New on TWT: Spoken Word Poetry Doesn’t Have to be Scary

My latest post for Two Writing Teachers is a practical guide on how to take the leap into spoken word poetry with. your students.

The first day is always the hardest. Often the announcement is met with uncertainty, fear, the feeling that too much is being asked. By the end, writers swell with pride knowing that they created something powerful, something meaningful, something they never thought was possible. 


The spoken word unit begins by viewing 3-year old Pe’ Tehn performing “Hey, Black Child,” written by Countee Cullen. When little Pe’ Tehn first walks on stage, she walks with confidence. Her voice rises and falls, bringing power to each line delivered. As she ends, my students are hooked. They want to watch again and again, identifying performance moves by the 3-year old performer, and craft moves Cullen used in her writing. 

Read More on Two Writing Teachers, Spoken Word Poetry Doesn’t Have to be Scary. . .


Go Big and Go Home Day 9 SOL23

Living in Asia for so many years, I’ve grown accustomed to overburdened motorcycles. Motos containing a family of five, a stack of chickens in a crate, dead goats hanging off of the back. . . all of this became my norm. When our girls were born, I would strap one on my front, Frank with one on his back, and we would all climb aboard and zip off through the heavy stream of cars.

There’s something about a group of motos meeting at the front of an intersection, clustered together, ready to zip off as soon as the light turns and get ahead of the car traffic. You feel as sense of community being bunched together like sardines. On hot days, everyone dashes to wait out a light under the shade of a tree. Sometimes, the tree is small and so everyone squeezes their way in tire, to tire-knee to knee to take advantage of whatever shade they can access.

Being in Kenya, there are loads of motorbikes, but it isn’t the same as in Asia. There isn’t the sense of community for me; maybe it’s because I’m jetting around in Big Bertha, my massive Landcruiser. Big Bertha is a must here-gets me through the muckiest of safaris, keeps me high above for river crossings, and allows me a sense of safety and security going through the toughest of areas. But, it also keeps me disconnected from the moto culture.

Here, motorcycle delivery and taxi services are called boda bodas. You can call a boda boda for just about anything, and people do.

We’ve been moving towards our big exit from Kenya and so have been downsizing. Yesterday, a boda boda arrived to come pick up a sofa and take it to its new owner. I could describe what ensued, but . . . I think you get the idea.

These Poems Don’t Write Themselves Day 8 SOL23

Line by line,

I read. . . I comment. . .

4:30 am comes early, but feedback can’t wait.

Souls poured in,

Hours dedicated,

Dreams revealed.

I have no choice but to continue.

I owe it to them

6th grade can be rough

a time of uncertainty, a time of hope,

a time of joy.

These poems didn’t write themselves.

A child sits behind each phrase

Each rhyme that didn’t need to be

Each simile that didn’t quite work

until. . .


This is the why.

The pride that comes with a beautiful line,

a perfect word,

These poems didn’t write themselves.

The poets I will greet today

will stand a bit taller,

feel a bit more certain

Knowing that they were heard, valued,

These poems didn’t write themselves.

Starting my Day with a Smile: Day 7 SOL23

One of my sweetest students walked in, holding this massive paper wrapped something. She just stood there smiling. “Good morning,” I said.

“Mornin,” and then more smiles and staring. The point of awkward was quickly approaching.

I reached out for the paper wrapped something and, with one finger, pulled the paper back slightly to see what was inside.

“My dad raises these up north,” still that smile and not much more.

Inside were the biggest, most beautiful long stemmed roses. I could smell their sweet fragrance as I got closer. With no movement or indication of anything further on her part, I voiced how beautiful they were and took a step back.

Still, nothing but a smile. She just stood. And stood, And stood.

With nothing to go by, I wasn’t quite sure how to proceed. I reached out tentatively for the bouquet. As soon as the the bouquet was in my arms, she turned on her heel, walked out. Hand up behind her, “Bye, see you in humanities.” And that was that.

I get fresh flowers delivered every Monday for the classroom. At one point, I thought I’d stop but that same week several students indicated how lovely they were on an exit ticket, so I’ve kept ordering them. .. week after week. With my one vase occupied, I darted off to the science classroom. Beakers make perfect vases. I did have to cut down the long stems, but oh how they make me smile.

3 Months and 3 Days. . . Day 6 SOL23

In exactly 3 months and 3 days, we will be boarding a plane back to the States. 13 years of teaching abroad will be left behind as we set off on a new adventure–living in the US.

Our girls have only known international living. Born in Taiwan, 8 years in Beijing, 2 years in Nairobi. Their understanding of the US hinges on summers in the PNW (surreal and magical and so not normal life!) and teen movies. The girls ask questions like, “Is everyone going to be mean in middle school?” . .. and “Is America (sign of a true TCK) really like the movies?”

