About Me

I am a second-career teacher. In my other life, I crunched numbers as an accountant. Probably would have made a great math teacher had the thought occurred to me. No matter, I'm where I'm supposed to be; teaching third grade. Before that, 2nd grade and before that kindergarten. I have 2 grown daughters, 2 poodles, and 1 hubby. I live and work on Long Island.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

What I Do



After work, exhausted, I plopped down in a showroom chair. Waiting to finalize the order for my new sofa, I actually closed my eyes. My father used to say “I’m not sleeping. I’m just resting my eyes.”

I was sleeping.
But only for a few seconds.  But admittedly out like a light.

In my reverie I heard  “Okay Mrs. Zimmerman we’re all set.”  I opened my eyes and the salesman, somewhat surprised by my snoozing, asked me what I do.

Without skipping a beat I said, “I teach 7 year olds how to be nice to each other.”

It was that kind of a day.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Conversation With a Dragonfly


Just look at you!
All dainty and glittering
like a bubble bath.

You look familiar….

Haven’t I seen you somewhere?
Was it on the list of Insects People Like?

What they don’t know
is what an unerring hunter you are,
such a voracious aerial predator are you.

There you go….
Plotting your course like the ancient mariner
able to snatch your target in midair
focus singly on your prey amid a cloud of fluttering fraternity brothers
attack your lone target from the chaotic swarm.

Glutton….
Wolfishly consuming, tearing up your kill and mashing it into a single glob.

Munch, munch, munch…
a wad of snuff for your mouth.

Bantam creature
Bottomless appetite

Not much one for smelling or pheromonal flirtations.
Not you.

Who knew?
Gilled predator, you hatch from an egg;
Hydrojet through water in search of aquatic prey.
Until….

you are ready to spread your wings and take your hunt to the sky.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Thank you note


To Stacey and Ruth,
Thank you so much for providing this forum for me to try on my writer’s outfit.


I compare the fit to the different styles of jeans.

Sometimes it feels relaxed and comfy.
Once in awhile, dark rinsed.
Other times, classic.
I try to be as often as possible skinny and tight.
But many times it's as unfamiliar as my boyfriend’s.
More than I’d like distressed.
Wishfully timeless.
When I’m tired, slim.
What I aim for, straight.
My voice as vintage as bell-bottoms.
But most of all, absolutely every day
Gratefully yours,
Rissa

Saturday, March 30, 2013

My Place in The Family


I am the oldest child in my family. My sister came along when I was in kindergarten and I was not happy about that at all. I liked being the only child in the spotlight for five years.

I used to boss her around and tell her what to do. I used to play the See Who Has More game with my sister. I would take advantage of the five year difference by getting her to fork over her M&Ms without any remorse whatsoever!

But as much as I wanted to be the only child back then, I sure am happy I have my sister now.

Especially when your parents are gone, and it’s just you and your sister representing.



I still tell her what to do. Sometimes she tells me what to do.
I share my M&Ms with her now.

It’s just me and my sister left in our family and we have to hold onto each other…..tight.

Friday, March 29, 2013

How Old is Too Old for Candy?


I’ve never seen an old person eating Peeps, Candy Corn, or Swedish Fish. I think M&Ms are perhaps ageless and Hershey’s chocolate bars most definitely are. But once you start with the chewy stuff that could yank the teeth out of your mouth in one sticky chew, I’m thinking that those are better left to the young.

I still enjoy Smarties, Gummy Lifesavers or for that matter, any type of hard to chew candy. But I wonder, will I ever be too old for them? 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Movie Review


Last night I watched Parental Guidance with Billy Crystal and Bette Midler. No sillies, they weren’t watching with me; they starred in the movie along with Marisa Tomei and 3 really cute kids.

The movie made me excited to be a grandma someday. Not that it’s close yet, but I still dream of it.

Billy Crystal was so funny singing in the toilet to help his youngest grandson get the “urge” to poop. I would totally do that.

Bette Midler tried hard to stick to the vegan diet her daughter prescribed for the kids but when her cooking efforts tanked, they ordered in pizza. I would try to follow my daughters’ dietary restrictions but a little pizza couldn’t hurt!

Trying to be forward thinking, Artie and Diane (Billy and Bette) use appropriate strategies to preserve the kids’ self esteem, but they know when good old-fashioned discipline (served with love) is in order. I would never let my grandkids run amok no matter how precious they will be!

