Speak It Into Existence

Poetry is a type of literature, or artistic writing, that attempts to stir a reader’s imagination or emotions. The poet does this by carefully choosing and arranging language for its meaning, sound, and rhythm.”

I am a poet.
I am a poet
a meaning maker
a lover of language

I am in awe
of the profound power
of the tiniest words strung together

Courageous struggle
healed brokenness
abundant love
shared vulnerability
relentless positivity
frequent unknowing
unending discovery
fearful moments
creative possibility
forever blessed
always grateful
~M. James, July 6, 2020

I am amazed at the pleasure I experience by crafting these simple poems. It is the meaning making that most enthralls and feeds me.

I’m struck by the realization that all my writing is about making meaning. It makes no difference if it is a poem, a note, an observation about a child in my classroom, or an entry in my journal. I work — so I’ve discovered — with the heart and soul of a poet, always looking for the beautiful and powerful meaning in every moment.

Poets, I’ve learned, sometimes notice and acknowledge meaning, and at other times we assign it — creating symbols in our own personal mythology. Part of my mythology involves fireflies. I love them. They always remind me of pleasant nights from my childhood, in my backyard, surrounded it seemed, by the dancing lights of the fireflies.

I was reminded of this the other day. My brother and I were on a late day hike, and as dusk fell, we walked past a field flush with fireflies. I was immediately transported back to those peaceful, awe and joy filled evenings of my youth. We stopped for a moment, and I put out my hand to once again trap one of those beautiful creatures. Amazingly, I got one on my first try.

When I returned home, I decided to speak the meaning of that moment, and the simple firefly, into existence and remembrance.

Fireflies and Messages

Flashes twinkle
on and off
in the darkness, 

As I stand
the darkness
appears less dark

Is that shadow 
the flight
of a firefly?

Perhaps …

In anticipatory hope
my hand glides 
through the lightened darkness

In a moment of intuition
I gently close my hand
hoping to seize that flash of light 

Slowly I open my fingers 
and gaze within 
a firefly walks across my palm

We look at each other 
with recognition
he has let himself be caught

Flashes twinkle, 
on and off
in the palm of my hand

Light lit
message delivered
he lifts his wings and is gone
~M. James July 5, 2020

The Power of Story

As you probably already know, I’m doing cancer treatment right now. It’s a difficult process during a difficult time for us as human beings. So, it’s not easy, in fact it’s pretty tough. But is it doable? Yes. And not as bad as it could be? Yes.

There really is so much good in this world — beautiful people, edifying messages, helpful caring behavior, and many wonderful things. But sometimes it’s hard to maintain my focus on them because the difficult, negative, concerning, and fearful stuff is so ridiculously loud.

So, what do I do? Among other things, I turn to possibility thinking, and creative thinking and doing. Lately my creative doing has been writing — in particular poetry and the stories I tell myself.

It’s amazing really, how deeply my thoughts and stories impact my emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing. Do the words I choose, and the stories I tell, actually change my situation? Hmmm … that’s a tough question because they answer is no, and yes. Or perhaps to quote John Daly from the old What’s My Line show, “We’ll give you a qualified yes.”

What I mean is, even with all the positivity I can muster, even with all the real, beautiful, true things I notice and tell myself, there is currently still Covid, still unrest, and still cancer. However, and it’s a big however, the words I speak, and the stories I tell – to myself and others – make a difference. They make a difference in how I see things. They make a difference in how I react to things. And, they make a difference in how my body, mind, and spirit are able to manage the battles they are fighting.

I still remember working with my brother on his Strength Training for Fencers book. He wanted me to being able to power clean half my body weight. After laughing, I embraced the task. Much like now, it wasn’t easy. But, the ease of the task, and my experience of the weight on the bar, changed depending on what I said as I approached the task. When I approached it with an inner conversation of “yikes this is a lot of weight” I experienced it as such. When I coached myself through it differently “You’ve got this, it’s not that heavy” I had a completely different experience. As amazing, or unbelievable, as it may sound, the weight of the bar appeared to be less, and the task was easier, when I told myself it would be.

