cafeteria cliques and middle school melodrama: adult culture in schools


For the last few months, I have had the opportunity of being on my school’s hiring committee. In countless interviews, this question has risen from the mouths of the candidates: “How is the culture in this building?” As well it should. Though the work we do is with students, often the fuel to be successful there comes from the environment in which we exist, from the adults with which we collaborate. As in any school, our adult culture is defined by both strengths and weaknesses. Typically, when I answer this question, I say something along the lines: “Each of us creates the culture; it is a matter of aligning with those who are moving forward.” Today I write to attempt to define what “moving forward” looks like.

I recognize that the idea of “adult culture” is not unique to those who work in a school environment. Nor is gossip–the life blood of water cooler meet-ups and front porch rocking sessions. After all, over the past few months, as I’ve been ruminating about this very topic, I’ve read several articles I found in a generous Google search: “The Danger of Workplace Gossip” and “10 Reasons Why It’s Good to Gossip at Work.” But, what I do think is critically different, is that there is far more riding on a school’s adult culture. Every day, every interaction in the hall, every group of adults gathered in a corner chatting, every isolated teacher, every closed door “meeting” is watched closely by little, learning sponges: children, becoming adults, who are in the process of figuring out how to navigate the world of obvious and subtle social cues, the minefield of trust and betrayal, the dynamics of inner circle versus outer circle, the challenges of conflict resolution. They are the true sentinels of social maneuvering–always observing, always forming.

As I define what “moving forward” looks like, I also treat this as a confession of sorts, to those who have watched my model and learned unhealthy community approaches. This is how I want to move forward. This is how I want to be at work. This is how I want be as an honorable woman trying to love God.

  • Moving forward means emptying your cup–a much needed part of life–in your most inner, trusted circle. Find your people, and keep it there.
  • Moving forward also means deconstructing the contents of that cup. Many times this year, I have talked with my students about the cycle of oppression. Those who are oppressed oppress others. Those who are insecure break down others. Those who need validation invalidate others. When I am emptying my cup…what is really going on? What do I need to look at in myself, first and foremost?
  • Moving forward means holding closely your inner circle, while still being inclusive. Love is boundless and can, and should, go beyond my people.
  • Moving forward means surrendering the power of being “in the know.” Sometimes I want to know, just because I’m curious. Sometimes I want to know, just because I want to be in the “in group.” Sometimes I want to know, just because sharing it gives me power.
  • Moving forward means being mindful of time. It saddens me how easy it is to complain of “having no time,” when that very time complaining could be used for something productive. It falls on my shoulders to know when to empty my cup, and when to put it aside to get sh** done. It also empowers me. So often I complain of all the things I cannot control, but if I just made use of my time controlling what I can, I would feel so much better.
  • Moving forward means emptying your cup, then washing it–at least most of the time. If I complain for complaints’ sake, that is wasted time. But, if I complain to move forward, to figure things out, to have solutions, that is productive, that is honorable. That is what I want my students to see. How can I speak out against what is wrong and/or bothering me, while also having a hand–however insignificant–in creating a more positive outcome?

Ultimately, moving forward at its core is about energy. What kind of energy do I cultivate within me? What kind of energy to I radiate? What kind of energy do I surround myself with?

Recently, a colleague and friend recommended the documentary I AM. Watching a mere once has rocked my world, specifically the research done at The Institute of HeartMath. One of their explorations is the idea that the emotions I feel affect YOU… yes, symbolically of course, but My emotions affect you emotionally, physically. There is some sort of invisible, scientific, spiritual connection among those around me. So in school, my very being affects the beings around me.

What a call to be a better being.



Something Deeper: On Teaching with Heart and the Poetry of Teaching

Amen, declares my teaching soul.

Chase Mielke

Teaching is poetry.

It’s the creation of something deeper, something sleeping below a classroom structure.  Its meaning is buried underneath flash cards and Power Points, grade checks and rubrics.  The surface seems simple and direct — we see the quizzes and cold-calls as clearly as pure rhymes.  The bells ring and the lines break and we prepare for the next stanza to take a seat quietly and get to work.

But hanging underneath is something deeper, something unique, something pure to the individual.

