Tag Archives: Work

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.

When is it Worth it? SOLC 2019 Day 16

When is it worth it to fly halfway across the state for a Saturday meeting?  Up at 3:45am, driving before the sun has even begun to think about peeking over the horizon, at the airport waiting for a flight before my regular wake up time.

Arriving well before the meeting time–because airlines work on their schedules, not yours.  Searching for coffee on a sleepy college campus, a futile exercise on a Saturday morning.


(Luckily a Philz was right off campus…a pour over experience to fuel the day to come.)


When is it worth it to meet face-to-face?  Our hunch was right.  We needed to be human, to be real, to not only see and hear one another, but to feel each other too. We were in need of an opportunity for a shared experience AND spaces for those small, informal conversations that build relationships and enhance the more public and formal interactions.

A network is a network when we are connected.  Today’s long day that spanned hundreds of miles of travel for our group was definitely worth it.


I’m filled with information, inspiration, and hope…for the network, for the work, for the future.  And I feel the warmth and comfort of relationships reinforced, bonds renewed, and the tingle that will lead to growth and new ideas.

And the cherry on the top?  I was able to change to the earlier flight home!


Weekly Photo Challenge: Close to Home

It’s hard to believe that the summer is coming to a close.  And even though I work during the summer, this last week has been filled with those beginning of the school year meetings and classroom preparation. All of that has kept me close to home, squeezing a few photos in here and there, mostly using my trusty phone as camera.

As I checked out our classroom garden bed in front of the classroom, I noticed the native milkweed has started to take off and the tropical milkweed is still going strong.  There weren’t any monarchs or caterpillars around, but I did noticed this tiny snail crawling on the plants.  (I did play around with prisma a bit, trying to create more color contrast to make the snail “pop.”)


And then of all crazy things, my husband and I decided to go to a concert on a Tuesday night!  We are lucky to have this wonderful concert venue in town that is smallish and is outdoors.  I caught a glimpse of the sun going down in the distance as we headed to the amphitheater.


It is such a treat to sit outdoors in the comfortable late-summer evening, listening to good music…and even singing along.  We saw Melissa Etheridge and Pat Benatar…two great shows in one!  It was fun playing around with trying to capture the action, distance, and lighting (this is unedited).


Yesterday, to end my work week, I grabbed my camera (Sony a6000) and headed to the beach for a quick mental health break on my way home. The tide was high, so the beach was narrow, but there were still plenty of people enjoying the water and sand.  These sneaky seagulls found an apple…probably someone’s unattended snack and managed to carry it to the water’s edge.  They were having quite a party–snatching a bite, keeping an eye out for people and other seagulls, then heading back in for another bite.  At one point one of the seagulls picked the whole apple up, spread its wings and moved it down the beach.  It was quite a show!


I see this rock pretty regularly as I walk down the beach.  D and T must be quite committed to showing their love to have spent the time to carve it so deeply in this sandstone.  I do wish they would have considered a way to show their love that didn’t mar the natural beauty of the beach!  You can see that my walk was shortened–there was no way to get around that corner ahead without getting wet!


But the short walk was a perfect way to shift from preparing the classroom to coming home to enjoy a weekend of relaxation before the kids arrive on Monday.  And I couldn’t resist a shot of the ordinary–the railing along steep ramp up to the parking lot with the puffy white clouds in the blue sky.


So, what are you noticing close to home? What might you capture with that phone in your pocket?  What do you see on that daily walk, at the corner park, or even from your car window (not when you are doing the driving!)?

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!) I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #closetohome for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

You don’t have to venture far this week, what will you discover close to home?  I can’t wait to see what you find through your lens!

The Quandary of the Invisible

I’ve wrestled with this before…and yet, solutions are as invisible as the issue itself.  How do we value and acknowledge what we can’t see?

On a windy day, we can see air.  It moves flags and leaves and kites and pennants.  We see it because we recognize that the movement means the wind is blowing, air is moving.


But when the air is still, we don’t notice the wind and the air becomes invisible, something we no longer notice or pay attention to.  Work can be like that too.  And so can learning.

We notice when someone is standing in the front of the classroom delivering instruction–that looks like work. We notice when someone leads a workshop, guiding teachers forward with their learning. But there’s so much work that is invisible to others.