Our bodies and minds are incredible creations. They hear what we say, and act accordingly. There’s a doctor who suggests our brain is our second immune system. She suggests it isn’t our immune system that gives up first, but our brain. Our brain decides it’s hopeless and says, “We can’t do this.” Our immune system hearing it, says “Oh, we can’t do this? Ok.” and lays down its arms in defeat.

With all that in mind, I turned to the power of story — in particular written story through poetry. I found an online poetry workshop — or perhaps it found me — that has been perfect for my purpose.

Our first task was awe. Notice the things around us and be in awe of them — the big and the small, the extraordinary and the very ordinary. Our second task was making meaning. Find the things in our lives that mean something to us, remind us of something or someone, speak the truth to us, and then look even deeper, and articulate that meaning for ourselves and others.

Here are my poems. I used a photograph for the first poem’s illustration to show the detail and reality of my words. I sketched the illustration for the second poem — taking artistic liberty — so I could enhance the meaning. The orange pill really is quite tiny – not even 1/2 an inch long. It doesn’t say cancer crusher on it in real life – but wouldn’t it be fabulous if it did? And the plate is not covered with roses. But the story — the meaning — is about the shower of roses and blessing, and the power infused into that tiny orange cancer crushing pill.

I hope you enjoy the stories I tell. Perhaps even more so, I hope you are inspired and encouraged to write and tell your story. There really is power in the written word. Take the risk and write. You don’t have to share it with anyone but yourself. Perhaps you will, but either way, the power is there. It’s changing things with every letter written, and every word and sentence formed.

I Am in Awe of My Silver Icon by M. James, June 30, 2020

I am in Awe of My Silver Icon

I am in awe of my silver icon
created by hands
that love the Lord
delivered by hands
that love me

She stands
surrounded by affirmations
prayers and
blank pages
waiting to be filled

She is
Queen
Protectress and
Amplifier
of goodness and connection
through time
with great love
to me
~M. James, June 30, 2020

Gather and Speak by M. James July 2, 2020

Gather and Speak

Pink roses
adorn the sides of my cup
reminding me I’m not alone

Therese is letting fall
a shower of roses
from heaven itself

Her loving hands send graces
as we gather at the altar and speak
saints angels and me

A small orange pill
rests in my hands
I ask that it may be blessed

May its power be increased
by the prayers love and presence
gathered here

I set the pill
reverently
upon the pink rimmed plate

Then I speak
to my beautiful body
the house of my sacred spirit

Do not fear
do not resist
be brave

Embrace and welcome
this little orange pill
with joyful hope

Accept it as a gift and
magnify its efficacy
with your courageous participation
~M. James, July 2, 2020

A Culture of Helping

I’m intrigued by the idea of creating a culture of helping. A culture where “colleagues support one another’s efforts to do the best work possible.” The authors of the article about IDEO suggest that a culture of helping is particularly important for organizations dealing with “knowledge work, when positive business outcomes depend on creativity in often very complex projects.”

I love considering how ideas like this might also benefit education, families, and society, as well as business organizations. Because really, doesn’t that description fit all of us? Especially now?

We are all dealing with knowledge work and often — if not always — very complex problems. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could support one another as colleagues to get the most creative, sustainable, outcomes to the many complex issues facing us today? Perhaps it is time — past time, even — to be willing to explore and learn from the best practices of others.

I always think about this as an educator. What can I learn from other leaders? What can non-education based organizations teach me? What kernels of insight can I grab from researchers dealing with business organizations? And, how can I let these new ideas and insights inform my practice in the classroom?

One thing I do with great resolve is to treat my students — though they are only 5-6 years old — as colleagues who can and should, ask for and offer help to one another and to me. I do my best to create relationships, and lead by example. I model respect, kindness, curiosity, and seeking and giving help.

My young colleagues often think of things in completely different ways than I do. That is part of the power of a culture of helping. Their ideas and ways of helping are insightful and fascinating. They may not always be the best way to do something, or the ultimate answer. But, they always lead to something more — growth, deeper relationships, insight, joy, learning, and new possibilities.

