Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Important Work

March on Washington, August 28, 19963
Fifty years ago this week,
a young Negro mother hugged her husband,
smiled "I love you",
and with her eyes, reminded him she was in support of his decision.

Their five children watched him stow several printed signs and a suitcase in the belly of a bus
bound for Washington D.C.
He then return to hug each one tightly
before smiling at his daughters
and exchanging a "take care of your mother" look with his sons.

The small family stood by their car and watched as the bus pulled out of the station.  The drive home was long and tearful until the mother reminded them to be strong because their father had gone to do "important work".

Fifty years ago today,
that young Negro man,
my father,
represented the N.A.A.C.P. of Logan, West Virginia at the March on Washington.

Jesse Martin, Sr. N.A.A.C.P. president, Logan, WVA
He joined in solidarity with thousands of others,
black and white,
rich and poor,
to watch and listen to a young Negro preacher,
wise beyond his years,
deliver a speech that would move a nation.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Fifty years later,
Dr. King's speech about equality, acceptance, understanding, and his dream for this nation
is one of the most recited, discussed and studied in United States history.

It opened wide the door for a "peaceful" Civil Rights revolution.

It serves as a reminder that we must never forget where we've come from
and never give up on this
"important work".

Monday, February 18, 2013

Simple Things

It's amazing how the simplest of things can be the most memorable.

This morning I sat down to breakfast.

Suddenly the room brightened and my eyes were drawn to the kitchen window.

Sunshine streamed through blinds casting shadows,
no...light through shadows, 
that brightened cabinets and walls with its design of diagonals.



I left my breakfast in search of a camera.
Surely there was more of this "simple beauty" throughout the house.  

And there was:

...across the drawers of a chest

...illuminating closet doors

...resting on a bed quilt

And then,
as quickly as it had brightened to a blazing contrast of light and shadow,
it softened.
Outside, a haze of clouds slowly crossed the sun, stealing the magic.

Often natural beauty is fleeting,
but the joy,
the lift of spirit,
the childlike smile it brings,
and sometimes,
commits itself to memory.

Like the song that plays on the radio and takes you back to the exact moment your first heard it floating through an open dorm room in college.

Or the Cardinal on your fence that takes you back to a childhood nature walk when your father said it was your state bird.

Funny thing is, you never know when or what will trigger this new memory in the years to come.

You only know that, right now, it has changed your mood and insight for just a little while.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


The amazing thing about fifth grade writers in late January is that they've become fearless.

The amazing thing about blogger Lisa-Jo Baker is her ability to draw writers together every Friday to write on one topic for five minutes.

Mix the two and you have a Language Artsy Friday afternoon in my classroom.

We'd just spent 45 minutes reading and sharing books with our second grade reading buddies.  The room was so full of students sitting in pairs, the second grade teacher and I had to tiptoe our way through.

Finally, the second graders were gone and it was time for writing exercise.

Before the topic, we agreed to write prose rather than poetry or lists.

Twenty-five students sat eagerly, notebooks open, pens in hand, waiting to give their all for five minutes on a writing topic.

Lisa-Jo did not disappoint.  The topic was "again".

Pens scratched noisily across landscapes of notebook pages in an otherwise silent classroom.

A focused silence, almost reverent.

I walked from table to table peeking over shoulders as writers quickly penned their thoughts.

The five minute mark arrived.

Notebooks in hand, students left their seats for the comfort of a large, berber rug.

They shared their writing and personal approaches on the topic.

  • the meaning of the word "again"
  • the sound of the word "again"
  • sibling rivalry episodes that occur "again and again"
  • vacations they want to take "again"
  • going to school "again"
  • being out of dress code "again"
  • if I had my ____ "again"
  • wanting to see a grandmother, long gone to Glory, "again"

I sat listening, in awe, to writers who once refused to write more than a sentence in September and October.
Writers who once drew stickmen in the margins of pages rather than write.  
Writers whose mantra was once, "I can't think of anything!"  

Now, I can send a one-word topic orbiting around the room and students willingly reach out to reel it in, ponder its existence, and then write on its relevance.

there exists a classroom of fifth grade writers,
who in late January, 
are fearless, 
and do not disappoint.