Tuesday, October 27, 2009
The sugar maple in Pastor Karl and Tina's yard
blazes in its brightest yellow jacket
these eighteen years on West L Street,
the dwarf burning bush I planted two years ago
on the northeast corner of the house is a
hot red, like living flames of love,
warming my soul in this damp,
The tea kettle whistles,
the steam rises to wet my nose,
Earl Gray steeps
in its tea-pot shaped infuser,
the warm cup
in my hands,
a fleece blanket around
my shoulders; I sit in my
wicker chair and
open a book.
Clods and chunks of Earth
bits of withered tomato vines,
cold and fruitless,
stick out of this ground,
too cold to produce,
ready for winter sleep;
marigolds, once smiling yellow
and happy orange,
fade into brown,
Like clock work, I awake before the alarm,
the weight of my body, heavy,
I stumble to the bathroom to pee.
In the dark,
I grapple with my jeans and sweater,
make the bed, and head downstairs
to don my running shoes and sweatshirt.
I open the door
to a sky filled with stars,
cool air that's easy to breathe,
walk the neighborhood three times,
step up onto the curb when two oncoming cars
don't see me.
My joints feel better.
My muscles have moved.
My mind has walked miles.
O Northwest wind,
the last remnants of autumn,
preparing us for
the coming season
with your chilling fingers
creeping into crannies
of this thick black coat,
reminding us that Old Man Winter
welcomes us with Blindingly
Cold blasts of Arctic air.
Ode to Autumn
Autumn Sun is a blessing,
staving off the turn
in the temperature,
its last desperate days
to warm the Earth before Arctic
air descends upon us as
the Earth orbits around it,
this cycle of rotation,
a circle, unending,
unbroken, a pattern,
a habit, a permanence,
that sustains us.
Ode to the Law Library
Volumes of brown and red
law books envelop me
with a sense of security,
knowing that generations of citizens
invested their wisdom and insight
into creating laws for the
benefit of me--
the benefit of you--
the benefit of ordinary
citizens who go about their
unaware that book after book,
volume after volume has
been written for them.
Popcorn and Pistachios: A Poem
A greasy bag of popcorn
scutters in the brisk breeze,
spewing its two-day old
contents across the bleachers.
coated in bright yellow seasoning salt,
mingling with the dirt left behind
by boots, sneakers,
I look down at my feet,
pale pistachio shells,
scattered here and there,
emptied by a nervous parent
watching eleven players
on a field of intensity.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
If I had to give my map a title, it would be called "flair". Not too terribly creative of a title, but I thought the idea itself was creative. The fact that no one else did a flair page for their map is what I like the most about mine; it makes it unique. I dislike the fact that I mainly focused on two questions, and neglected the third.
On some the verymost edges of the map we find some of the less serious buttons, such as the "Office" button, "I used to be cool. Now I drive a Minivan." button, and one of my personal favorites, the "Rawr. I'm a sparkly vampire. Fear my glitter." button. While these are definetly a part of my now, they may change in the future. That's part of the beauty of humanity though; our ability to change. So while my deep map consists of button that reflect the three questions now, I'm curious about what it would look like if I made another one in fifty years . . .
Where I Am
We all live in an environment that influences what we experience and who we become. However, very few of us take the time to analyze and reflect upon where we are. Being conscious of where we are, is as important as being conscious of who we are, and what we intend to become. In order for you-and other people-to truly understand how you came to be, you must take the time to dig deep and uncover your roots.
In my environment, everything revolves around my faith. For me, my faith in Christ is what’s most important to me. This faith can be found in several places in my environment. The most obvious one is church. Within the church, I have a sort of extended family. They aren’t related in the strict sense, but because of our common beliefs and our willingness to be there for each other, we have formed what you call a church family. Through this family, I have met some of the most extraordinary people I have ever known.
Another place that holds a dear place in my heart is Aurora, Nebraska; my hometown. Originally I was born in Worcester, Massachusetts. But for most of my life, I have lived in that quiet, small, and unique town of Aurora. My family and I came here because my Dad got a job here as a pastor for our church. And I couldn’t have asked to be sent to any place better. In this small town I have met people who I know will have an impact on me for the rest of my life. I have also seen the kind of character and spirit that this place has that I haven’t seen anywhere else. The people who live here have also carried on the tradition of having a tight knit community; a tradition that is often lost in many places nowadays.
