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Hey, you, get off of my cloud.

Impulsivity + Meanness=Regret.

I am still trying to find forgiveness for something I did when I was about seven or eight years old. When I was on the playground, one cold, crisp Texan school yard afternoon, the bell rang, and we went to line up. One of my classmates, a sweet, shy boy, while running to line up, was tripped by me. I impulsively stuck out my leg, and down he went. The look on his face when he was getting up was so sad – the meanness was so unexpected, so abrupt, that I knew, I knewI had done something near unforgivable. I will never forget the look on his face. (I know I helped him up, said sorry, but the damage was done.) I am the one who provided that kid with the experience of people are jerks, and sometimes do cruel things for no reason. Yea, me.

Since I can’t find the little boy (who’s obviously not little anymore) that I tripped in first grade, since the vast detective work of Google, Bing, or others will not find this one soul out of billions, and, I don’t remember names, exact dates or locations, I may never be able to find him and say, “I am sorry. I acted rashly, impulsively, but it may have hurt your feelings, and you still may remember it, and it hurt you for a long time.” 

Sharing this anecdote with students, one girl commented (several times), “that’s mean, Mrs. L,” until I finally had to say, “Yes, I know…it was mean, and I regret it, feel guilty and remorseful every time I think of it. Now let’s move on.” I would like to think that one act of impulsive, yet intentional bullying was out of character for me. That perhaps I was just ‘trying it on,’ and answering an inner curiosity about what is it like to do something wrong…totally, and absolutely outright wrong. But that sounds like a lot of mental justification.

 Trolling for interesting podcasts the other day, I came upon a This American Life episode called “Mind Games” that made me think about how people treat each other, and how if it’s based on lies, it usually doesn’t work out. At all.

This led me to listen to another episode from May, 2002, titled ‘Devil on My Shoulder.’  The premise or theme is that we humans are in constant struggle to choose right versus wrong, moral versus immoral behaviors, and we have so many outside influences pushing us, tempting us, this way and that, that sometimes we are compelled to blame it on a ‘devil on our shoulder,’ feeding us tiny lies and whispering small, but powerfully motivating ways to act unkindly. While my personal philosophy doesn’t include a personification of immoral judgements sitting on my left shoulder, I do believe in a dash of free will along with decision making, cognitive abilities thrown in with a cup of destiny, frosted with fate. Meaning, whether or not you believe in devils and angels, deities and do-gooders, we humans are still faced with the burning question, “what does it mean to do the right thing, and why do we sometimes NOT?”

 When I think about what I did, my heart hurts. That’s guilt. I might be a bit mired (stuck) in this one event, true. I am not sure why I’ve had difficulty finding atonement. If one of my children did something like this, I would tell them to learn from it, not to behave in a mean way again, and move on. So, I guess in that way, perhaps if I took my own advice, I can say I did learn from it. I never tripped anyone else again, and certainly never intentionally hurt anyone again. I just hope that somewhere out there, that boy knows I am sorry.bored angel

“Safety and happiness can only come from individuals, classes, and nations being honest and fair and kind to each other.”-CS Lewis

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Couldn’t have said it better myself.

I enjoy these teachers’ blog about writing. One of them recently went to a conference, and I must admit, there is something about being surrounded by other teachers who share the same passions about this profession. Here’s what she had to say:

Swirling Thoughts from NCTE

Posted on Friday November 20, 2009 by Ruth

Today was a good day, but what day at NCTE isn’t?  Since we just finished our last session and have dinner plans in a few minutes, you’re getting a list of swirling thoughts.  Expect more blog posts about NCTE  in the future.

