Room 2 and the Inaugural Address : The Future Voters in the 2020 Election Speak

We watched the Inaugural Address last week. It wasn’t just a passive activity. We watched the respectful and peaceful passing of power from one president to the next that has occurred now 45 times. We studied the Oath of Office, breaking down each of the words to completely understand what it means. For those of you who need a refresher, it states in the Constitution this:

Oath of Office

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

The purpose of the inaugural address is to bring the country together and lay a framework, however general, as to where we are going as a nation. At the end of the Inaugural Address, I immediately shut off the news feed before all the commentary began. I simply wanted students to listen to the speech and come to their own conclusions without the political banter of one side or the other influencing their initial thoughts. We as a class had a discussion about what they thought were the main points of the speech and then I asked them to write their own inaugural address. If they had the microphone, what would they tell the American people?

Here are some of their thoughts and ideas.

First, my favorite opening line:

“Thank you all. It ‘s a pleasure to be the new President of the United States of America. Thank you to the former presidents for taking care of our nation. Now it’s time to put my two cents in.” Asli

Here is a sampling of what was said…

“I’m glad that people still believe that America can change and be better. In this moment, we all need to come together no matter what race you are or what background you come from. We must come together to bring America to it’s strongest point.”  Tatiana

“I will make college less expensive because I know now education matters for everyone’s future dreams and goals. ” Yanaili

” I will do my job to help you all. I won’t say I will be perfect, but I will do my best to make you safe and bring jobs. I will fight for all the people in America, and I promise to do my best to support you.” Evee

“To the American people, as our nations 32nd President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said,” The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Unfortunately though, I was not alive during FDR’s presidency, but his words moved me and gave me strength. I believe we should not fear the unknown, or anything for that matter, an that the future is in our reach and that we should grasp it without hesitation.” Johny

“We have passion and intelligence to do whatever we put our minds to, we have the drive. We strive for freedom. We strive for our voices to be heard, and we strive to make our world a better place. Together as a nation  we can and will do whatever we put our minds to. With all of our unique and creative minds the world will change.” Ashley

“Higher education will become more affordable for those who want to take it seriously. The education system will be improved to teach kids in their own way at their own pace. Men and women will no longer be paid a different amount for the same work. People will be heard and will have a voice in making decision to benefit the country. I will try to do good and help others. I want you to remember me as the president that did their best.”  David

“I will build new roads, highways, railways and laws. I will repair the parks and schools. This will add jobs.” Enesto PG

‘I will defend boys and girls who are different color so they don’t deal with racism. Also, so people have equal rights and threat each other with respect. I will help those in need and help their families who are sick and need medical help. I will give those medical insurance for those who can’t afford it and need it. My important point for our country is we help those who can’t help themselves.” Jocelyn

“I want to help change how people see each other, because we are all the same even if we have different skin colors or are a different gender, or don’t look how people think they should. Inside we are all the same.” Destiny

“I want this country to be the best it can be. I believe anything can be accomplished together with passion, perseverance, and grit. As President, I will try to make the country work together to be the best.” Leo

These are idealists, dreamers, our future. There will be those that read this and be tempted to down play their sincerity, or question how we will pay for this or that. But in the end, kids have it right. We need to work together. We need to keep people healthy, educate them, provide safe neighborhoods, and create an economy that allows everyone to take care of their families. I for one. am excited to be part of supporting these young minds to grow up and be part of our democratic process.



“Let Me Tell You Something…” Remembering Annie

I have postponed writing this page because I simply didn’t want it to be true. I wanted to wake up and think that the phone call I received a few weeks ago was just some horrible dream, and yet the days and weeks passed, and I knew that 2016 took some amazing people, one of which was one of the best educators and human beings I knew, Annie MacMillan.

Now Annie Fo Fanny as I loved to call her was a bright spot in my life. She was one of those teachers that spent her entire career with students, at one school, lighting the lives of mostly second graders year after year. She was a solid foundational rock in the community, and in both my personal and professional life, long after we parted ways and I moved on to different schools, different roles, and accepted different challenges. She was the constant support and cheerleader, and never hesitated to “Let me tell something….” about whatever she was thinking, or thought about what you were doing. She was tough, she was loving, she was true, and she made me and everyone she came into contact with a better person.

