Day 20 #sol18 Lost time

Yesterday I…

  • woke up at 5 am to do yoga
  • taught from 8am-2:30pm
  • sent a bunch of emails
  • planned a brand new analysis lesson (including creating a new graphic organizer)
  • bought my son clearance snow gear for next winter
  • bought a book and an outfit for a work friend’s baby shower
  • discussed the next unit that my student teacher is planning
  • planned three meetings for later in the week
  • attended MCAS training after school (next week, oh yay…)
  • went food shopping
  • took care of my kid and dogs
  • completed my educator evaluation paperwork
  • helped my husband complete his educator evaluation paperwork
  • spent over an hour trying to get my son to fall asleep

Yesterday I did not…

  • write my Slice of Life blog post

Win some, lose some.




Day 17 #sol18 Pride

I walk into the Cohen Auditorium at Tufts. The mood is subdued but excited, expectant. In a few minutes, the ceremony will begin:

I am here today to celebrate one of the two students I sponsored in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards this year, Sam. (The other was honored at an identical ceremony that took place two hours earlier, as they schedule four different ceremony times due to space limitations.)

I have brought my family with me, because today is a big deal. Not only did Sam win a number of regional awards, but he received one of the most prestigious national awards, as well, a Gold Medal for his writing portfolio. In June, I will spend a couple of days in New York City attending the national ceremony at Carnegie Hall and other exciting events.

But today is the first step. As we sit there, the screen shows the art and portraits of past winners. “Make way for ducklings!” K calls out when Robert McLusky’s art appears. “Peter!” he giggles when Ezra Jack Keats’ famous character is shown.

Then the lights dim and there is a fancy produced video featuring a past winner who became a professional artist, author Junot Diaz, and staff from the Boston Globe and Tufts, who help sponsor the regional part of the competition. They discuss the role of art and congratulate the winners and their families; then, when they begin to thank the teachers, I start to lose it.

This is every teacher’s dream: to mentor, to support, to build relationships, to see their students soar.

(Luckily, I had the foresight to put a small packet of tissues in my purse for today.)

After a few speakers, it’s time to announce the present winners. Of the 46 students from my school who won regional awards, only 3 are in in attendance at this particular ceremony, but there’s only one who matters to me right now.

After the ceremony, we find our way over to Sam and his parents. There are hugs, laughs, and lots of exchanged compliments. We talk about how exciting it will be to go to New York in June.

Before we leave, I seek out one of the program organizers. They had a small gift for teachers, she said:

But I’ve already received the best gift of all – helping a student uncover his voice and realize his potential. There is nothing better than that.

Day 16 #sol18 A Visit

slice of lifeThis has been a rough week. We had two snow days, another student walkout and rally that was both inspiring and also emotionally exhausting, and everyone seems to have a Daylight Saving hangover.

That was why a visit from a former student was such a highlight today.

I taught “Dre” in my English 11 class two years ago, and last year I helped him write his college essay and I wrote his recommendation letter. He was a special kind of high school student – someone everyone knew, a big bright smile, tons of personality, worked hard, took initiative, owned his own brand and party planning service for other young people. I know, right?! Just special.

He currently attends school in Rhode Island, and he came back to visit teachers today while home on spring break. I was grading quizzes during my prep period when I heard a boisterous “Miz M!” as he breezed through my door.

We hugged and started chatting.

How are classes? What have you been doing with your business? What’s living in Rhode Island like?

I was so proud when Dre told me that his English class in the fall was hard but he did well. We laughed about how immature and little the freshmen seemed to him now, walking the halls as an adult. He promised to come back and visit me again next week and talk to my current 11th graders.

This is why we teach – because we know that what we are doing is helping our young people make it to the next exciting phases of their lives. Through all the stresses and hassles of the job, we know it’s worth it.

Day 15 #sol18 I am not your martyr.

Tonight was family conferences night at my school.

I LOVE meeting families.

I do NOT love being at school until 8:00pm.

With all the talk about teachers carrying weapons, I have been thinking about this lately:

I am not your martyr.

I have a life. I have a child. I have a husband. I have friends, family, pets, hobbies. I spend more than 50% of the calendar year NOT in school.

I love my job. I take it home. I put in long hours. I attend optional PDs and take extra classes. I spend lots of time thinking about my students when I’m not at school. I love my students.

But at some point, our society needs to stop expecting teachers to die for our students – figuratively and literally. We are not martyrs. We are not saviors. We are not superheroes.

We are people doing a job we love because we believe it is important.

But we should not sacrifice ourselves. We should not flame out, burn up, crush ourselves under the weight of our own and others’ expectations of us.

I got home late tonight. I’m going to drink a glass of wine. I’m going to hug my child. I’m not going to grade. I’m not going to lesson plan. And I’m not going to feel guilty for prioritizing all the parts of me that aren’t a teacher for once.

Because I am not a martyr.

Day 7 #sol18 Protest

Today, twelve minutes into my Period 1 class, students staged a walk-out.

