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Miles to go.


Recently my friend John Spencer posted this lovely sentiment. I responded with a snarky comment. I’m sorry, John. You try to do a nice thing and I roll my eyes. I know you forgive me because you’re cool like that. The bigger question is, can I forgive myself?

This led me to consider well, everything. The art of relaxation, and if it’s possible for me to find this place called Relaxation: it’s just as elusive as Happiness, really good deli sandwiches on the west coast, and that other silver earring I lost. It may be hard to locate.

Peeking out from under this pile are two old Macbooks in need of refurbishing.

But telling someone to relax has the adverse effect. I knew it, and then I looked up research on why. That’s usually how I roll. Confirmation bias #FTW!

Years ago when I worked one of my many other jobs, I was a customer service rep for a credit card company. I was pretty good at it, too, and not necessarily naturally. One day I made the fatal mistake of telling a woman to “calm down.” Nope. I learned very clearly that telling anyone to calm down is the worst thing you can do. The words ‘calm down’ and ‘relax’ are triggers for PAY ATTENTION YOU ARE VULNERABLE THERE MIGHT BE AN ATTACK.

Thanks, amygdala.

Finding joy and little nuggets of happiness and pleasure are imperative, perhaps more importantly, though, is not apologizing for what we find joyful or pleasurable.

Hard to relax when students are being left behind.

I do know how to relax, and define it for myself. I understand myself pretty well, actually: I tend toward obsession, and also believing that I can affect change. Relaxation for me comes in many forms, but one recurring theme is a product: there is a scarf, a collage done in Pixelmator, a poem or another piece of writing, an idea list, etc. And if we’re all being really honest with one another: we cannot define what relaxation looks like for each other. We’re in different life phases. Now my husband and I are in the ‘two-sons-in-college-and-we-have-no-retirement-because-of-job-losses-and-can’t-get-a-home-equity-loan-because-of-a-misplaced-medical-bill-but-we’re-still-happy-anyway-and-trying-not-to-freak-out” phase. Many of my teacher friends are in varying phases of no children to small children to teenagers. In my five decades+ on this planet, in this country, the holidays have never been about anything else other than a tug-of-war between consumerism and reminders of ‘what the season is truly all about.’ Women especially are placed in the unenviable position of the producers of the season. Perfectionism and responsibility for everyone else’s happiness come at a cost.

I had a dream last night that (oh heaven help us…a dream sequence….!)

Okay– I dreamed last night that I was working, and taking a break, and my principal said an emergency call came from my sons’ old elementary school, (in another district) and they needed a half-day sub, and would one of us be willing to do it? I volunteered and went to teach a first-grade class. The room was set up as if I would be taking over permanently, and though the children were cherubic, the staff welcoming, and I was praised as a welcome addition, I wanted to go back to my original 8th-grade classroom, but wasn’t sure I’d be let back in.

No need to page Dr. Freud on that one.

So in the spirit of my warped sense of relaxation, I made some how-to videos so students can review some foundational skills/strategies. I am feeling more stressed and microscopically dissected than ever before when it comes to students’ success, but like I mentioned, that belief and confidence in my abilities to meet it sure does come in handy.

Kelly Love Creator Studio

So far:

  1. How to do a One-Pager
  2. RAFTS
  3. Short Answer Responses
  4. Formatting Word Documents
  5. OneDrive and Sharing
  6. Context Clues
  7. How to Write a Summary
  8. Friday Five Vocabulary
  9. Parallel Story Writing

To come:

Questioning: Creating Questions, Levels of Questions, and Discussion Pointers

Taking a break, a real break, is really good for our souls. A walk, a nap, trying something new or completing a project that repairs, replenishes, or responds are all good, good things.

I finished up providing feedback for students and their work/analysis of Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost. Though I heavily scaffolded, (this was the first chance I had this year to walk them through poetry), they still managed to find and make their own meaning (thank heavens).

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

The other night my husband and I went out, and he shared this Neil Finn podcast with me. Neil Finn and Crowded House is our soundtrack to our lives. I sang along in my terrible, flat voice, and my husband not only didn’t care but encouraged me.

Relax? Find joy? Play a song and sing–and cry a little bit if you need to, too.

Theme song: Don’t Dream It’s Over



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You’re not the boss of me.

Why, oh why, did I do this today? It’s a beautiful summer day here in the Northwest…patches of clouds, a breeze, and the butterfly bushes are attracting hummingbirds and butterflies alike.

“What did you do?” you ask sweetly, with concern.

I checked my sons’ school/state test scores.

They met standard.

Boss_Tweed__NastNow, you may be asking yourself, what is so darn alarming about that? Many parents would be thrilled that their children met standard. Besides, isn’t that what’s it’s all about? My younger son slogged through hours, and I mean HOURS of his life to end up with a B- in pre-algebra. (See other posts about the math that doesn’t add up in schools–doing 100% of his homework, getting one problem ‘wrong’ and ending up with a 50% grade.) My older son is in advanced math and other classes, and for a person under legal voting age, has consistently provided me with some of the most engaging, interesting, and insightful conversations I have ever had. The younger one is inquisitive, joyful, curious, and has a natural scientific mind. Not only does he learn information at the knowledge level, but has the capacity and has demonstrated synthesis, and ultimately, create. (My and my husband’s gold standard.)

The highest of the ‘thinking levels.’

