Saturday, April 1, 2017

Fighting With my Writer Self



Here I am at my desk.  
My fingers feel relief to caress the keys.
I wonder what keeps me away from them.
Is it fear?
Is it worry?
Maybe it is the thought of a whole book.
That is a big deal, a whole book.
Words do dance in my mind.
Why do I keep them there?
I get into a cycle of wanting to write,
Not writing,
Feeling bad about not writing,
And then I am
Paralyzed
(I can’t even figure out how to spell the darn word!)
What would I tell myself if I were my friend.
(That’s a concept!)
I would say what my mom said,
“Inch by inch it’s a synch,
Yard by yard it’s hard.”
Think I’ll go do an inch of writing.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Half a century.
That's a long time.
Charlie thinks it's forever.
It does kind of seem that way,
but it also seems like a flash.
Funny thing is that it rolls off my tongue and comforts me.
It doesn't bother me.
I have more clarity now.
I know what is important.


Lucy's belly laugh is important...a laugh that is so contagious that if you are sitting by her you can't help laughing.


What is important?


Charlie's understanding that she's smart is important, after all the years of difficulty with reading and school. Her feeling smart only helps to bolster her ability to support and help her friends.

What is important?

Liza's bear hugs are important. I am not sure I've ever felt a stronger more caring hug. Hopefully she has that hug inside her also to comfort her in difficult times.

Life is about humanness.

What is important is tearing down the walls of guilt, fear, ego so that we can begin to see each and every human who as someone who can shine. 
Love and compassion,
humans....that is what is important.

Half a century.
I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story (Review)


     We were married three days before 9/11 in Santa Rosa, California.  So much joy.  Then our world came crashing down the day of September 11th early in the morning in San Francisco.  We were working out in the hotel when we saw the news on the television.  I found myself on my knees crying, just like you see in the movies.  I was in shock along with the rest of the world.  But my shock was somehow closer.

     Our home at the time was in downtown Manhattan, three blocks from the World Financial Center.  The twin towers filled our south facing view.  How could this be happening?  This was my neighborhood, my world.  We eventually were able to go on our honeymoon but came back to our apartment 6 weeks later to be dropped off 6 blocks from our building to the smell of acrid smoke still lingering in the air.  (There was no vehicle access any closer to our building at the time.)  We walked the six blocks dragging our suitcases behind us as our tears blurred our vision.

    Nora Raleigh Baskin's phenomenal new book, Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story brought me back to this time of grief and jarring reality.  She chronicles four children from all different areas of the United States during the two days before 9/11.  You get to know the characters intimately and feel your heart tugging for them.  Her writing is utterly breathtaking.  "It sent a plume of dark smoke up into the sky, charcoal black into the robin's-egg blue of the once most perfect day."  The children later meet up at the memorial one year after 9/11.  Baskin's describes one of the boys' reaction, "It had made him more afraid and less afraid, both.  There was so much to mourn, and so much to be proud of, so many reasons to be at this memorial."  

    I still live and teach in this area.  My three daughters know the memorial intimately.  Our new apartment is 2 blocks south of the memorial now.  We see these lights each year out our window.  In fact, we started adoption proceedings for our first daughter when we were displaced citizens in California after our wedding.  We call Liza-Rae our 9/11 baby.  Each year we see the lights and walk by the flags that are put up in Battery Park to commemorate this horrific event and to remember the people we lost.  Baskin's words so describe my experience, "Above, the flags snapped like whips, and the crooning of the wind harmonized with the steady sound of human crying."  





     Baskin's book is a work of art.  She captures the mixed feelings and emotions surrounding this devastating event in American history.  Yet at the same time she gives us hope.  Through her characters she paints a picture of "oneness" of a humanity that shares feelings and beliefs, who is more alike than different.  It is a message our children so desperately need to hear in our world today.






Thursday, May 12, 2016

Back Door Kids

Watch the back door.

Some kids
show themselves
head on...

We know them,
they are the kids
who say our names
three times in a row.
Susie, Susie, Susie.

They are right in
front
of us.

