Why I Still Do It

An interesting thank you came across my Twitter feed. I had mentioned that I couldn’t join #edchat or #2PencilChat until February 8th since I was subbing. And someone on the chat (we are not following each other) tweeted:

It was a thoughtful comment that had me thinking, well really reflecting why I do what I do, even in the time of Covid. (A post I wrote as I was subbing and we went remote!) And right off the bat I thought, because I am really appreciated at my school (as are the all subs). I am now a substitute teacher at the school I spent 38 years teaching, learning and growing. I taught for many years in the early childhood program, toddlers, 3s and 4s and then in kindergarten (25 years of the 38!).

Recognizing that, I then wondered whether teachers in their respective schools feel appreciated and validated for their hard work, their professionalism, their expertise and their caring everyday they enter their classrooms. The demands of them, the stress, worry and uncertainty these past few years has taken its toll. Teachers are hurting, teachers are scared, teachers are leaving. I won’t go into their overload and that they are underpaid, suffice to say that needed to have been looked at way before now! But now what’s being done to help! I’ve been fortunate to work in an environment that has a mask mandate, that tests everyone (includes all students) on campus every week and all adults working for the school (or on campus in other capacities) and are vaccinated and have had the booster when they’re eligible. This demonstrates a level of consideration and recognition at addressing some of the concerns teachers have shared everywhere. And once in awhile, maybe on a regular basis, teachers need to hear how much we appreciate them that are there for their students everyday!

And I think I still have much to contribute and share.

So many schools have to go through Herculean steps to get substitute teachers at to work in their schools. The pool is empty and kids really are the ones who are mostly effected by this. Absenteeism on the part of the teachers are high! They are getting sick. Covid does not discriminate. Families are hurting and children are overwhelmed by the bickering of the adults.

My heart is still in that classroom. I’m needed, I’m appreciated and I’m told that by my school community. So for now I continue what I feel I was meant to do. I have many names that go with the many hats I wear. One of them is TEACHER. Ask any of the students what they call me (until they learn my name), Teacher it is!

Although it’s been overwhelming wondering how you’ve been holding up and holding on to your dreams..your teaching dreams?

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A Quick Look At Reading

From The Desk Of The Retired Teacher

A little detour from what I’m doing right now, as far as subbing..maybe not? Reading, a huge topic as I reflect on the why, when, how, where and the what it means, leading to the goals/outcomes we want for all children. Lots of chatter on Twitter about that, and that’s a good thing! A post @ChrisQuinn shared, had me revisiting this topic once again. Links galore, comments from whom I consider authorities in this conversation, that is to say, the classroom teacher.

Am I an expert in this field? NO! Am I a Reading Specialist? NO! Am I classroom teacher (for this post, I will say yes, even though I now am officially, a substitute teacher). I, like many colleagues I have met f2f and on Twitter, share concerns and see familiar culprits. But not going down that rabbit hole. Let’s be forward marching and look at where we have leverage and strengths (just as I advocate to look at our students’ strengths, as a conduit to growth). A salient post that I wrote (link below), reminds me of the importance of building relationships with the students before making goals. Knowing what they need from us comes first and foremost, and that comes from spending time with them. Watching them interact with each other, with the materials, what they gravitate to and what they shy away from. Do they go to the library area as a personal choice? Do they choose books as a choice not a coercion or a must do? Observations key to “knowing” and that comes early on in our students’ “school life.” We can’t control or impose on them what goes on outside the classroom, but we can make that classroom a safe, caring place that gives them “wiggle” room to find themselves. And WE observe, to get to know them better. We listen and we encourage conversations. From early on (early childhood classrooms and kindergarten) how we engage in the reading process, that is, the love we have for read alouds, the excitement of storytelling, the availability of books: the classroom library inviting them to explore and the writing tools for their own book making, sets the stage!

That love of reading intertwines with the love of learning. For me that’s what reading is all about. How about you? Be it fiction, or non fiction whatever the genre that grabs them, how can that not be what warms a teacher’s heart? We really all are “The Reading Teacher “ wouldn’t you say?

