Another Precipice

From The Desk Of The Retired Teacher

Summer has been good, surprisingly enough; covid and the pandemic not with standing. From a quick trip to be with family in Dallas for one of my granddaughter’s graduations. She’s a rising 9th grader. High school here she comes! We’re building memories. I’m all about that! Then a few sub days in June, ending the school year. And subbing in the ECs and kindergarten in their summer transition program. Three weeks in kinder! I know, I know, for me I won the jackpot.

It’s also been a summer of birthday celebrations, time with friends and time to reflect, as well. It’s been crazy hot here in Los Angeles so my walks have been curtailed. This week I decided to venture out earlier to beat the heat. Didn’t realize how much I missed my wanderings and looking closely!

And so to my ruminating (not perseverating, just thinking deeply about the precipice that occurs in life, more than once, I’ve concluded. From Merriam-Webster: definition of precipice 1 : a very steep or overhanging place 2 : a hazardous situation broadly : BRINK

For the most part we look at a precipice in a gloom and doom perspective. The definition itself tells us beware, watch what you’re doing, watch where you’re going! The uncertainty, the danger, do we dare? A defining moment along our journey. But I posit some precipice we encounter are exhilarating, hope filled with moving forward, change, that leads to further accomplishments and growth: more learning, making a difference, right? Scary, sure, that’s what makes me wonder what we may have given up because fear overwhelms. Courage, resilience and trust the companions when facing the precipice.

I remember reading years ago in a psychology class, a study about the Visual Cliff Here and Here Just two sites I found interesting to share. It’s stayed with me and I thought of it all these years in terms of “trust.” A child’s trust built on love and experience that there is someone to care for them to be the guardian of their future. That love that nurtures us over the years, that encourages us to find our way, to forge our dreams, is how we navigate the precipice, the stumbling block that occurs, without warning, at times. And yes I know that’s not everyone’s story. And the sadness is tempered hoping that maybe we (family member, teacher or friend) can be there, along the way.

School is starting. My teacher role never far behind in my reflections on my blog. The pandemic, we can’t deny, is the precipice we all face now. How we face it, what we do and the outcome will only be known in the years ahead. We can do our part. We all know that. If not for ourselves, then for the kids. Giving them a leg up to face their own precipice with trust, courage and resilience.

I’d love to hear from you and how you’re facing life in this junction.

A brisk walk in the neighborhood a few years ago.

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Guide On The Side

I haven’t written in awhile. Tell you why; I’ve been busy subbing! Yes I can hardly believe it. Our school has a summer transition program for ECs from Toddlers to Kindergarten and the first weeks I worked in 3s, 4s, and kinder. This past week I started my three week “gig” in kindergarten. It’s been joyful, wonderful and an eye opener as my perspective of what’s important now continues to grow as well as validates what I feel is needed for our learners. Call it growth mindset, call it life during a pandemic (that’s still out there), call it follow the kids’ needs, call it what you will. I call it fortuitous for me, my colleagues and yes, definitely the kids!

Each week a theme is introduced as a pathway of exploration, with books, a focused art activity and then a wide range of activities available, geared to student’s interest and choice. Their main interest has been each other. This play based program is geared to “getting to know each other,” through play, and wonderful conversations! What they say often astounds me.

Many times during the day I have the opportunity to observe, to listen (really listen) and wait to see what the students need from me. The kinders are figuring out their world, a life long process. By stepping aside it encourages and empowers them to be the agents of their learning and growth. A continuing learning experience for me! And here I’ll be the “guide on the side.” I’m good with that.

Sharing a conversation with one of my kinders who really needed me to know what was on his mind. (Here without editing what I posted on FB.

However we spend out summers, doing what brings us joy, can’t be beat! Love to hear about your summer.

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My Wish For You

From The Desk Of The Retired Teacher

My wish for you, is to visit a room, filled with threes, fours or maybe twos.

Take the leap it’s not hard to do, to visit a room filled with threes, fours or maybe twos.

What will we do you ask with no clue, in this room filled with threes, fours or maybe twos.

Look around see what they do, in the room filled with threes, fours or maybe twos.

The noise, the movement, the joy, the amusement, in the room filled with threes, fours or maybe twos.

The slide, the water, the sand, the paint in place, in a room filled with threes, fours or maybe twos.

The books, the blocks , the baby dolls too, in a room filled with threes, fours or maybe two.

The hugs, the tears, the bandaids used, in a room filled with threes, fours or maybe twos.

Circle time, the wiggles, the squiggles, the not me, not now, in a room filled with threes, fours or maybe twos.

The snacks, the lunch, the rest time, too, in a room filled with threes, fours or maybe twos.

