Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Tuesday Slice of Life: Uke Can Do It!

Looking to connect with a positive, supportive online community?  Consider sharing a slice of your life with Two Writing Teachers. All writers are welcome! 

Tuesday Slice of Life: Uke Can Do It!

Are you Ready to Learn How to Play the Ukulele? It was mid-December and this email subject line caught my attention. 

I opened the message and read the first part of the message:
Why Uke? Fun, inexpensive and unique, the ukulele's lightweight frame and easy-to-press strings make them compatible for everyone. Uke can do it! 

As a busy mom, wife, and teacher, I had been searching for some sort of class or activity just for me - something that I could just enjoy.

My daughter had a nice ukulele sitting in her closet - one she begged for after a ukulele mini unit at school. Unlike toys or gifts that one of my children loses interest in or outgrows, this one wouldn't go to our local Goodwill or passed along to friends - I could make use of it.

So I signed up. 

Classes began in mid-January. Due to all of our snow days and extreme cold weather, I have only had two lessons so far. I only know a few chords and a handful of songs. It's challenging for me to strum and my fingers don't always move as fast as I would like. Yet I've felt playful and brave - full of joy when I play. 

My daughter's ukulele with music I am learning 

Sam, one of our teachers, urged us to play to relax and wind down instead of viewing it as a chore. So far I have taken his advice. 

I feel good about learning something new. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Book Cover Challenge

Book Cover Challenge

Recently I was invited by my friend Cris via Twitter to post seven covers of books that I love - no review, but just the cover. The challenge requested that each time I posted the cover I was supposed to invite someone new to accept the challenge. I was excited, yet a bit apprehensive. I knew not everyone I tagged would participate (they didn't) and that many of my pals on Twitter had already participated in the same/similar challenge. However, I have loved seeing book covers posted during this challenge, adding many to my to-be-read pile (like these titles: Several short sentences about writing, The Worlds of Harriet Henderson, Heart Talk)

For me, the hardest part of this challenge was not writing anything about books I love. If you couldn't guess, I adore books - reading them, talking about them, writing about them, and simply being surrounded by them.

Below is a bit about each cover I posted in the challenge and what I love about each title:  

Voices in the Air by Naomi Shihab Nye
Naomi Shihab Nye is one of my favorite writers. This is a book that I turn to when I want to find writing inspiration or even for a bit of personal comfort. Her writing is stunning, often bringing out tender emotions when I read her work. Once I heard the author share on a podcast that she often shares with students that we live in poems. Since then, I often think about how we live in poems. 

A Book of Uncommon Prayer by Brian Doyle 
I learned about writer Brian Doyle at one of teacher/author Katherine Bomer's brilliant presentations. I own many of Brian Doyle's books, but one of my favorites is A Book of Uncommon Prayer. What I love most about this book is it reads like a collection of list poems in celebration of the most ordinary things. Ultimately, it is about taking time to notice what's around you and writing about it. This is a book that has served as a mentor text to me before. It's also helped me show up with more gratitude, especially with I am going through something heavy. The late Brian Doyle was an exquisite writer. 

The Journey is Everything by Katherine Bomer
Katherine Bomer's work deeply changed me as a teacher, especially as a teacher of writers. Although I hate to admit this, I used to approach teaching writing through more of a deficit lens. I focused on what students could not do in their writing. I used to teach the dreaded five paragraph essay. I wasn't celebrating what my students could do as writers. The Journey is Everything challenged many of my traditional secondary teacher views; It helped me approach teaching writers in more authentic and purposeful ways, and I learned how to use mentor texts more effectively. The Journey is Everything was one of the books that sparked my journey as serving my students better as writers. 

The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse
by Louise Erdrich
A few years ago a wise woman I know introduced me to an impressive array of new-to-me titles and authors. Her suggestions expanded my reading diet, changing me as a reader and person. One of the titles on this list was Louise Erdrich's The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. By far, this is one of my favorite pieces of fiction. I lingered in Erdrich's beautiful prose and story telling and cared deeply about the characters in this book. Over two years later I still think about this book- how Erdrich's characters dealt with grief and spirituality and about the power of community and humor and forgiveness and redemption. The book also made me think about all of different ways to show and receive love. Just thinking about this book makes me want to reread it. 

That Workshop Book
by Sam Bennett
I was initially drawn to That Workshop Book because of the cover. Yet, the inside is just as great (if not better) than the cover. Although I had read books about the workshop model before, this is the first book that really made sense to me as a teacher and literacy coach. Sam Bennett's writing voice is lovely, inviting, and compelling. She introduces you to remarkable classrooms you want to be a part of. Sam Bennett's work helped me be a smarter instructional coach and teacher. She inspires me to want to keep learning in order to serve my students better and to show up as a better human. When I'm struggling as a teacher, especially in planning and creating meaningful work for my students, I reread this book. It always leaves my soul a little fuller.

