Poetry Friday: Afternoon On A Hill 11/25/2011
Afternoon On A Hill
I will be the gladdest thing
Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one.
I will look at cliffs and clouds
With quiet eyes,
Watch the wind bow down the grass,
And the grass rise.
And when lights begin to show
Up from the town,
I will mark which must be mine,
And then start down!
By Edna St. Vincent Millay
Fish and responsibility 11/21/2011
It is late Sunday night and I am worried about the fish. I calm myself by deciding to go into school early tomorrow to check things out. Real early. In case something happened. Over the weekend. When I was not there.
I try to pinpoint my anxiety. Is it because I never had a class pet before? Or that I only had my fish for less than a day when one died? Right in the middle of a reading group. My students insisted that the bright orange fish in the bottom corner of the tank was dead. I held out hope that maybe it was sleeping. After class, I took a closer look. Not good.
The other teachers tell me that this is typical. Fish die. It happens. I notify the science center with a sense of failure. They had said I could get more fish if things worked out. Would this count against me?
I watch the three survivors. Do they look lethargic? Are they eating enough? Should I get more decorative plants for the tank? Do I really have go with the names the students selected for them? Is anyone this neurotic?
No. I am over thinking. The fish will be fine. This is nature. I’ll just set my alarm a little earlier.
Known Cord 09/27/2011
The question is how to
not cross the lines.
From being involved
Intentions for balance
skew, tilt, teeter, dissolve.
The question is how to
step back without detaching.
Flowing not submerging.
Dethroning the trump call of work.
Disconnecting the known cord.
The Value of Reading 09/13/2011
Over the summer, I took part in Book-a-Day, an initiative launched by Donalyn Miller (author of The Book Whisperer). Every participant was asked to set a personal goal of how many books they would read over summer vacation and to keep track of it.
At first, I thought I would try for every day and read over 70 books. Yet, my count obsession began to overshadow the enjoyment so I settled for a best effort with the goal to just read everyday.
My seven-year old niece decided she, too, wanted to challenge herself. Her goal: fourteen books. I inwardly cringed when M said she wanted to read the Holy Grail for so many early readers: “chapter books”. Although a good reader, M still had not developed the stamina to stay with lengthier text. She tended to abandon them after a few chapters.
Kicking aside my aunt persona, I launched into my Reading Specialist role and talked about: choosing just right books; building stamina; how it is not the size of the book that counts; and how we read for enjoyment, etc. M looked dubious. Against my territorial teacher instinct, I decided to lend her a stack of my recently-acquired picture books to get her started (and, I admit, to convince her that picture books were not just for babies.)
M, I discovered, had a competitive streak. She checked in periodically to tell me how easy this was for her. With glee and an eye roll, M announced her sister had only read two books. By summer’s end, M beat her own goal and logged in 25 books.
I thought I would surprise M with a book to acknowledge her achievement. When I called her father, I found M had other ideas. She told her family that I had promised her a dollar a book and that she would be getting twenty-five dollars. My mouth dropped. M then proceeded to tell my brother that “really, I should get $30 because I am worth it”.
Last week, a five-day power outage prevented me from slicing. And the strangest thing was that I missed writing.
When we talk about identities in our workshops, my perception is always that I am a reader. Writing is what other, more creative, people do. I sympathize with the students who struggle to write. It is hard. I could (can) never meet a deadline and the process was (is) hard. It is no exaggeration that two paragraphs represent (-ed) at least eight hours of cross-outs, starting overs, and doubts. I have never just sat down and whipped anything out.
Back in March, when I started to slice, I still viewed myself as a reading person. My aim, again, was not to Be a Writer, but a teacher who would be in a better position to help student writers. I felt it unfair to ask students to write, if I didn’t.
The daily challenge, which turned into weekly, propelled me to write. Did the process get easier? No. Did my pace ever pick up? No. I would spend so much time on these pieces, l often had to read and comment other postings the next day.
Yet. I began to think of things I could write about as I pursued typical daily activities. I took note of what other slicers did. I started figuring out, in my head, different ways I could write about something. As I read, I wrote down interesting words. And finally, finally. ..when I read, it was easier to notice the craft involved.
The act of writing on a continual basis shifted my perception. I am still a reader but one who has begun to think like a writer. This is what I want to tell my students. It will happen to them, if they keep writing.
