For the Springdale High School Class of 1989

Dear classmate:

I remember you.

You sat in the back of Algebra 2, doodling on the inside of your Trapper Keeper before the bell rang, laughing with your friends and talking about the next football game. You’d make bets on who’d be starting. You knew it would be you.

I’d see you outside the band hall studying or reading. You’d look up when I went by, too shy to say hi. I noticed you, though, when you’d play that French horn. That was how you expressed yourself back then. Nobody could ignore you when you made music.

I’d hear you practicing your solo for Harmony. When you sang, everyone stopped to listen.

I’d see you in the hallway with the other cheerleaders. You seemed happy, but I noticed how you held back just a bit. You smiled, but it didn’t always meet your eyes. Though you looked perfect, your life wasn’t, but that wasn’t your fault.

I’d see you waiting for the school bus, in clothes that didn’t quite fit and looked a bit too old. You never had a lunch, but were too embarrassed to take advantage of the free lunch provided, so you would just sit under the tree behind the cafeteria and read. You were a bit of a loner, but you were tough as nails.

I’d see you studying at the library. You always turned in every assignment on time. Your dreams were a bit larger than many, and you knew it would take work. You missed out on a lot of the fun, but knew it would be worth it.

I’d see you flirting with the girls between classes. You were hard to ignore in your letterman jacket, all 6’2 and pretty. You had the world in the palm of your hands. I’d see you making jokes with the other smart kids, jokes not everyone understood. We all knew you were destined to be on SNL one day. Or running the world.

I’d see you behind the gym smoking with your buddies. You didn’t care if you got caught or not. Bad girls never care. I admired how you weren’t afraid of anything.

I’d see you sneaking out with the seniors to go to lunch, even though you were just a sophomore. You prayed Coach wouldn’t catch you.

I’d see you listening to your Walkman in your own world. Was that Tears for Fears, or Sting? Was it Genesis or Bon Jovi? Whatever it was, you knew all the facts about the music, the bands. You were so cool without even trying.

I’d see you with your boyfriend, holding hands, stealing a kiss before Spanish. We all wondered if you would be together forever. I’d see you looking afraid to get in the car after school. I wondered if your parents were mean to you.

I’d see you crying at the dance. He dumped you for your best friend.

I’d see you asking her out for the first time, making it seem effortless, even though you practiced at home in front of your mirror for an hour before, while you put on a drop of your brother’s Polo.

I’d see you wanting to tell your parents you were gay, but being too afraid.

I’d see you in your Bible study group, praying at the flagpole, your hands clasping theirs. You were so sincere, and really had a heart for others.

I’d see you playing video games at the arcade at the mall. You always won. You’d make those quarters last for hours. You’d always know all the tricks.

I’d see you with your little brother, and how you took care of him without making a big deal of it.

I’d see you in your cowboy hat and torn up jeans that you didn’t buy that way. You were a real cowboy–not one for show. You were hoping to be in the Rodeo, and you needed to spend time roping to get there. The Skoal in your back pocket left a ring…and your mama didn’t like that.

Class of 1989: I see you now.

We’ve been through some things, haven’t we? Since 1989, we’ve seen 6 presidents, including a father and son, the first Black president, and the first woman of color vice president.

We watched the first Batman, and Indiana Jones, and Dead Poets Society. Say Anything, The Breakfast Club, all the Karate Kids.

We listened to George Michael, Guns and Roses, Cyndi Lauper. Journey, Van Halen, The Bangles. Randy Travis and George Strait, with all his Exes down in Texas.

We witnessed the horror of Columbine.

We cried when the Twin Towers fell. Many of us enlisted. Those who already were in the service of our country paid (and still pay) our debt.

We saw the Gulf War and Afghanistan.

We watched the Space Shuttle crash.

We wondered at the birth of the Internet and listened for that all-to-familiar AOL login sound.

We created our MySpace accounts and felt so cutting edge.

We cried at the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

We lost a bit of our childhood when Michael Jackson died.

Some of us have married, and are still married. Some of us didn’t quite find the love of our lives the first time, and tried again.

Some of us had children. Some of us have lost children.

We’ve all lost beloved classmates.

We’ve traveled and earned degrees or worked with our hands, creating.

We loved and were hurt and had our hearts broken by those near and far. Maybe we’ve broken a few ourselves.

We have endured through Covid-19: a virus so vile it is still with us over a year after we first learned of it. A virus that’s sole purpose was to kill us.

But oh, how we have lived.

