Remembering

Dear Dad,

My girlfriends loved you. They would come to the house on Maybrook Road, or you would be driving us to the mall as the three or four of us crammed into the backseat, and they would be clammering for you to tell a story – or even better – ask that you tell the story in “double talk.” You were so funny when you performed for an audience.

Summers at the lake. When you taught me how to properly hold a canoe paddle. Oh, the soft, delicate sound it would make gliding through the still water, me trying not to hit the side of the boat. My eyes mesmerized as it made that perfect swirl. When you taught me how to sail the Sunfish – from preparing the boat to proper etiquette. How to tack, how to crew. The Saturday morning you made me crew with an older, very steely single lady who lived on the lake. I fought you, cried even. I did it, hated it, but it was a life lesson, one of many you taught me that made me a better human. When you taught me how to drive our WWII era red Willy’s Jeep. This was EVERYTHING. I was thirteen. You were patient with me (when many times you weren’t – and now I know why). Repeating the lesson. Clutch, shift, balancing the pedals, gaining speed up the hill only to have to stop. And do it again. And again. Stalling. You sitting in the passenger seat, forcing me to do it. Again. Again. Practice. “Do it again.” Then. Oh, the indescribable feeling of gaining traction on the dirt, the wind massaging my face, blowing my eyelashes up against my eyelids (the jeep didn’t have a top, of course, – oh, it was beautiful), gaining speed on the rocky surface, pebbles spitting from the back tires. Hoping my friends would see me but also hoping another car wasn’t coming towards us on the narrow lake road.

You even taught me proper restaurant manners – sounds silly and trite – but we spent a lot of time together, the two of us, during our Saturday lunches when you would pick me up after your dedicated AA meeting. Our conversations were both surfacey and deeper – the latter as I got older and more curious, but it was always a sacred time well spent together. Father and daughter.

As you grew older and you conquered your demons, you led by example. Humble, kind, altruistic, sometimes stern, but always compassionate. You taught me that one can change for the better. One can grow more patient. One can gain a healthier perspective. Especially as you grew older. Significantly, you taught me to learn from your mistakes.

I miss you intensely sometimes – like today. This reminiscence is powerful and especially emotional for me – concentrating on the teaching, learning, and the love between a father and daughter. I’m feel very lucky that Sophie and Jack have a devoted, loving, fun, compassionate relationship. I like to think we’re all connected somehow by a thread, touching each other’s lives.

It is 14 years today that we lost you unexpectedly. I’m hopeful for your visit today at the bird feeder – that bright red plume and beak, cracking those sunflower seeds. I love you, dad.

Lucky

Our school district has classroom paras K-4. We are extraordinarily fortunate – the students are extraordinarily fortunate. I trained a third grade paraprofessional this morning on some Tier 1 strategies who was thrilled to learn and thrilled to help her student. For all the complaining we all do about our jobs – not enough time, not enough pay for the workload and extra time spent, etc., these moments put it all back into perspective. An important takeaway to end the week.

What. Is. Happening?

I was just texting with a colleague regarding my experiences on interview committees within our school district. Some assume (not the person with whom I was texting 🙂 that favorites are played, decisions are made prior to the process if it’s internal, etc. That has never been my experience. I can say that people I’ve served with have been fair, ethical, collegial, respectful, open to debate and civil discourse, knowledgeable, honest, and thoughtful. I commented that “fairness reigns.”

As soon as I wrote those last two words, my mind went to the whole college admissions scandal. (Side comment: With the amount of scandals the news reports do you feel like I do? That we’re living in an alternate universe? And it’s so important that we don’t get numb to it and it gets normalized”…) Obviously, this whole thing is beyond reprehensible, unconscionable, and criminal. But what really bothers me as a parent and educator is that these parents exposed their children to this immoral and unethical behavior! And made them a part of it! Shame on them! What kind of life are they living that allows them to think all this is OK? I just don’t get it. I really don’t. It’s sickening. The sense of entitlement floors me. Yuck.

The importance of student reflection

I work with a master 4th grade teacher who constantly challenges her practice and responds to her students’ needs – always looking at student work to direct her instruction while simultaneously trying to make her teaching more practical and efficient. Today she modeled/role played how to have an effective writing partnership using a mentor persuasive letter. What the students took away was that it’s the positive and constructive feedback that you give your partner that matters. These 4th graders had some amazing conversations. Overheard: “I think you need more evidence to support your claim.” “Your topic is really important!” “Wait, this sentence doesn’t make sense. What if you…” The collaboration, trust, and honesty have been diligently worked on all year – and it takes a ton of modeling so students can forge effective relationships.