What are you reading today?

These two quotes from @LRobbTeacher also lead to my writing today.

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Covid, MLK, Sidney Poitier – and Hope

A simple quote that speaks volumes!

It’s MLK weekend and people are talking and tweeting about how to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. this year on January 17th, a day that we celebrate his birthday and legacy. We’re also in a covid surge and overwhelmed, fearful and wondering what’s next. Then I was thinking about Sidney Poitier’s recent passing. (I started writing this post when I heard about his passing. And then went back to finishing it today, January 15, 2021.) I’ve been subbing this week in a four year old classroom, dealing with positive covid cases and balancing some Zoom and in person learning. We figured it out and for now colleagues collaborating and working it out. It’s heart warming to see us work like a fine tuned piano so to speak..a few keys glitched but laughter saved the day. On Friday we looked at each other (the teachers I mean), and said “Let’s talk about MLK and why we have a holiday on Monday.” These “fours” spoke up, shared what they knew and added to the story we read.

Then I started to think about Sidney Poitier and Dr. Marin Luther King, Jr. Neither man looked like me, nor I like them, our worlds separated by life’s circumstance. But not our humanity. Every human’s footprint laid upon this earth, shares our humanity. Just in the breath we take, the paths we make, the people we interact with and meet in this journey makes us part of the human race. I will link a previous post on MLK but this post is not about same nor differences, as I think about a body of work by one human, Sidney Poitier, and his impact on humanity. Many may not agree. That’s ok, as I have said when we have a platform to share and reflect then it behooves us to do so. At least, it does me. The tributes to Sidney Poitier overwhelm the senses. He recognized how he was helped and lived a Life dedicated to what was important to him. He left indelible imprints on the lives of many as they shared their remembrances on social media. And as I listened, grateful that he was here to make people think, ponder and wonder why things were and are, and why not different.

We live in a complex world. Always more questions then answers. Today as I write another synagogue is under siege. I pray it ends peacefully. How heavy my heart that Jews are still targets. How heavy my heart that hate for the “other” is still so virulent. And we go on. We sit in classrooms, look out on the faces of the students in our care. The students we teach, and I sit and shake my head, incredulously, what is it that we really are teaching. So entrenched in a system that values tests over self worth. Yes self worth! Unless we can see we matter and what we can contribute to each other, then the “it’s all about me” focus is perpetuated and continues. It’s not about one group deserving more than other, not about the follies of the past, but it’s about taking those difficult steps to make change. The words, “but I’m only one person, how can I make a difference”, is a cop out.

We can be change makers we want to see in our world.

I end many tweets, especially when I join a chat with “Stay well. Stay safe.Today more so than at other times these are prescient words.

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The Forest For The Trees

From The Desk Of The Retired Teacher

A cautionary tale, not really, but a thought as many head back to school. We as dedicated, concerned, thoughtful people, in what ever form of education your title may hold, so in earnest wanting to do good, sometimes forget to look at the forest for the trees, so to speak? Yes we forget as we travel in our own world of doing the right thing.

I’m sure by now curiosity has gotten the best of you and are thinking to yourself or saying out loud, WHAT THE HECK IS SHE TALKING ABOUT! Well I hope I enticed you to read on.

Much has been written the past few years of diversity, inclusion, equity, learning loss (mostly covid related), but I propose other reasons as well, and that’s where you head back to the beginning of this paragraph. It’s been an uneven roller coaster in our world of education and for many it stopped them from opportunities afforded to others. So let’s say it’s a given, even a little bit, if you object. This post won’t go into this, (Google can be your friend, if you ask the right questions), but as I meander just come along. I’m not asking you to agree, but to read with a discerning mind. Isn’t that what we want for our students, to search information, read, discuss, question and do it all over again.

