Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mike Rose's Words for New Teachers

Some inspiring words written by Mike Rose for new teachers. It's a nice read for older teachers as well. Yes, I recognize that I'm getting kinda old. (Wise! Experienced!) I've found that despite feeling more confident in my practice and having tons of experiences and ideas to draw from, it's the fire and passion that are sometimes missing these days. It's not just a given like it was my first few years in a classroom. I am quite excited for this upcoming year though. New people, new possibilities, and a group of students that I already know and love.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Deep Down in a Writing Cave

I'm chasing a neon purple dragon around in a dark underground labyrinth. Okay, fine. What I'm really doing is working away on a fantasy novel that has been simmering in my imagination for a long while. It's pretty scary down here in this first draft labyrinth. I'm not sure that my writing can capture the characters and the story very well, but I do believe that it has the potential to be a very fun and very good story.

Word goal today: 2,000
Current progress: 1,486

I'm enjoying the work, and trying to keep at it, even when I get wobbly.

A thought for today about the tao of being mormon: I think the most valuable thing I get from having some taoist ways of looking at religion is that I don't get at all stressed or care that much about whether or not religious ideas are true. All religious thinking, for me, is a lot like listening to good music or reading good fiction. I don't think it's likely that there is a man in the sky somewhere who created everything and who will one day judge us. In fact, I find this proposition just about as preposterous as the proposition that there is a tribe of holy purple pandas in the sky that sit around making jokes about all of us silly, sorry humans.

But, even though I don't see any convincing evidence pointing to the existence of a higher holy being, I do adore the story of a Grandfather God (how I usually refer to and think of the Mormon God). I even pray to him sometimes. It's very similar to another story I love, the story of the magical powers that keep me extra warm whenever I wear the blue scarf that my grandma crocheted. In fact, there's a chance that that particular scarf actually makes me physically more warm because I really do believe that my grandma's love was stitched into it. And a mere awareness of being surrounded by grandma-love probably has very real physical manifestations. Many religious stories give me similar kinds of comfort and hope. Yeh, they are just stories, of course. But which of all the bazillion thoughts and beliefs that I hold so dear are anything but stories? And those purple pandas, with their big kind eyes and soft fur and jiggly bellies, when I imagine them laughing at my self-pity, and my frustratingly human need to be in complete control of everything all the time, how can I help but laugh at myself too?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Marriage and Other Acts of Charity

This is Kate Braestrup's second memoir. Her first, Here If You Need Me, was also very good. Kate is a minister for the Maine wildlife wardens. (I want an exact job like this when I retire from teaching.) Kate was a radical feminist in her 20's, was a widowed parent of four in her 30's, and was brave enough to marry again in her 40's. She articulates a theology in both of her books that I find very appealing. God is love. No more, no less. And our job as humans is to love. We are to be as loving as we can be, for as long as we are able. Period. Simple. But never very easy, of course.

I often remember this one Saturday, a little over a year ago, before I lost custody of my girls. My 11-year-old daughter, Easter, had spent enough Saturdays at my mom's house to know all about "Saturday Jobs". (On those same Saturdays my dad also taught my girls about organized labor.) But on this Saturday we were living back in our own house. We were just relaxing and talking about our plans for the day. We were curled up on my bed with our darling kitten named TJ. When she suddenly started to realize that I might be about to follow my mom's example and assign her some Saturday Jobs Easter fiercely declared, "MY ONLY JOB IS TO LOVE TJ!!!"

Me too, Easter. My only job is to love---to love you and your sisters, to love my students, to love the very kind man that I am sharing my life with, and to even love my enemies and my ex-husband. Although, thank-the-universe, Kate says we are not required to like everyone. But then what does this kind of love even mean? Just that we have a deep desire for others to be happy and whole; to have a sincere hope that they are able to live in peaceful joy. And that we use all of our relationships to become more and more compassionate and understanding and patient. All of which becomes a wise and gentle love that we can offer to our own stumbling selves as well.

My own theology and understanding of love and God are connected to two distinct spiritual traditions. Mormonism and Taoism. I would like to keep writing about how I weave these two starkly contrasting paths together. Starting tomorrow. /smile

Friday, June 18, 2010

Summer Fun

I'm cooking up a fiesta of Mexican cuisine this evening. There is no occasion. I just love good food and it's a nice way to bring together many of my favorite people. And it's summer! We can eat outside. And, HELL, I've got nothing else going on these days. HA HA HA. Isn't teaching a fabulous profession? Seriously friends, summer vacation is a part of the annual teaching cycle that I'm learning to relish more each year.

Touch Blue is the title of a very lovely little book I just finished. It would be a fast read for lots of sixth graders, but has complex themes about wishing and about what makes people a family, and about luck. The setting was an island up in Maine with a family with a dad who is a lobster fisherman. Cool stuff. I don't think this book is officially published yet, but Lisa, my librarian sister, has come through again with two full boxes of great books that she has bequeathed to me and my classroom. Thanks sis!