Flowers and Failures/ Roses and Graffiti… This is Teaching

From three years ago, when I returned from sick leave at the end of the year. Please excuse the typos– I had hand surgery.

And today was a day of grace in teaching; we dared to say, we missed each other, the students and I. I said it first…but…heads popped in, SHE’S BACK~! I am doing SO WELL I almost felt like a fraud…being gone 2 1/2 weeks and coming back WITHOUT the brace I’ve been wearing all year and without the stitches.

I’m under no illusion that peers are paramount to sophomores; however, I am under no illusion that truly this was a day of love.

We missed you. I missed you guys. Whose birthdays did I miss? How was the test you just took?

And these flowers and the balloon. NO NOTE.. Just sitting on my desk, from two young ladies…not the best students. In fact, one very BELLIGERENT young lady who cost me “check marks” on my evaluation. My boss asked, do you now who those are from? No, I said. And then she told me and we both wondered, since this young lady had a dean in all her classes last year. She has lots of zeros and is currently failing the class, but usually manages to JUST PASS. I support her Latina leadership activities–the car washes, the dances, the study groups. Keep the ticket, I always tell her. I cannot make it. Go ahead and sell it again. And she does. I see her do it.

A few of the truly rowdiest kids from last year’s CRAZY 8’S stopped by. They thought I had retired without saying good bye. They asked if they were the reason I was retiring and I told them… I wrote a blog about you all. Remember the day _____ was crying and you all helped him? You all made sure no one made fun of him, you protected him, you were kind and funny and good? Yes, they said, we remember. Well, I told these two lads, I wrote a blog and I borrowed the quote I STAND UP FOR YOU.

Can we see it, they asked? No, I said. My creative writing is personal, but I want you to know that I got it. I knew that last period of the day was not a good time for 30+ boys in a hot classroom reading LOTF or Les MIs or… Macbeth.

And then I am under no illusion that they are part kids. A young lady pointed out that the sub didn’t notice THERE IS A BOOK OR A PART OF THE BOOK ON THE PROJECTOR FOR THE SMART BOARD AND THERE IS A FUNNY BANANA BACK THERE! BACK THERE!!!

Indeed. Some sophomore had ripped Les Miserable in quarter and tagged it up with..um..um… um… male… parts…. in pencil…. showing his / her utter contempt for the novel. I have a feeling I know who did this, but I simply took it down and said I’d be dusting for fingerprints. After one class a young man asked if he would be is super trouble???? Whoever did it?

I don’t know what you are talking about, I said. I don’t see any book up there, do you? Besides, I heard whoever owned that book was going to read most of the parts of Macbeth this week, right? It’s not me, he said, but I’ll read anyway. The girls in the class just winked at me and pointed at the boy….

Roses and graffiti. Flowers and failures.

And most of all, it’s about us, about being a human being during this time of high stakes testing and pressure and CCSS and…yes, dare I use that word?

It’s about loving your students enough to miss them, teach them, honor them, and…dust for fingerprints. 🙂

Changes, End of Terms–a Teacher’s Heart

img_2340    As this Fall term winds down at the college, I admit to feeling sad. Such big-hearted students! But it’s time for the term to end and all of us to move on, and I know that.   Still, as Robert Frost asks in “Reluctance”

Ah, when to the heart of man 
Was it ever less than a treason 
To go with the drift of things, 
To yield with a grace to reason, 
And bow and accept the end 
Of a love or a season?

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/53085/reluctance

Still, I have never yielded changes with grace but rather with sadness. As someone who has experienced a lot of trauma and loss, I believe that is normal.  Yet I know moving on is good, and I will embrace having some time to do more writing, more exercising, etc. until the spring term starts.

It’s still hard for THESE students won’t be in my class anymore, and I truly like them.  I am blessed to be in a career I have long loved; I love literacy and people.

Thanks for reading, and may all your changes be graceful ones.

 

 

 

 

 

I Never Thanked Them

img_1003    Today I met a woman about my age.  She told me how many times her children thanked her for moving to America to give them opportunities they would not have had in their small town, which she characterized as small, unsafe, lots of guns, lots of drug dealers.  She raised five children here in America, all in college or college graduates.  And now it is her turn, she said, to go to school.

