Tuesday, December 22, 2015

I Am Writing #SOL15


I am writing.
I have written.
I will write.
Twenty pages yesterday.
Twenty-six and a half pages today.
7,202 words yesterday.
9,775 words today.

I have been procrastinating.
Putting off until yesterday
what I should have been doing for months.
Avoiding the inevitable
That's why 

I sit here writing.
I sit on the couch
Laptop on folded legs
Fingers on keys
Tapping
Writing.

Tomorrow
I will write some more
Maybe more 
Words
Maybe fewer 
pages.

I have no time for 
Writer's block.
I have a written contract 
For words
Words I thought would satisfy
And fill a longing for 
Something unwritten
Something unspoken

These words I'm writing 
Don't nourish
My hunger for words.
Not all words are good words.
Not all words need to be written.
Some simply fill a utilitarian purpose.

Still
These cacophonous words 
Demand a place on a white page.
And so I write
And so I will continue to write
Until the last keystroke 
Marks the final white space.
Period.

Today's output. 


*By way of explanation: I have a contract job w/ a startup. I'm developing content for an app. I have had a hard time fulfilling my obligation to the company, but I'm not past my deadline. I am close, but I have a long way to go, although I'm more than half-way done. I'll say more about this experience when I finish the work. For no, this is all I have the energy to write.



Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Perspective: Seeing Through Students' Eyes #SOL15

Today a student in my AP Lit and Comp class decided to experiment with the eyeglasses of several other students in the class.

This, of course, represents a diversion from the curriculum, but students are a bit anxious for our winter vacation and we're digging out of a major snow storm. I decided not to pressure the class about staying on task during today's lab as I know these exceptional students will come with their essays in tow for peer evaluating tomorrow.

Included among the glasses my student tried are mine. I have an exceptionally strong prescription as I'm near-sighted, have astigmatism, and have been wearing corrective lenses of one kind or another since I was five.

The class offered comments as our model modeled his peers' eyeglasses:

"Those make me look like Harry Potter."
"Those look good on you."
"Hahaha!"
"You look very professorial in a Prince of Tides kind of way." Okay, I said that!

When my student put my glasses on, he chirped: "How can you see out of these things?"

As the class entertained themselves, I poured hot chocolate for them and began thinking about how we teachers and our students see the world. Our perspectives, our worldview depends on perspective, our own and that of others.

When I began teaching this class at the beginning of the year, some of the students resisted my approach. They were accustomed to lots of test-prep, something anathema to my pedagogical philosophy.

Through their confusion about my teaching methods (some, not all), I spoke to students about my philosophy and experience. I listened to their worries about being prepared for the AP Lit and Comp test. I emailed Carol Jago about my students' desire for more test-prep and shared her response and qualifications to offer an opinion. Since I have her textbook for AP Lit and Comp on my desk, students immediately valued her input.

Today the students value the close reading we do through performance methodology; they recognize that in-depth discussions stretch their critical thinking and deepen their analytical skills; they appreciate both the in-class writes we do and the longer essays I assign that they complete outside of class.

Gloucester's blinding in The Tragedy of King Lear has dominated much of our study the past week. Both literal and figurative sightlessness has framed students' comments and writing. Through our discussions, writing, and performances, students recognize that blindness takes many forms. As one of the most often referenced texts on the AP Lit and Comp free response test, our study resonates as important to students. More importantly, by approaching the text as relevant to our lives, students gain insight into the human condition. Reducing the reason for studying Lear to taking a test, does an injustice to both the Bard and to students.


Preparing Shoe Box Staging for a scene in Act 2 of KING LEAR
It's a small class but one of the strongest classroom communities I've experienced in my career.

We all take time to look at life and literature through multiple lenses, and in doing so we see the world more clearly.

The Slice of Life story challenge happens every Tuesday via the generosity of the fabulous team at Two Writing Teachers. Check out other slices here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Breaking Bread: The Rhetorical Power of Food in Life and Literature #SOL15

Join other slicers in the Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge by visiting the Two Writing Teacher's Blog. Thank you, TWT team for your vigilance and contribution to feeding our hearts and souls this holiday season. 

As we recover from our turkey hangover and finish consuming the holiday leftovers, my thoughts turn to food in literature and in personal narratives. 

A couple of weeks ago a student in my Communication 1101 class presented a persuasive speech about the importance of family dinnertime. This is something I've pondered for many years. 

Long ago a student (a sophomore) wrote an essay about the ways dinnertime in his home had changed over the years. He talked about a time when his family ate together and shared stories about one another's day, a time when the family talked about world events, a time when the family discussed and solved personal struggles. For this student, time changed the dinner dynamic as his siblings graduated and left home, as he and his parents became busier, as schedule conflicts precluded them from breaking bread together. In time, the student wrote, each--he and his parents--went their separate ways, grabbing a microwave or fast food meal. 

At the time I vowed that I would make sure my family sat down together at the dinner table and shared a meal at least four times a week. Dinner together became a routine we seldom missed. Often a neighbor kid joined us. 

Many years have passed since that student sat in my room, but his impact on my life, on my belief about the importance of eating together remains as clear and strong now as ever. 

Returning to the value of the family dinner, I coached my student in Comm through her research and speech preparation. Together we looked at ways students could influence their parents and family members to eat together. 

Monday, after listening to a student in speech present his name tag, after hearing this student talk about food and connect it to his grandmother, I shared with the class some thoughts about food and literature. In my remarks, I mentioned that we English teachers often offer cursory discussion about the role of food in literature, and in this context I suggested that student tell stories, write stories about their food memories. 

Following the Thanksgiving holiday, food narrative rings relevant. 

Food related topics make good speeches in both my general speech class and in Comm. In fact, a student in my night class gave her argumentative speech on Brominated Vegetable Oil, which is in Mountain Dew. After my student argued that BVO can cause thyroid problems and is a substance that has been banned in and removed from other products, I stopped drinking Diet Mountain Dew. 

In literature, food functions symbolically. 

My student's name-tag reminded me of Robert Frost's "After Apple Picking" and Seamus Heaney's "Blackberry Picking." I shared a snippet of a memory about picking blackberries with my father in the blaring heat of Missouri summers and soaring humidity. "I hated picking blackberries," I told my class. "Cocooned in long sleeves and pants, my hands gloved, and my head covered with a ht to ward of chiggers, I thought I'd suffocate." 