The faculty and staff knew about it, so it wasn’t a surprise. More than half of my creative writing class stood, a synchronized dance of putting on coats and grabbing backpacks, walking out the door, down the hall, and exiting the main entrance. They met with at least a hundred other students, staff, and safety officers; they stood for seventeen minutes in honor of the seventeen victims of the Parkland school shooting. Some returned to class afterward, while many marched to nearby Union Square to meet with students from a neighboring school and make phone calls to politicians in favor of gun control legislation.

Suddenly, I  needed to come up with a new lesson plan for the few students remaining in my room. I told my student teacher Mr. Y that I would be right back and ran to our teacher resource center to grab a DVD (Brave New Voices, a perfect thing to watch at the outset of our poetry unit).

As I passed by the window, I looked out to see so many students and adults standing silently, peacefully, in support of their beliefs, and I was heartened. One of the most important things we can and should do in schools is to provide our students with the language and skills to express themselves, the knowledge of history and society to engage with political systems, and the empathy and courage to understand others and make the world a better place.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”

slice of life

Day 2 #sol18 “Where I’m From”

slice of life

My student-teacher Mr. Y is leading our period 2 English 11 class. Right now, students are working on developing voice and practicing both analyzing and using literary devices in their work. Today, they will be finishing their “Where I’m From” poems, so I decided to write my own to both share with our class and also use for my Slice. Enjoy!


Where I’m From

I am from an ocean of trees
cedar shingles and chicken wire
sun-ripened tomatoes devoured
as soon as they are picked
a field of clover, a dirt road
and empty space
for miles

I am from a shared room
with a younger sister
fights over Barbies and boundaries
I am from fur and features
I am from a mother and a father
whose love was sometimes soft
sometimes shouted

I am from matzo
kugel and gefilte fish
foods found in the international aisle
lighting candles and murmured prayers
I am from feeling both different and
the same
I am from spit rough vowels
and consonants from the Old Country
I am from an alphabet of flames

I am from books and songs and dances
from my own attempts to escape into the stories
and my own attempts to become the stories
I am from finding a voice through words
first others’ and then my own

I am from everything that made me
pressure cooked like a diamond
multi-faceted, I shine
even when the lights get dim
and I never forget
where I am from


#sol17 Sestina

“The secret of good writing is to say an old thing in a new way or to say a new thing in an old way.” ~ Richard Harding Davis

Last week I assigned a form poem to my students: they could write a poem on any topic of their choice, but it had to be in the traditional structures of a sonnet, sestina, villanelle, haiku (5+), limerick (3+) or arun (an awesome new form I learned thanks to GirlGriot!).

The kids were a bit intimidated, looking at these forms, and understandably so: it’s not easy working within such structures. I could show them my own sonnets, haikus, and limericks, but when they asked about the complex sestina and the villanelle, I had nothing. “I tried to write a sestina in college once,” I unhelpfully volunteered.

So I decided to return to that unfinished sestina and give it the old teacher try. Here goes.

Sestina, Winter

I wake in the morning to the sound of my alarm. A light
dusting of snow has covered my car during the night.
I long to return to bed, to drift in sleep
and restfully dream. But my bed must remain empty.
I shower, eat, dress. I rush for the bus, never on time
but always just barely making it. Outside is cold:

it’s winter – a fact I don’t wish to acknowledge, but the cold
broaches no argument, freezing my lungs, my breath. The light
is less now; more moon, more darkness, more time
in the dark, alone. I have always preferred the day to the night –
day seems more full, bringing energy and life. Nighttime is empty,
long hours spent in bed, loud silent thoughts preventing sleep.

The bus bumps over frost heaves, preventing me from trying to sleep
before class. My mind is sluggish this early, the cold
working it like the joints of my fingers, unable to quickly search empty
pockets. No gloves. Instead, I hope for warmth from the light
of the sun, but in winter this is a foolish wish. Last night
I left my gloves on my table. I remember now – I didn’t grab them in time.

That’s something I never seem to have enough of these days – time.
I wake, I go to class, I eat alone, I read, I sleep
and the world carries me words. So many words that at night
I turn them over, spin them through my brain, muse in cold
silence, until I stumble back into the light
and the words escape me, leave me empty.

These are my days – full of activities but empty
of meaning – a black hole sucking away my life and time
and replacing it with shortened hours of day light
and a desire to forever retreat into my bed and sleep.
I’m searching for something, but what? I have discovered nothing but cold
shoulders and words that linger at the edges of the night.

And when it returns on day’s heels, that night
is filled with silent words, an empty
room and curtained windows that let in a cold
draft – my only visitors. No one else seems to have the time.
How I wish it were easy to fall into bed and sleep
and in dreams linger blissfully until I wake at light.

Because I wouldn’t mind the cold all of the time –
if I had someone else there at night. To sleep
in a warm, not-empty bed; to see reflected in someone’s eyes the morning light.

slice of life