I grabbed my phone and asked the teacher if I could videotape/interview a partnership. Some of my questions included: What do you like about this process? What is the purpose? What’s hard about it? What would you change? What are you going to do next? Their answers were honest and thoughtful and proved that they were using the strategies to get at the skills that the teacher modeled in her mini-lesson. This was all well and good, terrific really, but my real purpose through interviewing is to get students talking about their work, their learning, their feelings about processes, and using that information with teachers to improve their practice, their learning, and to even weak curriculum where needed. Most important, though, is my goal that kids know that their roles in school are important, their teachers care about them and what they think, and that they regularly practice REFLECTION. As educators, we know the importance of reflection – it improves our practice. Don’t we want the same for our kids?

Very Short…a little sweet

Just thinking it in my head isn’t as powerful as writing it down. Writing it allows me to better internalize it. May be corny to some, but it puts my life in better perspective when I jot down what I’m grateful for.

Today I am grateful for:

A receptive superintendent

Being able to laugh with my husband

Saying good morning to my grown daughter who’s living at home as she gets her Master’s in Social Work

Much Ado About Weather

Quickly dragging the garbage and recycling (do they really recycle these items? But that’s a different post…) down the driveway this morning, I happily breathed in the warmer air. As I drove to school a bit later I was wondering about possibilities for my SOL topic. I looked up towards my left at the visible rays of sunshine bursting through the pines as the fog rose. God, that’s beautiful, I whispered to myself. I could feel the warmth through the glass and smiled, knowing that this was a sign that spring was around the corner – even with the knowledge there would be a few fits and starts. I left a school building around lunch time brightly greeted by a blue sky, dripping roof water, and a delightful 10 degree rise in temperature. “Hi! beautiful day, isn’t it?,” a colleague exuded. “Can’t wait to walk later!” I replied excitedly.

The weather affects our outlook, our mood, our behavior. It isn’t a wonder why poems, essays, and endless prose have been written about The Weather. I was reticent about my SOL topic – another post about what it looks like and feels like outside my windows?? Really ?! But, hey, it’s powerful and integral to our lives. We write about topics that impact us deeply. Things that we know. Often that is the weather.

Total Escape

I read so many professional resources that I look forward to escaping into one of my favorite genres: psychological thrillers. I read the well-publicized best-sellers; have read Gillian Flynn, A. J, Flynn, Harlan Coben (check out the crazy piece on him in a recent New Yorker), and just read The Dry by Jane Harper. Now I’m just starting the Silent Patient (rainy, icy Sunday so it’s perfect to tuck into), the debut novel by Alex Michaelides (no spoilers please :). The thrillers I choose are dark and suspenseful – just what I like, but I read them as a great escape and distraction from work and technology and sometimes real life. It’s not great “literature” – though I do enjoy that, too! But give me mysteries any time.

I also love watching scandi-noir and British series on Netflix, though I HATE that they took the subtitles away and overdubbed them! If you’re interested, check out Bordertown, Broadchurch, The Fall, Trapped, The Lava Field, Fortitude, The Break (Belgian), No Second Chance, and The Frozen Dead.

Should you read this, I always enjoy some good recommendations. Thanks, in advance!

Perspective on Platitudes

“Problems bother me only to the degree I permit.”

This is a powerful statement for me and I often work on it on my healthy sober journey. It’s truly amazing what happens when I not only read positive quotes or statements but put them into ACTION. This is key. (Seems obvious, doesn’t it? But if you are prone to negative thinking as I am, the work it takes to rewire your brain isn’t easy. It’s f&*$ing hard.) Incredibly, research and science have proven that powerful thinking creates new neural pathways in our brain. Reading about this phenomenon changed my perspective. I recognize the internet is full of positive thinking quotes but they only become platitudes if we don’t actually work on or practice them.

Belief in the future

I clicked on the google doodle today, which is all about International Women’s Day, and a quote struck me like a bolt. It’s from British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid and reads, “I really believe in the idea of the future.”

It struck because it is simultaneously so simple, so pure, and so deep.

It struck me because it’s exactly what the world needs right now.

It struck me because believing in something strongly and deeply enough helps make it happen.

It struck me because without hope we may as well stop being, doing, creating.

It struck me because I have a daughter who I love deeply and this is a grateful reminder to talk to her about her future, and her children’s future (if she so chooses) and their children’s future…

It struck me because the author of the quote added the significant and purposeful word: idea. Not just, “I believe in the future,” but I believe in the IDEA of the future. See how that takes it to a whole new level?

It struck me because it filled me with hope, purpose, and optimism today. I hope it does the same for you.