I Miss You, Mom

I had a conversation with my mother before she died. I asked her if she would let me know that she is alright when she passes. I joked and said, “Don’t smack me in the head, just three taps on my shoulder.” She assured me she would, but I still made her promise. I spent 8 days in the high desert while she was in ICU. I asked her what her favorite memory was. She took off her oxygen mask and said, “You girls,’ referring to me and my sister. I knew that when her doctor ordered hospice she was not going to survive much longer. She passed on April 16th. I made the long drive home, 6 hours, and when I got home I sat on the sofa and cried. I was exhausted and grief overtook me. It was difficult to breathe. I closed my eyes and hoped I could sleep. I felt three taps on my shoulder. Some may say It was my imagination, or that I was asleep, but I was wide awake. What is strange is that my sofa has a high back and it would be impossible to tap me on the shoulder in the place where I felt it. I knew it was my mom letting me know that she is fine. That night I walked outside at midnight, looked up at the night sky and spotted a star that shone brighter than any of the others. It got bigger as I stood still. Then it blinked three times. I said, “I love you too, mom.”

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Hide and Seek

Ever since my grandchildren, Kaia and Maverick were born I have played with them every opportunity I get. It is always something I enjoy. At each stage of their development I have tried to make our time happy and fun. We have danced in their living room, read loads of books, sorted seashells and made up songs and rhymes. It’s wonderful to see them run to me when I come to the door of their house. Sometimes I make up games, other times I pull from my memories of my classroom and things I did with my students. It’s always a joyful learning time. When they come to my house I like to let them create art and play with magnetic building sets. We also put on plays and make up songs.

One day while I was watching them I decided to try a game of Hide and Seek. it was a first and I wondered if they were old enough to get the hang of it, but decided to give it a go. It took several practice runs before we were all set to try it out. Maverick wanted to do whatever Kaia did. I said they could be a team. I was the “seeker.” They ran off while I counted loudly and slowly to 20. I could hear their little feet scampering to hide. Kaia whispered, “Follow me.” Maverick ran behind her. I could hear them trying to decide on different hiding places. 
I slowed my count as I heard Kaia say, “We should go in there. Grandma won’t find us.” I warned them that, “Ready or not, here I come.” First I went into their bedrooms making sure I raised my voice to say, “Well, they aren’t in here.” Then I checked the living room and kitchen dramatically repeating my frustration. I slowly came upon the cupboard they chose as a hiding place. You can see from the photo that they tried very hard to evade my search. They truly believed that covering their eyes meant that I could not see them. I tried to stifle a laugh. I love seeing then grow and learn. They are clever, creative and exploring is what they do best. So much fun to be had with these darling grandkids!

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Why Am I Here?

The book, “Man’s Search For Meaning,” by Viktor Frankl has had a profound effect on me. He knew suffering, having endured the horrors of a concentration camp and subjected to hard labor that included starvation and routine beatings. Anything I have suffered through pales in comparison. He felt that no matter what happens in life we have the freedom to choose how to respond to suffering. We have the freedom to choose our response to everything. It has taken me years to internalize this.

For me the meaning of life is to be my best self, despite limitations. I hope to make memories, and help others see their best selves. When there isn’t much to be happy about, turning to gratitude for the ability to breathe shifts my thinking. I know what it’s like to struggle for air. When I had pneumonia and fell asleep on my stomach, I woke up and discovered that I moved the canula from my nose. I struggled to find it but could not. I felt myself slipping away as I prayed for air. Thankfully I found the call device and pushed every inch of it. I have asked myself, “Why am I still alive? What am I here for? I know that each day is a gift. I hope that I can see through eyes of gratitude for the opportunity to make each day count.

I also know the mind shift that takes place when I transcend selfish desires and try to help someone else. I hope my life has meaning for my kids, my husband, my grandchildren, and my students.

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Inspiring Young Writers

Ways to Encourage Reluctant Young Writers

From my years as a teacher I encountered many students who would shut down when it came to writing. Some would say that they could not think of anything to write. Others had trouble knowing how to begin. I came up with a few ways to inspire my young writers and hope you find them helpful.

•Have a Writing Center (a designated space for students to bring a clipboard or a notebook and come to write.) It doesn’t have to be a huge space, just keep it well stocked.

Review the rules for use of the Writing Center. I used these:

•  1.  Writing takes place here. 