So, I’m thinking again — after re-reading the HBR article — about how I might continue to encourage a culture of helping in this unique educational landscape we find ourselves in today. What sort of infrastructure might I establish — remotely or in person — that would afford each of my students the agency to be an active member in our culture of helping.

I’ve been learning from my experiences with the medical community these past few weeks.

In order for a medical center to run well, there has to be some sort of culture of helping. I see it on many levels — from the people who greet me at the door, constantly clean the seats, check me in, do my tests, to the doctors and nurses. In all instances relationships, trust, listening, opportunity, commitment, and a beautiful balance of courage, vulnerability, humbleness, and power are the key.

My doctors and I have worked, listened, and leaned into our relationship with one another, and have established a pretty sweet mini-culture of helping. They are always willing to listen, brainstorm, and even learn from the things I have experienced, read, and heard. It’s great to be able to work with people who are curious, humble, and always striving to learn. I am incredibly grateful.

But, I only spend a short time with my doctors. The rest of the time I spend with the nurses. Talk about a culture of helping!

I’ve been going to my infusions alone — just to reduce the risk of any family member being compromised. Because of that, I have more time to simply be. When I’m not knocked out by the various medications, I do my best to relax. I draw, breathe, and just take things in. I hear the nurses laugh, chat, look for things, and encourage one another. They ask for, and give help — without, it seems, consideration of rank, or age, or years of service. They learn things about their patients, and remember them. And not just important medical things — but things about us as human beings.

I like experiencing all that. It makes me feel safe. Clearly they have a culture of helping which is deeply ingrained within their very beings.

And then there is my personal nurse — I mean they all help me, praise God — but there’s been one assigned to me these first two times i’ve gone. She has been remarkable. From the very beginning Carmen established a culture of helping with me. She let me know — from the moment we met — that we were colleagues and partners in this great journey of health and healing. And for that I’m very grateful.

She didn’t call me her colleague and partner. She showed me — in a way that to me, seemed incredibly purposeful and intentional. When we met, Carmen sat down to talk with me, looked me in the eyes, listened, attended, and responded to the things I said. After listening to me that first time, she moved me to a new station so we had easier access to one another. She explained things, and asked for feedback. She made it clear I could trust her — and her nursing partners — from the very beginning. It was fantabulous.

I’m not sure what creative possibilities and discoveries come from this culture of helping that they have established with one another, and now with me. What I am sure about is its great benefit to me as a human being, and to the complex problems we face together.

And, I am grateful — not only for the ways Carmen has helped me in my healing journey — but also for the things she has cemented in my heart and brain. The infrastructure of my classroom has to do with me. It has to do with me being purposefully, and intentionally, available, trustworthy, curious, and present.

This is my infusion doodle from this week. I made it to occupy my mind and hands, and to bring peace, joy, and creativity into the moment. As I look at it now I’m struck by its representation of a culture of helping. The various elements have similarities, and differences, but the same purpose. They occupy their own space with power, and beauty. They overlap one another without diminishing the another. Depending on my focus, different elements recede and push forward. And finally, the various elements combine to create, a dynamic, beautiful, complex whole.

So, in the infusion room, the classroom, wherever — purposefully, and intentionally available, trustworthy, curious, and present. Always open to creating and being part of a culture of helping.

Imagination, Curiosity, Creativity, Possibility, Hope, Peace, Joy, and Faith

I breathe best in a space of imagination, curiosity, creativity, possibility, hope, peace, joy, and faith. In some way, my breath supports each one, and each one supports my breath. In an equally powerful way, each moment of imagination, curiosity, possibility, hope, creativity, peace, joy, and faith, grows from, and feeds each other.

IMAGINATION is a mighty force. Sometimes it seems like a playground in my mind.

CURIOSITY often produces a laugh, entices me to exploration, and calls to my creativity.

CREATIVITY (thinking and doing) is looking with new eyes, open to the surprise, uniqueness, and possibility.

POSSIBILITY (thinking and being), is for me, the food of hope, peace, and joy.

