Friday, April 30, 2010

It Takes Time...Part I

I am playing around with organization and design -- probably will be for a little while until I am completely happy :)  Please be patient with me as I am engaged in this creative process of reconstruction.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Change...For the Better?

We are not cisterns made for hoarding, we are channels made for sharing.
Billy Graham
I am making some changes to my blog and for the few of you out there who are on this journey with me, I hope the changes are only for the good.  Essentially, I want to expand what I am doing here -- venture into some new areas in terms of my writing and sharing it with you.  I have been following The Pioneer Woman and one of the many things I love about her blog is that she has a place for everything -- confessions, cooking, photography -- they each have their own space.  As I have been writing the last few months, I have been inspired to do a variety of things, but I wasn't sure if they "fit."  Looking at my house, my car, my classroom, you would never suspect that I adore organization, but I actually do.  So, this is my first step.  From now on, this will be the "control center" for my blog -- the place to begin.  From here, you will be able to go to More Than I Should Bear to continue reading about how the various parts of my life -- teacher, mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend -- intersect and how I learn from those overlapping moments.  
In addition to that, though, I am hoping to have a few new adventures here.  I am thinking about sharing my poetry more frequently.  I am thinking about sharing more about the craft of teaching, specific practices, lessons, issues associated with the classroom and education.  I am thinking about sharing the stories of the amazing teachers we have serving our communities -- perhaps some interviews with educators making an impact on the lives of children.  I have some more ideas, too (of course I do!) but I'll save those for later.  Simply put, I am thinking about sharing.  I want to do more because I love it so much.  I hope you do, too.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Breaking Away

A colleague brought a yearbook to school the other day from the year I graduated high school.  It wasn't from my school, but the other high school in my city at that time.  We were looking through the book to find a picture of the mother of one of my current students.  (As a side note, I am a bit horrified that I have now been teaching long enough to have a student whose mother graduated from high school in the same year as me!) 

On the same page as the student's mother's senior picture were pictures of several other people I knew at that time.  My best friend early in high school, M-, was on that page and when I saw her senior picture it immediately took me back to some of the times we had shared together.  I was definitely a rule-follower in high school (much as I am now), but I did have a few tiffs with my parents.  These episodes were very rare though, and because of that, I remember exactly what they were concerning.  One was about M-'s boyfriend -- a Robert Smith-styled guy with wild black hair, unusual clothing and the occasional red lipstick.  I just couldn't understand why my parents were wary of this young man and reluctant to let me trot around Southern California as the third wheel with him and M-.

A natural part of a teenager's life is separating himself from his parents, becoming his own person, independent from and sometimes in direct opposition to the authority figures in his life. I did not want to hear my parents' opinions or cautionary tales because I wanted to prove them wrong as a means of becoming myself.  Yet, even though I remember this feeling completely, I find myself doing the same thing with the students in my classes, particularly the seniors.  The poor dears -- they leave their own parents each morning hoping for some respite, only to find themselves in my class baraged with even more advice and unsolicited words of wisdom.  But I cannot stop myself.  And sometimes, it helps.

For National Poetry Month, I have been sharing poems in a variety of ways with my students.  On a few ocasions I have read poems I have written.  Last week, one of those poems came with a Public Service Announcement.  One of my cousins passed away at the age of 19 due to meningococcal disease.  What she thought was a bad cold or flu ended up taking her life. I shared her story with my students and suggested they read what they can about the disease and decide if vaccination would be appropriate.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states: "The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends routine vaccination of all persons 11-18 years of age with 1 dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine at the earliest opportunity. Pre-teens who are 11-12 years old should be routinely vaccinated at the 11-12 year old check-up as recommended by ACIP. This visit is the best time for adolescents to receive meningococcal conjugate vaccine. Also, since the occurrence of meningococcal disease increases during adolescence, health-care providers should vaccinate previously unvaccinated pre-teens and teens 11-18 years of age with meningococcal conjugate vaccine at the earliest possible health-care visit.

College freshmen living in dormitories are at increased risk for meningococcal disease and should be vaccinated with meningococcal conjugate vaccine before college entry if they have not previously been vaccinated. The risk for meningococcal disease among nonfreshmen college students is similar to that for the general population of similar age (age 18-24 years). However, since the vaccines are safe and produce immunity, they can be provided to nonfreshmen college students who want to reduce their risk for meningococcal disease."

