticipation.  This is going to be a great project…my students demonstrated that today!