Why Do We Slice? For the PRIZES?

Why do we slice?

For me, last year, I was motivated by the prizes, initially.  I loved the idea of winning something at the end.  I fall back to my childhood days of being at carnivals or Chucky Cheese. Prizes are fun. No doubt about it.

But, after making it two thirds of the way through last March, I had a day when I shared my slice but did not comment on other blogs.  I wrote about it here:


I was disappointed in myself. I wanted to be able to say, at the end of March, that I completed the whole challenge. Slicing and commenting!

Here I am again. Only six days in and I have realized that I forgot to go back and comment last night. But I feel differently about it then I did last year.  Last year, I was devastated. I know, seems extreme but I was, though I put on a good face in my day 27 post.  Seriously. I was really, really devastated.

Now, here I am. Out of the running of prizes, again.  No big deal. I know what the prizes are for writing every day – increased creativity, passion, and love of writing, being part of a community of writers, sharing in the journey of the Slicers.

My plan – continue in this process. Write and comment every day.

Regardless of my non-commenting yesterday, I remember that yesterday ALSO brought other opportunities…

I got to spend the day with my local Writing Project group (PAWLP). I got to be in a room with other Slicers like Dalila Eckstein and Lynne Dorfman. I got to have face-to-face conversations with these writers and others.  THAT was awesome.

I was able to share the work I have been doing with teachers about getting them excited about writing with an amazing Voxer group I am a part of, started by TWT’s very own Kathleen Sokolowski!

I downloaded a new book to my Kindle last night called Make Writing by Angela Stockman and began reading it! (Inspired by Jill Davidson from Shelfie Talk and Michelle Haseltine’s work with her 6th graders!)

I texted my friend Becca to get her psyched about running a Writing Maker Space this summer in our district. And since she is my only friend that actually reads my slices and gets them delivered to her inbox AND retweets them sometimes, she deserves a special shout out! Love you Becca!!

See? Those are the real prizes you get from participating in the March Slice of Life.

So, if you too are motivated by prizes, just know that there is more to this. (AND you can do what I did last year…head to Amazon or your local book store on April 1st and buy yourself a brand new book or journal or some pretty pens!)


A Decade of Debbie

I changed jobs and started teaching third grade in a new school in August of 2006 and Debbie was one of my grade partners.  It felt like my arrival as an outsider bothered her. I was given a contract and replaced a long term substitute that Debbie really liked. She and I taught in side-by-side rooms but never seemed to click and the truth of the matter is that we did not always see eye-to-eye on everything.

In June of 2009, I left the classroom to be an instructional coach.

A couple of years later, I heard Debbie would be taking the five day Writing Academy I run every summer. I was nervous and unsure how comfortable I would feel with her there.  Boy, was I wrong! Everything changed after the first day.  It was like a new appreciation was budding between us.

We laughed together and wrote together, and as writing does so often, we grew together.

I recall her telling me how she felt like I had found my calling in teaching others about how to teach writing.  She told me that she had never had better professional development.  It felt like she was seeing me for the first time and I was truly seeing her, particularly in the moments when she read her writing aloud.

The next school year, Debbie invited me into her classroom to work through a couple questions she and her co-teacher were having with conferring. I modeled some conferences for her and our debriefs were valuable to both of us.  It was as if our past experiences of not always seeing eye-to-eye had melted away.

That spring, I asked the principal if my daughter could have Debbie as her teacher in the following year. I felt as if Debbie was the right match for her and would build her up in many ways.

In 2013, Sasha entered third grade as a shy, young thing and left with great confidence, a new love of math, and a truer lover of reading and writing. She had been blessed with years of great teachers but Debbie stood out with her larger than life personality.  Sasha thrived in Debbie’s class.  Every single time I ran into her, she would tell me some cute thing Sasha had said or she would relay a story of what Sasha had done in class.  I appreciated that so much.  I will always be grateful for the rich experience my daughter had under Debbie’s watch.

Yesterday, I attended Debbie’s funeral.  She was 55 years young.

My heart aches for the loss of this woman who made it her purpose in life to educate 8 and 9 year olds. My heart aches for her family and for her closest teacher friends who are feeling this loss so intensely. But mostly, my heart aches for my 5 year old and 1 year old who would have loved being in Debbie’s class and for all the other future third graders who will miss out on her, too.


Dear Educators,

What does it take to be a great teacher of writing?

