Mar 16, 2023·edited Mar 16, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

>>"Ideally, you can help them build the confidence they need to read the paragraph, or add up the numbers, or decipher the word problem, or write that personal bit of narrative. That they’re competent and smart and deserve to use their voice. That they’re important to someone. That they’re worthy. Because they all are. That’s why I show up."

This is brilliant. See, that's why I like you. You're so smart in this way.

Also, I have a theory (one currently lacking data) that everyone likes to read. All kids like to read. It's just that we adults sometimes don't recognise *what* they like to read, or what they would enjoy reading if they had a chance. Not a new thing - I remember how immensely offputting my English Literature class's set texts were at school, UUUGH [Shakespeare/Chaucer/Dickens/Bronte etc.] AGAIN, KILL ME. But - boys in particular with their fidgetty ways and the faint air of "boys don't read, that's boring, buys DO stuff" hanging in the air, where reading gets turned into a "nerdy" pastime.

(I wonder about this: now that nerds have thoroughly conquered popular culture, do kids still take pot-shots at each other for being "nerdy"? Do you see that happening at school? Is it still a thing in the way it used to be?)

Also, I wonder how "I don't read" equates with all the information-by-text that enters everyone's brains in today's world. I Don't Read, but I consumed 30,000 words of text message today? Or I Don't Read, but I watched 4 hours of subtitled Japanese anime? I dunno. Maybe reading is messier and more porous than it used to be, and not just because of the interventions of screens and digital paper...

I'm sorry you missed the aurora. I remember I emailed you enthusiastically that night because I saw it was visible right round the northern hemisphere, but - I only *just* saw it, because I got my timing wrong, and like you was haunted by other people's photos from almost the same location, except showing the damn thing in its full damn glory, damn them.

But I agree. There's something special about standing there in the dark, waiting, but also just enjoying what is already happening, even if that's just watching darkness ebb and flow, and the slow emergence of everything at the edge of our vision that normally gets drowned out. I could certainly benefit from having more excuses to do that. And I wish there were more that were as socially acceptable as aurora-watching. Like: "oooh, according to this app it's an unusually strong dark out there! Look at that! Under 400 nanoLumens! Wanna join me in watching it? Wrap up well, it's bloody cold out there..."

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Mar 3, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

Yes, challenges happen, but as you may have heard, suffering is an an animal of a different kind. This cowboy is tracking that one, but she is elusive and slips adeptly from an eager grasp.

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Thank you. This was a gorgeous piece. What you share about what middle schoolers need is exactly what my husband said for years every night coming home after teaching them science. They need love. They need acceptance. They need encouragement. They need confidence. So many kids get nothing like that. A teacher has to help a child find success. He said it’s the hardest thing is to identify what kids are good at and what they’re not good at and help them with both in a large classroom. Sounds like you’re doing that.

We are the answer for our children not the other way around. Totally agree.

Today I had a bit of good news from the state legislature. The Senate did not pass the bill that would erode easements and stream access. That means we keep our rivers and streams public. I know my state senator and I called and emailed and he listened and voted to keep access and I thanked him for it. Amidst all the terrible stuff they do there is some glimmers of sanity. Not much, but some! I feel grateful for a little win today.

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Thanks for your beautiful stories and writing -- what a treat. We all need such moments of tenderness and care, wonder and awe. My son was once a sixth-grader and is now in college. Though I teach at the same university, I wrestle with similar questions - what would most benefit these brilliant young people? Surely not calculus or agricultural economics - apologies to any mathematicians here. I’ve just finished Wendell Berry’s 2022 masterwork, “The Need to Be Whole,” which has challenged all the last scraps of the mindset that raised me. Berry himself, and his writing, is a gift.

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Mar 2, 2023·edited Mar 2, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

Thank you for this, Antonia.

As I read, I was rooting for you and your daughter to stay out deep into the night until you got to see the Northern Lights. It would have meant her missing school the next day, but I suspect she would remember that night with her mother many years after she had forgotten whatever it was she’d learned in school on any given day. After all, many of the greatest and most enduring lessons that life has to offer are not written in books, but in magical moments.

