Monthly Archives: June 2016

Rock Stars



Rock Stars- #sol June 28, 2016

Have you ever seen one of your heroes in the wild? What would you do if you did? Seeing people you admire from a distance may make you wonder when you see them up close.

Last week I had the thrill of attending the Teachers College June Writing Institute, an experience that will stay with me forever. The week was filled with small moments- most of which I am still processing. One of our end of day keynotes was the author Jack Gantos. I have read some of his books and was excited to “meet” him, from my seat in the front row of the auditorium, knowing that I would not exchange words with him, but would see him up close and absorb his words.


Jack Gantos showed us where he writes every day and noted those who wrote there before him.


According to friends who have heard him speak before most of what he said was what they had already heard from school visits, but to me, it was all brand new. What struck me most was his explanation of his writing routines. He has a schedule that he follows every day (and I LOVE that he considers his reading time his candy and reminds us not to save reading for when we are too tired). As it turns out he writes quite close to where I would soon be going to visit my mom.

Last night my son, my mom, and two of their friends were headed to a neighborhood block party anniversary celebration of a local restaurant’s 10th anniversary. The restaurant, Orinoco, serves tasty Latin American cuisine and we were enjoying each pass by of trays of delicious food, when I saw a familiar face, Jack Gantos, was just walking up. One of the men with us was a former teacher and once I told him some of Jack’s titles he knew the name, but to everyone else in our small group he was as stranger. My son laughed, “You recognize authors the way most normal people would recognize Tom Brady or another sports star.” After reassuring him that I AM normal he amended his thoughts to say, “Well, maybe a few other people would if they actually looked at book blurbs or whatever.”

What he said made me think. I think one of my main jobs as a teacher is to help students believe that authors are rock stars and that as authors of their own stories themselves they are rock stars too. I love that my students have made connections to various authors (live in author visits, virtually via Skypes, tweets, reading websites, etc.) and I want them to recognize authors they encounter in the wild. I am excited that one of my students will travel to nErDcamp to spend a night at the junior version to connect with authors and illustrators (we may be the only ones there from Malaysia, but how exciting for us!). I want my students to want to glean all they can from poring over words as they are written. I want them to know that we are all writers together. As I sit in Starbucks writing I wonder who the authors are sitting near me.

Did I rush up to Jack Gantos and talk to him? No, but I admired him from afar as a writer in the wild and I was proud that he was seen.

A Life Revised (or Living Life Bigger)


A Life Revised (or Living Live Bigger)

  • June 3- school ended for the year
  • June 5- flew to Berlin to spend time with great friends, former colleagues/students
  • June 18- flew to NYC
  • June 20- began my first ever time at TCRWP Writing Institute

 I have had an absolutely amazing start to my summer! I almost have to pinch myself repeatedly, as I am in places I never thought I would be (when I left Berlin two years ago, I wondered if I would return. I have long dreamed of being at TC, so this week is a gift I can not believe). Part of what I have loved so far this week is the focus on revision. The more I reflect on it the more I see it as a theme in my own life as well. I am frequently reimagining the me I want to be and I am so happy to be able to able to develop myself in ways that may not have even been possibilities I considered in the past. When I applied to TC I applied for reading and writing. Anyone who knows me knows that I strongly identify as a reader, so I have to admit I was disappointed that I did not get in to the reading institute, while at the same time as I was thrilled to get in to the writing institute. I decided that writing is what I needed most, as it is definitely more of a stretch for me and I made my peace with only having one week here.

Today is Day 2 and I can not begin to explain all that has gone on so far. I love that we are being pushed. We know it is true, that to be a writing teacher we have to write and we are writing in almost every session (not counting all the notes I am taking). We have explored revision in many forms and we have been living life as a student writer- all the while thinking about how this applies to us as teachers of writing as well. Fresh eyes on so many ideas are leading me to want more, more, more.

