Magical Progress

It seems that it can be hard for me to notice my own progress while I am in the trenches putting in the work. When it goes unnoticed for too long, or I discount it, the motivation needed to keep going gets tougher. Instead of feeling motivated I feel stuck or defeated. 
Young children are so excited to share their improvement, their progress and celebrate it so joyfully! “Look at me! I did it!” At some point that joyful celebration begins to come less easily, with less enthusiasm.
When I was teaching Summer School most of my students were hesitant to write. “I can’t do it.” or “I am not good at it.” were common statements. As almost third graders they were feeling stuck and unmotivated. I know how that feels. They were unable to see, or acknowledge, their writing capabilities and unwilling and fearful to try and improve. 
I wanted them to notice their capabilities and see every bit of improvement they made. With support, effort, focus and fun we worked on our writing for the 20, half days we were together. Celebrating as much as we could, every little bit.
On our last day of school I decided to share some bits and pieces of our pre and post writing assessment with them. I didn’t share the scores, or the names on the papers, and we discussed not saying, “That’s mine.” or “I know who’s that is.” 
We looked at the pre and post side by side and noticed the improvement. What do you see that is better than the first test? We noticed spaces between words, easier to read, better spelling, capital letters at the start of a sentence, period at the end, clearer printing…Any little improvement we noticed it and we smiled about it.
 We did not discuss scores and didn’t use the word perfect. We used the words changed, improved, transformed and magic. Is it magic? It can feel like it, but we know it’s not because we know the effort, hard work and focus that it took to get better at writing. The feeling of owning the improvement is magical, joyful, and motivating!!
I hope that as they enter into third grade next week they carry that feeling with them and let that feeling give them the courage to keep working hard and to try their best. I hope they amaze themselves with all they can do.

Cheerful, Creative, Connected

A couple of months ago when I was substite teaching it was time on the schedule for silent reading. As the students were finding their books and beginning to read one student told me, loudly, that he was a non reader, that he coudn’t read. This statement was followed by the moment when the class is watching to see what happens next. As a substitute there are a lot of these moments as we get to know each other!

I told him that he could still look at a book and gain a lot from it, and told him to wait while I looked to see what books I had with me that he might enjoy. I had Kid’s National Geographic Books which have the most spectacular pictures. Each page has one photograph and an amazing fact about that a creature. By studying the picture he could interpret, or imagine, what the fact was about. He enjoyed looking at the book and occassionally would call me over to read the fact to him. We both felt successful out of that encounter and the class was able to proceed without disruption.

I remember that moment well, but what I remember most is the creative, collaborative game that he asked me to play with him later at recess. He had a tennis ball and was wearing a a baseball cap. We played catch and he used his cap to catch the ball. The smiles and laughter as we played were contagious. Eventually two other students asked to join us and he kindly included them. When the timing was right I quietly stepped out of the game.

He was included in silent reading. He included other class members in a game of his own creation.

I thought of these moments of teaching when I read this today, “Einstein was right about the imagination. It is more important then knowledge…through his play, (he) is learning to imagine himself in entirely new ways. He is discovering, however hatlingly, the value of belonging to a community, one to which he brings his own unique and important contributions…” from the book, Teaching The Restless by Chris Mercogliano

A Place We Want to Be

Being a teacher right now can be overwhelming. There is a lot going on, a lot to hear, and so much to think about. With that being said, I keep finding myself going back to the classroom, even after days when I say, “That’s it.” 

I have not returned to full time teaching but I have been substitute teaching for almost two years now. I keep committing to a bit longer jobs, a little bit more responsibility. I feel very fortunate that I am able to wade back into the waters at my own pace.

Last year I canceled going on a trip to a tropical resort with my husband to take a long term substitute teaching position. After that position ended I told my husband to remind me of the difficulties and how tired I was if I was considering another position.

This summer I am going to miss our annual vacation with our friends so that I can teach summer school. Oops, I did it again!  

“ Why?” I ask myself this and I get asked this by others.

