"I sound my barbaric YAWP over the rooftops of the world." -- Wordsworth

If you have ever seen the movie "Dead Poets Society," then these scenes are familiar to you. If you are an English teacher, than these scenes give you goosebumps.

I am currently showing this film in my LA III class [my juniors].

When I was in high school, my teacher showed this to our class. He said that this movie was the main reason he wanted to be an English teacher. And I guess that is part of my story now too. I don't know that it is THE reason I became an English teacher, or A reason amongst many small reasons…but it is there, tucked away in my history.

If you haven't seen the film, then here is a brief synopsis: At an all boys school, Professor Keating [played by Robin Williams] shakes up the mold of the otherwise formal and conservative faculty. He challenges his students to think for themselves, something the administration thinks is unnecessary for his 17 year old students…dangerous even. Needless to say, some conflict arises when his students realize the power of their voices and choices, but they will forever be indebted to the man who has dared them to view things from a different perspective.

There are two scenes in particular that I, and my students, love. The first is pictured above. Professor Keating jumps up on his desk in the middle of class. His students look on in bewilderment. He looks around and then says, "I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way…" He then invites them to join him, and encourages them that "when you read, don't just consider what the author thinks; consider what YOU think."

During another scene, a particularly shy student is supposed to read in front of the class and share a poem that he wrote. When his turn comes, he says he didn't write a poem. However, Mr. Keating does not let him get by that easily. He writes the line I posted above on the board. He asks his student to let out a YAWP! He antagonizes him until, in frustration, the student shouts a "barbaric" YAWP. He then covers his eyes and tells him to share whatever comes to his mind…and a poem pours out of the student while the teacher watches in admiration.

After we watched these particular clips, I had a few students who asked if they could stand on my desk and YAWP.

I think that this will best describe what that moment in my classroom meant, however silly it sounds to others: After school that day, I sent my fellow English-teacher friend a text that said: "Watching Dead Poets in class. Had students YAWPING on my desk before class was over." She immediately texted back saying, "I'm envious of that moment you shared with your students."

What can I say, us English teachers are a weird bunch. But I think it just boils down to the fact that this movie touches something in us…it ignites a fire and in the crackling of its flames we hear a whisper saying, "Seize the day…inspire your students…YAWP from the rooftops!"

I'll leave you with this quote from Professor Keating:

We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?" Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

What will your verse be?


blog invasion/rebuttal

This is Brent. And this is my rebuttal to Part V.

Ring, Ring..."Brent! Phone. It's a giiirrrrl."

This moment was a perfect opportunity for my sister to embarrass me in front of my friends.

"GIRL?! I bet it's Kelsey from Maysville", they taunt as I pick up the phone hiding my interest in Kelsey; the mission trip girl by which all other mission trip girls will be compared. [You see they have been with me on these mission trips when I'm around Kelsey. They know it, I know it, but as guys we play it off. By "it" I mean instead of acting like a cartoon character; jaw dropped, eyes popped; tongue hanging out while we pant...we suppress it and act cool.]

“Hello”, I said with a nonchalant look.

“What does she want?” my friends whisper.

“Shhh. Worlds of fun.”

I’m sure they proceeded to act like “Brent” and “Kelsey” sitting next to each other on a roller coaster.

“Umm, yeah, I have to mow that day.” Making up the only excuse I had; it was the summer and that’s the only agenda I had besides having fun (worlds of fun you might say).

Why an excuse? I couldn’t go and reveal to the world I wanted to go…meaning I liked her…meaning the already awkward conversations with this girl would be even more awkward since we’d both know that I liked her. Besides, she seemed cool with it. She was so outgoing that I’m sure she could call up 5 guys cooler than me to go with her. “Ok, Bye.” The phone conversation ended and I tried continuously to convince my friends that I was too busy for ladies.

While the truth was that I LOVED worlds of fun and being in her company; she’s got such a great personality and she’s a beautiful girl. “Man, she must like you if she wants you go to with her to worlds of fun.”

“No, it was just for a church trip…plus I have a couple of yards I’ve been putting off mowing and really need to get done this weekend.”

I had no idea that it was such a rejection to her…until about a decade later when she blogged about it!

Kelsey we should go to worlds of fun this summer, what do you say?


Our Story: Part V

Click HERE and scroll to the bottom for the beginning of "Our Story"

Part V:
Stalled Hearts

Summer hung on the trees, dripping humidity and sunshine. I frittered away my days like any normal high schooler, stopping occasionally to make sure the image of that boy was still in my mind. He had sent me a couple emails, peppered here and there with mis-punctuation and poor grammar, but even that didn't bother me.

