Just write!

I enjoy writing but  look forward with angst, to this challenge every year. When the first day finally arrives, I worry that I will not be able to write. Yesterday, I was able to find something to write about without any problem. Now here I am the second day, having trouble coming up with a topic.

So, I am doing what I always tell my students to do during a free-write. Just start writing about anything. Before you know it, you might start writing about something! And if it doesn’t work for me today, there is always tomorrow!



Blackberry Winter

It has been a long Winter. Not in the calendar sense, as the calendar does not change. The dates and seasons stay the same. Days ticking off in twenty-four hour increments. Moons waxing and waning. It has been a strange Winter. Not in the sense of extraordinary. Or curious. Or funny. But in the sense of unusual. A snowless November and December, morphing into relentlessly snow-filled, Arctic days and nights. Drifts growing, bringing images of polar bears and igloos. Frigid days melting into rainy spasms of droplets that transform into ice crystals and spitting sleet. Followed by more Arctic days and nights. Words from the weatherman swirling in the air like snowflakes in blowing winds.”Snow-maggedon.” “Wind bomb.” “Polar vortex.” Words that slip and slide and whip off the tongue as one tries to grasp the peculiar circumstances of the winter that seems neverending.

Through the Arctic chill of the morning, the first hope of change echoes between snow-covered houses…somewhere in the distance, the call of a robin, urging Spring to a blackberry Winter, the vernal equinox.

Mmm! Pi!

Pi Day! I am not a math teacher, but I wish I were…on Pi Day! I am not a fifth grade teacher, but I wish I were…on Pi Day!

On Pi Day, the fifth grade math teachers celebrate with Pi activities and … PIE! The students bring in PIEs that are shared with their classmates and while they participate in Pi activities, they eat PIE!

Every year I think that I should bring in some Pi activities, maybe celebrate the fact that Pi is the homophone of PIE! and while my students share their PIEs! (with me too, of course!) we can study homophones of all sorts. That way, as a language arts teacher, I too can appreciate Pi Day!

After all…Pi is transcendental and I know my love of PIE transcends my love of Pi! What better way to mark this day?

As my now adult daughter used to say as a toddler, “Mmmm! PIE!”


I just watched the documentary Jane on the National Geographic channel. This movie shares the studies of Jane Goodall. What an extraordinary woman, What an extraordinary life! I was unaware that she had no formal scientific training and was chosen by her boss, Dr. Lawrence Leary, to go to Africa and study the chimpanzees, because she would be unbiased in her observations

I can’t imagine, in the late 50s, early 60s what that would have been like. She went unaccompanied in the wild, living under the stars. spending months wandering the African jungles in search of chimpanzees and getting them to accept her presence.

Her discoveries about the chimpanzees were groundbreaking and of dire importance to the scientific world. And the relationship she was able to build with these intelligent, wild creatures is just incredible. What an amazing woman!



I am concerned and hopeful

I wonder why children are losing their lives and when it will all end

I hear the cries of mothers and the rhetoric of politicians

I see a future world where children feel safe and included

I want our politicians to find realistic solutions to this difficult problem

I am concerned and hopeful


I pretend that the world is a peaceful place

I feel hopeful in a world that can feel hopeless

I touch the hearts of the kids I have in my care

I worry that there are kids out there who feel isolated

I cry when I think of those that I know are hurting

I am concerned and hopeful


I understand this is a problem that will take time to fix

I say forget arming teachers and give schools back their support staff

I dream that all kids would feel included and cared for

I try to make sure all kids feel cared for

I hope that the concern for the children that have been lost is not fleeting

I am concerned and hopeful


Murder Mystery

It was a new experience and one I would love to do again.

Several weeks ago, my husband saw a Groupon for tickets to a murder mystery dinner at a local restaurant. We decided to go. Before we knew it, the day was here. It turned out to be a Wild West Shoot ‘Em Up murder mystery. My husband failed to tell me this until Thursday night. Too late to put together outfits to fit the theme, but we were sure we’d still have a good time, and we did.

Good food, good company at our table as we worked as a group to try to solve the whodunit, good actors. Good fun.

