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Do you read poetry?


Poetry (Photo credit: Kimli)

From one of the shelves on my desk sits a row of poetry books. Most belonged to my grandmother. She was a high school English teacher some 50+ years ago. Poetry was a big thing back then. She read us poems, even made me memorize a few when I was younger. Growing up, my life was full of poetry, not from school but in my home. As I pulled down one of my favorites, 1000 Beautiful Things, complied by Marjorie Barrows, 1947, tears formed in my eyes as I read. So many children are growing up not exposed to the wonders of poetry. I know they have a brief unit or two, and even write a few during different phases of their younger years in grade school but it is different now than it was.

With the age of technology upon us written language has changed over the past 20 years. Texting has taken over with a language of its own. Very few if any under the age of 25 ever write letter to anyone. The failing postal service in the USA is feeling the lack of written communication on a personal level. I noticed the other day when my 21-year-old asked me how to address an envelope because she had forgotten how.  I had failed my own children in regard to letter writing. She told me she never had to address an envelope in high school, the last time was in elementary school. She had written a letter for persuasion, to make requests for information and thank you notes but had sent all via email. I realized she had never received a hand written love letter containing a love poem. How sad. Nothing is more touching than to receive a love poem. She also had never received a funny poem written by a friend in honor of a lighthearted situation. In fact, she had never coined a poem or two since it was required the last time was in middle school.

I opened my filing cabinet and pulled out two bulging folders full of poems I had written. I have never shared them. Wondering why I realized it was because someone had laughed so many years ago when I said I wrote poems. Silly how one person could change my beloved past time hobby. I did write again in a masters level college class. No, a poet of great works I will never be but one who sings the songs of my heart and mind across the fibers of paper for my own personal enjoyment and some rare few others I most definitely will do again. I even have a file of some poems I have received. Yes, a few love poems from young loves back in the day. I still treasure those even though time has altered our paths I still can feel the little flicker associated with the words from a time long ago. Two treasured collects are from friends who were poets in the days of high school. I giggle and sigh as each poem reminds me of the memories captured of a carefree time. Some weathered old pieces of paper contain poems written by my grandmother. Those  are very special to me. I hold in my hands a vast collection of heart songs called poems. Each taking me back to a special time and place. Each one bringing me back to connect with people, emotions, places, and most of all parts of my life I often forget until my hands open the files of words of my life.

On my shelf I have many books of poems. Some bring me to the ocean shores as I read them I can hear the waves crashing in my mind. Others take me deep in the woods where the scent of fresh pine and flowers are triggered. There are those that cause tears to run down my cheeks, some from intense laugher, a few from sadness, and those special ones that touch my heart. In a section off to the far side are a few poetry books filled with children’s verses. Those I read to my children when they were very young. A few they could quote when they were little but were soon replaced by words from a big purple dinosaur named Barney or a group called the Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles. I realized I had allowed this to happen. Sigh.

My goal is to bring poetry and the art of hand written letters back to those around me. I hope to share with the children and adults I work with as well as making a higher priority to commit to writing both letters and poems to my family. Some traditions and ways should not pass as we move forward. The art of writing personal letters and poetry are two which need to be revived to carry on.

In Memoriam

I ask of life this last request:

That word of mine may share

With all who read that loveliness-

The halo of the hair,

The softest voice, the busy hands,

The gentleness and grace-

The logic of the mind- the light

That brightened up a face.

– Mildred Bowers Armstrong


Made you smile, didn’t it. Dig out the poetry books. Find a pen and pencil to write a few of your own. Send a letter to a friend with a limerick or funny line or two. Share a favorite childhood poem with your own children or grandchildren.  Or, create a private journal to fill with poems, letters, sayings, quotes, and pictures of things which touch your heart. In years to come you will find it a treasure of memories which will fill your heart from moments you have forgotten.


