This is my Father's world, The birds their carols raise, The morning light, the lily white, Declare their maker's praise This is my Father's world, He shines in all that's fair, In the rustling grass, I hear him pass, He speaks to me everywhere. What can be better after our winter sleep than to hear the bird's song in the morning? Or maybe it is the cheerful daffodil that blooms merrily. Its shoots point straight and true to her maker, in gracious praise, a resplendent symphony of love where many are gathered. My maker shines in all that is fair, however, there is much sadly that is not fair. He loves justice and desires that we walk in peace with others. I hear him speaking in the world and in the faces of those who ache with sadness and loss. He speaks and I try to respond and listen as he tells me to go, to give, even when it hurts. This poem song I've carried with me from childhood. It feeds me, encourages me, reminds me of who God is and how he wants me to listen and notice. Thank you to my teachers from Daily Vacation Bible School. Thank you to my counselors from my beloved Camp Grow.
This morning I opened up the paper after another horrific week that left us all shaking our heads and wondering why, I caught a glimpse of a friendly face from my past, a retired weatherman that was on our local news when I was a youngster in the suburbs. Harry Volkman was famous for his weather reports, explaining what was happening as he went with a ‘woosh’ here and there as he was explaining the weather system. Sometimes, Harry would break into a little song. He came to schools, he wrote letters back to students. In this article he talks about another little boy whom he encouraged from Aurora, Illinois. This little boy told him, on a visit to the station, that he wanted to be a weatherman someday too. They kept in touch over the years and sure enough, he also became a beloved weatherman in the Chicago market. His name is Tom Skillman.
Why did you become a teacher? I became a teacher because of teachers in my life. In this poem I highlight a few of my favorites. Coincidentally, they were mostly from my Junior High years. I don’t remember much about the content in those years, but I do remember learning how I wanted to live my life. I miss my years in the middle school classroom and blessings on all of you who are still teaching the years of ‘angst and wonder’. So here is a poem that I wrote to honor those wonderful teachers.
Keep your Chin Up
I’ll never shake the table with a
GRE, ACT or even an Iowa,
I may never play Saturday Night Live
or the Willow Creek stage,
I’m not the type to argue in People’s Court
or even with that husband named Dave.
Climbing mountains leaves me faint and string hoop music
leaves me wishing that I could ‘Just Do It’ or something!
But thanks to Dr. Dieter I will
write my musings with passion.
and thanks to Miss Gracy I can
ham it up with the best of them to get us all through 9th hour.
and thanks to Mr. Hartman I will have
my say in team meetings.
and thanks to Miss Gaza I know about
persistence and finishing the long hike, through the bumpy places.
Thanks to my teachers, maybe forty years too late…
thanks for those good thoughts, silent cheers, written notes and whispers
“Keep your chin up, keep your chin up, Nancy!”
Dr. Dieter- 11th grade English teacher, my first A in a class.
Miss Gracy- Friday afternoon drama teacher and English teacher
Mr. Hartman- social studies teacher, who taught student-led discussion, still my favorite strategy…
Miss Gaza- PE teacher who promised that someday I would look “okay”.
PS I had other teachers that were not so great, I remember them vividly as well, they also taught me what not to become – but that is another post for another time.
Six weeks old, innocent infant girl,
Reaching out tiny, seeking fingers,
To grasp at a new and unfamiliar world,
To hold on to mother, source of life.
Six weeks old, helpless newborn,
Pulling back a tiny and empty fist,
Confused by this harsh and cruel world,
Learning too soon how fragile life is.
Golden rays of sun pour through ornate stained glass
Trying to wrap a somber event in rainbow colors.
Incense fills the air, mingling with strains of organ music,
Loved one with offerings of tears sit shoulder to shoulder.
A priest’s choked and cracking voice promises hope of
But how do we live through tomorrow?
In six short weeks of being mother and child
Unbounded love was given and received.
But was it enough?
How can the question of, “Where’s mommy?” be answered
When that day arrives.
This poem, penned by my husband Dave, was written over thirty years ago, after being at the funeral of his fun-loving, joyous and intelligent cousin. It remains one of my favorite poems for several reasons. In a short amount of time I am able to visualize the event because of his choice of words. It is also an event where it creates questions in the reader’s mind. “Who is this person? How was that horrible question answered? Why did this occur?” When tragic events occur, we want happiness to visit also. Many of us want that fairy tale ending and sadly that is not the reality of life on earth. We live with the hope of heaven. I would have difficulty taking a step forward without that knowledge.
