To teach. To write. To read.

The last few days at Reading for the Love of It in Toronto (where I met teachers from across the country), I was reminded that teachers are teachers are teachers. Regardless of our geographical locations, we are connected by a love of children, a passion for literature, and a desire to make a difference in the world. Regardless of the communities in which we teach, we are united by both the stories of our students and the stories on our bookshelves.

Stories help us learn about the world, about each other, about ourselves, about our place in the world. Stories keep the past alive and implore us to contemplate the future. Stories expand our perspectives and stir emotion. As Madeleine L’Engle once said, “Stories make us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving.”

I leave this conference with new stories to tell, new connections to nurture, new books to read. (My suitcase is quite literally weighed down by books… books that were not yet with me when I ventured east.)

Most importantly though, I leave inspired to continue my own story. To empower students with the skills of reading and writing. To assist teachers in their endeavors to teach these skills to their students. To teach. To write. To read for the love of it.

A List to Love

Are you a list person?

I am. I create a daily to-do list and take great pleasure in crossing things off. (I’ll admit: I’ve even gone so far as to put something on the list just so I can cross it off.) And if I can’t sleep because I’m thinking of what I need to accomplish the following day, I make a list to give myself peace of mind in hopes of slumber.

Last weekend we saw a play at The Citadel Theatre called Every Brilliant Thing: humorous, heartbreaking, and heartwarming all at once. A young boy begins a list to help his mom, suffering from depression, recognize the good in the world. As he gets older the list is abandoned and returned to a number of times.

The play inspired my own list of brilliant things, things that make life worth living. It’s already much longer than this, but here’s a sampling:

A houseful of family.

Snuggles with my pooch.


Card games with my brothers.

A book that makes me ugly cry.


Exchanging manuscripts with Mom.

Throwing the baseball around with Dad.

A day with limited back pain.



The universality of story.

The innocence, joy, and spontaneity of children.

Well, what about it? What would be at the top of your list?

Stand Back

Last Tuesday, the staff in our district had the pleasure of listening to David Wells. In the middle of a busy school year, it was an opportunity to reconnect and rejuvenate, pause and reflect. Turns out, David Wells wants us to do more of that. His advice?

“Stand back from the picture that is your work, your life.”

He suggests that perhaps we are consumed by the details, the trivialities, the never-ending to-do lists of our days. Sometimes even, at the expense of joy.

He’s right, in my case at least. It’s easy to fixate on the frustrations, the problems to be solved, the negativity of some. And yet, as educators, we are surrounded by the greatest joy of all: children.

When the pressures threaten to dishearten you, or crush your enthusiasm, stand back and appreciate the whole picture. Recognize the goodness and the beauty that is present within each day.

“Despite trials there is always beauty.” Stand back and have a look.

Writing Paragraphs: Hamburger Style?

I have a confession to make. I have never taught my students to write a paragraph using the hamburger method. You know, the one with the topic sentence, three sentences each with supporting details, and then a closing sentence.

Never. Not once.

Do I teach my students to write in paragraphs? I do… but not in the way you might think.

Content dictates form.

When I teach narrative writing, I teach students to begin a new paragraph when a new character speaks. When we revise our freewriting, we find natural breaks in topic. When I teach students to write persuasively, we find an effective place to stop, using our paragraphing to add emphasis to our arguments.

Consider the paragraphing choices I made in this blog. Intentional? You bet! Hamburger style? Far from it.