Water, water everywhere…

We continue to read A Long Walk to Water with our students, a novel by Salva Dut that shares his childhood experience in Southern Sudan in 1998 and parallels the life of Nya, a young girl in Northern Sudan in 2008. For Nya, there is no school. Her day starts and ends with four hour trips to get water for the family twice a day, seven days a week. Not long after she returns to her home from the first trip, she must return for another refill.

To build empathy, we have kept track of our families’ water usage, comparing an average of over 700 gallons per week per family with the 70 gallons per week used by Nya’s family. We have carried jerry cans containing approximately three gallons of water in a jug that holds five. Each student carrying the jerry can for three days at school. They live and breathe these cans, never letting them out of their sight.

And now we are getting ready to start collecting donations from our families towards our annual CPU build (chlorination processing unit). The CPUs will be built by our sixth grade students with materials purchased using the monies donated. Each unit costs $50.00 to build and is used to chlorinate water and make it safe for drinking. The day of the build, students move with the CPU, in its stages of development. From station to station they add wiring, solder, glue, test for leaks. When the CPU is finished. it is wrapped and readied for shipment to a village halfway around the world.

Although they will never meet the people they are helping, they will experience the satisfaction of knowing there are real people in real places using the CPUs the students built with their own hands.

It is an exciting prospect, knowing that a village in Nepal or Sudan or Ethiopia will eventually receive this life altering device. For water borne diseases are one of the biggest threats to life in the developing world.

And this experience has made me think about how I use water everyday.

I feel blessed to live in the Great Lakes region and have unlimited access to fresh drinking water whenever I feel the need. But as lucky as we are to have these beautiful resources in our midst, we must also realize that our lakes are threatened everyday by the things we do as a society. On the heels of a contaminated water crisis just miles up the road, caused by the dumping of toxins decades ago, the cleanliness of our groundwater has now come into question.

We must all be stewards of our freshwater sources and make sure that our young people are aware of what they can do to be stewards as well, so that when they become adults, they too will still be able to experience the bounty of our beautiful lakes.



Face first

Before I knew what was happening, my chin was skimming the floor. “^*$$#@!!!” were the words that flowed from my lips, as I struggled to get back on my feet.

Heading to school this morning, I readied to turn right from my neighborhood and realized that I did not have my cell phone. Making a left instead, I headed back home. This would only add a couple of minutes to my drive as I knew exactly where I had left my phone.

I pulled into the driveway, activating the garage door as I approached the house. Trying to save time, I decided I would pull back into the garage.

I opened the door and quickly exited the car. And then it happened. My foot caught on a bundle of wood that had been moved from another spot in the garage. Without warning, my body plunged forward and I could feel myself going down. There was no time to react and and just like that, I was, laying full out on the garage floor.

The words were choice and had anyone been there to hear them, they would have raised their eyebrows in surprise. I got up, still ranting with no one to hear and checked myself. My wrist felt sore, being the only appendage that broke the fall, and my chin had a small scrape, having slightly hit the floor. My black coat was covered in dust from the garage floor and the knee of my pants was wet from a small puddle of melted snow.

But, luckily, I was fine. Brushing the dust from my coat, I hurried into the kitchen, grabbed my phone, and headed back to the car watching my footsteps along the way.

I hadn’t lost much time at all!








Tomorrow our students begin carrying water. In five gallon jerry cans holding only three. The cans will travel with them in the hallways, to the bathroom, across the room to the sink for a drink of water. They will learn to guard them, treasure them, hate them, deny them. Hopefully, they will gain a small perspective of what it would be like to have to carry water in order to cook, bath, drink.

We read The Long Walk to Water, by Salva Dut. The students learn, through Salva’s story, what it is like to travel miles, as a child, to find water every day. Twice a day. No matter the weather.

Empathy. What we want our students to feel, to have, for others less fortunate than themselves. Understanding. What we hope our students will carry with them when the last pages of the book are read. Appreciation. What we work to instill in our students as they first complain about, and then embrace the effort it takes to carry a fraction of the water and miles others do every day.

Tomorrow our students begin carrying water and more than that, we hope they will carry with them the memory of  the experience and in some way, an understanding of a world so different from their own.