Thursday, March 31, 2022

Slice #31- End of the road


I'm trying to decide how honest I should be with this slice. 

Because slicing was really, really hard for me this year. 

And I'm really, really glad it's over. 

When I am slicing, or doing any kind of writing, I can do a much better job supporting my students as writers. 

I slice, at least partly because it reminds of how hard writing can be. 

This year, I remembered some really important lessons. 

1. Writing is about community. 
I have struggled this year to find my community, my people.  I miss friends that didn't slice this year- Linda, Elsie, Tamara. I did connect with some old friends- Elisabeth, Ramona, Carol V., Kris., and that was nice, but overall, I found slicing a really lonely business this year.   In my classroom, I think I do a pretty good job establishing a large classroom community, and I often have kids meet with partners to share writing, but I wonder whether I need to establish smaller writing groups that meet regularly, where kids talk to the same kids about their writing over a lengthier period of time. Writers need community. 

2. Writing is easier when you are doing it regularly. 
I sliced in March, then wrote poetry in April, and haven't written much, except for an occasional piece for school since then. Writing slices was hard at the beginning of the month, because I hadn't written much. I need to figure out a more regular routine for my writing. And I need to make sure my students are writing, and writing with choice, not just literary analysis essays

2. People want an audience for their writing. Writers want feedback.
 I have struggled, this year, with the scarcity of feedback and the lack of comments on my slices. Over the course of the month, I had 90 comments total. About twenty of those comments were from friends who read my blog, and have read my blog for years, but don't actually  slice themselves. That means, on an average day, I was only getting two or three comments. I was leaving comments on at least ten blogs a day and usually more than that. Some days I left as many as twenty or thirty. If someone left me a comment, I pretty much always commented back to them, if I could find their blog. I'm a teacher, and I know how hard this year has been, but even so, if you are going to make time to slice, it's also important to make time to comment.  

Slicing was hard this year. I'm not sure I will do it again...

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Slice #30- Pushing myself as a reader...


I am a reader. 

I read a lot.

Realistic fiction. Love it. Historical fiction. Love it. Biographies. Same. As long as they are not too long. Self help books. Not too long and a topic I am interested in. Mysteries. Sure,  especially on a beach.

Fantasy. No. No. No. No. No. I hate it.  Almost never read it. 

Fortunately or unfortunately, this year my sixth graders LOVE fantasy. And so, in an effort to keep up with them, and to have books to recommend, I have been trying to read more fantasy. I have made it through two and a half Percy Jackson books. And recently I read AMARI AND THE NIGHT BROTHERS by debut author, B.B. Alston. And I loved it.

Amari Peters is about the age of my sixth graders. When the book opens, she is about to be thrown out of the exclusive Jefferson Academy, where her older brother Quinton also attended. Amari is plenty capable academically, but she can't handle the constant harassment and ongoing bullying.  Amari, however, has other things on her mind. Quinton has disappeared. The police and other people think he is dead, but Amari is sure he is not. When she receives an invitation, by way of a ticking briefcase she finds in her closet, to camp at the Supernatural Bureau of Affairs, she jumps at the chance to hunt for her brother. She is not prepared, however, for the supernatural adventures and creatures she encounters. 

I loved Amari. I loved the teenage drama and friendships and angst. I loved watching Amari grow into herself. And I loved the ending. So, so, great! I'm excited to go back to school next week and pass this book onto one of my sixth graders. And I can't wait until September when the next book in this series comes out.

Maybe I really do like fantasy...

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Slice #29: It all started with a cherry pit...


This morning I had dentist appointment #999 in the last two years. Well maybe not quite that many, but I have had a lot. It all started with a cherry pit.

In July, 2020, trying to stay healthy, and not gain weight during COVID, I was eating a cherry. And I heard a crack, and realized I had broken a tooth. But not just any tooth. The tooth just to the right of my front two teeth on the top. 

My dentist had just retired. A friend gave me her dentist's name. And she was very, very nice. And seemed very, very competent, but the work was more extensive than she could do.  I would need an implant. She sent me to a periodontist, who was also very nice. She pulled the tooth, and I spent an afternoon laying on the couch with an icepack on my face, then went back to the dentist, for a flipper, so I wouldn't have to walk around looking like I was dressed for Halloween, with no front tooth, for the next few months. 

Then the periodontist called me. She had looked more closely at the Xrays and before doing the actual implant, she thought I would need a root canal, or maybe two root canals in the teeth next to the tooth that had broken. And so she sent me to an endodontist. He did the work he needed to do, checked the work a few weeks later, and sent me back to the periodontist. 

The periodontist waited for my gums to heal from the root canal, started the implant and told me to come back in four months after the bone had grown around the implant. Implants like mine rarely fail, she said, and after she had checked it, we would be ready for the final procedure, with the dentist, where I had originally started. Great! A year later I would have a tooth in that hole. 

