No More Bullets

It’s already another bad summer. If you live in my area and watch the news, you may know the story of two young men shot while driving and riding in a car. You may have seen that the passenger died. You may have seen the dead man’s father, eyes glassy with grief, looking into the camera and saying that no father should have to feel this. No father ever. There was a candlelight vigil the day after the shooting where I stood on the sidewalk in front of the house where the man died. The last thing I said to…

Whose Jersey I Was Wearing

A couple of days ago, a line of Varsity football players barreled into my classroom. I’ve been known to offer encouraging journal writing times before big game days. Friday was a huge game day. The league championship was at stake against a higher ranked team. I thought they might have been there to ask to write with me. They weren’t there to write. They were uncharacteristically quiet, this group of boys. Shuffling their enormous feet. Smiling funny. “Guess what,” one of the guys finally said. “We get to pick one teacher to be with us on the field for Friday’s game…

Rerun: 7 Thoughts For Labor Day

My students’ daily homework assignment is usually to frolic in the clover. When I write frolic in the clover on the board where the homework assignment goes, new students want to know what I mean. Students:  Is that a book we are supposed to read? A website we’re supposed to look at? Me: No. Just find a patch of clover and frolic in it for a second. Students: What do you mean frolic? Me: Why does the forty-five year old lady have to tell the teenager how to frolic? Just find a patch of clover and do this (takes off shoes and…

Rerun: Army Dreamers

Steven, one of my former advisory sons, came by my classroom to visit after school today. He graduated high school four months ago. “I’m thinking of the armed forces,” he said. Steven is an accomplished soccer player and football kicker. He landed some poetic field goals in his football career. I cheered him from the sidelines while he did it. This is a young man on his own. He has no support besides what he can rustle up for himself. School was never Steven’s thing. He hates the thought of going to college. He graduated on time but sitting in…

What Resilience Looks Like

Some of my favorite lines of poetry come from DH Lawrence’s “Self Pity:” I never saw a wild thing  sorry for itself.  A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself. My students have stories that I sometimes never hear. We are busy people in the classroom. We don’t have a lot of time to sit around and talk about our feelings and cry. Sometimes, though, I get a chance to know the true resilience of the rising generation. Their stories evoke the tenacious bird of the poem, its gnarly little feet curled around…

Call Me Helicopter Parent One More Time

My husband and I make our daughters’ education a high priority, and we have always insisted they do their best. We get to know the parents of our daughters’ friends and drive them to their play dates. (Do you hear the whirring of the blades yet?) When my kids have been right, I’ve taken their sides, even against adults. When one elementary school wasn’t working for my youngest, we found another that was a better fit. I prepare separate meals according to my children’s taste preferences and cut off the crusts of the sandwiches I make for lunches. (I know you want to call me Helicopter…

We Weren’t That Resilient

In response to the bell ringing that kids these days aren’t resilient the way their parents were growing up in the Wild West of the seventies and eighties suburban American neighborhoods and schools: I call bullshit. We weren’t that resilient. Those of us growing up in the seventies and eighties were not tilling Victory gardens and whittling useful things out of sticks that we found on the ground. I know. I was there. I can only speak to my own experience, and trigger warning, I’m not prone to nostalgia. Yes, we played outside with the neighborhood kids until the streetlights came on….

Big Day of Giving: 916 Ink

Katie McCleary, the writer goddess who is the executive director of the Sacramento organization 916 Ink, talks a lot about giving young people a voice. Here is what 916 Ink is about in their own words: 916 INK seeks to excite young people with language, particularly written language; to instill in children a sense of joy, wisdom, whimsy, and wonder with words; to celebrate syntax; and to support teachers, schools, and libraries in their efforts to share the benefits of reading and writing with all area youth. Check them out here: I want to tell you what I think about…

Be Generous

2016 is going great so far. Amazing great. For example, this month a friend gifted me with a two-day writing workshop with the author of the truly excellent short story collection Refund, National Book Award Finalist Karen E. Bender. I am an enthusiastic fan of Ms. Bender’s work and vision, and I was going to have the chance to work with her in a small group format. In the two-day workshop, we listened to Karen Bender’s wisdom about the craft of writing fiction. All of the participants read one another’s work and came prepared with notes on each story. Everyone got a turn for…

Exercise Every Day

A few years ago at a particularly stressful point of my life, I had given up exercising altogether. I was in crisis mode. Morning exercise was impossible because I had to get to school early to get my workload done. The day was long and by the time I got home, I needed to make dinner and be present for my family. I worked through vacations and weekends as well to meet the requirements of this particular job. My health was my last concern. Don’t even get me started on how many packages of Donettes from the 7-Eleven I ate a week…