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About Notes from the Playground

My school sits on top of a hill. Down one side of the hill, some of our city’s poorest reside. Narrow streets and gritty alleys split the eastern patch of the hillside into slices of irregular geometry. Streets cut paths where children can run from bad luck into good fortune in just a few seconds. […]

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Tattoo

Matthew, a fast sneakered ten-year old, beat me to the playground this morning. Better to say he bolted across the blacktop. I didn’t try to keep up. He jumped on the monkey bars, and grasped the high bar with his left hand. With blond hair, wiry frame wriggling in a Captain America t-shirt, and near-shredded […]

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Box

At times, the hilltop itself speaks to me. Monday morning, for example, when I walked through the school’s front archway before sunrise, I spotted an epigram engraved into the stone above: “Education is bitter but the fruit is sweet.”  How had I missed it? The engraving had to be as old as the building itself.  Then, […]

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Wisdom

Jordan just turned ten. He is my height. He has a round, soft face, dark brown skin, and a button nose. I have known him for two years and have never seen his face twist in anger nor have I heard him spit out an unkind word. When my friend, Mr. Charles Tucker from Mississippi, visited Jordan’s classroom […]

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Pretend

Pretending  creates a dividing line – real as a rock on one side, paired with somewhat squishier realities on the other. I used to think I knew where to draw that line, but I used to think a lot of things. Today during morning recess, my thoughts got a shove from a third grade boy […]

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Bridge

When seven year-old Raymond came to school each morning, he had to walk only a few blocks. He came by way of three alleys and a set of stairs. Not too far maybe, but farther than forever on some days. I once asked him, do you ever get scared coming to school by yourself.  He flipped back […]

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Trouble

Red and gold leaves wafted down onto the empty playground this morning and blustery winds pushed the leaves along. I breathed in through my nose.  Above, storm clouds blanketed the hillside in gray. Ah, sweet wet air! As I stood, I drifted among pre-storm ions and boyhood memories of incoming storms. Running in rain, sucking in cold […]

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Time

Tuesday morning, I scooted my way into school just before sunrise and from the start, I got little signals that the day would bring something different. For example, I fumbled in the dark to get my key into the lock on the school’s front door. Then, fingers of sunlight extended across the pre-dawn sky and a […]

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Revival

Raymond, stout little boy with a loud mouth, popped off first: Dead rat in the trash can! Dead rat in the trash can!” The scream caught my ear. And even from across the playground, I could hear and see him pointing into the dented can. He kept up the racket: Dead rat! Eww! Six seconds later, two children ran […]

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Grape

I sat across from a row of kindergarten boys in the lunchroom today. They came skidding in along the linoleum and then went piling onto bench seats. I watched as they popped open lunch boxes. All of them waved but they didn’t want to talk. Time to eat! I knew most of their names as […]

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