Being Heard- Slice of Life Challenge Day 31

Sometimes I write whole treatises in my head as I drive.

I only regret that I leave them there along the sides of the road.

 

I want to thank the Two Writing Teachers team for hosting this month-long challenge. You gave us an outlet for our writing. It turns out audience matters (a lot). That’s something I didn’t realize as a new teacher. It’s something I thought I ‘knew’ until recently. This month I feel it in my heart.

Although I couldn’t nominate him for the New Slicers challenge, I’d like to thank a certain colleague who got me into this. The voices of respected co-practitioners mean ‘getting started’, and ‘believe in yourself.’ After this month, I’ll look for more ways to be that kind of a voice for others.

I feel gratified that a principal I’ve worked with, but never for, took the time to read my posts and pass some along to my own principal…who shared with a certain keeper of the sewing machines…each saying, in a way, ‘Look. This is worthy of notice.’ It reminds me that we don’t always know of amazing work that our colleagues are doing, but when we do, sharing it can be a way to honor it.

The voices of strangers also came to mean surprisingly more than I anticipated. Thank you to those of you who took the time to read and like or comment. I can see how social media can be intoxicating with its hits, retweets, reactions, and…actual audience. As I seek out other audiences for my own writing beginning tomorrow, I will also work to re-imagine how our writers here at PES can have real audiences who respond.

I realize that I deeply yearn to be heard. At home. In my district. In the world.

I have an itchy suspicion that we all do.

How would our world be if we listened more and truly heard each other?

Hearing you, through your posts, has left me teary, glowing, pensive, chuckling, even belly laughing. Your words bring beauty into the world and shine light on the beauty that was already here. You illuminate the dark places. You make the shiny ones glitter like summer sun on the water. You help some of us to know we are not alone…in our worldview, in our geekiness, in our passion for words and the worlds they can move or create.

Thank you, all, for writing and for listening.

You haven’t heard the last from me. I hope I haven’t heard the last from you.

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The Leader I Hope to Be–Slice of Life Challenge Day 30–The Penultimate Day, For Now

“Let yourself begin from where you are, and grow from there.”

When I interviewed for my student teaching position, I met with Nicole, who would be my cooperating teacher, and with Lorrie. After completing my student teaching I interviewed for a position in that very same English department, with Lorrie and a table full of others. I left the school when my second son was born. A year later I got a call from Nicole to say that Lorrie needed a reading teacher at her new school where she was now principal, would I consider? I interviewed and accepted the job. While I was there, Lorrie encouraged me to pursue a graduate program in reading. Thanks to her, I enrolled in a sixth year program even though I had two small boys at home. Fast forward a few years. Lorrie had moved on to be principal at another local high school. She contacted me to say she knew of a Reading Consultant position at one of the elementary schools in her district. She had mentioned my name to the principal there. I arranged for an interview…and here I am. Every grown-up job I’ve had has in some way been the result of Lorrie’s belief in me.

I hope to be the kind of leader who can see possibility and strength in others.

When I first began as a Reading Consultant, I was excited and completely overwhelmed by the enormity of what it entailed. I remember asking after I’d signed my contract, “Great, but what does a day actually look like? A week? The year?” Clearly there were people who believed enough in me to give me the opportunity to try. But how was I going to tackle it? There was so much to learn. Possibly the best advice I’ve ever taken to heart came to me at that time from someone else in the role. She said, “Give yourself permission to start from where you are, and grow from there.” Although she and I approached many other things differently, I wholeheartedly embraced that recommendation.

I hope and try to be the kind of leader who gives others permission to start from where they are and to be brave enough to take a step toward what’s next.

I have been learning ever since. I believe in–good enough for this time–so I’m not afraid to try. I believe in–next time I can do even better–every time. I also believe in trying to accept compliments for the times that turned out well, maybe better than I realized. If I ever felt like I’d mastered this job I’d check for a fever, then I’d ask myself what I hadn’t thought of. But I also believe in outgrowing myself. Which means, like when I shifted from whole class books to workshop behind my own door, or when I moved from a classroom to this whole-building role (with a hint of district influence via collaboration), that sometimes to stretch myself past what feels comfortable I will need to stretch into another way of doing things.

I hope to be the kind of leader who is always aware of when the stretch becomes comfortable, so I can reimagine what’s possible. 

