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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Lemonade from Lemons, Hay While the Sun Shines, and Cups Half-Full

Cups definitely more than half full.
Beignets and Cafe in New Orleans
My summer winds down, a little more quickly than I might have hoped for (I know I just composed a post about loving summer!). Kids don't start back to school for another month, but I have a string of training to attend. It is all paid for by virtue of a grant, which is wonderful, because contrary to popular belief teachers do not get 'paid for doing nothing' in the summer. What we get is nine and a half months of pay stretched out over twelve months. You all know teachers teach for the love and passion of it- not because we are lazy and want summers off or because we can't do anything else. But I digress...

Just Before

There is this tremor, this
last gasp of the darkness where everything, even
the warmth leaks out. All that is left is crisp,
empty chill that tells no tales of the past
and gives the future no succor.

You might feel that it is the beginning of the end -
and yet it is all harbinger and no horror.

Just before the sky turns pink.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Summertime... and the livin' is easy.

As a teacher I am in the privileged position of being eternally young - at least that is how it looks from the vantage of a long vacation. I used to suffer from the sudden lack of something to do when summer began. Sort of a post-work depression and emptiness. As I get older and time speeds up I have let go of that! Make hay while the sun shines as they say.

And so, with a nod to Raymond Carver...


Looking at my tabulations
I feel good. I have a life
of the mind and people
to love. I cook kick-ass food
and take joy in libraries(free fuckin books, ones I never
before read!). I am in love with this striped
shirt from Goodwill fer cheap. And while

cockroaches and clutter gotta go - my bile
does not rise as I gaze out
across the vista of spring break, early
mornings do not loom large and I
know I will have time
to clear

the rotting veg from the fridge -
and wipe clean the names of my nemesi(s).

Childhood and summer go together. In many essential ways I am still that exact same child. Summer is for childhood and swimming and skinned knees.

My son Forest and our friend Erin Graham 'sledding' a dirt hill

A Bruise

The shinscrapes of my youth
were beloved. Picked over until
they became something worth looking
at - a thin white line - surrounded
by golden, dirt-smudged skin, criss-crossed
by bruises and abrasions.

I flew
through those summers. Skimming
the hills -
brown, foot-worn trails through green,
glossy salal, frothy huckleberry, shadowed
by straight ever green.

Hard rubber wheels on cracked driveways.
A bruise was a badge.
Fresh scabs told a story.
Road rash was to be envied.

P.S. Here is a link to read Raymond Carver's poem Gravy.
Does anything say summer quite like a full-grown man in a kiddie-pool? (Jeff Hoyle)
Well, maybe a small child pouring beer on the
head of an unsuspecting harmonica player.
(Doug MacKenzie)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Anarchist Dictator

"If I were the impossible anarchist dictator, every freight train would be required to have a passenger car, with no attendants, so anyone could hop on anywhere and ride for free at their own risk."     - Ran Prieur

I have been a teacher for ten years now, something I never thought to be. I hated school. Truly hated it. I had the second lowest GPA in my junior class. I think that was the year I couldn't even make myself go in and register for classes during the summer because the sound of the bell grated on my sensibilities.

My ideal world did not include desks, and more importantly, being told what to learn and how to learn it. I believed then, and still do, that kids want to learn. They are interested in their world; they explore and discover naturally. Now, for ten months out of the year I arrange desks and I arrange learning. I tell kids what they need to learn AND how they need to learn it.


I used to rebel-
before these days of cognitive dissonance. I thought
I knew

but now the me that reminds
students to take their seats - repeatedly -
is in discord with the rest of me. I am this impossible thing -
this anarchist dictator. I rise up
to embody 

what I am not. Rebelling
with one hand and squelching uprisings
with the other. It is easy
to see how Castro got that way.

(Thank you to my brilliant and dear friend Aimee Day for the quote and the inspiration.)

The Angels: Patty Damon- 7th grade Science, DeAnn Broom- Texas History,
and Me - Readin' and Writin'

On the other hand, I know some things about kids that I didn't back when I was a kid. I know that they need structure to learn in groups. I know that they need warriors to fight for them. They need adults who are willing to battle with them and for them. That willingness to fight for their education is how they know I care.

I also know that kids who have to deal with the effects of poverty need to have higher expectations set, not lower. If you start out in life behind the curve you have to run faster and longer to get where you want to go. Educators who make excuses for kids are doing them a disservice.

It is a impossible to sustain the level of outrage and fight needed on your own, especially given the pressures of modern education: testing, funding, bureaucracy, cruelty, group-think, inequity, disinterest... 

Dear Student,

I want to borrow a quart of outrage
to use when I cannot find it in myself to
stick up for you yet again, when they say
you don't have the support, or the will, they say -

I need a soupcon of courage to tell you
that you are worth the struggle and that
if you don't pull your head out of your ass
and start acting older than your age, you will never
read above a third grade level.

I need to borrow will - because I have lost mine
in paperwork and sad eyes and your anger - and it might as well be yours -
because mine was never enough for the both of us.

Can you loan me a spine, I need it so I can smile at you
as you walk through my door and I will try to convince you that whatever it is
you are running from will always nip at your heels
until you turn and face it.