Posts Tagged With: Conversations with Eileen

Sleeping Away from Home: Slice #23 Conversations with Eileen

It’s 3:32 am and I really shouldn’t be up.  Yes, I say that to kick off many slices but today, it will be tougher to enjoy the work of documenting the deep conversations to come with Patti and Joseph as we unpack Patti’s new workshop sharing teacher work she has recently experienced and wrote about.

Joseph set up this project a few months ago without really knowing what it would look like until it happened.  But he knew that it would be wonderful and, yes, he was right.


Patti Stock is a wonder.  She’s been a force in deep thinking and writing about literacy for many years.  She has been passionate about the study of English and a gifted college professor.  She has been president of the National Council of English Teachers and a Director and documenter of the work of the National Writing Project.  She is constantly writing and publishing articles and books.  And she is a mother and grandmother, traveling the triangle of Michigan, Bethesda and Poughkeepsie to support her families.  And. so lucky for me, she’s a friend and tonight at the Gramercy, we are roomies, sharing a suite.  And I’m hoping that she’s sleeping on her side of this wall.

On Wednesday she shared a brand new workshop with a group of very passionate and bright writing project teachers and doctoral students at the U of Maryland.  Joseph, had this well coordinated making sure that Patti had the supplies and tech equipment she needed,  and we all had  food for fuel. DSC_0416 DSC_0437 DSC_0451 DSC_0409 DSC_0436

Both Joseph and I documented the event with our cameras at different vantage points,  capturing as much of the experience as we could, knowing that we had more time to debrief the workshop here at the Gramercy together and with some of the teachers who had participated. DSC_0386

Yesterday at noon, we said good-bye to the NWP work and met up with Patti at Union Station for a drive out to this retreat space for this reflection time.  I used the trip to take the back sleep and nap.  Maybe that’s why I’m up now 🙂

We arrived, took a walk, grabbed some coffee and homemade brownies set up the camera in my lovely bedroom and started talking.  That was all and that was enough.  Of course I had to keep checking to make sure the camera  was focused but we just talked about Patti’s workshop and the new educational reforms that held teachers back from being creative and innovative. Imagine, reformers creating reforms in education that create obstacles to innovation in the classroom.DSC_0478 DSC_0492

We were later joined by Michele to help us reflect on her experience.  She stayed with us for a feast at the local Thai restaurant and even as we said good night to Joseph and his wife Joyce, we knew there was on last conversation before we turned off our lights.  There would be more when we met up again but this was so much to talk about… endless conversations…

Yes, I should be sleeping but it’s so much harder on the road.  Yes, I have so much to think about.  Even with an episode of House Hunters on the TV for distraction,  the conversations are keeping me awake.  And Tuvia, back home is keeping me awake.

We have more teachers coming tomorrow, today to share their workshop experiences…. My cameras are charging and I will have the pleasure of taking home my filled  memory cards to download onto my external hard drive to turn into a documentary about Patti’s new work. First I have to finish my niece’s wedding video but I can’t wait to make meaning of this experience and share it with Joseph as he also makes sense of the experience that he made sure we could capture.

I welcome the Google Hangouts we will have in the month to come…

Hey, I haven’t said much about the workshop itself.  That will have to wait until the video work begins.

Okay, the Slice is done and I’m wondering, can I sleep now? If not, I see there’s new slices already posted for today.

I can read and comment …


Categories: Conversations with Eileen, Slice of Life 2013, University of Maryland Writing Project Doc Retreat | Tags: , , , , | 10 Comments

Slicing #22 at the Gramercy B & B: Slice: Conversations with Eileen

Evening Slicers,

So sorry that I couldn’t read any slices today or even write along with you but between yesterday and today I’m not grounded.  Yes, I’ve been enjoying life but I’ve been moving around…

Yesterday our writing project raced around the Capital meeting with Congressional  aides, sharing our site work, advocating for continued federal support and grabbing a photo where we could.  Hey, I even got a handshake from Chuck Schumer as he raced ahead of me into his office, while he continued talking on his cell phone.  We did get  to meet a new congressman, who defeated that crazy Tea Party rep, Nan Hayworth.  We met her when she first arrived two years ago.  She was insane and Sean Maloney is a breath of fresh air:


We are not where we were the year after Obama first won the White House, but we are still here and those reps we met with are supporting us even though we all have the 50 tea party nuts to deal with in the House.

We were glad to be together, meeting with the larger network even if our numbers were tiny this year.  We still continue to advocate for great teachers.

In fact, far away, in very cold Finland, Christine has been reworking her letter, transforming it into a digital piece.

