Tuesday, April 16, 2013

the day after the Boston Marathon

I’m in the parlor, listening to the news stream through my laptop, descriptions of the grief and fear from yesterday’s bombing. I can hear my girls in the family room waking up with giggles after their sleepover with a friend. It is not so incongruous.

In the past year, I have reflected a lot on the phrase life goes on. In the midst of chaos and sorrow and bad things happening there are always children giggling, moments of joy.

I don’t believe that “God gives us only what we can handle”; I don’t believe that “everything happens for a reason”. What I believe is that yucky, crappy things happen and so do great and wonderful things. And that’s life.

I also believe that our daily decisions about how to react make a difference. Before I knew to turn on the news yesterday, I was already thinking about how to make my classroom a more peaceful place. I have made mistakes and I want to stop making them. I have gone through whole days without reflecting on my contribution to the conflict. One goal for my week-long break was to reflect on my behavior and my reactions to behavior and see how I could do better. That goal gained urgency at 3pm yesterday.

This school year has included way too much tragedy and I want desperately to blame someone and make them reform. What I have to do is much harder. No blame, just thoughtfulness in all my actions. Not easy. But, in the name of first graders in Connecticut and cheering spectators in Boston I will try.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Artifacts of a life - my father's Bible

As I was cleaning out my parents’ house I found my father’s New Testament, the book he used to study to become a Eucharistic Minister. He had left a few sheets of paper inside with notes from his class and oddly, I had practiced my newly learned signature on one of the pages. I took the bible home and it sat on my shelf for a year unread. 

About a month ago, I started reading it, slowly; I am still in the Gospel of Matthew. But I keep pulling out those sheets with my father’s notes. On one he wrote, “Jesus died a lonely man.” I feel my father’s sorrow each time I read that sentence. How very sad to think that one so revered had a lonely death, misunderstood by all around him. Each time I read it, I think of my father’s death. Once we understood he was dying, my father was never alone. We formed shifts without a schedule so that someone held his hand constantly. On one of his last nights of consciousness, he laughed and made jokes and reminisced. As he slipped into a morphine-induced sleep, he used his waking minutes to speak love. And, when he couldn’t open his eyes, we spoke love softly to him.

I don’t think my father felt lonely. I may never completely understand the man he was, but I understood the love he had for me and I was grateful for it. Am grateful for it.

Perhaps what Jesus needed was a wife and 10 kids, like my father.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


My students have been immersed in reading and writing poetry this month. We’ve been talking about line breaks, rhythm, and imagery.

Last week we took a common classroom object, our white board, and looked carefully at it. We brainstormed a whole list of things we noticed, then chose the best and arranged them with rhythm. Here’s what we came up with:

The White Board
By Room 102

The white board in our classroom is
hard, and
We put stuff on it
            with markers
            and magnets.
It’s awesome,
            and cool
Until ----
            Mrs. L. A. puts homework on it.

I was thrilled with the collaboration. They had fun and I especially appreciated the twist in the last line. So, this morning, I introduced the idea of personification. We had read a few poems that made use of it, and spent a few days on “Who Likes the Wind” which has a kite, a boat and thistle all talking. The idea of these things acting like people inspired a great bit of fun. I turned back to our writing about the White Board and wondered how it would have described itself. The students were up for the challenge:

The White Board Talks
By Room 102

I like people to draw on me
I like when people stick stuff on me with magnets
I like when people erase the drawings;
            it tickles.
I like when people use me.
I do not like when Mrs. L.A. writes homework on me.

It has been fun to watch my students play with words.
I love National Poetry Month.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

day off

I did not go to school today. It’s a really weird feeling to know that my students were there and I was not. I’m worried. Silly, isn’t it? As if they cannot get through a day without me. Although, sometimes I feel as we they can barely get through a day with me.

Anyway, when my appointment wrapped up way earlier than I expected, I was wishing that I just put in to be late. But how was I to know? And, once a sub is called, I can’t show up. So, I spent the day getting ready for this weekend’s Massachusetts History Day contest (I help coordinate the event), reading an article on making sense of addition and subtraction story problems, searching my internet resources for guidance on helping my ELLs through those story problems, and writing a parent letter. I even had time to meet my husband for lunch.

Here at the end of the day I feel rested and ready for the evening’s running around: soccer practice and play rehearsal back-to-back.

When I mentioned to a friend that I was sorry I hadn’t planned better and just taken an hour off, she said “On your death bed, are you going to remember this day as the day you enjoyed a nice surprise lunch with your husband, or the day you wished you had gone to work?”

Nothing like a good friend to give you perspective.

Happily back to work tomorrow, but happy too that I took today.
See lots of Slices of Life at Two Writing Teachers