Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Wednesday Thoughts: On Teacher Guilt

December 1, 2021

I can’t help myself. I feel terrible, conflicted. Guilty. Perhaps not for the reasons you might think, though.

Oh, there are ALL the reasons why teachers like me feel pushed and pulled across the emotional spectrum. Just look at the world around us. We’re crouched right at the center of societal conflict: COVID. Race. Gender. Safety. Freedom. Obligation. Add to that the twin pressures of bringing healing to our students and moving ahead in a business-as-usual fashion. Test scores, as you may know, never sleep.

Find me a teacher who is doing the job they signed up for.

Heck. Find me ANYONE who is doing the job they signed up for.

I’ll wait.

I look at my colleagues, both in my district and beyond. So much struggle and difficulty.

Which is where the guilt comes in.

Right now, I love my students.
I love my job.
I’m excited to teach.
My kids bring me energy in a way I haven’t felt in a long time.
We’re doing some cool stuff.
Sometimes, I just look at them working and interacting.
And I beam.
My heart swells, crackles. Cracks open.
These kids bring me wonder, astonishment.
Joy.

I’m eager for the day when we’re all breathing in this air once more, when all of us sigh at the end of the day – not with exhaustion and disappointment, but satisfaction, contentment. Joy.

We. All. Deserve. More. JOY.

Until then, I will use these days, these bright moments to fuel me for the times when discouragement and stress threaten to overtake me. I will hope beyond hope that my colleagues will collect moments of light, like sticky notes, to take and fashion into something beautiful, hopeful.

Joyous.

Post-script: realizing that both of my posts this week have been tied to the theme of light. Sometimes metaphor pulls our strings without us even noticing. Touche, Chanukah. Touche.

Slice of Life Tuesday: On Sunsets

November 30, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


Yesterday was a bingbangboom kind of a day. One of those days where I rely on to-do lists and razor-sharp logistics. Drop the dog off, take care of Chanukah packages, make it to my meeting, squeeze my plans in, teach, meet, shovel down food, teach, meet, run the errands, skip the workout, go to get the dog and…

Empty parking lot be darned. Just look at those COLORS!

WOW. The sky. The sky, as I was driving. I kept hoping I would make it to my destination in time to snap a picture or two or three or four. The above and below pics. They’re testaments to the power of dusk. Really, the right dose of sunlight is like a dandelion. It has the power to bloom and brighten and beautify whatever surroundings you might discover it in.

That LIGHT. The reflection. The beauty amidst concrete and steel. Perhaps there’s a metaphor for resilience to be had somewhere here.

Skies like this…I can’t NOT look at them.

More sky pictures from today. I also have to confess that my camera roll is chockablock with sky pictures. Pretty please tell me I’m not alone in this.

And clearly, there is something to be said for a late November sky, because this was a Facebook post of mine from ten years ago yesterday.

Talk about serendipity.

I’ll close out with one of my very favorite book excerpts of all time:

“The sky was a ragged blaze of red and pink and orange, and its double trembled on the    surface of the pond like color spilled from a paintbox. The sun was dropping fast now, a  soft red sliding egg yolk, and already to the east there was a darkening to purple. “

-Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

Slice of Life Tuesday: On Do-Overs

November 16, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


My fourth-grade class today started out with a confession and an apology.

Let me explain.

Last week, I had an AMAZING lesson plan all ready for my kids. We had been examining art, pinpointing interesting details, and articulating the emotions art brought us. The next step was to introduce a simplified guide to art concepts. The vision was clear and simple: bring things together in a way that kids see for themselves that:
1) art makes us feel things
2) that’s not by accident
3) artists make craft moves on purpose
4) knowing those craft moves helps us talk about art
5) and create it
6) and we can transfer that idea to our WRITING

These are big ideas, and they are thought-provoking and exciting.

Unless I ruin things.

Which I did.

Because all of the above things do NOT fit into a single lesson. And somehow, I had it in my brain that my lesson was so well-designed and efficient that I could.

Nope.

Those poor kids. They were bored to tears and I felt so sorry for them, having to sit through that grind. They really did try so very hard, but it was just way too much to try and put together in one go. Really, they were such good sports.

I went home that day feeling small, swearing that I’d redesign the lesson in a way that brought both the fun and enthusiasm back.

So today, I started class with a confession. I fully admitted that last week’s lesson didn’t go the way I saw it, that I felt terrible for them, having to sit through such an experience, and that I was hoping to try again if they were up for the challenge.

You know, I think my kids appreciated the apology. I think they appreciated my acknowledgement of their experience, and the fact that I wanted to do better by them. So they gave it another go.

We examined Morgan Russell’s “Synchromy,” art concept guides in hand.

