Perspective #OneWord2018


As 2018 begins, I’m inspired to join a host of educators on Twitter and Facebook in committing to focus on #oneword2018 this year and to provide that reflective opportunity to my students. My word is PERSPECTIVE.

Personally, in the past year I have raged and despaired over the deterioration of civil public discourse in contemporary society. It’s easy and tempting to blame “those other guys” for this disrespectful and contemptuous atmosphere, especially the ones who hold political views diametrically opposed to mine. But rage and despair have gotten me nowhere; sadly, they have overcome my normal optimism. I am changing this for 2018.

I commit (hand over my heart) to striving respectfully to comprehend the perspective of others, and to model that for my students and my community. As my English students learn, a world of literature told exclusively from a single, first-person point of view would be limiting and boring. Jon Scieszka in The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs  and Gregory Maguire in Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, engagingly re-tell familiar tales from alternative points of view. And our own imaginations and sense of possibilities are the better for it.

My hope is that, by being open to listening to each other’s stories, we can create empathy sufficient to destroy the suspicion, negativity and downright bigotry displayed at the highest level of government in the last year.

I often begin the school year with a bucket of old reading glasses, 3-D glasses, and swim goggles that I ask my students to try on. They also swap prescription glasses with classmates with much giggling. It’s a terrific, visceral demonstration of how hard it can be to see another’s point of view without wearing their “eyes” or walking in their shoes.

So here’s to a new year of sharing perspectives!




Sing Strum Smile

This is my Ibanez bass guitar I got for my birthday a few years ago. She lives in our “home studio” populated by my husband’s and son’s electric and acoustic-electric guitars, mics, mixer, sitar, guzheng, amps, and recording stuff I don’t understand. That’s my concertina behind and to the left, though. We jammed some tonight and my poor, tender fingertips suffered. But I’d forgotten how fun it is to make music together! I need to resume the habit to build up those calluses again. Depending on the research, it takes either 21 or 66 days to form a habit. So I’m looking at summertime. Stay tuned!

The Importance of Being Empathetic


My Brit Lit juniors just finished studying  The Importance of Being Earnest, hence, this  post’s title. I participated in two stimulating Twitter EdTech chats yesterday where empathy emerged as a key element in student engagement, problem solving, and the design thinking process. I love the diagram above as a reminder for how to approach so many issues in life.

Empathy also came up during my journey home from visiting my mom in Fremont. The news that my flight was delayed an hour made me grumpy. Seeing five people in wheelchairs at my gate and assuming they would all take a long time to board made me grumpier, I’m ashamed to admit. Then I observed them more closely. All were elderly; most were cheerful; several appeared to be traveling together. I thought about how my frail mom refuses to travel by air any more and reflected on how wonderful and spunky these wheelchair travelers were. I want to be them when I grow up. I empathize.

Time Flies…


..when you’re having fun. …when you’re sick. … when you’re not paying attention.

All these happened to me this week. But what struck me most was a Memory that popped up on my Facebook feed from exactly seven years and one day ago when my family and I witnessed in person the inauguration of the first African-American President of the United States.  What a privilege to be able to travel to Washington D.C. and stand on the Mall with about 1.8 million others!

How far we have come in seven years! Yet, how far have we NOT come, especially given the hope and promise of that day.

But the glass half-full/empty reflection applies to my own life as well. I’ve ventured further into the frontier world of educational technology than I ever imagined. Yet how many knitting projects remain on the needles, books remain unread, relationships require tending.

As I get older, a year becomes a progressively smaller proportion of my life, which is why it feels like it’s flying ever more quickly by. *sigh* Wait for me.





“Joy” drives my choices now. Not the “see yourself in it” kind (if you got that, you’re retro), not the JLaw film (although I want to see it eventually), but the idea of only keeping stuff if it “sparks joy.”
That’s the guiding principle of successful de-cluttering behind Marie Kondo’s best-seller, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up. THIS is a good write-up from the Washington Post; multiple support groups exist in Facebook.
I made awesome progress on my clothes when I first tackled the program, but have stalled on books/paper due to time. The end of the semester is nigh. Still the mantra “Does it spark joy?” has informed everything I’ve chosen to bring into my life for months, from purchases to freebies to what I eat.
For example, I love geeky graphic t-shirts, but now I’m content to save a digital image without owning all the cute shirts. The only ones left are high quality, extra-meaningful, and well-used until it’s time to “Thank them for their service” and recycle. My kitchen is becoming streamlined as I cull out non-joy-sparkers so that I’m surrounded only by joyful items. I pass up taking conference swag if don’t love or won’t use it. Even my food choices my pass the scrutiny of joyful AND good for me (which is inherently joyful).
I’m not perfect but I’m learning, and I forgive myself for my fails (frequent attempts at learning). So I progress…

220px-joyfilmposter   pg-3164_1z


Jumping In with Both Feet


Summer’s officially over!

My school year started on Thursday with staff and department meetings and much classroom organizing. It continued at maximum overdrive brain power on Friday off-site with 9-12 ELA teachers from all 4 high schools in my district. Above are my Sketchnotes of the PLC (professional learning community) day. They won’t mean much to anyone not in attendance, but, combined with the pink and blue sheets referenced, they are sufficient for me to recreate the experience. On Tuesday, my students and I will begin our work together.

Our driving questions are “how do students show what they’ve learned?” and “how can we help them develop Rhetorical Flexibility?” (using the right too at the right time). And, on a more pragmatic note, we’ll examine how can we manage the paper load.

I admitted earlier that I’ve completely drunk the Google KoolAid, beginning with creating assignments and collecting products via Google Forms. In fact, our department produced amazing course outlines in a short, focused amount of time in a Google Sheet. With that model, I plan to shift as much as possible of my own work as well as my students’ into a digital format.

I’ll keep you posted!


Experience Needed for Full Understanding

Yesterday my husband and I drove on a “blue highway” through the Salinas Valley as part of our vacation road trip. Previously, we’d just zipped up and down the 101 freeway among other motorists bent on getting somewhere else, no there.

This time, however, we journeyed virtually alone to Mission San Antonio de Padua, 26 miles off the freeway, through some of the most pristine, iconic California landscape I have ever experienced.

For the first time, I really understood Jody Tiflin’s point of view in John Steinbeck’s 1933 novella The Red Pony. The young protagonist always marvelled at his grandfather’s tales of traveling the Oregon Trail, through the flat farmland of young Jody’s home, through the sage-covered foothills, then over the coastal range to the turbulent ocean along the rocky Monterey coast. Even from our fast-moving car, I saw how far away the mountains seemed and could imagine how Jody was impressed by his Grandfather’s apparently daunting trek.

This tiny epiphany reminded me how much I need to give my students EXPERIENCES as much as possible, rather than just focusing on the words on a page. This is true especially for my English learners, who never received the California history curriculum in the 4th grade. This year we will definitely do some exploring via Google Earth.

But maybe we’ll just take some walks up a hillside, too.