• On Writing

    How the Things we Keep, Keep Us

    May 12, 1974 “Dearest Jody, I’m writing you today to say, “I’m glad I’m your mom.” I am now, and always have been, so proud of you, Jo. Can’t remember a single moments’ “trouble” that you’ve ever been in or any periods of anxiety that you have caused. Sure there were minutes of panic…like the time Colleen hit you with the baseball bat. But so far as the really important things like your character and independence and industriousness are concerned, you’ve never caused me any doubts. With much love, Mom” ~~~~~~~~~~ As a newly retired teacher—first Fall without students—woohoo!—I can FINALLY get to some gargantuan projects that I’ve wanted to…

  • On Writing

    That Still, Small Voice

    One of the best things about teaching Elementary School as a substitute teacher is hanging out with second graders (my favorite grade–innocent, love their teachers, AND they can usually tie their shoes). The other thing about Second Grade is that every February pretty much every teacher talks about penguins.  Were it not for this exposure to the subject, I would not be aware of the fact there are 17 different species of penguins in the world. Seventeen. Each one is a remarkable display of God’s creativity–from fin size to breeding habits to habitat.  Penguins are amazing creatures. Because of the documentary ‘March of the Penguins’, a life cycle depiction of…

  • Made Things

    When we are Named and Known

    I silently knock on the Kindergarten door, helper for the day in my Assistant Teacher role.  I love Kindergarten.  I did my student teaching there—sang a LOT of songs and played games and sat on the floor and learned words. Today is one of those days—a learning day—except I am the student. I teach in a very diverse school district.  The population we serve has changed significantly in the past 7 or 8 years. Our students are 85% immigrants—mostly African, primarily from Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia. Needless to say, school is a challenge for these immigrant children. Today the teacher asks me to take time with Mamoud and Khalid who are…

  • Made Things

    The Power of a Simple Question

    I had the surprise privilege of teaching a short (four week) Summer School gig for a friend recently–and I do mean privilege. He asked if I could take over his Reading classes at a private Korean Academy. After thanking God for the answer to prayer for meeting a financial need, I then got VERY happy about the subject matter–what’s not to love about getting paid to talk about books and words?? The classes I took on included students ranging in age from 5th/6th grade (mornings) to 7th/8th/9th grade (afternoons).  I spend my days during the school year substituting in Elementary Schools; however, I’ve usually preferred the ‘little’ kids–Kindergarten through 4th…

  • Life in General

    A Closet Full of Ping Pong Balls (or How to Survive Five Years in Spec Ed)

    C. is after her purse in the back corner cabinet of the classroom. She’s got just a minute to reach for something and turns her head to answer a question, her back to the cupboard. Out comes a cascade of bloodshot eyeball ping pong balls, tumbling to the floor…..oh, it’s just another day in Room 3, where we know how to put the ‘special’ in special education. Boy, I miss those days. When I decided to retire in 2016 from full-time teaching to simply an occasional Guest Teacher gig, it was the happiest/saddest decision of my life. Happy because there were new doors to walk through in the days ahead,…

  • Life in General,  My Poems

    Well {a #poem}

    “That’s a deep subject,” I’d oft repeat, to chide the speaker for such a lame, one-word comment. Well, indeed. I’m in it at the bottom, Swimming in my own tears drowning in grief that I must haul up bucket by bucket. But the hauling is needful– the bucket-at-a time tending a necessary process. The grief needs to be felt and measured–lived through to measure me— I do not want to come up short again, but learn from this deep, deep hole, and coming back up, take this pain, put it to good use, to see past the bucket and the baling and the bawling, on to the wishes coming true…

  • Poetry

    Atticus to Zeppelin

    Classroom photo, mine. 2012 “Recess teacher!!” That would be me and anyone else over 3 feet tall who has a whistle. “Hey guys, just so you know, my name’s Mrs. Collins”, flashing my cartoon-y fish logo with my fancy-ish name. “What’re your names?” “I’m Atticus, this is Zeppelin.” “Well, those are some pretty big names,” I remark, and proceed                                                                                                        to…