SOL Day 31

That delicious-looking creation is the Jersey Freeze Thin Mint milkshake. It was 60° and gorgeous today, so Chris and I got ice cream. We had to enjoy the weather because tomorrow night it’s supposed to snow. Yup, snow. Nope, it’s not an April Fool’s joke. Crazy, huh?

Today is the last day of the Slice of Life Challenge. Despite my constant reminders to spread out the required 40 comments and to keep track of them in the required Googledoc as they went, most of my students did not listen. I know this because I’m fielding frantic emails. Sorry guys- I warned you before we started that there is no comment search function on Edublogs! I’m also approving dozens of comments every time I log on to the blog. Luckily, they have to be done by 11:59pm!


SOL Day 30

Happy spring break!

Today I did all the things I can’t normally due when I’m at work.  I started my morning by dropping the dogs off at doggy daycare.  Then I headed towards Mercer County to do some pet store shopping and some bird watching.  I picked up some clearance items at the mom + pop pet store, then I headed over to my favorite place to hike and look for birds: Mercer Meadows.

Mercer Meadows is about 1600 acres of trails, forests, meadows, and ponds/creeks.  The bird-watching is amazing and during the winter I can’t get over there during the week because it gets dark so early.  Today I spent a few hours wandering the trails and watching the harriers and red-tailed hawks hunt.


Harriers, like the one in the photo above (that I took today) hunt by hovering in place over meadows and listening/watching for voles and mice.  This girl tried to catch several rodents while I watched her, but she never succeeded.  As she hunted, the trio of red-tailed hawks circled high above her, screaming.

I also spotted what was most likely a raccoon sleeping high up in a tree, but it was hard to tell from the ground  (and I was pretty far away).  What do you think?  Does it look like a raccoon?  I’m thrown off because it was so out in the open and I’ve only seen raccoons sleeping in dens/holes in trees in the past. The reddish hue in the fur is also strange, though it could be a trick of the light.


After hiking about 3 miles, I headed to grab a Lent-friendly lunch of tuna salad at a nearby cafe.  I enjoyed my tuna salad on a baguette while reading my book, reveling in the fact that I was out during the day.  As a teacher, eating lunch outside of my classroom/the cafeteria/the faculty room isn’t possible, so a lunch in a cafe without a time limit seemed especially luxurious.

After running a few more errands, I headed pack to doggy daycare to pick up the Aussies.  I was thrilled to learn that my friend had groomed Dublin and cleaned him up, because he desperately needed it!  The dogs were completely wiped out by the day o’ fun and so am I!

This was only the first day of spring break, but I feel like I spent it living my best spring break life.

SOL Day 29

This is the face of a dog who found a possum at 5am. He wants to know why he’s not allowed back outside where the possum is.

We hadn’t seen our possum friend on a few weeks, but the dogs found him first thing this morning! Luckily, Chris was with them and was able to shop them away from their new friend when he decided to play possum. Last time this happened, I learned that they can play dead for up to four hours! Thankfully, the dogs did their business with Chris and remained inside while I was at work. As soon as I let them outside after work they were on the hunt, though! It’s astounding how much they can remember. They immediately ran to the spot where they’d last seen him!

Don’t worry- Navan had fun today, too. Our afternoon walk at the park was very “mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful”.

Yes, he’s digging in a giant puddle of mud. Yes, he loved it. We took a 1.5 mike walk and there were mud puddles everywhere. He was in his glory!

I am officially on spring break, so we have many hikes to look forward to over the next few days!

SOL Day 28

Back to work today. I made it through the day and walked the dogs another mile after work, so everyone is happier today. However, I’m exhausted.

Can you figure out which day I was sick? Lol.

I ate a real dinner tonight and made sure I drank lots of fluids today; both of these helped a lot. However, I’m still completely exhausted. I tried to sit down and read for a bit, but it was a lot cause.

Luckily, there’s only one day more (and now I’m singing Lee Mis in my head) until spring break. The weeks between winter and spring break are the longest weeks of the year, so I’m very excited for the bell to ring tomorrow afternoon. Woohoo!

SOL Day 27

Sick days are the worst.

I woke up at 4am and was sick as a dog. At 5:30am I called out of school and began throwing some plans together. Calling out sucks because you have to figure out plans for the day while you likely can’t even see straight. I managed to cobble something together (thank goodness for Google Classroom) and fell asleep.

I was also supposed to go to my middle school enrichment class’s end of course celebration tonight. Chalk up another win for technology: FaceTime. I popped in via FaceTime for a few minutes and promptly collapsed again after hanging up.

When I’m sick I usually keep the TV on in the background to drown out any noises outside. It’s like my own white noise machine. Today I started with the local news, then Good Morning America, next a few episodes of Friends, and finally a few hours of Law and Order. None of the shows require brainpower and none of them are too loud: perfect sick day television.

And now that my Slice is done, I’ll be passing out again.

SOL Day 26

Every March I challenge my 9th grade students to participate in the Slice of Life Challenge.  They do not have to complete 31 entries, but I encourage them to do so.  Along with helping my students get in the habit of writing each day, the challenge also helps them with time management.  They essentially choose their own grade.  A simplified version of the grading sheet is below:

A+  (100):  Superior effort.

