Showing posts from 2015

You Should Be A Writer #SOL15

"You should be a writer," she says, hugging me through the tears as we stand outside the church on a crisp December Monday morning.  She was my Grandma's neighbor for many years and the daughter of one of her best friends, who passed away on another December day a few years ago. 

Moments earlier, I had bowed by the altar near my Grandmother's casket, climbed the steps, paper in hand. I adjusted the microphone and saw the faces of my family and some friends who made the journey.  It was not a packed church. There was silence. And I began, with a composure that must have been a gift of courage from above, as I am rarely composed in the face of such sadness. 

It was a special honor to write about my Grandma, to honor the beautiful life she led and the love she gave to so many.  To write something and then to stand in church and read it to the family and friends gathered.  It was one small kindness I could give back to her after a lifetime of kindnesses she gave to me. 


A Pal and a Confidante #SOL15

"Thank you for being a friend, Travel down the road and back again. Your heart is true,  You're a pal and a confidante." -"Golden Girls" theme song
When I was a little girl, my sister, Christine, and I would sometimes sleep over our grandparent's house.  We called it staying at the "hotel" and it was a treat! Often we would first go out for Chinese food (I would drink too much tea and eat too many noodles with duck sauce- my favorite!) and then go back to Grandma and Grandy's cozy "hotel." We would change into pajamas and Grandy would open the bed tucked away in the sofa in the den.  Then Grandma would put fresh smelling sheets on the bed and at 9:00, we would watch "Golden Girls" together. 
My childhood is filled with memories of my grandparents- their porch in the summer, Christmas Eves around their sparkling tree, Sunday dinners, and celebrations of all kinds. Being picked up from half-days of school by our grandparents and go…

A Black Cloud Kind of Night #SOL15

It's a black cloud kind of night.

My beloved Grandmother is facing some health challenges.  At almost 90, nothing is to be taken lightly. 

It is the horrific anniversary of the shootings at Sandy Hook. All of those precious lives gone in an instant. Grief so unimaginable.

Country singer Joey Feek, who is dying of Stage 4 cervical cancer, attempts to play and teach sign language to her baby with Down Syndrome. The pictures make me cry.

Sadness envelopes me tonight. Such a sad Slice of Life, but I guess the truth is, some slices are just sad. Some slices cannot be sweetened by platitudes and promises of brighter mornings. I won't stay here for long, in this place of darkness, but tonight I reside. 

Tonight I am angry about a world where a child is dropped off at school and gunned down moments later. 

Tonight I'm gutted by the unfairness of a new mother to a child with special needs dying of cancer. Why some lives are cut short.

Tonight I'm worried for my Grandma. 

Tonight I feel…

The Tale of Molly Mouse #SOL15

I first met Miss Molly Mouse when my son, Alex, was 4 months old.  Play Hooray, a group that provides entertainment for children through birthday parties and other venues, was running some sessions for babies at my local library.  I was anxious to get out and meet other moms and provide stimulation for my 4 month old.  He wasn't as interested in being stimulated. I still remember "Dancing Queen" blasting, maracas shaking, and Alex sleeping away in my lap.  
The star of Play Hooray, however, is the puppet Molly Mouse.  Molly has skirts for every holiday and season and she lives in a box that resembles the Dunkin' Donuts munchkin box.  We discovered that an elderly mother of the Play Hooray entertainers hand sews all of Molly's skirts! 
When my daughter, Megan, was born, I knew Molly Mouse would be in her future.  I was back to work, so my mom would take Megan to her Play Hooray class.  Here is Megan, a couple of years ago, enjoying her time: 

For Megan's first Ch…

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up #SOL15

This month, my book club read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. It was a book that inspired a great discussion and confessions about our cluttered, messy ways. 

