on yoga: failing and succeeding

I failed at yoga today.

It all started with an invitation to play with inversions. The posture cued was side crow, which even at my peak was never accessible.

But I did have a hankering for flying squirrel, or flying pigeon, or if you’re speaking Sanskrit these days: Eka Pada Galavasana.

I braced my hands on the sweaty mat. I squatted into figure four. And, whelp, that’s as far as I got because my legs were screaming TIGHT at me and this weird-ouch-in-my-arm-that’s-been-lingering-but-I-don’t-know-from-what yelled REMEMBER ME.

And immediately I felt that disappointment creeping in. You know the one. “Missing my glory days.” “Back in the day.” “I’m getting old and fat.” “I’m so out of shape.” “Oh how the mighty have fallen.”

Blah to the blahbabetiblah.

I’ve been feeling it a lot lately. Damn that stupid app Timehop that I loathe to love but love to hate. Just recently, a much slimmer self of mine appeared post-half-marathon race, but here I am today, and I can’t seem to run at all without my forty-year-old feet killing me.

And, so, you can see why I’ve failed at yoga today.

One of my favorite Scriptures that comes to mind on a wallow-day like today is:

Image result for isaiah 43 18-19

I love it so much because it is my tendency (dare I say our tendencies) to dwell on the past, to get stuck in what used to be. But I don’t want to sink into that mudhole anymore.

I want to be here. Now. Present.

And that is why I failed at yoga.

Although, remembering this, coming back to this reflection, is really what it’s all about.

How can I be present, right now? How can I be my healthiest self, right now? How can I be grateful, right now?

That… that is the yoga.

yes, please: my reflection on the learning and the brain conference

This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to represent Graded at the Learning and the Brain Conference in San Francisco. The focus this year was on Educating with Empathy. Yes, please.

If one of the goals was to make my brain hurt, it worked. Terms like neurons and amygdala and periaqueductal gray and neuroplasticity and vagus nerve and lizard brain and lions and tigers and bears oh my are just running around my cererbral cortex.


But it was all worth it. Ultimately, I left this conference feeling validated, inspired and concerned.

It’s always a good feeling when you’re listening to the experts telling you what to do and you’re like, “Holllllah! I already do that! And that!” Many times throughout the conference, I felt that way. For example, the bedrock of who I am as a teacher is that students must feel good in my classroom. If they don’t, they won’t learn. I remember reading about this when getting my Masters in language acquisition. But more importantly, I have seen this, day in and day out in my classroom. At this conference, I learned even the brain research supports this idea. If students do not feel comfortable in a classroom, the part of their brain responsible for learning literally shuts. off. (What part of the brain? Yep, good question. That’s in that soupy swirl somewhere in my head, but I’m sure you can Google it.)

Even more validating though is my work with mindfulness in the classroom (See here.) I do it every single day with students to start class. If I don’t immediately begin with it, students are like, “Ms, aren’t we doing a mindful moment?” Sometimes, my students lead it, and that is just breathtakingly beautiful. One of the greatest joys is to see the student survey data: for example, from last year to this year, more students report doing mindfulness on their own outside of the classroom. Ugh one more, yes please!

The brain research is aflame with support of mindfulness practices; mindfulness has been shown to correlate with increases in empathy, health, productivity and memory while decreasing stress. One more time: yes, please! Especially important is the research into metta meditation, or lovingkindness mindfulness, which has been shown to improve the outlook of teenagers toward other humans. All together now, yes please!

But of course, the conference wasn’t only validating, it was also inspiring. I walked out of Douglas Fisher’s session on collaboration with concrete strategies on building effective collaborative models in my classroom. Did you know, his district is one of the few to do well on high-stakes testing (ugh, not everything, but something) even through changing multiple administrations. When thinking about why, he said two things: 1, our kids always know WHY they’re doing what they’re doing and 2, the majority of classroom time is spent on student collaboration.

Here we go again. Yes please.

