Summer and My Truest Self

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Summer and My Truest Self

I’ve always loved summer best. Maybe it’s in part because there’s no school, no work and that freedom for ten weeks is quite blissful. Or maybe it’s a bit more than that. There’s nothing more fun, more liberating, than shedding my work wardrobe in favor of a drawer full of cut off shorts, tank tops, bare feet and shoulders. The absence of work to fully occupy my mind leaves me room to return to my creative life, writing. And thinking about writing. For instance, I’m currently working on two (yes, two!) creative projects. At the moment, I’ve just come back …

turning 51

am relaxing tonight, the last night of my fiftieth year. You may recall that last year at this time I was trying to figure out what it would mean to be 50, enter that decade, grow a few more grey hairs. It’s been a good year. And I’m feeling grateful now for new job opportunities, writing projects finished and started, learning new things, important relationships that have deepened and new relationships that are beginning. I’m so grateful for my amazing, accomplished, and well traveled son. I’m grateful for his thoughtfulness and generosity and for the realization that he sometimes is …

Flying

My favorite seat on a plane is by the window. Most people like the aisle seat because they can stretch their legs out every now and then. But I’m happiest curled up peering out that small window. Yesterday as we headed home, I was there by the window watching the mountains, lakes, roads, and clouds go by. The sky was blue just overhead, but far away in the distance, there was lightening: three bolts touched down. I could see the rain falling, too. We actually flew through some clouds next, and I remembered Roald Dahl’s chapters about the Cloud Men …

March 10

March 10, 9/11, and the Titanic Three years ago on March 10, we lost my dad. He had had some health issues but nothing we thought was life threatening. So his death came as a shock. But I don’t suppose grieving his loss would be diminished had we known. I hate this day. I find myself getting irritable and weepy days before I remember what’s coming. Somehow my body knows before my conscious mind. I still struggle with what to do on March 10th. It’s like a personal 9/11 or the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic to me. …

Ode to the Opera

It’s January. At my elementary school that means opera time. For the past two years, the L.A. Opera has sent representatives to teach our fifth grade opera.

Before you even begin to think, how boring! Imagine 65 ten and eleven year olds on stage performing an opera! This event has become so important to our school that the students in younger grades can’t wait to get to fifth grade to have this experience.

In January, fifth grade kids study the opera. Then they begin to practice. They memorize lines. They learn to sing the songs. They learn where to stand and how to act, where to put their arms, and how to move on stage. Members of the L.A. Opera perform the major roles. Our kids make up the chorus. Then entire school gets to see the final performance. It’s always electrifying and magical to see.

It always makes me wonder if any of our kids will end up pursuing a career in opera. Of course that’s not the point of the experience. But I think, if it weren’t for that exposure most of our students would never even consider the opera. They wouldn’t know to think of it or to imagine themselves doing it.

I wonder if we do enough in school to expose our kids to things they wouldn’t otherwise know about. This is why I love career days and Read Across America Day when people come to read aloud to kids, celebrate books, and share some of their own lives.

I feel strongly that it’s our duty as parents, teachers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends of any child, to share unique experiences, art shows, musicals, poetry readings, cultural events, nature trails, museums, concerts…. the list is endless. Maybe that child, whose hand we hold is the next Picasso, Mama Cass, John James Audubon. But without that exposure….

Several years ago, we had the opportunity to take our first graders on a field trip to see a student-friendly version of an opera. This poem was inspired by that experience.

 

Ode to the Opera

and to six year olds…

 

one six year old student arrives in a clip on tie

tucked under his three button vest

 

another tiptoes in glittery shoes

dresses, tights, button down shirts, frilly hair clips

on the bus they ask and answer each other…

 

is Carmen real? why does she think she’s all that?

you forgot how beautiful she is

i don’t know Italian but the music

is sad in my body

Madame Butterfly breaks my heart

in my ear i heard the songs

while i was sleeping

 

when then we are seated,

in velvet chairs,

sighs as the lights go down,

hands clap to the beat,

almost,

voices chorus, Bravo!

 

and all the way home,

the little girl with the curly

hair who cannot remember anything

not math facts, not reading books

or letter sounds

not spelling words,

or even playground rules,

hums Carmen’s song

about being free

 

Location, Location, Location

Over the weekend, I read an article in the NY Times about writing outside by Carol Kaufmann. Read it here. It got me thinking about locations and inspiration and writing. I started wondering what would happen if I had my students do their writing work out in the garden on our campus. So Monday morning we went out. Kids picked spots in the sunshine, grass, flowers, and by the apple tree in the corner. And they wrote. After my students did their writing lesson, I had them do a quick-write. They wrote about how writing outside changed their writing or …

Day 2

Yes, we’ve just finished Day 2 in the new school year. My new students are sweet, enthusiastic, and motivated despite temperatures that have hovered around 100 degrees. There is much to be excited about this year. We get to continue using iPads and computers. And we just learned about Schoology.com. It’s sort of an educational Facebook with incredible potential for teachers and students. This afternoon, we snuck out of our blisteringly hot room and found an air conditioned room that was empty. My students were excited to be in the a/c and to make their new accounts on Schoology. My …

5 am

I’m woke up this morning an hour before the alarm. The beginning of another school year is nearly here. I have a training to go to today. There are still new things to learn for me even after twenty-eight years of teaching. During the summer, when my life is pretty stress free I typically sleep very well. But when I have things to get done, to think about, to learn, I wake too early with my mind racing. This morning I’m thinking about new students, new technology, and new Common Core Standards. Will I be able to construct and present …

Postcards

I’m a little late doing my spring cleaning. But it’s summer, and I have time to go through all of those piles of papers that have been growing around my living room. I came across a bundle of postcards. I couldn’t just file them away without opening the bundle and looking through the cards. When my son was in fourth grade, his teacher worked hard to help her students understand the world, the globe, and geography. To help out on my end, I asked traveling friends and family to send my son postcards. We still have the impressive collection of …

Why Writing?

The world of writing is undergoing a revolution. Think of all the new electronic ways to write. There are emails, e-books, text messages, instant messaging, blogs, web pages, and social-networking sites, just to name a few. Parents and children may send text messages to each other many times a day. Teens send text messages to their friends sometimes a hundred times a day! I’m sure that most families now have members who use these methods to communicate. Are you surprised to think of that kind of communicating as writing? It is. And electronic written communication is growing in popularity and …