Showing posts from March, 2011

It's All About the Wine

photo © 2010 fringley | more info (via: Wylio ) Laughter, sharing, listening, drinking, eating, laughter...and, once in awhile, we talk about books. Eleven of us started a book club a couple of years ago. Readers, we were always telling each other, "Oh, you should read this."  Wanting to discuss a great find, we searched for someone else who read the same book. Finally, one of us said, "We should start a book club."  And we did. We meet monthly in a beautiful space on the upper floor of an art/framing store owned by one of our members and her husband. It is the perfect place for a group of women to meet...old brick walls and wooden floors, accented with deep, comfy couches and chairs that we can sink into as we eat, drink, laugh and discuss. Six of us met after school to discuss Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter  by Tom Franklin , the book of the month. Some had read it, some had not. Some liked it, some did not.  That wasn't really the point, we decided. T


"We are now going in to lockdown" Although it was a drill, although we knew it ahead of time, our first lockdown drill was a tad disconcerting. No one wants to think of a "hostile intruder" in their building, no one wants to think of the consequences of   that intruder. Not me, not the kids. It was our first drill and on the whole, I think it went OK. Students in later classes told of teachers (?????) who talked the whole time, or students who had to cough or whisper when they were supposed to be quiet,  but on the whole, it went well. My class was terrific. After a couple of initial giggles, they sat quietly, jumped a bit when someone tried my door, but really did well with the whole thing. This is also the class that came up with great suggestions for improving the drill, who asked intelligent questions, and understood why we were doing this. I don't want to think about this happening for real, but I am glad we had the drill and there is a plan in plac

Slow down, take time, must breathe.....must teach....

photo © 2009 J Brew | more info (via: Wylio ) One of the great benefits of this challenge has been checking out other blogs tucked away on the side of someone's blog, finding new resources in other's blogs.   Spilling Ink is one of those resources. I don't remember whose blog it was on, I just know I was captivated by the title, the website and the idea behind it. My copy of the book came a couple of days ago and I just started to read it. Now I am in a terrible quandary.  I am also reading Unwind   by Neal Shusterman. Fabulous read so far. My problem is this I can't physically read two books at one time. I have no problem with switching back and forth between a fiction and non-fiction book. It's just I can't decide which to read, when! I can't read one page of Spilling Ink  and then one page of Unwind.  I can't even read one chapter of one and then one chapter of the other.  I want to know what Conner and the others are doing without me while I a

Just For Today

Just for today I will play Hooky From school. With 25 students We will Watch 2 of our own, Plus 900 others, Be recognized for Excellence. Amazed and Astonished, I will sit and listen and Watch As young men and women Prove That practice and determination Brings rewards, But mostly They bring Self-Satisfaction and Pride. Congratulations to Grace and Jordan--All-State Performers!

Silent Cat

Dim light creeps into the room as I silently slide out of the warm comfort of bed into the cool chill of morning.  It is Sunday. A day I relish. I tiptoe down the stairs and it is quiet, too quiet. Generally an insistent meowing and a lead to her food dish greets me as I open the door. But this morning, nothing. Our 19 year-old cat, Winnie, does not show her face. My mind immediately jumps to the conclusion that she has died during the night. Reluctantly, I begin my search. I am not a cat person. Not really. But she has been with us a very long time. Since our youngest son wanted a cat when he was 8.  We relented and got him one, never thinking she would live so long. Winnie won me over in her early years when we remodeled the house.  The attic was full of bats and as we covered up escape routes, they began appearing in the main part of the house.  She was incredible, once leaping and catching a bat in mid-air as it flew down the stairs (there are witnesses). Winnie has kept u

Connecting with the SSBs

photo © 2009 Carolyn Tiry | more info (via: Wylio ) I have always had a soft spot for the "bad boy". You know the one. He causes trouble in class, his grades are poor. He struggles in traditional classes, but excels in hands on activities. By the time he gets to high school, he is afflicted with "Stupid Sophomore Boy Syndrome". Do all sophomore boys have the disease? Nope, just a handful. Although, it can affect any boy at any time. Having married one of them, raised two of them and taught hundreds of them, I consider myself an authority on "Stupid Sophomore Boy" syndrome.  What is this? It is the time during their fifteenth year that boys leave their brains somewhere and forget to pick them up. In the hallway I am responsible for, there is also a brain sucking locker. Believe it or not, it's always the same number. The brain sucking locker affects those who stand too close, sucking out what common sense a boy has, causing him to say and do really


