Teachers Act Up!

Thoughts on Teaching, Language, and Social Change from Melisa "Misha" Cahnmann-Taylor

To My Social Media Group Where Parents Complain about Lack of Leadership During the COVID outbreak

No one, no one, knows what to do in this situation. 
My communities online are remarking our leadership’s blunders in policy (changing from morning to afternoon), misspellings, grammar gaffs, missed curfew opportunities, misdirections.  Sometimes, I laugh.  Sometimes, I worry.  My wish now is that we’d all stop complaining about the lack of direction or uncertainty.
No one, no one, knows what to do in this situation. 
Everyone in my area and state (yours too?) are trying their best, Georgia style, for better and for worse.  Everyone also has self interest at stake. Everyone has questions. How can a small business person survive if no one is leaving their home for services or goods? How can those who need to work at home possibly continue to work if children are around and we must suddenly become full daycare providers and home-school educators? How are we going to get through this?
It’s so hard not to know what the plan is.  All the more difficult when our leaders are compromised at the very top, eschewing science and pandering to greed and ignorance. In light of this 1) lack of leadership or 2) leaders who are uncertain; 3) leaders who are compromised in intelligence or 4) by greed or 5) leaders who do “know better” but are following orders from above (#s 1-4), we all suffer.
This is why it is essential that we rethink leadership at every level.  This means me.  This means you.  We must lead like we wish to be lead, with patience, curiosity, compassion, and wisdom, in our homes and in our online forums.  Be the leader you wish were the one making decisions now at your school, workplace, city, state, nation.
We parents, who always have so much to complain about, need to lead our households in this new normal–how to give our kids stimulating tasks at home, what meaningful life information to teach them, what online tools are available, and how to keep ourselves fit and sane through this pandemic while trying to juggle any work we are lucky enough to still have  (I cannot overlook my great privilege now, still having paid work). We prepare for two weeks which will likely turn out to be a much longer ride. I am preparing to be home through May, maybe longer.  I am frightened.  I am unclear.
I wish all our current leaders, including leaders of our own homes, the greatest of wisdom and courage in these uncertain, “unchartered” (ha! amusing blunder!) times.
I am pleased my state suspended schools and primaries.  I am disappointed my own city government will not enforce (not yet) a curfew that I believe would be the necessary bad guy move.  But can we afford to support our local businesses if we require them to close?  Without an authoritarian regime, how do we enforce rules to keep us all safe and at home?
No one, no one, knows.  No one wants our town, city, state or nation to follow Italy’s example, multiplying speedily the disease because we were afraid to shut ourselves down.   But we will follow Italy in our towns and nation unless we act with speed to curtail our actions–the U.S./North America is just bigger than Italy, COVID’s spread will just take more time.
My husband, a great family leader, reminded us at our house meeting that previous generations have each had their great challenges: Vietnam(parents), World Wars (grandparents), the Great Depression (great grandparents). What have our generations had? Have we ever had that was like this? Global warfare where the bad guy is a fast spreading, deadly disease? No. Never. Never at this scale.  
Peer parents in despair, when you complain about our local leaders and local decisions, please consider being a leader at home and in your online communities.  Share good information, indications of positive action, ideas to support those who have less, activities to generate new thinking and thoughtful conversation at home.  Make us laugh! Help us see the flaws in our system and leadership decisions but also help us see opportunities.  Write to your leaders with these good ideas, float them to others to see if they stick.  The only hope we have is that this current pandemic can unify us all to be in this together, at our very best, against common enemies: greed, ignorance, disease, untimely death.
We are all online now, eating up news that zaps our spirit and energy.  Send someone a kindness, a query.  If they are too busy, they may not respond.  But you might just hit the right soft spot in someone else, reminding each other that the virtual world, in groups and in individual correspondence, can be a source of cynicism and fear mongering, but it can also be a source of strength and renewal too.

