Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “resolutions”

Happy New Year!

For most people, January marks the start of a new year. However, as a teacher, September is the beginning of the year for me. September is when the odometer of the year’s passing begins once again. August is the last of my holiday months and each day draws me closer to the start of my calendar year: September. I actually consider January as my mid-point.

As I write this post I am lounging in bed at 8:25 am. This is the last Monday of the school year where I won’t have either essays to grade or think about assigning. I’m usually up by 5 or 6 am, so staying in bed past 8 0’clock is borderline sloth for me.

As I proofread this post it’s 6:09 am and I have four minutes before I must scamper into my morning routine. It’s Friday of my first week back to school. How can four days make one weak?

A new year typically calls for new year’s resolutions. I don’t much prescribe to resolutions,  instead I form goals. Here are a couple so far:

1. Go deeper instead of wider. I teach seniors which means they are maxed out on absorbing much more information. This year I’m going for them really understanding at least one aspect of each unit. They don’t need to know the entire litany of Anglo-Saxon history,  but knowing that Beowulf was one of the first epic hero archetypes is something that will distinguish a faithful film adaptation from a ridiculous one (Angelina Jolie’s version).

2. Mix more fun in with firm. I have the reputation as a toughie–my son would bear the brunt of this distinction when he was in school. “Dude, your mom yelled at me.” He would then say something like, “You probably deserved it.” They had nowhere to go on that one. But, I also have a sense of humor, and I’m sure I can combine a jib with a jab when the occasion calls for it.

3. Be a more of duck than a sponge. Both deal with water, which I translate to stress.  A duck lets water roll off its back and swims merrily around in the pond, whereas a sponge absorbs the water until saturated and can’t properly function anymore. 

4. Work smarter, not harder. Testing for comprehension is big news these days. We are all tired of being over-tested. Students especially. Grading tests is not so great either. Measuring academic success can take the  form of discussion, a presentation, or a project. I’m hoping for less paper proof of knowledge and more creative measures of learning achievements.

5. Respond more than react. Reacting is typical: “Are you kidding? You are 20 minutes late to class and now you want to go to your locker?!?” Or “Admin is switching to early release schedule for a pep assembly!!! Finals are coming up–what are they thinking?!?” If you have a proper response to these scenarios let me know. I realize it involves something to do with removing exclamatory tone and waving of arms.

Anyone else consider September their new year beginnings? Parents? Students? Other teachers?

As with my resolutions, these will no doubt epic fail before October is ready to roll. That’s why I disguise  them as goals–if I fail, I have an excuse to keep trying.

1/50: Bonhoeffer Abridged

It’s January and the month for resolutions, except I’m more for goals than resolutions. They just seem more positive in purpose (“I will get an agent in 2015”). Resolving to do something sounds like I really don’t want to do it, but might as well give it a try (“I resolve to go through the long, painful process of sending out manuscripts and query letters in my search for representation”). Maybe it’s just semantics.

So–one goal I have this year is to keep track of how many books I actually read in a year. Blogger Bud Valerie Lawson got me looking into it on my Good Reads account and I set up my challenge of 50 books. I roughly hit that last year after going through and counting my GR reviews.





As I attempt this challenge I’ll keep track of my numbers as I periodically share some of my reads. Most of my reviews are on my Good Reads account found on the right hand side of the blog. For instance, my first read of the year is by Eric Metaxas. His Bonhoeffer Abridged provides a fascinating overview about the man who did not back down from his beliefs and openly challenged Hitler and the Nazi regime. A more detailed review is found amongst my GR review collection.

Anyone out there up for taking on the Good Reads challenge? How many books do you think you can take on this year?

Verse for Wear

1st edition

1st edition (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First word purging and now onto verse wearing.

Throughout the year I also collected poems from my daily feeding from Daily offerings are contemporary, while weekends focus on past classics. I began subscribing for a couple of reasons:

1. Poetry appreciation came into my life later than sooner and I’m making up for lost time.
2. Since becoming an AP teacher I figure it’s best practice to move beyond my basic knowledge of Frost–doctors must keep up on new practices, so as a practicing English literature teacher I should as well.