Long ago, the first leader who influenced me said two contradictory things. First, “If you don’t toot your own horn, who will, besides me?” Did you guess that was my dad? Second he said, “I don’t need people to think the innovation was my idea. In fact, often they’re more willing to pursue it if they thought it was their idea in the first place.” I’m still wrestling with these contrasting pieces of advice. Generally, I don’t care either if people give me credit for an idea or a practice. If it’s one that’s good for readers or writers, I just want them to use it! That’s what’s important. And although I don’t think I’ve mastered Dad’s art of convincing someone it was their idea, my version sometimes looks like: “Hmmm, You just made me think. I wonder if…?” And it’s true. Based on what I saw or heard, they did make me think. I am wondering. The former advice, well, I’ve mostly chalked that up to giving myself credit in my heart for creating the conditions that made it possible some of the time when I see things working.

I hope to be the kind of leader who stands alongside as a collaborator instead of standing in front to command the attention, the kind of leader who is delighted when it’s your idea.

I hope to be a leader. I am a leader.

Thanks to a recent Keynote Address by Drew Dudley at Teachers College Saturday Reunion, I am thinking back to the lollipop moments that have made a difference in my life. It’s one step toward acknowledging and sharing these moments with the leaders who impacted me. And a step toward seeing the leader in myself.

I Started Writing a Book Last Night–Slice of Life Challenge Day 29

I really like this writing thing! I decided a week or so ago that I would write a book this summer, but last night a few pieces clicked into place. Why not start now? So here it is, a piece of a chapter from somewhere in the middle, maybe 1/3 through the arc of the story. 

 

I scrunched down under my pile of blankets, pulling my head into the nest so I didn’t have to see anyone. I took a shaky breath and shuddered as it escaped me again. Why did everything have to be so hard? I never even wanted this stupid move.

 

I used to know what I was good at. I used to be good at things. Now, it’s like a whiny toddler has taken over my body. That toddler seems to like knocking over the block tower of my life. And I– the real Lena–have to figure out how to rebuild it.

 

Hearing footsteps on the stairs, I squeezed my eyes shut, took a giant breath and held it. I’m not here. I’m not here. If I’m not here she’ll just go away. I really can’t take one more thing tonight.

 

Her footsteps came into my room and the bed sagged as she sat on the edge, but she didn’t say anything. Eventually I had to let out my breath. As if that were a signal, I felt her hand on my back. She still didn’t say anything, but she rubbed circles in my back the way I liked her to. I twitched away from her to the far side of the bed. There was that toddler again. The more I needed someone to comfort me, the more I lashed out. I breathed again and counted to ten. The mattress shifted again as mom laid down next to me and gently rubbed my back again. This time I didn’t move away. Anyway there was nowhere else to go except the floor.

 

After what felt like an entire swim practice I heard her voice for the first time. It was soft, like she knew she was talking to a scared three year old and not a middle schooler. I sighed at that thought.

 

“None of this has been easy for you, I know.”

 

I rolled my eyes in the dark.

 

As if she’d heard my eyeballs she continued, “You didn’t ask to move. I know that, too. You’re not happy right now because of a decision that I made.”

 

A self-righteous puff of air escaped my pouty lips.

 

“Look. School is harder. That’s a big part of why we’re here. You’re still smart. It’s going to get easier. Swimming is harder, you’re aging up. That doesn’t mean you’re worse at swimming. It means you’re swimming against the big kids, now. It’s going to take more work than you’ve ever needed to do. They both are.”

 

Without thinking about it, I rolled to lean into her. A tear slipped out from under my eyelid. School was hard. Swimming was worse. And I was already worker harder than ever. I still couldn’t seem to get anywhere.

 

Her arm was around me now. She gently pried the blankets down away from my face and rested a finger under my chin. She looked directly into my eyes as I blinked back new tears.

“You may not believe in yourself right now. I understand. But I will believe in you until you can.”

 

Her warm lips pressed against my forehead. We stayed like that. My eyes closed and silent tears crept out, leaking down one cheek and across the bridge of my nose. I breathed in the scent of her. Chocolate of some kind, and dough. When my breathing had evened out to match hers she rubbed her cheek against my forehead and kissed me one more time. Standing up, she straightened the covers and tucked them under my chin. Then she [rubbed] my hair as she left.
I heard her footsteps fading as she went back downstairs.

Proud as Punch- Slice of Life Challenge Day 28

Tweeeet!

Six bodies exploded off the blue line into the zone. Two players hurtled after the puck. The red jersey was just feet ahead. He turned his head to look over his shoulder at the approaching blue. Judging there to be enough space, he pivoted his body just before the boards and used his hip and shoulder to block his opponent from the puck. Meanwhile his stick worked the black disc away from the wall and teed it up for a pass. The navy skater pressed in, leaning into Daniel and trying to poke his own stick between and around feet to gain advantage. But with another twist of his head to check for open teammates, Daniel rocketed a pass away through a narrow open lane.