Then I said, "I miss those times. I wish I had known how important those moments were and how I'd long for them now. Write those stories so that you remember them. Think about using those moments to build your speeches." 

We picked blackberries as necessity. We couldn't afford to buy them in the store. We weren't Joad family poor, but we were close. I gorged myself with blackberries and sported a stained mouth and gray lips that confessed my deed as my words denied eating from the bucket. 

Food, more the absence of it, plays a significant role in The Grapes of Wrath. The Joads gorge themselves with peaches and pay a horrific, painful price for that gluttony. 

The literature in which food functions symbolically is too numerous to name, but in addition to those I'm mentioned, I think about some others: 

  • "Old King Cole": Blackbirds baked in a pie never made much sense to me as a child, but the sinister tone resonates now.
  • The Canterbury Tales: Chaucer's narrator begins his journey breaking bread and toasting his host at the Tabard Inn.
  • The Tragedy of Macbeth:  The bloody dagger scene in which the guests toast Macbeth as his descent into madness worsens epitomizes family dysfunction at the dinner table. 
  • Beowulf: Our first work of English literature offers a reminder that forces beyond our control disrupt the celebratory atmosphere of food fests when Grendel crashes the Hrothgar's party. 
  • Angela's Ashes: Frank McCourt's memoir of poverty in Ireland offers yet another Dickensian reminder that in the land of plenty, many have little.
  • Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: One of my favorite lines in literature is "The funeral baked meats did scarcely furnish forth the marriage table." 
  • Like Water for Chocolate: Magical realism at its finest with women redefining the kitchen as a place of female power rather than as a place of confinement. 
  • Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe: Is it possible to tell a southern story w/out food as a central trope? 
  • The Importance of Being Earnest: Eventually students have an epiphany about food as a symbol for and replacement for sex. 
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: Of course I can't omit the Mad Hatter's Tea Party
For more food moments in literature, take a look at "10 Great Meals in Literature" from THE TELEGRAPH.

In literature, food functions to convey ideas. Food connotes power struggles. It defines class, perhaps most successfully in the works of Charles Dickens. Writers create mimesis and verisimilitude with food scenes. This is the case in Kate Chopin's The Awakening. 

We define and understand human relationships through the fundamental human behaviors of eating and drinking. Both are necessary to our psychological as well as our physical well-being. Our identity is inextricably linked to our food experiences, and through food and our discussions about food in our classes, we can validate the diversity our students bring to the table of learning. 

We can talk through and learn through food. We can reclaim the kitchen in the classroom when we make food an invited guest. 

Let's get cooking! 

Amish Breakfast Casserole I made for my family Thanksgiving morning and for students in Comm 1101 at the end of the trimester a couple of weeks ago. 





Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Story Shorts from #NCTE15: #SOL15

When I first attended the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention, I'd already taught many years. I traveled to Philadelphia thirsty for knowledge and camaraderie with like-minded English teachers. I've now attended the past six NCTE gatherings, and while I'm not as idealistic and excited as I was, I'm still grateful for the stories shared and created each November.

This past NCTE presented me w/ many responsibilities. First, I was part of the Folger Shakespeare Library team of presenters. I presented with Peggy O'Brien to a crowd of around 200 teachers. I missed the Allison Bechtel keynote because it was right before my session, and I had helped w/ setup. We moved tables, rearranged chairs and placed handouts prior to presenting. I also worked in the Folger booth on Friday and presented WILL lessons, a mini, one-on-one segment of the session, on Saturday.

"Getting Started with Shakespeare's Language," my session w/ the Folger Shakespeare Library
My Saturday began w/ an 8:00 a.m. session with two fabulous teachers, Lee Ann Spilane and Paul W. Hankins. The star of our session was the spectacular Melissa Sweet, author of Balloons Over Broadway and illustrator of many award-winning picture books, including The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus. Both Lee and Paul are amazing teachers and presenters. Melissa makes me want to write picture books, something I'd never thought I'd consider. All three inspire me to be a better teacher and person.

W/ Paul W. Hakins, Melissa Sweet, and Lee Ann Spilane
Saturday afternoon I chaired the panel for which I'd written a proposal. The three presenters are ladies I've worked with in the past, my colleague and friend Debbie Greco, Ami Szerence from California, and Cherylann Schmidt from New Jersey. I always learn from each of them.


I've uploaded my session schedule for those who want to peruse the online program and grab the handouts from each session. 

Of course, NCTE affords opportunities to embrace my inner fangirl. I managed to get pics w/ Deborah Wiles and Kwame Alexander, and I had a conversation w/ Jason Alexander at the Nerdy Book Club party.

W/ Newberry Award winning author Kwame Alexander
at the Nerdy Book Club party.

Deborah Wiles, author of COUNTDOWN and REVOLUTION. 
NCTE typically falls on or around my birthday, November 19. Getting to celebrate with friends from around the country and hear their wishes for happiness means much to me. Throughout the weekend in Minneapolis, friends asked about my big day.

Leading up to NCTE, I was feeling very stressed. My schedule has been full, and we had just two days w/ students in our new trimester before I headed out to the conference. Getting away from the normal pressures had a decompressing effect on me. That's the best gift of all. 

I did face some challenges during the conference. I broke my toe Saturday morning when my alarm startled me from a deep sleep and I forgot where I was and which side of the bed I was sleeping on. I rolled and crashed onto the floor, hitting my nose on the bedside table and smashing my toe. 
My friends worried more about my mishap than did I. I know my gift of gracelessness well and have several scars on my face to prove it. Undeterred, I hobbled around and looked for the humor in my klutziness. The worst part of my toe mishap is not being able to go to the gym. I can't bend my toe or put pressure on it, but it is improving, albeit slowly. 

While my Folger session drew a huge crowd, my other two sessions were poorly attended. I blame NCTE for this. As Dana Huff writes in her reflections about NCTE, our organization has created a rock-star following for some in our profession. Admittedly, I get a little star-struck, too, which is why NCTE SHOULD NOT schedule popular teacher-author sessions so that they conflict w/ other presenters. We, too, work hard on our proposals and presentations. I have presented at the past five NCTE annual conventions and have not repeated a presentation. Each proposal has been unique. Each one showcases new and tested lessons from my classroom. How can I and the other teachers who present only occasionally compete against a lecture hall featuring those who travel the nation and command speaking fees for their appearances? These stars among us need their own time-slots, similar to those afforded keynote speakers, or they need to be scheduled opposite one-another. 

