Quietly

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Quietly,
Quietly,
she waits.
Alone.

No longer does laughter
fill the air;
No longer does door
on hinges swing.

Quietly,
Quietly,
she waits.
Alone.

No longer does she
move with ease;
No longer does laughter
ring so free.

Quietly,
Quietly,
she waits.
Alone.

No longer does the
doorbell ring;
No longer does the 
guest swing in.

Quietly,
Quietly,
she waits.
Alone.

Brrring! 
shatters quietness;
Brrring! 
fractures aloneness.

Quietly,
Quietly, 
she smiles.
Connected. 

Hello?
Oh, beloved voice;
How are you?
warms lonely heart.


Quietly,
Quietly she speaks; 
Quietly, quietly
loves, lives.


 

My sweet, sweet mother

This poem was inspired by a phone call I had this morning with my sweet, sweet mother, now 86, who lives 450 miles away. I asked, “How are you doing, Mom?” I heard a shocking reply. I didn’t realize how hard mandated seclusion is for the elderly, for my mom who never seemed elderly.

Please, please, please visit or call your parent or friend or neighbor today! Help “shatter the quietness and fragment the aloneness” for them.

“Pure religion and undefiled is this, To visit the fatherless and widow in their affliction…” James 1:27a

I plan on writing about the conversation tomorrow in my blog. See you then!

Sing For It's Spring

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Chirping and warbling-sounds that woke my up this morning. Happy, cheerful, hopeful sounds. My face broke into a smile as I blinked away the sleep from my eyes.

Downstairs, when I opened the blinds, what did I see? Three robins hopping across the lawn. What happy harbingers of spring! Melodies of my feathered friends drifted into the kitchen. My lips upturned. The birds aren’t worried.

Turning, wonderings wove wistfully in my thoughts as I completed my morning chores : Has the snow landed 3 times on the robins tail? I think so. I hope so.

My eyes lifted and glanced out the kitchen window. There on my shepherd’s crook, still holding the skeletons of fragrant flowers from last summer, sat a little red-headed bird. How happily he sat, cocking his head this way and that, surveying the wide world around him. His feathers puffed and fluffed like a proud little soldier. How lucky I am to see such a sight! What a handsome fellow.

Using Bird Watcher’s Digest, I think this is a male house finch. You can see the screen, but I didn’t have time to take another picture from the sliding door.

My legs carried me quickly to my phone. Hurriedly, my finger pressed the button. Did I get it? Oh, I forgot, the screen. Do I have time to get to the door without the screen? My feet flew to the door. I peeked out just as my friend tipped his head as if to say, “Top of the mornin’ to ye!” Opening his wings, he fluttered off.

“Good mornin’ to ye!” I whispered back as smile spread across my face. “Come back soon, little friend!”

“…Sing unto the LORD a new song…” Psalms 149:1b

Wait…It’s Spring?

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Wait…It’s spring?  My thoughts feel jumbled and confused, like one would feel if one was a pebble tumbling in a creek, and how one would feel if all the while the creek is tinkling and babbling at the joke it is playing.  I blinked.  I blinked again.  My eyes flew open!   It is spring! How did I miss it?  I feel as if I’ve been standing 3 inches in front of a large oak tree…all I see is rough, dark bark…COVID-19.

Well, this is going to change.  Quickly, I sit up, my bare feet hitting the carpet.  I speed into the closet and grab my robe.  No time to get dressed.  I need spring.  How do I welcome spring?

I hurry around the house dusting winter away as best I can.

I know…I’ll change the wreath on my door.  So, I change this…

Winter Wreath          Forsythia Wreath

I’ll changed this…

Winter art         IMG-5322

That’s better.  But, why not this?

IMG-5316         IMG-5321

But this???

IMG-5319

Wait…It’s Spring?

 

“…He giveth snow like wool: he scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes.  He casteth forth his ice like morsels: who can stand before his cold.”    Psalms 147:16-17

 

Hope for Today

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The darkness enveloped and a chill met me as I rose from my cozy bed and walked to the bathroom.  A gloom settled around me as thoughts of the coronavirus crowded my mind.  With determination, I did my morning bathroom chores…brush teeth…get dressed…put on make-up…swish & swipe toilet, sink, mirror…shoes, socks.

