Mrs. Z, what’s new?


This seems to be the question of the week, or now the year.  My hair, well it’s the same.  As evidenced by my ID photos from this year and last.  photoDo you see it?  Upon receiving my ID this year, I assumed the district was saving a few bucks by reusing photos from the previous year.  Much to my shagrin, a noisy co-worker lovingly pointed out that I had indeed worn the same outfit, earrings and all, two picture-day years in a row.  Lame!  But no, that wasn’t anything new. sigh I actually thought I had a new do.

So the hair, and apparently the clothes, were not new, what could it be?  The 1:1 technology our district is implementing? While the tech is really cool and I am bounding into the building each morning eager to present new tech tips, share ideas, and relish in the increase in student participation and collaboration, that isn’t it either.

One week a student commented that I looked “hip”. Well apparently I did have a new outfit or two up my sleeve. Another day a male student said I seemed happier, almost “crazy” about teaching.  Still another remarked that he didn’t know what was going on, but that he liked my classroom better than previous years.  Hmm, reflection time.

What’s changed is me. Deep down, I knew a change was in order.  A mental and physical overhaul.  The big girl panties that I relied on to pull me through were worn and lacking elasticity.  Tossing the fading grannies aside, I started anew.  New perspective, new life, whatever you want to call it is fine with me.  With the exception of a few spoonfuls of decadent ice cream this weekend, I cut my sugar intake to virtually nil. Gluten products down to 1-2 times a week.  Fruit and vegetable intake greatly increased. And most importantly, our family is now an Essential Oil loving group. My mornings are filled with dabbles of Joy, Peace and Calming, and Stress Away.  A sense of peace and belonging seem to engulf me as I ascend on this new path.  The next hurdle is to increase the exercise regimen, time and baby steps ahead.

But for now I know “what’s new”.  It’s my outlook.  It’s me. Happier in the classroom, a more relaxed mama at home, and so “what’s new”…I’m ready to see.

Writer’s Notebook – Student Samples


With student permission, I am sharing some wonderful student writing samples. I am a special education resource room teacher. The students I service have a variety of needs; learning disabled, emotional impairments, Autism Spectrum, hearing impairments, and several other social/emotional needs. Reading and writing skills range from 3rd grade levels to high school levels. Each day we face challenges. School and academics are often the smallest challenges these students experience.

*Permission was granted to share these pieces.

Sample #1 – The assignment was to write a plan for the future. This student rarely participates in class discussions. He is thoughtful, quiet, and as a writer, has always struggled to his ideas out. Together, we have spent 3 years getting to know each other and while I knew about the love for gaming, I never knew about his desire to sing. Through our new 1:1 devices, Evernote, and sharing his writing, he is stepping out of his comfort zone.  This piece represents a new beginning.

My video game skills are forever because I enjoy them. I have a second passion, my singing. I still have the problem of singing to someone else and memorizing the songs when I sing. I also have the problem of competition and my frustration. Competition can bother me since I can get frustrated and forget since I want to win. It’s like a champion who wants to keep his/her title and make mistakes that ultimately lose that same title. But now, since I don’t have to compete in singing or video gaming, my problem won’t show.

I listen to Minecraft songs and most of the time I feel the urge to sing along to that song. I also notice that people find it annoying at times since they get headaches from listening to me. I believe that I do have that trouble of listening to people when the volume is at max. I hope for the best that my voice is put for the better instead of for the worst.

My video game skills are at my best which is normally easy. I want to find a nearby video game competition so I can enter it. Of course, there’s the whole being competitive and losing every time thing. In fact, I have never entered a competition of sorts. I only play with my friends when possible. If not, then I just play solo and it gets lonely at that point.

My dream job is simple enough on my end, Video Game Tester. All I have to do is to test certain levels and see the glitches/bugs that can effect the game play in some sort of way. I would then write down the glitches/bugs so I can add that to my e-mail message and send it to the producers. They soon correct those mistakes so the game will be ready for the release date.

These are my passions and a reason to plan for the future. My plans are to take art and math classes in college to understand more about the business I’m about to enter into in the future. I hope to enjoy this type of job that I have a passion for.

