It’s Just Not the Same

My father passed away yesterday.  The first thing I wanted to do was to hug my mother and my sister. But that was not possible.  Instead, I talk to them through a phone and tell them I love them.. It’s just not the same. My friends reach out to me- virtual hugs they say.  It’s just not the same.  

Everyone needs time to process, to grieve, to spend time with family, to cry together, to laugh together, to comfort one another, and to remember.   Instead, we gather together online, not face to face. It’s just not the same.

We plan a burial that only a few can attend.  The funeral that would honor his life can not be held.  Maybe later. When this is over. When will that be a few weeks? Months?  So we wait and watch and mourn in our own way – separated from each other.  Not just by miles, but by stay-at-home orders and restrictions. It’s just not the same. 

As we try to figure out what our “new normal” will be,  We remember the man he was, the life he lived, and reflect on the good times.  We laugh at funny stories, remember happier days, and better moments. Our love and sense of family will carry us through the days ahead.  Friends will still call and check in.  We will continue to hold each other up, remind each other of our love, and take some time to remember him. 

And just maybe it will be okay that it is not the same.  




“If you look closely, you can see it. You can almost touch it.”
“Some people pay a lot of attention to it. Some don’t.”
“The more you try to hold it… the better it hides.”
“I’ve shut my eyes, gone to sleep, stared at the sun, run backward really fast, but it keeps going.”
“Where does it go? Can we stay longer?”
(From FOREVER OR A DAY by Sarah Jacoby)

You cannot hold it and you can’t give it to someone else. You can’t get it back, but you can treasure it.

Time…  The time we have. The time we give.  The time we had with you.

Twenty-nine years ago, you captured our hearts. During the time we had with you, we shared many small moments and some big ones, too. When you were little, you spent a lot of time with us. We thought of you as one of our own,  and we saw the light and sparkle you possessed. So many memories, so many laughs and days we will remember. Even then, you loved fiercely and knew what you wanted. Your laugh was contagious and you already had a sense of style. You rocked the little black dress, way back when.

Over time, your beauty continued to grow on the inside and outside. Your laugh become a bit more infectious, the eye rolls a bit more pronounced, your opinions more impassioned. One thing that didn’t change was your love of children.  When you spoke about “your kids”, your eyes would light up. They were your mission.  As years passed, we’d catch up with a text or short visit – always special.  But, time caught up with us.

Cancer doesn’t care about time. It steals time from those we love. It robs us of the days ahead. But in typical fashion, you weren’t about to let that happen. Instead of letting time take control, you took charge.

You faced cancer head-on with humor, grace, determination, and strength. Even when you knew you were running out of time, you made sure that the time you spent on this earth made a difference. You knew the importance of making the most of the time you had. Your time mattered.  It continues to matter; it will always be part of us.

We thought we had a little more time with you, but we were wrong.  Just one more afternoon,  one more conversation,  maybe that would make us satisfied.  It would only make us wish for one more.  So, we treasure the time we had with you.


***Susannah Levin lost her battle with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer on August 11, 2018.  She was 29 years old. Susannah’s final wish was to continue helping children, which was truly her life’s work. She didn’t want other kids and their families to suffer needlessly from this disease. Please considering donating to honor her memory and help a child.

There are two ways to do this.

1)Create your own team at

Set a goal and start raising money to support kids and their families!!

2)Donate to the Levin family’s “team” at  http://events.stjude.org/susloveskids

Blogs, Thoughts

Going Home

IMG_4582I have lived in New Jersey for over 30 years, but “home” is still in Pennsylvania.  It is where I was born, where most of my family still lives, and where I have my roots.  There is a peace and familiarity to it; a calmness and comfort in its landscape.  When I am driving to visit, there’s a point in my ride that changes – I slow down, the road starts to curve and wind, my body starts to relax and I take in the scenery.  There are mountains in view, wide open expanses of land, cornfields and farmlands, and brilliant blue skies.  I forget the beauty of this area; the simple charm of the country.  I am home.

