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.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Joy List

Life seems to be moving at hyperspeed. There are days when it's hard to stop and catch my breath. I'm working on practicing gratitude during these times. Here are some things which bring me joy and for which I'm thankful...
1. Students who challenge me and make me laugh.
2. Acts of kindness.
3. Laughing (and crying) with friends who see me and love me.
4. Phone calls and FaceTime with family.
5. Time spent in the pages of my notebook where I feel safe and free.
6. Walks and cuddles with Bella.
7. A school where I feel heard and valued.
8. The taste of my coffee in the morning.
9. Spending time making and creating
10. Long drives where I belt out my favorite tunes.
11. Making lists.
12. Cozy blankets and pillows.
13. My favorite blue ice cube trays that make my tiny ice cubes.
14. Making plans to attend & present at NCTE.
15. Pausing and listening.

Just sitting down and jotting this list has helped me on this gloomy and rainy morning. Today, what brings you joy? 

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Here I Am

I haven't posted in a couple of weeks. I've been thinking for the past couple of days about this post...but I can't think of anything to write. Frozen in my failure, I want to quit, but I push through and show up here...even though it seems pointless. Who wants to read a blog post about nothing? 

I begin to panic a bit...Have I "lost it"? My passion for blogging? My ability to blog? Why can't I think of something clever? What do I have to say that anyone will want to read? (By the way, I'd have all of these answers if it was you asking the questions!) Should I quit? Give up? Accept defeat?


Instead, I show up. 
Instead, I remember the words I said yesterday to my seventh-graders, 
"Show up. It gets easier."
Instead, I write and show grace to myself.
Instead, I remember that blogging is a muscle that I haven't stretched in a while and I need to warm up, I need to take some deep breaths.

Here I am. Showing up to the page. I'm not entirely happy with what's here, but it's here. It's about showing grit in moments of weakness. I'm here. I'm writing my story. Next time, it will be better...more interesting, maybe even funny...until then, I'm here. 

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Monday, September 3, 2018

'Twas the Day Before Back to School Night

Tomorrow is Back to School Night. My brain is filled with thoughts and plans to make that a productive and successful evening. My slice today will contain the top ten important things in my life: 
1. I quit diet coke a week and a day ago. Brain fog has finally lifted. 
2. I'm teaching only seventh graders this year. I miss my sixth graders, but I do love my seventh graders. There's never a dull moment. 
3. Instagram stories are a new obsession of mine. I make silly and goofy stories and I have way too much fun doing it. 
4. For the first year in forever, I have a paper calendar for school that I'm using and loving!
5. I'm only teaching electives this year. It's a whole new world and I'm really enjoying it!
6. Currently, I'm on notebook number 77 and loving it! 

7. I read 86% of the Harry Potter series this summer. I only have book seven left. 
8. This is my 23rd year of teaching. I just realized that I'm four years away from teaching as long as my mom taught! 
9. Lunch is my favorite meal of the day...because of the company. 
10. Seventh-graders make me laugh!

Random list of a slice, but it's all my brain could create today. It's a "good enough" day of writing. I showed up. That's better than I did last steps. What important things are going on with you?

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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Confessions of a Nerd

If you're a long time reader, you'll know this. 
If you know me IRL, you'll know this. 
If you're related to me, you'll know this...

I'm a nerd. 

WAIT a minute! I reject each and every one of these definitions. Unstylish? Unattractive? Socially awkward? Foolish or contemptible?!?!

NO! That's not what a nerd is...that's not what I am. It's time for the definition (dictionary definition) of this word to change. What am I? I can accept that I have a single-minded focus. Writing. Yes, I am a writing nerd. I love all things writing.

My notebook is my constant companion. It goes more places with me than my dog. I can always be counted on to have a fancy pen or two stashed away in my purse or my pocket. When something happens in my family and we need something written, I'm the one they always turn to and I get the job done.
Writing brings me peace and clarity. Writing comforts me when I feel lonely and it celebrates with me when I succeed. Words have power. Being someone who writes and uses words feels good. So, when someone calls me a nerd...I smile, say thank you, and I own it!

Are you a nerd too?

Two Writing Teachers
Slice of Life

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Creation of a Classroom

As a new school year is on the horizon, I begin the process to set up my classroom. This is the twenty-third time I'm doing this and it's always a challenge. Move furniture around. Unpack books. Arrange. Rearrange. Move again. It’s exhausting, but it’s mostly exhilarating. Let’s start at the beginning.

After a summer away from this space, I return to my classroom. This will be my second year in room 734. I find it takes me three or four (maybe five) years to figure out the best way a space works for me. Whenever I first walk in, I stop and take it all in...breathe it all in. Before anything else, I turn on some fun music. I curated a playlist called Teacher Theme Songs inspired by Gravity Goldberg’s new book, Teach Like Yourself. Music sets the mood and I’m off…

Moving furniture to just the right spot is something that is a challenge. I can’t figure out which is the best Tupperware to use for leftovers, so designing an entire room is not easy for me, but I’ve learned to enjoy the process. I ask myself these questions:

Do I have a small space for myself?
Is there a space for the class to gather?
Where can students work together?
Are there places to work independently?
Is all the space being used efficiently?

Once I move desks, bookcases, chairs, I usually move them again and again before I’m happy. (Hey, it’s just like revising my writing!) That must be finished before I start pulling out what I call the “fun stuff”. Books. Lights. Accessories to make the room cozy, warm, and a place I want to be.

I wish I had more guidance when I was a newer teacher about room set-up. Here are some of my tips for teachers:

*The bulletin board does not have to be perfect. A little slant gives it character.
*Leave some spaces unfinished to allow students to have ownership. My walls stay pretty bare and my books aren’t fully organized until students arrive.
*Make sure you feel comfortable in your classroom. It’s a space where you spend so much of your time.
*Resist lots of store bought posters. Student made posters always make me happier.
*Do not compare. (I still fall victim to this one.) Make your classroom reflect your students, your philosophy. A Pinterest classroom is pretty, but students are looking for heart!
*Ask for help. Ask where teachers found things or if someone can help you arrange. That's how I learned.
*It's not easy, but it's worth it!

Going in today to finish my classroom. I haven’t taken many pictures yet, but I will and I’ll share. Enjoy this time. It’s hectic and busy, but you’re creating a classroom community where your students will learn and grow. It’s important.