Monthly Archives: March 2017

Saturday Slice


Oh, down I sit on Saturday
I want to write my slice.
Alas, what will I say?

The clock strikes five.
I sit to write.
Alas, the words don’t jive!

The clock strikes six.
I sit to write.
Alas, I’m in a fix.

The clock strikes seven.
What should I write?
Alas, some words from heav’n?

The clock strikes eight.
What can I write?
Alas, what is my fate?

The clock strikes nine.
I sigh to write!
Alas, my heart repines.

The clock strikes ten.
Again, again, again.
Alas, how dry my pen.

The clock strikes ten and one.
Have I my daily slice?
I do! I do!
It’s ten and two.
Alas, this poem was fun!

Barbara in the Bookstore


Last night, a friend and I decided to go to a bookstore to look for picture books for our Interactive Read Alouds. This always is a dangerous proposition for bibliophiles, even at a store that only charges half price and gives a teacher discount! Like Alice in Wonderland, it is easy to fall down the proverbial “rabbit hole” of buying books…

“How far did I fall?” you ask.

Happily, I set a one hour limit for our excursion, and, because, in a bookstore, I tend to feel like I’m shopping at a jumbled garage sale, I only left with two carefully selected books. I was well under budget, too. (Alas, my friend fell further than me…her wallet was emptied more than mine.)

“And…tell me what you bought,” you add.

Books for IRA

I bought one brilliant twist on a fable, Hare and Tortoise, by Alison Murray. I think my first grade students will enjoy the humorous rendition of this classic. Such playful word choices such as “…she trundles…she tootles…she tiptoes…” and clever scientific references like “The Tortoise-Slow and steadicus” and “The Hare-Leapus swifticus” make this book delightful. The colorful illustrations will charm the reader as well. I can’t wait to read it to my students to see their reaction. I’m expecting lots of laughter!

The second book I bought is Lost in the Woods, by Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick, a fantasy book (where animals talk) that teaches how newborn fawns, who are born without scent, spend the first 2 weeks of life without their mothers. The animals of the woods try to help the fawn because they think she is lost. The exquisite photographs enhance the story by showing the beautiful woods in which the fawn lives. Hopefully, this gorgeous book will engage the listeners and teach about the life of a fawn and other forest creatures. My plan is to incorporate this book to support our informational writing unit.

P.S. I have $35 more dollars to spend on Amazon! More book information to follow.

I Will Be the Agent of Change


Trust is something that seems to be universally valued. Research suggests that increased trust correlates with increased student performance. Research reports that low-performing schools with significant gains have a perception of trust between students and staff. Even though trust is not the only contributor to student growth, it is there when there is growth.

Trust is something that seems to be universally valued. Research suggests that increased trust correlates with increased student performance. Research reports that low-performing schools with significant gains have a perception of trust between students and staff. Even though trust is not the only contributor to student growth, it is there when there is growth.

The questions for me, a literacy coach, become: How can I become part of the solution to growing trust in my building and with our staff? Over what do I have control? What can I do?

I believe trust can start with one. The Golden Rule (not in vogue so much these day, but it is foundational to my philosophy) could be a starting place. How do I want to be treated? How could I treat others the way I want to be treated?

Here are my thoughts:

  1. Give others the benefit of the doubt. Believe every teacher wants to do his/her best. Believe every teacher wants his/her students to succeed.
  2. Remember that we are all learners. It is OK not to know everything right now. It is OK to make mistakes and take risks. (Remember that I make lots of mistakes, too.) Give people space to grow and not be perfect RIGHT NOW! Let people take risks. Honor the process. Where is that teacher on the continuum of learning? Are they trying, even if not perfect, to learn…try out new things…be innovative…?
  3. Have the best interest of others at heart. Do everything I can to protect those interests.
  4. Do what I say I will do.
  5. Learn, learn, learn. Be competent in my job. Do my job with excellence.
  6. Be a person of integrity. Always strive to be honest.
  7. Be as open with others as I possibly can.
  8. Care about others. Ask about their lives, children, successes, difficulties...just care!
  9. Communicate effectively and openly.
  10. Be available.
  11. Invite others into the decision-making process, especially when the decision has an affect on them. Collaborate in problem solving.
  12. Be open to another’s ideas, even if it is the opposite of mine.

Trust is important to me. I remember times I felt that I wasn’t included or invited or cared about. I want to treat others differently so they don’t have to feel like I did.

I will be the agent of change!

Never Too Old For a Sleepover


This afternoon my wonderful mother is meeting me for a sleepover. Six months before, I called with the happy news that I’d be in her state; I called with the invitation to a sleepover! As delighted as two young schoolgirls, we made our plans-when she’d arrive, where to come, and what we’ll do. We’re going to have so much fun!

