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One day, while standing on the playground, I had an epiphany. I looked out over a hundred children, playing, running, yelling, laughing, and crying. It hit me that I stood in a place where millions of journeys had begun – on blacktops like this one. More than a playground, I was standing at a starting point, at the mouth of the river itself. What tremendous, unthinkable good luck to have traveled to this point, on this day, in this ineffable time. 

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Also, in Teaching with Heart: Poetry that Speaks to the Courage to Teach a diverse group of ninety teachers describe the complex of emotions and experiences of the teaching life – joy, outrage, heartbreak, hope, commitment and dedication. Check it out at . . .




Kalea, in her tiny white shoes, got to the playground first. I heard her squeals before I saw her feet. Then, in three double-footed leaps, she bounded into view, brown eyes wide with the spark of mischief. Over her head (with both hands) she held a green fish made from construction paper. She sprinted past, […]

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I thought I knew enough about a nine year-old named Manny. A stand-to-the-side kid who didn’t say much. Then, I caught him, his buddy Edgar, and two other kids just inside the school fence last Sunday. His friend Edgar had already been knocked down, and Manny prepared to return fire. He had his black hair combed straight […]

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Hours ago, I found Shannon O’Neil, a small-boned fifth grader, sitting in a rumple of hoodie and big blue jeans, outside the door of his classroom. Kicked out, it seemed. Ms. Glenda Jackson, twenty-seven year veteran teacher with a short fuse, often kicked out that which made no sense to her. Shannon today fit that […]

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A child can come to you like an open palm. She can also wrap herself the way that same hand might gather itself around a sparrow’s egg. Maeve, on most days, came this latter way – turned inward, quiet, hidden. No joy, no bounce, all business. She did, however, pout like a pro. This fact […]

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When Karina and Grace got into it yesterday morning, they did not know that I stood near enough to hear every word. It started with a typical litany of grievances, infractions, betrayals, and spite delivered with a hiss. The first barrage came from Karina. Then, with a stammer, from Grace. Then back to the top. […]

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A “beginning” showed up this morning only after I stepped into – and stood in – a “middle” that made no sense. This middle included a small-boned, third grade girl named Tacia who sat crumpled in a corner near dumpsters, wearing thread-thin daisy pink sneakers, no socks, sweatpants big enough to belong to her big […]

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These are the Rules!   Admit that you are a child wrapped in a grown up body. Go backward in time to go forward in life. Treasure the bites and the stings of your first mistakes. Re-think, re-do, and re-write your soul’s story. Make for yourself a life that you can no longer predict. Fall down, […]

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A flash in the form of a three foot, nine inch boy lit up the yard this morning. I hadn’t witnessed a pure blue bolt quite like this one before. Now, I find myself standing here, in the middle of the empty kickball diamond, scribbling notes. My question: What did I see? I don’t want […]

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When I first visited the school on the hill, summer heat baked the dead grass covering much of the open space there. A windowed and white concrete block —the school building — shoved itself into the hillside as a misfit among the rocks, broken glass, discarded sofas, and random car parts. In my work shoes […]

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This morning, I stood on the edge of the playground, watching kids interact. Recess flowed and children’s voices wafted in ways that gave me an inkling of a harmony arising from the middle of the earth. Seamless alignment between above and below. Then, a colleague of mine named Jacqueline, a principal from a school down the […]

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