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, April 9, 2013


I am a huge Deb Day fan.  She has written words that stay with me, words that speak to my teacher heart.  When Deb writes about a book, it immediately goes on my ‘Someday List.’  I have often thought, “If only I could teach across the hall from Deb…” when reading her blog posts.  If you have visited her blog Coffee with Chloe, I am certain you know what I mean.

After months of anticipation and planning, I spent the whole day in Deb’s classroom today.  From the start I felt right at home—just being around Deb means feeling comfortable and valued.  And there is nothing quite like getting to see an effective teacher in action. 

Me with Deb
I took notes all day using the note-taking style Nancie Atwell suggests for her interns.  It is a simple and practical way to capture observations.  On the left, I listed the things I saw or heard.  On the right, I noted my response.

a page of my observation notes

I ended up with 4 pages of notes like these throughout Deb’s seven classes.  However, I don’t think I even came close to capturing all of my thinking in ink on those pages.  My mind is still bouncing around snippets of conversations I heard.  I am still absorbing all the goodness that is embedded in the work Deb does with her students. 

Here is a glimpse into Deb’s classroom through my eyes:

Kids need space between the work to talk about other things—Deb knows this.

Talk is a necessary part of the writing process—Deb knows this.

A culture of working hard and learning is most effectively created when couched in a casual, laid-back atmosphere—Deb knows this.

Students become READERS when they have a teacher who models a reading life, who holds them accountable, and whose passion for story is evident on her classroom shelves—Deb knows this.

Students need to be set up for success. Building capacity and self-esteem before thinking deeply about complex text helps create engagement and a willingness to struggle later on—Deb knows this.

Trust and motivation are built with the voice of, “I like you and I know you can do better.  I want that for you.”—Deb knows this.

Inspiration for writing comes from lots of places, including Deb’s filing cabinet—a sort of treasure chest of mentor text gold—Deb knows this.

When the work students are doing matters to them, the process is more likely to draw them in revision after revision—Deb knows this.

Even the small talk during classroom transitions can be intentional if it is filled with nudging, encouragement, validation, accountability, and celebration—Deb knows this.

Being real and honest with students is the foundation of building relationships—Deb knows this.

Instead of CHECKING UP ON students, it is more effective to CHECK IN WITH them by eliciting reflection through questions like, “Did this process help?  How?”—Deb knows this.

When students expect the work to be meaningful, they make it meaningful—Deb knows this.

Teenage boys ARE readers and writers—Deb knows this. 

In fact, she not only knows these things, but she makes them happen.  She is amazing.

p.s.  Her dog Chloe is pretty amazing too.


  1. I was so excited I screeched when I read Deb's post about your visit, & now this-so exciting, & Christy, so lovely to hear you speak about Deb. I am envious, but of course I don't have a classroom to come to anymore. Maybe I can just visit both of yours! You said so much that is a grand conversation among colleagues, every single point! I know I will print this out to use with those I work with, especially the new interns! How nice of you to do this Christy!

  2. So cool that you got to go visit Deb! And it sounds like you had a great day and are taking lots and lots away. I can't pick one of these truths, because there are so, so, so many good ones. I want to print them out and think about them. Thanks for writing this post in a way that allowed us to be there, seeing what Deb knows with you!

  3. I am with Linda on my reaction when reading Deb's slice. How ab-so-lute-ly wonderful for you! You are living a dream! First Ruth, now Deb, that's the way to enrich your teaching life. This post put a smile on my face, especially the P.S.

  4. I was thinking about you both yesterday and am SO GLAD you captured some of the visit RIGHT AWAY. I wanna meet Deb soon too! :)

  5. Lucky, lucky, lucky! I am happy for both of you. This is a fabulous and enriching experience for both in teaching and personal life. I am also glad that you didn't keep this meeting a secret, and are willing to share what you saw and thought.

  6. What an extraordinary experience it must have been...and thank you for gicving us a peek into Deb's classroom and the magic she creates there.

  7. I'm so jealous! I wish I could spend a day with Deb! Thank you for sharing your reflections with the rest of us -- you have such important tidbits there! :-)

  8. I don't know how I missed this post! Regardless, what a great meet-up!