The arrival unsure, the goodbyes vary and then time to go doesn’t seem so scary, in a room filled with threes, fours or maybe twos.

My three days in the three year old program; a memory of my beginnings in my teaching Journey .

Art Wall Panels from Toddlers and Threes (2003)
Art Wall Panels from Fours and Kinders (2003)

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A Time To Reflect

I’ve been thinking of movement lately.

Like a pendulum or a swing.

Like climbing a mountain or traversing a stream.

Like riding a car or surfing the waves.

Like maneuvering a boogie board or on a mountain bike.

Like a marathon run or a snail’s pace.

I’ve been thinking of movement lately and how that sits with me.

All that movement and the corrections we make.

Looking back and then ahead, what is the fight to make it right?

Where do I go before I stop. It’s not about teaching, but learning, too.

The tugging, the pulling, the pain that’s heard, fills my heart and pounds in my head.

A respite from school, is that really so? A call out for justice reverberates globally.

The YinYang (my post on Yin and Yang Of Knowing) of opposing understandings: not right, not wrong but cosmic duality.

Much unknown, much to undo, not a one person show, many voices to be heard.

I’ve been thinking of movement lately, sitting still and reflecting.

Serenity In Movement

A year like no other for many out there. Finding the joy one day at a time. Mindful to help whenever I can.

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It’s All About The Play

Somewhere out there where good fortune shines down on me, I was able to sub again! In the past few weeks I spent a day with toddlers and three days in an early childhood class of three year olds. And let me tell you, it’s all about the play, where the learning gains a stronghold that lasts forever. Hyperbole, maybe, but not in my book.

School will be over next week and for some children they will attend the summer program: moving from toddlers to 3s; 3s to 4s; and 4s to kindergarten. This has been our traditional summer transition program. Over the years I have spent many summers meeting the rising kinder kids. A time to build a foundation of caring relationships between teacher and child and teacher and parent (adult). A time to watch and learn; all of us. And all through the conduit of play.

We explore environments through books, experiences, questions and discovery. A butterfly on the yard and we’re off learning about them. An earthworm in the vegetable bed, the hole in the leaves and the whys start? Water springing up or down with a broken pipe and once again the questions and repairs that are explored. Books, our friends from early on, read and shared as solutions are explored. Companionship, camaraderie, holding hands, riding bikes, slides (climbing/sliding down or running down, I look the other way, biting my tongue not to say Be Careful. So hard for me, but I’m learning, too) laughter prevails and I stand back and revel at the play before me. And there in the sandbox treasures are found, pointing them out to each other and gleefully running over to share them with me. I stand appraising and appreciating the different jewels. The energy, the movement familiar to me, reminds me what was really lost in the pandemic year. But the power of play, part of their DNA prevails as they are reminded about guidelines in this time for wearing masks, snack and lunch with some distance needed. But play prevails (now that more is known and understood about safety protocols), as it has for a very long time. Our role as guardians of children everywhere is to claim it and share it.

Many articles on play from erudite scholars. I chose to share these related to Maria Montessori. Play and here Play

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Loneliness Revisited

From The Desk Of The Retired Teacher

I spent a wonderful week in Dallas with my family. One of my granddaughters graduated from 8th grade. How sweet the event was and the vagaries of weather and covid worries couldn’t damper the excitement of the graduates and their families. Forever grateful for the good graces in life that I can join in making memories with them. In case you didn’t know, I’m big on memories, that’s kept me going through the rough times.

When flying home my mind wandered to feelings about being alone, lonely and loneliness. I have written before about this from different perspectives, here and here

But in this post I dwell on the loneliness I feel as a Jew in this world. I feel that so many (not all) in my face to face world as well as my social media world have not stepped up to the plate. Their lack of “allyship” is where the loneliness stems from. They either have ignored reaching out to me (in any way), to support me (in any way), as I share how frightening this time is for me and many Jews around the world. To me anti-Israel anti-Zionism diatribe is the same as antisemitism. I have shared articles and tweets that are very transparent in where I stand. Supporting Israel doesn’t mean that I don’t worry about the Palestinians and nor wish them harm. It doesn’t mean I want them to suffer . It doesn’t mean I don’t want a better life for them and their children. I will let you seek out what’s been happening and why on your own. But you will have to do diligent work to find sites that don’t only vilify Israel. And here once again the loneliness sets in.

And no matter when I digress from the original purpose of my blog, I come back to kids and teaching. We can shelter our young kids from some of this hate. We can couch it, in maybe they don’t know better and then we sit down and listen as they try to figure it out. We make that space for them. And for the older students, how quickly they may divide themselves along “party lines.” My fear again in words that carry so much weight, in words that hurt Here

I sit and wonder what about those students who are afraid to speak up for themselves, if they are Jewish, and for those who fear to be an ally. This loneliness for me is unbearable. Where and when do you take a stand?

