Poem

April 19, 2015

So I heard this story the other day
About a guy
Who saw a lama for his pain.

And the lama
Had trained his heart
To grow big as the sea
So it could shoulder the
Burdens of the suffering
And replace them
With love.

The lama
Asked for the guy’s hands
And took them
Into his
And he asked for the guy’s grief
And took it
Into his heart
And the guy felt better.

I want to do that.

Not to be the guy.

The lama.

Let my heart swell
Limitless
Let love flood.

Place your hands into mine.
I will ask for your pain
And my heart will open wide
Wider
Wider
And swallow your pain
In love.

Seesaw Kind of Day

February 18, 2015

I had an up and down day teaching today. On the plus side, I got to sit back and just take notes during discussions while groups of students held insightful, incredibly rich conversations about the nature of violence and compassion, and what impact those attributes have on society. Yes. Inspiring. It always is when people can make me think of things in ways I had never expected.

I also had to work with a student through some really difficult choices he had been making.

Times like these make me question how I’m really doing. Sure, I say that I prioritize my students’ social and emotional well-being.

Still.

There have been so many times across the years where I honestly believe I’m acting in a child’s best interests. There have been times where I feel so sure I am taking the compassionate approach to problems my students face. And then, looking back, I wonder if I have done the right thing.

Should I have gone softer, or taken a harder line?
Should I have brought in the parents when I did, or should I have waited for things to develop?
Should I have let more time pass, or should I have been more immediate in my actions?
Should I have involved other people, or should I have handled things on my own?

There are places where I know I haven’t chosen well, and I continue to think about those children long past their schooling years. These are the children I have always “taken home” with me at night. These are the ones I continue to think about, even as my own kids come to me for guidance and support with their struggles. These are the children whose parents I want to say, “I know it’s hard. I know parenting stinks sometimes. But your kid will be okay. We will all be okay.”

Because I have to believe that things will be okay. That sometimes life gets bumpy, and we have people along the way to help us see our path more clearly.

Until then, I’ll be thinking of them as I cook dinner. Or walk the dogs. Or fold the laundry. Or…

My Week In Stickies

February 12, 2015

The first step is admitting I have a problem.

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Testing, Testing…

January 15, 2015

Now THIS sums up exactly how I view children, and how I view testing.

Yes, testing gives us a “snapshot” of student achievement. And those of you who know how much I love numbers understand how I appreciate data.

But.

We.
Are.
Working.
With.
Children.

With people.

Complex, confusing, beautiful
PEOPLE.

Click to see this video (about 4 minutes) of Peter H. Reynold’s “The Testing Camera,” and get a little perspective.

Watch. Enjoy. Share.

Old Dog, New Trick

January 14, 2015

Ever hear of a reverso poem?
…No…?
Neither had I.

Never, that is, until one of my students sent me one she wrote. Then I thought, “Now THAT’s something I have to try.”

So, the two of us had a nice lunch together today and spoke of all things, both poetry and otherwise, and she taught me how to create a reverso poem. I took a stab at it.

Here’s what you do. Read my poem (out loud, pretty please!) from top to bottom. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Snow days
I can’t get enough
Snuggles on the couch
With the cold world outside
Cozy and warm
Yet I long to feel
Sun on skin
Sand between toes
My body needs
Summer days

NOW…read line by line, but from the bottom UP. (“Summer days/my body needs…”)

Cool, eh? Hopefully your mind was as blown as mine was by the approach. Hopefully you’re forgiving the rough-around-the-edges nature of my poem. Hopefully you’re thinking you want to give it a try. Hopefully you’ll share your wonderful, messy creation with me, just as I have with you.

Haiku #2: The Leap

January 13, 2015

Worked with another set of students on composing poetry, so…you know…I felt compelled to write again.

This one? Well, I have a feeling I’m not done with the metaphor. I think there is more for me to explore.

But.

Have you ever had an odd feeling of excitement/anxiety that you can’t quite pinpoint the source of? Yep. That was my mood when I wrote this. Taking a breath, being brave. Here we go:

Today, I’m hopeful.
A flutter in the belly
Says, “Expect good things.”

I wonder sometimes…
What if I COULD do all I
Am capable of?

Fear and excitement:
Two sides of the same coin (or
So the story goes)

So then: which is it?
Toes curled over the high dive,
Looking down and down,

Or perhaps the joy,
Resounding splash and relief
Having made the leap?

How I’m Doing

January 9, 2015

This morning, after two snow days at home, I was feeling poetic. So, for the morning warm-up, I asked my students to tell me how they were doing.

In haiku.

Here’s what I love about haiku. Yes, it’s a structure to writing, which means that it requires discipline. Unlike other forms of poetry, however, it isn’t restrictive. Haiku takes the banal, the ordinary, the literal, and it elevates it somehow.

Of course, I wasn’t going to make my kids write without giving it a stab myself. Here goes:

Not much is doing
Glad to be right back at school
Back where I belong

It’s not that I don’t
Enjoy the comfort of a
Snuggled-in snow day,

But there is something
To be said for the sheer joy
Of work, learning.

Besides, I’d rather
Be here, in the cold, than in
Heart-warmed, hope-filled June.

—-
And you? How are YOU doing? Leave a haiku comment to let me know!

Resolution: Another Direction

January 6, 2015

Today, my fourth graders discussed the layers of conflict in Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet. Kids worked together to find evidence in the text for conflicts involving Man vs. Man, Man vs. Self, and Man vs. Nature. (And yes, for the pedants out there, we did talk about how “Man” meant “People.” It’s all good, I promise.)

