Tuesday, September 1, 2015


Friday night after a terrific, but very long first week of school, and I am beat.  Even so, I set my alarm for 5:30. I have a big day ahead on Saturday. It's Young Life's Senior Snap, and I have volunteered to help with the food table. I will be there from 7 until 3:30.

Senior Snap is the brain child of Andy K., a graphic designer and also a Young Life volunteer. Two years ago, one of Andy's Young Life kids asked Andy if he could take his senior pictures. Andy was glad to oblige, but a day later, his Facebook account was blowing up. There were lots of kids that needed senior pictures and the deadline was 24 hours later.

Andy couldn't help all of the kids that needed help, but he couldn't stop thinking about them. He wondered if there was a way he could do something. The next fall, he borrowed his church facilities,  enlisted the help of five of his photographer friends, gathered a few others to help with food, and Senior Snap was born. High school seniors from all over Denver have the opportunity to sign up to have their pictures taken, and it's totally free.
Anna Rose, Carlos, and I were the food team. 
That first year, Senior Snap took 21 pictures, this year we did over 30. High school seniors sign up online for a time slot. When they arrive at the church, they are treated to hair and makeup, pizza, chips, candy, and lots of loving. Each senior goes out in a group with a photographer, a photo buddy (the person who holds everything for everyone), and one or two other kids. They wander the blocks around downtown Denver, looking for perfect shots.

Elizabeth, a kindergarten paraprofessional did hair.

I also had the privilege of going out on a couple of photo shoots. Amber, the photographer, was willing to try anything and these guys jumped over walls and climbed on roofs and played guitar and just generally had a blast. The pictures from my second round aren't posted yet, but the two young women were from Sudan, with high, high heels and super interesting stories to tell. 

I have been thinking about Saturday ever since then. Andy's words keep ringing in my ears. "I saw that there was a need," he said. "And I wondered what I could do to fill it?" 

"I saw that there was a need. And I wondered what I could do to fill it?" 

"I saw that there was a need. And I wondered what I could do to fill it?" 

In my mind, that's the way more Christians should live.  I wonder what needs I'm supposed to be filling right now. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015


Not sure I should admit this, but I remember watching the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964. Yep, I really do. I remember my parents, specifically my dad, fussing about their long hair. At age 5, I was a little young to be a rock music fan, but nevertheless, songs like "Love, Love Me Do" and "Yellow Submarine" were a big part of my childhood. It was fun, then to be be taken back to those days with a brand new picture book, FAB FOUR FRIENDS: THE BOYS WHO BECAME THE BEATLES, written by Susanna Reich and illustrated by Adam Gustavson.

Reich captures the early lives of the Beatles and how John, George, Paul, and Ringo came together as band. The story is told in chapter-like chunks, beginning with John, then progressing through Paul, George, and finally Ringo. I'm struck, as I read, by the difficulties each of the boys overcome. John's mother and father split up when he was very young and he was raised by an aunt and uncle, but always longed for his mum, who lived nearby and played a role in his life, but was not around on a daily basis. Paul's mother died when he was a young child. As a child, Ringo was hospitalized for appendicitis for a year at age seven, and then two more years when he was just a little older.

I was also struck, in reading this book, by how hard the Beatles actually worked to become a band. People think they were an instant sensation, but that's really not the case at all. There were hours and hours of after school practice. There were disapproving adults, like John's Aunt Mimi, who told him, "The guitar's all right for a hobby, John, but you'll never make a living at it." In their early days, the band was so poor, they tied their microphones to broomsticks, which their girlfriends held up while they played. And  they'd "split an order of toast and argue about the extra penny for jam." When they finally got a gig at the Indra Club in Hamburg, Germany, they thought they would be staying in a glamorous hotel and ended up in two dingy, smelly rooms in the back of an old movie theater. And there was the issue of finding the right permanent drummer.

This is a really long picture book, definitely not one I would read to a class much below third or fourth grade. It would be perfect however, in a unit on picture book biographies (end matter includes an author's note, a glossary, notes, and a bibliography of book and internet sources), or a unit on perseverance. It would also be terrific for a middle school music class.

You gotta love a good picture book biography and this one definitely fits into that category.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Poetry Friday

Back to school! Actually our kids start Monday, but teachers have been back for a week or two. Pretty sure I have posted both of these poems before, but some poems need to be revisited and rearead. Catherine has the Poetry Friday Roundup today. 

"Introducing a New Me"

There's a new ME this year,
An on-time ME,
A clean-desk ME.
A first-to-hand-in assignments ME
A listen-in-class-to-the-teacher ME,
A teacher's-pet-for-the-first-time-in-my-life ME,
An always-willing-to-be-good-and-help-out ME,
A dead-serious-get-the-work-done-and-hand-it-in
Before-it's-due ME.
The problem is
The new ME
Is not like ME
At all.

Kalli Dakos

Close the barbecue.
Close the sun.
Close the home-run games we won.

Close the summer.
Close the pool.

Open school.

Prince Redcloud

Thursday, August 20, 2015


Some teachers call them rules. Some teachers call them norms. 
I don't really care what they are called, but basically I think every group/society has them, in some form or another.  Some kind of guidelines for how we treat each other or how we get along together.  I generally have about three, usually some variation on the theme- 
Be safe. Be respectful. Work hard. 

Here are some books that might initiate good discussions. 

Freddy and Frito are best friends. They play together every day. Freddy's house is big and full of space, but there are rules. Frito's house is noisy and crowded, but there are rules. One day Freddy and Frito decide to build a treehouse. With no rules, of course. But Freddy's yellow curtains give Frito a headache. And Frito's cooking pot takes up too much room. The two have to resolve their differences. They decide a clubhouse should have at least one rule.

