Day 20 #sol18 Lost time

Yesterday I…

  • woke up at 5 am to do yoga
  • taught from 8am-2:30pm
  • sent a bunch of emails
  • planned a brand new analysis lesson (including creating a new graphic organizer)
  • bought my son clearance snow gear for next winter
  • bought a book and an outfit for a work friend’s baby shower
  • discussed the next unit that my student teacher is planning
  • planned three meetings for later in the week
  • attended MCAS training after school (next week, oh yay…)
  • went food shopping
  • took care of my kid and dogs
  • completed my educator evaluation paperwork
  • helped my husband complete his educator evaluation paperwork
  • spent over an hour trying to get my son to fall asleep

Yesterday I did not…

  • write my Slice of Life blog post

Win some, lose some.




Day 9 #sol18 Road trip!

slice of lifeOne of the fun things about doing to Slice of Life challenge every March is seeing what stays the same and what changes from year to year. (I guess that’s a benefit to only Slicing in March?)

This means that every year, I blog about going to Vermont to my family’s annual reunion weekend (see 2016, 2017). Well, today is the day we leave!

So the Slice of my Life today is all about packing.

I must admit, I am a bit of a cliche when it comes to packing. I take waaaaaaay more than I really need.

I wanted Cher’s closet SO BADLY when I was in high school…. (Source)

But pre-child, packing was a thing I could do pretty quickly, if I needed to.

Well, not anymore! Now I pack for myself, plus my kid. (My husband packs for himself – I refuse to take that step.) This means I am not only packing my own clothes and shoes and toiletries, but everything we might need for K – clothes, pajamas, extra outfits in case he has an accident, pull-ups, toys, books, where are his mittens? oh no, did I grab his sound machine? Plus our dogs, their dog bed, their leashes, their food for the weekend. Plus all the gear for the activities we might do in Vermont: skiing, snowshoeing, sledding.

It’s a LOT of stuff.

Not our actual car, I swear.

J and I definitely had a mild spat about packing last night when we were both tired and cranky, but today we’re enjoying a leisurely morning as we finish up. By 11 o’clock we hope to be on the road and on our way up to Vermont for a fun-filled weekend of family insanity.

So, I guess I’d better finish this blog post so I can double- and triple-check that we have everything and get ready to go!


Day 1 #sol18: Back in the saddle!

Hello fellow Slicers!

It’s nice to be back to blogging. I never manage to blog regularly the rest of the year, but when I got the reminder email last month, I was so excited to “dust off” my keyboard (metaphorically of course) and begin again.

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I swear I don’t let my books get this dusty. (Source)

What has changed in the last year?

  • K is almost four now! He’s a fully-fledged kid who attends preschool, sleeps in a bunk bed, and can sing along to all his favorite rock songs. It’s amazing.
  • My policy fellowship ended, so I’ve stepped up my game at work: sitting on two different district committees, mentoring two new teachers, working with an intern, and helping to plan/facilitate cultural proficiency training for our school. I feel busy ALL OF THE TIME but I also feel professionally and intellectually satisfied by the work, so I guess it’s worth it.
  • I turned 35 and basically my body wants to fall apart. I got really lazy last spring and the first part of the summer, but then I realized I’d really rather that this not happen, so now I wake up at 5 am Monday-Friday and work out. I also went to PT over the fall and winter to help with some injuries I sustained after running a half-marathon in 2016, and I’m back to running (slowly, to be sure, but it’s happening).

What has not changed?

  • Still married to J. We’ll celebrate 12 years of wedded bliss this June!
  • Still living in our lovely house north of Boston. We’ve been doing lots of work on the place – we did buy a fixer-upper, after all – and it’s starting to come together.
  • Still working at the same school. It’s a crazy place to work, but it’s home.
  • Still writing! (And trying little by little to get published in various lit mags here and there. Rejection sucks, but I keep at it.)

I guess that’s it for now. Oh – I’m also trying to get more people I know in the 3-D world to join me this year. Yesterday I made a very convincing pitch to my Creative Writing class to participate; I set up a blog site for them to join in, but until I know that I have a consensus of kids blogging with me, I’ll keep that URL under wraps. I also invited a bunch of my colleagues to blog, and hopefully a couple of them will do it.