Unfortunately,  when I went back to get my implant checked, it had failed, or was in the process of failing. The endodontist thought it was because my mouth just wasn't getting enough fresh air, because I was wearing a mask all day. She prescribed a strong course of antibiotics and told me to come back in a month, and to wear my mask as little as possible during that time. 

When I went back a month later, she still wasn't happy with the way things looked. She wanted to pull out the implant and start over, so that's what we did. She pulled it out, we waited a few months for that to heal, she put in a new implant, and we waited four months for the bone to grow again. In November (18 months later) when I went back, the implant had actually taken, and I was ready for a tooth. I got excited, thinking we were close to finished. 

Not so fast. When I went back to the dentist, I found out I wasn't quite as close as I thought. They still had to make a temporary crown. I would wear that for two months, until my gums got adjusted to having a tooth in that hole again, and then there would be an actual crown. But before I could have an actual crown, I had to visit the ceramic specialist, who would make sure the tooth was a perfect match with my actual shade. 

So this morning, I spent about thirty minutes with the ceramic specialist. He said my teeth are sort of an unusual color and he wants to create something, and then have me come back, to make sure it looks like he wants it to look. I have to go back in about two weeks, and then the week after that, 21 months and $7000 later, the dentist will put the final crown in my mouth.

Next time, I think I will just eat M&M's...

Monday, March 28, 2022

Slice #28- Thinking about feedback...

 Tonight I'm thinking about feedback...

About a month ago, I decided that even though I have done reasonably well with Rooney, I just wasn't getting anywhere with Galaxy. He is awful on a leash. He zigs and zags and goes wherever he wants. He pulls my arm out of the socket. He barks and has tantrums when he sees other dogs, which occurs on a pretty regular basis in our neighborhood. It just isn't much fun to walk him. 

And so I asked Izzy, a trainer who used to work at Canine Partners of the Rockies, if I could hire her to work with Galaxy. She agreed, and the three of us have been working together for about three weeks. We really don't do anything fancy- we go for walks, and she watches me handle him for awhile, and then she handles him, and I watch her, and then I take him back. Even though it doesn't seem like that big a deal, the changes in Galaxy been remarkable.  

The suggestions Izzy has made haven't been huge. First, it was simply about getting his attention. Every time he gave me eye contact, I clicked and treated. Once he had that down, we upped the ante. Every time I said his name, and he gave me eye contact, I clicked and treated. And then every time he relaxed pressure on the leash and came back toward me, I clicked and treated. Today he was trotting alongside Izzy in an almost perfect heel. And she clicked and treated and clicked and treated and clicked and treated. And told him over and over and over again what a good boy he was. And his tail was wagging and he was just eating it up. And doing exactly what she wanted.

I was struck, as I watched her, by how she was shaping his behavior. The steps between behaviors were tiny and specific. There was lots and lots and lots and lots of positive feedback. Izzy never told Galaxy what he was doing wrong. She just told him again and again and again what he was doing right. And how wonderful he was. And the more she did that, the more he wanted to please her. 

As I watched her, I kept thinking about my sixth graders. And about their writing. I wondered how Izzy's approach, lots of tiny steps and lots of positive feedback might work with them. 

I think I will try it when we go back next Monday...

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Slice #27- Figuring out a new normal..


For the past seven years, Sundays have been about spending time with my mom. 

I'd get up early, grade papers for a couple of hours, then get in the car and head to Colorado Springs, about 90 minutes south of where I live, to spend time with my mom. I'd pick her up at McKenzie Place, the senior living complex where she lived, do a few household tasks like dusting or paying bills, then we would head out. My mom loved to shop, so most weeks, our adventures involved a trip to a mall or bookstore. Some weeks we went to the grocery store. Once in awhile, we went to the movies. We always went out to lunch. My mom had fish and chips more than half the time. I usually had a salad. We always shared a dessert. By then, she was ready to go home. Most weeks, she had an afternoon bridge game. If not, we'd go back to her apartment, and watch the Broncos or the Rockies. I'd head for home around three.

I'm not going to lie. I didn't always love making the drive to Colorado Springs. Sometimes I was really, really tired and just wanted to stay home. I wanted to not have to cram everything-- housework, bills, grocery shopping- into Saturday. I hated always having to say no when friends asked me to do something on Sundays. It was hard to fold and unfold the wheelchair and lift it in and out of the car multiple times every trip. But Sundays were about spending time with my mom and that's just the way it was.  

My mom died on December 17th. 

And now I'm trying to figure out a new normal.

So far, Sundays have been really hard for me. I miss hanging out with my mom. I miss our lunches and shared desserts. I missing telling her about school and the books I've been reading. I even miss shopping, which I have always hated. 