“Let’s not sugar coat manure”

Last night a graduate of Clarke Middle School, Nikema Stovall, stood up to ask us to stop speaking around issues of concern and to start speaking up for positive change.  He was with friends, a mom and grandmom, whose young son is repeatedly bullied.  He is afraid to ride the bus.  His struggles are real, recurring, and worrisome.  Ultimately, his mom said to do what he had to do and fight back.  This should not be any child’s school experience.  Because we were at the parents meeting yesterday we were able to meet and I was able to learn more about life from her perspective in the African American community.  She expressed a concern shared by many: we are not serious enough about discipline.  We are not impacting families’ enough to help them change and support children who are respectful in schools.

But the principal did not sugar coat the manure.  He bravely showed us the statistics of just how many “events” teachers have reported from August to February–over 800 incidents in more than a dozen different categories of misbehavior.  He shared with us how these events and students are disaggregated by race.  82% of all events reported concern the African American students* at the school; 92% if you count those identified as multiracial.  Let’s not sugar coat the manure, Nikema’s truthful words.

I feel lucky I was close enough to this family to hear their concerns, to know they are working with a district professional, Kecia, who is helping them plan talks with Black parents in our community.  “Do you want to come?” Yes, I said and gave them my number.  I would like to be the minority in the room, a room filled with Black parents who love their children and want to look at what’s happening.

Instead, we were sitting in a room mostly filled with white parents and over a dozen incredible teachers there to support their well respected principal.  The trigger was that our beloved band teacher quit suddenly, claiming this was about persistent underfunding of the music and arts programs as well as about the verbal and physical abuse he experienced from students on a regular basis in an overcrowded classroom.  This was just after an extraordinary band concert that left everyone in the audience amazed at what one man can do with that many students over the span of 6th to 8th grade, from “hot cross buns” to complicated ensemble pieces.   Many of us were there to grieve the sudden loss of a successful teacher.  Many of us were angry or fearful that what he said was true.  Could it be that we were willingly sending our kids to an underfunded, under resourced and dangerous place?

An entire team of teachers were there shaking their heads, no.  They were disappointed in their former colleague–they value the band teacher as a human, a friend.  But his message undermines their strengths, the entire school.  His public email of sudden resignation added fuel to the fire of distrust in public schools.  We wanted someone to be wrong, we wanted something to be fixed.  Why did the band teacher leave us like that? Real problems unmet? Maybe.  The principal, who is new to his position, said he had already discussed changes to add another teacher next year and reduce numbers.  No support for egregious discipline problems? Not true–the statistics show 100s of cases of disciplinary actions when teachers call for help.  Disincentives from the school and district to report discipline? Too few disciplinary options that don’t just prevent kids from learning (suspensions, expulsions)? There are layers of issues, some that can be addressed in the short or longer term and some are layered in a society still trying to figure out how to live fairly together in a system where cycles of privilege and poverty continue and the split widens.  Public schools may be the only places where we can still see and feel the split.

We puzzled over the statistics provided.  Why are so many of our African American pre-teens and new teens (how many students constitute the 82%* of cases?) experiencing disciplinary action at school? What are some answers?  Because of this meeting I got to meet and talk with a small number of African American members of my community.

Racism and teacher bias? A community overwhelmed by intergenerational poverty and the violence that can often accompany situations of desperation and need? Adolescence and changing bodies and problems no matter what race you are (Don’t I know it)? Single parent households? Subpar housing conditions? Limited work opportunities? One can quickly get overwhelmed by what’s underneath the sugar.

But even after we complained and grieved, I feel better after the meeting. I made new friends.  I have a new level of complicated understanding.  I was impressed by the many incredible teachers at the building well into the night to support their principal and listen to parents’ concerns.  I spent time with people with whom I might never otherwise engage.

I believe the healthy future depends on having many more conversations across different perspectives.  What is the principal experiencing? The teachers? Our kids–all kinds of kids? The parents, a diverse group of humans with different levels of affluence and worry.  I feel it is a civic responsibility to support public schools even if that means asking the hard questions and staying late to figure out what is in our control to change and what is beyond our control.  To name it and make peace with it, some of us with prayer.