Teaching breathes and stretches and transcends like poetry.  No two learners can interpret the verse of teaching the same, just as no two teachers can write the same verse.  No matter what the rhyme scheme or theme, it is the process of learning that makes education poetry.  It is the delicate and personal interaction between two humans sharing a space in mind and body and trying to transfer meaning to…

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To the Class of 2014: On Fear

Class-of-2014Today I watch my seniors check-out. And as they sit with me, over and over I hear: “Ms…I’m scared.” And if I could say anything, I would say…

Well of course you’re scared. You are leaving all you’ve ever known. You are separating from a community of friends and teachers you have been with for the past six years. You are venturing out into the world that, though inaccurate, has repeatedly told you you’re not good enough. You are moving away from the family home in which you’ve been nestled. You are transitioning into the adult world of responsibility, dire consequences, bills, accountability.

I was afraid too. In fact, I bet any adult you talk to will admit to their graduation dread. I moved from the suburbs of Chicago to the University of Illinois–a two and a half hour commute. And I cried the entire way… the entire. way. Because I was scared and nervous and insecure and sad. So I suppose, if I could, I would say to you that your fear is normal. You, along with every other single high-school student across America, is feeling fear in this moment.

And so, if I could, I’d like to give you some advice:

  • Embrace your fear. That you are afraid means you are doing something right. That you are afraid means you are risking. Embracing your fear means being kind to yourself, accepting that you are scared out of your wits. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling anxious or frightened. Be soft to your heart and mind and all that they carry within them.
  • Use your fear. Don’t try to change your fear; the more you fight it, the more it will grow and become a monster in your life. Instead, make it work for you. The great people in history and literature, the great people of these stories that inspire us, are not people who denied or ignored or lied about their fear. They are people who used their fear, who took all its energy and harnessed it into something meaningful. Make your fear count. Make your fear matter. Make it your bitch. Yep, I just said that.
  • Think of your fear as a pen. With it, you can continue to write the story of your life. Maybe you are proud of your story, so you write the next chapter. Maybe you are ashamed of your story, so you write a new book. Maybe you are lonely in your story, so you write some new characters. Maybe you are lost in your story, so you write a setting that comforts you and clarifies your thoughts. No matter what you write, write. No matter how afraid you are, live. No matter how nervous you are, risk.
  • When I think about the fear present in this room, I think so much of it comes from this moment in your identity development. So with that in mind, I encourage you to be true to who you are, but also to realize and accept that who you are will change. And that is a beautiful, wonderful, glorious thing. To stay the same, to say static, is boring–and also causes stress. To change, to reflect, to see someone else you want to be like or someone perhaps you don’t want to be like, that is exciting; that is living. So look around, be yourself, but also change yourself. Grow. Develop. Expand. Shift. Because shift happens!
  • And lastly, this Scripture comes to mind: “there is no fear in love; perfect love drives out fear.” I think about moments the love of people in this room have overcome fears in my life. My neighbor Libbi helping me to work through my fears of being an ineffective teacher. How we came together slowly but surely sophomore year. Returning after my Mom’s death to a group hug in the hall and a bracelet that said “family” on my desk. It is love, ultimately, that allows us to embrace and use our fear. And so, if I could, I want to remind you, class of 2014, how much you are a part of my heart, how proud I am of you, and how much I love you. Congratulations…10267773_237007369829133_2181741124839691383_n

Tribute to Tammy, RN: My Person

10371478_10152399383494749_1828936834057159582_nThis past weekend was a whirlwind of soul food and spirit joy. Dave and I hopped onto a jet plan to fly to Michigan to surprise my bestest friend in the whole wide world. This friend just finished one one more astounding adventure in her life–nursing school.

What makes this graduation so special is that my dear friend is not straight out of high school. She is not the traditional college student. She is not 20. She’s not single. She is a Mom, a wife, a blogger, a homemaker, a career-changer, who went back to school to live a dream instead of just dream a dream.

She is spectacular. She is courageous. She inspires me.

And just like every day since I was 14–yes that is two decades of friendship–she teaches me.

