Teaching with a gun?

A post from 2.22.18

Guns are for one thing: killing. Why are we talking about whether or not to put guns in schools?  This debate makes me so sad. Guns are the antithesis of what I am all about. I am a creator and a giver. I help children reach their potential.  I view creative value in each of my students.  I help them create their own knowledge, to value education, to read and learn and know and think for themselves.  I raise my child the same way.  I will not live my life in fear.  How is it, once again, that the people in charge who are stating their great ideas about arming teachers have not set foot in a classroom since they themselves stopped paying attention? When will the dumbing down of our culture, our education, our generations leave a most meaningful consequence?  How is it that now a military state may be demanded by the clueless and the hateful? What has our country come to?  Teaching at a Jewish day school already brings some level of anxiety. We understand that for some people we are a target. Last year it was a rash of bomb threats, remember?  A note to people in charge: please build schools and communities. Give students what they need to be healthy and learn free from fear. Spend money on books and professional development, after school programs, and food, field trips, science equipment, social-emotional curricula, psychologists, and health care, art supplies, and technology, universities and labs, infrastructure, and innovation.  Build bridges, gardens, upstanders, and basic needs. Create love and open conversation. Give people a voice, including children, especially children. Invest in mental health and mindfulness. Take a walk. Teach yourself to take a stand and lead with dignity. Take a look at countries doing things right. Be inspired.  Hire professionals and help them learn. Maybe I am blind by my own ideals, but I really did believe we were making progress.  Give teachers the respect they deserve for caring for the well being of your children.

Elevator Talk on School Reform

Elevator Talk on school reform. 

The beginning of my teaching career coincided with the No Child Left Behind reform.  After three years, I quickly learned that test scores undermined creativity- my own and especially my students. I was teaching 15-year-old seventh graders who were itching to drop out. I had an eighth grader in my class whose parents blamed me for their son writing a bomb threat. One of my students ran away from home and I did not see her for a month.  This was awful, but it meant that I would have enough desks for my Language Arts class. Every federal administration has tried to “fix” the school system in America, but it seems like a new reform is just the same money making scheme painted over with a new banner. American politics and our government may (I want to believe) at its core, have the right intentions, but non-educators and wealthy philanthropists with agendas have always been heard over the parents, teachers, students, and education professionals. Schools seem to be the historic scapegoat.  Teachers have always been expected to fix society, to develop a competitive nation without having the support and respect they need and deserve to educate our children. Too many kids in America do not have their basic needs met. There is no way someone could be expected to perform on a test if they were hungry, scared, unclean, sick, or homeless. This is not the work of educators. This is our country’s responsibility. There is not an easy solution, but a start would be to elect officials whose main agenda is taking care of our citizens. When people are more secure in their basic needs, educators can do their jobs. As a parent and a teacher, my hope is that other parents will be aware of the pressures being put on our children. I hope that parents will value a child’s creativity, social-emotional well-being, and curiosity about the world and that they will stop looking at a grade or test score as the only indicator of what is happening in the classroom. 

What inspires you? Part 1

I love lists. I love making lists of lists to make. Are there any other listers out there? Take out your favorite pen and notebook, or open a new document and create a heading:
What inspires me?
Storms brewing
Rainbow weather
Classical guitar
My child
May and October
New pens
Blank paper
Deep colors
Great works of fiction
Children singing
Train travel
My best girlfriends
People living their authentic lives
My husband
Mountains on the horizon
My strange and constant dream-life
My mom and sister
My painful and beautiful healing

This is the short list because I have to leave for work! When I am feeling uninspired, I can turn to this list and remember why I exist.

Living my authentic, creative life…to be continued.

I have not written on this site in a while as I have been so focused on my creative writing!

Habits that have been helping me immensely:
Morning Pages! If you have not read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (such a classic), I recommend it- if you are dreaming of living your authentic creative life! Every single morning, I get my cup of coffee and a favorite pen (today it was a gel pen) and I write non-stop for three pages. Handwriting is important, as there is something about the act of writing that is creative. It is like writing down your dreams. I don’t go back and read these entries, although someday I might.
But it gets my head clear(er) for the day. I incorporated this habit a while ago, and I loved it. I hope I never stop again. I have many notebooks and journals waiting to be filled.

5 minutes of meditation. Just this simple sit-down has helped calm me. It does seem difficult at times to quiet my mind. But this is a practice. And like all things, with practice, I will get better. Maybe I will eventually increase my time.

Seeking out art experiences: This is huge for me. I seek to constantly be inspired. I need to be seeing and listening to music. I need to be reading poetry, fiction, and essays from a variety of authors. Every week. I am seeking something new and different. I am open to suggestions! I started playing my guitar again.

What are some daily/weekly habits that have helped you live your most authentic creative life?

Kamara Thomas inspires me completely.


Self-discipline is the ability to control yourself and to make yourself work hard or behave in a particular way without needing anyone else to tell you what to do. (https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/self-discipline)

I want someone to tell me what to do. But I know this is all me. Today I began bullet journaling again and tracking my daily habits. I have new habits to incorporate (meditation, writing in this blog and adding creative writing to my other website, posting on Patreon, working daily on my bigger writing projects), old habits to bring back (saving money daily, exercise, morning pages, artist dates) and the big habit I want (need) to let go of: time-wasting distraction games on my phone- which is a very excellent way to numb, but I cannot do this work if I am detached. Nope. I am a lister, a checker-offer, I like to have four different notebooks going at the same time. I like to carry paper and pens with me at all times.

Changes are always. Transitions, like this big one, are hard stuff. This is bigger than a New Year’s resolution. This is an all out seeking to live differently. I do not expect perfection. I expect a true willingness though, to seek self-care, to set real boundaries, to keep myself accountable, and to seek help where and when I need it. This is midlife.

How do you go about making lasting change?

When you wash your hair

Tomorrow or the next day or Monday morning, you will remember the purity of your skin. The places of pleasure and unspeakable longing for healing are both the same. The water will remind you that your lungs are working and the pulse of your next move does not need to be decided by the time soap spirals down the drain. You will be gentle with your bruises, and you will lather the lavender on your beautiful strength. And this momentous morning, the same as tomorrow, will help you gather the days of your wisdom.

Start with the end

Visualization. Create the life you want. True name. These are the mantras. For me, the idea of living the life I want to live includes everything right now. The present moment will change with every word I type. So to manifest the path, I have to look for an end point. A place to enjoy the vista.

When I was teaching a unit on writing mysteries, I had my students try writing the solution to the puzzle first. Name the thief first, then show how the detectives figure it all out. The clues and the twists and turns will emerge from knowing the solution. You get to create that labyrinth. Have fun with it! “What if we don’t know who will be the one who did it?”

“Decide. Then write.”

This is my work right now.