I'm trying to figure out a new normal. Last weekend, I went to a special museum exhibit with a friend. Today I went to church for the first time since COVID, then went to In-n-Out Burger and grabbed some lunch. Sometimes I go to the grocery store. Usually, I take the dogs for a long walk. And I pretty much always have school work to do.

Even so, Sundays have been really hard. 

I really miss my mom. 

I miss spending Sundays with her.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Slice #26- It's finally happened....


I hoped it would never happen, but it has.

My guys are in love with the same woman.

And she's perfect.

Long dark hair.

Dark eyes.

A beautiful smile. 

She's intelligent.


but well-spoken.


A freelance graphic designer,

Specializing in non-profits.

She runs her own Etsy shop. 

She's athletic.

Loves to hike.

Last night she walked into my kitchen.

My guys were knocking each other out of the way 

To see who  could get closer.


Tails wagging frantically. 

Everyone loves Miss Izzy,

Our favorite dog trainer!

Thursday, March 24, 2022

SLICE #25- A few small wins...

 I have had a few small wins this week.

We have just started independent reading

I am starting where I always do

at the back of the room

I have just opened my current read,

Amari and the Night Brothers,

I am startled by B's voice

"Miss,” she says,

"I read that whole book last night.

You know the refugee one I got at the library?

I've read two books this week.

I’m really proud of myself.

I never read two books in a week.

I need to go to the library.

Please miss.

I really need to go." 

He is absent at least once a week

And mostly disengaged when he is there

Yet he has loved our most recent class read

REFUGEE by Alan Gratz

Has listened to the entire audiobook.

Sometimes when I was teaching other things.

I have pretended not to notice.

Today, in that brief minute  

Between independent reading

And the mini-lesson

His voice stops me.

"Miss, do you think REFUGEE is a movie?"

I tell him I don’t think it is,

Not yet anyway.

“I think it would be a really cool movie,” he says.

“All those different times and places.”

The girls come back from the library.

“Look, Miss, look what we found.”

They hold up ROOM TO DREAM

 the third book in the FRONT DESK series.

They are excited to have found a companion volume 

To our current read aloud.

I am excited that the read aloud has stuck

One of my goals is that kids will meet

New favorite authors

And be exposed to worlds 

Different from their own. 

"Miss," says G.

who is regularly described as a "handful,"

After I have just finished a mini-lesson

on how characters change

From the beginning of the book to the end.

"Do you think that’s always true?

What about books like NO DAVID.

Does David change?"

I am a little startled by her question.

I have to think for a minute. 

"I don’t really know.

What do you think?"

And we have a five minute reader-to-reader conversation. 

And maybe my favorite.


Do you think 

We could ever have a day

Where all we do is 

Independent reading?


We could absolutely do that.

Slice #24- A read aloud sandwich


My days at school are a read aloud sandwich.

I start each day reading to my sixth graders the minute they walk in the door. This year, we've read STARFISH, EFREN DIVIDED, WHEN STARS ARE SCATTERED, (and a couple of others that I'm not remembering at the end of a long day) and right now, FRONT DESK, which they are absolutely loving. O, who is one of my favorite kids, and makes me laugh every single day, but is never ever ever ever quiet,  not even for a second, sits absolutely still, enraptured, and begs me to read just one more chapter every day. And then I look to the back of the room, and see M. He is never quiet either, except during read aloud, and when I look at his face, I see a five-year-old, longing to be loved, and wonder if anyone has ever read to him before.  

Two hours later, I read to my second class. And J, who has an IEP a mile long listens intently, and has crazy interesting insights and makes connections I never would have thought of, sits in the front row. And my crazy rowdy group of boys are calm- no one makes random monkey noises, or builds a skateboard jump out of the pencil box,  or even asks to go to the bathroom. 

I end my day in an early childhood classroom. A couple of weeks ago, I just happened to be in that classroom at the end of the day. The para leaves about 15 minutes before the day and the teacher, who is absolutely wonderful, was looking a little harried. I asked how I could help and she said, "Could you just read to them for about ten minutes?" Read to kids? I'm on it! I've read to them the last 15 minutes of the day every day since. I absolutely love it. I have to confess, we're in a tiny bit of a rut, where they insist on one book, BEAR AND CHICKEN by Jannie Ho, every single day, and we always have to talk about whether Bear actually will eat chicken (he hasn't in the last 15 days, in case you are wondering), but it's a perfect way to end the day. 

My days at school are a read aloud sandwich.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Slice #23- Parenting 108

 Somehow I have enrolled in Parenting 108. You know, the one that people have to take, when they just keep failing.  And I just keep taking it over and over and over again. My sons are not children, in fact, they are 26 and 28. We have been doing the failure to launch thing for years, or maybe forever. 