The hockey season is officially over for us.

This is the final night of tryouts for next season. Thirty something boys vie for positions on two teams. Aside from a stunning New England Sectional tournament last spring, evaluations are the most stress-inducing week for me as a hockey mom. (The exception to that was a head-first collision into the boards early this season, but since that was a quiet terror, stress hardly applies.)

I know. They’re kids.

When Daniel first tried out for a travel team, he was seven. In the parents meeting the board members for the local hockey program explained that there would be A, B, and C teams. Groans escaped some of the returning parents. Tentatively I raised my hand.

“Excuse me, but, every skater will have a spot on one of the teams? He’ll still get to play hockey?” I queried. It turned out, they would. I couldn’t imagine that year why it would matter which team he was on, as long as he got to play. We’re not holding out NHL fantasies. I don’t dream of Division I sports or even college scholarships. My boys love this game. And now, so do we.

On the first day of tryouts this year, I sat in the stands and glanced up to see a tiny boy walk past. His long blond hair stuck out the back of his baseball cap the same way Daniel’s did, until two weeks ago. He looked just as determined and full of purpose as Daniel had at six or seven years old in his team warm up suit, pulling his bag behind him and carrying his stick high.

It made me think of the time that’s passed since I asked that question. The experiences we’ve had since then. It made me realize that, at least for Daniel, we’re nearer the end of this journey than the beginning. He’ll be a second year bantam, and a sophomore next year. Likely he’ll try out for his high school team next time and this local hockey organization will no longer be home.

 

Crunch!

A blue shirt collided with the glass. The red shirted player drove his shoulder solidly into the players side, then nimbly stepped away with the puck.

I watched as his black shorts shot between the throng of players at center ice. His legs look so long and skinny now. He’s grown so much this year.

Now, dangling the goalie, he shoots. And scores.

Tweeet! Tweeet!

The shift is over. Coach calls the players to a huddle for what’s next.

I’m proud as punch that he ended this portion of the tryouts with a strong play.

These have been his best tryouts. I’ve watched every year with bated breath. I’ve recognized the good shifts and the ones he took off. I’ve seen him pulled aside by coaches and longed to hear the advice they were offering. That very first year he made the A team. His mites won their travel tournament with Daniel in goal.

Now, in his final bantam year, I think he has a chance to make the cut for A again as a defenseman. I wish it for him. I hope for him that he gets to stretch to meet those other A players. I picture him on a team where he needs to work hard every shift to keep pace. I imagine him in a new team warm up suit, tall and handsome. So different, but with that same love of the game.

We never got into this for the scholarship. For us, the payout has always been that the boys learn to work hard to get better each time they’re on the ice, to believe in themselves even when the situation looks grim, to contribute to something bigger than themselves even when that means someone else looks like the hero. And to give themselves completely to something they love.

I guess we won!

Sparkle– Slice of Life Challenge Day 27

I was reminded of the many important people outside the classrooms of our schools by Jarhartz’s post. Without these people the copiers would stay jammed and so would conference room schedules and so much of our school lives. But with them, we all rest easier in tough moments, knowing that there are people who will help us to shoulder the challenges. People who send us the Friday Eagle Eye for the week ahead with bursts of humor to balance the many commitments. These are the people who make the school sparkle.

I’ve noticed, lately, that our own fixer-in-chief has been looking less her sparkly self than usual. When trouble knocks, somehow she’s always the one barring the door. Some weeks that door is mighty heavy. And now that I think of it, there have been several heavy weeks in a row. A seeming flu epidemic leaving us short handed and under-subbed for days on end. So much so that our Queen of Sparkle put on her sneakers and headed out to cover recess duties and more. Because that’s what she does, she makes it work. Last week was full of parent conferences, which meant hundreds of chimes at the security door. The literal door. Hundreds of smiles and sets of directions, and ‘how’s it going?’s as she sent parents along their way.

I’m not sure what rock anthem we might sing for her, or if we could pull off yet another assembly just now, but those heart notes jhartz mentioned sound like a start. They would have to sparkle of course. Fortunately I just found a forgotten stash of glitter. Now let’s see which other school heroes I can recruit to man the Re-Sparkle effort.

