Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Here is the latest column from the Suburban Journals, St.Louis, MO

I have many gifts in life, not the least of which is the gift of time. My job gives me some summer days when I have really nothing to do. That is a bonus that I do not take lightly. If you ever get a day like that, or even a few hours, here are a couple of things that you might consider.

* Get under a tree, lie on your back, and observe the intricacy of the branches. Watch how they interact with the wind, how the sun shifts across the spaces, the shadows on the leaves, and how you can just barely make out a patch of blue here, a cloud there.

* Next time there’s a rainstorm, don’t be afraid to get wet. Be careful of lightning, and be somewhere where you can change easily, but try standing out in it for even a few minutes. You will laugh out loud at how totally drenched you can get in such a short time.
* Wake up before sunrise and turn east. See the horizon as it lightens, first pink, then pale blue, then into the days yellow. Close your eyes and feel the warmth grow as the minutes pass.

* Sit with a one-year-old and watch her eat a popsicle with only a diaper on (the kid, not you!). Fight the urge to wipe away that sweet goo rolling down her chin and drip-dripping onto her fat tummy. After all, it doesn’t bother her one bit. All she knows is how great that cold feels on those swollen gums. Marvel at how she fights to get that last morsel in the middle, by now a soft, slippery sliver that will not be lost. Then, when she hands you the empty stick… get her another.

* Read a book in two days. Keep it under 250 pages. Blaze through it like Mine That Bird shooting the rail at the Kentucky Derby. Escape into the characters, devour their world. Laugh, and cry. (I have a suggestion, but that would just be too much self-promotion.)

* Play 9 holes by yourself on a weekday. The crowds are back to work (sorry, guys), and you can be as bad as you want, with no pressure from buddies commenting on your shots, or worse, saying nothing as they suppress their grins as you smoke that egg hard right and a good 20 yards into the thicket. On the flip side, you also have no obligation to insincerely mumble praise at your opponents drive, even as you secretly wish it had hop-skipped just past the ladies tee. Playing alone is underrated, really. You can talk to yourself without fear of commitment to an institution, doing your own hushed commentary…”Anselm needs this slippery 15 footer for his first U.S. Open.” Or drop a few balls anywhere you want and keep hitting til you get it right. Then, after paring that #5 where you always go 2 over, just sit in the cart and let the waving breeze cool your forehead. Oh, and don’t dare keep score. No one would believe you anyway. Hey, it’s a practice round, dude.

Yeah, I know I’m spoiled. My wish for you this fine day is one of time, time to do something simple that adds to your enjoyment of this wonderful season called summer.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


A friend of mine, John Pearson, has published a novel about his first year as a teacher in the Texas schools. I have reviewed it here.
Check it out if you get a chance.
Take care. T


John Pearson has a future in stand-up comedy if he ever decides to leave the classroom. But from the tone of his stories in his book LEARN ME GOOD, it doesn’t appear that will be anytime soon. The kids he encountered in his first year teaching certainly supplied him with a wealth of material to spin his tales, all with a minimum of 10 laughs-out-loud each. And Mr. Pearson throws his own two cents in with each vignette, showing the reader that he has been bitten, and badly, by this “educamakashun thing.”
He takes us through a school year that has a steady turnover of students, some for the better, some for the worse, and makes us hear the voices of children of all manner and ability who are crying out for a good educational experience. We meet Esteban, who calls out firmly and forthrightly each time he answers, even as he gets them wrong again and again, and Marvin, who likes to choke people “just a little”, and Re’Joice, who has to defend herself against the moniker that has been hung on her. And then there’s Mark Peter, my personal favorite. He had a way of making himself invisible, borrowing from the world of professional wrestling, no less. If you can survive a kid like him, you can survive anyone who may come your way in a career.
Amidst references to “Cool Hand Luke” and “Little House on the Prairie”, John Pearson shows us that he understands this business and is going to ‘keep on keeping on’ to figure it out. It is clear the his future students will be the better for it.
As the main character Jack Woodson would say to someone who forgot his name, “Nice job, Barry.”
You have to read the book to find out what that one means.

Tom Anselm, teacher and author