Dialogue – a talk with me

Writing and Teaching: A talk with myself

As I was cleaning up one of my bookshelves at home, I uncovered an old handwritten writer’s notebook I had kept. In 1979, I participated in the Bay Area Writing Project in my school district. A number of teachers, from throughout the district, met over the summer for three weeks to learn about the writing process. In doing so, we had to do a lot of writing. One of the activities we did was to explore the use of dialogue. We were to create 2 characters (voices) and then free write a dialogue between them. I created two characters both based on myself. HDH and Self. Psychoanalysts might get a good look into my mind by reading such pieces. As I continued keeping journals throughout my teaching career, I would periodically fall back to this technique as part of my writing. It saved me a lot of money on mental health expenses.


Here was my first attempt at dialogue in 1979:

Continue reading

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First Days

As a teacher, I have a plethora of first days of school. Each one leaves an imprint that sets up the tone for a year of learning. As a reflective practitioner, I kept journals of every year that I taught. The night before each first day is spent writing about goals, fears, and expectations for the year. Not knowing what classes I was going to have always added to the fears of what I might accomplish. My goals and expectations were always high. Then the year would begin.

The first day was always a day of introductions, learning names and setting up our environment. There are a number of years in which the first day also set up the challenges I would have to face during the year.

My first day teaching was as a permanent substitute 6th-grade teacher in a school district. I started the day waking up to the radio program “Imus in the Morning”, where he jokingly announcing the time one hour ahead of the real time. Luckily I had a manual, cuckoo clock that showed the real time, so my panic lasted only a few minutes. In my first class, I announced how we could have a tough year or a great year and do great things. As I said this, I accidentally walked into a garbage can, knocking it over. “Like kicking over garbage cans,” I said, without skipping a beat. Continue reading

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As a writing assignment from a writing workshop I am taking, I had to choose from a list of nonsense words, taken from the book, The Nonsense Show by Eric Carle and write something. Here’s what I wrote:


When my mind wanders it is amazing the nonsense that it comes up with. It also helps to have a writing assignment dedicated to nonsense. When I was teaching I was known for bringing up topics that had nothing to do with the conversation that was taking place. One teacher complained that I was giving her whiplash every time I did that. So it became a process in discussions involving me, that I would preempt these kinds of reactions, by just announcing the word “whiplash”, meaning what I’m about to say has nothing to do with the conversation at hand.


It was a dark and stormy night, there was not a cloud in the sky. I was sitting on my porch taking a walk when all of a sudden I saw a very loud noise. It was coming from behind me, so I moved forward to get a closer look. There were 4 square shapes each rolling smoothly across the icy ground toward me, getting farther and farther away. Closing my eyes I could clearly see that these beings, for that was what they must have been, could tell that I was shaking with fear, as calm as a tranquil sea. Continue reading

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Spiral of Time


Spiral of Time

Time goes on. It’s a spiral, ever focusing on an endpoint that you cannot see. The further you get away from the start, the greater the past seems, ever-widening with history and the story of your life. The end point keeps going and going, getting smaller and smaller in the distance, never seeming to end. Never seeming to get closer, though you know it is. Time goes on.

I am both a historian and a futurist. My past and the pasts of others fill me with mistakes made, knowledge learned, and wisdom gained. It provides me with the fuel necessary to proceed. I build with that information and construct my life so as to represent to the world who I am.

My future, though yet unknown, clearly has a path that is followable. It leads me to the goals I have made, to the expectations that I have come to have based on the needs of my mind. For it is the mind that dreams, and the mind that creates, and the mind that helps design those tools and devices that I will use to follow that path.

The future also holds all those detours upon the path that I tread. Those off-shoots that will build upon the spiral behind me of my history, yet still lead me forward. 

Time goes on, yet time stands still as the story that is created becomes the one, the picture, the play, the chapter of time.

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It must be magic.

