Friday, April 30, 2021

Let’s touch base...

It's the end of April! We’ve had a fantastic month of poetry for most of my students at school. I mean of course there are a few hold-outs who just can’t get into it but that’s okay. We did some borrowed poetry with Kwame Alexander and my littles did a few acrostic and concrete poems about trees, the weather and Earth Day. We read a lot of poetry together and kids of all ages love the You Read to me; I’ll read to you series of poetry books by Mary Ann Hoberman. Reading a poem out loud to a group of your peers is a brave thing to do and reading it with a friend just makes it easier. 5th and 6th graders are doing a mash-up with The Hill We Climb by the amazing Amanda Gorman, poet laureate. We listened to her recite this poem and through Google Classroom each student has their own copy to edit how they choose. Ms. Gorman has many beautiful and meaningful phrases and some students were really able to conceptualize what Amanda’s intention was in this piece. The poem they compose with me will then be illustrated with our beautiful art teacher.  

Last week I made a really delicious sweet potato dish from the NYT with wild rice that gave me lots of great lunches for school. I made some yummy m & m bars last night for a student party today at school and at the beginning of the week I made a chocolate vegan birthday cake for our son’s birthday. He took all the cake with him (or we gave him all the cake?) but I’m still thinking about the rich dark chocolate flavor. I am ready for the weekend, ready to relax and prepare mentally for the last month of school. Groovy Girl is almost finished with her freshman year of college and I’m ready for her to be home and in a summer routine. 

And tomorrow is May Day! Ya’ll have your May Day baskets prepared yet? We don’t either but will do them tomorrow for maybe an early evening delivery time. Let’s head into May with a positive mindset and  good weather for spending time outside. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Today and tomorrow

I  anxiously awaited the end of the Chauvin trial, as millions of others did, because I wanted a trend to be set and I am very happy with the outcome. In fact I cried. If we can convict one police officer then it can happen again and hopefully start a fire burning for better policing. City and state budgets need to be spent on training for officers on how to de-escalate with more emphasis on better understanding and compassion. Long live the memory of George Floyd! It's one tiny step to restorative justice in these United States.

I finished The Night Watchman Louise Erdrich’s excellent novel which recounts the story of her grandfather in 1953.. There has been no time in our country’s history where we’ve treated the First People with the respect they deserve and this book recounts the “emancipation bill” created by Senator Arthur V. Watkins, a Mormon, of Utah. This bill was set to relieve the Native people of their status as a tribe and force integration into bigger cities like Minneapolis/St Paul. Watkins pushed this idea as the Emancipation Proclamation for Natives. Erdrich’s ability to weave facts into her beautifully-written prose makes this a majestic book to read. I strive to read whatever she publishes.  My favorite quote from The Night Watchman: 

"We're from here," said Thomas. He thought awhile, drank some tea. "Think about this. If we Indians had picked up and gone over there and killed most of you and took over your land, what about that? Say you had a big farm in England. We camp there and kick you off. What do you say?" Barnes was struck by this scenario. He raised his eyebrows so fast his hair flopped up." I say we were here first!"

Many aren't aware that Erdrich has a historical fiction series that begins with The Birchbark House for elementary students. This 5 book series is a wonderful look into Native life as they attempt to survive while European explorers and settlers encroach on their land and way of life.

I'm feeling burned out from school and look forward to summer. I will be happy to have Groovy Girl back home and hope for somewhat of a "normal" summer with threads of pre-pandemic moments.  I am taking my worries to my yoga mat and have challenged myself to show up everyday for at least 20-30 minutes with Adriene. I thought I would have so much extra time this year and I just ended up juggling more work and stress. I always have hope and know this is temporary. Be good to yourself.  Peace be with you...

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Caste: the origins of our discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

 I finished this after 4 months. It just wasn’t a book I could rush and I needed to take a break after sections to think about it ALL because there is so much in here. I very much enjoyed her writing style.  At almost 400 pages and seven sections long the book dissects all that you would ever need to know about the social construct of the caste system in these United States, Nazi Germany, and India.  I only want to present a few highlights that stood out to  me. I encourage anyone interested in understanding better how the conquering men stole the land, crushing the original inhabitants, and built this country up using enslaved people from the continent of Africa. 

"Colonial laws herded European workers and African workers into separate and unequal queues and set in motion the caste system that would become the cornerstone of the social, political, and economic system in America. ...triggering the deadliest war on U.S. soil, lead to the ritual killings of thousands of subordinate-caste people in lynchings, and become the source of inequalities that becloud and destabilize the country to this day." (41)

For slavery to have existed here in the "land of the free" is horrid enough but after the Civil War was fought collectively people and our government should have stood up for actual freedom. Civil War generals should have been put on trial in the North and been tried for treason instead of celebrated. Freed slaves should have been offered education and training instead of sharecropping.  Even as they fled north they were given minimal opportunities. Jim Crow laws continued this mindset and paved the way for the equity issues we struggle with today. 

Wilkerson shares many personal stories of racism from her own life and of others that help to shine a light on the difficulties black and brown people experience daily. People from the dominate caste feel they have the right to dictate, bully and get involved in situations that have nothing to do with them. She shares a story of her encounter with a plumber who isn't interested in helping her find the source of her wet basement until she humanizes the situation for him and about airline attendants who doubt her first class status. 

 I read each word, each sentence, each chapter slowly as to fully absorb the emotion and meaning I often had to walk away from the book to regain some composure. While it is brutal and often left me chilled; this book is a must read for anyone seeking enlightenment on how we got here.  Understanding the why is important. We have got to do better. My biggest take away is that we have to step in and say something as these situations happen both on a grand scale for racist policies and on a more personal scale to the Karens we encounter. 

Monday, April 5, 2021

Hello Fresh and other news

Out of curiosity I used a coupon card and signed up for meals from Hello Fresh; one of the many subscription food services out in the world. And I found that like many things it is filled with false promises and inaccurate advertising. It was a lot of fun to look through the week's menus and pick and choose what to look forward to for the week. The meals look delicious online and honestly when you cook them up out of their handy brown paper bag they tasted good. So the flavor and ease were a hit but there was so much waste with tiny packaging for sauces and herbs that as an eco-conscience person it was not a good fit. Also the advertising on their page is like "ten free meals..." which is just not true. You get a big discount on your first week's order but the price goes up significantly after that. I was happy to give it a fun try at a time when it was just the two of us to cook for and we needed a mental health boost as we were trying to desperately leave winter behind. I will use the recipe cards again and again because the flavors were good - I'll just plan to use my own pantry items here on out. 

It's National Poetry Month and I've worked this in to my lesson plans for some spring fun. I read a few excerpts from Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. I loved that many students  knew many of the poems in this book and even had specific requests for me to read aloud. I had this book as a child and love Shel's first poem inside. It's still a great message for today.


If you are a dreamer, come in.

If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, 

A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer,

If you're a magic bean buyer, come sit by the fire

For we have some flax-golden tales to spin,

Come in!

Come in!

I discovered a series of videos with Kwame Alexander sharing his experiences with writing that are engaging and short so perfect for students. He has kids chanting after him when he repeats his "blue black, blue black, black black" and they are amazed at how his words flow. Enjoy the week and embrace the Spring weather that is hopefully here to stay. I know I need the sunshine on my face.