This NCTE I attended a session that frankly was quite insulting in that a speaker in it was woefully unprepared. It's the first time I've witnessed a teacher who had not prepared at all. I finally walked out, even though I had wanted to stay and ask another speaker on the panel why she has her students research topics w/out considering the credibility of the resources. In yet another session, this one a round-table, a presenter had canceled at the last minute, so there was a fill-in speaker. He, too, was not well-prepared, but he did know his book. These two sessions were the worse ones I've ever attended at a conference of any time. I felt as though I'd wasted my time, and had I paid my own registration fees, I'd have felt as though I'd wasted my money. 

When I attend NCTE, I'm looking to be fed, to be rejuvenated, to find collegiality, to renew old friendships and make new ones. I'm not looking for discord. I'm pretty good about following education news. I found the PEARSON PROTEST troubling. The rebel in me at first thought, "oh, look, social activism at NCTE, how cool." A moment later I began pondering and questioning the objective. As presented, and as I witnessed it, the protest looked like it was aimed at Pearson. I've since read that the protest's purpose was to raise awareness about the corporate takeover and incursion into public education. Seriously? I doubt those attending NCTE annual convention are unaware of the corporate influence and money-grabbing policies of Pearson, an organization I've criticized openly and often, an organization I've boycotted for a number of years. 
Pearson Protest: Not all in the photo participated in the protest.

While standing in line at the UPS store later, I spoke with the teacher in charge of planning the CATE conference. She asked what I thought of the protest, and I shared my concerns that I worry about collateral damage. She, too, shared her worry that the protest will undermine support for the conference she is planning. A friend who teaches in California posted on FB her concern that the protest will mean a loss of funding of registration fees and an inability of many teachers to attend the CATE conference. 

I understand the need to push back at Pearson, but I don't understand a preaching to the choir protest. It doesn't take much courage to protest among those who share a dislike for Pearson's role in sucking the financial life out of the public education coffers.  

This year I missed my opportunity to attend ALAN. Boo! Typically, my district holds classes through Wednesday of Thanksgiving week, but this year we have the week off. I did not realize that until I had my flight book and convention planned. Maybe next year. That seems to be my mantra. 

Finally, I missed meeting some important people I want to meet. I'm thankful for the books publishers share w/ conference-goers via give-aways, displays, and discounts. The authors themselves give, and give, and give. I'm in awe of the way they embrace teachers and students. We are lucky to live in a time when writers embrace social media and accept our friendship requests and honor us with their words. 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING. Thank you for stopping by and sharing this and your own corner of cyberspace with me.

The Slice of Life Tuesday story challenge happens each Tuesday as a gift from the team at Two Writing Teachers blog. Thanks, Stacey and all on the SOL team for all you do, for all you give. 


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Too Little Time on Tuesdays #SOL15


In preparing to write this post, I noticed I have not blogged since October 20. Yikes! I've thought about blogging often. I've planned many posts. I've written in my head. I have not transferred those thoughts, plans, or mental etchings onto the virtual page that is this blog. 

Why?

Simply, I have too little time on Tuesdays. 

In truth, I have too little time most days this fall. 

Even when I plan the post in advance and set a goal of writing prior to Tuesday, something invariably interferes with these best laid plans. 

Take the past two days for example. 

I had planned to write today's slice Sunday evening and again Monday evening. However, I underestimated the amount of time I'd need to edit the state DKG newsletter, a responsibility I agreed to accept last July. To date I've completed two installments. I've had quite the learning curve. 

First, I haven't published a newsletter before. I worked on my high school newspaper and occasionally wrote for my college one. I was the newspaper advisor one year in the mid 1980s, but that was at a small school that printed the paper on copy paper. 

I still remember much of what I learned about news and feature writing from my high school journalism teacher and have found that information useful as I've embarked on my new service. Still, the task has been ridden with obstacles. 

Since I use a MacBook Pro, I needed to find a publishing platform for my computer. I purchased Publisher Plus from the Apple store for a nominal fee. 

Next, I had to figure out how to use the program. It works on a grid, and I'm still learning it. For example, when I work on a page, here's what I see: 

The page layout is in the middle. This shot is of the November edition I just finished and is the first page. The font appears pretty small, so I either sacrifice visual acuity for seeing the layout for a complete page or vice versa. I still don't know how to insert frames around text boxes. 

Sometimes the margins get mucked up or a sentence gets chopped off. This happens if I alter a page. It happened several times w/ this issue, so even though I'd already devoted around 20 hours to the work, I still had to fix errors after exporting to a Pdf file. 

The first issue earned criticism for numerous problems, including distribution. I now have help w/ that, but I'm still having problems w/ proofing well. I attribute this to my own busy schedule and vision problems. I also received an unpleasant email after the first issue because I inadvertently omitted two stories from one chapter. This time I was told that the newsletter is too long. I was not given a length and have taken my guide those other newsletters sent to me. 

Since I want to see my own chapter represented in the newsletter, I've found myself writing stories, too. All this eats away at the limited time I have available. 

I'd like to say I'm enjoying this work, but I'm not. Maybe in time I will when I get better. I try to represent myself well and strive to perform tasks such as the editing of the newsletter in a way that represents both myself and the organization I represent well. I fear neither is happening right now.

The newsletter is only one time-sucking obligation in the way of blogging. I'm also teaching a night class at Idaho State University from 7:00-9:30 p.m. I have office hour obligations, so I arrive at 6:00 p.m. so I can try to get home by 10:00 p.m. Tuesday night. I'll be teaching the class on Tuesday nights during the spring semester, too. 

Additionally, I have a new prep at my school this year. I'm teaching AP Literature and Composition. While I enjoy all my teaching duties, having a new prep makes me feel like a newbie all over again. 

Thus, while I plan to slice each week, finding the time in a schedule with the slices of the pie already cut thin has been a challenge. I'm hoping that after NCTE in Minneapolis I'll be able to carve more time out of my schedule and discover ways to renew my commitment to blogging. I have lots of lesson ideas and student brilliance to share. 

Next week I'll share my NCTE15 convention schedule. It includes three sessions and exhibit hall work. Hope I'll see many friends there and that they'll carve a little time for catching up out of their convention pie. 