Here’s to another month of Slicing, y’all!


slice of life

#sol17 Villages

“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.”
― Dorothy Day

My days are basically the same: Wake up. Commute to work. Teach. Go home. Family time. Sleep. Rinse, repeat.

venn7This is why on the days when I have the chance to engage with communities which break this monotony, or provide me with a sense of refuge within it, I feel so grateful. Like some super-complicated Venn diagram of my life, these various groups allow me to more fully be my best series of selves.

My teaching community

So much of teaching is in isolation. A teacher is surrounded by students all day long – and don’t get me wrong, when my classes are really great, those groups of students become true communities – but aside from specific structures such as staff meetings or shared lunch periods, we do not necessarily spend our time with other adults. Grading is often solitary. Planning is often solitary.

Luckily, we can find ways to carve our time into something meaningful. My school has built-in common planning periods for teachers who are on the same grade-level team. Lucky for me, this includes Tanya. We have taught together for a decade now, and in that time she has become a mentor, constant collaborator, and “big sister.” I rely on the days that we can enjoy a leisurely lunch, share student work, co-plan lessons, collaborate on curriculum, discuss pedagogy and TV and politics. Tanya and the rest of my circle of work friends, people who are like-minded in how they approach teaching and social justice and teens, support and sustain the professional me.

My writing community

This year I’m running a professional development workshop called Teachers as Writers. It’s basically a writing group for and of teachers – some from my school, others from across the district – who come together once a month and workshop each others’ writing. When we enter my classroom for 75 minutes on afternoons such as today, we don’t do it in service of improving pedagogy or assessment of student writing- we do it for ourselves, to hone our own work, to honor our own craft. It is freeing, and it has already made me a better teacher of writing for my students as well.

This community – some of whom I knew well before this began, others I have met for the first time in this course – has become a way for me to nourish that part of myself that craves feedback for my work, that acknowledges the poet and writer within. I leave each session buoyed by my hope for and belief in my own voice.

My parenting community

When K was born, I was a little adrift. In those first couple of months of his life, we moved apartments, my husband changed jobs, and my sister and close friend each got married. I had a lot on my plate. When J went back to work in the fall, I needed something to fill the remaining six weeks of my maternity leave, so I joined Stroller Strides, checked out a free drop-in music class at a local community center, and finally attended a local toy store’s new parents’ coffee hour. This last group eventually led me to my Mom Community  (MoC). Although there are many online op-eds denigrating these spaces as judgmental, catty, basic, I have found an enormous amount of strength and love from MoC.

Although we often get together IRL (in real life), it’s hard to find babysitters, juggle schedules, and deal with myriad illnesses, family visits, etc. So we rely a lot on our Facebook group to share links, get advice, vent about kids/partners/family, find many shoulders to cry on. Our children span an 18-month period in their ages, so some of us can offer advice about where we’ve been; others get to look ahead to see what’s ahead in our journeys. Across our homes, across our families, MoC is a web of support connected by milk and motherhood, here to make sure that no mom is left behind.

It takes many villages

When I was younger, I would watch shows like Friends and silently bemoan the fact that I didn’t have a single close-knit group of friends to share my every waking moment. Although I know that some people’s lives do resemble sitcom television, mine has not been one of them.

Instead, I have many intersecting and individual communities: friends from college; friends from grad school; work friends; mom friends; family members who are also true friends; professional groups with whom I engage in pedagogical and ideological discourse; my large and wild extended family; my own family unit of J, K, and me.

“It takes a village to raise a child,” the saying goes. Maybe sometimes, it takes multiple villages. Like an intricate net of solidarity, each of these communities strengthens the various facets of my life, each a small village in the countryside of Me.

slice of life

#sol17 Back in the saddle

slice of lifeWow, back at it! It’s been a really, really long time since I have done this. (Almost but not quite a year.)

I guess it’s worth discussing some of the things I’ve been doing:

First and foremost, I’ve been mom-ing. My son turned two last spring and we’re quickly approaching his third birthday. Every day is an adventure; his language, his interests, his abilities change so quickly that it’s hard to keep up sometimes! Being stuck in the nitty-gritty of the everyday, I rely on poetry, private journaling, and photos/videos on my iPhone to remind me how much has changed. Thanks goodness for technology!

Also, my husband and I bought a house! We’re about 10 miles north of Boston now. It’s weird being in the suburbs, and I miss the city (especially the diversity), but financially this was the move we needed to make.