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

We are rich in diversity in my community but only if we live with it–sugar and manure, all of it.  This struggle laid bare will make us stronger.

*It is unclear to me how many students make up the different reported events–if 82% of the cases of disciplinary action represent a handful of students who repeatedly misbehave or many more than a handful.  This is a question for the administration.  Another questions is why all other students experience such low disciplinary action. A mother of an LGTBQIA student said her child is repeatedly the victim of bullying by white boys which goes unaddressed. The problems are complicated but can and are being addressed through a courageous new approach called “restorative justice.” One can see a trend that the disciplinary cases are going down each month as the school year progresses and the principal would ask of us: patience.  To see if the proactive practices they have just started will start to yield more positive effects.

Poems Published/Accepted 2019

I’ve learned that rejection is a part of the writer’s business.  If you are pleasing (accepted) some of the time, this is a sign that you’re on the path to finding an audience for your work. I keep learning not to take a reject personally.  But what to do when the acceptances roll in? Celebrate? Sigh of relief? Move on and wish for the bigger catch: the full manuscript publication? Today, I take stock and celebrate the poems published or in waiting to be published 2019-2020.

I hope they can cohere into my second poetry book and find a publisher, next step for the manuscript.  The book title keeps changing and is currently Gargling Stones.  Here are some poems that will be in this new book in the making:

Cahnmann-Taylor, M. (In Press, Spring/Summer 2020). Am I really that Jewish? Poet Lore.https://www.poetlore.com/

Cahnmann-Taylor, M. (In Press, February 21, 2020). We’re Always in a Watershed. Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review. http://www.borderlands.org/

Cahnmann-Taylor, M. (In Press, February 21, 2020). Artist’s Sacrifice. Swimm Every Day. https://www.swwim.org/

Cahnmann-Taylor, M. (In Press, January, 2020). Undocumented Pantoum. Journal of Latina Critical Feminism. https://www.facebook.com/journallcf/

Cahnmann-Taylor, M. (In Press, January, 2020). Simón Ghazal. Journal of Latina Critical Feminism. https://www.facebook.com/journallcf/

Cahnmann-Taylor, M. (In Press, January, 2020). Museum Says 75% of All American Comedians Were Jews in 1975. Anthropocene. https://www.anthropocenepoetry.org/

Cahnmann-Taylor, M. (2019) Congratulations Ghazal. James James Dickey Review.

Cahnmann-Taylor, M. (2019, published Jan 2020) Poetry Reading, Writer’s House Philadelphia. James Dickey Review.

Cahnmann-Taylor, M. (2019, published Jan 2020) “Pora Brought Sewing Needles to the Women’s March. James Dickey Review.

Cahnmann-Taylor, M. (2019, published Jan 2020) Activism Dolor. James Dickey Review. Distinguished lines online: https://www.facebook.com/james.review/?__tn__=%2Cd%2CP-R&eid=ARBavs0dSKa9ztX4WdGo1YTVY01jSeWj5qOdhRrWSHcOGVrOgK6YnYvO_dEjFpBdrIfAM-C3BdTM-RUO

Cahnmann-Taylor, M. (2019). US and Israeli Jews are bound.  Poetica Magazine. (Award Winner) https://www.poeticamagazine.com/2018-adrpaward-winners

Cahnmann-Taylor, M. (trad. por América Invertida).  Anika says “We are eternal”/Anika dice, “Somos eternos” (76-77).  https://auladepoesia.files.wordpress.com/2019/12/amc3a9rica-invertida-4-def.pdf

Cahnmann-Taylor, M. (trad. por América Invertida).  First Grade/Primer Grado (80-81).  https://auladepoesia.files.wordpress.com/2019/12/amc3a9rica-invertida-4-def.pdf

Cahnmann-Taylor, M. (trad. por América Invertida).  Teaching Poetry in Georgia Schools/Enseñar poesía en las escuelas de Georgia (78-79).  https://auladepoesia.files.wordpress.com/2019/12/amc3a9rica-invertida-4-def.pdf

Cahnmann-Taylor, M. (2019) Sanctuary. Temple Times.