Many of us will turn 50 this year, celebrating half a century on this earth. What a milestone! What we’ve seen together this 50 years!

What a privilege to have known you. What a place you have in my heart.

Class of 1989: I see you. I see you, because you are a part of my heart.

A Bicentennial Swing Set Birthday

I want to tell you something.

I want to tell you about how I’m turning 50 in a few weeks, and how I can’t stop thinking about my 5th birthday.

My parents bought me the most extravagant gift: a swing set. Here’s a picture of it, but I’m older here. That’s me on the left.

My mother was a waitress at Borden’s Cafeteria and dad was a factory worker in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and money was so tight.

But I was turning five, and I’ll tell you I know without a doubt it was my dad who wanted to get it for me.

It was my birthday, but it was also our nation’s birthday: its bicentennial, so almost everything was set to theme. This swing set was GLORIOUS.

It had everything.

Red, white, and blue paint from top to bottom. It was all flags and eagles and I was HERE FOR IT.

There was seesaw swing (that would definitely be banned in 2021 because it’s NOT SAFE) to ride on with a friend. I had a few, including Erin who also was named Coleman, so we thought it made sense that one of us was adopted. I also had a friend named Jeremy, who held my hand when we walked to school in first grade, and thought that OF COURSE we would one day be married, because we both loved Scooby Doo and this is the bedrock of any successful marriage.

It has two regular swings with blue plastic seats and shiny silver chains connecting them to the top. I would swing as hard as I could, my stringy legs pumping furiously, and then at the highest point JUMP to my death, pretending to be Wonder Woman. I did not die, but I did knock the heels of my boots once I the fourth grade and they had to call my dad. Another story.

There was a basket swing that would set four kindergarteners like myself, and two older kids. Many picnics and serious discussions occurred on this swing. Also life plans, like being an extra on I Dream of Jeannie.

I can’t forget the most glorious slide that would suck in the heat of the Oklahoma sun and channel it into the fires of hell on my little tanned legs. That slide: how many times would I perilously perch at the top, pretending to be the Queen of all I surveyed? How many times would I barrel down its center? How many times would I try it head first to scare myself? I would even drag my wading pool over and submerge the bottom of the slide inside, trying to recreate a KOA pool experience, even going to the extreme of turning on the water hose and placing it on the top of the slide, so that it would feed a steady stream down the aluminum center. Also not safe, but this is why Gen-X’rs are fearless: because we faced certain death every day of our childhoods.

I think my dad thought I was too small to tip it but he was wrong. I was practicing my trapeze act when it happened. It flipped clean over and the top of it landed on my neck. I was still somehow fine and just needed a few extra cookies.

Even now, I picture the sun-washed yard that seemed to span acres but was probably just a postage stamp size in sepia tones. I remember the outside of the house itself only vaguely, but I do recall the yellow kitchen, maybe because it is in a few pictures in the dusty album. I remember the wallpaper with yellow daisies, and my birthday cake with Snoopy in his doghouse. My tiny grandma, only 4′ 11″, came to my house that day and I know she loved me, but now all these years later, I also know her secrets.

I was the only child then, and sometimes lonely, but happy. I remember my mom making gallons of sweet tea, putting cold water and tea bags into a rinsed out milk jug, setting it up on the top of the slide to slowly brew in the steamy summer sun. In the evenings, she’d take the tea bags out and add a cup of sugar, stirring until the little granules would mostly (but not completely) dissolve. That tea tasted like summer.

I was thinking about the swing set yesterday as I made sun tea and set it out on my son-in-law’s grill to brew in the steamy San Antonio sun. I was thinking about that birthday and this one. I was thinking about how that day was perfect, maybe because of everything I didn’t know then. It was before, way before, anything bad ever happened.

But that’s another memory and not one to associate with this one.

This is the swing set memory.

Hiding Behind Your White Privilege: Why We Can’t Just Ignore the Critical Race Theory In the Classroom Issue

I’m seeing all sorts of posts from acquaintances praising the concept of limiting or banning the discussion of Critical Race Theory without fully grasping it. Critical Race Theory is not a single issue that can be easily avoided in the classroom. It’s interwoven throughout many topics that go hand in hand with history and literature, art and government, current events and debate.

Many right-leaning news sources such as Fox News are painting CRT as something that CREATES racism. This is completely inaccurate. CRT discusses the impact of racism as it used to exist and still exists. Discussing the effects of racism on American history or current public policy does not increase it; making us aware of problems is the first step to eradicating them. Sweeping it under the rug and saying it’s not there does nothing. It’s not saying that America is a horrible place to live or that we haven’t made progress—it’s simply discussing where we can do better. And we can do better.