I followed this information with a poem I wrote one year after my cousin Amanda passed away.  The poem is written from a mother's point of view, though I did not discuss the poem with my aunt.  It was written before I became a mother myself; and when I read it now, it has an even stronger impact on me.  I'd like to share the poem with you:


I bought you twenty balloons
colored like licorice
          like sunshine
          like the Mediterranean Sea,
things you love, things you have never seen.

I bought you all twenty,
had them blown up big
and tied to curly ribbon.

They tug at my fist,
wanting me to
set them free, let them loose,
see them soar,
until they are only tiny dots
disappearing into distance, but
bought these twenty balloons
and I do not want to let go,
will not let go,
cannot let go.

I close my fist up tight
'til my nails are leaving half-moons
in my palm
and tears itch the corners
of my eyes,

but while I
the one in the middle
wiggles right out
and dances off to tomorrow.

I watch
                and I watch
                                               and I watch
until all I see is the space
it left behind.

                                                      While I blinked,
                                                      my baby danced out of my sight.

                                                      The tug is on my heart,
                                                      the half-moons on my soul.

                                                      You were only nineteen;
                                                      you will never be twenty.

                                                      And all I feel is the space you left behind.

I experience tremendous joy as a teacher.  I care so much for my students and hope the lessons they learn in my class, both academic and personal, will inspire in them a balance of curiosity, peace and confidence that will allow them to find joy in their lives as well.  And if that means sounding a bit like their moms at times, I think I am okay with that.   As parents always say, someday they will thank me for it.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Poetry Month!

For National Poetry Month, I am celebrating in a number of ways.  Daily, I am posting a short poem or line from a poem on my classroom whiteboard, posting a poem on my class website, and reading a poem (some of which I have written) to my AP Literature classes.  I decided it might be nice to share some of my poems with you as we go through the month -- maybe not every day, but with some consistency :)

Here are the ones I read today and yesterday to my classes:

Bitter Winds
My father lies on the floor
     beside the sliding glass door, open,
     listening to the Santa Ana’s.
Almost 300 pounds, his heaviness looks odd on its side.
Getting up will take work, but
he cannot help himself.

He has never explained what it is,
what the witch’s wind says to seduce him to her side,
but – without fail –
her howl lullabies him.

I have heard tales, how the friction of her swirling winds
brings the devil out of people,
causes sleepless nights and high anxiety,
coerces some to commit crimes they would never consider
in the calm.

These winds that turn chaparral into fuel for fire
quench something in him.

Maybe it is her whisper
     blades of cut late summer grass
     brushed with her breath
which deepens to a mother’s moan
he thought lived only in his stomach.

Maybe her song is his,
as David’s lamentings are our own,
timeless cries giving voice to our shame,
giving voice to our need
for a home in God’s heart.

When my father lies on the floor
and listens to the wind,
I tease him for his adolescent devotion
          a boy lost in daydream of a girl
          who does not know his name.

But, what I wish I would do
is lay down next to him
     my own heaviness on the floor
so that I might finally hear
my father’s song.

On a Grandmother's Passing
English teapots and ruby rings
peridot bracelets
a cameo pin
Barbie dolls and black shoes

closets and cabinets cluttered
with what Grandma did not have time
to give away

Now the children
and their children
and their children
through the things she had collected
the things she left behind
hoping to heal themselves with objects
just as she had tried to do
all those years.

But the Virgin statue on my mantle
and the bracelet around my wrist
really remind me nothing of
my grandmother,
a round woman worn thin as apron strings,
fragile like a hollow Christmas tree ornament,
but packaged ina a thick skin and snapping tongue.

She pranced, danced around her kitchen,
skin dewy from the heat,
eyes flickeringwith the flame of the gas stove,
eyes flickering with worry and want.

She was a woman
who wanted to be Scarlet O'Hara
or someone, at least.
Instead, she was
Evangelina turned Vangie
turned Susan,
turned Eve,
wife and mother,
grandma and great-ma,
enough for us,
too little for herself.