The fragrance of coffee met me as I entered the kitchen.  How great to have a timer on the coffee machine!  I grabbed my cup, filled it.  Next, my morning routines…open blinds, empty dishwasher, start diffuser (Citrus Fresh…what a happy start to the day), turn on CD player (remember those?) with the “New Boys” album, He Reigns. 

Sun through trees Turning, I noticed sunshine beaming through the kitchen windows. The sun came up again today. Is that a beam of joy entering my heart?

“As we lift up our hands, will you meet us hear? …God of mercy and grace…only you the heavens declare…Holy, holy is our God Almighty…Holy, holy is his name alone…” Jesus.

Peace and joy trickle in my dark heart and mind.  I felt the darkness splintering, shattering by HOPE.  Jesus still is in control.  He still holds me in his hands.

Before ever the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to lasting, thou art God.  Psalms 90:2

My God is not surprised or overwhelmed by COVID-19.   It is not out of His control.  He is still God…He is on his throne, reigning in majesty and strength.  I am not out of his care. How did I forget that?

Today, I choose HOPE.  I choose the eternal HOPE…I choose  Jesus!

Today, what will you choose?  Choose hope!  Choose Jesus!

 

Coaching and the Next Generation

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Our district considers itself a “destination” district-a magnet for teachers and training and forward thinking.  Looking through that lens, the district prefers to hire experienced teachers when a job or position opens. Although I agree that experience is invaluable, I believe that investing in new teachers is important, too.

 

In my role as Literacy Coaching in an elementary building, I have had the privilege of working with several teachers who have filled open positions.  Given my druthers, I prefer to coach brand new teachers instead of veteran teachers. This might seem odd to you, but I enjoy the energy and enthusiasm that they bring.  These right-out-of-college teachers who are wet behind the ears, so to speak, enhance our school in numerous ways.

 

First, these fresh-from-university teachers usually know and accept that they don’t know everything.  With this in mind, they actively seek help and support and have a desire to improve their practice. They are open to new ideas and to reflecting on their practices.  They don’t seem worried or angry or offended when the coach (me) let’s them know she will be in the room observing the “teaching and the learning.” These educators are glad! These educators fling open the doors!  These educators put out the welcome sign. In contrast to some veteran teachers, seeking answers or help with confusions is normal. Never have I heard one Initial educator say, “I’ve done that. The pendulum is going to swing back to…” or “I’ve done it this way for years so….”    New teachers bring an open mind and a willingness to to learn and grow.

 

In addition to this culture of reflection that new teachers bring, I respect these budding educators.  They come to the classroom with skills and expertise that far outweighs with what I entered the field. The classroom management skills are awesome.  They have a toolbox of ideas to support respectful discipline. They come to the classroom with excellent communication skills. They handle most meetings with parents, teachers, students, and other educators with poise and grace.  They come to the classroom with the “native language” of technology. They eat, drink, and speak it. What I struggled to learn seems natural to them. This expertise opens learning to students in fun and innovative ways. Yes, I respect these young teachers.

 

Finally, the last and most important reason is that working with new teachers is such a pleasure.   Their dreams are still shiny and sparkling. “What do you mean?” you may be wondering. Well, in my opinion, most people who enter the teaching profession are motivated by a genuine and intense desire to help children, to make a difference in their lives, and by working with a caring spirit to ensure it becomes a reality.  I have never met one teacher who said that he or she entered the profession because they wanted the summers off or because the benefits or pay lured them here. No, most enter because of a hope to change lives. Theses new educators still tuck these beliefs near and dear to their hearts. And, as I work alongside these young men and women, I hope, in some small way, to encourage that spark of a dream to burst into a flame that will continue to burn brighter year after year.  
Investing in these teachers, supporting their success, and helping them refine their craft during their first years is exciting and rewarding to me.  Far be it from me to withhold support when discouragements come; when unreasonable parents assail; or when a principal’s expectations are unrealistic, wanting them to be a 30 year veteran in a 22 year old body.  No, these young women and men are the future of education, the future, really, of America. They will inherit the profession. They will be the educators that continue to make a difference in the lives of my grandchildren and great-grandchildren and the next generation of children long after I lock my office door for the last time.  These teachers are the future. We would do well to help them.

