A Clear Message

Two days ago I felt trapped in a hamster wheel that would never stop.  I kept going on and on, doing all the things that needed doing.  I wondered to myself how the busyness can happen so quickly after having two weeks of vacation.  As I was gearing up to begin another day, I saw this quote:

pixel2013 / Pixabay

“No matter how fast life is moving around us, there is always a place of stillness inside.” (notification on my phone from the Headspace app)

Hmmm, I thought to myself.  Good to remember!

Shortly thereafter, my youngest granddaughter was at my house.  She was watching an episode of “Bluey” (a cute Australian children’s show on Disney, Jr.).  In this episode, Bluey sits to meditate a moment amidst chaos so she can remember something that she has forgotten.

The message became crystal clear.  I should take some time to sit in stillness today.  So, I did.  I have been practicing yoga daily, so I took some time on the mat to give myself a breather and let my mind and body rest.

It was good.  It was needed.  The messages of that day had made their point.

Now to remember those messages when things get busy again.


2020 One Little Word

Imagine is my 2020 One Little Word.

I want a word that encourages me to dream big, take risks, be inspired/inspire others, and find the harmony in my daily life.  I want a word that makes my heart beat a little faster and my eyes light up with joy.

That is what the word “imagine” does for me.  It makes me want to do more than get through life.  It makes me want to dream and create the life I truly want to live.  It excites me, and honestly, it scares me a little, too.  It’s going to require me to step outside of my comfort zone. That is part of the thrill.  That is what makes an ordinary life extraordinary.

When I reach the end of my life, hopefully many, many years from now, I want to look back and know that I did more than survive.  I want to look back and smile, knowing that I lived every moment to its fullest.




Through the Eyes of A Six Year Old

It is the day after Christmas.  I am watching my youngest granddaughter make designs using a Spirograph and various colored pens.  She is only six, yet she is intent on creating specific designs, taking care to choose the right wheel and the best colors.

Occasionally the pen slips out of the hole or the wheel jumps off of the sprockets on the ring.  She gets frustrated but not for long.  She sets her mind to work figuring out a solution so she can achieve the result she wants.

There is no settling.

She knows what she wants, nothing more, nothing less. She does not allow her initial feeling of frustration to derail her from the task at hand. I admire her clear focus and singular determination.

I want to be more like her.

Success in Community

One thing that breaks my heart is when students say they aren’t good at writing, they hate writing, or they will never be a “real writer.”  I want all of my students to love writing, or at the very least, feel competent and capable as writers.

A former writer wannabe myself, I didn’t consider myself a true writer until I found a community of writers in the Teach Write community.  The friendship and support in this community is just what I needed to leave the wannabe category and say, “I AM a writer!”  The insights and modeling that I get from this community have been instrumental as I build an authentic writing workshop community in my own classroom.

So, as I think about my students, I see the great importance in building a community where they feel included, safe to take risks, and their ideas have value.  That is where my class begins each year.

vait_mcright / Pixabay

  • Choice, voice, and ideas are encouraged and respected.  We spend a lot of time practicing how that looks and feels.
  • We use positive language.  We add the word “yet” to the end of potentially negative sentences.
  • No one can fail…unless they simply do nothing.
  • I share my own writing process.
  • Our community works to support one another as we work to achieve our goals and expectations.
  • We celebrate each other’s successes and problem solve together when things fall short of our expectations.
  • We’ve got each other’s backs.

“No man is an island.” This quote from seventeenth century poet John Donne points to the fact that humans need community.  Community gives us strength, encouragement, guidance, and a safety net.  It is where we feel supported and encouraged to take risks and grow our ideas.  This is the place where we can say, “I’ve found my people. They get me.”

I want my classroom community to be such a place.  I want the authors and writers in my classroom to feel supported and encouraged to chase their writing dreams and to say, “These are my people.  They get me.”


When the Ideas Come…

Have you ever pondered how ideas come to you?  I tend to get ideas at the strangest times.  It is almost as if an entire story or blog post will write itself in my head.  If I can stop what I am doing and write it all down, then the words flow and I am totally in the zone. However, I find that if I do not act upon them quickly enough, they go away!

Elizabeth Gilbert says in her book Big Magic, “Ideas have no material body but they do have consciousness, and they most certainly have a will. Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner.”

That certainly is an interesting thought! Ms. Gilbert goes on to explain that if the chosen human is not receptive to the idea at the time it visits, it will seek someone else.

I am not sure that I see ideas in quite the same way as Ms. Gilbert, but I do find myself thinking about this whenever an idea happens to find me.  I try to be receptive and at least take a few minutes to begin the writing process in hopes that I capture its essence.  That way, when I come back to it, it is still there, waiting to be fully drafted and revised.

I know that it isn’t always possible to stop everything and tend to ideas, but I am making more of an effort to do so.  Who knows, maybe doing that will pave the way for more ideas to come my way.

TeroVesalainen / Pixabay

Writing Magic

It’s 8:30 a.m.  My eager writers are ready to dig into their ongoing writing projects.  At the top of their lists are the books they are writing about endangered species.