Check it out if you have 4 1/2 minutes


Our work on the Hill ended this morning and now I’m back with Joseph and Patti and the U of Maryland Writing Project at a wonderful B and B outside Baltimore. Here we are documenting Patti’s great work, chatting with writing project teachers here and enjoying great Thai food.


So it’s all good my friends.  I’m exhausted.  Hope I don’t have too many errors in this draft.

More tomorrow.  Things are slowing down… almost back to normal just before we kick off Passover on Monday night.


Categories: Conversations with Eileen, Hudson Valley Writing Project, National Writing Project, Slice of Life 2013 | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Sharing!: Slice #20, Conversations with Eileen

Morning Slicers,

I’m going to share something very powerful with you today from my good pal Christine, who has begun her Fulbright in Finland.  Away from the slings and arrows of her role as classroom teacher and in the land of education nirvana, she is getting the ideal opportunity to think and breathe and share her reflections on a brand new blog, An Educator’s Re-education.  She wrote this letter yesterday, shared it on her blog and Facebook, and has had 4,000 hits already.

So if you have a minute,  take a read below and click over to her blog to leave a comment if you are moved to do so.

I’m so proud to know her and work with her.

I am off today to DC for the NWP’s annual conference and some additional work with Maryland University Writing Project.  I’m be slicing from there.


A message to parents from your child’s teacher

Dear Parent/Guardian,

I am your child’s teacher.  My role as educator extends far beyond the walls of my classroom.  It is my profession, what I practice.   I have chosen to devote the better part of what will be the years that make up my life to educating your child. I take it very seriously and I should; I am a stakeholder in your child’s future.

And so are you. You take it seriously also.  You take your role in your child’s life more seriously than probably anyone else ever will.  You have spent countless hours modeling empathy and kindness, teaching right from wrong, helping your child learn how to navigate through an increasingly complicated world and spending time to understand who your child is and where he/she is coming from.   You do this in order to help guide your child down the path to who he/she will become.  So I ask you, taking all of this into consideration, how willing would you be to allow some other parent to take over this role for you –someone who claimed to know “better” than you about what was right for your child?

Think about it.

Because that is what is happening in my classroom.  And it isn’t because they know “better” than I do how to educate your child –the undertaking I have chosen to devote my life’s work to becoming better at doing.  It certainly isn’t because they have spent months getting to know the individual you have raised in an effort to better understand what your student needs to thrive in a responsive learning environment.  It has nothing to do with the relationship they have formed with your child in order to show respect and care for him/her as a person and as a learner.  It doesn’t, for a second, reflect the passion I have for the subject I teach –passion that I pass on to your student in every way I can and at every chance I get.

It simply has to do with money.

It has to do with the $500 billion dollars allocated by the United States government to children like yours.  Your money.  Tax-payer money intended to directly benefit students. Money that is being hijacked by for-profit educational management companies.  The same people who are using their voices to belittle me and my colleagues, and our schools, and your child’s performance, in order to rationalize their hidden agenda: making money.

They are spending their own money too.  They are using it to pay lobbyists who help manipulate educational policy and dictate allocation of resources towards private companies… and it is working.  The $13 million dollars they had their hands on in 2005 had already risen to $389 million by 2011.  Don’t mistake it: there exists big profit potential in your child.  Three hundred and eighty-nine million dollars…and that was two years ago.

So today I ask you this:

My life’s work.  The countless hours I spend with your child presenting new material, creating on-going formative assessments that are authentic and based on your student’s individual needs at a given moment in time, the active learning and knowledge-construction happening in my classroom on a daily basis, the time I spend creating lessons which require students to build upon and re-evaluate prior knowledge and the work that reflects the relationship that I have worked diligently to foster with your student:  is it worth putting all of this hard-won expertise on the back-burner so that someone can divert money intended for your child?

The person your child is and how he/she learns and grows cannot be gauged by an answer bubbled onto a sheet of paper.  Your student deserves my full expertise, not a narrowed curriculum and hours devoted to my teaching to the test.  My colleagues and I deserve to be freed from the negative impact that the calculated teacher-bashing and union-bashing is having on our profession…because it is calculated, and by this point I don’t think I need to tell you by whom.

So please, educate yourself.  Have a voice in this issue.  Talk to teachers and administrators about what is happening in your child’s school as a result of America’s education reform; support teachers you know are there for your student; question media reports that claim there is a simple answer to so-called underperformance; and be aware of what is happening on a local and national level.  It is affecting your student . . . and it isn’t going away any time soon.


