The Antidote to December Stress: Teach Students to Write about Gratitude


A beautiful way to connect student writing with the gratitude of their hearts.

Originally posted on TWO WRITING TEACHERS:

Gratitude Chart

I have been thinking a lot about gratitude lately. Kate and Maggie’s lovely recent post on Indent, “The Grateful Teacher,” says all I wished I could have said, all I want to say, and more about gratitude. (In lieu of reading the rest of my introduction, you might just want to read their post.) While reading Daring Greatly by Brené Brown with my #NFBookClub this past summer, one part that really struck me was about gratitude. Brown suggests that one way to combat the anxiety and fear that come with the quest for perfection and that threaten to destroy our happiness is to consciously focus more on gratitude. This suggestion has helped me tremendously. As I stand over my son’s crib at night, watching him sleep and (thank goodness) breathe, instead of letting the panic that I sometimes feel about his well-being and my ability as a parent set in…

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Writing About Reading Begins With Thinking About Reading


This teacher is MY teacher! I learn from every blog post I read! Wow!

Originally posted on TWO WRITING TEACHERS:

Some weeks ago, when the school year was brand new, I wrote about setting up our Reading Journals for a year of writing about our reading.  Now we are approaching the end of the first marking period, and the truth is that we are just beginning to be ready to write about our reading.

I was thinking about this on Sunday night as I participated in Kylene Beers and Bob Probst’s Notice and Note webinar. The six signposts of Notice and Note  have anchored our read aloud work as  we’ve made our way through Priscilla Cummings’ Red Kayak; they have helped us identify places where we can notice, pause,  reflect  and deepen our understanding of the text.   The purpose of the signposts, as Kylene and Bob write, is:

to teach our students to be alert for certain features as they read, to take responsibility themselves for pausing and…

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Ambivert: thoughts on being a mixture of introvert and extrovert.

Originally posted on Reflections on Leadership and Learning:

Hi.  My name is Amy.  I am an ambivert.

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I first heard the term ambivert last March as the ASCD annual conference.  Daniel Pink shared his research about people who have traits of both introverts and extroverts.   I was immediately struck by the possibility.

Often, people who know me professionally are shocked when I describe myself as an introvert.  They see me as strong, as a leader, as someone who enjoys facilitating professional development, and as coach who isn’t shy or afraid to speak.  They also know how fast I can talk and that I can talk a lot! This doesn’t compute with the typical definition of an introvert.

But there is another side to me.  When I am in unfamiliar situations (personally or professionally), when I am surrounded by strangers, or when I step outside of my comfort zone, I am a very…

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Saved by the Read-Aloud by Ryan M. Hanna

Originally posted on Nerdy Book Club:

This is a simple story. A small reflection. But, it has weighed heavily on my mind and heart since the end of last school year, and what better day to share it than on Surprise Sunday?


One of the most common pieces of advice that I received from my mentors and professors when I first entered teaching was to make the time to read books aloud to my students. I am not telling the Nerdy Book Club audience anything they don’t already know when I say read-alouds benefit students in a myriad of ways, such as building students’ language and vocabulary skills, helping students gain knowledge about the world around them, and engaging students’ imaginations and creativity, just to name a few. I’ve always read to my students because I know it helps them develop a love of reading.


I made a surprising discovery this past school year…

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I just read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. What an amazing book! It was beautifully written and so validating!
One thing the author spoke about was how important it is to appreciate the gifts of introverts — whether in yourself or in your own children, or in your students. Introverts offer deep insights and observations about the world, and deep intimacy with a few rather than shallow connections with a multitude. She wrote about research into an introvert’s nee to recharge and find a quiet space for healing and recharging. She talked about carving out time and space for this, and how unhealthy it is for introverts not to have this kind of recharging. She talked about the importance of honoring who we are as introverts by choosing jobs in which our gifts shine, rather than trying to change ourselves to fit the picture of our extrovert-oriented world. She spoke of the danger of gearing everything toward extroversion, of missing the gifts that only introverts can bring to a classroom, a business, the world.
It strikes me how very much I am enjoying my teaching this year, and how well-suited I am for these small scale interactions. My students are learning so much from me, and I am learning so much from them, by being able to work with them one-on-one and in small groups. I am helping them reach deep to learn, and in return and reaping the harvest of emotional and intellectual connection. I have often thought of teaching as a job for party people. But there’s a place for very kind of person in teaching — it’s just a matter of finding the right setting and the right way to teach and learn that suits you.

