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With a Song in my Heart

As a junior high school student I began to have a special interest in singing. I was encouraged by my music teacher and then in high school I participated in as many singing groups as I could. One of the groups was our high school select choir which sang some spectacularly wonderful and challenging music. There was such a sense of dedication, commitment, and solidarity in this group achieved in part by our choral director. Somehow he made all of us respond to music which was new and unfamiliar, we might not have started out with an interest in the music but as we continued working on it our understanding grew, our love of the music grew. What was it that he/we did? It wasn’t just that we practiced and practiced there was something we found in the music that touched new and deep places in us. How else could we have pulled off performing so much difficult and beautiful music?

The Common Sense of my Grandmother

I have found myself thinking lately of the house my grandparents lived in when I was young, She always said it was a happy house…..as though it was the house itself that created the happiness, but the truth of it is……It was my grandmother. Today I wanted to share some of the wisdom I have gained from her stories, and the house she built. Of course wisdom would be too fancy a word for my grandmother…. “Common sense” is what she would have called it. So here it is…..The six common senses……..The house my grandma built… When out in the world………. During my grandmother’s childhood she suffered a great deal of accidents, but one story stands out now. She was eight or nine, and playing some sort of game with her sister and some other kids when her sister accidentally dropped a heavy metal sprinkler from a second story on to her head, cracking it open. In the ensuing panic she was swept up by her grandmother and rushed to the local pharmacy, which is where emergencies such as these were handled in those days. The pharmacist decided she needed stitches. With no pain killer, he began sewing her up

Learning Through Chewing

I was running late, once again, to a group therapy session in a tall glass office building near Georgetown in the District of Columbia, and, once again, I hadn’t eaten beforehand. I hopped off my bike, locked it up and hurried through the tall glass doors and up the elevator. I punched in the door code and walked through the empty lobby, knocking on the closed door at the end of the hall. Everyone else was already in conversation as I slipped into my seat, listening closely for clues to what they had been talking about. As I did I pulled out a container of leftovers and started chowing down. There were seven of us in the room, including the therapist, ranging vastly in ages between mid-twenties to over sixty. All of us were there because we were struggling with intimacy issues, and every week we’d sit in a circle, on my therapist’s soft ash colored couches, and talk about our lives and relationships. I started group therapy two years ago because I never knew where I stood with the people closest to me in my life. Over the course of two years, in these weekly sessions, I’d gotten a

Shakespeare

In high school, after my best friend’s parents sent her away to boarding school and my parents didn’t, school became a pretty lonely scene for me. Not only because of her absence and my grappling with my lesbian identity in a pre- Gay-Straight Alliance world, but maybe even more so because I was a wanna-be intellectual in a population where, in a typical year, only about 40% of the graduating class would go on to attend a four-year college. Being engaged with the wider world of ideas landed me in a pretty small club. There were sometimes opportunities to take courses at an honors or Advanced Placement level, but it depended on interest and ability — my senior year, the AP English Literature course that I would have loved to take didn’t “run.” The rules of regular English let me test out of some of the units I could demonstrate mastery of, so Mrs. McLain found herself writing me pass after pass to the library, where I stumbled upon a video of a PBS special featuring a young Ian McKellen entitled, “Acting Shakespeare.” I was absolutely spellbound. I watched the video over the course of multiple days and then, when

Never give up

There was one point in my life when everything I would see or think of was the negative side of things. I could not be happy or ever satisfied with anything in my life because of how bad and selfish I was. My mom was working hard shifts at SAM’s to keep up with bills, which made her depressed and stressed all the time. She was taking care of me and my brother at this time and everything was just too hard in life. I was an angry brat I would say… In 5th grade I made a new friend, Mark. Mark was blind and kids would always pick on him but I would always have his back. We became best friends later on and started hanging out. One day, I was curious and asked him if he wished he could see like I could and surprisingly he said no. This really shocked me and I asked him why. He told me he liked being different from everyone else; he said that being that way let him see the good in everyone no matter what they look like. I was a bad kid and he saw the good in me

sleepy little town

What ever happened to the sleepy little towns? Big city moving into the farm lands expanding until the walls buckle. A town where everyone knew each other and crime is not a factor.

Kids say the darnedest things

I drive a school bus as well as work in the local elementary school cafeteria. I see some of the same children during the day as I drive on my school so those children I get to know quite well. One particular student is the most talkative and always has a smile and a story or conversation for me every day. Her mother tells me that I am her favorite person in the whole world. This student is only in kindergarten and keeps me smiling with the things she says. This particular student has a occupational therapist that helps her because she is a little immature for her age and has some wandering and memory problems. The therapist has given her a plastic tube that she wears around her neck and is used to help her “brain power”. One extremely hectic day on the bus, when the students were very energetic and full of mischief, my small friend walked up to me during a routine bus stop and said she needed to tell me something. I was concentrating on the students leaving the bus and asked her to please sit down. When I had asked her to sit down I

Regret

I once had an amazing grandmother who practically raised me but, like all great things, she had to go. When I was young, I spent every day at her house, but, as I got older, my visits became few and far between. I spent my time with friends and sports so I thought of that as an excuse not to visit. When I did have to go down to her house, I would wish I was doing something else; I had no idea how much I would regret that. Sometimes, we learn best by experiencing tragedy first hand, and by regretting our actions. Through my seventh and eighth grade years, she was in and out of the hospital constantly, but she always pulled through, so every time she would get sick I would not worry. At the end of eighth grade year, on a Saturday night, my sister decided to spend the night with her. The next morning she ran up to the house telling my father something was wrong with our grandmother. He told my mother to watch the kids while he ran down to check on my grandmother; still, I didn’t suspect a thing. About 20 minutes later,

Well Rounded Education is Best

I was in third grade when a very caring teacher, Mrs. DeCarlo, realized that although I was “smart,” I struggled in class and that maybe something was going on. I got evaluated for IQ and learning disorders and they discovered I was Dyslexic. Having a label to put with my struggles helped me to get the right interventions needed to develop my skills to the best of my ability. I went to resource classes for the extra help, which made a world of difference. Mrs. DeCarlo’s teaching style helped a lot too. In fact, I would say having her for third through fifth grade made all the difference for me. She was very creative in our class work. We did not sit in rows and get talked at all day like many teachers do. We did everything in group settings and break out sessions. Hands on was big for her. Math was all about manipulatives so that you could “see” the problem in real life and not just theory. Creative writing was one of my favorite parts of our week. She had many ways to include it in our daily work, such as story starters. She didn’t just explore our

Be Careful what you say — Words crush or grow one’s learning

Growing up in Arlington Heights, Illinois (outside of Chicago), I struggled with learning. Being made fun of by classmates and teachers as well was an everyday occurrence. It was clear to my parents that I was not a dumb child but no one could seem to get me to learn in the manner or the way that the “Normal Kids” were learning. My second grade teacher, Mrs. Stein, went as far as to tell my parents not to expect me to get anything higher than a second grade education. I just could not keep up, comprehend and/or retain at the same level that my classmates were learning. My fourth grade teacher, Miss Jones, because I struggled following along on those stupid learning story strips that were projected on the wall, proceeded to call me “Stupid” in front of my entire class, all this because I could not follow the reading as it was going too fast and hence I could not answer the comprehension questions at the end. I was mortified as any child or adult would be! It was not until the Saviors of my education came in the fifth grade. We got a new special education teacher, Mrs.

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