We talk through their concerns, but honestly, we don’t know. We don’t know what middle school is like in the US anymore. It’s been too long since we’ve been out. There’s been so much change. We feel as if we are entering into uncharted territory and are shaky in how to proceed.

There’s excitement, of course. We all are looking forward to neighborhood bike rides, dog walks through the forests, and not just summers at our favorite ice cream shop. We’re excited about putting down roots and knowing this is it. . .for a while anyway. Pictures will be hung, paint will be applied, we may even get around to that vegetable garden. And friends. . .this one is huge! Friends will be more consistent. There won’t be the growing fear every fall of friends sharing they’re moving on to new adventures.

International life has been amazing. We wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything. We’ve outgrown ourselves and have become better people through the decision to move abroad. But, the time has come. New adventures await. . . homeward bound! The countdown is on. . . 3 months and 3 days. . .

Cookie Monster: Day 5 SOLSC

Independence is a huge theme in our house. We aren’t helicopter parents and haven’t been since the very beginning. With two babies under 3 months old, it was all about survival. And so far. . .so good. There were a few slip, trips, and bumps along the way, but now we are reaping the rewards of our highly independent wee ones.

XO has always been quite domestic in her pursuits-so long as it doesn’t entail organizing or keeping spaces neat and tidy. Instead, she’s a true creative and leaves trails of disaster in her wake. Lately though, she’s been playing around with cooking. Years ago, she mastered the art of scrambled eggs and quesadillas and has been itching to up her repertoire. Being completely addicted to sugar, cookies have been on her radar for quite some time.

“How do I light the oven?”

“Where would I find the vanilla?”

“Is it better to use whole wheat or white flour?”

Text messages pinged in one after another while we were teaching. I ran upstairs to my husband’s classroom, “What on Earth do you think she’s trying to make?” He shrugged and responded to each message.

I admit I did move a bit quicker on the walk home that afternoon. I had no idea what I’d find or what condition the house would be in. We could smell the sugary sweetness as we climbed the large flight of stairs to our property. The door was open and the wind was blowing in just the right direction. We both inhaled, hopeful now for what we’d find.

XO greeted us with a huge smile on her face and the most beautiful cookies being loaded onto the cooling rack.

We immediately dug in and were blown away! Not only were the cookies perfectly round and the perfect amount of softness, they were INCREDIBLE! I brought a few to work to share with colleagues and the orders have already poured in. XO now is learning about being an entrepreneur. The last few weekends have been orders to be filled, budgets to track, and she couldn’t be happier.

Two Months Late: Day 4 SOLSC

From September to February, it’s nothing but holidays. Birthday, Mid-Autumn Festival, Birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Birthday, Christmas, New Years, Birthday, Chinese New Year. . . and then sprinkle about 11 shows and umpteen practices for the Nutcracker, followed by a February show. September to February are INSANE! There isn’t a free weekend for months on end.

SLM turned 11 January 3. We were on holiday in Egypt and when we returned, so did the brutal ballet performance season.

One thing I’ve always admired about my two kiddos is their independence. Since they were wee little things, they’ve worked together and have been able to figure out just about anything. So, it came as no surprise when I was told where, when, and how the party would go down.

Today was a day that had been heavily anticipated for the past two months. FINALLY, it was birthday celebration time! This day was to be regardless of anything else on the schedule.

Maji Magic is a crazy water bound bouncing wonderous place. It’s in Karen County, named after Karen Blixen. You have to walk through a mall to the back where you are greeted with a huge man-made lake. To the left are water boats that have high powered squirt guns, to the left is the area for paddle boarding and dead center is a huge blown up obstacle course complete with a “rock wall” and super high up swing where you can catapult yourself into the water.

We got there early, before the crowds. SLM and XO showed their buddy O around as we waited for the other children. Time is a funny thing here in Kenya. It’s taken a hot moment for us to come to terms with Nairobi time-this time I was prepared. I set the time for about 20 minutes prior to when I wanted people to arrive. The final child walked up 50 minutes late. . .not bad. Into the water she went.

There’s something about kids and water that always amazes me. No matter how cold, they jump in with little hesitation. These 7 girls were on a mission and off they went. Frank and I sat on a bench and listened to the squeals of joy emanating from the water park. The girls had the entire place to themselves and they took full advantage.

By the time they swam back to shore, they were freezing and hungry. Three pizzas and four bags of chips down, they sat and chatted like little old ladies.

Our day at Maji Magic ended with a crowd of over 50 kids arriving to partake in the water sports. By this time, the girls said their goodbyes with huge hugs and lots of smiles. The ride home proved to be a little calmer. . .

Enter Sir Edward: Day 3 SOLSC

There are two types of people in this world: cat people and dog people. Before being married, I would run far and fast from any guys proclaiming their affection for clawed little devils. There would be not cats in my life. Let’s move beyond me being allergic to the fact that cats are vile creatures who poop in the house, scratch furniture, and do whatever the fluff they want. Yeah, I’m definitely not a cat person, but my daughter is.