HOPE, PEACE, and JOY are everything. They keep me going, and help me impact my world (inside and out) in positive ways.

FAITH – in myself, others, God, things larger than myself, the process, imagination, curiosity, creativity, possibility, hope, peace, and joy – makes it all possible. It encourages me to try when it seems I cannot, to believe when I do not, and to take another breath, and just be.

The other day, as I finished up my 9 hour infusion, a little loopy, and frankly, a little desperate. I didn’t feel like I had imagination, curiosity, creativity, possibility, hope, peace, joy, and faith, but none-the-less, I reached for them, and thankfully they were there!

I hadn’t brought much with me, just a small notebook, and a pen. What could I do with that?

I could occupy my mind and my hands, and fold an origami crane and a simple rectangular box.

I tore out a page, ripped it in half, and began to create. I made one of each. Then I took out another page. I decorated the page before I ripped it in half and folded another.

My breath eased a bit.

They say if you fold a 1000 paper cranes wishes come true, luck, and hope abound.

I say, 2 cranes and two paper boxes, folded with imagination, curiosity, possibility, hope, creativity, peace, joy, faith, and simple presence, might hold the same power. I took a photo to keep with me, and left the cranes, boxes, and any good they hold, for someone else to find.

An Exercise in Mindfulness

There is a mindfulness practice one can use to counter anxiousness and worry. Become aware of what you see, what you hear, what you smell, what you feel. By doing this you gently remove yourself from the world of your fears. As you notice more and more, you are brought more deeply into the present moment.

I need to spend more time in the present moment, and less time in the future which is not yet here. So much can change between now and that future moment. Why do I fret so much about it? I want to begin to spend more time in the present, aware of its goodness and beauty. I took a moment to do that today. It rained yesterday removing much of the humidity from the air. Today is spectacular — breezy, clear, cool.

I was encouraged to do a bit of writing that uses some sort of stacked words — alliteration, repetition, whatever worked. It seems apropos to use the repetition of small phrases to encourage mindfulness and call myself back to the present moment and all that surrounds me there.

Breezes blow. Breezes blow softly, then vigorously.

Breezes blow.  Breezes blow, and soothe my soul. 

Breezes blow. Breezes blow, and my breath grows in depth and ease. 

My eyes.  My eyes gaze up from my computer screen, and soak in the verdant green that surrounds me.

My eyes. My eyes rise higher and admire the beautiful blue sky accentuated by clouds slowly moving by.

My eyes.  My eyes notice the birds who join me on the patio — as if we are friends. 

My ears. My ears hear the distant rumble of cars, and the sound of my vertebrae straightening as I lean back and stretch.

My ears. My ears delight in the sweet songs of my bird friends. 

My ears. My ears react to the soft worship music on my laptop, and mysteriously slow my breath.

My mouth. My mouth feels the smoothness of the coconut cream in my afternoon matcha.

My mouth. My mouth tastes the delicate sweetness. 

My mouth. My mouth enjoys the green goodness of this delightful drink.

I choose. I choose to embrace and encourage peace.

I choose. I choose to believe the best. 

I choose. I choose to live — as much as I can — from a place of trust, peace, and positivity.

I. I sit quietly and breathe deeply.

I. I pray.

I. I am. 

I Did It!

I did it!

My brother and I got out for walk in nature, and I PAINTED!!!

I sat quietly, enfolded in the sounds and sights of nature. But, something in me rejoiced loudly “YAY!!! II’m sitting by the water, and I’m painting!!! All is right with the world”

It was a remarkably beautiful, and emotional few moments. I’m not sure I can express how lovely it is to sit by a river, with my watercolors, a fresh piece of paper, a paint brush, and some water (often from the river itself).

I know creativity isn’t the same thing as art. But, sometimes art gives me the opportunity to indulge in my love for creativity and creative thinking. Art sharpens my ability to be open to possibility and think differently — How might I express with the paint what I see with my eyes? How might I use the water, or the vegetation, or the wind as part of my process? Is there something new I might try? What if I expressed it in shades of black and white rather than color?