"Who are you inviting to Worlds of Fun?" my sister asked, slurping on a popsicle. "I think you should invite Brent."

"Ha. Yeah right," I chuckled. "That would be a real great boost for my ego."

"I'm serious," she prompted. "I think you would have fun. I'm sure he'll go. He's a nice guy...he wouldn't say no."

I mulled it over...and over...and over in my brain until all that was left was mush. Kali's pep talk had given me something I had been warned about: hope. So one afternoon I brought the cordless phone up to my bedroom. Sitting on my quilted twin mattress I dialed the number-- his number. Hearing a ring in the receiver, I checked the number that was scratched on the scrap of paper in my hand.

"Hi...is Brent there by any chance?"
"Sure..." Just above the beat of my own heart I could hear his sister lay the phone down and yell for him.
Please don't tell me no...please don't tell me no...please don't tell me no...this is so out of my character...please don't...
"Hello?" his voice felt funny in my ear.
"Hey! This is Kelsey," I tried to nonchalantly pipe into the receiver. "Well, my youth group is going to Worlds of Fun next Saturday and I was wondering if you'd maybe want to go with us...or something?" I saw no reason in prolonging my agony by creating small talk.
"Oh...well...I'm mowing lawns that day." Apparently neither did he.
"Hey, well. Sure. Yeah. That's fine. Totally. I understand..." Kelsey, just SHUT UP!
"Yeah. Sorry."
"Yeah. Sure. It's cool," I continued to stammer at him. "Well, I guess I'll talk to you later."
"Okay. Bye."

It took about 1 minute and 37 seconds for me to get the point; this boy was not interested. I set the piece of paper with his number on my night stand, wondering why I ever let myself do such a foolish thing... And then I remembered why...

I shuffled down the hall, shouting, "KALIIIIIIIIII!!!!"


I hopped in my sister's car, book bag slung over my shoulder, juice precariously sloshing in one hand, folded homework papers in the other, and slammed the door behind me.

"I told you to hurry up!" she yipped, "What in the world were you doing?!" She peeled out of the driveway and I turned my arm and hand at an awkward angle to keep my jeans free of grape juice.

"I was looking for bagels," I lied. I shoved my homework into my bag, trying to conceal the truth. The truth? I had been checking my email for the second time that morning just to see if there was a new one in my inbox from m0nkey21. I sipped my grape juice carefully as we bounced down the street towards school, thinking about the boy who, even after rejecting my invitation to Worlds of Fun a year and a half before, captured my attention. A boy who, even after not really talking to me on our last summer mission trip to St. Louis, still made me feel nervous and sweaty. A boy who, even after "dating" and breaking up with someone else, did made me want to be the datee. Would he keep emailing me if he weren't interested? Is he just a nice guy? Will he ever get around to...

"Don't forget that mom needs us to clean the upstairs bathroom when we get home today," Kali interrupted my thoughts. It was just as well; I'd just ask the same questions 20 more times that day.


"This summer we'll be heading to beautiful Colorado!" Immediately our group of mission trip goers began to murmur about how this trip was going to be so much better than the last two. We were actually going to leave the state!

"My sister actually used to live in Colorado," the boy next me said. Immediately my heart fluttered and I tried to compose myself.

Still, Kelsey? Really? You've known him for TWO YEARS now...get a clue and get over it.

Willing my knees to stop trembling and my thoughts to stop racing, I nodded my head cooly. I would NOT play the fool this time. He would have to come to ME.


my new vacuum

2 weeks ago my life changed forever.

Brent and I bought a vacuum when we first got married. It was a red Dirt Devil and it served us well for a time.

And then, one day in late December, I was vacuuming and then...nothing. It just stopped. It didn't make a weird noise or even smell like it was burning. Just...nothing.

Bummer. Lucky for me I live near my mom. She had recently bought a Dyson. Oh how I had always dreamed of using a Dyson to vacuum. So she lugged it over, and I smiled whilst finishing the vacuuming job. And we continued this back and forth with her new vacuum until this month.

This month I guess I had used her vacuum for too long...and Brent saw how fabulous it was. SO, when I got a 30% off coupon to Kohls off we went. And we bought our very own Dyson.