I’ll pull into the parking lot, back from a long day of meetings. I know I’ll find her, as I have many times before, sitting patiently in her car, waiting. Waiting for me. We’ll go in, get settled, We’ll have small talk, little intimate discussions shared between a mother and a daughter. We’ll knit and chat and giggle and laugh outright, probably real belly laughs. Then, we’ll put our needles aside and humbly bow in a tender time of prayer, praying mostly for my children. How we want them to follow our LORD. Rising from this holy time, we’ll order pizza, take-out from a local pizzeria. We’ll bring it back to the room…mostly because we’ll want a relaxed and quiet place. No noisy customers, no jangling cups, or clinking dishes. Mostly, we’ll visit. We may decide visit the pool and dip our toes in the water, in spite of the two-hour rule, but then again, maybe we won’t.  Will we laugh by the poolside and share our thoughts  in the elevator?  Hmmm…we’ll decide.  As the evening deepens and begins to slumber, we’ll change into our comfy ‘jammies and crawl under the covers. We’ll continue our tête-à-tête, continue until one or the other slips softly to sleep.

Morning will find waking early; We’ll still be talking. No lack of words have we. A little more lingering over breakfast and a cup of coffee. Then, all too quickly, hugs and I love yous, glistening eyes, and waves good-bye. I send her on her way.

You’re never, after all, too old for a sleepover.


An Unexpected Send-Off


I glanced at the alarm clock.  5:13.  An hour and two minutes earlier than the alarm set time.  I might as well get up.  One thing I know about myself:  I wouldn’t be falling back to sleep.  I threw the covers back, swung my feet to the floor, and padded off to the bathroom to begin my day. Excitement, mixed with a little apprehension, filled my thoughts in spite of my grogginess.  The warm water and billowing steam of the shower were just what I needed to get my brain in high gear.  What else do I need to pack?  Why am I so indecisive?  Why can’t I just throw any old clothes in my suitcase for this trip?  

Well, I knew good and well why…this time of year can be winter or spring.  What would the weather be Ohio?  I sighed.

I stepped out of the shower with a tentative plan of action.  After applying minimalist make-up, I threw on the decided-upon clothes and stepped back into the darkened bedroom.

“You’re up early,” a gravely voice rumbled.

“I know.  I just got up.  I knew I wouldn’t go back to sleep.”

“Turn on the light.  I’m getting up, too.”

So I did.  I quickly finished packing the rest of the items in my suitcase.  Zip!    Turning, I headed out the door and tripped lightly down the stairs.  How could I have forgotten to set the delay start for the coffee? Ugh!  Just as I was pushing the button for the morning brew, the front door flew open.  Footsteps echoed on the oak floorboards.  

“Hi, Mom.  What are you doing up?” said a surprised voice.  Jimmy and his brother, Davey, had just gotten back from an early morning workout at the gym.  Their first day of actually going at 5:00 A.M.

“I’m getting ready to go,” I replied.  “I didn’t think you guys would really get up.  I thought I heard an alarm about 4:00, but I thought it was my imagination.  Was the gym crowded?”

“Nah.  Only a few people.  I think I like the early morning crowd better than the people in the evening.  They are more focused and follow gym etiquette better.”

“That’s good.  There’s enough coffee brewing for you two if you want some when it’s done.  I have to go up and finish fixing my hair.”

“I’ll come and talk to you,” Jimmy offered.  


What followed was an everyday conversation over the hum of the blowdryer about this and that and not that much of anything, really.  Then when my hair was reasonably put together, I clicked off the blow dryer and turned to leave.  Jimmy was one step ahead of me, grabbing the suitcase and carried it down the stairs.  

By this time, Davey and John, my husband, were in the kitchen.  Even the dog and cat meandered in.  This is a big crowd!  Especially for this early.  

Pouring a cup of coffee for each one, we stood around the island chatting and laughing and sipping our brew.  

“Well, I better go.  Love you my,” Davey said as he gave me a hug.  “Have a great week.  When will you be back again?”

“On Friday about midnight,” I answered.  “I love you, too.  I’ll miss you.”

“I better go take a shower, Mom,” Jimmy said as he came over to give me a good-bye hug.

“I love you.  Have a great week,” I said as I hugged him back.  

John and I took the rest of my things out to the car, climbed in, and backed down the driveway.  At the car rental place, John loaded my things in the van, gave me a hug and added, “I love you.  Have a great week.  Be sure to call when you get in.”

As I got in the van and turned on to the main drag, my heart felt full to the bursting.  What an unexpected sendoff!  I am blessed!

The Vase



The bell above the door jingled.  They stepped over the threshold and into the shop.

“Get whatever you like,” Walter said cheerily.  “I’m good for it.”  He wanted to give her a special gift for her birthday, and he knew she loved flowers.

