All posts by Mary Anne Dugan

What’s on Your Bookshelf?

by Mary Anne Duggan

I’ve loved books (and donuts) for a long time!

A long-distance lover might whisper over the phone line, “What are you wearing?” But I find the question, “What are you reading?” so much more intriguing. Thus, this week’s Write 6X6 prompt about our current literary delights really “lit” me up.

Someone once said, “I like to carry a book with me at all times in case nothing happens.” I feel the same way, and that is why I always have a book (or several) well within reach.

Lately I have three types of books going at any one time: 1) An audiobook for long car rides to GCC, 2) A non-fiction book to read in stolen moments throughout the day, and 3) A good, juicy novel. Here is what I’m reading now in each category:

Audiobook – Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

When I visit my daughter who lives on the Upper West Side in New York City, I always stop by the Strand independent bookstore on Columbus Avenue. It was there that I stumbled upon Sapiens last month, and I thought it might enrich my learning of evolutionary psychology. It turns out what I don’t know about the history of our species is a lot, and I am so grateful to have found this book.

(Speaking of New York bookstores, I highly recommend the documentary The Booksellers available on Amazon Prime.)

Nonfiction – When Memory Comes by Saul Friedländer

Very soon I will be embarking on an educational delegation to Poland and Israel to study the history of the Holocaust and prospects for global peace in the future. A dear colleague loaned me several books to help me prepare for the trip, and When Memory Comes is one of them. Friedländer’s memoir that spans from being hid as a child from the Nazis in World War II to living in the newly-created state of Israel as an adult is gripping throughout.

Fiction – The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

I always have one glorious novel on my bedside. When I spoke with my doctor just this week about having difficulty sleeping, he said that old saw, “Mary, the bed is only for two things.” Well, if I have to choose only two things for the bed . . .

Seriously, I’m not giving up reading in bed (or the other two things). The book I am reading now is a “Shannon Pick.” My niece Shannon has impeccable taste in books, TV, and movies, so when she makes a recommendation, I take note. The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a fiction book based on interviews with a real Holocaust survivor. I don’t count it as a full-on historical record, but it is a well-written and enlightening story. It is at once dreamy and heartbreakingly tragic.

I’m off now to snuggle up with a good book (and not sleep)!


The Long and Winding Road

by Mary Anne Duggan

When the first prompt of this season’s Write 6X6 challenge was announced, my brain buzzed with potential songs that represent my career in education. The first thing I did was to search for chart-toppers from my first year in teaching – 1986. A quick trip down musical memory lane promptly reminded me of why I don’t love 80’s music.

But another song from the past kept floating in my consciousness – The Long and Winding Road. So, I decided to take lyrics from this 1970 Beatles song for a spin around the record player to see if it spoke sang to me.

The long and winding road
That leads to your door
Will never disappear
I’ve seen that road before
It always leads me here
Leads me to your door

I didn’t set out to become a teacher. Instead, I started out as a dance major in college. I struggled in the first two years of my dance program. The professors didn’t like how much time I was spending with my boyfriend. They didn’t like that I actually ate food. And on the first day of my junior year, I got sideways of my ballet teacher.

On that day, the teacher was disgusted by her students’ lack of preparation. At the end of class, she went around and demanded the names of some of us to report to the department chair. When she approached me, my face was flushed and heart racing. “What is your name?” she barked. The toes in my ballet slippers were tingling, and I packed up all that adrenaline and ran to the registrar’s office, where I proclaimed, “I want to change my major!”

You could do that back in 1984. Computers weren’t used for registration when I was in college, so you just told someone if you wanted out. “Well, what do you want to study?” asked the 25-year old registration manager.

I took a split second to think about the last time I was happy in a college class. “I love psychology because I’m totally into how people learn!” Enter the first bend of the winding road: I thought that meant I should be an elementary school teacher.

The winding road went from elementary school teacher to preschool owner back to elementary school teacher through a master’s degree in counselor education to staff developer to peer evaluator to a PhD in educational psychology to clinical assistant professor of education to research program director to assistant research professor in family/human development and – finally — to teacher of psychology. You know, that thing I told the registration manager I wanted 39 years ago.

But all along the road, there is one thread in my career of four decades: A fierce desire to honor the individuality of my students, to provide a visceral sense of safety for them, and to encourage a sense of belonging for all. To make my classroom a place students feel they have value and something to contribute. It should be no surprise that what I have been working on through the whole of my career is what I so desperately needed in that dance studio, on that fateful August day so very long ago.