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The Power All Along…

power shoesRemember that Wish List? In fine, faded green marker is a note about high school certification. Every year there are a handful of students who wish that I was moving up to the high school with them. (To be fair, there are a few who wish to never see me again, but that is a story for another day.) I researched as best I could, having this on my perpetual to-do list, and asked those who would know how would I go about this.

Even this particular odyssey is not without bumps in the bricks. I contacted the OSPI (Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction), and they weren’t quite sure if my National Board’s would grant me access. After filling out paperwork, making phone calls, and getting misinformation from my Human Resources department (which took the wind out of my house, so to speak), I finally contacted the genius bureaucrat on Friday afternoon. You heard me. Genius. Someone so sharp, so confidently concrete/sequential, not only in minutes did she find my lost application (that was from a previous phone call), she answered my question clearly and succinctly (yes, you will be granted 5-12 grades ELA, and “…we haven’t put ‘age’ on the certificates since 2011: who told you that?”)

Do you theme or label your year? I do. Of course I do. I’m a language arts teacher, the Queen of Metaphor-topia, and ruling Duchess of Diphthongs. This year’s theme is ‘kink in the hose.’ Everything was running smoothly and clearly, and then it went sideways. I have been marveling at how incredibly hopeful and peaceful I felt for the first months of this year. At year nine, I’m by no means a rookie, and felt that we had weathered enough change that no tornado or twister could possibly spin me out. My PLC is rich with talent and colleagues not only do I admire and seek, but creative, ingenious folk. Sure, administration was mostly new, but what could go wrong? District made decisions to shuffle personnel, and I had always worked collaboratively with administration at every level to support discipline, etc. We have the new teacher evaluation system, but I had received thorough training, and was a teacher-leader with my principal the first year’s roll out, serving in a collegial role to work out the wrinkles in the new and intense system. My plan was to refine, polish, and carry the strengths of instruction and throw away the unworkable.

So what went wrong? Flying monkeys? Buckets of water? Apple-throwing apple trees? Well, it doesn’t really matter. I can point to a few specific incidents, but again, it doesn’t really matter. Once in awhile there’s just that perfect storm of clashing agendas and miscommunications. And until the house lands on that witch, there’s not much that can do about it. A lot of my colleagues are ready to move on. They too, are seeking employment elsewhere, or perhaps pursuing a life goal. I am not in a position financially, nor professionally, where I can go do something…else. Many are crossing thresholds into unchartered lands, or healing wounds, or packing up the difficulties and calling it done. And they are not quiet about it, either.

Things don’t always work out as planned, and the reasons are as varied as the people involved. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if folks came into a new job and had to be honest? What if I went to a new school and told students and colleagues the truth about me? The truth that I love what I do, I am interested in new ideas, but oftentimes I like to craft and refine my own instruction. I have introverted tendencies. I have a lot to offer in terms of vision and collegial support/conversation, but will fight back if attacked. If I think your bias toward my abstract/concrete random personality is overwhelming your good judgment, I might just call you on it (unless you are a genius bureaucrat).

So let me end with this wish, this hope: no matter where we take our talents and expertise, we are more powerful than we sometimes believe. Don’t be bullied by those who would plasticize your dreams. Everyone has a desire, and sometimes just asking, “What do you want?” is enough to calm egos. I’m not sure if I am going anywhere physically, but I do know I’ve moved on emotionally. I am proud of myself for always finding ways to find my way home, of giving myself options. Here are your shoes back, W.W. I can find my way from here.



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Game on.

Get Ready Pac ManGreat conversation the other day: student in my “struggling” reading comprehension group reminded me once again that many kids aren’t necessarily “bad” readers, but not motivatedto read. We had a few moments just to talk about what we were reading, a topic at hand, a bird-walk, so to speak, and he and I discussed a high-level, critical analysis about: games.

We talked about the genres and analyzed the varying classification of the wide variety of video/computer games. (The student sent me this link, by the way: Recently, I had a conversation with my husband about this very same topic, in the context of  deep critical analysis of World of Warcraft. I know – many of you (teachers) are scoffing or rolling your eyes. (By the way, eye rollers – grow up.)

What is fascinating to me is this question: why are we humans participating and practicing in the worlds that yield no results or product?

Or do they?

One Alpha game that has come on the scene in MineCraft.  MineCraft scares the snot out of me, and I’m not sure why. Our Robot Overlords are busy working on enslaving human productivity and time to create Lego-esque worlds and kill zombies. When I can find the link to the article, one enterprising young man went as far as to create a world, a virtual world, that ran on its own “red dust” electrical power. Can you say “Mr. Anderson?”

Another virtual world is obviously Farmville.  Millions of Facebook users work diligently on this (distopian) commune,

We all have burning questions, and it is job 1 for teachers to help students identify and recognize those questions and motivations. We are given low basal readers for checkpoints and reading strategy instruction. I have a certain amount of buy-in and fear. The fear comes from the thought of NOT adhering “with fidelity” to the “system” somehow any failure or lack of progress of my students will be squarely on my shoulders. Which, it would be. If I can honestly report that I kept the program in its inherent and intended form, then perhaps that will shield me from any negative results.

A term my husband has been using recently is “emergent behaviors.”  The context he uses this in is the explained best just by thinking of ways that humans, animals, forms and functions do or create the unexpected.

