Monthly Archives: April 2018

what will be your legacy?

Today’s Afternoon Pages prompt comes to you courtesy of Taylor, Rachel, Brooke, and Meg, as follows:

The journey to becoming a teacher is a long one. Along the way, we are posed with many questions about who we want to be as a teacher. How would you want your students to think back on their experiences in your classroom? How do you want to be viewed in the classroom? What will be your legacy?

I recently listened to a podcast, which I highly recommend, called “The Greater Good Project.” It’s connected with the Greater Good research center out of Stanford, who has all kinds of resources, many of them focused on mindfulness practices.

In the podcast, a young woman in her 20s talked about writing a “rubric” for her life. DID YOU HEAR WHAT I JUST SAID? A rubric for her life so that she could measure how she was living up to her own expectations. I can only imagine the descriptors: “I am ‘partially proficient’ in maintaining close relationships.” She said it helped. I find it mildly horrifying.

But it did make me think about mission statements. Yes, mission statements. If you’ve ever had to participate in the process of writing one, you’re probably moaning and groaning by now because they can become so vague as to be meaningless. But what if we wrote our own personal mission statements to guide our teaching, to guide the way we work with students on a face-to-face basis? What if that’s what shaped the legacy we might leave behind?

Most mission statements are short and pithy, but I only have time to write a long one.

My mission is to really listen to my students, to really see them. I want to celebrate who they are right now and to help them (and myself) be here in this moment, expending our life energy to learn together. I want to help them get better than they think they can be. My mission is to help students learn how to plan a lesson, but also to think about the frame surrounding it. I want to help them consider how the work they do every day with students and colleagues has the potential to help all of us read, critique, rewrite and therefore eventually change the world.




Today, Anna Arcuri (my fantastic TA), has prompted us to think about setting intentions to guide our work/writing/living today. Here’s her prompt:

    • The writer of “Intention Setting 101” Melissa Eisler, defines intentions as “heart-driven and evoke feeling and purpose … Setting an intention is a way to bring your heart and mind into alignment.” Think of a positive intention you can set for yourself today during class. Write about what you need from yourself, your peers, and/or Cindy and Anna; then write about how you will achieve this intention.

I’ve been thinking about intentions a lot this year and have centered them around the word “abundance.” It’s at the top of my calendar, so I see it every day, but sometimes it becomes “wallpaper” that I don’t see anymore, even though I’ve written IN BLUE SHARPIE. Intentions can become wallpaper, too, I’ve discovered, so that I’m sometimes thinking, “Abundance, yeah, yeah, yeah.”

Today, though, I looked at it purposely and wondered how it would shape my day. I wondered how every time fear for the future arise (it’s ever-present for me), I could let abundance frame my thinking.

What does it mean to teach from a place of abundance? What does it mean to write from a place of abundance? What does it mean to lead from a place of abundance? What does it mean to walk through my life that way?

It means that right now, at this present moment, I am (mostly) safe, I can see beauty all around me on this sunny day, I have the privilege of working with my students for the next 50 mins. at a very important stage of their lives. I have the opportunity to help them think about this moment as more than just leading to the next one. But first I have to believe it myself.

How will that knowledge guide my work today? I will gift them with abundant, generous listening. I will draw from my abundant experience to try to help them write their way into ideas that the rest of us can learn from. I will give them what I can to help them live abundantly, too.

we are the champions

TODAY’S AFTERNOON PAGES PROMPT is brought to you by Kelsea, Lexi, and Devontay. Here it is:

Watch this video first…and then…

It’s National Poetry Month! Therefore, please write a poem in the format of your choosing. In your poem, address these questions:

How would you advocate for your students? What are specific ways you might be able to be a ‘champion’ for them? How might you go about advocating for students that might be ‘ignored’ in the educational system because of things such as race, class, gender, ability, etc? You do not have to address all of these questions in your poem unless you want to; focus on the ones that you are most interested in.

(what follows is the first draft of my poem.)



Champion: n., One who wins

Champion: adj., Victorious, winning

Champion: v., To hold another up so that they can be victorious

Teachers embody most parts of speech.

They can win:

at reaching their students, at teaching out of their minds

They can reign:

sit at the head of the class with their makeshift crowns and duct-taped scepters against the odds of insufficient funding, inadequate pay, disinterested parents, uneducated policymakers

Or (and this is it; the heart of the crux of the center of the thing) they can

hold others up–(support, not attack; enable, not thwart;

[students, colleagues, administrators, parents, community members, policymakers — all were students oncewhathappened

Teachers embody most parts of speech.

Teachers can champion champions and champion us all.


what’s the use?: of poetry


Yesterday, the English Ed. program threw a big party and invited the LA spoken word poetry troupe Get Lit to it to share all they know about reading the world to read the word. Today’s giant understatement = a really good time was had by all.

In the course of the afternoon, one of the poets, Monique Mitchell, read Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s poem “Poetry As Insurgent Art [I am signaling you from the flames.]” A beautiful line from this poem is this one: “The state of the world calls out for poetry to save it.” So our Afternoon Pages prompt for today is to address, if that is the case, how poetry would respond?

Here’s (the highly unedited) response I wrote yesterday:


How many days has poetry

saved me?

How many days have I fastened myself

to a word, a line,

gripped it like a grapnel,

Hung on tight

so I could just hang on?

I collect poems like I 

collect(ed) rocks, stamps, crossword puzzles

when I was seven, seventeen,

and even now in the lamplight

before I go to sleep.

I add words to the list of WORDS that

I keep on my cell phone

those I will use now and someday.

Some people say, “Waste not, want not.”

Some people say, “A penny saved is

a penny earned.”

But I say, waste words anyway.

I say, spend them all.

Eat them like cereal from the china bowls.

Slurp them from the good silver.

Serve them up like grilled cheese on the crystal plate.

Use your words (use my words)

this moment, now, not some distant someday.

What if the most important guest 

you imagined to impress

never comes?

Words unspent are wasted,

(as with your vast life)

without poetry,

worlds unsaved.