Diane Vogel Ferri is a teacher, poet and writer. Her essays have been published in Scene Magazine, Cleveland Christmas Memories, Raven’s Perch, and by Cleveland State University among others. Her poems can be found in numerous journals. Her chapbook, Liquid Rubies, was published by Pudding House. The Volume of Our Incongruity was published by Finishing Line Press. Diane’s essay, “I Will Sing for You” was featured at the Cleveland Humanities Fest in 2018. Her novel, The Desire Path can be found on Amazon. She is a graduate of Kent State University and holds an M.Ed from Cleveland State University.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

On a Spring Walk . . .


The clouds are spun sugar daydreams.
Squirrels are deep into their hidden nut buffet.
Chipmunks vanish into freshly burrowed soil.
Pink cherry blossoms look like fragile blown glass.
God is everywhere.
The lilacs make me gasp.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

No Test Left Behind

So it's Ohio Achievement Test week. Hooray! What we teachers have worked for all year. I'm sure you've heard a lot of horrible things about the No Child Left Behind Act - and they're all true. It's based on a one-size-fits-all approach to learning and assessment. Too bad all children aren't the same size. If a school is struggling because say, many of their children are transient and have attended 5-7 different schools by the time they're in fifth grade - or say the school is too poor to provide resources for all the neglected, abused and foster children that attend there - or say the school can't control how many pregnant teenagers took drugs while pregnant and their children are riddled with all sorts of disorders and learning and behavior problems - say - so what? Does NCLB help a struggling school? No - it punishes - it takes away funding and has the power to "reorganize" the school or shut it down. Billions of dollars go to illegal immigrants and the war - but there doesn't seem to be enough money for American education. Demands are put on schools with minimal funds to achieve them. Surveys have shown that more than half of teachers claim to spend more than 50% of the school year on testing. We have no choice. Learning and discovery are no longer important - only test results. I administer these tests and there are reading selections that even I can't relate to, but we expect urban, suburban and rural children to all understand them in the same way.
Yesterday was the reading portion of the test. (By the way each of the 4 subtests each take an entire morning) One of my students was visibly upset when she came into my room. She wouldn't look at the test and began crying. (We're on a time schedule of course.) I tried to talk to her but she didn't want to talk to anyone. She just kept crying and I could tell it wasn't about the test. This little girl has had a great year, but last year went through a horrible trauma. About two months ago her aunt and uncle were shot by their son- the uncle died, the aunt is still hospitalized. So here I stand trying to tell her how important this damn test is. Then I stopped. She wanted to take it. For awhile her tears fell on the test booklet, but then somehow she continued and did fine. The experience just reminded me how UNIMPORTANT tests are to children compared to what's going on in their real lives.
No Child Left Behind certainly has a good intention behind it because, in fact, no child should be left behind whether they are poor, minority, disabled, immigrant or anything else. But I think the act assumes that teachers are at fault. The act is really testing us to see if we're doing our jobs. I'm sure there are bad, uncaring teachers, but I've worked with dozens of teachers over my career and maybe 1% of them were what I would call bad. Yet, we are blamed for everything. In today's Plain Dealer some moron wrote "The first intelligent action is that the states and cities must stop rewarding the teachers and administrators with endless raises for producing an endless stream of functional illiterates with no hirable skills or training. Until this action is taken we will continuously fall behind all other industrial nations."(States and cities don't pay us - that's negotiated with the school board.)
So we're supposed to work all day with difficult children, under difficult working conditions and the pressure of test scores - earn our Master's degrees and work for free?
Sir, the problem goes way beyond what teachers are humanly capable of in a six hour school day.
Can improvements be made? Sure, but ample personnel for all that a school needs to tackle every day takes money. Keeping up with technology and the way children learn in 2008 takes a whole heap of money.
Who's making money? The school testing and testing service industry is now an estimated $2.3 billion a year enterprise, with just five big companies controlling 90% of the statewide testing revenue. Give that money and the money wasted on school vouchers that goes to charter schools run by businessmen back to the public schools and let us do the job we are yearning to do. See, we really get a kick out of seeing children learn and grow - that's why we became teachers in the first place.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Seven Things About Me

My new blogging friend, Ruth tagged me for this post. I've never done this before so here goes:

1. Four things I've never done: smoked a cigarette, drank a whole cup of coffee, put ketchup on anything, flipped anyone off.

2. I starred in my Senior High school musical. It was called Carnival and I was Lily. I've sung ever since, but that was the beginning and end of my acting and dancing career.

