No testing?

The annual March Slice of Life Challenge is hosted at Two Writing Teachers.

Join the Slice of Life community at Two Writing Teachers.

February is normally a stress-filled month.  Every year since I began teaching we’ve had testing the first week in March.  This year there is no ISAT test the first week of March and it’s made for a wonderful and strange month.  Over the years I developed strategies for preparing my students for the ISAT tests (not prepping them) that minimized the impact on our day to day.  But since school started back up in January I haven’t given testing more that a fleeting moment of a flicker of a thought.

In fact the only thought I’ve given to it is wondering if we will even be taking the PARCC test this year.  No one seems to know.  Chicago is in a battle to not take the tests citing that the schools aren’t technology ready.  The federal and state government aren’t happy.  Will we?  Won’t we?  Who knows?

At any rate we’ve done nothing to test prep.  I’m confident my students are as prepared for the challenge as they should be because I’ve been teaching hard all year long and honestly, that should be enough.

For now, I will enjoy it; focus on getting myself back to weekly slicing and getting my students prepared to take the month long slice of life challenge.  That seems like a much more worthy use of my time.

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I stepped gingerly onto the ice covered parking lot clutching Gigi in my arms.  As I mentally calculated the distance from my stairs to my car I began to shuffle my feet slowly.  My gosh, I thought, we’ll never make it!  shuffle, shuffle.  shuffle, shuffle.  Ten minutes later I was buckling Gigi in and soon inching my way down the equally slick side streets.

I decided to park illegally at the bank across from the daycare.  The streets were still congested with snow and now ice and I didn’t want to risk getting stuck.  Unfortunately in my haste I momentarily forgot about the ice.  It only took me about three steps up the slight incline before I found myself in the air and then on the ground.

“Ow,” I screamed as my tailbone smacked the pavement hard and my right arm, which had shot out to break my fall, plunged into a chunky icy snow bank.  My bare skin burned with the contact of the cold.  Somehow my mother instincts made sure Gigi landed on top of me and she just giggled, thinking the whole thing part of some silly game.

I slowly got to my feet and dropped her off, thankful that she was okay, but sad about the now growing pain in my back.

I will be very happy when winter is over.

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Slow Down

The annual March Slice of Life Challenge is hosted at Two Writing Teachers.

Slow down says the quiet morning.  The days seems to blend into a flurry of rushing.  Each one pushing into the next begging for borrowed time.  Planning, meeting, writing, grading, cleaning, shopping, playing, cooking, driving, on an on.  Just stop a minute says the unseasonably warm breeze.  It’s okay to stop and look around.  Why do we work ourselves into such a frantic pace of trying to do more and be more, every day on and on.  Take a moment and appreciate what you have because our lives can change in an instant.  Good, bad, and everything in between.  If you don’t stop you might miss it all.

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Tuesday.  It’s Mommy Baby day!  As a special treat I decided to take Gigi to the Chicago Children’s Museum today.  Although Gigi was skeptical when we got in the car (By skeptical I mean she screamed at the top of her lungs and made her body as stiff as a board) she started to perk up when we arrived at Navy Pier.  It might have been the smell of cinnamon roasted nuts or the sight of Build-A-Bear. (Thank goodness she doesn’t know what that is yet.)  As soon as I released her from her stroller she was up and moving.  Literally.  See she really just learned how to walk in the last week or so.

“Up, up,” she commanded.  This is her word now.  “Up!” Up means give me your hand so that I can drag you all around where ever I want to go.  “Up” also means pick me up so I can play flop my body on the couch while you desperately try to keep me from flying off the couch.  Occasionally “Up” means pick me up and cuddle me I’m tired.

So Up we went.  Up to the bubbles exhibit where she toddled and pointed wildly.  Up to the fort exhibit where she climbed on an upside down table.  Up to the babies room where she tried to eat a chunk of wood meant for the light table.  Up to kid town where she pushed a little shopping cart around into people legs.  Up to the Big Backyard where she giggled along with fake flowers.  Up, Up, Up.



I originally had the title of this post as Big Flowers and Bubbles but as I got to the end of my writing I realized that I had kind of gone off on this tangent about her new word “Up.”  Although she knows other words this is the one you hear ALL DAY LONG.  So I decided that would be the best title for this piece.

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Day 30: We Circle These Broken Birds


We spread our wings

gather in a circle

to mourn.

Shock waves still pounding

our souls

as if pummeled by a tsunami.

A community surrounds these broken birds.

Circle upon circle

moving outward in

concentric rings

spread wings.

We gather in a circle

to mourn.

Father, Husband, Brother, Son, Teacher.

He flies with angels

looking down

called home by his Maker

The Almighty One.

We are left standing

in a circle

to mourn.

Strong arms linked

bonded together by the thought

How will they go on?

How does anyone go on?

We surround these

broken birds

tend to them gently

encircle them

in a protective stance

beat our wings to let the

Universe know

we are here

we see

we stand

in this circle

and mourn.

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Day 28: A Shocking Disappointment

I thumbed through page after page of reflections and apology letters.  I felt the heat rising from my stomach into my face as I read line after line.

