Stephon Clark Is Our Son

I’ve lost the love of friends and family members because of my stand on racial justice in this country. Black lives matter. How controversial this simple concept seems to be to so many White people. Today is Good Friday. Two days before Easter. As a Catholic woman I am celebrating the most meaningful holiday season in my Liturgical calendar. In the Gospel of John 13:34, Christ gives the toughest order of all time: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” Our Brother knew…

I Fear For My Safety

The police who cornered Stephon Clark in his grandparents’ backyard and shot him down say they “feared for their safety.” They thought he had a gun. He had a cell phone. I was at the protest the other day in Sacramento. We circled the park across City Hall. We marched through the streets, climbed onto the freeway and blocked traffic, stormed the arena where we blocked the entrance for people coming to the Kings game. Stephon Clark was a student at Sac High when I taught there. I knew him. Does that matter? I wonder. I wonder about what matters…

The #WalkUp Myth

I was such a misfit in junior high that I wondered if I existed. Nobody hit me at school, but rather I was invisible. On a seventh grade ski trip, I was lost for hours and literally nobody noticed. I could have died buried in a snowdrift and I wouldn’t have been missed until my parents noticed me not coming off the bus at the end of the week. You’re never going to hear from me that the pain of not belonging doesn’t have long-term consequences on a person. Part of why I became a teacher was to seek redemption…

The Best Advice I Ever Heard

Watch where you are going so that you won’t fall down. (My husband) You should stop dyeing your hair. (Also my husband) Do yoga. (Laura) Don’t say what you are supposed to say. (Evan) Never date a married man. (My dad) It’s better to be alone than surrounded by assholes. (Also my dad) Whenever your professor suggests getting naked, say no. (Again, my dad) Never enter into a financial arrangement with a man you aren’t married to. (Dad.) Iron your shirts for work. (My mom) Write what you know. (Also my mom) Don’t watch Gilligan’s Island. It’s too stupid to watch….

The Worst Advice I’ve Ever Heard

In honor of giving up advice for Lent, here is a list of the worst advice I’ve ever heard: You should lose weight. You would be really pretty if you lost weight. (A grown man I worked with the summer I was 17.) You should be stricter with your students. (A former colleague who was let go for getting high during school hours. At school.) You should establish firm consequences for your students. (A former boss who freaked out and suspended one of my best students the one day she subbed for me.) That brown skirt makes for a good…

Kids These Days Feel Entitled

High school teacher here, if you didn’t already know. So I know what I’m talking about when I say kids these days feel entitled. They feel entitled in ways those of us coming up in the seventies, eighties, and nineties did not. Kids these days feel soooooooooo entitled. I didn’t feel as entitled as they do when I was their age. My generation rolled with the punches and didn’t make waves. We worked hard and hoped for the best. This bent towards working hard and making do is a hallmark of so-called Generation X. We’re proud of it. Kids these…

What Goes Through This Teacher’s Mind When You Say “Walk Out.”

How will I protect my students who have noncustodial parents with restraining orders? How will I protect my students on the spectrum who are extremely upset by changes in routine and lack of supervision? How will I protect my students who have substance abuse issues and who may use the unsupervised opportunity to make poor decisions? How will I recover the lost learning time of an entire day? What will happen to the families with parents who have jobs that do not allow them time off for civil disobedience? What will happen to the students for whom the school building…

I’m giving up giving advice for Lent

I’m giving up giving advice for Lent starting now, I announced to my class yesterday. I’m also giving up sharing my opinions, especially at work but also in general. My students were appalled. How are you going to not share your opinions? How are you going to not give advice? That’s basically your whole job, Mrs. Wanket. Giving us advice. Telling us your opinions. You’ve just proven to me that I am correct in my chosen Lenten sacrifice, I said. One girl protested. What if someone asks for your advice? Even more reason to keep my mouth shut. Okay, but…

Discipline

Last year I attended a meeting of a book club to discuss my novel The Ghost Daughter. In my quest to make a good impression on the elegant women of the club, I ironed my pants and wore a smart jacket. I even brushed my hair. As I perched on the couch waiting for the meeting to begin, one of the ladies came in. She wanted to know if I was the author. I proclaimed myself. Huh, she said. From the way you write, I thought you’d show up in leather and spikes. She wasn’t buying my ironed white pants…

6 Steps To Being A Writer While Working Full Time

Step One: Go Away  Close your screen right now and write 500 words. I’ll wait. We will all wait. Step Two: Steal Hello again. Stop talking about “carving” out time to write. The reason why you haven’t been successful is because you are mistaken about the nature of time. Time isn’t something to carve. It isn’t butter. It’s a precious biscuit that wants you to steal it. Become a thief of time. Your malnourished writing life needs time more than your never ending list of well-fed busy tasks do. Steal from the rich to give to the poor. Step Three: Honor…