The authors quickly retrieve their folders, spread out their drafts, and begin drafting, revising, editing, or illustrating.  Watching them work, it is obvious that they are deeply invested in the animals they chose to research and the writing process they are using to share their knowledge.  The focused energy in the room is amazing.

Occasionally, someone realizes more information is needed and he/she sets off to do some additional research.

More than once, excitement sends students scurrying to find me so they can share their latest discoveries.

“Mrs. V, did you know that the Arctic fox uses its long, bushy tail to keep its nose warm?  That’s an adaptation!”

“Is that so?  Did you include that information in your book?”


“Mrs. V., Mrs. V.!  Guess what? If the Arctic wolf becomes extinct, its predators might not find enough food and become endangered!  OR…Their prey will overpopulate the area, and it will be chaos!  I need to include that information in my book…wait…should it be in a fact box or should I just write it in the chapter on environmental threats?”

“Which method will get your point across most effectively?”

“I think a fact box.  Thank you, Mrs. V.!”

And yet another…

“Let me tell you about those sea turtles, Mrs. V…”

All too soon, our class time comes to an end.  There are moans and groans and a few, “What?! It’s time already?” questions.

Not every writing workshop unfolds this smoothly, but I cherish the days when they do.  When learners are in that flow state, they get to experience one of the greatest joys of writing.

That is when the magic begins.

An Exercise in Gratitude

Some days are difficult.  Today was one of those days.  To pull myself out of the negativity that surrounds me, I am going to reflect on the things that happened today for which I am grateful.

  1. Bella’s daily hugs-Everyday she blesses me with a hug as she enters my room and a hug as she exits my room.
  2. Engaged, happy students-Today my learners worked on using the Chrome Music Lab to create songs and add them to their blogs.  They were completely immersed in the experience!
  3. A laugh with my neighbors-Believe it or not, the building next door to me is my dentist’s office, and he and his staff are the best neighbors.  I had a routine appointment after school.  We talked, laughed, and caught up.
  4. Giving good news-I was able to share with a teacher of record that her student is doing great.  In fact, his jolly nature made lots of people feel joyful today!
  5. Chatting with friends-I was able to speak with two primary teachers today before school.  They are friends, as well as prayer warriors, and I am grateful to chat briefly with both of them.  I also chatted for a very brief moment after school with a dear long-time colleague and friend.
  6. Fresh air and sunshine-I was able to enjoy the sunshine on my face at recess.
  7. Jeans week-I am wearing jeans to work all week to help the fundraising efforts for Dollars for Scholars.
  8. Dinner-My husband cooked a delicious dinner on this busy evening.  I am indeed blessed.
  9. Teach Write-Tuesday evenings with the most awesome writing group ever…priceless!

My positive experiences today definitely outweigh the negative.  For that, I am grateful.

A Magical Experience

monicore / Pixabay

There is something special, almost magical, when someone takes the time to read your work and leave a specific comment.  I have witnessed this magic every time my learners log on to their blog pages and see that other students or teachers have made positive comments that speak to the posts’ content or the writing.  The scenario looks a little something like this:

“Mrs. V.! Look.  Hurry!”

“What is it?” I ask excitedly.

“A student (or teacher) from Barcelona, Spain (or any number of other places) left a comment on my blog post!  You have to look at it!”

“I’d love to!”  I excitedly read the comment and ask, “What do you think about that? What do you think you will write in reply?”

Then I listen as the students tell me what they think are appropriate comments.  Afterwards, they scurry back to where they are working and get to the task of writing replies.   They are so careful with their own comments and replies as they revise and edit to ensure they are writing clearly and making as few mistakes as possible.  It is quite magical to watch, really, and it affirms my belief in having authentic audiences outside of the classroom.

I appreciate opportunities, such as the Edublogs Student Blogging Challenge, that provide these rich experiences.  My students are immersed in the magical world of writing, and I know the memories of these experiences will last a lifetime.

The Student Blogging Challenge

Student Blogging Challenge Badge Participants 2019

My students have been blogging since 2011, but blogging became more relevant for all of them when they started completing the Edublog’s Student Blogging Challenge.  Before the challenge, my students posted comments on one another’s blogs, parents sometimes visited and commented, and occasionally an Edublogs teacher from around the world would leave a comment.  There wasn’t enough interaction to keep them interested, and after awhile, the blogging would get stale.

For the past two years, though, my learners have participated in the blogging challenge offered by Edublogs.  This has been just what my kiddos needed to experience fully the value of blogging.  Here are some of the benefits:

  • Each week of the challenge focuses on an aspect of blogging, such as creating pages, learning to add pictures and other media, writing great comments, etc.  My students are learning the ins and outs of blogging.
  • They are receiving and replying to comments from teachers and students around the world.  The excitement they feel when they open their blog page and see comments from people all over the world (Ireland, Australia, Austria, etc.) is contagious. Every person in the class celebrates and shares their comments.
  • They are visiting and commenting on the blog posts of students from around the world.  The need for self-editing and revising becomes more apparent to them!
  • It’s just plain fun!  My students cannot wait to log on to their blog pages each day!

It’s authentic, fun, and there’s nearly instant feedback.  I highly recommend this blogging challenge to any teachers wishing to start a blogging habit with students!