The thing with covid, it’s really made us stop and reflect, well it has me, so here goes. Tomorrow for many who go into the classroom what’s on your mind, on your agenda, in your lesson plans? What writing prompt have you created, what questions will you ask about Winter Break? What tests do feel the urgency to have outlined for this week? And so on and so on… Whether in person, or on Zoom, masks on, masks off what’s driving you to meet your goals? Have you STOPPED to think about your students and what these few weeks away from school has been for them? We are in a caring profession, but also one that accountability is a driving force. Principals, school districts, parents etc. etc. won’t let you forget that. And in many ways that’s their job as well. But our job, the one we have dedicated our lives too, asks us to do more, to think clearly that in each forest there are Trees (metaphor I look at a little differently I would add) and those trees really are what we need to nurture and grow. If the forest is to thrive then the trees need, the sun, the water and the understanding to grow.

When school starts, a gradual beginning to let students know you’re there for them to share what they need to, to have time to ease in before you hit them with your agenda. How frightening these times are, not only for us, but for them as well? Take the time to listen to what they have to say. A carefree childhood will be looked at so differently in hindsight. I wonder what we can do to bring joyful, caring memories to our students? For each of us, depending on our experiences, those memories may hold feelings of caring adults, or harsh realities. What we leave for them depends on us. Sharing with them about us, that we are people with history, builds relationships, and trust. Trust yourself, your good judgement, trust your students. It’s a good path, I might add. Truisms and generalizations, I know. Many may feel differently and that’s okay.

Out in the world we face so many perils, we can’t ignore them and we recognize them and discuss them, especially when they are in your own backyard. But to know that we have to listen to what our students are ready to tell us. Maybe keep the plan book closed for a few days. Let’s see how the first few days play out.

If you head back right away after New Years, have PD day first, or gradual in person learning after an initial few days of Zoom, what plans are in the works for you and your students. BTW nothing is written in stone. Good luck, stay healthy and joyful. Laughter goes a long way, share that with your colleagues and students when you can.

This beautiful tree on my neighborhood walk.
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Saying Good Bye

Death be not Proud for though you’ve stoked your flame once more, those that are gone, but just in body and not in spirit. The memories you can’t take, not shake from our mind and thoughts. The love we’ve had, the love we cherish all bound in those who stay.

Death be not proud for although your name we cringe with fear, I know. What holds us steadfast, what steers us ashore, you cannot destroy. The pain, the void, the journey though unknown, always meant to be.

Death be not proud when time to go, the pain you inflict when it need not be, we cry out to you. “Let us go gently in the good night why can’t that be?” The valiant fight we peacefully attest has now been put to rest.

Death be not proud for the eulogies spoken will soon prevail, heralding what was unspoken to those in the wings, waiting to listen. Love in words, love in action, love in deeds for the memories will be ever lasting.

My retirement celebration 2015. Bernie and Roen both at my side leaving a void, but so many memories.

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OneWord2022 Forgive/Courage

From The Desk Of The Retired Teacher

Well it’s that time of year! My Twitter PLN are all talking about what their oneword2022 will be? And of course it’s December so I’ve been thinking about it. My words often reflect both my teaching and personal life, does yours, I wonder? Here is what I’ve shared in blog posts through the years.

This year no different, my work and my personal life drive my oneword2022 focus. This time I “found” my word through courage and forgiveness. It takes courage to forgive oneself and others. I will keep this close to my heart and mind whether with you, family, friends or colleagues. And when I arrive in the classroom I’ll look at all I’ve been given, in this world of teaching and learning, to have the courage to forgive when mistakes need grace.

Forgive mistakes.

Forgive words spoken in haste.

Forgive presumptions, time to show compassion.

Forgive the need to walk away and take a break.

Forgive the unspoken, never to be said.

Forgive the meander to refresh, to rejuvenate when you know best.

Forgive the dreams and the dreamers who stand in the way,

Forgive the yesterdays, todays and tomorrows with grace.

I will carry these words, the intertwining of the capacity to Forgive and the Courage it takes. From the student who struggles to conquering a fear, to the adult who reaches out for a hurt not intended. From the student whose goal reached, shares with pride, not bragging; to the adult acknowledging that it takes a village at their side.