Christine McCartney

To learn more:,_Higher_Ed_Policy,_and_Teachers


Categories: Conversations with Eileen, Slice of Life 2013 | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

The Best Part of Me: Slice #19 Conversations with Eileen

Morning Slicers,

Snow greets us here and it’s gorgeous, don’t you think?


It’s a perfect way to wake up as long as you don’t have to get out into it for a few hours.   I’m good until 9:45 and I was smart to put my car in its garage yesterday taking the weather predictions seriously.

So I have a perfect 30 minutes for this Slice…

I’ve been thinking a lot about Elsie’s Slice and I’ve been avoiding the actual writing.  Yes, I think it’s a great writing prompt and yes, I want a copy of the book that inspired Elsie, but for me, hmmm.  I’ve been hesitant to take this writing on.  But here goes:

For most of my life I was always told I had beautiful eyes.  I took the compliments, enjoyed them and lived a fragmented life of sorts.  Beautiful eyes… only beautiful eyes… and the rest… well… stick with the eyes.  I think I wished I heard… just beautiful… or pretty, or something more, something fuller… and I’ve always been insecure about how I looked as a whole.  I thought I was fat, unattractive etc…

and then came the digital camera and a wonderful man.

As I came to love photography- taking photos and Tuvia could look across from me first thing in the morning, smile and say “you look wonderful”.  I’ve grown to believe that best part of me is my whole face: eyes, smile, nose…all things that define my spirit… does that count?

And yes, as I took up the camera to shoot others, I was happy and willing to hand it off to be shot as well. I have made my peace with the lens. Over time, when I thought I was at my fattest, I had photos to document my reality and hey I don’t look fat. Mostly…



DSC_0215P1080706 P1020469 P1010616 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA DSC_0033

Categories: Conversations with Eileen, Slice of Life 2013 | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

Memoir Project with Tara and Stacie: Slice #18 Conversations with Eileen

Morning Slicers,

I was going to write a slice inspired by Elsie’s Slices as she explores: The Best Part of Me.  I have the text that originally inspired her in my wish list at Amazon, and I’m thinking about the best part of me.  Just before I started the Slice I took a moment to work on a jigsaw puzzle on my iPad with a new app: Jigsaw Puzzle, reviving my childhood obsession without having to deal with loose pieces in boxes. But then clicking around Facebook, Tara’s freshest slice was right at the top of my feed.  I clicked over to her site and found her excited about a project that I am also jumping into.

Both of us found this new challenge on Stacie’s blog

Memoir Project

More than the facts and dates of a history, a memoir attempts to glean an understanding and share a moment of truth from a person’s life. A memoir is deeply personal and often candidly transparent, attempting to shed light on the individual humanity that makes us unique, yet universally bound by a history of storytelling.
We are pleased to announce The Memoir Project, our first handwritten collection of true stories from individuals around the world. 500 participants are asked to sit down and reflect on their own lives. Take pause and hand write a story that defines you. Your memoir can be the story of your whole existence or a specific point in your life. This collection will travel in our Mobile Library and eventually be installed in our permanent collection at The Brooklyn Art Library, preserving a common human history through the eyes of those that lived it.
With lots of rules:
  • Your memoir should be hand written. We know its hard, but your story is worth the extra time and effort.
  • Your memoir should be a true story or account from your life.
  • please do not use glitter or glue on objects that may come loose or damage another submission
  • Your book must not exceed the dimensions of 5″ wide x 7″ tall x 1″ thick. It can open to any size, but it must remain 5″ x 7″ x1″ when closed.
  • You’re welcome to cut, rebind or alter the book in any other way – just remember to keep it less than 1″ thick.
  • Unfortunately we can not digitize pop up books, fold out books or books that exceed the required size limits.
  • All books are catalogued in our permanent collections. Books are not for sale and will not be returned

Like Tara, my package arrived over the weekend and when I attacked it, I found a very thin book to fill.  Hey, this project cost us $60.00.  I was expecting more pages to play on.  More than the cost, I hesitated about writing by hand.   I don’t write with a pen anymore.  I even have trouble lately, writing a legible checks.

With just a few pages  to fill, I will  have to use my computer to plan and write some drafts... share a moment of truth from a person’s life.  One moment?  

Okay, it’s not due until June.  I have time to think and explore when I’m walking, driving, flying, walking around DC, adventuring in Finland… Okay… I can find a way to fill the thin book with some life changing moment.  I can do it.  Can someone else read it?


Tara and Stacie, let’s keep sharing our process to Project Memoir, okay?

