A Soft Opening

The beginning of a school day has always been hectic for me.  There is lunch to sign up for, notes to be handed in, attendance to be taken, and so on.  But today, a day after a snow day my classroom is calm.

Over the summer, maybe even at that first Joy Write meeting, a suggestion of having a soft opening was made.  This meant that students would have choice in what they did for morning work.  Would they choose to read, write, play a math game, catch up on work or just relax and chat?

I decided to give this idea a try this year, most days at least.  Some days the class has a quick worksheet and then get to choose.  Other days they choose the whole time.  It gives me time to meet with students that I need to check in with.  It gives me time to greet everyone as only a few, if any, come up to me with questions.  It gives me a chance to breath and start the day calm as well.  Today I had 2 kids reading, 7 kids practicing math, 5 kids writing, and the rest of them are relaxing and talking to each other.

Each time we have these soft openings it amazes me how calm the class is as a whole.  Even with all the students that choose to relax and chat it is still calmer than on a day where there is “dictated” morning work.  How can something as simple as choosing what you want to work on have such a peaceful start to the day?  Why don’t I do this everyday?  Is it just my class or would this be the same in every room?  I knew from the start though, it was going to be a good day 🙂




I have never been one for needles.  It’s not that they scare me (anymore).  I don’t know how to explain it…I’m just bothered by them.

So let me tell you a few of my vivid memories of needles:

  1. I was in middle school and had to get a physical.  Unfortunately, it was one of those ages where lots of shots were involved.  While getting the first of 4 (the one where they make the bubble on your forearm) I said to my mom “I can’t see anything.”  She said “blink your eyes, your contacts must be dry” or at least that’s what I’m told she said as I then passed out.  Lucky for me, the next 3 shots were done all at the same time so I only passed out 1 more time that day.
  2. Fast forward until I was in college and had to get routine blood work done.  This time, without warning, I was caught by my mom (yes…my mom still had to come with me because I was nervous) while the tech saw nothing coming.  Thankfully, my mom had seen me grow whiter and whiter so was ready for it.
  3. Fast forward some more to when I was a teacher we had a delayed opening one day so I stopped to get blood work done on my way to school.  I asked to recline while getting it done but was told “this office didn’t have room for those chairs” in a not so friendly voice.  I learned my lesson that day as I got super clammy and blurry eyed.

Since those times (and more) I have grown to be much better at getting blood work done.  I’ve learned a lot about myself in these circumstances.  I no longer need moral support to go and no longer pass out.  However, I do need to pep myself up for going, always request to lay down, and appreciate a tech that keeps me entertained.

So today when I got the phone call that it was yet another snow day I was “bummed.”  Today was the day I had planned to go to Quest.  I had pepped myself up for it.  I had drank lots of water.  I had even made an appointment.

I peered out the window and saw no snow sticking to the streets.  “Do I brave it?  Do I just go get it done and over with?” I thought to myself.  After all, I had already pepped myself up for it, made an appointment (which I slept through), and drank lots of water.  “Yup.  Do it!” I said aloud.

And guess what?!  I survived, like I always do.


Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday to my best friend!  The person I call everyday on my way home from work.  The person I ask what to wear for big events and small.  The person I learned from how to shop for bargains. The person whose opinion and advice I rely on most.  The person that makes me smile. The person that knows me best. The person I call Mom!

I know I’m not the only one who thinks this but you are one of a kind.  You have the biggest heart of anyone I know. You are the person everyone relies on.  You are always helping someone. You are the backbone to our family. You are simply the best.  

Thank you for always being there.  Thank you for being my biggest supporter.  Thank you for teaching me. Thank you for allowing me to lean on you at anytime, for any reason.  Thank you for dealing with my antics and indecisiveness. Thank you, Mom, for everything. 

Happy Birthday, Mom!  I hope this year is as amazing as you are!   img_3444


We are over 1/3 through this challenge and I am learning so much about all of you and about myself as a writer.  I’ve been getting many great ideas from other slicers too.

This is an idea I got from the blog my heart is happiest when i travel. read. write. connect.  (I hope she doesn’t mind I stole it).


Hello there…

I am strong, mentally and physically.

I keep myself organized and with a routine.

I wish ice cream, cakes and sweets were a healthy part of a diet.

I love more than anything being with my family, immediate and extended.

I dance when others do, but am too shy to dance on my own.

I sing awfully but do it when I’m in a really good or silly mood.

I think too much at times and need to work on just enjoying the moment.

I really love spending time at the beach with a good book…

I cannot wait for summer!

I need sunshine and warmth, hugs and smiles.

I should be more spontaneous…maybe.

I can do anything I put my mind to.

I make other people happy.

I always think of others, often before myself.


Wow!  That was so much harder than I thought it was going to be.  I definitely want to try it again in a few months or next year and see how my ideas have changed.  


Fire Truck

“Wee-oh wee-oh wee-oh” the fire engine blared.

“It’s 8:30,” I thought as I buried myself deeper under my covers.  “Why do they have to do that every weekend?”

“Wee-oh wee-oh wee-oh! Beep!”

You see, I live across the street from a fire station in a small beach community.  The community is very quaint and very friendly.  Usually when the fire trucks are dispatched they even wait to turn their sirens and lights on until they get down the road a bit.  I’m not usually disturbed by them. But each Saturday morning, around 8:30am the firemen go outside and test the horns.  Why? Can’t they wait an hour?

“Wee-oh wee-oh wee-oh!”

There is no use trying to go back to sleep though.  They are my Saturday morning alarm clock.  Thanks firemen for making me start my day!


New Years Resolution

It’s been a crazy week.  It’s finally Friday… a delayed opening, practice tests that need to be done, and things to finish up before the week ends. 

