SOLC Day 28: Blame it on the birds!

March 2021 SOLC–Day 28
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.

I’m blaming the birds.

I had every intention of sitting down to write this post first thing this morning, but I kept getting distracted by them–the birds. First, there were the regulars– titmice, nuthatches–both rose-breasted and white, cardinals, blue jays, juncos, hairy, red-bellied and downy woodpeckers, chickadees. But then the finches showed up, flashing their newly golden feathers and I was mesmerized watching them flit and sing. And, Oh, look! The house finches were back, too, sporting their lovely enhanced raspberry hues. What welcome signs of spring!

I tried to turn back to my computer. Honestly, I did. But next, the fox sparrow returned and started doing its scritchscratching dance in the leaves below the wisteria arbor. It was endlessly entertaining to watch its industrious, slightly comic efforts, and even more so when a flock of juncos joined in.

Then, just as I shook my head and settled in to write…a flash of blue! What was that? Not a blue jay… but a blue bird!!

Well, that did it. I could resist the feathered lure no longer. I gave up, grabbed my camera and snuck outside to take some photos.

After a while, I went back inside, sat down, focused, and started writing. But then… What! Another flash of blue!? Oh…it was brighter this time. Sure enough, a male bluebird had arrived! I mean, really, what else could I do?

Out I went again….

And then, oh, my, I swear, right now, just as I was writing this all, just after I attached the picture above, I glanced outside to see the bluebird again, and there it was, something long and dangling in its mouth! Could it be a worm? What a photo op! I jumped up to grab my camera and race outside, recognizing even while doing so that this was precisely the problem!

As I headed out, my husband, who had been aware of both my goal and my distraction, spoke up from the couch.

“There is a simple solution, you know,” he said. “You could pull down the blinds.”

What!? Is he crazy?

SOLC Day 27: Thank you, Mrs. Minzy!

March 2021 SOLC–Day 27
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.

Dear Mrs. Minzy,

I imagine you’re surprised to hear from me. I’m not even sure if you’ll remember who I am or who Connor is, but I wanted to send you a long overdue thank you.

More than twenty years after you spoke them, I still remember your words. It was Connor’s Parent Teacher conference. I think it was in Kindergarten, but you also taught him in second grade, so it might have been then. At any rate, Connor was a bit of a chatterbox, and I distinctly remember what you didn’t say and what you did say.

You could have said, “Connor calls out too much.” or “Connor needs reminders not to talk during work time.” I’d bet that on some days, you probably were thinking, “Connor won’t shut up!”

Instead, you said this, “Connor has such strong verbal skills and when he learns to manage them better, they’ll be a huge asset to him.” I remember being so appreciative, as a parent, with how you phrased that. How you saw potential rather than merely problem. It struck me powerfully then, years before I even considered becoming a teacher. Now that I am a teacher, it influences how I communicate with parents every day.

Last week at the end of a parent-teacher conference, a parent said to me, “I just want to thank you so much for seeing X. the way you do and how you see positives behind his behaviors that can drive people crazy.” They should have been thanking you, Mrs. Minzy, and I realized that it’s about time that I do so as well. So thank you, for your role in Connor’s education and for framing your view of him through a positive lens. Thank you for helping me to be a better teacher and probably a better person.

With gratitude,

Molly Hogan

SOLC Day 26: Just Another Day in 2021

March 2021 SOLC–Day 26
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.

I thought I was going to write about listening to my students’ conversations in the Google Meet site before morning meeting, when I’m “in” the room, but my video is off as I finish up getting organized. About how my days start with a smile as I listen to their light hearted banter.How they laugh and chatter during breaks. How they crack me up over and over again.

I pondered writing about how this short remote learning stint has gone pretty well. About how much I prefer synchronous teaching to last spring’s video lesson model, even including dealing with technological blips–like losing host control of the Google Meet to one of my students. Multiple times. And about how much I was looking forward to being back at school in person on Tuesday.

I considered writing about the amazing Zoom presentation I attended last night, featuring poet Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer. About how, even after a full day of remote teaching and hours of parent teacher conferences, I still managed to attend and I left feeling energized. Now that truly is amazing.