Strangely, COVID gives me more opportunities to think creatively as well. How might I feel comfortable sitting and painting? Where can we find a place to actually sit? If I have to stand, how might I use what is around me to hold my paint and water? Might I wonder and entertain all the possible things that might go right, instead of the things that might go wrong?

We humans have a negativity bias – keeps us safe – but I think sometimes for creatives our ability to problem find and imagine possibilities works against us. Well, I’ll speak for myself. Sometimes it works against me. Remember I said the moment was emotional? It was emotional because of the beauty, joy, and peace I felt. It was emotional because it was one of the first moments I have not felt afraid being out of doors doing something normal.

Yesterday I painted by the river.

Today I knitted.

Life is good.

These artistic endeavors soothe my soul. They teach me to look, notice, and wonder. They encourage me to be in the moment, open to possibility, even when it seems elusive.

I am a creative. It is part of who I am. I think I was born with the ‘I love noticing, thinking, creating, and figuring things out’ gene. Or perhaps, I don’t have that gene, but simply was blessed with parents who raised me to notice, think, create, and figure things out. Either way, here I am.

Yes, I am a creative. Each day gifts me with opportunities to increase my understanding of creativity and creative thinking, challenges that strengthen my creative confidence, and moments that urge me to consider possibilities. As I write this I am reminded of the Mary Anne Radmacher quote ““… sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.”

If I might be bold enough to allow her quote to speak to me and inspire me about creativity, I would rephrase it like this — often creativity is the quiet voice at the end of the day, that, looking at opportunities untaken, or problems as yet unsolved, says “I will sleep on it tonight and will try again tomorrow.”

May we always treasure and nurture that small voice.

Painting Today

There will be painting today!

I got these beauties in the mail a few days ago, but they had to sit in quarantine before I opened them, so for all intents and purposes, I got them today!

I staged the photo as I did because it pleased me aesthetically, but also because it hints at a message. The brush is supported by hope and courage. The combination of the three make the image complete, and somehow — in my heart today — increases the possibility of my being open to the many miracles that are gifted to me each moment.

That brush is fantabulous. I cannot wait to see how much water and paint it is able to soak up, and how it moves across the page.

Yes, there will be painting today.

Perhaps on my porch, or — gasp — dare I hope, at the edge of a stream on a walk? Mask and glasses on, but heart blissfully open to the blessings that will surely come my way. And, if tears come, it will be alright. They will mingle with the watercolors bringing unexpected beauty.

Saint Joan of Arc

I fence. Actually, I don’t just fence, I LOVE to fence, I enjoy doing drills, bouting, learning, even being smoked by a fencer who is better than I am. Fighting with all I am emotionally, intellectually, and physically is magnificent!

As a fencer and a Catholic, I’m a big fan of Saint Joan of Arc. A while back, I read the book — Joan of Arc In Her Own Words, by William Trask — and was deeply touched by her faith and her courage. I think it was after reading that book, that I added her as a regular, to my nightly litany.

My brother Harry, me, and St. Joan of Arc.

Long ago, someone told me they thought we didn’t choose the Saints we have a devotion to. Instead, the Saints choose us. Quite remarkable that Joan of Arc might choose me. Remarkable, and quite fantabulous. I like it. I embrace Joan of Arc as my spiritual sister — a fierce woman of God who can understand my humanness, my fears, my love of fighting, my love of God — me.

People who know my story, remark on my courage, my fierceness, my bad-ass-ness. Sometimes I don’t see it as clearly. asthey do. Or, I know it is true, but don’t feel it, and don’t affirm myself in it as fully as I might.

That’s been my experience lately. I’ve been feeling a bit off my fierceness game as I manage life, remote teaching, family and friends, and try to wrap my head and heart around beginning cancer treatment sooner than I expected. It’s all good, but it’s not easy.

The moments of fear and emotion, where I cannot keep from crying, seem to fly in the face of fierceness. But perhaps that inner sense is not an adequate, or accurate, assessment of the situation.

