Tuesday, May 9, 2017

I haven’t checked into my WordPress account for the past week.  That is good.  It means I have been busy enough to keep me off my computer.  When I logged in to my feed today, I scrolled past the last few days of One Word Prompts.  Today’s word is bitter.  My mind immediately went to several situations at school that are filled with bitterness.  A lack of awareness, an apparent inability to connect, and excuses for inattentiveness have caused intense, intense bitterness.  There are bad feeling amongst employees, between parents, between staff and parents, pretty much between everyone right now.  I keep thinking we have nipped it and moved on and then it rears its head again.  Bitterness is really hard to get rid of.  It lingers, it feeds on itself, and it grows out of control when it isn’t directly addressed.

Was it totally ironic that today’s word is bitter and two days ago the word was better?  Just one letter changed but what a significant difference in how those words make me feel.  So, how do you go from bitter to better.

I’ve learned a lot in the past few weeks about taking care of others that might makes things better.

Listening is imperative.  Not just sitting through the conversation but thinking about what the words mean when the come from a certain person.  Finding the source and not relying on the ones who are just fueling the fire.  And knowing that sometimes all you need to say it, “I hear you”.

Being aware is necessary.  Sometimes we learn more by just watching the way others behave.  Observing actions and interactions can sometimes tell you more than a face to face conversation with words.

Spending time together is critical.  Relationships are built on common experiences.  If you don’t make the time to be together, there is no bedrock.  It doesn’t have to be fancy time – just ordinary common experiences; eating lunch together, sorting library books, going through the lost and found pile, going on a field trip.

And finally, emails do not take the place of a conversation, phone calls do not take the place of a hug, and good intentions do not take the place of being wholly present.  Perhaps these are ways we can get better.

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

It’s Tuesday and I’d like to share what I have been reading.  I received an email from the parent of a student my now 20 year old son went to school with K-5.  She was letting friends know that a book had just been published about her son titled Just Elliot.  I immediately hit the link and ordered the book from Amazon.  (It’s just a little to easy to do that but I was grateful in this instance!)  While I waited for my copy to arrive, I did some searching about how the book came to be.  I found this beautiful blog written by Elliot’s mom.  As I read her story, I was taken back to when we first met their family, when our boys were in 1st grade together.  At the time, the students surrounding Elliot did what many young children do – they accepted Elliot for who he was.  Probably not all of them, but from my memory, Elliot truly was Just Elliot to most of the students in his class.

Just Elliot print cover 9780986374197.indd

I was warned the I might cry when I read the book.  I knew I would but when I did read the book I understood why I had been forewarned.  The character who is Elliot’s best friend is named after my son, my now college freshman.  I cried for Elliot and how many will not have the opportunity to know  him because of the predeterminations they will make of him.  I cried for students in my class who will be prejudged by their behavior and not for who they are.  I cried for all those years of motherhood, hoping that I was raising kind children and finding out that maybe I did do something right.  Or maybe that’s just the way my son is.  He would have accepted Elliot because that is Just Sam.

SOL, Tuesday, April 18, 2017

I opened up the NYT on line today and randomly chose an editorial to peruse.  I landed on one that brought up a conundrum that is present in several ways in my life.  David Brooks writes about what makes thick and thin institutions.  Thin are those that after you leave, you may or may not stay connected with.  Thick are the ones that no matter the distance and time, you are connected to others from that institution in ways hard to explain.  When I think about the perfect example, good summer camps, NOLS courses, and spring break roads trips come to mind.

Both of my children are about to make a big transition.  One is graduating from college.  The other is likely going to transfer to a new college or university.  I think this thick and thin is central to both of them right now.  Their college experience did not provide them with anything thick.  They love their professors, they are challenged by what they are learning, they like the students around them, and neither of them is unhappy with their experience.  I keep wondering what the driving force is behind the transfer and behind my daughter’s enthusiasm for getting out of here.  I think it is because there is nothing thick; they have wanted something strong, solid, and thick to hold on to and instead have found something too thin to feel safe.

One description of the dichotomy really stuck with me.

“In other words, thin institutions tend to see themselves horizontally. People are members for mutual benefit. Thick organizations often see themselves on a vertical axis. People are members so they can collectively serve the same higher good.

In the former, there’s an ever-present utilitarian calculus — Is this working for me? Am I getting more out than I’m putting in? — that creates a distance between people and the organization. In the latter, there’s an intimacy and identity borne out of common love. Think of a bunch of teachers watching a student shine onstage or a bunch of engineers adoring the same elegant solution.”