Who’dve Thunk? –Slice of Life Challenge Day 26

This is a rare weekend for us when sports will only command about 3 hours each day instead of 6 or more. It feels like a vacation. We don’t need an alarm for two days IN A ROW! The only other time this happens is summer.

So the morning started slowly.

Eventually I called downstairs to my boys that we’d get started with chores in ten minutes or so. Then I sat down with breakfast and a cup of tea…after all I had ten minutes. Before I even finished blowing across the top of my mug to take a sip, four feet thundered up the stairs to the kitchen.

Huh.

The refrigerator doors opened and I could see Daniel’s head buried there looking for sustenance. He’s thirteen and the only time he isn’t hungry is when I’m trying to feed him food he doesn’t like. Miraculously, the moment that food is no longer a threat, he’s ravenous again.

Qaiden unfolded the corner cabinet to reveal the newly replenished cereal stock.

“Raisin Bran? Yes!” he chirped.

Wait. What?

It might be interesting to note here that last week there was a ridiculous sale on Cocoa Puffs. We had six boxes. That, too, was unusual and cause for celebration. This week the cabinet is decidedly low on sugar.

The scene playing out in my kitchen made me both smile and shake my head. Who’dve thunk that the raisin bran would be a hit? Or even tolerated. If I offered it to Daniel, he wouldn’t be hungry.

I thought of all the ways that Qaiden can surprise me. The contrasts and contradictions that make him, well, him.

He has always been small for his age (15-20th percentile), yet he moves through life with an intensity that makes him seem 6 feet tall. For years he would spend 20 minutes at dinner eating raw carrots and celery off the salad plate (he really likes veggies) and never quite get around to the meal in front of him. He’s the kid we had to say, “You have to stop and have some dessert, then  you can have more cucumbers.” The boy needed calories! Yet he’s the same child who strategized how to hit the maximum number of houses while trick or treating, and even put an extra bag inside the first one, hoping he could fill both.

candy hoardThese examples are microscopic compared to the deeper contradictions.

Sometimes, like this morning, he still makes me think, “Who’dve thunk?!”

 

 

An Urgent Note–Slice of Life Challenge Day 25

As I was unlocking my office door in the middle of the day, I discovered a rumpled sheet of notebook paper sticking out of the disused mailbox next to the door. Curious, I unfolded it.

Mrs. Gordon

We have an important question for you. Can we come down?

M & A

Hmm. These girls meant business, they’d come armed with paper and pencil, not to be deterred. I remembered one of the 5th grade teachers saying this morning that two girls had come by my office while I was out and about the building. This must be their note. In my head, I flipped through the possibilities of what they might need to ask me.

I decided the best solution was to investigate. So I trekked to the 5th grade hall at the far end of the building. I set my mug of tea down on the table outside 5B and tried to open the door as unobtrusively as possible.

I could see the teacher, crouched down on the rug with a book club. He looked up and quickly sussed out why I was there. Standing, he called the two girls. At opposite corners of the room they untangled themselves from the pages of their books. I sat on the corner of a table and smiled at them as they approached.

“Hi girls. I saw your note.”

“Oh, good.” Missy* continued, but at first what she was saying didn’t make sense to me.

Then Amy* chimed in, “We know you love this book too, so when we got to this confusing part we thought you could help us figure it out.” She held up One for the Murphys.

I melted right there on the corner of the table. Hands clasped to my chest and head tilted I fangirled. A gushy, “Awwww,” escaped me and the girls responded with looks of “We know!” “I love that book!” I remembered telling Amy a few days before when she told me she was going to start the book how Mrs. Murphy was the best book-mom I’d ever read. But I was also melting that they’d thought of me. They are mine only in the sense that we are all three readers. Every reader in the building is ‘mine’ though from afar.

“Ok, show me the tricky part.”

They closed ranks on me, and head together, shoulder to shoulder we shared the book. Missy  opened to a page completely in italics.

“Oh, right. One thing that makes this book complex is that the author uses flashbacks where Carley is remembering something that already happened.”

“I think this is one of those parts,” Missy said, “but look. What does it mean here when it says ‘she held her down.’?”

My eyes flew quickly across that section of the page, recalling this very dramatic scene, in one way the crux of the story.

Their eyes looked pained and confused.

We had an impromptu book club right there in the corner of the room. We gushed over the book, lamented the shocking revelation they’d just encountered, tried to compare it to our own experiences and found it alien. Then we marvelled at Carley and some of her reactions to things came into better focus. Ahh, this was why…

I left them with a tip to keep thinking about why Carley’s actions and reactions to things seemed to contrast and contradict what we would expect, and to think back to this moment in the book when that happened. I invited them to call on me anytime as they’re reading.