I have vacuumed approximately 100 times since we bought it. I can't get enough of it. I have never had a vacuum that SUCKS so much! Literally. Here are a few things I just can't get enough of:

1. It has a clear canister which is super easy to remove and empty when the job is finished. I love the clear canister because I can see just how much dirt I've picked up!
2. It has is one of those "ball" vacuums. Which means it turns on a dime! I can easily maneuver corners and get behind chairs etc. Awesome.
3. It just LOOKS COOL.
4. It is light. For a vacuum. I can easily carry it here and there and everywhere!
5. Previous vacuums I have had the pleasure of working with have had hoses and attachments that had a million different pieces and took 15 minutes to attach and get in an operable state. Not my Dyson! The hose is already a part of the vacuum and it is as easy as one two three to use :)
6. Most people don't have carpet in their kitchen, right? [Well, we did but have updated! Thank goodness!] Lucky for me I can still use my vacuum on our laminate floors. I just have to push a bottom and the magic vacuum switches from carpet to hard floors. Beautiful.
7. Did I mention it looks really cool?
8. It doesn't have filters. I mean...it has a filter that I can WASH and use indefinitely!

Besides dusting, vacuuming has been my least favorite part of cleaning. But now...oh NOW... I love it! I seriously have been at school and DAYDREAMED about going home to vacuum! After we purchased it I sent mom a picture. She text me back and said, "My cute grand-vacuum!" It really should be a part of the family.

So now I just need to find something to help me enjoy dusting because I enjoy the rest of the cleaning I have to do!


students' responses to poetry

As we are wrapping up the poetry unit, I had my students write a reflection asking them to let me know how their view of poetry has changed etc. Here are a few responses that make me happy :)

I really liked doing this poetry section! Before this class the only poetry I wrote had rhythm and rhyme because I had very little knowledge about any other poetry aspect.

I enjoyed poetry before, but I want to write a thousand new poems now! Each day I became more and more fascinated with poetry. And I burn to write more each day. I found myself wanting to write more than I planned on writing. I couldn't stop my brain!

My view of poetry has changed a lot. I used to think it was easy and dumb, but I found out it's fun and hard. [
well said ;)]

I realized that poetry is like music.

One of my favorites : I still don't like poetry, but it isn't as bad as it used to be.

The more we write in class the more I want to write out of it.

It can release strong emotion or just help release overwhelming stress and pressure that builds up daily even though we fight to suppress emotions that scare or disturb us.

Haikus are by far my favorite because they are very short. :)

Poetry is beginning to grow on me.

My point of view of poetry has changed for the better. I like writing poetry because grammar and spelling aren't as important. My favorite piece is "Trespass" because I was able to describe how teens feel like their feelings and emotions are ripped out by people.

Poetry is no longer a task that makes me cringe, though it can still be a hard task. I no longer shy away from writing poems...but actually look forward to it.

I'm kinda starting to like poetry. I didn't like it before, but now I love it. It's difficult though. Poems can let your true colors come out on paper. It is fun.

My view of poetry has changed greatly. I actually like it more now. Poetry has given me different thoughts about writing.

My view of poetry has changed because you can easily turn any piece of writing into a poem. You have endless options. I really like poetry now.

Poetry, although confusing at times, really isn't that hard to write. All you need is a little creativity and something to write about.

When you get started, poetry isn't all that bad.

I have become more grateful for poetry. It has a lot of meaning and can say so much.

I liked the poems I wrote during this unit because I have never said those things out loud or wrote them down. It means a lot to not just let it build up inside me like I normally do.

Before I didn't like poetry...now I like it and actually have respect for it because I learned that sometimes it isn't easy to write.

I want to do more poems now that I know how. I like writing imitation poems [
poems written based off of a poem by someone else] because I can bond with the poet and create more.

I used to think that poetry was hard, but now I know it isn't as difficult as I originally thought.

I like to write poetry now. I can think of some very creative things to write about. I have tried to really slow down and write creatively and make more sense.

By doing poetry my views have tremendously changed. I realize that poetry is a good way to express my mood for that day. Also there are many different ways to put your moods into the poems.

Many teachers are afraid of teaching poetry. They think it is hard to convey something that is subjective and creative. I enjoy it! I love seeing my students learn to appreciate it in a new way. Grading it all...now that is another story...


Little Bits of Tid: 2nd addition

I was looking at old posts and this title caught my attention: Way back from 2008 so I thought I would go round two!