I was trying to think of how to honor a woman who meant so much to so many, and to somehow encapsulate her essence. I remember when I left Bostonia years ago, I wrote a letter to the staff letting people know what I learned from being there. I pulled out of my files this morning, as it reminded me so much of Annie because many if not all of those lessons somehow came back to her.

So my dear friends, I present a few of things that I have learned from being blessed to know and love the great Annie Mac.

  1. Be generous with your time and knowledge. I have so many great memories sitting in the “pod” just talking with you, about life, teaching and family. You were always listening with your mind and heart, truly listening  because you knew that being truly present was always more important than anything you had to share yourself. I am a better mother, friend, educator, and person because of it.
  2. Laughing until you can’t stand up is the best therapy to a stressful situation. Everyone needs to laugh and smile when they think of you, because no matter what the road, you took it on with strength, grace and humor. I don’t recall a day I didn’t laugh when I was with you, no matter what the challenge.
  3. A chocolate drawer brings people together. Enough said.
  4. Support someone in the decision that is best for them, even if it is difficult for you. I watched you coach admin, teachers, students, friends and family in so many ways with kindness and your no nonsense “let me tell you something…” and we were all better for it.
  5. Be generous as an educator. Your wealth of materials filled so many classrooms after you left teaching. My daughters for one, who literally grew up in your classroom, eventually becoming a teacher and gaining a second grade classroom of her own. Through your generosity, she has been trusted with the Arthur collection, Junie B. Jones, science and history books, and so many books and supplies that her generation of second graders will now come to know and love because of you and the team. And in those books are the notes, and post-its that show how much you planned, and how much you loved teaching. We should all have careers we love so much. Your work lives on.
  6. It is important to teach about history. Annie, you will be happy to know you taught me that history is a living, breathing thing, and not just about “dead people.” You got me “on the ship” and your passion for history and social justice lives on in the work I do with students today. Thank you for never giving up on getting me to understand the value of stories, both past and present. You and my dad are having a great laugh over a cup of coffee in heaven at the moment as I try to teach civics in this trying time.
  7. Build a team in your life. You had such a way of bringing us all together. The talent show tradition being just one example that brought our entire community together, staff, students, and families year after year. It wasn’t just the endless rehearsals, and lists and revisions on that famous yellow pad, but it was the love and passion that brought us all together year after year, and then to an exhausted dinner afterwards. It was that love that I try to bring with me in new ways every where I go. You taught us to find passion, to bring out the best in people, and to create traditions in a digital time when we spend more times with our face in a screen than facing each other.
  8. Live life out loud. Scream for the Aztecs, yell BUNCO at the top of your lungs, argue passionately for kids, and never leave a room without having let people know you were there.
  9. You taught me to live in the moment, to take risks, to be silly, and to love unconditionally. I hope to be half the woman when I leave this earth that you were.
  10. And finally, always have a scrunchie, and when life gets tough, adjust that ponytail and kick ass.

It is not lost on me that we celebrate your life on Dr. Martin Luther King’s Day. You were your own civil rights leader Annie, in so many great ways. I still can’t imagine that you are really gone. I keep expecting you to pop your head in the door, with that big smile and infectious laugh. I love you and miss you so very much my friend. So I will carry you in my heart, that forever vision of you walking down the hall, ponytail swinging, yelling out for all to hear, “Good morning friend! Let me tell you…”

It Will Take More Than A Safety Pin, But It’s A Start

Peter Reynolds Illustration AuthorIt has been an amazingly challenging week. The election has brought out the best and the worst in people. I have never felt so confused, angry or frustrated. I am not just talking about the results of the election, although it did not go in my direction. I am talking about the aftermath. I am talking about the rhetoric, the violence, the overarching lack of respect for discourse that is fanning throughout the country.

Everyone has been voicing their opinions. My Facebook and Twitterfeed is blowing up daily on one side or another. One of my favorite blog posts of the week was this one by Tim Urban on his blog Wait But Why?  He brings a little reality to the situation, we are in some ways screwed, but we will survive this. Since I never heard of this blog before, thank you Facebook feed for this connection. He inspired me to post my own thoughts this morning.