Cahnmann-Taylor, M. (2019) ” Nothing’s more unfair than to judge the men of the past by the ideas of the present.” http://ninemile.org/ 6(2), 152.

Cahnmann-Taylor, M. (2019) ” Pora’s Drought Song.” http://ninemile.org/ 6(2), 155.

Cahnmann-Taylor, M. (2019) ” Would Pora have told?.” http://ninemile.org/ 6(2), 156.

Cahnmann-Taylor, M. (2019) “Treatment.”  http://ninemile.org/ 6(2),157.

Cahnmann-Taylor, M. (May 2019) “Postpartum Depression.” www.sleetmagazine.com 11(1).

Cahnmann-Taylor, M. (2019) “How Do You Wrap a Poem.” www.sleetmagazine.com 11(1).

Cahnmann-Taylor, M. (2019) “Tel Aviv University Economist Explains the Endowment Effect.” www.sleetmagazine.com 11(1).

Cahnmann-Taylor, M. (2019). Jetlag Ghazal, Middle East to Southeast Georgia. So & So Magazine (issue 9).   < https://www.soandsopoetry.org/magazine>

Cahnmann-Taylor, M. (2019). U.S. Embassy Officially Recognizes Jerusalem as its Capital. So & So Magazine (issue 9).  < https://www.soandsopoetry.org/magazine>

Cahnmann-Taylor, M. (2019). US and Israeli Jews are Bound. So & So Magazine (issue 9).  < https://www.soandsopoetry.org/magazine>

Girl Scout Cookie Sales…Again(!)(?)(meh)


Cookie sheet

I find this season a burden.  I don’t like being a salesperson and this is why I chose to be something else.  A parent must accompany a girl scout because selling door to door is CRAZY right now when everyone orders on amazon and who knows who will open a door these days! But these are the plus sides so far of selling cookies:

  1. Time with my amazing daughter and watching her present herself to clients with her clipboard.  It’s a glimpse of her power.
  2. Time with my neighbors.  I never get casual time to just see who is behind blue house or green.  We get a peek inside their mask-ed walls, incomplete puzzles on the table, nuzzles with cats, some chickens.  Lots of smiles and goodwill and some great eclectic design.
  3. Time to walk.  I forget how nice it is to take steps in the cool evening at a casual pace, up and down walkways.
  4. Girl scout cookies bring up lots of positive memories so time to watch others’ smile, especially young women.  Their sighs of joy are so sweet.
  5. Knuckle power.  Many of our neighbors do not have door bells so my daughter is getting her knuckles worked out and I think of this as good preparation should she need them in the future.
  6. Time to get over the fear factor.  It was after dark when we walked yesterday.  It was strange and weird.  There are different people walking after dark at 7:30pm then the school children in the dark at 7:30am.  So it’s time to see a different side of public life.
  7. Time to talk about what people need and want to know.  We didn’t have change and then we did.  Most boxes are $4 except for two that are $6.  One is gluten free; one is vegan; none are sugar free or fat free; none of them are free.  Yes we take checks, cash, donations. The Girl Scout troop number is 12051. We don’t know when we will be back to deliver them (shoot).  We can leave them on your porch if you’re not home.  Yes, there’s a new cookie, Lemon ups.  Yes, the troops is saving for activities, eventually a hoped-for trip abroad.  And yes, she can take care of your cats and dogs.  It’s a lot of information and my daughter got fluent in all of it, had great answers, and it was nice to watch a ten year old coming into herself.

Other than that, I find girl scout cookie sales a time that I wish would pass more quickly but for now, day one, it was alright.


Cookie Seller

Academic Social Networking – Oxymoron?

