Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A Simple Thank You

When I was younger, I had to write thank you notes. For everything. As I got older it seemed to be ingrained in me that this is what I should and needed to do. 


I had kids. 

And the idea of "having" to write a thank you note seemed like one more thing to do. 

So I stopped. But that didn't mean that I wasn't appreciative of things that were given to me. 

As a teacher, I am given a lot of things. 

By my students. 

All the time. 

They know my favorite candy bar is Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. There is a story to that. I blame it on my mother. 

I get a lot of Reese's. 

I have every intention of writing thank you notes for all of those gifts, but it seems to be a chore for me rather than something genuine. So I don't do it. But I still say thank you. 

Today though, I am writing thank you notes. Because I need to and want to. I want to thank the students who took the 31 day Slice of Life Challenge with me. They need to know that I appreciate their willingness to write every day. Or almost everyday. At home. On their own. They need to know that I value their writing and that it is important. 

Today I am writing thank you notes. Because it feels genuine and right.

And the thought of how they will feel when they receive a card in the mail from "their teacher" makes my heart smile. 


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Silver Linings

I have always seen the glass as half full. My mother was the same way. It's probably where I got it from. I remember the day she told my sister and me that she had cancer.

She was matter of fact about it.

She was going to have surgery, chemo, and that was that.

She would get better.

And she did.

Until it came back.

She was going to fight it out.

And she did.

Until she couldn't fight anymore.

I often think about her when things are thrown at me as they were today.

My son woke at 4:30 in the morning with a fever of 102 degrees. I knew he was starting to get sick because he wasn't feeling the best the last two days. So I was on the phone with the doctor at 8 a.m, with an appointment at noon for a strep test. I am glad I listened to my intuition because he tested positive. Instead of complaining about this, I felt appreciative that he got sick over spring break instead of a school week, so I could spend time with him.

As I woke up, a few minutes before eight, to the pitter patter of feet upstairs, I quickly realized our basement had flooded. The carpet at the edge of our room was soaked. I woke my husband who quickly started moving things out of the other room, where most of the water was. I helped him move what I could but only after I had called the doctor for my son. Then my husband started tearing the carpet out. We have wanted to figure out why the basement  floods when we get A LOT of rain and this was the last straw. Over the course of the day, I have sucked  up the water out of that room more times than I can count, but now we know where the leak is coming from and have a plan to fix it.

It seems to me that things happen in threes. And if you are keeping count, only two things have happened so far to me today. Well here is the third.

Right after I took all the wet clothes out of the washer this morning and put them into the dryer, the power went out. Keep in mind this was after I called the doctor and my husband tore out the wet carpet. There was no big storm or high winds, just a lot of rain. I was quite surprised because our power hasn't gone out in a few years. After a bad ice-storm years back, the electric company has been proactive and on top of everything so this surprised me. I could have sat and complained about all the things that needed to be done but instead my girls and I played a lot of board games.

I have had a busy day. It seems like it was just one thing after another. But my son is now on the mend, my daughters spent four hours playing outside with a new friend, the power came back on, and well, that basement. It will be dry in time.

My mother, who always saw the glass as half full. 

Friday, March 31, 2017


Today, after an amazing assembly at school, I had my students write their last slice for the challenge. I wanted everyone, even those who only wrote a handful of times, to write. I had them all write about the assembly.

After they wrote their slices, I asked for a SOL reflection.

No rules.

Just reflect.




Here they are:

Seth S.: What I think about SOL is it was challenging, hard but fun. SOL really helped me put more detail in my writing. I also like SOL because I get to practice on my handwriting. Sometimes it is hard to do because I have practice and homework so I don't have enough time to do it.

Aubrie: I am really sad that Slice of Life ended. I loved participating in it. I loved how Mrs. Waugh would show us the different types of writing, and how she challenged us to go home and write in that style. I wish we could do SOL for the rest of the year.

Bradley: I had a lot of fun doing the Slice of Life challenge. It was awesome. You should do this again with the other 5th graders. I had a great time.

