Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Gift of Writing

As the school year begins, I happily return to my blog. Routine helps my writing habit, so here I am...excited to share!

As each year begins, I share my love of writing and notebooks with my students. It's an idea I first got from Stacey Shubitz, a brilliant teacher! I get a notebook for each student and wrap it as a gift. It takes a long time to finish, especially as I teach over one hundred students now, but it's so worth it. The experience is memorable and the students know how much I value writing and the notebook. 

This year I changed the routine a bit. Inside the notebook, I include a poem that I wrote for them...each student gets the poem from me taped onto the front page. I added something new. 

At the end of last year, I asked my students to write words of wisdom or advice for the new students. THAT seemed to put the gift over the top for students this year. 

The students guess what's in the wrapped package, a spiral notebook, but it doesn't matter. Even seventh-graders appreciate the time and effort put into the presentation. Once the students opened the gift, some of them got right to using the notebook, while others designed the covers. 

I can't wait to see what this year brings! Whatever it is...we will write about in the pages of our notebooks!

Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for this amazing platform to write and share writing! What a wonderful community you've created! I'm honored to be part of it. Join us at Two Writing Teachers.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

EOY Project

The school year is ending. We are days away from packing up and saying goodbye to another year. I'm proud of what my students have accomplished this year. 

Currently, we are working our way through projects that sum up our year of learning.  These projects are varied as students got to design and create their own project. Some students are creating movies, others are writing speeches that they will give, some are redesigning the classroom space for next year and a few are working with me to present at a local conference after school ends. 

The engagement is high. Students reflect weekly on their progress or lack of progress and report out on how it's going. I love seeing them engaged in their projects, but I love reading their reflections even more. After weeks and weeks of practicing, they are able to reflect in an authentic way. 

My hope is when they leave this class, they will remember how much they have to offer. I want them to remember that work doesn't always feel like work when you enjoy it. I want them to know that failure is part of the process and to figure out a way to go on after that. 

They have taught me a lot this year too. I continue to process the lessons these seventh graders have taught me. Enjoying this end of the year...
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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

My Spectacular Failure

It's been months and months since I've blogged. I wish I knew the reason why. I wish I could tell a story to explain. I don't and I can't. Today, I felt the pull to return so here I am blogging again. 

Even though I don't know why I stopped, I can share how it feels to be back. I feel refreshed. This feels new again and I am excited to return. Officially, I am declaring my return to blogging after this failure. 

My notebook is named "Spectacular Failure" from a quote by Ransom Riggs..."If you must fail, fail spectacularly!" I've always believed in failure. This is the place where learning takes place. My students and I talk about it. It's something I value...but is it something I live? I've been reflecting on that a lot lately and I've come to the conclusion that in my life, I haven't truly valued my failures! Instead, I try and hide them. NO MORE. This stops now. 

Leaving blogging for months has been a spectacular failure and now I'm digging into what I'm learning from it. It feels good to be back!
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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

New Year, New Goal, New Story

In my classroom, I've started writing a daily message. Today's message reminded me about my feelings about this blog. I've really abandoned this space. I somehow feel like I've failed. It makes me sad. I'm not sure what precipitated this change, but I am saddened by, I have made it a goal for me to write more on this blog during 2019. I'm not sure exactly what it's going to look like...yet. 

My job as a teacher has changed. I teach two electives this year. I've found that it's changed my perspective on lots of things and as I write this, I'm thinking maybe I should write about this journey. I've written what others have "told" me to write. I've met challenges on this blog. I've built an audience.

It's time for me to write my story. It's time for me to forge my own path and NOURISH my own soul with my words and my story. I'm developing a plan. It's bubbling up, but not ready just yet. My hope is you'll join and share your own thoughts along the way because everyone has a story. 

I may even begin a new space or change this things are coming.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Begin with Creativity

I've been looking for a new way to begin class...something that will help us begin with more calm and allow the students to express themselves creatively. I found it...self-portraits. 

Lynda Barry. She is brilliant. I own all of her books, but this idea came from Syllabus. Students are given a blank index card and invited to create a self-portrait of themselves today. I give them approximately two minutes. Here are a few of them...



I thought students would love this activity, but surprisingly they approached it with some fear and a bit of dread. I heard over and over again, "I can't draw." 

We are persevering. Students are finding ways to be more creative and allowing themselves to have more fun with it as the days go on...

My next step is to share this video (parts of it) with them and invite them to take more risks. What would your two-minute self-portrait look like today? 

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

NCTE Eve Eve

In just two days, I'll be flying south to Houston, TX to attend my fifth NCTE conference. This is the first time I'll be presenting. I just reread some posts from previous NCTE visits and I'm more excited than ever to be in this space with educators and authors.

My post from NCTE 2016 includes a bunch of collected quotes from brilliant authors and it turns out I get to present WITH one of these writers this time around: Amy Ludwig Vanderwater ! Amy, Linda Urban and I are sharing our passion for notebooks. Together on Saturday, we are presenting, with my brilliant colleague, Jen Cherry, moderating the panel. I'm so excited and unbelievably nervous!! Will anyone show up? Will they like what we have to share? These are the thoughts that plague me!

After my presentation on Saturday, #TeachWrite is hosting a notebook exchange and meet-up at 4:30. I can't wait to get to meet my writing friends in real life...and get a new notebook!

On Sunday, TeachWrite is presenting at a roundtable. Together with Jennifer Laffin, Leigh Anne Eck, and Andy Schoenborn we will talk about breathing new life into your writing life!

