Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sitting Still

I have a to-do list about 30 items long, and I'm ignoring it to watch Burl Ives sing about lingering on the front porch.

The transition out of school yesterday felt clean and right, and I had a great day.

I'm feeling tremendously boring lately, and I quite like it. I'm sure I'll find some passionate stirrings sometime very soon, surges of feeling and discovery, but right now, I'm loving just sitting still and looking at my pink walls.

Our great first-day-of-vacation Field Trip is tomorrow, and it will be so nice to spend time with the girls that doesn't consist of running errands. We haven't had a Destination: Fun event in a long time.

I literally have nothing to say of any interest to anyone. Not today, not on the first day of vacation. My thoughts are of Wilbur's ice cream and Hayley Mills and the potential of a third cup of coffee.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ceremony of Release

I am here. I have created the sanctuary and I am here. My walls are pink. My books surround me. Old fabric and dragonflies and candles and photographs and talismans. I have my computer and my cat blanket and my rose-covered couch and a bansai tree named Francie that I haven’t yet killed. Craig sent it to me, with a note that said, “In your space of creativity, a tree should grow.” That tree is a reminder that I have friends who know me, and have faith in me. I remember to be grateful when I look at that, and I feel a surge of love towards my friend that I might not express to him right away, but believe that somehow, on some energetic level, he can feel, and be uplifted. I have many reminders of those connections in this room, and that is why I know that whatever is waiting inside me to be written will find its way forth. I have given it all a very soft place to land, with a little help from my friends.

I did my candle-release ritual tonight, and it was particularly effective. It’s been a big year, and I have had some experiences that have changed me. More than usual, I think. I won’t rehash them all, and it’s sort of nice to know that some people who are reading this now already know them. I’ve written the backstory here…at least most of it. The secret stuff, the private stuff, I haven’t given you. But the thing is…I’ve written it down. Not here, but in my journal. I wrote my way through it all this year.

In my burning ritual, I lit candles for different kids. I had a lot of kids this year who suffered incredible losses. Huge heartbreaks and many tearful nights. I wish I had done more to ease their passage. I tried, but there is only so much I can do in the time I have with them. This year, though, I think I could have done more, and so I lit a candle tonight to forgive myself for that, and remind myself to do better. I lit one for the kids in Seussical, and another for the kids that are going to be in our summer bookclub, and one for the ones who made a new friend this year. I lit a special one, in a sparkly holder for my play, for the kids I wrote it for and the ones who were in it, for the learning curve of the process, for my risk-taking in writing it, for the changes it brought me in perspective in two very important areas of my life. Chemical changes. I watched that one burn for a long time. The last one was pink, pink like my Watermelon Slice Athenaum, and that one was for Believing. For believing, through this long school year, from Labor Day when we found this house till right now, tonight when I sit here on my futon in the room I envisioned. The Glee theme is Don’t Stop Believing, and we blasted that song for ten months. I believed, and did all the things I needed to do, and worked hard and tried to deserve it, and I got it. My dream. And a room of my own. The pictures on my vision board. That was my lesson of the year.

I’m still thinking about my Summer Learning, and reflecting on the learning of summers gone by. (Not surprisingly, I am realizing that every summer has had its soundtrack, and I’m marking the epochs that way.) While I appreciate that a lot of my Summer Learning can now be seen as revisionist history, the title coming after the piece was written, I also see the benefit of setting an intention for the one that’s about to begin. Make room for what’s coming, but have something of a game plan.

One thing I want to practice this summer…I want to try to have more faith in myself. I want to have the faith in me that the people who love me have – the ones who send me plants and give me pens and leave comments here and who pick out books for me. Having more faith in myself would make me a better mother, a better director, a better leader, and would help me have more to give.

(And even as I write this, I hear that Vampire Voice that says, put a sock in it, lady. Isn’t just writing about yourself the height of mundane conceit? Die, Vampire. I guess I’m not off to a very good start in the Having Faith department.)