  • Choice matters.  Today I’ve been inspired to stand up and defend student choice in reading and writing.
  • Poetry parties are fun.  Stacey and I attended one this morning in honor of Lee Bennett Hopkins.  There was sparkling cider, cookies, and party favors.  A toast started the session and then a series of amazing poets paid tribute with words and poems.  I walked away with the reminder that it is OKAY to be passionate about something.  Lee’s passion was bringing poetry to children.  I was left with the question tumbling in my mind:  What am I passionate about? I’ll need to think more deeply about this, but off the cuff, I’d say:   I’m passionate about using everyday, ordinary stories from our lives to understand ourselves and the world more deeply.
  • At the end of my career, I want to look back and be able to say I stood up for things that mattered in the grand scheme of life; I spoke out against injustice; I did what I knew was best for students, even when it contradicted what “they” told me to do.
  • Stories matter.  My story. Your story. Their story. Reading stories.  Drawing stories.  Writing stories.  They all matter.
  • When all is stripped away, I find I want students knowing they matter in the world.  I want them to know their voice matters.  In order for this to happen, they must read widely, talk honestly, and write the tough stuff.  Only an individual knows the things which are important enough to read, talk about, and write.  My job is to foster the desire and provide the time for students to do this important work of living a literate life.
  • I will remember that a single person can make the world a better place.
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Giving wolves a bad name.

I really hate lies. Lies make the world so…diminished. I’m not talking about the “little white lies” that we use to not hurt someone’s feelings, although those can be pretty dreadful, too. I’m talking about the big whoppers that put people’s lives, time, and trust at risk. Lies are as old as time. I’m also not talking about stories that everyone knows is a story and is enjoying. I’m talking about intentional, deceitful, “I am knowingly trying to pull one over on other people” lies. I have students who are so in the habit of lying, they don’t even know it. The first thing out of their mouths when they’re answering a question is a lie. Example: Me to student: “Please change your laptop screen–(laptop screen is filled with gang/street imagery)–you are only allowed to have a solid color, or our mascot.” “No way, Mrs. L! Another teacher told me…blah blah blah blah…” Since other teachers are even more strict than I am, I am CONFIDENT another teacher did not say it was okay to have those images on her laptop. One. Hundred. Percent.  I had one student whom I said hello to in the courtyard before class, and then when she was tardy, proceeded to tell me the bus was late. Um, yeah…the bus may have been late (it wasn’t — we hear announcements) but apparently you weren’t ON IT BECAUSE I SAID HELLO TO YOU IN THE COURTYARD FIFTEEN MINUTES AGO!

(Deep breath.)

Now, there’s the news story out of Colorado about the crazy dad who told everyone his little boy was up in a balloon. I only listened to this story from the peripheral (sidelines), but when I heard more details I was horrified. The parents must be devastated! If I lost one of my children, I would never recover. Teachers who have lost students are never totally the same. I am not being dramatic when I tell you it breaks your heart.

And then it came out that this dad was lying, it was a hoax. 

What should happen to parents who make their children play a part in a nationwide, no–worldwide– deception? Who manipulate the media in this way?

As my husband said, ‘We (people in general) want to help those in danger. How are we going to want to keep doing that, having a moral and ethical reaction when some one’s really in danger?”

Take care, students — this is why your parents and teachers want you to be a “critical thinker.” Don’t take part in the lies that undermine the trust.

I trust you now, too–don’t lie to me. I want to help you when you’re in danger, of any kind. Especially if you’re being dangerous to yourself.

Read this fable, and compare it to the modern news story:

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Rome wasn’t written about in a day…

This writer obviously had a burning question that became the focus of his life’s work. The question is: what will be your passion and focus?

From the Writer’s Almanac:

It was on this day in 1764 that Edward Gibbon (books by this author) thought up the idea of writing The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. His six-volume work, published between the years 1776 and 1788, covered more than a thousand years of Roman history, from 180 A.D. to the fall of Constantinople.

Gibbon wrote in his autobiography: “It was at Rome, on the fifteenth of October, 1764, as I sat musing amidst the ruins of the Capitol, while the barefooted fryers were singing Vespers in the temple of Jupiter, that the idea of writing the decline and fall of the City first started to my mind. After Rome has kindled and satisfied the enthusiasm of the Classic pilgrim, his curiosity for all meaner objects insensibly subsides.”

Rome had cast a spell on Gibbon. He wrote that he was not very “susceptible [to] enthusiasms” and never pretended to be enthusiastic when he didn’t actually feel it. “But at the distance of twenty-five years I can neither forget nor express the strong emotions which agitated my mind as I first approached and entered the Eternal City. After a sleepless night, I trod with a lofty step the ruins of the Forum; each memorable spot where Romulus stood, or Tully spoke, or Caesar fell, was at once present to my eye; and several days of intoxication were lost or enjoyed before I could descend to a cool and minute investigation.”

