Miss Night's Marbles

Musings, mumbles, marvels, and sometimes mockery, live from kindergarten.

Homework for the “off season”

The other day, I noticed a new hashtag on the Twitterz: #eduoffseason. It seems to be about all the things we should all do in the “off season” so we can be better teachers come September. Ok. I’ll play. Here’s your off-season training plan, friends. This is the plan I intend to follow, to make myself a better, stronger, kinder, smarter, teacher and administrator in September. It’s pretty rigorous, and it is important that you fully commit to the program. If you cannot complete any of the assignments, I expect that you will substitute them with alternates that are of equal quality, quantity, and rigor. Items may be completed alone, or in collaboration with others. Collaboration with peers outside of the educational community is strongly encouraged. Your friends and family are permitted to help you with any of the assignments, as long as their participation will enhance (and not hinder) your own participation. After the first item, other tasks may be completed in the order of your choosing.

  • On the first day that teachers are off but the rest of the world isn’t, go for breakfast/brunch with as many teacher friends as you can. Sit in the restaurant for as long as you want, talking and laughing. Have appetizers AND dessert AND coffee AND wine.
  • Go to a zoo or wildlife park.
  • Go to a matinée movie during the week when hardly anyone else is there, and eat a big bag of popcorn.
  • Take a nap. Take  several naps. Take several naps a day if you want.
  • Go on a road trip, even if it is just a one-day jaunt to the next town over.
  • Give yourself a quest to find the best SOMETHING in your area. Vanilla latte, chocolate milkshake, hamburger, crab cakes, whatever. Use this quest as a way to go places in your town that you have never been before.
  • Stay in your pyjamas as long as you want. Do this as often as you want.
  • Take a walk every day. Unless it is a pyjama day, then you don’t have to.
  • Eat meals outside as often as you can.
  • Plant something and watch it grow.
  • Take at least a 3 day break from screen-based technology.
  • Go to a parade.
  • Go to a country/county/state/local fair/carnival/festival type event.
  • Stay up all night because you can’t put down your book.
  • Go out for a nice dinner on a weeknight.
  • Watch fireworks at every opportunity.
  • Go swimming outside, preferably NOT in a swimming pool. Let your hair dry in the sun.
  • Buy lunch for a friend who has to work all summer, especially if that work involves wearing business wear when it’s 847 degrees.
  • Pack an adventure bag with a water bottle, a snack, some band aids, a book, sunscreen, bug spray, and flip-flops, so you are always prepared to have an adventure, given the opportunity. Keep a towel and a hoodie in the car, for the same reason.
  • If  your school has a teacher dress code, put your work clothes away in the back of your closet and do not look at them.
  • Spend an entire day with just ONE child, of the age group of your choice, and do whatever that child chooses, with no learning outcomes or objectives or assessments or checklists (Who wants to loan me a toddler?).
  • On a rainy day, binge watch a TV show that you have been meaning to check out. (Mad Men.  Or maybe Lost, all over again from the beginning…)
  • Read exactly whatever catches your fancy. Read trash if you want because it is all your brain can handle (Hello, James Patterson, how nice to see you again…) . Read heavy literary fiction because your brain can’t handle it during school (Working my way through the Giller prize nominees). Read non-fiction about some obscure (this means NOT ABOUT EDUCATION) interest (Tudor England! Primate rescue! The social construction of childhood throughout history!).

There. You have 8 weeks to complete all the tasks. Or not. Document your progress, your process, and your product. Or don’t. Tweet, Facebook, Pin, and Instagram your results. Or keep them all to yourself.


It’s YOUR summer. Do what it takes to be a happier, healthier, kinder, stronger, smarter,  HUMAN BEING by September, and I PROMISE that you will also be a better teacher.

Now, go find your pyjamas and get started.

(This post was inspired by a homework assignment I gave to a student a few years ago, so: go find a heart-shaped rock.)

No Comments »

#Kinderblog, Day 3. The highlights reel…

Aren’t you folks lucky – 2 blog posts for you, in just a single night! (Second one coming up shortly, I promise!)…

Day 3 of the #kinderblog post-a-day challenge asked us to write about the very best things about 2013. Because I love me some bullets, here you go:

  • I spent 5 days in Vegas with my buddies MattBGomez and JonFines. We had THE. BEST. TIME. Chrissy was there, too, and significantly contributed to The Awesome.
  • While in Vegas, I got to meet Audrey Penn, the author of The Kissing Hand. I was so awed and starstruck that I cried a little bit.


  • I spent 2 weeks at my very favourite place on earth, with my favourite people on earth, with my dear little Skip, and we visited SO MUCH beauty on the way there and back.


  • My teaching intern from last year “graduated” into her own classroom, and I get to watch her be amazing every day.
  • I got my new job (on the dark side, in admin), the kind of job I have wanted for a long time.