Haley: I liked doing it everyday. I did it but on March 15th I forgot to do it and ever since then, I kept forgetting to do it. But now I want to do it over spring break. I really do hope that I do not forget to do it because my family might go to Legoland during spring break. And my mom and dad have the whole week off of work to go. The challenge was fun to do but I kept forgetting.

Josh: I really did not like the SOL because it stressed me out and at night I get so tired. My favorite part was where we got to share. I shared when I went to Zapzone. Mrs. Waugh really encouraged us to do our best. My second favorite part is that we are rewriting one SOL and putting it in a book.

Sklyar: My slice of life reflection is something I was hoping to do. I wrote for every single day in March, that is 31 days. I am happy that I managed to write EVERY day for that long. I remember almost falling asleep without writing. I can't believe I will get a pizza party and some prizes. It's hard, not really, to know that I guess I'm "free." I don't think that is the right word but, still. Last night, I just wasn't going to write, but then I thought of Hanna; she really wants to do the pizza party, so I got up and wrote. This month I accomplished my goal, and learned that I CAN accomplish a goal that I have.

Drew: I enjoyed doing SOL because it made me not skp any days, and I wanted to do all 31 days of it. I completed 31 days of Slice of Life or the whole month of March. SOL made me think more and it made my handwriting better. Now I put more detail in my writing. I think you should do this next year Mrs. Waugh.

Seth B.: The slice of life I didn't really like it because it was kind of boring to me. I think other people liked it though.

Hailee M.: I like writing in my slice of life because we get to write about our day. I like to write and write about our day at school or anything. I like the slice of life challenge. I think that you should do slice of life challenge every year. I think the kids will like it as much as I did.

Ceili: I loved the SOL challenge. I missed just one day. That seems very impressive, but it was nothing. It was a little hard, though. Going through 31 days of writing, at least eight sentences everyday was hard, especially because I'm not a very responsible person! The SOL challenge was super fun, and I would do it again.

Savannah: The challenge was ok but sometimes I was so tired I did not want to do it. It got annoying sometimes when I had no homework but that. Sometimes I just couldn't wait for it to be over. But sometimes it was fun. I got to express myself on bad days or good days. I got to express my feelings so I did not have to hold them in. Sometimes I was really excited. Sometimes I just didn't want to do it but it helped me a lot for writing for 31 days. Because I know it helped me to be a better writer.

Avree: I really liked doing the Slice of Life. It was like I had somebody there to talk to. I loved when I got to tell you about my day. It makes me feel like somebody cares. My parents are there for me too and I love how they pay attention to me and ready my stuff. And how they help me when I need help. Thank you.

Hanna: What I liked about this Slice of Life challenge is that it helped me write a little better and helped me express myself because I don't really talk about what I do and about my life. But right now I am really excited about the prizes and the pizza party!

Kaylee S.: I didn't really like Slice of Life after the twenty-first. I don't like talking about what I think or do after or during school. But when we first started, I loved it.

Chrissy: Slice of Life made me feel good! Some things I didn't want to talk about. Those days I wouldn't write. But some days I just couldn't get enough out. I just wanted to write and write to tell how I was feeling. Slice of Life was good for me because I could express my feelings and not hold it in. Also, my teacher could know what is going on!

Abbi: I really enjoyed doing the Slice of Life challenge. I like that Mrs. Waugh did it with us. I liked sitting down and writing my favorite part of my day. Sometimes I couldn't think what to write. Those times I wrote poems and did crazy things. I wish we did Slice of Life every month.

Chesney: I didn't do much for the Slice of Life challenge. I wanted to, but I kept forgetting! After missing too many days to reach my goal, I kind of gave up. Not only that, but nothing interesting happens to me at home. I usually just write stories, draw and watch anime all day (after homework). I didn't enjoy the Slice of Life challenge only because I never remembered to write! I had fun the days I did get to write though.

