How I Relate to My Students


It’s Saturday. It’s awesome. My husband is helping a friend move and I’m, well, useless. This belly gets in the way of everything, I can barely bend down, and lifting is out of the question. Tune in next for the pregnancy woes…

Here it is: the house to MYSELF and the possibilities are endless! I know I’ve got to soak this in because as rare as it already is, I’m terrified it may never happen again and I’ve been containing my excitement about it for a week.

First, I did the obvious. (Cleaned the house, right?) As I’m jamming to a fresh batch of downloaded tunes and making my way through the house, I’m inspired for my next task. Nope, not slicing yet. I’ve changed my mind 17 times already about what I’m going to write about so I still need time to decide. It’s time for my dear old friend: the keyboard.

It has been several months, but it’s not my fault. Radio stinks lately and if I’m not inspired…I’m not inspired. Thank. You. John. Legend. You’re the man! I’m obsessed with his new song. Hopefully it will last long enough for me to learn at least a fraction of it, but again, wouldn’t it be a whole lot easier if I just knew how to read music? I could just pull up some sheet music, print it out, and play to my heart’s content? Only in my dreams…

I taught myself how to play the piano when I was a kid. (Well, five notes. No Beethoven.) I was four years old and mom was in the back of the living room ironing when I marched up to the piano during a commercial break and tried to play the intro to Eureka’s Castle. It was probably a week before she signed me up for lessons. I loved them! I loved using the mechanical pencils to draw and erase notes, and I loved earning the shiny little stars every time I aced some task I was supposed to do. I had books of all of these easy songs. My teacher would pick one, play it for me, send me home to “practice” and then make me replay it the following week. It was great! Then she stopped playing for me. She started sending me home with harder books, tell me to practice, and I would choke. My secret was out and the fun came to a screeching halt. How am I supposed to play these songs when I’ve never heard them before? So, I quit. Sports were easier and more fun.

Now, a couple decades later, my skill level is only slightly better. I know more songs, but it still takes me forever. When I hear a song I love, I sit and play the beginning few seconds a bajillion times on repeat until I have it down and then I move onto the next few seconds of the song and so on until I get frustrated, BANG all of the keys at once, and press power. I’m done. And in that moment, I think about my students. I think about my struggling readers. I think about stamina and how long it takes to build. I’m overwhelmed by how much I want to accomplish, how much work it would take me to get there, and how much easier it is to just bang on the keys and walk away until I’m inspired again. Because, let’s face it, I could sit here for 3 more hours and keep trying but it’s not going to be pretty and I can find a MILLION other things to do for fun. (It’s not you John, it’s me)

So when we have those frustrating times in class, I kind of get it. Among other things, they need to be inspired, they need time, and sometimes they just need to be done for a while and enjoy something else until they’re inspired again.


I caved already….


I’m sitting at my desk after school on Monday.  I don’t mind Mondays.  There’s something to be said for the beginning of a fresh week.  It’s a fresh week for me.  It’s a fresh week for my students.  There just tends to be less chaos.  It’s not like a Friday where suddenly we’re almost done with the week so all of the crazy starts to happen like there’s a full moon hanging outside our window.


The only thing about Mondays is that once the day is done, I’m ready to go home.  It’s hard to stay and get work done.  The other thing is, when I try to stay and get work done, my fingers find their fastest route to my candy stash.  Monday is the hardest day to stay away. 


The trash next to my desk now holds tiny wrappers of Starburst and Hershey Kisses.  There’s a few of each.  I’m not proud of it, but I needed a quick fix and I couldn’t decide which one I wanted more so naturally, I went for both.  Then, I reached for my phone and there it was.  The text.  She must know it’s Monday.  She must see how big my belly is from her house.  That crazy intuitive woman probably knows there are wrappers in my garbage can.  Her timing couldn’t be more perfect.  Monday.  4:00.  She knew.


It’s my oldest sister.  She needs one more consultant for a bonus check and she thought of me.  How sweet is she?  She wants to know if I’m interested in her shake program after the baby.  She sells and sells and she’s good and I cave.  Between the guilt I feel about the junk I just ate and the need I’ll have for an easy routine next month, it didn’t take much convincing.  I could use the protein, the nutrients are an easy sell I can’t refuse, and the energy is something I’ll definitely need so, you win my dear.  I wonder how I’ll feel about this on a Tuesday or a Wednesday, but for now it’s official.   I guess I just started “drinking the juice.”   If I become a witness, somebody stop me.