Home hasn’t changed very much in these past 30 years.  The door is still open and anyone can walk in and be greeted by my mom or dad.  Mom is in the kitchen, on her chair or on the phone.  Dad is puttering around out back, inventing something in the garage or “resting” on his chair.  Some things never change.

As I walked into the house this past weekend, I realized how very fortunate I am (at 53 years old) to have both of my parents in my life.  I am lucky to be able to spend time with them.  Throughout the weekend, I was reminded that they have their own routines and habits.   I come in on a whirlwind with suggestions and changes – “You should… You shouldn’t… Why don’t you…” My ideas are usually met with resistance. I realize I need to dial it back and slow it down, ask them what they need, not always what I think they should do. (As my sister and I learned, they aren’t going to do it anyway!)

We spent the weekend running errands, buying new phones (for the umpteenth time!), sharing lunches, dinners and just hanging out.  My husband came along this weekend, my daughter and her boyfriend also stopped by to visit.  It was a full house- even the dog was along this time.  The house was busy, chaotic and filled with activity.  At the end of the day, we were given the gift of a sudden snowstorm, which made everyone slow down and reconnect.  We sat around the kitchen table, played a game of cards, went for a drive in the worst of the snow and just hung out.  I loved watching my parents interact with our dog.  They insist they don’t like animals, buy my mother kept feeding him all weekend and my dad even took him outside on the leash – a sight that has never been seen.  They also talked to him whenever anyone wasn’t around.

It was the little things I was thankful for: helping my mom with  the wash, putting away the leftover items from Christmas, “making the beds”, and yes, even inputting dads phone contacts manually on his newest flip phone.  I know that coming up on a weekend once in awhile isn’t enough.  It can’t compare to the daily responsibilities my sister has because she lives close by.  But, maybe, just maybe it is enough for that moment.  For a fleeting time, my parents’ weren’t sitting alone, the house wasn’t so quiet, and maybe they were just as happy to have me there as I was.

I can still “go home”.   I know that needs to happen more frequently.  As I was leaving my dad kept thanking me for coming and held on a little more tightly as we hugged goodbye, my mom said she wished we could come more often.  That’s all they want- the gift of our presence and time.  “Go home” if you can.



Reconnecting 2018

It’s been awhile since I even looked at this blog.  Time, family, and everyday living took me away from posting.  2018 is my year to reconnect.  Reconnect with family, friends, and also other teachers.  I have been inspired to share and learn from others lately.  I love the power of connection.

I work with an amazing team of educators.  It was while I was out on disability leave for 11 weeks (total knee replacement) that I realized how important it is to be “connected”.  I am an absolute “control freak” and was very worried about leaving my classroom and the staff that I consider my family.  Eleven weeks was a long time – I didn’t even miss that much time when I had my two children.

Luckily for me, those eleven weeks were a gift.  A gift of time to heal, rejuvenate, and reflect.  During my time recuperating, I had time for me.  I was worried I would lose my connection to my class and my school.  I shouldn’t have worried.  From frequent text messages from by colleagues telling me they missed me to opportunities to Face time with my class to emails that kept me in the loop!  Everyone made me feel like I was still a part of my special “work” family.  I also stayed in touch with the academic world by following many teacher groups on Facebook and following Twitter to keep me motivated and interested.

I could come back to my class rejuvenated and ready to try out some new ideas.  I am eager to jump back in to the mix!  My goal is to get back to blogging, sharing and connecting with others.  2018 is the year!

Professional Development

The Best PD Ever!