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

"Threaten Them with an Essay" #SOL15




I sat in a meeting yesterday and listened to some of my colleagues discuss how to encourage students to register for college when we have our first "Focus on ISU Day." Our local university has declining enrollment from students in our county and the one directly to our west, so to increase enrollment for the 2016-17 year, we will take seniors to the lab and have them complete the admissions application. 

A colleague asked, "What do we do with students who insist they aren't going to college?"

In all seriousness, the question engendered this response: "Make them write an essay explaining why they aren't going to college." This response was echoed. 

One person said, "Threaten them with an essay." 

"Can we not punish students with writing?" I asked. 

How often have we English teachers used learning as a gavel rather than as a gift? 

Is it any wonder that the words "I hate reading" and "I hate writing" buzz in a cacophony of noise among many students. 

On this National Day of Writing, I have a simple wish. I wish students will see in their teachers the joys of reading and writing. For that to happen, we must stop with the threats. We must cease using writing as punishment. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

We Were NOT Afraid #SOL15

Wednesday, October 7, 2015 began as most Wednesdays begin.

I arrived at school around 7:55 a.m. That's where the normal beginning diverged into an increasingly common school moment.

8:05 (approximately) Faculty were called to the library for a mandatory meeting.

8:10 a.m. We whispered among ourselves, trying to ascertain the reason for the meeting.

8:15 a.m. My principal announced that a student threat to other students was being investigated, and to insure the safety of students and staff we would be on a "limited access" lockdown the rest of the week. We were told that the threat originated on Twitter and had migrated to other social media. Additionally, we learn that the threat was against female students and that it was under investigation.

8:25 a.m. We returned to our rooms and began the day.

Learning commenced and continued.

Within the walls of our building, the day functioned much like any other, with the exception that students could not use a hall pass.

Shortly before lunch, an announcement informed students that they could not take backpacks into their afternoon classes but would have to leave them in their cars or lockers.

When the going gets tough, the tough find humor.

Lunchtime: A group of students congregated in my room and entertained one another--and me! Since most are in my 4th period, they stuck around for a normal learning period.

3:42 p.m. The day ended. Students and staff went home, to practices, to work. We all expected another day of "limited access" when we returned to school the next day.

5:45 (approximately): I received a text saying we would have a normal day on Thursday.

I later learned that the perpetrator  of the threat had been located. More importantly, I learned via social media and conversations at school the next day about the panic among many in the community; even my brother who lives in our basement arrived home from work in an agitated state of worry.

WE WERE NOT AFRAID!

Being in our building must be like the calm in the eye of a hurricane. We were not afraid of being shot or attacked. Students did what students do. Teachers did what teachers do. We studied and learned and created a strong community among our school family.

Why?

To those who have asked, I have responded by saying this: Our principal and other administrators did everything right. Our resource officer and his colleagues did everything right. They took the outside threat that originated on social media and wafted into the school via a threat to enter the building and harm members of the student body seriously. They acted calmly and appropriately to the threat. Student safety was the priority.

Because the administration and police acted as they did, we were not afraid.

Returning to school the next day, some students said their parents had plans to homeschool them. Others said they went home because of the lockdown. Those parents don't realize how safe our school environment is and how safe we all felt.

We can't live in a bubble, or in a coconut, or in an acorn. The best we can do is protect one another and stay safe together. That way, we will never live in fear.


The Tuesday Slice of Life challenge is sponsored by the team at Two Writing Teachers.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Bring on the Boredom #SOL15


Each week the Slice of Life Challenge is sponsored by the prolific team at Two Writing Teachers. Thanks, ladies. 'Preciate you. Check out more slices here. 

I'm BORED!

Is there a mother or a teacher who has not heard these two words?

As chronology creeps up on me, my appreciation of boredom grows. I remember my own childhood as filled with boredom, but in its midst I created imaginary worlds in my mind, envisioned myself living the lives of historically significant people such as Elizabeth Blackwell and Marie Curie. In my boredom, I created a vision for my life and set goals as I sat on the front porch swing and sang to my cat, Cricket.

I hated being told, "Find something to do" and "Play a game." when I proclaimed my boredom.

As my own children were growing up, they too shouted I'M BORED frequently, even though they lived childhoods far more scheduled than my own. And like my parents, I too echoed the "Find something to do" and "Play a game" advice offered to me.

To keep my boys creating, I let them climb mountains near our home and build forts in the back yard. My youngest son frequently gathered scrap wood from our neighborhood as houses sprang up and used his finds to build skateboard ramps, which my husband promptly hauled to the dump to make room for more.

I often tell the story of Corey's ingenuity in transforming a skateboard into a trampoline accessory by removing the wheels and replacing them with an old pair of sneakers. He put the contraption on his feet and mounted the trampoline and began to jump. Not satisfied with jumping, he performed backflips and somersaults. All went well until the dismount. Corey slipped and used his hand to brace himself. That resulted in his third trip to the hospital for a broken arm.

Perhaps I felt comfortable making room for my boys' creative enterprises because my father once hauled a playground-size slide home and set it up in our back yard. It became a gathering place in our neighborhood. We performed on the platform my father built atop the slide. My sister practiced her high-wire act on the bar that extended from the platform to a huge oak tree. I watched the train from atop the platform and imagined where I'd go if I were riding the rails.

Through boredom we see the possible.

Sadly, most kids today miss the benefits of boredom, despite research that suggests boredom breeds creativity, that we need boredom. A 2014 Psychology Today article traces the modern history of boredom to the 19th Century and the idea that boredom results from "unmeaningful activity" during the industrial revolution.

We eschew boredom for many reasons, including fear of facing our own realities. During moments of boredom we're confronted with our thoughts and fears, but we're also given the gift of contemplation. Boredom births creativity, opens opportunities for new ideas, and helps us reassess our lives.

The philosopher Bertrand Russell has some wise thoughts about the benefits of boredom: "A generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation of little men, of men unduly divorced from the slow process of nature, of men in whom every vital impulse slowly withers as though they were cut flowers in a vase."

We need moments of occasional boredom to flourish. The next time a moment of solitude presents itself, instead of looking for ways to fill the time with the business of being busy, simply BRING ON THE BOREDOM!




Tuesday, September 22, 2015

September Summer Sun in a Small Town on Sunday #SOL15

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for sponsoring the Slice of Life Challenge each Tuesday. Head over to the TWT blog and enjoy some more stories from others' lives. 

