Monthly Archives: August 2010

In the Margins

I’m a horrible note-taker. I’m working on it, but I’m quite challenged by putting things in a meaningful order the 1st time around. That’s why I love writing. It gives me time to think and mess up and think again.

Since I’m not exactly organizationally gifted, I write a lot of things in the margins. It’s my holding place for what might not fit in the current narrative but is too important to leave out. Usually these are gorgeous lines or quotes from keynote speakers. Sometimes they’re just my random thoughts and reactions or a few words people say that I want to hold onto.

Over the years,  the captured words have outgrown the margins. For instance, when Mary Ehrenworth speaks, I know to leave the backs of pages open for her bouts of word beauty.

Why am I talking about this? Because today I have chased down beauty in the margins of past notebooks and I want to house it here. (Fitting on a blog about beauty, no?) There is no particular order or theme. At least not intentionally. I’m simply starting at my first”official” WNB from my first TCRWP Institute in 2005.  (*If it’s improperly credited, please forgive me. They throw around linguistic beauty like it’s candy, and sometimes I don’t catch it all.  Although I try.)

Summer 2005

My schema of “teacher” has just changed.  -Me 7/11

This is what I want to become. This is the start of my journey.  -Me 7/11

Email Ms. Shaluely. Thank her for celebrating my small growths as a teacher. 7/13

My goal: PhD in curriculum and teaching. I have to be this. -Me 7/13

Find love in all different places – Mary Ehrenworth

Patricia MacLachlan loves solitaire like mom! (got score of 97,000)

She loves italics.  – Me about Patricia MacLachlan (author of Sarah, Plain and Tall)

Patricia MacLachlan’s answering machine message from a fan: I like the words you say.. and what you don’t say.  The voice became a friend and a comfort. “And I wrote again.”  (for first time post 9/11)

She puts letters from kids on her refrigerator! Grateful for children’s influence in her life…  (about Patricia MacLachlan)

We must live to love our children more than we hate our enemies. -Katherine Patterson (author of Bridge to Terabithia)

You might be new, but  not new to teaching or new to standing up for what you believe in!  -Katherine Bomer

We must write the memoirs of today and tomorrow. -KB

What secret self has gotten buried? Go…write.. -KB

You can read anything and have it be mesmerizing.  -Lucy Calkins

The stories that are most important are those that were shared by people who didn’t know the other existed. -Lester Laminack

Every time we read, a person’s voice echoes. -LL

It’s coaching from someone who knew the truth…   -LL on teaching

Your every move is a demonstration to children. They are watching if the truth of your word is what they see. -LL

Post Summer 2005

If what is in your mind is not on your page, you’re denying your reader. -Mary Ehrenworth 7/06

Just yesterday, I was thinking about how I haven’t cried because of school in a long time.  -Me   11/28/05

“Some people just stand out in your mind.” Carmen Agra Deedy Spring 2006 (Talking to my class at Blythe Academy. I had no idea how much I’d cherish this later.)

Writing transforms relationships in the schools.  -Lucy at a retreat for Project Model Middle Schools (my first assignment with my new NYC school)

Passion is built with urgency in our voice.

My teacher[Stanly Kunitz] believed I was a writer before I believed in myself. -Georgia Heard 7/18/06

Everyone starts out as a poet. -William Stafford via Georgia Heard

I have been chasing beauty. -Katherine Bomer 7/19/06

We need to do more than recognize it. We need to drown ourselves in it. -Katherine Bomer on Beauty  7/19/06

When the heart speaks, it tells the truth. -KB

If someone took my iPod right now, I’d sit and watch them run. If someone took this notebook, I’d chase them down.” -one Friday after school  2006

I remember the night of the harvest moon. i wanted to call my friends to go outside and check it out. Bill Ohl noticed the moon that night. I want to know people who chase beauty.”  10/31/06

KAVOD: the weight or significance of something. This, KAVOD, is why I cry over kids.. beauty… sadness.  It’s weighty. Significant. Glory. 11/1/06

If your class has chemistry, you can do almost anything and it’ll work. Good teachers make it happen. Bring your life to the class.  -Emily Smith (I think)

People are waiting to be entangled together. -Mary Ehrenworth

You can write to repair love. -Mary, of course

Writing helps you show parts of yourself others don’t see easily. -Mary, again

There is a sort of emptiness to what is learned when I haven’t connected with a teacher. That’s what I sit in the front row.  -Me, on a green post-it shaped like a flower

I wish I had learned to be hard on those I love because maybe then I’d still love them. -Mary Ehrenworth

“Mmmmmm– Smells like summer in here! ”     -A student from another class ( whom I taught in Summer Bridge) walking by my classroom.