  • I have learned from her to dream, to put the soul’s whisperings into loud words which weave throughout my daily life. To ignore what we want deep inside is to ignore God’s voice. be37af467c8705851ceb06680ccd101c
  • I have learned from her to struggle to make dreams reality. Once those deep desires within become spoken, they should be pursued. Life is too short to not pursue what we really want. As Tammy loves to quote: “The glory of God is man fully alive.”
  •  I have learned from her to not sacrifice today’s joy for tomorrow’s illusion. Dreaming is crucial, but if it only wastes the important present of today or is used as a mere distraction or novelty, it needs to be tossed aside.
  • I have learned from her to treat life as an adventure. Way back in high school, Tammy gave me a card that stressed how life is about the journey, not the destination. Along the way whom we walk with, what we discuss, the sights we see, the tastes we enjoy, the memories we make–these are nourishment for the soul. Along the way we find ourselves–and God.21d3566cd1ebece03c1ee2c88e7e6d40
  • 94029883da05b78dcf3eb70fc719fa70I have learned from her that this delicate balance between dreaming and acting takes great risk–of which fear is the great enemy. Instead of letting fear paralyze us into a complacent, Americanized life, we must face the fear, work through it, and come out on the other side–with no regrets. Part of this risk is that sometimes dreams change, and it is OK to chase a different one on the way to a different one, on the way to another different one. 56191670fde7e53fe788e8829967c5b2
  • I have learned from her that all these beautiful traits are the very nature of God–God, the original dreamer, who struggled and risked, who acted, who invites all into an adventure of journeying with Him, towards Him.

And so, in my biggest, booming Bud Light voice:10389669_10152403261909749_8784432188441962758_n

Tammy, I salute you.

This one’s for you.

Congratulations, Tammy, RN. I am so proud of you.

You are my person, and my life is better for calling you friend.



Daggers, Drums, and Differentiation: Making Shakespeare Accessible to Emerging Bilinguals

In Mexico: Teaching English through Song and Dance

When I went to Mexico for my Master’s program in Linguistic and Culturally Diverse Education, we planned and taught English as a Second Language through TPR (Total Physical Response). Every day in the classroom, we had the students singing, dancing, acting, and playing games in order to learn and apply new English vernacular and language structures. All I kept thinking while there, as well as the follow-up reflecting on my time there, was “how does this transfer to a high school classroom?” That question was answered when I participated in “Teaching Shakespeare through Performance” program at the Globe Theatre in London, England.

Performing Macbeth at the Globe

Performing Macbeth at the Globe

Throughout my time at the Globe Theatre, our group of participating teachers learned the importance of “putting the words on their feet” and learning through “lively action.” This translates to kinesthetic learning. To encourage comprehension of Shakespeare’s chaos during The Tempest, we spun around the room, yelling assigned phrases from the text; instead of reading about the story, we lived the story. To encourage comprehension of the power dynamics in Macbeth, we were given various dialogue cues during a partner script performance to make it come alive; instead of reading about the story, we lived the story. To encourage comprehension of the banquet scene in Macbeth, we become a frozen machine depicting the elements which occur and create tension at a dinner party; instead of reading about the story, we lived the story.

Though it may seem like a lot of play, I came to understand Shakespeare—which let’s face it, is a second language for many English natives, much less English Language Learners—through these “games.” With this anchor in mind, I planned and implemented my Shakespeare unit in AP Lit. After all, I have many students below reading level, several students still placing in the low to medium range of ACCESS, and nearly all students who—if they know of him in the first place—are intimidated by Shakespeare’s archaic language. In addition, through UCD’s focus on strategies to help emerging bilinguals and our district focus on differentiation, my Macbeth unit aligned with the following LEAP indicator:

Provides differentiation that addresses students’ instructional needs and supports mastery of content-language objective(s) by

  • Utilizing visuals, realia, gestures and facial expressions to explain content and/or vocabulary

  • Adjusting product by providing students multiple ways to demonstrate learning (e.g., acting out knowledge, using physical objects, using visuals, providing other performance-based opportunities) to accommodate academic/linguistic need and/or interests.