I think the kids
who are
behind us
are the ones
we have to watch.
Carefully, deeply,
before they slip away.

Anita is one of these
back door kids.
Quiet, smiling,
rarely talking.

She has started
hugging me
from behind.

I've thought about
these hugs
the last few days.

She has a hard time
being seen.
But, being seen
is so important
for Anita.

If I didn't pay
close attention
to who was
behind me.

I might have missed her.

Who is your
back door student?
Are you seeing them?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Goodbye

I should know this

about myself.

In times of deep and

penetrating emotion,

I NEED TO WRITE.

It is like my

meditation,

my calm place,

a pillow where i can lay

my restless mind.


Tomorrow I will say

goodbye

to a group of

valiant,

strong,

dedicated,

wonderful

Students.


We have been

together

for a year now,

these teacher warriors

and I.


We have experienced

growth,

loss,

learning,

and admiration.


#BxCohort,

thank you all,

for letting me be a part of your

journey.

I am humbled

and awed.


What lucky

children

await you.


Monday, April 25, 2016

Amazing Brain

 This weekend I was cuddled down in my bed reading and my 9 year old daughter, Charlie, was sitting next to me tinkering on a Chromebook.  If you don't know Charlie, you might want to read my previous post,  10 Strategies to Help a Reticent Reader Love to Read.  Reading has always been hard for Charlie.  But this weekend she showed me some of the many strengths that she has deep down in her amazing brain.
     How many of you use Google Slides?  I was just having dinner with a friend who has a PhD in education and she doesn't use Google Docs, let alone Google Slides.  So Charlie had seen me use Google Slides one evening when I was teaching at Bank Street College.  She was my official "clicker" so she had some idea of how this works.
     Back to this weekend on my bed.  Charlie asked me, "Mom, I want to make a slide show."  I literally opened a new slide document and she went to town.  I didn't have to show her how to insert a text box or how to insert images.  I was floored.  Before I knew it, she had started a slide show about cute puppies.  But even more interesting than her facility with the program, was her ability to manipulate the images and text to send the messages she wanted to send.  When I taught her how to use animations, where you drive which parts of the page appear in which order, she had a clear plan.  The picture of the dog had to come first, so that when the text came that said, "So cute too" that the reader had the context of the picture already.  She also researched about each type of cute puppy she wanted to write about.  So, when she introduced the maltese, she commented that "A maltese is known for being brave."  (We'll get to APA references a little bit later!)


     I was lucky enough this weekend to go up to TC and see Cornelius Minor talk about digital literacy.  I was struck by the idea of "reading images" and how so much of the world of the internet is about how you read images.  This is a wonderful thing for Charlie.  She has such visual acuity; the words are what are hard for her.  With this new medium to work with, Charlie's strengths shined through.
     After she finished the slide show about puppies, she decided that she could write a slide show about the books she read this weekend.  An amazing thing happened.  Because she was so jazzed about this new way of writing, she actually started to write so much more than she ever has.



     Charlie asked me to re-read her writing this morning before school.  As I was reading, all of a sudden she noticed that the names of the characters needed to be capitalized.  (She didn't get to all of them, but what a great noticing!)  She, herself, on her own, noticed this editing that needed to be done.  In addition, her retelling of the story was better than anything I have ever seen her do....she had the sequence down, she told the important parts, and all while being joyful.  Her engagement and drive with this project helped her to pull on knowledge that she has inside her and express it.
    How is it that we have these kids who have so much inside and yet, when they are placed in the structure of our schools, many times those amazing ideas and strengths don't shine.  I thank Charlie for teaching me, again, this lesson of paying such careful attention to how kids learn and meeting them where they are.  So I leave you with this question...How can you help a student to shine?  This isn't the only way; this was Charlie's way.  It is different for each child.  That is what makes teaching so exciting and so challenging.  Each little person's brain works differently.  How can we help them "turn on their smarts?"

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

When the girls were young

When the girls
were young,

Lots of work

Diapers
Rashes
Fevers

But now,
deeper work.

Friendships,
Feelings,
Springboard

To the world.