A smile lit up Hazel’s face.  Her eyes sparkled as they flitted from flower to flower before resting momentarily on an apricot mum.  This is it. So full and beautiful.  Her hand reached out and her fingers gently grasped the stem as she gently pulled the chosen flower from the bucket.  Continuing, appraising flower after flower, she considered the size, color, shape, and texture of each. The bouquet in her arms grew.

Shyly, she turned to Walter.  He nodded.  Years of marriage made words, at times, unnecessary.

Relief flooded over Hazel’s features.  Then, turning back to the task at hand, she joyfully pulled flower after flower from their buckets and added them to her bouquet-mums, roses, fern, daisies.  The bouquet was glorious.  It’s perfect!  It will set-off the vase perfectly. The vase was beloved because it reminded her of her wedded, far away daughter.

“Get a few more if you want,” Walter said as he looked over at her sunshiny smile.

“No.  It’s perfect.”

Walter and Hazel stepped toward the counter and handed the bouquet over the counter to the middle-aged sales lady.  She took the flowers and began to ring up each flower, chattering all the while.  “That will be $42.83,” she announced finally.

Walter’s eyes grew as big as saucers, and his mouth dropped open.  Hazel turned, eyes wide,  and looked up at Walter.  Without uttering a word, Walter opened his wallet again, pulled out two more twenty dollar bills.  He handed it to the outstretched hand of the clerk.

“Here is your change:  $7. 17,” she said as she handed it to Walter.  Then, wrapping the blooms carefully in white butcher paper, she put them gingerly in a brown paper bag.  “I know you’ll enjoy these for years!  They are beautiful. Isn’t it wonderful how lifelike these flowers are?  Nothing like the plastic ones we used to have,” she added, holding the bag across the counter.

Hazel reached out and grabbed the handles on the bag.  “Thank you.” Then, he and Walter turned and walked out the door.  Walter took the doorknob and pulled the door closed with a click.  Jingle! The bell echoed after them.

Years afterwards, the vase stood prominently on the table in the foyer of my grandparents’ house.  The flowers were as glorious and proud as they were on the day they were purchased.  The story was told and retold so many times that it went down in the annals of family lore.  Sadly, a few years ago, the handle broke off the vase; I haven’t had the heart to throw it away.  (Happily, the vase came to live at my house when my grandparents passed away.)  I still hear my Popa’s rich voice retelling the story and the merry laughter that always accompanied it. I still see the twinkle in my Popa’s eye as he speaks.  I still feel love surrounding me like a warm shawl on a chilly evening every time I see…the vase.


I’m an Addict


I’m an addict.

“To what?”  you ask.

The Great British Baking Show.

About a year or so ago, I watched season one of this baking show on Netflix, but that was all there was.  The other day, my husband commented that he found it again.  Netflix brought back Season 1, and added Seasons 2 & 3.  Hooray!

Honestly, I have been chain-watching the first  half of season 2. I had to hit the pause button on the remote just to be able to think about this slice.  Can you believe I can’t even write with this show in the background?  Usually, I can sit and write and tune out the t.v. if I need to, but not with this show.  I want to learn how the bakers are conquering each new challenge.  What is working and what is not.  I just put my computer back away…

There are many reasons why I’m addicted.  One thing I really like is that the people are amateurs. Not professional chefs.  Just ordinary teachers or builders or grandmothers who love baking. People who bake for their families and friends and co-workers. They get to come prepared on the weekend (a show real people with jobs can participate in) with a “signature recipe” that meets the criteria of the week.  They can demonstrate  their ability with a recipe that they know and love.

Next, there is a technical challenge.  Usually Paul Hollywood or Mary Berry gives them a recipe with  minimal directions.  What do they know?  Do they know this or that technique?  Can they manage their time? What do they know?  They know a lot, and I have learned a lot.  Did you know that English Muffins are made on a griddle?  Did you know that most (it seems) British folk aren’t intimately acquainted with angel food cake?  Did you know that adding fruit to yeast dough can slow down the rising time?  Hmmm…me either.

Last, there is a final challenge.  It is “show stopper.”  It has to be a recipe in the theme that is over the top.  The bakers are so talented and creative.  Have you ever seen a cookie tower made to look like a Swiss lodge?  Or, a Jenga tower of shortbreads?  It’s just plain fun to watch.

In addition to the interesting things I am learning about baking, I also am learning a bit about how Americans view things differently than the British.

  1. British folk don’t seem to ascribe of the American motto of Go Big or Go Home.  Comments by the judges to participants like “Your cake is too big!” make me wonder about myself.  It looked the right size to me.
  2. The judges seem to like everything to be uniform.  “Make 24  bar cookies (that isn’t that British baking term for bar cookies, and it sounded much fancier…but I can’t remember it right now) that are perfectly uniform for this challenge.”  What American cares if the yummy bar cookies are perfectly the same size?  Just give me the biggest one!  What American doesn’t say it is better to be unique?
  3. British bakers seems genuinely interesting in baking for the fun of it.  For the joy of winning the title of  Star Baker, even just for one episode.  The grand prize is a golden spatula, not a new house or a million dollars or a new food truck.  What American would sign up for a show just to show they can do it?
  4. The British bakers have even been caught helping each other in the last stressful minutes of a challenge!  Who would have thought that possible?