SLM would head to the pet store and would reach into cages grabbing out as many kittens as she could. They’d yowl and hold onto the cage for dear life, but SLM would always win. There was one particular day we went in to get some dog food and she did her usual. . . in goes hand, out comes cat. This time was different though. She immediately plopped herself down on the ground and wrapped herself around this tiny little furball. Time to leave and she wasn’t having it. . .

SLM is one of those kiddos who manages to get her way. She’s tiny, crazy cute, and has a massive personality you simply can’t ignore. The day she declared Sir Edward was hers, was the same day the unfathomable happened. We became a home with ONE cat (she’s trying for more!)

Sir Edward is a British Shorthair and completely ignored all but SLM the first four years of his life. We all cohabitated together; however, there was really no interaction. He was fat and content to hang out with his kid and we were content to ignore him as much as possible.

Fast forward to today. . . we moved him from Beijing to Nairobi, Kenya, paying a small fortune in shipping and he has all but changed. Sir Edward craves attention, he often is right at our feet demanding we pet him, or feed him, or let him outside. The days of us ignoring each other and each going about our daily lives are over. Sir Edward feels quite entitled and since he has decided we are all HIS people, there’s no going back.

Sir Edward drinking out a glass that isn’t his, on a table he has no business being on.

I can’t say Sir Edward has reformed me. In general, I find cats to be disgusting creatures. Case in point, see above. However, he has grown on me and I find myself saying things like, “Well, Sir isn’t like other cats,” or, “He’s just unique.” I’m hoping this isn’t the beginning of the end for me. I do knit, so maybe having cats is a foregone conclusion for me. It could also be that I need to learn to keep my kid away from kittens and pet shops.

No Soccer, No Swimming, and NO DANCE! Day 2: SOLSC

“Whatever you do, no soccer and no swimming.” Words of wisdom from a group of parents when we shared we were moving to Taiwan and adopting children. No other suggestions were made, no you musts, or make sure you don’ts, simply. .. no swimming, no soccer. They went on to explain that soccer and swimming seasons flow from one to the next and so you are always on a pitch or at the pool. Your life becomes wrapped up in sport and your weekends are nonexistent.

Fast forward. . . 12 years later. Now when new to be parents ask for advice, I say, “No swimming, no soccer, and whatever you do NO DANCE!” We haven’t had a weekend together as a family in who knows how long. Our weekly evenings are taken up with carting our 11 year olds to tap, ballet, musical theater, contemporary, point class. . . There is always another event and another need to be somewhere other than where we had planned.

Last night, we decided we would not race home after dance as we usually do, frantically eat dinner and get to bed. Instead, we would stick around and have a nice family dinner in the same building as dance.

“It’s been so long, we should just do it.”

“Do you even realize how late it will be by the time we get home?”

“Come on, it will be nice. We can chat with the girls and just hang out.”

I won that conversation. . . kind of.

Fast forward to dinner. . .50 minute wait to get our food. One kiddo nose deep in a new book, refusing to peek out to acknowledge our presence. The other kiddo majorly sugar crashing and flopping around in her seat complaining about how she was “going to die and no one even cared.”

Our nice, family dinner had us all a wee bit grumpy. We arrived home even later than usual. The girls declared that since they had no school the next day (it was parent/teacher conferences) they were going to stay up. Frank and I called it a night, silently cursing dance and went to bed. Tomorrow, we would do it all over again; however, this time, skip the dinner out.

Down the Rabbit Hole Day 1 SOLSC

This morning was an early wake-up. Usually, my husband (who is a 4am riser) comes in at 5:30. He turns off the fan I absolutely must sleep with, and snuggles me awake. I love this time. The calm before the storm. After 13 years of marriage, he still makes me a morning cup of coffee, sets it next to my favorite chair, and then slowly awakens me. I stumble down the stairs, muttering incoherently at my morning person of a husband, flop into the chair and reach for my coffee.

This morning didn’t follow that usual pattern. 5 am it was still dark and not a single light was on in the house. I stumbled down the stairs per the usual but had to make my own coffee. Today was an exciting day. Today was the first day of the Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. I grabbed my full cup and walked over to the dining table to do a quick look over my Tweetdeck before starting to write. I love starting my day with words of wisdom and fabulous teaching happening within the global teaching community. Usually, I can stop. Usually, I can close down the tab and open up my planning documents. Today though, that didn’t happen. Today I fell right through that rabbit hole and didn’t crawl out until I realized how late it was and how today was parent/teacher conferences.

So, this is not what I had intended to write. This is not how I intended to begin my day, but here I am. . . showing up and committing myself to 31 days of writing. I know this month will be challenging as I’m already losing track of days and can’t keep our stinking rotating A/B cascading school schedule in my mind. BUT, I am excited to write. I am excited to enter into this challenge for me. Excited to wrap myself up in other Slicer’s stories.