The words that come to mind when thinking about the activities of these types of games far exceed the simple, violent FPS label:

1. Resource management

2. Professions

3. Product and Productivity

4. “Keeping up with the Joneses” mentality: Elitism and bragging rights (talk to anyone who’s flying around on a Onyxian Drake.

But what even scares me more is the next generation of “games,” and this puts the word “generation” in a different context. Both the same student and my husand informed me of this little AI darling, who is programmed to make moral decisions based on squishing, or not, snails: Milo, the Computer Boy.

Think I may be sick.

Now, I must also write this: While we are so busy creating fake boys and girls, and getting fake jobs, and getting fake results, we are neglecting our real boys and girls. Student informed me the other day: “Mrs. L, did you know the band member of KISS are Jewish?” Reponse: Yes, as a matter of fact I did. Follow up: “And did you also know they had to wear that make up to hide from Hitler during the war?”

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Summer lament.


"I have never surfed. But my inner surfer always feels this way, like a sad Beach Boys song, in August..."

Every August, for years, I felt that something ritualistic or noteworthy was missing to mark the occasion of summer’s end. The perfumed, yet sulferic combination of back-to-school supplies and popsicles doesn’t buff up the mojo as I would wish. Since becoming a teacher, I straddle both worlds, between anticipating the school year for myself, my students, as well as balancing emotions for my own children. And, yes, even for my own personal expectations.

What did I want to accomplish? Did I “relax” enough? (And in asking, that feels stressful in itself.) 

Fortunately, very timely, two bloggers I thoroughly enjoy recently posted their thoughts on summer’s end. One, Doyle, provides his viewpoint using all the sensory images, and sure enough, there IS a holiday associated with this time of the year! I KNEW it, I just KNEW it! There had to be….this time of year, between the summer solstice and fall equinox, had to be marked by some acknowledgment that the light is waning, and the sun is growing ever more shadowy and elusive. It’s called “Lammas.” “Lament” can be a verb or a noun.

The second writer, John Spencer, writes about how he spends his time in the summer. Or rather, doesn’t spend his time.

When I tally up what I did this summer, some of it will feel less like a harvest, and more like a molting. I chose to do nothing this summer, or at least the bare minimum. No conferences, no workshops, no professional development, no classes, and no thinking, really. I went to one day-long seminar to hear John Medina, author of Brain Rules, speak, at Seattle Pacific University. He had some golden nuggets to relate, but it was just as if not more valuable to catch up with some of my colleagues and talk with teachers and business people from around the state/country.

The only thing I have to do is finish up a unit, including incorporating the new common national standards, and making sure it makes sense to others. Sometimes a work of art makes a lot of sense to the artist, but not to the audience.

My musings take me to wonder, though, does the word “lammas” give us the word “lament?” Lament means to grieve, or a grief. There is always that long shadow cast over me this time of year, the end of summer. Maybe some Halloween candy will do the trick to ease the pain.

intransitive verb : to mourn aloud : wailtransitive verb 1 : to express sorrow, mourning, or regret for often demonstratively : mourn
2 : to regret strongly

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Be your own hero.

One of my favorite treats is driving on a Sunday and listening to the Tavis Smiley Show. Yesterday was especially resonating. I caught the tail-end of “Where do we go from here? The prospect of peace in the 21st century,” a discussion with some of the greatest scholars, leaders, and thinkers of our time.

At one juncture, the conversation turned to be about ‘who will our heroes be, who will we look up to?’ and Vincent Harding, with his even, slow-paced voice, reminded us to consider not having a “one” who will “save” us, but in a truly rich, democratic, and free society, we must look within ourselves and to each other for providing the safety and community we can achieve.

In my heart, I know we have always known what to do. Why we turn away from it, I can’t really say. The reasons are as complicated as we are, but it is just as simple, too: we know how to treat each other.

If you have time, it’s worth a listen, at least the last hour or so. Does talking change anything? Or is it only action? I’m contemplating on one thing I can do today to help bring peace. What can I teach, what can I share, what can I create? And I’ll go from there.

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Art lives.

While we mentally live in a virtual world, there is grit and texture in other dimensions, too. Pay attention.

The other evening, I went to a benefit concert performed by the Seattle School of Rock and other locations at the Vera Project in Seattle.  It was a strange evening. As my son and I were parking, two gentelmen warned me of a hustler in the parking lot. Sure enough, a young man with odd piercings tried to get cash from me in return for “paid parking.” I had to pull out my best “alpha” animal, stare him down, and repeatedly say “No, thank you. No, THANK you. NO THANK YOU!” before he slunk off. Then, walking toward the Vera Project, we saw a homeless person, um, well, being quite public…

Next stop on the rabbit hole voyage was an introduction to the Sanctuary Art Center. According to the brochure, the

“Sanctuary Art Center is a professional quality art studio serving homeless youth ages 13-25 in Seattle’s University District. Our mission is to create a safe, warm, calm environment for youth to experience creativity and success through use of artistic media, such as pottery, stained glass, painting, beading, drawing, drama, musical instruction, and more. We provide street involved youth wiht a place of discovery and support, removed from the noise, danger, and chaos of the street.”

Hey, grown-ups out there: Isn’t that what we’re all supposed to be doing?

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