Oh, how education has changed. In my youthful days of teaching, there were so many things that we were able to do. We had projects that we involved the kids in that enhanced our curriculum. Some of them took a long time to accomplish, especially since we had no technology to rapidly give us information or print out our writing and graphics. We had to be neat with our work that was all done by hand. Even as more technology came out, learning how to type and work with it took time. But that was okay because we had it. Nowadays, that is less possible, because of all of the mandated programs and linear timelines that you have to follow; we are trying too hard to become the same. Creativity is not a mandated curriculum.

Control of your class and have the time to learn more about each of the students and them for each other is much more difficult.

One of the things I learned back then, is that more we understood each other, the more we were able to accept and cooperate with each other. There was a program that my teammate and I used called, Magic Circle.
This tool accomplished all of the above. Each day we sat in a circle. As the leader in the beginning of the year, I would announce the topic to share. There were themes that these topics came in, such as Awareness,  Social Interaction, and Mastery. For example, the topic for today is, “A time when I learned something new.” Now anyone that wanted to share could share. There was no forcing of students to say anything. Following all of the sharing, we would review what everyone one said. “Mr. Heilbrun, you said that you learned how to skate when your neighbor invited you to their rink”.  The focus in review was that you had to speak directly to the person you were reviewing. As soon as you started saying, “She said…” you would be stopped and reminded to talk to the person not about them.

As the year progressed, students were able to take part in the leadership role. I would give them the topic and they would run the Circle. Following the review, I would retake control as the students were allowed to tell the leader what they did well as the leader. 

This had nothing to do with our curriculum. It took about 15 minutes to 30 minutes a day. I only know how effective it was, when I stopped doing it, due to time restraints or when there was too much I had to accomplish before the end of the year. The atmosphere in the class became more tense, with less listening to each other, more conflicts, and the volume of noise increased.

My favorite topic was late in the year when the topic was, “Something about you that I like”. Kids bombarded each other with positive feedback. I made sure that everyone was shared about. And with this topic, everyone had to review not what was said to someone, but what was shared about themselves.

One of my most memorable Magic Circle events had to do with a child with Down’s Syndrome that I had in my class. You can read about it in a previous blog entry: http://www.hdhstory.net/Storyblog/?p=271

I only wish, in these days of progressive education, where the goal seems to be teaching kids how to survive in a frenetic world, that we took the time to teach kids how to listen well to each other, be creative and explore as they learn about the world and themselves. I think education would be a lot more fun.

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Grow Up!

Grow up!

My name was Uncle Itch. I believe that it came about from the fact that my nieces and nephews at a very young age preferred to call me that rather than Uncle H. The name stuck with me and even though they have grown up and now call me Uncle Harvey, I still refer to myself as Uncle Itch to them. As they grew up from infancy to teenage, I was in my 20’s and early 30’s. As far as they were concerned I hadn’t grown up. Whenever I visited them, I was silly. I used strange voices, which I still use in my storytelling, tripped, accidentally on purpose, on numerous objects to make them laugh. I always made up silly stories and sang songs with my guitar. They enjoyed having me around. I was just another kid in the family.

Then I grew up. I met my wife. I had a son. Now I had a lot more responsibilities than I had before. I wasn’t the lone person with no one to look after that I was when I was single.  For me, I didn’t notice the change. I still felt like the fun, goofy kind of person that I was. It certainly didn’t change the way I acted in my teaching life, personality-wise. However, when I went and visited my sister’s family, they could see a difference. I still interacted with everyone, but I wasn’t as crazy. As I said, I became Uncle Harvey.

This is not to say that I’m sad about growing up or at least being perceived as growing up, but it is different. My nieces now are married and have kids of their own. And like me, they have changed a bit too. However their kids can see in me pieces of the person I was, a little more sedate, but still one full of stories and games. Since their kids refer to me the way their parents do, I haven’t had any success in getting them to call me Grunkle Itch.

Inside of me, I still am Uncle Itch. No one said that being in your 60’s means that you must be grown up. In fact, my rule is be who you want to be. If that means having fun and being a little crazy, then so be it.

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A to Z Blog Challenge Reflection 2017


A to Z Blog Challenge – Reflection (What if…?)

