A View from the Student Seats

Professor picking out student for an answer in lecture room

I am currently completing a second graduate degree. As a result, I spend one or more nights a week seeing the world through student eyes.

I feel my students’ pain when assignments pile up or the timeline for task completion is short. What’s more, I cringe when I do not have mentor texts to guide or inspire my work.

I have started to keep a list of reminders when I plan writing assignments. A few of my favorites include:

  • have a set of mentor texts ready to go
  • set up a padlet so students can crowdsource research
  • provide frequent opportunities for students to talk about the work
  • rather than whole graphic organizers (that can sometimes limit student creativity or hamstring writers), offer frames for part of the work (a thesis frame or an opening or closing)
  • create a list of potential student questions and answer them with a FAQ document
  • use exit tickets for students to privately raise concerns or ask for help
  • create resource folders with writing tools (lists of transition words, writing checklists)

Writing is hard. As a student, I stay up late working onĀ  papers. I am thankful for each and every tool my teachers provide to help me produce my best work.

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Jazz: Blues Alley


Friday night my husband I headed into Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood for an evening of jazz. Georgetown has been home to Thomas Jefferson, John F. Kennedy, Katharine Graham, Julia Child, Elizabeth Taylor and Bob Woodward. Georgetown is also home to the renowned Blues Alley jazz club.

Blues Alley sits in a true alleyway just off the main thoroughfare in Georgetown. If you have never visited Georgetown, the community is incredibly picturesque. Colonial buildings mix with brick row houses that sprung up after the civil war. The C&O Canal flows through Georgetown and residents walk the towpath on warm days.

Entering Blues Alley feels like walking into a secret cave. The sound of conversation, laughter and clinking glasses draws you in. This is the place to be. Patrons are sandwiched in around small tables as waiters weave back and forth taking food and drink orders. The Cajun fare is good, bringing back memories of visits to my husband’s home state of Louisiana.

As the lights dim further, the crowd hushes. Several unassuming individuals make their way up onto the barely raised stage. Patrons sit right next to the drums, bass and piano. Everything about Blues Alley feels intimate.

Years ago, my husband remembers seeing Dizzy Gillespie in the small venue. Players wait in a modest lounge upstairs at Blues Alley. The room is open and not far from the restrooms. There sat Dizzy Gillespie warming up, puffing out his cheeks in preparation for the show.

In my experience, jazz musicians are warm, appreciative people. I know that is a generalization but at Blues Alley, the musicians often head to the bar for a glass of water or something stronger at set’s end, and they kindly greet patrons giddy with compliments. Jazz musicians are a rare breed. They seem to travel constantly from club to club. At each show I’ve attended the commitment to the music is evident. Improvisations flow and the musicians create a new journey each time.

When we left Blues Alley on Friday night, I carried a club calendar with several upcoming dates circled. Jazz is magic in a bottle and I can’t wait to hear more.


The Night the Lights Went Out


We felt lucky not to lose our power on the first day of the Washington wind storm. However, on the second night of the wind event, our power flickered several times and then extinguished. My husband, two dogs and I sat on the couch in the kitchen and peered out at our neighborhood.

Our house sits on a hill so we have a view of several streets. Darkness enveloped the whole neighborhood. We watched as a few flashlights and lanterns went on in nearby houses. We, too, had brought lanterns into the kitchen when the lights started to flicker.

There is something so cozy about sitting in a darkened house with loved ones. The lanterns give off a soft glow as we shuffle around the kitchen working on peanut butter sandwiches for dinner. What’s more, power outages always make me feel we are somehow closer to our neighbors. We are all in it together.

Several years ago, I read a wonderful book by Barbara Brown Taylor entitled Learning to Walk in the Dark. The book explores our relationship with darkness. Taylor notes that the invention of artificial light changed us forever. We can alter night with a flood of light. Our sleep cycles have been disrupted by the glow of constant lights. The stars are no longer visible everywhere. But, one of the things that struck me most in the book was her talk about our association of darkness with danger and evil.

There are many beautiful things found in the dark. A late night walk in my neighborhood might flush out a fox or raccoon. As a child, I loved the sound of the crickets and spring peepers outside my grandparent’s back porch. Laying in the grass looking up at the stars on a summer night in Maine is breathtaking. And, don’t forget the glory of the first fireflies in summer.

On this night, I am thankful for the respite from manmade light. I love the glow of a candle and the quiet night sounds. I tuck my legs under me as I open a good book and settle in.