Sunday afternoons for English teachers often loom as a time for lesson planning and paper grading. Succumbing to the temptation to get out and about instead, my husband and I headed to the brand new Portneuf Wellness Facility near our home Sunday afternoon to enjoy the end of summer sun with our pups, Puck and Snug and to fill our hearts with gratitude for this new state-of-the-art facility that graces our small town. 

Situated at the corner of Chubbuck Road and Bench Road where the road turns sharply to the south, the Portneuf Wellness Facility boasts a beautiful, high-tech amphitheater and other amenities, including a jogging track and stocked reservoir that's fed by a mountain artisan stream. To the south of the center is a lush pastoral row of soccer fields, a vestige from the past. The Bannock County fairgrounds still peep from the western horizon beyond the wellness center. 

Lately, for many reasons, I've been thinking about the poetry of Walt Whitman, particularly "Leaves of Grass" and its implications for and echoes of so much of life: 

“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it by yourself.It is not far. It is within reach.Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know. Perhaps it is everywhere - on water and land.” ― Walt WhitmanLeaves of Grass


I snapped a few pics of this idyllic corner of our community that offers a glimpse of its bounty. However, since the amphitheater wasn't in use Sunday, I could only photograph the back side. We did attend the first concert  in the facility a few weeks ago and lounged on the lawn like teenagers as we listened to a couple of geezer groups: The Beach Boys and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Somehow this throwback to the past seems appropriate for a facility designed to bring the community together in theis beautiful mountain valley of southeast Idaho. 
Looking west at the reservoir and swimming beach. 
The reservoir offers several fishing piers and rocks that pose as seats awaiting anglers of all ages.  
Ken, Snug, and Puck stop for a rest on the bridge over the mountain stream. 

The source of the artisan stream that feeds the reservoir. 
 As we walked along the stream, we paused to observe a rainbow trout meandering in the water.
Enjoy the sunny disposition of these sunflowers against the blue sky.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

In Which I Reflect on My Journey through the NEA Better Lesson Master Teacher Project: #SOL15

It's Tuesday and time to slice! Thank you, Two Writing Teachers blog for hosting Slice of Life each Tuesday. Head over and check out today's slices.

Two years ago I embarked on a professional journey that has had a profound impact on my professional life and is arguably the most grueling PD I've experienced. I, along with a cadre of K-12 teachers, was hired to create a ELA course that other teachers could access FREE for use in their professional development and in their classes.

The National Education Association (NEA) Master Teacher Project (MTP) was (is) designed to give educators a glimpse into the classrooms of other teachers. Yes, union membership was (is) a criteria for being a NEA MT.

During the year I worked on my English 12 course, I had the guidance of a wonderful mentor who has become a dear friend and the collegiality of three other teachers; one of our team members was forced to drop out of the program.

Although my employment with Better Lesson, the Boston startup that manages the website hosting MT courses, ended a year ago, the NEA BL MTP remains a significant part of my life. I feel its impact each week when I receive a report indicating how often resources on my page have been downloaded. Last week I had 172 downloads. My work in the MTP impacts all the teachers--for better, I hope--who visit my page and download the resources there.

I've thought about my BL page frequently the past few days as I've followed conversations about Teachers Pay Teachers, a website I've never used. I want to offer this post as a public service announcement to those looking for resources for English, Math, Science, and Blended Learning. You can find lots of free lesson plans, all complete with videos, student work samples, handouts, narratives about how to implement the lessons, time frames, images, and reflections on the BL website. All of these are FREE!

Even if you don't teach senior English, know that the materials on my page are grounded in pedagogy adaptable for many works of literature. In my course, you'll find 113 lesson plans in 14 units. None of these lessons exist in a vacuum. All are part of many collaborations I've had for over thirty years. I could not have done the work without the many from whom I've learned so much.

As one teacher to another, feel free to toddle over to the BL website and see what teachers in the MTP are paying teachers.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Hanging In, Hanging Out, and Hanging On: A Collaboration Begins #SOL15

Dana in the big square; me in the little one!
During the summer I learned that my friend and colleague Dana Huff, who blogs at Huff English and whom I met through the Folger Shakespeare Library, would be teaching English Literature and Composition for the first time next year. As I will also be teaching English Lit and Comp for the first time, Dana and I decided to meet up via Google Hangouts and discuss the course and our plans. 

For more than 1:45, Dana and I talked, but we didn't confer about AP only. Nope. We chatted about the challenges of HANGING IN for the long haul in our maligned profession. We visited about HANGING ON in the face of reductive, pseudo education reforms that run antithetical to our notions about pedagogical excellence. Of course, we spoke about HANGING OUT throughout the school year and offering support to one another in our AP Lit and Comp journey as we share best practices. 

For our first Google Hangout, here are some of the things we discussed: 

*First day plan: Dana shared her plan to seek input about student goals and obstacles they face. At one point she made a comment that reminded me of the ONE SENTENCE project I used for a MACBETH lesson. This has inspired me to change the lesson to one about universal themes in literature by having students write about and share their life theme. 

*Assessment and Revision: Dana reminded me that the College Board wants to see a plan for student revision built into the required audit syllabus. I like Dana's suggestion for requiring students to revise essays that fall below a 5 on the AP nine-point scale and offering all students an opportunity to revise. 

*Whether to teach the course thematically or by genre: I shared my AP by the Sea facilitator's thoughts about a thematic course and how I changed my mind about teaching the course as separate genre studies. 

*Dana told me about the acronym TWIST, which refers to tone, word, image, style, and theme. We also talked about TP-CAST and the various other AP acronyms. We both realize we have the AP Vertical Teams book with these resources that we can use. 

*Dana had a great idea about having her course go full circle by revisiting the questions she began with at the end of the year. 

*Class size challenges: Dana teaches in a private school that promises to keep class size low, and I am in a public school. Dana's two sections of AP are below 15, and I have one section of AP w/ 19 students. (Many of our seniors take dual enrollment English through ISU.)

*Books we're teaching: Both Dana and I received complimentary copies of Carol Jago's Literature & Composition: Reading, Writing, Thinking (Bedford/St. Martin) book, and I also received a copy on Perrine's Literature: Structure, Sound & Sense, Twelfth Edition (Johnson and Arp, eds. (Cengage Learning). We chatted about the merits of both books and like both. Additionally, we talked about some of the major works we're teaching and the challenges of teaching new books and those our predecessors taught. We both have visions for the class that align more with our constructivist philosophy of learning. 