Here is my response and plea to you my friends as we move forward as a nation.

  1. Stop saying you are moving to Canada.

I am beyond annoyed with people who are screaming to the rooftops that they are moving to Canada. Seriously? Things don’t go your way and you are leaving the country? That type of response is exactly why we are in this mess. You can’t pack up your toys and go just because the vote didn’t go your way. We have serious issues to face in this country, beyond your being frustrated. Check out this video montage I created that highlights letters my students wrote to the Future President. Do you see these issues? Do you care about our future as a nation? I do, and I am not leaving, we have work to do.

2. Did you vote?

When you look at the numbers, it is astounding.

Voter turnout for 2016 Presidential Election

Voter turnout for 2016 Presidential Election

We had the lowest voter turn out in 20 years, 20 years! With everything at stake, that is our response? I am not sure what is more horrifying, the daily rhetoric since the election, or the fact that over 55 percent of eligible voters sat this one out, and continue to do so. We talk about the popular vote vs. the electoral college, and I pose this for your consideration. The popular vote according to this data was to not vote at all. That my friends, is a much more serious issue than what can happen over the next four years.  We as Americans sat this one out. Literally sat this one out. There are more protests this morning and nasty memes on my feed, but where is the outcry about the number of people sitting this out? Why is it that over half our nation, who live in a democracy based on the ability to choose our representation, choose not to? I know I had many discussions with people who said they disliked both candidates, and so therefore were not going to vote. By the way, in my home state of California we had more initiatives on the ballot than ever before, so if you sat this one out on principal, you sat out on a lot of other legislation that will directly effect your day to day life. But not voting? This trend in my opinion will be the demise of this country much more than whatever happens over the next four years. How do we bring people back to the table and the conversation? How do we encourage civic responsibility? How are more voices heard in the next election?

3. Stop vilifying the other side.

Not everyone who disagrees with you is a horrible human being. We are pretty split down the middle when it comes to this election. Today I will host a football party with my friends and I know that there are a variety of votes that will be sitting at my table. They are not horrible human beings because I disagree with some of their views. We have been friends for decades, had political discussions and they are not racist, homophobic, misogynistic people. They have concerns about the future of their children, the economy, the state of the world just like I do. If we continue to draw these lines that I am 100 percent right, and you are 100 percent wrong, we will never get anywhere. Why has it become that common ground is the enemy? I am not saying there are some pretty horrible people out there at the moment saying horrific things, but I am saying that is not the majority.

4. Violence and Hate Speak will not be tolerated in my world. I will speak up.

To deny that some are using these election results to promote hate and bigotry would be naive. Just this week a student at my university was targeted.

No Hate at StateThe perpetrators chose her based on her religion, stole her wallet and her car. The things they said to her during the robbery clearly made it a hate crime. Luckily she was not physically hurt. Our university community acted swiftly and with compassion and determination to support this student and denounce the vicious act.  How we respond to any and all racism and intolerance is critical to creating a country we can be proud to call home. That takes courage and I believe that the millions of people who live and work in our great country are better than the pockets of people that promote hate and violence. We just need to stop sitting on the sidelines and waiting for someone else to answer the call. In case you’re wondering who will fix this mess, look in the mirror. Collectively, we need to look in the mirror.

Yesterday I had quite a discussion with a friend of mine from the other side of the political spectrum. What I am learning is that I will not be silent and disrespected, but I will not be disrespectful. I was trying to explain what it means to create a safe space for students and people in general. I told him “I  teach in a safe space school. I believe in creating safe spaces in all areas of my life. It baffles me why you think compassion and support for others is a weakness. There seems to be growing thought in this world that respect for differences is a limited commodity, that by supporting someone means I hate another.”

Peter Reynolds Author Illustrator

A great drawing by one of my favorite author/illustrators Peter Reynolds.