Gibbon became known as “the first modern historian.” He tried to write objectively, and in departure from his predecessors, he relied heavily on primary source documents rather than on secondary sources such as official Church histories. He made extensive — and eccentric — use of footnotes.

Gibbon argued that the Roman Empire’s decline and fall were a result of a couple of major factors: changing military practices and the spread of Christianity. Rome had begun outsourcing its military jobs, hiring paid mercenaries from around the world to defend the Empire, and Gibbon argued that this made them susceptible to the “barbarian invasions” to which Rome fell victim. Additionally, he argued that Christianity’s emphasis on the heavenly afterlife reduced the incentive for Romans to sacrifice for the cause of their Empire and the accompanying earthly riches and glory.

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Burning Questions.

No. 1 Burning Question: Will the World End in 2012?
No. 1 Burning Question: Will the World End in 2012?


One of my all-time, absolute, fantastically favorite enduring understandings to discuss with students is my “Burning Questions” lesson. I developed this with my friends and colleagues, Dr. Laura and Dr. Holly, two of the smartest people I know; so smart, in fact, that you don’t even know how smart they are because they make everyone feel like “they can do it, too.” (Note to my students: that’s how I want you to feel in our classroom, as well).

We started the discussion yesterday, Friday. And overall the initial discussion went fairly well. There were some side conversations in 7th, but I suspect that some of the talk and chatter was on-target. There was some silence in 1st period, probably because you hadn’t had your Monsters or Mountain Dews yet. (Just kidding!) So, we’re all still getting to know each other. It’s only the third week of school. We started late. We’re cramming a lot in, in a short time. This discussion usually goes a little awry at first, only in the sense that when confronted with the question, “what are your burning questions?” most people don’t have a ready answer. It’s like when you go to the mall or the grocery store and there was something you really wanted and then poof! you forget why you went there, there are so many choices, you’re overwhelmed. It’s a “deer in the headlights” feeling–you’re not sure which way to go. Well, that explains why some of the students didn’t participate. But of you most did. Given the conversation and discussion, in every class period, people had something to say. And I know your brains were working.

Here are some of the questions you posed:

  1. Is the world going to end on December 21, 2012?

One ridiculous website I found was: Its cheap commercialism and sensationalising of the world’s end is laughable. Now, students – I want you to tell me why I would state this thesis. You can post it in a comment or in our other forums.

The other mistake I made was thinking it was the Aztec calendar: yikes. It is the Mayan calendar that has this prophecy. To learn more about the ancient Mayan civilization, click on this link. I don’t know why I was confused, but everyone makes mistakes, and I knew something wasn’t quite right. (Using my powers of METACOGNITION to correct my thinking! Ta -da-da!!! Super Reading Strategies, AWAY!!!)

Go to these links to learn more, and read the books: This article lists books that relate to this topic:

Current and coming books on 2012:

2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl by Daniel Pinchbeck (Penguin/Tarcher, May 2006)

2013 Oracle: Ancient Keys to the 2012 Awakening by David Carson & Nina Sammons (Council Oaks, November 2006)

Apocalypse 2012: A Scientific Investigation Into Civilization’s End by Lawrence Joseph (Random House/Morgan Road, January 2007)

The Revolution of 2012: Vol. 1, The Preparation by Andrew Smith (Ford Evans, January 2007)

Serpent of Light by Drunvalo Melchizedek (Red Wheel/Weiser, Autumn 2007)

Other burning questions:

2. Why do people age?

3. Is there life on other planets?

4. Why do parents abuse their kids?

5. Why is there war?

6. Are there unseen worlds?

7. Why am I drawn to fantasy novels?

8. Is North Korea going to start a war, and will that war affect my family in Guam?

9. Who invented vampires? (This led into a discussion if vampires are real or not–you’ll have to research that burning question on your own time.)

10. Is there such a thing as reincarnation?

There were many more, and I’ll post them as I collect them. The next steps are to dig deep into our true purposes — are we afraid? Are we seeking answers to help alleviate some of our fears? Do we talk to parents, friends, read books, watch documentaries? Yes, yes, and yes…seeking the answers is the journey.

Here’s what I know: You all have more inside of your heads than you show on the outside.

Let’s work on getting it out.

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