June 27

What can I learn?

In a recent newsletter, James Clear offered the following challenge: Think of the best coach, teacher, or leader you ever had. What can you learn from them? Think of the worst coach, teacher, or leader you ever had. What can you learn from them?

It was easy for me to identify the best leader I ever had. When I was still in college I had an admin job in the office of a small construction company. My boss, the office manager, was very direct with me from the first day, telling me “I want you to not only learn everything I know, but also outgrow my skills and knowledge.”

What can I learn from that? She was confident in her abilities and value to the organization. She did not feel at all threatened by me, even as she understood one day my value to “someone” might be greater than hers. She wanted to mentor me and help me grow.

The worst leader, there’s been a couple so I’ll meld them into one, since some characteristics were very similar. They used their power to diminish me. Their tone in “instructing” was threatening rather than guiding or supporting. One of them out and out lied and used gaslighting to try and “control” me.

I need to be honest, authentic, and trustworthy.

What can I learn from those experiences? When I am in a more “powerful” relationship (e.g. with students) I need to continually reflect on my behavior and make sure I am using that power to guide, support and mentor rather than break down. I need to be honest, authentic, and trustworthy.

June 23

Anagrams – #EthicalELA Open Write #4

Prompt #4 was to create an anagram poem based on a word or phrase that spoke to us. We were invited into this write on the date of the summer solstice, so what came to mind was “beginnings,” a time to (re)set focus and intentions.


letting go of
leaving behind
the negs
sprinkling ginseng
on my outlook
using my nib
to declare,
my intent
to sing

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June 20

Word Association – #EthicalELA Open Write #3

Today’s prompt asked us to look around our space and notice an object, then go through an exercise of word associations with the object. I cheated… only a little… and took the idea of the prompt. Word associations are commonly used in improv warmups and practices as a way to help the players focus and really connect with their fellow performers, so that was the first word that popped into my mind.


hands loosely grasped
circled together
heads bowed in concentration
listening, observing
waiting, focusing, seeking
that one mind
that leads all
to the same conclusion
and a bout of laughter


June 20

Treasure Hunt — #EthicalELA Open Write #2

I read the prompt and mentor poems shortly before heading out on a lengthy walk. Near the end of my walk, I stopped to check out this odd-looking structure. I have driven by it dozens of times thinking it was the homeowner’s idea of interesting yard art. But no, it contains offerings of free flower bouquets, undoubtedly from the homeowner’s yard, in the style of the Little Free Libraries. What a gift!

humbly I stand erect
assembled of free materials
gathered nearby

humbly offering
free beauty
to all passers-by

June 18

Things you can do with… #EthicalELA Open Write #1

For five days in June, Ethical ELA is hosting a poetry “open write.” Today’s prompt used “things you can do with…” as the opener. The first noun that popped into my mind when reading the introduction was “slug,” because they are the nemesis of Pacific Northwest USA gardens, especially during years like this, when cool, wet weather lingers. I spent several hours in the garden today, and dispatched quite a number of them!

Things you can do with a slug

sprinkle salt on it
chop it in pieces with a spade
feed it some beer
or sourdough starter

invite snakes
and frogs
and songbirds
into your garden
to dine on it

surround plants
with copper bands
to zap it

but ultimately
slug is here to stay
and so am I

May 19


The prompt for this was to describe my first cup of coffee.


Milk, juice,
perhaps water.
Why would
choose to drink

To be sure,
the aroma
is magnificent,
as is
the idea of
cold hands
wrapped around
a steaming mug.

And the coolness factor,
except I wasn’t a cool kid.

Like many a college student
one night I
to stay up
and study.

And my
was born.

May 8

#VerseLove Day 28, By My Self-Love

I am who I am

When I’m by myself
and I close my eyes

I’m flaunting my floppy purple hat,
finding a kindred soul with whom to chat

I’m digging, on my knees
surrounded by lushness and bees

I’m connecting imagination on stage
with life’s realities we all wage

I’m studiously scouring the internet
where next to explore on our planet?

I’ve learned, to me
what is important to be,
and as I gaze
into the mirror,
I am who I am.

May 7

#VerseLove Day 27, Re-Encounters


I remember
taking care of
younger siblings,
in some ways
being alone
in a very
large family.

Younger siblings remember
teaming together,
creating mischief
(and suffering
the consequences).

I hold
both of these
as truth.

Why did I feel alone?
Why was I
(real or imagined)

Was my sense
of responsibility
innate or
imposed by
my parents?

I doubt the prisms
will ever merge into one;
what is important
is to know and be myself.

May 6

#VerseLove Day 26, Found Poetry

The prompt for this piece was, “To start, find a text (e.g. a novel) or series of texts (e.g., novel, poem, article) and pull out words, phrases, sentences that stick out to you. Play around with the words. Rearrange them until a thought or theme jumps out at you. Continue until you’ve created a cohesive text.” I took pages from Wood and Garden Notes and thoughts, practical and critical, of a working amateur by Gertrude Jekyll and highlighted them into a “traditional” found poem, without re-arranging the words.

the handsome group,
singular beauty and refinement
through the hollows
remains running,
three or four together
side by side.
when one
became too worn
another was by its side.
planted in the old ways,
waving rivers of bloom
accidents of cloud and sunshine.
much better
where they are planted
in haphazard sprinklings.

May 5

#VerseLove Day 25, Scientific Method


I observe
my students are
100% racked
with spring fever.

I wonder whether
they hear a word I say?

I have nonetheless
100% confidence
they take pride
in their work
and won’t
let themselves down.

I have 100% confidence
their showcase
next week
will demonstrate
their fervor,
their desire
to be the best
they can be.

I have 100% confidence
they will melt my heart
with joy,
and sadness
to see them go.