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Inside Bowllan's Blog

Writers Against Racism: Back to Work – With A New Story

I’m back to work and my new story is…THAT’S LIFE!  Life happens and we have to go with it.  Yes, ride the wave, what ever the size, no matter how high!

This beautiful plant was JUST delivered to me from a thoughtful and supportive parent at my school.

Being back at school NEVER felt so good.  I have a new title, Coordinator of Media Resources & Research, and some crazy, random thoughts that include: Oh no, I hope no one looks closely at my eyelashes and eyebrows. They’re awfully sparse.  Do I have the sick look?  Will people treat me differently? When you feel different about yourself, you are in the minority. Which is why I hope we teach our young people how to have compassion for others. Please understand,  the students have not seen me since before my surgery or chemotherapy, so I was nervous as to how I looked. I know it sounds trivial but these are real feelings.  The short answer of my first days back… the young people (and my colleagues) are very gracious and while they all knew about my summer surgery and chemotherapy, they greeted me like I never left. YES!

Here’s the lead up to the big day:

1st stop: Very early on Friday morning, my family and I dropped my son off at boarding school and stayed the day, helping him set up his dorm room. That was tons of fun.

Over the weekend, the Susan G Komen special that was supposed to air on CBS2 here in NYC, was preempted by the US Open.  My journey through breast cancer is now rescheduled for Friday, September 16, at 7:00pm (est).  To be honest, I was never comfortable with the segment airing the weekend of 9/11, since the ten year anniversary deserved our full attention.  The new day is more appropriate. I actually used the 2010 Susan G Komen Race as an opportunity to launch a discussion and to teach my students how wildly unpredictable life can be from one year  to the next.  One solution…I had them write time capsule entries predicting how their year will unfold, which we will revisit in June.  I also shared with them how last year around this time I was busily preparing for the Komen Race, not knowing that one year later I would be going for treatments of chemotherapy.

Lesson learned: life has unexpected twists and turns.

Lesson Plan on Time Capsules: Much Can Change in a Year Susan G Komen Race for the Cure 2010

Students can learn a lot from pictures and how time never stays the same.

On Sunday, I caught an adorable young man reading and he happens to be good friends with my daughter, Christina, who had an awesome soccer game on Sunday.

Friends and family gather to watch soccer and remember the victims of 9/11. :(

Yesterday was my first full day of teaching my broadcast journalism class. Initially I thought I would be exhausted but in fact I was energized.  If you recall, last May I was saying goodbye to my students and colleagues, not knowing if I would be returning to teach in the fall.  Now, the fall school year has started and I am back to teaching and LOVING it. I also love my new position as Coordinator of Media Resources & Research.

The lesson I taught was based on a TED video, Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story.  I show this video every year because Adichie effectively and eloquently drives home the point that stereotypes are formed when we don’t look beyond ‘one side’ of a story. Needless to say, the students loved it and we had a great discussion afterward.

Based on what you know about the work of journalists, why would it be important for them to watch this video? Why or why not?

What happens when we do not listen to multiple stories? 


Outside of the field of journalism, how can this mindset be of help to us? 

Closing: I've been wearing scarves all summer to cover my baldness, and in this video, Chimamanda also wears a scarf. But clearly we wear them for different reasons.
Discussing culture, illness, style, stereotypes and preconceived notions, just from two people wearing scarves is pretty extraordinary for students to engage in.


  1. Loved what you wrote and the video. I’m definitely going to use the idea of the single story when I run across people espousing their stereotypes. Glad you’re back at work and doing what you love.

  2. SO, SO, SO invigorating a lesson.
    BIG TIME glad you are back !!!!!
    Glorious semester to you.

  3. Kate Librarian says:

    I often read your blog on SLJ and just saw the special on CBS about your battle with breast cancer. You are an inspiration, a resilient woman. Your comment about teaching our children to have compassion for all reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from George Washington Carver, “How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these.” I wish you continued good health and beautiful days ahead.

  4. Glad you’re hanging in there.

    A quick tip for your butterfly orchid: take out the sphagnum moss around the top so you can see the roots. I hope the potting media is little chunks of bark — best drainage that way. When you water (at least once a week) just take the pot to the sink and run lukewarm water through it. Let it drain a minute and put it back in the saucer. This orchid lives in treetops in rainforests, so the roots get drenched with water and then drain out until the next storm. Also indirect sunlight (as through a blind) or close to a florescent light will take care of the light.

    Sorry for all the orchid talk but I’ve killed one before and it was totally unnecessary! I now have two happy orchids on my desk — one of them bloomed this summer for a solid month. It was crazy!

  5. Kate, that is indeed a great quote! Thank you for sharing it with me and my readers. I’m grateful to you!
    Melinda, HOW did you know that I did not even know the name of this beautiful butterfly orchid? My mother was here recently and said she would take it and care for it for me. PLEASE know I am eternally grateful to you for the tips. I did exactly as you suggested and will keep you posted as to its growth. Full disclosure: I didn’t know it was an orchid. :) Thank you!

  6. I’m a former horticulturist who gets around. The scientific name is Phalaenopsis, and here’s the wikipedia entry —

    Good luck and all best wishes!