As Elie Wiesel, author of Night, once said: “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” This quote makes more sense now than ever. How can we teach about the Holocaust without discussing racism and white supremacy? It’s impossible. Under this bill, discussing white supremacy would be a no-no. Discussing the Holocaust could be interpreted as ignoring the bill, and could pose a danger for educators.

If you are a white person who still doesn’t understand why the danger of this bill that is not only being pushed in Texas but over most of the American South, then you are hiding BEHIND YOUR PRIVILEGE and indirectly supporting racist policies.

If you are a white teacher who has not investigated this policy, or have voiced support for it based on right leaning news sources, you are actively supporting agendas that enable white supremacy and condone ignorance to the same history that many of you so fiercely claimed to defend when confederate statues were being removed.

According to Fox News article:

“Attempts to eradicate instead of contextualizing history invariably fail,” Senate GOP leaders wrote. “And because of this Governor’s personal history, the motivations of this decision will always be suspect. Like Senator Chase’s idiotic, inappropriate and inflammatory response, his decision is more likely further to divide, not unite, Virginians.” If you agreed that Confederate statues being removed was erasing history, yet support the suppression of CRT discussions in the classroom, then you must check your motives.

By clinging to your privilege, you are dismissing any students of color in your classroom in favor of your own comfort. In addition, you are also adding to the already heavy burden of teachers everywhere. As Elie Wiesel, author of Night, once said: “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” This quote makes more sense now than ever. How can we teach about the Holocaust without discussing racism and white supremacy? It’s impossible. Under this bill, discussing white supremacy would be a no-no. Discussing the Holocaust could be interpreted as ignoring the bill, and could pose a danger for educators.

By embracing your privilege, you are choosing the role of the oppressor.

For more information regarding this bill and the definition of Critical Race Theory, see the following article.

Tomatillo Salsa Verde

A few years ago I learned how to make this sauce that goes really well on chicken enchiladas. I thought it couldn’t get better until it I began taking the extra step to roast the vegetables first. Finishing it off in the instant pot gives it a depth previously unthinkable!

Ingredients:

2 lbs. tomatillos, washed and peeled

1 white onion

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

Peppers to taste (I used serrano and Anaheim for this batch, but I really just use whatever I have on hand or what’s freshest).

One container low sodium chicken broth

Directions:

Heat the grill to a screaming hot heat. Add the peppers and onion and blacken.

After the vegetables are soft, transfer to a bowl. Add the chicken broth to the sauce. Using an immersion blender (or regular blender-it doesn’t matter), blend the vegetables until smooth. Add the salt and pepper to taste.

Strain the sauce to remove the seeds. Or, you could take the time to seed the peppers beforehand, but I like the heat.

Pour the sauce into the Instant Pot. Cook for 90 minutes.

Pour over your favorite chicken enchiladas or eat with salted tortilla chips.

This sauce can be canned as well to give you the taste of summer all year round.

Texas HB 3949

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Suddenly, the same Texan politicians who railed against the removal of confederate statues saying that liberals were trying to “erase history” and swearing that the reason they should stay in place was for us to “learn from our mistakes” are now wanting to make sure that white people are not made to feel uncomfortable when confronted with America’s checkered racial past.

As an educator, I must say this: how much more can we endure?

In the past few years, we have been told that it is our job to protect kids from school shooters. We attend traumatic trainings that try to “acclimate” us to the sounds of gunfire, so that in the very probable event of a school shooter situation, we will not freeze up or confuse the sounds we hear. We need every second to hide your children from the shooter. Our only recourse is to hide in the dark behind the door, holding a trash can or stapler in our hand to protect your kids.

We did that.

We attended trainings where we learn how to stuff fabric into fake bodies should your kid or a coworker (or even our own person) be shot.

We did that.

We suffered pay cuts and were gaslighted that it was wrong to want to be paid for our expertise in our fields.

We did that.

We were told we had to show up in person and teach during a deadly pandemic where more than 600,000 Americans had lost their lives, because our job is so much more than just teaching kids to read.

We did that.

Now, we are being told that to bring up race, or slavery, or sexism, or gender in the classroom will be against the law and punishable in some way (that hasn’t been decided yet). They are painting Critical Race Theory as the Boogyman…and further painting teachers as people who cannot be trusted to teach your kids the right thing.

I cannot with this.

Critical Race Theory is nothing in which we (re: white people) should be afraid. I would need an entire post to define it, and in actuality entire books have been written about it.

