Guest Post: Learn the Rules Like a Pro

Last week, I let you all know that I am seeking guest bloggers. If you are interested in joining your voice in storytelling, let me know! (And if you don’t have a blog, I’m still interested in hearing your story!)

Today, I bring you the first of the guest bloggers. Janet Lee Stinson was the first person to introduce me to writing practice. After many years of no communication, I wrote that blog post and was motivated to find her. It was through her blog, This Side of the Mirror, that we connected again. There, she draws on her wide ranging teaching experience and blogs about bringing celebration and support into the classroom. She also writes, edits, and continues to inspire over at We Inspire Futures, a website dedicated to inspiring and sharing ideas for education. Right now, Janet Lee lives a bright, beautiful, and dance-filled life. Her pictures are often tagged The best day ever! which completely embodies the energy that she brings to her life.


“Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them as an artist.” Pablo Picasso


In my teenage years, I was a professional ballerina. I learned the steps and the foundation to the craft. During the waltz, I stretched out my arms and reached beyond that with my eyes. Of course this was “not done”. When I was injured, I got to leave that box made for ballerinas. I didn’t fit in it anyway.


Most students have parties and make the most of the four years they are away from home. I started out my third year of University homeless. I stayed at friends’ houses and ate from their fridges. I lined up at the welfare office to have my picture taken. I dropped my card in the trash on the way out. My first apartment was in a bad part of town. It had bars on the windows to keep out the drunken party goers. I got a cat to kill all the mice. Both of us looked out of the window. Caught in our own web.

Teaching Job

Every night at sunset, I packed my briefcase with my gradebook, red pens and copy of Romeo and Juliet. I walked purposefully out the door and down the path to the end of the street. Standing up tall, I imagined myself in my classroom. I imagined myself with a job. I wished on the sunset. I closed my eyes until it was dark. Turning to walk back inside, I knew it would happen.


I looked across the sea of faces to know what they needed. It was overwhelming. Teaching English was one thing, but teaching life lessons was another thing all together. Who was I to teach life lessons? I was barely old enough to understand my own life. So I pulled up a chair and sat with them. I crouched down to hear their stories keeping my own to myself. Some of them slipped past me but I think some of them made themselves comfortable in my heart forever.


I dislike revision. Since the first poem I have ever written, I have disliked revision. I mean what is wrong with what we say the first time that we say it? Is it not enough that I thought it out here? My stream of consciousness isn’t enough? I dislike revision. This being said, my job is to moderate a blog. I am the chief revision person. The leader of the pack. Maybe I don’t dislike revision after-all.


So if you can have do-overs in life, why not quit your job and walk away right now? Yes, quit that little piece of yourself that you thought was propping you up. Why not walk away? Well, my dear who thought that she quit every last thing…parts of it have followed you. The lessons remain. The longing to connect will re-emerge.

You learned all those rules and now you must break them for the rest of your life like an artist!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s