I have mixed reactions to the safety pin symbol that is popping up all over the newsfeed.  I think it could easily be viewed as a simple hashtag, a trend that says, “hey, I  am here for you for now, because yeah, it’s on Facebook, twitter, Instagram etc…”  I’m not saying wearing the pin is a bad idea. We need to vocally and physically create places for people to feel safe and supported. If you really want to help, don’t just wear a pin. Do something. Say something. Use your privilege and experience in this world to make it better for someone else. That does not mean however you model the same intolerance in your own views. Listen. Really listen to things and views that are uncomfortable to hear. Respond. Act. Be responsible.

And finally, Be kind.

Yes, I said it. There is power in choosing kindness. It is not weakness to highlight the positive things happening in this difficult time. It does not negate the real work that needs to be done. It does not allow me a free pass to ignore the difficult conversations that need to happen as we move forward today, tomorrow and the weeks, months, and years to come. But it does provide grace. And I think we can all use a little more of that.

Writing Is Hard. That is the Plain and Simple Truth.

Writing is hard. That is just the plain and simple truth. Well I guess to be more explicit, writing well is hard.

screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-7-21-29-amThese past few weeks I have hit a crossroads in my doctoral work. I struggle with time, time to reflect, to work, to breathe, to have family time, to be a wife, a mom, a student, and the teacher my students deserve. I don’t know if I am going to pull this semester off if you want to know the truth. For the first time in my all or nothing writing style, I have come to the scary conclusion that I might not make my deadline.

I don’t know how to fit in more time to write. I have scheduled every inch of my life down to the minute, and I mean literally. I have my groceries delivered to the house, an indulgence I gave myself when I figured out I could squeeze another hour into my schedule if I shopped with a few clicks of a mouse instead of wandering through our local Sprouts health food store. My kids don’t live at home, and my husband only sees me at night, usually with my face in my computer screen.  I was making it work, and then inevitably, like always my body reminded me once again I need to sleep, and I caught the wicked cold going around this fall. So I made my annual trip to urgent care, got meds and an admonishment to rest or else.  I would like to say this is an unusual event, but in looking back on my Memories on Facebook link, I am usually sick every year around this time. Not a good track record frankly.

But back to my writing problems. screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-6-54-17-amThis space is blank because I don’t have time to post anymore. I am too busy trying to write for work, and write for my homework, and of course, that elusive doctoral paper that just looms over my head like a large raincloud, waiting to dump all over me. I began this journey with so much hope and promise, and now I wonder daily if I made the right decision. Why am I doing this? What could I possibly have to say that hasn’t been said already? What if all this work turns out to be nothing, another report on a shelf, a biblio number someone pulls up on their screen when researching for their topics, all for what? What can I add to the already crowded landscape of research out there, and will anyone ever read it? Sitting at the doctoral table, I wonder like many of my own students if I belong here.  As you can tell, I have been living in a fearful place lately, so the words are not coming to the page easily.

But like always, because I am blessed to surround myself with amazing people, I write on because I have a support system that believes together we can do this.  I have a family that pours me more coffee (making sure some of it is decaf), shuts down my negative talk, and drags me to the gym a few times a week to make sure I keep my sanity.  I work at a site where everyone, and I mean everyone, is a researcher of some sort, and the level of professionalism and dedication makes a better person just for being there.

And then there is that nagging voice inside, that doesn’t go away no matter how frustrated I get, that keeps telling this story in my head

screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-6-54-40-am It isn’t my story really, it is the story of the students I have worked with over the past thirty years. The faces of those I have taught well, and those that I wish I could bring back into my classroom and teach again, because I know so much more now. Its the stories of my students tell me through their writing, the real writing that means something to them years later when they come and see me. It is the desire to tell the world that all students deserve a positive space to learn, to be heard and taught how to powerfully speak and write at the larger academic table, and not shut down or categorized to a more convenient track due to language or circumstance. It is trying to fit all this passion into format I struggle to master, transferring passion to academia, to make my work more than the numbers and citations, but to give validity and recognition to the strength and power of my students that so many see with a deficit lens. It is the struggle to tell a compelling story, one that will shine light on the challenges we face while letting the light of the brilliance of these students shine through. I guess I answered my own question, yes I have something to say, now I just need to continue to hone the right words to say it.