“The Most Valuable resource that all teachers have is each other.  Without collaboration our growth is limited to our own perspectives.” by Robert John Meehan

The Best PD Ever!   Those aren’t words that usually go together.  I have seen my share of professional development topics and presentations over the course of my thirty years as an educator – some good, some bad, and many somewhere in between.  However, this year I truly experienced the best professional development opportunity of my teaching career.  When forming groups for our district tech PD,  I decided to take a leap of faith and go outside my comfort zone when choosing a partner for our PD TECH group.   I could have partnered with someone from my school, but I always encourage my students to think differently and try something new.  How could  I continue to ask them to follow my advice if I didn’t practice what I preach?  So, during the initial planning phase of this newly formed group, I sought out someone new.  As I listened to the High School art teacher across the room’s  ideas and thoughts, it led me to think that we had a lot more in common than I thought.  Maybe, a high school art teacher and a fifth grader teacher could offer each other something?  Amazingly, she was feeling the same way.  Now, we consider it fate that we joined forces.  We learned that we shared many of the same thoughts and views about teaching and learning.  We challenge and encourage each others’ thinking and push each other to try new and interesting lessons and ideas.  We support and defend each other when trying something new.

This collaboration led us down many avenues.  We taught a class to our fellow colleagues called – CREATE CONNECTIONS.  However, the strongest connection was the one we forged together along that journey.  In presenting professional development to others, we were the recipients of the most powerful and valuable resource teachers can receive and that is the gift of sharing with one another.   As mentioned in the quote above, our perspectives and ideologies extended beyond our own limitations.  The force and source of our collaboration energized my teaching and encouraged me to try new and innovative ideas, as well as challenge my comfort level.  I wish that everyone could experience the gift of such a valuable friend.  I encourage every teacher to value, connect and seek out the resources right under their noses – their colleagues.  Broaden your perspectives, look outside your circle of friends, collaborate with another teacher.  You will not regret the decision.  I feel blessed and fortunate to have met this amazing woman and colleague that I now call friend, soulmate, and my best PD ever!  Thank you, Karen!


The Best Time to Shine…

It was two days before winter vacation and all through the classroom, students were learning and sharing… the best time to shine!

Yes! What a novel idea!  Learning and sharing, working and writing before vacation time?  A few disgruntled parents took to social media to complain that their children had a project due two days before winter break.  (No one mentioned that it was assigned a month ago.)  Well, I disagree.  Why shouldn’t students be working in class before winter break?  We have over ten days off – that’s the time for a break.

Anyone who has every spent any time with children knows how hard it is to keep a class focused during holiday season.  I want my kids to continue to stay engaged and active.  This time before winter break was perfect for a long term assignment.  Complete the work BEFORE the break.  Work hard; then play.  That’s my philosophy.

My students love to learn and enjoy the challenge of learning and exploring new information and ideas.   I capitalized on their lead.  They were excited about their assignment, so much so that many of them came to school early or stayed after class to work on their project.  This project was theirs to complete.  They could do it!  I had faith in them.  I set the bar high, but not too high that they wouldn’t be successful.

Today, I listened and observed my students sharing their projects and investigations with each other and the other classes in our school.  I knew I made a wise choice.  My students couldn’t wait to showcase their work.  They wanted to see what their classmates had done.  They were proud of the effort and care that was taken to complete each part of the assignment.  The quality of their research, creativity, and originality were top notch.  Everyone marveled at how each person’s project was unique. Every student put their own “stamp” on this assignment.  They met the expectations with flying colors.

Today was a blur. The day flew by so quickly. And…

All through the classroom my students were learning, not a student was bored or wasting their time.

It was the best time to allow them to shine!



Have You Seesawed Today?


Seesaw – The Learning Journal is a must have for any classroom.  This is my second year using Seesaw with my students.  I love it so much that I became a Seesaw Ambassador.  Two of my colleagues have become Ambassadors as well.

The power and possibilities of using Seesaw are only limited by your creativity and imagination.  Seesaw allows our students to share their work in a safe environment. We choose whether we want to have an Individual or Class Sign In.  Since grades 3 – 5 have 1:1 iPads, we use Individual Sign In, and Grades K – 2 use Class Sign In mode because they share iPads.   Students and teachers make decisions about what to add to individual Seesaw accounts.  It’s as easy as a push of a button or two.  We recommend starting out small – take some pictures and post them to student accounts.  Have your students take a picture and add their own work to Seesaw.  Check out the Seesaw website for a ton of great ideas, but here are some we have personally used:

  • explaining students’ math thinking
  • sharing writing samples
  • recording students’ reading
  • showcasing “best work”
  • reflecting on the week or a specific assignment
  • setting goals for a marking period, unit, or topic of study
  • adding movies and stories
  • sharing a “snapshot” of what happens in the classroom
  • recording a sample of students practicing their musical instrument
  • submitting an assignment and having students respond in Seesaw
  • sharing a link with your students
  • annotating a picture
  • labeling a map or diagram

Growth and progress are documented in a fun and easy way.  Stories, movies, projects are stored inside Seesaw – no more worrying about having enough memory or trying to search email for each student’s work. It’s all right at your fingertips.  Seesaw even has folders to help you organize the items.  Seesaw plays very nicely with a ton of other apps.  You can easily add items from PicCollage, iMovie, Tiny Tap, Shadow Puppet, Keynote, and even Google Docs and Pages!

Parents can be invited to view their student’s Seesaw Journal.  We love seeing their comments and the feedback has been amazing.  Seesaw has given our parents a glimpse into  our classrooms.  Items added to a child’s Seesaw account can be a great discussion starter at the dinner table.  The question, “What did you do at school today?” takes on a whole new level when a parent has a specific item for a reference.

Teachers can comment and respond to student work, as well.  Students can share their thoughts and reflections on items they post.  Kids and teachers alike at our school have turned Seesaw into a verb- “Don’t forget to Seesaw that project.”  “I’m going to Seesaw this picture.” “Are you Seesawing again?”

We can’t wait to see what you can imagine and create using Seesaw.  The possibilities are endless.  Well, what are you waiting for?  Get started! Start Seesawing!




Take Time to Tweet

Why Twitter?  My colleague and friend, Karen, says that Twitter follows the laws of the universe.  It’s there for you when you need it.  You will always find something that applies to you.  Whether you decide to spend a few minutes a day or dive in for a longer visit, I can guarantee you will find something tailored just for you!

I started following Twitter last year when I was trying to figure out what my daughter was posting.  (Yes, I am a stalker mother.)  Her posts were harmless and fun, so I started exploring.  I noticed that many educators were on Twitter.  What was all the fuss?  What could it do for me?

I tiptoed very slowly at first. Where to start?  I searched for bloggers or apps I followed. Then I found them on Twitter.  Monica Burns, Seesaw, and Pernille Ripp were some of my first follows.  From there, I spread my wings and dove deeper into the world of Twitter.  I was a “lurker” at first – watching posts flow into my feed.  I followed some other folks and found that there really was something for everyone.  No matter when I went on to check my feed, there was at least one post that applied to me or my teaching.

This past summer after attending the ISTE convention, I was determined to figure out how to get more involved in the Twitter World.  Susan M. Bearden and the app she created, TweechMe, was instrumental in helping me figure it all out.  I learned how to follow someone, send a tweet favorite a tweet, Retweet, reply and so much more.  All throughout this journey, I would find an article, a suggestion, an inspirational quote or comment that inspired me or related to my teaching practice.  It was Professional Development whenever I wanted.  And it was good and practical advice.  It energized my thinking.

Twitter chats were my next challenge.  Someone has said, that participating in a Twitter chat is like drinking from a fire hydrant.  Yes, it is, but I wanted to take at least a sip.  I sputtered and stumbled at first and felt a bit overwhelmed by the tweets flowing past me at rapid speed.  But once I realized I just needed to get a taste, not guzzle the whole thing chats became an integral part of my Twitter experience.  TweetDeck was a great resource to help me figure out how to jump in and join chats.  I also stumbled upon #NT2T (New Teachers to Twitter) and #satchat.  These two chats got me totally hooked.  From there my addictive personality took over and I started checking Twitter more frequently, interacting with others, and sending out my own original tweets. Twitter is my new learning experience.  It helps me remember what it is like to be a learner, while continuing to enlighten and encourage me.