Perched Upon a Split-Rail Fence

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Perched upon a split-rail fence,                                                    

American_Robin_2006

American Robin

The gray-brown bird with rusty breast

Glances left, glances right,

His beady eyes, inky night.

 

“Trill-ill-ill,” the song he sings,

A friendly sound to welcome Spring.

Tail feathers spread, a fragile fan

Work up and down like a dutiful flagman.

 

His act repeats with joyful glee.

“Trill-ill-ill,” the merry melody rings he,

The gray-brown bird with rusty breast

Perched upon a split-rail fence.

 

©B. Donaldson, 2018. All rights reserved

In the Center of the Room

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In the center of the room,

with armchairs, devan, and loveseat

quietly encircling,

lies the cat.

 

The tabby cat,

with soft white bib

and matching socks,

shyly hides his face.

 

Wiry, white whiskers

poke out here and there;

while sentinel ears stand erect,

in spite of hiding mittens.

 

Curled in a crescent moon,

the Tabby rests content,

with slow, slumbering breath,

in the center of he room.

 

©B. Donaldson, 2018. All rights reserved

Finding Balance

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Today while walking, a retired teacher and I discussed the changes in education that have come to area schools in recent years.  Like all things, there are positives and negatives surrounding these changes. We took out and examined both, the upsides and the downsides.  

The school from which my walking buddy retired is an extremely high-performing school that embraced the workshop model and “best practice” instruction with rigorous and time-intensive language arts curriculum guides.  The principal embraced change and led by edict, “We are going to implement this new curriculum this year.  We will ensure fidelity by asking you to input your lesson plans, enduring understandings, essential questions, and learning targets every day on the shared drive.  The literacy coach and I will read and comment on these as well as stop by your rooms with checklists to give you feedback.” And so it went. A two-hour reading block and an hour long writing/word study block, complete with carpet time, minilessons, anchor charts, and share outs, ruled the day.  Students moved from one lesson to another like clockwork. Literacy performance increased. The school earned a 97% on the State School Report Card. The principal was selected as a Kohl’s fellow. The results are impressive and awe-inspiring. These were the pros, but as in all things, there were resulting cons.

As the new normal with its accompanying test scores and accolades came to stay, there were consequential changes, consequential losses, and consequential shifts.  “What are these?” you may be asking. As literacy instruction became king, its preeminent curriculum began to squeeze out other activities during the day. Things such as teacher planning time.  Meetings encroached on this sacred time so that teachers had only three 35 minute prep times per week. Not so bad, except that conscientious teachers began staying late and working after dinner until 10 or 11 o’clock.  Teacher teams met in summers to work on lesson plans with the required understandings, questions, and targets. Most of the staff sought help in the form of anti-anxiety medication, retirement, or job changes.  Science, so interesting to students, also was compacted into two 30 minute lessons a week, and Social Studies became a 20 minute lesson three times per week. Gone were the projects and plays and recesses. Choice, the hallmark of workshop models, became almost non-existent as “the curricular guides” asked students to read certain books that aligned with lessons.  Sadly, to me, one of the greatest losses were the projects. To me, projects made a difference. In all my years of education, one of the things I remember the most was a third-grade Native American (Indians, in the old days) project. I remember it still-the Iroquois. I remember the designed and painted forests; handmade longhouses; and the little Indian figures.  All were so impressive to my 8-year-old self. Sad to think what our 5- or 7- or 10-year- old children are missing, this joyous part of education! All these pressures were the “last straw” for my friend who decided to retire.

 
I want to be fair.  I’m a literacy coach with training from a prominent university.  I believe in the workshop model, constructivist and collaborative learning, rigor and high-standards. I believe students need choice and enjoyment in learning.  I believe in student growth.  (Our school received a 89.9%.) And, I believe in best practices!  All this being said, and while believing best practices should be considered for instructional decisions and to help all children reach their full potential, it also is important to find balance.  How can we find balance in the joys and curiosities of learning (with its routines and regiments and accurate planning) with the joy of being a child? How can needs of the child’s academic and social/emotional life find balance in a high-performing school that demands rigor and results?  These are questions educators need to answer. These are questions that need pondering. These are questions that demand actions. We need to remember the child-the whole child-in the curriculum. We need to find balance!