I also learned some concrete strategies from Jeff Zwiers about how to foster meaningful academic conversation in my classroom. Sometimes in my class, I feel like student conversations are just 52 or so different mic drops, with nobody listening and responding to each other in an authentic way. Zwiers talked about this in terms of building ideas and how you teach students to do that. It was very helpful. I plan on using this with Socratic seminars for sure!

Even with all this validation and inspiration, I cannot stop thinking about the heavy weight of one of the last presentations by Dr. Sara Konrath I attended called “Are Teens and College Students Becoming Less Empathetic?” Wow. Just wow. Without citing a bunch of studies, let me just give the gist of our current teenage situation…

Increasing: narcissism, dismissive attitudes, materialism, volunteering rates (associated with a rise in requirements), mental health problems, GPAs, IQ, ACT scores, self-control (yep, you read that right), ambition (although not attainment), and perfectionism. Aren’t you just exhausted reading that list? I am.

But…wait…here are the declines: security, empathy (both in perspective taking and concern), care for others, the pursuit of meaning in life, socializing with others outside of family, and donations to charities.

These lists are depressing. And I am only reading them.

Can you imagine what it feels like to be a teenager today?

I didn’t leave that session with many answers. Just lots of questions. How can I support such a uniquely pained generation? How can I set them up for success? How can I change the culture so that they change their families so that they change the future?

And it just comes full circle, doesn’t it? Compassion. Mindfulness. Teaching the heart, and not just the mind.

Yes, please.

#barkenport: our first time hosting friends overseas

In the days when Dave was getting paid to hike (it wasn’t all a walk in the park, ha), he made a friend. Chris and he shared military backgrounds, formative religious experiences, and a love of music and craft beer–not to mention all the ups and downs that came with the trails (#trailpunsfordays). It’s not often Dave connects with someone on this level, so naturally, I was curious to find out what his wife was like…and more importantly, would we connect?

We did. Allison is a teacher, so there, the end. Just kidding. I also discovered we share the love of God, the fear of anxiety, and many perspectives of the Midwest. None of these are light subjects: but that’s how I like my friends…deep and meaningful.

So…Dave and I were absolutely thrilled when they did the unthinkable: they made a trip to Brazil happen!

Here they are arriving, after three planes and a scary amount of hours.

Since they arrived on Christmas day, we made a special request of Santa to make a stop here with some Brazil gear and beach toys–and of course, champagne for the grownups.

That night, we made sure to fill their bellies with a traditional Brazilian churrasco: fire-grilled steak, chicken and sausage; garlic bread; veggies.

Chris might have had just a little bit to much fun with the skewers…

Not to worry though…we worked that off in our apartment’s indoor futsal court, of which the boys fell in love and for which they begged on a daily basis 🙂

(That actually became one of my favorite parts. Eventually, we brought down games and adult beverages to the game room and we played while they played. It was great!)

After an exhausting night of settling in–after an exhausting bout of travel–we were off to Rio together. I mean, come on, you can’t come to Brazil and not see the beaches of Rio! While there, we spent lazy days at the beaches and one crazy, whirlwind day of sightseeing.

We came back to Sampa just in time to celebrate New Year’s Eve on our beautiful balcony, where we danced, played with glow sticks, watched Brazilian coverage of events we didn’t understand and enjoyed multiple fireworks (noises or sounds). Don’t mind the blurriness of these photos…because let’s be real, when aren’t NYE pics blurry when you’re too busy being with friends!?

Once we hit the new year, we all realized the Barkers had only wet their appetite for Brazilian beaches. So, we booked a last minute getaway to Santos: the sea of sand dollars (win) and poop floating in the water (fail). We enjoyed shots on the beach, drip castles and reflections, and one helluva sunset that included a car fire and a rainbow (#nofilter).

All these trips and big moments don’t even include the small moments…which might even be my favorite. Cooking together. Games. Slow conversations on the porch. Naps. Field trips (packed in our car like sardines) to the malls for delicious coffee and snacks…and the hunt for the perfect Havanas. The boys’ addiction (justified!) to acai. Once again, seeing our new home with eyes of foreigners.

