Archive for September, 2020

Long Day

September 29, 2020

Today was hard.

It was long, and it felt heavy in my hand and in my heart.

It was full of colleagues, and students, and friends, and family members, who are struggling in one direction or another, and who needed time and love and attention and compassion.

And I gave it, in one direction or another, as many times and in as many places and to as many people as I possibly could.

And I hope that this day, as heavy as it was, might have been made just a touch lighter in one direction or another. Because I know that there will be a day when I am struggling in one direction or another, and I will need time and love and attention and compassion.

Until then, there is cake.


September 19, 2020
From wikimedia commons. But…the picture that would BEST go with this poem? It’s on the side of a fridge somewhere, or somewhere in a big dusty photo album, or framed by someone’s bedside, or in someone’s wallet, or or or…

As we scroll through our newsfeeds
And text one another
And see post after post after post
And listen to the news
And speak to one another
Of her passing –

As we mourn her presence
In our world, her strength
In the face of adversity, her voice,
Silent –

As we claim her loss
With our own grief –

As we remember
Her work
Her dissent
Her fearlessness –

I can’t help but think
Of the shiva-sitters, her survived-bys:
Her children
Her grandchildren

Gathered together at home,
Sometimes hushed
Sometimes noisy in conversation
Celebrating a woman
Who sometimes kept condiments past their expiration
Who always answered the phone a certain way,
Remembering together
What soap she kept in the guest bathroom
Which living room chair was her favorite
What stories she read them
What kind of hugs she gave
How her hands felt to hold them

I think on them, and I see
Our own grand pain
Our outsized grief and agony
Writ small,
Etched deep.

in memory of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 1933-2020

So…How Are You?

September 16, 2020

“Plugging along.”
“About as well as I can be.”
“Chugging along.”
“Just fine, which is all about any of us can ask.”

These words come out of my mouth repeatedly. Perhaps you find yourself giving the same responses.

To tell you the truth, that really is where I am. I’m…okay, I guess. I’m doing fine, which is perhaps the best I can do.

Enter a dear writing colleague, Fran, and her keenly insightful writing on what it means to thrive. Please, please, please go and read her work.

(You’re welcome.)

Like any powerful writer has the ability to do, she left me with more questions than answers. She left me with wisdom and a new perspective on how we as humans always need to grow. But she also left me in the discomfort that perhaps there is something not-quite-right about what I’m currently asking out of life right now.

The answer is no. I am not thriving right now. I can’t think of one part of my life I’d characterize as “thriving.” Growing, yes. Changing, evolving? Absolutely. But these movements run deep and pace themselves slowly. To me, thriving suggests a bursting forth, a positive leap ahead.

The more I think about it, though, there may be another dimension to my own current “failure to thrive,” something I haven’t yet fully explored:

I’m not thriving right now because I don’t feel it’s fair.

Too many among us are living the worst of their fears, their traumas, their loneliness, their poverty, their inhumane treatment, their grief. I don’t feel right claiming to thrive during a period so marked by pain and suffering.

So many people need more from this world right now. And to me, working past survival and into “thrive” mode makes me feel I am demanding more than my share.

I’m sure there’s more to explore here. There’s something to be said about claiming our space in this world, about sitting in the discomfort of our growth, and about giving ourselves permission to be the most of who we are regardless of circumstance.

For now, though, I will take my somehow-getting-along-okay and my slow, deep sea changes, and I will wear them proudly. I’ll just…keep…plugging along.

Stepping Back Up to the Soapbox

September 15, 2020

I have a lot of soapboxes to stand on when it comes to education.

I mean…c’mon. Just look at the name of my site.


It’s easy to get riled up about things when you feel as passionately I do about teaching, when you have as much faith in public schooling as I do.

One of my soapboxes is storytelling. It’s an incredible medium for sharing text that we don’t give enough credit to. People, the number of things that happen in our brains, big or small, when we hear a story being told? You could track the research here, or here, or here, or…

Aaaugh, I’m doing it again! All right, Lainie. Inhale. Exhale.


One of my storytelling soapboxes? Using storytelling as a way of crafting narrative. The way I put it is this. Our brains our lightning fast, like cheetahs. Our hands are super slow, like turtles.

When we ask children to write, we tell the cheetah and the turtle to keep the same pace.

No wonder so many kids struggle.

Oral language is that bridge, and it links our thoughts and words together in a manageable way. Think of it this way – how often do you have to talk through a problem to find a solution for it?

Through storytelling, writers at all stages of readiness understand that they hold the power of composition, even if their handwriting or typing skills don’t yet demonstrate it.

And yet oral language largely goes ignored at school, despite the fact that it’s one of the most powerful tools we have.

It’s why I had such a WIN when, a few years ago, I was able to bring a storytelling unit to one of the grades I work with. I crossed my fingers and hoped it would be in good hands with my colleagues.

Boy was it ever. I got the most amazing affirmation of my efforts in a planning meeting today, as teachers discussed their upcoming unit on personal narrative. Here are a few highlights…

Me: This might be a place where storyboarding would be great. It would help your writers use oral language to draft and organize your thoughts.

Them: Oh, we already do that!

Me: I find it helpful to sketch the first and last squares of the storyboard, then fill the action in between to build the story.

Them: Oh, we already do that! You taught us that.

Me: One trick for kids working on dialogue is to make quick puppets out of pencils and let them play with the characters.

Them: Oh, we already do that! That’s what you taught us.

Me: … (smiles inwardly, shuffles feet) …

What do I love best about these exchanges?
1. I love to learn and grow. I feel lucky to see colleagues do the same.
2. It’s affirming to know that things I see as good teaching…ARE.
3. I love making myself obsolete because others have pushed forward.

…I’d probably better stop before I get on another soapbox. Like I said, it’s easy to get riled up about things when you feel as passionately as I do…

Joy in the Time of COVID

September 8, 2020

So many moments of wonder,
Of joy
To hold high and to honor –

A real live letter from a student pen pal
Colleagues who find strength in one another
The college son who just feels like a chat
Blue skies, uninterrupted
A new recipe that works
Walks with friends
Watching people you love do what they love

All these moments of wonder,
Of joy
Flutter and wave about –

And yet.
But still.

I cannot remember the last time,
Passing by a flag,
That I have seen it raised
Half mast.