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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.
Chloe and her proud teacher, Margaret Simon

She did it! My student, Chloe, won the Lowell Milken Center’s Discovery Award for the Most Outstanding Elementary Unsung Hero Project. This prize comes with $1000 for Chloe. I am beyond proud.

I teach Chloe for her ELA block for gifted education. This means that I have taught her since she was in 1st grade. In 4th grade she told me her great grandfather knew Martin Luther King, Jr.. Then last year, in 5th grade, I came across an article from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities (LEH) about the Baton Rouge bus boycott of 1953. I asked Chloe if her great grandfather’s name was T. J. Jemison. She wasn’t sure, so I texted her mother and confirmed it. That’s when I started looking into the Lowell Milken’s Discovery Award. The prize for 2021 opened February 15th, so I sent an email asking if T. J. Jemison would qualify as an unsung hero. Norm Conard responded immediately and told me to move forward with the project.

There were three types of projects Chloe could do: a documentary, a website, or a play. We agreed on a documentary and started researching. By March, we had set up a Google Meet with her grandfather Ted Jemison who lives in Houston. Chloe wrote the questions and led the interview. I recorded and saved it. Chloe then listened and scripted the interview. Every step of this process seemed daunting and required patience, motivation, and persistence.

By the end of the school year, Chloe had written the documentary script, gathered photos, recorded her voice into a We Video, clipped primary source video generously given by WBRZ (a Baton Rouge news station that had done a feature interview with T. J. Jemison), and written a 500 word process paper. Whew!

The hardest part of this project was keeping a 10-year-old child focused and motivated those last few days of school while her regular class was watching movies and playing outside. We both nearly gave up. A few weeks after school ended, Chloe was still editing her documentary video. I was able to get it entered before the July 1st deadline. Then we waited.

Two weeks ago I received an email from Lowell Milken to call them to set up a Zoom interview with Chloe. They would not tell me if she had won, but they said that I should invite the principal and her parents. I also invited our superintendent and the Sped supervisor. Finally on Sept. 22, ten minutes before the interview was going to start, I told Chloe about it. We had enough time to brainstorm some questions that they may have for her. I set her up in front of my computer, signed in to Zoom, and opened the door to let our guests in. She held up beautifully under pressure.

Chloe in her Zoom interview with Lowell Milken Center

Parts of her interview and a preview to her project were recorded by the Lowell Milken Center. This whole process is why I do what I do, inspiring a young girl to be the best she can be and to make a difference. I am grateful to her parents for their amazing support and to Lowell Milken Center for providing such an amazing opportunity.

To watch Chloe’s documentary (about 12 minutes) click here.

Chloe with her parents and grandmothers
Poetry Friday round-up is with Laura Purdie Salas at Small Reads for Brighter Days.

When I was growing up, I wanted to be an Olympic swimmer. As an introvert, swimming was a sport I could do. But the flip turn alluded me. I gave up when competitions required a flip turn.

My oldest daughter swam competitively from 7th to 12th grade. Our lives were consumed with practice and meets.

When Sarah Donovan of Ethical ELA put out a call for sports poems, I drew on these experiences and wrote a duplex poem about swimming, First Heat. The poem was accepted and is now published alongside Inklings Heidi Mordhorst and Linda Mitchell, as well as admired authors like Nikki Grimes, Laura Shovan, and Padma Venkatraman. You can purchase a copy of Rhyme & Rhythm: Poems for Student Athletes at Archer Publishing’s website.

The Poetry Sisters challenge this month was to write a tanka in conversation with another sister’s poem. I chose Heidi’s poem from Rhyme & Rhythm, Cleatless about dancing.

My feet didn’t beat
until they stepped in time with
yours, right-together-

right, left-together-left two
step, twirl face-to-face with you.

Margaret Simon, draft

Welcome to the season of fall! Today is the first cool front of the season, and I welcome it with wide open arms. Fall is a bridge season between summer and winter. So I am posting this photo by my friend, first grade teacher and photographer Lory Landry. It was taken at our local City Park near Devil’s Pond. I love it for its unique perspective. I get a funny image in my head imagining Lory on her belly taking this photo. She would do anything for a good shot.

Bridge at Devil’s Pond, by Lory Landry

A bridge is a hand to hold
walking from yesterday
into today
which is to say
let’s go this way
together.