*My facilitator shared a huge file of materials with participants in the workshop I attended. I shared this with Dana, as well as the syllabus I composed for the audit. Dana is sharing her documents with me, too, but she has the unenviable task of retyping many since she did not get a digitized copy of the resources. 

Finally, before ending our visit and waving goodbye, I suggested that Dana and I keep notes about our collaboration during the year and consider writing about it together next summer. I asked Dana if she had ever seen a book about or read an article about sustaining and making a collaboration such as ours work. We both see this as a gap in the professional literature. 

Near the end of the hangout, I snapped the screenshot above and later posted it to FB where another friend from the Folger saw it and commented: "Hey, I'm teaching AP Lit and Comp for the first time next year, too." Dana and  I invited Julie Bowerman to join us, and we later added one more to our merry band, one of Dana's friends from the Kenyon Writer's Workshop. 

Now we are four newbie AP Lit and Comp teachers ready to read, write, reflect, and rehash the challenges and rewards of our new teaching experiences. We're ready to HANG IN, HANG OUT, and HANG ON together! 

*It's Tuesday and time for the Tuesday Slice of Life challenge presented every week by the merry band of teachers at Two Writing Teachers. Head on over to TWT for more slices. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Last Kid Chosen: Slice of Life Tuesday #SOL15

Slice of Life happens each Tuesday through the hard work and dedication of the team at Two Writing Teachers. Check out other slices here

"You need a partner."

I dread hearing those words. My stomach tightens. My feet rivet themselves to the floor. I turn my head but not my torso and scan the room for someone--anyone--standing alone. Since I'm at the front, seeing poses difficulty.

I'm transported back to grade school. Reliving those cringe-worthy days. Again, I'm the last one chosen. I'm 56, fairly accomplished and confident. I'm a failure in this moment. The diplomas, degrees, accolades of my academic life no longer matter. Only this moment in this class at this gym possesses meaning. Even the old ladies--like me--have found a partner.

The instructor motions a middle-aged man over to me. I recognize the mortification on my face in her reaction to mine.

We had just finished the 5X5 kettle bell rotation and move on to floor exercises, which is why we need a partner. I'm required to hold the man's ankles and he mine in one exercise. I'm uncomfortable standing by his head with his hands grasping my shoes to avoid touching the bare skin of my lower leg.

During my turn, he tells me, "You can quit."

"I never quit," I retort.

And I don't. I endured the rotation.

The instructor informs me at the conclusion of the next 5X5 that I "can find a new partner" if I'm uncomfortable. Tears seep from my eyelids. I try to speak but can't locate the words I need to tell her that looking for a new partner when everyone else already has one would draw attention to my plight and cause me more duress. Only tears speak my anguish.

At the next floor rotation, the instructor motions another instructor attending the class to partner with me. This means that she'll have to give up her partnership with a strong male for one lesser than. Her original partner, a young man in his 20s, is assigned a somewhat geriatric, flabby man in his 50s.

I am incompetent. I am rejected. That's how I felt. That's how I feel.

The change takes another route. A gracious woman of my generation approaches me and says she's partnering with me because she can't keep up with her first partner. We give one another an understanding look that says, "We may be old, but we're not dead, and we're doing the best we can do."

The class proceeds with my new partner taking a restroom break during one floor rotation.

There's a deja vu quality to this class, both in terms of its internal structure on this day--five kettle bell exercises repeated five times with the 5X5 rotation repeated five times after each floor rotation, which are all different--and its ability to transport me back to my childhood where I relive being the last kid on the playground picked for all team sports.

At the end of class, the instructor approached me: "Thanks for sticking it out. How did it end up working out for you?"

"I almost didn't," I respond. "It was like being back in grade school."

"Well, I'm sorry. I really am." She walked away. I followed both her departure and her pained expression through my own tears.

*Side Note: Last week I read a professor's post on FB about her son's AR reading program and the way it marginalizes some readers. I thought about the pain children experience when we turn reading into a playground competition that chooses some kids and leaves others standing alone. Then Friday I attended kettle bell (my favorite class w/ my favorite instructor, BTW) and had the experience I wrote about today.

As I return to school next week and greet students August 26, I want to remember that no kid deserves to be the last one standing and searching for someone with whom to learn and talk and share.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Reluctant Fangirl: Slice of Life Tuesday #SOL15


Yesterday author and National Book Award nominee Beth Kephart penned an eloquent commentary about the pitfalls of popularity among artists. 

My own egalitarian world-view and desire to respect boundaries of those who create art long ago made me a reluctant fangirl. Only recently have I begun to stand in lines of autograph seekers and will still only do this if procuring an author's autograph. Doing so still makes me uncomfortable. 

I think about how the author must honestly feel as lines of teachers await a moment of contact with those we idolize. Am I somehow intruding on the writer's creative space? Does the author silently seethe and long for the solitude of alone time? 

Our lives in the bubble of social media, where many writers maintain fan pages and accept friend requests from their loyal follower and fans, must on some level exact  a price I can only imagine. The mystery of who a writer is and how a writer lives gets unveiled on social media. We have drawn back the curtain on the Wizard, and in doing so, at least for me, have lost part of the reading experience. That is, I can't help but conflate what I know about a writer based on his/her presence on social media with the books I read. And in doing so, I've lost some of the pleasure inherent in the solitude of reading. 

Kephart wrote her comments after seeing Amy, the critically acclaimed documentary about the gifted singer Amy Winehouse, a woman who eschewed the spotlight: 

Winehouse never originally wanted to be famous, never thought she would be famous, never imagined herself capable of fame. She is there, in the footage, saying so. But fame became hers, fame became her, and she had to live, and die, with the consequences.

I haven't seen Amy, but I have witnessed the constant posturing by some teachers who position themselves to get as "close" to YA and children's book writers as possible. There are some whose book recommendations hold no credibility for me because the lines have been so blurred that I'm not confident an endorsement for a title necessarily happens based on an honest critique of a book or a desire to seek approval from the writer. 

