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the myth of the working (teacher) mom.

I beat myself up. A lot. Like a lot a lot. I know I’m not alone–especially for those of us who are juggling responsibilities at home AND at school. Whether we’re raising babies or tolerating teenagers or caring for elderly parents or working second jobs to make ends meet…it’s a lot. And that whole Summers-Off-Done-By-Three…

all i really need to know i learned in the covid classroom.

(with apologies to Robert Fulghum) In 1986, Robert Fulghum’s bestseller All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten reminded us to return to the basics. Fulghum’s premise was, if we just recalled the principles from kindergarten (e.g., share, play nice, clean up our own messes)–instead of over-complicating everything, we’d have a pretty great…

our break-up letters to 2020.

My Creative Writers keep Writers’ Notebooks, housing writing exercises we complete each week. Some entries are brainstorms, others are single-sitting warm-ups, and others are the beginnings of pieces we’ll develop at a later date. It seems fitting, then, that our final entry for 2020 was a Dear John letter to one of the craziest years…

new year’s resolutions–covid edition.

2020 was, to quote CNN’s Jake Tapper, “a hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a trainwreck.” And others agree. Towns rang in the new year with literal dumpster fires; the Holderness family pushed out a Billy Joel parody about them; and one YouTube channel even swapped out the traditional Yule Log for a flaming…

the gratitude project. (take that, 2020!)

2020 has been brutal. COVID-19, racial injustice (i.e., the Other Pandemic), murder hornets, plane crashes, brushfires, elections, remote learning, working from home. You name it, and it’s most likely been a part of 2020. One theory blames the “Baby Shark” song.  If you’ve ever had that “earworm” stuck in your head (or minivan), you’d probably…

authors who inspire

Since reading is the inhale and writing is the exhale, my creative writing classes reflected on which authors have inspired their inner writers. Take a look at the community slidedeck that we created. (Click on the slide deck to advance through the content.) Teacher-Lady played, too!

spinach-filled brownies

Sneaking Rigor into the Choice-Reading Classroom Choice is a beautiful thing. With students choosing their own titles in my class, there’s so. much. beauty. There’s beauty in watching Reluctant Readers realize that reading is enjoyable–maybe just not how we‘ve been assigning it. These students become Authentic Readers and grow as a result. And there’s beauty…

silver linings.

There’s been lots of talk about finding the Silver Linings in the midst of our current COVID storm. At publishing time, we’ve been quarantined here in New England for ten weeks, and schools are closed indefinitely. However, despite all of the anxiety and unrest, our students are still learning (because we teachers are still teaching),…

flattening the anxiety.

Photo Credit: Siouxsie Wiles and Toby Morris This is our students’ 9/11. Their JFK Assassination. Their Uphill-Both-Ways-in-the-Snow walks to school. This is their “I-Remember-When…,” the story they’ll be telling and retelling the next generation. This is also a breeding ground for anxiety. And the instant access to the news–complete with its statistics, daily briefings, and…

on death and teaching.

I always tell my students that Life trumps School. I don’t want them worrying about a reading assignment or writing deadline when they should be caring for a post-op mom or sitting with a sick grandparent. Life is precious, our time together is limited, and our relationships with each other will always eclipse English class….

the gratitude project (2019).

A few years ago, during Thanksgiving week, I began what I affectionately call “The Gratitude Project.” (You can read read more about it HERE and HERE.) Essentially, I forced my students–and myself–to carve out some time to reflect on the Good in our lives in the midst of all of the bad. We were inspired by…

choice: it does a reading program good.

High schoolers aren’t reading like they used to. However, most students remember a time when they enjoyed reading, going to the library, having a book read to them. But something happened, and reading was placed on the back burner. (For my readers, that Something tends to be middle school–when choice often goes down and requirements…

when numbahs don’t lie (2018-9).

Students can’t be reduced to a number. They can’t be defined by their results on common assessment, reduced to where they fall on a state test, nor limited by their SAT/ACT scores. However, sometimes numbers don’t lie. With a towering goal of helping students fall back (or, for a select few, remain) in love with reading–while building their…

the mcas: this does not define you.

It’s that time of year again…The snow is beginning to melt (ish). The days are feeling a bit longer. Daylight is sticking around for dinner. And statewide exams are lurking around the corner. In Massachusetts, sophomores must pass the MCAS exam (in ELA, math, & science) in order to graduate. So, naturally, I’ve shared strategies…

the gratitude project (2018).

Last year, a few days before Thanksgiving, I began what I affectionately call “The Gratitude Project.” (You can read read more about it HERE and HERE.) Essentially, I forced my students–and myself–to carve out some time to reflect on the Good in our lives. We were inspired by Kid President, we looked at an experiment that…

let them choose books.

Penny Kittle wrote,  “A book isn’t rigorous if students aren’t reading it.” This single statement has shaped my teaching career more than just about anything else. And for my first fifteen years, my students (and, chances are, probably yours, too) simply weren’t reading. I was beyond frustrated. So, I decided to teach the students in…

when numbahs don’t lie (2017-8).

Students can’t be reduced to a number. They can’t be defined by their results on a common assessment, reduced to where they fall on a state test, nor limited by their SAT/ACT scores. However, sometimes numbers don’t lie. With a towering goal of helping students fall back (or, for a select few, remain) in love…

teaching style: the art of repetition.

Most honors students enter my classroom in the fall with the ability to craft organized, error-free writing. Which is fabulous. However, most students don’t have the tools to take their writing to the next level. (And based on the Traits of an Honors Student, taken from the Honors English course description in our school’s Program of Studies, honors students are already…

the gratitude project–part 2 (2017).

