Cleaning out after twenty-five years

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Teachers are natural hoarders. As I prepare to retire this year after twenty-five years in the classroom, cleaning out files, closets, and cabinets has been an eye-opening experience and has led me to question my apparently profound desire to keep everything I ever touched.

My classroom is fairly small. I have one closet, one small cabinet with two shelves, two four-drawer file cabinets, and one two-drawer file cabinet. My classroom also has a couple of bookcases that house my classroom library and one smaller bookcase that holds my texts and reference materials.

It really does not seem like a lot…

“Why do we have to read this?”

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Teaching Shakespeare to high school sophomores for twenty-five years has provided no end of amusement for me for various reasons.

For decades, the go-to Shakespeare play for this group was Julius Caesar. The play was always the last item on our syllabus and I was excited when we got to it because that meant the end of the school year was close; summer beckoned.

The teacher in the room next to me for many years was a veteran stereotypical male English teacher straight out of central casting. A little 1960s hippie around the edges, he wrote beautiful poetry and taught…

It’s not really about money, is it?

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When do you get to consider yourself a writer? I read an article the other day where the author identified herself as a writer, which seemed obvious since she wrote the article, but then she went on to say that long before she had ever published anything, she journaled every day and she considered herself to be a writer then, too.

Literal person that I sometimes am, I started my mental wool gathering on this.

The Oxford dictionary defines a writer as “a person who has written a particular text,” or “a person who writes books, stories, or articles as…

The handwritten letter is a dying art

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For Christmas, my daughter signed us up for one of those letter services. It is one of those deals where every couple of weeks you get a letter from history and an explanation of its context. The letters are in the original form, whether typed or handwritten and so it is pretty cool.

Old school that I am, I love the lost art of letter writing. An email does not have the charm of a handwritten letter that comes to your mailbox. An email is just pixels. It has no personality.

My father had a cousin whose wife wrote the…

Probably also true in the north

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Texas is not the only state that has suffered in the Winter Storm of 2021, despite what you might see in the news. Andrew Exum, writing for The Atlantic, accurately depicts the frustration and difficulty the entire South is experiencing because of the double winter storms last week. From power grid failures to water system failures, this has been crippling. Schools and businesses have been closed for a week. Neither mail nor public transportation has run in seven days. Stores have no food or water on the shelves.

Some things I have learned:

1. Invest in infrastructure. Rolling blackouts across…

Is it really about education or is it about the data?

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With retirement from twenty-five years in the secondary classroom upon me (in May!) I have found myself doing a lot of reflection about the state of education today and my own career. I have come to a few conclusions, not all of them entirely comfortable.

American public education has seemingly morphed into one big testing conglomerate. When I look back on how my career has evolved over twenty-five years, the amount of required testing days now required is staggering, and dare I say, heart-breaking.

When my state adopted a new curriculum in 2017, that’s when I knew it was time…

We are not accustomed to this!

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Snowmageddon in the South, 2021. After only four days of being snowed in, I am beginning to identify with Jack Nicholson in The Shining.

After all these decades (not saying how many!) in northwest Louisiana, I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything like this snow event.

Here we are, four days into this:

1. Rolling blackouts. In neighboring Texas there are people that have been without power for days in subfreezing temperatures. In the northwest corner of Louisiana, where I am, we have had rolling blackouts on the coldest day on historic record. The power grids are failing.


But is it all about the money?

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Having a side-hustle is a good way to expand not only your income but also your experience of living.

My side-hustle is writing, and this has paid off for me in a million ways. This is noteworthy because as a writer, you have probably never heard of me, but writing has enriched my life in so many ways.

Let me explain with just one example.

I have always loved the act of writing; my earliest memories always involve reading, going to libraries, buying books. …

Our weird reaction to the weather

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One of the most attractive reasons to live in the Deep South is the winter. Seldom do we suffer the frigid, biting cold that the more northern states endure. In Louisiana, if we have three or four days below freezing, that is considered winter. Those subzero days need not be consecutive.

This week our weather forecasters have been alternately giddy and panic-stricken at the prospect of an incoming “polar vortex” that is expected to bring single-digit temperatures for most of next week. Even better, we also anticipate snow and ice, they tell us.

This means almost certain power outages.


Who are you really writing for?

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Writing is a lonely, solitary craft. We labor over every sentence, every word as we fine tune the perfect tone, and balance the right message.

Some of us are morning creatives, others night owls. But all of us, I dare say, do our best work alone. At least initially. How many times have I been at work fine tuning a thought when someone comes in the room and starts talking to me, only to see my thoughts disappear into vapor, gone forever? At some point you have to share your work, solicit feedback and input, perhaps. …

Pat Austin Becker

Consumer of life, ELA teacher, Louisiana ambassador, avid reader. Author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation (LSU Press).

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