falling down

As  little kid, my dad was the one who taught me how to do a lot of things:  ride my bike, change a car tire, fish.

He also taught me to ice skate.

I remember being out on our frozen pond, bundled up in my winter coat and snow pants with my scarf covering my entire mouth so that when I talked…or breathed…it became moist and warm.

My dad had helped me lace up my mom’s old skates, took my mittened hand, and pulled me out to the open ice.

I don’t remember much of the logistics of the lesson, but I do remember falling down.

A lot.

Finally I got frustrated and whined that I was no good at skating and I didn’t want to do it anymore.

My dad pulled me up and said, “but every time you fall, you are learning. just think of how much more you know now than you did when we started.”

I gave him the hairy eyeball, assuming he meant I knew a lot more now because I had fallen so many zillions of times.

“No, really,” he continued. “Every time you fall, you learn what not to do next time.  Or at least you should.”

This lesson comes back to me every single time I “fall” in life.

Continue Reading this post over at Lessons from Teachers and Twits where Renee was gracious enough to have me today.  So come on over.

comments are off here.  Go visit me there!


Hey!  Look!  It’s the bonus day we get every four years: February 29!  And because this day is a bonus, I figure we should have a new recruit today, yes?


Today’s Recruit is Renée from Lessons from Teachers and Twits. I met Renée via the twitter, if I remember correctly.  She is wonderful to chat with not just because she is a fellow teacher, but because she is also a fellow lover of words.  She never holds back on her opinion or advice, which I admire about her.  We don’t always agree, but we can always see each other’s side.

I am so happy to bring you the voice of one of Sluiter Nation’s most loyal readers.


I remember desperately wanting to be allowed to try out for gymnastics and being told: “You will have to wait until you are 5 years old before you can try out.”

And then forever came and I did flips on a red mat and suddenly I had a shiny purple leotard and ribbons in my chalky hands.

I remember watching the big kids walk to school. Stuck on the warm side of the window, I studied how they threw their snowballs and sucked the giant icicles they’d knocked from the roofs of houses.

And in eleventeen and a hundred bajillion days, I was the big kid walking up the hill, all the way to school, my feet squished inside Wonder bread baggies, inside of boots: a sweater over a turtleneck under my blue-belted coat with the over-sized buttons.

I remember my breath rising in the air in the wintertime when a boy I liked touched my knee after I had fallen off the slippery jungle gym. And even though the ground was cold and I was wearing snow-pants, I felt warmth seep through his gloved hand. I wondered about kissing and if anyone’s mouth would ever touch mine.

One February, I met a man. We talked for hours on a dark leather couch, oblivious to the noise around us. In the wee hours of morning, he walked me back to my dorm. I fell instantly in love with him and his silly hat with the earflaps. Together, we learned a secret language that I kept to myself.

One month, I sang on stage while it snowed outside. People looked at me and nodded their heads. That night I kissed an ice-cube and danced until my feet bled.

The next day, I was a teacher in a New Orleans classroom eating my first King Cake. Everyone laughed as the purple and green and yellow sugar dripped from my fingers to my wrists. I hadn’t known such sweetness existed before: to be surrounded by students and colleagues and sugary treats all at once.

An hour later, I was staring at a diamond on my left hand. Everyone talked about how we would need pots to cook in and rugs to walk on and glasses to drink from, but I was quiet and stared at bundles of fresh flowers and contemplated commitment.

Four minutes passed. Trembling with exhaustion and anticipation, I looked at my 6-month old son as his fingers curled over the edge of his blanket.

Fast-forward two nano-seconds.

And by nano-seconds, I mean twelve years.

I see myself now, the outline of a girl who keeps filling herself in. I will always pray the ground, always burn the rice, always sing in the shower. I will always be the first on the dance floor.

The lines around my eyes remind me the clock is moving.

I am loving harder.

But losing harder, too.

I am writing harder.

And more than ever, I am

blaming less. This February,

I am alive

and leaping

with gratitude.


A teacher for 20 years, Renée Schuls-Jacobson loves being in the classroom, finds her students endlessly fascinating, and believes the most important thing we can do is teach folks to read critically and write masterfully.

The mother to one busy middle school-aged son, these days she finds herself scribbling ideas for blogs on napkins and scraps of paper.

And then she loses them.

Her family and students keep her humble and serve to remind her that, even on a good day, she’s still a total twit.

Be sure to visit Renée at her blog, Lessons from Teachers and Twits, and like her on facebook.

And of course follow her on twitter at @rasjacobson