comic · education · school · writers

Word Nerd Undeterred


Four 4th grade girls stand around, bored. I grab a board game out of the recreation wagon. “Here, play this, it’s super fun!”

They break into teams. Each has a pencil and paper. They shake the word box more violently than necessary.

“FUM!” Yells one girl with glee.


“Fum” is not a word!

Yes it is! Fee-Fi-Fo-FUM!


Mrs. Wipff, could you look up fum? Is it a word?

I look it up. “Well, according to Wikipedia, it IS a word: Fum is a traditional Catalan Christmas carol.”

The group disbands shortly after that.

Too many words. Kind of boring.

Boggle is the bomb! How can they call it boring? Maybe I’m just a word nerd.

education · fears · immigration · Personal Success · school

A 10 Year old Says…



One of the questions on our last 5th grade social studies quiz was, “How can we, as Americans, ensure equal rights for everyone?” This was on the heels of learning about slavery and the Civil Rights Movement (literary study: The Watsons Go to Birmingham).

Most of my students answered, “Treat everyone like we’d like to be treated,”  or “remind everyone about the Constitution.”

But one student wrote:

We could start an activity or sports program where EVERYONE was invited. People of all races would play together and while they played and made friends with each other, they would see we are all the same and racism would be gone.


If you’re feeling discouraged, by recent racist rhetoric from a small group of small-minded people, remember there are a lot of good people out there. Our children are wise.

education · fears · Health · Personal Success · relationships · school

5 Magic Words


It Is What It Is

I used to hate this saying. I often heard it after I complained about something. What kind of retort is that? It just made me angry. “It is what it is.

When I was a kid, my home was toilet papered and egged. They wrote  “chink” on the driveway. “This happens,” my father said as our family cleaned the mess up. The words stung, like alcohol on an open wound. How could he react in such a weak manner?

And yesterday, my daughter cried. A boy she considers to be a good friend made a racist joke about Asian eyes and dental floss. I was inflamed! But she sat – quiet and still and oh-so-wise, in the puddle of ignorance, stupidity and pain this boy caused. She said, “I want to talk to him and explain why it was hateful and hurtful. He will understand and never do it again. I know he’s a good kid.” As her mother, I could only see red. Someone broke my daughter’s heart and made her question this world (once more), just so he could get laughs. 

And I knew. I knew the anger I felt was a false sense of power.Being angry makes you feel energized and ready to mobilize. But anger is fear on steroids.

“It is what it is” is not a rallying cry to be passive. It means,”what you see before you, IS.” 

When I was undergoing surgery for breast cancer, these five words were embodied in the doctor’s confident hands, the nurses’ night time vigil and my family and friends’ constant support. This IS the situation and we’re taking care of it right now.

It’s about accepting that which you cannot change. If you can’t change it, your anger and defiance – your energy – are wasted. You continually generate negativity.

In fact, acceptance is the first step to proactivity. Once you accept reality (that which IS, that which you cannot change), you can use your energy and creativity to begin to make steps to exact change. A couple of wise friends of mine often say, “This, too, shall pass.” Everything is impermanent. Accept each season.


education · fears · Personal Success · school

Wake Up!


Sometimes, I feel like people are asleep. I mean, sleeping is nice, right? So why not be awake and be asleep? Just close your eyes to that which you do not find pleasant. We really do not wield much power in reality anyway, right?

My daughter came home extremely upset today. A boy in her class drew the swastika on his arm. This is not the first time. It’s the third time he’s done this. She told him (for the third time) that this is absolutely unacceptable, that it’s a symbol of unspeakable atrocities against mankind. Um, Holocaust, anyone?

He laughed and said he was just “joking around.” And then he told her to “lighten up.” [Does this kind of rhetoric sound familiar?]

Crying, she said, “Mom, I’m just terribly sad and AFRAID.”

Our current political climate, our literal climate, our rising gun violence rates, and our collective unconsciousness are not instilling confidence in our children.  Do the right thing. If your school tells you your child is drawing swastikas on his arm and books, then give him an education and a serious consequence. Teach him that it’s wrong.

Don’t “Boys will be boys” it.

I’m going to call that boy’s parents and I will let you know if they are “asleep” or not.


Arizona · education · fears · Personal Success · school

The Disinterest Disease

Elliott Stallion, photographer

Dear parents-who-are-not-voting-this-year,

I understand some of you are disgusted this election year. Your children tell me in my classroom you are so upset with the choice of candidates that you are not voting in this election.

Ok. I get that.

Let me tell you what’s happening. Your kids are shutting down in my social studies class. They don’t want to learn about the election. We had “Kids Voting” this week. Half the class shouted, “I don’t want to vote!” They are repeating very hateful phrases that I cannot believe you’d ever let them hear, let alone say.

This is uncharacteristic of my students. They usually want to engage in discussion of real life issues. They are always thirsty to express their thoughts, to learn, to analyze and participate. I’ve never seen them like this.

So I reminded them that people in some other countries (North Korea, for one) are not allowed EVER to vote. Your kids know about North Korea because I told them my parents were children during the Korean War and that they didn’t have access to a school or new shoes for at least six years of their childhood.  Many of our American children (my daughters included) are untouched by deprivation of basic needs: freedom, shelter, food. But not all American children are untouched by hunger, homelessness or hate. 

I reminded my students that millions of people have given their lives so that their children might vote. Voting is a right in America. If apathy continues to grow, it might become a privilege for just a few. It once was, you know, right here in America.

I encouraged instructed the class to log onto the Kids Voting website. I distributed access codes and told them to open another tab and look up words and issues if they did not know what they were. I told them to vote according to their beliefs. I told them there is no right or wrong answer. Beliefs are your own, like opinions.

They talked to each other, they looked stuff up. They talked some more. Not a single  argument. Friends disagreed, but remained friends. No one tried to talk the other out of anything.

It took 30 minutes for the students to research and vote on about 5 issues/positions.

When they were done, most were very pleased. “I finally know what an electoral college is!” I noted that the students who were not that enthusiastic were the ones who just guessed and voted. I know this because when I asked why some felt “Just OK” they answered, “Because I didn’t know what I was voting for.”

As an educator, it’s my job to ensure I teach your child to think critically. How can they do that if they shut down? Why would they think critically if they adopt a “what’s the use” attitude? Why strive to reach compromises for the Greater Good if you only hear hate?

Upon completion, they received an “I Voted” sticker. Remember those? Remember how proud you were to wear one?

Catherine* raised her hand.

“Mrs. Wipff, why can’t we all just have our beliefs and still be nice to each other, even with people who disagree with us?”

Indeed, why not?

*not her real name