The author advises you to only keep items that spark joy. She invites you to almost personalize your relationship to your items, like thanking your shoes for their hard work when you put them away each day! When something isn't useful anymore or doesn't spark joy, she suggests you thank the object for its role in your life and then discard/donate it. Some things were hard to imagine doing, like emptying the contents of your handbag each day and putting every book you own on the floor to decide if it sparks joy or not. (Um, not doing that.)
I am a person with a lot of stuff and a person who holds onto a lot of stuff.  I somehow wonder how I would ever change these jaded ways for good, but Marie Kondo swears if you use her method, you would never be clutt…

Bah Humbug #SOL15

It might say something about my nature that as a little girl, I would start the Christmas countdown sometime in late October.  Cutting strips of red and green construction paper, I would create a humongously long Advent chain, weeks before Advent was even set to start.  A blue link at the top meant Christmas Eve and the final link, the yellow one, meant Christmas day.  Every night, I would tear off another link, knowing I was a little bit closer to the magic of Christmas.
So when did I start dreading the Christmas season? There, I said it.  I know, there are entire songs and movies and plays written about grumps like me who aren't in the holiday spirit. It's ironic that as a kid, Christmas couldn't come fast enough, but as a grown-up, I am resentful of how it is has invaded the fall. Sirius has been playing holidays songs while I still had Halloween candy in a pumpkin and when I had some time to shop on Veterans Day, I was serenaded by "White Christmas". 
The littl…

Back on the List #SOL15

My life is made up of lists of things to do.  As a third grade teacher. the list of "to-do's" feels rather endless and is always growing.  As a wife and mom, there are many "to-do's" that sometimes don't get done because of the teacher list, but still there are the essential things I must do, like fill out picture money forms, lunch menus, appointments, etc.  Laundry, cooking, dishwasher loading and unloading.  Laundry baskets that sit for days (weeks?) until I get around to putting the clothes away. Another "to-do" that is hard to do. 

Please don't get me wrong. I am so grateful to have these "to-do's." I am grateful beyond words for my family, my children, and my job.  It's just...there is no room for me on this list.  For the me that isn't a mom, isn't a teacher, isn't a wife, isn't wearing another hat.  The me that is just me doesn't make it on the list, no time for her. And it's kind of taking …

#SOL15 The Dance

"When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor.  It's to enjoy each step along the way." -Wayne Dyer
In the winter of 2009, my husband Mike, before he was my husband, agreed to take ballroom dancing lessons with me in preparation for our April wedding.  Once a week, we would drive 20 minutes from our apartment to the ballroom dance studio.  Dennis was our instructor.  He was dapper, always dressed impeccably, and he was patient! Very patient.  Our wedding song would be Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are" and Dennis choreographed a dance routine for us, teaching us the steps and adding more each week. 
Wedding planning can be pretty stressful stuff, but the weekly dance lessons were actually a fun escape.  We laughed and named the steps, including one called "Toss the Lady." We practiced during the week in the living room of our apartment, working together to master the first dance we would perform at our wedding reception.…

Recovering from a Gold Star Addiction #SOL15

"But it's alright now.  I learned my lesson well.   See you can't please everyone,  so you got to please yourself." -Ricky Nelson, "Garden Party"
My class has been reading Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.  On Friday, we watched the video Lynda created where she read aloud Chapter 17 and then answered questions about the book and her process.  At one point, Lynda spoke about praise and how we all want it, but we have to be careful not to rely too much on it.  To stop looking for validation outside ourselves and find it within. 
Gretchen Rubin described her need for "gold stars" in The Happiness Project.  I'm a gold-star-loving-gal myself.  Nothing makes me happier than the warm, fuzzy, kind, encouraging words about something I've done right.  I've saved notes and letters from former teachers and now former administrators, parents, and students.  On the hard days, these words help fill up my deflated sails and allow me to journey on throu…

#WhyIWrite #SOL15

The night my beloved grandfather, Grandy, passed away, I slept on his couch in the den, alongside my mother.  My Grandma snored loudly next to his hospital bed in their bedroom, a bit of comic relief at such a tragic moment.  The hospice workers had told us he was "on his journey" and we knew he would not be with us much longer.  In the middle of the night, or early in the morning, Grandy breathed his last, my mother next to him, having had a sense he was going. When he was carried out by the undertakers, they advised us not to watch, and so my Grandy left what he proudly called his "little nest" for the very last time.

