3-Day Quote Challenge Day 2

“Once you stop learning you start dying.”–Albert Einstein

How does that old saying go? You’re never too old to teach an old dog new tricks? Well, you’re never too old to learn something new, whether that’s a hobby you’ve longed to try, a skill you’ve seen others do or the desire to return to school and try a new career. It’s scary to be a neophyte, to start over at the bottom, but how exciting to discover a new passion or a new path.

I’ve returned to school to earn my bilingual license, and it’s been awhile since I’ve been a student in a classroom. Everyone else in class has been younger, has more current knowledge of the subject and is either a native Spanish speaker or very close. I was intimidated at first before I remembered I have almost a decade and a half on the job of teaching bilingual education to students, and while I might not have the piece of paper proving such, I am not an empty vessel to be filled. To be certain, there is much for me to learn, yet there is much I can share, too.

So if you’re contemplating a new career, skill or hobby but are hesitating because you are reluctant to start at the bottom remember this. There is always something new to learn and there is always much we can teach.

(C) Sara Ackerman, 2017


I hope one day I write a book worthy of the title banned. 

It’ll mean I’ve made people uncomfortable

     that my words encouraged thought

          that there were conversations about differing viewpoints.

It’ll mean my book is an agent of change.

Perhaps my aspirations are too lofty, but ponder this:

Why do we write if not to influence others?

Why do we read if not to learn other ideas?

To all the banned books out there, thank you for making me think and for opening my eyes to new possibilities.

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Why There are Mountains

Good teacher’s model, so here is a myth I created for my students to model how to write a myth. 

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Once a long time ago, there was Earth, Sky and Water.  Earth was not very big, but he was happy because he had Sky to look at every day and night.  Sky was beautiful and blue and stretched all over Earth. She lit Earth during the day and blanketed him in starry darkness at night.  

Earth and Sky loved each other but Water surrounded Earth preventing them from ever touching.  As years of separation passed, Sky grew despondent. Her beautiful blue faded to a dull grey. Evening stars disappeared behind towering clouds and her anger rumbled the heavens. Sizzling, jagged lines tore her beautiful canvas in two, and She wept almost every day.

Earth had to do something to stem her storm of grief. “Why do you stop me from being with Sky?”

“Because Sky is mine,” Water replied, pushing foamy waves onto Earth.

“You don’t love her like I do!”

Water’s rippling laugh touched Earth’s shore.  “Why should I love her?  She is nothing to me. But because you want her, she is mine.”

“If you don’t love her, then why stop us from being together?”

Water roared up into a large wave and shouted, “Because I am more powerful than you, Earth!  See how my waves wash away your land?  See how I rise and flood your green growing things? You can never stop me!” And to prove his point, Water reared up and sent flooding waves onto gentle Earth.  

Earth was drowning.  Water covered him and smothered his green life, but something deep inside rumbled, urging Earth to anger. He shook and rumbled and finally roared.  

Rising from the depths of Water, he grew and changed as molten rage burst through his verdant rolling hills and silenced the rippling wheat on his plentiful plains.  He pushed himself into large pointed peaks until he towered over Water, but he didn’t stop.  He pushed and pushed until he reached Sky.

Only then did his ire cool and he stopped to see what he had done.  “See me now, Water?  See how tall I’ve grown?”  

Water was frenzied and in a desperate attempt to regain control, he tried rising up to cover Earth. No matter how much he rippled and waved and splashed, Water could not reach Earth and his large pointed peaks.  Earth laughed at Water and his happiness echoed throughout Sky, until it sounded as if the whole Universe were laughing, sharing in their joy at being reunited.  

Water slunk away from Earth, never again to completely drown him from existence.  To this day, whenever Water tries to wash Earth away, Earth will shake and rumble and roar until more land is pushed high to Sky.  

©Sara Ackerman, 2016



Idioms are a fun yet frustrating part of any language learning experience. They are difficult to learn because language learners are literal thinkers. If I told one of my students they had their head in a cloud, this is what they would think:

Head in the Clouds

(Credit for the awesome head in clouds picture goes to my 13 y/o daughter).

When teaching/learning idioms, it is best to embed it into an appropriate contextual situation (which is best practice for any kind of vocabulary learning).