When I translate this to my school and my classroom, I can see through the thinness.  And I have no idea how to go about making it thick.  I know part of it is leadership at a level that I cannot affect.  But how can I make my classroom thick?  I am going to sit on that today.

Tuesday April 11, 2017

My teammates and I have a habit of writing our own William Carlos William poems for pretty much any situation – a messy room, a celebration of good work, a vacation weekend or a boring staff meeting.  It has been our go-to for expressing things when we don’t know what else to say.  14 years ago on April 8th, we adopted our dear sweet Chaco.  And last week on April 7th, we said goodbye.

SONY DSC
SONY DSC

 

So much depends

Upon

That fluffy black

Pup

Peering right at

Me

Asking for

Home.

SOLSC, March 31, 2017

Slice of Life Story Challenge 2017.

It has really been a challenge for me to write every day.  Finding the time is challenge enough but then add on what to write about, how much to write, how much of my soul to bear, how much of my life others might find interesting and it it truly a story challenge.

My husband has been reading a book that a friend recommended.  It is one man’s struggle to find meaning and purpose in life.  His philosophy in the beginning of the book is to write his own story.  Instead of letting life happen to him, he made it a goal to write his own story.  He traveled far and wide and sought out experiences that make my stories look mundane and provincial.  We have been talking about how we write our story each day.  We are trying to be more purposeful in our choices and are seeking out new things instead of continuing in the same old easy patterns.  But even being more thoughtful about writing a story instead of just letting it happen around you hasn’t made my own stories any more exciting or engaging.

We spent a night with some friends in Aspen this week.  They are both about 15 years older than us.  They had other house guests at the same time; a couple they had known when they had their first jobs out of college many years ago.  We sat through a long laughter filled dinner listening to their stories.  They drove old junker cars across the country, set up new homes in tiny towns where they fought off mosquito killing chemicals, worked with underprivileged folks to find them jobs, read to the blind, sat on community boards that supported health care for those who can’t afford it all the while earning Master’s degrees and PHDs in everything from psychology to public policy.  They told stories of meeting senators, presidents, movie stars, and famous Westerners.  My husband and I did a lot of listening.  We both felt as though we had few if any stories of such caliber to share.

Last night we invited my teacher partner, her husband, and kids over for dinner.  We played a rousing game of Dogopoly with the 7 and 9 year old.  We laughed and joked while we moved the Flea and the Mailman and the Fire Hydrant around the board.  We traded dog breeds to move the game along and roared when S went to the Kennel for the 4th time in the game.  We called it quits at 9pm as it was way past bedtime for the little ones.  Before sending them home, we sat in the hot tub collecting snow on our heads as the kids tried to figure out how to design a light bulb that shed light in all directions but was still attached to a post of some sort.  They were thinking and creating and designing and sharing.  I could not have been in a happier place.  While we didn’t share stories, we shared an evening together and maybe created a few stories of our own.

We all have different stories.  Our Aspen friends’ stories are loud and public.  I have read from fellow bloggers stories that are heart breaking and painful, hilarious and laugh outloudly, thought provoking and deep, educated and world changing.  I think mine are just smaller and quieter and more private.  They may not entertain the dinner party or impress the listener with fancy names and titles and degrees, they may never be worth publishing.  But my stories fill my heart and my days.  And they are mine.  I am so very grateful of the challenge to get them written down, if only for me.

SOLSC, March 30, 2017

A Very Quick Number Poem

11 minutes left to write and post for today

10 minutes too long in the hot tub designing light bulbs with a 7 year old

9 times 2 switchbacks in the hike at Snowmass this morning

8 trips outside with the dogs trying to avoid the unavoidable accidents in the house

7 minutes left to post and thinking this number poem was not such a good idea

6 computer tips with Mom that I’ll likely need to repeat

5 minutes left to post and still struggling with 8 and 7!!!

4 dinner guests playing dogopoly together

3 quarters of a waffle with fruit for breakfast

2 stops on the way home from Aspen

1 wonderfully long, friend and family filled day

SOLSC, March 29, 2017

I follow the blog of a fellow teacher who was the lead teacher in The Colorado Writing Project when I was a student there.  I enjoy reading what she is up to as I share her passions for not grading papers but growing writers.  I also feel like I know her as a close friend after the 2 intense weeks of writing with her.  Walking away from CWP is like leaving college after rooming with the same 20 people for 4 years.  It was the most intensely emotional experience I have ever had with people I am not related to.

She wrote a poem inspired by Monica Prince that approaches a topic from the negative.  I thought I’d give it a try.  Here goes:

IMG_7594.jpg
This Is Not a Poem about Loneliness

This is not a poem about being left behind

It is not about bringing up the rear

Or watching everyone disappear over the next ridge

It is not about struggling to keep up

Or falling behind

Or feeling like I am frantically following

This is not a poem about hiking,

or biking

or running

or skiing

or swimming.