“I thought it was a game.”

“I didn’t know what was happening, then I saw people do the Mockingjay sign so I did it too.”

“I didn’t know what the paper was about, I just put my name on it.”

“I didn’t think.”

Over and Over and Over.  I couldn’t believe eyes.  “They haven’t learned anything,” I thought.  Empty words on torn paper.

In this world your signature means everything.  It is your mark.  It is the sign that you believe, support, agree, and consent to something.  How on Earth could you put your signature on something you didn’t read or know what it was for?  Why did no one even bother to ask what they were agreeing to?  Protesting against?  Who was this paper really intended for?  Mother Nature?  Because that’s who made it rain today.  Rain before the riot happened.

I thought of John Hancock signing the Declaration of Independence so boldly that he would be remembered for it for years to come.  It doesn’t look like much.  It’s just an old document right?  No.  It was a the boldest move that could be made, to stand up against a government that you didn’t believe in and say STOP!  Then men who signed that paper risked their lives.  If the colonies had lost the war it would have meant certain death.  Signing your name is not a game.

Did they even read the Hunger Games?  Do they even know what that symbol is intended to mean?  It is a sign of revolution against a government so desperate to control its people, so determined to hoard resources so that a few can live in excess while others starve, that they send children to fight to the death.  The death.  That symbol became something because despite being tossed into an area where it was kill or be killed Katniss befriended a little girl, perhaps the weakest one there.  In spite of a horrific situation she did what was right and she too stood up against that government.  That symbol is not a game.

What happened yesterday was not a game.  And what is it with these “group games” that so many letters mentioned.  That it’s normal for people to just join in and play along without asking: Why?  What are we doing this for?  Who might this hurt?

Why is it that so many stood by and watch this happen?  I read so many empty words yesterday because so many people seemed to think that it wasn’t their fault.  But if you don’t stand up for what’s right, it’s your fault.

Why is it that so many think that because they were angry, or disappointed, or that everyone else was doing it, that it was okay to make a loved and trusted teacher and someone who is my friend feel so bad?  That was not a game.

In 1933 a man took power in Germany.  The people were angry.  Life was hard and someone needed to be blamed.  So in anger many joined or stood by and watched as he and his army systematically destroyed peoples lives.  It started with speeches, it started with anger, it started with names signed on papers, and it started with symbol of one arm held high in the air.  The German people probably had many different thoughts about what happened but the one thing that was certain is that very few stood up for what was right and, as a result, millions lost their lives.

So I hope my students think about that the next time they decide to join a game or sign a paper or start a protest.  What exactly are we protesting here?  What am I joining?  Who am I standing up for?  What do my actions say about what I believe?  There are so many causes worth placing that energy into.  So many people in need that would benefit from the power of the group I saw yesterday, but instead it was misguided because they were mad that they didn’t get to go out for recess because it rained.  And I am left wondering why, why so many joined and stood by.  Will these Bystanders learn to be Upstanders?



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Day 27: Mission Extracting the Coffee Mug

This slice style was inspired by my students.

The Mission: Extract a clean coffee mug from the dish drying rack.  Don’t wake the baby.

Missing Initiates: 0400 hours

Description: One white coffee mug with the word Barcelona emblazoned on the front.

Opposition: Do not underestimate your foe.  The Baby is a highly trained specialist in the art of mommy movement detection.  She has been known to detect an altered breath, the slight bend in a floorboard, and a fart in the wind.


Mission Report

The mission that began at 0400 hours this morning was successful.  Despite two slightly unbalanced plates and a cheese grater the coffee mug was extracted then filled with approximately 50cc’s of Starbucks Blonde Roast from a K-cup. There was also toast.


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Day 26: News

The news came as a harsh shock.  A parent of one of our most involved families has passed away.  A parent whom every teacher was always glad to see.  A parent whose smile was infectious and whose dedication to all children was absolute.  A parent who will not be coming home tonight.  Any night.  Leaving one parent to do the job of two.  A community surrounds these broken birds.  Strong arms link together bonded by tears and shock and the steadfast thought.  What about the children?  How will she go on?  We spread our wings and gather in a circle to mourn.

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Day 25: 7 Word Slice

A message changes everything in an instant.

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Day 24: Omelette

I cracked the eggs carefully and deposited them into the measuring cup with a satisfying plop.  Next I added just a dash of pepper, not too much, just a dash.  After that I cut a nice chunk of fresh feta and chopped it.  Then I added the spinach I had cooked and mixed the two together.

I could hear the water sizzle on the pan letting me know it was ready.  A dab of olive oil paved the way and I dumped the eggs into the pan with a dramatic sizzle.  I pulled carefully at the edges letting the raw egg take it’s turn on the searing hot pan.  As soon as I saw that it was ready I carefully spooned the Feta and spinach onto the cooking egg.  I rushed to grab my toast from the oven while my omelette finished cooking.  Then I lovingly placed it onto my breakfast plate.  I adorned it with two freshly buttered pieces of toast and a steamy hot cup of coffee.  Boy I love breakfast.

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