Naturally, as the time arrived for the Barker’s departure, my heart grew sad. I was crying at the drop of a hat. Allison said it’s because they brought a little piece of home with them.

But, no, it’s not that.

It’s because, without a doubt and with no better way to say it, we absolutely fell in love with the Barkers. Including their kids. Most definitely their kids. Cayden and Corbin are just delightful little boys, and to see them play together was a joy. So cheers to you Chris and Allison for being fantastic parents. You should be proud.

The Barkers leaving with a piece of our heart…

a year abroad: 2018 adventures

2018 marks the first full year Dave and I have lived abroad. And what a parade of adventures it has been!

Of course, my plan was to blog extensively about each and every one. But alas, time–and a stupid Iphone photo configuration issue {GRRRRR}–has prevented that. But as I look back on the year and get excited for the next, I can’t help but revisit the places we’ve…well…visited.

We spent January in Rio learning Portuguese. I wrote about that here and here.

For carnaval in February, we road tripped through Curitiba (cool little Brazilian city) to Florianopolis (Brazilian island) to Blumenau (mountain town known for Oktoberfest).

Mid-March, we zipped over to our favorite quick beach getaway town: Guarujá. The end of March brought us jam sessions at Lollapalooza.

Early April, we fell in love with the mountain town of Campos do Jordão. When can we go back?!

The last weekend of April, we found ourselves on chilling on Boiçucanga Beach with a friend. I did my first open water swim there in training for a triathlon.

June and July took us home to friends and family in Colorado. We camped, hiked, spent 6 nights at a silent retreat, reconnected with friends, and visited with Dave’s family in the mountains. Oh yeah, and I completed my first sprint triathlon!

In September, I traveled with our senior class to Pernambuco. I swam in Recife waters, where some of the most deadly shark attacks are prevalent!

In October, we rented an AirBnB with some of our friends in Guarujá. We also attended one helluva Halloween party.

One Saturday in November, we attended one of the best beer festivals ever! We can’t wait for next year.

For November, we also drank a lot of wine and enjoyed stunning scenery in the beautiful Mendoza valley of Argentina.

And in two days, Santa is bringing us friends with whom we’ll ring in the New Year and do some more exploring of Brazil.

And then we start 2019 off right with a dream trip to Patagonia!

As I finish this post, I cannot help but think of one of my favorite Scriptures, Psalm 16:6:

creating positive adult culture

The post that appears below is the original draft I submitted to Edutopia, an amazing website of all things education! (To all my readers working in schools, it is highly valuable and worth following.) 

Some of the best professional advice I keep coming back to is designate time to what you want. If a teacher wants a stronger classroom community, he/she needs to “sacrifice” instructional time to accomplish this. If leadership wants more collaboration, they must allot time in the master schedule. If a school wants a strong adult culture, this goal must be given proper time and attention.

And schools should want this. Kent D. Peterson indicates culture is always at play in a school’s success or failure, whether members of that culture realize it or not. Other research indicates schools focused on building relational trust among staff are more successful at sustained implementation of best practices. Even a Google study says the “psychological safety” of members is critical to the success of a team. And speaking from personal experience, the more I know and trust my colleagues, the better I work with them.

Fortunately, I have worked in several schools that alloted time to building a strong adult culture; here are some of the best strategies.

Let’s start with schoolwide systems.