I’m also more than half-way through another school year, and it feels as though I’ve finally gotten my groove back after returning from maternity leave. My teaching feels more robust and energized than ever, and that’s in large part due to the thing that’s taken up a large part of my time…

Since January 2016 I’ve been a Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellow. Teach Plus is a national non-profit that helps support teachers as leaders. It’s been a pretty amazing experience, not only because I’ve had the opportunity to do things like testify at the MA State House about an educational bill, meet state legislators and other community leaders, present at regional conferences, and provide input into the MA Frameworks, but also I’ve done a lot of writing and publishing in the last year.

Writing about educational issues – for publication, not just for myself or my school or my blog – has been a blessing. It’s reminded me why I teach, why I spend 180 days of my life surrounded by teenagers, why I am a public school teacher, why I feel so passionately about the promise and power of education. It has kept me buoyed throughout some politically turbulent waters, and has helped me to be more engaged and present in the process of writing with my students. I’ve known for a long time that teaching is not a neutral act, and in the act of writing about my teaching, I’ve infused my professional work with more of “me” than I ever had.

Last March I decided to stay anonymous, but I’m going to out myself here. We write because we have something to say, yes? So why not share myself with my teacher-writer peers! I hope you enjoy the writing I’ve been doing instead of blogging over the last year, and I look forward to writing and sharing and reading with y’all this month!

Thirsty Thursday #sol

It’s been a week since Slice of Life ended, and I’ve felt a little adrift without my daily blogging. I missed Tuesday’s call for SOL posting, which I’m hoping to jump into regularly. I told myself when SOL ended, I wanted to keep going with my writing, but… Right now, I just feel beaten down. As teachers we’re constantly asked to do more with less. My 4th period class is a constant rotation of absences that never get caught up. Creative Writing is producing some great poetry, but they all have senioritis. Multiple students are dealing with abusive boyfriends, sexual harrassment, depression, heartbreaking stories that I can’t fix and which make my curriculum seem both pointless and all the more important at the same time.

And it’s Thursday night. The weekend looms, but more importantly, one week from tonight we’ll be hopping on a plane for spring break. It will be almost like college – except, of course, that we’ll be taking K, our 22-month-old, on his first plane ride – but still, I am reminded of that wonderful bubble of four years where the worst thing I had to worry about was making my Friday morning Spanish lecture. Back then, Thursdays meant rounds at the bar, sitting with friends who lived down the hall or a few blocks away, pretending to be adults. Now, Thursdays just mean a cup of tea and Netflix. It’s a different kind of thirsty.

I am thirsty for a break. No responsibilities, no work, no bills.

I am thirsty for time. I want to drink seconds like I were drowning until I’ve swallowed an ocean of moments that can suspend me indefinitely.

I am thirsty for peace, for justice, for knowledge–knowing that I will never read all the books I want, never understand the why’s? of this world and its heartaches.

I am thirsty for poetry. I want verse to sustain me, to devour metaphors that fill my stomach and my soul until they are bursting out my mouth, leaking through my pores, uncontained by my skin.

I am thirsty for travel. I want to breathe air that I have never breathed before, to fill my camera with photographs and my passport with stamps and my bank account with money for plane fare.

I am thirsty for sleep. I dream of sleep and wake up and feel tired.

I thirst. I drink and I drink and I drink, and I am never satiated.

Friendly face #sol16

I think I have one of those friendly faces. You know, the kind of face that strangers want to talk to.

Take last week, for example: I had a meeting in Boston and split an Uber back to the north side of the river with a colleague. On the way to her house, we chatted in the backseat about our project, family, her cooking class. Then she exited the car, and I gave the driver my address. It would take 10-15 minutes to get to my house, depending on traffic.

During those 10-15 minutes, I learned my driver, Carmeleau, was from Haiti. He had three children, two boys and a girl, and a baby on the way. He owned the Prius he was driving, plus a tow truck and a sports car. He made five figures a month driving for Uber. He showed me pictures of his kids and his cars on his phone at a stoplight. When I mentioned that I also had a toddler, he asked me questions about my son, and I told him about my Haitian students and how I never remembered any of the words they taught me. When we pulled up to my building, he taught me how to say goodbye in Haitian Creole, laughing that I needed to make sure I remembered it!

I will probably never see Carmeleau again, but I lost nothing by being friendly. By listening, by engaging in conversation, by talking to someone different than me — if anything, in that brief moment I gained a temporary friend. I saw humanity. I connected.

What would happen if more people opened up and accepted “friendly”?

slice of life