This is my second year doing the A to Z Blog Challenge. I will admit that this year was harder than last year.

Last year’s theme I chose was Life’s Choices/Life’s Changes. Though coming up an idea for each letter was hard, the writing, once the idea was thought up, was easy. Every piece of writing was from my head and experience. I discovered mid-way through the alphabet, after reading blog entries from other writers, that adding pictures and cartoons to my writing, enhanced the pieces.

This year, however, it took a while to come up with the theme, What if…? It certainly allowed me more freedom in finding things to write about, however, it also required more research to be done for each piece. Once I came up with the theme, I hoped to get a jump on some of that research so I wouldn’t be pressured when it came time to writing and deadlines. That didn’t work out. I do much better when I research as I’m writing.

Now I needed ideas for each letter. I brainstormed with my family, friends and a lot with the elementary classes that I substitute teach in. When it was time to start writing, here was my list of ideas: Continue reading

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Z – Zoom, Zoom


What if we could Zoom-in to things with just our eyes?

There are times when I’m trying to take a picture of some wildlife that I don’t get the shot because the animal moves away before I can get set-up, or before I can get close enough to make a good shot. If only my phone had a zoom lens that allowed me to take good pictures and not get close enough to scare my subjects away!zoom fall

My wife has told me many times that I have to learn to look at these animals and potential pictures in real life without the camera and fix the picture in my mind. How many of you have spent time at your child’s performance or event, a beautiful scenic view,  watching only through the lens of a camera?


What if you didn’t have a camera or a zoom lens, but you could do all the same things with just your eye? What if your eye had a built in Zoom?

You’re at a mountain resort. The sky, the cascade of mountains as well as the trees in the foreground are reflected in the lake before you. It’s a beautiful vision.


You notice a bird flying over the trees and are not quite sure what kind it is. Luckily for you, you can use your zoom eye to get a closer look.

It is a hawk:  hawk-300x213  Now isn’t that cool!

You have a splisplinternter or there is a tick on you. You’re not sure where it is or what kind it is. So you use your zoom eye to get a better look.

We recently noticed that some of our water had little particulates in it. The zoom eye would have been perfect to get a close look at the particulates so that we could do some analysis. Think of what this could mean for scientists.

Imagine as a driver, how much ahead of where you are you could see to avoid accidents and find alternate routes to take.

Having a Zoom-in eye has lots of benefits. Hopefully, you would have full control over it and it doesn’t go rogue on you. I wonder if there would be a benefit to having your eyes worked independently of each other, possibly one a long range zoom and the other a wide-angle zoom.

And what if you could actually make permanent records of all of those great scenes and events and project them for others to see?

Using my zoom-in eye I also notice something else. Today is:  April 30. Isometric Calendar Icon With Shadow.Vector Illustration,Flat Style.Month and Date.Sunday,Monday,Tuesday,Wednesday,Thursday,Friday,Saturday.Week,Weekend,Red Letter Day. Holidays 2017. and the final day of the A to Z Blog Challenge for 2017. It’s been fun. You’ll have to wait a little while for my Reflection piece on this year’s challenge, but certainly, keep an eye on my Blog for more writing throughout the year. As for next year’s Challenge, you’ll just have to wait, unless you can see that far ahead.

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Y – To be young again!

What if we could stay young?

If you go to St. Augustine, Florida you can visit Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth (https://goo.gl/pzgaZ6). The story behind Ponce de Leon’s search for the fountain of youth has never been proven. But that doesn’t stop Florida from sharing that water for you to taste.

Now imagine, if you will, that you could remain young. At what age would you choose to remain? What’s interesting about this question is that you can look at it from multiple perspectives. You can look at it from a physical perspective, pick an age and from that point on you will stay in the same physical state, in both appearance and stamina. You can look at it from a memory perspective. Pick an age and you will have all the memories and events up to that time and continue from there. How about an experience and capability perspective? Pick an age and you will be old enough to do certain things (vote, marry, have kids).  And what if you are old now? Would taking that sip retain what you already have (relatives, friends, knowledge, memories) and just revert you to a younger you? All these things need to be determined before you take that sip.

