Patricia Emerson’s Wonderful World of Learning

Max, you have made me see myself through your eyes, and it is a humbling reflection. THANK YOU from the bottom of my <3. (I wish you all the best, too, as you take your next steps.) Lucky us!

Patricia Emerson’s humility and work ethic stretches as far as her legacy in Brielle and throughout Monmouth County, and she has done her due diligence to instill the same values in the thousands of students that have walked through her classroom door.

A 1973 graduate of Swarthmore College and a northwestern Oregonian girl to her core, spending less than a minute with Ms. Emerson shows you that teachers are as invaluable to society as currency itself.

As Ms. Emerson prepares the next phase of her life, moving back to the Oregon coast, she is already looking passed the aura of retirement to a new venture; teaching the teachers.

“Working with teachers is what I see in my great future,” she said. “I have had the best career possible. I have gone to the Dominican Republic for social justice reform. I created a movie on it. I have been the luckiest…

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seriously, the guy has a point

How wonderful is it to read something that acknowledges the difficulties inherent in argument. In so many of them, both sides (or as many sides as there may be) have a case to be made. (It is also rare to find profanity and articulate writing in tandem.)

Ab Initio

Ab Initio

Ah, those Romans.  This adverb initiates from the Latin root meaning beginning, to commence a new year, a fresh start although as I was preparing the house, and refrigerator, for guests over the past couple of days, it struck me how so much of what I do rises from the actions of my mother before me.  A quote posted recently from The Five People You Meet in Heaven expressed this same sentiment.  Our lives emerge from those what have gone before, whether in acts of replication of acts of mindful rejection.  So when I am precise in the way I fold the top sheet down, pattern showing beneath the edges of the pillows, and my husband shakes his head at my insistence that this is the way it should be done, I feel the touch of my mother’s hand; she, who would never have been described as domineering, is the master of much that I do.  My fabric is woven with hers.  From the beginning, mom, I thank you.

To Find a Way

“If I can survive cancer, then you can survive flunking an algebra test,”  reads one of my seventh grade students.  He has asked to rehearse a speech he has to deliver in front of a crowd at the local high school tonight at an annual fundraiser for cancer victims during our Language Arts class.  His speech describes his fight to overcome this pernicious enemy, one that began stalking him in third grade, and after a retreat for more than a year, returned to assail him once again last year near Christmas.  He says that he would have surrendered, so weak and rotten has he felt, but without him, his brother and sister, would no longer be triplets.  They would have lost their third.  He is on what he calls, “maintenance chemo,” much of it administered at home, a happy change from the weekend stays at  CHoP, Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania.  Matter-of-factly he details what the future holds for him and is happy, if subdued, that he has been given another reprieve.

There is already so much to what he says, but there is more.  The high school where this fundraiser takes place has struggled with its reputation as a school with a suicide cluster.  In the past five years, seven students have killed themselves.  When this courageous young man speaks, he sends a message about cancer, but he also sends a message about resilience and the will to hold onto life and love in the face of daunting odds.

Our classroom is silent as he finishes, then loud with applause. On the wall behind him is the quote from Anne Frank: “Despite everything I believe that people are really good at heart.”  Resilient spirits.

Trembling (and I am!)

     First post, and trembling.  In memory, I write.    

     Jan Berenstain died last Friday, so my inbox tells me when I open a message from Reading Is Fundamental.  On that day, I was writing about her or about the dynamic Bear-creating duo, in response to one of my student’s entries about the disputed value of television.  (Does anyone else have to read some fairly uninspired persuasive entries?  When they write about why they should have an iPhone, they approach brilliance.  Perhaps that will show up this year on state testing in memory of Steve Jobs?)  I know I have never written about Jan Berenstain to anyone before while grading their eighth grade notebooks, but I did on the day she died.  What are the odds?  Do you ever feel that there are so many connections we deny? 

My son, hard to believe that he is now 23, used to love those Bears!  We would read Too Much Television and pose the question every now and then, “My habit or my choice?”  Bless you, Jan (and Stan).  You are a slice of my life.