Now, I am the egotistic mother who thinks her children are such smarty-pants that the academics of school should be a breeze, rising up higher and higher into the rarified air, so that their free time is spent on their own intellectual, artistic, scientific, and creative pursuits. To have ‘just met standard’ shocked me into considering just what these standards are, and how in the heck does anyone ‘exceed’ standards? Holy nose-bleed expectations, Batman! Calm down!

Before you start accusing me (justifiably or not) of having the Prairie Home Companion syndrome of “all the women are strong…and the children are above average,” this harkens back to our real question (I will explain who “our” is in a moment):

Just what the heck are we doing, anyway?

What are our real goals for our children/students?

Over the summer, my sons’ school district has sent e-mails of math homework packets to prevent ‘summer slide.’ (If only it was a Slip’n’Slide.) They expect me to print these packets out, hand them to my sons, and instead of spending time just outside, pulling weeds, practicing guitar/drums, painting a picture, going to the zoo, the aquarium, the park, the lake, or down the block, they want them to keep their minds sharp with math packets. It occurred to me that many teachers have, not only this expectation, but this exasperation with parents that their children are not doing something for their minds at all times. It’s like we expect students to be home-schooled after our day is done. Where does this (unreasonable) expectation come from? Because it’s sitting on all of us parents/teachers like a big, fat bureaucratic, bloated, boorish slugs. The cow-manure rolls downhill, folks. Superintendents feel the pressure from parents who scream why their children can’t read, and for the love of Pete DO SOMETHING…so they DO SOMETHING…and principals feel the pinch, and they put the pressure on teachers, but teachers (good ones, and no, I won’t define ‘good’ right now) are already feeling it, and it rolls back to parents who should DO SOMETHING and they aren’t GOOD parents because they’re not allowing their students enough independence (yes, ask me about a Facebook thread from first grade teachers who demanded that students should know how to put their homework folders in their backpacks. Yes, they should. But parents are so scared poop-less that they transform into mechanical parenting creations we have labeled ‘helicopter’ parents. (Yeah. Name calling always works.) So, if little irresponsible, forgetful first-grade Freddie forgets to put his homework folder back in his backpack he’s doomed. DOOMED, I tell ya!

I just want to yell “STOP!”

Think about this: Have we made our curriculums/content so challenging, so rigorous, by reaching higher and higher standards that aren’t age appropriate, we are disengaging parents from being supportive? If a parent can’t begin to understand a child’s homework or assignment because of the shot-gun approach to blasting everything with all that we’ve got (don’t know how to do a math problem this way? Try it these twenty other ways…oh, and why? What’s the fundamental principle behind this math problem? We don’t have time to teach you that, sorry!) So, there it is, 8:30PM, mom’s trying to help with all the things that must be done so the family doesn’t live in filth and squalor, and Freddie needs help with his math/reading etc., and mom doesn’t know how to help. So she feels stupid. And when we feel stupid, we become resentful. And we lash out.

But here is something else to consider. Before we start to feel all ‘Poor us, our jobs are so hard! Pressure!’ consider that many students I know, including my own children, actually like to do well in school. It’s true. We are not punishing them by having standards; on the contrary, many of us like to earn and achieve. Reach a goal. When an ELL student beams at me because she passed the state language proficiency tests, or when a former student puts his high school state test scores on Facebook, proudly sharing his accomplishments, or my own children share a good grade that they’ve worked for, and earned with their efforts, this shows their well-earned pride in making more wrinkles in their gray matter. It feels good to learn.

During this debate and collaboration, I guess all I asking is that my fellow teachers/administration/superintendents don’t lose sight of that human factor as well. Self-esteem comes from struggle, and then success, or failure, and then learning from those missteps. It’s growth, not fixed, learning that provides us with our intrinsic motivation. Perhaps there is confusion or a muddying of the lines between extrinsic and intrinsic. I do what I do because I like to do it, but it’s also nice when someone else notices. Admit it–you kind of like it, too, when someone comments on a blog posting, or tweet, or says, “Hey, did you do something different to your hair? It looks great!”

Who is “our?” The collective will of educators, parents, observers, citizens, students, and politicians out there.

As far as homework goes, yes, I know there’s a huge movement to abolish homework. I get it. I don’t assign ‘homework,’ but I do have assignments and projects. I try to customize each students’ day and time as much as I possibly can, all 150 of them. I try to do what’s ethically and academically appropriate to help each child, because that’s what I want for my children, too.

Now you’ll excuse me, I need to get out the sprinklers and some sunscreen. See ya.


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Mighty Myth Month: Take it easy, man.


Just about every belief system has some sort of official “time out” for its believers. And it seems the further we detach ourselves from each other, through technology, busy-ness and business, and the electronic and technological strangulating hugs (yes, my laptop has a grip on me like an anaconda dancing with a capybara), we can barely breathe anymore–we’re being loved to death by our own inventions and ways of life.

Taking these times to re-focus on our beliefs takes many forms. For some, it’s Friday evenings, others Saturdays, some Sundays, and some a combination depending upon sun-up and sun-set. Some take a few times a day to re-focus their thoughts on their beliefs and faith, others have intermittent rituals throughout the day, week, or month, and year.

Regardless, perhaps you should also take some time for yourself. It’s not selfish. It’s a good thing. As I was reminding a student the other day, you have to put your own oxygen mask on first in order to help others survive.


Find a few moments each day where you demand nothing of yourself, and others ask nothing from you. Just be. Even if it’s for 30 seconds. Don’t write, talk, call, ask, laugh, or consider.

Just breathe.