My oldest son has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. He's does ok as long as he takes medication. Once or twice a year he decides he doesn't need medication and things get ugly. But right now, he is doing ok. He lost his license, so he rides an electric bike to work every morning. Sometimes, if it's snowy, I give him a ride, but mostly, he rides his bike. This morning, it was 28 degrees, and the wind was blowing. Hard. 

My younger son hadn't worked for more than about two weeks in over three years, since before COVID. Recently, he got a job he really likes. At a bullet company. And did I mention he owns several guns? Or that I am a pacifist who hates, hates, hates anything to do with guns? He won't tell me anything, and I mean anything, about the job because he knows I am really uncomfortable with the whole deal. It's his life, and he can make his own choices. I just need to keep my mouth shut. 

A few weeks ago, I decided I wasn't buying groceries for my guys anymore, because when I buy groceries, they use their money for other things. Like marijuana and liquor. And I thought maybe if they had to pay for their own food, they'd have less to spend on other things. I also took them off of my phone plan. So far, they just seem to be eating a lot of takeout. 

Nobody told me that parenting adult children would be so hard. I wonder if I will ever get to the 200 level courses.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Slice #22- Galaxy revisited...


Monday night. 9:15. 

I arrive home from Bible Study and head into the bathroom to change my clothes.

And that's when I notice it. 

One black boot sitting in the corner of the bathroom.

I don't even have to guess what might have happened to the other one.  Four hours earlier, right before I left for Bible Study, I wrote a slice about the newest member of our family, my 18-month-old Collie/German Shepherd mix, Galaxy. In that slice, I wrote,

Galaxy specializes in chewing. He has destroyed multiple pairs of shoes, a television remote, books, a Longaberger basket, and a couch cushion, among other things. There seems to be no rhyme nor reason to his chewing. Sometimes he will go for weeks without eating anything, and then I'll come home and the couch is shredded  across the family room floor, the next day it will be my good boots

I forgot to mention Rooney's training vest. Galaxy ate the straps off of that about a month ago. 

Anyway, I had a good idea about what had probably happened to my other boot. I grabbed my phone, turned on the flashlight and headed out to make a sweep of the backyard. That's where Galaxy often takes his treasures, and I was hoping maybe I could find it before he had done too much damage. 

I checked all of his favorite places-- the muddy corner by the big tree, behind the garbage cans, and under the porch. My boot wasn't in any of those places. Instead, I found it in the middle of the family room, with half of the toe missing. Definitely not wearable or even repairable. And did I mention that that was his third, or maybe his fourth boot this winter. 

I know by now people are probably judging me. By now, I should have learned my lesson. I should have put my boots away. And generally I do put them away as soon as I take them off. And when I say I put them away, I mean I REALLY put them away. Galaxy is a pretty smart guy, who can easily open the bedroom door and the closet door, so not only do I close those, but I put up a baby gate up in front of the bedroom before I leave the house. 

Last night I was hurrying and I just forgot. So now I'm out a pair of boots.

Galaxy, who happens to be laying next to me snoring as I write this slice, is a total sweetheart. But he has a long way to go before anyone will call him a good dog....

Monday, March 21, 2022

Slice #21- Galaxy

 Maybe because I spend so much time with him, I write a lot about Rooney but there is another member in our family. It only seems fair to write about him too. 

Galaxy is a year and one-half old German Shepherd/Collie mix. He and his brother and sister were found under a dumpster in Houston when he was about six weeks old. Galaxy joined our family in November, 2020. Our old lab, Star, had died about before, at age 15. Rooney was going into advanced training. I thought that would be about a six month process. I didn't want to be a dog-less family. I was teaching from home, for what seemed like at least three more months and it seemed like a good time to add a new family member.  I found cute little Galaxy on a rescue website, and we brought him home a few days later. 

Galaxy is a busy, high-energy guy. He loves, loves, loves the out of doors and spends quite a bit of time in the backyard. laying on a snowbank most of the winter, and underneath the back deck when it gets hot. He loves, loves, loves Rooney and is thrilled when  comes home each day from his work as a service dog.  He loves going for long walks, and is especially thrilled when we happen upon another dog. He loves play dates and wags his tail frantically when I mention Cafe, a high-energy chocolate lab that comes to visit several times each month. 

Galaxy specializes in chewing and has destroyed multiple pairs of shoes, a television remote, books, a Longaberger basket, and a couch cushion, among other things. There seems to be no rhyme nor reason to his chewing. Sometimes he will go for weeks without eating anything, and then I'll come home and the couch is shredded  across the family room floor, the next day it will be my good boots

Galaxy loves me, fiercely and with his whole heart. When he is not outside, he lays with his head on my foot. He doesn't like sleeping with me, because it's too hot, but he always lays right next to the bed. Galaxy barks at my sons if they try to come too close. His job is to take care of me!

