Sorry, Mom!

When my brothers and I were young and following our parents around from Air Force Base to AFB, we were absolutely mortified by my mother’s…how should I say….friendliness. It wasn’t enough for her to go to the commissary, buy us some food, and come home and cook. NO. Instead, she would accost perfect strangers wearing WVU sweatshirts or sidle up next to people with that distinctive accent from those West Virginia hills. Worse yet, at the BX, she’d leave notes with her phone number under the windshield wipers of cars with WV license plates. “Hi! I’m from WV, too!” We would hide behind our wood-paneled station wagon and cringe. Our house was filled with people hankering for a taste of pinto beans and cornbread. Sunday dinners could see a WV family chowing down on our fried chicken. Thanksgivings were peppered with lonely airmen, just kids really, who were far from home, but welcomed in ours. Just mortifying. 😉

Here’s a favorite photo of her being shy in Montreal:

mom montreal

Well, time for me to apologize.

While I don’t leave my house number under windshield wipers, I have the modern day equivalent: the business card.

business card

Yesterday I woke up without any prospects for a place to live during my Fulbright experience. I’d emailed and called leasing agents to no avail. Finally, ONE person gave me an inkling of help, so I popped into their storefront and found two possibilities. (And made an appointment to view the next day.) I returned from the hotel, happy, and went to the executive lounge to work. This is when I turned into my mother.

A lovely English lady made the mistake of asking me if I happened to know what time canapes were served in the evening. From this mundane encounter, I formed a friendship. I asked where she was from (London, btw, not West Virginia), what brought her to Nottingham, etc. Just like mom, I shared my contact information. I whipped out my business card. After she left, I hoped I’d see her again, as she was interesting and engaging. Soon, she did – husband in tow – to give me her card!new friends

The next thing I knew, they’d invited me out to see the oldest pub in England, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem and to join them for dinner! Mom was right – you never know who you’ll meet and friends you’ll
make if you reach out. Thanks to Cath and Les for befriending me and giving me such a memorable evening!


me statuenight castle


What I Did This Summer

In solidarity with back-to-school students around the US., here’s my obligatory piece on what I did this summer and one thing I learned from each experience. (In bullet form, so I won’t bore you with too much detail!)

  1. Visited Family: We flew to Florida to see brother Matt and lovely wife Lori. I loved walking on Madeira Beach. We also drove to Vermont from NC to see the kids, their significant others, and THE grandson before I left for the UK (please be sure to read #6, whicmilo leprechaunh made that trip moot – FUN, but moot.) I also drove to WV after my summer job ended to say goodbye to my mom, who introduced me to everyone we met in the entire state as a Fulbright recipient. (Which led to a speaking invitation upon my return, so…YAY!) What I learned: From my grandson- he said, “Good job, Pépé!” Cheering people on when trying new things makes hearts feel warm. There was even more driving and flying, some of which was a surprise. (Again, see #6 )
  2. Kenan Fellowship: I was chosen, fortunately, as a Kenan Fellow Award recipient by NC State University’s Kenan Institute and Ply Gem. This Program for Teacher Leadership choses educators from around the state to work with local industries and bring their learning into the classroom. What I Learned:  Interviewing CAN be fun when you are relaxed, prepared, and qualified. With the award came an excellent professional development experience…see next point.
  3. Kenan Fellow Professional Development at Cullowhee: Held at NCCAT Cullowhee, a week of workshops and meetings, polishing teaching skills. The North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching is truly one of the best things about the state. If you care about education, this is a great place to donate! They show teachers respect. The mountains of NC are beautiful and offers whitewater rafting, which we tried. I made it to the last rapid without falling out – and only didn’t then because a light-webquick thinking teacher grabbed my lifejacket and saved me from the watery depths. What I learned:  Great teachers love sharing their amazing ideas and do it well. After learning about project based learning, connected with tech, and understanding learning styles, it was time to dive into my corporate work. On to PLY GEM at #4…
  4. Ply Gem – My Kenan Fellow internship at Ply Gem, a leader in external building material products was an amazing experience. First of all a big thanks to Lee Clark-Sellers and her team who included me from the start, assigning me two interesting projects at their Insight Center – the R&D portion of their company.  What I learned: Combining a team of engineers from different disciplines in product innovation takes cooperation for the project to succeed, which helps inform they way I structure project learning in my classroom. ALSO; The projects I worked on with the impact of humidity, along with reflectivity in roofing will become learning units for students.
  5. Extreme Weather – Another professional development NCCAT workshop, this time at the Ocracoke campus was provided to the Beulah P. Whichard scholarship. She was a respected educator and her son created this funding in her honor and memory. My father, a meteorologist, would be so proud of this connection to weather, as well as the honor of the award. What I learned: Creating interdisciplinary units weaving science and English with historical weather events can be a challenge, but its an enjoyable one. I’m excited to share my ideas for student learning in a future post, as I like the complexity of it, as well as the practicality. It was while I was at Ocracoke a life-changing event occurred….see #6
  6. The BIG Move – While I was in Ocracoke, my husband was flown for an interview with an international chocolate company, Barry Callebaut, with a branch in Vermont. He was quickly offered the job of plant controller and a week later we were flying to find a home there. The day after we returned from VT to NC, the movers arrived! WHEW! That was the quickest move I’ve seen. They were eager to have him start right away and he was so fortunate in getting an offer from such an amazing corporation. And anyone who knows me KNOWS I adore chocolate. Now we are in the same state as our children, their partners, and my favorite (only) grandson.
  7. Fulbright Distinguished Teacher Award – This  particular adventure will continue throughout the fall term into January as I research education at the University of Nottingham in England. As I sit 3,000 miles across the sea from my family, friends, and students, I am still in disbelief I was chosen. phone nottsIt’s real, though. I hear it in the church bells ringing across the square, in the lilt of the voices, in the clicking of my heels on the cobblestones. These sounds remind me of what I’ve learned: Dreams do come true.

















