Wednesday, May 25, 2011

stormy weather

Today I’ve been very thoughtful.  Sitting in a makeshift tornado shelter with more than fifteen children under the age of six will do that to you.  I won’t pretend that I have a worse or different story than anyone – Lord knows the weather in the Midwest has done enough without my making light of it.  I was fine.  The children were fine.  But, for a while there, we didn’t really know what was going on today, other than there were tornado sirens and talk of several touch downs in our area.  We do tornado drills several times a year, but nothing quite prepares you for the real deal. 
Aside from having no cell service or internet access, and therefore no way of knowing what was going on outside those walls, I think the most scary thing was that I tell my students daily that it’s my job to keep them safe.  What if, on the second to last day of school, I could not come through on a promise that I’d been making all year long?  I mean, really? I ask my little ones all the time, “what’s Miss Kate’s job?” and inevitably, they will say, “to keep me safe.” Not, “to read to me,” or “to wipe my nose,” or even, “to build giant Lego towers with me.”  All of which I do on a daily basis.  These kids know that above all, it’s my job to keep them safe.
At noon today, I wondered several things.  Fresh off the media frenzy surrounding the Joplin, Missouri tornadoes, I wondered if we’d all be blown away.  I wondered if my husband would actually heed warning and go to the underground parking garage like his employer insisted or keep sitting at his desk avoiding the “Stromboli” that was headed his way (his damn autocorrect made for the funniest part of the day).  I wondered why little Zoe thought what we were doing was hilarious, and I wondered if my Lucy was safe (though, that was a thought I kept pushing back. I honestly couldn’t even bear to think about it while we sat there).  I wondered mostly, though, if I was going to be able to keep my word to eight children who have trusted me all year long. 
I got to Lucy’s school today for her Grand Spectacle (her fabulous kindergarten show!) and when I saw her teacher I thanked her repeatedly.  She gave me a weird look, but after what I’d been through, I just wanted her to know that I appreciated her help in keeping Lucy safe, even if it was just second nature to her.  We place our kids in someone else’s care every single day without ever thinking that something catastrophic could really happen.  I’m so glad it didn’t happen today, and I hope to never have that experience again. I’m way better at keeping snails from crawling out of their jars, or getting playdough out of the couch, or just wiping noses.

for Splitt

Today, Kansas City lost a local baseball legend when left-handed pitcher Paul Splittorff lost his battle to cancer. When I heard this news today, I found myself thinking about the days of my childhood, many of which were spent at the ball yard with my dad.  While I know that in recent years, Splittorff was synonymous with Royals broadcasting, I will always remember watching him on the pitching mound on hot summer afternoons.  When I was about 14, my dad took me to see the Smothers Brothers.  Another great Royals pitcher, Dan Quisenberry, was the opening act.  He recited Casey at the Bat and later, I found out that he, too, was a poet in his own right.  Someone wrote something earlier today about Quiz and Splitt hanging out again, and I thought it was only fitting to pull out Quisenberry's book of poetry, On Days Like This.  I thought this poem of Quiz's was a fitting tribute to Paul Splittorff today. Enjoy.

Old G(love)
mushy leather
burnt brown
light cracks
saddle creaks
your strings held up well
mine have too
we look trim enough
to still play

you protected me
Wilson A2000 XL
only glove I really liked
though I flirted with others
you were the one for me
I love your dark center
your womb
rich as Iowa soil
tight feel to my left hand
a worker’s glove
you brought slap shots
stinging in my palm
but I knew where they were
so I could grab them quick

now you look so small
do you shrink like old men
stiff and less flexible?
me too
we’re both on the shelf
but you still look nice
 and holding you
feels so right