Academic Objectives... Even While Playing

Academic Objectives… Even While Playing

Though my anecdotal experience both in London and in our school wide PD confirmed for me the value of this kind of kinesthetic approach, I also stand on the footing of much research into best practice for second language acquisition. First of all, research by Reid (1995) and Oxford/Anderson (1995) (among others) states “ESL students from a variety of cultures were tactile and kinesthetic in their sensory preferences.”[i] Hill and Miller address how to capitalize on this style in the classroom:

Students in the process of acquiring English may not understand the teacher’s message when only words are used because the student is still in the process of learning English. Rather, culturally and linguistically diverse students have a better chance of comprehending teacher talk or what they’ve read when they can also see it represented with graphic organizers or as three-dimensional models, movies in mind, pictures in a sequence of movements, or a dramatic presentation (emphasis mine).[ii]

Shakespeare unit 4.23 040To put this kind of differentiation on its feet, the first thing I had to do was establish norms. I learned this after the first day when I wasn’t explicit enough, thus the instructional tasks became just fun activities. After explicitly norming for “lively action,” the students were able to academically engage in the tasks. With that established, each day looked the same despite the variety of activities. After clarifying the last night’s assigned reading, we would complete a lively action task. The engagement with such a task ensures “close reading,” because instead of students reading and moving on, students had to struggle and question and interact with the text in an active way. Once the task was complete, there would be discussion, writing, or both in which students could address the targeted analytical prompt for that day.

For example, when teaching and analyzing a round character with complex mind shifts, we did the 4-corners. Students read a portion of the scene, then moved to whatever corner best displayed his state of mind. At any given moment, students were asked to defend their interpretation. After engaging with the task in this way, students were be able to articulate why Macbeth is a round character, as well as how this characterization affects the play as a whole—all through experiencing a game!


Shakespeare unit 4.23 488 Shakespeare unit 4.23 489 Shakespeare unit 4.23 487 Shakespeare unit 4.23 486 Shakespeare unit 4.23 491 Shakespeare unit 4.23 490Shakespeare unit 4.23 493 Shakespeare unit 4.23 495 Shakespeare unit 4.23 496


Another example of an activity I did in London and replicated it with my students was creating a cardiogram of Macbeth’s dagger monologue. In this speech, Shakespeare varies the iambic pentameter to reveal his unstable mindset and nervous emotional state. To learn this activity, students graphed his erratic “heartbeat.” On the X axis was the line number and on the Y axis was the number of syllables. By graphing the inconsistencies of the meter, students experienced first-hand, rather than just read, Shakespeare’s characterization of Macbeth. (Not to mention the additional differentiation through the appeal to different kinds of learners who like math and visual or physical activities.) It was through this active “close reading” that statements like this arose from my students’ mouths: “You mean Shakespeare did that on purpose?” Yes!–this is what every English teacher wants their students to realize.

Shakespeare unit 4.23 085 Shakespeare unit 4.23 083 Shakespeare unit 4.23 084

Shakespeare unit 4.23 087 Shakespeare unit 4.23 088 Shakespeare unit 4.23 089


Shakespeare unit 4.23 090 Shakespeare unit 4.23 105 Shakespeare unit 4.23 106

Shakespeare unit 4.23 107

Additionally, to teach Marxist Criticism, we played the status game. Through this, students must treat each other according to their “status,” as determined by a randomly assigned card. This activity brought up rich discussion of how classism still exists in our society, and how it creates tension in various capacities–not only in literature, but in life.

Shakespeare unit 4.23 390 Shakespeare unit 4.23 391

Shakespeare unit 4.23 392 Shakespeare unit 4.23 393

The cululating project for Macbeth was a student monologue performance. In this, they had to to memorize, analyze, and perform a self-selected section of the play. Though I did this last year in class too, my learning in London fostered an even richer learning experience for my students. Here is what they had to say about the monologue experience:

  • “I love this experience because we got to put apart of us in the play.”
  • “I learned…to emphasize the most important words and…to notice the author’s choice of writing.”
  • “I liked to see all my classmates show their abilities to act and portray their monologues.”
  • “It was a new thing for me, but I loved it; it opened my eyes.”
  • “The acting out helped me understand the text better.”
  • “I learned to risk and let my voice be heard more.”
  • “I loved this exercise!”
  • “The benefit was to overcome my fear.”
  • “It was nerve-racking to perform…but it’s an experience that I will never forget.”
  • “The experience of this was super amazing; I loved every single moment of it. My experience helped me grow as a person!”
  • “This helped us understand Shakespeare’s writing better by seeing how others interpreted his words.”
  • “I enjoyed doing this because it also taught us a life lesson.”