Giving Thanks

Flickr friends

Flickr friends (Photo credit: Meer)

As I hover around a warm kitchen preparing the annual feast to shared with family and friends, I reflect upon the year. It hasn’t been one without trials and sadness. It hasn’t been without challenges and disappointments. Through it all one thing has risen to the top, friendships. More than any other year I have valued having friends. We may not have agreed but what we did was to exchange ideas and act as sounding boards through the trials and frustrations. When one mind was not enough they rose to the creative challenge to take on moments to find  solutions. They were also there for some incredibly fun and unbelievable miracle moments as well.

Many parents worry about their challenged kids not having friends. I hear this a lot. Not only is school for academics it is also a learning ground for developing social skills. Sometimes we as parents try to control the types of friends out kids have only to see we are actually running them towards  the very ones that scare us the most. Fostering friendships as adults, our children can learn is probably the most important way for them to learn. Let me note that if you hang out with drinking buddies and do questionable things do not be surprised if your kids do. They do model what they see. If you have no friends and live as a recluse, then know they are not seeing you model how to develop relationships with others. Many times if you try to exclude them from the world they will find a fast track to get as much life experience in as they can at once. It does have a tendency to backfire.

If you are an introvert, discuss your life style with your children. They need to understand it is by choice you do things alone, not because you are “weird.” Sometimes we introverts get some negative labels. We can change by explaining how we work. I have noticed a lot of “How to live with an Introvert” things on Facebook and Pinterest.  Kids are far more perceptive than we give them credit. Discuss the various social types so they will not be so judgmental or be swayed by school stereotyping. It takes Geeks, Freaks, Jocks, Nerds, and assorted others to make this world function. It is far better to know folks by introverts and extroverts. Of course there are other more positive labels. I do not mind being called artsy because now I accept it as a compliment. I relish the title which allows me to dress a bit funky from time to time and get away with paint on me without folks thinking negative. All the negative  changed when I embraced my gifts instead of hiding them. I have noticed when students accept their uniqueness their social lives become more positive.

Let’s give thanks to all sorts of folks who have made our lives better because they chose to be unique. They rose above the negative stereotype taunting to live their dreams.  To all the kids still discovering their talents, growing from their awkward growth spurts and into their own selves, lets help make the process less troublesome. Support them and encourage them instead of trying to rework them into something we feel they should be. We all hated when our parents tried to make us be something we were not. We also admired our friends parents who fostered dreams and allowed some growing room for discovery. We all learn from mistakes. They makes us stronger and gives life lessons. If you grow up in a shielded bubble, reality will bite hard.  Everyone needs a daily dose of reality even as young as a year old. We also need to learn the best protection in life is a good circle of friends when reality bits. Let them explore the world and those around them. Let them have a variety of friends.

Happy Thanksgiving to all! And I am very thankful for all of you who visit my blog.

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A Clue to the ADD Increase

Students in the incubation room at the Woodbin...

Students in the incubation room at the Woodbine Agricultural School, New Jersey (Photo credit: Center for Jewish History, NYC)

Before the 80’s students played outside not once but often twice a day. When I started teaching in 1986, I taught the last group of kindergarten students who took naps and had two mandatory playtime hours outside. Lunch time was also a period kids could talk and socialize but within limits. Foods were often fresh not processed or canned. Kids had cookies and cakes which they looked forward to. Music, art, and dance were often a part of the daily curriculum. Field trips were every other month to visit farms, museums or concerts. ALL student participated. All were expected to behave. If they did not it was never the teacher or someone else’s fault. Everyone was accountable for their own actions. There were holiday celebrations. There were days when the entire school would take part in field day or even a school wide movie treat. I remember seeing Disney’s “The Shaggy DA” on a huge movie screen via an old reel to reel projector.  I didn’t have to read 20 books or have perfect attendance. It was just a school wide treat for ALL. I never got plastic toys or stickers everyday. I did get those little foil stars. Boy, those were coveted. I do remember getting ice cream and occasionally a lollipop.

