Another Look at Longwood’s Beauty

Since I had to make a trip to HR at West Chester University yesterday morning, I made sure I was at my laptop at 5 a.m. so I could put in about five hours of work before we left. My husband Ralph came with  me. Our plan was to stroll Longwood Gardens one more time before the week became too busy with work, an outing to celebrate my brother-in-law’s birthday, and getting ready for the holiday (that means a lot of house cleaning and food shopping). Tuesday was a perfect walking day to explore some of the gardens we didn’t get to see the last time we were there.

But first, some important things to attend to at WCU. So after watching a video on mandatory reporting and dropping off my FBI check to Human Resources, we would go for a stroll. If you teach or work with kids, you need to keep your clearances updated. I only needed the fingerprinting which I did at the university a couple weeks ago. Did you know that as you get older, your fingerprints disappear?  And actually, if you play the piano or handle a lot of paper or do a lot of typing, you can wear down the edges of your fingerprints. Bricklayers and massage therapists also tend to wear down their distinct fingerprints. Not having fingerprints is actually a genetic condition called Adermatoglyphia. This may be more than you want to know about fingerprints, but it could be helpful information if you are writing a mystery or crime novel.

Back to Langwood Gardens in less than fifteen minutes. If we lived in the area, we would walk here several times a week….or even every day. Our friend Paul Perry met us. We headed toward the children’s garden. I was sure there would be tulip beds in bloom just beyond it, and I was right!  We strolled, took lots of photos, and walked through the conservatory which had grown quite busy.  The fountains reopen this Saturday and the main fountains reopen May 1st. Early May will be our next stroll since the gardens will be pink, white, blue, and purple and the wisteria will be in bloom. Evening hours begin on May 9th and will allow us to make the drive after six and walk from seven to ten. These hours and early morning hours (opening at nine) are great when the weather gets really warm. Certain paths lead through wooded areas where temperatures actually feel about ten degrees cooler!

I could feel myself relax as we wandered, sat, and wondered. So much beauty here all in one place! The du Pont family gave the world a gift that keeps on giving. Yes, the world! Thousands of students from the late 1950s to present day have participated in Longwood’s intensive education programs. Graduates have gone on to leadership roles in many of the country’s top horticultural institutions. If you have never visited this treasure, when you come to Pennsylvania to perhaps see Philadelphia’s historic treasures, add Longwood Gardens to your list of things to do. It’s just about an hour’s drive.

Enjoy our walk through photos!

Beauty at Longwood Gardens


“The only Zen you find on the tops of mountains
is the Zen you bring up there.” ~Robert Pirsig

Yesterday I took a break from my post at my laptop to stroll Longwood Gardens with my husband Ralph. We took many pictures of daffodils and tulips and grape hyacinths and Spanish bluebells. There was a lovely silver garden filled with20190413_162407 cacti and the trees were bursting with blooms. Robins, squirrels, and bees were enjoying the lovely spring day, too.

The garden was packed with visitors of all ages. Our friends, Mary and Paul, joined us for part of our walk. It is always amazing how I love to walk when I am there,  From our home, it takes a little more than an hour to get there, or I would go several times a week. We hope to get back this week to see the rest of the tulips that are ready to pop!DSCN2224

Looking for peace of mind or that sense of serenity can be found in a place like Longwood Gardens, but only if you are ready to embrace everything around you. That means you can’t be looking at your watch or your Fitbit and you can’t be thinking of the DSCN2177work you left behind. It will still be there when you return. What you can do is breathe in and out (the hyacinths filled the air with a sweet smell – better than any store-bought perfume), take in the scenery, smile, laugh, hold your husband’s hand, take a few selfies, find a few places to sit, rest, relax, wonder, dream. Let the outside in; let the inside out. You hold the power to bring balance to your life.

A dear friend of mine, Janice Ewing, once told me to look at the blank squares on my calendar and mark one of them each week with Lynne or Lynne and Ralph before they fill up with work and organizational commitments. I have not been true to this practice, but recently, I have returned to it. This time is for renewal.

