Tuesday, June 12, 2012


The desperate student is out of jail.
Sam’s younger sister has graduated. She loved her first year of college.
The guy from the video was back on leave from the army. 
His younger brother’s hair is long again. His son is a toddler now.
The silent student transferred from the college where I visited her to one closer to home. She wanted to be able to visit for a couple of years, anticipating a greater distance when she goes to grad school.
One of my blueberry girls is talking about getting married this summer. June maybe.
The other is going to be a cheerleader when she starts college this fall.
And I no longer know any students at my school.
My lunch buddy switched to an enrichment class two years ago. He and his wife retired three weeks ago.
My roommate is taking care of her mother this summer. She may end up teaching English in Mexico next.
The teacher I visited every morning while I printed my notes for the day found a job closer to home. She’ll be working with second graders. Her best friend doesn’t think she’ll stay at the school all alone.
My replacement had a difficult first year away. But she’s excited about starting grad school in the fall.
The social studies teacher got accepted to graduate school. He’ll take classes online next year, will probably move away after that.
The guy who took my place in teacher housing is hoping his internship will help him find a position in the city.
The teacher who cheered me on through the hardest days doesn’t know how much longer she has. She’s tired. 
It won’t be long before I don’t know the teachers either.
My time in South Dakota ended 3 years ago. It feels concluded in a different way now.
I’ll still have connections to the community. The school secretary isn’t planning on leaving. I’ll be nearby for a wedding in the fall. But I won’t hear the stories in the same way from them.
And that’s okay. I can close the book at graduation. I have my afterword snapshots of various lives. I hold onto the hopefulness of blankets wrapped around shoulders and balloons in the air.

Friday, June 4, 2010


Far too familar. I'm tearing up 2 minutes in.

Posting here because it's too much of a record of my time in South Dakota not to.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Song for South Dakota Moves

July--I told Jackie and Kate I'd put this video up soon.

August--My students started school. I told myself it was a good time to put this up.

September--I'm starting school. Really, it's now or never. I'm moving on. New blog is over there. Bookmark it. Add it to your feeder. Remove this one except for archival purposes.

But before you do, a sense of what was going through my mind as I drove cross-country this summer. (With apologies to everyone who actually cares about moviemaking. I don't do even well holding a video camera.)

P.S. Sorry about using copyrighted music. It's the soundtrack of my South Dakota moves. For the proper feeling pull back your hair, roll down the windows, and belt it out. Alternatively burst into tears. I don't recommend the alternative.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dispatch While Moving

The new teachers are here. Interviewing right now. (My students are waiting for reports on what they're like.) They're asking for advice, wanting to know what I've picked up out here. The best I'll offer, build your support network. And then expand it.

Other people get by with less, but I've drawn support from across the board. Family and college friends, especially the teachers among them. Teachers at my school and the other TFAers in my state. Local people, be they from a church off the reservation or on the other side of the window at my post office.

The people who have surprised me most with their support are the ones I've found online. I would not have guessed that moving to the middle of the country, I'd connect with teachers all over. I had friends with LiveJournals, but didn't know about the edublogging world until I stumbled upon dy/dan

Ain't that the way it goes? One minute you're trying to remember the name of that site that lets you make big posters out of any-sized picture. The next you're going through archives and blogrolls, stealing lesson ideas along the way.

I immediately started building the connections. Joining conversations in the comments of my favorite blogs and eventually writing here. I discovered this group of people eager to share ideas and experiences. They represent the variety of schools across the country (even the globe). Urban to rural. One-to-one to we have computers? Preservice teachers to retirees. Sometimes it was important for me to remember that not every school is like mine. Other times they remind me that really, kids are kids and we're working toward a common goal.

Last year, I noticed people joining Twitter. I stalked them for months before signing up so I could write back. After sharing so many stories from our classrooms, the connections formed though internet cables begin to feel tangible. Sam Shah summed it up.
Okay, I know that these people aren’t my friends. And that I’m not ever going to meet them in real life, for the most part. But I’ve actually come to care when someone’s kid is angry at them or when someone’s husband was in the hospital.
When I start talking about the online people too much, people say, "But they aren't really your friends." Like Sam, I know there's truth in the statement, and yet when I broke down and joined Facebook the first people to actually ask to be friends (rather than accept invites) are people who I might never meet, oceans and continents being what they are. I have eaten their Christmas cookies and mailed them my mixed CD. If that doesn't qualify you as a friend who helped me face the challenges of teaching, I don't know what does.

Monday, May 25, 2009

True Notebooks

Since starting the class two years earlier, I'd had plenty of opportunities to wonder: What is the value of a positive experience if it is only temporary? How do you weight the advantages against the disadvantages of affection, or of aspiration? After all I'd been through with the boys--some of it wonderful and some of it terrible--all I could say was that a little good has got to be better than no good at all. That, I wrote Kevin, was my answer to his question of why I went there: not because I always enjoyed it, and not because the boys always enjoyed it, but because most of us seemed to agree that it was a good thing to do.

~page 323, True Notebooks by Mark Salzman

I copied this quote when I first read True Notebooks sophomore year of college. Found it in my journal this fall and was inspired to reread the book as a teacher. I'm finally returning the book to my friend and flipped though, just to find the quote again.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Prayer from the Last Day of School

I picked up my copy during third period. There is now a photo on Bebo of me reading it to two of my Blueberry Girls.

Friday, May 15, 2009

"Two Years"

Sam comes into my room early morning. She's here to have me sign her checkout form. "You're my last signature." Everything's in order for graduation.

"See you in class, Ms. Cannon." 
"Really? Are you done painting your senior tile? Will graduation practice be done?"
"I dunno."
"Don't make promises then. I'll see you later."

Fourth period, last chance to attend class as a student, Sam sneaks in just after the bell. My plan this week is having students study old skills, present mini-lessons, and retake quizzes. I try to have her help some other students study a topic she's been working on, but when she ends up in a back desk, earbuds in, gazing at the word wall, I'm not bothered. Just curious what she's thinking.

"Two years this room."

From this desk to that one. From head-on-the-desk refusing to try to serious dedication getting things done. When I asked the vice principal about her two years ago, I was told stories of fights the year before. How a summer program transformed her and she was working for everyone else. I wondered how to get her to work for me.

I can't give you the recipe. It didn't work for everyone. But eventually, something clicked with Sam. After Failing my class last year (sorry), Sam made it through the first one and a half quarters this year. By third quarter she was back in the danger zone, with graduation requirements looming. I showed her exactly what she needed to do to get any grade she decided to aim for. It would take work, but we'd make it happen.

And happen it did. Up to passing in time for prom, Sam kept working. Celebrating each baby step along the way, passing wasn't enough. She wanted the best she could earn.

"Two years." 

At the Wacipi that afternoon, Sam hands me an envelope. Graduation invitation. Inside is another card that says "Thank You." The note inside is exactly what I needed to hear.

"You helped me more than anything."