* As I mentioned the other day, the ladies on my basketball team captured the first District Championship for our school for the first time since 1984. Last night we traveled to a high school in "the big city" for our Sectional game [It was TOO funny to hear the girls as we walked into the school..."WHAT!?! They have FLAT screens in their CAFETERIA!?" "WHAT?! They have a SPIRIT STORE?!" "HOLY COW this LOCKER ROOM is as big as our OLD GYM!!" "There are like a MILLION BATHROOMS in here...with AUTOMATIC SINKS!" You would have thought we lived in the mud. I couldn't help but laugh at their enthusiasm. Our hostess showed us into the locker room and asked me if the girls had brought their own locks... "Umm... No?" Different world for us :)... but I digress]. We played a team that we beat in overtime 2 weeks ago. And as "they" all say, it's tough to beat a good team twice. We came out flat. We missed a lot of shots. We didn't rebound well. And then in the third quarter we hit 4 or 5 threes in a row and were up 5. They came back. With a minute left we got up by one. But just couldn't hold on. It was a tough loss because we didn't play our best, but the girls have absolutely nothing to be ashamed about. After the game I told them to think about last Saturday and what they accomplished there...not last night. Tough loss. Tough to see them so down today at school. But this too shall pass... they just doing think it will.

* Brent bought me a massage for Christmas. I decided then that I would save it and use it after basketball was over. It was one of the first things I thought of as the time expired at the game last night. I'm really looking forward to it.

* The weekend--scratch that: TOMORROW!-- is the alumni tournament here. For those of you that have been under a rock or something, "here" is my Alma mater. MEANING, the alumni tournament is for me. And I am not in great shape, let me tell you. I know I'm not OUT OF SHAPE, but in sprint-up-and-down-the-floor-as-fast-as-you-can shape? I don't think so. Regardless, I am looking forward to play basketball again in a game setting. And better yet, I get to play with girls that I have shared some great memories with. It should be fun. ....... and then I will ice my body until I am blue.

* We had a tornado drill at school today. Weird. I know these things are necessary, but they are strange if you ask me. In what other profession do you pretend to be in such distress and chaos? [Maybe I'm naive. Maybe a lot of professions do this?]

*Caroline had a bird land and poop on her cute bald head yesterday at the zoo. I don't know if Kali is going to blog about it, so I just had to mention it because it is hilarious if you ask me.

* When I set down to write this blog I jotted down a few things I wanted to remember to mention. Apparently I needed to be more descriptive because I have no idea what this one means: shout out whites. Anyone? Any idea?

* I have recently been thinking about putting labels on my blogs. For those of you that don't blog, this is a way to sort and keep track of what you have written about. For example, I could label them "teaching" "family" "travel" or whatever, and if I ever wanted to look back and see what I had written on the subject, or any of you for that matter, you could click on the label. I can't decide if I want to. For those of you that blog and label, would you recommend it? Why?

*I told Brent I would start P90X after the season. Ugh. Monday will come too soon.

*I am like my father in more ways than one, but one major way I am like him is that I get cold sores whenever I am stressed out. I got them this summer when we moved; I get them at the beginning of school years; I got them at the end of softball season; and I have them now. I noticed one starting this week, which was no surprise with the game we were going to play, and on the way home I noticed I now have 5 in my mouth. I don't think I've ever had them this bad. Not fun. Not fun.

* I'm still trying to figure out what "shout out whites" meant. Weird.

Well, I think that is enough tidbits for now. I better start stretching for the game tomorrow.

OHHHHHH...I just figured it out [yes, this is stream of conscious writing at its best: I was supposed to give a "shout out" to my friends "the Whites!" ]

:) Happy 5 year Anniversary tomorrow! [Meagan is writing their story over here and it is hilarious and awesome] We love you guys!



As I mentioned earlier, we are currently in our poetry unit in LA. That means HAIKU! For those of you that don't remember these little gems, they are the "syllable poems." They originated in Japanese culture and follow a syllable pattern of 5-7-5. They focus on creating a story through strong imagery using just 17 syllables.

I am always amused and impressed with what my students are able to accomplish within 3 lines of poetry. Here are a few examples:

Whole world in His hands
created in seven days
seas and milky way

TING! It is flying
over the fence in the field
Crowd roars violently

Darkness covers you
when you sleep so snug at night
Not a bit of light

The mud on the boots
shows that hard work has been done.
It's time to party

Soldiers fall quickly
like the autumn leaves in fall
dancing in the wind

Love shows no mercy
it is not jealous or rude
we shall not hate love

Farming in the fall-
corn gets picked and cows get moved.
Fence gets built. Cows calve.

In a May morning
corn and beans grown with sun, rain
Calves get bigger too

I watched as he moved
across the dance floor of life.
I did not cut in.

