a quote from my favorite author

“The most solid advice, though, for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

-William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

Saturday, November 9, 2013

in which I CELEBRATE finding joy

Last school year, when Ruth visited my classroom, she graciously led a workshop for our staff, during which she nudged us to find joy.  Each Saturday, she leads a celebration about just that idea: finding joy in the every day. Click the link below to join her! 
one. There is joy in seeing a movie in the theater (for the first time in years), and getting so lost in the story that I was sorry to see it end.  About Time is one of those stories to which I want to return again and again.  It is a heartprint kind of story.  Its message is very relevant to these Saturday posts. 

two.  I find joy in the reminder lesson I got from parent/teacher conferences this week: parents and politicians/administrators don’t want the same things.  I can be me and please parents.  I can be me and reach students.  What sweet relief to hold onto these truths.

three.  Joy and bookstores are synonymous.  Especially when a visit to a bookstore means a book signing with none other than Kate DiCamillo!  Better yet, I was able to nudge a friend to join me last minute, turning it into an author visit/shopping/lunch event. 

me with Kate DiCamillo
Here are the highlights from her talk:

·      What she had to say about writers’ block: When I am stuck, I am really acting out of fear or I am being lazy.
·      She told us she worked at Disney World and had the job of telling people, “Watch your step.”  She said it made her believe there had to be something more, something bigger to do.  {I think the storyland quality of Disney World somehow planted itself in her heart, or perhaps that is what drew her to work there in the first place.}
·      Reason she gave for writing so many animal characters:  As humans we are more likely to open our hearts to animals than we are to other humans. 
·      She said reading kept her alive as a child.
·      She said that her books are not finished until readers pick them up and read them.  She said she wouldn’t elaborate on endings of books because, “Whatever is true for you is the truth of the book.”

four.  Joy lives in the whirling, twirling dance of leaves escaping my lawn mower and rake this morning during the fall cleaning of the yard, which I had been dreading…until I got up and out and was greeted by a beautiful fall day. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


I sat in utter despair.

Why don’t they want us to feel successful ever?  Would it be that detrimental to test scores if we felt a modicum of success now and then? 

The words, “I don’t have time to give teachers positive feedback,” repeated in my head.

Every time I was sure I had gathered myself together, the tears spilled over the edge of my eyelids. 

At the end of the day, I walked by a classroom to hear teacher pitted against teacher over evaluations.  Talk escalated to verbal attack. 

On my way back to my classroom, I was stopped by another teacher,  “Do you have a moment?  I just need to cry.”

A few minutes later another teacher walked into the room and burst into tears. 

This is the aftermath of a typical Monday after school staff meeting.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

in which I CELEBRATE two of 22 Voices Strong

He was no longer saying the mantra.  He didn’t even stand up or acknowledge that everyone else was moving on around him.

I could feel him peeling himself away from us.  Away from our class.  I reached out.  Despite my desire to help, no matter how careful I was, the more I reached out to pull him back inside the circle of voices, the further I pushed him over the edge. 

It wasn’t until the other students got fed up with his distance, with his disruption that there was a breakthrough. 

It began with, “Mrs. Rush are you going to let him have it?  Because if you don’t, I think I might explode at him.”

I paused.  Smiled.  Remained centered.  And answered, “You know, I’ve learned that I have nothing to gain by losing it, by lecturing, by getting angry.  I cannot control his behavior any more than you can.  He has to make the choice.  I am confident he will come around.  However, this is your class too.  And, in the meantime, if you have something to say, please do so.  Do not get yourself in trouble in the process, though.  You know where the line is and how not to cross it.”

She sighed, “No, I am ok.”

I continued class.

He continued being disruptive.  Widening the chasm between where he was and where we were.

She seethed.  And burst.  She turned on him, “Why are you being so disrespectful?  Mrs. Rush is not asking that much of you and you are just being plain rude.  For no reason.”

A light bulb went on over her head in that moment.  I could almost hear her last words, for no reason, echo through her head.

“Well, I mean,” she sputtered, “if there is something going on at home and you are upset, well then that’s cool, I get it, but if not, there is no reason to be acting like this.”

He suddenly became a flower bending towards the sunlight of her words.  Perhaps the chasm hadn’t shrunk, but something like a bridge was beginning to be formed across it. 

She read his face.  She saw straight into his heart.  She got him to talk. 

On Tuesday, he stepped up to lead the mantra.