I still hadn’t decided what I would write about when the text message arrived late this morning. From my principal.

“We have another case in 4th grade. Give me a call.”

Now, the day is over, and I don’t feel much like writing about anything at all.

Our quarantine has been extended through next Friday and I’m awaiting my test results.

I guess that’s really all I needed to write.

SOLC Day 25 and PF: What a Ride!

March 2021 SOLC–Day 25
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.

Poetry Friday this week is hosted by Susan Bruck at her blog, Soul Blossom Living. She’s sharing the Kidlitosphere Roundup for National Poetry Month. Make sure to check out this week’s offerings and all the poetic riches on tap for next month!

I just realized something kind of odd. I’m not a movie lover, but when times get a bit turbulent in my life, I often think of that boat scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. You know the one, right? I’ve shared it multiple times in past posts, including earlier this week, but here it is again, for context:

What a scene, right!?

I wonder now about my initial reaction to this iconic movie moment. How old was I when I first watched it? Was I scared? Probably. Was I spellbound? No doubt. I picture myself, heart racing, peeking through my fingers at the flashing screen and Gene Wilder’s increasingly crazed visage.

I feel a bit like that now, as I’m navigating a sudden short-term switch to remote learning and this year of pandemic in general–like the unwitting passengers on this boat ride that suddenly takes a turn from fanciful toward bizarre and frightening…

A Wondrous Boat Ride

There’s no earthly way of knowing
Which direction we are going
There’s no knowing where we’re rowing
Or which way the river’s flowing

Is it raining, is it snowing?
Is a hurricane a-blowing?

Not a speck of light is showing
So the danger must be growing
Are the fires of Hell a-glowing?
Is the grisly Reaper mowing?

Yes! The danger must be growing
For the rowers keep on rowing
And they’re certainly not showing
Any signs that they are slowing

by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley

Luckily, these days the rowers do seem to be slowing, and ultimately, Wilder does stop the wild ride. Eventually, all ends well. Well, at least for Charlie and his grandfather.

Still, I think this brilliant poem (and performance) might just be the pandemic theme song.

SOLC Day 24: Remote Learning Day 1

March 2021 SOLC–Day 24
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.

Early today I was getting ready for our first day of remote learning. My first hint that things might not go smoothly should have been when I couldn’t air drop a photo from my phone to my computer. At that time, I just figured it was a blip. Something to try again later. I found a different resource. Then, not long afterward, I couldn’t print using wifi. I started getting a little worried. What was going on? I hardwired into the printer and kept prepping. Next, I went to our curriculum site to print out a few resources and …you guessed it…the site wouldn’t come up. This was getting concerning. I kept adjusting my plans along the way, trying to get ready for the start of the day and feeling more than a bit anxious. The portents were ominous.

Finally, the big moment arrived along with all the students for morning meeting. Earlier, I’d sent them a morning message in our Google Classroom stream telling them how much I was looking forward to seeing their maskless faces (a silver lining of remote learning). One by one they came in. And I couldn’t see them. Once there were two or more kids in the room, everyone’s video stopped working and a little message about “network connectivity” popped up.

To clarify, the kids could all see each other but I could only occasionally see one of them. Most of the time, I was looking at a grid of still photos. Thankfully, I had another adult in the room who helped me muddle through. She literally had to act as my eyes as I led students through a flashdrafting lesson. “I’m seeing lots of thumbs up, Mrs. Hogan!” “They’re all busy writing, working hard!”

I finally figured out that if I pinned a student’s photo, their video would pop up. Sometimes. So I could one by one peek at what they were doing. While trying to teach. “Ok! Now you’re ready for the first reason paragraph!” Pin. Peek. Unpin. “Remember, when you add evidence, use a transition. For example, or another example, or one time when…” Pin. Peek. Unpin. It was surreal.