If you haven’t seen the movie, you should. You won’t be sorry. I laughed a lot. 
And now
I’m daydreaming of grandkids.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A List of Wise-isms


This started out as just a list but it took on a life of its own, one that I try to model mine on.
Please share your wise sayings with me!

*A woman is like a tea bag, you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.
*All you need is love.
*A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost.
*Beauty comes from within.
*Birthdays should happen every day-or at least we should treat each other as if everyday is yours.
*Comparison is the thief of joy.
*Don’t ask permission, ask forgiveness.
*Don’t believe everything you hear.
*Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.
*Don't forget your manners.
*Elegance is not about being noticed, it's about being remembered.
*Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
*Girls just wanna have fun.
*Good things come to those who wait.
*Here comes the sun.
*If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies.
*If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
*If you think you can’t you won’t, if you think you can, you will.
*In the middle of the night, when you can't fall back asleep, thinking of nothing is as close to impossible as anything in the world.
*It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
*Keep the faith.
*Keep it simple, stupid.
*Kill them with kindness.
*Learn from your mistakes.
*Learn something new every day.
*Live in the moment.
*Love means never having to say you’re sorry.
*Make it a great day!
*Money can’t buy you love.
*Money doesn’t buy happiness.
*Smile and the whole world smiles with you.
*So be it.
*Sometimes the things we can’t change end up changing us.
*That which doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.
*The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
*The early bird catches the worm.
*This too, shall pass.
*Those who say don't know; those who know don't say.
*To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late, and to be late is unacceptable.
*Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
*We'll zip up our zips and button our buttons. No need for good-bye, see you all of a sudden.
*When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.




Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, Beautiful boy (lyrics by John Lennon)


He entered my class with a hug and a huge smile. He said “I’m so excited for second grade, Mrs. Zimmerman and did you know that worms are not insects?”

Strawberry blonde and blue eyed, he is as impulsive as he is delightful.

He blurts out questions that he needs to know the answers to NOW. He does not like to wait.

Sometimes I try to explain things, at other times I realize that he doesn’t reason the way typical eight year olds do.

He knows so much about the physical world. He loves music.
It makes him dance.

When he regrets his choices, he apologizes and says “I’ll try harder next time, Mrs. Zimmerman.” He means it.

Sometimes he refuses to do his work. He soaks up information like a sponge but subtraction with regrouping scares him. He is uncomfortable acquiring new information through traditional methods.

He struggles with a pencil but he loves to write poetry. The words flow easily from his mind to the page.

His giggle is like the sun, lighting up our classroom. He inspires us to be more tolerant, compassionate to each other.

I listen to my heart and trust my gut. I try to see the world through his beautiful eyes.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Peeking in Windows


Dusk.
Inside, the lights are on.
Half empty dishes to be cleared off tables set with fine linen, crystal, china, silver.

Men relaxing, reclining in dining room chairs at fully extended dining room tables. 
Gesturing, smiling, talking serious business talk.

The women, getting ready the sweets, the coffee, tea.
An assembly line that loads the dishes, hand washes the platters, dries them, puts them back where they belong.

Children, playing; trying to find the hidden matzoh for a prize. Running, laughing, chasing each other.

The car, driving down the block, peeking in windows.
The driver, just for tonight is envious of what is inside.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Chicken Soup for a Daughter's Soul


My mother made the best chicken soup. Everyone said so. Even her mother-in-law who never enjoyed anything she prepared loved my mother's chicken soup.

Her matzoh balls were light and fluffy but with just the right amount of density in the very center. She’d sauté the leftovers with onions for my dad who loved anything smothered with onions.

I never had any interest in knowing what went on her kitchen especially since if I came near her while she was cooking or baking, she’d have me clean up and that wasn’t any fun at all.

But somehow, I realized the importance of knowing how to make that chicken soup just like she did. So I watched her. And I wrote down all the ingredients and when they should be added and how much of each because my mom wasn’t good at the actual measurements.

My parents were snowbirds; flying back and forth when it was warm in New York and Florida. Sometimes they made it back to Long Island for Passover, depending on when the holiday fell.

One year, they were home for the holiday at our house. I made her chicken soup as I always do for our Seder.

Concentrating, she took a sip or two. She declared it was better than her own.

In the kitchen now, as I prepare her soup for Passover; clean the Kosher chickens, add the proper amount of salt, place the parsnips, turnips, carrots, and celery in the pot at the precise moment, set the bunch of dill towards the very end - she is with me.
Ever critical of me, it is only encouragement I feel as I make her soup.

