One of Those Days…or Not

Today was a “Jean’s Day” at school. Based on the seniors’ research papers which I’ve been grading these past few days, I decided to wear this shirt.


Then, it was time to teach one of the junior classes. In pairs, they are writing analytical paragraphs of  a Walt Whitman poem–not a heavy duty writing assignment, but a solid base for real discussion of the poem and of writing techniques. We started yesterday, and today they were to revise and proofread. I reminded them how we sometimes need a day between writing and proofreading so that our brains don’t automatically insert what we meant to write even if we didn’t actually write it. Immediately, one student came up to me with her paper and said, “We’re done. My partner knew she wouldn’t be here today so we finished yesterday.” UGH. Did she hear what I just said? No. “Okay, now you should proofread it. You might notice something that you did not notice yesterday.” “You will collect this right?” she says, handing me the paper again. “Not now. Please proofread it. Here’s a checklist for writing. Perhaps this can help you proofread and revise.” She took her seat in a huff and proceeded to suck her teeth at me for the rest of the period. Happy day.

And then, this happened:

As I was circulating among the other groups, I heard snippets of conversation that went like this:

“No, no, aren’t we supposed to use present tense for literary stuff?”

“It’s the sound imagery, not just imagery.”

“Where’s the thesaurus?”

“Can I use my phone for This thesaurus doesn’t have intrusive.”

“Wait, there’s alliteration. What does that do for the idea of the poem again?”

Ninth period rolls around, and it is time to do the same lesson with another group. They come in talking about the poems, and I don’t even have to take them to take them out their paragraphs from yesterday.


Two students came to me saying, “We have a disagreement. I think this is a run-on sentence. She doesn’t.” She read a beautiful complex sentence to me that is not only grammatically correct but is also spot on when it comes to both the poem and the assignment. I say, “That is actually a beautiful sentence.” The girl who wrote it gives me the most powerful high five I have had in a while.

Followed up by,

“Is this too repetitive?”

“We think there’s too much in this sentence. Can you help us make it better?”

“We’re not sure how to get the quotation in smoothly. Does this make sense?”

And two students handing me their paper like it is a treasured object.

“Can we have extra time? Can we finish over the weekend and give it to you on Monday?”

(Did they just ask for weekend homework?)

And four students remaining  engaged in their work at the back of the room even after the bell rang. And this was a last class on a Friday!

These girls were not only engaged with the poem, they also experienced the joy of thinking deeply and writing well. Everyone left the room in a good mood.

I guess it was a good day after all.


Mother’s Day

I have a wonderful mother, and as I have grown, she has become a great friend. But today, for this blog, I want to write about my mother-in-law. She was a crafter par-excellence: rug hooking, knitting, crochet. We lost her too soon; she passed away in 2007. Two days ago, I said to my husband, “I am really missing your mother right now. I’m having trouble with this pattern; I can’t figure it out, and I know she could have helped me.” It’s true.

Here’s another great story about my mother-in-law and my dad. One time my parents and in-laws were together and somehow the conversation came around to blankets and napping. My father mentioned that blankets were not long enough for him. He was 6’2″ and always found the standard blanket too short to truly cover the feet and come up to the chin. So, my mother-in-law said, “I’ll make you a blanket, and in return you can paint me a picture.” (Both pictured below) My dad had taken up oil painting in his retirement and was really quite good. So, my mother-in-law and my dad struck a bargain. Two weeks later, my mother-in-law delivered the blanket; my dad was still working on the idea for the painting. He did eventually deliver a beautiful painting of birds through a kitchen window; however, he often laughingly related that he took so long compared to her speed. And her work was flawless. Dad always called her afghan “the magic blanket.” He said as soon as he pulled it up, he instantly fell asleep.

My mother-in-law was devoted to her crafting, particularly rug hooking. Her work was intricate, and she continually worked to improve her skills. In addition to regularly attending the Great Neck Women’s Club, where she met with other like-minded women, she also went on retreats for rug hooking. One time, she arrived at the retreat site in New Hampshire to be welcomed with the banner “Hookers and Priests Welcome.” Apparently two retreats were taking place that weekend, and either someone didn’t think about the implications of the wording or was having a bit of fun! My husband always said he wish she had taken a picture so we could have sent it in to The Tonight Show.

As for me, my mother-in-law taught me something indispensable. She taught me how to read a crochet pattern. Without her assistance, I couldn’t do a fraction of what I do. I miss her and wish I had more time with her, more time for her to teach me.

And my mother-in-law also had a sense of humor. Check out the detail of her “business” card below.