Sub plans are finished. Laundry is done. Bag is almost packed and I leave in 48 hours. I can't wait for this experience! What makes this year sweeter is the chance to spend time after the conference with my Texas family! Much of the Haseltine family will be together in Dallas for Thanksgiving and I am so excited!

If you are at NCTE, please comment and let me know! I want to connect with as many friends as possible. My presentation information is below, so if you would like, I'd LOVE to see friendly faces in the audience

Happy and safe travels to Houston!
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Tuesday, October 30, 2018


We are experiencing the final week of the quarter this week. It can be a stressful time...finishing assignments and grades. In room 734, we are reflecting.

Yesterday I asked the students how many of them take selfies- ALL the hands went up (well, most of the hands). We talked about selfies and why people take them and share them.

"So people can see how good you look!"
"So you can see how you look, like a mirror."

"For memories, to see where you've been and what you've done."
"To see how you've changed over time."

YES! And that's why we see how we look today and how we've changed and grown over time and to share that with others for feedback. 

From there I gave the class a list of questions as a guide for their reflection and they were off. Some created flipgrid videos, others wrote letters, and a few even shared their reflections in notebook pages. 

Reflecting is a tough process for anyone and even tougher for seventh graders who don't have much experience with it. These students rose to the challenge. They noted their successes and their failures. They focused on their achievements and unwittingly set goals for their next quarter. 

Sitting in the presence of students as they reflect on themselves as learners, as readers, as writers, as collaborators, as's amazing. As this first quarter comes to a close, I'm proud of every single one of my students and I can't wait to kick off quarter two!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

BAM Student Presenters

Today is an exciting day. After school, I am sharing a presentation with the staff at my school. They have five or six choices and I'm offering one of them. The exciting part is co-presenters. I am presenting with seven of my seventh-grade students. 

A couple of weeks ago, a colleague of mine, the brilliant Mrs. Jenny Miller,  came into my communications classes to teach the students skills that will help them become skilled interviewers and presenters. The kids loved it. I saw their eyes light up. They came alive! 

It turned out that I had been invited to present today. It seemed like a quick turn-around, but I asked for volunteers. In one class, eight students asked to do this with me. We met and they brainstormed ideas. They created the promo video to get the audience to pick our presentation!
I showed them how I plan out my presentations and they watched carefully. We decided on the message and the things we wanted the participants to do during our 45 minutes. 

The next class, those same students took the tasks that needed to be done and did them...they did them all without any guidance or help from me. They worked as a team and created amazing videos to complement our presentation. I put all of our ideas and videos into a slideshow.

Today, we will meet during lunch and during class to split up the presenting and to rehearse. These students are so incredibly excited that they have something to share and that there is an audience for their story. I'm so excited to watch their enthusiasm and guide them to a successful presentation. 

Today is going to be a great day! Come back next week, I'll write all about it. 

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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Communications: A Whole New World

This school year is a different one for me. I am purely a teacher of elective classes. The majority of my day is spent working with my seventh-grade communications students. In my county, it's the first opportunity that students get a say in their learning. Their choices include a foreign language high-school level class, coding, and my class.

Last year, I taught communications and English. My communications classes totaled seventeen students at the beginning of last year. This year, I started with 72 and I'm already over 80 since the year began. 

We create in our class! Right now they are finishing up photography portfolios. We collaborate on projects. Our next project is to create student presentations. We learn and practice communication skills. We struggle through critical thinking and problem solving and we contribute to the class, the school, and the world around us. 

My friends, those of you who teach core content classes...did you know how different it is to be a teacher of an elective? I had no idea! It's a learning curve for me. It requires much more flexibility as schedule changes are focused on core classes more than electives. The state tests are not a direct concern for me anymore, which means so many directives that come down skip over me. My head spins with all the differences. 

The best part of being a teacher of electives is the students...doesn't it always come down to that? They have had a real choice in picking this class and I can see that difference in the classroom.  We have projects yet no homework, but what I've found is more students voluntarily working on homework because they care about what they are doing. 

We create an original news show every single day. It's four minutes long. We deliver important information and we entertain. Each day a different student edits the news together and creates the show. I'd say, on average,  the editing can take an hour. Students are begging to edit. BEGGING for homework! If a student doesn't complete it, I send out a message and I always have one or two ready to step up and take over. 

THIS is what I love! Witnessing students finding their voices. Teaching electives is a new world for me and I'm loving it. 

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Tuesday, October 2, 2018


Questions. I have questions bouncing around my head. Questions mean wonder and curiosity. Questions are good.

I don't have answers, so instead, I'm going to pose my questions...

How can I make it better?  
What is my role as a teacher?
Classroom organization?
What's the best way to work with other teachers?
How do I connect with students?
What do grades really mean?
How do I get better and meet their needs? How can school look different?
Why do I do what I'm doing in the classroom?
How do I balance technology and analog learning?
Are tests necessary? Why? What is their purpose? How do they make us better learners?
How can students demonstrate their learning in a meaningful way?
How do I help them grow and learn?
How can I find a way to better organize their notebooks?
What books will help them fall in love with reading?
What will make a difference to my students?


I'm not looking for answers. (And most of my questions focus on me since that's what I can change. I can change. I can get better and learn.) My hope is that if I just keep asking questions, I'll learn something along the way.

Read more slices at Two Writing Teachers.