Trying to Be Crafty 08/24/2011
1. Drawerfuls of yarn, felt, foam squares, glitter glue, googly eyes, velcro, markers, pipe cleaners, magnetic backing. All set.
2. Bags of fabrics squares, thread, popsicle sticks, stickers. Discretely located all over the house.
3. A dusty bag of way-too-expensive and barely used scrap booking supplies. Definitely hidden.
4. The addictive urge to create. Arrives usually before school starts.
5. A crafty aptitude. No. Missing. Not there.
I admit it. Despite the trail of sad projects, the call of craft always carries me to a Jo-Ann’s Fabric or a Michael’s. For once, I resolve, chance will overcome ornery logistics.
Browsing the aisles, I practice selective amnesia. I ignore the memory of the letter magnets that slid down the white board surface (all surfaces for that matter). Gone are the weeks of labor-intensive word family cubes that involved cutting, laminating and velcro. So much velcro that when a student tossed a cube, static electricity prevented any rolling: the cubes stuck.
Why should I remember the laminating fiascos that crinkle up, bubble or just don't adhere to my newly-made posters and games? A series of web pictures depicting adorable plastic trash barrels decorated as human/monster word munchers prompted my creation of Max. Except Max is not cute. He still looks like a grey industrial receptacle with of nest of tangled yarn attached inexplicably to his lid for hair.
But the elusive one day can still happen. After all, I explain to my dubious students, how can Max be a trash can if he eats words and letters? And then they hug him.
Back To School Almost 08/16/2011
This is the not-yet period.
September still adumbrates;
But school is in session
in my head.
The anticipation grows.
purchase of supplies.
The annual potential
of that have-to-get
item that will make
classroom life easier.
Sometimes, it does.
To theme or not to theme.
The toppling pile(s)
of picture and chapter
books and more books
such guilty-lovely finds,
bursting to be introduced.
The whirling, spinning of ideas;
adrenalined new thinking
to share and explore.
The excitement of
so to be transformed;
To go forward anew
and begin again.
The rush of back-to-school.
The Harbinger 08/09/2011
When we were young, we did not need an internal clock or a calendar to signal the end of summer. We had our own arboreal marker that measured the seasons.
Early summer meant freedom, endless days and doing all of our whatevers. In the backyard, a lone green shrub stood and urged us to Just Pass Go and crash through the Red Rover line. When we glanced at it, we knew possibilities beckoned. Sleepovers, swimming, the ice cream truck chase, maybe miniature golf.
Every summer though, buds started to pill the canvas of the bushy tree: an early harbinger of change. A first glimpse of white evoked, every time, a knowing sense of oh-no-dread. Never prepared for it, we tried to will the green and summer to stay. We did not know then that wishes often lose to time.
And when the first blossom emerged in a blink’s time, our thoughts, as if in sync, began to look ahead. The welcoming sun, the glimmering water, the rambling plans all paled. These dwindling days called for organizing, getting ready, shopping and being focused.
We always called it the Fall Bush. Its beauty entangled with ambivalence.
Discovering Sand Dollars (SOLS) 08/02/2011
“You have to bleach them?”
I looked down at the small brown disc in my hand, embarrassed. “I thought sand dollars were white.” Strands of feathery seaweed floated around my ankles.
My beach companions stared at me. I skimmed through my memories of collecting shells. No, nothing surfaced relating to sand dollars.
Minutes earlier, a casual walk along the shoreline had dissolved into a free-for-all treasure hunt at the first sighting. I found just two (with some needed help) while others had stacks.
“No, they are alive. Feel the velvety side. You soak them overnight and they turn white. They're beautiful.”
“I, uh, thought they were just hard shells.” Appalled even more by my lack of ocean life knowledge, I stroked the soft side of what I now knew was a sea urchin. A live one.
I found the exhilaration of the quest evaporate then. I stopped searching and waded on.
Reading Vacation 07/26/2011
I didn’t plan it. In the past, summer vacation always meant working in an office. But not this year. I envisioned myself floundering with all this unstructured time.
And then I picked up a book. Downloaded another. I mixed entertaining reads with professional books, contemporary with classic. I now scour websites and book stores for more titles. I’ve begun to get exasperated feedback.
“You’re still reading?”
“Aren’t you doing anything else?”
“Don’t you want to do anything fun?”
A teacher and reader who wants to practice writing--despite being a procrastinator and one of the slowest writers in the world.