First, I love the word oxymoron.  I love writing the word moron in a word that means to write something contradictory and the that moron and academic are oxymoronic.  The view of an academic sitting alone, absorbed in books may seem like an oxymoron to an active social media life but what better distraction from writing papers or grading them on a laptop then to drift over to a new tab and check with what our interesting friends are doing on facebook and instragram, posting pictures of Christmas trees made of broccoli, Frozen themed birthday parties or big sighs after viewing Hamilton or Little Women.  I am distracted all. the. time.  I am trying to stay current with the world through the changing platforms beyond facebook: instagram, twitter, snapchat, wechat, whatsapp, whatthef**k.


Backdrop: Judy Chicago painting in the permanent collection at the National Museum of Women in the Arts

And now, I am learning there are more social networking sites on which I am behind.  I thought not clicking endless emails from academia.edu was cool, I was ignoring the fad–reminiscent of when I was a hold out for the answering machine, then the cell phone, then the iphone, then the tweet.  Now I want it all. I don’t want to miss the president’s rants or wars; I want to know when the mayor shoots the canon in my hometown and that it’s not a bomb.  Yes, I want to know what you think is the best date night dinner.  Now, I find that I can also know what you published, where, how many citations you have, what theory you’re reading, and what the most current thinking is on teaching and learning languages.  To play this new party trick I feel I must spend time updating my profiles on these many sites.  And so I have.  I am playing. Are you playing too? I turn to you, oh tech savvy social media friends, to learn how you navigate all of this cybersphere and still have time to cook dinner.

I forgot to add that I am really current now on my wordpress blogging…..

Here’s part of what an academic does at the end of the day when she’s too tired to plan her class further, write her next book, read her students’ papers and books, review that tenure file or article.







Graduate student question: I was told that I should start attending and presenting at conferences as a new graduate student, what do you recommend?

Short answer: Go to as many conferences as you can afford; present at no less than 1 conference a year and no more than 5, otherwise you will not have time to properly prepare for each presentation in a way that allows you to push deep, clear thinking and attract networks of peer scholars.


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Long answer:  Conferences can be great places for renewal, reminding you of the passion you have for your field of study and helping to connect you to diverse scholars working all over the region, nation, or world in areas of overlapping interest. A benefit of traveling to conferences is the opportunity to review a full menu of current scholarship, taking you beyond the things you can read in print which usually represents data that is years old due to publication processes, even if it has the current calendar year as the publishing date.  At conferences you can meet mentors who can rise off the page and expand your network of peers and teachers in the field.  Conferences can save you so much time–pointing you more clearly to relevant scholarship to read, invigorating new ideas, approaches to methodological problems or theoretical insights.  And conferences can be fun, a place to meet and socialize with new friends in new cities where happy accidents of thinking and being can occur.  I never regret going to a conference once I’m there if I’ve stayed within the number of conferences I can afford in terms of time and mental resources.

However, there is also a flip side.  Conferences can be very expensive and very time consuming.  One can feel left out of the “in-crowd” as a newcomer or a non-regular.  If you don’t know how to plan to attend stimulating panels, you might find yourself in rooms listening to presenters who are unprepared.  You may feel your time and money would have better been spent at home writing and/or moving your own research or scholartistry forward.

Although I have experienced some of the above negative feelings, I don’t think I have ever left a conference wishing I hadn’t gone. There are just too many opportunities and there is always the book room! If I ever feel unimpressed by presenters at a conference, I turn to the book exhibit and always find a new and inspiring resource to help with my teaching or writing or thinking.  Feeling some degree of loneliness and disappointment can be overcome but missing out on meeting friends in the field face to face or seeing their new books–I am still excited about this after so many decades of conference attendance.


What conferences have I attended and recommend?  For many years I have attended big national conferences for education (AERA), anthropology (AAA), and creative writing (AWP).  These conferences have big funding and attendance which allows them to host an unusual variety of scholars engaged in innovative thinking and doing around the world.  Usually, I can’t afford to attend them all in the same year and I exhaust myself when I attend all three.  Each time I attend I find myself forming a new relationship with a scholar friend who I meet by chance or by organized effort and reuniting with people I’ve met before.  I highly recommend these conferences.  Other large-scale, international or national conferences I have attended but not regularly include AAAL, ACTFL, and TESOL.  I recommend them all but never more than 2-3 per year.  2018-2019 I attended too many and I have promised myself: never again.