I am so lucky to be here this week and I know in the long run this experience will make me a better writer (and teacher of writers). Summer is a time for teachers to reflect, renew, refresh, and revise and I am soaking it up. I have met many of my liteacy heroes and the next three days will bring even more! Ralph Fletcher ended his keynote today with a quote from his sister: “You have to keep making your life bigger because things keep getting pulled out of it.” I am definitely making my life bigger this summer!

Where Is Home?


Where Is Home?

For the first time in two years, I am in Berlin, Germany. I have moved a lot in my life- three apartments before I was four (all in Pittsburgh). Growing up I lived in Massachusetts (Newton, Acton, back to Newton). In university I lived in Amherst, then Hull, England, then back to Amherst. After graduation I lived in two apartments in Columbia, MD, then Silver Spring, MD. Then I moved from Amsterdam to Hong Kong, back to Columbia, MD. From there it was Warsaw, Poland, then back to Maryland. Then I moved to Berlin, Germany, to Mumbai, India, and back to Berlin. Now, as of two years ago,  I live in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

I often ask my sons (one born in Amsterdam, the other in Hong Kong) where home is to them and they usually refuse to commit. When asked myself, I usually answer that the Boston area is home. This week I have been visiting Berlin and although I knew it would be great to visit again I did not count on the viscearl reactions. Walking down the street that I lived on for 7 of the 11 years in Berlin it was hard to breathe. Memories came flooding back. I recalled it as my hardest times (newly single with two teen sons), but at the same time my best times (amazing friends and a feeling of peace). I have found it so easy to be back- I know how things work here (admittedly this is a more or less feeling- some things still confound me), I know how to navigate public transportation, I know some favorite spots, and more.  It has been joyful to spend time catching up with old friends and former colleagues. It has been great fun visiting old haunts, lounging in cafes, and eating favorite foods.

Now I am thinking about, where is home? I know that later this month I will visit the Boston area. Although my family is there it has been so long since I have lived there that I do NOT know how things work there- I definitely go there  as a tourist. I know when I return to Kuala Lumpur I will feel like I am returning home also. Maybe the old cliche is true- home is where the heart is. My heart is in several places (and I definitely have a soft spot in my heart for most of the places I have lived and feel at home in some places I have only visited). The crazy thing is I do not have to choose-  home can be where I am. The scary thing is trying to plan for the future- where do I want to settle once I retire? These are the things that keep me up at night sometimes.  As I age my definition of home seems to morph, so for now I am not deciding. I guess home is a state of mind, not necessarily a physical place for me.

Digital and Paper


Digital and Paper

I am soaking up a sunny day on my friend’s patio in Kleinmachnow, Germany while she is at school (she still has a week and a bit to go). As I sit here with her husband and sister, I am struck by how we are all on our computers working, but we are using paper as well.

I spent the first while working in one of my writing notebooks while consulting my phone and computer. I was creating my summer calendar of events- looking at all the activities already scheduled (TCRWP Writing Insititute, nErDcampMI, ILA, visiting friends and family) noting down when different online PD events begin (Teachers Write, 3cyberpd, The Reading Strategies Book Summer Book Study) and writing down some summer goals. Then I moved all online to update my Goodreads, check in on whether any of my students have added to our summer Padlets (IMWAYR and IMWAYW), send messages to a few friends far away, and catch up on “news”.

He is a freelancer- so is catching up on record keeping- totalling hours spent teaching violin, following up on many other things. He is juggling paper and digital. He works on the computer, then prints out what he needs to submit. He is also working on some music- looking at an original score (on paper) then adapting it online to the group he will play with later. In the end, he will print out copies for them all to use.

She is a law professor and revising some student work. They have submitted work digitally and she is working all digitally.

It is companionable and relaxing- how we can all be enjoying the summer sunshine on the patio, but all be as productive as we want to be (or need to be) as we juggle our various tools.

After a Sunday/Monday of traveling to get here this is just what I need to be doing to start my summer break. But now, I am off to read (my Kindle- I only brought two books in my backpack because I know once I get to the US I will be buying many).