Courtesy of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

I decided to just let the kids talk to each other about what they were seeing. And they dug it!

At one point in the lesson, the kids accidentally zoomed in too closely on the painting. True to Bob Ross’s “happy accident” wisdom, we discovered how much skill went into these seemingly simple shapes:

Are you catching those brush strokes? What order do you think Russell painted these shapes in?

Friends, they did BEAUTIFULLY. Would you believe this one piece held their attention for over a half an hour? They couldn’t believe it, and neither could I. It was just what my teacher soul needed.

And in the coming weeks, there will be more to learn and more big concepts to connect. We’ll just…try to enjoy the journey just a little bit more thoughtfully…

Slice of Life Tuesday: All of the Things

October 26, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


Today is a day
where I consider
all of the things I might blog about,
the many marbles rolling, clicking, bumping
around the ring of my brain:

1.
The to-do lists
and to-do lists
and to-do lists
that rack up in notebooks
and sticky notes
and phone reminders

2.
Children who discover,
quite accidentally,
that the right question opens us up
to big ideas, philosophy
our premise for life
THE premise for life

3.
The need to tell certain children
that there is such a thing
as a hypothetical question –
one that neither requires
nor desires
an answer

4.
The kids who complain
through smiles
that interaction with big ideas
breaks their brains
as I smile and offer up
another idea
to deepen the fracture

5.
The assurance that
getting stuck in our writing
is just more proof that we’re
real writers,
and the people who insist that
we should always have fluent ideas
might do well to
put a sock in it

6.
The power of persimmons
to reinstill gratitude
for simple delights and kindnesses,
for a calling that
twines my life with others

Perhaps each of these ideas
will find its own way,
asserting itself as a longer entry:
a poem, perhaps, a journal
or photo essay

Until then,
I’ll listen to the rolls,
the clicks,
the clacks
and wait
for my brain
to just
settle

down.

Slice of Life Tuesday: How Are You, REALLY?

October 5, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


Find a teacher. Maybe in the hallway at school. Or waiting for the copier. Or in the checkout line at the grocery store. Or somewhere online.Ask that teacher right now how they’re doing. My guess is you’ll get any of the following:

“I’m here.”
“I’m pluggin’.”
“Yyyyeahhh….”
“Another day closer to Friday.”
“I’m vertical, so that’s a thing.”

I know, because I’ve probably said all of those things. Truth is, it’s only a month into school and many of us are tired.

Bone tired. Worn out. Worn down. Plain old used UP.

So I thought for my post today I’d have some fun with different and creative ways that we can say how we’re really doing.

Teacher friends, the next time someone asks how you’re feeling, go ahead and give one of these a spin!

I’m feeling like…

-What the cat dragged in…dragged in
-A hot water heater held together with scraps of duct tape
-The toothbrush whose colored bristles faded two weeks ago
-The nerdles of cheese stuck to the plate from the microwave
-A pencil nub
-A dry-erase marker that’s been left open
-The crumbs at the bottom of the Chips Ahoy bag
-An iPhone running Waze with 2% battery
-The pebble that’s neither coming out of your shoe NOR your sock
-A pair of scratched-up Wayfarers with one lens popped out
-The business end of a cat toy
-A wad of Hubba Bubba fossilized on the underside of a table at Denny’s
-A scoop of rocky road dropped on a hot sidewalk
-A Cheerio dug out of a car seat
-A fork that got stuck in the disposal
-A twice-steeped English Breakfast tea bag
-That shopping cart with three sticky wheels and a handi-wipe stuck in the grate
-A newspaper (remember those?) left out in the rain and backed over three times
-Expired mayonnaise
-One of those peanut-butter taffies stuck to the bottom of the Halloween trick-or-treat pumpkin
-Those last four shreds of toilet paper stuck to the end of the roll
-A pack of M&M’s with the green ones picked out

DISCLAIMER: Yes, I am super tired and exhausted. So are my colleagues. But I’m also energized and enthused by my students, who bring me joy and wonder without bounds. Just like my colleagues.

But making this list was fun. A LOT of fun. So, like whatever tasty beverage you prefer, please take this list with a grain of salt. =))

And you? What would you add to this list? Have a little fun. Entertain us!

Slice of Life Tuesday: Story’s Sneak Attack

September 14, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!

For those of you who have been following my blog for a while, you know that Story has been a recurring character in my not-so fiction. If you want the rest of the story, you’re welcome to dig in to our past “conversations:”

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4


It was a long day. A bone-tired day. The kind of day where she comes home from school and wants to get right into pajamas. But she doesn’t, because there are dishes and laundry and housework and cooking and homework. It was the kind of day where going to bed feels terrible because she knows she’s going to just have to get up and repeat the whole process the next day.

THAT kind of day.