But for a time I sat in the joy of watching my granddaughter graduate.

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Teach Your Children Well

From The Desk Of The Retired Teacher

Here it is towards the end of May and I have been out of the classroom (only as a sub after I retired June 2015), since March 2020. It hurts to write that, as I sit here in disbelief. Grateful to stay connected to my school colleagues and friends through text, phone conversations and social media. And I keep myself engaged, involved and learning with my PLN on Twitter. The tweets and chats are my lifeline to a profession that I have embraced as my “calling” for 38 years.

And here I sit trying to make sense of our world and what it is we teach our kids. I had thought of writing this post in reference to, and some ideas I had been mulling about how our biases might influence and affect our students; unless we make discussions forefront in any work we do with understanding racial issues and disparity in our society. I have been heartened to see many children’s books delving into these topics written to share a lens through mirrors, windows and sliding glass doors discussed by Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop Many read alouds that show not only differences but similarities all kids share. Many stories that share not only hardships but joy, laughter and wonder. Many read alouds that lead to honest discussions and more than that, questions that our students have that we can share as we listen to each other’s journeys. Here is one such journey in this TedTalk that references Window Mirrors Sliding Glass Doors in this young man’s book/reading life..

And then far away in a world so few understand conflict erupts, children and adults are killed in a terrible conflict. What is happening in the Middle East is not the only ravages of war going on in the world, but seemingly the only one that the world at large has taken up battle cries. More people have “chosen their side” are immoveable and entrenched in their righteousness. This post is not about the right or wrong of what’s going on. You will have to google or read the newspaper or check out Twitter to learn about the complexities in this part of the world.

This post is about what we teach our children. Generations of children have grown up “hating” the other. Written in text books, shared at family dinners, seen on TV and on and on and on. Sounds familiar..happens here, happens there. For awhile here, in the US, we looked at our books and said “wow, so wrong.” Slowly, and yes too slowly, we’ve worked on fixing the wrong. And now I worry that we might cause harm to our children as we vilify the “other” to right the wrong that was done. It doesn’t work that way. It brings out the worst in people.. we see what happens at the dinner table is shared by kids at school. We see when schools teach in their text books, and clergy preach at their houses of worship to hate the “other” and deem them as the enemy. In our world what we say carries so much weight. Words hurt. Words inflict damage. Not every bully uses fists! You know that. We all know that. We can’t undo the wrong done, but we can look into ourselves to see how to move forward.. teach the children well.

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The Little Things In Life

From The Desk Of The Retired Teacher

Time to reflect. It’s been awhile since I stopped by here. This will be a joyful, positive look at my world. My hope, it leaves you looking for that in your lives!

It’s April..”spring has spring” most days. I know snow and cold still rears its head letting us know about the vagaries of weather (and life, of course!). But today as I walked I listened to the birds chirping away, I took pictures of the flowers along my route and I smiled knowing that my heart needs to look at the good out there. As I write this, I know for many it is not so, and their road is much more weary and difficult. I don’t ignore or discount any of this. But I also know only looking at life as insurmountable hardships can lead to depression, anger and a feeling of helplessness and yes, hopelessness . I’ve seen so many resilient people face life with unimaginable challenges and it is to them I look for inspiration. People past and present. People in my family (many no longer with me) and to people across the globe whose life’s purpose exemplifies the “measure of a man/woman”.

And I look no further than to those who have served others in this time of need, in any and all capacities. Many of us sit here knowing that the pandemic has changed our lives in ways never imagined. In my teaching role I first look at colleagues who have weathered this storm in the best way they can! It took a while to remember to “put on your mask first,” so to speak. More and more the recognition that teachers are not superheroes, but people who are ready to make this school year one of caring along with teaching; and being there in ways that are right for their students and for themselves. And to the little things in life that teachers try to accomplish to make this all possible. Because yes, I always go back to my roots: teaching. In that little zoom square (and now for many back in the school house), teachers make eye contact, smile, welcome, ask how’s it going. Teachers listen, they care, instilling curiosity, joy and wonder making space for kids to make “magic!”

And for me today (and how I came to this post), was finding lilacs! Can you believe what joy that was for me! It’s been a few years since I have had lilacs in my home. The season for them here in Los Angeles is very short and a few times I completely missed the boat! But suffice to say not today; today I can smell the fragrance that brings back the most incredible, joyous childhood memories. And so the little things in life are like a medicine that makes things so much better.