The whole day went this way. In between lessons I rebooted, called my internet provider, and wrote desperate e-mails to our tech support. Then I launched into the next lesson with no idea how my students were responding other than by having them talk or by the interpretive comments of my savior Ed. Tech. or by using my pinning technique. Oh, and we wore out the “hands up” icon!

So, wow! I’m still trying to wrap my head around this day. It was the craziest experience.

The adventure of Day 2 begins at 8:45 am sharp tomorrow.

SOLC Day 23: Pivoting

March 2021 SOLC–Day 23
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.

No one started the dishwasher last night and there are still a few dishes in the sink. I rinse them, reorganize a few things in the dishwasher and start it up. The soft hum of the working machine fills the kitchen.

In the adjacent room, I sit in front of my notebook. Thinking about the day ahead. Trying not to panic. Trying to prioritize. Trying to find the path that will lead me through this momentary blip and out the other side.

Because yesterday was a normal Monday. Until it wasn’t.

I thought I knew what I’d be doing. Until I didn’t.

The principal came down to see me around 10:15 while the kids were at Specials.

I didn’t suspect a thing. Until I did.

Soon, I realized that innocuous-looking legal pad he carried was an artifact of what he was doing. Contact tracing.

Soon, I realized that it was not going to be a normal Monday. At all.

So, today I sit in front of my notebook and my computer. And I plan my path to remote learning for the next week.

I remind myself I’m lucky that we haven’t had to do this yet this year.

I remind myself I’m lucky that I am two weeks past my first vaccine dose.

I remind myself I’m lucky to have a “day of grace” in which to get things figured out.

In the kitchen, the dishwasher hums through its cycles. The soft whoosh is reassuring. Steadying. Even while I sit here, wondering how to embark on this transitional day, I have already started something in motion. Something is getting done.

SOLC Day 22: Stress Test

March 2021 SOLC–Day 22
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.

Do you remember that Facebook furor about the dress? The Is it white or is it blue? hubbub? I can’t remember what the actually neurological science behind it was, but I find those optical images fascinating. It’s amazing how we’re wired to perceive the world in certain ways. So, yesterday, as I was scrolling through Facebook and maybe procrastinating about writing report cards, this image, that a friend posted, caught my eye.

No photo description available.

That’s funky looking. What is it?

I read the caption: “This image was created by a Japanese neurologist. If you are calm, the photo does not move, if the picture moves you are a little stressed and if the picture moves like a carousel you are very stressed.”

Oh. That’s cool. But I didn’t see that picture move at all.

I scroll up a bit to look at the picture again more carefully.

Ohhhh. It is moving! Whoa!

I read the caption again.

Wait! So, the fact that it’s moving means I’m stressed? Well, that’s no surprise. But what does it mean if it didn’t move until someone told me it might? Does that just mean I’m suggestible, not stressed? (Or maybe I didn’t look long enough…) If I’m stressed, how stressed am I? Does “moves like a carousel” mean that central section spins? Cause it’s definitely rotating now that I’m looking at it! Does it matter if it’s spinning fast or slow? If it’s movingclockwiseorcounterclockwise?IfIkeeplookingatit,isitgoingtomovefaster?OMG!It ismovingfaster!Thatcan’tbegood!Really!Itismovingfasterandfaster.IthinkI’mgettingdizzy!


I rip my eyes away from the compelling picture and scroll on past quickly.

Later, telling my husband about this experience, I finished by saying, “It was all fun and games til the carousel started spinning!”

He laughed but I shuddered. I am not looking at that picture again! Anyway, I suspect that thing was a stress inducer not a stress indicator. No doubt planted by Russian bots to sow anxiety amidst the US masses.

It’s surprisingly effective.

Or maybe I’m just vulnerable. How stressed am I anyway? Maybe I should take one of those Facebook quizzes…

SOLC Day 21: A Trio of Short Poems

March 2021 SOLC–Day 21
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.

Each morning this weekend,
I snuck away to the river,
eager to slip
a sliver of serenity
into this series
of “To Do List” days.

Cold nights linger
Winter clutches at the river
stakes her claim
with scattered hieroglyphics

against a winter weary scene
red winged blackbird
welcomes spring

SOLC Day 20: Name That Tune

March 2021 SOLC–Day 20
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.

