The Best Part of Me #17

Check out more slices at Two Writing Teachers

Check out more slices at Two Writing Teachers

Do you know this book?

The Best Part of Me by Wendy Ewald

The Best Part of Me by Wendy Ewald

A photographer asked children  “What is the best part of you?” Each child wrote a short essay explaining their best part and it was compiled into a book.

I discovered this book several years ago and introduced it to teachers as a possible writing lesson. They oohed and ahhed as they looked at the book, but that’s as far as it has ever gone. I have never seen evidence that anyone tried it with their class.

This week I walked into a school, hustling down the hall to the room where I would meet with the teachers and stopped in my tracks. On the wall was a small display of black and white photos of body parts and writings below. I didn’t have time to stop at that moment, but knew I would revisit to study the pictures and read the writing. And take photos of their work.

mouth ear mouth 2

I had not introduced the book to this school. I was curious if someone had this book. What I discovered was this writing was from a special education class. The teacher had no clue there was a book . She had seen something on Pinterest and that had prompted her project. She said the kids had loved doing this.

Here are two of them (original spelling retained):

The Best Part of Mehands

My hands are the best part of me. They hlp me turn pages in books so I can read. My hands hlp me lift wood for the fire. I use my hands to blld presnts for my sisters.

feetThe Best Part of Me

My feet are the best prt of me. I can wok inewher with my feet. I can run at reses with my feet. I can stand up with my feet.


So now I must ponder, what is the best part of me?


Back to School

For the last two days I’ve been back to the school that I wrote about at the first of the month. I’ve been back modeling writing lessons in each teacher’s class. It surprises me how quickly these students accept me. I walk past them in the hall and they greet me by name (I have a name tag on), they stop to give me a hug, they ask,  “Are you coming back to our class today?” with a hint of wistfulness in their voice. When I tell them not today, there is a look of disappointment in their eyes. Sometimes there is a look of disappointment in the teacher’s eyes too.

Today I will meet with the teachers on their plan period. The time will go by too fast. I have too much to tell them, it overwhelms me. I was supposed to do a full day of PD on April 6. I would have the teachers for six hours. I had plans to develop an understanding of the structure of writer’s workshop. They would explore the language of six traits. And maybe we could touch on mentor texts. They need to understand these things and how it relates to teaching writing. They need to understand teaching writing is not a formula. They need to understand . . .  but the day has been cancelled. The district has different plans for the teachers. The decision for the PD has been taken out of the building leader’s hands. I will be going back in May to work with the teachers on their plan period for one day. They will not be ready to teach writing in a workshop next year. I am disappointed.

They will try to get funds to bring me back next year. They want me to come back earlier. I want to go back. My work is not finished in this school. I want to make a difference.

It Moved

I never know what the situation will be when I walk into a school. Sometimes there is a sub problem so the principal is shuffling teachers and aides to create the situation where the teachers can attend the PD I am presenting that day.

Location is always an issue. Schools don’t usually have a spare room sitting empty. I have been in a computer lab where there is no table space because laptops cover the tables. You cannot move them because the cords are duct taped to the tables. An art room is not a bad place, but the tables have not been wiped down in weeks. Dried paint, glue, and clay residue are the remnants of a variety of art projects. Or how about start in the library, then after first hour move to a classroom. Of course there are no tables, but only student desks to sit in. I am easy going, I don’t complain, I just make the best of it.

Yesterday was a new experience. I had been working with a different grade level each day, so this was the third and final day. As I prepared to get the materials out for the teachers I noticed there was something on the table. It was sticky, it needed to be gone before the teachers arrived. The workroom is right next to the room we were meeting in and it has a sink with a dishtowel on the counter. I thought I’d just dampen the corner of the towel, wipe the table down, and dry it off. As I walked into the workroom Karen, a literacy coach I work with, said, “They said there are termites all over in here, but I don’t see any.”

Those words did not make me very comfortable, so I began looking around. At first I didn’t see any. Then my eyes scanned the speckled tiled floor. The speckles were moving! “Look at the floor,” I said. “Its moving!”

“Gross!” was her reply as she quickly exited the room. Unfortunately I had to cross the space where they were running to and fro. Quickly I grabbed the towel, stepping carefully to stay away from the swarm. Needless to say, after I wiped the table, I tossed the towel to the counter well away from the pests. Soon a sign appeared on the door, Keep this door closed. Seriously, you don’t think they will escape?