The place in Aurora that has impacted me the most is Aurora High School. In this school system, I have been given numerous opportunities. I have been given opportunities in education, music, leadership, involvement in group activities, and in friendships. It was here that I learned many of life’s lasting lessons. And even though I will move on from there to do new and greater things, I will always look back on my experience in high school as being one that has shaped me for the better. If it weren’t for high school, I may have never gotten to know the friends I have now. Some of them became close friends that I love to hang out with. Others are the friends that I have in the classroom. I am certainly not as extraverted as most people, but I feel like I got to know many good kids at school. And many of them will be ones that I’ll never forget. I’ll remember those who were funny, serious, quiet, loud, athletic, artistic, musical, shy, confident, and calm. I’ll remember those who I would invite to movies, simply said “hi” to in the hallway, did projects with in class, and made memories with.
And of course all this wouldn’t be complete without taking a look at my home. For me, home is a very relaxing place (when I don’t have to do homework anyway). I have a Dad, Mom, and two sisters whom I love very much. In my home, the kitchen is the center for great home cooked meals and friendly conversation. My place of security is my room that is found in the basement. It’s painted a calming blue color and displays several of my collected knick knacks. My home has also been the location for many parties. Some of the most memorable were the Christmas parties we would throw each year. I can honestly say for me that “home is where the heart is.”
I have many places that have impacted who I am and who I will become. I have been blessed in that many of them have had a positive influence on me. And now I hope that I can do what I can to spread that positive influence to those whom I come across in the years to come.
My deep map symbol represents two important things about me: one, I love peace, hence the peace sign, and two, I love the earth, hence the 'green' peace sign. The peace sign also allowed me to represent the multi-faceted aspect of who I am, where I am, and what I am supposed to do. In the upper left corner, I have depicted "where I am" by drawing pictures of my house and its surroundings. Above my house is Aurora High School and the Platte River, two fixtures in my life for the past 18 years. Below my house I drew three things: a highway representing I-80 because I have spent a good portion of my life on the road to Lincoln and and teh University of Nebraska. I also included Andrews Hall on the UNL campus, because I have spent a lot of my time there as a graduate student. I'm sure my ghost will haunt those hallways for a long time. I also have the Hamilton County Courthouse because it is a very noticeable historic landmark in Aurora. I put a yellow sun in the corner of that section of the peace sign because being where I am makes me happy.
In the lower section of my peace sign, I depict 'who I am' by splitting who I am yet acknowledging that it is impossible to really separate who I am from a teacher and scholar from a mother and spouse. On the left side, I have the scholar's flame above the mortar board, and I am surrounded by books, and I wrote the words, "Words, words, words" (to quote Hamlet), and books, books, books. On the right side, I am holding a frying pan with bacon, and I have the quote, "I can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan." I am also wearing jeans and a t-shirt with WWHD, which represents, "What Would Hamlet Do?" (This is based off a real t-shirt a friend of mine gave me a couple of years ago). I also have two I (Red Heart) symbols. I love my family (with framed family photo) and I love humor, both of which are true. I also have a movie reel that depicts that I love moveis.
In the upper right hand section I depict what my purpose is by drawing a lake (which looks like a tornado, but it's not). In the tornado-looking lake, I have a big black rock which is supposed to depict me, being dropped into a lake, making ripples. The ripple effect is to remind me that each of us has a purpose and that purpose is quite far-reaching, like ripples in a lake, that expand out into a vast area. That is what teaching is all about. We affect one student at a time, but that affect is far-reaching. It is a ripple. That student (for good or for bad, unfortunately) affects another human being, and that person, another and so on. Above the lake, I have a very large sunrise that is reflected or echoed several times, to depict the same affect of the ripple in the reflection off a lake. In a nutshell, my purpose is extraordinary and far-reaching. I then wrote the words, "Blessed is the influence of one true loving human soul on another" by George Eliot. I think those words sum up what I was trying to depict about my purpose or vocation in this life.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
These words by George Eliot epitomize my teaching life. I believe each teacher is a loving human soul who has a tremendous influence on the lives of her or his students. I don't recall when I first came across these words, but they left a lasting impression on me. I think I probably happened upon them some day during my teaching career when I was utterly down. You know those days when you feel like your students didn't understand or care about a thing you said? These words reminded me that there was probably one student whom I did have an influence upon, and in truth, we may be that one truly loving human soul who affects the life of one other human being. And that is enough. It is more than many people ever experience.