April Fool’s Easter

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This year Ash Wednesday occurred on Valentine’s Day and Easter on April Fool’s Day.  That seems unusual to me, but it also got me thinking…

 

On Easter, when usually sunshine and daffodils and baby chicks come to mind, Mother Nature seemed to chuckle as she slyly planned her own April Fool’s trickery.  Sitting on my porch, a large, low container of pansies welcomed one and all to our home. Their immense faces cheerfully flirted with the breeze, teased the frollicking clouds, and chatted with the neighborly sparrows. Mother Nature looked the other way, feeling a more and more out of sorts, feeling more and more grouchy at being left out of the Springtime cheer.  So out of sorts was she that she abandoned her naturally sunny disposition, feeling not in the least generous or gracious.

 

So, as Easter approached, Mother Nature decided the time was right for her little “joke”.  She spied the pansies with their joyful exuberance of the coming celebration. She noticed the golden forsythia wreath on the ruby red door.  “No, no, no,” she thought. “If I’m not happy, ain’t nobody going to be happy.” So with premeditated purpose, instead of whisking in fair winds and warm sunshine, she decided play her joke. On Easter Eve, she invited Old Man Winter for a little visit.  His blustery breath sent a freezing chill over the land. His late visit frosted the happy pansies. Their heads now drooped in frozen death, no longer having strength to greet the morn. Easter-goers who, in cheerful anticipation of a glorious day, stepped out upon the porch  They clutched their coats tighter, pulled on their woolen mittens, and stared at the sad, sad pansies. Snowflakes swirled as Mother Nature laughed.

Reflections: Keep On Keeping On

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This year the Slice of Life Challenge seemed harder than the past two years.  At the beginning of the month, slices seemed rusty and not really what I wanted to post, but the deadline loomed. Comments seemed fewer and farther-in-between than in the past.  Those comments really do make a difference, even when the slice isn’t the “best” ever.  

 

In one slice, my writing reflected my thinking about those differences and comments, or the lack thereof.  Interestingly, a few of the comments that I received on that slice reminded me that I should be writing for myself, not for another’s comments. So true!  Another person commented on my obvious commitment to myself to write everyday and to persevere. So true!  The comments I read that day gave me the shot in the arm I needed to keep on keeping on.  My perspective shifted. My focus did, too. I knew I would, but I committed yet again to keep writing.  

 

And so I did.  I kept writing.  I kept commenting.  In fact, I decided to be part of the solution.  I tried to comment faithfully and thoughtfully on posts that I read.  The suggested, “Comment on 3 other blogs,” became a starting point. Could I do more?  I’m busy, too.  What I found, as I’m sure many of you have, is that the more I commented, the more enjoyable the month became.  Ideas seemed to flow more easily off my fingers. I experimented with different forms of writing, some weren’t perfect, but I had fun trying them out.  I took those risks. I accepted that everything wasn’t going to be perfect or even the best. I just keep on keeping on.

 

Then, other blogs gave me inspiration. Ideas were inspiration.  Forms were inspiration. Reading really great slices was inspiration.  Suggested “read this blog to for ideas” by the Two Writing Teachers was inspiration.  By reading slices, I realized that everyone has challenges, everyone has a day or days when the ideas dry up.  What do we do then? Keep writing. My writing still needs to grow and be refined; I’m not there, yet, but I’m working on it.  I just keep on keeping on.

 

Most importantly, as I kept writing, writing, writing, some fellow slicers did stop by.  They did comment. They did encourage. I was happy, but now, not dependent. I thank them all, all the wonderful people whose lives are busy and stressed and full of life’s activities, for stopping by. I thank them for taking time to read and offer those heartwarming comments.  I thank them for reading my slices that were full of risks, and, probably in all honesty, not all that great. For the kindness and the caring, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

 

Finally, I want to give a huge shout-out to all the Two Writing Teachers staff who planned and organized and emailed and commented.  No one can know, unless they have done it, how hard it must be. It seems easy on my end. Not seeing the countless behind-the-scenes workings, I can only imagine, and, I thank you.