  • Social-emotional PD sessions. We’ve all been there: tired, burnt out, insecure about our efficacy. I know this from my experience to be especially true in schools serving at-risk populations. In one of those schools, our leadership approached this through direct SEL PD–“Fill Your Cup” sessions. We had staff sign up for hobbies they enjoyed leading such as yoga, cooking, book club, running, biking, karaoke…really anything that brought them joy. Then staff signed up for two of those sessions to “fill their cups.” These sessions were always the most highly rated by our staff, and the next day in school always seemed to have a lightness in the air. It provided a chance for staff to get to know each other in new ways, to blow off steam, to build stronger connections with each other, and to break down barriers of mistrust.   
  • Public acknowledgements. Many schools start and/or end staff meetings with shout-outs, a beneficial practice. I have seen leadership go beyond this as well. One way is through what I’ll call “collective cards.” Our leadership arranged tables of mixed-role staff members. Each person then writes his/her name in the center of a paper. Then he/she passes to the left or right so each staff member can offer a note of thanks or acknowledgement; this continues until everyone at the table has signed all collective cards. This opportunity allows for people to offer a compliment they might not normally have the time for, and it also encourages staff to find the good in everybody. A different approach is through the ending of meetings; one school’s leadership offered a non-traditional exit slip: encourage staff members to email a colleague a note of thanks.
  • Gatherings. We all know the cliche: the family that ___ together, stays together. However, this can apply to school communities as well. Offer opportunities for social events outside of the school day. Make sure they don’t always include alcohol; instead, it should be a variety of activities meeting the needs of many different types of groups. Organize a social committee. Offer opportunities for staff’s families to mingle.
  • Food. Need I say more? What meeting hasn’t been improved by the addition of food! However, sometimes it’s not always in the budget. This is where potlucks and staff sign-ups can play a role. Either way, caring for a belly is caring for a heart, and that goes a long way.

Sometimes it’s hard to start with schoolwide systems. Here are some smaller scale initiatives I have also experienced as successful.

  • Door banners. Who doesn’t want to walk up to their classroom and see wonderful things written about them? At one of my schools, the leadership organized door banners. We put chart paper on a teacher’s door and then organized times for staff members to visit each other and write celebration notes. Not only was this beneficial to teachers, but it was also important for students to see the adults participating in a healthy, collaborative culture.
  • Positive classroom observations. So often when teachers are visited by observers, they tense up knowing they are being judged on what’s not good enough. Additionally, in our professional desire to be better, we forget to pause and reflect on what’s going well. As an instructional coach, one way I alleviated these deficit-based approaches was to visit teachers with the lens of effective teacher moves. During these observations, I would take notes about all the instructional decisions that were to be celebrated…and there were many! Classroom visits focused on strengths shift a school away from a deficit-minded model to an assets-based model.

I want to end with the importance of a staff’s voice. The most important element of adult culture is that staff never feel like things are being done to them, but rather with them. Some of these might work for your school; some of these might be counterintuitive. The only way to know is by asking. Use surveys to gather feedback about adult culture, suggestions for improvement, reflections on PD sessions, and/or other creative community-building ideas.

After all, a school where teachers know, trust, honor, and risk with each other is a school where students learn best.  

weight and Light

My heart has been heavy recently.

As Timehop likes to remind me, this week’s history carries its own weight. Three years ago: our cat died. Five years ago: we were cleaning out my Mom’s house to put it on the market after she died. Six years ago: one year before she died, she had part of her lung removed to combat cancer. I carry all this with me, in my bones, in my blood, viscerally, almost as if the years are on parallel planes. And…in the future, this week will now carry the weight of a heavy diagnosis for someone I care about.

I carry the weight of my students. Senior year is not easy. Senior year as an IB student is definitely not easy. Senior year suffocating under pressure of your parents’ expectations is heartbreakingly not easy. I stopped curriculum last week to have a circle with my students as a time to process, to cry, to hug, to sit. still. I asked them the question: how is your heart? Oh the weight. My students are grieving the future they do not have access to while simultaneously mourning the impending loss of their childhood home and comfort. All this with deadlines and fatigue and sports and college applications and rising rates of depression and hard looks in the mirror and… the list goes on. Sometimes the most important thing we can do as teachers is to carry some of our students’ baggage.

I carry the weight of my colleagues. Tomorrow, Brazil will probably experience an election similar to the US’s most recent: where the people elect a man who prioritizes national identity and fiscal gain at the cost of the marginalized. I now carry the weight of my students on scholarship. The weight of my homosexual friends. The weight of the “other” who is, in essence, me. And you. And us. I am tempted to be angry, to be bitter–exactly my response after Trump’s election. But then I think about the energy I put into the world

and so I pick up Light and carry its weight.





mindfulness in high school

The post that appears below is the original draft I submitted to Edutopia, an amazing website of all things education! (To all my readers working in schools, it is highly valuable and worth following.)