Her voice hums in my heart praising my soup; I am always aware of the power of how she passed the torch all those years ago, thankful for her gift of teaching me how.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

What's in a name?



She was born  Risë Steenberg in New York City; her unusual first name, pronounced REE'-zah, came from her Norwegian forebears. "In school, I was called everything but Risë"she once recalled. "I would have arguments with the teachers. I would say, `I should know how to pronounce my own name.'"


My namesake passed this week. She was 99-twelve years older than my mom would have been.

Her name was  Risë with two dots over the e. She sang for the Metropolitan Opera as a mezzo-soprano. My mom loved that name and she loved opera although she would never see Risë Stevens perform at the Met. Oh no, my mom never had the chance to go to the opera for many reasons. But she saw Risë perform on the Ed Sullivan show and The Tonight Show and heard her sing on the radio. If she had any of her records, I don’t know but she probably did. Because my mother loved music-every kind of music.

And she loved my name. In fact, she loved it so much that she let her brother use it to name my older cousin. So yes dear reader, I had a cousin with the same name making me, little Rissa.

Oh, did you notice the spelling of my name is different? Yes, that was my mom’s way of creating just that little bit of nuance since she gave the name to my cousin who spells her name -Risé not with the dots but with an accent you see?

I was teased for it but I never hated my name. I do not enjoy Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups which is what the boys in school called me.

Risë Stevens was born in NYC to a Norwegian-born father and an American Jewish mother. The  New York Times obituary gives the pronunciation of her name as REE-suh which is how I pronounce mine. But it is actually the obit in the Philadelphia Inquirer that shows the correct pronunciation of her name: REE’-zah.

There are two pronunciations to my name as well.  My dad insisted that the correct pronunciation would be RISS-suh since that is how it is spelled. So if someone calls me that, I never correct them because it reminds me of my dad. But when I am asked, I say it rhymes with Lisa. Some call me Reese and I quite enjoy that. There is one person on earth that calls me RISS and that's my sister.

What's in your name? I'd love to hear!







Friday, March 22, 2013

Structured


My reputation as a second grade teacher is that I provide students with a structured classroom. At least, I believe that is my reputation because honestly we don’t truly know what is said about us behind our backs.

Anyway, most of the time the relationship I have with the parents of my students is based upon mutual respect. There are occasional families that do not appreciate the limits and structure I provide. Usually their children are the ones that need our type of classroom the most.

But I digress because this is not a vent. This is a moment of gratitude.  I have a student in my class this year who is very bright and very ….. spirited. Her parents are smart and well educated. M has responded to my teaching style in such positive ways. She has blossomed this year and I adore her.

But I digress because this is not about me patting myself on the back.
As I mentioned above, this is a moment for gratitude.

What I am grateful for is this:

M’s parents do not miss an opportunity to thank me in notes, emails, or when they see me at a school event. They are so happy that their daughter loves coming to school each day and how she has made positive changes in her behavior towards her baby brothers at home. I thank them for their expression of appreciation all the time. It’s not every day that we hear how we positively affect our younger students. And boy oh boy, the negative stuff is as powerful as a knife in our hearts.

I am home today with my daughter who is having a second surgery in a month’s time. (It’s minor and she’s going to be fine). But I found out that M’s mom baked cookies for me today and sent them in to school.

And who wouldn't be grateful for cookies?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

I So Need A Vacation

I can sleep in if I want to
I can read all the books on my nightstand
    or maybe a few
    or just one
I can try a new recipe
I can spring clean my closet 
I can read the manual for my new classroom document camera (or not)
I can watch David Letterman
I can run my errands in daylight
I can finish a decorating project or two
I can catch up with clutter
I can help my husband with his busy tax season
I can take Ralph on long walks (if the weather warms up)
I can meet a friend for lunch
or....

I can do nothing at all

Ahhhhhhhh

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I Am An Eavesdropper


I am an eavesdropper. There it is. I confess to it.

There are some times when I voyeuristically just listen but there other times when….well ….
I admit that there are also some times when I barge right on in (but always politely of course!)

Here is a story of one of those times.

The author of a recent book I read was speaking at our local bookstore. I got there early so I could sit in the front row.

Sitting there waiting alone and mostly self-conscious among the women-filled audience; I clutched my copy of The Red Leather Diaries; I listened in to the dangling conversations swirling around.

