April 30, 2016

So today I am taking a risk. I am putting a poem out into the world that I don’t think I am done with. Or, rather, I don’t think this poem is done with me.

While I was writing, I sensed this poem taking a turn into deeper and sometimes darker places. My thoughts turned to my own memories of airport hellos and goodbyes. I want to write about them but I am not sure those thoughts are quite yet ready. Or…perhaps I am not ready for them.

Either way, here is my start. Enjoy.

I remember how traveling by airplane used to be:

How you always got dressed up, and
How you would get peanuts and a smile from a stewardess, and
How there were stewardesses, and
How there was a smoking section, and
How the pilots let you visit the cockpit.

But what I miss
Is the human theater of travel:

The terminal goodbyes,
The desperate clingings-to
From lovers who may see each other
Never again,
Or maybe next Thursday.

And the reuniters,
The standers with signs
Or flowers
Or flutters of excitement
Or bad news and a hug.

These exchanges are now gated,
Cordoned off,
Secured to
The drop-off lane,
The Kiss ‘n Fly.


Once a Lovey…

April 29, 2016

Always a lovey.

Today I wrote a letter to the fifth graders, who will be graduating in June. It’s always so difficult to capture what I really want to say to them after watching them grow and mature over the years. I settled on a poem I wrote a while back.

From time to time, a student will contact me out of the blue, and I always get the same question – “Do you remember me?” As if I could possibly forget! This poem is for those loveys, and my loveys yet to come.

“Do You Remember Me?”

You, with that faded bonnet,
The microscopic handwriting,
The comics you drew me,
The moldy mess we excavated from your desk,
The orange sweatshirt you always wore,
The April Fool’s joke you played on the class,

How you didn’t speak until February,
How your grandma was your rock,
How you asked question after question after question,
How I worried about the sadness I sometimes saw in you
How I carried so much of you with me:
Your essays, your homework, your worries…


You, who I sent out like ripples
Awaiting your return
Like a present
I get to keep opening.

Did You Notice

April 28, 2016

That the lilacs
At the top
Of the bush
In the corner
By the garage

Bloomed today

Scenes from a School Day

April 27, 2016

That moment I catch
The shy, silent one
Gleefully bouncing on a balance ball
Before her partners settle her down to work

The stifled snickers
Of children pretending to nap
So they can fool their late-coming classmates

The layers of clutter on the wall
Advertising the work
Of young hands, hearts

The smiles of my writers who now
Finally get
How to do what they do,
Only better

The girl who returns at dismissal
Just because it’s good
To have an extra hug
For the road

Make thegrading

The price of

Adventures in (gulp) Fiction

April 26, 2016


Those of you who know me are aware that I don’t like asking my students to do anything that I am not willing to do. So this time around, when I asked my students to write a piece of fiction that is driven by theme and not by plot, I felt the obligation to take the plunge with them. 

I have to confess that it’s rather scary​. I like writing poetry, and personal narrative comes pretty naturally to me. Find me a soapbox issue and I am all over it! 

But fiction? I will hide in a corner. 

Still, I have decided that it is time to be brave. I completed my character analysis sheet, just like they did. I put my story board together, just like they are doing. I suppose it’s all over now but the writing. 

Time to roll up my sleeves, dig in, and step up to the challenge. Above is a picture of the storyboard I drew. Yes, the art is stinky, but that’s because no one but me needs to understand the pictures. That, and I enjoy drawing people as much as I do writing fiction. 

Check back for my progress on drafting the story.  Wish me luck!

The Night the Toothpaste Went Rogue

April 25, 2016



The Night the Toothpaste Went Rogue

For E., who cheerfully gave me the poem he wrote…and graciously waited too long for me to write one back.
-By Mrs. Levin © 2016


The strangest thing just happened
When I brushed my teeth this time.
My new toothpaste had gone rogue
And started fighting grime.

It sludged into my bedroom
Where my clothes were on the floor
And oozed them to the hamper
(Where they should have been before.)

Next it slid down to the kitchen
To last night’s dinner mess.
The toothpaste did all our dishes
And put them away, no less.

So now our house is sparkling clean
And I cannot complain,
I think I’ll brush my teeth tonight
With my rogue toothpaste again.



Word Challenge: Thirst

April 23, 2016

I can feel it, the sharp, parched cry at the back of the throat
The tongue swollen, dry, hopeless
As I feel the need from deep, deep, deeper still
Body forcing, forging ahead despite
The mind aching to stop
Negotiating, wheedling, demanding
Step after
Step after
I plod on
Fists curled,
Nails dug into palms
The thought of water, of refreshment,
Of relief
Getting farther behind
Yet with every step
Closer ahead.

Inspired by Unbolt’s “Choose your Challenge”

Word count: 73
Time to write: 5 minutes

On Moving On

April 22, 2016

So apparently this guy thinks people should plan to quit their jobs each year unless it’s the best job ever.

His point – as far as I see – is to commit to evaluating one’s job each year. Are we happy? Are we doing something worthwhile, and is this the best possible choice at this point in life? If not? Then…perhaps it *is* time to move on. But at first glance? I’ll admit my toes curled.

The post got me thinking.

Change is good, important, necessary at key points in one’s career. I’ve left a job myself after evaluating my situation.

But a new teaching job every year? I. Can. Not. Imagine.

I can’t imagine this mindset. I’m a teacher. Relationships are my currency – with students, with families, with colleagues. It takes me two to three years just to feel fully adjusted with a new staff.

Within the same jobs, I have shifted across rooms, across grade levels, across schools. The feeling of uprooting and replanting may be invigorating for folks in some careers, but in teaching?

I am good at what I do because I have do it many times. A curriculum is never the same from year to year. It evolves, becomes refined, and it improves as my understanding of teaching and learning improves. I can’t do that if I am switching from year to year.

Like many corporate folks, trial-and-error is a big part of my job, and the ability to reflect and retool strengthens my craft. Sometimes the opportunity for another try comes within a day or so as I rethink a lesson or a conversation. Sometimes, such as when I teach a whole unit, that opportunity is delayed until I can teach it again – up to a full year.

The opportunities for growth, for enjoyment, for self-improvement and challenge are absolutely everywhere in teaching. If a person needs to quit a different teaching job year after year because s/he doesn’t find fulfillment, then – and I say this out of compassion – the problem may not be the job, but the career.

For my part, I will, as Chris Guillebeau says, “proceed with confidence” that I am in the right place.


Emptying the Pockets

April 21, 2016

She told me
That someone told her
To set aside
Each day for a
A counting of things
One carries.

After checking my pockets,
My shoulders,
My soul, I have this
Of what I brought to school today:

My tea thermos
A school bag
The weight of my brother’s passing
Eighteen mental reminders
A wish to do today better
Four separate to-do lists
The grief and anger of loved ones
The burden of self-expectation
The need for self-forgiveness,
And the restorative power of

On Carving Out Space

April 20, 2016

In my day, for breath 

After the priorities 

Have been shuffled through —

A release, perhaps

Of expectation, or the

Desire for different

Such is the promise

Of a few moments caught at

The end of long days.