  • I got to hang out at conferences in Calgary and Vancouver, with some of my favourite #kinderchat friends, including @mauimickey, @mmekathleen,  @learningmurd, and @namesescapeme.
  • The Flood revealed all the things I love very best about my city, and made the most proud I have EVER been to have been born and raised here.


I just realised that, in writing about the BEST  parts of 2013, I included 2 of the WORST parts: the flood, and losing Skip. I hadn’t wanted to write about heartbreak, fear, tears, anger, here. Both of those events – one so hugely public, the other so intensely private – shook me to my very core, brought me to my knees, and are indelible marks of what 2013 meant. I’m not going to go down the trite, condescending, smug, road of silver linings or closed doors/opened windows. But I will say this:

Many years ago, a friend gave me a card that said

“Everything will be okay in the end.

If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

2013, you were okay.


Blowing my own horn. Because I said so.

Yeah, I did it. I made everyone brag for this week’s (now last week’s… what can I say, I was IN VEGAS, and too busy BEING IN VEGAS to finish my post on time…) #kinderblog2013 challenge. Now that it is my turn to write, I’m not sure what I was thinking… So, I think I will just pound this out as a random list, and call it done. Here you go:

10 things I am really very good at:

  1. Spelling. I am a nearly perfect speller, and always have been. I don’t know what it is about my brain that I remember the spelling of nearly every word I have ever read, but it seems that is how things work up in there. I never studied for a single spelling test, and I nearly always got 100%. (This is significantly LESS true in my second language…)
  2. Sleeping on planes. I am a world champion at plane-sleeping. No matter what time of the day or night, I can be sound asleep before we reach cruising altitude, and stay that way for 2+ hours. This is a VERY USEFUL talent.
  3. Road trips. I can stare out the window in blissful silence for HOURS. I know how to read maps. I am not scared of freeways, and I understand how the exits are numbered. I pack good snacks. I have a teacher’s bladder.I have a soft spot for Motel 6.
  4. Keeping my lunch down. I never get motion sick. Seriously. The closest I have ever come was when Papa John (founder of Coppercreek Camp) took me up in a small plane he was piloting, and sometimes we banked steeply enough that I lost track of the horizon, and my stomach got a little floppy. Other than that: never. Not on car rides, plane rides, boat rides, amusement park rides. I CAN READ IN A MOVING VEHICLE, and… nothing.
  5. Making and keeping friends. It was actually my mom who pointed this out to me. As much as I am an introvert down to my very toenails, I’m pretty good at finding My People wherever I go, and at keeping those people in my life even when time and geography conspire against us. This also: very useful talent.
  6. Setting boundaries. I am increasingly aware that this is a really difficult thing for many people. I am not afraid to say “no” if something will put too much on my plate, or come at a cost to something else that is a bigger priority. I am a master of the phrase “let me think about it;” which gives me time to THINK ABOUT IT, and formulate a gentle, reasonable, inarguable “no,” if “now” is really the best answer for me. (Note: this does NOT mean that “let me think about it” is code for “I’m going to say no later.” I really AM thinking. I promise. And as often as I can, I say yes.)
  7. Writing. I am, I think, a good writer. I can write in a way that makes people think, makes people feel, and is true to my actual voice. I write the way I talk, talk the way I write. Words are my friends. I am grateful for this gift every single day, and I never take it for granted.
  8. Talking. I’m starting to think that maybe I am a good public speaker. I can repeat a variation of the same talk or presentation, and have it sound natural each time. I think people feel welcome and included when I speak, comfortable asking questions, and that maybe I am interesting when I talk.
  9. Loving the tough-to-love. I am really, really good with really, really tough kids. The Billys and the Braydens and the Sarahs of the world are the kids who hold my heart in their hands. The kids who push me away the hardest are the ones I hold onto the tightest, the ones I fight for and fight with, and I am really, REALLY good at that kind of fighting.
  10. Liking the tough-to-like. I’m good with difficult parents. Maybe this is because I am also good with words. Maybe it is because I am good with difficult kids (who sometimes have difficult parents). But somehow, I am able to establish myself as a credible expert in a way that convinces parents WE ARE ON THE SAME TEAM.

There. Not too shabby, right? So why am I so relieved that it’s over?

