Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Summer is about to depart with the commencement of Labor Day.  With that passage, schools start in New York.  The changing of guard from summer to fall is too quickly approaching.  My blog this week celebrates summer one last time by commemorating my 10 top reasons that Summer, 2013 was memorable.

Reason #10
“Fun Days”:  These days have been interspersed throughout the summer, making sure that I mix fun and pleasure with work.  On my fun days I go to movies, paint my nails, get my hair done, take long walks or long baths, read a book…Do anything my heart really desires—all for the sake of fun and play.

Reason #9
Restorative Yoga:  The most relaxing, centering and meditative experience ever.  An hour-and-a-half of pure bliss.

Reason #8
A trip to Chautauqua to hear Billy Collins and Paul Simon:  They had a conversation about poetry, music and life.  Very inspirational.  Add to that a few poems by Billy Collins (including my favorite poem—“The Lanyard” and a few songs by Paul Simon.  Not to mention a great friend to enjoy this with—quite a lovely day and evening.

Reason #7
 A dear friend’s son’s wedding:  He was my daughter’s first friend.  It was so nice to be a witness to the love he shares with his new wife.  And my daughter and I took notes, as we are planning her wedding that will occur next May.

Reason #6
My daughter is moving home:  The boxes have begun to appear.   My daughter is in the process of moving home to save money for a wedding and to prepare for the day.  Something to look forward to this fall. 

Reason #5
A trip to Chicago with my son and daughter:   We visited the city and walked many miles, enjoying the architecture, a beautiful shoreline, Navy Pier, water taxis, and deep dish pizza.  I also found a tea company that I love.  Argo Tea—best iced tea I ever had!  Green tea, a ginger mixture and sparkling water—Yummy!  I wish I had the recipe!

Reason #4
Lake fun and festivals:  I have spent more days than I usually do by the lake, enjoying boating and time in the water.  Add to that a couple of lake shore festivals with a friend.  What could be better?

Reason #3
Co-teaching a literacy coaching class with a dear friend and partner:  This is a class I have taught alone before but with a partner—so much fun.  She added her creativity and a bit of quirkiness.  We worked off of one another and each of us was better for it.  The class also benefited.   Inspirational all around!

Reason #2
Re-aligning what I am going to do when I grow up:  My position last year changed again and I have been exploring what I want to do in the next few years in terms of my career.  This is still coming together and it is moving in a direction that I am happy about—one where I can share my gifts and give in a way that makes a difference.  More will come about this in the coming year, I am sure.

Reason #1 of top memorable events during the Summer of 2013
I have completed my 50th blog post.  In March I thought that blogging was something foreign and possibly more than I could handle.  I wrote every day in March and almost every week since then—sometimes more than once.  This has been such a rewarding experience.  Not only have I given myself a space to write and have grown as a writer and a teacher of writing through my blogging—I have also met a wonderful and inspiring community of writers.  Your words and your support of me and of my writing has made such a difference to me.  Thank you.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


I think by nature I am a goal setter.   I have a vision that I want for my life and I put it to paper several years ago.  With that vision in mind I set my goals.  I look within the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual (values) domains to set short term goals for my long time vision.  As I complete one goal, I set the next.  In the evening I reflect (something that also is a part of me.)  I think about what I did within my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual domains that has allowed me to move toward my vision.  I acknowledge the movement and/or forgive myself for the lack thereof and then focus on my gratitude list.  In the process of doing this on a somewhat systematic basis I have learned about myself, have discovered some things about me that I like and don’t always like and have become a better soul because of it.  Setting goals seems natural.  It works for me.

In the work I have been doing in classrooms, goal setting has also become important.  I liken it to “rising to the top.”  Goal setting has always been important…it is the “cream” of self-realization or learning.  And that learning has risen to the top.

In my work in writers’ workshop I have often spent time at the end of the unit having students reflect and set a writing goal.  In my practice with teachers and with students, this act has taken a more prominent role.  Conversations I have had with teachers have focused on how to get students to set short and long term goals in writing—both across a piece and across a year.  Teachers have set up boards where students set writing goals and monitor them across a workshop and change the goal as the goal is completed.  This allows the student to be in the driving seat of his or her own learning. 

Some of this shift is caused by the new APPR and the Danielson rubric for evaluation of teachers used in the districts where I coach.  The rubric promotes this kind of self-monitoring learning as the highest level of learning for a child thus giving the teacher the highest score for promoting it.  There are lots of pressures and unfair and unanticipated results that are coming out of implementation of the APPR, but the actions we have seen in having students set and monitor goals of their own learning is a positive movement that has occurred as teachers focus on best-practice in sometimes forgotten ways.  I hear, “Oh, yeah.  I used to do this.  This has gotten away from me.”  or “What a great idea.  Why haven’t I thought to do this before?  It makes sense.”   This practice has “risen to the top” as good and important.  And this is a good thing for our students.

I have been working with goal setting in another venue—the graduate classes I teach—and quite honestly, it is not going as well as I had hoped.   At the beginning of the summer semester, my colleague and I who co-taught a class, had our students write out their goals for the semester’s learning.  The goals that the students set were broad and vague and didn’t hold meaning for the students so when asked to monitor their growth with the self-selected goal, many didn’t even remember what their goal was.  Many expressed interest in what my goals were for their learning. 

In their summative reflections their understandings that their learning occurred in other domains besides the academic and intellectual domain did occur.  In monitoring their learning with an acronym my colleague and I developed called V-PIES (V=Values, P=Physical, I=Intellectual, E=Emotional and S=Social) students were able to determine that their reflections across the semester contained understandings across a variety of domains.  But that did not translate into self-selecting and monitoring goals.  Lots of really wonderful things occurred in this class, but goal-setting was not the cream that rose to the top.  In my reflections about this semester I wonder why at a graduate level my students struggled with the concept of selecting a goal for learning and would rather have me set the goals.  I have asked myself how I might scaffold this learning for graduate students in a different way so that they can independently take on AND value the practice of self-selecting goals as good and important.  I look forward to playing with this in future semester course.  It is cream worth rising to the top.

And now I find myself preparing for a new school year—both in my school district and in the college where I adjunct.  This notion of goal setting in academia is an important one.  As I prepare for my new students (both children and adult) I find myself thinking about goal-setting and how to most effectively have all students set and monitor their goals for learning—it is the cream of learning.  Setting up conditions for this to happen most effectively—that is my goal

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


I have taken a month's pause in writing a weekly blog entry to focus on some pressing priorities as well as take some needed R&R.  Below is a poem written during my break.  It is good to be back.


Fire burns.  Water drowns.
Fire heats the heart.  Water buoys the soul.
Fire brings energy.  Water brings calm.
Fire has potential for healing and destruction.
Water does too.

Today I choose water.  I am at a lake and
the sound of the waves lapping against the shore
heals my “not know where I am going” soul.
I accept the undercurrent of feelings beneath
and am blanketed in the calming of
the lap, lap, lapping of waves on land.