Tonight's Assignment? How to Live...and then some.

I am over the moon happy that I made the decision to pursue a master’s degree.  It’s been a crazy year- taking classes, working and then going on a sabbatical. Frankly, I’ve been doing things I never ever thought I would do - which just reminds me that you never EVER know where your path will lead you.

The master’s project has awakened something in me I didn’t know was there.  Hell, it’s kind of FUN to be challenged!  (Who knew?) The class I am taking this semester (Improving the Teaching of Writing)  is being taught by a kick-ass professor. She LOOKS like you or me, she acts like the next door neighbor you WANT to be friends with, have coffee or wine with, and who you want to vent with after a long day.  However, in reality she is the GODDESS of Writing Instructors who can light a fire under even the most disausted kindergarten teacher after a long day in the classroom.  That is a miracle, my friends.

Tonight, as soon as we gathered for class, she read us a poem. It was called “How to Live, I don’t know how to live” by Sharon Olds.  You can read it here and be inspired yourselves!  Then, at the start of class, eight tired teacher/writers were inspired to write their own “How to Live” quickwrites. I share my unedited version here, and challenge YOU to share some of your “How to Live” snippets in your comments. I would LOVE to hear them….

How to Live


Smile often, even if you don’t want to. Greet each day as if you didn’t make a SINGLE mistake the day before.

Be glad when you wake up each day, and thank the Powers That Be when you make it successfully into your bed each night.

Play dominos, card games, board games and charades every change you get. Sing Karaoke even if you CAN’T carry a tune.

Dig in the dirt every spring and summer and rediscover why it’s important to get your hands dirty.  Catch some fireflies, whisper a sweet message to them and send them on their way.

Tell each young girl you meet how absolutely beautiful she is- and mean it.

Cry a little, or very  hard, every now and then. Those tears hold important sadness and they need to be washed away.  You’ll feel better for it, and those future tears need somewhere to hide.

Eat Middleswarth Barbeque Potato chips, great black bean and cheese dip, fresh lobster rolls, a huge cheeseburger and very crispy chicken wings.  But probably not all at once.

Try not to spend too much time angry at anyone.  They probably don’t deserve a moment more of the precious time you have left. Anger, while sometimes deserved, is really a heavy winter coat that should be hung in the back of your closet.

Be thankful for all of the very hard moments in your life- for they pave the road for all of the glorious ones.


Most Lessons are Learned by the Teacher....

I was talking to Clara during free play time on Friday afternoon.  She was taking a break from cutting snowflakes out of pink construction paper, and decided that instead of cleaning up the bazillion pieces of paper strewn all over the floor, she would come over and chat with the teacher. 

I was sitting at one of the tables near the window, pretty much exhausted after managing 24 kindergartners for a whole week straight. Whoever thought that five-day school weeks in the beginning of September were a good idea should have to come to kindergarten for ONE of those weeks. 

She stood in front of me so that we were basically at eye level and stared at me. I smiled and said, “What’s up, Clara?”

She pointed to the mole sitting on my upper lip - you know, where many other famous ladies have beauty marks- and said thoughtfully, “What IS that?”

I smiled and said, “It’s a beauty mark!”

She looked me up and down, put her hands on her hips and said, “No, it isn’t.”

Yep. I ended an exhausting week getting schooled by a five-year old.

(She’s my NEW favorite, favorite. P.S.)


(They're) All My Children.

I see that child - the small one, the clumsy one, the big one, the shy one, sitting in the corner of my classroom longing for a friend.  I know him. He's the child who smiles and laughs at jokes that are shared at his own expense, the child who is seeking attention, friendship, acceptance and love. 
These are the children that I take particular care with each year; the ones I try to boost with an offhand positive comment meant for others to hear. They’re the ones I watch carefully from the corner of my eye, and the ones I steer gently toward a child or group that I know will accept them as one of their own.

Each year I search for those souls in my room- they’re not hard to find.  I wrap them as best I can in my protective arms, all the while hoping that the coming years in school will treat them well – but knowing in my heart that they may not. I try to show the rest of the class by example what is important - his character, her humor, his honesty, her intelligence and his talent.

That child who sits in my room that is too big for his age; the one who is too shy, too small, too loud or too clumsy?  The one who won’t speak, or talks too much or who is much too silly?  I know him.  I know him intimately.

He’s my child.

My child is the boy who will climb on the roof, fly down the hill on his bike, climb WAY too far up the tree, but is afraid to participate in class.   My child is the boy who collects insects in the summer, identifies their tracks, does science experiments in his room, but hates to read.  My child is the boy who didn’t look where he was going and stumbled over the recycling bin and fell flat on his face on the first day of school. He's the boy who fell down the stairs during the first fire drill of the year.
My child is the one who sleeps with the bathroom light on because he is a little afraid of the dark.  My child is the boy whose smile and sense of humor brighten our lives, but who just can’t keep his mouth shut at school!  He's the one who gets caught by the teacher but won’t tattle on the other children who have been participating in whatever mischief has drawn her attention.

As teachers, we know our mission; to ensure each child in our care makes significant academic progress during the school year.  However, we all know our most important charge of all.
To hold the hand of the child who doesn’t quite fit in, and gently guide him along the way.  And when he sits up a little straighter, when he laughs a bit louder, and smiles more often- we know.  We KNOW in our hearts that what we’ve done in that regard is even more important than our original mission. 

We have helped that particular soul be brave enough to fly.