A few days before Thanksgiving, I asked my high school students to take an inventory of what they were thankful for this year.  They knew ahead of time that I would be sharing their lists, and, as promised, I emailed the class projects to my students’ parents and guardians on Thanksgiving morning.  (You can view…

the gratitude project–part I (2017).

I’m sort of done with the news. Except for the whole I-don’t-want-to-be-ignorant part. With each shooting, political scandal, and social media war, it’s hard not to head into the holidays with a heavy heart. And our students feel it, too. Maybe more than we do. After all, behind all of the eye rolls, looks-that-kill, and…

the dangers of landscaping.

Teachers don’t have favorites. Sure, and Mom didn’t like me best because I was the baby. However, there are definitely those students whose growth leaves us beaming with pride, whose writing leaves a lasting impression, whose authenticity leaves us questioning how we can help fix a systemic problem. I’ll come back to this. For the written…

when numbahs don’t lie (2016-7).

Students can’t be reduced to a number. They can’t be defined by their results on a common assessment, reduced to where they fall on a state test, nor limited by their SAT/ACT scores. However, sometimes numbers don’t lie. With a towering goal of helping students fall back (or, for a select few, remain) in love…

explainer videos 101.

In a world of Common-Assessment-This and District-Determined-Measures-That, it’s more important than ever to allow our students to show their learning in  non-standardized ways as well. Enter: the Explainer Video. An Explainer Video is a real-world digital tool that can be found on virtually every website. Between the fast-forward button on our DVRs and the ad…

postsecret: where language, art, and vulnerability collide.

Sometimes the best ideas begin with a dream. And the PostSecret project is no exception. This ongoing community art project was born in 2005 to proud parent Frank Warren. After visiting Paris–where he experienced a lucid dream, he returned to the states and began disseminating postcards with specific directions: Recipients must write down their innermost secrets, use the…

we still hear america singing: a collaborative poem

Our American Lit students are examining the role that individualism plays in American society. After studying Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing” (and Langston Hughes’ response, “I, Too“), my juniors, as a class, created their own 21st century anthems below. They were too fabulous NOT to share! Enjoy… B BLOCK’S HOMAGE…. F BLOCK’S HOMAGE….

ingredients of a delicious passion blog post.

(👆Abby A. working on her travel blog.👆) In an effort to create a positive digital footprint–while doing real-world writing for an authentic audience beyond Teacher-Lady, my students have started their Passion Blog Projects. This real-world task, inspired by the fabulous teacher-author  Catlin Tucker (@catlin_tucker), allows students to shape their own learning while honing their research,…

stretching: it does a classroom good.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., asserted that “Man’s mind stretched to a new idea never goes back to its original dimensions.” Since I’m assuming that applies to a woman’s mind, too, I’m fixing to celebrate: My mind has done quite a bit of stretching since September. I should mention that my department is now using a newly purchased,…

the beauty of a blank canvas.

August ignites a range of emotions in teachers. We’re sad that our delicious, correcting-free days of summer are over. We’re disappointed that those ambitious To-Do Lists didn’t get completed. We’re dismayed at how quickly the school supplies, school clothes, and school lunches add up. And we’re eager to step down from our role as referee between our littles at home we’re eager to start…

’tis the season–of abdominal pain?

If April showers bring May flowers, and Mayflowers bring pilgrims, what does June bring? Apparently, abdominal pain. I’ve had some internal discomfort for a while, and since I practically have a medical degree because I can Google my symptoms, I self-diagnosed it as being gall bladder-related. My doctor-sister, Wendy, thinks I’m Hysterical–but not in that ha-ha-you’re-so-funny kind of way; she means…

5 benefits of going paperless.

I love the planet; however, I didn’t go paperless in my classroom to save the Earth. It’s a fabulous, additional benefit, as we ELA teachers can photocopy like nobody’s business! But saving trees wasn’t the motivating force two years ago; engaging my students–while trying to work smarter and not harder–was. First, some background. I teach in…

the power of words.

I’m a work in progress–both in and out of the classroom. Outside the classroom, I’m still trying to survive navigate each stage of child-rearing, which I’ve decided is only mastered after my own two children have moved on to the next phase of development.  But that hasn’t stopped me from trying. Like breathing, I have always turned to…

the “real-world” midyear (& final)

It sounds like an oxymoron. After all, what is “real-world” about taking a midyear exam? Outside of taking the LSAT or sitting for Boards, when in life do we adults ever have to take an exam covering the events of the last 5 months? Or worse, a cumulative test on all of the events in the last 10 months? As…

“make a legal u-turn, if possible.”

2015 was rough. While I still functioned reasonably well on the outside, it entailed a lot of smoke and quite a few mirrors. Even if we’re grieving over a loved one, Standard RL.2.1 still needs to be taught. And regardless of our backlog of essays, Common Assessment #2 still needs to be administered, collected, and assessed. As…

’twas the night before progress reports.

Teaching is a lot like childbirth. If we told teachers-to-be the truth about their futures, education majors everywhere would take their college loans and head for the hills. Instead, we use educator Newspeak, gingerly telling these trainees that “no textbook can fully prepare them,” that their first year will be “baptism by fire,” and even that “it’s…

charming gardeners.

With Thanksgiving comes reflection, and this year my thinking was informed by French novelist Marcel Proust: “Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” And while my family most of the time naturally brings me a world of happiness, as do my friends, there are…

the classroom library (yes, even in high school).

My husband says I work for free–although, if we’re counting this past year, I may have actually paid to come to work. The reason? You’re looking at it: the classroom library. After being inspired by the likes of Kelly Gallagher (Readicide), Penny Kittle (Book Love), and Donalyn Miller (The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild), a colleague and I…

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