Make Way for the Stomach

Disclaimer: This post is a little dated given that I wrote it last week before being confined to bedrest, but I still wanted to share it.  This week, I did not wear pregnancy well. I guess it all started with my blotchy, sick face. Redder than normal cheeks. Coughing fits that happened at inappropriate times—especially when someone made me laugh. After being in bed four days straight with a chest cold, I returned to the classroom a little too early. Grades were due, standardized tests were nigh, and I had responsibilities. However, teaching all day took its toll. Somewhere along the way, I pinched a nerve in my back. I think it may have happened when I was carrying a stack of copies I had to run. Of course, on the day I needed to play catch up, there was only one copy machine working in the entire school—far away from my classroom, obviously. So there I was, six at night, trying to carry 415 Common Assessments for my team and my satchel back to the 8th-grade hallway. Luckily, another teacher happened to be there. Luckily, she gave me the what the heck do you think you’re doing face. Luckily, she offered to carry them. Still, the damage was done. My waddle turned into a hobble. It shot up and down my back, into my leg, down to my toes. Only on the left side, though. And when I went to get dinner with my husband, Taylor, and our friend, Jack, every step I took sent jagged little ticks through my spine. Jack, of course, reminded me that I could,...

Disorderly Order

My life can get disorganized very quickly. Don’t get me wrong. I love things neat and orderly, but when the cyclone of reality comes a knockin’, I tend to get a little all over the place. This past month? It has been one long tornado of crazy, and a lot has fallen through the cracks. They’ve piled up around me, buried me. Stacks of paper. Undone laundry. Unanswered emails. Grading to be done. A manuscript unedited.    And all around me, I see people who persevere in their dogged pursuit of keeping life orderly. I currently have a coworker who will sit at his desk and place everything at just the right angle. Even pieces of scrap paper? He’ll situate them corner to corner or color coordinate them. There’s another who, in two years of teaching, has discovered the art of filing her unit plans and documents in neat, tidy folders. This is an idea that has always appealed to me, but I never took the extra time to do so (which in turn has cost me many an hour searching for digital copies on my computer). And then, there is my husband, who craves order like air. It is his safe space in a world full of disorder. This makes for living in a pretty tidy home, and I love it. These people inspire me, but they make it look so easy, so seamless. I know they have to work at it—that it is nothing but a habit formed, but it is a habit that I crave to possess.    You see, my brain gets so darn messy....

Teaching with Hands Tied

This week, I had an interaction with a student that cut deep. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Then again, maybe it was the right place at the right time. In this student’s frustration, he lashed out, and I took it. The tired, pregnant teacher took it. I knew that everything he felt had absolutely nothing to do with me. I tried to calm him, but I may as well have been trying to pet an agitated viper. Nothing I said could ease the caged feeling radiating from him. I saw it in his eyes. He was tired of school, of the expectations, of the world crushing in on him. In the office, he stalked his anger, back and forth, back and forth, furtively glancing out the window at the students passing by in a blur of color. I struggled to find the right words, and with each inadequate thing I said, I only made it worse. My mouth grew dry. I found myself speechless—in awe. While he paced outwardly, I recognized that I’ve been pacing inwardly. My heart in a cage, my rage un-allowed to escape. A rage I felt over the inability to do anything to fix the situation. A rage that tasted like failure. And every day I feel like I’m failing, like I’m falling deeper into the well of inadequacy. In Education, there has been so much pressure to perform. It trickles down from the legislature, seeps down into administrations, and leeches into the skin of the teachers. Companies see opportunity in this. They sell prepackaged curriculums and one-size-fits-all lesson plans. In...

I’m Back, Though I Haven’t Exactly Been Gone…

Howdy Dear Friends, It’s been a while, I know. For many of us, the past seven months have been a whirlwind, and I can definitely relate. First off, as many of you have seen on social media, I reentered the classroom in August. My hope was that my teaching life could inspire my writing life. I will not lie. It has been a challenge. Dealing with 154 8th graders on a daily basis takes a lot of energy, and I am grasping for the time to commit to writing. To top it off, my husband and I have decided to expand our family. I’m currently growing a human being, and we love it terribly already. A little beautiful alien is sprouting arms and fingers, and it is giving me the oddest cravings for pickled beets and sweets. No matter how tired this kid makes me, I’m so excited to meet him or her in June.    I am sorry for my apparent disappearance from the writing world, but I promise you I have been working. I’ve been tucking away stolen weekends and trading hours after work at the keyboard. I’m getting super close to finishing Part One of On the Other Side of Greatness. It has been such an arduous journey. Much like The Birth of Anarchy, it has been a novel that did not want to find an ending, and much like a long road trip, the last mile home always takes the longest. I assure you, I’m in that last mile now, and this book is coming out soon. Part Two may take a while to get...

A Brainstorming Exercise by j.d. brewer

I made this brainstorming exercise for a workshop I did at the Buda Public Library. I’ll end up using it at some point in my classroom next year as well. I originally intended it for personal use, but thought sharing is a good thing. I emailed Message to Bears to ask for permission to use two songs, and I heard back today. So Voila! The blank page is the writers curse, so be inspired, answer questions, and make up your own. If one picture grabs a hold of you, run with it! If you’re doing campnanowrimo, working on your next project, or writing a short poem,  and your stuck with a blank page or trapped in a scene, here’s something to get the gears turning. The directions are quite simple: 1) Analyze each picture. 2) Imagine you are in the picture, the place, the action. 3) Answer each question in lists or phrases. 4) Do not worry about writing the question or answering EVERY one. 5) If you come up with your own question, answer it. *If you want to return to a picture, or stick with one, then go with it! Use this video until you get unstuck, until the page is no longer blank, until you have words to start playing with. *Disclaimer: there is one typo in the questions inside of the video. Air high five to whoever finds it. Please forgive me. I am imperfect. Music is by Message to Bears. Permission has been given to use the songs for this purpose. The first song is, “You are a Memory.” The second song is, “I Know...