About Wilkins-O’Riley Zinn

I am a teacher educator who is also an artist and poet, and I am challenged daily by my determination to integrate my professional life and my personal passions. I have been creative all of my life and it has been both a blessing and a curse, driving me to express myself in ways that are not always traditional. Still, I do not consider myself unconventional. I have no desire to flout society’s rules and become a rebel outsider, yet sometimes I find myself on the outside because of who I am.

I call myself a nonconventional person and here’s how that differs from being unconventional (in my head–please be aware that I am painfully aware that you might have an entirely different definition): An unconventional person chooses to be something other than the norm and often delights in catching the world offguard. A nonconventional person is born seeing the world in unusual ways. S/he is not trying to be difficult or different, s/he just is, and must then spend a lifetime trying to adjust while also trying to express her or his authenticity of being. The things that seem quirky or odd to others are not masks or costumes put on to delight the crowd; they are integral to the nonconventional person’s being

I feel compelled to add a quotation or two or probably more to this entry. It’s what I do:

In my relationships with others, I have found that it does not help in the long run, to act as though I were something I am not. • Carl Rogers

In any society, the artist has a responsibility. His or her effectiveness is certainly limited and a painter or writer cannot change the world. But they can keep an essential margin of nonconformity alive. Thanks to them, the powerful can never affirm that everyone agrees with their acts. That small difference is very important. • Luis Bunuel

The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life flow no longer into our souls.
•Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 1890 speech, National Woman Suffrage Association

We cannot trust some people who are nonconformists. We will make conformists out of them in a hurry. . .The organization cannot trust the individual; the individual must trust the organization. • Ray Kroc, founder of McDonalds

Sometimes I am dangerously self-aggrandizing. I like to quote myself. Thus the following chorus from a country song I wrote several years ago called “The Invisible Woman.” Do I reveal too much by sharing that I write bad country lyrics? It’s not easy being a woman and I join Dolly and Loretta and June and all the rest in telling you so:

And am I the Invisible Woman

living life without being seen?

A silent reminder

to no one at all

of nothing. Am I just a dream?

A creature without any substance,

reaching out for what I can’t hold,

wishing someone had

seen me and heard me,

listened to all the stories

I’ve told.



  1. Saw your comment on my Worst Celebrity Product Endorsements Of All Time blog post on the Archie McPhee monkeygoggles blog. That Jimmy Carter thimble and Eva Gabor wig spray sounds fabulous. Would love you to submit them ( photos, title and description) to The Allee Willis Museum of Kitsch at awmok.com. Sounds like you have much else in your collection which will be well appreciated there like the bad poetry books. I have the world’s largest collection of Kitsch (among other things) and would be most honored to have you as a member there.

    You say that your determination is to integrate your professional life with your personal passions. I’ve dedicated my entire life to that so also please check out alleewillis.com. I completely relate to what you’ve written above. Many like-minded people await at awmok.com too.


    • I checked out your website. What fabulousity. If I didn’t have grading that has to be done before I meet with students later today, I would have wallowed. Still it’s wonderful to know you’re out there. Many thanks for getting in touch. I will be taking delight in your offerings later.

      • Great! And I look forward to you putting some of your stuff in the museum as well.


  2. Oh, boy…I am going to be checking your Blog on a regular basis. You are going to like this…my class this next term is about TAG kiddos. The first assignment was to write a “poem” describing you. Write a description of yourself using the letters from JUST LIKE + YOUR FIRST NAME. The letters can appear in any where in the words. Would love to see what you can do with this…. This is what I wrote:

    Just Like Me Rebecca

    Just beginning


    Starting at






    Loves the absuRd of life

    Everyday Funniness of Being on this

    globE of ours

    tiCkles my imagination.

    A Compassionate, beading, beAch walking gal.


    • I am going to give this a try and use it in a blog–thanks for the idea. I especially like the idea that the letters can appear anywhere, making it much easier than the first letter of the words version which I’ve always found frustrating. Z

  3. I must take exception to your comment regarding the opening sentence of my book REBELS & CHICKS, which you characterize as dangerous to the uninformed reader. You have taken one sentence of an entire chapter which offers a detailed, researched explanation of my thesis regarding teenagers coming into their own in the 1950s as well as films that were released from the 1930s through the 1940s.

    A sentence in a book is not meant to be read in isolation, but needs to be discussed in the context in which it was written. Unfortunately, you have chosen not to do that.

    Stephen Tropiano

    • Greetings,

      As you will note if you read the entire post, while I did refer to the opening sentence of your book as dangerous for inexperienced researchers who might not read further, I also noted that in reading further, one would find additional enlightening material. Honestly, I remain curious about your choice of initial sentences since it doesn’t seem to fit with what follows.

      I enjoyed your book and was using it to make the point that there is often more there than might appear if the reader stops with a single sentence.


  4. Thank you for your thoughtful response.

    The reason why I began with that sentence is to emphasize the fact that the “teen movie” as a genre did not really begin in the 1950s. The examples I give prior to the 1950s are not “teen movies” in the tradition of the genre as they were not films made specifically for a teenage audience, but for a general audience. They are not teen movies in the traditional sense.


    • I appreciate your clarification. While I still think the opening provides a tempting stopping place for a novice student “grab-and-go” researcher who would miss the richness of what you are saying, I am delighted to gain insight into your intentions.

      Again, I enjoyed your book and recommend it to my students who are studying adolescent development, particularly since we focus in part on the cultural influences that help shape young people.


  5. Zinn… How did it take me so long to find this amazing connection to your thinking? Now I have it!

  6. So glad you found me–there’s actually some useful stuff embedded in here! W-OZ

  7. You were far from invisible.:)

  8. Zinn! I can’t believe you are gone! My heart is heavy and aches that such a cheerful ray of life is no longer here on this earth, bringing smiles and understanding to crazy MAT students everywhere. But Ii know you are in a better place, and you get to see your mom again too! Your legacy lives on in your students.

  9. […] on teaching and learning.  She had cool exercises for us, many developed during her year of blogging everyday, which we often never got to.  We just started talking about teaching and couldn’t […]

  10. Are you the Mrs. Zinn that taught English at South Medford? I think I was in your class in 1988-9. My 9-year old teased me today that my hair is too long so I told him I had a teacher whose hair was down to her feet! He was amazed and asked, “did you like her?” I said that I did although I hadn’t considered the question in many years. I thought I might find a picture of you, and through the magic of Google I found one! There was an article about you that brought me to this blog. What a small world. I hope you are well.

    • Oh damn. Just read the last post. 😦

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