Sometimes we forget the human need to write. -Lucy Calkins

Being smart isn’t being smart in the first second. Being smart can be something that comes later.   -Cory Gillette (thank you Cory)

Maybe I can become a staff developer. -Me, after Cory’s comment

If you don’t have a dream, how will you have a dream come true? -Lucy

You are your strangeness. Your strangeness is precious. -Lucy

Hold onto the vision that is possible. Don’t chicken out. -Lucy

Poetry will hand you back pieces of yourself.  -Amy Bloom via Katherine Bomer

Poetry illuminates the human condition. -Katherine or Georgia or Mary or Amy, I’m sure…

If everyone told the truth about their life, the world would split open. -Georgia Heard


Filed under Uncategorized

Memoir, Beethoven, and a Letter from a Friend

I wish you could trace a soul. Map it out, perhaps, like a musical score.

I wish I understood what gives me goose bumbs when I read aloud to kids or tear up every time I hear Chopin’s Fantasie in C # minor. I don’t understand why dimples on a child make me melt. Or how a few words written in just the right order can physically stir my insides.

My favorite books also do this.  A few nights ago I decided to read up on memoir. I was in tears over the challenge to plow through layers of my writing (and my life) to find truth and meaning.  It’s not a natural thing for us anymore, is it? To pull back on the layers of our life…to take time to reflect and notice? I much prefer to bask in the obvious beauty of my life. But our lives house layers upon layers of stories of failure and triumphs–feelings of every kind, from hurt and disappointment to hope and compassion.

And yet. These things are hidden by what we decide to notice– what we decide to tell.

As I was reading these challenging words, I got an announcement from a friend that after a year of planning to move away from the City, she is staying. Suffice it to say, her words were gut-wrenchingly honest and moving. As the gorgeous and reflective person she is, she had not only been brave enough to peel back layers to get to a beautiful, new level of truth, but she allowed herself to be guided by it.  Her heart called for honesty and she answered.

She was living the very heart of memoir. She took on the bravery I was not ready for.

Pulling back layers might mean tears or apologies… or disappointment. And that scares me.

In another life, I was a clarinetist with a dream of being a conductor. (Hardly anyone knows this about me  anymore.) When I was 17, I had the opportunity to conduct Beethoven’s 7th Symphony. I will never forget studying with my teacher on day 1 when he handed me the score for the first time. I had memorized all 4 movements and thought I was oh so ready for my session. I knew all the major cues. Cellos here, tympani there..  I thought I was really going to impress him.    What’s that old saying.. Pride goes before. . . what? That’s right.

I looked down at a BOOK of sheet music and instead of reading 1 line at a time as I was accustomed to doing, I had 23. TWENTY THREE individuals stories to make up what I heard in my head. I could no longer choose to notice, with biased ears, the clarinet solos and familiar bits. I was forced to pay attention to the other parts. As it turns out, that clarinet solo at the end of the second movement would be NOTHING without the back and forth singing fugue coming from the strings. Before seeing the score (and the dozens of other parts and lines… stories… of the other instruments), my ears had heard what they wanted. I had only been focusing on the obvious melodies. I had no idea what was hidden beneath.

It didn’t take me long to realize that the beauty came from all of it. In fact, it depended on all of it. (*I see this even more now when I get out an old piece of music and try to play it with no piano accompanist or orchestra to help!)

I often think in analogies but I am just now realizing how much our lives are like a musical score, filled with not just 1 melody, but dozens…maybe even 23! lines and parts, all with different timbres and dynamics. Some come and go. Some repeat. And some last only a brief moment. But they are part of 1 whole that is US.

Conductors have no choice. They have to notice all the hidden parts. They must know them intimately to understand the true beauty of a piece.    Us? We have a choice every time we pick up a pen (or type on a keyboard).  How many times are we satisfied by paying attention to the obvious? The sad part is, it yields decent writing that we’re o.k. with. But where’s the beauty in that? Really.

Beauty lies in risk and the risk lies in what’s deeper. My friend and my book (and Beethoven) have shown me the power in this…  the freedom for ourselves and the connection it builds with others who are also waiting to say the unsaid.

I think we (I) need to let my heart to give in to itself and and peek at the layers of truth that hide oh so well. I need to be brave like my friend and let it change me.

Thirty might be one of my favorite recent pieces.  From afar, it’s vulnerable. But  the conductor, writer, and beauty chaser in me (yes, I’m a dork) know exactly what I must do now.

Thank you, Memoir.. Thank you, Beethoven.. Thank you dear, brave friend.


Filed under Uncategorized