“What song is this?” I ask Kurt, watching an ice skating video a friend had posted on Facebook.

“Stairway to Heaven?” he ventures, as I turn up the volume so he can hear. 

“No,” he interrupts himself. “It’s ‘Dream On’ by Aerosmith.”

“No way! It’s Dream Weaver, isn’t it?” I ask. “I love that song. There’s absolutely no way it’s by Aerosmith!”

I’m pretty sure I’m right, and the scent of a rare “Name that Tune” victory is intoxicating.

Kurt is the musical aficionado in our family. He constantly challenges all of us to name song titles and musicians. “Ten bucks if you can tell me who sings this,” he’ll ask. I almost never can and my guesses are often so far afield that it’s become a bit of a joke. Kurt is forever pained by my ignorance.

Still, my confidence growing, I google quickly. Who sings Dream Weaver?

Google quickly obliges with an answer: Gary Wright. 

“Gary Wright sings it,” I announce, happily. (I refrain from saying “Ha!” or “So there!” Barely.)

“Well, maybe he wrote it, but Aerosmith is singing it, ” Kurt says calmly. Now he’s googling as well. 

“Kurt, there is no way that Aerosmith sings ‘Dream Weaver’,” I insist. Still my own certainty wavers a bit. I know from long and painful experience how bad I am at this game.

In a few seconds, Kurt holds up his phone and the song plays…the same one echoing from my computer. 

“’Dream On’ by Aerosmith,” he states.

Dream on
Dream on
Dream on
Dream until your dream come true

I hold onto hope for a few seconds, listening intently, hoping for a chorus of “Ooh, dream weaver
I believe you can get me through the night

It doesn’t come.

Oh. Crap.

I face the music. It’s actually not ‘Dream Weaver’ playing after all. It’s a different song entirely. 

I guess it’s probably “Dream On” by Aerosmith.

“I don’t know what I was thinking, going up against you,” I comment, deflated. “I must have temporarily lost my mind.” I mute my computer.

Thankfully, he doesn’t gloat. He just types into his phone again. Soon the song “Dream Weaver” fills the room.

After a moment, I ask, “Did you know that Gary Wright wrote that song?”

“Really?” he laughs.

We both listen.

It truly is a great song.

It’s not a bad moment either.

SOLC Day 19: Expectations

March 2021 SOLC–Day 19
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.

He’ll get a lot of 1’s on his report card next week. 1’s for “Does Not Meet Expectations.”

He began the year as he ended the last. Quietly. He managed his daily transitions from our classroom to the Learning Lab to weekly Speech Language sessions. He shut down when things got too tough. Retreated. Quiet. 

At morning meetings, he rarely added his thoughts to class discussions, needing encouragement even to say “Pass” when his turn came around. Limited eye contact. He struggled in the classroom with math, and often refused to look at the Ed. Tech there to help him. He rarely engaged in the work. Sometimes he couldn’t sit still. Sometimes he sat and stared at his desk. 

Somewhere along the way, maybe late in November, things started to change.

He’s flowered.  An odd word choice perhaps to describe a 10 year old boy, but it’s so apt. He’s simply opened up to the world. Now he laughs more, interacts more. His language has bloomed. Perhaps that was the key. 

He’s reading at home most nights now. Remembers to check in with me in the mornings about what he’s read. Has a couple of favorite authors. A favorite series. Still, he’s reading levels below the benchmark.

In Math, his confidence has blossomed. He raises his hand frequently to participate. Sometimes he’ll try to explain and finally say, “I can’t explain it,” but most of the time he’s finding the words to share his ideas, his strategies. He’s demonstrating far more understanding. He’s participating almost every day.

Now, I have to remind him to stop chatting. To stop class clowning. I had to move his chair up to the front row to split up his new and active social dynamic.

A teacher and I talk about this and laugh, “Be careful what you wish for!” we say. But we smile. Broadly. 

Still, he’s getting a lot of 1s on his report card, even though he’s exceeded oh so many expectations.