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Choose Your Own Adventure


As the school bus starts to pull away from the curb, you wave to the students looking out the windows, and to the students who might turn their heads toward their windows before you’re out of sight.

Do you:
A: go back inside right away because you didn’t dress warmly enough to be outside?
B: stop waving, but stay outside to enjoy a little more fresh air?
C: continue waving to the bus until it’s out of sight?

A: A gust of wind swirls, and you shiver.  You wonder why you don’t ever remember to grab your coat and you wish you’d worn your boots instead of flats without socks.  You turn quickly toward the school and speedwalk back to the door.

B: No one’s watching anymore, you can tell, so you drop your arm.  It’s chilly, and the breeze makes you shiver, but the fresh air feels good.  It reminds you to take a deep breath and when you do, the tightness in your chest makes you realize how tense your body has become. You wrap your sweater around yourself a little more tightly and walk as slowly as you can back to the school building, practicing your deep breathing as you go.

C: It doesn’t look like any students are watching you anymore, but you remember how last year some students waved back as they watched you on the bus’s entire route down the long driveway.  You hope that if you’re consistent, someday these students will also wave back, so you keep up the wave.  Once the bus is out of close proximity, you shift into autopilot mode, with your arm continuing to move back and forth while you enjoy the fresh air and a moment of peace.

The school doors open, and a colleague walks briskly through, rolling her school cart behind.

Does she:
D: stop to join you in waving to the bus as it rolls out of sight?
E: call a friendly, “Have a good afternoon, Domina!” as she makes her way to the parking lot?
F: say, “Sucker!” as she walks past?

D: She looked single-minded as she came out of the doors, but she detours and slows to come stand next to you.  “That’s so sweet of you to wave to the bus!” she smiles and she waves a few times to the bus herself.  You think, if this is the one thing students remember about me, I wouldn’t mind.  But instead of sharing that syrupy thought, you laugh and admit, “It’s a habit I picked up when I taught environmental education.  We had a superstition that if you stopped waving before the bus was out of sight, it would break down and then you’d be stuck entertaining the students until a new bus could arrive.”  You miss the laughter and camaraderie of that job, but sharing stories from that time makes you think that maybe eventually you’ll be able to build a sense of camaraderie here as well.

E: Your arm keeps waving as you watch her wheel her school cart down the sidewalk.  “Have a good afternoon, Domina!” she calls as she continues toward the parking lot.  You laugh at what has become your new joke.  Probably because you work in a completely different area of the building, the two of you don’t run into each other very often.  Just recently, she admitted that she always wants to call you by your last name, and she always has to think for an extra minute to remember that that’s not really your first name.  You’ve taken to responding by calling her by her last name as well.  The bus has receded into the distance, and so has your colleague, so you lower your arm and make your way back to the school, happy to be part of an inside joke, and even happier to feel like you’re finally finding your place in the community after 4 years.

F: Your attention half on still waving to the bus not yet out of sight, half on watching your colleague roll her school cart down the sidewalk, you idly wonder how she manages to leave school so early, and then you tell yourself she’s probably going to the gym to work out–that’s a habit maybe you should try to emulate.  It’d be nice to be as strong as she is.  You’re lost enough in your head that she’s already walked past you when you process that she said something as she passed by.  It takes another second to realize that she said, “Sucker!”  Is that really what she said? you wonder, and then, Was she really talking to me?  But you’re the only one still outside, and that’s sure what it sounded like.

Do you:
G: Decide you must have heard wrong and spend the rest of the afternoon trying to figure out what else she could have said?
H: Chalk her comment up to her feeling burnt-out and spend the rest of the afternoon glad that you like teaching more than she seems to like it?
I: Puzzle over why she would have said that and spend the rest of the afternoon feeling hurt and wondering if a different school might have colleagues more excited about waving to students at the end of the day?

G, H, and I: Your arm falls; the bus is out of sight anyway, and you make your way back into the school.  Those deep breaths of fresh air had dissipated some of your tension, but you can feel stiffness in your shoulders and chest again.  You check your mailbox, walking past the tight circles of staff chatting with each other about mutual friends, and you make your way back to your classroom, where you’ll putter for the next hour.

During this time you decide:
this will be worked into a slice of life somehow.


For Grandma


I thought of you this morning.

I heard a radio piece about starlings,
and though I knew the story:

a mention by Shakespeare
was reason enough to release cagefuls into Central Park,
and now they have displaced native birds

I loved hearing the story anyway.

You would have, too.

I would like to call you, to share the story.

But, like a murmuration of starlings winging
.       this                way
.               and
.                                                  that
precise and brilliant against the sky
until they turn and disappear into the horizon,

all that is left is the bright emptiness
in your wake.



Never Normal


“Anything else I should know?” she asks.

I mull over the possibilities….we’ve covered her son’s growth–academic and social, we’ve covered things to continue working on, we’ve covered his behavior….the conference seems ready to wind down.

But then I remember–there was something I had been wondering if I should call home about.  “Well….yes.  He’s been really enjoying the What Was … series, and he read What Was the Twin Towers a few weeks ago.  It seemed like that made a big impact on him.  He had lots of questions … I encouraged him to talk with you about it ….. I hope he has.”

She nods, and we sit with all the weight this carries, me in my professional, “teacher” dress, she in her head scarf.