Categories: Conversations with Eileen, Slice of Life 2013 | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

A Year of Adjustment Part I: Slice of Life #17 Conversations with Eileen

Morning Slicers,

It’s been a tough year for this guy:

and we are celebrating his 93rd, IMG_0895nope, 92nd birthday today without the love of his life.  He is not a person to complain but we all know that without his wife, without work his life is uneventful.  Yes, he has support.  I call every morning and see him every Sunday with bags of kosher foods from Harolds Deli.  My brother lives just across the street and grabs him  up for a lunch, for dinner, for a good laugh.  And he has a wonderful caregiver who is devoted to him.  But his life as he knew and loved it is gone.

He warns me about aging. I try to embrace every day as a gift. He’s one classy guy.

Happy Birthday, DAD!

Categories: Conversations with Eileen, Slice of Life 2013 | Tags: , | 9 Comments

Getting HVWP Juiced: Slice #14 Conversations with Eileen

From Tom’s SUNY New Paltz window I see this


IMG_0879and it works to juice us as we plan our Hudson Valley Writing Project work.  I will be returning as a co-faciltator to our Summer Institute that will focus me for July.  I’ve been off for the last two summers taking a break from the demands of our packed institute.  It’s a wonderful way to spend July but it was so good to take a break.  Last July even if I wanted to it would have been impossible but no matter why, it was a good thing to take a break and return now, refreshed!

What I love the most is collaborating with a wonderful group of people.  Take two: Mary and Jackie at the Tea Room.  Looks cool, right?

Not exactly my favorite place for a good cup of coffee.  The cups are way too small and the menu way to0 narrow, but the atmosphere is as cool as you might expect from the photo.  I’ve been working with this team for 12 years, probably more.  Our work is exciting and over the years together it has allowed us to grow along with the world of school.


So I am just about to get off and meet an assistant superintendent from a local public school.  It’s great to be here.  Too cold outside, but we have brought the outside, in.

HVWP, YES!!!!    I will be off DC on Wednesday to advocate for the continuation of our project both locally and nationally.  Obama, you will be in Israel but that won’t shut DC down… Senators and Congressmen, get ready!


Categories: Conversations with Eileen, HVWP, Slice of Life 2013 | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

Digital Love: Slice #13 Conversations with Eileen

Morning 🙂

It’s Day 13 and we are almost at the half-way mark, what?   I remember that first fresh email invitation from Ruth. Hey, I’m having a blast!  Let’s  slow everything  down, oaky?

But being grounded in reality, here’s #13.


I’m back in a digital piece.  This one is my first wedding video to be shown at the rehearsal dinner, the entertainment of the evening.  I never like these pieces when I’m in the intimate audience. They are usually too long with way too many photos, lots of poor quality photos.  They never feel constructed. Really, how many The pieces I’ve seen are usually just too long with way too many photos.  Just a slide show without structure that seems to go on and on… Just how many baby pictures of the happy couple do we need to see?

When my niece asked me to create one for her and video tape her wedding, I said yes, immediately.  I never turn down a new digital challenge and I wanted to take on this genre.  Over the last 5 months I prodded Amanda to get me her favorite photos from her own archives and  from her fiancee..  I have my own  collection our family  photo  and I started taking more posed pictures of the couple at family events. I scheduled interviews with family and friends over Thanksgiving. And sent me a list of songs that touched her.  I warned her that this would not be a piece like other wedding videos. She was ready to take a ride with me.

As usual,  I jumped right in collecting  pictures, downloading the interviews , getting Amanda to select music that I downloaded into a new  Manda playlist on all my devices to keep this piece with me, always, I  even opened a new project in Final Cut Studio.

I started with a piece of music and created an opening with a full set of images that worked well with that first song,  and then I stopped!

I  walked  away and left it.  I had other pieces to take on that I needed for conferences that would come first.  I still had time, April 7th.  But it was in gnawing, in the back of my head.  I played the music over and over in the car and from that original list of 6 songs, I was hoping to only use two.  I almost pushed her to use a song or two that I loved but no, I wanted the love songs to be hers.  She know I’m not going to use all 6.  I am actually proud of her for letting me take artistic control, trusting that I will do right by her.

Of course, I could have been working on this piece even with my conference work, but I needed my usual procrastination time when I wonder if I can even create a good piece; when I wonder if my video interviews will be good; if my piece will be just like all the other boring ones.  Of course, the audience is an easy one.  They will sit and watch anything and enjoy it when they see themselves and take the ride into the past.

But over the last two days I’ve been in this piece.  Yesterday with Tuvia recuperating for his dental implant surgery I had large pockets of time and I worked.  I am probably close to a full draft and I’ve only used two songs and half of the interviews I made. Tuvia took a look and enjoyed it.