The road we travel is filled with potholes. How we side step them are often filled with mistakes and missteps. Along the way we may see that we failed. But I, I look at them as reiterations in learning.

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Time To Go

The rain’s falling from the heavens above lets us know, it may be time for someone to go.

The tears and rain drops intermingle. We will grieve and cry , “Don’t go!” The gods look down on us and say, “Its time to go. I do no harm and welcome with open arms and heart. They surely will be here to stay.”

It’s not about the good or bad, who’s time it is to go. Our sadness and tears tempered with memories we might have.

The journey we are reminded, is temporary, not endless, but with soul. Our purpose, undeniably, changes course with every path we take.

When friendship steers your course and anchors moor you for awhile, untold stories unfold.

Day by day you move along, with intentions to spend more time and value what you’ve got.

But life is such when time to go jolts you on the spot, the infinite seasons you thought you had, are naught.

I wait for the rain to stop, though tears may not. Upward I look for the end of the rainbow, is where you’ll be.

When rain stops and rainbows appear, my heart is filled with joy I need.

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I Am America: Ode To The Dream That Is America

I am the daughter of Holocaust survivors

Who found their way to this shore.

They took me by the hand as we wandered many lands,

To find our way to these shores.

One came so close, but had no more, left my side, in another land.

The other strong and resilient, she had a dream,

And took me by the hand to these shores.

I am the daughter of immigrants who sought a dream.

Not always welcomed, but persevered.

I have a story to be told.

Yours and mine differ, that is so.

I am the daughter of Holocaust survivors,

Bred with dignity,

A promise instilled, I tell my story.

And listen as yours unfolds.

Our journey different, our paths may never cross,

But today on the Mall, I “see” it all.

I wrote this after President Joe Biden’s Inauguration and heard Amanda Gorman’s poem “The Hill We Climb”.

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A Gift For Giving

From The Desk Of The Retired Teacher

A joyful time. LACMA 2015

I sit here in shock, with a overwhelming feeling of sadness and disbelief. Not unexpected news, but is it really ever the right time to come to terms that a wonderful friend is loosing her battle with cancer? I can hardly even say it, let alone write that word!

I write this (as a piece about love), because I’m drowning in grief and loss once again. I’m not sure when I’ll hit the publish button on this, but not yet. Instead I’ll share a little about my friend.

We met as the mothers of kindergarten daughters. We clicked from the first hello. We forged a friendship with the highs and lows that we all know comes along one’s path. We came from different backgrounds but that only strengthened our ties. Two Jewish women with husbands, children and families. Our love of life, learning, growing, laughter and joy always with us. We cared, cared so deeply not only about our immediate surroundings and life, but the strangers among us. She developed a passion, her cause to help Ethiopian Jews to make it to Israel. She worked tirelessly for this cause over the years. And how happy she was that so many Beta Israel were able to immigrate to Israel. That is my friend, a giver, never a taker. She asked so little from others but to be kind, helpful and aware there are needs besides our own.

A good place to stop writing after mentioning her work with Ethiopian Jews. I’ll come back soon.

And now more about my friend.

She was the one that included us in family events, from Mother’s Day in the park, to Sukkoth celebrations, to untold adventures. One year she convinced us all to bundle up and go see the Rose Bowl Parade; she in her car with her family and I and my family in our car. I was so COLD! We had to change our view site more than once, till we found a place that we felt most comfortable. But without her joie de vivre and her encouragement, our once in a lifetime might never have happened. She never forgot my birthday or my anniversary with cards and phone calls. And I, well I was the “taker”. In hindsight I realize that this unfamiliar role was mine, in our relationship. So often we talk about the give and take in relationships and how that may look. Did it ever seem like a burden to her, or to me? Did we just fall into this pattern with our busy lives? A few years after we met I went into teaching and she, she did what shes’s done all her life, she looked after others. Then with her children grown up she turned to another love and passion, art. She soon began teaching art to high school students. Her house was filled with her art work and I have two pieces that Bernie, my husband, admired. Did I tell you how often her cards to us were created by her! Another stop, so much muddling in my head. So many memories. Grateful for those, but saddened the end is not what I expected.