The writer has completed at least 28 slices and up to 31. 


A (95):  Amazing effort.

The writer has completed at least 20 slices and up to 27. 
B (91): Excellent/Above average effort. (Although A and B projects possess many of the same features, the number of entries, style, originality, and level of excellence of the A project are exceptional.)

In addition to meeting the “C” level requirements, this project goes further by completing 11-19 slices during the month of March.  


C (84): C work is clear, competent, and controlled, but its style, originality, sophistication, and level of critical thinking are undistinguished. Overall, writing, depth, and sophistication of thought are average.

The writer has completed 10 entries during the month. The slices are a competent response to the assignment:  they meet, to some degree, all the assignment requirements, and demonstrates that the author has put significant time and effort into communicating his/her ideas to his/her targeted audience.   

Students who complete all 31 blog entries will receive 5 points of extra credit.

When I assign the project in February the students always groan.  They are horrified by the prospect of writing a blog entry every day and can’t imagine having anything to say.  However, they want those extra credit points, so many of them set out to do all 31 entries.

Guess what?  Most of them end up loving the assignment.  Today I reminded some of the students that they only had a few more days of entries to complete.  They groaned, but this time it was from disappointment!  They told me they will miss the entries when the month ends and they wish it was an assignment all year long.  I think they’d lose interest if they had to write everyday all year long, but it’s awfully nice to hear that they enjoyed the writing they did this month.  Most students end up loving the assignment, but I worry every February.

SOL Day 25

When I head to school tomorrow morning I will be able to say there are only 3 more wake-ups until spring break. That sounds manageable, right?


The weeks (months!) between winter break and spring break always seem never-ending.  For weeks, I’ve been making lists of things I can’t wait to do during spring break.  The list consists of things I can’t do during the school year:

  1. Read a whole bunch of books that I pick.  Not books I have to read, but books I have been dying to read.
  2. Sleep past 7am.  I’ll still get up at 5:15am to walk the dogs with Chris, but then I plan to head back to bed.
  3. Walk the dogs in the middle of the day.
  4. Eat lunches that I don’t pack myself.
  5. Go shopping!
  6. Write a whole bunch of stuff.
  7. Binge on a bunch of shows I’ve fallen behind on, like Law and Order: SVU.

Just four more days until spring break starts.

This will be me in just a few days.

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SOL Day 24

I spent most of my day at the NJCTE Spring Conference at Montclair State University.  NJCTE is the local affiliate of the National Council of Teachers of English; we have a small fall conference each year, but the big conference is always in the spring.  I did not present this year, so it was nice to be able to go and learn for the day.  There were about 200 people registered and a great group of authors on the speaking schedule.

I woke up bright and early to arrive at Montclair by 9am. I ended up skipping the first session of workshops to catch up with some friends and talk about books and teaching, but I learned a ton at the second and third session.  In the second session, I had the opportunity to learn about some amazing, new-to-me contemporary poets and ways to bring them into the curriculum.  I’ve already ordered books by Ocean Vuong, Rachel McKibbens. and Clint Smith.  I left the workshop feeling inspired to integrate more poetry into my curriculum.

During the third session I was able to attend my friend Oona’s workshop.  Oona is my fellow #nerdcampNJ organizer and we are always running around at Nerdcamp or presenting at the same time, so it was great to have the opportunity to learn from her.  I walked out of her session about reading workshop in secondary school with a ton of great ideas.

The day ended with a keynote by author Jason Reynolds and he was as inspiring as he always is.  I’ve had the pleasure of learning from Jason a number of times and he always forces his audience to think and then pushes them to think even more critically about their relationship with their students.  He’s an inspiration  (and his books are pretty awesome, too).

I didn’t get home until almost 6:30pm because we had a board meeting immediately following the conference; I left my house again at 7:30 to drive to my parents for a birthday celebration.  Needless to say, I’m exhausted!  But I’m looking forward to decompressing a bit tomorrow and ordering some new poetry books!

SOL Day 23

Tonight Dublin and I participated in a read to the dogs event. We usually do this once per month, but with the holidays and winter weather we hadn’t had an event since November. It took him a few minutes to settle in, but he did some great work tonight!

Dublin loves working with kids, and kids who need him usually find him. He’s worked with kids diagnosed with autism and with kids with cerebral palsy. He loves reading with kids and will gladly sit and listen to them. Tonight he spent an hour with a young girl who was scared of dogs. Her family is hoping to get her a support dog, but they were worried about her fear of dogs. They came to read to the dogs so that she could see how nice dogs can be.

Well, I think it worked! She was immediately drawn to Dubs and went on to spend an hour with him. By the end she was hugging him and giving him treats! She read a few books to him (and made sure he looked at the pictures). He put up with being pet a little rough, and she learned how to be gentle with puppies.

Dubs has been a therapy dog for about 5-6 years now. It’s definitely my favorite thing to do with him and I highly recommend looking into therapy dog work if your dog is comfortable around strangers.