These girls are real readers. Wild readers sometimes can’t help it; they have to seek out others who will understand their strong reactions to a particular book. And sometimes it has to happen–right at that moment. I can recall a few of those missions myself: walking into a colleague’s classroom while she was teaching, tears streaming down my face, eyes puffy and still sniffling because I’d just finished our book club book during my prep. Two of the girls from our book club happened to be in that class, and when they saw me barge in with that ugly cry look on my face and the book cradled to my chest, they smiled big. Our reactions are sometimes more delicious when we share them.

I wish you all moments like these with readers you know (tears optional!).

And if you haven’t read One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, it really does have the best fiction-mom ever. You will probably cry, but Carley and Mrs. Murphy will make you smile, too.

 

*Not their actual names.

Hobbit Hikes–Slice of Life Challenge Day 24

It felt like we’d been journeying a long time, but really the water in the bottle was still frozen except for the tiniest sip. It was only minutes earlier when we’d stepped off the pavement into the woods behind the neighborhood…just past the familiar, like falling off the edge of the real world into the world of the book.

Now I was padding along through the long soft pine needles that fell in blankets beneath the evergreens. I breathed in the crisp autumn air as I tilted my head back, back to scan for the tippy top of the trees. My limbs loosened and I fell into an easy pace as I soaked in the dappled light and shadow just beyond the edge of the worn path. I enjoyed the sounds of the bird calls, and the giant sounds from the tiny scampering creatures of the woods in the otherwise hushed forest.

Even so, my six year old self tramped noisily along, unaware of my own noise. I was like Gimli outside the boundary of Lorien, breathing so loudly the elves could hear me miles away. Except I wasn’t Gimli, I was Frodo. And I had a mission.

No one had seen the ents in a long age. Treebeard and his kin had scattered through the forests of Middle Earth early in the Age of Men, but surely they were still shepherding trees. It had been longer still since the ent-wives had been seen, but surely our keen eyes could spot them. I searched out faces in the trunks of trees. Watched for waving branch-arms when the wind was still.

Always, I had Gandalf at my side, his long staff swinging forward and planting firmly in the earth with each long stride. I could see his lengthy shadow stretching out ahead when we came to a clearing. His wise presence and reliable skills were reassuring.

While I may not have had a green cloak with the brooch of Lady Galadriel I did have a cloak of imagination. So completely was I enfolded in the story, that I saw and heard and felt its world in place of my own. This was the gift my dad gave me from my earliest days. I discovered that you could get lost in stories, immersed in them, become part of them. And while I no longer don the identity of hobbits, I frequently disappear into the world of books.

 

The Little Things that Change the Direction of Lives– Slice of Life Challenge Day 23

twitter fameSo, this happened.

Flashback.

A few years ago I walked into a small independent bookshop in small town Connecticut to hear an amazing author give a talk about her book, One for the Murphys. The shop was owned, I thought with awe, by another legendary children’s author.

I walked in feeling like authors might as well be unicorns. Ordinary people like me would never meet them.

But then I met them…well, almost. I was too shy. They’re FAMOUS.

Flash forward to ILA Boston.

I sat on the floor in the back of a session with a panel of AMAZING children’s authors like Kate Messner and the previously, almost met, Lynda Mullaly Hunt among others.

This time I screwed my courage to the sticking place and said hello. I commented on the barn library Kate described–I probably sounded vapid–and asked to take my picture with them. I was a little braver this time because I’d met another teacher-by chance- who knew Lynda and who talked like she was an “ordinary person.”

OK. Authors are real people…like us…but still more special.

A certain colleague challenged me to join the Slice of Life Challenge.

Challenge accepted in a “what’s the worst that could happen?” kind of a way.

I sliced. I posted. I received some encouraging feedback.

I enjoy writing. It makes me feel grounded and whole. I’ve been way less angry than when I spent that time watching or reading the news.

Flash to Riverside Church–Hallowed in my mind as sacred for literacy

Someone I look up to in the literacy universe sat by me and simply said, “You should write a book.”

I’ve secretly always wanted to write a book (or books) but who am I that anyone would actually want to read what I have to say? What do I have to say anyway? I grew up in what my friends joked was “Sheltered, Connecticut.” A small town girl who went to college in an even smaller town. I’m just me. (Sorry Drew Dudley, I hadn’t heard your keynote yet.)