It’s not about me anymore


I am not the greatest planner or task master.  I always have a tentative plan in my head of how I’d like for things to go (how could I not?), but my choices and actions are almost always last minute.  Things change.  They don’t always go to plan and it’s hard to adjust once my mind is made up.  Or I make up my mind and then regret what I did.  I find the sooner I plan, the sooner plans change and then change again.  I don’t have time for that.  My mind doesn’t have room for that.  As you could guess, my decision-making skills are not the best.  Things need to simmer in my head for as long as possible before they can go into action.  What do you want to eat?  What do you want to do?  Where do you want to go?  Never ask me those questions if you want a response right away.  I want to have an answer.  I do.  I’m not afraid to speak up when I have an idea.  I usually can voice what I DON’T want immediately.  But, for some reason, the simplest of answers don’t come my way. 


In the past I’ve coped with this hearing the following thoughts:

-I remind myself there are 24 hours in a day.  I can work on this all day, but if I don’t finish this by a set time, I will have to cut into my sleep time.  That is simply not acceptable so I Must. Finish. ASAP.  

-I remind myself to prioritize.  What can I finish now?  What can I finish later?  (And then of course, what can I put off for tomorrow to give myself the “break” I need to feel now?)

-And alas, I remind myself this will not kill me.  If I’m not going to die from this it can’t possibly be as dreadful of a task as I’m making it.  Just decide, and finish.


As luck would have it, things are becoming different.  Dare I say the hardest lessons of my life thus far have slowly emerged “in weeks.”  In one brief moment, change slapped me in the face and I’ve been adjusting ever since “in weeks.”  I wanted this change.  I even tentatively planned for how I wanted it to go in my head.  But I didn’t get to decide the day or work toward a deadline.  Two little lines happened to me, completely flipped my world around, and left me stunned.  It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.  Everything changed.  It’s not about me anymore.

First trimester taught me that tasks need to be finished ahead of time, or they won’t be finished.  I don’t get to let decisions simmer in my head because I don’t know what the day will bring or how I will feel.  Daily survival is paramount and if I can function in this minute, I must do it.  Plus, adding the extra stress may, in fact, kill me.

Second trimester proved to me that all I have now are decisions.  And they matter more than they did before.  Every second is a decision and I have the constant reminder because now I can feel her moving.  I have to get over this.  And I have to become better at making them. 

Third trimester has showed me that I really need to decide, plan, and do now.  If I don’t, I’ll forget.  And since my greatest daily skill of multi-tasking has been stripped away from me, I have no choice but to become a do-er.  Right here.  Right now.  My deadline is not later, it’s now.  I don’t get to think about it until the last minute.  I have to decide to be prepared.  I can’t put things off for tomorrow and I can’t compromise sleep.  It doesn’t exist now, and it won’t exist later. 



The salty smell of the ocean

The humid breeze dances in

A sea of flags wave in the wind

Eager desperate mothers try to contain their excitement

Anxious children ask their questions

Moms and dads embrace and stare at the horizon

Fellow friends have come to celebrate

And there I stand in this assembly of strangers…

I’ve waited so long for this day

I flew here for this day

I’ve pictured this moment for months




So many letters

So many tears

Such worry

Such heartache

Will it be awkward?

Will it be strange?

How much longer?

A signal blares

The crowd cheers

And one by one

All in white

They step onto the pier

My heart stops

We smile, we cry, we laugh, we hug, we dance

And we leave

It’s finally over

My ship has finally come home.

Pregnancy Diary: The Thirty-Fives


THIRTY-FIVE weeks along

THIRTY-FIVE minute drive to work

And THIRTY-FIVE “Thank You’s” to write

With THIRTY-FIVE days to go

Carrying THIRTY-FIVE extra pounds

Counting THIRTY-FIVE fierce kicks

In need of THIRTY-FIVE extra minutes of sleep

Being Sneaky


“Can I read ahead?” says struggling reader who loses steam.

“I guess, but only for a little bit,” replies teacher trying to hide fluttering heart.

“Can I too?” says other struggling reader with even less steam.

“Ohhhh, ok as long as you don’t spoil it for the others.”

