Loose livestock, the anniversary shoutout, and happy birthday to you!

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I could easily live in a home with no television. But radio? That is a different story. I love a good, local radio station.

It is not just for the music. If all I wanted was music, I can make a playlist on Spotify or I can stream my favorite station on satellite radio. I love the human element: the real deejay in real time talking to me through the airwaves.

Years ago, we used to go camping in Arkansas and the only station we could get on the transistor…

The lessons she taught me in the endless polishing

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In a safe deposit box in a bank near my home is my mother’s silver. An entire set of sterling silver flatware: knives, forks, salad forks, dessert forks, teaspoons, soup spoons…all of it. It is wrapped in a special blue silver cloth to minimize tarnishing, and it rests in the box, not quite forgotten but certainly neglected.

It is beautiful and I have memories of many occasions when it was my job as a child to polish the silver for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner which is about the only time we…

Sometimes life gives us more chapters to write

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In two weeks, I will walk out of my classroom for the last time. Two weeks!

I won’t lie. There is a little anxiety there: will I have enough money? Will I miss the kids? Will I get sick of staying at home? Will my family get on my last nerve? Should I get a part time job?

This last year of teaching has been the most difficult and the most stressful. Teaching through a mask, for example, is not something I was ever prepared for. The expectations that have been placed…

…and how my students developed a renewed love of reading.

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In 2018, when our school district moved to a scripted ELA curriculum that no longer included the reading of novels, I decided to build a classroom library. It was unfathomable to me that my sophomores would no longer read To Kill a Mockingbird or any other full-length book! Instead, they would be reading a lot of non-fiction articles, Macbeth, and a few short fiction pieces. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was in our curriculum however we did not read the book; we only read the Prologue. Travesty!

I decided we needed to read.

I started doing some research on…

Probably not the best idea right now

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It is testing season in education. Across the country, students, having survived the pandemic, are now sitting for standardized testing in their classrooms.

It has been such a weird year; my district has been face-to-face since August. We have had a virtual option for the few students who opted for that, but for the most part, my classes have been normal in number. Both students and teachers have been wearing masks all year long and as teachers we have been tasked with the constant cleaning and sanitizing, trying to ensure social distance, all of those pandemic sorts of things. …

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…

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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