3. I've been paragliding in Cancun and whitewater rafting in West Virginia - loved both.

4. I am a tea addict.

5. I host a family reunion at my house every summer. We have about 35-40 people come from 8-10 states each year.

6. I had breast reduction surgery when I was 40 and have never regretted it for one second.

7. When I was a poor single mother someone anonymously sent me a plant with $1000.

Scroll down to my Beautiful Bloggers and if you're on it consider yourself tagged. If you want to put your link on my list just let me know !

Saturday, April 26, 2008

My One True Enemy


There is an enemy
so rude, so invasive.
It forces its way into my life
and takes over.
It looks innocent but
inflicts red heat and torture
to all who dare to come near.
Its essence remains
even when it can no longer be seen.
It robs me of sleep, and
of closeness to the one I love.
It has scarred and abused me
and sullied what's left of my beauty.
When I reach the Pearly Gates
and I meet God face to face
I will ask why, why, O God
did You create poison ivy?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Skywatch Friday

We all know that the sky is changeable - but I never knew how fast it changed until I started trying to capture a photo of it. I would be driving along and think I'll get this shot as soon as I get to a parking lot or to the top of the hill - but it would be too late in just seconds. This was another morning shot on the way to work this week.

Children Singing

The voices of singing children always makes me cry - but in this video they are singing a song by my girl, Tori Amos! It is the PS22 school in NYC. I love the looks on some of their faces - they've been watching a lot of American Idol, I believe.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfHXm8F13f8

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Go Road Tripping



The advertisement to the right is not any old ad. It is my sister's new website. Anything you want to know about travel in the USA is there. Please take a look and pass it along to your friends and family. Here are a couple enticing pics of Cleveland if you ever are tempted to visit. (I dare you). One is the glorious Severance Hall, home of the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hoarding God

The prayer chain had a list of requests
that grew longer and longer like the chain
of red and green paper circles we made
at Christmastime; a kindergarten room
encumbered with breakable loops.

How could we word each one differently
so God would stay interested?
We prayed dutifully for each needful
circumstance, fragile body, spirit.
If healed the prayer became praise,

in death God rested their souls.
He got credit for pleasant outcomes.
The others vanished from conversations
as if in His omniscience He'd put egg
on His own face by giving the wrong answer.

Yet, like Dorothy in her ruby slippers
the power always existed
in gifts of intellect, volition,
grace extended but not always taken
the chain of choices in a human lifetime.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Praying- when it doesn't seem like it's working . . .

This is a quote by Harold Kushner, who wrote Why Bad Things Happen to Good People:

God doesn't control everything. God doesn't control and suspend the laws of nature and God doesn't make sure that human beings only do what God wants them to do. Once I realized that God was a God of love and not a God of total power, everything fell into place. Now when I pray to God, I don't bargain, I don't ask, "What can I do for you God, so you'll do this for me?" I don't try to persuade God that I deserve to be given whatever it is I need or want. All I say is, "God, this is a time when I need you. I just need to know I am not alone." This sort of prayer never fails me.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Proud to be an American




Yesterday I had the honor of witnessing eighty people become American citizens. My school's fifth grade classes were able to have a tour of the Federal Court House and witness a naturalization ceremony because the judge is the grandfather of one of our students. Another one of our students saw his mother become a citizen as well. I found myself really holding back tears at the realization of what they were doing. All of the prospective citizens stand, hold up their hand, an oath is read and they say "I do." That's it - although I know there is much preparation ahead of time. The judge then explained why he disliked the oath because it had archaic words in it such as abjure. He made them all stand as he read an oath that he wrote and they said I do again. Some of them looked confused, but I appreciated his convictions. He gave a speech on why we pay taxes and how important their vote is. Then he asked them to never forget their homeland and their heritage and to share it with their children and grandchildren. He felt strongly about this because his own painful Russian Jewish family history had not been spoken of and he did not know where his people came from. I thought that was a beautiful sentiment as well.

Before all of that they students had two scared straight lectures primarily about drugs. They met with a federal marshall and one student was handcuffed and shackled for effect. The marshall emphasized how not fun it was to be in prison. We actually saw the prison and one orange-suited man in shackles being led from a cell in the elevator to his permanant cell a few yards away. Many of the student questions were about people escaping -but all they heard was - no one escapes here.

We sat in the judges court room and heard another lecture on the danger of drug involvement. This judge says he now convicts people to life in prison for multiple drug convictions. We saw the judges chambers - about the same square footage as my entire house - and his view of Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River. If that was my office I'd spend all day staring out the window I'm sure.