Take some time each day, or whenever you can, or whenever you need to, to find those little things in life that recharges you, gives you the energy, the strength to move forward. It doesn’t have to be earth shaking, it just needs to be something that shakes you with happiness.

Today’s walk. Listening to the chirping birds. The little things in life.

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Tell Me What To Do!

From The Desk Of The Retired Teacher

I’ve had this thought percolating on my mind for quite a few weeks. What is it about the term “unconditional” that just doesn’t lay right with me. I have had this idea, this concept, these words on my brain for awhile: What is meant by unconditional love, unconditional acceptance, unconditional guarantee..anything that we say is unconditional. And the bigger question ‘how is this perceived and interpreted by those who it applies to?’ Does the underlying meaning give free reign, laiseez-faire with no consequences or responsibilities? And then this pops into my head, how often have we heard our kids, students, friends, colleagues, and families say “just tell me what to do!” an amalgamation of ideas, whether they connect, not sure, but will explore as I wrote this post. So many unanswered questions in life.

To have this make sense to you, and me, I’ll limit my mind wonderings to kids (our own and in school) and then we could extrapolate further (maybe on our own). Thinking back to all the times said “Oh, you can do it: eat big kid food, drink from a cup, poop in the toilet, sleep on your own..”you get the drift. And followed by, “Do it for… mommy, daddy, grandma, babysitter, etc.” And there it is “I’ll be so proud of you when you do IT.” The condition is clear, not even implied. The kid does it because who doesn’t want that love, that’s the reward. (Generalizations, for sure, but indulge me.) Then we head into school where pleasing the often based on that compliance that in and of itself is the conditioned reward.

So much of childhood is spent doing what others want, what’s expected of them, that somehow it comes as a big surprise to the adults (parents/caregivers and teachers), when kids just say “just tell me what to do!” We have driven their initiative, their willingness to take risks, their agency, their choice, their self discovery out of them. When mistakes become a be all of failure, not a jumping stone to try again, because they want to please, to be seen only in a positive light of a success story. The unspoken unconditional love/acceptance is but an illusion as it seems to be conditioned on others approval.

Nothing is ever in absolutes, but making a point is sometimes most startling when driven home in infinite terms. I think of myself as an observer, a listener, a student of wonder, a forever learner and a sharer. I use this blog to reflect, to learn, to understand. Watching kids with many years of experiences as a teacher, a mother, a grandmother and a friend, questioning through reflections has helped me move forward. I have become more aware of my responses to others through my reflections. I have some answers, at times, but mostly here to be supportive to family, friends and colleagues. It’s been a difficult year for so many. Too much to worry about when survival was at the forefront in our lives. Which brings me back to our kids and what they perceive as we talk about “unconditional love/acceptance.” Home life and school still has responsibilities..but how we frame it may be one of the reasons kids say “just tell me what to do!”

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Clarion Call

From The Desk Of The Retired Teacher

I sit here once again reflecting about this past weeks’ event, about the shootings at a spa  in Atlanta and the horror once again perpetuated at the “other.”  Othering  destroys. Haven’t we seen enough of that yet?

Now for awhile, before I can get back to subbing, I am sidelined, but not without voice. I think of how all this impacts our students, the youngest ones to college graduates and then beyond. Impact and learning go hand in hand, and that’s where I choose to use my voice.

So my clarion call, First Do No Harm. According to Merriam-Webster, clarion call: a strong request for something to happen -usually singular //He used his speech to sound a clarion call for affordable health care. //the leader’s clarion call to action

I believe that what we say, share or if we, “indoctrinate” with our perspectives leaves an indelible imprint on our students. All one has to do is sit at a table (lunch room, family table) wherever kids gather and listen to their conversations. From talking about peers, teachers, parents, governments, their world views, etc., they voice what they hear and try to understand (always my hope). No one is immune. If nothing else “bullying” certainly has shown us that. We need to know who we teach, their backgrounds and their diverse lived experiences. Home life now, more than before, on the “razor’s edge” because of the pandemic. Teach with love, respect and caring. Way more than curriculum is at stake now. Teachers once again have an added responsibility, how to keep our students’ emotionally and physically safe (as they try to explain more about hate, yet once again), without adding an unintentional burden.

We want to raise caring, understanding, Upstanders, with a voice.

With prose and poetry (maybe), here I add..

To right a wrong, causing harm,

Animosity, vilifying and othering.

Not what is needed.

But once again the hate is strong, even as “allyship” is spoken.

Parceling out to whom and why, once again unspoken.

So I am inclined to believe Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

      And Elie Wiesel

with their CLARION CALL.

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