Anyway, Release and Re-awaken. That’s my working title for the summer. Now, to find that theme song…

Friday, June 11, 2010


I gave my students back their Portrait Projects this morning, and our separation has begun. There will be some teary goodbyes on Tuesday, I think, here at my school, and for my two little girls saying goodbye to their school for good. They have mixed feelings about switching, but no matter what the anticipation of the summer, they have inheirited their mother's issues with endings. And I can't even pick them up on the last day to facillitate those last moments, because I'm not allowed to leave school until after they have been long dismissed. Andrea is going to manage that for me, taking them to say goodbye to the playground and the sign and their favorite tree, or whatever they need. I know she will honor that transition so well for them, and's just one of those moments when I just wish I could be there, be the Mommy.

Here at my school, there are a number of rituals that mark the end of the year. One is that when the kids leave, all of the staff walks out with them, and we go all the way down to the end of the long driveway and wave goodbye to all of the busses, and the kids all wave back, and the bus-drivers honk their horns like mad...and only once have we ever been mooned, so that's a pretty good record, I think. Then we have a chicken luncheon, which consists of a plate with a giant chicken on it, and a potato. It's surprisingly delicious, and also sort of creepy to see so many bones devoured and disposed of. Then I finish packing up my classroom, and then comes my favorite partner, Lori, has the world's most beautiful home. It is directly on the cliff overlooking the Atlantic ocean, and she has a beautiful back porch and a gorgeous yard and a cool porch right on the very edge. Most of the staff of my floor comes together for festive beverages, and the girls can climb all the way down the long staircase to the beach, and climb "alone" on the rocks (while we adults can see them from our perch on the porch.) I love to watch them down there in their seeming solitude, looking in tide pools and clamoring to the tops of the huge rocks. We return to that same spot for July 3rd to watch the bonfires and fireworks, and it's become a really special place for our family. I love love love my teaching partner, who's part wise tribal medicine woman, part Demeter, goddess of the earth, and part her own inner-22-year old who still sees life as a grand adventure. We couldn't seem more different on the surface, but our partnership is one of the most symbiotic, comfortable, complementary relationships I've ever had.

Anyway, we have a lovely relaxing afternoon sitting there right smack on the ocean, and then my husband takes me out for my first lobster of the year.

The girls and I have created a tradition for our first day of summer vacation. (I know...shocking.) The idea is that we each get to choose one special thing that makes us happy, and we all do it together. There have been various things chosen over the years, such as manicures, visits to particular playgrounds, movies, that sort of thing. My pick is always the same, every year. I want to drink coffee in my pajamas and watch Summer Magic, that 1960's Disney flick with Hayley Mills. It couldn't be cornier, and the girls aren't crazy about it, but they indulge me, 'cause it's my pick. This year, Abby has chosen a trip to the American Girl Doll store (knowing she won't be able to buy anything, but just to "go" there to visit everything. Oh, who the hell am I kidding? Of course I'll buy her something.) Amelia has chosen Shrek the Third in 3D. Luckily, there's a 3D/Imax theatre right near the American Girl Doll store, so we're in business. I especially want to focus on the celebratory aspect of summer this year, rather than letting them wallow in the sadness of letting go.

Lisa asked me a question this week that I've been thinking really hard about. She said, "What will you learn this summer, Kelly? You always learn something in the summer, I think." She's so right, and I'm really rolling that over in my mind, and drafting my thoughts about it.

So, I pose the question out to you...what will YOU learn this summer?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Scattered Petals

~I've been grading projects all weekend long, sitting at my desk like a real-live grown-up, watching old Disney musicals like a real-live kid. I love my watermelon slice-colored walls, and seeing the shelves of books smiling at me. I am taunted by the shelf full of Friends I Haven't Met Yet, and it's taken all of my will power not to just curl up on the fainting couch and read the afternoons away, instead of reading projects of kids who insist their "idol" is Eminem. Seriously? Most of them have been wonderful, though, and the kids have really poured thier hearts into the mission of this project.

~I watched Avatar last night for the first time on my great big ginormous new TV, and holy crap! That is one seriously spectacular movie, and I definitely see what all the fuss was about now. It was unlike anything I have ever seen before.

~We're going out to lunch this afternoon, and one of the most decadent summer delights is a martini in the middle of a Sunday afternoon.

~My closet is the only place in our house that still smells like cigarette smoke. It's disgusting. Any suggestions?