I was 20 years old, a college student.  As I drove back home that morning, my head and heart filled with the words I knew I needed to say about my grandfather.  I walked in the door, sat at the computer, and typed.  I wrote his eulogy, hours after he passed away, and somehow later found the courage to stand up in the church and speak, through the tea…

The Thing About Corn Mazes #SOL15

I found myself in a corn maze on Sunday.  We went pumpkin picking to a farm out east on Long Island and after the pumpkins were picked, my kids and their cousins wanted to do the corn maze. Never a big fan, but not wanting to be the party pooper, I agreed and we ventured inside.

As the autumn sun warmed the morning chill in the air, my 2 1/2 year old daughter decided I needed to hold her as I navigated the ropey vines and stones in my path.  The path twisted and turned and corn was all I could see as I trudged with Megan through the maze. My son, nieces, and sister-in-law were up ahead, and my niece would wait until I got closer before moving on so we didn't get separated. Holding Megan, it was hard to keep up with the group. When my niece joyfully announced she could see the light at the end of the maze, I was filled with relief. 

Life, of late, has been a lot like a corn maze.  I've found myself in the middle of a confusing and upsetting situation with no clear path out.  It f…

A Fish in a Tree Moment #sol15

Today, my third graders and I began the Global Read Aloud.  This year, we are reading Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.  We talked about the saying from Einstein that inspired the title and then I asked the students to think about a time where they felt like a fish in a tree- a fish in a tree moment.  

To me, a fish in a tree moment would be when you felt incapable of doing something that others around you easily could do.  I've had many of these moments throughout my life.  My mind flashed back to being about 8 years old myself and taking gymnastics.  It was torture.  In my memory, the balance beam was very high and very narrow.  Not only did I have difficulty mastering how to walk on that, but I was expected to do a tumble on it.  I was petrified.  To make matters worse, I remember that the kids in my class were mean to me, teasing me about being so inept. I remember quitting gymnastics and the wave of relief I felt.  

Kids who feel like a fish in a tree academically do not ha…

Choosing Kind #SOL15

"Imagine what our real neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person.  There have been so many stories about the lack of courtesy, the impatience of today's world, road rage and even restaurant rage.  Sometimes, all it takes is one kind word to nourish another person.  Think of the ripple effect that can be created when we nourish someone.  One kind empathetic word has a wonderful way of turning into many." -Mr. Rogers
I've been overwhelmed with sadness at many of the stories I've been reading on Facebook.  Humans of New York has been featuring stories of the refugees in Syria and they are absolutely horrifying and heartbreaking.  I can't even fathom what other human beings are experiencing.  I read updates from Ana Marquez-Greene's family and am just astounded by their grace and courage, but their loss is so stunning in its' sadness that I am filled with despair that they were robbed of t…

The Imposter #SOL15

This week, I read Sandy Otto's blog post on sharing our failures. It was an excellent piece- check it out:  Sandy wrote that we often share all of the good on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, but we don't share the flops, the failures, the lessons that went awry.  She courageously discussed what went wrong in her classroom that week and then what went right, too.  Thank you, Sandy, for starting this conversation!

I happen to be a mentor to a new colleague at work.  She just joined Twitter and after seeing my "followers" commented that I'm "famous." Now the pressure is on! We have to observe each other as part of our mentor program and I am already petrified that she will think I am the biggest fraud.  ("People follow HER? IF only they could see her in action!) 

I'm worried that since I started blogging about teaching and sharing my ideas, people migh…

A Letter to Alex's Teacher #SOL15

To Alex's Teacher,

As a teacher myself, I know what it's like to get a class list, scan the names, and have a moment of recognition, and okay-dread, when you see a name that you've heard before.  Some students have a reputation that precedes them and like it or not, you already have some negative ideas about this student.  You might ask yourself: Will I be able to handle this student's behavior? How much extra stress will this student cause? Can I be the one to turn it around for him/her?