“Where Are You From?”

It used to be easier answering this question, I’d say, “Here” or “I just moved from New York” (or wherever the last state was previously). But my addresses changed often recently. Today, in a little shop in Nottingham, the clerk asked me a simple question when hearing my American accent. “Do you mind me asking, where are you from?” I opened my mouth to answer, but didn’t know what to say.

Now I do.

Where Are You From?

A simple question
with a twisted answer.
I’m from everywhere.
And nowhere.
Bookending my life:
A little village in England
and a vibrant city in New England

The forward is short, like me
A few years under a flag,
not my parents’ –
not the one I’d pledge
allegiance to in primary school.

The chapters of my life are marked
by stories set in varied lands.
Sitting on wooden steps of a trailer,
heat rising in the distance,
blowing out a few candles on a cake,
baked by my mother.
My father, comforting me with lengthy explanations
of lighting and thunder.

As you thumb through the pages,
you'll see the usurpers, two characters who
claimed laps and arms, who forged a bond
only broken by miles and adulthood.
I thought of them as twins – “the boys”
They etched my story with their laughter,
binding themselves tightly into the stories
I share with my students.

One lost year without my father:
A short chapter told in letters, tape recordings,
blurred photographs from a war far away
Held together by the glue of extended family
Kept from fading by the protective cover of cousins,
this is the home of my heart

Swept away to the plains, flat and endless
Middle grade years transitions trees to a first crush,
then skipped ahead to tall peaks,
my rising action, but not my denoument
Punctuated by short setting changes,
growing, learning, finding my calling

Closer to the end,
change increases its pace.
In four years, five moves,
skipping across the land,
even across the pond,
like a shiny, smooth stone
a mere footnote in a lifetime 

I stand in the shoppe,
her eyes inquisitive, awaiting
my reply.
“Where am I from?” I repeat. 
I blink.
“That’s hard to say.
And nowhere.
But for right now, I’m here.”

~Marjorie Light
August 27, 2016


ngham map

Feeling Pensive


Usually tonight the jitters would have hit by now. Normally, I’d check and recheck my first day lesson plan. I would have come home late from work tonight after staying to ensure everything was “just so” – but no.

Not this year.

For the first time in nineteen years, I’m not going to school tomorrow. I won’t be surrounded by students. I won’t be learning new names. I won’t have former students squeal and hug me.

Instead, I’m spending the night before school reading articles about education in another country. I’m searching online for a place to call home for five months in Nottingham, England. I’m dreaming of learning in schools far from home.

While I’m *beyond* excited for this opportunity, tonight I’m pensive. Basically my entire identity revolves around teaching, serving my students, and working toward making the future better for the teens in my care. It is an uneasy feeling not getting ready for work in the morning.

Since I was a child, one of my aspirations was to spend an extended period of time in England. In twenty-one days, I’ll board a plane and fly to begin my Fulbright Distinguished Teacher Fellowship in the U.K. There, I’ll meet college students who are teachers-in-training at a university considered one of the top one-percent in the world. When I go into schools, I will observe educators, lead lessons, and interview students.

This is how I can get through the night and the next few days: My research topic, Connecting and Competing in a Global Economy: Educating First-Generation College and Minority Students, is one close to my heart and life’s mission. I’ve seen on a three-week trip to Germany how that country is working together making education a national priority. This extended trip should give me more ideas moving the United States toward equality in education, along with methods of implementation.

The next few months will surely be exciting and life changing for me, and more importantly, I hope when I return I can work for changes here for our students. ALL children in the United States deserve an education that will prepare them for the future. We can do better.

So while I am pensive, the prevailing feeling is one of hopefulness. Stepping away from the classroom this semester was a difficult decision, but I am sure it is the right one.

3-d printer kids

My students after winning a 3-D Printer for the Summer Reading Challenge with the Durham Public Library. These are my kids. This is why I do what I do.