#2 – Write a poem about an artifact important to you or your family. A quiet student, who is an amazing artist, wrote this piece.  She is multi-talented and I hope, she’ll spread her wings and continue to write and create.

The Drumstick
From the shop of his school,

He uses it for his dreams.
Made from iron and love,
He uses it as a tool
To produce the metal he loves.

He hands it to me
To fulfill his destiny.
For a dream that couldn’t happen,
I must repair it damages.
I shall pound against the drums.

I will make his dream come true,
For this is my drumstick.

It’s All Rosie


Growing up, my Aunt Rosie lived 4 houses down the street. Her house was my get away. The quaint yellow house became my learning playground. Crocheting, rummy, sewing, and the art of laughter. The sound of a good belly laugh seemed to pull me down the street and into a vinyl 1950s seat. Soon with a glass of Hawaiian Punch in one hand and a deck of cards in the other, my lessons would begin. She passed away shortly after seeing my high school graduation and I never got to tell her how influential those days were.

Our little Miss E, now in first grade, has developed a unique, memorable laugh. It’s a good thing in her short educational path that she’s experienced teachers appreciative of her giggly, rolling laugh. Aunt Rosie would be proud. When pregnant with E, I longed to give her a part of Aunt Rosie’s name as a tribute for her shaping my life. None made the cut. Little did I know, that she’s still around. Just hidden in my daughter’s sweet sassy laugh. Aunt Rosie would surely be chuckling at the little spitfire and I’m sure they would have tight.

A direction change – The task for my students this week is to write about a significant artifact. Describing an object important to his/her life. This year I’m attempting to write alongside the class and show a writer in action. I do think of myself as a strong writer nor do I call myself a writer. More than likely I fall into a “thought layer”. I view my writing as laying my thoughts down. But now I’ve digressed.

Back to Aunt Rosie. A year before her passing, she started the process of labeling her most precious items for her nieces, nephews, brother, and sister. See Aunt Rosie never married, so the nieces and nephews were her children. She had a small hand held labeler with bright red tape. I spent some weekends following her and labeling the goods. It was some of my most memorable days with her. Aunt Rosie filled me with history; of our family, the cherished pieces, and of her life. For items too small to label, she told who was to receive the goods. At the end of our adventure, I was to pick a treasure. Roaming around, I saw her sewing machine, where I first learned to craft doll clothes. No I couldn’t pick that. The machine was Aunt Rosie, I couldn’t imagine sewing without her by my side. Instead I chose a large, beautiful cedar chest. Today it holds doll clothes she once made for my Cabbage Patch kid, quilts crafted by hand, and many crocheted pieces big and small. My label still remains inside.

For helping sift through the house, she commented look around and find something else. As a newly minted driver, I had my heart set on her cinnamon brown car. That car, like the sewing machine, was Aunt Rosie! I vacationed to Traverse City in the back seat. I rode shot gun to my brother’s basketball games. Many memories lingered in the seats and smells. I wanted that car. My name, on the candy apple tape, was stuck in the glove box. It was still in there when the car was sold to my older cousin after my Aunt’s passing. No one wanted to listen a teenager’s teary plea. With the car, Aunt Rosie’s laughter and smell was gone.

I cannot recapture her smell that always seemed to calm my fears and warm my heart, but I’ve found the laughter. It’s living inside a sweet six year old who I tuck in every night under Aunt Rosie’s crocheted petal pink and white afghan. And I know that her spirit lingers on.




In the Beginning

In the Beginning

Back 18 years ago, a new school year was met with enthusiasm. New year met new ideas, fresh faces, and fun ideas to share. Then the lull sets in, the 10 year slump. Partly due to a growing family at home, partly fueled by a loss of teacher respect from multi levels, I hit a wall. Rolling into the brrr months I’d find my groove again and sail briskly to the end. I could mark another successful year in the books. But the passion was subdued.

And then there is now. I feel like a fresh, hot off the presses student teacher! Ideas running through my head faster than an ant on blacktop in 100 degree heat. My colleague and I run back and forth to the others room saying “have you done this”, “how does this sound” or mostly “look at what my class did today”!! I burn through planning and lunch creating, adapting, and laying the foundation for the next aha moment. Outside the classroom I’m constantly learning from my PLN, Professional Learning Community, and helping to gather a local community of learners to discuss all things education.

