The Dream Teacher Blog

Talking Too Much

January 25, 2016

I was a fresh-faced North Carolina Teacher of the Year when I showed up at the State Teacher of the Year Conference in Dallas in January of 2009. I was nervous – I would be spending a week with fifty-four total strangers, the most amazing teachers in the country. And I had been named one of four finalists chosen to represent them, an honor I haven’t wrapped my head around to this day, seven years later.

It would take very little time for those fifty-four teachers to be colleagues, friends, even soulmates. But that first night I felt like I …

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For the Love of a Dog, pt. 2

January 10, 2016

My mama used to tell me two things: that when I get to Heaven, I’ll see God’s big dusty book that has all the bad things I’ve ever done listed in it, and while I’m there I’ll have the opportunity to ask him anything I want. I have always known what I would ask if given that chance:

What happened to my cat Fluffy?

Oh, there were rumors. All the neighborhood children said she was poisoned by an old neighbor lady we referred to as “the witch.” I don’t know if that’s true, but that question has haunted me since …

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For the Love of a Dog

November 10, 2015

I tried really hard to be sure I never read the book Marley and Me. I tried even harder not to watch the movie. And then one day, I checked into a hotel room, turned on the television, and there it was – the last five minutes of a movie that rivaled the Love Stories and Brian’s Songs of my childhood. I sat by myself in a New York City hotel room and wept.

There’s a reason books and movies about losing pets are so sad. If you’ve ever had a pet, you know those reasons, and I don’t …

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Teacher Leadership (and Marty McFly)

July 7, 2015

It’s purge time for those of us who work in the summer. Central office staff and educators in the school buildings use this short time before teacher trainings and other meetings start to clean up, throw away, and make shiny. Apparently, I haven’t used this opportunity in awhile. I’ve just touched lesson plan books from 1991, poetry from 1993, and overhead transparencies from I-don’t-even-know-when. If you’re a teacher just beginning in your career, you may not even know what a transparency is. Don’t worry. You don’t need to know. Just turn on your interactive white board and go to town!…

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Granny’s Cabinet

January 21, 2015

I stood on my tiptoes, too many years to count, chin to the shelf of my grandmother’s Hoosier cabinet, watching her roll out dough for biscuits and dumplings. I loved that cabinet, the way it held flour in a bin inside, the way she cranked the sifter so the flour would be snowy and fine.

As a girl, I told my Granny that I wanted that cabinet in my grownup house someday. And she told me it would be mine. As an adult, I reminded her on every visit: “That’s my cabinet. Don’t forget.” And every time she would answer …

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A Christmas Tree Miracle

December 31, 2014

Christmas Eve was gloomy and dismal around here. It couldn’t even muster up enough energy to rain; instead, it drizzled a cool, sad mist all day. I was so busy preparing for festivities that would be occurring at my house for the next two days – people were coming in from three states and numerous cities within my state – that I almost forgot to get the mail every day for a week!

On Christmas Eve, I was baking a zillion cookies – you know the ones that look festive at Christmas but you can never eat them all with …

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On Writing

November 15, 2014

A few weeks ago I wrote a letter. I wrote it with a pen, not a computer. I wrote it on notebook paper. It was four pages long.

I was writing a condolence letter to a mom who just lost her young son unexpectedly, and I just couldn’t imagine the thought of simply signing a card or worse yet, typing my thoughts. These words were so important they had to start in my heart and travel through me to my hand. And they did.

I wish my children, and the students at my school, knew more about the art of …

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Someone’s Mrs. Warnecke

August 31, 2014

After I was reunited with my first grade teacher, Mrs. Warnecke, after forty-five years, I shared my story with anyone who would listen. After my book, Finding Mrs. Warnecke, came out, I spoke to groups and told the story over and over of the difference she made (and still makes to this day) in my life. At the end of every presentation, people would approach me eager to share their own stories about the teachers who had impacted them. I heard story after story only to hear what I already knew – that teachers make a huge difference in …

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What John Keating Taught Me About Teaching

August 12, 2014

For a woman who loves words more than most anything, I had NONE when I received the news of the death of Robin Williams. I tried to blog. Nothing. I considered writing a poem, but nothing made sense. I’m not sure if I had no words or too many. My brain was jumping from my favorite Mork episode (Mindy had painted her fingernails and was waving her hands to help them dry, and Mork ran over and yelled at her, “You can do it Mindy! You can fly!!!” I’ve said that line for thirty years, whenever I see someone waving …

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When Great Trees Fall…

May 28, 2014

I wasn’t in school yet when I used to ride with my mama to deliver my daddy to work, and then pick him up again, every day. We were a one car – one phone – one television – one bathroom family back in 1962. We were one family – Mommy, Daddy, child, child, child. Easy, breezy. So I guess I was pretty sheltered from the ugliness of the world. And, well, I was five. There was a great deal I didn’t understand.

Once on that daily trip through town I saw a man sitting on the curb, shoes …

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