Here are some ways Critical Race Theory is discussed in the ELA classroom.

How do I teach To Kill a Mockingbird without discussing Jim Crow? I’m not supposed to talk about that, you see, because a white person might feel uncomfortable.

How do I teach A Raisin in the Sun without discussing Red Lining?

How do I teach Hamilton without the discussion of slavery? It’s impossible.

How do I teach even something as fluffy as Cobra Kai without discussing racial dynamics?

How?

How do I teach any novel featuring a person of color without these discussions?

How do I teach any novel featuring a strong female protagonist that has any sort of power struggle with sexism or gender roles?

https://www.statesman.com/story/news/2021/05/22/texas-senate-approves-bill-limiting-how-race-racism-can-taught/5217696001/

This bill is too long to cover in one blog post. Please see my TikToks if you want further information or to learn more.

@tinamachelle

HB 3979 has been signed by Abbot. Part 2 of what’s wrong with it. #1619projectrealamericanhistory #1619 #HB3979 #texas #texasteachers

♬ original sound – Tina Machelle

On The Sun Always Rises and Writing About Real People

Some interesting facts about The Sun Also Rises:In the book Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway’s Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises, Blume notes that Hemingway’s novel, published in 1926, was based on ACTUAL people and events. He even went so far as to tell them to their faces, “Hey, I’m writing a book…and you’re in it.” (This is my paraphrase. Hemingway’s actual words were probably filled with obscenities and slurred by drunkenness…haha). He did say, “I’m going to tear these two bastards apart.”

He certainly did.

The people depicted in the novel were said to have never recovered from the hits on their reputations. The book was banned several times because of the gore and sexuality…basically, Hemingway’s experiences in everyday life.

clef.https://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2016/05/the-true-story-of-the-booze-bullfights-and-brawls-that-inspired-ernest-hemingways-the-sun-also-risesA new book by Lesley M. M. Blume recounts the scandalous trip to Pamplona that inspired Jake Barnes, Lady Brett Ashley, Robert Cohn, and the characters from literature’s greatest roman à clef.

The Shining Podcast

My podcast interview with Konner and Michael from the KMP Vault!

The Shining Podcast

Covid Virtual Book Club: Little Fires Everywhere and the Danger of Privilege

 

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When I began reading Little Fires Everywhere, I noticed the notion of privilege is difficult to ignore. The Richardsons ARE privilege, and so much so that it actually becomes harmful to those around them. In fact, I would argue that their privilege is a direct contributor to the misaligned relationship between Elena and Izzy, which as we know leads to the destruction of not only their family, but Mia’s family as well.

Much is made of Izzy’s not being wanted by Elena, and the not-so-subtle blaming of Izzy for Elena’s fizzled journalism career. While it’s true that Elena did not plan to have a fourth child, and that there is some definite resentment wherein Elena sometimes feels she was a rising star, with the possibility of becoming famous and successful, the TV show does not discuss is the fact that Izzy was premature and sickly at birth, which caused Elena to be extremely worried for her well-being well after she should have been “in the clear.” Contrary to the movie, neither Izzy NOR Mia were lesbians. Izzy’s inability to fit in with her peers or within the family dynamic had nothing to do with her hiding this secret.

The book details the early years of Izzy and Elena in a way the movie skims over. The doctors warned Elena that Izzy might have health problems for the rest of her life, and Elena never quite forgot those words. Though the doom and gloom prediction never materialized, Elena saw problems around every corner. If Izzy tripped, Elena immediately assumed it was because Izzy had poor motor coordination. A family of lesser means would have just accepted this and moved on, but because the Richardsons had money to burn, Elena tried to “fix” Izzy by enrolling her in dance. She never explained to Izzy why she felt it was necessary, and never asked Izzy if she WANTED to be in dance. It was a dance recital, NOT a concert, that Izzy chose to act out with the “Not your puppet” inscription across her forehead.

It is my feeling that the crux of the conflict of Elena and Izzy’s relationship rests not on Izzy being unwanted or stunting out Elena’s career, but rather Elena’s constant searching for perceived imperfections is a direct contributor to the explosive ending of the novel.

