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Lynn Peterson



The funeral is over.
I long for my grandmother’s essence.
And as I enter her house on this silent night,
I feel her presence everywhere.
I smell the lefse frying on the griddle
I see the ironing she took in to make extra money
I hear her words echo “that blue bloods
Leave their legacy in possessions and a family name.
I leave to you faith, love, and understanding.”
I ascend the stairs to the room she shared with grandpa.
There in the cedar chest is her cherished bible.
As I lift it gently and pull it toward my chest
Something drifts noiselessly to the floor.
It is the perfect pansy petal we found so long ago.
She had tucked it away for safekeeping
Until the time she knew I would need her most.


Bathroom Conversations

Bathroom conversations have always fascinated me.  They amount to tiny snippets of verbal exchanges going to or coming out of bathroom stalls—those little niceties we all have experienced.  From a brief eye-contact, little smile coupled with a “Hi,” to a rushed comment about politics or school affairs, these encounters usually carry very little substance.  On Thursday, the second-to-the-last day of our Lake Superior Writing Institute, Meridel and I had such an exchange.  She had finally stumbled on a topic of worth, but she feared it would not be word-processed nor would it be polished enough for Friday’s sharing.  We briefly discussed the beauty of a handwritten piece and how an essence may be lost when one reads a Times Roman perfectly written text.  Imagine if Kris’s grandmother had word-processed her tiny journal.  It would have lost its special quality. 

As I drifted away from the education wing bathroom that we had all shared this week, I began to think about legacies and what this week has meant to me.  I walked across the parking lot to a less than manicured bit of grass and sat beside a tiny pond.  The handwritten setting was a perfect place for me to just be.  As my writing mates will tell you, I have struggled with a worthy topic.  My goal this week was to be with teachers to share ideas, glean insight, steal ideas, and reflect on my role as an educator.  What I will take from this week is more than rubrics or assessment.  Although I may have to be reminded what your name is when we reconvene, you have each given me a gift, and I now take this opportunity to be reflective.

Bekah is the one who says very little, yet the emotion in her eyes as she spoke about her potential writing reminds me about the honesty of emotion so necessary if we are to express an authentic voice in our writing.  She will remind me about the importance of encouraging voice in my students.  Renee’s non-swimming performance was unforgettable, and she reminds me to allow my students to dive into places they never thought possible with their writings.  My first day of school will be altered as I shred my students thanks to the effervescent, honest Tia.  I will take her idea a step further; I will have them set and write goals as to who they want to be as writers in my class.  Tia will remind me of new beginnings and being completely honest with my students.  Kyra’s saucy poem about the scandalous woman with the pink hair created a vivid image of a misunderstood individual who was later accepted in the community for what she had to offer.  Kyra’s protagonist will remind me to accept what my students are willing to offer and assist them in sharing their recipes with others. From Bill I heard the raw emotion of a young boy tormented by teachers, yet he ironically became a teacher.  The patience and courage to teach second graders baffles and frightens me.  Bill will remind me to pay attention to the wounded souls who need a loving, gentle guide through their writing process. 

Linda’s Dylan story will remain with me always.  Her gift for reaching students with special needs will remind me that every student has a story to tell, and a writer does not always need pen and paper; sometimes all that child needs is a patient listener and a good scribe.  I have known Kris for a very long time, yet every time I see her I am in awe of her gift for meeting students where they are and taking them to places they never thought possible.  From Kris I am reminded of her idea that sometimes a single sentence is all that a student can muster.  Heaven knows that I have struggled for single sentences this week.  From Sarah’s daily student journals and the letters to her daughter, I am reminded of the power of the written word to spark memories, reminisce, and capture little moments in time to be shared at a later time.  My students will write more, and I will critique less.

I have crossed paths with Meridel for many years, and she continues to inspire me with her enthusiasm for the teaching profession.  From her I am reminded to openly celebrate my students as she has openly celebrated all of us.  From my dear colleague Julie, we heard her read the Friday night poem about the innocence of young love.  How she loves her students, and they love her.  Julie reminds me how fortunate we are to have her at Proctor High School.  She gives us far more than we give her.

For my ass-end evaluation duo, Beth and Chris, I will never forget our coffee shop talks.  We shared ideas, bad soap opera dialogue, and even “god” on the History channel.  We shared our frustrations with our own writings, and we all gained empathy for our students.  Beth’s delightful optimism is contagious.  From her backpack travels to her first-year teaching experiences, she is an open, honest, fine educator.  Beth reminds me to search for the right words as I assess student writing so that I will be effective.   Chris, the rubric rebel and rebellious middle school boy, reminds me that I  need to have justification for what I assign.  I need to listen more intently and know that because just isn’t good enough.  Throughout this week I have felt blessed to be paired with these two gifted educators.

Susan’s sweetness, gentle spirit, and artistic spirit inspired all of us to write from our souls.  From her home-baked scones with freshly picked berries to her hand-made cards with watercolors, I am reminded to guide my students with love and encouragement, to offer more choices, and to remember that artists may be dormant.  They just need a gentle prodding.  Jean’s passionate reading of her own work and others exemplifies a woman who truly loves the artistic expression of writing.  She infuses life into other writers until we feel as if we too know them.  From Jean I am reminded to be an educator who shares her passion with others and hopes that a few sparks from her fire will ignite others.

A brief bathroom encounter inspired me to be reflective.  Never devalue  the power of a few passing words to make a lasting impression.  Although this writing may seem a little sentimental and definitely unpolished, as Langston Hughes said in his “Poem for English B,”

“The instructor said,
Go home and write
a page tonight.
And let that page come out of you—
Then, it will be true.”

This is what came out of me, and it is true.