  1. Pair the idiom with a known antonym or a synonym. For head in the clouds, I might use reliable or solid as an antonym and daydreamer for a synonym.
  2. Give an example from a story you are reading. Instead of typical descriptors like happy, sad, excited, lonely, use an idiom instead. For happy, use on cloud nine. Substituteunder a dark cloud for sad. A dangerous or looming situation could be transformed into a dark cloud on the horizon.  Substitutions like these enrich vocabulary and help students become better readers.
  3. Have the students draw it out. First have them draw what they think the idiom means (see above picture) and then have them draw what it actually means. For head in the clouds, a representation like this might be appropriate:

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There are hundreds of other methods to teach vocabulary, but these are three of my favorite and three that work well with upper elementary to secondary level ESL students. What are some methods you use to teach vocabulary?

©Sara Ackerman, 2016


I hurt your feelings today when I told you I was not your friend. I saw the disappointment and confusion on your face, and believe it or not, it pained me to say it. I want to explain. I do like you; in fact, I think you are a pretty amazing person. Our relationship is important, yet I wouldn’t call it a friendship.

Think for a moment about what a friend is. You’ve probably had many who have filled different needs as you matured and made your way through life, so you’ve got a pretty good idea what a friend is and isn’t. At this age, a friend is probably someone you share your secrets with. She’s someone to text in the middle of the night, chatting about the latest gossip or what to wear the next day. A friend is the person who knows what makes you laugh  and can comfort you when you are sad. Together, you do all sorts of stuff like hanging out, listening to music, going to the movies or staying at home binging on cookie dough and watching TV. Your friend is there for you no matter what.

Except for when she’s not. There may be times when your friend is distant. She may have her own struggles you know nothing about. You will fight, as girls usually do, and there will be long periods where you don’t talk, where she ignores you and hangs out with other people. Then you have to figure out if your friendship is worth saving. If it’s not, you’ll find a new friend, someone else with whom you can post photos on Instagram. Another person will fill the seat next to yours on the couch as you two marathon the latest episodes of your favorite show on Netflix.

That person can not be me. Do not think that because I am not your friend I do not care. I do care. Your well-being and success in life are my number one concern. I am your loudest cheerleader and your strongest supporter. I am here for you no matter what.

I don’t care what you wear, what music you think is cool, or who should get together on some TV show. If you get mad and yell at me, I won’t go into a pout and refuse to speak to you. I won’t talk about you behind your back, or cut you out of social functions. You are important to me, and I value our relationship.

But it’s not friendship. Because those times you do get mad and lash out, I will correct you and hold you responsible for your actions. If you falter, I will pick you up, and I will teach you how to stay strong. Those times you find you are alone and in need of rescuing, I am a phone call or a text away, even if it means driving to some back-woods party at 2 a.m. to pick you up because there was no one else for you to call.

So, dear child, we can’t be friends because I am something far more durable than that; I am your teacher, and whether you’re fifteen or fifty, I will be there for you.


Stories from the Trenches: In which I rewrite history and Jesus rides dinosaurs

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Recently, one of my students and I reconnected on Facebook and she messaged me, “I still get a big smile when I remember our talk about Jesus horses. LOL. ” Unfortunately, I have no recollection of that story so I asked my former aide, friend and conspirator to figure out what Jesus Horses were. The story goes something like this…

On one of my first field trips with students, we went to my Alma mater for a college visit. It was my hope to inspire my students to think beyond high school to their goals for the future. With pride, I showed them the campus and the dorms. We ate lunch at the cafeteria and ended our tour of the museum, which happened to be hosting an exhibition of dinosaur bones. One of my students, an inquisitive 17 year old, detached herself from the group to ask me a question about the exhibit.

“Ms. Stone,” *Anna asks. “How old are dinosaur bones?”
“Pretty old,” I reply, trying to remember exactly how many bajillion years ago dinosaurs roamed the earth. “Were they around when you were born?” she wonders innocently.
I level her a frosty stare. “I’m not that old, Anna,” I say tartly. “They were around a long time before me.”
She’s quiet for a moment as she thinks about what a long time before me could mean. “Were they around when your parents were born?”
“Anna,” I explain patiently, “dinosaurs died off millions of years before you or I walked this earth.”
She nods her head wisely. “Oh, so they were around when Jesus was alive.”
By this time, my patience has worn thin, and I can’t tell if she truly doesn’t understand or if she is purposefully misunderstanding me to see how far she can push me. Rolling my eyes to the ceiling, I give in. “Yes, Anna. Dinosaurs were around when Jesus was alive. He used to ride them like horses.”
“Jesus horses,” Anna says with a twinkle in her eyes. “I thought so.” And with a small giggle, she runs off in front of me to catch up with her friends.

All I wanted to do was inspire my students to think outside themselves and their view of the world, and all I ended up doing was memorializing Jesus Horses.

Plus, I think I’m probably going to hell.

*Name has been changed