The Dam of Tears

Why did I cry so much about the damn dam while watching Frozen 2? It’s a kid’s movie about a woman who magically creates ice. ummm, ok, Shalay’s tears, whatever. Y’all, it’s also a movie about a community that hid the evil it employed to establish its wealth, and literally dammed the resources away from the people whose land was stolen. I cried when I saw the film because I had recently learned the history of the indigenous people who lived in my hometown, and the role that the dam played in the theft of their land. I, like Elsa, … Continue reading The Dam of Tears

For Dr. August DeBerdt, beloved Teacher.

My beloved professor passed away last July. August DeBerdt was born  February 19, 1934.So in honor of his birthday,  better late than never,  I wanted to share some of what I learned from him. I attended Berry College in 1994. A small liberal arts college in the foothills of Georgia. It was difficult for me as a first generation college student. I was excited to learn. But I was scared to death.  I wanted to hide my head from  the horrors of the world. But I was also impossibly curious. I wanted to be a writer. So, rather against my … Continue reading For Dr. August DeBerdt, beloved Teacher.

an 80s poem for my brother

Once in a Lifetime By Shalay for Russ Hey you are we comfortably numb mumbling along to the practical song? are you Tom Sawyer? or a brick in the wall? Am I a spirit in the material world, Or a material girl? We were moving in stereo Then they blinded me with science, and I ran one of our submarines is missing. bring it closer to the heart We really should have seen through the airwaves You might think I am crazy But We’re not on a road to nowhere. Take me to the river, Water’s flowing underground The world … Continue reading an 80s poem for my brother

A Love Letter to People with ADHD or ADD

Dear Tribe, I am 44 and have had my diagnosis for three years. For most of my life I thought I was just nothing but a mess. Now that I know more about ADD and ADHD, I have other ideas. I have been teaching for 20 years. In that time I have gotten to know many, many kids and adults with ADHD or ADD. I love them all. Everyone’s brain is wired differently. The term ADHD is used as a catch-all for many different behaviors, the most common being “inability to focus on the thing you are supposed to be … Continue reading A Love Letter to People with ADHD or ADD

My translation of the Lord’s Prayer

Our parent who art everywhere Hallowed be thy name Thy love-order come, thy will be done On earth as it is in heaven Give us this day our basic needs and forgive us our mistakes As we forgive those who make mistakes against us Lead us not into selfish delusions  But deliver us from choosing  evil  For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory Forever Continue reading My translation of the Lord’s Prayer

half blind and half deaf

As a language teacher, I know about communicating. I also know how often people think they have communicated, but they really haven’t. I love to play the game of Telephone with my students. We start a whispered sentence in German, and by the time it gets all the way around the circle, it is usually completely garbled and hilarious. Or we play a similar game, except with sketches that get passed around. It shows them how fragile communication really is. “Purple monkey dishwasher” is my husband’s name for the phenomenon in which you explain something to your students, they nod … Continue reading half blind and half deaf


She’s not homeless today. She has a one-room place and a landlord who notices if she uses more water. She’s on her usual corner  Encouraging her cornermates with kind words chiding them lovingly about not doing their part to pick up their trash. Today is a few weeks after the cop ticketed her For “aggressive panhandling” as she leaned on her walker at the corner and told her she should just go and die. Today her place seems big and empty and hers  It’s months since she opened her home to her corner-mates Four women and a cat in one … Continue reading She

Why standardized testing must die.

My son loves math. I’m gonna straight up brag, not even humblebrag. He’s gifted in math, way above grade level. Super bright. 3rd grade standardized math tests were yesterday. He bombed. He didn’t finish the test. He got caught up perfectionizing on one problem he couldn’t figure out the answer to. He felt so stressed that he shut down and gave up. If my son, who loves math and is gifted in math, and who is a privileged white boy, bombed this test, imagine how many other kids are not showing their true potential, for a myriad of different reasons. … Continue reading Why standardized testing must die.


Ever wonder why people often stop making sense when they are arguing? It’s because of the fight-or-flight response system. Our bodies perceive a threat to our beliefs the same as it perceives a physical threat, such as a hungry tiger. Once our bodies perceive threat, then control of the body is taken over by the limbic system. The limbic system has to simplify. It has to shut down all non-necessary processes, like digestion, logical thinking, empathy, etc in order to pour all the energy into fighting or flighting. The brain uses up TONS of energy. So the limbic system has … Continue reading Fawn

are we teaching more than competition?

Children naturally compete for resources like food and attention. They are programmed by nature to do so. If they have enough and they feel safe and loved, many children naturally and good-naturedly share what they have with others. Children are naturally openly curious about those different from them, and may look shocked and surprised or ask embarrassing questions. Children often do not naturally make judgments about whether a person is more or less valuable than themselves. This is learned behavior. Human beings have many natural tendencies and learned behaviors that can be nurtured or squashed. SO WHY DO SO MANY … Continue reading are we teaching more than competition?

are humans smarter than animals?

Today’s journal prompt was about the ways in which we are smarter than animals, and the ways in which they are smarter than us. Here are some results from my 7th and 8th graders: WAYS HUMANS ARE SMARTER: “Better technology.” “Complicated buildings.” “Written language.” WAYS ANIMALS ARE SMARTER: “Animals don’t judge each other.” “My dog knows what I’m saying when I ask him to take a walk. But I don’t know what he is saying when he is barking. Maybe we just don’t understand their language.” “One thing that is better about animals than humans is disagreements; humans fight and … Continue reading are humans smarter than animals?

Rosenmontag; Art as Protest

I teach middle school, y’all. These kids are full of energy and potential action; they need to be actively taught how to deal with life’s travails, not taught to avoid all discussion of the Big Issues like religion and politics, as my generation was.  The way to do this is NOT to show them footage of horrifying things and shame them for not caring enough.  (I learned this the hard way).  It is to give them ways to engage with tough information, then show them ways to direct their frustrations and energies in constructive rather than chaotic ways. Karneval/Fastnacht in … Continue reading Rosenmontag; Art as Protest

The Nothing.

from facebook, February 15, 2017 After decades of struggle with depression, I have spent the past year coming into a sense of personal peace. I felt for many years that I was standing on a tiny, shrinking island of safety in a boiling tar pit of nothingness. I was unconsciously holding onto my privileged, unrealistic delusions from childhood, and the cognitive dissonance was destroying me. I was trying to escape from everything and everyone, thinking that if I could just stop the stressors, I could be safe from the Nothing. One beautiful day last spring I took a long lunch … Continue reading The Nothing.

“I smell you.” Meditations on the Simpsons and True Detective.

In an episode of the Simpsons, Lisa is trying to figure out why the bully, Francine, attacks some victims and ignores others. Through a series of experiments she finds that Francine does, in fact, smell fear, and then attacks her nerdy prey as a hawk would. As a middle school teacher, I can attest to the truth of this. Bullies can smell fear like sharks smell blood in the water.  Bullies are needy humans; what they need, first and foremost, a sense of self-worth, so they don’t have to suck the blood of others to get it. I can sniff … Continue reading “I smell you.” Meditations on the Simpsons and True Detective.

taking water for granted

March 2, 2019 some of my students were calling each other ghetto yesterday a flow of words coming through the door scrutinizing hair and clothing for signs of poverty then we watched Lion , and they saw the ghettos of Calcutta they asked why people washing clothes in the river why that boy wore the same thing every day and I told them how so many people don’t have running water hundreds of people bathing, pooping, washing clothes, all in that same river and my students’ flow of words slowed. ***** When I got home  the water was out workers digging through … Continue reading taking water for granted