Slice of Life Tuesday: Ask Me (almost) Anything

Lately, asking me how I am will reveal…
well, really any number of things,
depending on
time of day
what I ate for breakfast
how I’m feeling
whether or not there’s chocolate in the copy room stash
which way the wind is blowing
So I thought I’d give you a slightly more helpful guide

Ask me:
How I like the weather lately
How my hockey team is doing
What new writing tricks are up my sleeve
About my new weightlifting PRs
What I’m excited for
About my brown butter cookie recipe
How it feels to bike to work
What’s blooming in the neighborhood

Please don’t ask me:
What’s up with the ants in the kitchen
How my baseball team is doing
How my year-end projects are coming along
Why there are so many wasps on the deck
About my geriatric dog
How the de-cluttering is going
About that strange noise my car makes

Thank you for your cooperation. I am now open for questions. =))

Thanks, as always, to the Slice of Life community for the weekly challenge. Check them out!

Slice of Life Tuesday: Word Play

Hello, world. It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. I’ll chart that up to the relative whomping that April often has for me, dust myself off, and get back with it.

I’ll also say this: my One Little Word? Shift? Boy oh boy, has that come in handy. Suffice it to say, I’ve learned a lot in the last few weeks. I’ve done a lot of thinking, and I’ve actually done a LOT of writing. Just…not…here.

And some of that learning, thinking, and writing will make its way to this platform, but it’s still taking its time to percolate.

In the meantime, I did an exercise with my fifth graders that I haven’t done for several years now, but it’s one of my favorites. It ties up identity and language and grammar and fun, and it wraps them all together in one big bow.

We start by asking: what is our essence? What makes us, US? What sums up who we are and what we’re about?

Then we examine various suffixes that create abstract nouns:




After that, it’s time for word play. We say our own name out loud with each of these suffixes, altering for vowels, consonants, or pronunciation as needed. Which one feels best? Friends, I won’t lie. This part is FUN to watch! Almost as fun as…

Our last part, in which I ask each kid to send me an email with their new word, along with its dictionary definition. All of them start with “The quality of…”

For the record, I shared my own definition. Mrs. Levinitude: The quality of being fearlessly yourself and maybe a bit geeky and weird.

Boy, did they deliver! I won’t give you the words themselves because…names. BUT. Check out these dictionary definitions:

  • The quality of entertaining people and making them want to watch you
  • The quality of not being afraid of doing crazy things, being different and owning it and being very good at winning arguments
  • The quality of being funny with no smarts at times or all smarts and no funny at different times 
  • The quality of being short but mighty
  • The quality of being a math-lover, a reader and an awesome friend
  • The quality of being silly but serious too, being smart and funny (witty) and cool (and being sneakily weird some of the time)
  • The quality of loving Kirby and the preference of him over Lucas the Spider and much more
  • The quality of being athletic
  • The quality of using sarcastic humor when you speak, Like in stand up comedy!
  • The ability to be weird and be proud of it
  • The quality of being a little shy but sometimes brave (especially with familiar people)

Oh, man. My cheeks still hurt from smiling so much.

Now. I, for one, would love to know how YOU would “nounify” yourself, if you could. And…if you happen to use this with your kids, I hope it brings you – and them! – just as much joy.

Many thanks, as always, to the Slice of Life community for being a source of inspiration and a great landing place for all things creative.

Slice of Life: Testing, Testing

Standardized testing.

It has me feeling some kind of way.

I can’t be alone in this. I know we are legion, those of us wanting to teach in a way that aligns with our moral compass. We are legion, those of us in systems that say they are student-centered, that focus on the development of the whole child, that tell us it’s not about test scores are teaching to the test.

Until test season rolls around, and the conversation becomes about student growth.

As measured by said testing.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a data-and-number-phile. Give me test scores, and I am ALL about the error analysis and conclusions to be drawn. I am all about the whole where-are-we-where-do-we-want-to-be-how-will-we-get-there quest.

I just…worry. I worry that colleagues of mine across districts find themselves more often in a march towards Progress, toward Growth, which require Standardization and Consistency. Which are important means, but for many it is an end. I worry we’re losing the heart of things.

That teachers are losing heart.

And so, in the hopes that we can find a better way, and with apologies to William Carlos Williams, I offer the following poems to mark standardized test season:

The Grade School Student

So much depends

A grade-school

Taking a test

In front of an

This is Just to Say

I have taught
the students
that were in
my classroom

and which
you were probably
met standards

Forgive me
they were curious
so ready
and so earnest

Slice of Life: Passover Fun

Today, for my Slice of Life post, I decided to share something I’m working on for the Passover seder this coming Friday. I’m generally the one who leads the service, and I’m always looking for ways to make the evening more fun. Because FUN. A few years ago, I started my take on Passover “Tom Switfties” to pepper around the table, and I thought I’d share my list with you. I’d like to think my dad is somewhere looking down on me and groaning in approval. Got any more ideas? Questions about what stuff means? Drop me a comment below!

