Monday, June 14, 2010

Central Alternative High School

Central Alternative High School  was my home school as a teacher for over 18 years.  I did some of my best and most creative teaching there.  Now the building, and all the gardens we created are up for sale, the students and staff moved to the Forum (The Central Administration Building for the Dubuque Community School District).    A week ago Central held an open  house, and many past staff and students arrived for hugs, to brag of their accomplishments to their favorite teachers, and to say good bye.
 I loved the teaching of writing.  I believe that writing has a way of healing the mind and soul, and many of our students were in need of healing.  Let me start from the beginning.  The students who attended Central were called "at risk."  Many of them had personal problems, others had medical problems, and not a few had mental or socialization problems.  These students were often "school phobic" or over-whelmed by the size of the other high school in town.  Our goal at Central was to "instill responsibility for learning by offering quality alternatives which promote social, emotional, and academic development." 
  Writing is a way to learn, a way to express what you know, a way to ask questions.  So, each of my students was given a journal.  As I explained to students, a journal is not a diary.  A journal is a place to capture experiences, and for students who have few productive experiences, it was necessary to provide them.  We would often walk to the river, only a couple of blocks away.  Or we would car pool to the local arboretum.  Sometimes we would walk the several blocks to the nearest park.  But often, we would just find a place to be in our own  student created gardens.

To create a focus for all this writing, one of the experiences was to create the Central Gardens.  We worked with the art teacher to consider what art was needed, and a pathway was created.  We worked with the special education students and a gazebo was built.  We worked with the technology teacher and developed web pages for each of the flower beds.  We worked with the science teacher to understand plants, soil, and weather.  We worked with a mathematics teacher to decide which plants to plant where using the inclination of the sun.

The gardens will belong to someone else now, and there is no room at the new location for perennial gardens.  The hope is that the new location will somehow be able to give the students love and security, a sense of family and home, and quality alternatives leading to social, emotional, and academic growth.

To check out Central's web site go to:
Below, left to right:  Student built stairwell to Outdoor Classroom, Student sculpture and student built gazebo, stepping stones for garden path.

Right, student designed cement chess table.
Left cement forms to support chess table.

Dusting By Stars

I recently published a collection of poetry.  I designed the cover, but Xlibris designed the rest of the book.  I am very pleased with the results.  If you would like to read a selection of the poetry, please go to and type in Dusting By Stars in the Search box, and follow the directions.  My book is available at,, also in Michigan at Brush Creek Mill in Hillman, or at the bookstore in Gaylord.  I also have it at craft fairs.  Anyone interested in my doing a poetry reading, or my presenting a poetry workshop can contact me by e-mail at:


It is difficult to think of the graduation from high school of my oldest grandchild.  What lies ahead?  College, Career, Marriage, and all the troubles and joys she will experience.  What kind of choices will she make?  What hard lessons will she have to learn?

As her grandmother I want to save her from all the evils of this world, but know that if I could do so, she would remain  a dependent child, not that responsible, independent adult I see her becoming.

Graduation is another death, another birth.  She isn't the child sitting on my lap anymore, but she gives better, more meaningful hugs now.  Hugs filled with the love she feels for me.  She is the Honor student, but looks up to me, though I don't really know why.   Maybe its the grandmother mystique.  I certainly felt my grandmothers were both special, magical people.  We lived with my father's parents until I was in high school.  My grandmother told wonderful stories.  My grandfather could do no wrong and I worshiped him.

My granddaughter has only me.  Both grandfathers are deceased.  The other grandmother is in a nursing home and doesn't always recognize family when they come to visit.  So I become the one.  I used to know my role in her life, but now I have to redefine myself as my darling girl will need to redefine herself, as we all are constantly redefining who we are.  As she will grow and change, we all must continue to grow and change.  As grandchildren look up to us, learn from us, so we are role models for all who meet us.  It is a position we fill, whether we choose to or not.  It is a burden, a responsibility we all carry, knowing others look to us for answers. 

I wish you all well.  I wish a wonderful future for my granddaughter.  I wish us all love.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Michigan May

Mother's Day Weekend:
Friday - 80 Degrees, Sun.
Saturday - Hard Frost, Heavy Wet Snow,
                 Over Night 29 Degrees.
Sunday - Sun, 75 Degrees.

We were warned about the cold.  But none of us really believed it could be true.  It had been the warmest Spring my mother could remember.  She kept tellng me it was too early to plant, but I kept purchasing all the color and beauty I could.

We kept the tender plants in the garage, raised the garage doors to let in the sun by day, and closed at night against the evening chills.  I planted the shrubs, and the new White Cedar Trees, the Dutch Iris bulbs.  And then this:  a snow so heavy bushes hugged the ground. 

We lost no tender plants.  The Iris bulbs have yet to come up, and its June.  The Cedar Trees had been doing well, but were frost burned.  Only one of the ten Vibernum was killed.  A person couldn't tell we had such a May Snow, looking at the flowers in bloom, or the shrubs back to their normal upright stance.  But I learned a valuable lesson about A Michigan May.  Don't plant until after June 1st.  (Though I have to admit, I put everything in by about the 20th of May.)