And the students are riding my wave. Digging the changes. Following my “it’s okay to explore and question” path. The accomplishments in 2 weeks by all have left a grin so wide, I can’t help spreading the news of what’s happening in room 629.

I’m a new teacher. A fresh from college, the college of new ideas, teacher. And it’s exciting.


IMG_7282.JPGI’m as excited as this kid each morning!!


IMG_6316.JPGI love reconnecting with former students and hearing about how much they appreciated our time together!

A New Year and Changes

A New Year and Changes

Recently I learned a new to me term in Education, Pastoral Care.



My goal this year is to focus on the well being of each student. Are they safe each night? Hungry? Did he get enough sleep? Does she have the medical help she needs? What are his interests? Who are her friends? And most importantly, what can I do to help?!

Students who feel valued and respected at school will perform better and are more likely to buy into what the school is doing. The last few weeks I worked around my room trying for a less “in your face” education feel and a more “safe” place. Floor lamps, pictures, and group seating are a few examples. I want students to know that mistakes are okay, we will all learn from each other, learning happens all around us, and that we can trust each other. Mostly, that I care. Nurture their minds through nurturing their well being.

It’s easy to get bogged down by content expectations, mandated curriculum, and state testing that we lose focus on the individuals. The being behind the name and face. My mottos for this year:
I hope for the same caring, nurturing learning spaces for these three.



If you do not know what B2S is, either you are not a teacher or not in the advertisement field. Clues: start seeing ads in early July, Meijers and Walmart crowd entrances with bus looking cardboard displays, your teacher friends begin to lament the end of summer, children begin to count days left, the Today Show has a B2S trendy fashion show, facebook friends in education begin posting statuses of cramming “end of summer” mini vacations and outings, get the picture yet?

Yes, back to school time is here. But back is not the correct term for my teacher friends. “Back” only refers to the location, because they have been schooling all summer. Workshops, conferences, continuing Ed classes, revamping lessons, PLCs, educational readings, or learning new classroom technology.

Since the hubs and I are both educators, a fair chunk of our friends are also in the Ed field. Most conversations turn from summer vacation replays to upcoming school news and are laced with educational jargon. IEPs, PLCs, 1 to 1, 504s, exit slips, AYP, ACT, DI, NCA, and those are just the ones fresh in my mind.

Though teachers may not be physically at school, their education does not end at summer break. Just ask our children.IMG_6930.JPG

That Special Place


Do you have a special place? One that recalls fond memories, calms fears or hurts, and warms the heart. A place that is so a part of you that you know each bump, crack, or subtle changes each visit. Some location to long to share with your children.

Many have a camp experience that stays a part of life for years to come. Perhaps it was the people. Or maybe the surroundings. Maybe even neither of those, but more the feelings felt while there.

I have that place. Pentwater. More specifically, United Methodist Church Camp or Lake Michigan Camp as it’s now called. Over 33 years of attending this hidden gem on the shores of the Great Lake. Surrounded by pines and tucked between sandy dunes lies a camp that has been a part of our family’s hearts for years.

When M was 3 months old and still sporting preemie clothes, we rented a pop up for his first camping expedition.IMG_6156.JPG
We missed Pentwater the year one month old R was hospitalized with Pneumonia. Our kids play with cousins or kids they see just this one time of year. Dune rides by Mac Woods, go carts at Craig’s Cruisers, Little Sable Lighthouse, horseback riding at Rainbow Ranch, and the great blue water expanse and beach are regular stops.




This year, we almost didn’t go. For me, the familiar, safe haven has lost its magical charm. The calm and peace are gone. The warmth and love for the hills has faded. I repeatedly told myself I could go a year without. A break of sorts. Then I found this.

A sand footprint craft from 1989. Still with me. Memories flooded in. Emotions engulfed me. Pentwater was still in my heart. I wanted my children to have that same peaceful place. Memories to build upon. If perhaps less for me and more for them to make. I counted my summers by the annual voyage north and now my children do too.