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Character Education

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Digital Learning

Where We're From

Where are you from? 
There could be many answers to that: the city you born in, where you grew up, what career path you've chosen, what your interests are, the people you surround yourself with, the values you hold. At the heart of all the places, things, and ideas we are from though is our mother. Your mother (birth or adopted) is at the center all that you are today. As we celebrate Mother's Day this week, I can't help thinking of my own mother and all that she gave to me. I hope you will find some similarities here in recalling some of what your mother has given to you.

She gave me life and a particular way of looking at the world.
My mom married very young and gave birth to me after just fifteen months of married life. In many ways, she was a child raising a child. She often had a childlike way of looking at things. She convinced me that God was everywhere and watching all the time, but not making choices for me. I was in charge of that.

She told my stories.
ALL my stories. The ones I was proud of, the ones that made us laugh, the embarrassing ones. My children, husband, and grandchildren know my stories. They add them to their stories, and so it goes.
On the way to the hospital after I had tried to remove my sister's arms and legs (as I had previously tested out on my baby dolls). "How did you even get her out of the crib?" "I fwipped her over my shoulder."

She made me laugh.
My mom had a unique outlook on life, and was often funny without even trying. You can't be both mean and ugly. Pick one. (Translation: Being mean makes you ugly. So stop it.) The hill is too icy to go to school? Sit down at the top, and before you know it, you'll be at the bottom. (Translation: Get your butt to school. Now.) (As I cleared the table too fast after dinner.) Got a date? (Translation: Dinner isn't over. Please remain seated.) Look at how cute your sister looks! (Translation: Your little sister will be accompanying you on your shopping trip with friends.)

She taught me skills for life.
It took courage to put knitting needles in the hands of a three year old, but that's how old I was when my mom taught me to knit. As knitting is an interest, actually a passion, that I have maintained to this day, I still think of her when I pick up those needles. I knit in the European or continental way, holding the yarn at the ready looped around my left pointer finger. Whenever a fellow knitter observes this, they always ask where I learned to do it that way rather than picking up the yarn with my right hand and throwing it over the needle. Precious memories come flooding back when I tell the story about my mother teaching me to knit when I was so small.

My mother was in a serious car accident when she was pregnant with my sister and needed to find a way to keep me near her and out of trouble while she healed. Knitting kept me busy for long stretches of time and was one way that we formed a lasting bond.
Never completely recovering from that accident when she was so young, my mother also taught me the importance of showing up. Often ignoring excruciating pain, my mother showed up for work in my dad's deli restaurant every day, lifting heavy pots of chicken soup, and mixing gargantuan pans of chopped liver and potato salad. She still managed to get back in time to welcome her kids home for lunch and then again again after school. She showed up.

I learned to cook and to be pretty good at laundry too. My skills here insured that our family would be fed and have clean clothes if my mother was in the hospital or recovering from multiple surgeries on her back (following that early car accident). Those skills have served me well so far! I'm working now on a cookbook for my family based on the recipes I learned in my mom's kitchen. None of them were ever written down, so I guess you might also conclude that Mom taught me to face a challenge!

She taught me that I am important.
Home is where we first build our sense of self. When I left for school each day, I felt smart and capable. When I left home for a party or date, I felt smart and beautiful. When I left for dancing school, I felt clumsy (Ha! No one is perfect! And dancing school just didn't do it for me!) My mom said that was ok, and I could go to the library instead if I wanted to. I really felt smart there!

Roots and wings. My mom sent me off into the world each day, telling me it was going to be a great day. My dad always reminded me that I could just come back home and start over if it wasn't such a great day. They were a great team!

She made me appreciate the time I have with loved ones now.
Our house was always overflowing with relatives. Barbecues by the pool in the backyard all summer long, front patio and lawn with standing room only all spring and fall and for a great view of our city's July 4 fireworks, and tiny living room packed with people all winter long.

I live far away from where I grew up, and my children are grown with families of their own. Sometimes I look around my empty house and remember wall to wall relatives. We tried to recreate that feeling with a family reunion over Thanksgiving last year. It was amazing, and we will probably do it again!

Where I'm From
I'm from my mother. From all the memories, from all that she gave me and all that she taught me. Inspired by an amazing picture book, I  have enjoyed this little poetry experience with my students for many years. The book is Momma, Where Are You From? by Marie Bradby. You can find it here.

Here's my version of the "Where I'm From" poem:

Retta, where are you from?
Where are you from, Retta?
I’m from pushing across a snowy field to get to school all winter long.
I’m from fun summer barbecues around our pool.
I’m from family and friends who care about me and respect who I am.
Where is this place?
Where is this place, Retta?
It’s where Mom is stirring a pot of spaghetti sauce,
Where there's always room for one more at the table.
It’s where kindness counts and everyone matters,
Retta, can we go there?
Can we go there, Retta?
Yes! we can!
Anytime I remember my mom.
Because I am that
Library going,
Dancing school dropout,
Family and friends all around

What's yours? Where are you from?

For more poetry ideas and templates (in both PDF and Google Drive versions) you might enjoy finishing your year with this resource from Rainbow City Learning.

Happy Mother's Day!

For more spring ideas, please visit these great posts from our Teacher Talk blogging group!


  1. And...I am sobbing. This holiday is particularly hard for me, and I can't tell you how much this post touches me and reminds of where I come from. I need this book. Thank you.

  2. What a wonderful tribute for your mother. Like Wild Child, I lost my mom when I was 15 and still miss her to this day. I hope everyone reading your beautiful post gives their mother a hug and lets her know how much she is loved while she is still around.

  3. This is such a beautiful blog post. I especially love the poem you wrote at the end. Happy Mother's Day to you!

  4. What a beautiful tribute to your mother--your post, but mostly you! Thank you for sharing.

  5. Retta, you are fortunate to have quite a mom... She made you you... Both of you should be very proud of how you used your gifts to make this world a better place...