I love to attend smaller and/or international conferences outside the U.S. because it often gives more intimate space to connect with scholars from near and far.  Some of these I’ve attended include ISLS, iFLT, Georgia TESOL, Georgia FLAG, International Bilingual Education conferences, SALSA, Hong Kong Gender Studies conference, Polish English studies conference, EITS English Teachers of Israel conference, Atlanta Writers Association, Georgia Poetry Society, JOLLE, UGA Children’s Literature Conference, ICQI Qualitative Inquiry Conference, and many others.  When these  are local, they are easy for travel, lower cost and allow me to attend selectively while also maintaining work at home.  Other conferences like ISLS are in beautiful, global locations where I learn as much from the people as the new place (once I attended in Aruba and learned so much about multilingualism and translanguaging from local encounters!). CILS/ISLS will take place in Chile 2020 http://www.isls.co/conference.php and takes place every other year.


Should you attend conferences, yes?

Which conferences–I can’t really tell you that. You have to figure out what makes you feel alive, connected, and “at home” in schools of thought and subject or that challenge you in positive ways forward.

How many? Not more than 5 per year, less is often more (with little exception and I’ve often broken my own rules).


How to apply for conferences, put together panels, and stay connected afterward–that’s for a new post!  Please let me know what new questions you may have and remember: only 50% or less of what I write is good for YOU!

2019, July: Seat in the Shade Poetry Series


2019 Seat in the Shade: A Summer Poetry Readings Series (7th season)

Hosted by Poetry for Educators founder, Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor (www.teachersactup.com)

Weeknights in July: July 16, 23, & 30  in Athens, Georgia

Time: 530-7pm

Place: Hendershots  http://hendershotscoffee.com/

Address: 237 Prince Ave, Athens, GA 30601

phone: (706) 353-3050

Contact information: Melisa (Misha) Cahnmann-Taylor,






Athens, Ga. – A July of poetry reading and discussion of the poetic craft featuring top Georgia poets will be hosted by University of Georgia College of Education professor Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor June 16, 23, & 30 at Hendershots on Prince Avenue, Athens.

This is the seventh year for the event titled, “Seat in the Shade: A Summer Poetry Reading Series,” and starting on July 16 will feature poets each Tuesday weeknight at 530pm. The finale on Wednesday July 30 titled, “Poetry by and for Educators: Readings from the Collective,” will feature Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor, and emerging UGA teacher-poets. On the Hendershots stage, 237 Prince Ave, Athens, GA 30601.
Cahnmann-Taylor, a professor in the department of language and literacy education and founder of Poetry by and for Educators, developed the summer poetry reading series seven years ago in conjunction with her Writing Cultures poetry class.

Here is an overview of the schedule and brief description of each featured poet (High Res Jpgs available for each reader):

Date July 16


July 23


July 30


Poets Deidre Sugiuchi


Jericho Brown

Sarah Baugh,

Theresa Davis,

& Collin Kelley

Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor

& Teacher Poets


Bios for Poets

July 16  Deidre Sugiuchi & Jericho Brown

Deirdre Sugiuchi is finishing her fundamentalist boot camp memoir, Unreformed, which takes place at Escuela Caribe, a Christian reform school in the Dominican Republic. Her work has been featured in Electric Literature, Guernica, the Rumpus and other places. Sugiuchi has been awarded residencies at the Albee Foundation, the Hambidge Center, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Wildacres. She was a recipient of the Mark Austin Segura Award for Nonfiction. She is the co-founder and curator of Athens, Georgia’s New Town Revue music and literature series. She’s also a public school librarian.