Galaxy has only been a member of our family for a little over a year. He's clearly taken charge and regularly bosses me and his older brother, Rooney, around. Even though he is kind of at the obnoxious teenager puppy stage, he's a lot of fun and really lovable. I hope I will be slicing about him for a long time!

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Slice # 20- On going, or not going, to church...


I have a confession to make.

I am a Christian, strongly committed to my Savior and my faith. I start every  day with devotions. I attend a weekly Bible study. I pray. I watch the livestream of services every Sunday morning. But I haven't been to an actual church in over two years. 

I think this phenomena started many years ago, when I adopted my boys.

I had gone to the same church since I moved to Denver in 1981. I liked the church a lot.  I was a Sunday School teacher, a youth group leader, and a deacon. But my boys were African American. And 99% of the people at my church were Anglo. I wanted my boys to see people who looked like them at church. And so I changed churches. 

Our new church was much more diverse. The pastor is African American. An amazing man of God. A brilliant biblical scholar and teacher. I took my boys, but they never loved it. They didn't want to participate in Sunday School or choir or youth group. I dragged them to church until they were about fifteen, then I finally gave up on making them go. 

I kept going to that same church, It's a big church, with lots of different opportunities to participate, but I never really found my niche either. When my mom got sick, seven years ago, I would go to the 8:00 service, then dash off to spend the day with my mom. And then came COVID. And everyone was going to church online. I "attended" the online service faithfully every week. 

The church reopened live services about a year ago, I think, but I'm still watching online. I'm not sure why. It doesn't have anything to do with COVID. I'm not afraid of going. Every week I tell myself I will go to the in person the next week. But I don't go. I'm not sure why. 

But I haven't been in a church building in more than two years.... 

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Slice #19- If my mom were alive...

If my mom was alive, I would be calling her right now, like I did every night around 6.

I would tell her I had Book Club today. 

And that we went to the new Tattered Cover in Westminster. 

I would tell her that I spent three hours this morning finishing the book 

(instead of house cleaning)

And then only one other person had finished,

So we are going to continue the discussion next month.

She would laugh when I told her about all of the trouble I had with the parking app. 

And how, after 15 minutes, the app finally decided that I was parking by Coors Field. 

Which isn't actually anywhere close to where I was. 

And how I thought I was old and stupid

That I couldn’t figure out the dumb app

Until my friend Brenna had similar issues. 

If my mom was alive,

I would tell her how I got home around 3 

and took Galaxy for a long walk

And how I started out in a hoodie

And had to take it off halfway through 

Because it was so warm,

And how the grass is suddenly, instantly green,

And how I saw daffodils starting to sprout

And how sad I feel that the brick bungalow down the street

Was torn down to make way for something

New and modern.

If my mom was alive, 

I would tell her how sad I am feeling

That my spring break plans 

are just not coming together

And how sad I feel

That I will probably end up staying home after all

And she would cluck sympathetically. 

And I would feel a little better.

If my mom were alive....

Friday, March 18, 2022

Slice #18: On my radar...


It's funny how a kid you have known all year can all of a sudden be on your radar. This week, E is that kid for me. I have been keeping kind of a mental list of observations. Some things I have noticed:

1) E is one of the youngest kids in my class. He turned 11 in September. He's also one of the biggest kids. He is already man-sized. 

2) E has worn glasses for several years. But for about the last month, neither he nor his brother have been wearing them. I've asked several times, but haven't gotten very satisfying answers. 

3) E has steel-toed boots. The real deal, $200+ kind that my sons wear when they are working warehouse or construction type jobs. E has told me, more than once, that he works construction with his dad on weekends. 

4) Yesterday we were talking about persuasive writing. I said something about kids, even little kids, knowing about persuasion, and described a scenario of kids trying to talk their parents into taking them to McDonald's. E said, "My mom won't take me to McDonald's. Well, she will take me, but only if I have my own money to spend."

5) Yesterday, E came in with one of those giant, million-calorie Starbucks drinks. The kind that cost eight or nine dollars. That's not common, at all, for my kids, and I was surprised to see it.  I asked him where mine was. It seems that he won some contest in fifth grade and the teacher finally paid up. "You have to get Mr. M to bring you one," he said. 

6) E usually has friends, including a best friend, but the last couple of weeks he has been kind of withdrawn. When the kids choose their own partners, he seems to be pulling back and choosing to work alone. 