Shakespeare 2 unit 151 Shakespeare 2 unit 167

Shakespeare 2 unit 146 Shakespeare 2 unit 113Shakespeare 2 unit 091Shakespeare 2 unit 070Shakespeare 2 unit 044Shakespeare 2 unit 003


Beyond the monologues, students had this to say about learning through lively action:

  • “They [these activities] helped me a lot. With Shakespeare being an author that’s hard to understand, doing these activities helped me better understand the play, but also Shakespeare as a whole.”
  • “[They] helped me understand why Shakespeare used those specific words or characters.”
  • “Getting to stand up and do all kinds of activities really did help me in memorizing my lines and interpreting the play.”
  • “…we got to see the change in tone by acting it out.”
  • “It made me visualize what was actually going on…”
  • “…as I was acting I was in the mind of the character and knew why things were happening.”
  • “It made me more motivated.”

As I reflect on the efficacy of this unit, my mind lingers on the aforementioned voices of my students to affirm how successful this unit was–both in engaging students and unlocking Shakespeare for students. But also, I see empirical evidence as well:

  • Based on a student survey, at the beginning of the unit, 34% of students were “totally lost” when reading Shakespeare,  47% of students “struggled but got some things,” 18% “got most of it,” and 0% “understood it all.” At the end of the unit, 0% of students were “totally lost” when reading Shakespeare, 16% of students “struggled but got some things,” 68% “got most of it,” and .05% “understood it all.”
  • Based on a student survey, at the beginning of the unit, 10% of students “hated Shakespeare,” 68% of students thought Shakespeare was “alright,” 21% of students “might be enjoying him,” and .05% “loved him.” At the end of the unit, 0% of students “hated Shakespeare,” 13% of students thought Shakespeare was “alright,” 68% of students “might be enjoying him,” and 15% “loved him.”
  • Based on a student survey, after the unit, 97% of students saw the value in reading, discussing, and knowing the works of Shakespeare. 97% of students enjoyed the unit.  83% of students feel prepared for Shakespeare in college.
  • Average scores for analysis essays jumped 10% in one class and 6% in the other from the beginning of the year to the Macbeth essay (end of the year).
  • Several students scored 7-8 (out of 9 on the national AP Lit rubric) on their Macbeth monologue analysis essay.

As I reflect on how I can take what I’ve experienced, learned, and implemented and improve it for next year, I realize that these tactics are too valuable to leave only for Shakespeare’s challenging language. Being up on our feet and using lively action to closely read a text is beneficial analysis strategies for all texts, especially for emerging bilinguals; but that takes time. Much of the preparation and thinking through had been done for me because I experienced Macbeth-specific strategies at the Globe. So for next year I need to think through how I can apply this kinesthetic learning for other texts we read and analyze, as well as other vocabulary terms we learn.

And also as I reflect about this year’s Shakespeare unit, I am proud that my emerging bilingual students did not read the Cliffnotes version because it was “too tough” or their language skills were inadequate. They deserve the challenge of Shakespeare. But they also deserve the scaffolding to access Shakespeare and make the most meaning possible. I am grateful for my experiences in Mexico and London, training through UCD, CU, and Bruce, as well as LEAP’s framework; through these resources, I have been able to do just that for my students.

[i] As cited in “Language Learning Styles and Strategies: An Overview”  by Oxford (2003) Rebecca L. Oxford, Ph.D

[ii] Classroom Instruction that Works with English Language Learners by Hill and Miller (2013)

An Open Letter to my AP Students on Test Day

To my dearest students, on their test day,

I sit up here thinking of you down there, testing. I sit up here, across from my teacher friend/soul sister, and I think about our year together. I am reflective.

I wonder if I’ve done enough. I wonder if I pushed you hard enough. I wonder if your AP Lit class was like that of any other AP Lit class, in any school not plagued by poverty or criticized by class or neglected by neighborhood or hunted by haters. I wonder if I taught you how to analyze literature, to pay attention to shift, to go in depth while explaining, to find meaning deeper than the surface, to write and own your ideas, to recognize and explicate on the effects of literary devices. I wonder if I taught you enough vocabulary, or at least gave you the keys to unlock unknown words. I am nervous.