From here, we move into other topics we wish we could save him from.  “We’ve been talking with him about what happened in New Zealand, ” she offers.

I think about him coming up to me on Monday. His body–normally a constant chaos of dancing, flying limbs–subdued and small as he asked me if I knew what had happened.  I knelt down to him as I tried to figure out what to say that would reassure but not dismiss the feelings of this 10-year-old, whose community must be reeling.

Somehow the conversation shifts to the comments that are made towards Muslims these days.  “We don’t want him to be scared,” she says, “Unfortunately, we have to normalize comments like that.  We want him to take comments as just a fact of normal life and move on.”

Of all the comments made throughout my three days of conferences, this is the comment that haunts me the most.

Some things should not need to be normalized.

Am I Human?


It’s 7:30 and I should be loading up my schoolbags and running out the door so I can drive to work, but I have this slice of life post on my computer screen.  It’s already read; I just need to write a comment, and I know that I could choose to close the laptop any time, but no one has commented on it yet.  It’s a nice post, and I want to be a kind fellow-slicer, so I quickly cut and paste my favorite line and add why it’s my favorite line and hit “submit.”  Done–and I’m ready to go to school.



The comment needs to be verified.

“Click on the squares with bicycles.” I read.

I sigh.  At least it’s not pictures of buses.  I’m always unsure whether those pictures of vehicles driving away on the highway are buses or vans.

By now, I have the routine down.  There are always 3 squares to click on.  I find the three with bicycles and wait for the new pictures to load.

I remind myself to use this time to take deep breaths, and I try to find some excitement in variety kicking in at this stage.  Usually two of the three new squares have the desired picture, but sometimes only one of them does (like today–yes!).  And then there’s even more variety–will that single picture have a bicycle twice or three times or just once more?

Just two more bicycles today, but the next direction reminds me that buses aren’t my least favorite verification picture.  I groan.  It’s storefronts.  And I wonder: how strongly do I really feel about sharing this comment?

No, no, I tell myself.  I’m almost there.  Usually I only need to go through two rounds.  Click on the three pictures, click on the two, click on the one….I should be good to go.

Except maybe I misidentified storefronts.  Now there’s one big image of a traffic light and I need to click on all the squares with traffic lights.  The first few squares are easy, but I never know–do I click on that square with the sliver of traffic light edge?  Will that prove I’m not a robot, or will it look like I’m a robot clicking on everything in sight?  I click on it today, and lean in to study the picture.  It’s good I did–there are some traffic lights in the distance I almost missed.

Next are crosswalks.

Next are stopsigns.

I must really be manifesting as a robot.  Am I clicking too much or not enough?  I still don’t know, so I keep on going, expecting with every click that I must have proved my humanity by now.

Eventually I do.  The computer is satisfied.  The slicer gets their comment.  Hopefully they’re satisfied, too. I get to school (almost) on time.  I’m satisfied, too.  Except I’d be a little more satisfied if I could avoid those *!@#$ verifications!


Reminder to Myself on a Tuesday Morning


Stand still for a moment.

Close your eyes and lift your face up to the sun.
Ignore the schoolbags pulling on your shoulder.
Ignore the voice in your head pulling you toward the door,
toward making copies and
setting up the classroom and
rushing before the kids arrive.

Stand still for a moment.

Feel the chill penetrate, tempered by sunshine.
Feel a breath penetrate, deep within your chest, filling your lungs.
Don’t hold that breath all day.

Stand still for a moment.

Listen to the robins, the cardinals, those birds whose voice you used to know
last spring–and now they’re back again.
Listen to the song in your heart that comes from
being here,
in this moment.

Randy’s slice

“Are you almost done?” Randy asks me.  “I think I’m going to go to bed soon.”

“Weelll…” Should I tell him?  “I haven’t actually started yet.  I’ve been commenting.”

“That’s generous,” my sweet husband gives me the benefit of the doubt.

“More like procrastinating,” I admit. “I don’t know what to write today.”

“Write something short,” he tells me.

Moments later he elaborates:



Short of temper (like you were earlier, before dinner)

Short slice of life.

As I wish work had been today.

Not long, as I wish tonight’s sleep could be.

“How’s that?” he asks, grinning. “Can you come to bed now?”



Were you there?


The keynote speech has ended, applause has crescendoed, and now the audience turns to gathering our bags and making our way out of the huge, gothic church.

I give one last piece of advice to my neighbor, a first-timer to Saturday Reunions; nodding around the nave and lifting my chin toward the packed balcony I say, ” Look around.  I love this sight of so many passionate teachers together.”

Soon we’re separated, but I continue to look around, thinking of chance encounters I’ve enjoyed over the years.

I remember last year, when I spotted a blogger whom I follow and found the courage to tell him how much I enjoyed his recent post.  I wonder if I’ll see him again, and then I wonder about all the other bloggers I’m following this month. Are they here?

I know that probably many are.

Suddenly I’m trying to look at–and really see–everyone’s faces.  I silently ask each new person in my gaze, “Have I read your posts?  Have you read mine?  Have we shared each other’s stories and touched each other’s hearts?”

I wonder, dear Reader, did I see you yesterday?

Or did I see you today, in the grocery store?  Did our cars pass on the highway?

I may not recognize you, but I’m glad we share this space.