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

Sunday, May 22, 2016


Have you met Kate?
Kate and I (before we met Rick Yancey)
Kate and I with Donalyn Miller and Sugarbear

Four years ago, Kate became my teaching counterpart when my previous counterpart moved into a leadership role at our district administrative center.  As thrilled as I was to have her voice in a leadership role, I was not happy to see Rachel leave.  I was not happy to have been left out of the interview process for her replacement.  I was not happy.

I am ashamed to admit that for the first few months, I coped with the transition by secretly referring to Kate as "the Kate I hate."  Luckily, I am surrounded by wise women who nudged and coached me to just give her time.

And luckily, Kate is one of those women.  She was wise enough and bold enough to weather my disdainful looks and impatient sighs.  

Before long, her previous nomenclature was replaced with, "That's my Kate!"

For next school year, due to shifting enrollment, Kate was bumped from our middle school to the high school.  

Once again,  I am not happy.  

But this time, I am listening to the wisdom in my own heart.  I am listening to the whispers of joy over having such an amazing colleague and friend to miss.  Here are just a few of the things that make "my Kate" so worthy of celebration:

1| She has a fierce love of books and kids and the magic that happens when they are connected.

2| She turns nuggets of professional development into concrete classroom practice in a matter of minutes. (Okay, minutes might be an exaggeration, but she always beats me to it!)

3| She finds the gem inside each and every student she meets, patiently listens for what their hearts need to hear, and nurtures freely.

4| She. does. not. give. up.

5| Her burps come from all the way down in her toes.  So does her passion for working with readers and writers.

6| She is smart as a whip.  Maybe even smarter.

7| She writes with her students--the kind of words that make me envious of her ability to craft, especially in the presence of middle school students. 

That's my Kate!

Sunday, May 1, 2016


I am a language arts teacher.  I have been a language arts teacher for 16 years.  I teach language arts to 8th graders, sometimes 7th graders.

Next year I have been asked to teach a section of social studies.  To 6th graders. Ancient world history.  Did I mention I am a language arts teacher?

This fact makes me whiny.  My husband is a social studies teacher.  An excellent social studies teacher.  I do not do what he does. 

Did I mention the thought of teaching social studies—especially ancient world history and especially to 6th graders—makes me whiny?

This is definitely not my cause for celebration this week.  However, this week one of my 8th grade boys learned a lesson that shifted my perspective from whiny to open-minded.

Every year our 8th graders take a field trip to our regional vocational training center.  The center provides hands-on career-related classes for high school students in a variety of fields, from building trades and fire science to early childhood education and culinary arts. 

Students are invited, a few weeks ahead of time, to sign up for their top 6 choices.  Then, on the day of the trip, they are given a schedule to follow, and they visit 5 different classes for approximately 20 minutes each. 

This year, on the bus ride there, G started whining to me:

G: Mrs. Rush, I am signed up for cosmetology.  I don’t want to do cosmetology.

Me: Then why did you select it as one of your top 6?

G: T talked me into it.  He was signing up for it.  I didn’t really understand what it was.

Me: I explained each option AND gave you a list with descriptions.

G: I know. I was just supposed to be in it with T.

Me: (beginning to giggle) Now T is absent and you are stuck.  He got you good.

G: It’s not funny!  I don’t want to do cosmetology.

Me: It will be fun—an adventure.  You will end up enjoying it.  It will give you something to talk about.

I was certain G would not be miserable.  He was not the first boy to have ended up in a similar situation on this annual field trip.  I knew he would enjoy talking about it—maybe even exaggerating how miserable it was—on the bus ride home. 

However, I didn’t expect this:

G: Mrs. Rush! I learned to braid hair!  Watch this!

Me: I am impressed G!  You are a changed man!  What did you learn?

G: How to braid! 

Me:  Yes, clearly you learned to braid hair quite well, but what I meant was what did you learn about life from this experience?

G: I guess I shouldn’t jump to conclusions before I try something.

It turns out G is a wise young man.  His words made me think again about teaching social studies next year. 

Maybe, just maybe, by teaching social studies I will learn to braid.