When I really want to geek-out, which is most of the time, I write curriculum in my head. I was born to be a teacher, to be among teachers; I love everything about being a teacher. Even though I am not in my classroom right now, I still feel I have a claim on a classroom. Even though I am on a leave from my profession to be at home, it is still my profession. I suspect this is much the same way my mom feels about being a nurse, still a registered nurse. Once a teacher, always a teacher. It is a way of looking at the whole world and the information in it.

I pour my passion for teaching onto my own children right now. To me, being a mother IS being a teacher. I do best at mothering when I remember that, at its essence, mothering is teaching. It is when I forget this fact that I fall down as a mother. I sometimes forget quite a bit, but then I recover myself and remember.

This morning an incredibly special person in my life visited our home for breakfast. The kiddos know Mrs. Kathy Altaras primarily as the woman who made our annual Christmas scrapbook (as a wedding shower gift) that we paste our favorite Christmas pictures into each year; yet, Mrs. Altaras is so much more than that, to me. I first knew her as my English teacher, one who challenged and pushed me and made the whole world bright through her own passion for being in front of our class everyday. Later, she became a colleague and mentor who helped me to improve my own pedagogy. In recent years, she has been a friend who constantly inspires me with her creativity, fearlessness, and zest for squeezing all the beautiful and productive moments out of life that she can.

She travels the world, reads avidly, makes scrapbooks, writes, and pursues many diverse interests.

A few years ago, she started a publishing company (Aquila Media) which has published several books.

She keeps her mind engaged, not just in literature, but in everything.

As a teacher, she was one of the first to show me that a truly curious mind interconnects everything. We didn’t study only literature in her Advanced English 10 class. We studied philosophy, time, math, science, social science. She understood how exciting it is to break down walls among disciplines, to thirst for connections. When I am asked why I became a teacher, she is one of the people I credit as my inspiration.

And she came to my house for breakfast today! I am still geeky enough, too, to look up to my mentors and former teachers, even when we are now friends and equals. I remember the time Mrs. Cutler came over for an Academic Decathlon practice in my senior year, and Rosa and I spent all day preparing—it was much better than Christmas, let me tell you: a teacher of mine in my house. When a teacher comes over, the excitement is from the well of respect that I have for her. Even though I am a teacher, and even though I consider myself a peer, I still get the bubbly feeling over it.

Although we keep in touch, it was just so nice to see Kathy in person, all the way from Texas. She truly is one of my favorite people. She has that spark of life, you know? Life is to be lived, you get that from her.

And how much fun was it to talk about curriculum with her? We see curriculum in the same interdisciplinary way. We share a passion for designing it. It felt so renewing to share time with someone who loves that creative outlet.

I was thinking later, as I went out to lunch with my brother and my parents at Claim Jumper today, why is curriculum design my hobby? In high school, my hobby (after I was done with my homework) was to sit down with my dictionaries and etymology books and study word histories for hours on end. Now when I have free time before bed or during the kiddos’ naps, if I am not sewing or scrapbooking, I am lesson planning—sometimes for Katie, sometimes just for fun.  Why is it fun?

Lesson planning is the ultimate entertainment for me. When I was much younger, I wanted to be a spy and kept a spy notebook with my cousin. I wanted to grow up and decode things, and I also made my own codes all the time. Teaching is the process of decoding. I think of all the information in the universe. If we could find a way to look at it all thematically (as opposed to separated by discipline), then we could break it down into its fundamental bits and put it into small enough chunks for everyone to understand. I love looking at a big subject and thinking of all the ways “into” it. I love the patterns that information makes. Think about how much progress we could make if we could find innovative ways to transmit those information packets.

As if I hadn’t geeked out enough by lunchtime, after lunch I decided to visit friends at the TVHS book club. It was truly a reunion of sorts, teachers both past and present. Oh my goodness. That campus will always feel like home to me. If only I could make two of myself (one to stay with my children and one to be in my classroom), I would be back to teaching at TVHS in a heartbeat. I ran into several people coming and going, also, including the colleague-who-was-never-actually-my-colleague-but-it-feels-like-we’ve-known-each-other-forever Jen Ruby. When I think about going back to my classroom at TV, one of the exciting parts of that would be getting to teach alongside of her. She came on board right after I went on leave, and I find her so inspiring. Even just a little bit today, we got to talk about lesson plans for The Scarlet Letter. I can imagine a full-unit brainstorm session with her; we would both bring the creativity energy out in each other and walk away with magic, I know it. Friends and colleagues like that are the stuff of dreams.

Today I got to indulge my favorite part of myself with several people that I both admire and love. What a gift. I appreciate the instant camaraderie I feel with the TVHS staff, one of them, part of the happy vibe teachers have when we all get together in a room. What an invigorating day!

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