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Heart-shaped box. (Or The Giving Tree reimagined.)

Are there two kinds of people in this world? Those who X or those who Y? Or maybe that is the paradox, thinking we can be this or that. But if I was the kind of person who asks if there are two kinds of people, (which I’m not) I would ask if you like The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.

You know the book– the story begins with a boy and a tree, and the tree, or Tree, ends up giving the boy everything and ends up being a stump for the boy, now an old man, to sit on and rest.

“Once there was a tree…and she loved a little boy.”

How do you feel about The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein?

The Giving Tree

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Do you ever feel tapped out by the financial and emotional demands of teaching? I sure do. This week alone there were tens of broken pencils on the ground. Stolen candy. Requests to buy T-shirts for ourselves for the school fundraiser. Requests to pitch in for the staff morale committee (12 years x $20 = $240, of which I’ve never received a card, birthday cake, or any acknowledgment or benefit. I’ve been in the hospital, my husband had surgery, and yeah); also, requests to pitch in more money for a friend’s birthday present (I have the misfortune of having a birthday during the midwinter break). I pledged $40 to the fundraiser already. Good thing it was payday yesterday…oops, and it’s gone.

Over the summer I thought ahead and made sure I would have  Lord of the Flies books, spending my time and goodwill with friends and family, begging them to donate the books I thought I would be using this fall. Like the Little Red Hen, I planned ahead, spending hours over the summer creating and curating important resources, building on research, professional judgment, and knowledge. And this week I planned lessons, shared knowledge, gave away books, bought a new teacher a $30 gift card for Amazon so she would be able to get a few books, got a request for books for a teacher returning to her classroom, and let’s not forget the four current natural disasters (although one could argue the ferocity of the Level 5 Hurricanes is man-made). There are teachers in Texas and Florida trying to rebuild their classrooms and schools.

So the teachers who are teaching 8th grade ELA this year asked me for the Lord books, and I handed over the box and then went to my room and cried. Those were my brand-new books with really cool book cover illustrations. They didn’t even have my name on them yet. I wanted to write my name. I have black Sharpies. They’re mine.

For me.



Later, I asked them both if we could please compromise, and they’re great colleagues, and I’m sure they will. But it wasn’t easy for me to speak up.

It’s so hard for people, and I could make a strong case for women especially (see The Giving Tree reference if you’re confused) to say no. Women have different sins than men. The sin of selfishness. The sin of owning things. The sin of hard work and time not being for everyone else’s benefit but their own.

My family takes emotional energy, in the best of ways, but in hard ways, too. Jobs, health, dreams, goals: mothers/wives circle around the members making sure everyone has what they need, and if she doesn’t, is thought of as toxic or dysfunctional. My own brilliant husband told me the other day he thought I planned stuff because I liked it. After 25 years he still has some things to learn about me. Because I am good at something doesn’t mean I like to do it. 

So here to permission for us all to say No, or I can’t make it. Perhaps another time. Or just back to “no?”

I’ll share a secret, too. Teaching ELA is the best teaching gig ever. Books, stories, creativity, imagination…and oh, did I mention the books?!

In Computer Essentials I answered the same repetitive, mind-numbing questions because students wouldn’t read a sentence or two of instructions. They don’t know how to talk to each other, no matter how many strategies I scaffolded.

But as far as not knowing, yet, how to do and collaborate, I don’t blame them: they have a pass with me. They’re wonderful, and they’re trying. And when they get something, they thank me, and I get a smile in return.

It may not be a coffee mug, but those smiles keep me going.




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Flip-it, flip-it good

Three ideas:

How did I not immediately try Flipgrid when I first heard about it? Perhaps the sheer onslaught of ed-tech overwhelmed me. No matter. I’m trying it now.


  • Soft-skills are hard to do

Caitlin Tucker’s Soft Skills Rubrics:

and more. Click and copy.

  • Playlists and Poetry:

    Eve L. Ewing’s book Electric Arches: going to use her poem, “On Prince” as my first media pairing. Will share soon.