And now more about my friend,

A beautiful Sukkah decorated by Roen
A Rosh Hashanah card created by Roen

I found a picture from long ago. How young we were! It must have been at a celebration, either Bar or Bat Mitzvah of one of her kids. Here we sit, my mother, me, my husband and our friend behind us, smiling because we could all be together.

All smiles celebrating a joyful occasion

My friend Roen with a heart of gold! I don’t say that about too many people. I think of the Women of Valor written by King Solomon as part of Proverbs. A poem that encapsulates all that is Roen. Roen was there for us through my two heart surgeries, Bernie’s pituitary gland surgeries. We both knew she’d be there when we phoned her. And then Bernie’s struggles as he valiantly fought an indescribable illness. She spent many of her lunch breaks (she taught at a school a few blocks away) off to visit Bernie at the rehabilitation hospital. She cheerfully prattled away to him even when he couldn’t answer; but his smile was the reward we both cherished. Knowing that she would visit gave me some breathing room to enjoy my space. Just another memory of my giving friend.

This piece hangs in our dining room. Art work Roen created as an art student (signature is her maiden name).

I started writing this post December 15, 2021 when I heard how Roen was facing her cancer with such incredible courage! What were my prayers? I so wanted to see her, but then again she’d be the giver, giving me a gift that she just couldn’t now, not yet. And I, I knew that this time I couldn’t be the taker. I had to accept what Roen needed for herself. So I will stop for awhile, reflecting and being nurtured and blessed by the relationship we forged so many years ago.

This is my piece about love that will always be here, in my heart. To my friend who always gives unconditionally, the story still unfolds.

Meeting Roen at a surprise scavenger hunt created by her husband and kids.

I decided today, December 23, 2021 to publish this post, as a letter of love and hope; a gift to my friend, Roen.

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Where Do I Come From

From The Desk Of The Retired Teacher

Sometimes I write because thoughts whorl around and don’t rest till I take a moment to reflect. This post, because I read so much dribble and falsehoods about people who make judgments that cause more harm then their intention, or maybe not. And isn’t that sad? And isn’t that maddening.?

And so the words tumble out on my page, a jumble of prose and poetry. Indulge me, please.

All about me, but not really so, a snippet a story yet untold, one to behold. Mine from long ago.

When asked where I come from, I stop. What might you want to know? The truth laced with the unknown. Not a deceit, but missing pieces strewn together with conjecture.

Parents who hid in the forest, in the woods. In a country, in a place that showed them no grace. Told you don’t belong here, there or anywhere! Running for their lives, not together but in wonder of miracles, found each other, a displaced persons’ camp, housed ravaged souls, survivors they were told. They rarely spoke of what took place. Each found family to embrace, to make new what was destroyed.

My parents took me by the hand, held on tight, my brother by my side. We wandered about a year, two and more. My birth certificate, Berlin, Germany (lost to history how I started there). From country to country we roamed, the four of us, unsure. And for awhile Israel beckoned but too soon for us to stay. So once again off we went, the four of us to the shores of Canada, to Montreal a place we called home. Through the eyes of a five year old, our nuclear family (grandparents, aunt and uncle joined) was formed.

A life lived on those shores, with highs and lows. Loss crept to our doors. Goodbyes unexpected more than once, time for another move to another land.

So my mother, resilient and strong, once again held on tight, took us by the hand and said “Let’s go.” The US called to us, Los Angeles became our home. Through the eyes of a 17 year old, our nuclear family (mother, brother, grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins) was formed.

And for now that’s my response. Where do I come from? From a world that called me unworthy to be. From a strong family who spread their wings, taught us to fly and to be! To look at Love instead of hate.

The Israel Museum, Jerusalem 2019
Next to AHAVA (LOVE)sculpture by Robert Indiana

Another Post I wrote on identity fits here, I think. Relates to education more so than this post. But what we learn about each other, is part of our education/learning.

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