Posted on

Little Red Hen gets her feathers ruffled.

chickenI’m not sure I really want the answer to this question, but: How do you balance sharing your creativity with maintaining some personal intellectual property/boundaries? This is not limited to teachers, either. All of us share, or don’t. The more spongy we are, the more we share without thought to our own resiliency or resentment levels.

This internal dilemma came up over the weekend. Let me be clear: No one in this scenario is wrong, or rude. Except for maybe me. These are my own reactions to a commonplace scenario that I put myself in, no one else. If you can relate or have another perspective, one I didn’t cover in this reflection, please – comment away.

With excitement and enthusiasm, I have created many mini-units, lessons, tested and tasted dozens of ways and means to get students engaged, and keep their motivation fresh. If other teachers are interested in these lessons, and ask, I share. Sometimes I share without asking.

But I found myself feeling a little resentful over the weekend: colleagues were requesting lessons, and wanting to know what resources were out there, and seemed annoyed with me for stating that many of the resources were mine in the making, and clarifying what was district provided. Now, this is also a case for misreading e-mails.I grew to hate e-mail over the weekend. Its limited razor-wire curt and cut communication did not help me say what I needed to say with good, old-fashioned face-to-face discussion. Resentment is the plaque that builds over the enamel of the soul, and doesn’t make itself a nuisance until the gums start to bleed. Resentment is the stalagmite on the cave ceiling (or is it the cave floor?) slowly building to meet the stalagmite in the middle of the hole. Resentment is sent in a millisecond through the electronic universe, clashing with hurt feelings and sore “send” fingers. This kind person asking about resources did not realize the resentment land-mine field she stepped in with me.

As I was sitting there wondering “what the heck was wrong with me,” I read one of my favorite bloggers, Teacher Tom. This post discussed his preschoolers’ reaction to the Little Red Hen, and a surprising one for him. The preschoolers thougtht the LRH should have shared her food, no matter how much she worked, poked, and prodded the other friends to do their fair share. I told my teenage son about this reacion this morning and his response: “The Little Red Hen is a jerk.”

I am the Little Red Hen.

But then I reflected – perhaps I am the bread.

No one likes the LRH because she is a scold and a nag. When I think I’m clearly stating boundaries (in order to floss the resentment away), perhaps I am just coming off as a jerk. There is definitely something of a “pay your dues” mentality amongst teachers, with the mantra, “If you don’t suffer and sweat as I did, you are not worthy of my esteemed creativity and genuis.”

I have taken hours and spent thousands on my professional development. I have spent hours reading books for my age group of students, and thousands on books for my classroom library. I have e-mailed, distributed, shared, and bound and binder-ed comprehension curriculum documents. And it got a little irksom when my perception distorted that others just wanted more of me, more than I was willing to give.

But bread is meant to be broken with friends; it tastes like sawdust when kept to oneself. Perhaps this is why the LRH is a jerk. “What do I really want?” is always the question: I want to be acknoledged that I bake good bread, that it takes time and effort, but I also want to enjoy it with friends. That’s what makes it nourishing.

 To read about how preschoolers understand more about fairness than I do, please read:

Posted on

Ten Reasons Why I’m Not Writing Right Now…

…and one reason why I will.


This morning, it dawned on me in the early golden lavender light on this September day that I have banished my voice. I haven’t been writing.

Not sure what it is about the morning routine that allows my brain to actually THINK a bit more clearly, but it is clarifying. And I am using this forum as a confessional — here are the reasons why I think I haven’t been writing lately:

10. Intimidation: I became suddenly, consciously aware of my creative vulnerability. My fig leaf is exposed. I sought out others to read my blog, give me insight and critiques, and I got it. Over 4,300 visitors have been to m blog since its inception. That is not as many as others, but more than some. The blogs I read, that I follow, are the apples on the tree, the knowledgeable and the truthful.

9. Jealousy: Springing forth from intimidation, comes jealousy. The internal snake, on its belly, envious of the walking upright freedom of exploration, takes her frustration out on others’ talents and creativity.

8. Sloth: Sometimes I’m just plain lazy, a four-letter words I despise.

7. Regrouping: Do I just need to scrape out my brain for awhile, and start over, mentally fresh? Perhaps.

6. Need fresh canvas: The experiences and anecdotes have become stale.

5. Fresh horses: Kind of feel rode hard and put up wet. Been riding the Cliche Ranch ponies for too long.

4. Genre Fatigue: Perhaps water-logged with bloated blog. Perhaps I should just try writing haikus every day, gently using freshly ground black ink from octopuses’ tears on the wings of dying moths.

3. ?

2. ?

1. Lack of skill: This relates back to intimidation. I am questioning the strength of my voice, and it feels weakened. The immunities have failed, and there is no vaccine to booster health.

The main reason why I must continue to write: It will save my life.

Posted on

Questioning Authority: How to use questions/discussions in reading


I will stay married to my husband for as long as we both shall live. Yes, we made altar-born promises, but what gives us the stamina is really this:  no one is as interesting or as insightful as I find him to be. He is inquisitive, and questions/seeks answers. I have learned more about the core of teaching , the heart, of Language Arts from him than just about any resource or expert. If we are watching a movie, even it’s a silly ‘no brainer’ like Point Break, we have so much fun dissecting and anaylyzing the antagonist friendship between Johnny Utah and Bodhi. We were flipping through trailers the other night, and when it came to the final two Harry Potter movies, I must admit I got a little misty–my son asked why, and I said it’s because I read the books. (He and my husband were reading those together, but time got away from them. Probably because we were watching Point Break.) Here’s where it gels: we need each other to talk about what we’re seeing, and feel safe to question/discuss our world around us. Questioning texts/media is not an adjunct to critical thinking; it is critical thinking.

One of the more successful lessons a few years back was having students write their own questions about the books they were reading. But teaching the art of ‘questioning’ comes first. It’s all part of Bloom’s, Costa’s, and a myriad of other resources. A caution: try not to dismiss the foundational ‘knowledge’ step while climbing up the taxonomic mountain. Students will adjust the pace of their critical thinking climb, but knowledge is an important step.


“The main character of this novel is named Hannah.”


“Okay, now you’ve defined the word — now explain it in your own words, and develop some comparing words and some contrasting words. Remember our ‘cupcake’ versus ‘brocoli’ comparison.”


“Mom, do you know how straws work?” Well, we learned in Science class about air pressure…”


“Cinderella was really kind of a doormat, I mean, why did she take that kind of abuse from her stepmother and stepsisters?”


“A fable’s purpose is really to use personification to describe common, universal human traits, while a fairy tale really uses magic and human wishes/desires to empower children.”


“Let’s combine what we heard in the newspaper story and our novel–what would our perspective be, combining these main ideas, in an original story?”


“I really love this painting you created based on that poem; it really speaks to me.”

Questioning Resources

Finding a variety of questioning resources is as easy as stubbing your toe on a coffee table; it’s the pain afterward that’s bothersome. Students who begin to have those enlightened moments while questioning texts are the reason I teach, to stay with for the long haul, because someday they and their partners in life may be analyzing Point Break. No need for marriage counseling.

Some on-line resources: (What I don’t like about this one is its connotation that knowledge is “basement” or “low level.” All knowledge is a good, but it is a handy chart.)

This one helps with integration of content areas:

I have so many questioning resources: if you would like to share yours, or talk about questioning specific texts, please e-mail me! You can send a comment to this blog, too!