By now, you know my son Alex has been added to your class roster.  He will join your class tomorrow.  He has been in your school since he was 11 months old and next month he will turn 5.  Most of the time, he does a great job.  Sometimes he has trouble listening.  Those times have been more frequent lately, part of the reason he is making a change and joining your group.  

I'm worried you might be dreading this.  You surely have a lovely class and you've started setting up your r…

To Every Season, Turn, Turn #SOL15

Click on the link for my summer family photo montage! Summer Memories

"To everything (turn, turn, turn) There is a season (turn, turn, turn) And a time to every purpose under heaven."
And so another summer ends, unofficially with Labor Day and the start of school.  It feels like just the other day I was posting about hellos and goodbyes as the school year was ending and I was joining the team at Two Writing Teachers. Now, summer is gone and a new school year beckons.  
I will miss the easy pace of summer, the smell of coconut suntan lotion and the salty spray of the ocean on my lips. The barbecues and ketchup and hamburger smell filling the neighborhoods. The alarm clock-less days, flip flops, and leisurely time with my family.  
I will not miss the mosquitoes.  
Autumn is my favorite season.  Tonight I dream of pumpkins, a chill in the air, red, gold, and brown leaves drifting to the ground. Hayrides. Candy apples. Hoodies and soft sweaters.  Pumpkin flavored everything, especially…

I Wish Us More #SOL15

Last year, many of us chose I Wish You More, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheldas a final read aloud, sending our students off with beautiful wishes for their lives. This summer, I was a participant in the Summer Literacy Institute in Merrick, NY. On our last day, the teachers in the group all composed wishes for our students and we created a poem for our hopes for the new year.

Tomorrow is my first day of school and the students start on Wednesday. As I think about the year ahead and the challenges we teachers will face, I thought it would be nice to start the year with my own adapted version of I Wish You More. This one is for the teachers....
I Wish Us More
I wish us more "get up and go" than can't get out of bed.
I wish us more high fives than hurdles.
I wish us more empowerment than compliance.
I wish us more line-free times at the copy machine than long waits.
I wish us more balance than burnout.
I wish us more taking risks than playing it safe.
I wish us more hope…

Dear First Year Teacher

Thanks to Michelle Haseltine for the inspiration to write this letter!

Dear First Year Teacher,

When I walk into Superintendent's Conference Day this September, it will be my 14th year of teaching.  I was in your shoes in September 2001, just a few days before the world changed forever on September 11th.  I remember my first sixth grader waiting for me outside the door. I said, "Hello, I'm Kathleen" and saw her face fall with confusion before I realized my mistake and said, "Oh, I mean Miss Neagle (my maiden name)." The other students hadn't even gotten to the door and I made my first mistake. It was the first of many.  

When you are a new teacher, you are struggling mightily to stay afloat in the rough, stormy seas of education.  My friends, it was not smooth sailing for me at all, but I felt like I had to pretend it was.  I believed I needed to wear the mask of the seasoned captain in clear control, utterly calm and sure of each adjustment of the wheel. …

What I Did on My Summer Vacation: Inspiration from #cyberPD

What I Did on My Summer Vacation: Inspiration from #cyberPD  

This was originally posted on
“You’re a teacher- so you get summers off, right?”

Well- kind of.  While not technically working or teaching, my summers are a chance for me to reflect, learn, and prepare for the new year ahead.  This used to be a solitary endeavor, but now that I found Twitter and a PLN of passionate educators eager to learn, I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate and share my understandings through reading, blogging, tweeting, and Voxing.  In Learn Like a Pirate, Paul Solarz says, “Two brains are better than one” and it is quickly becoming my favorite new saying.  What I can do on my own is nice; what I can do when I share my ideas with others and listen and learn from their ideas….that’s the game-changer.

The point of all my summer learning is to walk back into the classroom better tha…