So, I’m feeling way ahead of the deadline!  My guilty conscience is silenced once again 🙂

Here’s the happy couple DSC_0274



Categories: Conversations with Eileen, Slice of Life 2013 | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

Dueling Dentists!: Slice #12 & Conversations with Eileen

sols_6   Yesterday at 2:40 I sat in a dental chair with headphones buried deep in my ears to block out the sounds of periodontal scaling in the lower left quarter of my mouth. I didn’t feel anything-GIVE ME THE SHOTS!  Well almost nothing.  I did hear some of the lovely sounds of yanking out the plaque but the music on my PERI playlist did refocus me.  And my hygienist was kind, kinder than any of the others I’ve had and  hated.

There’s only one guy I almost look forward to exploring in my mouth and I’ve written a lot about him.  Dr, Petix.  He’s a dentist with charisma!  He’s honest and well, I’d say a Mensch ( a good man a really good man) and the day that he totally stops working, well….I don’t want to think about it.  I don’t mind working my appointments around his schedule now that he’s down to just 2 days a week and when I came to see him a few months ago he advised, that for the good of my teeth I needed periodontal work. I took his advice and recommendation and set up with a long list of appointments and good thing I have dental insurance.  Enough said.

I have to tell you that yes, the hygienist Margaret is very nice but the real doctor, the periodontist… well as I stood at the desk passing over my Mastercard to pay for my hour of treatment, with the left side of my mouth numbed and expanded, Dr. Small walked out of another workroom acknowledged me with a casual, hi, how are you?  and walked on.  Hmmmm.  Not a Dr. Petix.  He does have a partner who seems to be a bit more genuine.  I might switch.  I’m usually more intimidated by doctors but dentists…I’ve never been intimidated by them.  Maybe it’s Tuvia’s influence, maybe it’s Dr. Petix.  I don’t do anything without checking in with him. Ahh, second opinions are so important.

Okay, so I left the office and headed for home.  Just 20 minutes away, Tuvia was in a dental chair in Paramus, suffering through a dental implant at exactly the same time!  Suffering together and separately. I’m okay this morning but I’m just about to race to the shower, dress, pack and head out to him.

I wonder how someone decides to be a dentist.  Ugh… Well, unless you can be a Dr. Petix.Dr. Petix


Categories: Conversations with Eileen, Slice of Life 2013 | Tags: , | 8 Comments

Slicing/Commenting: Slice #10 Conversations with Eileen

It’s early Sunday morning.  Tuvia has already changed the clocks so I’m really writing at 4:39 and I’ve been up reading comments from yesterday and today for another hour… YIKES! I wonder if I can salvage my Sunday?

But first… I’m remembering Saturday…

Anyway, I don’t think I could have had a better Saturday.  Up early, out the door dressed for success 🙂 My keynote was ready to rock and in the car-ride up to New Paltz I composed my intro. I was lost in my thoughts and as I got closer to my exit I was surprised that I had arrived so easily.

I was home… a parking spot close to our renovated Old Main in the circle… I unloaded my trunk, grabbing my red bags, my black photo bag, my tripod.  Everything felt familiar and comfortable around my neck and in my arms.

I was ready and I was sure that Andrea was ready.  We had so much to share….over the past few months we had planned this conference talk about our work casually as we worked on our ongoing project.  Our keynote was ongoing, reflecting the project itself.  We had fresh videos to share but we are not at the end.  We are fluid.  The big project has still to take shape in the classrooms of Lucas, Jenn, Paul, Nicolette, Jevina… but we are confident it will happen.

I rode up in the elevator with Jackie… Jack was in the large room where we would present to the full group of participants: members of the HVWP community, teachers from the area, pre service teachers at the college.  Always an interesting audience in attendance.

I was totally relaxed and HOME.

We were ready to begin before our 9:00 agenda time.  I was soooo relaxed!  My into was smooth… and I kicked things off… even though we never decided who would cover what, we were working comfortably
y, instinctively.  Participants kept arriving as we began.  More chairs had to be brought in…. we were off…. sharing the presentation… sharing our teacher videos… It felt good, really good..DSC_0300

We had time to debrief, I moved around and grabbed photos from the other workshops… it was a great morning…and…

I still had a full day back home… OZ, Great and Powerful with 8 year old Mihael… dinner at the diner… and HOME to write my slice and get to catch up with other Slicers…

I couldn’t stop clicking and reading…and leaving something… I was so hooked!  Yes I should have been sleeping sooner but I couldn’t stop reading, getting to know my slicing community.  It was so much fun to give myself up to it…

Try it, today…commenting marathon!


Categories: Conversations with Eileen, Slice of Life 2013 | Tags: , , | 11 Comments

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