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March is finally over and no, it did not go by fast…Maybe it was the relentless cold and never-melting snow, maybe some tough times at school, maybe just that March is my least favorite month, but am I glad it’s finally over! The daily writing was a bright spot, although I had a couple of days when I did not feel like writing at all because I was so tired until I actually started writing, and then it was ok.  I wrote every day and loved reading other slicers’ thoughts, reflections, and observations.  I made at least three comments every day and tried to make them meaningful and thoughtful.  One day I posted a few minutes past the midnight deadline, so I won’t be able to do my pledge tomorrow, still, I feel a real sense of accomplishment and I thank you all for the encouragement and support.  I have started my students blogging and many of them have really enjoyed it.  And this was all because of this March SOL challenge – thank you, Two Writing Teachers!  I hope I can meet many of you at the October Saturday Reunion.  I may even drive on my own if there are plans for a NYC get together afterward.  I would love to meet all of you in person.  The connection was real, words do make a difference, they open our hearts, and when that happens, we are all better persons. 

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Our fifth graders have their invention convention this week.  Today they finally brought in all of their work and shared it with their classmates: an egg-breaker, a split water bottle, a solar panel snow remover (how perfect this winter!), a soccer cleat warmer, a backpack/coat hanger, a cooling sport headband, a remote control finder (we get at least a couple every year – will we ever invent one that works?), a volcano eruption emergency kit (!), a complete-care toothbrush (we get a few of these every year too!), a walker/cane combination, and many others.  It’s neat to see ten-year olds thinking of problems they would like to solve.  This year may not be our best year yet, but it’s still great to hear and read about these inventions – even though many are not really original, they are original to them.  Our invention convention has lost some steam, we teachers do not have the time to nurture ideas, it seems – too many other priorities use up our energy.  It used to be a “village” effort.  The ESL teacher, paraprofessionals, teachers (like me) who do not teach science, specials teachers – we all used to get involved in helping our children moving from an idea to a prototype.  Not anymore.  I was talking to my colleagues at the end of the day and shared these thoughts.  Can we get our administrators to consider more project-based learning in class? Our invention process relies too much on work done at home, an unfair expectation for many of our students.  Maybe next year. Next year is another year. Maybe.

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March 29 and the first day my driveway does not have any ice patches.  Finally.  It has been a cold sunny day, but the sun is high so yesterday’s snow did not stick.  I took Jack out for a walk. I wore my heavy winter coat, gloves, and boots.  I almost put on ear muffs but then I decided to brave the cold breeze. No one was out.  The neighborhood was quiet.  Once we got at the end of the street onto the main road a few cars went by.  Jack sniffed and the birds were noisy.  Yes, definitely a spring noise.  No smells of spring though.  The roads are dirty, wet, lots of sand. There is still lots of snow on the lawns facing north or shaded by tall trees. We did not meet any other dogs, did not see any deer, only one other walker.  I walked briskly up and down the hills. We walked for over 75 minutes.  Even Jack was tired as we returned home up our steep driveway.  A quiet walk. I did not do much thinking either, just observed Jack, watched a bit disappointed my still wintry surroundings, longing for more signs of rebirth.  The days are longer, though, definitely much longer.  The sunset viewed from the second floor picture window promised summer days ahead. Did I say summer? 

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What are you dreaming about? Of when you were a puppy? When you were snuggling with your siblings after a warm meal? Or are you dreaming of wide spaces, of galloping free just for the pure joy of it? Or of chasing a deer in the woods? Whatever it is, I wish I were there with you.

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Soup kitchen tomorrow.  Our small group meets for breakfast at Thread City Diner, downtown Willimantic, an old mill city that is trying to reinvent itself after a long time of urban decline, poverty, a reputation for heavy drug circles and related crime.  After breakfast we head to the nearby Covenant Soup Kitchen, the only one serving this corner of northeastern semi-rural Connecticut. We serve lunch to about 70-to-100 people, depending on weather and day of the month.  Tomorrow will be cold again and the end of the month, so it will probably be crowded.  The soup kitchen is well run and in the six years I have volunteered it only had two incidents of unruly behavior, both in the last year.  The kitchen manager, a slight tough woman in her sixties, can handle these incident swiftly and efficiently.  She knows her customers, and the great majority support her in her efforts to keep a clean and safe environment, where kids are sometimes present.  I am always in awe at her practical, efficient, down to earth, but caring ways. These few Saturday mornings I work at the kitchen keep me grounded.  At breakfast we catch up with the happenings in our lives and feed our bodies and souls.  Tomorrow we will also share our memories of Jane, a fellow volunteer who died a couple of weeks ago after battling reoccurring cancer.  It will be a good day.  

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I can’t stop thinking about the plane crash in the French Alps – the frantic attempt to break into the cockpit, the screaming passengers, the 8-minute descent to their death.  What is it like to know you are going to die that soon, that quickly?  Prayers?  Probably.  Closing your eyes and just meditate.  What would I do? What if my daughter were with me? I would hold her hand and tell her that it will be ok, that we will be together forever.  I would tell her to think of nonna and nonno, of Gianfranco, of grandma and grandpa.  I can’t imagine, really.  What would anyone do?  What were those sixteen teenagers thinking?  It’s so hard to imagine what is unthinkable.  And then I think about all the terrible tragedies that happen every day all over the world.  There are worse things.  I think of those hundreds of school girls abducted in Africa last year, girls whose parents still don’t know what happened to their children – were they sold? Are they enslaved? Are they alive? Are they suffering terribly? Why is it that one tragedy leads you to think about other horrible tragedies? Somehow I can’t feel grateful for what I have. I mean, I am grateful, but I am also angry about the unfairness of it all.  About the chance that life is.  Being born here and not there. Being born free and safe.  And still, the chance that all can be lost in no time.  I guess the answer must be acceptance – acceptance that life is unfair, that life is fleeting and so is happiness, acceptance of the fact that everything is temporary and we must treasure the moments we have.  Why did I get mad at my husband for yelling at our dog? It was just an irrational moment, he did not hurt the dog, he was just annoyed by him.  Acceptance of our own faults, because those too are part of life, and if we could appreciate every moment, then we would not be human, humans are not perfect.  So, acceptance I guess is the answer.

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I am really enjoying reading my students’ blogs!  I started them on Kidblog a few weeks ago and now about half of my students are writing daily sharing mostly about real slices of their lives.  Today Abby wrote about her sister because her sister asked her to write about her. So she described what her sister was doing while she was writing – dancing crazy dance moves to the songs that Abby was playing for her. Emma write about how she listens to music while she does her homework.  She said that music helps her focus on her work and makes even TenMarks math problems go faster. Joe wrote about how he has been staying at a friend’s house this week and he is not even allowed to enter his own house – I wonder what he means by that… And the friends he is taking with keeps wrestling him and he is now all broken up because his friend is 3 years older than he is.  And Lindsey wrote about how her mom and brother kept telling her to hurry up because it was getting late for “religion” and she was finishing writing her slice and could not stop so they three of them were rushing to get to “religion” class and she walked in while the teacher was taking attendance.  And Steven started with “Once upon a time at the Magic Kingdom…” and then went on to talk about his ride on Space Mountain and how it felt like you were really in space and could see the stars while going on circles, twists, and turns. And Anna wrote about her Guinea pig which was running like crazy in her cage and flipped over her castle.  And Samie wrote about how she dislikes TenMarks because it takes her forever solving the problems and that I would see the score so she wants to do them right.

I love writing my comments to each of their posts.  I can’t wait to read more about them and see how their posts get better and more interesting each day.  The power of writing every day! Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!