This girl loves…tradition.

Nana's special recipe

Nana’s special recipe

“I really want a pastrami sandwich.  Do you want to go to Chompie’s for dinner?”  My brother asked after we finished our weekly yoga class.  “I’m sick of dorm food.  I just need to get away.  I need a taste of home.”  He sighed.

I drove us over to Chompie’s where we dined on pastrami sandwiches and chicken soup, followed by a traditional Black and White cookie for dessert.  Bellies full and content, I got to thinking about traditions.

We are in preparations, we Jews, for the High Holy Days.  Honey cakes and kefelach have been baked.  Meats have been bought.  Challah has been ordered.  Dress clothes have been laid out.  Prayer books have been dusted off.  Apologies have been made.  The shofar has begun to blow, alerting us to the coming of a New Year.

Perhaps in my own preparations, my mind has been keenly aware of the other traditions I often take for granted.

The countless b’nai mitzvah I have attended have begun to run together.  Two weekends ago, an exception was made.  It was the bar mitzvah of a former third grade student.  This simcha (celebration) was different this time.  It was solemn and humble.  The focus was not on the raging, glitzy and expensive party that night, but on the ceremony.  It was about this boy becoming a man in the Jewish community.  As I listened to him chant I couldn’t help but think about this little boy; the little boy whose mother got onto him for wearing mix-matched socks for picture day.  That little boy was taking part in a tradition that spanned centuries.  This link to the past while also contemplating the future is what makes a bar or bat mitzvah so unique.

The traditions carried on through the next weekend.  To kick off the high holidays I helped prepare my shul (synagogue) for the high holidays.  As a part of this preparation we ushered in the new week with Havdalah.  This is a special candle-lit service that ends the Sabbath and starts a new week.  I couldn’t escape the thought that this Havdallah was somehow more special than all the rest.  This Havdalah was the start the week of Rosh Hashanah.  As we sang, arm-in-arm, I thought about the week ahead.  I thought about the time I was going to be able to spend with my family.  I thought about the meditations I would take part in during services.  I thought about how I would make my new  year different, better, sweeter than the one prior.  I reflected on my past year–a year of sadness and fear, joy and independence.  As the flame was extinguished I reveled in the sights of my community, the feel of my mother’s arms around me, the smells of the lingering summer heat, and the sense of contentment I felt.

Our traditions remind us of where we came from and where we are going but most of all, our traditions remind us to breathe in the now.

 

This girl loves…a bad day gone good.

Words that inspire...

Words that inspire…

Do you ever have one of those days where you just want to be somewhere else?  You wake up and you just want to crawl back into bed.  You want to drink your tea and watch Netflix or curl up with that book you just started.

Today was one of those days.  That is until I got to school.

It started with Her Story.

She had turned it in early because she was going to be out of class for a few days.  I saw her over the weekend and she asked if I had read her story yet.  I told her I hadn’t had  chance, but that it was on my desk waiting for me.  She didn’t know of my migraine on Friday or the mound of papers sitting on my desk.  Then I saw her at school today and she asked again, “Have you read my story?”  I felt like the world’s worst teacher.  It was still sitting, unread, on my desk.  So I told her, “I have a free period next hour and I promise I’ll read it then.”  Had I known that this piece would change my entire outlook on the day and reconfirm why I love being a humanities teacher, I would have fought through the pain of my migraine and put this on the top of my “to-grade” pile.

I recall this student saying she had nothing to write about during language arts last week.  I asked her to look through her chart of ideas and try to find something.  After a few failed attempts, she asked if she could write about not being able to write.  Feeling that students need to take chances as writers I said, “You can try.”  And try she did.

Throughout her I-can’t-think-of-anything-to-write story, she wrote a piece full of dialogue, inner thinking, and precise details.  (These are all strategies we are currently emphasizing in class in order to write powerful personal narratives.)  My favorite parts included the dialogue between us, particularly the part when I told her she could try.  I like to think she included this because allowing her to try was what made this beautiful piece of writing come to light.  The imagery created was one that teachers dream about, “I try to think of something to write but my mind fees like a black hole swallowing every idea.”  Brilliant!

Then, to put a cherry on top of an already inspired morning, my students surprised me with their text-to-text connections between A Snicker of Magic and The Dot.  

Today was International Dot Day and my class celebrated by reading the book The Dot and completing an art project using pointillism.  In discussing the theme of the book, three of my boys said that they thought the book was trying to tell us what our shared-reading book was trying to tell us.  That, everyone has a talent.  Making these text-to-text connections shows their deeper thinking and understanding of the stories they are reading.  What more could a teacher ask for?