We can see learning when students complete assignments, answer questions, lead discussions…  But when that notebook is blank, when the assignment doesn’t get turned in, when the student fidgets with the shoelace instead of answering a question or contributing a comment, an absence of learning is often inferred.

In those moments when I get to talk to a student individually, having a casual conversation about a topic we’ve been learning about, I can sometimes recognize what was previously invisible to me. There’s more to learning than completing an assignment or answering a question. Just like there is more to work than punching the time clock or attending a meeting.

Behind every workshop, every lesson, every assignment or project are hours of invisible work. There is the planning and the thinking behind the planning. And behind that there is often reading and research, collaboration–sometimes in the form of a conversation over coffee or lunch, the gathering and production of materials…and more.  And behind that, there are the phone calls, emails, and meetings that initiate the workshop planning.  So much of the work we do is invisible to others and it’s easy to dismiss what we can’t see.

The trunk of a tree doesn’t sway in the breeze…but that doesn’t mean that the air is not there.


So how do we acknowledge, measure, and value what we can’t see?

Work and Play

I’ve been accused–more than few times–of being a work-a-holic.  And maybe there is some truth to that notion, but it is because my work is so much fun that a lot of times it seems like play.

I headed out at the crack of dawn Wednesday morning to fly across the country to join my writing project colleagues in Boston for the National Writing Project Annual Meeting that is held every year in conjunction with the Annual National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) conference.


The Annual Meeting is an opportunity to gather with writing project people from all over the country, to learn from each other, to share ideas and reconnect.  And it is fun!

This conference begins by seeing old friends and learning about what is happening in their places and then offers more formal opportunities for learning from each other.

We’ll spend all day Thursday and Friday in more formal settings, thinking about our students and our teaching…and thinking about how to support teachers and their learning too.  We’ll consider writing in all possible contexts, across all content, across platforms, and across ages and experiences.  And even though we will think hard, write a lot, and at the end of each day feel exhausted, we will continue our conversations over dinner, walking to and from our hotels, over an evening cocktail, and maybe even into our dreams as we finally sleep.  Because these moments spent face to face with our colleagues from all over the nation are to be savored.  They are work and they are play.

We’re here, Boston!  Ready to work and play in this special place.


Some Thoughts About Labor on Labor Day

Today is Labor Day, most often referred to as the unofficial end of summer.  On Friday morning when I asked my students what they knew about our upcoming holiday, they were stumped.  I even heard a comment or two saying, “My mom said she doesn’t know what Labor Day is.”  I did a bit of double-checking my own understanding of Labor Day and its history and we revisited the concept of Labor Day before the students left for the day.  We talked about labor and the ways other people’s labor helps us and how our labor helps others.  We also talked about the fact that not everyone gets the day off from work on Labor Day.

Today was not an official work day for me, and while I enjoyed my Labor Day holiday I was also thinking about labor and what that means in my work as a Writing Project director and educator.  Teachers often get a bad rap about their summers off and short work days based on the hours that students are physically present.  And yet, outside of those hours spent directly with students there is a lot of labor going on.  This invisible labor–the work of planning, preparation, communicating, collaborating, researching–frequently is not seen as work at all.  I understand that this work is not physical, backbreaking labor and yet without it the quality and effectiveness of our profession is diminished.

And I’m often reminded that I make a choice to work beyond my official work hours, and I admit that much of the work I do is a labor of love.  I love creating spaces for learning and working out ways to support the learners that walk through my doors.  But I also spend time doing things that are expected that I don’t love–preparing for standardized testing, attending meeting after meeting after meeting, writing and preparing report cards–but I do those things too.

I’m interested in the role that invisible labor plays in our society.  I am also wondering how labor is viewed depending on your point of view.  Here’s an example that comes to mind: some people in my neighborhood pay a gardener to mow their lawns and keep their yards trimmed and healthy, other people do their own yard work–often less frequently than the gardeners. Clearly the paid gardeners’ labor is acknowledged–they charge a fee and make their living doing yard maintenance. What about those who do their own yard work?  Is their labor considered a hobby?  A chore?  What role does it play in our economy?  Does the fact that some people do their own yard work somehow diminish the importance or skill required of professional gardeners?

What invisible labor do you take for granted?  Whose labor is diminished because it seems like work anyone can do?  What invisible labor do you provide?  What do you wish others knew about your work?

Hope you all had a happy Labor Day, especially if you had to work today!