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Mind the Map.

Here is the teaching point/issue:

How do we concurrently 1. teach students how stories work (or how anything works for that matter) 2. use technology to best demonstrate concepts 3. have students practice and grow their own knowledge?

One idea: mind mapping.

There are multiple available apps, etc. for this technique. We had Inspiration in our district, but not sure if we renewed the license or not. No matter.  I know we have other similar apps on our PCs for work. Mind mapping is simply brainstorming, sketching ideas in a hierarchal visual mode, and revisable in real time. For anyone who’s done a cocktail napkin sketch, written a grocery list, or planned an essay, you’ve done a form of mind mapping. It’s finding your way, setting a course, and looking at the big picture.


There are some exquisite examples of mind maps.

Cool examples:

I looked through this file and added MindMap:


Mind Map

How to Mind Map

All mind maps begin with a main concept or idea that the rest of the map revolves around, so choosing that idea or topic is the first step. Begin by creating an image or writing a word that represents that first main idea.

From that main idea, create branches (as many as needed), that each represent a single word that relates to the main topic. It’s helpful to use different colors and images to differentiate the branches and sub-topics.

Then, create sub-branches that stem from the main branches to further expand on ideas and concepts. These sub-branches will also contain words that elaborate on the topic of the branch it stems from. This helps develop and elaborate on the overall theme of the mind map. Including images and sketches can also be helpful in brainstorming and creating the sub-branch topics.

Mind maps can be created on paper but are more easily and fluidly created on a computer with mind mapping software such as Inspiration Software®’s Inspiration® 9.

via GIPHY I got a safety message when I tried to go to this site.


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Celebrate: Ten Years Blogging

As a gift: Please leave a comment, and I’ll do a randomizer and send one reader a book of your classroom choice. 

I’ve been writing this blog for ten years now. It started as a Blogger, and then I switched to Edublogs. I use WordPress now for private authorship, (work in progress), but Edublogs has been my go-to for the professional and educational posts and class/student blogs.

The hardest post I wrote was about a student’s suicide. Dina from The Line sent me a direct message and asked me to write. Those were the most needed words at the most needed time. I don’t know where that post is now. Somewhere in the vaults. Dina: wherever you are, thank you. You made me think I could write.

The cheekiest post I wrote– well that would be a tough one. Writing saves my sanity and its use as a pensieve guards against loss and corrosion of best practices and brain cells.

My first PLN friend is John Spencer. Thank you. Philip Cummings is not too far behind, as is Michael Doyle. 

I’m going to keep writing. Maybe I’ll put this in a book someday. Or write something completely different and hope to become published. Publication does not legitimize my writing and ideas, however. These quill scratches and notes do.

Thank you, with heart and hot coffee, to the Notice and Note Facebook page. You have all been a much-needed immunity boost against many educational ills.

With love — Kelly

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The other day…

…what do you do when a student thinks something is funny when it clearly is not? Not only is it not funny, but racist, threatening, and aggressive?

…when a student holds a misconception so deep, so off, that you know it came from someone’s comment/belief, growing unchecked?

…when a student believes you have no idea what drives them, what motivates them because they are dangerously un-self-aware that nothing an outside influence could say mends that trauma?

Do personal stories help? Not without context. Someone watching this, without context or background knowledge, and lack of maturity, might walk away thinking Jewish people are evil, and not see it has nothing to do with faith/religion, but everything to do with the cruelty we inflict on one another? On girls and women? On laughter and joy?

Many of my colleagues, when a student tests the fence and says, “You’re treating me this way because I’m (fill in the blank: Mexican, Black, Asian). Some of my colleagues can then snap back and say, “Well, my wife/spouse is (fill in the blank). Although that is a handy short-cut, there is something about it that doesn’t solve the deeper issue. The answer needs to shift–get at the heart of the accusation. The student is really saying, “I don’t have power in this space. I don’t have a voice. I have seen teachers with your kind of face, and I don’t trust you.”

Now what?

Okay–I think I know where to go next.

Thanks for listening.