~Six and a half more days to go. And THEN I can curl up on the couch with I Capture the Castle and my back issues of Real Simple and People magazine guilt-free.

Today is one of those days where I just feel peaceful and comfortable in my own skin, and very grateful and aware of the many blessings in my Wonderful Life. I hope you are feeling that way, too.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Dear Sixth Graders...

...but not so snarky this time.

Every year I include a letter to my students in their final project portfolio. The beginning of the letter is directly to them, individually, about how I've seen them grow, or what I admire about them, or a way in which we've connected this year. The second part is the same for everyone, and just for fun, I'm going to post it here.

The poem in the middle is one that was inspired by another poem I found from a teacher to his high school students. So while the idea is not original, I've adapted it to suit what I want to say to my students. Poetry is not really my thing, but I've made them write poetry, and I try to walk the talk. The literary references might not make sense if you haven't read the novels, but the books we've read together are:

Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry
Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbit
My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George
The Giver, by Lois Lowry
Detectives in Togas, by Henry Winterfeld
Homecoming, by Cynthia Voigt

So, the letter has an introduction, blah blah blah, loved your Egypt project, etc... and then...

We’ve learned a lot of lessons together through our literature this year. I hope that those lessons linger for you, in some fashion. You don’t have to wait “till you’re a grown up” to make choices, to better the world around you. Remember Dicey purposefully leading her siblings to their Homecoming in Crisfield. Remember Winnie Foster protecting her darling Tucks. Remember Jonas risking everything for love, for color. Remember Jesse and Leslie taking the risk to open their hearts honestly to each other, changing them both. Remember Sam training his falcon, and the boys pulling Xantippus from the wardrobe. Think about Annemarie standing up to the soldiers, using her wit and understanding, finally, what it means to be brave. You are capable of all of those things, if you need to be, and even more. In the immortal words of Winnie the Pooh, “You must remember this: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

I hope 6th grade has given you some moments of fun, moments of triumph, and above all, moments of learning and discovery. Did you Create and Connect, as our first day-of-school puzzle invited? I hope you began to understand that your greatest creation…your biggest project of all…is creating YOU, a completely original, uncopiable work of the finest art. You get to create YOU, and every decision you make, from what you say to the girl sitting alone at a lunch table to what you put into your body for breakfast in the morning, is a reflection of who you want to be in the world. Choose well, my friend. CHOOSE well, and don’t let the days and experiences slip idly by without giving them a good looking-at. Notice and wonder. Summer is a perfect time for that. Here is my wish for you this summer:

Breathe in your summer, blades of grass between your toes
sand in your flip flops, sea-salt on your ankles and the insides of your wrists.
Lie on your back and watch the patterns of the oak leaf on blue sky,
the cavalcade of images in the clouds, the dragonflies and the sparrows.

Smell the cool, clean sheets and warm strawberries still on their vines,
Smell the air heavy with waiting raindrops,
And the unabashedly pink, sweet beach plum roses.
Let your hands get sticky from melting grape popsicles,
giggle at the crunch of sand in your soggy tuna sandwiches at the beach.

Run out when the ice-cream man comes, run with your hide-and-go-seekers,
Run into the twilight, and run out of the dawn. Run and cartwheel, unembarrassed.
Run like Jesse and Leslie, toward kindred spirits,
And run like Jonas and Annemarie, for truth and justice.

Notice the first week of August when it hangs at the top of the live-long year,
And do something bold to impress yourself, like Winnie did.
Read under a tree, or in a tree, or beside a tree. Read in the grass
Or on the sand or under the sheets with a flashlight in hand.
Through the pages, have adventures that aren't only your own, too.

Look and listen, dream and imagine, taste and feel,
Mindful and awake.
Run and read, climb and dance, dive and leap
Fearless and free.
Summer, the verb.

I will always wonder about you…who you become, how you grow, where you journey and what you discover. I would love to hear from you somewhere down the road, if you’re so inclined. We have “little bits of each other’s lives,” as Dicey said. You have given me a gift this year, one that I will treasure and honor. You have shared with me a very special era of your life. So, in the words of The Giver, thank you for your childhood. I wish you love, adventure, insight and passion as you make your way boldly into the world.

Your 6th Grade Teacher