I was so bitter and angry growing up I never thanked my parents for anything, not even the now obvious sacrifices they made so we children could go to good schools.  I was too busy feeling like a victim to appreciate they sacrificed a lot–I didn’t see it at all.

As I walked in the woods this afternoon, I was full of regret.

Is it possible to thank the dead?

All I could think to do was embrace the beauty around me, the trees, wildflowers, gorgeous sky and say thank you, Mom and Dad, I wish I had thanked you while you were alive.

I hope my life itself and my embracing of literacy have shown my appreciation, but I doubt it.  I took it as my due while I tried to distance myself from my family, my neighborhood, and especially my father.

Thank you, Mom and Dad.  I wish I had told you that while you were alive.  While you were far from perfect and even destructive at times, I acknowledge you made big sacrifices so we could have a better life.

How I wish I had told them that while they were alive– thank you for the sacrifices you made so we could have a better life.  No, that’s not good enough.

Thank you for helping me have a good life.

Valuable Resources–Support Public Libraries!

LIBRARY      Today I met my new student at the public library nearest to where she lived.  I had never been there before, so didn’t know what to expect.

We met just when the library opened, on a work day, thinking NO ONE would be there.

How wrong we were!  The parking lot was FULL fifteen minutes before the library opened; young parents were there with their children; senior citizens were waiting to get in and use the computers; job seekers were waiting to use the resources there.  How did I know this?  I observe people and listen well.  Furthermore, once the library opened I saw where they went and what they were doing.

When I was in graduate school the first time, I worked at a local library. It was one of my favorite jobs ever.  That library was so busy with job seekers, senior citizens, students, parents, children–extremely busy.  I wondered if a public library would be so busy anymore, with people using the internet at home.

That question has been answered.

This library?  Study rooms.  Glass walls and ceilings to let in natural light.  Vending machines with coffee and snacks.  Books, books, books and so many other materials.

This is what I noticed in my short time there.

And the hours? This library is open 72 hours a week!

Not all public libraries are so fortunate, so beautiful, so accessible.  Which is a shame, since it appears people need and use their public libraries for a variety of purposes. This library is not in a wealthy area, but it is in an area that supports its library and voted a few years ago to increase their own taxes to update and improve the library. This town also has some factories which pay taxes, so they are indeed fortunate to be able to afford this great library.

Lesson learned today? Support your local public libraries, America! They are a great investment.

Thanks for reading.

Adult Literacy Training Completed & I Meet My Student Friday!

SMALL HEART BOOKS POETRY     There is very little dearer to my heart and mind than literacy in its many forms;  expression and communication across the miles and years is nearly miraculous, in my opinion.  I cannot say if I love reading or writing more, for I spend so much of my life reading and writing!  If I am not reading or writing, I am often thinking IN WORDS… and thinking about reading and writing. I teach reading and writing.  I practice reading and writing. My hobbies include READING AND WRITING.

I go to book discussions. I take literature classes.  I write poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.  I take creative writing classes.  I submit poetry and fiction for publication, and SOME RARE TIMES I get published.

I’m rather boring, aren’t I?  I am so much about reading and writing.

I’ve seen firsthand how literacy can improve and even save lives.  That’s how strongly I believe in the importance of literacy.

My own personal literacy story is still to come, but I will say I am one who was probably saved from a miserable life partly by the ability to read and write well.  (Then there is also the out of control work ethic and stubbornness, but those are stories for later as well.)

This Friday, after completing the second full day of training, I meet the student I will be working with for at least the next six months.    I have come full circle, since decades ago I was an adult literacy tutor through Laubach Literacy International, now merged with Literacy Volunteers to become ProLiteracy.

Here is a link to a great article, “Adult Education Helps Break the Cycle of Poverty,” published by ProLiteracy: click here.

The article points out that:

The value of adult literacy to our economy is estimated at more than $200 billion per year in additional wages and reduced costs for public support programs. Educating adults is a sound investment. Yet, public funding for adult education programs has declined over the past 15 years despite most adult education programs having long student waiting lists. Programs can only serve a fraction of the adults who need services.

