Archive for January, 2013

In Memoriam

January 29, 2013

Today is 27 years since the Challenger explosion.

I was in eighth grade science class. Our teacher turned on the TV so we could all watch the historic liftoff.

Yes, we were the jaded junior high kids, but we all felt a sense of pride as we watched the ignition, watched the rocket as it began its ascent, watched the trail as it aimed for the skies.

Then…just…a simple pop.

And nothing.


Silence on the TV, silence in our classroom, silence in our minds.


Our teacher flipped the television off.

Still silence.

The principal came on the loudspeaker to tell the school what had happened, and to ask for a moment of silence.

As if we hadn’t been having one already.

Breaking the silence was our teacher.

“Every astronaut risks his life to go up into space. And I’d do it in a heartbeat.”

NASA crew

To the brave ones: Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, Judith Resnik



Words, Words, Words

January 29, 2013

I know, I haven’t blogged in a little while. Right now, blogging just seems like words, words, and more words. I’m trying to figure out how I can put more words together, and I’m having a tough time.

Seriously, folks, it’s only Monday and I think I am officially done being articulate for the week.

I have spent hours (longer!?) crafting words:

-The right words for a particular e-mail

-The right words to negotiate through difficult meetings

-The right words for parents, students, or people from my volunteer work

-The right words for those tricky phone calls

-The right words for the people in my life who are going through difficult times

These are times when it’s hard to be someone who loves words. I appreciate that the right words are critical in difficult situations. I fully believe that the right words, delivered with sincerity and integrity, can make an incredible difference in this world. If I wish to make that difference, however, it saddles me with a burden:

Choose the right words now, or spend your time paying consequences for using the wrong ones.

I know it’s worth it. And I know I can spend hours on words and still not pick the perfect ones. (It doesn’t stop me from trying, though.)

I’d like to think that the right words, like love and strength, exist in unlimited supply. Still, it does get exhausting. So if you see me using fewer words than usual, don’t be surprised. It just means I’ve run out of good ones for a little while.



January 23, 2013

So after being at work early with students, spending all six hours after school grading papers, making dinner, grading papers, taking care of my boys, and grading more papers, I’ve earned it.

Bedtime before 10.

I know you’re jealous. Try not to hold it against me.

What’s to Love?

January 19, 2013

So why is it, exactly, that I have taught for almost 18 years now without fear of burnout?

I consider this week, a week so crazy I think it took me until Thursday before I had a real planning time longer than 15 minutes. A week so nuts that I was up every night late grading, planning, and catching up on house work I couldn’t ignore.

What was there to love about a week like that?

That the third graders in my math group use the word “theory” when discussing how to do a tricky homework problem.

That a teacher told me I made her think of gifted kids from a new perspective.

That my former students, now big bad eighth-graders, gave me a cheerful greeting in the junior high hallway.

That the kids in my storytelling group recognize each others’ talents and eagerly cheer each other on. That they brag about each other to the substitute teacher.

That I have third through fifth grade kids in my writing group who choose topics for writing like abandonment. Children with siblings who have special needs. The rapid population of Heaven after the Mayan apocalypse. A poor kid and a rich one who find themselves drawn together. A shy hippo who has some really great friends.

That my fifth grade math students thank me after math every single day. Ok, so one of them confided in me that it was part of a bet (that he, of course, wasn’t part of), but I’ll take what I can get.

That I have a vocabulary group using the introduction of Beowulf in their study of the history of the English language.

That the kindergarten kid I worked with in math counts forward and backward through the ten thousands.

That every day, I get to look into the eyes of dozens of students and see sincerity, kindness, and an irrepressible love for learning.

They don’t just help me avoid burnout, they inspire me to come each day, each year, with renewed passion and energy.

Happy New Year: Finding Resolution

January 3, 2013

As a self-professed blonkie (read: blog junkie; yeah, you can trademark me on that one), I’ve cruised around to various posts listing new plans and resolutions for 2013.

So, of course, that set my mind spinning about what I could bring to the party.

I confess there was something getting in the way, though. There was some nagging feeling that kept me from sitting down and writing a post about my New Year’s resolutions. For a couple of days, I tried to figure out what it was.

It wasn’t for a shortage of things I wish to work on, either personally or professionally. Keep up on grading. Keep computer files organized. Get my house clean. Flip my classroom more. Take breaks from technology. Quit snacking so much. Try to do more centers. Blog more. Run more. Sleep more. The list goes on and on.

I’m forever an optimist, mentally visualizing my ideal teaching, my ideal life, my ideal self.

I’m also a perfectionist, which means I’m continually beating myself up for not being that ideal. Those things to work on? They play constantly in my head, like a tape loop that repeats itself.

That’s when it hit me. Why am I sitting here trying to make New Year’s resolutions when I’m really, in truth, doing it every day? Why should I make a special attempt on this holiday to focus on self-improvement when I’m critical of myself all the time? What is the point of using New Year’s as another opportunity to commemorate my shortcomings?

This year, I vote no.

It is more important to me that I begin to internalize the merits of self-worth. It is time to replace desire for perfection with the pursuit of excellence.

After all, how am I supposed to teach my students healthy responses to perfectionism if I can’t get there myself? Simply put, I can’t. I need a better way of doing business.

And you? Are you willing to toss aside traditional resolutions in favor of more attention to healthier, more positive thought patterns?

Who’s in?