I love to bake, but I have learned that baking leads to eating and eating leads to bigger  jeans and more time needed at the gym so I, sadly, have given up most baking.  I think I’m going to change that.  I want to do more than just watch people having fun baking. I want to bake. I’m sure even my “failures” will not go to waste.  (My children already have said they would be quite willing to help dispose of the “cast aways.”” So in my retirement years, I want to adopt a British philosophy.  A British philosophy of baking.  Small is O.K.  Make it beautiful and uniform.  Bake for fun.  Bake it yummy.  Bake to earn the reward from my family and friends of Star Baker!

Hi.  My name is Barbara, and I’m addicted to The Great British Baking Show.

Here Will Be There


I woke up today, my mind churning with excitement.  In three days, I’m on my way to Ohio State University for professional development.  The other literacy coaches in our district and I are lucky enough to be given the privilege of going. Twice a year.  It is like a spring breeze in the dead of winter.  A time to recharge.  A time to learn new things.  A time to collaborate with others who understand the challenges of being a literacy coach.

I made my to-do list, longer than usual for a lazy Saturday.  What fun I had crossing off item after item.  Wash-check.  Edit Franklin stories-check.  Pay bills-check.  Go to bank-check.  Check, check, check.  Today it seemed like fun and not drudgery-all because soon I’ll be there.

Here I sit near the end of this long, busy day.  Here on the loveseat where I love to write my “slices”.  Here.  Though I struggled to begin; now my ideas are flowing.  The same energy that propelled me through the tasks of the day seems to be making my fingers fly over the keys.  Here I sit.  Here I write.  Soon, here with be there!


Kindness Matters


Today, I was reflecting on how kindness matters.

As a veteran teacher in my school, I have participated year after year in our “birthday” celebrations.  All this involves is for different staff members to bring in treats to celebrate the birthdays, or half birthdays, of other co-workers.  Goodies appear twice a month, like clockwork, strategically on Mondays. Happily, through the years, I have done my part, bringing treats–some yummy and gooey, some crunchy and healthy–on my designated days.  This year something surprised me.

The week before my birthday, our sweet, newly-hired music teacher, stepped quietly into my office with a little pad of paper and a pencil in her hands.  “What are your favorite treats?” she asked shyly.

“Anything is fine,” I replied.

“Don’t you have any favorite treats?” she persisted.

“Well, I try to eat healthy…hmmm.  So maybe some fruit or vegetables or nuts?  But really, anything is OK. Cheese and crackers?”

“Any favorite sweets?”

“Brownies are my favorite.  Or M&Ms.”

She smiled and turned and headed down the hall, back to her room.

The next Monday, there in the teacher’s lounge was an array of everything I suggested!  Strawberries and peppers, red and green and orange, cheese and crackers, mixed nuts.  Even brownies and M&Ms!  Even now I get a little teary-eyed thinking about it. No one has ever bothered to ask me what I like.  Of course, I never expected it and have appreciated everything I have received, but this was a special act of kindness that touched my heart.

Stepping into her room later that day, I said, “Sarah, thank you so much for the yummy treats.  It was so kind and nice of you to bring all my favorite things.  It was so nice of you to ask.  Thank you so much!”  I gave her a hug.  My eyes glistened.  She probably thought I was some kind of nut!  But I didn’t care.  What she did mattered.  It mattered to me.  I wanted her to know: Kindness matters!

“A Nest of Robins in Her Hair”

The silhouetted tree who this morning wore a sparkling sheath of knitted snowflakes and sunlight stood stripped bare and alone in the fading sun.  Sadly, I looked at her and mourned her diminished state, her rich robes so recently lost.  My eyes lifted to her twiggy branches reaching upwards to the darkening sky; vague thoughts of bygone summer days flitted dreamily in my mind.  Verdant leaves whispering to the wind. Chirping friends celebrating life and promise.  Squirrels racing delightedly up and down her trunk, daring her not to laugh with wild abandon.  But now, alas, her glory departed, only a shadow of her former self remained.  Turning to go, an abandoned nest caught my eye.  No, two. No, three.  Three nests in her branches!  Then, unexpectedly, a specter of words wafted in my thoughts…a specter of a poem long forgotten, but deeply loved.  “…A tree that may in summer wear a nest of robins in her hair…”

My melancholy vanished like mist in the sun.  

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.


A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;


A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;


A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;


Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.


Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.