A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader
edited by Maria Popova and Claudia Bedrick
I've been an avid follower of Maria Popova's Brain Pickings for a while now. When A Velocity of Being was published I immediately purchased it. This book is filled with gorgeous illustrations, paired with lovely letters to young readers. This is a title that I have been slowly reading just so I can savor it a little longer. My ten-year-old daughter and I have been marveling at this volume, frequently looking up artists. Later this year I hope to use this book as a mentor text with students, integrating art and writing.

The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 3
by Joseph Gordon-Levitt

I first heard about The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories on a teacher blog post (I think from Three Teachers Talk). It is a small volume of tiny stories, accompanied by artwork. I am always searching for possible mentor texts to use with my high school students. This title reminds me that story doesn't have to be long or complicated to be meaningful or poetic. Some stories are quirky and unexpected, while some I found thoughtful and touching. The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories is a quick and fun read; It's often checked out from my classroom library. 

There were many covers that I could have (and wanted to) include in this challenge. Most importantly, this was a great way for me to think about some beloved books and share them. 

Thank you, Cris. 

As Rainer Maria Rielke once remarked, "Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading." 

Touché, Rainer Maria Rielke. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Tuesday Slice of Life: Snow Day Spine Poetry

Looking to connect with a positive, supportive online community?  Consider sharing a slice of your life with Two Writing Teachers. All writers are welcome! 

Tuesday Slice of Life: Snow Day Spine Poetry 

As I compose this post, we are home again from school today, due to Winter Storm Destiny. This is the fifth unexpected day off of school in three weeks. I continue to love extra time at home with my favorite humans and pets, yet I am tired of significantly altering my lesson plans and rescheduling meetings and after school events. And the snow. Did I mention the forecast reports that we are to receive a total 8-12 inches of snow by the conclusion of this storm? 


Don't worry. I have enough books and school work and tasks around the house to keep me busy for days. As I was trying to organize some books last night I got distracted and created a few spine poems:

How the Light Gets In. 

Reader, Come Home.
 Almost Everything: Notes on Hope. 

Stay safe and warm, friends. 

(*I updated this post because I forgot to add Almost Everything to last line in my second Spine Poem!) 

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Tuesday Slice of Life: Inclement Weather

Looking to connect with a positive, supportive online community?  Consider sharing a slice of your life with Two Writing Teachers. All writers are welcome! 

Tuesday Slice of Life: Inclement Weather

Last week's weather "polar vortex" was intense, even for Wisconsin standards. We had three days off of school, due to inclement weather. I've been teaching for nineteen years in Wisconsin, and I do not recall ever having this many days cancelled in one week. 

This meant two days of instruction last week instead of five, which meant lesson adjustments. Meetings were cancelled and rescheduled (and rescheduled again). In addition, this meant that I had a lot of extra time at home with my own children. I always welcome this gift to slow down and be home with my family.

As the parent of a tween and teenager, my kids don't need constant supervision anymore. However, much to the dismay of my children, I am not the kind of parent who allows for unlimited gaming or Netflix viewing. Besides reading, writing, catching up on laundry, and constantly cooking and cleaning up after my kids, we put together many jigsaw puzzles, baked banana bread together, played marathon sessions of inside catch with our dogs, and conducted various home science experiments (such as creating more snow out of boiling water outside). 
Our second puzzle complicated puzzle in a day!  
What happens when you throw boiling water when it's -37 degrees below zero with the wind chill? 

Boiling water instantly turns into snow! 

I also wrote daily Haiku. Here are a few stanzas I penned throughout the week (not necessarily meant to be read as one piece): 

School cancelled prior
snowfall. Robo text alert.
Celebration screams.

Ice crystals dance in
fresh coat driveway snow. Puppy's
tail wag excitement.

Continuous Snow. 
Shovel. Repeat. Break. Shovel.
Nearly nine inches.

Winter skin cracks hands,
lips dry-parched for thirst. Bitter,
stale air circulates.

Paw raising cold. Chill
pricks nose hairs. Bars, churches closed. 
Paused mail service twice. 

Last weekend's temperatures were unseasonably warm. Huge chunks of snow melted, leaving the sidewalks drowning in deep puddles. Freezing temperatures returned, and the last mornings have made for icy sidewalks and side streets. Tonight we are scheduled to receive more snow. 

Although I loved spending more time with my family last week, I hope that Punxsutawney Phil's predicition of early spring proves correct. I am already yearning for Spring!  

Thursday, January 31, 2019

#Mustreadin2019: My List

#Mustreadin2019: My List 

My friend and fellow blogger Elisabeth Ellington of The Dirigible Plum invited me to participate in blogger Carrie Gelson's #Mustreadin2019 Reading Challenge with her at the beginning of January. Since today is the last day in January, I am embarrassingly late to this party. 

From what I understand, the idea is to come up with a list of books that you want to and will commit to read in 2019. These are books of any category, meant to guide your reading for this year. There are even helpful invites to update your progress. 