There he stood in his uniform, looking like the man, the soldier he had become. Was it only six months ago he sat in my classroom? I hugged him. I wanted to cry. Daniel has always been a mature young man, but as he looked around at students, who just last year were his classmates, I'm sure even he had to notice how much he has changed in the time he'd been gone.  Thinner face and tired eyes. Eager to share with me what he had learned over the last few months, wanting to tell me what his future holds, we talked through most of my prep period. He continued to wander in and out of my morning classes, using my room as his landing spot. It was his first day home on leave.  In two weeks, he'll be gone, guarding "nukes" out west.  I am happy he isn't being deployed to Afghanistan or elsewhere, but wonder just how safe he is.  No one ever told me in my education classes that I would become so attached to students.

Why is There a Giant Green Bug in My Hallway?

Students enter speech class with a certain amount of trepidation. Many proclaim they will not be able to speak in front of class.But, they all want to know, when do they get to make the commercial? 5 years ago, this was a simple project. Create a school commercial promoting the high school using the persuasive techniques we learned about in class. Students wrote the script, practiced a day and then they performed their creation live in front of the rest of the class, reading off the script. Somehow, this activity took on a life of its own. After three days of lecture, the showing of previous commercials and the explanation of three different commercial choices, it now requires at least a week of writing and practicing. Then there is the filming--much of it done outside of class and over a weekend. There are costumes, music, and memorized scenes. I am lucky that my room is the only classroom in my hallway because the kids spread out and practice there. Once students have filmed, man

I Will Continue

photo © 2007 Eduardo | more info (via: Wylio ) After writing a post each day, I click the Twitter and Facebook buttons at the bottom of the post and share the day's writing. I didn't know if anyone would read them, but I figured what the heck.  It turns out, that I have more readers than I knew, although they don't always comment on the blog.  Many times I will find a comment on my Facebook page or someone will comment on something I have written in person. I like it. Yesterday, my sister actually did comment on one post. I know that she reads "Coffee With Chloe" most mornings and she commented that she would miss reading it once the month was over. I assured her "Coffee With Chloe" would continue. And it will continue for the same reason it started. I need an outlet for my writing. Simple as that.

Reading Machine

Today is one of those days when I want to snuggle up with a blanket and a good book. If I was still teaching reading in junior high, my lesson plans would change. Today would be a free reading day!  Most kids loved those times.  But, there were always a few. I always made a promise to kids at the start of the year. Even if they had "never read a book", or never found one they liked, I would find at least one they could say, "Yea, that was pretty good."  This was a tall order for some, but I did usually find one. Josh was one of those boys. He didn't want to read and didn't like to read. He called me on the promise.  I don't remember if we went through a few books or if "Tears of a Tiger" by Sharon Draper was the first one I pulled, but it was a keeper. Josh moved on to "Forged by Fire", also by Draper, and liked it almost as well.  In fact, he liked these books so well that he didn't really read anything else for a long time!


My day is crazy. My schedule is crazy. My Life is crazy. Sometimes I want to scream like Crazy. Is it time to retire? Not yet. School smooths the Craziness. Students smile, Students laugh, Kids are happy to be in my room. I breathe. I am settled.

He Learned from the Best

There is something very satisfying connecting with adult children. You get a lot smarter the older they get. We stopped to visit and have lunch with our oldest son and his family yesterday. I've been thinking a lot about a comment our son made toward the end of the visit. Greg thanked Mitch for lunch and complimented him on grilling the hamburgers etc. Mitch replied, "I learned from the best."  But grilling wasn't the only thing he learned... Mitch was three years old when I met Greg; four when we got married.  Especially when Mitch was a teenager, they didn't always see eye to eye.  Most of their issues were normal father and son problems, but somewhere in the back of his head, Mitch often felt Greg couldn't love him as much as his younger brother. Flash forward 15 years. Mitch is now the dad to 5-year-old twins. He is not their biological father, but he loves them as if they were.  Two years ago at Christmas, he stopped his dad on the stairs and told h

Dance With the Red Dog

Blurry eyed, I sit in my chair and turn on the news. And it starts. She sits at my feet, giving me puppy dog eyes. I try to ignore her. I read blog comments from yesterday, check my Facebook and Twitter feeds. A little whine... I look at her out of the corner of my eye. She stands. The whine gets a little louder. She moves closer to the chair. Soon her head is on my lap, so she can really guilt me with those puppy dog eyes. I can't take it anymore and put my laptop on the end table. Success! Chloe flies into my lap--all 50 pounds of her. I feel the rocker go back, but right itself again.  She licks my ears and snuggles into my lap. For about 30 seconds.... She's down again.  I get a fresh cup of coffee and settle back into my chair. Chloe's back. She sits, she whines, but this time she has something with her. She flops her stuffingless weasel into my lap, wanting to play. I pretend I don't notice. She picks it up and gives it a little toss in the air, as if