The Federal Court House in Cleveland is only a few years old and a spectacular place to visit. The bus ride with 50 fifth graders was pure hell - but it was worth it.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Happy Friday - Skywatch

I had a great skywatch photo to post today - but couldn't upload it for some reason. This is a photo I took last fall on my way to New York City at dawn. I also couldn't seem to make it larger. Check back next Friday!!!
This week in the Cleveland area the sky was perfectly clear every day! Just when you'd like a little drama in the skies - then it decides to be baby blue - not even a baby cloud. We're not complaining though.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Primal Scream Moment

Can I just say AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!! If someone ever sweet-talks you into starting a new job when you still have your old one - run screaming in the other direction. My supervisor prefaced her request with "I know you're really a team player and you really care about kids." Well, yes, but I'm considering retiring from the team player part. I feel like everything I worked on, organized and accomplished since last August is slowly swirling around and around in the toilet bowl and about to disappear into the sewer. In short, I feel like my efforts have been treated like a piece of crap. Sorry, but that's all I got right now. I'm heading towards the wine bottle in the refrigerator. Maybe the next post will be of some value if I make it through Friday. In the immortal words of Scarlett O'Hara - Tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Rambling Tuesday

Kinda tired today after getting home from neighborhood book club at midnight last night. - oops!We watched "No Country for Old Men" after reading the book - can someone explain to me WHY this won Best Picture Oscar? Maybe I missed something besides the guns and killing. So today was busy - I have to prepare for new students in a different building I'm being sent to every afternoon,(starting yesterday), had a meeting to allow one of my students to receive ESY (extended school year) because he's in fifth grade and only knows 90 words and will most likely forget those over the summer. That same boy cried all morning yesterday when I told him I wouldn't be there in the afternoons anymore.) Then another meeting to write an IEP (Individual Education Plan) for another new student. The mother was crying because she also has a learning disability and doesn't want her child to go through what she went through in school. OH YEAH, I forgot! In the middle of that we had a school LOCK-DOWN. This happens when the principal makes an announcement over the PA saying in code that there is an uninvited guest in the building. I was in the library at the computers with 4 kids. We raced into a nearby office, slammed and locked the door, turned off the lights and hid. Another teacher and about 6 other kids were in there. We waited and waited and pretty soon all of us were saying - Ummm - don't think this is a drill. We sat quietly (hey they can be quiet!) for 25 minutes. Turns out someone was in an empty room rooting around for a teacher's purse. He was buzzed in but didn't check into the office. He's in a building teeming with teachers and kids and has to be buzzed in by the camera by the door to steal from a purse??? What a genious!!! The police were there and he was found. In between all that I had lunch with two friends - and oh yeah, I did some teaching too!

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Wisdom of Willie Wonka


I'm not a big movie person. I like to watch a movie if it's worthwhile and gives me something to think about the next day. I don't see the point in buying movies, and I don't want to spend much time re-watching ones I've seen. Yet, there are movies that, when you're channel surfing, you will always stop and get caught up in - even if you've seen it a dozen times. My husband and I don't typically have the same taste in movies (or anything else), but neither of us can resist watching "Forrest Gump" when it's on. It's like two kids with a video game - we just can't look away. We're fixated. I love the scene when Forrest discovers that he's a father. The look on Tom Hanks' face is stunning. I'm a sucker for Judy singing "Over the Rainbow", and Rhett carrying Scarlet up the staircase to ravish her. I will laugh until tears spill down my face at Jim Carrey beating himself up in the bathroom in "Liar,Liar" or the deer tearing the car apart in "Tommy Boy."

But I've decided my favorite movie scene is from the ORIGINAL Willie Wonka (I adore Johnny Depp -hey, I've still got a hormone or two floating around in there - but even he can't outdo Gene Wilder's Willie Wonka.)

The scene is near the end of the movie when Charlie puts a piece of candy he stole on Willie's desk. Without looking up Willie puts his hand over the candy and says,

"So shines a good deed in a weary world." Love it. Beautiful. Ahhh, now that's a movie scene to remember.

