Check Out Time

Have you ever,

bad day – attitude like a torrential rain storm,

not pretty just cold, damp, unrelenting,

unlike that one summer rain,

we walked around the lake,

feeling a mist was steady, warm, passionate

all of us soaked through our clothes,

everyone around in the same  state of mind,

waiting for their warming soup at home,

ah, lentil, chicken noodle, maybe some stew, too,

would make that day complete

feeling in love with the human condition

in her most revealing slate.

 

Though then thunder clouds

in their most frightening state,

suggestive

we might all know this

once

in our lives,

yet never wish upon anyone else

just learn to cope,

find your shelter,

ask forgiveness,

speak a new life,

imagine sunny horizons,

a positive outlook brings a smile

sullen solace suddenly serene.

 

Skies clear,

stars alight,

the moon again, my friend.


© Thom Amundsen 5/2020

Don’t Feel Sorry For A Teacher

I run an immediate risk with teaching colleagues with such a title caught in the eye of the storm that is COVID-19. Our lives and the students we teach are forever changed, anyone, anywhere in the world will be impacted more directly than indirectly by this virus. We will all have to adjust to the new normal until a medically healing vaccine will be discovered. I speak of teachers because in my world most of us still have our jobs, and before this pandemic, there have been history books written on the scrutiny of teachers and the lack of respect for all of their work in the classroom with ‘your’ children.

I would be remiss if I didn’t first speak of all of our civil servants, our police, our fire workers, our EMTs, our service workers, our medical teams who put themselves directly in line with the contagion. In addition many people have the opportunity to still work from their homes. We have become a necessarily adaptive society using our online social network at an alarming rate. So let’s get back to teachers shall we? Without discounting the incredible numbers of unemployed I want to speak of our opportunity as educators in this unique time.

A couple of years ago, in the district I teach we went one to one with technology. No one in their right mind imagined our current peril to be the reason. The planning committees across the world with research to back up their findings would suggest that students can go further with their learning using online resources. Our school district created a system of keeping academics in focus on what was once known as a snow day. The idea didn’t take the entire day of freedom from students at home, but it did offer a limited array of academic tools to keep students on track. This system was imagined to compensate four or five days of lost education in a winter bound region of the country.

The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed the rules. Students need their education, they need to move to the next level. Students across the world need to be able to achieve a current level of education in order to hone theirs skills to live formative futures that lay ahead. Students in post-secondary also face the same challenge. For the sake of this writing, the focus in on elementary through high school, and primarily on senior classes whose graduation walk are now hanging by a thread. This does not even speak to the extracurriculars – athletics, fine arts, business, etc.

When this virus first began to impact education, we were told we would have a week and a half before our spring break to begin implementing tools to provide students distance-learning for the rest of the school year. It would appear we may not enter the classroom through graduation. I remember hearing a colleague one day suggest that maybe teachers will gain more respect now that parents are forced to stay home from their jobs in order to care for their children. I cannot imagine what parents who need to work and cannot are going through in respect to their children who are dependent upon their love, compassion and care in home. During our ‘shelter in place’ or ‘stay at home’ mandate in nearly every state in the country, every country in the world, our children are left living uncertain and vulnerable times.

I personally don’t believe this gives teachers a better opportunity to gain respect. In fact, it increases our responsibility to move students forward. It demands that as a teacher we find a way to inspire and support students to continue moving to the next level of their education. The COVID-19 virus is a mandate on education, and we as teachers need to embrace this opportunity in the midst of crisis.

Now more than ever teachers cannot manifest the identity that allows the general public to believe we may take ownership in lesser stressed occupations than workers in many capacities across the country. Teachers need to step up and create online classrooms that will capture the imagination of students across the world. In the classroom, we as teachers are asked to provide students with a safe environment for learning and coping in a dynamic and fluid world. More than ever, as we reach into student homes we need the parents to feel confident their children are not being ignored and not being forced to move in rampant fashion into negative aspects of such remarkable free time in their lives.

As a teacher, we need to reach our students and not let them believe at an ever increasing and alarming level that we do not take stake in moving them forward and giving them the tools to continue to hone their academic skill set. As a teacher, we need to continue to be a student mentor. That is what we signed up for. That cannot change.

Be safe everyone – keep your distance – wear your masks – love each other.


© Thom Amundsen 4/2020

I Cry, Sometimes

Sharing a story,

recalling a significant

rite of passage

in my childhood,

Not one I chose

I might be so

reminded.

 

One day,

her glance

a twelve year old mind,

frightened by tragedy,

submission to God’s plan,

a confusion,

yet her eyes,

would tell me a story.

 

I then

and forever

touched

would struggle my means

would understand

only a criticism

I would believe

in my own heart,

only to find,

years upon years,

I would recognize

her heart to be pure

holding firm

a supportive glance

in a time of sadness.

 

Oh, today,

I did cry,

I felt a passion

to share, to allow

a soul

might know

my own choices

in a life

where all of my instincts

tested

at a very young age,

one OI would choose

to live again,

a parallel life perhaps

touched by

happiness.