Hearing all those snippets of book chatter made me long for a book club.

Read this! A journey into the past.
Zeroing in on the delightful dialogue directly behind me, I knew what my next step would be.
Taking a deep breath, I spun around to take a complimentary course. 

“I can tell you are enchanted with Lily Koppel and the story of the diary,” I said.

That was my opener…that’s it. The three women who were sitting behind me graciously welcomed me into the conversation before the author, Lily got to the podium to speak.

The quality of that itty bit of book talk was inspiring. It catapulted me to another realm as I listened to that author’s writing journey.

When it was over, I turned to say good-bye to my new acquaintances. We murmured our content with the evening.

Much to my surprise and complete pleasure, these three women, these strangers invited me to join them at their next book club meeting!

I hope I have the guts to go.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Breaking Up With Winter


We need to talk.

I just can’t do this anymore.

I need to put my black to rest.

Focus more on my colors.

I just want my closet back the way it used to be.

I need to wipe the mud from my boots.

I’m not in love with wool any more.

I deserve better than this.

Scarves, mittens, gloves just aren’t working for me.

Hats, I’m so over you.

There’s someone else.

You are going to make someone happy, someday.

But it’s over and it has been for a while.

I hate you.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

the blues


they plan their attack

gather momentum

gain their foothold

creep in through my slumber.

heart heavy

helpless

i will not surrender

as they poke holes in my soul

demanding me to solve a solution-less puzzle.
 



Saturday, March 16, 2013

Inspiration at the Nail Salon


I was eavesdropping on a conversation between two teachers at the nail salon. Actually, I interrupted them. I couldn’t help myself. They were commiserating about the state of testing and what it’s doing to kids and to learning. One of the women, a high school teacher called it child abuse. And I can see her point.

I chimed in to admire her passion and her persuasiveness. We all feel it. Some of us are so good about expressing what’s wrong with the system. With our collective state of irritation, it’s remarkable why policymakers refuse to listen to us teachers on the front line.

They have their own agenda….whether it’s union busting or firing ineffective teachers or who knows what.  They’re packaging a scheme that we teachers completely control the learning and trying to put a pretty bow on a test.  Simply put, we do not completely control learning. Furthermore, the increased reliance on test scores to evaluate teaching and to determine funding is destructive.
It’s taking its toll on our kids. It is child abuse.

Teaching alone does not facilitate learning.  We all know that studies show how learning is the result of excellent planning, ongoing assessment, smart decisions, highly collaborative teams, and FAMILIES that contribute to the value of the educational process.

In many school districts across the U.S. the poverty levels are such that parent’s primary concern is about paying the rent and feeding their kids and aren’t able to help with homework.

We are losing the home/school connection.  
Without it, we cannot guarantee learning anymore than a dentist can guarantee their patients won’t get cavities if they don’t practice good dental habits at home like brushing and flossing.

But yet policy continues to demand that we control the learning. And as we know from our classrooms, demanding something from our students rarely produces the desired results.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Interesting


She’d snip them and mail them to me in an envelope from Florida. Funny pieces written by Erma Bombeck, comics, recipes, local news, that sorta stuff. Things she had been reading that she thought I might find interesting.

Because as she read the newspaper and found things that were interesting,

she thought of me.

Now as I read the newspaper each morning, I cut the interesting pieces and paste them into text messages to send to my own girls. Stories about the world of fashion or social media, local news, that sorta stuff.

Because as I am reading things that are interesting,

I think of them. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Onward Writer!


My first writing memory is when I plagiarized. My fourth grade teacher was so kind. She didn’t even make me feel like the idiot I was for copying the blurb of my library book for our weekly book report assignment. I still tell the story about how she quietly called me over to her desk to respectfully bust me.

No more writing memories until the traumatic red marks made their appearance in the margins of my college papers freshman year and I mean ALL over. I sucked.
Or at least my English Comp professor thought so.

Fast forward ….. graduate school in my thirties. Finally, a teacher who believed in me as a writer! I'll always remember her empowering little yellow comment post-its.  Actually, there were a few professors who encouraged me to find my voice by writing more.

I’m still looking for my voice.
Sometimes when I think I’ve found it, I lose it again!
 
This month’s SOL challenge is helping. Comments from fellow Slicers help.
Thank you to Stacey and Ruth for providing this forum to help us practice and share our writing.