Margaret Simon, draft

Please add your own small poem in the comments and encourage other writers with comments.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.
Wildflowers in a jar, Margaret Simon

If you read my post last week, you know I have a thing for flowers. After visiting Petite Anse Farms and cutting my own flowers, the wildflowers that line the Lafitte Greenway in New Orleans drew me in and begged to be clipped, collected, and given away.

This week is the Ehtical ELA Open Write and Monday’s prompt from Sarah Donovan encouraged us to write about “a shimmer of being alive.” My mind went back to the wildflowers I had cut on a walk with my daughter this weekend.

And So I Cut Wildflowers

I am taken by the little blooms
that peek from weeds
the ones on the side of the road

and want to carry them home
though I have nothing to cut them with
and frankly worry I will look like
a thief, a landscape destroyer, hoarder. 

The store is open, so I rush in,
buy kitchen shears, the kind for deboning
a chicken–I debone flowers

touch them with my soft hands
hold them in a nest
where scent to scent
pollen on pollen
the warmth of sunlight
still in their faces…

I cut wildflowers
place them in the Mason jar with residue
of coffee grounds, leave them
on your kitchen counter
without a note that says

I love you
You will know

Margaret Simon, draft
And So I Cut Wildflowers, Margaret Simon
Poetry Friday round-up is with Denise at Dare to Care.

The Festival of Words yearly fundraising event was once again virtual this year. In a way, this is great because more poets from Louisiana and beyond can participate. I volunteered again to write a commissioned poem for Words for You. How this worked was I volunteered, someone donated to have me write a poem, and we all celebrated with a reading event on Zoom. The reading was last night and it’s on Facebook Live.

For some reason, I felt drawn to the sonnet form. What a challenge I gave myself! My person, Sue, answered a question about her spirit animal being a leopard. I did some leopard research and puzzled it into a poem. The problem was it didn’t hold any meaning. So then I wrote a free verse poem. After that I continued to hack away at the sonnet. After more study of the form, a total rewrite was necessary. The process was challenging, at times frustrating, but in the spirit of the leopard, I did not give up.

It may help to know that Sue is a playwright who is tolerant of Louisiana, but she hates the weather.

(c) Margaret Simon, for Sue Schleifer “Words for You” 2021

Last week when my youngest daughter, Martha, set up her office on the back deck, she watched hummingbirds fighting at the feeder. It was one of those rare high pressure/ low humidity days with an actual breeze. She had to silence the wind chimes for her Zoom calls. Today, Martha’s office is back in New Orleans as power has returned.

Currently I am watching the rain bands of Hurricane Nicholas (now a tropical storm) fill up the bayou. The hummers are still coming. That’s a good sign.

My friend Molly Hogan in Maine has been watching these amazing birds, too, and taking amazing photos of them. She sent me this one.

For my students, since this is a virtual learning day due to the storm, I linked the photo to this Wonderopolis article and used one of the facts in my haiku.

photo by Molly Hogan

Peach-sweet zinnia
fanned by wingbeats 200
times per second: Zest! 

Haiku draft, Margaret Simon

Please write a small poem in the comments and reply to other writers with encouraging words. Thanks for being here.

Slice of Life: Flower-Joy

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.
Ring of Fire Sunflowers, photo by Margaret Simon

My daughters packed their cars, their dogs, a toddler and returned to New Orleans on Saturday. The house was cavernous and quiet. I needed to do something for myself or I knew I would sink into the sofa and sulk.

Petite Anse Farm advertised a cut-your-own-bucket-of-flowers weekend. On Sunday morning, I grabbed my coffee and smoothie and hit the road. The farm of beautiful Jennifer and handsome Andrew Graycheck is about 8 miles south of town. I was greeted by Georgia, their Australian Shepherd and Lorelei, their 5 year old.

Lorelei helps me choose the best zinnias. Their stems need to be strong and not springy.

In the warming breeze, I set out with a bucket of water and clippers. I stopped to take photos. I took Lorelei’s picture, and she took mine. She also helped me choose the best stems to fill my bucket.

Photo by Jennifer Graycheck with my phone. She’s a fine art photographer and gave me some great pointers for using “portrait mode.”

When I checked out with Jennifer, I asked, “What am I going to do with all these flowers?”

“Give them to the people you love!”

At home I gathered jars and vases and cut the stems again to place in arrangements. After lunch, I set out to deliver flowers.

My friend (and my husband’s cousin) Annie has been called as a priest for our church. She is the first female priest in charge for the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in its 165 year history. I wrote an article for our local newspaper about her. You can read it here. I stopped by to thank her for all the little things she is doing at our church to make it a stronger community of caring people.

