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Archive for November, 2014

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Join the Chalk-a-bration over at Teaching Young Writers.

Join the Chalk-a-bration over at Teaching Young Writers.

Fro-yo chalk poem

I can’t spend time with a 9-year old and not get him to write poetry. So while having frozen yogurt with my nephew, I told him about Chalkabration. We wrote the above poem together. I’m not sure what happened to the time, but by the time we made it back to my parents’ house, it was dark. We also discovered that their driveway was rocky, not smooth concrete.

My mother has an Ipad and this cool app called Tayasui Sketches. With her paintbrush stylus I wrote our poem and made a poor illustration of the frozen yogurt cup.

I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving holiday. Are you ready for the whirlwind of December? If you happen to be thinking about digital literacy, please join the round up.

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Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres invites us the celebrate each week. Click over to her site Discover. Play. Build. to read more celebrations.

Jack interviews Martha via Google Hangout.

Jack interviews Martha via Google Hangout.


My nephew Jack, a nine-year-old 4th grader, had a class assignment this holiday to interview his hero. He chose my youngest daughter Martha. Martha is a social worker in Chicago and couldn’t be with us for Thanksgiving. (She is coming home for Christmas! Yay!) I had the privilege of listening in on his conversation with her in a Google Hangout. He had a list of 9 questions.

Martha is a Community Support Specialist with Thresholds, a nonprofit organization that works with the those living with mental illness. What struck me most about the interview were her convictions about being a good listener and giving voice to people who have been silenced through society. She spoke with understanding and respect for her clients.

Being Martha’s mother and she being my baby, I haven’t really appreciated her selflessness. As she was growing up, she was the quiet one. She was always well behaved. She did well in school. When she decided to go to Chicago, I worried. I worried about stupid things like will she be warm enough and how will she navigate such a large place. I didn’t tune in the significance of her work. During Jack’s interview, I saw her differently. I saw her as his hero. I saw her as an advocate for the lonely, the homeless, the mentally ill. She became my hero.

Today, I celebrate my daughter. I celebrate special time with my family. I celebrate heroes.

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Lagniappe, a little something extra, in this photo, a rainbow spray reflected from the rising sun.

Lagniappe, a little something extra, in this photo, a rainbow spray reflected from the rising sun.

I do not often resort to absolutes like the word Must, but today I can think of no other way to say what I want to say about gratitude. When Thanksgiving rolls around in the midst of fall, temperatures cool, leaves change and remind us that life ends. We are faced with mortality every time a leaf crunches under our feet. I could focus on this. I could turn my attention to the anger and hatred burning in the buildings of Ferguson. Or I could remember to be grateful.

I choose gratitude. Recently, a close friend has met with tragedy. Two weeks ago, Glenae’s little car hit a sugarcane tractor. She is “lucky to be alive.” Yet beyond the realization that she could be gone is the reality that recovery is hard. I get texts from her mother every day. Every day her text ends with gratitude. I believe in the power of prayer and in the power of community surrounding this family. But to me the most powerful thing, the thing that will pull Glenae through her recovery is her mother’s will to live in gratitude.

We never know when things will change. My husband says, “Anything can happen to anybody at any time.” This is true, so we must live each day in gratitude. I am grateful for the health of my family and myself. I am grateful that I wake up every day to the reflection on the bayou, God’s beauty in nature. I am grateful that I have so many people in my life who give me hope, strength, and love. Living in gratitude will give me strength when things change as they most certainly will. I will face the new day in the knowledge that God’s love is abundant. Happy Thanksgiving!

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  Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Georgia Heard and Ralph Fletcher congratulate me!

Georgia Heard and Ralph Fletcher congratulate me!

I am having a hard time coming down from the high of NCTE14 in Washington, DC. To begin the weekend, I was honored at the Elementary Get Together for the Donald H. Graves Award for teaching writing. My acceptance speech is here. I was surrounded by notable writers Lester Laminack, Ralph Fletcher, and Georgia Heard. All three of them were kind and easy to talk to.

Selfie with Lester Laminack and Ralph Fletcher.

Selfie with Lester Laminack and Ralph Fletcher.

On Friday, I presented with my colleagues from the National Writing Project Professional Writing Retreat (2004). This was our 10 year reunion, and we talked about what keeps us writing. We created an acronym, STAMP, for Social Media, Time, Audience, Mentors, and Peers. Here is a link to our Emaze presentation.

Another highlight of my weekend was meeting so many authors. I passed Augusta Scattergood standing alone in the lobby, so I stopped and talked to her. She used to attend these events as a librarian and now she is an author. Her second book, The Way to Stay in Destiny, was available as a galley copy. I stood in line and was the last one to receive one. The guards at Scholastic did not want me to get it signed, but when we started waving to each other like silly school girls, they let me through.

Augusta Scattergood

Augusta Scattergood


Meeting fellow bloggers as long lost friends was a joy. We connected immediately and sought each other out at different sessions. We had dinner together with the Two Writing Teachers team on Saturday night and had a difficult time saying good night. We all wanted to continue the time together. Being in the company of kind, thoughtful teachers who think like I think and struggle like I struggle and love their students like I love mine was inspiring and heart warming. I feel like we have begun a long friendship as well as a strong professional connection.

Professional Book Exchange organized by Chris Lehman.

Professional Book Exchange organized by Chris Lehman.


I made an Animoto video of all my pictures. I took along Jack, the lemur, for some of them. Jack is our class pet that Emily snuck into my school cart. He enjoyed NCTE as much as I did.

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Find more Poetry Friday with Becky at Tapestry of Words.

Find more Poetry Friday with Becky at Tapestry of Words.