Stay tuned – this week’s prompt is CHANGE. I have a feeling that post will be a little less fluffy…



101 Thank Yous

It’s Thanksgiving Day up here in The Canada, and so I have been pondering all the blessings, big and small, in my life. It’s taken me most of the weekend, but here it is:


101 Things I Am Thankful for This Thanksgiving

  1. My dad, who at the age of 65, is living his dream of being a farmer and a cowboy.
  2. My mom who bends over backwards to help and support her kids, even though we are no longer kids.
  3. My brother who sees the same funnies in the world as I do.
  4. My sister-in-law who left her country to come to my country and has never once been scared off by our crazy family.
  5. The fact that my brother and sister in law are now just an hour’s drive away.
  6. Their tolerance for my relentless enthusiasm about this fact.
  7. Skip, the ridiculous epileptic chihuahua.
  8. The generous vet who helps keep Skip healthy and happy
  9. My pretty, sunny, little apartment.
  10. The 19 small people who rush through my classroom door every morning.
  11. Having a job I love so goddamn much
  12. The Canada, my home and native land
  13. The way Canadian Thanksgiving is so much like us as a country: simple, modest, flexible, with reasonable expectations.
  14. Coppercreek Camp
  15. All the things I know and learned and became because of Coppercreek Camp
  16. The way I often wake up to wildlife: rabbits, squirrels, birds, even deer, cavorting on the lawn outside my very suburban apartment.
  17. Oregon State University.
  18. The town of Corvallis.
  19. Really, the whole state of Oregon.
  20. Wonton soup
  21. Finally having a home sunny enough to grow ANY DAMN PLANT I WANT.
  22. Vanilla lattes
  23. Honeycrisp apples
  24. My mountains
  25. My cute little Honda CRV.
  26. The way my Honda CRV gets me through the hilly drive to work even on the snowiest of days.
  27. The coffee shop in my old neighbourhood, which makes the best muffins in the world.
  28. My people.
  29. My partner teacher who makes this job so much easier and so much better every single day.
  30. My grandma even when she makes me crazy.
  31. My fireplace.
  32. The Twitterz
  33. #Kinderchat
  34. Vietnamese food.
  35. My bathtub.
  36. Clean laundry
  37. Ballet
  38. Garth Brooks
  39. Pickup trucks
  40. Sharpies
  41. Gerber daisies
  42. The zoo
  43. Having cousins I not only love, but LIKE.
  44. My boss
  45. A school where I am so well supported in every sense of the term
  46. How big the sky outside my window is
  47. The invention of the PVR
  48. Books
  49. Little House on the Prairie
  50. Air travel
  51. Lavender
  52. Dark chocolate with sea salt
  53. The smell of dry crunchy leaves
  54. The sound of dry crunchy leaves
  55. Ikea
  56. Diet Coke with Lime
  57. Cranberry juice
  58. Chocolate chip cookies
  59. Having summers off
  60. Evernote
  61. That feeling when you go swimming outside and then let your hair dry in the sun.
  62. Harry Potter
  63. Musical theater
  64. The satisfying feeling after you vacuum and you see all the crud that just got sucked up
  65. Peanut butter
  66. The Nutcracker
  67. The friends who let me love the bejebus out of their children.
  68. How some of the kids I helped raise are now adults I consider friends.
  69. Advil
  70. Having the financial means to buy everything I need and most of what I want.
  71. Hot chocolate
  72. Chicken salad
  73. Lazy weekend mornings
  74. The moment in the movie theatre when the lights go down and the trailers start
  75. Mason jars
  76. Down-filled duvets
  77. Banana Republic
  78. Ballet flats
  79. Kindergarten Around the World
  80. This blog, as a place to write my words and think my thoughts
  81. Raffi
  82. That, as upset as I might get about the outcome of the US presidential election, there is no possibility of Mitt Romney running MY country.
  83. Waking up to the sound of rain.
  84. A healthcare system that provides top-of-the-line care to people I love, regardless of their income or insurance situation.
  85. The technology that has helped me reconnect with friends who go back as far as kindergarten
  86. Heated seats (a ridiculous luxury, I know) in my car
  87. French immersion schools, both as a place for students and a place for teachers
  88. The underlying social ethic of tolerance and diversity that allows French immersion schools to exist
  89. The spiral hairpins that Goody makes for people with hair like mine
  90. Glee
  91. Mittens
  92. Friends who are adult professionals like me, and, also like me, still want to see cheesy movies about dancers and glee clubs.
  93. Having learned to read so young and so easily that it has never felt like a chore or like WORK to read anything.
  94. The dishwasher
  95. The many bloggers I read who have taught me so much about writing, life, and the power of sharing our words.
  96. Star Wars
  97. Play dough
  98. PostSecret
  99. Growing up with a Grandma who taught me the basics of sewing, knitting, and needlework — skills that are slowly being lost in my generation.
  100. Glitter
  101. Any time I spot the stars and the moon in the night sky, and know that chances are, someone I love, somewhere in the world, is seeing the same sky.
Happy Thanksgiving, friends. Feel free to continue the list in the comments.
Oh, and here’s the wishbone:
Make a wish.
No Comments »