© Thom Amundsen 2019

We Wonder Love

David

DAVID GRUNDY

Glance close in my eyes

will the love be receptive

is it as real as it feels inside

when upon your eyes

I look to see your truth.

 

If when I let you see me,

might the caution you feel

be my own strength of

wanting a world of respect;

in ignorance we know love.

 

In my eyes, is a forgiveness

for I human, my own insecurities

yet passion has been my hero

my family, my world is a design

beyond His how contains love.

 

Oh to know me smile, to laugh to cry,

sweet sister & brother – no family deny.


© Thom Amundsen 2019

I wrote this piece for this man’s family whom I went to high school with. I knew David to share a cup of coffee with him on occasion at the Croissant Express in Minneapolis back in the eighties. Always pleasant, always engaging, we held a natural affinity to our home town, Wausau, WI. I felt near his final years, I could call David my friend, such a beautiful young man.

My Dear Friend, Our Inspiration

IMG_1680

Coffee with Antonio Elias

Ah summertime. It is true. Many times in our lives, as a teacher, we would like to retreat toward that which would make life easier. Perhaps we choose to fall into a string of Netflix series, or our favorite crime show rather than take care of the busy work of maintaining our home, both the physical and mental. I’m guilty of that as I find myself in mid-summer, recognizing only too soon a school year ahead, whereby my focus will be on new students, new projects, new ideals. I feel fortunate that I have moments of clarity that are provided in my world to allow such priority to return.

Not a day ago, I was imagining the coming year, and felt great trepidation, a sometime normal response from a teacher sitting on their deck on a hot summer day watching the birds. The sun finally dropped, and I moved from the natural habitat of a backyard to my home, and turned on a baseball game, watched a Netflix series, flipped on my favorite crime show. Are you following the pattern? The reality is, I was actively trying to ignore the coming school year, knocking at my door as it does every summer right around the end of July. Today is July 27th, such perfect timing to have a coffee with one of my favorite alumni. That young man on my left is a former student who by his own actions  truly helps me and many of my colleagues recognize exactly why we chose our profession as teachers.

Since graduating high school in 2013, I have been fortunate to enjoy a coffee with Antonio at least once, maybe twice a summer. To give you a little background, this gentlemen was an exceptional student in the classroom, earning a modest scholarship to help solidify the start of his post-secondary education. Once out there, he realized a world existed that he needed to adjust to rather than let it mold him. He made difficult choices, took on wonderful challenges and today finds himself reaping the rewards of genuine effort and perseverance in ideal and dream.

When I first met Antonio he was a student in a writing class I had the honor to teach. We over the course of the semester became friends, he shared pieces of his life that were remarkable to me given the current state of our political demographic. I showed a movie in class once, and he later came up to me afterward, and in his polite demeanor, looked at me with a nervous smile and said, ‘Mr Amundsen, this movie, it is about my life.’ I was stunned. What began from that day was an opportunity.

I am grateful this young man was the product of a burgeoning English Learning program at Shakopee High School, whereby he would touch the lives of many over the years to come. I could not speak upon his merits without lauding such an incredible EL team that guided his education along with many other students under their tutelage the entire way.

Fast forward to today, a young man who has given graduation speeches both in our high school, and the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus, taken on non-profit projects that have only been met with success to together with a partner starting a challenging Spanish language only podcast that supported honest discussions around social justice and education. Currently he holds a position with the largest school district in Minnesota, Minneapolis Public Schools,  that continues to support growth and success in measures that are designed to provide educational and societal benefit to student and family alike.

When I first met Antonio, his main goal was to finish his education so that he could provide for his own family. He wanted to be that person to right the wrongs, or simply engage people’s lives in a positive direction. As we drank coffee today, it was evident in his smile and candor that that work in progress continues forward, as does his own idyllic outlook on life. What a delightful annual conversation with an intriguing and optimistic young man. I continue to be grateful to his willingness to share his life choices, and have an ongoing dialogue together around purpose and philosophy.


© Thom Amundsen 2019

photo permission – Antonio Elias

Why Sisters Are Cool

I called my sister today,

before I even uttered a word

she asked me if everything was ok,

then in a gasp I tried to breathe

she said then, what’s wrong?

 

I called my sister today,

before I even uttered a word

I knew I could lose my shit

and she would think it be okay

she waited for me to breathe

I told her I was tired.

 

I called my sister this way

I knew she would hear what I wanted

to say yet her patience is my takeaway

she waited, she smiled, I could feel it,

I could feel her love, it’s just her way.

I took a breath, and our conversation …

 

In the matter of a phone call home

I discovered love is always on display.

Conversations With My Dad

People suggest

we ought not imagine

conversations with

the dead.

 

The afterlife we’re told

often speculation

a creation of our own need

to reconnect.

 

Yet if it weren’t true

they’re listening,

then these tears that

fall would not be real.

 

I have conversations with my dad,

the difficult questions,

the hard to know answers,

I know he’s thinking for me.

 

I suppose what he might say

standing here in the room,

is the same answer he gives me

from faraway where he remains

 

Waiting, hoping, wishing are all

positive realities toward doing.