I think what keeps me coming back is my love for teaching and the opportunity to build a good day with the students and the feeling that comes from that.

What can I bring that will help us do that? 

What are they expecting when I walk in? 

What do I want to feel while I am there?

After a tough day I start asking myself  those questions and all the possibilities are still there. 

I need to bring enthusiasm. I need to want to be there. I need to get them invested! To invest in building a good day. To care about creating the strongest classroom. To understand how we all contribute to that. I must provide the framework, and the direction for that. Figuring out how to create, adjust and build that fires me up!! It drives me to return and keep trying.

Secretly the Cheers theme song runs through my head to remind me of what is needed. All the noise around education slips away and I return to what is important.

“Sometimes you wanna go

Where everybody knows your name

And they’re always glad you came

You wanna be where you can see (ah-ah)

Our troubles are all the same (ah-ah)

You wanna be where everybody knows your name”

I am very excited to do what I love, and what I am good at, this summer and I can’t wait to say hello to each student that joins me,see what we create together and feel the joy of being there.

Seeing Differently

A poem about the strength of connection and understanding that can come from sharing our experiences with one another, thinking about our different perspectives (points of view), and finding out what we have in common.

"My bedroom is on the top floor of our house," said the child.
"My nest is near the top of a tall tree," said the bird.

My house has three peaks with a window in each one.
My nest is in three tall trees standing together.

From my house I can see the rooftops of my neighbor's houses.
From my nest I can see the tall buildings downtown.

I can watch people walk by from my window.
I can watch clouds pass by from my branch.

When the wind blows my house stands strong and still.
When the wind blows my nest stands strong and sways.

From my house I can hear cars driving by and children playing.
From my trees I can hear planes flying by and children playing.

There are three trees by my house, if I look I can see the tops of the trees.
There is a house by my nest, if I look I can see three peaks on the house.

"I see you and you see me. We live in the same place! We are together."

-Kay Lybeck

Creating Strength

I have been thinking a lot about what contributes to a strong classroom and what defines a strong classroom. What builds an environment of growth? How do we nuture that? How do we make it safe and joy filled? What does it feel like and look like to walk into The Strongest Classroom? At this moment I find myself thinking in poetry, specifically haikus, which help me think in few words that can convey strong feeling. I hope one of these poems might connect with you. Maybe you will be inspired to write your own haiku about the environment we need to nurture for children that leads to growth, learning and joy! I would love that!! If you feel comfortable sharing one with me that would be amazing!

The strongest classroom!
Happens anywhere at all,
when we nurture care.
A builder of hope...
the difficulty is seen,
the effort is given.
All in together.
Contributing to our best.
Community here.
Unscalable height...
one attempt has failed,
looks scalable now!
There is the feel of
wonder, possibility!
What could happen next?
Joy is with many.
Encouragement is alive.
Attempt, celebrate!
A safe space for us
where challenges are taken.
Resilience moves.
Ongoing process
with cycling dips and peaks
moving us upward.
I doubt that I can.
I will courageously try.
I am capable!

The Strongest Classroom

Connection, courage and possibility help me to navigate a strongman contest (insert any challenge in the blank).

Noticing the connection of the process that I share with all of the competitors to improve and grow builds a feeling of community for me. We share struggles, worries and adversities. We share gains, wins and celebrations. Noticing the frustrations and the joy, and experiencing this contrast of emotions together builds “a bonfire of belonging”(a beautifully strong phrase I heard from author Brad Montague).

It takes courage for me to get out there, to push to my edges and possibly beyond in a public setting. At the competition when I look around I see courage in action from the other competitors, the coaches, the judges, the spotters, the host who was brave enough to undertake and organize the event. All the different ways of being brave that I see, and the courage that I know I can’t see, motivate and inspire me to keep going.

Being in that atmosphere of connection and courage I can bravely try. I can go for it!!. I can risk being seen trying and failing, because I know, they know, what success is. I may leave bruised up from the all out effort, and with failed attempts, but I gained insight into how to try it again. I leave feeling fired up for the possibility that’s ahead of me, next time!!

