a quote from my favorite author

“The most solid advice, though, for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

-William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


It is so tempting to complain these days.  It just seems like nothing in life can be easy.  I have tried to keep my chin up all summer in the face of events such as our water heater and washing machine dying within three days of one another.  I told myself things like it is a good thing it happened now while we can be home for the deliveries and installation.  I reminded myself that it is only money. 

As I head back to school I am trying to have the same positive attitude in the face of disappointments such as my closest friend at school being on leave for at least the next year.  I tell myself things like imagine how much more work you will get done without Shelley around to help you squander time.  I remind myself that it is only one beloved colleague’s absence.

So, needless to say, I wasn’t really looking forward to the start of a new school year. However, what our superintendent had planned for us today changed my mind. 

The day began with a bus driver who had a sense of humor.  “No gum chewing.  Remain in your seats while the bus is moving.  You are not Pop-Tarts and this is not a toaster,” our driver quipped at a busload of teachers headed to one of our district’s high schools for the first of two teacher institute days before student arrival this Wednesday.

Although I wasn’t thrilled to ride a school bus and I was even less thrilled to sit all the way at the tippy-top of the bleachers in a packed gymnasium for 4 hours, the day was shaping up to be a friendly one and it wasn’t even 8am yet!

I was lucky enough to snag a spot all the way at the tippy-top of the bleachers, where the air conditioning was blowing and I had room enough to spread out a little.  I was ready to settle in for some professional development.
My view from the bleachers while Dylan Wiliam was speaking.
Four hours later, after hearing from two speakers, Gary Howard and Dylan Wiliam, our superintendent asked us to do some homework: write down a thought we will take away from each speaker and give it to our principals to share with the ad center.

Although I tweeted some of the highlights from today’s professional development using the hashtag: #vvsd2012, these are the big ideas I want to carry with me from each speaker:

Gary Howard: 
Differences make a difference, but they don’t have to get in the way.  (This reminds me to honor differences, and to be real about working through them.)

Take time this year to give yourself time for reflective conversations.  (This reminds me to slow down and take time for the things that fuel my teacher soul and make me a more effective teacher instead of remaining caught up in day to day to-do lists.)

Dylan Wiliam:
We need to provide our students with the appetite to know and the competency to learn, prepare them to know how to act when faced with situations for which they have not been specifically prepared.  (This reminds me of the common core standards and the shift in practice they demand of us as teachers.)

Ask questions that cause thinking. (This reminds me to be more intentional even about the language I use in teaching.  In what other ways can I make sure the students are the doing the work of learning instead of passively watching me work.)

You control everything you need to control to be a transformational and effective teacher.  (This reminds me to focus on what I can do better instead of what is holding me back.)

Effective teachers continue to have a positive impact on student learning for up to 4 years after students have been in their classrooms.  (This reminds me just how powerful I have the potential to be in shaping a student’s academic trajectory.  It makes me want to work that much harder.  It is validating to hear what a difference I can make as an individual, no matter what the system around me looks like.)

It is so tempting to complain these days, but today I have nothing about which to complain.  I simply feel empowered, inspired, hopeful.  And my homework is done!


  1. So glad to have your voice back in the slice community! This one,

    "You control everything you need to control to be a transformational and effective teacher,"

    is the one that will carry me through today.

    Thanks for sharing. Happy start of school!

  2. You are lucky to have had such a powerful day, albeit those hard bleachers, Christy! Thank you for sharing the words you think important. I'll copy for my notebook-good words to ponder more than once. Our students arrive tomorrow too! Have a wonderful beginning to your year!

  3. Have a wonderful first day! What a great and upbeat day for teachers. Glad to hear you got a tippy-top seat! May every day this year be tippy-top!

  4. Glad to have you back. I missed you. I wish that hope and inspiration will accompany you all this year and you will feel empowered when you most need it.

  5. I love this... Take time this year to give yourself time for reflective conversations. That is what I feel like the Slice has given me. Last year we had a similar event and it was awe inspiring...this year...we're negotiating :) I think it is really important for the leaders to set this kind of tone. !xo nanc

  6. You have been missed! Choose your attitude is so important and you have chosen the path of positive thinking. I will think of you and your outlook when something is not going the way I had hoped. It sounds like the speakers gave you some good thinking to ponder.

  7. Inspired words. Thanks for sharing them. Our superintendent today told us to get out there and gather a PLN. I'm so glad you are in mine. Have a great year!

  8. On second thought, MAKE it a great year. Have a great year sounds so passive...

  9. Powerful and uplifting. Thank you for your thoughts and encouragement from the points you learned. A positive foot forward!

  10. Your entry began in shadow and ended in light.

  11. A day with humor and friendship/kindness, comfort (AC/seating), learning, and reflection. That sounds like a good first day for kids and teachers.

  12. Great quotes! Thanks for sharing those Christy.

    BTW: "Remain in your seats while the bus is moving. You are not Pop-Tarts and this is not a toaster” made me crack up! That's awesome! I turned it into a found poem:

    Remain in your seats
    while the bus is moving.
    not Pop-Tarts
    and this
    is not
    a toaster

    Would love to check out your Twitter feed. Would you mind emailing me with your @name?

  13. I think I will have to laminate this idea and post it near me "Effective teachers continue to have a positive impact on student learning for up to 4 years after students have been in their classrooms." Thank you!

  14. That sounds like an awesome way to start the school year!