Kaylee F.: My reflection of Slice of Life is that I really liked it but I only participated six times only because I forgot to write in it. I thought it was really fun to do it because we got to test out different styles of writing. I loved being able to share what happened to me at home or at school. I loved being able to share my slices that happened during the day.

Ashley: Slice of Life was sort of fun, but sometimes exhausting. That was because I had NO clue of what to write about. Once Mrs. Waugh said we could do poems, it was so much easier. When I had not homework, that's what I did. I am kind of glad it is over because it took a lot of thought and time. I want to do another challenge sometime. I think I am going to write for a few more days when I have time.

Duncan: I like the SOL challenge even thought I did not reach my goal. It was fun and hard, but I pushed through  it. Do you you know why it was nice? Because you can write every day and if you like it you should do it every day. But me, I would not because that's just me. But be yourself and if you want to keep doing that. Do it!!!

And for the seven kids who were absent, I will get their reflections after spring break.

Thursday, March 30, 2017


This morning as I was checking in my slicers it dawned on me that we only have two days left of this challenge. As I was thinking it, I must of said it out loud because one girl said, "Thank goodness."

I said, "What?! You aren't going to continue writing?"

She replied with a quick, "No."

I said, "I think I am going to continue. Although it is work. I like it. I feel like I am telling my story."

Another girl chimed in and said, "I think I am going to continue too."

At the start of the challenge all 27 students participated but by the end of the week, they started dropping off. I currently have about 15 who have written every day or close to that.

And here is what I have noticed.

They get what a slice is and when a student didn't understand what the word anecdote meant, I was able to explain that it was fancy word for a slice of life.

Some students who have done no homework for me all year, have written in their SOL notebooks every single day.

Their voice. Their voice is coming out in everything they write, even their science research papers.

They love to write. A week or so ago during practice for student led conferences I overheard one student telling another, "When I started the year, I hated to write. Now it is my favorite thing to do. I love it."

They love telling me what they wrote about, and I enjoy listening to them.  I am able to make a quick connection with them, which is important.

They are experimenting. I have been sharing my blog and those that I make comments on to give them ideas.

They feel successful. And there is no grade tied to it.

As I reflect over this past month, I just swell with pride. For them and me. This is what I needed to get myself back on track with my writing. Not only have I developed a style, I feel as though I have found my voice. I am going to publish my month long slices on lulu.com, an online publishing site.

And my students are going to publish their favorite slice as well. I can't wait for them to see the finished product. If they don't feel like authors yet, they will when they see their book.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Operation 1,000 Days

For the past two years, in honor of 9/11, my social studies students have brainstormed ideas for what they could do for a service learning project. I then take five of the project ideas that I believe to be doable and open up the project to volunteers. I hold a meeting to give more information about how the project works. Any interested student stays on and the ones that don't feel it is for them, leave. Once I have my group, I put up the five ideas and we vote.

Meetings happen once a week during their lunch and recess time. This year I have 32 students involved; this is one third of the fifth grade.  They voted to help with the Flint Water Crisis in Flint, Michigan. If you are not familiar with it, the Detroit Free Press put out a powerful visual essay on December 17, 2016. You can watch it here.

My students wanted to help another elementary school in Flint. I knew of a high school teacher in Flint who was doing student work with the crisis and reached out to her.  She connected me to her brother who works in the after-school program at one of the elementary schools. He gave me the contact information for the principal at Neithercut Elementary. I called the principal and talked with her. I explained what my fifth grade service learning team wanted to do and asked her what she needed.  She explained that the students in Flint still cannot drink the water. The Flint Coalition provides bottled water to the students every other day and another organization provides fresh fruits and vegetables. All the students receive breakfast and lunch daily. What they needed, she said, was healthy snacks and books to help reverse the damage the lead has already done.

These students have lead in their blood due to the water supply. The lead has caused a lot of problems including headaches, stomach aches, rashes, anemia, and behavior problems. It also can affect brain development. Can you imagine not realizing that something you need for survival is actually causing you pain?

