Cats in the Classroom

My classroom has cats. I think Sachs would approve of the look this filter gave him.
Because this is how we live now.

Gratitude List:
1. Slowly, but surely, I am catching up on some of my pre-Friday-the-13th work. It has been really difficult to adjust schedules and plans to fit online learning. I’m beginning to carve out spaces for big grading in the midst of the daily tasks.
2. Maybe it’s the fat coffee (cream and butter, coconut oil and protein powder), or maybe it’s the new schedule, but I realized yesterday that I don’t feel run down and exhausted anymore. Even though I am working almost all the time, I feel charged and up to the tasks of my day.
3. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Josiah and I finished that one yesterday, and I love the reminder that the real adventure is the one that takes you inside yourself. That adventure is always available.
4. Goldfinches. They’re going to show up a lot on here because they’re my constant visual companions right now, and getting shinier by the day. I live on Goldfinch Farm, and we named it that for a reason, and in these challenging days, that reason has become one of my grounding delights.
5. Yesterday I saw the phoebe! Sitting on a branch above the bluff, dipping her tail. I have been hearing them, but there’s something about catching that glimpse. . .

Take care of each other!


“Let us keep courage and try to be patient and gentle. And let us not mind being eccentric, and make distinction between good and evil.” —Vincent van Gogh


“Age is foolish and forgetful when it underestimates youth.” —Albus Dumbledore


Love the earth and sun and the animals,
despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks,
stand up for the stupid and crazy,
devote your income and labor to others,
hate tyrants, argue not concerning God,
have patience and indulgence toward the people,
take off your hat to nothing known or unknown,
or to any man or number of men,
go freely with powerful uneducated persons,
and with the young, and with the mothers or families,
re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book,
and dismiss whatever insults your own soul;
and your very flesh shall be a great poem.
—Walt Whitman, from the Preface to Leaves of Grass


THE OLD WISDOM

When the night wind makes the pine trees creak
And the pale clouds glide across the dark sky,
Go out my child, go out and seek
Your soul: The Eternal I.
For all the grasses rustling at your feet
And every flaming star that glitters high
Above you, close up and meet
In you: The Eternal I.
Yes, my child, go out into the world; walk slow
And silent, comprehending all, and by and by
Your soul, the Universe, will know
Itself: the Eternal I.
—Jane Goodall


“If you believe peace is the absence of war, you’ve missed the mark. There will never be full peace until we treat each other the way we want to be treated. Peace is allowing an individual or group of people to command their space in the way they know how without the violent intervention from another.” —Leymah Gbowee

Growing

In second or third grade, my teachers did that thing where you fill a jar with wet paper towels and then poke corn kernels and beans around the outside, and as they send out roots and send up shoots, you get to watch the whole process. Last fall, I decided I wanted to do that in my classroom, just for a little excitement, even if it’s an English class in a high school rather than an elementary science room. I left the jar of corn on my desk for a long time, too busy to get to it, but at the beginning of the semester, a couple students noticed and asked what it was. When I told them, they went and filled the jar with wet paper towels, and we poked the corn in along the sides. I rubber-banded a piece of plastic over the top to keep in the moisture.

Within days, the roots were beginning to grow, and it was less than a week before the sprouts started poking upward. I brought them home last night to plant in a little container, and now I am going to do a set of beans.

Maybe it will help my students to connect with natural processes in a visceral way. Maybe it will be a metaphor for their own rampant growth. Maybe it’s just a nice diversion, a way to spark and nurture generalized curiosity. It’s a fun thing to have in the classroom, and a community-building experience: Everyone is rooting for growth.


Gratitude List:
1. Growth
2. Green
3. Curiosity
4. Hope (Curiosity and Hope were the themes of last weekend’s conference)
5. Jon WK. He’s always on my implicit Gratitude List, but sometimes I’ve just got to mention how marvelous it is to share a life with such a wise and compassionate soul.

May we walk in Beauty!

Beauty as Genius

May the seeds we sow today grow into strong and healthy plants.

Gratitude List:
1. How silence enters the body when you sit very still and watch it approach
2. Adaptability. The ability to adapt and change and transform.
3. That thing some cats do, where they roll over and pet their own faces. Sometimes a little face rub is just the thing to add a little stress reduction.
4. I stayed late at school after our staff development day on Monday to clean my unmanageable stacks. It’s much easier to actually work in my room now.
5. Today, all my classes are doing slightly longer personal introductions as community-building exercises. I love these moments of setting up the class connections. I need to remember how vital it is at the beginning of a semester to give a little serious time to helping them connect to each other and create a safe working group together.

May we walk in Beauty!