My goal for this year is to spread the word about Twitter and convince my colleagues and others to jump into the world of Twitter.  So here I am- spreading the word.  Give Twitter a try.  You’ll be glad you did.

Connections, Thoughts

The Power of Connecting


Create connections.  What does that really mean?  “Being connected is about getting to know new people who can stretch your thinking but also sharing knowledge to help make schools stronger than they once were.  Being connected is about sharing best practices.

No one person is smarter than the collective ideas and thoughts of everyone together. Individually we may have expertise, but that expertise is made stronger through connecting and sharing with others. (DeWitt, Peter – 15 Reasons Why Educators Should Be Connected, Link: http://corwin-connect.com/2015/03/15-reasons-why-educators-should-be-connected/?utm_campaign=shareaholic&utm_medium=email_this&utm_source=email))

I always felt that I made positive connections and shared with others, but I tended to play it safe and work with those in my immediate surroundings.  However, in the process of planning for professional development, I made a conscious effort to connect “outside my comfort zone”.   What if I partnered with someone I didn’t know that well?  What if I branched out and tried something new and different?  What if a fifth grade teacher and a high school art teacher had something to share with others? Well, it was worth a try.  Instead of joining the colleagues I worked with every day, I chose someone from across the room, someone who was sharing ideas very similar to mine.  The minute I sat down with her, I felt like a met my match.  She had already sketched out ideas and made a list – just like I had done.  Her “wheels” spin as fast as mine do.  The more we talked, the more I knew that this new partnership was going to be a “game changer”.

As we have gotten to know each other during the summer, we have found many more similarities than differences.  We compliment each other.  We work well together.  We challenge each other’s thinking.  Together, we are an inspirational whirlwind – look at there’s always something brewing.

We are a symbiotic pair.  We both benefit from our collaboration and newfound friendship.  The power of our thoughts and ideas increases, grows, and develops.  I am excited to see where our journey may lead.  Thank you Karen, for traveling with me!

Reflecting, sharing, and collaborating are at the core of good teaching and learning.  During this year, we hope help each other to tell our stories.  As you head into the start of a new year, create some new connections.  When sharing thoughts and ideas, make sure you add some new chapters to your story.  Look outside your “circle”, connect with someone from across the room, widen your horizons, and remain open to new possibilities.  As this new year begins, challenge yourself to try something new, create a new connection. Who knows where it will take you?


The Teacher I Am Today

IMG_1408Yesterday, I had the pleasure of having lunch with this wonderful group of women.   These women are intelligent, kind, funny, brave, strong, independent, and amazing.  Who are they?  For many years they were my colleagues, teaching alongside me. Along the way, we became friends.  Today, all but one is retired.  They were there when I was getting started as a teacher.  They were the “experienced” ones and I was the new teacher.

Coincidentally, later that afternoon I was scheduled to welcome the new staff to our district.  One of the reasons I felt compelled to volunteer to greet our new staff was because of these ladies.  I wanted to give back what they had given me.    These women played such an important role in shaping me as a educator and human being.   They were the veterans and experienced ones.   This year,  I will be  the “veteran” teacher in my school and I hope I am able to do for others what was done for me.   They taught me what it means to be a teacher by their words and more importantly by their actions.  I was blessed to have such wonderful role models and guides.  Each one taught me something special and unique.  They weren’t assigned to be my mentors, but they “took me under their wings” and contributed a piece to my puzzle.  I learned so many things from my unofficial mentors – organization, parent communication, classroom management, interacting with peers, standing up for myself, identifying learning problems. pacing my lessons, connecting with students, loving my job – the list goes on.  They helped me develop my core values and beliefs about teaching and learning.  They taught me the importance of asking questions, getting involved, showing confidence, and respecting others.  They celebrated my successes and stood by me in difficult times.  I learned that a good teacher is first a good person.  I learned a good teacher is always a learner and lover of knowledge.  I learned that if I did what was in the best interest of my students, I was making the right decision.  So today, I say thank you to the “retired” teachers.  Thank you for sharing the best of you with me.  Thank you for making me the teacher I am today!