Covid Virtual Book Club Selection: Little Fires Everywhere Annotation Guide

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Okay everyone!
Get your markers ready! Annotation is the best way to enjoy a book! I suggest making your own legend in the front of your book if it’s a paperback. If you are using a Kindle version, you can still highlight and make notes!
No, this is not required! I’m not taking a grade! Haha
When beginning Little Fires, here are some themes in which to search:
  1. Mother-daughter relationships. This is a huge one! When a mother feels her relationship with her daughter threatened, the plot heats up!
  2. Assimilation. The unspoken (and many times, spoken loudly!) idea that by moving into a country or space you must adopt the rules and customs of the native people. When assimilation is expected, but not engaged, conflict occurs.
  3.  Racial privilege and wealth privilege. How the wealthy view others (and how races view one another) is a strong theme throughout LFE.
  4. Missed opportunities and life choices. Every choice creates a chain that leads to a new link and its eventual consequences.
      5. The search for home. Is home a place? A person? A thing?
      6. Identity. Which identities do we choose, and which are assigned? Can a person move from an assigned identity if its given to them by someone given power over them in some way? What conflict occurs if an assigned identity is rejected? People in power over others include: parents over children, those who hold wealth over those who do not, people in political offices over citizens, majority over minority.
 
Want to join the Covid Virtual Book Club? Find us on Facebook!
 

5 Ways How to Help Your Kid Survive Virtual Learning

 

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Remember the good old days of paper portfolios? Hahahaha

Who would have foreseen the entire nation home bound and schools shut down for the foreseeable future? NOBODY. Yet, here we are! Social media is on fire with teachers, parents, and kids stressing out. It’s new to everyone … and some sources say it may be the new normal for at least a while…maybe longer.

If you are a parent at home, trying to balance work and helping your kids keep up with their assignments, I feel for you. Maybe you are an essential worker and you’re leaving your older kids home while you work long shifts, and just praying they are doing what they are supposed to.

I hate to tell you this–but they might not be.

As a teacher, I’d love to take you out for a cup of coffee and chat about your kid’s progress (or perhaps lack thereof), but since we can’t do that, we’ll just have a virtual cup of coffee here. If you don’t mind, can I bend your ear for just a minute? It won’t be long! We are both busy, and I know your time is valuable. I’ve narrowed this list down to five things I think you should know to keep your kid on track.

1. Please don’t get angry if I call you to tell you that your kid is not turning in work. I am mandated to do this. The last thing I want is for your kid to fall through the cracks and lose even more learning. If you don’t want to be called, just say so. I’ll make a note, but please–don’t shoot the messenger. You’re not the only parent I’ve called today. There’s a list every day. Your kid may or may not respond to a zero in the grade book, but sometimes they do respond if Mom checks up on them. This won’t work unless everyone is on board, on one team.

2. Help your kid to set a routine. I teach high school seniors, and I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve called to check on a kid at 3:00 in the afternoon and they are still in bed. Then there are panicked emails at 2:00 a.m. Guess who’s not answering these emails at 2:00 a.m.? Yours truly!

Of course, it won’t be easy to start this now if your kid has had very little structure in place up until this point. None of this is easy! This is all a brave new world and we are all just figuring it out as we go! However, if you can help your kid to say, get up by noon, shower, eat, and begin assignments a few hours later, the routine might help. Think of this as practicing for college. They won’t have anyone to help them then, either, so if they get used to a routine now, it will only help them in the future. Younger kids need even more structure, and thrive on routine. Transitioning to school at home will go more smoothly if they know what to expect.

3. Expect there to be hiccoughs. Assignments might be late. Assignments might not post the way I thought they would. There might be lapses in communication on both sides. I promise to be patient with you and your kid, so please be patient with me.

4. Do check in with your kid daily. Ask to see what they’ve finished. Ask to see what’s due. Have them log in to the learning platform to show you what they see. Don’t take their word for it that everything is done! Hold them accountable.

5. Reach out to me! I want your kid to succeed. I’m doing my best here, too. I know you have so much to do–maybe you’re working from home, or maybe you suddenly have a houseful of kids trying to navigate online school. Maybe your Internet is slow, and maybe your kids are sharing a computer. I can help if you tell me! Administrators have worked around the clock to navigate these issues and we do have solutions, but if we don’t know there’s a problem, we can’t step in.

If you call me or email me, and I don’t respond within 24 hours, please try again before complaining to my boss.  I may have missed your email. If this happens I am truly sorry. I am literally receiving hundreds of emails a day, and I do my best to keep up. I also unplug in the evenings and weekends. Please allow me this time to recharge.

This won’t be forever, but for now, it is our new normal. Let’s work together to get through this. I want the best for your kid, and I know you do, too.

Now, let’s have another cup of coffee. This is my second pot, and I’m not sure if the store will have my creamer, so it might just be black tomorrow. We all must sacrifice! Now, to check those emails.