Some classrooms have a certain “aura,” don’t they? Upon entering, there is a sense of peace, community, clarity and active presence from all stakeholders. That is the kind of classroom I want to create. One way I have sought to accomplish this is by taking a course in mindfulness for educators. Since then, I have lead daily mindful moments in all of my classes. It has been transformative; here are some of my favorite examples:

  • One day in my IB class, students arrived with a heavy sense of deep fatigue radiating from them. After checking in, I led a mindful moment in which we focused on gratitude. After, we shared one compliment about the person beside us. Everything about the students and the classroom shifted.
  • One of my sophomores approached me in the hall to remind me of the upcoming anniversary of his relative’s death. He then asked if he could come to class early for a mindful moment. When he did, he and I sat for a moment of breathing and mindful honoring of his relative. As his classmates rolled in, they did so quietly, respecting his space.
  • I hear phrases like this from my students: “Guess what? I practiced mindfulness before my soccer game” or “Mindfulness helped me with my presentation” or “I used mindfulness before I went to sleep last night.”

I am fully aware of our field’s important reliance on (empirical) data, but all I can tell you is that in these kinds of moments, my classroom feels a certain way. And that is more than enough for me.

So, how did I get there?

First and foremost, I focus everyday on my own practice of mindfulness. As teachers, we know our students can spot a fake within three seconds flat. If the mindfulness practice in the classroom feels fake, meaningful engagement decreases. Some ways I have focused on my own practice: regular use of an app, retreats, research. (For more information, here is a piece in which I discuss my own regular practice.)

I introduced mindfulness from day one, giving the heads up to both students and parents that we would be practicing daily mindful moments, why, and what it would look like.

Each period after greeting students, I project something like this:

To begin the practice, I guide students into a space of mindfulness: computers at half mast, phones away, lights dimmed, voices off. Then, I cue the posture: often it is seated with a tall spine, neck tucked slightly, feet firmly planted on the earth, with eyes gently closed. Though sometimes it is legs up the wall, or student choice. After, I cue attention to the current experience: most often breath, sometimes sound, emotion, mental activity, etc. Some days, that is it; I close the practice verbally or with a student’s chime of the singing bowl. Other days, I introduce a specific kind of mindfulness focus. All of this can last anywhere from 1-10 minutes.

Often, mindfulness in education programs begin with small lessons where teachers explain the practice, then spend a few moments in mindfulness. I have found learning through practice to be the most beneficial, as well as the most time-effective. As such, it generates questions from students, allowing their experience to be more authentic and relevant.

Since this has been the first semester of leading daily mindful moments in my classes, at the end of the semester I solicited student feedback. It is clear students appreciate the practice:

  • I understand the value of having mindful moments every day. Average: 4.3/5
  • I benefit from our mindful moment practice. Average: 4.1/5
  • I want to continue our mindful moment practice next semester. Average: 4.4/5

(Here is a link to the full results; included are prompts, averages, individual responses, and student comments.)

Despite such positive results, there are challenges.

Some students just don’t get into it, resulting in whispers, giggling, and other forms of disengagement. I approach this both publicly and privately. Publicly, while the distractions are occuring, I address it head on through verbal cues such as, “Notice, without judgment, the sounds in the classroom: giggling, texting, etc; it is a part of our experience.” This minimizes the power of distractions. Then privately, I pull students for a chat. Typically that conversation goes something like: “You don’t have to like mindfulness; in fact, you don’t even have to participate. But under no circumstances can you distract your peers who might be benefiting from it.”  

Also, some days are better than others (said every teacher everywhere!). I accept this, without judgment, as part of the experience. Rather than using mindfulness as a technique to control student behavior (which can never be the aim), I neutrally observe what is the actual experience. As in all areas of instruction, I come back to the importance of my own practice: it is my authentic investment which encourages students to invest.

