March 24, 2017

The “rule of three” is a time-honored pattern in literature, scripture, and advertising. I find that when I write, subconsciously I am often searching for that third example. Three seems more powerful than two or one. When I write, I ponder, type, and delete over and over.

A master teacher once taught me to conclude lessons by asking: “What did you learn? What did you do? How did you feel?” Recently lesson plans moved from a 5-point LEARN model to a 3-step lesson plan:  What, Why, How. This shift is intended to tighten instruction for more explicit teaching. What are we learning? Why are we learning this? How do we do it?

Today I was introduced to another Three: Know, Do, Be. What do I know? What will I do? What will I be? This group of 3 seems very powerful to me. It frames the idea that what I know affects what I do and how I walk in the world–what I will become. To me this is hopeful. This idea matters. This is worth all my daily effort. Knowing, Doing, Being. Another form for faith, hope, charity.
 

March 23, 2017

My slice of life thought journey took its own path today. It has to do with the idea of wanting. During our second grade team meeting we were discussing introducing persuasive writing and our hopes for how the unit would go. One of the teachers brought up the question of elevating the work to go beyond “getting someone to buy me what I want.” The discussion went to asking, “What are things that 2nd graders can show they care about that would be motivating to write about?” We talked about whether 2nd graders would respond to approaches that would lead to topics related more to social justice. What would be stepping stones to developing the skills of persuasion while also fostering a sense of “what could we do to persuade others to act for the good of our class, our community, our world?”

It was a rich and robust conversation, and it made me think about children in general, children at my school, and even my own children. All children want things. I think I’ll even say, all people want things. Is it “bad” for kids to want things? Should we judge whether someone’s wants are worthy of wanting? That’s way too big a question for this moment, but I do remember my own children being very aware that our family didn’t have the “stuff” that their friends had. They wanted. Sometimes there was begging, cajoling, and pleading, even whining. We lived through it and even learned a few things along the way. Somehow we learned that wanting didn’t mean we were lacking.

Another twist on wanting. Tonight an essay in Naming the World (edited by Bret Anthony Johnston) caught my attention. “The Importance of Being Envious,” by Tom Robbins addresses the effect of reading on writers. Don’t we write because we want to say something? How many of us have read a phrase or paragraph and felt “oh…I wish I had said that?” Or, “that’s exactly right?”  He says it’s writer-envy. It’s motivating. It makes us want to try again to craft words into powerful language.

In Robbins’ words: “Yes, we should never underestimate the valuable role that sheer envy plays in the creative process. Whereas in a romantic relationship jealousy is stupid and destructive, as a lubricant of the verbal brain machinery it can be highly effective.  It’s elementary: you read a few pages (somethings a few paragraphs or even a line or two will suffice) of work of which you are in awe, and in minutes you’ll find yourself motivated–burning!–to try to compose passages of equal merit. . .By no means is this a case of competing for fortune or fame. . .In merely attempting, with every muscle in your envious psyche, to climb to that elevation–to be that inventive and amusing and tough and daring and true–you may well have mooned the drab angel of mediocrity, and if nothing else you will have let loose your juice.”

I know I’m just barely writing my way into this and many other topics, but I appreciate (so much!) this forum in which to try. Many of you have sparked “writer-envy” in me which really means I admire your work so much.

Time for bed.

 

 

 

March 22, 2017

I stayed up too late last night, so I was tired this morning. My husband began my day by picking up mid-sentence, it seemed, with a difficult conversation we had started last night.

I had reluctantly agreed to be the fox for Fairy Tale Day (our Kindergarten celebration) and was so afraid I’d forget my costume that I forgot to take my computer to school. Wearing costumes and being playful makes me anxious. Truth.

I work with a challenging first grader who was even more resistant to reading today than usual. After she interrupted me for the tenth time, I sent her back to class early feeling like a bad teacher.

It seemed like there was one in every group today who got on my last nerve.

I ate by myself and tried to calm down. The afternoon wasn’t much better. Chocolate didn’t help.

So when the bell rang, I shut my door and attacked the pile of papers on my desk.

I may have had a rotten day, but at the end of the day I’m proud I went out of my comfort zone and was a pretty good fox. Want a ride across the river?

March 21, 2017

sparrow

I walked slowly from the car toward the house. It had been a long day. It felt like it should be at least Wednesday, but it was only Tuesday. As I passed the arborvitae on the corner of the house, I heard the sound of baby birds chirping for mama and food.

A memory flashed in my mind. We purchased our first home in the fall of 1977 just before the birth of our first baby. It was a little yellow house with black shutters, a fenced yard, and a garden plot.