Jericho Brown is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, and the National Endowment for the Arts, and he is the winner of the Whiting Writer’s Award. Brown’s first book, Please (New Issues 2008), won the American Book Award. His second book, The New Testament (Copper Canyon 2014), won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. His third collection is The Tradition (Copper Canyon 2019)His poems have appeared in The Bennington Review, Buzzfeed, Fence, jubilat, The New Republic, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, TIME magazine, and several volumes of The Best American Poetry. He is an associate professor and the director of the Creative Writing Program at Emory University.




July 23  Sarah M.C. Baugh, Theresa Davis & Collin Kelley


Sarah M. C. Baugh is a writer and portrait photographer born and raised in Central New York. Her work can be found in Gulf Coast and Sand Hills, and she was a nominee for Best New Poets 2017. Sarah makes her home in Athens, Georgia with her husband and two daughters.


Theresa Davis is an educator, storyteller, poet, author, poetry slam champion and the host of the award winning open mic Java Speaks. She has performed on stages across the nation as a poet and keynote speaker. A classroom teacher for over 30 years, specializing in cross curricular education, Theresa continues her passion for education as a teaching artist. As a slam poet, Theresa has competed individually and on teams for over a decade and in 2011 won the Women of the World Poetry Slam. In May 2013, her first full collection of poems entitled “After This We Go Dark” was published by Sibling Rivalry Press. “After This We Go Dark” became an American Library Association Honoree, and the book can now be checked out in local and college libraries around the world. Her latest poetry collection “Drowned: A Mermaid’s Manifesto”, released with Sibling Rivalry Press, in fall of 2016 received the award“Ten Books All Georgians Should Read”. In addition to being a teaching artist and outreach poetry coordinator for Georgia Tech for 6 years, Theresa hosts and participates in many of the lit events around Atlanta. Her one-woman show “Then They’ll Tell You it’s all in Your Head” Made its debut as a part of 7 Stages Home Brew series in fall of 2017. Theresa is the Literary Events Coordinator and The Charles “Jikki” Riley Memorial Library, facilitator for The Arts Exchange.


Collin Kelley is the author of the poetry collection Midnight in a Perfect World, just published by Sibling Rivalry Press. His other poetry collections include Better To Travel (Poetry Atlanta Press), Slow To Burn (Seven Kitchens Press), After the Poison (Finishing Line Press) and Render (Sibling Rivalry Press), chosen by the American Library Association for its 2014 Over the Rainbow Book List. He is also the author of The Venus Trilogy of novels – Conquering VenusRemain In Light and Leaving Paris – also published by Sibling Rivalry Press.




July 30  Melisa Cahnmann & Teacher Poets


Melisa (Misha) Cahnmann-Taylor, Professor of Language and Literacy Education at the University of Georgia, is the author of Imperfect Tense (poems), and three scholarly books in education. Winner of NEA “Big Read” Grants, the Beckman award for “Professors Who Inspire,” and a Fulbright for nine-month study of adult Spanish language acquisition in Oaxaca Mexico, she’s served for over ten years as poetry editor for Anthropology & Humanism, judging the ethnographic poetry competition. Her work has appeared in Georgia Review, American Poetry Review, Women’s Quarterly Review, Cream City Review, Barrow Street, and many other literary and scholarly homes. She posts at her blog http://teachersactup.com

Another synagogue shooting & another poem

How To Eat Matzoh in Mixed Company

              ~April 28, 2019


Slip it

from plastic wrap like an Easter

present, or cover it in chocolate, cracked

like an egg. Starve for it,

drink to bear it with pickled

fish.  In soup, crushed to pulp,

or spread thin with pale

cheese, lox bandage

on top, read it: braile

message about the cost of becoming free.

Hold it as tasteless example,

lesson, shield & don’t stop

shattering a synagogue’s windows with your teeth.


Eat it

standing up or lying down or leaning to the left

on this wet and yeasty night so everyone

can hear it, so everyone knows you hate

to eat it, but you eat it year after year, singing.

Dear Editor, Dear Scholar, I’m so sorry

Dear editor of the book, the person who requested I write a chapter,

I haven’t forgotten you.