She kicked away her sandals at the front door, narrowly missing the dogs. She gave each one a head pat and a butt scratch before shooing them into the yard for a long-awaited doing of business. School bags got dropped, one after the other, on the floor or the kitchen table or the counter – it didn’t matter, so long as she didn’t have to shoulder them any more.

What to tackle first, she thought. Empty the dishwasher? Walk the dog? Call her mom? Answer emails? Vacuum up the dog hair dust bunnies from the family room rug? Sometimes, she thought, the best solution to too much is nothing.

A few moments, she thought. Just a few moments to sit outside on the deck, to absorb some sunshine, to listen to the cicadas, to let myself just…sit…still. She made her way to the deck, found the chair in her favorite, sunniest spot, pulled another one up for her feet, and sank down to spend some quality time with the inside of her eyelids.

“It’s been a minute.”

She didn’t need to open her eyes to know who had just pulled up beside her.

Story.

Maybe if she just sat there without responding, Story would go away, kind of like when the dog wakes her up at three a.m. Five seconds went by. Ten. Fifteen.

Story cleared her throat. “You know I’m still here, right?”

“About that. You’re HERE. Usually you wait until I’m at a Starbucks to catch me off guard. Somewhere in public, where I know you’ll behave yourself. Can’t you give me just a little bit of peace in my own back yard?”

“Now that’s a good one,” Story chuckled. “When have you ever known me to give you a bit of peace?”

“I don’t know,” she responded. “You haven’t visited me for a while. I thought maybe you had moved on.”

“Moved on? HA! Oh, my friend, you may not have seen me in a while, but I am always, always here. Whether or not you acknowledge me, I’m wherever you go.”

“I’m not sure if I should be comforted or creeped out.”

Story shrugged. “It’s your imagination. You decide.”

“That makes the question even harder.”

“Well,” Story said, “all I know is you’ve been scarce. I miss you. Listen, not to guilt trip you or anything –“

“Too late.”

“–but it’s not just me. I’ve been talking to Poetry, to Memoir, to Essay, the whole gang. Nobody’s seen you around. What gives?”

She felt her shoulders go heavy, her stomach clinch. Why had she been staying away? Was it lack of discipline? Dried-up creative juices? Plain old apathy? Perhaps, she figured, it was a mixture of the three. “I don’t know,” she said. “I guess…I haven’t felt like writing lately.”

“Haven’t felt like it? Haven’t FELT like it? C’mon. How many writers sit down and write every day because they FEEL like it? Honey, both you and I know you’ve let yourself go. It’s time to slide on back and hang out a little more often. No pressure, no guilt or shame.” Story thought a moment, reconsidered. “Well, maybe a LITTLE guilt or shame. You’ve hung me out to dry, you know.”

“Mmm, I like the no guilt or shame route. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it’s been a rough go these last months.”

“All the more reason you should be writing. You’ve got things to say, my friend. It’s time to get saying them.”

She sighed.

Here we go again, she thought, as she opened her computer, squared her shoulders, and placed her fingers at the keyboard.

Slice of Tuesday: Welcome 5782

September 7, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


Today was the Jewish New Year, a day to reflect and ground myself spiritually. It’s a day of traditions – some in the stricter cultural sense, others adopted as family rituals.

A new challah recipe and braiding technique. Yes, I usually make these breads round for the new year, but didn’t want to tinker too much on the first try…
Chicken and rice dish, perfect for our pre-services dinner
A moment captured on our annual apple-picking outing. We started when my oldest was an itty bitty, and it’s just been a fun thing to do ever since!
The place where I performed tashlich (literally “casting away”), a tradition of casting bread (and other figurative burdens) out upon the water.
Apples and honey. Folks were on to something when they thought up this pairing!

Slice of Life Tuesday: At the Edge

August 24, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


Next week I return to school, and I’ve been trying to articulate my feelings about it. I’m squished between a lot of emotions, and I thought this poem might reflect some of those thoughts…

At the Edge of School, 2021

It’s the
dread and excitement
that build with each step
up the high-dive ladder:
closer and closer to the top
the flutters grow
and it’s hard to tell
if my grip slips
from pool water
or sweaty palms

Standing at the top,
toes knurled around the edge
I take in the breeze,
the chlorine smell,
the faraway noises of grown-ups and kids
and splashes and squeals

I’ve been here before.

Sometimes
you don’t always
land so well –
you hit the water funky, or
water goes up your nose, or
your swimsuit goes rogue
and you question
why you ever came to the pool
in the first place

Looking down,
I wonder why I continue to
make this leap
year after
year after
year

But the pool is one of my
favorite places to be –
I’m comfortable here,
at home,
happy
within myself

So I guess
despite the funk
and the water noise
there’s really nothing to do
but brace myself
take a breath

And jump.

