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