“It’s time for writer’s workshop” I say. “Grab your red writing folders and head to the rug.”  

“Nooooooooooo!” yell several students.  “It’s Friday.  It’s Joy Write Day.  You promised.”  I paused to think.  How am I going to get out of this one?  

“It’s one of your new years goals…do Joy Write on Fridays.”  After a student said that I knew I couldn’t get out of it.  Our realistic fiction pieces from our unit of study would have to wait.  They were right.  The class was holding me accountable.  

I quickly came up with 4 choices for them… a picture to write from, a word of the day, objects from nature to sketch and write from, and the option to go back to a previous piece of writing in their notebooks.  

So off we went on another Joy Write adventure.    


Snow Day Challenge

School was buzzing throughout the day.  Would there be school on Wednesday?  Would it be an early dismissal?  Were the weathermen actually going to be right this time?  As I listened to this banter I poked around on Instagram and came across a teacher who had given her students a Snow Day Challenge.  “Ooooh, that could be fun” I thought to myself.  So at the end of the school day I told my 2nd graders to watch their email if we had no school the following day.

On Tuesday around 5:15pm my phone rang.  It was from the Superintendent’s office canceling school for Wednesday.  Off went the email to parents with the challenge: create something out of a box (any type of box) and send me a picture.

Wednesday was a typical snow day.  I slept late, enjoy many cups of tea, blogged, made soup and read.  I checked my email a bunch too but no one sent a picture of their Snow Day Challenge.  I was bummed.  What did my students do all day?  Why had no one emailed a picture?

Finally, at 10pm (after hearing that we were having snow day day 2 on Thursday) a space shuttle arrived in my inbox.  It was a great space shuttle too…ready for a trip to the moon.  At noon the next day, a colorful dog house arrived.  Followed by a sign and a hockey/mini golf game.

These pictures put a huge smile on my face.  I cannot wait to be back at school to hear how they came up with their ideas.  Who knows, maybe there will be more creative boxes coming my way too?!



Justin has always been a topic I have written about.  Personal narratives in elementary school…check.  A person that means a lot to me in middle school…check.  My college essay…check, check, check.  Since college though I haven’t written about him because on March 8th, 2007 my life changed. In my school years my stories about Justin were about silly things I liked to do with him, or how he influenced who I am as a person.  While these are still very vivid memories for me, because he is no longer here, this story is different.  

I graduated college in the spring of 2006 but still had to student teach so moved home and did that in the fall.  In the spring I started grad school and started substitute teaching.  On March 8th I was assigned to substitute at the elementary school I graduated from.  The one what Justin never attended but the one where everyone knew him because of me.  You see, Justin was multi-handicapped, he couldn’t walk or talk.  Therefore, he attended different schools where they could support his learning needs.  

On that day, I was on the computer late in the day while the class I was filling in for was at a special when the secretary called in to the classroom and asked me to come to the office.  “Ut oh.  What did I do?”  I thought as I walked the minute down the hallway.  My heart sank when I saw my Uncle Tommy and my sister standing there.  My uncle calmly said “Justin isn’t doing well.  Your parents asked me to get you and bring you to Yale.”  I ran down the hall, grabbed my bag and left with barely saying a word to anyone.  I was leaving them completely in the lurch but my brother was way more important.  

We drove to Yale pretty much in silence and went right up to ICU.  Brett was already there hugging my parents.  My parents looked at Tori and I as we walked in with tears in their eyes.  They explained to us that Justin’s body was too weak and couldn’t fight anymore.  The rest of the evening is a blur.  I remember several aunts and uncles coming in and out of the room.  I remember us all praying together.  I remember hugging my siblings and parents tightly, sobbing as my brother took his last breath.  

I cannot describe the pain I felt.  It was awful to lose someone.  It was awful to see so many people around me grieving (especially my parents).  It was just plain awful.  But it was also impressive to see my family’s strength.  From my dad saying an unforgettable eulogy to several family members and friends participating in the Penguin Plunge a few days later.  

Justin had strength too. He fought until he couldn’t. Justin wouldn’t want us to feel so sad for so long.  He would want us to use that strength.  He would want us to take what we learned from him and teach it to others:  To eat lasagna.  To enjoy tiramisu.  To watch basketball.  To take naps.  To cheer each other on.  To belly laugh for no apparent reason.  To spread kindness.  And, most importantly, to understand others and their differences.  


Stapler (try #2) 

Revising is so hard for students in any genre.  Poetry is no different.  My team mates and I are trying to incorporate revising into this unit of study almost daily, to make it more routine.  Throughout the unit we will share with them different revising strategies to try.  One of these strategies is to try to write the poem to the tune of a song.  I’m going to encourage my students to choose nursery rhymes and lullaby’s that we all know to try this.

So off I went.  Yikes!  So much harder than I expected.  It took a long time too. Maybe it was the song I picked, maybe it was because I don’t think of myself as a poet or maybe I’m just being to hard on myself.  Either way, here is my attempt at revising my poem to the tune of Are You Sleeping (Frère Jacques)  Would love to hear your thoughts and/or suggestions.

Stapler (try #2)

Open, closed! Open, closed!

Seeing paper, seeing paper

clamping down and biting, clamping down and biting

Click click Ahhhh, click click ahhhh!



The reading coach in my building, Erika, is a slicer too (Erika’s Blog).  So this morning we decided to get together to check in with each other and of course slice.

My 2nd grade class is starting to learn about poetry.  A big concept we are going to try with the class this year is revision work.  One of the first lessons is to take an ordinary object and think about it with a poet’s eye.  We decided to give this a try.  Boy was it harder than I expected.  We’ll see if I make it through revising it too.


Open, close

Open, close

looking for paper

like a mouth looking for food.

Bite down


2 clicks