My husband was (and is) a man with very predictable patterns and routines. Every day when he returned from work, he would check for mail. In the spring of 1978, we noticed something unusual with the mail.  Among the letters would be bits of grass, small twigs, and pieces of string or paper. Every day he cleaned it out only to find another collection the next day. Finally, I convinced him to leave the grass in the mailbox so we could see what might happen.

We left a note for the mailman to put our mail inside the screen door instead of the box. Soon the collection of grass was taking shape and in a few days, the nest was complete. Everyday we gently took a peek. Imagine the wonder we felt when we saw four little eggs inside our mailbox! We knew we should leave it alone. Then one day, we heard tiny peeps coming from the mailbox. Because of the placement of the mailbox, I was too short to see in. I remember eagerly waiting my husband’s return from work so that he could tell me how the babies were doing. It was a moment when I saw his tender side and felt happy.

When the babies left the nest and the mother no longer came to visit, we cleaned out the mailbox and missed our little guest.

 

 

March 20, 2017

When I was 16 I fell in love, not only with a boy, but with e.e. cummings, all things piano, wildflowers, and motorcycles.

On this first day of spring, so many years later, I remember clearly one night when I stayed up extremely late finishing a research paper on e.e. cummings. Now that I think about it, I seem to remember that I was writing to compare Beatles’ lyrics with some favorite poems of e.e. cummings. Still an interesting topic to me!

My mother was an excellent typist. She very kindly typed my paper, starting at the beginning while I was finishing the ending. It wasn’t the first or last time we tag-teamed to get my homework done. That was in the day when typewriters had no correction key, so every mistake had to either be erased or touched up with white-out. Fortunately, my mother didn’t make many mistakes. Her piano playing fingers learned the patterns of words easily. Being used to hours of practice each week, she had Stamina (yes, capital S).

She typed on onion-skin paper. It was less expensive than bond paper and mistakes were more easily corrected on it. I loved the way the paper was thin and crinkly. It sounded cool when you turned the pages.

When my paper was all typed, my mom went to bed. I remember reading it over while sitting on the floor of my bedroom.  I was wearing an old navy blue robe that I snagged before my mother could give it to Goodwill. (I loved that robe. It was so cozy and soft.) While reading my paper, I decided that I wanted to make it special. So when the house got silent and no one was up, I quietly got a cup of water and my watercolors . I illustrated each poem included in the text as best I could, knowing that I wasn’t very good at art. But somehow that didn’t matter because I had a teacher whom I loved. I knew she would understand my attempt and not judge me. In the quiet of the night, I felt free to be myself and smiled as I tried to paint “mudluscious” and “puddle wonderful.” (from e.e. cummings “in just spring”)

Listen to e.e. cummings read his poem here:

balloonman

March 19, 2017

On one of my bus trips to New York for events at Teachers College, I had a simple experience. It might not be worth mentioning, but it was at a time when I felt pretty alone in the world.  A stranger, who was totally unaware of the moment, reminded me of the ways just human contact helps. I attempted to get my words to match the feeling and know that they are not yet quite adequate, but here goes:

Bus Ride

We boarded the bus one-by-one

To be ferried to the city.

The seat next to me was empty.

Secretly, I hoped it would stay that way.

At the last minute

a young man boarded

and with ease of youth sat down by me.

He unpacked iPod, portable DVD, magazine, and journal.

We sat then, two-by-two–

as though mates, but not.

In the modern way,

I suppressed my questions,

dutifully avoided eye contact, and

carefully kept to my space.

But

when he slept,

his foot touched mine.

I felt warmth through my shoe

and did not stir.

 

 

 

March 18, 2017

I have only a few minutes to write, but my day at the Saturday Reunion (TCRWP) was so inspiring. It is so powerful to be lifted up by leaders who not only talk a good game, but who are also living it. Lucy’s talk centered on the impact of her dear colleague and friend, Kathleen Tolan. I didn’t know Kathleen personally, but I have been taught by her and changed by her teaching. Today Lucy closed with these words (or as close as my notetaking skills will allow): ” It is an enormous act of LOVE to see POTENTIAL.”

How much we can bless children by seeing potential in them and then having the courage to do something, anything, that might make that potential grow to a reality. She talked a lot about having courage to hope, to see promise, to work very hard, and leave a mark in this world. In my heart of hearts, that is exactly why I became a teacher. I don’t know exactly where or when I might have left a mark, but I hope that somewhere there is a person who has believed a little more in themselves because of their interaction with me.

Others have done that for me. Many of you in this community of writers have left your mark on my life. Thank you.

 

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