What's your favorite movie scene???? Let me know and I'll make a list.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

What Teachers Make

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing careers and salaries. A CEO argued, "What's a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher? Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach," he laughed.
To stress his point he said to another guest, "You're a teacher, Bonnie. Be honest. What do you make?"
Bonnie paused, then replied,"You want to know what I make? Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could. I make a C+ feel like a Medal of Honor. I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class when some parents can't make them sit for 5 without an iPod or a DVD or a video game. "
She paused again, "You really want to know what I make? I make kids wonder. I make them question and think critically. I make them apologize and mean it. I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions. I teach them to write and then I make them write. I make them read and read some more. I make them show all their work in math. I make my students from other countries learn everything they need to know in English while preserving their cultural identity. I make them stand when they say the Pledge of Allegiance because we live in the United States of America. I make them understand that if they use the gifts they've been given, work hard, and follow their hearts they can succeed in this life. I make my classroom a safe place for all my students."
Bonnie paused once again, "I make a difference. What do you make?"

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus


No matter what anyone erroneously says about Cleveland - we have the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus and Severance Hall. Last night my mom and I heard one of my favorite works - Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms. I've had the joy of singing this piece during one of the 15 summers I spent singing with the Blossom Festival Chorus - the summer Orchestra Chorus. It was an amazing experience sitting behind the world famous Cleveland Orchestra for all those years. A highlight was singing under the direction of Robert Shaw, probably the most famous choral director of the 20th century. Ironically, my mom had sung under his direction in Pittsburgh years before. Severance Hall was renovated several years ago. It is impossible to describe the beauty of this concert hall. Inside you feel like you are sitting inside of a diamond. It is the definition of the word luminescent. This picture won't do it justice - but here's an idea.


Skywatch Friday


A while ago I realized that every day on my way to work I was driving over a hill that appeared to be the highest point in the county. I looked it up and I was right (at least for the east side of the city) It is a 1250 elevation - which is nothing for most places - but a veritable mountain for northeast Ohio. I often see beautiful views of the rising sun - so I joined Skywatch Friday and will post a photo each Friday of the heavens. If you want to see more sky photos go to http://womtig.blogspot.com/.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Betsy McCall


Is this the cutest doll you've ever seen, or what?
Her name is Betsy McCall and she has been
preserved from my childhood (long long ago).
McCall's magazine had Betsy as a paper doll every
month. I think my doll was sent away for - not
ever available from stores. She sits in my glass
cabinet in her original adorable outfit. She's only
about 7 inches high.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Writing is Like Parenting

Being a writer is like being a parent. It's part instinct and part crapshoot. You have a deep love and passion for it, but your daily efforts don't always appear to pay off. In writing, like parenting (as well as other arts) you have a lot to say, but sometimes no one is listening. You do both of them out of love.
Everything you produce is, and always will be, your baby. You have vivid dreams for the beloved's future. The rewards can be bittersweet. You let your child go out into the world realizing that was the goal - but your heart aches. You give your words little wings and watch them fly out of your hands (or computer) - and you can get hurt from that too, no matter how hard you worked or what your intentions.
One strangely universal experience of writers is that we proudly launch our books or blogs and they are ignored by those we're closest to. At first we are stunned. Just like with our children - you reject my baby, you reject me! Ouch! Here are a few of my theories:
1. In our writing we've opened a vein and let our guts spill out and it's plain old TMI. It might evoke emotion in the reader, they might not like blood-letting. Some people are afraid of feeling something.
2. The reader can't separate the writer from the writing, and that's understandable. But we writers DO have some imagination you know! We spend time observing other people's lives and take copious notes. So everything we write isn't necessarily from experience.
3. It's a time commitment. If you ask someone to read a book you're asking a lot:
a. The reader may not like to be told what to read - it's not their genre of preference.
b. They're pretty sure your book stinks and THEN what will they say?
c. They resent your accomplishment and do not want to honor it with attention.
d. They're afraid you are smarter than they thought and they're jealous.
e. They are illiterate and don't want you to know. (I think it's mostly a. or b.)
The thing is - we writers are okay with constructive criticism. It helps us improve our craft. We form groups to critique each other's work all the time. We also understand that books are a matter of taste. We're not necessarily brilliant - we just get fulfillment from writing - like someone else might from cooking or decorating or whittling.
We do, I suppose, believe we have something of value to say though, and therefore would like it to be read. If you don't love it, it's okay - just a kind word about the effort or love that went into it will do.
For the most part writers are insecure. We doubt our abilities and motivations on a daily basis. But we have a passion for self-expression that God cursed us with. We can work on a paragraph for weeks and then tear it up screaming My writing sucks and I am the suckiest writer who ever lived! We're much harder on ourselves than the readers.
So if you generously give your time to a struggling word-obsessed writer such as myself - and it does indeed suck - don't be too hard on us. We don't think of ourselves as geniuses. We're not looking for the Pulitzer Prize or Oprah's accolades - we're just doing something we love doing and apparently can't stop doing no matter what you say. Just like we'll always love and be proud of our children - no matter what anyone says.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

