I am revitalizing this blog with the Teachers Write program. I need to get back into a writer’s notebook. I have several notebooks that I have been using, however, I need to keep the ideas rolling. One week I decided to sit with my 8th grade classes and write with them. It was amazing. We came up with a prompt from different creative ideas, and then would write for about 15 minutes. We shared, and the stories that all of us (myself included) were able to start were incredible. I was so proud of my kids and their ability to turn a very simple idea in to complex characters and plots.
In my writer’s notebook I write down snippets of conversation. I write down interesting, surprising or funny observations of life around me. I also love to write down book titles. Sometimes a question or statement that is more like a title pops into my head and that is what begins to guide the writing of the piece. Most recently I started work on a poem after considering the perspective of one of my students for the first time. Every week I assign an independent reading log and each week students receive a grade on it. One of the components of this log sheet is the parent signature. The kids complain about this, but I like it because I think it does force some parents to have a literary conversation with their kid. Or at the very least, it forces them to look at their homework since it has to be signed. If it comes back unsigned, I take off a few points, but nothing too drastic so a student might get an A- instead of an A.
Very recently I was thinking of a particular student who does amazing work. Every week she receives an A- because of the lack of the signature. A few weeks ago, it really struck me at one point at the symbolic meaning behind that minus sign. An A- is a good grade, but the minus is a constant reminder of the emotional absence of the parent.
It is observations like this that drive me to write. Our society is what drives the importance of literature. We have to tell the stories of the people. We have to keep the themes and lessons alive so that people can learn from our society. This is why I have to write. I have to write to make all of our struggles and sadness not endured in vain. I have to write to make all of our humor and love be abound for future generations.
Believe in the raindrops kissing your cheek.
Believe in the wind embracing your body.
Believe in the grasses swaying to your voice.
Believe in the snowflakes holding your hands.
Believe in the flowers blossoming around your feet.
Believe in the clouds and the shapes that you see.
Believe in your eyes and the love in the world.
Believe in the good, have hope and always faith.
Behind the window pane I saw your smile.
Steam from a warm kitchen began to form
droplets and a fog.
A table set for four was spaced
holding blue and white plates with silver spoons,
forks and knives.
The moonlight backdrop showed off
From the cold snowy night I saw
everything that you had to offer.
I left my footprints in the snow.
I knew when I first saw the snow fall
that prints could be left by any and all.
I checked through the window to see in the drifts
there were three toed bird prints and cat paws there,
holes made from icicle drops in the snow’s tear.
When I finally made it out with boots on my feet
I didn’t waste time in my jumps and my leaps.
Looking behind to see what I had left to show,
I left my footprints in the snow.
What will my hands make today?
They are open and ready for anything.
I wonder what I can fit in them
and if I can grasp it or just give it a fling.
I have so much potential in what I can do.
They can open and close, they can wriggle and snap.
They can count and be crossed,
clutch and make words just like that.
In the palm of these hands,
they can hold your heart.
Always connected to you
back from my start.
Guardian angels at heaven’s gate,
keep me safe from dark of night.
Help me greet the shimmering dawn
with childlike hope and wonder.
Let me choose love where exists only hate,
and teach me to have faith beyond vision.
Guide me home and focus my eyes
on the good fortune around me.
It has been hard to breathe in the past two days without feeling a lump stuck in my chest. I have wept for the children, staff and community of Newtown, CT. So close to my home and my heart. As a teacher and a parent, I feel lost, confused and helpless. The details kept becoming more and more unimaginable as the hours went on. By the end of my work day Friday, I was crying in my classroom with my students telling them how much they are loved.
As stories now are being told of the extreme heroism of the staff and the students, I am inspired by them. A principal, teachers telling their students that they love them, and faculty shielding the children from horror. The first responders who encountered the sights and the staff at Danbury hospital who readied the trauma area for the patients who never came. This loss of life cannot have been in vain. Their amazing lives, and stories must stay alive for us to remember. We must always remember.
Tonight at bedtime in my house, I held my sons tight. I smelled them. That might sound odd, but have you ever just smelled your child. Placed your cheek to their cheek and inhaled their beautiful sweetness. I am not sure I have for a long time, but tonight I broke all the rules of bedtime. I rocked my youngest until he fell asleep in my arms. I had him locked in tight and our faces were pressed together. I felt his soft hair and his warm breath and I prayed that my children would always be safe from harm. I prayed that those teachers and children who are now angels, will watch over my children too.
Today’s To Do List:
1. Grade 54 Reading Logs
2. Work on pages of numerous manuscripts and writing
3. Plan out weekly menu
4. Take the perfect photo of kids for this years Christmas card
5. Start my 5-7 page paper on the topic “what makes a good short story?” for fiction class final
6. Send photos to relatives for annual family calendar
7. Make a to do list for the week
8. Tuck kids into bed where they fall happily asleep for the night
… Where does a crying toddler fit into the list? He is supposed to be dreaming in his bed of such delight like puppies and brightly colored books. If he does not go to bed, how will I ever get my list done. I have too much to do to deal with this right now.
Walking into his room to see the tear streaked face saying, “Mama.” I picked up the blankets, and animals from the floor where he had dropped them in frustration. I told him it was bedtime and he had to lay down and go to sleep. Staring up at me from his dark brown eyes he said nothing more. He simply put his two arms up to me.
Picking him up, he instantly placed his head to the left of my body, directly over my heartbeat and pointed one hand to the rocking chair in the corner of the room. I shifted him slightly and he wrapped his arms around my arms and then we sat together. He snuggled in close, but did not immediately close his eyes. Instead, he stared up at my eyes for what seemed like a long time. The list slowly started to reorganize itself. Some items dropped off completely, while others just moved down to other spots. Rocking along to the song in my head, “Silent Night,” I remembered the most important “To Do” item that I had.
1. Snuggle with kids for as long as they need.
When do you we lose our sense of questioning the world? I listen to my boys every day and their endless, and I mean endless questions. There is a constant line of questioning when we are getting up in the morning, when we are in the car, at nap time, bedtime and every other possible interlude in between. To us, it gets tiring.
“Why are the leaves falling off the trees?”, “Why do we have to put gas in the car?”, “What’s for dinner?”, “Why do I have to go to bed now?”, “Do you want a hot latte?”, “Where does the mail go when the mailman takes it?”, “How does the clock know what time it is?”… and so on.
To the kids credit however, there is the childish impulse to learn as much as they can about their world around them. Things that we take for granted every day are not missed by their eyes or their ears. Small snippets of conversation, books, and even musical lyrics are engrained in their heads. Little sponges.
As adults we often skim over these things in our multitasking world. If it is not on our list of things to do that will get us groceries bought, mortgage paid, clothes on back, and maybe a Saturday night out, then it is probably not going to be a priority.
At what point does our mind switch gears from sheer wonderment and imagination about the world around us and become goal driven devices? I am not sure which of these options is the best one to pursue. I am still trying to balance my childish whims with my adult responsibilities. I hope that I will always childish whims to balance.