Cut to my new ‘Zen Library’- A writer’s garret a la Jo March

I spent much of Sunday tucked away under the eaves with my laptop and a soft smile.

My husband ventured in late in the afternoon. He said, “You should write a book.”

He’s said it for years. But I’d always discounted the idea (see above regarding unicorns and small towns).

Then last night, Cornelius Minor, a minor god in the literacy pantheon, retweeted one of my slices and tagged Lucy.

OMG

So maybe the universe is talking (or not). But I’ve decided that, like the SOL Challenge, where’s the harm in giving it a try?

I have a few ideas now.

This summer I’m writing a book.

Maybe someday, someone (besides my parents) will read it.

A Busted Lip–Slice of Life Challenge Day 22

Walking around the corner toward the office before school this morning I heard a heartwrenching shriek and then a kind of wail. I just saw a little body guided by a bigger one disappear behind the door to the nurse’s office. Though they were no longer visible, the earth-ending sound continued.

I glanced at the clock as I passed. Ten minutes until homerooms…which meant playground accident. Someone–one of our smallest someones–was going to have a rough day. That kind of unhappy doesn’t rub off quickly.

I smiled at my kindergarten neighbors as they moved from the carpet to their writing spots. These little faces always make my day brighter.

One friend was stooped over the contents of his sun-yellow folder, spewed across the floor as classmates passed. Leaning down, I asked, “Can I give you a hand with that?”

A face peered up. His eyes were still a little red. His cheek was scraped and his poor lips were the black-and-blue that’s still red-violet. A spot of blood still showed on one lip. But there was a grateful look in his eyes.

I walked with him back to his seat and together we straightened the contents of his folder. This friend didn’t need a conference, he needed a reset for his day. I settled in next to him, kneeling to be eye to eye as he worked.

At first I watched as he laid his how-to book on top of the closed folder and searched around for his pencil. Not on the table. Not on the floor. Not in the pencil box–his eraser was in the cap to his glue stick.

“Here, I’ll fix your glue stick while you get your pencil out.” I gently lifted the distracting glue stick from his fingers, replacing the cap.

He located his pencil out of the ether and began to read the “Things Needed” page he wrote yesterday.

“Can I give you a compliment?”

A wary smile peeked from behind his bruises.

“I’m noticing that you started out by rereading what you already wrote. That’s such a good strategy to get yourself going as a writer. Can I hear what you wrote?”

His eyes met mine for a moment, then head down inches from his page he read each needed item for ‘makg rt’ (making art). He added great emphasis on the ‘wudr’ you’d need for your paintbrush. Then he turned to the next page and the next, reading slowly and tentatively at first, but with more confidence as he remembered his book. He finished the last page.

“Hmmm, What do you think? What more is there to do in this book?”

He hesitated, I looked down at his page instead of at him. I hoped he’d look to his own writing for answers instead of me.

” I forgot to do the picture,” he announced turning to another page.

We looked together at his page as he sketched. Then we reread the words he’d written.

“Hmmm, when you read this word to me, I thought I might have heard something else. Will you read this again?”

Resting my finger under the word I stretched its sounds p-iiiii-c-cher.

His eyes went round and his chubby fist curled tighter around his pencil. “Rrrr” he said. “It needs an r.”

“Wow! Look at how you added more letters to your word. I wonder if you could add more words to your book?”

Before I’d finished his head was nodding resolutely. on his slim shoulders. “Color your picture with your paintbrush.” He’d added another clause.

“OK, it sounds like you have a writing plan. Go ahead.”

I started to stand up and move past him to another student, but his hands rustled across the table over his papers and his worried gaze reached out to me.

The piece of my brain that knew I was supposed to be modeling for a new teacher niggled at me that this wasn’t a clean research-decide-teach conference. The piece that knew I was also being observed considered for a fraction of a second how bad this was. But my heart told me to scoot back down…so I did.

Together we found the tools he had in his folder. There was a personal word wall with just the word he needed. When he saw it, his sore lips moved as he tested each letter-sound against the word he needed. He stared intently at the word, repeating the letters to ink them in his brain before he wrote them.

“Do you know what?” I asked. “You’re the kind of writer who knows how to use his tools to help him write anything!” We high fived.

“I know you can add those words. I’ll come back in a little bit to check.”

This time I made a clean exit to the next table. I pulled in next to another writer with my back to him. A few minutes later he came and touched my shoulder.

“I did it!” His eyes were clear and his puffed lips turned up into a genuine smile.

Yes he did! He reset his day. busted lip