What I've Learned in 54 Years...

photo © 2008 Jessica Diamond | more info (via: Wylio ) I read someone's blog last week which talked about a writing activity they have students do.  I decided it would make a great birthday post. "I am young. I am 54 years old and here is what I have learned about life..." 1. Forgive people. Don't hold grudges. It's the strongest thing you can do. People make mistakes. They deserve a second chance--and sometimes a third or fourth. 2. Choose your life. People treat you how you let them. 3. Stupid sophomore boys grow up into fine men--well, most of them. Some stupid sophomore boys stay stupid sophomore boys until they are 40.  See rule number 1. 4. A piece of chocolate a day keeps the grumpies away. 5. A warm bath and an hour alone with a good book is a great way to end the weekend and recharge your soul. 6. Be nice to people. If you have to, bite your tongue 'til it bleeds. You can't take words back. 7. Surround yourself with young people

Team Smartacles: Did Anyone Read This?

My second Battle of the Books team is taking their online test tonight.  Made up of three freshman girls, a freshman boy and a junior girl, they are a bizarre group. Two of the freshman girls are great friends who convinced the other two freshman to join them. The junior girl just wanted to be on a team and this was the only team that didn't have six people on it.  They call themselves Team Smartacles. They haven't met like my other group or any of the other groups.  I'm still not sure that they have all the books read. But tonight they are banding together. They are pumped up and ready to go. They begin the author's test. The freshman got together today and studied the author's names for that test. In 7 minutes, they breeze through the test. Wisely, they decide to look over all their answers.  In 9 minutes and 54 seconds they click submit. 28 out of 28. Seriously! Amazing! During the whole test the boy is jumping up and down and giving high fives to the girls.

This Is Why...

Honestly, I put it out of my mind. I was busy after school, reorganizing my room, straightening my desk and preparing for the fourth quarter. Sunny and fairly warm outside, I hurried to finish everything up so I could go home and take Chloe for a walk. Chloe greeted me when I walked through the door in her typical fashion--impatient whines, running a small crazy circle, waiting for me to pet her and take down the gate so she could race me to the front door. I stood outside with her a minute while she looped through my legs like a cat, not being able to get enough of my touch.  Finally, I went back into the house to change out of my school clothes and put on some walking clothes. I putzed around. Fed the cat, filled Chloe's water dish, checked the mail. Eventually, I went into change clothes. The phone rang and I remembered. It's All-State announcement day! It could only be one person on the other line. My senior, Grace, who's been with me since she was a freshman, &

Lullaby Weave

Barry Lane has a great activity in his book "But How Do You Teach Writing?" that I love to use with my Creative Writing students. It's called a lullaby weave.  Here's my shot at it, using the song "Puff, the Magic Dragon" , one I used to sing with my sons when they were young. Late on a Friday night                      A dragon lives forever One son on each knee                      But not so little boys Singing and Rocking                      Painted wings and giants' string Cuddling and talking                      Make way for other toys. Wishing they could stay this small forever                      One grey night it happened, Knowing they won't                      Jackie Paper came no more Tucking the memory in my heart And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.

What I Miss on Sunday Morning

We have had an exceptionally busy winter. There was a spell we were gone 10 or 11 weekends in a row. Ugh. I am a homebody in the winter. When we are gone, I feel disconnected. Sunday, for me, is a day to nourish my mind and soul and I don't seem to be able to do that when not in my own space. I want to wake up on my time--whether that is 6:00am or 9:00 am. I don't want to feel like I have to get up and visit. I want to start my coffee in my kitchen and wash my hair in my bathroom. I need my fuzzy blanket to wrap around me while I drink coffee and read the Sunday paper--the hard copy, not an online version. There is nothing comfy about reading on the computer. I want Chloe to whine until I put the paper down and call her into my lap for a little cuddle time. I want to watch HGTV and be inspired. I want to look at my pile of school work and know that there is a whole day to get through it (although at 8:00pm, I get a little panicked!) I want to doze in my recliner t