“We don’t put anything on our matzo,” he said drily.

“Grandma’s matzo balls are just as I remember them,” she recalled heavily.

“Please pass the charoset,” he asked sweetly.

“Do we have to raise our cups AGAIN?” he whined. 

“Here we go again with the Hillel sandwich,” he complained bitterly.

“But you need olives on the seder plate,” she pressed.

“Oy! Gefilte fish again!?” she carped.

“Hmm. I didn’t think peas were Pesadik,” he snapped.

“I give this seder one star,” he yelped.

“And this is the point where Moses comes with the Israelites to the Red Sea,” she imparted.

“Dayenu is my favorite song,” he noted.

“Perhaps you’d like another pillow?” she inclined.

“Thank goodness Passover joke day is after tax day,” she declared.

“It’s so wonderful to have all of the family here,” he related.

“It’s getting drafty with that door for Elijah open,” he vented.

“I’ve got the afikomen money right here in this envelope,” she flapped.

“C’mon! This Passover seder could go much more efficiently,” he expressed.

“Man, we’re not gonna be done ‘til the sun comes up,” he mourned.

“I bet the matzos are bigger in Texas,” she stated.

“This discussion is getting way too academic for me,” he professed.

Poetry Month Day 11: Emptying the Pockets

From April 21, 2016. I thought about writing a poem that described how I was feeling. Realized I had already written one:

She told me
That someone told her
To set aside
Each day for a
A counting of things
One carries.

After checking my pockets,
My shoulders,
My soul, I have this
Of what I brought to school today:
My tea thermos
A school bag
The weight of my brother’s passing
Eighteen mental reminders
A wish to do today better
Four separate to-do lists
The grief and anger of loved ones
The burden of self-expectation
The need for self-forgiveness,
And the restorative power of

Poetry Month Day 10: On Streaks

Since when did streaking
become something poets did
each day in April?

All I really know
is I’m not as ambitious
as WordPress would think

And while statistics
can offer encouragement
they’re sometimes heavy:

an extra bag to
sling over a tired shoulder,
drag to the next day

or so, until I
decide enough is enough
and just let it go.

Post-script: What can I say? Deciding to write every day is a commitment. Which, I’m realizing, means that writing every day might not necessarily be a joy. Today, I’m writing. And and some point I will get my energy and mojo back. Another day, I will write something witty or clever or insightful or wise. Today, I will settle for written…

Poetry Month Day 8: Honey, I (should) Love*

There was that podcast the other day
about tacky stuff.
Not the tape
or the glue
or the stick-em-up putty,
but the stuff that doesn’t
love or fandom,
but somehow
gets us.

Things I love more than a person should:
boxed macaroni and cheese,
singing in front of my children,
plain marshmallows,
new school supplies,
the feeling of flossed teeth

Things I love less than a person should:
button mushrooms,
dog kisses,
sitting down to write
in discipline, intention

*with apologies to Eloise Greenfield

Poetry Month Day 7: How I’m Doing

day I
move myself
start to finish,
not quite knowing how

have the
to keep going
but somehow I do…

do think
I could use some
time to just relax.

Sometimes, when I’m looking for a way to post a poem for the day, I’ll look around for a poetic form I’ve been waiting to try. Today, it’s the Arun, a poem with three sets of five lines, with each line increasing in number of syllables from one to five.

Poetry Month Day 6: What it’s Like

Hey kids! In honor
of National Poetry Month
let’s try a little

Ever wonder
what it’s like to teach
a group of
a new thing
in technology?

Forget herding cats
or nailing Jell-o to the wall.

It’s like

putting puppies in a box
cleaning raw egg with your bare hands
riding a bike on top of a skateboard
playing checkers with six people at once
getting the last corner of a full-sized fitted sheet on a queen-sized bed

except harder.

So. Real talk? Today, I worked with a group of fifth-graders to set up their own blogs on a new platform. Don’t get me wrong: there is some REAL excitement in the air about some new stuff we’re doing, and that will forever be infectious. Enthusiasm on the part of my students will always, always get me out of bed in the morning.

Still, there are moments that test a girl. Those moments make up teaching just as much as those flashes of joy and jubilation. Teaching is astounding. AND it’s hard sometimes. It’s okay for it to be both.