Madre Annie Etheredge flashes her smile.

I made 4 more stops. It took me 2.5 hours because everyone was home and ready to visit. I caught up with friends and delivered a bit of joy in the process. Literally and figuratively filled up my bucket.

Poetry Friday round-up is with Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Laura Purdie Salas has been a writing mentor in my classroom for years now. Her books and poetry speak to children ( and to this adult). A few weeks ago she posted this poem on her blog. I used it with my students for a beginning-of-the-school-year writing prompt. I did not require the precise rhyme and rhythm pattern; they got the gist of making a list of favorite things.

I, however, took on the challenge of getting into the right meter and rhyme-scheme. I don’t think I’ve nailed it (I’m missing a verse and one of the rhymes is too slanted) but each revision gets closer to it. Rodgers and Hammerstein were musical geniuses. I played a video of this favorite scene from The Sound of Music, a classic that many children are unfamiliar with. They know this version better–the Lays commercial with Anna Kendrick. It’s fun to watch, too.

My middle daughter’s son, my middle grandchild, turned 2 yesterday. “Mamoo” (his version of Mamére) bought a set of bubbles and wands for his family birthday party. It’s fascinating when a child learns to blow bubbles. Often the blow is too fast for the bubble to form. The bubble set came with a variety of instruments for making bubbles. I hit the Walmart $5 Jackpot with this set. “Tuffy” (the nickname Thomas gave to himself) was able to blow more slowly through the pipe and watch the bubble form. This helped him blow with the wand. Bubble success! Then he was on to something else.

I, however, stayed focused on getting a photo of a bubble. I am posting the best of the bunch. I find the colors magical.

Photo by Margaret Simon

There is a rainbow
of magic
inside a bubble
blown by a boy
learning
to blow.

Margaret Simon, draft
Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

Another week of writing from The Quickwrite Handbook by Linda Rief. I have two pieces of writing I’d like to share today. The first was a prompt after Cynthia Rylant’s When I Was Young in the Mountains. Linda Rief wrote a mentor text “When I Was Young at the Ocean.” I wrote “When I Was Young at Purple Creek.”

When I was young at Purple Creek, I dangled my toes in the trickle of water and watched minnows dart around them, sending tickles and goose pimples all the way up my skinny white legs. 

When I was young at Purple Creek, I buried my Barbies in the sand, played Treasure Island on the wrip-wrap shore, and let go of the leash so Loopy could wander and explore, bark at the squirrels. 

When I was young at Purple Creek, my fear of snakes was on high alert. Brother shouted a warning just to see me jump. We gathered treasures in a tin bucket (rocks, broken glass, colored leaves, mimosa seed pods, a baby frog).

My flip-flop feet toughened on summer days when I was young at Purple Creek. The trickle was my ocean. The shoreline my cave. The pine trees my towers. I was queen of Purple Creek.

Margaret Simon
Photo by Marta Wave on Pexels.com

The next text we read and wrote from was an Excerpt from The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John.

That Kind of Teacher

On the first day of school, you can decide what kind of teacher you want to be. You can be the smiley teacher, the one who greets everyone at the door with “How are you today?” You could be the fashionable teacher, the one who turns heads with her new outfit each day. You could be the kind of teacher who knows everything about the new reading curriculum guidelines. The teacher who decorates her classroom in rainbow colors and files everything in matching color-coded binders. You could be the teacher who stands at the board and takes roll, who finishes her report cards on time. Or you could be that teacher who works as hard as her students. The curious teacher. The open-minded teacher. The teacher with a lot of stickers on the chart. When the school year starts, you can choose what kind of teacher you will be, the kind of teacher you will be for the rest of your life. 

Margaret Simon

And here’s 6th grader Chloe’s poem response for “I’m the Kind of Kid Who”

I’m the kind of kid
who leaves
at the end of class,
new kids asking why.
I say
“Guess” to hear
what they think.

I’m the kind of kid
who always does their work
or finishes their homework
in class so 
they have nothing left
to do.

I’m the kind of kid
whose teacher lets
them eat in class
as long as
she doesn’t see me.


I’m the kind of kid
who writes every day.
If you don’t 
know what I mean,
I’m doing it right now.


I’m the kind of kid
who is ready
for the weekend
and is actually
ready to come
back to school. 

Chloe

Adelyn, 3rd grade, wrote about her sister and posted it here on FanSchool.