I Can READ this!!

Jonas has been struggling to read. To read, he has to sit still, and Jonas cannot sit still. So today, as we read together, Jonas jumps up and down, his arms against the table, his legs pumping like a pogo stick. 

“Five (jump, jump) Mice (jump, jump) race (hop, slide) to the (jump, plop in the chair) place.”

In the chair, he rocks back and forth, tick-tock, the legs of the chair tapping like a ticking clock. Some days I’ve tried to get him to settle down to read. Today I don’t try. And, amazingly, he reads.

As he reads, I write down words he is figuring out, all of which end in a silent “e”.






Twenty-one new words cover a small white board when we are done with the book. He has persisted. When he is done, he grabs the book the the white board and races back to his classroom and shouts, “I read this book! I know all these words!”

Then he sits down and reads the book again. He reads it three times before he is through, all on his own. All because he can.


Beautiful Robots, Beautiful People

I just volunteered at my first robotics competition — a FIRST Robotics tournament, in fact — FIRST standing for something about science and technology.  I didn’t expect to enjoy it. In fact, I expected to really NOT enjoy it at all. I was picturing noise, tension, techy people who were so focused on technology they could not relate to people. I gritted my teeth and prepared myself for a five hour shift, doing my duty as a teacher and parent, putting in the time to support my kids. 

But what I found was — yes, noise, deafening noise — but great noise! A band of teenagers playing, of all things, Herbie Hancock’s Headhunter and other fabulous 70s funk — and playing it really well! And all the joy and ear splitting cheers of a sporting event, complete with crazy home-made mascots — devil duckies, boxy robot girls in tutus, a dancing cow — and nerdy, beautiful, kind teenagers cheering for their own team-built, frisbee-spinning robots — and everybody else’s robots besides. I found hilarious, righteous team names — The Holy Cows, We Are Robot or W.A.R. Lords, Clockwork Orange team members in orange jumpsuits, and Super Heroes complete with capes and insignia.

I found an incredible sense of wonder and optimism — the students’ wonder at what they themselves had created, and wonder — not jealousy — at the amazing creations of other teams. There was astonishment at their own problem-solving abilities — the power in being able to fix something that is broken, or figure out a solution to something troubling. Take, for example,  a team that travelled all the way from Lancaster, California. They had to get up at 3 a.m. to reach the venue. And then they discovered that the bus they hired to bring them to the tournament did not show up. No bus at 3 am might have meant no trip to the tournament. But these 20 kids in orange were problem solvers. And they had supportive parents. They called parents who rushed to the rescue in the dark of night, loaded up hand-built robots computers and kids — lots and lots of kids — and made the five hour drive. These families watched nearly 12 hours of tournament — and were all smiles when their team reached the finals. They are amazing, beautiful children, with amazing, beautiful parents and mentors.

The robots were almost as amazing as the people. There was a 6 foot robot that spit loaded frisbees clear across the room at almost 100 mph, right into a small slot. There were robots that could hook a climbing structure and lift themselves off the ground, robots zooming across the floor with remote control drivers keeping them from crashing in an arena crowded with six robots. The students who guided them worked beautifully as teams, huddled around computers, working right until they were called onto the arena to perfect software glitches, repairing hardware, and just cheering each other on. They even helped other teams succeed, carrying robots, cleaning up frisbees, offering suggestions. 

I feel lucky I volunteered at this event. Every so often you witness something in education — or in life — that makes you say, This is why I am so lucky to be alive, to be teaching, to be a parent. FIRST robotics was such an event.


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