Silent, sneaky, quiet, mischievous eyes wander through the pages.

It’s been a while now.

They’re getting away with something.

Then they start to whisper about what happens.

They’re getting away with even more now.

If it were my idea, it wouldn’t have worked,

but they’re getting away with it. 

So sneaky of… them?   😉

The City of Letdown?


Writer’s block.  I’m at it again.  I had a busy day at school, nice time to digest the day with coworkers after school, and an appointment at the Doctor’s office.  I was sure something that happened today would be slice-worthy and my fingers would just start dancing on the keys.  Nothing.   Then I remembered a fellow slicer asked her daughter today for some inspiration so I thought I’d ask my husband what I should write about hoping he would come up with something.  His predictable answer about how awesome HE is came out first, followed by the completely unrelated sentiment about how the Bears traded two of our key players today.  It was a random by-the-way comment.  I stood up to make my way to the office to type.  “You writing about me?” he asked.  I convinced him there just wasn’t enough time in the night.  (Nice save.)

One thing I’ve always appreciated in my life is the pride I’ve always had about where I’m from.  I enjoy the four seasons, I appreciate being close to an airport, I love professional sports, and we’re lucky to have a city that offers just so much.  It’s kind of a weak list to start, but you get my point.  I also think part of the pride comes with knowing there are millions of people who share it.  It’s like we’re all part of the same team.  We don’t always have to be winning, but we’re in this together type of feel.  I love that.

In the past, whenever I’ve been out of town and someone asks me where I’m from, I’ve always responded almost with arrogance: Chicago!  I’m ready to meet whatever they have to say.  Best views, best food, best teams, best entertainment, you can’t beat it.  And I’m here to stay.  My greatest memories are here.  For some reason, however, the older I get, the less love I feel for this place.  And it makes me sad.

As a kid, sports were everything.  The only time I ever missed school was when dad took us to a Cubs game.  The greatest memories I have with grandparents revolved around sports.  Whether it was Christmas at my mom’s side watching the 3-peat, or baseball on the am radio with Papa Lass, or Christmas season scheduled around Bears games, we always had sports.  We watched games, we went to games, we talked about games, we argued about games.  All year long.  Sports.  For years, I’ve invested my heart into these teams, but now, it’s turned to heartache.   Bulls, Bears, Cubs.  Bad, worse, worst.  The girl who used to ditch class in college to watch games doesn’t even know a player on the team.  Do I just not love sports anymore?  Or could it be that every time I try to stomach a game they choke worse than the last time?  Or every time I invest myself, they trade all of my favorite players?  My heart just can’t take it anymore. 

My husband is not from Chicago.  It’s taken him a long time to accept that it’s where he lives now.  He calls it home, but I know there are places he’d rather live.  To him, the seasons change, but they’re never enough.  In the summer, it’s either too hot or not hot enough.  In the winter, it snows, but then it’s too cold and windy.  There aren’t any mountains, the drives are either boring or flooded with traffic, and the people don’t exactly have that ‘charm’ that they do in other places of the country.  In fact, they’re rude.   When did I start believing him?

Was it when I realized the records I pay attention to now are the crime rates?  Was it yesterday when I drove past the Cal Sag and smelled the awful thawing of pure death?  Or the sad truth that lawmakers are practically begging me to quit my job?  Is it the record breaking taxes we pay, only to be constantly reminded that we’re broke?   Or did the pure bliss of childhood just shift to the bitter reality of adulthood?  I digress…

Maybe I should just make St. Paddy’s Day plans and revisit that team.

Sub plans


Teaching.  What’s that saying?  The only job where it’s actually more work to take a day off than to just show up?  It’s something like that.  And holy cow is that true. 

So many “what ifs” and “by the ways” that you couldn’t possibly record them on paper, though you want to.  You try to keep things simple and concise (the HARDEST part) so they’re easy to understand for the stranger that you haven’t met that’s about to take your place.  You leave your desk and cross your fingers hoping you were clear enough, and you left enough, and you hope that it’s just a “normal” day for everyone.  How could it possibly be normal?  Then there’s the “clean up” afterward.  After all, you do have to return.  You have to figure out what was actually accomplished and bridge the gap the next morning.  What the heck happened here?

I need to figure this out.  There must be an easier way.  I need a sub to make my sub plans.