As I sit here — not in a whirlwind of fear, grief, emotion, or crying — it appears my crying and feeling deeply, is an intense expression of fierceness and courage. I am not running away from the feeling or the intensity. I’m not pushing it down. I’m sitting with it, feeling it, and then going about life.

I will do my best to recall that truth when next I am in the storm.

The other day, amidst feelings of anxiousness, I noticed the book – Sitting Like A Saint, by Dr. Gregory Bottaro. I decided to play a bit of “bible roulette.” Have you ever done that? You ask for a word, and then just open the bible and see what is there. I figured “Sitting Like A Saint roulette” could work too.

I said a quick prayer and opened the book to — you guessed it –Joan of Arc.

“Sometimes we might feel scared, or not up for the challenge

Yes, yes, that’s what I’m feeling

“… but remembering God loves us and is here to protect us can help to calm our worried minds. You can be courageous in the face of a challenge … covered by God’s love and protection … and a soft white light”

The meditation continued with a suggestion of a form of standing that I immediately recognized as the power pose! I always use the power pose. I suggest it to my Kindergartners, my HS athletes, and myself. So, it made me laugh out loud to see it in my “Sitting Like A Saint roulette.”

I mean really, how much more perfect? Joan of Arc, courage, being covered in the light, love, and protection of God, breathing. and the power pose.

I took a few breathes, and then whispered with a chuckle “I just might have to cry uncle, and finally believe you’re protecting me.”

We shall see.

I am super grateful for these moments when my inside and outside life collide in a brilliant display of awesomeness and clear message. It’s very interesting. I’ve been experiencing it with some regularity in my teaching as well. I must pay a tad more attention to those moments so as to really hear them and allow them to inform my inner dialogue and sense of being.

PS.

I let this post sit for a bit before publishing it, and I’m so glad I did. While I was away I was reminded of my post from April 19. I quoted Ruth Ayers in that post — “the magic of story happens when a story is released into the world and it wraps around someone’s heart.” That is exactly what happened here! The story that the Gregory and Barbara Bottaro crafted and released into the world found its way — with all its magic and blessing — to me, and my heart. How cool is that?

Possibility and Fantabulousness in Quarantine

The other day a colleague shared a link about how to force a copy to be made of a google doc, sheet, slide, or drawing, when you attempt to download it. What a great idea! Now no one has to remember to make a copy, or risk changing your original by mistake.

While I was on the Shake Up Learning site learning how to do that, I clicked on a few other things I found interesting. My absolute favorite was her magnetic poetry board that featured small white rectangles with black lettered words, waiting to be placed on a retro mint green refrigerator! Oh my GOSH!!! So good.

After playing for a bit, I noticed she had a free mini course about how to make the magnetic boards. I wasted no time clicking on that link.

I listened, played, and created a magnetic board for my Kindergartners. It was lovely, but a bit too complicated. Back to the drawing board I went.

Finally I decided I’d create a board that had space to create sentences in the middle, while holding the words on the top and bottom of the slide. This would allow the Kindergartners to create the sentences by clicking and dragging.

I shared it as an optional assignment.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

When you are finished with your other projects, please consider teaming with me as an Official Tester of Our Kindergarten Virtual Magnetic Words Board.

I can’t come put magnets on your refrig, so I had to do it on the computer. I learned some new skills, and used them to make word “magnets” as well as a place for you to create sentences, poems, lists, or other things we haven’t yet imagined, on your computer.

This is the first time I’ve tried this, so I’m not sure how it will work for you on your device, or how much you will enjoy it. But I’d really like to know.

If you’re ready to be brave, resilient, I can do it Kindergartners, click here. Make a copy, and see what you can do. Try it for a few days. I’ll be waiting for your thoughts, and your sentences.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

I was sure they would except the challenge. But, I had no idea what I’d get in return. I waited, with hopeful anticipation.

Slowly their responses began filling my email inbox. They were great! Each one showed me the spirit, resilience, and all around awesomeness of the student who did the work.

Their sentences speak volumes about who they are, how they see themselves, and what they are experiencing and thinking. I gotta say, they filled my heart with joy! Take a look at a few:

Yes, yes indeed, I do feel all the love!