Knowing that I am not alone in this difficult endeavor and bravely, repeatedly choosing to keep going, leads to success no matter the outcome.

From this environment of bravery to try and a community connected by growth, there seems to be a high level of encouragement and care. Care for myself, care for performing to my best and  care for others. That is an AMAZING byproduct of being in a strongman contest (insert your challenge in the blank). 

That is exactly what I want to foster as the teacher  in a classroom (challenge), a caring and encouraging community. Students need time to build a “strongman community” in their classroom before they can take risks to make learning gains. If we don’t allow for that time to build that strong community, and nurture a safe space to grow, which leads to caring, we are limiting great potential and children’s joy of dreaming big and going for it!!

You Know…That Feeling That Fuels More

You are imagining…there’s something to that idea…it’s innovative…it could work…it could be amazing…let’s give it a shot.

Collaborating to make the idea come to life, seeing skills and interests combine, everyone adding in different ways.

Planning, gathering the supplies, putting it together, creating from a vision, putting in the effort.

Surmounting problems, overcoming challenges, making changes, encouraging one another, persevering with a common purpose.

Celebrating, and noticing, the process of beginning, to persevering, to success for each individual and everyone together. Using your courage to navigate all the way through and feeling that hope in your heart. These experiences fuel us to continue to be creative.

“Creativity takes courage.”


Wonder Workshop

For children in 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade

In this workshop I will guide a small group of children as they design and create an imaginary world together. I will help them notice how capable, connected and resilient they are as they undertake this fun challenge. I will be using stories to help them become aware of, and connect with the process we are going through as we navigate the difficulties of our project.  We will be looking for ways to adapt, persevere, and collaborate throughout our time together. I believe positive challenging experiences build children’s resilience and empower them to navigate life’s challenges.

We will be painting, drawing, and coloring. We will be building, constructing, and gluing. We will be repurposing, reusing, and recycling. We will be imagining, producing and cooperating. We will be reading, noticing and journaling.  We will be busy with a common purpose.

Who: children in 2nd, 3rd or 4th grade

What: Wonder Workshop: we will imagine, and create together

When: from 4-6pm on March 5, 12, 19, April 2, and 16 

Where: At my home in NE Portland

Cost: $25 or purchase one of my poetry prints with this link: Poetry Print

How do I register my child? 

Please send me an email at with your child’s name and age. I will respond with a registration form and payment instructions.

This is the scenario the children will be presented with, and the challenge we will undertake together:

A group of tourists have set off on a glorious hot air balloon adventure. As they are floating above the land one group notices something below. Maybe it was a glint of strange light, some shocking bright colors or strange shapes that caught their attention. 

“Did you see that?” 

“What was it?”

They are not quite sure, but once they get out their binoculars they see something different than they have ever seen before! 



“How can that be?!” 

Then in a flash they can see it no more. It’s gone, out of sight. 

The land they had spied briefly from above appeared to be a newly discovered landscape that was different, strange, and so very curious, but it disappeared so quickly.

They decide to land nearby in a field to see if they can find this land and explore it.

Will they be able to find it once settled on land? What will it be like? They could make a discovery of something never seen before!

What wonder-filled world will they discover? It’s our job to imagine it, create it and transform this room into a whole new world!!


In this classroom they were studying butterflies. We began with a bare branch and added butterflies throughout the day. A beautiful transformation.

When I walk into a classroom as a substitute teacher I am stepping into a room full of HEARTS unknown to me, but they are hearts possible to imagine. 

In my mind when they see me I want them to feel cared for, which is a challenge when you are just meeting. I want to do my best to express my joy of being with them, my concern that each one of them has a successful day and I need to convey that as quickly as I can.

How do people show they CARE for you? I think effort, time and thought are three wonderful ways to show care. I am putting effort into doing something for you. I am spending time thinking about you. I am spending time with you. Those things show care. 

I bring something into the classroom that I have spent time putting together (activities, management ideas, lessons, etc…), while I was thinking of that class and I let them know I am happy to be spending time with them, that way I feel that I am putting my best caring foot forward.