To round out the day, while having dinner with my youngest brother, I told him of today’s “highs”.  He said offhandedly, “It’s so interesting to see how your profession brings out your passions.  You became a teacher because you were told you’d be good at it and, through teaching, your passions have ignited.”  I’d say that’s a pretty fair assessment of today’s events.

I have known since the first day I set foot in my own classroom that I wanted to teach.  Today, and other days like today, reminded me why I still want to teach.  These are the days that keep me going.

 

This girl loves…making connections.

The calm after the storm.

The calm after the storm.

My day began with a resounding beep, beep, beep.  Once at 3am, again at 4:45am, and finally at 6:30am.  The beeping was followed by tings from text messages and ding-a-lings from the phone.  What was all the commotion about so early on a Monday morning?

A storm had hit.  Roads were flooded.  Panic ensued.

News reporters spoke urgently of the massive, wide-spread flooding throughout our desert valley.  Cars were stuck.  People were stranded.  Schools were closing one by one.

My brother, safely at work, helping to report on the happenings around the valley, phoned me to ask that I let his dog out because he wasn’t sure when he would be home to do so.  I obliged and Kelev and I sat watching, intently, as the television reports literally flooded the airwaves.

As APS and ADOT tweeted that people should refrain from using the roads, I checked my email to see if my school was following the countless others and closing.  The minutes ticked by and I began to get more anxious.  Finally, a message arrived saying we would be open for the day.  Apparently the flooding was not severe enough to warrant a closure.

Disappointed by the news, I glanced out the sliding glass door to see the steady rain drop pelt my grassy lawn.  What was I going to do?  If the roads were flooded then how would I get to school?  Would there be any students there to teach?  Would I be the sucker that went out blindly into the torrential downpour only to be stuck in a ditch and paying a hefty “stupid motorist” fine?

Yes.  Yes, I would.  Because I was a rule follower.

Much like the character from one of my favorite biblical stories, I was willing to take direction and, no matter the cost, do what I was told.  I felt a sort of kinship with my friend, Noah.  Sure, he’s received a bad reputation for only saving his family and two of every kind of animal, but he did take direction.  No, he wasn’t the chosen one [Abraham] who would father a great nation.  He was the most righteous of his time, not the most righteous.  Compared to the rest, he was the lesser of the two evils so he was spared the death and devastation of the flood.

After forty days and forty nights, the story goes, the rains stopped.  The water receded.  A promise was made and Noah survived.

Because of Noah’s exemplary rule following, I am here today.  Because of my rule following, my students read, wrote, and learned a little bit of flexibility today.  They soldiered on as the rain damped their shoes but not their spirit.  They moved from classroom to classroom throughout the day because ours was without A/C.  They did this all without complaint.  For any of you who have ever met a pre-teen, without complaint is a pretty big deal.

Was today the greatest of days?  Was it a day that changed the academic lives of my students?  No.  But it was worth writing about.  And, seeing as this is a blog, I’d count that as a pretty significant event.

This girl loves…feeling inspired.

 

A glimpse of beauty

A glimpse of beauty

Inspiration comes to me in many forms: a touching passage, a beautiful scene, a soft melody, a lingering hug, a flavorful meal, and sometimes, a great movie.

Today I saw two movies that inspired me: The Hundred-Foot Journey and Begin Again.  Each of them affected me in a different way.  The former made me hungry for not only food, but for life.  The latter made me hungry for inspiration.

Since beginning a new writing program at my school, I’ve been keenly aware of my thoughts and their potential stories.  Seeing Begin Again, I wondered why I was so affected.  What was it about this movie that moved me like a passage from one of my favorite books?  What was it about this movie that sent chills down my spin; chills like the ones I get after hearing a Broadway singer belt the lyrics to a finale?  Then I had it.

It was real.

The movie felt tangible.  It felt achievable.  It gave me hope that I might one day inspire others.

I’ve spent my life hiding in the shadows of my own life.  I’ve stood idly by as others took their place in the spotlight.  I could excuse my behavior by saying that I was shy and slightly awkward, but it would be just that, an excuse.

I’ve decided that it is time to stop hiding.

There is so much I want to share with the world.  I want to share my passions and that is why I write.  I make mistakes and I write again.  I know that it’s not about creating a masterpiece that stops the world in its tracks.  No, it’s not about that.  It’s about practice and building endurance.  It’s about writing, writing, and more writing.  Then, maybe one day I’ll be that great writer I want to be.

One day I’ll write something that does stop the world in its tracks and what will I do then?  I’ll do it again.