Getting older isn’t the same as growing up.

I asked a few of my colleagues during lunch if they could stay young, what age would they like to be. Pretty much all of them chose the memory and experience route. The average age they chose was in their mid-30s. Usually, because they had already married and had all of the kids that they have now. They had resolved a lot of personal issues with the people that they lived with and felt that that was a good time in their lives.

I also asked a 5th grade class the same question. Their answers varied a lot, from being the age they are now, because they had few responsibilities, to somewhere between 18-20, because they would have learned a lot and would be allowed to do more things, to late 20s where they could have a family, and finally one girl said, “I don’t want to stay young. I want to keep growing and learning.”

I didn’t mention to either group that picking an age that would want to be, would stop you from continuing to learn more, or change the memory/experiences you already had, or that you couldn’t change your lifestyle, get married, have more kids, etc. But it seemed everyone interpreted it that you would go back in time to that age without anything that came after it.

In my concept of staying young, you would still chronologically age. The activities that you participated would be commensurate with the young age you chose to be, but you still could get hurt, get diseases, and die. It just wouldn’t be age related.

For myself, I’m not sure what age I would like to be at. Certainly, I would like to be young enough to continue playing sports, which I can’t do now. Mid-30s would work for that. But I would also want to make sure that I met and married my wife and also had my son to raise. That would raise it to mid-30s to low-40s. Now if I could ensure that I met my wife and had my son in my late-20s, that would be a lot more palatable. However, if you add the jobs that I’ve had and what I liked doing, you’re talking mid-30s-50s. Too many choices. Whatever I choose, my personality wouldn’t change.


So what about you, the reader? If you were given the opportunity to drink from the Fountain of youth and revert to any particular age of your youth, would you take a drink?  

And, What if the people around you, chose not to?

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X – Need an X-ray? Hold that thought.

What if X-rays could also show our emotions and thoughts?

We break a bone, bump our head, or have back trouble, and the doctor orders an x-ray. In some cases when answers can’t be found an MRI is also ordered. You have concerns about the possible side-effects, so you hesitate getting one.

Now suppose that the negative side-effects, healthwise, have been eliminated. This is due to a revolutionary new kind of x-ray that was developed. However, there is just one side-effect that has been introduced with this new technology. Not only will the X-ray/MRI take a picture of your bones for interpretation with no harm to your body, it will also show your thoughts and emotions both at the time of the x-ray and during the past 48 hours.

On the positive side, you will know whether or not you have broken something, which may be causing you pain or whether there is some sort of emotional (psychosomatic) piece that is causing your discomfort.

Then again, your doctor might discover some of your thoughts about their practice and other thoughts about people or events that you would prefer kept to yourself.

Would it make a difference if the emotion/thought scan was only an instantaneous picture of that particular second, or as I’ve described it, with a longer term picture of what’s going on in your body?

What if the emotion/thoughts picture could only pick up the information from the part that is being x-rayed? That arm really wants to hit or hug someone. Dentists might appreciate knowing ahead of time that being bitten is in their future. And what about other areas of your body that you might not want others to know what’s being thought?

Personally,  it would be interesting to find out some of that information. I have this chronic shoulder pain that clearly most know what’s going on. X-rays showed nothing, neither did a cortisone injection nor limited physical therapy. I would like to know the shoulder’s thoughts. I already know my emotional reaction to the pain and maybe it would even help a doctor prescribe treatment that works. The same goes for the constant hissing in my ear (tinnitus) and periodic pain that I have experienced around my ear; a brain MRI, which I had for the pain, showed nothing (Even without the thought scan, I know what’s going through your mind right now…ha-ha). So why can’t my head/ear tell the ENT doctor what the problem is?

Research shows that doing good things promote better health and physical well-being. Rather than guess work based on subjective studies, this device could give empirical data. I found this picture on the Internet. Clearly, some child is in the process of developing this technology.

Now What if these devices were inexpensive and you could wear them every day? Are they the next generation Fitbits or Apple Watches? Count me in.

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