* you can find Quisenberry's book here.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Last year during my annual review and conference with my bosses, I walked in and cried.  Literally, I walked in the door, sat down and started bawling.  I was pissed, and hurt, and frankly, done with teaching.  Honestly, I felt like I had sacrificed an entire year of teaching for nothing – and it had sucked.  I didn’t expect to cry.  I really didn’t even know what I was going to say.  Maybe, “I quit”?  I’m so glad I didn’t.
Last summer, as everyone knows, because I talk about it any chance I get, I was a fellow in the Greater Kansas City Writing Project’s summer institute.  It was, quite literally, what saved me as a teacher.  I left the SI and went back to the preschool classroom determined to give early childhood education one more chance.  I was determined to harness all the creativity and the strength and the validation I got from the GKCWP summer institute and put it to good use in my classroom. 
I am telling this story because I just sat down last night to fill out my self-evaluation for this year’s annual review.  I’m happy to say that there will be no tears at this review…at least sad ones.  This year has been amazing.  And, I teach preschool…I have stories upon stories of things that have happened this year that weren’t amazing, but those stories are nothing in light of all of the good things that happened in my class this year.
Last summer’s self-reflection taught me that I owe it to everyone to stand back and let children learn without my guiding every single moment.  I’ll add my own little caveat here: I don’t do this as often as I should in my own home.  I don’t know if it’s because I have control issues with my own kids, or if sometimes, at the end of a long day with other people’s children, I just need things to go my way?  I’m not certain. But I will say that the Dinosaur kids have had some pretty amazing experiences this year.  I’m guessing most parents will rank field trips and special visitors as the top “amazing experiences” but I’d like to tell you what I think was amazing, if I may…so here’s a list, in no particular order:
We created jobs and each chose one daily.  We made a “helpfulness board” and our “kindness catcher” watched for kind acts that we documented and posted on our bulletin board.  We baked and cooked and ate lots of new and different foods. We were the authors and illustrators of our OWN stories – and we know what the authors and an illustrators actually do (!!!!)  We grew vegetables and plants and flowers.  We hatched chicks. Out of eggs!  We watched caterpillars turn into chrysalis and then butterflies and we set them free. We learned how to have gentle hands and also how to tell our friends about our feelings.  We learned when we need some “safe” time…if only everyone would recognize when they need those moments!  We painted with all sorts of different mediums.  We wrote in journals, we drew with crayons, pencils and markers.  We scooped and shoveled, and dug and sorted and counted and patterned.  We passed out lunches to each other.  We learned to sit in a circle and listen to a story together and how to guess what the story might be about and even what might happen next.  We were really LOUD some days, and other days we needed things to be quiet. We taught a teacher, who was thinking this might not be her calling, to hang in there and to absolutely LOVE what she does.
I’m not certain what the future holds for me, but this class of kids has encouraged me to be my best: every. single. day. And not maybe the best I could be, but at least the best I could be for that day, for that child.  And, really? Isn’t that what early childhood education is all about?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

good riddance...

Well, well…well.  Stunning news tonight about Osama Bin Laden.  News that I thought I would never hear.  Dead.  Which, might make some people really, really happy, but honestly I just feel a little bit sick to my stomach.  Bin Laden – the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, that took the life of my cousin Karleton along with nearly 3,000 other people.  Bin Laden, who has been hiding, for lack of a better word, for nearly 10 years.  I have a lot of feelings about Bin Laden, many I’m sure you can guess, but now I am worried about the repercussions of this…what happens next? Dancing and celebrating to be sure, but then what happens tomorrow and the next days to come?  
I have always felt that there will never really be true closure for myself after September 11, 2001.  I don’t really know how all of my family feels about this, but it’s how I have always felt.  I mean, of course there was a memorial service, and those concrete things, but when you hear the words 9/11 every. single. day on the news, in passing, somewhere in the day – there really is no true closure.  Imagine, if you will, that images of your loved one’s murder were shown nearly daily on the news or over the internet, or that your loved one’s murderer had been on the loose for the past decade. It’s always seemed a bit like a band-aid getting ripped off the wound. Over and over and over again. 
I guess my hope is that the families and loved ones of 9/11 victims can feel like a chapter in this very, very long story has finally ended. I don’t know that this it will ever feel like closure, but it’s a start.