“Words are like stars,” my sixth-grade teacher, Miss Madden, would tell us, “and you should always reach for them.” She believed that words led to ideas that often led to questions. She’d lower her voice to almost a whisper and follow with, “It’s the answers to these questions that lead to new ways of thinking and that’s something for which you should strive.” And wouldn’t you know, she made ‘strive’ a look-up word almost every week until everyone had made it their own.
While teaching at Chadron State College for the past six years, the words I’ve been reaching for have led me to deeper contemplation of such topics as teaching, learning, and social work. I’ve been asking questions… lots of them. They clock in during my lesson plan prep time. “How will I teach this?” Then, “Why should I teach it this way?” The questions pop up in the classroom. I’ll ask a student, “How did you learn that?” To another, “How do you know you’ve learned it?” In my social work classes, I ask about the challenges of diversity, fairness, and social justice.
My work in words is an examination of the answers to these questions, heartfelt reflections that often result in poems, essays, and memoirs. Words lead to writing- my way of learning, my way of thinking in fresh perspective. Inspiring my students to think in new ways is what I strive for, a lofty endeavor sparked by a sixth-grade teacher who believed in stars and the glitter of words…