I do not remember classmates or parents cussing. I do not remember kids running around or yelling in the classroom. I do remember class bullies but those were taken care of quickly until the next year. I was certain bullies were empowered during the summer months and had to meet the “board of education” before Christmas to fix their attitudes. But we survived and learned how to deal with those types. I remember others who struggled. I remember the teachers working with those students and their parents never having to challenge or threaten the school. I remember teachers commanding respect and me very willing to give it because in many ways they showed us respect as well. I remember pranksters but never to the extent of causing harm to anyone. Many a few of us got embarrassed but we saw it once again as a lesson learned. I am certain I have no lasting scars from my formative school days. I have good and bad memories but nothing which altered my life to one of crime or disobedience.

I believe we became very successful in our own ways because we were allowed to explore and have time to “unwind.” We were not over scheduled or jetting off to tournaments across the state and region. We were not in everything to make sure we had skills above our developmental levels. We were allowed to be kids. We fell down and skinned our knees without causing a law suit. We fell off bikes without suing the company because the training wheel snapped off. We did witness accidents and learned. Not to be cruel but there is a circle of life we cannot challenge. Things happen even if you live in a bubble. Our parents didn’t shield us from such events. I attended funerals of friends who had unexplainable deaths. I visited friends in the hospital. My parents never hid the truth of what happened, it was a part of life. Maybe more so in my case because I grew up on a farm. I witnessed births and deaths. I loss my pets and had to deal with the fact that farm animals have a dual purpose in life. I will leave it at that. Pain, hunger, fear… all emotions and feelings I was allowed to feel. We all have a right to. The more we shield children from these the more tension and hostility can develop. What we do not understand can haunt us. I am not saying we needed all the dirty details. Children need to know what is age appropriate.

Today kids are rushed around. They are expected to achieve unbelievable feats often before their bodies or minds are ready to be fully aware. Technology is great but even the Wii doesn’t substitute for climbing trees and feeling the effects of gravity. A lesson learned by experience. Their lives mimic super adults or professional athletes. Did we really read 60 books a year? I haven’t noticed my performance being stunted because I got to choose my books from the library and write reports, not take a test to prove if I truly read it. Ok, I will make some folks mad but I believe Accelerated Reader and such programs are causing more harm than good. More so for kids with learning challenges. They just do not read as fast not to mention they hate it even more when being forced. Also there will always be great testers. It doesn’t motivate a challenged student seeing the same folks get prizes. That is another blog in itself.

What homeschooling and private schools have that the public schools do not is time. They allow students time to learn social skills. They allow for recess and organized activities which are necessary for growth. Life is not who can work the fastest math problem or can write the perfect essay as a goal for all. Progress will always happen even without test scores as predictors. Einstein, Graham Bell, Beethoven, and others would have never  accomplished what they did because they did not make the grade we assign now to measure success. What they did was to be inspired to dream and explore. They  played and lived even as adults during a time when it was still allowed.

Working with children and adults with ADHD,  I have found they accomplish more when they are allowed to move around. I do not limit them to a lead pencil. I let them read while under a table. They can listen to music while they study. And, some I take on a hike to discover wonders which inspire them to write or compose. I try to never miss an opportunity to teach-to-the-moment. I teach how I was taught. If we allow some wiggle room and some creative ways of tackling a problem be it math or writing I do believe we will start seeing less problems and more interest. All my opinion so don’t sue me for expressing so. But really, would you want a top scoring test taker or a person who can actually walk you through the process and make a discover while doing so to increase the performance of an assemble line?

Sadly, even the zoos are understanding and making changes. Caged animals are more difficult to deal with and are very unhealthy due to being kept in small quarters with limited interaction. Animals in their natural setting given challenges and stimulated, flourish and thrive. Don’t you think the same would be true of children and adults? Check the research about the bizarre behaviors of caged animals versus those in natural settings. You find some similar problems occurring in our schools. ADD/ ADHD symptoms and those of caged animals are…. well, you decide.

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