Making New Partnerships: When Educators Learn Together

Working with new partners broadens your horizons. Holly and I met Randy Depew first in digital spaces working with KQED Letters to the President materials. We had some quick emails but were looking forward to working with him face to face. It is interesting this digital world that can isolate people can also build relationships. I posted our presentation here, check out all the great things available from KQED, all of them FREE, the favorite four letter word of educators. Truly some great stuff.

When we met Randy yesterday morning, I knew right away it was going to be a fun day to present. He was relaxed, and funny and made us all feel at ease.screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-7-05-28-am You never know when you are put together with someone to present how it will go, and we had a great time. How can you not like someone who takes notes like this during a long winded speech from a state politician? We talked about it at dinner. I asked how he learned to draw like that, he said he does it to focus his listening in large groups. When he is in that large group lecture environment, he has to draw because he can’t focus otherwise. He would be thinking of ways to keep still, and the sketching allows for movement without being noticed by others. He says he doesn’t plan what he is going to draw, they just appear, how cool is that? And then I think of my students, several I have gotten a sketchbook because they too need to doodle or sketch to focus in class, and I smile because I can now see their future.

Not all conferences are great, but this one truly is a great learning experience. I haven’t done a lot of work with the California Subject Matter Project, but I plan on doing more. It is great to have integrated content people all working together on educational and equity issues for kids. All the presentations have been full of practical ideas and great discussions. I look forward to this morning as well.

Here are a few more glimpses into the day. Happy Wednesday!

screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-10-33-07-pm screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-9-39-24-pm screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-7-05-52-am screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-7-20-37-am screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-7-20-55-am


Letters to the Future President: What Are Some of Our Big Ideas?

We have been working hard this week reading the student letters on the Letters to the Future president site and writing our own thesis statements. Here is the presentation we will be using this week to start building our arguments. Click on these padlets for a closer view. screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-12-29-22-pm screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-12-29-34-pm

We created padlets to share our initial draft thesis statements. Here is a peak into what my students are thinking about as topics to share with the candidates.  This will be a busy week and I can’t wait to see where they will go with these topics.

#2020VotersforPresident #WeAreWatching

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 8.59.48 PMI awoke this morning to a Facebook message from a former student, now a sheriff in Texas. He saw the police shooting images from El Cajon on the national media, and wanted to ask me to stay safe.  I was touched he thought of me, and sad that he had to.

Tonight I am following my Twitter feed, noting the protests are happening blocks from my former campus. I worry about the safety of my students, and tomorrow I worry about the safety of the teachers, staff, and those living in the media, crowd filled blocks near campus. Another shooting, another protest, more angry words, marching, some violence, no answers. It is becoming repetitive. Many are becoming cynical. Me? I’m becoming more determined than ever to empower kids to use reflection, research, and words.

We could live in a dark place. We could demand retribution, we could point fingers, we could pass blame before knowing all the facts. We could take advantage of the situation and end up on television, or take out our anger on strangers. We could let our assumptions grow, and our patience wear thin.  Or, we can empower kids. That’s what I do, I empower kids.

screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-8-07-12-pmI have been at HSMS for a little over a month. I work with some amazing staff and students and it is exciting to be there. I have spent the first couple of weeks getting to know my kids, and although we are at the baby steps of a growing relationship, this latest writing project is proving my mantra to be true, student choice inspires student voice. I know to be true about all kids, is that if you ask them to take on real questions, with real purpose, with a real audience they will rise to the challenge and exceed your expectations.

screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-8-30-04-pmI am teaching humanities, and although teaching US History usually means starting with the founding fathers, this year, it starts with studying civics and government. We are participating in Letters to the Future President, a partnership with NWP and KQED. Students from all over the country have the opportunity to write argument pieces and post them to a common site. Next week I will be traveling to UCLA to participate in the Lead2Learn conference. We will be sharing our election work, the plans CWP has for National Day on Writing, and the partnership with KQED.

Today kids began their exploration of the site, writing their initial claim statements.screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-8-12-06-pm Our first step of writing is to answer these questions.

  1. What is the issue that demands your attention?
  2. Why is it important to you?
  3. What do you want the candidates to do, and what are you willing to do to help solve the problem?

Stay tuned as we document this work, and remind the electorate, we are watching.