THE STORY STARTS HERE by Caroline Merola is a backwards book about a backwards character. Little Wolf wants to do everything backwards. He wants his books to start at the back (it truly does open at the back and would be a great book handling lesson for little guys), play the piano with his toes, and wear his clothes on his head. Then his father decides to join in on the fun. This feels a little like WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE.

IF EVERYBODY DID by JoAnn Stover is an old, old book, one I found in a library discard pile at the very beginning of my teaching career.  The copy I found was black and white, but a couple of years ago, the book was released in color. Each two page spread features a different "rule-breaking" situation. The next page is a predictable refrain, "This is what would happen if everybody did."

If everybody squeezed the cat!

Finally, THE GOLDEN RULE by Ilene Cooper- a beautiful, beautiful book I reviewed here several years ago.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Last week I stamped, inventoried, and  distributed 5,000 books for our new literacy curriculum (in case you are wondering about the glamour of being a literacy coach). Or rather, I should say, WE stamped, inventoried and distributed 5,000 books.

Monday and Tuesday I worked alone. My school is almost one hundred years old, doesn't have air conditioning, and it was hot, slow, boring work. Tuesday afternoon, I ran into Chaz, who was at school registering for eighth grade. I adore this young woman and it was fun to see her after three months away. I jokingly said, "Wanna come help me stamp books tomorrow?" She said she would ask her mom, and a few minutes later, she hunted me down in the library, "My mom says I can. What time should I come?" I told her to come after 7:30.

Wednesday morning she arrived at 7:35. We stamped and talked. She told me that her mother and father hadn't even finished high school, but were determined to have their daughters graduate from college. She told me about her older sister who had a baby at 16, but had gone on to get her GED, and is now attending a local university, with dreams of becoming a lawyer. She told me about how she had helped her dad, who doesn't read very well and can't spell well enough to send a readable text message, to earn his CDL license so he could drive semi's. "We studied every night for three weeks," she said, "and then he took the test. You can miss six, but he only missed four. He was so proud."

On Thursday, Zena and Rosa came to help. Both girls were students at my school, but are now older. Zena started college this week. She thinks she wants to be a teacher. I think she'd be a great one- super hard working, sweet, organized, a gorgeous smile. Her younger sister, Rosa, is a junior in high school. Rosa and I stamped mythology books together. She told me she hated mythology and had almost failed freshman English because she didn't understand "all that gods and goddesses stuff." She continued, "Only one person taught it, I didn't understand him. I would go in and ask and he just thought I was stupid. I wasn't stupid the year before with Ms. S. I really liked English in eighth grade. I got A's. Ms. S doesn't give those to anybody, you have to work really hard. I don't know how I got so stupid in ninth grade. "

On Friday, sweet Carlos came and helped. He was a little slower stamping because he kept stopping to read. He was especially interested in a book called THE OMNIVORE'S DILEMMA. "I really want to read this," he said. When I told him he could take it home, he slid it carefully into his backpack. He told me about a trip to El Salvador, to meet his mother's family. "I cried when we left," he said. "I have never seen my mother's family before and I don't know if I will ever see them again. It costs a lot of money to go to Salvador."

Last week, I stamped 5,000 books. The stories I heard made it worth all the stamping.

Friday, August 14, 2015


For about the last six months, my younger son has been working at a doughnut shop. He works the night shift, making doughnuts from ten until six. I am thrilled that he has a job and his own spending money, but I spend more time than I would like to admit worrying about him.  I wrote this one night when I couldn't sleep.


At dusk
my man child,
basketball player
and gamer by day,
doughnut maker by night,
dons white chef's coat
and flour-dusted boots
and strides out the door.

I am more than a little unsettled
by these forays
into the night.

For the first hour
I picture the driver
who has spent
her evening
before sliding
behind the wheel
only to meet my son
in a metal-bending
life-stealing collision
somewhere along
his fifteen mile trek.

From twelve 'til three
I imagine my big guy's
red blood seeping
across white tile
as gun waving thieves
rob the quiet shop
of donuts and dollars
and from three to six
I picture horribly
disfiguring accidents
with hot grease.

Sun rises,
and I envision
my sweet guy
falling asleep
on his way home
at the end of his eight hour shift.
Another metal-bending
life-stealing collision.

I want to grab his belt loops
and yank him backward
into childhood.
But each night
my donut making man child
strides into the night
and I pray
for one more day
of glazed sweetness.

-Carol Wilcox

Heidi Mordhorst, at MY JUICY LITTLE UNIVERSE, is hosting Poetry Friday this week. Head over there for a whole lot of sweetness.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


Three books that are sweet, predictable, and sure to be enjoyed by my kindergarten friends! Don't forget an old friend, WEMBERLY WORRIED, by Kevin Henkes.

Theodore finds a penny, then has all kinds of good luck throughout the day. I'd probably follow this with a conversation about how we can "make" luck for ourselves and others. 

Marc Brown, yes THE Marc Brown of Arthur fame, has a new book. Kindergarten is coming and Monkey has all the typical worries- what if he gets on the wrong bus, what if he doesn't make friends, what about the cafeteria. His family helps ease his worries by playing school with Monkey as the teacher.

NOT THIS BEAR- Alyssa Satin Capucilli
Another kindergarten worrier that turns out ok in the end! Kids will enjoy the repeating refrain, "Not this bear!"