Here is the beauty of Longwood Gardens:


Can We Find Another Word?

I have been thinking a lot about the term “struggling” to describe readers and writers.  I like the word when it means we are engaging in a challenge and need to have stamina and determination to deal with obstacles that are placed in our path.  But I don’t like it when we use it to describe our students as readers and writers.

At CCIRA, I heard Donalyn Miller talk about dormant readers and writers. She talked about readers and writers who enter middle grades without a passion or interest in reading and writing and why this is happening. I like the term she used – dormant. The idea of dormant readers and writers appealed to me – students who need the guidance, the kindness, and the expertise of passionate teachers to wake them up!  I thought about how I was taken in by the beauty of Mt. Rainier when I was doing a staff development workshop with Rose Cappelli in the Seattle area.  Like a sleeping volcano, students have the desire and often the power to be readers and writers, but something has quieted their fire.

There are many reasons this could happen, including many outside forces. Does the student have too many responsibilities when he leaves the classroom? Are there any books in the home? Do his parents read with him?  Is at least one parent a model for reading (reads for enjoyment or to learn something)? Does the family visit the local library?  The school environment is important, too. Does the teacher ever talk about a genre or format that interests this student? Are there choices for independent reading and writing? Does the teacher often write in her writer’s notebook? Does the teacher read aloud daily? Does she often share a small piece of her outside-of-school reading so her students know she is a lifelong reader?

Maybe we could talk about developing readers and writers or transitioning readers and writers. Those terms certainly are more positive and offer hope to the teacher, the parents, and the student that, with time, the student can be successful and fluent.  Students need different supports and different amounts of time to develop their skills and work through their reading and/or writing process. For all of us, we continue to move toward a mastery of reading and writing. We continue to grow in sophistication beyond university.  In fact, it is a learning journey for the rest of our lives.

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A Word About Editing

Editing is the last stage of writing process.  As we start the school year, we often ask students to engage in an eye conference or a self-conference to look at conventions – spelling, grammar, capitalization, and punctuation – as the last thing they do before publishing. Editing is a stage of the writing process that is often reserved for the “final look.” In truth, editing can occur as early as the first sentence of the first draft. Writing process is recursive in nature, not linear. Some students may actually do a better job with editing if they work on it as they go along. There is no right or wrong way to do this.

However, the job of editing should not be left to peers. While peer conferences work very well for helping a fellow writer discover a topic or do some revision work, peer conferences are far less successful with editing. Often, peers make suggestions for incorrect uses of punctuation and even correct the spelling of a word that has been spelled correctly.  The writer usually trusts these edits. (See Mark Overmeyer’s Let’s Talk: Managing One-on-One, Peer, and Small Group Conferences. Stenhouse, 2015). The writer should always be the first reader and first editor of his work. The teacher is the final editor.

As we begin to move through cycles (or units of study) throughout the school year, we should start to push a certain amount of editing skills farther and farther back. Students should eventually be responsible for using the skill all the time, and even across the content areas.

For example, let’s say you are a second-grade teacher and have been working on beginning each new sentence with a capital letter and ending with some mark of punctuation.  As you move out of the first cycle, you should expect your students to start paying attention to these two skills in the drafting and revision stages. Later, when you move to a third cycle, these skills should be pushed back to appear in their writer’s notebook entries.  Finally, you should expect to see an attempt to begin every sentence with a capital letter and end with some mark of end punctuation in everything your third grade students do.

Don’t expect your students to be perfect in every area of editing.  Of course, you will be the final editor for published work that appears in the hallway or is sent out to the greater community.  You can, however, gradually increase the number of skills that you feel your students should know and can learn at your grade level.

Often, you need to examine their writing to know what a particular student or class really needs to be able to do.  If your fourth graders are trying to use conversation in their narratives, but they don’t use quotation marks and have no idea where to place end punctuation or begin on a new line each time the speaker changes, then it’s a good time to take a small group (or whole group) who needs to be able to do this right now and do some minilessons on writing conversations.

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