Dear fellow teachers (and your students)


As the next school year looms and I prepare to begin my 21st year standing in front of a lecture hall full of one hundred (or more) eager and engaged students, happily professing about my favorite topics, I thought I’d prepare a pep talk for fellow teachers.

Then I thought I’d make another pep talk for future students.

And then I realized students and their teachers all need the same skill set, the same advice, to survive the demands of a semester.

Teachers, remember your students have many other courses, deadlines, labs, meetings, and responsibilities besides your homework. Be gentle: allow for a fumbled ball, a missed assignment, an absence. Consider excusing or dropping a low score. Consider it an outlier.

Students, remember your professors have many other courses to teach and lectures to prepare, hundreds of other students, meetings, committees, spouses, children, pets, and responsibilities besides grading your…

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The journey of a thousand miles…July

nbsmithblog...random digressions and musings

…starts with a single step. In this pedometer geek’s quest (actually more of a in-solidarity-with challenge through a friend, Cally C of Great Britain) of walking a thousand miles in a year, an added dimension was added in July. In addition to putting the usual steps on the pedometer, this pedometer geek decided to participate in the Million Mile Month organization’s Triathlon in a Month by setting a goal of one hundred miles through various activities including walking.

This pedometer geek was successful in the Triathlon, achieving more than a hundred miles (~ 111 miles) by walking (~ 93 miles) and biking (~17 miles) respectively. There were a few miles (based on minutes) logged under gardening, but they were inconsequential to the total. However, because of the biking, fewer steps were logged than normal, or so it is hypothesized by this walker. Only 246,035 steps were recorded on the pedometer…

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Bend down, put your head between your legs….

From the Keyboard

C111 A bomb drills in NY-2 Bomb Drill in NY elementary school

I lived this. Many readers will not have. The instruction was ridiculous, designed to lull children into thinking they would be protected if they followed a simple instruction: Duck and Cover.

Our teachers knew better, and among themselves edited the directive to reflect the truth, but tried not to say it in front of us. Later, of course, we all recalled hearing it, and laughed. What else could we do?

I was in high school during the Vietnam War protests, as well the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy. A nuclear holocaust felt unlikely, but the sight of so many young men sacrificing their lives, coming home maimed or in body bags triggered a new slogan, this time to the President: “Hey, hey, L.B.J, how many kids did you kill today?”  It seemed no matter which side you were on, you…

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Writing Sanctuary at Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing

This gallery contains 4 photos.

Originally posted on Brenda Sutton Rose:
The ferry chugged from the mainland toward Martha’s Vineyard. Seduced by a cool breeze and sunlight refracting off the water, I stood on the deck, facing my destination, blurry and indistinct in the distance.…

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Midnight Cha-Cha-Cha and Tabasco

Scribe Doll's Musings

I am about sixteen.  I wake up in the middle of night.  The sound of distant crunching, faint music and the light spilling into the corridor lure me like the tune of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.  I get out of bed.  Naz, the canine of miscellaneous origin curled up at the bottom of my bed, opens his sleep-glazed eyes briefly, then closes them again.  No cause for alarm.  He’s seen this happen before over the years.  Many, many times.

At the small kitchen table, my mother is leafing through an out-of-date Il Corriere della Sera or Le Monde which she hasn’t had time to look at sooner.  She’s at the office all day and sometimes doesn’t come home until late.  She is buttering a row of three of four grissini, trying not to break them, balances a small piece of parmigiano on the pan flute-like construction, then shakes…

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The Writer’s Life

Eva Lesko Natiello

3834653707_f9204ff6af_z photo by Karl Fernandes

“You do not need to leave your room, remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, be quite still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice. It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

And so the Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing summer conference began with the reading of this Kafka quote. Throughout the weeklong conference, an overarching theme of trust—whether it’s trusting your individual style, voice and process, or allowing yourself to write freely, “clean out the pipes” even if it’s bad writing, or that ideas can come from the subconscious when you least expect it, so be ready and listen for it—revealed itself over and over again.

The MVICW, founded by Alexander Weinstein and in its eighth year, provided poetry and fiction workshops that…

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Not About the Desk


Thursday proved to be an emotional day or I should say, the end of the day culminated in one much needed release.

It was about the desk, letting go, attachment, faith in humanity; and it was not really about the desk at all.

“I’ll be right back, I just need to pull my car up.” I walked out of the Goodwill store with a bounce in my step, a large smile across my face. I needed this lift in my spirit. I put my bag of Goodwill finds on the front seat, pushed down the back seats and laid out the sheet that I purchased to transport my new desk.

I walked into the store, the smile from my face now a downward crescent, the two customer service men that had carried my desk to the front, were gone. “Welcome to Goodwill, can I help you find anything.” The door…

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Scribe Doll's Musings

Some people have studies.  Others dens.  Or offices.  I have a Scriptorium.


In our previous home, H. worked in the spare room, and I at the dining table in the living room.  After a while, however, I found it hard to do any of my own writing in a space that was, ultimately, communal, especially outside working hours.  So, after the usual period of grumpiness and seething dissatisfaction, I came up with a solution. I bought myself a small, folding, wooden exam desk – complete with pen-carrying groove – and a small, folding chair.  I placed them in a corner of our bedroom, between the window and the chest of drawers.  There was enough space for a few white fairy lights to give this corner an air of celebration, a candle for inspiration, and, of course, enough room to write.  Because, at the time, I was translating an Italian novel…

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The journey of a thousand miles…June — nbsmithblog…random digressions and musings

…starts with a single step, and this pedometer geek is working towards goal of walking a thousand miles this year (thanks to the challenge by my friend Cally C of Great Britain). Although this pedometer geek has a daily goal of 10,000 steps (and frequently misses the mark), never has the mileage been tracked to […]

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Six Word Saturday — Scrambled, Not Fried

Ron. Is Just A Monkey Man It’s Friday and he’s seized in the morning with monkey madness; leaves his home with his pockets loaded with quarters for the vending machine. Two quarters buys a monkey sprawled on its back, scratching its belly, or a Heavy Metal monkey two fingers hooking the air, a careless tongue lolling. […]

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