When I told my students what the principal had said, we created a plan. The students created flyers to send out to the families at our school asking for donations, wrote business letters to community businesses requesting donations, and called companies that make healthy snacks asking for food donations.

And yesterday I was made aware of an award that encourages students to pay it forward. It is called ePIFanyNOw. The deadline is April 10th, the day we get back from spring break. Since this is something that I think they could be win, I called an emergency meeting during lunch. I explained the award and told them what was involved. Today they answered the two essay questions and tomorrow they will create the video. If they win, they could receive between $500-$1,000 towards the purchase of healthy snacks for the cause.

The first essay question was easy for them to answer. It was an informative one about the project. The second, however, was a little more difficult. When I asked them "Why should your project win the Y-PIF Award?" They all looked at me.

Nobody raised their hands.

I then said, "This service learning project was open to every fifth grader, and you all showed up. Each week you give up your recess and eating in the lunch room to be a part of this. Why?"


Then a stream of hands went up.

This was their response: " Our project should be picked because it has been over 1,000 days since the residents of Flint have been able to drink water from their taps. We feel fortunate that we can drink fresh water and bathe without thinking about it. We want to help these kids because we want to make a difference. We can't imagine what it would be like to not have clean water and the water we did have, poison  our bodies. Sometimes we take what we have for granted and others aren't as fortunate as us."

They get it. 

They deserve the award.

But we will let the board of directors decide that. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Modeling is a No-Brainer

This is the first year that I have taken part in the Slice of Life month long challenge, and I invited my students to join me. They are familiar with SOL because every Tuesday they participate in the weekly SOL on our class wiki. It has been hard to help them understand that a slice is just a sliver of their day. They want to write about more than one little piece because they have so much to say. This challenge has been wonderful for them because they are finally understanding they can write a lot about one specific piece of their day.

I have been sharing my online slices with my students and offering them challenges. A few weeks back it was to try to write a slice in poem form. They then had to try, if they were up for it, a found poem. A few days back I shared a number poem and that became a challenge. Yesterday I  shared with them a post that I had commented on. It was called a book poem. I had never seen it before and thought it was neat. We talked about how to do it and although it looked simple, thought it would be very difficult.

This group of students have frequently told me they really like when I "show" them how to do things. It helps them understand the task at hand better. For me, modeling is a no brainer. I incorporate it into every lesson I teach. If I didn't model various types of writing, I wouldn't be seeing and hearing all that I have this month in their SOL notebooks.

For this month long challenge, my students are using a pencil/paper format.  Each morning they talk to me about what they wrote about the day before. This morning, as I was checking in my slicers, one student took on the book poem challenge. She told me that as she was riding her bike, she noticed a lot of things outside and decided she was going to create her book poem about that.

You can find it below.

I thought she did an incredible job.

Now. Time to find another challenge for them!

Monday, March 27, 2017

From the Inside Looking Out

We have an after school routine in our house. We get home, put our things away, do homework if we have it, get snacks for school the next day, and make lunches. After that is done, then I make dinner while the kids play. This school year the kids (5th, 3rd, and 1st) have started making their own lunches, which is great because I HATE making lunches.

But it was mild today in Michigan. A, you don't really need a coat kind of mild. After we came into the house and the kids put their things away, they asked, "Can we go outside and play?"

"Sure. I will call you when dinner is ready."

No, they didn't do homework.
No, they didn't get their snacks for the next day.
No, they didn't make their own lunches.

They were outside. Playing. Something I did on a daily basis when I was young and which seems to be disappearing from today's youth.

I, on the other hand, watched them from the kitchen window.

I watched them playing tag together.
I watched the giggles and heard the squeals as one of them found the other.
I watched them enjoy the fresh air.
I watched them play. Like kids are supposed to.

And for today, I got their snacks and made their lunches.
Their homework, however, is on them.
But it can wait.
Until they are done playing.