After school there was no sign of the bugs but the bookcase was pulled away from the wall. It did not smell of pesticide. So what does this mean? Will they  munch away all weekend undisturbed or are they gone for good? I only know I won’t be back for a month, so I hope the termites will be terminated before I return.

There Was Nothing to Fear After All

Let me catch you up on the week. On Tueday’s slice of life, I expressed trepidation about my next three working days. I was meeting with teachers (I did not know) on their plan period to talk about writing instruction and then I would spend the next two days modeling a writing lesson in each teacher’s class. It’s always the unknown that causes fear to rise up and grab hold of your mind.

For the most part, I received a very warm welcome (or was it because of the chocolates on the table?). “I am so glad you are here. I have been asking for writing forever!” were phrases I heard on Wednesday. I gave the teachers a comfort level survey of ten items for them to rate just so I could get a feel for what they know about writing. They were open and honest in their appraisal of their knowledge. However, there was one teacher who put a 4 next to every topic (the ratings were 1-4). Maybe the teachers will be able to use her for a resource. The day passed quickly as the teachers came in for their short period. They were truly interested. The teaching-learning facilitator (TLF) stayed by my side all day. She had lots of questions about my thoughts on reading and writing. It was enjoyable to have conversations related to best teaching practices. Later that evening she sent me an email thanking me for a great day.

Thursday began modeling lessons in classes. My first class was third grade and this teacher was eager to learn. I was teaching a lesson about keeping a focus in writing. She whips out her iPad and begins to film the lesson. She is moving all around the room following me and the students as we work through the lesson. That was a new experience for me. Fifth grade was all about discovering common leads in mentor texts. We began an anchor chart of leads (the teacher asked if I could leave it, absolutely I said). Then it was on to a split fourth/fifth grade class. I had a story (it was about swimming and leeches) and the question was did I give enough details to tell it fully? Of course I left a few poignant facts out. This was a noisy group, but we got the job done. Time for lunch and two more lessons before the day is done. After lunch, I went to second grade and the lesson was on beginning sentences in different ways. The day is almost over, but there is one more fourth grade class. My lesson was to be the same one I did in the split class, piece of cake, right? Not so much so. It was the end of the day and they were in no mood to work with me. Let’s just say, I earned my pay during that period.

Friday was for kindergarten, first grade, and another second grade. Do you remember what Friday was? Read Across America day! There were guest readers in and  out. Students with headband Cat in the Hat hats and just general craziness happening all day. All in all, it was a successful day. At 3:45 I get into my car to begin the three and a half hour drive home. I am on autopilot as I navigate the city traffic and head down the road. Finally I am home, now I have a little time to read and comment on some slices before going to bed. I am wiped out with exhaustion.

I go back to this school at the end of the month. I will go with anticipation not trepidation, because I know more about what they are hoping to learn. I can help them down the path of writer’s workshop. For some it will be a bumpy ride, but most want to jump on this roller coaster and take their students for the ride of their life. This will be fun!


Trepidation is defined as a feeling of fear about something that is about to happen, apprehension. This word perfectly describes me when I think about tomorrow. Wednesday, I will be working with teachers and the topic is writing. That should not be a problem. I have been doing PD in schools for the last four years. Presenting is not causing my trepidation.

Trepidation arises because this PD is to be delivered during the teachers’ planning period. First of all, using a plan period does not make teachers happy. Trepidation sets in because I am to deliver information on teaching writing in about forty-five minutes. Really? What can I do to make a difference in that amount of time? I think this will only frustrate the teachers. Trepidation takes over since I don’t know anything about how they teach writing. All I know is “we need help in writing instruction.”

Thursday and Friday will be spent modeling writing lessons in every classroom. Hopefully, I have selected lessons that will demonstrate something useful. My motto is “I am teaching the writer, not the writing.”

At the end of the month I will be back to model lessons once again, and a follow-up with the teachers on their planning period. My final work in this building will be an all day PD with the staff a week after my second round of modeling. I hope this is not a recipe for disaster. I hope this will whet the teachers’ appetite for more information.

Think of me tomorrow. I will let you know what happens.