Fantabulous, right? I included a few words in their word bank that were a little less than positive – yell, cry, worries. I added them to honor and validate the reality that we might want to yell, cry, or be worried. They didn’t choose them — except to suggest — after a long line of things they do — love, laugh, imagine, and create — they don’t yell. That actually made me laugh out loud.

Curious to consider, but true none-the-less, this fantabulousness happened because of the quarantine.

Because we’re home and not together in our school, I needed to rethink how to do what I would normally do in our classroom. How could I give them open ended opportunities to create with words? How could I allow them to share themselves and their ideas? How could I do some formative assessment?

Living during this pandemic I have a bit more time, and am experiencing a good deal more stress. So what could I do? I could try to follow my passion to learn and create. So when this opportunity to learn and get caught up in the flow of creativity came my way, I eagerly embraced it.

I think this fantabulousness also happened because of all the work we put in together pre-quarantine. Not just the work to develop skills, but the work to develop relationships.

Everything about our time together — even now — is about relationships. Relationships with arms, hearts, and big beautiful brains, wide open to embrace each other and all we bring to one another.

We say good morning, inquire how the other is, look each other in the eye, and share our thoughts ideas and feelings. We laugh, and sometimes we cry. Our relationship is based on trust, love, openness to possibility, wonder, willingness to risk, and mutual respect.

For sure, that relationship allowed me to take a risk, do something new, and ask my students and their parents to join me in my experiment. Undoubtedly it gave them courage and freedom as well.

We remain apart, but at the same time together — together in all our fantabulousness!

Notice Small Things

“They world is full of ordinary moments, and when noticed they become special.” Ruth Ayers

The other day — well actually it was months ago, but saying the other day soothes my heart. I miss my Kindergartners! So please, join me in imagining that it was just the other day that I was with them, rather than nearly two months ago.

The other day, in my Kindergarten classroom, the girls were dismantling their Lego creations. I couldn’t find the tools Lego makes to take the bricks apart. Even if I could find them we hadn’t made the creations on the Lego plates, so the tools wouldn’t have been that helpful. So, instead of the tools, I gave suggestions of ways to get the bricks apart, and lent my fingers when their fingers reached a snag.

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed one of my girls working with incredible focus and intensity. She was getting her blocks apart like a champ! I wandered over for a closer look, and noticed she had created her own tool. She didn’t ask for help. She problem solved all by herself!

She was using a paperclip as her handmade tool!

I immediately abandoned any thought of the pre-made tools, and began sending everyone who asked for help to this sweet and ingenious girl. Each time I did, I said, “C figured out a way to make a handmade tool. Go ask her to teach you.” And, each time I sent a girl her way, she humbly and quietly showed them what to do.

Day two of Lego dismantling began with requests for paperclips. I recalled the one C had used the day before was small and silver, so I quickly found the small silver ones and handed them out. They didn’t work. I thought perhaps C had opened them the blocks a bit before she used the paperclip, so I suggested trying that.

From across the room, C noticed me out of the corner of her eye. She came over and said “They aren’t the right paperclips, Ms. James.” To which I responded, “They’re not? I thought you had the small silver ones.” To which C replied, with incredible patience and complete confidence. “Yeah, but not those.”

I think perhaps at that point I laughed. “Not these?”

‘No” C said, as she took the container from my hands.

She moved the paperclips around, clearly looking for something specific. I still wasn’t sure what she was searching for. Then I saw it! The day before I had borrowed several paperclips from a colleague. They were thinner than the silver ones we typically used, and they had tiny lines on them.

“See, Ms. James. These are the ones that work!” C said with a smile. “Oh my GOSH!” I replied. “I didn’t notice that, C. Thanks so much for showing me.”

Small things. They really are important. I’m glad I noticed C’s creativity and ingenuity, but if she hadn’t noticed the small things about her tool — the things I had overlooked — my noticing would have been much less.

She taught me a great lesson about being in the moment, present, observant, and focused. I love C and all my girls. They never cease to amaze me.