Must you have read books by Ralph Fletcher, Katie Wood Ray, Lynne Dorfman and Rose Cappelli, Kelly Gallagher, Jeff Anderson, Carl Anderson, Aimee Buckner, Matt Glover, Georgia Heard, Don Graves, Lucy Calkins, Penny Kittle, Kate Messner, Nancie Atwell, to name a few?

Must you be a Twitter regular and read and post and retweet all of the amazing information about teaching writing that one learns from being a professional in education that has and uses a Twitter account?

Must you get blog entries about teaching writing delivered to your inbox?

Must you write?

It is this last question that Kathleen Sokolowski, of the blog Two Writing Teachers, wrote about it in this recent post: Should Educators Be Writers?  Please read it.


Kathleen gets us thinking about the idea that being a teacher that writes, both for him or herself AND with and for students has immense power as a teacher of writing.  That teachers that see themselves as writers and actively write, keeping a writer’s notebook or a blog or who participate in teacher writing challenges, are strong teachers of writing because they experience the struggles their students have and they live the writerly life they want their students to live.

This post struck a real chord with me.  I am a writer.  It is easier for me to put pencil to paper or fingertips to keys. But, just like most people, finding time to write is a challenge.

If you are my polar opposite and do NOT find writing to be easy AND you can’t buy time in the waking hours to write, then this is a double whammy.

This very idea about teachers having so much on their plates and having such a hard time to make time for their own writing came up in a cause and effect sort of thing that began with Kathleen’s article being published (cause). I read it immediately, hiding in the bathroom, because when else does one ever get to do anything without being bothered (effect)? Kathleen suggested anyone interested in talking more about the notion of teachers as writers comment with their Voxer* username (cause). I signed myself up to join the conversation (effect). A Voxer conversation started (cause). An idea came to me, after great inspiration from Kathleen and all the other educator voices (effect).

I transcribed my Voxer recording.  Here’s what went through my head and came out of my mouth (I took out my ummms!):

I am thinking that another issue is that teachers and people in general don’t define themselves as writers until they are published and I just think that is a big thing here. In order for people to see themselves as writers, we have to redefine what it means to be a writer and that means getting people to write.

What I like about using the sticky note to get people to write on is that it is a lot less intimidating then a whole piece of paper and so if we are trying to build within teachers this notion of writing and making it a part of our daily lives, I think that the small, less intimidating sticky note is a lot more freeing than the whole sheet of paper.

The more I think about it maybe there’s an idea brewing here.  What if we start a movement with teachers? Getting teachers to write on one sticky note a day and posting what they have written about and honoring, just like we do for students, when teachers write one word, or one sentence, or even a whole paragraph, or even a whole page of sticky notes, and wouldn’t it be interesting for teachers to post their (post-it) pictures and celebrate all of that little writing, whether it’s an anecdote about a student or something they are feeling or thinking? I don’t know, I am thinking this might be a really interesting, fun idea here. What do you think guys?

And then, a hashtag on Twitter was born: #EDtime2wrt  …and educators started posting their post-it writing and the rest is history.

post it

So, what do YOU think?

Could you commit to writing once a day or once a week by filling a single post-it note? It could be the tiniest of post-its or the bigger kind or a train of post-its when you run out of room on just one.

Could you try it today? Could you put yourself out there and share your post-it note publicly or with your colleagues? Could you share it with a friend or your spouse or one student?

Could you be brave and feel like one of your student writers and feel that unease of…

What do I have to say that is worthwhile?

What if nobody likes what I write?

What if I am not good enough?

I encourage you to try this post-it note writing today and other days too. Share your post-it writing. If you do, if you take this leap as a teacher of writing you may just see a change in yourself and a change in your teaching too.

ed tweet

Happy writing today and every day,


PS. Are you on Twitter? If not, I wonder why not? Many say they don’t have time.  I have made time for Twitter by substituting it for Facebook and Pinterest (though I still go on those sometimes, too).  Twitter helps me grow as a teacher and instructional coach every single day.  Like Facebook, you can hop on it for a couple minutes here and there and learn from others.  There is a whole Twitterverse of educators talking about students, learning, and teaching. Maybe you could try it!

*Voxer is an app that allows you to have voice/text chats with one person or a group of people.  Many educators across the world use Voxer to chat about important topics in education. You can get a free account or have a Voxer pro account for $3.99 a month or $29.99 for a year. I had the free account and just recently bought the year account.