Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Then and now

Tuesdays (and all of March!) at Two Writing Teachers!


I was a perpetual motion machine

Churning out work until dark,
constantly striving for perfection,
one of the last cars in the parking lot.


there was never enough time.

Rigid neck, tense shoulders, tight back.
Ruled by self-imposed schedules and checklists.
Analyzing, re-adjusting, overthinking.


I couldn't turn off my brain

Worries bounced around my head,
clattering like pinballs, 

piling up until I was trapped.


I couldn't see anything different.

How could I 
leave school earlier?
work out? 
relax (not just collapse)?
Still write, read, and do band?
With a baby?
How could I still be me?

But now

I walk out into afternoon sunlight,
humming, with light steps and clear eyes.
What's done is done, and the rest can wait.


I work even more intensely
not just to be a better teacher, 
but also a better me.


I close the lid on the worries
and flip a switch: 


I breathe deeply and ponder possibilities:
the park? Read and play? Shopping? 


I live in wide smiles and sparkling eyes,
Wiggles, waves, giggles, and glee.
So much joy.


There's somehow more of me in everything I do:
more energy, 
more peace, 
more strength
more love.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Frozen family fun

Tuesday fun at Two Writing Teachers!
"Cross-country skiing is available. M&M needs snowsuit and front carrier."

I tilt my head as I read my dad's text. Is he serious? It's so cold! What if we fell? Nobody would really take a baby cross-country skiing, right? The questions have barely flown through my brain as I grin. Of course he's serious. That's what our family is all about: having fun together.

"What do you think? Just for a little while?" I sidle up to Husband, who knows by now exactly what my family's brand of fun is: hysterical, energetic, full of love, and totally crazy.

"Ok. Heading to your house now. Ready to ski!" I can imagine my dad bouncing around the house as he waits for us.

Soon, we're strapping the front carrier to my dad and wiggling M&M into her bunny snowsuit. "You really want to take her?!" My dad is chuckling with anticipation, and M&M joins in with shrieks and squeals as she notices how excited we all are.

We pile out the door and pop on our skis, wondering what M&M will think. "Be careful, Daddy! Don't go fast like you always do!" I'm a little nervous as he takes her down the small hill beside my parents' house, but he glides steadily and carefully to the flatter backyard. Husband, my mom, and I are like a mini cluster of paparazzi as we try to get pictures of what must surely be the youngest-ever cross-country skiier, all snuggled in close to her granddaddy and peering out with wide eyes!
so sweet!
He zooms off toward the neighbor's house and we push off, pumping our poles hard to catch up. Crisp air brushes my face as if it's waking up my soul, and I relish the pure aliveness that surges through my body. I love cross-country skiing.

As I soar toward my dad, I hear a sharp squawk. Uh oh... is she too cold or scared? But my apprehension quickly melts into joy as I get close enough to see her sweet open-mouthed smile. She loves it too!!! My dad can't stop giggling gleefully as he zips across the other backyards, and I realize that I'm laughing too as I fly along behind them.

Pure delight. Pure fun. Pure love.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


Tuesday fun at Two Writing Teachers!
Heads bent: over notebooks, over Chromebooks, towards each other.

Tiny islands of ideas scattered around the room: sunk into a pillow, at a desk beside the window, sprawled on the rug, huddled at a table.

Loud silence. Quiet chatter. Arabic. Spanish. English. Thoughts taking shape.

Heartbreaking, uplifting, sweet, excited, strong, scared, beautiful stories.

"... Palacio de Bellas Artes..."

"... my father come to study..."

"... how everyone was afraid and you didn't know what would happen..."

"... studying and playing with my friends..."

"... the government pay for everything so we can learn English..."

"... I walked for three months..."

"... the beautiful mountains..."

"... the American occupation of Iraq..."

"... we wait for six years..."

"... all students would go to a garden..."

"... the scary things happened..."

"... this is my fifth country..."

"... I'll ask my mom..."
"... and I was so nervous because I didn't know English..."

"... this year I want to tell my story..."

"... the war..."

Our school's multicultural celebration is always my favorite day of the year, and the weeks leading up to it are the most precious times in my classroom. But this year, more than ever, I've talked with my students about how this is their chance to combat ignorance and prejudice, especially in light of the negativity around immigration that has reared its ugly head over the past few months. This year, more than ever, my students really recognize how powerful their stories are.

Maybe it's the way I introduced the project this year. Maybe it's the fact that some of my students have experienced the event several times now, and their enthusiasm is sparking the minds and hearts of the others. Maybe it's the way we've been talking all year about being brave and strong. Maybe it's just magic, but my students are more willing than ever to share their incredible personal journeys, and I can't wait.

Today, before we continued storyboarding our ideas, we read "I, Too" by Langston Hughes. While he wrote it about being black, it's just as true for my amazing immigrant students, especially the marginalized refugees from the Middle East and Central & South America.

They'll see how beautiful I am 
And be ashamed --  

I, too, am America."
(Langston Hughes)