After a year of daily dosing of poems I have found I’m still drawn more to the classic poets, yet still appreciate the “now” of poetry today and listen, for the most part, what is being said.
So, here are the poems that I keep in my “save” file. I plan to wear these verse offerings by pulling them out for discussion in class. And here, as well. Any comments? Are you more contemporary or classic in your poetry choices?

All poems and bio information are from

Edgar Guest:
Guest has been called “the poet of the people.” Most often his poems were fourteen lines long and presented a deeply sentimental view of everyday life. When his father died, Guest was forced to drop out of high school and work full time at the Detroit Free Press, eventually considering himself “a newspaper man who wrote verses.” Of his poetry he said, “I take simple everyday things that happen to me and I figure it happens to a lot of other people and I make simple rhymes out of them.” 

Only A Dad
Edgar Guest 

Only a dad with a tired face,
Coming home from the daily race,
Bringing little of gold or fame
To show how well he has played the game;
But glad in his heart that his own rejoice
To see him come and to hear his voice.

Only a dad with a brood of four,
One of ten million men or more
Plodding along in the daily strife,
Bearing the whips and the scorns of life,
With never a whimper of pain or hate,
For the sake of those who at home await.

Only a dad, neither rich nor proud,
Merely one of the surging crowd,
Toiling, striving from day to day,
Facing whatever may come his way,
Silent whenever the harsh condemn,
And bearing it all for the love of them.

Only a dad but he gives his all,
To smooth the way for his children small,
Doing with courage stern and grim
The deeds that his father did for him.
This is the line that for him I pen:
Only a dad, but the best of men.

From the book "A Heap o' Livin'" ©1916

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I appreciate this poem because it gets a shout out to dads. There are so many poems that exult moms (which I don’t mind) and I think fathers get shorted on all they do and how we feel about them.
Radar Data #12
by Lytton Smith
It was in the absence of light
as when near new moon and 
no moonlight; as when a part 
of a picture is in shadow (as 
opposed to a light); as when 
in the condition of being 
hidden from view, obscure, 
or unknown–in concealment, 
or else without knowledge 
as regards to some particular; 
and of the weather, season, 
air, sky, sea, etc., characterized 
by tempest; in times, events, 
circumstances etc. subject to 
tempers; inflamed, indicative, predictive, or symbolical of 
strife (harbinger of coming 
trouble)-a period of darkness 

occurring between one day & 
the next during which a place 
receives no light from the sun, 

and what if it is all behind us? 
I no longer fear the rain will 
never end, but doubt our ability 

to return to what lies passed. 
On the radar, a photopresent 
scraggle of interference, as if 

the data is trying to pretend 
something’s out there where 
everything is lost.

About This Poem   
“People are always curious where a name like ‘Lytton’ comes from–and it’s not from modernist biographer Lytton Strachey, but gothic novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton. He famously came up with the opening phrase (in Paul Clifford) ‘It was a dark and stormy night.’ But I’ve begun to feel guilty mentioning that; his opening sentence is actually pretty good, so I’ve begun writing a whole series of poems that try to translate, rework, recuperate it.”  Lytton Smith

This is My Life
by William Stanley Braithwaite
 To feed my soul with beauty till I die;
To give my hands a pleasant task to do;
To keep my heart forever filled anew
With dreams and wonders which the days supply;
To love all conscious living, and thereby
Respect the brute who renders up its due,
And know the world as planned is good and true-
And thus -because there chanced to be an I!

This is my life since things are as they are:
One half akin to flowers and the grass:
The rest a law unto the changeless star.
And I believe when I shall come to pass
Within the Door His hand shall hold ajar
I’ll leave no echoing whisper of Alas!

Over the course of his career, Braithwaite founded a publishing company and taught creative writing at Atlanta University. His poetic style was influenced by English Romantic poets John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and William Wordsworth.
This poem smacks of resolution for the New Year. It stirs a resolve to become better than I am and to leave no regrets at the passing of the day. Yup, that’s what a poem should do–get some soul stirring going.
My hopes are that your New Year will be filled with verse, be it created or found, and that the words will resonate in your life into others!

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