Archive for June, 2016

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Reading, reading, reading...

Reading, reading, reading…

The unmistakable voice of my daddy checked me out of the Anxious Hotel and back into reality. Elizabeth Tow, 8th grade

In the midst of the stacks of student-written stories about monsters and disasters and parents dying in car crashes, there were a few gemstones.

Monday was the annual LA Writes judging at my home. Teachers gathered around fruit and muffins and coffee to read 622 entries from Kindergarten to 12th grade writers from around our state.

Amidst the state standards and curriculum mandates, we writing teachers hold out hope that someone is cultivated creative writing in their classrooms. Interestingly, most of the best writers came from only a few teachers. Either these are the teachers keeping writing alive or these are the teachers who take the time to enter students in contests.

I have been coordinating the LA Writes contest for a dozen years, and I look forward to this day every year. I get to see some of my favorite teacher-friends and share my home with them. We talk and read, read and talk.

We find favorite lines. My friend, Nettie picked these lines to share.

The radio comes alive like low heeled boots. By Lily Adam

Alone together in a room for all
A kiss meets lips like stroking midnight buds. by Jasper Koelbel

Resting on the back of a goose wing, trying to blend into the cream colored feathers. By Rangasri Narayanamoorthy

When we started this contest, we created an acronym for our judging criteria with the word VOICES.

Originality/ surprise
Imagery/ figurative language
Significance/ insight

As a teacher, I am in tune to these elements and encourage my young writers to reach not only for clear and precise writing, but writing that sings and makes the reader look at something in a new and surprising way. These elements are hard to teach, but we all know good writing when we see it. My students know good writing. They don’t always know how to name it, but they know it when they see it.

Yesterday we culled the stacks and stacks of writing down to 5-10 in each category in each grade-level division. It was hard work. It was good work. We will send these finalists on to our author judges, authors from our state including our new state poet laureate. We hope that they will see the gemstones that we saw and enjoy the looking.

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

The past few days I have been cleaning out an upstairs “art studio.” I put art studio in quotes because that is what I call it, but it has become a gathering place for stuff. Usually artsy stuff, but the stuff was turning into clutter.

Recently I read a blog post co-written by Kari and Christina. They outlined five essential questions for cleaning out your classroom. They asked their readers to post before and after pictures to Twitter with the hashtag #ReImagineEd. While my classroom was packed away a few weeks ago, I decided to participate with my studio. It needed doing.

As I cleaned out the cabinets, I listened to podcasts. Podcasts make me feel smarter. I love listening to Penny Kittle talk about her experiences as a writing teacher. I also enjoy Krista Tippet with On Being.

In the clutter, I found a few treasures: old pictures, a bookmark made by my youngest daughter, and birthday cards. I saved some paintings I thought I could re-work. And I made piles: trash, classroom, and give-away.

A serious donut maker, my daughter in pre-K or Kindergarten.

A serious donut maker, my daughter in pre-K or Kindergarten.

There is something reflective and valuable in cleaning out. You see stuff in a different way. Is it useful? sentimental? creative? Does it bring me JOY?

Reflecting on the things we hold and store is cleansing, renewing, and relaxing. I can look up at the loft and see space for re-imagination.

Where in your life can you de-clutter and re-imagine? Join in the conversation with Kari Yates and Christina Nosek at #ReImagineEd.

Art studio Before

Art studio Before

Art studio After

Art studio After

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Geno Delafosse

Geno Delafosse

La Poussiere means “the dust.”  The dance hall by this name in Breaux Bridge, LA was so named because the original floor was dirt, so when Cajuns danced a jig, the dust would fly.

Geno Delafose and the French Rocking Boogie sing a song entitled “She Makes the Dust Fly.”

Last night, my husband and I were Zydeco dancing to Geno at La Poussiere.

Twenty years ago, Geno would not have been welcome in La Poussiere.  There were strict unwritten rules against black people entering the club.  In 1996, The New York Times featured an article about a lawsuit that required La Poussiere to drop its policy and open its doors to black patrons, even on Saturday night.  Comments from locals stated that this was the way it’s always been.  There was an undercurrent of acceptance of racial discrimination.  However, as Breaux Bridge became more of a tourist area, these traditions came in to question.

Today, blacks and whites not only dance at La Poussiere, they often dance together. The cultures are becoming mixed and more accepting.  Last night, there was a Cajun man playing the triangle on stage with the all black band.

Yesterday, my friend Tara Smith posted about addressing civil rights issues with her students.  She teaches in an affluent, mostly white area.  She said, “As I have found in years past, none of my students had ever heard of Emmett Till, a boy not much older than they are, who lost his life to hatred and racism.   Few history text books seem to mention Emmett Till, and we can now add the names of Travon Martin and Tamir Rice (to name just two) to our country’s long legacy of racism and the heartbreaking violence it breeds.  But, teaching history demands that we seek the truth so that we can do better.”

Teaching demands that we do better.  We all need to do better.   We need to look at our neighbors as persons worthy of respect and honor whether we are dancing, having a meal, going to church, or driving on the highway.

Dancing and music are great equalizers. We are all comrades enjoying the parade.  Turn up the music, hear the beat, and remember always, always to be kind.


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