Filling The Motivation Tank


The start of a new school year brings about a certain amount of excitement … then professional development happens and all that excitement is sucked into a black hole.

I spent the first day back in a district level meeting that lasted from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. with only one break for lunch. The topic: training for the new textbook and website. While this sounds logical – we should know the materials we are using to teach our students – it is in fact ridiculous. I’ve been around long enough to know how to use a textbook and I’m pretty sure I know my way around a website (I’ve only created three of them for my classes). This is a training that should have lasted an hour tops. But no.

Within the first 30 minutes, I had already gone through the entire website and found all the nifty little resources I can access for my students. Then, I found all the mistakes in the tests and quizzes (oh, my goodness there were A LOT of errors). I sat for the rest of the training watching every bit of enthusiasm I might have had for the new school year slowly and painfully drain out of me.

This is pretty much how it goes every year. I learned a long time ago that I have to be responsible for my own motivation. After sixteen years in the teaching profession, I’ve constructed an arsenal of empowering, uplifting, and motivational tools to remind me why I stay in this profession.

Sir Ken Robinson: TED Talks and Books

Every year, Ken Robinson reminds me how important creativity is to learning and how important it is treat students as individuals. He inspires me that I have power to help students learn and explore their strengths and talents. He advocates an education revolution that redefines how schools work and how students are taught. It’s a revolution I quietly foster each and every day in my classroom.

Do Schools Kill Creativity?

Bring on the Learning Revolution!

How To Escape Education’s Death Valley

After watching Robinson’s TED Talks, I flip through his groundbreaking book The ElementI keep a copy on my desk and reference it often. I’ve underlined countless passages and sticky tabbed dozens of pages.

This summer I read Robinson’s latest book, Creative Schools. I had to read it with a pencil in my hand so I could underline nugget after nugget of inspiration. It’s going on my desk, right next to The Element.

David Foster Wallace – This Is Water

Back in 2005, David Foster Wallace gave a commencement speech at Kenyon College. The speech has since been published as both a book and audiobook, (This is Water) It is a deeply moving, funny, and thought provoking observation of education, life, and philosophical perspective. It reminds me to get out of my own head to see things as they really are and to do so with compassion.

Anis Mojgani – Shake the Dust

I first heard this piece of slam poetry at the tail end of Mat Kearney’s song Heartbreak Dreamer. It is an incredibly elegant and powerful piece of poetry that reminds us all to face our challenges and find the strength that lives inside. It was so powerful, I decided not to keep it to myself. I share it with my students during the first week to inspire them to fight through their own personal challenges.

Too bad I can’t convince my administration to borrow a few of these for future professional developments!

A new batch of students is set to walk through my classroom door this week. My tank is full and I’m ready for a new and great school year.

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c.b.w. 2016


Summer Plans


I’ve officially completed my sixteenth year of teaching and it was a great year. My students worked hard and we created a fantastic community I hope will last in the years to come. We learned, we laughed, and then we cried when it was time to say goodbye. This sort of bond doesn’t happen every year, so I am particularly grateful when it does happen.

Teaching can be a demanding profession, but all that hard work pays off when students walk out of my classroom a little wiser and a little more confident than when they entered nine months before. Having summers off is pretty awesome, too.

So, what should I do with two months all to myself?? The possibilities are endless, especially since I’m starting to feel a bit more free than I have in the last few years. After dealing with so much loss (family, friends, and furkids have all passed away in the last three years), I’ve admittedly not been myself. However, it finally feels like some of those heavy clouds are starting to clear. I can feel bits and pieces of myself falling back into place. And its exciting.

My list of things I want to do is already likely to fill up more time than I have, but I like having options when I wake up in the morning:

  1. Start trail running, again. Years ago, I was a trail runner and I loved it. I gave it up due to time constraints, but now I think its time to bring it back into my life. The physical activity and time with nature did a world of good for me.

2. Start cooking, again. For some reason, I stopped cooking healthy meals and making salads. I’m going to pull those old recipe cards out and get away from those processed boxed meals.

3. Knit. Like there was ever any doubt this would be on the agenda! This summer I’m looking to learn some new techniques and add more socks to my already stuffed sock drawer.