7) E knows quite a bit about technology. Yesterday, I somehow lost my computer charger. I was a little panicky, because very few people at my school have the same computer charger. E overheard me saying something about it. He came up and picked up my computer. "That's just a USBC port," he said. "I think my chromebook charger will work." I can't imagine that he could possibly be right, because Apple seems to never have anything that works with anything else, including its own products. E goes to his desk, unzips his backpack, and comes back with his computer charger. I'm not hopeful, but surprisingly, it works. "What kind of port was it? I ask. He tells me again and I know I will never remember this alphabet soup conglomeration. I ask him to write it down. He shrugs, but a few minutes later, he comes back with a little piece of paper, with USBC written on it, which I shove into my pocket and take to the computer store. 

8) He has never seemed especially interested in Rooney, but all of a sudden, today, he was. This morning, I saw him out front. I asked if he would take Rooney upstairs while I did something else, and all of a sudden he was hooked. He walked him down to the lunchroom, then went back upstairs and got him. He sat with him in our student of the week assembly. He took him inside for a drink of water. He took him out and walked him around the playground. Again, alone. 

E has been at our school since he was a little guy. I'm not sure why he is on my radar all of a sudden, but he definitely is.  

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Slice #17: Just a little marker


Five-year-old Juan examines a small cut across my right knuckle.

"What is that?" he says worriedly, "Is it marker?"

I glance down at my hand, noticing the cut for the first time. I have no idea how I got it, but it's evidently recent because it's still oozing a few drops of blood. "No, I think it's a real cut," I say. "See, it's bleeding a little."

"Does it hurt?" says Juan.

"No," I reply, "It doesn't hurt."

"Press on it and see if it hurts," he insists.

I press on my knuckle. "No, it doesn't hurt," I say. 

"Let me press on it," he says. 

I hold out my hand. He presses vigorously on my knuckle. "Does that hurt?" he asks again. 

"No, it doesn't hurt," I repeat. 

"It must be marker," he says. His diagnosis is clearly final. 

"It must be," I say. "Just a little marker."

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Slice #16- They deserve a look too


For almost three years, I have been a puppy mom for Rooney, the world's sweetest yellow lab, who will, at some point, become a service dog for someone with mobility issues, or an autism dog. Rooney is the world's sweetest guy- he's calm, he's gentle, he's patient, he's kind, he loves kids of all ages, and he rarely barks. 

Rooney has two minor faults. First, he's a little bit timid about trying new things. It takes him a little while to warm up to new situations. Second, he's friendly, but he's not overly friendly. He is fiercely loyal to the people he loves, and he will be polite to other people, but he doesn't go out of his way to make new friends. And now that he is almost three, and ready to be matched to his lifelong partner, that feels like a teeny bit of a problem. Rooney is more than happy to meet new people, but he doesn't go out of his way to befriend them. When potential clients come to observe classes, sweet, gentle, quiet Rooney is not the dog that stands out for them. 

Today, Rooney brought his friend, Pike, to school with him. Pike is a two-and-half-year-old golden retriever. He has recently been matched and will be working with a seven-year-old boy with autism, starting in May. Pike is Rooney's best friend, but he is also his polar opposite.  Pike is a happy, happy guy, whose tail wags from the time he wakes up in the morning until he goes to bed at night. When he is really happy, he prances. And he's always up for a new friend or a new adventure; he was delighted to meet 450 new friends today!

Watching Pike and Rooney today made me think about the kids in my class. Some of them are like Rooney. They are quiet, kind, respectful hard-working, rock solid performers,  but are not particularly flashy or self-promoting. Other kids are more like Pike. They are joyful and energetic and flashy and people notice them. They get lots of attention and lots of floor time. And there is nothing wrong with that, but sometimes the quieter guys get overlooked. Tomorrow, I'm going to try to pay more attention to the Rooneys in my classroom. They deserve a look too. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Slice #15: Just another day of effective communication in sixth grade...


A comes in Monday morning telling that he can't breathe and that he needs to use his inhaler. I am a little surprised, this is the first time this year he has asked for it, but I send him to the office immediately. Fifteen minutes later he is back. I ask him how he is feeling and he says that he is much better. 

A little while later, he is at my elbow again. "I can't breathe," he tells me pointing to his chest. "It's really tight right here." I ask if he wants to text his mom. He tells me that he already did and she told him he should try to hang on and see if it gets better. He asks if he can go to the office and take another puff of his inhaler. I write out the nurse's pass and he goes off. 

Two or three minutes later, he is back. "I don't want to go to the office. They will just make me sit down."

I look at him. He looks a little pale, and is definitely not his usual chipper sixth grade self. "I think you should go back to the office," I say. "Let me call and tell them you are coming."

I call the office. Our secretary moved to North Carolina last month and we are still looking for a replacement. The school psychologist answers the phone and I explain the situation and tell her A will be coming back to the office. She says she will look for him.

I explain this to A and he heads out again. Ten or fifteen minutes later, we have specials. The psychologist meets me in the hall. "Where's A," she says. "Isn't he coming back to the office?"

I am confused. "He went back 15 minutes ago. Didn't he get there?"