Quotations for the Day:

Oneiric: of or relating to dreams


“I am dogmatic in one way: I really do see no alternative than the cultivation of crazy loving humility—a visceral sense of ever-renewing wonder in the face of the Great Mystery.” —Rob Brezsny


“We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.” ―John Dewey


“I’ve learned for a long time that, to heal my wounds, I had to have the courage to look at them. — Paulo Coelho


“In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churches stand on the sideline and merely mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. Here we are moving toward the exit of the 20th century with a religious community largely adjusted to the status quo, standing as a tail light behind other community agencies rather than a headlight leading men to higher levels of justice. The contemporary Church is so often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch-supporter of the status quo. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world?”
~Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham City Jail (1963)


“I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. The Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not… the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than justice.”
—Martin Luther King, Jr, Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963


“Beauty is a form of genius—is higher, indeed, than genius, as it needs no explanation.” —Oscar Wilde


“Regardless of our beliefs, we all suffer from ignorance, and we all have projected our losses and fears onto each other in one way or another. This is my dream of the beloved community: that we can at least find a way to talk to each other, to talk past the fear, the separation, and find another way to live.”
—Sallie Jiko Tisdale, “Beloved Community”


“Satire is meant to ridicule power. If you are laughing at people who are hurting, it is not satire, it is bullying.” —Terry Pratchett

Featherbed

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Gratitude List:
1. A field of smiling yellow sunflowers shining through the fog of a rainy morning.
2. Featherbed. Two nights ago, I couldn’t sleep for a while because I was shivering so badly. The weather change hit me hard (not complaining, though!). Last night I pulled the featherbed down from the cupboard, and I was warm and cozy. Makes me want to sing this: John McCutcheon singing “Featherbed”
3. When a new idea for a classroom activity gets them buzzing and collaborating without any pressure or pushing from me. This is not always the case. In fact, it is often enough NOT the case that when it happens, it still feels like magic. AND this one meets the goals of the unit perfectly. Win-win.
4. My classroom. I like this space. I loved the coolness of the science aerie up there on the third floor of Rutt during the heat wave, but I have created this space to be somewhere that I want to host groups of students throughout the day, somewhere that we WANT to be, and it’s nice to be here with a cool breeze blowing in the windows. I missed it.
5. Color, texture, hue, harmony, blending, Beauty.

May we walk in that Beauty!


“We cannot live in a world that is not our own, in a world that is interpreted for us by others. An interpreted world is not a home. Part of the terror is to take back our own listening, to use our own voice, to see our own light.” ―Hildegard of Bingen
*****
“Beneath our clothes, our reputations, our pretensions,
beneath our religion or lack of it,
we are all vulnerable both to the storm without
and to the storm within.” ―Frederick Buechner
*****
“The vulnerability of precious things is beautiful because vulnerability is a mark of existence.” ―Simone Weil
*****
Here is how we make the world:
I will say fire and mean wisdom.
I will say wisteria and mean my thoughts are tangled.
I will say the river is flowing and mean that time is passing.
I will say grandmother’s quilt and mean that the work is love.
I will say house and mean your heart.
I will say spiderweb and mean the prayers are holding you.
I will say the eagle flies and mean my thoughts are with you.
I will say the daffodils are blooming and mean you are healing.
I will say song and mean dream.
I will say dream and mean prayer.
I will say prayer and mean poem.
―Beth Weaver-Kreider
*****
“When an elder dies, a library burns.” ―African proverb
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“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” ―Anne Frank
*****
“But how could you live and have no story to tell?” ―Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The Thing About it Is

Bulletin Board
I still have to figure out what words I will put in the space left over after I put up all the fun stuff. I might begin with a simple Welcome message for the first week or so, and then change it weekly for the first month. I’ll eventually put up something more crisp and “academic,” but I think we’ll begin this year with “creative.”

The thing about it is, is that,
when all is said and done,
beneath the surface
of this pond where our words
float and mingle,
collide and jangle,
lies another realm of thought,
of language and meaning,
where sunlight pierces
through that tangled soup
on the surface
to spotlight a vibrant
world of brilliant fish,
orange and scarlet and green,
where we may learn more of each other
than we ever could on the sunny,
wordy surface.

(Note to myself: When I come back to revise this, I should pay close attention to line breaks.)

Gratitude List:
1. The birthday wishes. My, my, my. I was overwhelmed, in the best of ways. So many thanks to so many friends. So blessed I am in friends. So blessed.
2. Putting the classroom together. Creating space. I realize that I take a lot more time at it than might be necessary, but the slow and quiet work of shifting things in the classroom mirrors the quiet openings within me to the new year coming, the spaces I am creating for all these new people in my heart rooms.
3. The gift my parents gave me of caring for the boyos for a couple days, and the delight of having them home again, back in my morning.
4. Dinner at The River House Restaurant in Craley last night. Shrimp Pad Thai for me. And, of course, Chinese doughnuts for dessert.
5. Sight. Vision.

May we walk in Beauty!

Spiders and Space

Gratitude List:
1. Watching children wake up.  They’re like spiders, beginning all curled in on themselves, and then there’s the release of the limbs and suddenly they’re all elbows and knees and long limbs flailing and twisting.  I think there are only four limbs per kid, but I wouldn’t be surprised some days if there were eight.
2. August suppers: corn on the cob and tomato sandwiches and blueberries.
3. Making spaces: I spent yesterday in my classroom, puttering and making spaces, getting ready for my students.  The excitement is beginning outweigh the worries about not being ready enough.
4. Sweaty little hands in mine.  I feel time passing, feel their childhoods slipping by at a rate that makes me uneasy.  I want to hold onto those little hands as long as I can.
5. Butterflies everywhere.  The flowerbeds are alive with all manner of swallowtails and commas and question marks (English teachers have their own butterflies!), and I keep seeing monarchs whenever I am driving anywhere.  Fly safely, little ones!
(6. Bonus: In last night’s dream, Billy Collins came to visit, and we recited his poetry together.  I even recited some Mary Oliver for him, and he was impressed.)

May we walk in Beauty!