And in the end, it is worth it. Mindfulness helps with student stress, confidence, relationships, communication, metacognition, health, and focus–just to name a few.

And, it creates the kind of classroom where we all want to be.

grace: microscopic new beginnings

There is something so dramatic about New Year’s Eve, isn’t there? Even the fireworks declare, “hey, even you can start anew?”

I like those kinds of new beginnings. They are easy. They are believable.

Not so easy when it’s, say, minute 4 of meditation and I’ve been struggling to be present for the last 3. I just want to quit. Escape. I don’t want a minute 5; I need a New Year’s Eve: a dramatic restart, a new year, a grandiose gesture that I can start over.

But I realized on my most recent meditation retreat that it is minute 5–not New Year’s Eve–that truly encapsulates grace.

[bctt tweet=”Grace, at its most glorious, is the tiniest of new beginnings. Imperceptible to others. Almost invisible to even me. But under the microscope of my heart, when I am still enough, and small enough, I can see it. I can be it.” username=”@eternitymod”]

And that’s all that matters.

As I wrote about, I meditated every. damn. day. last year. And I kept it going this year!

Until, July 10th. In a cabin in Breckenridge overlooking the Ten Mile Range, I completely forgot to meditate. I just forgot. I didn’t even realize it until the next day! And oh how my heart broke when I broke my streak of over 550 consecutive days.

But, alas, there was no New Year’s Eve on the horizon.

I had to start over, on a nondescript day in the middle of an ordinaryJuly; I didn’t even get a glass of champagne!

Grace. Tiny grace. Microscopic new beginnings.

I’ve learned a lot this summer about myself. About my heart. About how I treat other people. About how I care for my own soul. About how I connect with God. And with another school year beginning, I’m sure I will revert to some of my ugly ways. Probably on a daily basis.

And I will want to wait for a New Year’s Eve to start over. Because it’s so much easier. And more believable.


Grace. Tiny grace. Microscopic new beginnings.



gates and guardians: a reflection on the state of a sorrowful heart

Dave and I have spent the last seven days in silence.

No, we’re not in a fight.


Not with each other at least.

Rather, we have spent the last week at a six-night meditation retreat. I did something similar a few years back and wrote about here (in prose) and here (in verse).

This retreat was a completely different experience and style, but no less impacting. Reflecting with Dave on the way back (finally out of silence!), I remarked on the oddest thing: to see forty people sitting in various states of stillness–some on cushions, some on chairs, some on benches–all poised like little perfect, quiet, quaint Buddha statues. But beneath that serene image, a war wages! Thoughts, “come back to the breath,” distractions, “be here now,” stories, “just breath,” narratives, “what am I aware of?,” memories, “inhale, exhale,” plans, “damn it, just stop thinking already,”–oh my! It is like this most placid, peaceful lake, but below the still surface, sharks are devouring triathletes piece by latex-laden-one-piece swimsuits (oh, can you see what I’m worried about…).

I spent a lot of (uncomfortable) time sitting at this retreat with these questions:

How is the quality of my heart? How open is my heart?

It wasn’t pretty.

After an emotional meltdown the final day of school, for some reasons fathomed and others only felt, I have been thinking a lot about a sense of deadening I have had lately. My highs aren’t quite as high and my lows aren’t quite as low. I wondered if this is a result of my solidifying meditation practice? I mean, that can be a good thing, right? But what I know to be true about my most authentic self is passion: rip-roaring laughter followed by belly-aching bawling (not to mention a few pants-splitting farts; did I mention this retreat was vegetarian and I’ve had a lot of roughage lately?!).

Anyway, back to the matters of the heart. Literally (how about that transition?).

I also reflected on the quality of my relationships with people. After all, isn’t this the sign of an open heart? I care for people–it’s my job after all–but all too often, it is on my own terms and when I can control it. I’m not very good at accepting gestures of kindness or affection (as demonstrated on this retreat, where I felt guilty and lazy [“I must not be working hard enough,” she thought to herself, “oh wait, stop thinking…”] because it just felt too nourishing–what IS that?!).