A Week of Firsts and Lasts

Well today marks the beginning of my 29th year in education. I always thought I would retire in the school district where I began. I have had many different experiences in Cajon Valley, teaching grades 2-8, mentoring new teachers, working as an instructional coach. It has been an amazing ride. I love working with students, and what I love about my career is the ability to continue to grow and learn and hone my craft. Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 11.28.55 PM

Working on my doctoral studies this past year has allowed me to examine my own educational pedagogy, and I have met some amazing people in my  program. I’ve learned that it is never too late to follow your passions, and live your dream. I am always encouraging my students that they can do anything with work and perseverance, and I need to take my own advice. So when an opportunity came knocking on my door, I have decided to boldly step out of my comfort zone, and take on a new challenge, leaving the security of the only district I have ever known to pursue new adventures. There are some who shake their head, and wonder why at this point in my career I would take on this new challenge, but those that really know me were not surprised, and even celebrated this decision.

Here is part of the letter I sent to the staff

Last week I received a call from my doctoral professors who are creating a new program at Health Sciences High Middle College, a school they have created in partnership with Sharp Hospital and SDSU. I was offered the opportunity to work at the middle school as a half time English/History teacher focusing on English learner strategies and the other half as a teacher coach working with staff and families supporting students. I will have the opportunity to continue my doctoral work and create new programing that supports literacy and academic success for students and create staff development opportunities that highlight strategies to support English learners in the content areas.
Being partnered with SDSU, I will also be able to begin my journey back to working with aspiring teachers,  in hopes of teaching courses in the future that empower new teachers to bring relevance, equity, and high academic standards to all students, but particularly those kids in urban environments.
Change is not easy. After twenty eight years in Cajon Valley, I find it difficult to leave the district where I student taught and spent my entire career. But what I know for sure as an educator is that you must continue to grow and change to meet the ever changing needs of our kids. This opportunity will help me become an even better teacher, and I hope to influence other educators and families in a broader arena.

I have always set career goals since I first began teaching, one being that you don’t stay in the same site for more than seven to eight years, and that every move I make in my career leads to something new and challenging, making me a better educator. I never want to grow complacent or stale. .So today I officially resigned from my school district, and will spend this weekend meeting with my replacement and packing up my classroom. So here’s to year 29 in education, let it be a year full of firsts, and new beginnings.




Sometimes All You Can Do Is Make Matzah Ball Soup…

Today was a myriad of feelings, joy, sorrow, satisfaction, frustration, anger and confusion. I began the day in my classroom, figuring out some lessons, setting up spaces, thinking about the upcoming year. I found a note in my box from a student who missed promotion this past year, with all my best intentions and support, we didn’t make it across our promotion stage. Notice I say we, not the child. Why? Because that journey that we walk in room 207 is together, always, both the high roads, and unfortunately the low.

This summer I have done a tremendous amount of reflection. Too many students struggled last year, too many will be denied opportunities in high school this fall because they didn’t get what they needed to be successful. There are many reasons why they didn’t, as many as there are students. But one thing I know for sure, is that I never gave up, even when it was too late to stop the inevitable, I never gave up. This note I read reminded me the importance of connection. Dear Ilko, (he never called me Mrs.), I just wanted to write to you to tell you thank you for not giving up on me. He went on to talk about how he plans to do things differently next year, and that he was thankful I always told him he could go to college. I worry he won’t ever be on the track that allows that access, but he heard me.Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 10.41.24 PM I put that note in a file that I keep with all those notes from kids or adults that let me know I made a difference in some way. I read them on the days I feel I can’t do this anymore.They remind me of the necessity of connection. Connection was the lesson of today.

Later this afternoon I went to a funeral of  a young lady who made such a difference in people’s lives. I met her when she was a teen, and she had the most sassy personality, and a singing voice that stopped time. Even at that young age, you knew she was amazingly special.  She had a soulful spirit, and judging by the room filled with clergy, family, and friends, she was loved and honored and appreciated for the unique woman she was. The impact she made on the lives throughout the room was obvious. What wasn’t obvious, was why she couldn’t see her bright light herself. There were so many tears today, true grief in our confusion, and anger, and pain. I know her mother both professionally and personally,and I can’t pretend to know her pain. But I can stand beside her, behind her, or wherever I need to be to help her face each day. Today, Tomorrow. Next week, month, and year.