I love that we spend one month honoring poetry in our lives and how much it enriches and also supports us in the classroom. I grew up pretending to dislike poetry, because I guess it felt cool to be that way…it definitely was peer pressure. However, how many of you remember reading poetry in secret about love and such things in junior high and high school? I know that I tried my hand at many love/angst poems back then.
Today, I feel that poetry is essential in our whole curriculum, but in lower primary rhythm, rhyme and song is not negotiable. And as an older teacher, I feel myself getting quite adamant about it lately. One of my favorites books in kinder and first is Trucktown Truckery Rhymes by Jon Scieszka and illustrated by David Shannon. Here is a snippet:
Three LOUD trucks.
Three LOUD trucks.
See how the zoom.
See how the zoom.
The all jumped over
the muck and goo.
They skidded and screeched
and their mufflers ______________ (you finish… and so can they 🙂
Why do I love this so much? We can compare it with another song/poem we all know. The rhyme scheme is beautiful for my young students and of course, I wish that I had this book for my own boy who had a natural intelligence surrounding trucks, wheels and all moving things. I you have a child that has that loves loud screaming tires and has wheels running 24/7 in the brain, you know what I’m talking about. The boys…they love it! I never had enough of these kind of books until Jon Scieska came along.
Also another person is celebrating poetry this month. Dr. Steven Layne has amped up his old poetry book, Life’s Literacy Lessons (published by the International Reading Association), with new poetry and old favorites along with short two page reflections (does that sound familiar?) This original book I have used in countless ways teaching teachers in workshops as well as with my graduate students every year. I can’t wait to read the latest version. I feel blessed to work with this amazing teacher/writer and person. He is the best boss anyone could ever hope for.
Check out his new book on Stenhouse’s website…perfect timing that it comes out this month… it’s a book that you’ll want in your bag of tricks. Life’s Literacy Lessons
When we were coming home from our trip on Easter Sunday I had such a taste for real food…food from my own kitchen. Though I love to go out to eat, I get so tired of ‘the going out to eat thing’ when we’re on a trip. I think it is pretty much all about how I was raised.
Do you know that I actually remember when McDonald’s came to town? Ray Crock’s first Golden Arches was in a neighboring town, DesPlaines and then the Golden Arches came to the All American City….Niles! We had to save our own pennies to buy fries on the way home from the swimming pool in the summertime. Our parents never took us out to eat. We went camping in the summers…but we didn’t go out when we traveled, maybe an occasional Dog ‘n Suds. We always had delectable pb and j sandwiches at the wayside parks and my mom made grilled cheese on the Coleman stove at our site. We drank Tang and had popcorn and blackened marshmallows around the fire at night, now doesn’t that sound yummy? That was totally the routine in the ’60s and ’70s…oh of course, we also had girl scout thin mints to munch in March.
It was a different world when my kids were young; I think because many of us were frazzled working mothers. I frequented Olive Garden with Jeff in preschool. I taught half-time and we would seriously, go exercise, eat soup and salad, and then take a snooze… every day, or so it seemed. When Em started playing sports, after every meet or game I needed a stack of tens to get me through the week because the girls needed their after game ‘queso’ at Chiles. Yikes, when I think about it, I raised a bunch of fast food junkies!
Thank goodness, Shauna came along. Her short stories about living life inspire me to get out the spices, my food processor and give it a whirl. I turned on my music today and quickly created this healthy/dessert/breakfast food…one word…yummy.
ingredients: 1 c oatmeal, 4 cups of berries (I used raspberries, blueberries and blackberries), 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 olive oil, 1/4 maple syrup,1/2 c almond meal (crushed small bag in processor), 1 c pecans (crushed or halved) 350 degrees for 40 minutes
Berries down first, crisp next….
Serve with yogurt for even breakfast…or for those who turn their noses up at ‘healthy’ …. ice cream for dessert.
It was so satisfying to make and to eat after a week eating out. Making food for loved ones is Shauna’s passion in life, that and her writing, of course.
Get her new book: Bread and Wine, it is inspiring! PS I love the recipes, but her thought-provoking stories will leave you very well fed.
PS Shauna Niequist’s new book is coming out soon…April 9. This book will be very interesting to those of you who are rearing or think about rearing young children…but also to the almost retired and retired among us.
I wrote another slice about this book in March; not too many of you saw it because I accidentally posted with the wrong date, In that post I included a snippet of her writing- just for a bit of flavor.