A few weeks ago I attended a poetry writing workshop with our Louisiana state poet laureate, Ava Leavell Haymon. I posted about one of the exercises here. The second exercise she led us through began with an image. We were to remember a room, kitchen or bedroom. Then we drew it, recognizing that this was a prompt for writing and no great work of art.

I thought of my daughters’ bedroom, the one two of them shared growing up. The room was small. My husband had built a bunk bed for them. He is a good carpenter, but he doesn’t make anything halfway. This bed filled up the small room. In fact, when we moved, we left the bed. We could not get it out of the room.

Bunk Bed Fills the Room

That is the bedroom where
I looked at the mess,
sheets unmade,
the angry child
red with fury.

Her bunk bed filled the small space.
No room for my approval.

I could only see
the mess,
the wild squealing.

I forgot to look
under the sheets,
under the pile of toys,
under the dirty clothes
to see her child-heart.

–Margaret Simon

Mary Cassatt Young Mother Sewing

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Click here to read more #spiritualjourney posts.  Thanks Holly for hosting this roundup!

Click here to read more #spiritualjourney posts. Thanks Holly for hosting this roundup!

Every week Holly posts a theme on Twitter for our #spiritualjourney posts. Every week it seems to be the most appropriate theme. This week is gratitude. I am posting my acceptance speech for the Donald H. Graves Award. I will give this speech this afternoon at the NCTE Elementary Section Get Together. Reading it aloud makes me cry. I am praying I will be able to get through it without croaking up.

Emily snuck our class lemur, Jack, into my bag.  He is helping me write my speech.

Emily snuck our class lemur, Jack, into my bag. He is helping me write my speech.

Thank you, Detra Price-Dennis, and the Elementary Section Steering Committee for this honor. I am overwhelmed and humbled. Writing drives my work with students and my interactions with the world.

Kate DiCamillo, our National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and one of my favorite children’s authors, says that stories connect us. “When we learn someone else’s story, it shifts the fabric of our being. We are more open. And when we are open, we connect.”

My One Little Word for 2014 is Open, so when I saw the call for submissions to the Donald H. Graves Award, I thought, never in a million years, and why not?

I was encouraged when I saw that Julie Johnson was the 2010 winner. I know her! I read her blog! That is how I have connected to so many wonderful authors and educators. These connections, their stories, have given me courage to be open to new adventures. My fellow blogging teachers have also given me confidence in my own voice through their comments. My small world has grown.

These wider connections have not only enriched my life, but they have affected my students’ lives. Earlier this fall, my 4th grader Emily lost her mother. This should not happen to anyone, let alone to a nine-year-old girl. Of course, I wrote about this profound experience on my blog. Amy Ludwig Vanderwater read it and wrote a poem for Emily. She didn’t say that the poem was for Emily but I knew that she had read my blog.

Someone

Amy became that someone for Emily. When Emily wrote a poem about clouds, she made an Animoto video, so I said to her, “Would you like to dedicate this poem to someone?” Her eyes lowered. I know she thought I meant her mother. But when I said, “Amy Vanderwater,” her eyes danced. We tweeted the poem-movie to Amy. For Poetry Friday the next week, Amy posted it on her blog along with some writing tips from my 4th grader. These connections, these stories, strengthen us when we need it most. Emily feels like a real poet. She will always have that gift, and Amy recognized her and honored her.

I began this journey when I attended the summer institute of the National Writing Project of Acadiana. There, Ann Dobie, director at the time and an important mentor ever since, introduced me to the work of Donald Graves. His philosophy that a teacher of writing must be a writer has entered my heart and soul.

I am grateful to the National Writing Project for supporting my desire to be a writer. I am grateful to the works of mentors like Ralph Fletcher and Aimee Buckner. I am grateful to the Two Writing Teachers, all 6 of them, who support the Slice of Life challenge and hold each teacher/writer in their gentle and wise hands. My family and my colleagues back home in New Iberia give me love, confidence, and the freedom to write and teach in way I believe is right and true.

Our stories connect us and make us partners on this journey of life. I encourage you to be Open, open to the lives of your students and to the lives of others. Write your life and, as Amy Vanderwater reminds us, Be the someone.

My view of the National Harbor from my hotel room at NCTE.  What a beautiful day!

My view of the National Harbor from my hotel room at NCTE. What a beautiful day!

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Serenity

  Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

NCTE Presentation Flier

Anticipation is building for the 2014 NCTE Convention. I’ve gotten the catalog and my badge. My bag is waiting to be packed. And I have laryngitis. Yes, you heard me. I am nursing it with hot tea and rest. I hope I will have a voice by Thursday when I accept the Donald Graves Award and on Friday when I present with my friends from the National Writing Project Professional Writing Retreat. If you are there, I’d love to meet you. The Two Writing Teachers Blog writers are having a Slicers dinner on Saturday night. I look forward to meeting many fellow bloggers there.

Sunset at Lake Martin, Breaux Bridge, LA.

Sunset at Lake Martin, Breaux Bridge, LA.

This weekend a group from our church went on a canoe trip on Lake Martin. Lake Martin is a beautiful wildlife preserve where cypress woods grow and birds nest. We even saw two bald eagles high in matching trees. It was an overcast cool day around 54 degrees, but welcomed with no mosquitoes or humidity.

We paddled around the lake to the edge of the bird sanctuary where white ibis were nesting. Thousands dotted the trees with snow white wings. When we got close enough to see them, they took off. I made a quick video of this (It’s a bit shaky; I was in a canoe.) In the background you can hear my husband explaining the Cajun French word for Ibis, “bec croche,” means crooked beak.

On the road to Lake Martin, we passed a burning cane field. The field of sugarcane is traditionally burned before harvesting to make it easier to transport. There is controversy over whether this is harmful to the environment. To me, it is the scent of fall, smokey and sweet. Take a moment to listen to the burning of the cane field.

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