•  2.  Work quietly to allow others to do the same.

•  3.  Leave your area clean.  

•Remember to:

•Stock the area with paper, cards, envelopes, pens, pencils, markers

•Have posters, anchor charts and/or a word wall for students to use as reference.

•Allow it to be a ”smart choice” when students finish early.  

Fun stationary invites students to be creative.

Use Story Stones- This could integrate art and writing!

•You could start with river rocks.

•Paint a simple picture.

•Put the in a bag or tub with a lid.

•Student pulls out a stone and makes a story.

Sometime allowing students to draw first gets them motivated to write. Often teachers allow students to draw AFTER they write.  Try reversing that order.  A visual helps them generate ideas.

Speaking of using visuals, try something creative, and give students a story starter: I woke up and looked in the mirror. I was a cat!

Use more creativity and get students to use a thesaurus! Have them re-write words to songs, logos, signs, etc.:

Pledge of Allegiance = Promise of loyalty

•Stop Sign = CEASE!

•Lost and Found = Absent and Established

•Bird cage = fowl pen

•Happy New Year = Merry recent term

•Animal shelter = Creature haven

•Good Night =Beneficial Evening

Most of all, students need good modeling, practice and opportunities to write about subject matter they can relate to. Have fun-it transfers to the students.

The following are Archived Posts.

My granddaughter using her journal

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Saying Goodbye to Future Teachers

I have been an online instructor for a university for eight years. Each term I change my course based on what I feel would enhance the learning for my students. I learn so much from them. I love sharing my experiences and insights. This last term I decided to try a new course. I sent out an email to my course developer who put me in touch with a colleague who set me up with a course I have long wanted to teach, Children’s Literature. Whenever I try something new I get a bit anxious, and once I get into it (believe me, I research), I feel like Wonder Woman. On top of it all, I was given autonomy to make any changes I feel are necessary. Being brand new, I hardly changed a thing. To have that level of trust and responsibility given to me is life affirming. I went well above and beyond and made more work for myself than necessary. But oh, what a good class!

I now need to say goodbye to my students as they have completed the term. I received feedback from them stating how much they learned from the course. I wish the course was longer. We could have covered so much more in depth. Goodbyes are hard, but I know the students will make a difference in the lives of their own students. That’s the best outcome ever.

Update: I had a former online student contact me to tell me he passed the RICA exam! I also have students from past classes email me for advice and resources. I love staying connected to education in my “retirement.”

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Teaching Character Traits

•The Common Core State Standards in 3rd grade fictional literature calls for students to identify and describe characters’ actions, thoughts, and motivations, which is no small task for an 8-year-old who is just beginning to read longer text. Character traits can be positive or negative. Begin with positive traits. Give examples.

A great way to do this is to introduce adjectives. Have students use words that describe themselves. Brainstorm adjectives together. What is great about them? Are they fun, creative, nice, silly, brave, quiet, loud, sporty, curious…… Transfer the skill of describing to a character analysis of the whole character. Remind students that character traits can be postive or negative, and traits include how a person acts and thinks. You could have students draw a main character and use adjectives to describe that person. A thought bubble could be used to note the character’s thoughts.

You can shift the focus to motivation. What do you think this character is thinking? What gives you that idea? You will be guiding students to give evidence. That is a skill they will need for upper grades. Use Think-Alouds so students get an idea of how to begin the process.

This link will provide positive and negative character traits:


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This and That

The day I became a grandmother I began evaluating my life, or I should say reevaluating it. I realized that this beautiful child is not mine and I am a part of a much bigger picture, yet only a part. What part do I play? As a retired elementary teacher I know the joy of teaching young children. I have learned things I never knew about when raising my own three. Will I have any credibility when I suggest ideas for my grandchild to learn to read or learn to navigate technology when I left it up to teachers to provide literacy instruction for my own children? Is it my place to offer any suggestions? I know best practices and I have learned to lean on researched methods with proven results, yet this little one is not mine and I have to realize that I am an eager grandmother, one with hopes and dreams, but this child is the child of my child. “Take a deep breath and slow down,” I tell myself, “Enjoy the moment, and let the parents have their shot at raising their own child.” I am going to listen to that not so quiet voice. I will read aloud when I get opportunities and rejoice in my child’s journey with his child. Now if I am asked for advice, well, that’s another story.