As a voracious reader, I am game for this challenge. Since the beginning of January I have been trying to cultivate my list, but I admit that it has been more challenging than I initially thought! I keep getting distracted when I hear about new books coming out or when one of my students or friends tells me that I must read something.

Here goes, my Mustreadin2019:

16 titles I must read in 2019
Here's a closer look (none in any kind of order): 

Professional Titles:


Book in Verse:




As I put my list together, I was amazed at how many titles I selected were nonfiction. A little less than a decade ago, I barely read any nonfiction unless I was required to. I only read nonfiction, mostly YA books. It is stunning to see how my reading diet has evolved.  

*Update: I realized that I forgot to name and link a title in this post: Maria Popova's A Velocity of Being: Letters to A Young Reader

Saturday, January 12, 2019



On the first day of 2019, teacher and writer Leigh Anne Eck of A Day in the Life invited writers to publicly set writing goals and share them. I adore this invitation, yet it also caused me to pause. For the past several years I have set personal (and public) reading goals, usually on Goodreads. Each year I set professional goals centered on teacher growth and student learning outcomes. I've made goals about my education, health, my finances, my spiritual life, and even about house projects. 

I realized that I have never set a personal writing goal. 

How can this be? Writing is incredibly important to me. Nevertheless, I have been deeply thinking about an attainable, meaningful writing goal for the past twelve days. Below is what I came up with:

Trina's 2019 Writing Goals:
  • Continue to blog regularly. For me, this means writing and publishing at least three posts a month.
  • Continue daily writing in my writer's notebook - at least three pages each day.
  • Participate in March Slice of Life 
  • Participate in December Haiku-A-Day
  • Write and submit at least one professional piece of writing
  • Submit at least one poem locally or nationally
  • Apply for at least two professional opportunities - one in the form of a grant for classroom needs and the other in terms of professional growth 

Thank you, Leigh Anne, for organizing this challenge, the accountability check-ins, but mostly for engaging me in some deep thinking of what I want to accomplish as a writer this year. 

Thinking about setting a writing goal? Join A Day in the Life and use #letswrite2019

Friday, January 11, 2019

Pieces of My Writing Journey

When I was about eleven or twelve, my dad noticed that I was always buried in my spiral notebook: mapping out stories, creating poems, sketching cartoons, generating lists of characters, writing as much down as I could. Pencil to paper. Always. Being the kind of dad who never missed the opportunity to find a treasure at a yard sale, one day he bounded into our house donning a huge grin about his newest gem - a manual Smith Corona Typewriter. 

My second-hand Smith Corona Typewriter proudly held a spot on my student desk, complete with notepads and pencils surrounding it. Following my daily walk home from school and a substantial snack, I often retreated to my typewriter. I loved the loud clack clack of the keys, the smell of correction fluid, and even pride in owning a typewriter. Most of all, I cherished my time alone nested in my room writing. A few years later I received a new electric typewriter and alternated between using the electric and manual. Throughout middle school and high school, I always found time to write - especially poems, short stories, a few very bad novels, and of course, several research reports. 

In college, I continued to write most days, but little of my writing was personal. Instead my academics took priority, and I wrote research papers, literary analysis, lesson plans, and persuasive essays. Upon graduating from college - also around the time my parents moved - I sold both of my typewriters at our yard sale. I figured that I wouldn't need them anymore since I now had a desktop computer. 

Unfortunately, when I sold the typewriters, I also set aside my personal writing. Of course I had plenty of pens, paper, notebooks, and a desktop computer, but I did not make any time for writing. After all, I was busy - first as a newly minted English teacher, then a wife, next attending graduate school, and finally parenting. 

For at least a decade I forgot how much I loved to write.   

It wasn't until I was in my mid to late thirties that I began writing again. As a part of learning how to be a more effective teacher of writers, I realized that I needed to be a writer myself. Bit by bit, I came back to writing - first creating a writer's notebook for a part of a local training from staff developers of The Reading and Writing Project. Around the same time I discovered the work of Kelly Gallagher, and I starting writing with my students. Several years later, when I became a literacy coach, I began doing a lot more reflecting in my beliefs as a writer and teaching colleagues about writing. 

In the last five years I gradually added back daily writing. Not for any assignments or term papers or because I wanted to write with my students. I carved out time to write just for me. 

It took me a while for me to get into a strong daily writing routine, but now I write at least three full pages a day. My daily writing isn't always uninterrupted or even a place by myself, but I have fiercely held on to my writing routine. 

In retrospect, I wish that I had hung onto my typewriter, especially the manual one. Maybe I would have continued writing. Maybe I would not have stopped writing. This cannot be changed. 

What I am most grateful for is that I came back to writing. 

Tuesday Slice of Life: Uke Can Do It!

Looking to connect with a positive, supportive online community?  Consider sharing  a slice of your life  with  Two Writing Teachers . All...