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New Print Publication: The Offbeat

When I was a teenager, I committed a minor crime. I’m pretty sure it was a misdemeanor. Maybe it was as low on the pole as a petty infraction. Decades later, I come clean in a piece called “Department of Penitence.” It’s on the record now, in Volume 18 of The Offbeat.

One of the best publication experiences is when the envelope with your contributor copy arrives and you rip it open immediately (even though you’re making dinner for three hungry boys) and you scan the table of contents to find a friend—a very, very good friend—in the same issue (even though you had no idea you’d both happened to submit pieces of different genres to the same magazine in the same time period). You text that friend a photo of the TOC with the words: “It’s magic!” Dana Perry, I’m so happy to share these pages with you.

My issue of The Offbeat, containing my criminal act, set against a wholesome, regular, righteous Friday-night activity: making chicken-and-rice soup for my family.


New Online Publication: Edutopia

Today on Edutopia, I list my 12 fundamentals of teaching and encourage other teachers to try the same exercise. I first crafted The List—which includes items like “flexibility” and “a community of mutual respect and safety”—when I started teaching an education intro course a couple of years ago. As a happy coincidence, Edutopia chose to run the piece today, the same day I taught the list to my newest group.

We started the process in quiet, as students reflected on their PK–12 school experiences, noting standout teachers and classes as well as those they feel let them down. We moved into small groups, where students looked for overlaps and begin to combine their items. Then we gathered as a whole class to create a master list and attempt precise, succinct phrases. I shared my own list and the process by which it came to be. Then we noted more overlaps and the ways the items on my list could encompass the thoughts they generated—it’s as if they, new to teacher education, had these fundamentals in their minds all along. Now the students will mull the list over as they read, discuss, and observe classrooms. It will likely change, just a little, by the end of this semester. It always does.

I find listing an essential act, and the resulting list an essential resource. (See Listing to Love for a list of lists!)

New Online Publication: Crack the Spine

R. is missing a significant part of one lung. Walking can be hard because breathing can be hard. Yet, when she parks—legally—in a handicapped spot meant for drivers just like her, people sometimes sniff and scowl. My sister told me this story on Sunday. We talked about how some needs are visible, while others—so very many others—are invisible.

As it happens, my latest essay, “Big Boy Steps,” explores this very fact. My eldest son, with an invisible need, and I both take steps toward something new in this piece.


Thank you, Crack the Spine, for the gift of space and editorial eyes.

A couple spacing issues appear in the online format, though I believe they will be corrected soon!

Writing to Stay Present

Why do we write—why especially do we write real life—without knowing what we’re creating? Without a conscious plan? Because our lives happen minute to minute and there’s nothing we can do about it. Sometimes, as we’re trying to “stay present,” and the future is coming up and up and up, and the past is growing bigger but our memory of it is growing smaller, we start writing. We let our subconscious find a line of thinking that just maybe points to something in the past, or to something that is coming down the road and already causing anxiousness or dread or excitement though it hasn’t happened yet, and the writing is the only thing that helps us stay present. It’s our subconscious, seated in the present even as it feels the anxiousness or dread or excitement and even as it descends into memory, that leads us to that line of thinking. We follow, without knowing where or why or what we might find hanging there on the line and certainly without knowing what we might do with what we find to make it pretty.

New Publication … My Sister’s Art!


I couldn’t be more proud and delighted to announce that my sister, Deb Farrell, is the featured artist in the latest issue of Longridge Review. As is custom, a Q&A with the artist accompanies the work, but as is not custom, little sister got to ask the questions. Editor-in-Chief Elizabeth Damewood Gaucher elegantly and aptly paired Deb’s pieces with the essays published this month. I’m also shining a spotlight here on Victoria Waddle’s “A Bowl Full of Jelly,” which undid me without me realizing it. Please do take a look and a read. Deb, as it happens, is driving up here tomorrow and will help my five-year-old son create something for the Thanksgiving table. He has no idea how lucky he is, but I do. Happy Thanksgiving!

This Week in College Writing

Each semester at this time, I read drafts of personal narratives by education students. The assignment asks them to dig into formative educational experiences that may have led to their decision to become a teacher. Aside from all the hallmarks of good writing—clarity, coherence, organization, detail, and more—I want them to consider what it felt like to be on the lightweight end of the inherent power imbalance between teacher and student, coach and player, tutor and tutee, guidance counselor and college applicant, drama director and student actor, camp counselor and camper. And each semester, it’s the same old thing: Shivers. Sharp breaths. Scrawling “sheesh” and “lovely” in green. Seeing each at a rare moment, when the child-turning-adult considers simultaneously the child from a tiny time ago and the adult who will connect with children like her a tiny time ago. Same old hope for these students’ future students.

The Most Natural Thing in the World

I was visiting my twin sons’ school today, sitting in the hall just outside the preschool office, when they walked by. J & R were holding hands on one side of a teacher. On her other side, she held the hand of a fellow three-year-old, a boy I hadn’t met before, no doubt a new classmate of one of my sons. My sons broke free to give me hugs and kisses. R said, “I love you, Mommy!” Then, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, the other boy, the boy I’ve never met, looked me right in the eye and said, “I love you, Mommy.” Was he confused? Or was he copying the speech of my son, as three-year-olds do? An hour later, I would come to believe he was, in fact, doing the most natural thing in the world. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t his mother. In that moment, in a big school, this little boy saw a mother, and it spilled right out of him, the I love you, Mommy he’d likely been holding onto all morning through playground and snack, circle and books. In the hallway, I didn’t hesitate. “I love you, too,” I said to the boy, sealing our first meeting. Then all three boys waved and waved (peeking behind to make sure I was waving back) as they walked the rest of the hallway, which was, thankfully, quite long.Processed with Rookie Cam