Power Speech

The alarm rings at 5:15, but I have actually been awake since 4:30 (that's AM, people). My mind is skimming over all the details for the day, mentally checking off the things I have already done, prioritizing the things that still need to be done and panicking over the things I'm not sure I have done. It's State Speech Contest day.  The last one of the year (unless someone goes to All-State).  My mind is also thinking "Next week after school..."  I haven't had after school time since November. I'm ready to not worrying about whether someone is waiting to rehearse in the morning. I'm ready to head home at 4:00 instead of 5:30. I think I am ready to be done. To Be Continued... After an unusually quiet bus ride (well, except for the game of catch with the "crustable"), we have arrived. It is now 9:00am and the nerves are hitting the morning performers. I spend some time calming nerves and letting students know that no matter what their r

Team Fluffy

I sit here monitoring one of my Battle of the Books  teams, made up of six giggling sophomore girls. Five of these girls I recruited as eighth graders when they were in my Gifted and Talented English class. They read ALL the time. One of them generally has two or three going at the same time. And, best of all, they read for fun. They are smart and well-rounded. One swimmer, one cheerleader, two basketball players, two are on my speech team, one is passionate about wild mustangs, one is a school rebel--kind of. They like each other and are definitely a team, even though they don't always hang out together. This is their second year together. Last year they scored well, wrote all the author's names correctly and went to the Grand Battle. They arrive one by one. Laughter and giggles greet each as they arrive. They talk about the ones who aren't here yet.  The designated treat bringer forgot the donuts and there are screams from the rest, "How could you?" And

Look, Gramma! It's a Princess

photo © 2007 D. Sharon Pruitt | more info (via: Wylio ) Prom is a month away and the drama has started for real (actually, I think it started back in December) and an overheard conversation brought back this memory of my oldest grand-daughter from a couple of years ago: I had forgotten how hard taking two small children to the grocery store could be. K decided not to ride in the cart, but "walk" beside me. Now, as anyone with knowledge of 4-year-olds can tell you, they seldom walk. She skipped, she twirled, she slid. At one point she ran ahead of me down the aisle. And came to a dead stop. She slowly turned around, her eyes huge, and whispers, "Gramma, it's a princess!" And sure enough, when I got closer, there stood a princess--pink taffeta dress, ruffles, wrist corsage, tiara, the whole nine yards. "Where are they going?" K. asked as she watched them leave the store. "Where do you think?" "To the ball..."

The Last (?) Snow Day

Brown grass peeked through in places. The mud and the slush created hazardous walking. Through the downspouts small rivers appeared. Spring was definitely on the way. Then the dreaded words: Winter Storm Watch. They changed to Winter Weather Advisory. I turned on the TV this morning just in time to see we were delaying the start of school two-hours. Time for an extra cup of coffee. Time to throw in a load of laundry. Time to correct a few papers. I am drawn to the TV screen. It's like watching a train wreck. I watch as one by one the neighboring schools are canceling. I know what is coming. Canceled.

Smiley Face

photo © 2008 hirotomo t | more info (via: Wylio ) I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of a little brown box of happiness at my front door steps.  I love finding the Amazon smiley face looking up at me from the step inside my door.  It feels like Christmas  morning when you are a kid. Anticipation My book club chose a book at the last "meeting" that I had been looking at anyway. I love that! And I love my book club. Sometimes I have to skip a month. Sometimes I don't even get the book read, but I go anyway. I still get something out the book just from the discussions. Plus, the wine and treats are always good and the conversations with fellow teachers are revitalizing. Elation! The smiley face box is here a day early!  Must Go!  There's a new friend to meet. PS. We're reading Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter  by Tom Franklin. Check it out. Promises to be a good one.

I Do Not Want to Get Out Bed Today

photo © 2011 Chris Baskind | more info (via: Wylio ) My bed missed me while I was gone. It gets rumpled when I leave for too long. I think I'll stay and cuddle it awhile. The dust bunnies lurk like Lilliputions Waiting to jump out and frighten me. I think I'll stay and hide out awhile. Teacher homework lies waiting in my bag, Ready to squash any hopes of "me time" this morning. I think I'll stay and avoid it awhile. No one made my coffee, There is snow in the forecast. My favorite pants are in the wash. My car needs to be cleaned. My room is too cold. The SSB's have had a weekend To plan for more stupidity. I think I'll stay....

Sunday Morning Snippets

photo © 2009 Bert Heymans | more info (via: Wylio ) 1. It's impossible to take a true brain break--at least for me. Even enjoying time with friends, I am thinking of moments to write about. How will I phrase them? Can I make them come alive? 2. Audience matters. Even though I say I am writing this for me, I am constantly thinking how readers will respond.  Comments have become very important to me. They validate what I am doing. The support system I am gaining through this process is wonderful, amazing, and invigorating. 3. Chloe needs a play date. 4. When you are truly comfortable with people, you don't have to talk. 5. I need to use what I am learning about my own writing with my classes. Especially the audience part, the comments and responses. I think it is time for a silent share....

