Up a Tree

Zacchaeus wanted to see who Jesus was.
Do I want to see who Jesus is enough to stop what I’m doing and do it?
Yesterday, I was not.
Today, I want to again.
If I had to go on my own initiative and work,
I would never seek Jesus.
I need to keep admitting that,
and just keep jumping up and looking through the crowd.
Even when I don’t feel like it.
I see that I can’t see because of the crowd.
I climb the tree.
I watch patiently.
I wait expectantly.
And then Jesus shows up
and he does in my life what I could not
even dare to expect.
All I thought was I wanted to see who this Jesus was,
and now he has come into my house.
Now he has called me down the tree
in the presence of many doubters.
Being with him has humbled me
and made me not able to blame
the others for their judgment.
“I’m just doing my job.”
No. I don’t have to say that.
Instead, I repent.
I give and give and give some more.
I let go of the possessions
that tug at my heart,
and I follow Jesus.

Jesus came to seek and save
the lost.
Please find me, O God, I pray.

A Special Day

Today is the first time an African American president has been sworn in to office for a second term. It’s not as exciting as the first Inauguration Day in 2008, but it’s still a historically significant event.

It’s also special that it’s happening on the official celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, what would have been his 84th birthday. I recently watched and read King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. When I read the series of “let freedom ring” from all the different mountaintops, I was touched with the power of words. I was also reminded of Aretha Franklin’s powerful singing of “My Country Tis of Thee” at Obama’s first inauguration.

From Every Mountainside, Let Freedom Ring! Flickr Gallery

Real Research

What am I supposed to do? I don’t even know what to research. What is research anyway? Mrs. Krebs said I had to have my topic today by Period 5. What is a topic anyway?

Tommy had no idea what he wanted to research. Mrs. Krebs was always talking about passion. He wasn’t passionate about anything. What is passion anyway? Tommy wandered over to the sports section, hoping to get distracted from the task at hand. He reached for another football book. This one seemed new. Mrs. Stokes proudly asked him if he had seen it yet.

“No, I never saw this one before. It’s all about the greatest touchdowns in history—college and NFL. It looks great. I have to see if…”

“Is Doug Flutie’s hail Mary pass against University of Miami in there?” asked Mrs. Stokes.

“Let me look…” Tommy paged through the index and found it. “Yes, here it is. Do you remember that pass, Mrs. Stokes?” Tommy asked, a bit flabbergasted she would remember a football game from 25 years ago. He sized up the 60ish gray-haired librarian. “Cool.”

“Oh, yes, my husband and I watched it. I always like to root for the underdogs. That was a great game and Boston College was going to lose it with 5 seconds to go. I think we watched it at my mom’s house–maybe Thanksgiving? Was that when it was?”

“It was the Friday after Thanksgiving,” said Tommy, right away. “Great connect with Gerard Phelan. One of the best.”

“It looks like you know your touchdowns, Tommy!” said Mrs. Stokes. “You didn’t even have to look any of that up in the book.”

“Yeah, it’s just as well. I came in because I need to find a topic for my research. I guess I better get one before the bell rings.”

“May I help you? Did Mrs. Krebs give you any guidelines?”

“Just something about being passionate. Whatever that means.”

“How about football? It looks to me like that is a passion of yours. You read every football book I can get into the library.”

“I can research football? Really?” Tommy asked, hopefully.

Interesting that in the short piece above, I am the teacher who didn’t explain research, topic, and passion adequately to Tommy. I’m reading Nonfiction Matters right now, by Stephanie Harvey. It was published in 1998, so it’s somewhat dated, but the basics are incredible and inspiring. I will be a better teacher of nonfiction reading and writing next year as a result of this read. In addition, I will be more able to steer my students into meaningful genius hour projects. I highly recommend Nonfiction Matters.

The prompt for this entry came from the #TeachersWrite Summer Writing Camp courtesy of Margo Sorenson and Kate Messner.

Okay…ready to write? Today’s Thursday Quick-Write is courtesy of guest-author Margo Sorenson!
A student walks into the library/media center at lunchtime. What is she/he thinking? Worried about? Dreading? Hoping or wishing for? What are the risks/stakes for him/her? Show us in a paragraph or two.
Note from Kate: Some possible formats for this quick-write:
• A journal entry from that character, written later on
• A letter from that character to his or her best friend
• A letter from that character to his or her worst enemy
• A poem in the character’s voice
• A monologue in the character’s voice
• A conversation in dialogue between the character and a friend/the librarian/an enemy
For those of you in the middle of a work-in-progress, try this with your main character, or better yet, a secondary character you want to develop more fully. Imagine him or her walking into a room and feeling uncomfortable and awkward. Why? You can write this from a third person perspective, from the focus character’s point of view, or for a twist, try writing from the point of view of a disinterested observer in the room — someone who has no idea who the person is or what’s going on. What would he or she observe in terms of mannerisms and body language?
Feel free to share a paragraph from your Thursday Quick-Write in the comments later on if you’d like!

Making Time

I do need to make time to write. I’d like to follow the model of Miss A, my student, shown above. She constantly carries a notebook and writes beautiful poetry, songs, and stories.

I wrote a lot of blog posts this past year (here and here). I didn’t have a blogging schedule; I just wrote when I had to or was inspired to. I also write models of work to share with my students. However, I want this summer to bring a commitment to write more than that. I want to write for me. I need to dig in and stir things up in my writing world.

I will commit to a daily 15-minute writing session (or more). In the summer, this will be easier. When the fall rolls around, I just hope I have developed a habit that can’t go away.

I prefer to write on my computer on the couch in the living room. This is my lovely view here in Iowa:

However, I can write anywhere, and I always have a notebook of some sort with me for taking notes and doodling.

That is a fancy tail, isn't it?

That is me riding that wonderful creature!

I have told my husband and Sheri, my writing buddy for the #TeachersWrite Summer Writing Camp.

I’m also telling YOU–that is, anyone else who may be reading this post. Thank you! Thanks for joining in the journey with me, and I hope you will leave a comment and a link, so you can tell me your plan too.

Thanks, Kate, for facilitating the camp.

I loved the “Nomade” Sculpture in Des Moines

Create your own video slideshow at animoto.com.

I went to Des Moines on Friday because Katie ran in the Drake Relays in the 4 x 100. Her team did so well. They had their best time by over a half a second. Jiawen, Keith and I went to watch. The weather was a bit misty, but nice by the evening session, which is when she ran. Jiawen and I went downtown to the Pappajohn Sculpture Park and to the state capitol building on Saturday. We had a nice time. The video shows pictures of my favorite sculpture at the park, “Nomade” (nomad in Spanish) by a Spanish artist named Jaume Plensa. It is a man made of letters hugging his knees. It was wonderful.