I don’t know what the right things to do or say are in situations like this. So I came home, and I called my kids, held on to my husband, and then made soup. There is something about matzah ball soup that is healing. It is the methodical way it is made, the smells that fill the house, and the warmth you feel sipping a bowl of something made from the heart. It is the act of the making, of being in the moment, that carries strength to those who need it.  I will deliver it tomorrow to a few people in my life who need some strength and healing, both for their bodies, but also their spirit. I wish I could do more, so much more.

So tonight I sat in silent reflection, the words and emotions racing through my mind and heart. In so many ways of late, I am reminded to be in the moment. To listen intently, to hear beyond the words people say, to focus on what might not be said, but so desperately needs to be heard.

Making soup doesn’t change anything, life is still inexplicably challenging, the pain runs deep, and it is our job on this planet to do all we can to reach out, to hang on, and to strive to make it better.

In Flight: A Time to Reflect

“We all want to change the world, and sometimes we need to learn that it is harder than we think.” Rueben

Pay It Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde

I have learned to love to fly. I used to be petrified, saying little mantras to myself at take off and landing, worrying about every bump and jolt. But over time, the adventure of exploring new places, seeing friends and family, and now watching my own kids explore the world beyond our continent, I have learned to fly.Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 3.33.14 PM

Time feels different in the air. It is this quiet little space, where I can read, and think, or meet new people. Today, I chose to read, to finish the book I will be introducing my young leaders to next month. Pay It Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde couldn’t have come at a better time.

I spent the flight inhaling the last half of the book, making notes where we can begin discussion, planning open ended questions, writing notes to myself not only to model for my students, but to interact with the text on my own terms.

The story begins with a teacher Rueben, who gives this same assignment every school year.

Think of an idea for world change and put it into action.”

Trevor, a student in the class, is a young man who has these unmistakeable traits of grit and resiliency. “The thing about Trevor was that he was just like everybody else, except for the part of him that wasn’t.”

His idea is to create a better world by each one of us paying it forward. It means looking to do something for someone else with no repayment to yourself, but instead to ask that person to go ahead and do something for three other people, giving them the same direction, to accept no payment except pay it forward to three more people. The things you do for people are more than random acts of kindness, because they are not random, they are purposeful. The question throughout the novel, is will people really pay it forward or will they follow through?ther

So in planning for our year together I am driven this summer to find ways to empower my leaders to see themselves as change agents. There is so much negativity in the world of late, overwhelming for adults, and I can only imagine what it feels like to be a middle school kid right now. I am working to make sure that room 207 is a place where students feel safe, feel challenged and empowered to bring about positive change. This isn’t about just becoming a hashtag, although we will document our work #payitforwardcvms207 this year. It is about reminding my students, and I guess myself, that social discourse can bring about positive change.

This week began the Democratic Convention. It is raucous and loud, and full of passion and unfortunately more negativity. I wasn’t expecting anything different, but yet watching last night I was disappointed. Not that we should all agree when coming to consensus as political parties, as a country, but more discouraged because as a country we have forgotten how to listen. We spend so much time sharing our views we don’t listen to each other. We instead shout over each other, as if the loudest or most fearful message wins. The lack of faith in the leaders of our country is astounding. Most people don’t trust anyone who is running for office,or the political process and look instead to just repeat catch phrases, shout rhetoric, and play the blame game. Anything to avoid looking in the mirror, and realizing if we are going to make it as a nation, we have to get a grip on reality.

So in my own way, I am taking on the system by modeling for my students what it means to be frustrated with the way things are, but work toward solutions. It is ok to be angry, confused, frustrated and even feel hopeless. But then you look around, and you start to work toward what should be, instead of spinning helplessly in what is. The power of the individual cannot be underestimated. Not to be blind to what’s wrong, but to work towards what is right. It will be interesting how we move forward, and what these students will do this year. It isn’t easy, but it is necessary. We are a great country, where anything is possible. But possibilities become realities with work, voice and purpose. And so we begin.