A Daughter and Son


Beautiful

My girl, a woman.
We talk of love and fights,
work and dreams like girlfriends.
She has infinite patience
with the "when you were little" stories
that are now multiplying, their goodness
and simplicity comforting me
like a soft blanket over a sheet of doubts.
I search for myself in her deep-set eyes
so different from mine, nothing that can be seen
is the same, but maybe our souls.
Where am I in the wondrous thing she's become?
Where did she learn to forgive so well,
to delight in so little,
to love so beautiful,
even though I thought I'd shown her
everything I did not want her to see?

Soon she will fly, her hands
will make beautiful things
and she will be more.
There is no beginning or end to a daughter,
in the endless sychronicity of mothers and daughters
each generation is more and
she will be more than me.

Son

A son makes you laugh
because he is a man
as you never imagined.
You hear manly words
and you giggle with delight
in the surprise of it all.
The joy in the aftermath of anger
is an oracle, its message
is the long-awaited tranquility.
Then the cleaning out of your
overflowing trunk of prayers
is like the ending
of your favorite book.
And when you hear that
manly voice say Mom,
it's the only voice you've ever known.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Blue Skies


This is how I feel right now because my daughter is coming home today. That's all.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Pregnant Man

I just saw some of the Oprah show about the pregnant man in Oregon. Obviously he WAS a woman, took hormones, grew a beard and a small penis (his words). He kept the female reproductive organs, found a woman he loves, they want a baby and the wife had had a hysterectomy. So he's pregnant. A doctor said it's a normal pregnancy, he stopped taking hormones two years ago, the baby's normal - they're thrilled. These two people love each other. They have a nice home - they want a child.
So after the show the news comes on. There's a lead story about how people think it's a hoax, it's sick, the baby will be a freak - COME ON! The man has a woman's body and is having a baby - SO WHAT? Is is just me or are people so reserved and closed-minded they can't see how normal this really is? As Thomas (the man) said - I'm a human being and I have a right to have a biological child. In my opinion yes, he does.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Back in the Day

A blogging buddy posted a small tirade about how things have changed since she was a child. It is a story we're all accustomed to hearing in our childhood from our elders, but then somewhat shocking when we're old enough to start speaking on it ourselves. It is actually quite frightening how fast things change the older you get. I, for one, NEVER thought I would rush home to spend time on a computer! (Like right now). I don't think I want to list all the ways the world has changed since I was a child - that would be kinda depressing - but here is a small news item that caught my eye this morning from Waycross, Georgia. It says more than enough.
Third graders plotted to attack their teacher, bringing a broken steak knife, handcuffs, duct tape and other items for the job, police said Tuesday. The plot involving as many as nine boys and girld at Center Elementary School in south Georgia was a serious threat, police said. School officials alerted police Friday after a pupil tipped off a teacher. Police said the students apparently planned to knock the teacher unconscious, bind her with the handcuffs and tape and then stab her. It wasn't clear whether they planned to kill her. They were apparently mad because the teacher scolded one of them. Two of the students were arrested on juvenile charges and a third arrest was expected.
That's more than enough change for me, how about you?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Fortuity

Today - just an ordinary Tuesday - or so I thought. After lunchtime the fifth graders were to go to the Middle School for some sort of assembly. I didn't know what it was about and I had no good excuse not to go - so I went along. (It's right next door). On the aging and forlorn auditorium stage were a set of drums, a Hammond B3, and guitar - hmmmm interesting. We sat for awhile trying to keep kids in their seats and calm. Then someone comes out to introduce Brian Auger. Brian Auger? The name is quite familiar. He's arguably a legendary rock and jazz keyboard artist, best known in the 60's and 70's for playing with groups like Led Zeppelin and his own group Oblivion Express. He comes out and speaks to the kids in a kindly British accent, introduces his son on the drums (his name is Karma) and his daughter, Savannah as the vocalist, and a bass player too. They play a couple really incredible songs. The student sitting next to me kept covering his ears and yelling " its' too loud!" and the Middle School kids were extremely rude, but I enjoyed every minute of it. But the coolest part to me, was that you can be at work on an ordinary Tuesday and find yourself at a mini-concert with a rock legend. I love life's little surprises.
(We're not sure why he was there, but he had gigs at a local jazz club, Nighttown and I heard his agent is from the area.)