The Hike

My son called to ask if we could celebrate my husband’s birthday by hiking near the coast. He has two small children; a two year old daughter and a 3 1/2 month old son. The hike is 4 miles total, and seemed at first to be a bad idea. We met at our favorite cafe for breakfast and then drove to the headlands to begin our hike. I marveled at how much gear my son had for the children. My daughter-in-law wrapped the 3 month old around her stomach as my son put the largest kid seat I’d ever seen on his back. This contraption even had stirrups and a cup holder. My granddaughter had other ideas. She insisted on walking. Her parents went ahead as my husband, the birthday boy, and I walked with Kaia. She walked along dodging dog poop and refused to hold my hand. Other hikers smiled as they passed my independent granddaughter so determined to make the hike on her own. All I wanted was to hold her hand until I realized that this tiny human is giving us all a glimpse of the future. She will make her own way someday. She walked a mile before getting tired and reluctantly got into her 21st century backpack seat to let her daddy carry her. It was so much more than a beautiful long hike.

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com


The numbers on my bathroom scale made me dizzy. How can it be that
I weigh that much? When and where did I lose control of my weight? How can I get back to my old self? How soon?

One of the side effects of the medication I take is weight gain, but geez, this much? Being the clothes horse that I am this is unacceptable.

I decided to enlist the help of a trainer at a local fitness center. My trainer came highly recommended and her smile put me at ease immediately. She asked the standard questions and I shared about my personal illness and my goals to gain strength and lose weight. We went to work setting up a routine. My end of the deal is work out on my own 2-3 days a week and meet with her on Friday afternoons. She showed me how to set up and properly use the machines.

I was self-conscious at first, but kept telling myself that there isn’t a soul in the gym that cares if I am a newbie. They are there for their own health and well being. There were lots of smiles and people around me were more focused on their own goals.

I am either committed or not. My trainer could sense that I have a lazy streak, so she told me to think of it as my job to show up for work. Tomorrow I will travel 4 hours to Stanford Hospital for a medical procedure and allow myself a day or two to rest, then I plan to show up and get to work.

Update1 : The pandemic has put a halt to any gym activity. I purchased an eliptical and some stretch bands. I live at the beach where taking a walk is not a chore. I also bought a membership to Body Groove and dance myself silly in the living room. I am going to stick with my commitment.

Update 2: Down 6 pounds in one week. Woohoo!

Update 3: I joined an online group that gathers on Zoom to discuss healthy lifestyle choices. They are a great group of local women and I am happy to be on the same journey.

Update 4: Down 10 pounds. Woohoo!! I love my new Vitamix (smoothies in seconds).

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NOTE: A child may be able to recite the alphabet, but not know the sounds.

Phonics is a method of teaching children to read by linking sounds (phonemes) and the symbols that represent them (graphemes, or letter groups).

For many students the two skills are too much to tackle at once. Most reading difficulties are a result of a lack of phonemic awareness (sounds).

*****See my page on Resources for Phonemic Awareness (below) first.


Phonics Sequence:



The most effective phonics instruction is systematic, sequential, and explicit. Teachers give preschoolers plenty of practice before moving on. Your child will read short, easy books containing the particular letter sounds or words they’re working on.

Special Education is Special

I started my teaching career as a Multiple Subject Elementary Teacher. When I moved to the Central Coast, the only teaching job available was in Special Education, which meant I would need to acquire a second credential. I could have waited for a position in general education, but I was asked if I would consider teaching students with disabilities and work toward another credential. I didn’t share that I had a disability myself. It was challenging to work full-time and take courses in the evening, but I did it.

My class was comprised of 12 students with mild to moderate learning disabilities.
A little boy with hydroencephalitis had the most contagious smile. A girl in class who was nonverbal would squeal to show her enthusiasm for story time. Every student worked hard for the smallest of gains. It was the most challenging job I have ever had. It was also where I learned to teach. I thought I knew how to construct lesson plans, but faced with a variety of learning needs meant that I had to craft lessons for individual needs based on assessment, interest and learning styles. Academics were only one hurdle.

My students were often bullied on the playground for their physical challenges as well as inability to pick up on social cues. I had to create a way to protect my students when I wasn’t near to intervene. I taught them to say, “ I know what you look like and if you don’t leave me alone, I will report you.” Empowering them
was a priority. We had class meetings to learn social skills.