Brain Break

Chloe is ready for a brain break, too! It's funny that in the short time I have been involved in this challenge how my brain has changed. I am constantly thinking about things that happen and I how I could write them in a slice. The first thought to pop into my head in the morning as I wake up is, "What will I write about today?" Today, I really don't have a specific idea, but it's OK. I spent the first hour I was up reading the other early morning posters I have come to know and look forward to reading. There was Alan and his wonderful post about finding a new book.  I could write about that--I have the same feelings... And blkdrama who took me to Aruba in one picture. I could write about my longing for summer and my place on the lake.... There was Wanda's post , which asked the question, "When do you write?" I could write pages on that! And DSmith who wrote a poem. I really should try that! And my creative writing students who wr

Six Word Memoirs

On my class blog, "The Day Way" I have been having students comment to posts the last couple of weeks.  Today's post invited them to watch a video of six word memoirs and then write their own.  Check them out. I am pretty impressed.


photo © 2009 D Wallis | more info (via: Wylio ) I hate having confrontations with students, but I won't ignore obvious defiance of rules. I am very clear at the beginning of the semester about rules and the consequences of breaking them. And because I am fair and deal with broken rules on a case by case basis,  I don't usually have any trouble. Two that I deal with the most are building policies: tardies and cell phones. Cell phones are to be off and out of sight (if they are on silent, I can live with that). You get one "freebie" tardy, after that it's a detention. One half hour. With me. I have actually formed nice relationships with some former students who habitually broke that rule. It's a nice time to get to know a kid without anyone around. But the young man yesterday is another story. He's what I call an N.R.A kid--No Rules Apply. When he was tardy a month ago, I reminded him that the next one would result in detention. Yep--he knew. Unti

A New Blog for ME!

Although I have my class blog on edublogs  (  ), I wanted a blog for me, a place where I can practice what I teach, a place to put my writing where my mouth is. Coffee With Chloe is that place. I have been taking part in  Slice of Life Tuesdays at . Starting next Tuesday, there is a writing challenge for the month of March. The challenge is to write a slice of life every day of the month. Hope I keep up!

SOLS #3: They Talk to Walls

photo © 2009 Ged Carroll | more info (via: Wylio ) Loud. One by one they enter our room. I know the seven or eight who are signed up to come. It's the audience I'm unsure of. It's Speech season... Crazy, rowdy, Loud speech kids... Talking to walls, singing random songs, dancing Teasing, laughing, hugging. Tonight, they are snitching my Teddy Grahams like Fagin's pickpockets...and giggling. Loud.

SOLS #2: You Shook Me All Night Long

It's 7:30am as I walk to my classroom. Many rooms are dark at this time, but if the lights are on, the room is quiet and peaceful. The teacher readies his or her room for the day. My "roomie", Libby,  and I arrive at the same time today and have about five minutes to talk before the first student walks in the room. It's H., one of Libby's Spanish students in for a little tutoring before she heads off to her college class. Their heads bent over a recent test, Libby gently questions her as to why she chose the answers she did and helps her reason through the other answers until she chooses the right one. H leaves for her college class, feeling pretty good about herself. As she leaves, in rolls I. a member of my Battle of the Books team. She missed a couple of meetings so she announces that she brought donuts to "suck up a little bit". Soon two more members of the team arrive and the giggling and joking begin.  I's phone rings. "You Shook Me

Puppy Kisses

Life in northeast Iowa can be treacherous in the winter.  Snow begins to melt and changes to ice. You have to be careful. You have to watch where you are walking. It used to be that my winter walking was limited to the treadmill. However, the addition of a beautiful Goldendoodle puppy to our home last summer has changed my winter walking habits. Unless the wind chills are deeply below zero, we walk. Yesterday, home at a much earlier time from school than I have been for awhile, I decided Chloe and I would venture out. She jumps up, down and around when she sees me put on my "dog walking" coat. We started on the sidewalks, but many of them were still snowy from Saturday night's snowfall, so we moved to the street.  The streets were mostly snow free... Chloe loves our walks. She prances ahead of me like a Budweiser Clydesdale.  Looking all around, sniffing for whatever walked before us, she keeps a steady pace, but not one I can't keep up with. Me? I'm just enjo