I have been told, in different ways by different people, that I spend a lot of time getting ready for each class I go to. The first time I heard this I immediately felt embarrassed. I thought, “Am I spending too much time?” I am not sure why that is how I felt. Maybe because I have the time to do so and not everyone does? Maybe because it might seem silly to somebody else? 

I am fortunate to have the time and I love thinking of and creating different things to share with each class.

As this school year is coming to an end I am realizing that the children do notice the effort that I am putting forth and respond in a caring way. They have the most amazing reactions to my cardboard creations that I unfold out of my bag, which always makes me laugh and smile. They do their best to follow our guidelines to build a good day. They marvel at the finished product that we created together by the end of the day. We step back and feel joyful and even accomplished. “Look what we did today.” It wasn’t easy every minute, it was not perfect, but overall I hope they see success. 

I imagine each child at the end of the day feeling a spark of accomplishment and joy, and a peaceful HEART. That is what I strive for.

The Beginning of More


I haven’t written here in a while. In the world I have been feeling small and not enough. Feeling pressure from heaviness. I have been thinking that at almost fifty I should have life figured out, I mean talk about a late bloomer!

Recently two things have happened that have inspired me to share some of my experiences and ideas again. I watched a musician, John Batiste, and his wife Suleika Jaouad, interviewed on TV. My heart opened when I listened to the way he talked about music and song writing. He shared that music is the way for him to express day & night, dark & light and the connection between them. They mentioned that we all have different ways to express that. We should seek that out, our own best way to express what seems impossible, so then we can shift or rotate. Listening to him play the piano while he shared his ideas about the struggle with light and dark and adversity was so, so beautiful. 

The second thing that happened was a student reminded of what I love. I was in a third grade classroom and it was free choice time. The children could build with blocks and other materials, draw, play board games, etc. When there were ten minutes left one student asked me if she could continue reading the book that I had shared during read aloud time. Of course. I gave her the book and she walked halfway to her seat, turned around and said, “Could you read it to me? You are so good at it.”  What a wonderful compliment. We sat down at her desk and I started to read. When it was time for free choice to end, four kiddos were gathered around listening. I was so surprised that students would choose to listen to me read aloud when they could do other fun things?!!  She had just given me the gift of seeing what I had forgotten to notice.

Over the next few days I really began recognizing that I read children’s books when I am feeling lost. I take notes from the book. I think of art projects to go with the book. I share them with my family, I send them to friends. I read them aloud to children. All of that helps me to see a path again, to find clarity, to see connections.  As unflashy and simple as that is, I think that is my way. It is a practice that I return to to shift, rotate, connect all that  life holds. It helps me to see the beauty of everyday life and when I share the books in my way I see a difference that I can make. It’s in those moments of recognition that I feel that I am enough, that I am reminded that hope lies within each one of us.

With these two events, and talking with friends and family I came back to simplicity, to just me. I began to see, again, that better begins with me. When I express myself in my own way, and I act on that then I feel content. I can expand to my family, the classroom…and contribute from my heart outward, just as others have done for me. When I try to make sense and find answers to the”big”, the all encompassing world and work back from “way out there” toward myself, that’s when I experience disconnection and hopelessness. 

Right now, I don’t feel like a late bloomer because I remembered that it is a lifelong human practice to figure out how to navigate the world community, and that there is not one perfect path or way. We are all finding our ways! This time I see it as a heartbeat, I expand outward towards others until the connection gets murky and I get pulled so far away from myself that I  forget my way. Then I have to return to my center to recognize the way I shift through light and dark again and see the beauty. I think with practice my heartbeat slows and I will be able to encompass and contribute further and further out becoming better able to navigate through the darker times. 

I will continue to practice and I will get better at becoming aware of my singular responsibility to choose to create, take action and move forward with compassion so that I can contribute to my community and the world. I believe there’s magic somewhere in this practice because every now and then a spark lights my way. A spark that says each individual can make a difference, that’s the beginning of better together. Each one of us is enough.