Kids gathered evidence to highlight conflicts that Brian, the main character, struggled with, and evidence demonstrating a resolution of those conflicts.

Which got me thinking.
(That’s when the fun REALLY begins.)

Here’s what I asked the kids. We have these three types of conflict. But what, exactly, does it take to RESOLVE those conflicts? To get past them, to work through them, to make things better?

The result was a brainstorming session and an incredibly insightful conversation. Here’s a picture of where our thinking went:

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It gave us a chance to wrestle with some pretty tough questions:
*Must we have an apology before we can offer forgiveness?
*How is conflict with ourselves like conflict with others?
*What does it take to bridge the gap between the vision we have for ourselves, and the reality we see in ourselves?

Pretty amazing stuff, if you ask me. It’s one more reason to get up in the mornings, and just one more way the kids I work with excite, teach and inspire me.

A Matter of Resolve

January 3, 2015

Each year, I watch the latest round of New Year resolutions, affirmations, oaths, and promises. I’ve not been one big on making resolutions, as it’s a never-ending process for me.

One particular line of posts, however, caught my eye. Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, people pick a word and commit to that word in the year to come. Now that’s an idea I could get behind.

Problem is, what word to choose? I’ve racked my brain for the last two weeks trying to determine what idea captures how I’d like to see myself evolve and grow. I’ve tried on lots of words, yet come up short.

Until I heard Neil deGrasse Tyson on his StarTalk podcast. The subject of superheroes came up:

“My favorite comment about Superman? He actually has no costume. There’s nothing covering his face when he’s Superman…his costume is his glasses and suit…he is himself as he is the superhero.”

“He is himself as he is the superhero.”

Let.
That.
Soak.
In.

Superman is most powerful when he is most himself.

And so are we.

And so am I.

This year shall be one of power.

Some superpowers I already own. Others, I must develop:

Power to exercise compassion with my students.
Power to finally do that pull-up.
Power to stand true to my ideals.
Power to let myself listen even when speaking is easier.
Power to bring out the best in others.
Power to resist the chocolate in the cupboard.
Power to put more kindness into the world than I remove.
Power to see the beauty in others.
Power to see the beauty in myself.

And you? What are your super powers? What makes you strongest as yourself?

Recognize them.
Name them.
Share them.

What to Do About Ferguson

November 25, 2014

I remember Columbine.

I remember it occurred on a Tuesday.

I remember it occurred on a Tuesday because that was the night my fourth grade class always had to watch the news and bring in a current event.

All that Tuesday evening, as I watched the news, my heart went out to the Columbine students and families. I searched for a way to comprehend for myself and just couldn’t. Then I remembered my students were watching, and I felt even worse. I had unwittingly exposed a group of ten-year-olds to this. This aberration. This massacre.

That Wednesday morning, there was absolutely no doubt what story the students brought in to discuss. We spent nearly two hours talking about the events of the previous day, trying to make sense of things. When it boiled down to it, the students learned:
1. There really is no way to make sense of these things. Even for grown-ups.
2. Events like these make us look at the people in our lives with renewed love and gratitude.
3. Our parents worry about us, want us to be okay, and wish they could always protect us. They can’t.
4. See # 2.

And now.

Last night, my family sat transfixed as we watched Ferguson tear apart. My sons witnessed the burning cars, the people running to escape tear gas, the broken windows, the pleas for peace. They asked many questions, some of which I had the answers to. Others? Well…I only wished.

Being the teacher that I am, I process everything through the lens of student interactions. My mind went through how I would discuss these events with my students. Because in my classroom, we have to. We would have to use this opportunity to open our eyes to the events of history and understand who we are, where we stand, and what we individually must do.

But.

I don’t have my own class.

I’m a specialist who sees kids, depending on their grade, between one and three hours a week. I don’t get to assign current events anymore. We don’t get to have morning meetings. Or community time. These are the times I miss having my own group of students. Kids that I can love and nurture and give what they need all week long, not just for thirty to sixty minutes at a pop.

I began to think that I would have to let this opportunity pass me by. After all, I don’t have much time with my students. Furthermore, and more importantly, who’s to even say that my kids even KNOW what’s going on in Ferguson? Some of them may have parents who talk to them about the news, but I don’t think the majority of them are up on what’s happening around them.

I could wait for our next novel study. It’s a book set in the Civil Rights Era of the 1960’s. I would do a tremendous disservice in allowing my children to think that this struggle is a thing of the past, that racial equality arrived hand-in-hand with the March on Washington. That we have overcome. That we now live in a nation where all citizens truly have equal opportunities, and where people of different races live in harmony.

We still suffer the ills of inequality, of racism, of injustice. Ferguson is a symptom.

And then it hit me.

My fifth graders are reading A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. Yes, it’s a novel study, but we’re mostly using it as a springboard for studying bigger stuff: the nature of intelligence, the cosmos, dystopian societies, the Cold War. Big ideas for young minds.

Today is the day I show them the video clip of Carl Sagan’s famous essay, The Pale Blue Dot. 

Bingo.

It’s perfect. In three minutes, it communicates what I wish to get across: people’s needs, their struggles, their desires for power and agency. It seems both so critical and so insignificant all at the same time.

It’s a start.

We may not be able to have a direct discussion about the events in Ferguson today. But we just may. I just may have one student: sensitive, aware, concerned. One student who may beg the question. And when that student does?

I’ll be ready.

Watch Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot for three minutes of reflection, perspective, and, hopefully, inspiration.


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