This poem is about looking way ahead and seeing your steady gait, eyes focused forward, soaking in what fills you to the brim and brings you joy.

SOLSC, March 28, 2017

 

PUZZLE

Getting lost in the flow of shapes and colors.

Seeing each piece and learning it’s curves

To find it’s neighbors

and slowly create the full picture.

Maybe it is the way that persistence

Brings order to the chaos

Makes sense of the nonsense

Finds meaning in the mess.

 

SOLSC, March 27, 2017

IMWAYR?

My students often will purchase a book for our classroom from my wish list at the book fair every November.  This year we received the book, Ten Good and Bad Things About My Life by Ann. M. Martin.  It has been out in circulation since its arrival and one of my students returned it to my bookshelf the day before break.  It has been getting good reviews from my students so I snagged it for my spring break 5th grade book read.  I haven’t started it yet but the title gave me something to write about.

Ten Good and Bad Things About My Life

Good – I have been married to the most amazing man in the world for almost 28 years.  He is my best friend, my best caretaker, my best adventure partner, my best everything.

Bad – I will probably never be able to give him all that he gives me.

Good – I love to read.

Bad – I am getting to the point and age where I don’t always remember the details of what I read.

Good – I am very loyal and love my family intensely.

Bad – I am a worrier, often times about things I cannot control, often at a level that is unhealthy.  And apparently I have passed that down to my daughter.

Good – I get along really, really well with my mother in law.

Bad – I travel more with my mother in law than my mother.  It can make for sticky situations.

Good – I have always felt that being a mother is my calling in life.  I have poured my soul into it for the past 21 years and I think I have done well.

Bad – My kids are in college and while I know they will always need a mother, there isn’t as much mothering these days.  I worry about what will fill the void (because I am a worrier, you know!).

Good – I love, love, love chocolate.

Bad – My waist and thighs don’t.

Good – I have the best job share partner.  We are an amazing team together.  She makes me a better teacher daily.

Bad – We never actually get to teach together.  We are the champions of ships passing in the night.

Good – I am blessed to live in a beautiful town filled with many compassionate, kind, giving, tolerant, and accepting people.

Bad – The world can be very different outside that bubble.

Good – I am in pretty good shape.  I can hike, bike, swim, ski and play with no adverse affects on most days

Bad – I need to exercise, really exercise, every day and I really don’t like to exercise.  I can play and adventure – but heart rate exercise, bleh.

Good – I have had 51 good years so far.

Bad – I am pretty sure I am on the downhill side now.  Yikes!  I better stay on task and enjoy!

SOLSC, Match 26, 2017

I just started reading the book, Destiny of the Republic, a biography of James Garfield.  I’ve been on a streak lately reading about past presidents and about the people who were instrumental in forming our country.  That author, Candice Millard, describes Garfield as having ‘a passionate love of learning that would define his life”.  That seems to be a common thread among the great leaders.  Not only were they naturally inquisitive and intellectually talented, they had a passion for learning.

Garfield and other like him others spent time reading and memorizing the classics, writing vociferously and discoursing daily with their peers.   They attended college in their early teens and graduated before they were 20.  They read and learned for the sheer pleasure of learning and this led them to then be influential on matters of politics, government, and ethics.  They were thinkers.

I am not sure I could tell you the last time I saw one of my students have a passion for learning or for thinking.  I look out at my 10-11 years old and think that 100 years ago some kids were heading off to college in just a few years.  Nowadays, it is virtually unheard of for an early teen to be that academic.  Students excel in IB programs and accelerated or Advanced Placement programs but how many of those kids come away as thinkers instead of parrots reciting what the test requires?

My students do have passion though.  There is not shortage there, but passions for learning?  I am not so sure.  A has a passion for horses.  E has a passion for dragons.  P has a passion for dance and S has a passion for talking.  🙂  But a passion for learning?  I don’t see much of that very often.  And I wonder why.  It is because passions can be fulfilled in so many different arenas in this century?  Is it because there is so much more to learn?  Is it because we reward doers more than thinkers?

I look at our current political status and wonder what happened to the great thinkers.  Right now it seems like the leading skill is to voice threats in 140 characters or less, or to filibuster because your party isn’t getting what they want, which are really just adult manifestations of pouting.   Where is the common desire to find compromise through passionate debate and dialogue rooted in knowledge?  Where is the passion for knowledge and learning in order to rise to a higher level?  I don’t often see it modeled publicly these days and perhaps that is why I see so little in my students.