Indeed, my student has been waiting nearly a year for a tutor, and some students have been waiting longer than that.  So many more trained literacy tutors are needed!

I’m excited, and I hope I can help my student reach her literacy goals; I know I will sure try hard!

Now I need to get back to preparing lessons for my college teaching job–teaching College Reading. Are you surprised?

Thank you for reading.

 

Day 1 Adult Literacy Training Completed

Fantastic job by Literacy DuPage, part of Pro Literacy America. Professional. Cordial. Encouraging.

One interesting fact that came out is that several of the future tutors wish to tutor to WELCOME immigrants to America. To combat the negativeness of the tone toward immigrants. To let them know we welcome them.

We get matched with a student next week. Then two more training sessions until we are official literacy tutors.

We even get an official tote bag and card to identify ourselves at libraries where we will tutor.

Oh. These are all volunteers.

Well done. Well done. Seeing a positive side of this beloved America. I know there’s greatness there in her people.

More to follow. I’m exhausted!

Thanks for reading.

Off to Start a New College Term

And off to meet the students. I love teaching. Always an exciting day! I teach developmental English at the community college, and I love it. I believe strongly in the mission of our community colleges, and view them as great institutions.

Oh– and a picture from a nature walk the other day.

Wish me luck, and thanks for reading.

From my phone.

Cry, Beloved America

img_1024     Many educators become pensive at the end of the summer; as we get ready to return to the classroom, we cannot help but think about how we won’t have much time to actually *think* for months at a time as we enter a whirlwind of teaching activity.  Think now! Think!

This summer I have been thinking about a novel I read long ago, Cry the Beloved Country, a novel published in 1948 and written by Alan Paton. (See more here: Cry the Beloved Country.)

While this novel is a renowned novel about South Africa, the urgency, sadness, and beauty of the country strikes me to this day and the title–Cry, the Beloved Country.  This is how I felt after seeing Spike Lee’s latest movie, The Blackkklansman.  Cry, beloved America. Is there hope for us? Is there? Can we reach across the years and miles and truly love and respect all Americans?

The news from Washington? Cry, cry, beloved America.

And then I think of returning to the classroom next week and I could weep again for other reasons.

I so strongly believe in the power of literacy to improve lives, and I am so very proud to always have been a teacher of literacy in a nation that educates all students. All students.  I am no longer teaching high school, but when I see my class rosters and check into the background of my students I feel very proud, happy, a bit scared, but mostly so very excited to be a reading instructor at the community college level.

My students, as they usually are, will be those for whom English is not a first language, or those whom struggle with reading and writing.

That’s why I am there, to help them. To create lessons that will invite them to the literacy table, a great strong table.

I so desperately believe in the great promise of educating all students and I so strongly feel pride in our community college system.

So come to class students; I am waiting eagerly to meet you and start our literacy journey together.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

Back to School, Educators?

Wishing all educators returning to school this week all the best! 👍🍀❤️.

For those not returning? 👍🍀❤️.

For adjuncts not knowing if we will have a paycheck or not but still need to prep? 😱

🙂

I love y’all !

Adjunct Anxiety

anxiety-clipart-canstock15563771           Checking those rosters, waiting to hear if I have a job even after working dozens of hours on syllabi and first week materials… I knew this when I took the job.  I wanted part time.  I agree the full time teachers should be full time.

It’s just very anxiety producing right now not knowing–paycheck or no paycheck. If a paycheck, how much, how many classes will I teach?

I was full time for decades. I don’t want that anymore; I am just suffering from AA, Adjunct Anxiety.

If I don’t end up teaching, I will have much more time for reading, writing, publishing, cleaning, cooking, etc. Pursue volunteering for causes I believe in. (I am already doing that, but could be more involved.)

I am just not ready for that yet.  I went from 70- 100 hours a week of work to part-time, and that’s taking getting used to. Yes, 70- 100 hours a week many weeks. Ask an English teacher.

Plus there is the issue of a paycheck.  I am just not ready to say good-bye to that paycheck yet.

I’m not aging gracefully, I can see.

Thanks for reading.