Monthly Archives: February 2016

Tikkun olam

Here I am, still losing my religion. I had a flicker of hope, though, that it might be in order to find to again, and a feeling that a this point at least it’s not about any leap of faith or girding up of loins, but a kind of waiting, watching, and calling up of the bare bones essential truth of what I still believe.

I’m among believers at my work place–maybe about half, I’m guessing, though there’s not much mention of that, as per the Separation. Anyway, their best way of bearing witness is in the love they bear toward the least of these. I’ve come around to that after all, Dad.

A few days ago I had the privilege of witnessing something beautiful–a brief interaction between one of my students from last quarter, one of a set of twins that are carrying the weight of virtual homelessness, and the counselor. The girl finishes school each day wondering how she’ll get a drive to the place where her nearest relative is crashing, how may people she’ll have to call, whether she has a friend in the world. Also wondering how her court case will shake out, whether there will be jail time for her soon.

She was heading out of the office, and the counselor reached out with her name and a few words–I could tell it was just another part of a long effort in the same direction, to once again offer good wishes and a tone of real compassion, in case she could believe it this time. Her usually frowning countenance heard it, and also from the principal, who was there too seeing her off, and she kind of softened, took it in, as she turned to head out the door.

I notice a lot of that sort of thing around here, and it’s softening me, too. Staff catching up on news of this or that former student, whether happy in a good job or showing up on the jail report again. Talk of former students who can hardly wait until they’re twenty-one, or five years out of school, to be Facebook friends with the teachers who had their back when times were rough.

Now that I feel accepted by the students and no longer viewed with suspicion, as possibly one who might not “get” them, or might abandon them as some felt the previous teacher did, there’s more of an opening for me to give off that kind of warmth too. I don’t want to take that for granted, or offer anything that isn’t genuine. I’ve made lots of mistakes already from ignorance and lack of experience, or from wearing a mask to hide my own insecurity. Here’s to being a channel of the divine peace.


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Some things can only be learned slantwise, if at all

I have accepted, for the most part, that in many ways I am a beginner. Probably best to have that attitude until my dying day, anyway. Although I’ve spend a few decades as a grown up and see my progeny already starting down that road, I’m only a few years back into my “career”–that is the one for which I had formal training, and only my my second year with my own classes to teach, let alone having so many students with learning difficulties.

It makes it easier that all my colleagues are around the same age (no whippersnappers who don’t know what they don’t know), that we all recognize the uniqueness of our school and students, that we are a village when it comes to needing to team up on their behalf, and that no one size fits all. I’m also thankful that the masks are minimal–feelings are expressed, failures and frustrations admitted, advice and solutions offered with a light hand, humbly, and with a lot of humor. Humor with an edge of sharpness or sarcasm, even cynicism, but only among ourselves. The hard edge is a kind of protective shell over the love and anxious hope for these students.

I even get to witness the struggle to balance the challenges at work with those at home, with finances, with the systems that impact our lives. If it wasn’t for staff lunch, I’d have been toast months ago. Lunch to which the principal is always welcome, though he never sits down–maybe in deference to the official barrier between staff and administration that exists in larger schools. I only wish the front office staff could be there too, as they know the students as well or better, seeing all the arrivals and departures, the lunches, the visits to the principal, counselor, or just a bench away from what’s overwhelming them in the classroom.

Come to think of it, I am a hypocrite, as I don’t reveal much, and feel I have been hard to get to know. Part of my personality, sure, being the kind of person who will answer anything honestly, but not initiate much, or ask good questions, out of insecurity about whether what I have to say is worth much, and little skill in offering the “hook” or framing things in a compelling narrative, at least orally. People don’t know what I’m thinking, and I tend to stay quiet and see what I can learn by watching and listening. And reading.

Except, in the classroom, I think out loud. That’s my hook, I guess–when I think of the times I just say what I feel or wonder or came up with, head turn and eyes lift from screens, which maybe shows that what students need, all kneaded in there with what useful, authentic, twenty-first century knowledge we want to offer, is, is…okay, so I don’t know the name for that. You might not catch it if you come to observe my classroom. in fact I can guarantee you won’t, even if you are my best friend. But the students know.

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Posted by on February 21, 2016 in Education, Places & Experiences




How terrifying it can be to sense one is truly creating a life. Being dragged along by circumstances sounds bad, but at least one can depend on one’s creature instincts, attending to feed, and comfort, and even social norms. But to feel on the edge of real choice, even every second, with a disdain of one’s usual patterns, as if they are not to be trusted any more, makes the stomach drop. One feels one has come to stand on a cold plain swept by dry driving snow, with body heat seeping away toward inevitable freezing, limited time only to think one’s thoughts, make a mark, a sign post that will at least provide a tiny snow shelter, a pocket and small drift mark. Or just fade away into cold, clean oblivion. Will I ever have been here at all?


Posted by on February 16, 2016 in Uncategorized


Here’s a post, not properly grounded and not intended to fence anyone in, or out

Clash of thankfulness and discontent, can’t seem to adopt the God language of everything works for good, and Darwinism only tells me that whatever benefits my genes is what life is driving at, all in the field of competing genes.

Dark came down later today after the gray rolling clouds lay over us all day. Couldn’t get enough caffeine in me to pluck my spirits out of the funk, so I let work haul me up by my britches and drag me to school for a little bout of grading notebooks. Tonight I feel like just sinking into the oblivion of the fourth murder mystery in the series I picked up at the library last week, as much as I generally frown on escapism. Further, I decided to take the step of draining away the last few cups of stale wine, ostensibly so I could finally recycle the bottle and free up that fridge space. Mixed with some home canned apple cider and soda water on ice, a fine cocktail with which to retire. Watching myself from that upper corner shelf, noting that there are no precedents in my family history of abusing substances, not even generations back. Instead there is a pattern of genes manifesting as pen to page, going fishing, and tending toward baldness in men and facial hair in women.

My son called and has been engaging each of us in turn in conversation from the other side of the continent. More than any academic prowess or earning potential, I value that in him, that he takes the time to connect–a long conversation with his little brother, then each sister in turn, then me. We ask about each other’s school work, mull over the U.S. presidential campaign, the difference in weather, weigh the pros and cons of the houses we are looking at lately. I hear him say goodnight to my parents, who are hosting him for some of his winter break, but although it’s past midnight there, he’s up for more talk. I pass the phone over to his dad.

All this talk, again, about buying a house and moving, has left me feeling drained. The limbo is the hardest. Just as we are about to commit to something, we, led by my husband, draw back, and here we are again. Thought we’d decided a certain number of things and were ready to meet with our long suffering realtor, when we come to another whole set of considerations, and have to go over it all again. It’s not as if I can contribute much yet to the bottom line of such a financial commitment, so I feel I must yield.

That’s it–all I can muster for words. I’m going into my cave to watch a formulaic British crime drama now, sleep off the cider and maybe some of the blues, then figure out what to do with the holiday tomorrow. For all I know, it could be a great day, and I could get myself to feel it.

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Posted by on February 14, 2016 in Uncategorized