4. Write. Also a no-brainer item for the agenda. I’m hoping to continue my haiku practice, but also to jump back into the query process for my novel. I haven’t given up on that yet and I have all summer to send out query packages to the agents on my list.

5. Read. I have a stack of “to read” books I can’t wait to dive into this summer. I’m already halfway through my Goodreads Challenge goal, but I want to be at least 5 books ahead of schedule before the new school year starts.

6. Learn something new. I’m still deciding what I’m going to learn – I’ve kicked around everything from languages to a new craft. We’ll see where the muse takes me!

7. Binge on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. I have several shows/movies I want to watch and catch up on including, Grimm, Portlandia, The Blacklist, Bob’s Burgers, About Time, Theory of Everything, The End of the Tour, and so many others!

8. Work. Yep, teachers can’t help but do some work over the summer. I’m teaching a new class (AP World History) in the fall, so I’m going to try and get a jump on the planning process. It’s a class I’ve always wanted to teach, so I’m looking forward to outlining the basic structure.

9. Spend time with family, furkids, and friends. As my circle continues to get smaller, more free time means more time with those I care about the most. I’m just going to hold onto them a little tighter and make sure they know how much I love them.

10. Clean out the house. It’s time to purge the shed and closets of the stuff we no longer use or need. I cleared out the built up junk in my classroom last week, so I’m already in the mindset of getting rid of clutter.

This list should probably have the word “relax” somewhere in there, but I’ve never been one for long periods of sleep or sitting still. Why start now?

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c.b.w. 2016

In Response


April 21 was Poem in Your Pocket Day, so the poems in today’s post are written in response to another poem. I chose three of my favorite haikus from the anthology Haiku in English Ed. by Jim Kacian, Philip Rowland, and Allan Burns.

By Gary Hotham

in a paper cup —
a long way from home

My response:

red eye flight
last at the gate
my coffee is cold

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By Marcus Larsson

autumn colours
we let mother lie
about our childhood

My Response:

summer wind
we get into mischief
and point fingers

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By George Dorsey

low tide
people seem
more honest

My Response:

new moon
I can’t find
the truth



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Image: Spell. New Moon – Nicholas Roerich,

Words: Haiku by authors cited and c.b.w. 2016

Part of the 2016 April Poem A Day Challenge (via Poetic Asides on Writer’s Digest) for the April 21 prompt: response to another poem

Caretta Caretta Socks


After a long season of Christmas knitting, it was great to get back into the groove of knitting socks. Even though my sock drawer is already stuffed with 30 pairs of knitted socks (I wish I was exaggerating, but I’m not ), I had double pointed needles in one hand and a two hanks of sock yarn in the other before the Christmas tree came down.

I was looking for a little bit of a challenge this time around, so I selected a pattern from Socktopus by Alice Yu. The patterns in this book are incredibly beautiful, but also on the more difficult side. I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners despite the fact that the patterns are meticulous and clearly written. Some of the stitches and techniques require a little courage and experience!

After looking through all the patterns, I settled on Caretta Caretta Socks. I love knitting lace designs and I liked how this particular lace pattern was a bit thicker than most. The only adjustment I made was eliminating the beadwork. As pretty as the beads are in the pattern, I’m not a fan of beads on socks.

For the yarn, I went with an old favorite: Plymouth Yarn Happy Feet in gorgeous shades of purple, blue, and green with flecks of gold. I love how soft this yarn is, but I have noticed the gauge is a bit larger than stated on the tag (I tend to knit right on gauge and no matter what I do, this yarn always goes bigger!). I scaled my needles down a full size to compensate.

My socks turned out great! The variegated colors worked really well with a thicker lace pattern.


Caretta Caretta Socks in Plymouth Yarn Happy Feet

One of my favorite features of this pattern is the 3×1 ribbed heel flap. It matches the cuff and integrates fully into the lace pattern as if its an extension. It’s a nice touch that gives these socks and elegant flow.

My Caretta Caretta socks are now sitting at the top of my sock drawer and I love them. Meanwhile, I’m already knitting another pair of socks. This time I’m following a pattern inspired by Japanese knitting techniques and stitches. And the yarn is divine – I bough it in Portland and it’s proving to be phenomenal. Stay tuned!

Happy Knitting!

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c.b.w. 2016