I am the doting father of three beautiful women, who, if I recall correctly, were once young girls. Some years ago my youngest sent an email telling me that, along with a couple of other classes, she had enrolled in an astronomy class at Spokane Falls Community College. She explained how the times I had taken her stargazing at the Bruneau Dunes Planetarium (I live in Boise) had stuck with her. She also recounted the time when I had painted, decorated, and furnished the coolest bedroom in the house for her to stay in during her visits. We worked together on the crowning touch to that room—attaching glow-in-the-dark stars on the blue ceiling in patterns that approximated the nighttime sky during the month of her birth.

I would make sure to "charge" the stars with light for about one hour before her bedtime. Then, when it was time to call it a night, I would tuck her in, maybe chat for a few minutes, then turn out the light, leaving the ceiling aglow in constellations. I reacted the same way every night as I made my way to the bedroom door, and apparently it never got old: "Hey look, Kara! The stars are out tonight!" She would gaze wide-eyed at the ceiling and smile.

"All happy memories," she wrote. I cried when I read her words.

As for your State Legislature, I live in Idaho and can feel your pain. I’ll just leave it right there.


“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.”

― Muriel Rukeyser

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Mar 2, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

So powerful, Antonia. I resonate deeply with the torments and challenges parenting within the unbearably bizarre scenes presented now during this test of fire of dreams that were tinder for the bold political revolutions of the last three centuries in the West. The photo perfectly captures the personal moment you portray. I decided long ago not to parent. My reasons would resonate with the anguish I now hear so powerfully expressed. I am staying with what I have seen in these ‘pages’ of intelligence, skill and courage to face the seemingly insurmountable challenges presented. To parent as a guide who has been over similar the terrain, is involved in the child's journey, and feels compassion, but who also understands the difference between being stuck on iron rails someone has set and making your own walking composition is pure gold. And most important, no one is alone in writing the rest of this composition.

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You might not have seen the aurora, but it sounds like you and your daughter saw each other -- which seems way more important.

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Beautiful essay--and capture parenting so well. Trying not to be heartbroken at hearing my son relay how he learned after the latest lock down drill at his school that schools are being engineered and retrofitted in response to best defensive measures--essentially, we're building structures that anticipate violence. It's so infuriating that we've allowed this and accept this is part of what school looks like. We also went chasing after the lights this week, after seeing that they were appearing all over Anchorage, and managed to see a ghostly faint glow dance across the top of the sky above us. It's hard to process how the world is so cruel and expects harm, while it also presents such magic and beauty. The audio of the bird song was so beautiful to listen to--it was validating to read all of this in many different ways, so thankful to read it this morning.

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I'm writing through tears to tell you how much I loved this essay. I haven't ready a better piece about what it's like to parent in these times, and I'm going to go back and study how you made the seams so perfect and invisible. Gorgeous.

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Mar 1, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

"I don’t know what kinds of lessons will be most useful for them in the future. Do any of us?"

I think about this all the time, especially with my students taking freshman composition at the college inside San Quentin Prison. Evidence, really? What does that even mean?

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Thank you for this beautiful essay, Antonia. As a mother of a sixth grader, and a public school teacher for the past 20 years, I relate to so much of what you’ve written.

I used to bristle when people would talk about the hope and faith they placed on and in our kids to solve the problems of ecological collapse, racism, etc. What an incredible and deeply fucked up burden. (Here, we broke this, but you’re resilient, smart and capable! You fix it!)

Much of my focus in my teaching over the past decade was in creating strong communities of mutual respect and care. Content and curriculum was very far down my list of priorities by the time the pandemic started. No kid is going to make themselves vulnerable or take risks in an educational setting when the potential for shame is high and their most basic needs haven’t been met.

During the pandemic I actively prayed for a total collapse of the system so that we might build a new model, one that acknowledges students’ full humanity. But yes, those old systemic roots grew back stronger than ever. Last year was so thoroughly soul crushing that I had to step away.

I had a crisis of faith: The system not only wasn’t going to change, things were going to get worse. I feel like I have less answers than I used to, but a lot more wholeheartedness.

Really glad there are people like you out there taking the time to just sit and talk to kids. Every little bit matters.

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The splash images for my Newsletter are the Aurora Borealis. They are WORTH CHASING! I have thought about a post about the phenomena, the beauty, and the pure dumb luck of our planet protecting us via a magnetic field. Your personal story with your daughter was wonderful and inspiring. Thanks.

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Mar 1, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

A beautiful piece, made my morning. Thank you

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Mar 1, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

Your words at sunrise stir the day into being. As a parent , my longing for this earths health and human health paramount. Thanks Nia

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