I quickly learned that some parents lacked the skills to help their child at home. I started an after-school Parent Club to provide an opportunity to model what was taught in class. One time I only had one parent show up. She shared with me that she never learned to tell time, so she couldn’t help her son. It took such courage to disclose something that personal. I also set up a clothes closet in the classroom so parents could pick out things that fit their children. My time as a special ed teacher was the most rewarding time in my career as an educator.

Continue reading “Special Education is Special”


The farthest I have ever traveled was to Zurich, Switzerland. Unfortunately, it was not planned. Nor was I able to actually see Switzerland. I was traveling to England to see my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughters. There was a blizzard and my plane was re-routed to Zurich. When I arrived in the airport, it was packed with people sleeping on blankets on the floor. Apparently, my flight was one of many that had to land in Zurich. I was overcome with anxiety. The feeling of helplessness was terrifying. I learned how dependent I am on my husband and family members to help me navigate unknowns. I wanted to call my daughter Katie to let her know I was stranded at Zurich Airport, but there were long lines at the phones. I started to cry. A girl in a shop saw me and left her post to come calm me. She introduced herself as ‘Renata’ and said I reminded her of her mother. She asked me if I was okay. She listened to my situation as I sobbed, and she immediately got someone to cover her work while she escorted me to handicapped assistance. There she spoke to a man in what I think was German. She had him arrange for me to be picked up by a taxi and taken to a hotel. The cab driver dropped me off and I went to the hotel desk. They informed me that they had no empty rooms! More sobbing. The man at the desk said he would call the night manager. I was given a room on the third floor. What I did not know is that Renata called my daughter to reassure her that I was okay. I got three hours of sleep and a driver picked me up to take to to the airport. I made it safely to England, thanks to an angel called Renata. She even called again to see if I arrived safely. Someday I want to really SEE Zurich and maybe I will find Renata to thank her properly. If she really is an angel, she already knows how grateful I am.


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Art and Writing

I like to incorporate art into most subjects, especially writing. Reluctant writers respond well to drawing or painting their ideas first, then transforming their thoughts into words. So often students appreciate the opportunity to have a choice in how they express themselves. I generally encourage students to write about their art, which has inspiired creativity in both areas.

Creating comic strips is a good way to introduce art into writing. With the interest in graphic novels, it is not difficult to present this method of writing to students.

Click here to get a free set: https://picklebums.com/free-printable-comic-book-templates/

Another way to use art as an ispiration to write is to post an interesting picture and have student construct a story about it.



Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability.

It runs in families.

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin.

Students with dyslexia usually experience difficulties with other language skills, such as spelling, writing, and pronouncing words. 

Dyslexia occurs in people of all backgrounds and intellectual levels. People with dyslexia can also have problems with spoken language, even after they have been exposed to excellent language models in their homes and high -quality language instruction in school.

What it is like (simulation) Copy and paste the url below.



People with dyslexia do not read backwards. 

Their spelling can look quite jumbled at times not because they read or see words backwards, but because students have trouble remembering letter symbols for sounds and letter patterns in words.

Dyslexia is not a disease and, therefore, there is no cure.

Individuals with dyslexia do not have a lower level of intelligence.

Which of these individuals have (had) dyslexia? All of them!

There are strategies you can use while you are waiting for an assessment. 

Multi-sensory activities                                

Colored transparencies

A “Reading Window”

Allow extra timeReduce anxiety

Dyslexia Resources:




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Learning and Fun

As an elementary school teacher I learned the importance of adding engagement to my lessons. Young students with short attention spans need to move and be actively engaged.. Adding a game can help them stay connected and learn while they are having fun. I am reminded of this quote by Alfred Mercier: “What we learn with pleasure we never forget.”

There are many ways to help children learn while having fun at the same time. A Dollar Store shower curtain liner provided space to create tic tac toe, Alphabet Bingo, Sight Word Racetrack, and handwriting practice. I used washable markers.

We raised trout in our classroom. A guest speaker brought samples of pond water for students to examine and classify bugs they discovered. We took a field trip to a nearby lake to release them.

Sorting seashells by color, size, shape, then counting how many are in each category is fun.

A cardboard box can be transformed into an airplane.

Use Qtips to learn about bones.

Have students draw a scene from a story you read aloud. They can then write about their drawing.


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