This desire to court favor runs in two directions, as Kephart writes: 

There is a dividing line between those who make things in order to be known or seen, and those whose loyalties lie with the things themselves—the songs, the films, the stories. There are those who craft themselves into a brand—who orchestrate aggrandizements, who leverage opportunities, who seek out "friendships" that will advance them, who overstay their welcome, who build cliques that further not their art but their careers, who ricochet with gossip. And there are those who (I think, in the book world, of Alice McDermott, Marilynne Robinson, and Michael Ondaatje) seek out private quiet. Yes, they cede to interviews and talks and touring when their books are released. But they also vanish from public view, and consumption, just as soon as they're able.

I'd add Thomas Pynchon to the list Kephart mentions as I can think of no other more reclusive writer. I don't think he's been photographed in more than 30 years. 

In high school I wrote one fan letter--to Barry Manilow. For years that letter needled me because both it and the response, a form letter, reminded me of a false construct. And as I think about that letter and the "friendships" I've forged with writers on social media and through chats at conferences, I'm reminded to remember boundaries. I'm reminded to observe the social construct and weigh it against what I know gives a text merit. I'm reminded to offer honest commentary and to disclose my personal relationship with a writer. I'm reminded to be gracious and respectful of the time writers devote to fans like me and to question my motives in forging relationships with them. 

I'm reminded that writers need space to create and that the best fangirl persona I can offer is to keep some mystery alive and to embrace my reluctant, inner fangirl. Writers give so much when they create books, is it fair to ask more? 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Reading Ta-Neishi Coates's "Between the World and Me" as a Privileged Middle-Class White Woman #SOL15



The Slice of life story challenge happens each Tuesday thanks to the generosity of the team at Two Writing Teachers. For more slices from this week, click here. 

The day Harper Lee's much anticipated, poorly edited Go Set a Watchman landed in readers' hands, a much more important book also hit the shelves: Between the World and Me by Ta-Neishi Coates. 


Public response to Between the World and Me has been overwhelmingly positive. Rather than review the book per se, I've thought about the book as a member of the white privileged class. Coates has written the book as a letter to his 15 year old son. The epistle structure personalizes the argument so that readers soon sense that they, regardless of race or gender, are glimpsing into something very personal and private. There is nothing pedantic about Coates's approach. He's telling his son a story laced with truths about life as a black male living among the white privileged class. 

Writing that phrase white privileged class I realize is itself a potentially polarizing phrase. White folks don't like to think of ourselves as privileged, as having opportunities minorities don't have simply because our skin is white. Myself included--especially because I grew up poor. Isn't economic class, after all, a more important criterion for determining success? Coates would answer "no," and I tend to agree. 

Simply, all that we have in this country we owe to the enslavement of black people for over 250 years. We don't acknowledge this. The recent debate about the Confederate flag's place in the history of historical artifacts has not only opened unhealed wounds, but it also magnified the false narrative that the Confederate states battled for states' rights. Here's Coates on the topic: 

Never forget that we were enslaved in this country longer than we have been free. Never forget that for 250 years black people were born into chains--whole generations followed by more generations who knew nothing but chains.

And...

The enslaved were not bricks in your road, and their lives were not chapters in your redemptive history. They were people turned to fuel for the American machine. Enslavement was not destined to end, and it is wrong to claim our present circumstance--no matter how improved--as the redemption for the lives of people who never asked for the posthumous, untouchable glory of dying for their children. Our triumphs can never compensate for this.

Think about that for a moment. My story, the country's story, is inextricably intertwined with this narrative of enslavement. What would the country have been like without slavery? What would not have been developed? What literature would not have been written? 

I remember thinking about how the North benefited economically from slavery when I read Uncle Tom's Cabin for the first time. It's an important point Stowe makes. Another point about which Stowe raised my consciousness is the systematic destruction of families we owe to slavery. 

Coates refers to the "ownership" of "our own bodies." To his son, and by extension to white readers, Coates says: 

You are a black boy, and you must be responsible for your body in a way that other boys cannot know. Indeed, you must be responsible for the worst actions of other black bodies, which, somehow, will always be assigned to you. And you must be responsible for the bodies of the powerful--the policeman who cracks you with a nightstick will quickly find his excuse in your furtive movements. And this is not reducible to just you--the women around you must be responsible for their bodies in a way that you never will know....You cannot forget how much they took from us and how they transfigured our very bodies into sugar, tobacco, cotton, and gold.

As a middle-class white woman, I know that when I'm stopped for a minor traffic infraction, my body is safe. I've never been dragged from the car, pushed to the ground, handcuffed, and carted off to jail. How often does the narrative turn to attempts to justify the death of a black person at the hands of police? I don't live with the fear that those hired to protect and serve me will take my body. Nor do white mothers typically need to explain this to their children as part of the rites of passage talks. 

Indeed, it's the way Coates writes about owning one's own body instead of losing one's life or dying that I find rhetorically compelling. It's as though he's saying that even though slavery ended over 150 years ago, black people still don't own their bodies the way white people own theirs. 

To illustrate his point, Coates spends considerable ink recounting the story of Prince Jones who was killed by a police officer, and Prince was an economically privileged college student whose mother is a respected physician. Still, Prince's body was stolen from him. 

I knew that Prince was not killed by a single officer so much as he was murdered by his country and all the fears that have marked it from birth...The truth is that the police reflect America in all its will and fear, and whatever we might make of this country's criminal justice policy, it cannot be said that it was imposed by a repressive minority.

Indeed, the training police officers receive is increasingly grounded in the idea that a suspect is inherently dangerous, that the life of the officer is more important than the oath to protect and to serve. 

Coates acknowledges that the black male experience of having lost ownership over "our own bodies" isn't unique to black people. Blacks owned slaves in the Sahara; the Irish experienced losing their bodies, etc. Yet this does not diminish the impact of his argument. 

I've thought often about what it must be like to be born into a world that espouses a dream built on the ownership of my people's bodies. This is the legacy of being a black person in America. Coates speaks about "the dream" as being that of racial privilege. He does take a critical look at education, and as a teacher, it's hard to swallow but necessary to consider. 

We tell stories. They express who we are and what we believe. America is a nation of storytellers, but the winners, the privileged, the powerful determine whose stories get the widest audience: 

A society, almost necessarily, begins every success story with the chapter that most advantages itself, and in America, these precipitating chapters are almost always rendered as the singular action of exceptional individuals.

One may not be a racist cut from the Confederate flag waving apologist cloth, but we benefit from social structures grounded and constructed in a narrative that denies our privilege. Coates tells us that "it is traditional to destroy the black body--it is heritage." But heritage isn't necessarily something good or positive to be coddled and protected.