I wonder if you see how this moment is a small reflection of so many “tests” in your life. Going to college. Moving out. Getting married. Your first child. Resolving conflict. Respecting a boss you don’t like. Honoring yourself even when no one else is doing what’s right. The death of someone you love. Down there, where the cold desks are lined like dominoes, how you rise to this occasion speaks not to your worth, but to the tenacity with which you will greet life’s challenges. I am hopeful.

I wonder if you are secure enough to know, deep down, that though this test is important, it does not define you. Our society sees you as a number, but I know your name. Our society reports your statistics, but I honor your stories. Our society labels you as below, proficient, or above, but I tuck you into this category: my children. You are enough. You are glorious. I am proud.

I wonder if you loved our stories. Yes, the ten books we’ve read and picked apart and discussed and composed essays about.  The story of rising out of the ghetto, the story of finding the cattle but really finding ourselves, the story of how friendship requires sacrifice, the story of how people change the trajectory of our lives, the story of how words are redemptive beauty in the darkest of times, the story of how a woman can be as strong as she wants despite society’s threats, the story of how stories save. But also, our story in those stories. The story that matters. The story of sophomores who nearly drove me from the teaching profession, but now the seniors who have wedged themselves into my heart. I am story-telling and story-keeping.

I wonder if you feel my love, oozing out of C212 and down the stairs into the places of your heart where you hold fear and angst and joy and laughter. I wonder if you sense how you are more than my students, you make my life complete. I wonder if you realize that though I have been the teacher, I also have been taught, by you. I hope you understand how much you make my belly laugh and my soul soar and my heart smile. I am honored.

With Love,

Your Teacher

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God, The Anchor

My dear friend Pam, who is inspiring me with her courageous adventure of sailing the seas with her family, was kind enough to guest blog with me, a landlocked friend with no sea legs or sense, about anchors. (The bold font is my own emphasis.)

What is the purpose of an anchor?

The purpose of an anchor is to hold a boat/floating vehicle in a general area. It is used so that the boat does not float with the tidal or current motion of the water it is in.

How does an anchor work?

An anchor works by digging the pointy ends (flukes) into the sea floor. The flukes of a well set anchor should be barely visible- mostly buried in the sand. To achieve this, most small boats (I have no idea how commercial boats do this) drop an anchor off the bow (front) of the boat and let out enough anchor chain or rope (rode) so that the anchor flips slightly on the sea floor and catches. As the flukes catch and dig into the sea floor, more chain or rope is let out. Generally, a last pull on the anchor by putting the boat in full reverse is usually necessary- which digs the flukes deeply into the sand. In the Bahamas, yachtsman can “dive” their anchor after it has been set- meaning- they get in the water, dive down and have a chat with the anchor to make sure it is set correctly.

How does knowing you have an anchor aboard change your state of mind when sailing?

Having an anchor is a given when you are sailing. Without one, you have to tie up to a dock- which means you always have to get to a dock (and pay to dock). At first, we were very nervous about having an anchor. We stayed up all night wondering if the anchor would come out of the sea floor and we would float away (this only happened once- and not at night.). We had a special alarm that we set at night that would tell us if the boat was drifting. Eventually, however, we stopped using the alarm- and slept well at anchor. I would say that the anchor really means that you can go almost anywhere. You don’t need civilization with an anchor- just the right depth and protection from the wind.

How does using the anchor change your mind when you are… anchored?

“Anchoring” is an art in itself. It is the source of tension for many boating couples…Generally, one person is on the bow of the boat controlling the anchor and one person is at the helm (steering wheel), controlling the boat. Arguments arise about where to anchor, which direction to anchor, whether you are anchored too close to another boat, what signals the person on the bow is giving to the person at the helm and vice versa.

Anything else about an anchor a land-woman should know?

I remember not being able to sleep one night, thinking about anchoring. I thought- we are just floating here on this relatively small piece of metal (our 10,000 lb boat required a 35 lb anchor) and it’s all just a game we’re playing with nature. I felt better about anchoring, the more we sailed, however. In fact, being tied to a dock in a marina became strange vs. anchoring in a bay.