She shakes her head. "No, he never came."

Now I am a little worried. "Let me take the kids to specials and I will look for him." Ms. L tells me she will check the bathrooms. 

We meet again in front of the office. He is not in the bathrooms, or the counselor's office, or the library, or on the stage, where kids like to go to hide. I am about to go outside to look for him, when the social worker hears us talking. 

"I just sent him back to class," she says. "He was sitting in my office, waiting for Ms. L."

"Waiting for Ms. L?" I question. "He was supposed to go to the office for his inhaler. "

Just then A comes back down the stairs. "You told me to go to Ms. L's office," he says. "I waited and waited but she didn't come."

"I didn't tell you to go to Ms. L's office," I say. "I told you to go back to the nurse's office."

Then all of a sudden the pieces come together for me. I told A that I had talked to Ms. L, who actually does have an office. When I talked to Ms. L though, she was in the main office, not her office. A needed his inhaler, and it never occurred to me that he would go anywhere except the main office, which is connected to the nurse's office. Somehow A thought I was sending him to Ms. L's office, so he went there instead. And waited. While two of us spent 15 minutes looking for him. 

Just another day of effective communication in sixth grade...

Monday, March 14, 2022

Slice #14: I see you.


I am busy flipping through my slide deck, making sure I am ready for my afternoon SEL class, and barely notice when she slides into a seat in the middle of the room, about ten feet away from me. It is bitter cold outside, and we have had indoor recess three days in a row. Seven or eight other students have come to hang out in my room, she's just one more body. 

I glance up and see her. 

She laughs and I realize she is not even one of my students, she is a seventh grader .

"Hi Miss, I just want to see if you would notice me."

"I see you. How are you doing?"

"Good. I just wanted to see if you would notice me." 

I notice her. I love this kid. Teachers aren't supposed to have favorites, but if I did, she definitely would have been one of mine. 

I notice her. She is a reader. She read every single Rick Riordan series last year and is working her way through Harry Potter this year. 

I notice her. She is a typical creative genius, a million things on her plate. She would come in, last year, every day, with multiple backpacks, not to mention her lunch. By 9:00 she would have stuff strewn across the room-- an embroidery project, her tablet so she could work on her latest drawing, a sketch book and colored pencils. All of us learned to just work around her island of stuff. And we knew she would be the last person out of the room every afternoon because it took her a while to pack up. 

I notice her. The soccer player who would kick butt at lunch recess. 

I notice her. The planner who organized and bought tickets and paid for a four day trip to a city 1000 miles away, so she, her mom, and sister could visit her mom's boyfriend for a birthday weekend. 

I notice this kid. I adore her. and I have heard that this year is not going as well. That there have been lots of conflicts between her and classmates. And between her and other kids. I am surprised. 

She gets up and stands closer to me.

"What are you reading?" she asks.

I hold up AMARI AND THE NIGHT BROTHERS I am about halfway through the book. I am usually not a fantasy reader, but I am loving this book. I know that P, who is a fantasy lover, will love it too.

"You have to read this," I say. "This reminds me a little of Percy Jackson.  There's this girl…" I give her a brief plot summary. 

She is excited. And a little dramatic. "Oh my gosh, I have to read that. Will you save it for me? I want to read it."

I promise I will save it for her.

"OK, I gotta eat lunch. I just wanted to say hi."

And with that, she is gone. 

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Slice #13: A hard, heavy job...


M was one of the kids I noticed the first day of school. 

Thin. Wiry. Moving, moving, moving. Talking, talking, talking.  New to our school  An address that indicated that he lives in a low income housing apartment complex a mile northwest of school. Reading three years below grade level. 

The weekend after school started I went to a baseball game with friends. One of the women was a literacy coach at the school M had attended. She gushed about him. He was one of her favorite kids. Low academically, but she adored him. 

"Tell him you are a good friend of mine," she said. 

I went back to school on Monday.

"Hey," I said. "I know a friend of yours."

I had his attention. "Who?"

"Ms. RJ," I said. 

"From my old school?"

"Yes.  I said, and showed him a picture of us at the baseball game the weekend before, and then a picture of  her chocolate lab, Cafe, playing with Rooney and Galaxy in my backyard.

"That's cool," he said, and walked away. But then I heard him talking about Ms. RJ a little while later and knew I had made a new friend. 

A couple of weeks later, M had a birthday. I did what I do for all of my kids- put their name on a slide at the beginning of that morning's slide deck. Found a picture of a cake with something I know they love. I think his was soccer. Found a funny happy birthday video. 

In the hall after class, he hugged me. I was surprised. My sixth graders are cool. They like me, or at least I think they do, but they don't hug me very often. 

"Thanks, Miss. Thanks for my birthday."