And though I’m still sitting with it (yep, trust me, my butt hurts, and brain, and heart), I can only explore the answer to these questions (at least at this point) through the lens of grief. My mere third decade of life has been defined by the razored edges of loss and grief. Prepared, but no less heartbroken, I lost my dad in 2011. Unprepared, and all the more heartbroken, I lost my mom less than two years later. Then our very old cat. Then our very young dog. (Which, really, come on, pets? What does that matter? But when the wound is open and raw, even a faint breeze stings deeply. Not to mention the odd parallels between my parents’ and pets’ deaths [read about that bizarre connection here]).

Who am I?

am grief.

And so, I coped. I’d like to say pretty well. I have not lost the roots of gratitude nor faith to the black hole of bitterness.

But I come back to the questions at hand:

How is the quality of my heart? How open is my heart?

How could I not, on some level–hidden, deep, essential, true–close my heart after all that heartbreak?

Perhaps the loss-womb birthed a Guardian who stands at the entrance with an iron grip on the pulsing blood-veined gates.

He is fierce. He is loyal. He is protective.

But maybe it’s time I bid him farewell. In peace. In gratitude. In honor.

Dear Guardian of my heart, you came unbidden, but ached for.

Thank you for the gift of one sure, slow step at a time in the dark, tear-damp forest of the grieving soul.

Thank you for the preservation of what is good while so. much. bad. gnawed at my bones.

I bow to you. But, alas, it is time I send you on your way.

May you protect another vulnerable heart.

But for now, it is time I open the gates.

I open the gates.

I open my heart.






taking attendance (or practicing presence: part 2)


I sit this morning in stillness, reading a soul book a soul friend gave me.


I sit this morning listening to the song of birds. One little fellow is having himself a good ol’ time: a solo act of twirps and tweets and toots among the branches. I practice mindful listening, acting as a conscious port of entry for guest-sounds that come and go.

I don’t attend to this mental door enough.

Just recently on the way to school, I asked Dave a question. Next thing I know he’s saying something vaguely in the background. And by background I mean the screen of my email and the work issues I’m already addressing mentally. I literally asked him a question yet did not wait long enough to hear the answer!

Absent as a wife.

Sometimes I will stare at a student while they talk, even nodding at appropriate moments, and then a minute later realize I have no idea what they have just said. Instead, my mind is on the treadmill of lesson plans and grading and emails and policy frustrations and colleague conversations and…

Absent as a teacher.

Sometimes, a coworker will be talking to me, and I will literally still be typing an email while thinking about a different email I need to send. I sacrifice presence for the sake of productivity.

Absent as a colleague.

More times than I’d like to admit I’ve found myself saying to a friend who is in the middle of a story: “Oh yeah, I do remember you saying something about that.” Vaguely. But just as I didn’t fully attend to the first conversation, I will later only vaguely remember this one as well.

Absent as a friend.

While I was reflecting on this, I went through past pieces I’ve written about mindfulness. When I stumbled upon this one, I sunk under the choking weight of repetition. I literally wrote about the same. exact. thing. in 2014.

I’m even absent as a writer!

But, since mindfulness is a constant, kind returning, I do just that: return.

I take, and retake, attendance.


In this present moment, I am grateful.

I am grateful for vacation, a break from work, a time when I don’t need consistent attention to my phone (though, do I ever, really?).

I am grateful for our upcoming 6-night silent meditation retreat, a chance to reset.

I am grateful for summer, a time to reconnect and refuel.


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The life of a teacher who struggles with anxiety and depression.

Sampa Sympatico

A Yankee Teacher's Experience of Sao Paulo, Brazil


The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

Once Upon a Time in México

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

Middle East by Midwest

Observations and Experiences of Bahrain

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 and 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

Practicing Presence

An attempt at mindfulness in life, learning, and love


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


Purpose, Perspective, and Perseverance for thriving in a challenging world


Taking the journey, bumps and all

jenny's lark

the beauty of an ordinary life

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