All this anchor contemplation came up last weekend, while swinging on my chipping-green-painted swing in the backyard, warmed by the setting sun streaming through the forest canopy. Then and there, I read “Santa Teresa’s Book-Mark.” 10261981_10152442385612813_4765116571285244382_n

I am grateful that many pieces of my life are falling into place right now. I am healthy, we are happy, my job both brings me fulfillment and results in success, and financially, thanks to my Mom, we are more than secure. But of course, the insidious toxicity in my mind does not allow me to be content here; rather, I am perpetually, fearfully, waiting for the shoe to drop, for crisis to hit, for cancer’s diagnosis, for epic failure to humble me, for change, etc…

But I realized, after reading this poem, I am dropping the wrong “anchor.” If my anchor is my situations and context and blessings, then of course I am going to be insecure–they do not last. “All things are passing.”

So this blog post is my way of “diving my anchor”–heading down to the depths and having a chat with my Anchor.

Such a chat reminds me:

  • Life is traveling at sea. The wind is always moving, even when still. The water beneath is full of life and death and change. The journey is just as important…if not more important…than the destination. As my yoga instructors say: “The transitions themselves are as important as the postures” and “It’s all about the moving in, and the moving out.” Knowing I have The Anchor aboard my vessel allows me to tip my neck towards the sun’s watchful eye and lose myself in the magical silver reflections on the water’s surface…and just be there, then.
  • With The Anchor aboard my vessel, I don’t need the structure of civilization or the permanence of a dock. In other words, I don’t need security. Rather, Security is a constant companion aboard, in the midst of the insecurity. I–we–can go anywhere.
  • Anchoring is an art. This means attention, practice, conversation, reflection. I would imaging were Pam and Ty to ignore the anchor, their would be detrimental effects (Pam, correct me if I’m wrong). My soul Anchor needs attention, practice, conversation, reflection. And not legalistic “quiet times,” but authentic moments of connection that fosters trust, so that the more I dive my anchor, the more I can sleep soundly. No matter how busy I am sailing, I cannot neglect the anchor. No matter how busy I am living, I cannot neglect The Anchor.

I am grateful that in good times, in bad times; in health and in sickness; in constancy and in change; in the posture and in the transition; in stormy waters or on still liquid glass; in wealthy and in poverty; and in all the subtle moments in between these extremes, He is there–The Anchor.

Picture Props to Virden Fam

Picture Props to the Virden Family

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Living my dream of teaching, traveling, and discovering culture

Teach. Travel. Taste.

A peek into the life of an American teacher in Colombia


Adventures in Globetrotting

Nomad Notions

Tales of Expat Living, Teaching, and Tramping in Taiwan and Beyond.

Sojourners' Journal

“Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people." —Albert Einstein

Pacific East by Middle East by Midwest

Observations and Experiences of Bahrain and Japan

Ex(pat) and the City

The life of a twenty-something Canadian living & teaching in Korea.

ISR Discussion Boards

ISR Discussion Boards are open to site Members & visitors alike. Your Voice Counts!

Teaching & Traveling

The Life of An International Teacher




Teaching in Brooklyn in Spite of Everything

Actively Dying

by Peter Fall Ranger


by Aleya Kassam

Words Half Heard

writing into meaning


A snapshot of my journey to living each day with gratitude and striving to be full of greatness


"I'm too old to live my life in fear of dumb people." - Charlie Skinner, The Newsroom

Cultivate Clarity

creative writing and mindfulness-based coaching, workshops, and retreats

Crawling Out of the Classroom

In everything that my students and I do together, we strive to find ways to use reading and writing to make the world outside of our classroom a better place for all of us to be


writing into meaning

Chase Mielke

Author. Speaker. Well-Being Expert.


Taking the journey, bumps and all

Nonlinear Compilations

Parenting, teaching, writing, and learning to find beauty in the present

talk from chalk

What I've learned while teaching

Thoughtful teaching

Thoughts on teaching in the modern world.

Hope, Honor, and Happiness

A blog for the book “Kingdom of the Sun” and discussions on finding the Hope, Honor, and Happiness in education, life, and the seemingly impossible.

Secret Teacher

Life inside the primary classroom

A Confederacy of Spinsters

Sex, Dating, and Surviving Your Twenties

Miss Four Eyes

Seeing twice as much absolutely counts as a super power.


writing into meaning

Love, laugh, be light

"Re-examine all you have been told. Dismiss what insults your soul." ― Walt Whitman