I keep remembering, like a bad dream where I’m late to work,

I’m locked out of my house, my kids have been sitting on the curb for days.

I remember you.  But I don’t quite remember enough.

I can piece together the request, but none of the key words

work in the search engine where I seek to find the whole invitation, again.

Yes, I did receive your emails, your reminders that the chapter was due, due soon, due now, past due,

so busy then and I put it into a folder, whose title

I forget and I can’t even remember what precisely I was to write about.

But please know you’re not the only one.  I’ve lost my way

in numerous cities, missed appointments, deadlines, airplanes, birthdays.

I sincerely don’t wish to disappoint.  I meant it then, when I said yes.

At the time, I really thought I could do it all.


*true story.  I really am sorry.


“Yeah, I won’t do public school. We are highly opposed.”

“Yeah, I won’t do public school. We are highly opposed.”

This was just published on a local mommy blog I belong to.  It was posted by a parent looking for Pre-K options if “money were no object” and getting ideas.  I added they should try the lottery for public school and if they don’t get in, choose private.  This spawned another parent’s response.  “I would sit in before going public. I’m a public school teacher and my kids will go private” with the following explanation:

“In private school the discipline needed for a school to run well is allowed. In public school it is not. If private schools paid well with the benefits of public, I would still be teaching private.”

Gosh, I wish a private school could pay her enough to leave her public school classroom….

The ‘public’ school is required to serve all children and that means there can certainly be discipline problems.  This teacher-parent later acknowledged that private schools are hardly immune to discipline problems but that they are much less “extreme.” So what is it about public education to which so many parents are highly opposed when children are as little as four years old?

Children who look different.

Children who don’t have as many financial resources.

Children who don’t have two parents at home.

Children who don’t have generational income or more than enough resources.

Children who don’t speak English as a first language.

Children who don’t have a parent in jail.

Children who don’t have a parent who has died.

Children whose home nurturing doesn’t match as neatly with school expectations.

Children who are resilient, children who are different, children who are invited into the public system.

Thank goodness for US policies and laws that welcome all these children and more into the public system.  What a great country we have when all children can expect to have access to a good education and that parents who want to opt out, can certainly do so. I love sending my children to a public school and giving them access to experiencing all kinds of diversities that may not be present in private options: neurodiversity, racial diversity, social class diversity, religious diversity, gender and sexual orientation diversity, marriage diversity, etc.. My public school is a “good” school, more so because there are happy teachers; there is diversity of many kinds; and lots of parents with resources who give extra in numerous ways.  Not all public schools are so wonderful, I know that.  I am privileged by my resources and neighborhood.

If parents do have extra resources and choose a private school, I am all about choice (of many kinds)! Parents can choose private school and still support public schools too!  Anyone can attend a neighborhood school’s social events and get to know one’s neighbors and community. One can pay private school tuition and give a little extra to the local public school’s PTO/PTA to improve school resources. One can visit and observe pre-K and other grade level classes at the public school, and make as informed a decision as one can before opting out to private school education–the public option may be better than one thinks! Finally, if one decides to go private, one can ask good questions about diversity in that environment: what can be done better so that all kids have access to diverse perspectives even if they are limited in what may be a more homogenous, private school environment?

Check out this awesome blog post by a Los Angeles teacher–really wonderful points discussed in relation to the Charter school movement out there.


The above blog is directed to “mostly white parents” so if you do not identify as white, I think this may not be as much interest as some of the work by Nikole Hannah-Jones about race and education specifically.


Coda: I am not changing anyone’s mind.  Anyone who believes public school = bad; private school = better, I think it’s terrific they can have that option.  But I don’t wish that option be such a financial burden that parents resent paying taxes to support their public school or vote for more resources to be funneled into private or private-like options.  I wish parents, regardless of school choice, could see support of public education as  public good that in the long run will help their child and community more than they know.

View at Medium.com

View at Medium.com

View at Medium.com

View at Medium.com


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