Slice of Life Tuesday: If You Give a Mom a Laundry Basket

August 17, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


It’s 8:47 p.m. on a Slice of Life Tuesday. Usually, I’ve posted by mid-morning, and I’ve already scrolled through several posts by fellow writers. Today, though, I’m sitting down to my computer for the first time after a long, productive day. Now, some people work through their first days of empty nesthood by laying low and relaxing. My version of that is to clean and declutter. What can I say? It’s just how I’m built. So, I thought I’d have some fun with today’s post.

If you give a mom a laundry basket, she’ll want to gather up the bedding that hasn’t been cleaned in too long.

If she gathers up the bedding in her son’s room, she’ll notice all the clothing he left behind when he went off to college.

Sorting through the clothing left behind from college will remind her how stuffy and smelly the room is.

Once she sees how sad and stuffy the room is, she’ll want to open the windows.

If she opens the window, she’ll see how many dust bunnies have accumulated everywhere.

If you let her take care of the dust bunnies, she’ll see how filthy the rug is and want to clean it.

When she moves the rug to clean it, she’ll see how nasty the floor is and move all the furniture so she can clean it.

If she moves the bed, she’ll want to take it apart so they can finally give it away, along with the brother’s.

Now that she’s giving away the beds, she’ll want to sort through the sheets and towels for give-aways.

And if there are enough sheets and towels, she’s going to want a laundry basket to store them in…

Thing 2’s college drop-off
Bonus: dinner on the way home with Thing 1!

Slice of Life Tuesday: School Shopping, Redux

August 10, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


It’s no secret that school supplies give me joy. For me, and for many folks I know, it’s why I got into teaching. Yeah, yeah, there’s all that noise about making a difference and touching the future, but have you seen a perfectly pink eraser?

I’m not a shopper, but I could spend all the time in the world browsing notebooks, pencils and art materials. If, for any reason, you need to keep me occupied for an hour, just drop me off in the middle of the school supply area of any store.

So way back when my children started school, I had visions of us shopping for school supplies together (please tell me you see where this is going). I dreamed of sharing – of reveling! – in the sheer delight that can only come from a new pack of colored pencils. We’d go through the school supply list, using our time in the aisles to bond and get excited about the school year to come.

My expectations for school shopping and the reality couldn’t have been any different. The kids whined, fought with each other, and were completely uncooperative. Any joy I had about markers, glue sticks, or pristine journals was promptly stomped to bits by constant squabbling and complaints.

It took me a few years of torture, but I eventually figured out that the best thing for all involved was to grab the list and do the darn shopping myself. My kids didn’t really care what I bought them, so long as they had what they needed that first day. (Actually, that’s not entirely true. My older son developed a preference for matching folders, binders and notebook color for each of his subjects, even choosing colors that he felt were suitable to the class at hand. Hope springs eternal…) Once I figured that out, it freed me once again to enjoy that time – alone! – with the school supply list.

So.

Why on earth did I think that college preparation would be much different?

This time, I pictured my younger son and me cruising through the stores with our shopping list, chatting and dreaming about college life, how the dorm room was going to come together, (now please tell me you see where THIS is going!) what sorts of things he’d need to survive the transition, literally and figuratively. Or perhaps we’d be huddled together around my computer, comparison shopping the best blankets and power strips.

Yep. That…wasn’t a thing.

By the time we made it through one store, I knew we had both had enough. I felt the grey hairs sproinging one by one. Did you know that it’s possible to get stressed out over hangers? Or pillows? Or room fans? Or coffee makers? Sproing. Sproing. Sproing.

So now, I’m clicking and shopping. By myself. I’ve got my chai tea, a trusty dog for company, and the satisfaction of knowing I can do this, pain and conflict free. Lap desk? Check. Ethernet cords. Check. Ironically-chosen pink blanket for the dorm bed? Checkitty check.

And really. Isn’t that what most of parenthood – most of life – is about? Releasing ourselves from expectations so that our current reality becomes easier to focus on?

While we’re on the subject of releasing expectations, I’ll leave you with this thought. Right now in our house, things are messy. Not in the figurative sense, I mean truly. Literally. Messy.

As long as it’s out of my living room by next Tuesday, I think I can live with this!

That little mama dream I had of piles of clothing, sorted out by what goes, what stays? C’mon. Who am I fooling? That’s not going to happen. And that’s okay. It may boil down to my son scrambling for a half hour with a bunch of garbage bags, but as long as the clothes are gone from the living room by the time my son is, I will be just fine.

Gratuitous doggo pic. I think she might miss the mounds of clothes. And maybe her brother. But mostly the clothes.

Releasing expectations.
Releasing expectations.
Releasing expectations…