A caterpillar
tickles my feet as it crawls
over them slowly

Sakura blossoms
gracefully flutter downwards
swept away by winds

Football cleats running
shoulder pads crunching loudly
one man wrecking crew

Like a butterfly,
Really beautiful at sight
but hard to capture

I'm not creative
so writing haikus is hard
but I'm almost done

Shelves holding old books
full of words for me to read
I love libraries

Life's like a rain storm-
get an umbrella and deal-
or you will get wet

flying in the air
national symbol of all
the eagle flies free

Driving the tractor
going 20 down the road
wanting to get home

Sitting in the stand
waiting on a massive buck
hoping he comes soon

Erasing pencil
writing down your thoughts for all
freedom in writing

Hearing the rumble
Blinding light in the distance
off to the basement

Two different people,
I see two, while you see one,
on the mirrored wall

The wind sways the grass
A narrow stream softly speaks
All is calm for now

It is amazing how different each Haiku is, and it makes me appreciate all the individual thoughts of each of my students.

If you want to comment on this post, I think you should have to do it in a Haiku :) Or should I say:

Commenting on post
should be written in Haiku.
Wouldn't that be fun?


weekend recap


For the first time since 1984 the girls' basketball team won the district championship last night. It was so fun to be a part of it all. We had a great crowd [the gym was packed and a million degrees!] and little Torri B led us to victory with 25 points.

I told Deb [my all-star college roommate] that it reminded me of our senior year in college when her and the other ladies clutched the National Championship and we lingered on the court forever not wanting the moment to be over [of course, it wasn't a national championship but it still felt pretty dang good].

Although I feel like basketball season has lasted approximately 3 years now [sarcasm], it was a fun win and I'm glad we get to keep playing. We play Wednesday night for the Sectional title against a team we previously beat in overtime! It should be a good match up.

Funny side story alert: The couple that always drove the athletic buses when I played in high school still run that operation. It has been fun to reconnect with them and come back as a coach. They always sit behind our bench during the games, and last night after a time out I took a few steps onto the court to finish explaining something to a girl, and Keith [the bus driver] yells, "You can't go out there, Kelsey!" It was tempting though, let me tell ya :)

It was a fun, thrilling, exciting, and exhausting weekend! :-)


poetry in the eyes of skunks

We have started our poetry unit in LA II. I love reading my students' poetry. Today I shared this poem with them because I'm trying to convey the idea that poetry means taking something you care about and making it beautiful. I told them they could write about their muddy cowboy boots and make it a beautiful poem.

I absolutely love this poem. Each time I read it it is like a gift and wanted to share:

Valentine for Ernest Mann
by Naomi Shihab Nye

You can't order a poem like you order a taco.
Walk up to the counter, say, "I'll take two"
and expect it to be handed back to you
on a shiny plate.

Still, I like your spirit.
Anyone who says, "Here's my address,
write me a poem," deserves something in reply.
So I'll tell you a secret instead:
poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes,
they are sleeping. They are the shadows
drifting across our ceilings the moment
before we wake up. What we have to do
is live in a way that lets us find them.

Once I knew a man who gave his wife
two skunks for a valentine.
He couldn't understand why she was crying.
"I thought they had such beautiful eyes."
And he was serious. He was a serious man
who lived in a serious way. Nothing was ugly
just because the world said so. He really
liked those skunks. So, he re-invented them
as valentines and they became beautiful.
At least, to him. And the poems that had been hiding
in the eyes of skunks for centuries
crawled out and curled up at his feet.

Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us
we find poems. Check your garage, the odd sock
in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite.
And let me know.

Another poem I absolutely love and will be sharing my my students soon is the following. I use this one to talk about the importance of titles. W talk about how poems are very very short stories, and you have to squeeze a lot in to the lines. Often the title is the foundation for the entire poem and without it the poem may not make any sense. See below:

Another Reason I Don't Keep a Gun in the House

by Billy Collins

The neighbors' dog will not stop barking.
He is barking the same high, rhythmic bark
that he barks every time they leave the house.
They must switch him on on their way out.

The neighbors' dog will not stop barking.
I close all the windows in the house
and put on a Beethoven symphony full blast
but I can still hear him muffled under the music,
barking, barking, barking,

and now I can see him sitting in the orchestra,
his head raised confidently as if Beethoven
had included a part for barking dog.

When the record finally ends he is still barking,
sitting there in the oboe section barking,
his eyes fixed on the conductor who is
entreating him with his baton

while the other musicians listen in respectful
silence to the famous barking dog solo,
that endless coda that first established
Beethoven as an innovative genius.



coughing makes me hurt
all over
in my throat
in my chest
in my ears
in my RIBS
in my eyes

it makes people turn away
in disgust
"who is that ugly creature
with the red raw nose
and the coughing
like a beast?"

coughing makes me forget
what i'm doing
makes me shake
from head to toe
makes me sweat
makes tears stream down my cheeks

coughing makes me wish
for spring
for comfort
for water
for rest


it's exhausting

heaven is taking a deep breath
clear through to my lungs
so deep i hit the pavement
of my soul