When the story told dehumanizes and denies the subplots of exploitation and of body ownership, when the dream is one given birth by the nightmare of slavery and the snatching of bodies, we must acknowledge that our freedom, our successes we owe in large part to the forced sacrifices of black people for over 250 years.

The forgetting is habit, is yet another necessary component of the Dream. They have forgotten the scale of theft that enriched them in slavery; the terror that allowed them, for a century, to pilfer the vote; the segregationist policy that gave them their suburbs. The have forgotten, because to remember would tumble them out of the beautiful Dream and force them to live down here with us, down here in the world. 

At the end of the letter, Coates challenges his son to struggle. Struggle to remember the narrative of his black heritage. Struggle to live within the systemic structures of white privilege. Struggle for wisdom and knowledge. 

We must also struggle, advises Coates. Struggle to understand that the dream on which we stage our lives threatens our world in ways we must acknowledge and fix. 

There is a vast gulf between the world in which a black person is born and the one in which white people are born, and this has nothing to do with economic class and everything to do with the story that fills the gulf. That's my reading of Between the World and Me, and as a middle class privileged white woman speaking between you and me, I now understand that in ways I didn't before peeking into Ta-Neishi Coates's letter to his son. 

*Watch an excellent interview with Ta-Neishi Coates on Democracy Now. In the interview, he shares a reading from the book.

Update: Minor editing to fix surface errors at 800 p.m. MST.





Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Remembering Dea Dea with Stories: Slice of Life #SoL15

Slice of Life story challenge happens every Tuesday over on the Two Writing Teachers blog. Check out other slices here. 

Evelyn "Dea Dea" Harwood: December 15, 1942-July 15, 2015
"Don't let the door hit you in the keister on your way out." 

These past few days I've had a heavy heart. My longtime friend and colleague and "adopted" mom Evelyn "Dea Dea" Harwood died July 15, 2015 at her home in Pocatello. 

Dea Dea taught high school for 42 years, most of them at Highland, where I met her in 1989 and shared collegiality and friendship until her retirement in 2006.

Even before I met her, Dea Dea entered my life when my new vice-principal called and asked if I would be willing to teach one section of English so that Dea Dea could have a section of speech. At the time I signed my contract, I indicated that I would not teach English, that I wanted to devote my energies to coaching debate and teaching speech, but when an administrator calls, the request takes on new persuasive powers. That's how I began teaching English at Highland.

When I arrived at school that first day in August 1989, a vase of flowers from Dea Dea awaited me in the office. That was the first of many gifts Dea Dea gave me. For years I had a huge collection of holiday earrings given to me by Dea Dea. 

On February 11 of that first year at Highland, I passed Dea Dea in the hall and she handed me a beautifully wrapped package. "What's this?" I asked. 

"It's your birthday present," Dea Dea said, raising her eyebrow.

"It's not my birthday. My birthday's in November."

"We'll I know, but I still wanted to get this for you since I missed your birthday."

I don't remember when I opened the gift, but the box contained a beautiful, silk, purple blouse. What I remember most about that incident is that February 11 is both my son's and our vice-principal Carolyn Kennedy's birthday. Carolyn is the administrator who called requesting the schedule change. I'm convinced that Dea Dea gave me Carolyn's gift by mistake! 

Her generosity spread to all who knew her and many who never met her. 

If there were funds to raise, Dea Dea spearheaded the efforts. For years she was a member of the Does, the female branch of the Elks. Dea Dea used her persuasive powers to enlist her sisters and others to raise funds for student groups, sick people needing surgery, families short funds for funeral expenses, among many others. 

Often these fundraisers took me to places for activities I never expected I'd try. I played darts. I shot pool. I played golf. All very badly. But I did these things because Dea Dea convinced me that the cause trumped my embarrassment. 

Dea Dea soon shepherded many into her enormous fold of friends. One way she did this is by inviting them to church. "You wanna go to church with me this Sunday," she'd ask. It didn't matter if the invitation were to an atheist, a Christian, or a monk. Dea Dea insisted that her church was like no other. At her service, a friend and neighbor shared her experience being invited to church by Dea Dea:

You wanna go to church with me some time, asked Dea Dea.
'Sure, I'll go to church with you' We headed down the road and soon pulled into a parking lot. I looked around. 'This is a bar.' 
'I know. This is where I go to church.' We went inside and had a lovely time visiting with friends and drinking beer.

The story elicited much laughter among those attending the service. I suspect we all had had a similar conversion experience with Dea Dea. 

Dea Dea's students loved her. The first day of class Dea Dea greeted her students with her unique introduction. She told them that "I slurp some suds and smoke some cigarettes, and the brands I prefer are Coors Light and Winston. If you don't like it or can't accept it, don't let the door hit your keister on your way out." Few students transferred from Dea Dea's class. She was hugely popular. 

My youngest son Corey had Dea Dea for speech. She made those kids present a speech every week, including a pet peeve speech. Corey decided to write his pet peeve speech about his friends whose girlfriends exerted much control over them, although that's not the way he phrased his topic. "My speech is about my friends who are pussy-whipped," he announced when he asked me to listen to him practice. 

"You can't say pussy-whipped in your speech," I argued. "Did you ask Dea Dea about this topic."

Corey assured me he had received approval from Mrs. Harwood, so I decided to ask Dea Dea myself. "Dea Dea, did you tell Corey he could give his pet peeve speech about his friends who are pussy-whipped?"

"Yes, I did. It's his speech and he can do whatever he wants." Dea Dea did not capitulate to my protestations that Corey's choice of words were inappropriate and that he'd embarrass me in front of students who would meander into my room and want to talk about the speech. Corey was that kind of kid, but Dea Dea knew how to keep him interested in her class and, most importantly, writing good speeches, which, I must admit, the pet peeve speech was, even w/ the mild profanity. 

"She was a special lady," my former principal Dave Ross said to no one in particular as those gathered after the service felt the same way. Highland has never been the same since Dea Dea retired, but we do have the memorial to students who died that Dea Dea raised funds for, and our current students have a place to sit on the benches Dea Dea donated after her retirement. 

We often speak about some people as having broken the mold. We say we'll never see the likes of them again. Both are true of Dea Dea Harwood. Dea Dea showed us all so much love and generosity. The best we can do is live by that example and make the world a better place. Dea Dea taught us how.