And now it's March, six months later. M is still not an easy kid. We have not had an easy year. This trimester he had a D, mostly because he doesn't do a lot of work in class. We talk a lot. He promises he will do better. We try different strategies-- audio books, seat changes, small groups. I worry a lot. 

On Friday, we are on the playground. Sixth grade does Student of the Week, then goes out for an extra recess almost every Friday. He has been out on the soccer field, playing with his friends. All of a sudden, he appears in front of me. 

"Hey Miss," he says, throwing himself at my chest. He wraps his arms around me, hangs on for a long time. He releases and backs away, but then wraps his arms around me again. Another long, hard hug. 

"I love you, Miss."

"I love you too, buddy."

I have been thinking about M all weekend. I wonder what is going on. If he is ok. 

Sometimes teaching is a hard, hard job. 

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Slice #12: In which I fail miserably in my job as the attendant to a princess


The princess greets me as soon as I walk into the kindergarten oom.

 "Dr. Carol, my toe hurts."

I try to respond appropriately.

"Lo siento! Did you bump it on something?"


"Did you step on something?"


"Are you wearing different shoes?" 

"These are my snow boots."

"Do you have any other shoes you could put on?"


Her teacher summons the class to a meeting on the carpet and she is off.

About ten minutes later she returns.

"Dr. Carol, my toe hurts." 

"It still hurts? I'm so sorry. Do you have something in your boot?"

"I don't know."

"Take off your boot and let me see."

She offers her foot in a princess like gesture and the loyal princess' attendant (me) pulls  off her boot.

I look at her toes. I don't see anything pokey on her white tights.  

I feel around inside. 

The inside is a little worn, typical for Colorado in late March, but there doesn't seem to be anything that should be causing discomfort. I turn the boot upside down, brush it off, and shake it. 

"Try it now.  See if this is better."

Princess shoves her foot back into her boot and goes off to the puzzle center. 

When the center bell rings she is back. 

"Dr Carol, my foot really, really hurts."

"Still? Ok, maybe you should tell your mom when you get home."

She is insistent. "I think you forgot something."

I have no idea what she is talking about. 

She puckers up her face and makes an "nnnnnnnn" sound. 

"Nnnnnn?" I still have no idea what she is talking about.

"Nnnnnnn," she repeats. 

Nnnnnnnn? I am clueless. What could I have forgotten? All I can think of is "nothing." I am pretty sure that is not the right answer. 

"Nnnnnnn," the princess says again.

Nnnnnn? Nada? This is a dual language classroom and maybe she is thinking in Spanish?

"I can't think of an nnnn word that would help your foot," I tell her. 

"Nurse's office!" she exclaims. "You need to take me to the nurse's office. The nurse will make my foot feel better."

Just then, the kindergarten teacher announces that it's time for recess, and my princess skips away. 

"We'll have to do it after recess, Dr. Carol. We can go to the nurse's office after recess.

Just another day in kindergarten....

Friday, March 11, 2022

Slice #11- Two Years Ago Today


I spent most of today re-living a day two years ago. 

Two years ago today, I hurriedly searched the internet for information about the strange virus that was closing down our schools. I wanted to be able to talk knowledgeably with my sixth graders. 

Two years ago today, I disassembled a computer cart, because all of my students needed to take home their computers and chargers, for what we thought would be a week or two. 

Two years ago today, I grabbed kids' favorite books from my classroom library and passed out stacks to my students. I wanted them to have plenty to read for the two or three weeks that they would be gone. 

Two years ago today, I took my students to the supply closet and offered paper, pencils, spiral notebooks, crayons, markers, and anything else they might need. 

Two years ago today, I hugged my students goodbye, made them promise to read, and offered my phone number, having no idea that we would not return to our building for almost a year.

Two years ago, I had no idea that normal would never be the same again. 

Thursday, March 10, 2022

SLICE #10: The best laid plans...

Tuesday morning. 6:55 a.m.

I have already dropped Rooney with my friend, Terry, who will take him to training class at 10. 

I pull into the school parking lot and grab my teacher bag out of the back of the car,  then walk briskly toward the back door. I only have about 15 minutes before my first meeting, but if I plan well, I can do at least three errands on my way to my classroom. 

I get to the auditorium door and grab for my key card.

And that's when I realize I have left my key card hanging on the bathroom door at my house ten miles away.

Darn it!

I turn around to see if there is anyone else pulling up, who might perhaps let me walk in with them. 


I try texting the teacher I will be meeting with. 

Are you already in the building

No answer. 

I text another teacher whose classroom is close to an outer exit. 

I'll be right there, she replies. 

Phew. I walk the half a city block down to her classroom

Ten minutes later, my carefully planned schedule in ruins, I am in the building. 

Now all I have to do is find someone with a master key, to let me into my classroom. 

Nothing like getting off to a good start.