Today, I rode my bike to school an entire two blocks and I happened to come up behind Mr. Haden, the 8th grade science teacher. I said, "Hey, Ron, it's the beginning of my 18th year of teaching here at Aurora. What year is it for you?" I really had no idea. "This is my 30th year." I just about wrecked my bike. I have known Ron for 18 years. We share a love of stars. He lives down the block. He coaches cross country. He is out early in the mornings like me; he runs, and I ride my bike to the fitness center to run on a treadmill (my shins and concrete do not like each other). But I had no idea he had been teaching here for 30 years. That is the beauty of teaching in Aurora. Most people stay for a very long time. We like it here. I have seen a lot of very good teachers stay here well ove r 30 years and retire here. We are all invested in this community.
So, I have been fortunate to teach juniors and seniors over the course of my career, finding my way through No Child Left Behind and standards to preparing curriculum for Wesleyan Honors Academy courses. I spent many years directing the three act fall play and the one act and coaching speech. Thankfully, after six years, I was able to just focus on coaching the speech team. I really do enjoy working with students on the team because it wonderful to see them gain confidence as public speakers. It's also just a lot of fun to be with adolescents outside of the classroom. My speech team teaches me over and over again that each student is facing something in their lives. In the daily work of the school day it is easy to forget that.
In 2006, I received an Excellence in Teaching Award from the Nebraska Department of Education, and I wrote a "Where I'm From" poem to commemorate that occasion:
I am From: Teacher Version
(an imitation of George Ella Lyon's "Where I'm From")
I am from screaming at the top of my lungs to support a student participating in an athletic event.
I am from waking up when it's still dark on a Saturday during speech season and getting on a cold bus for a long trip to who knows where.
I am from Saturday nights at school grading essays while the football coach is in the next room compiling offensive, defensive and special teams statistics.
I am from nail-biting panic that my students won't memorize their lines for the fall play.
I am from standing backstage in awe when they do nail that line they missed for the past six weeks of rehearsal.
I am from finding the right words to say when a speech competitor doesn't make it to finals.
I am from the joy of a novice competitor who gets up on stage to receive a medal.
I am from young men telling me, confidentially, in their junior and senior years, “This is the first book I’ve ever read.”
I am from going off on a tangent in the classroom (and I do this often) for a spectacular learning moment.
I am from "Excellent," "Exceptional," exclamation points, question marks, triple underlined words, numerous editing marks, and sentences of response in the margins on student papers.
I am from sitting side by side a student and reading and writing and talking about the paper because they really care about writing well.
I am from fifteen years of tear drops on student papers, because each year, someone was depressed, someone was hurt deeply, or someone died.
I am from all the courageous students who have bravely shared their lives with me through their writing,
I am from the poignancy and splendor of their lives,
I am from over a thousand, truly loving human souls who have had
a lasting, a remarkable influence upon me.
Catherine Cave English
October 31, 2006
Monday, August 10, 2009
Our home is two blocks west of the Aurora School complex, so I try to ride my bike the two blocks until the weather gets unbearable or if I have a lot of things to take to school. We are surrounded by several people named Carl. Carl Moore lives across the street caddy corner. Carl Arendt and Karl Larson live across the street to the north, and beyond those two lives Carl Johnson. Carl M. is retired, Carl A. is a retiree who still does handy-man work, Karl L. is the pastor at the Covenant Church down the street, and Carl J. is retired from Bonnavilla homes, but he helped his wife Margaret in her daycare business for a few years. They both helped raise our daughter, Anna. We are also surrounded by English teachers in our neighborhood. You had better speak correctly if you are walking around our neighborhood--four of us live within a block of each other.
We have looked all over Aurora for just the right home for years. Finally, four years ago, the house that we wanted was up for sale. The main thing was that it was in the neighborhood we had been in since we moved here. We really couldn't bear the thought of leaving our friends and neighbors. Anna was especially concerned about that because most of her friends were from our little corner of the Aurora.
Oh, and by the way, the link to "Sweet Home Alabama" at the top is a tribute to my husband, Jerry, and his green thumb, who has loved Lynyrd Skynyrd for a lifetime.
Listen to Ted Kooser recite his poem "So This is Nebraska."