Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for November, 2017

Slice of Life: Racism

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

Up early this morning, I was reading my email and read a blog post from my friend Julieanne. She lives in Los Angeles, but a few weeks ago we were together at NCTE in St. Louis.  NCTE planted seeds. We left feeling refreshed, renewed, and challenged in our thoughts about teaching and about our lives.

This morning Julianne wrote:

I have been afraid to face racism straight on in the classroom. Fearful of being wrong. The thing is, it’s a done deal. I am wrong. I had manufactured a dilemma to hide in.
–Julieanne Harmatz

Her post reminded me of a conversation in the hallway returning from lunch.  Noah said to Jacob, “You know, you are my slave.”  He did know.  They had both figured out without any words from me that in the play they are rehearsing for the Shadows, a local plantation home, that they are acting as owner and slave.

My students have done this play for years, but this year I wanted to be clear about what their roles were.  I hadn’t talked about it yet with these boys, but they figured it out.  Jacob said, “I’m OK with it.  It’s just a play.”

But is it just a play?  What is our role in stopping racism?  How are we perpetuating the story without saying anything?

Back in class, we were looking through the collection of books I got at NCTE.  One book was Can I Touch Your Hair? by Irene Latham and Charles Waters.  I explained that Irene is a woman who looks like me, and Charles looks like Chloe’s dad.  In their book, Charles and Irene face racism head on. (No pun intended.) We came across a poem about the N-bomb.  What is the N-bomb?  My students wanted to know.

We had an honest discussion about how that word (I spelled it because I couldn’t say it out loud.) is racist.  And what is a racist?  Someone who judges another person by their race and not by who they really are.

Like Julieanne and many teachers affected by the words of Jacqueline Woodson and Jason Reynolds at NCTE, I will take the opportunities when they arise to have these tough conversations.  Teachable moments.  I am a white southern woman. I am part of the dilemma, but I can also be part of the solution.  So can you.

Read Full Post »

Click over to Carol’s Corner for more Poetry Friday.

Over at Today’s Little Ditty, Carol Hinz challenged us to write a poem that finds beauty in something that is not usually considered beautiful.  On a family Thanksgiving Day walk to City Park in New Orleans, we came upon an old outside bar covered in overgrown weeds and graffiti.  On the walls were a few amazing black and white drawings.  One of them caught my eye and then inspired a poem.

New Orleans City Park

At Violet Nesdoly’s blog, I discovered a new-to-me poetry form, Shadorma. The form is a Spanish version of the haiku with six lines and a syllable count of  3,5,3,3,7,5. The form fit well to what I wanted to say about the Graffiti Girl.

 

Graffiti Girl, City Park, New Orleans. Photo by Margaret Simon

 

Graffiti Girl

I am drawn
in hard black charcoal
staring out
of stone walls
yet when you see my image
your heart cries for me.

If you could
hold this star light high
a mirror
in my eyes
step into my wall, hold me,
would you come so near?

–Margaret Simon, all rights reserved

 

Read Full Post »

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

 

As I sit at home rummaging through my notes and photos from NCTE, I wonder how I can capture this amazing weekend in a single post.  Then I wrote my title, “A Slice of NCTE.”  I can do a slice, a snippet, a taste.

The overarching message that I came away with was equity.

From Katherine and Randy Bomer, as they accepted the NCTE award for Outstanding Elementary Educator, equity is communicated in their core values.  Meet every child with an air of expectancy and listen with love.  When I attended Katherine’s session “Appreciative Response for Writers: Words and Ways to Reclaim our Voices and Instill Agency in All Students,” once again the word equity arose as she and her teacher educators gave very practical ways to give students what they need in feedback to writing. I stopped by Corwin Books to buy Patty McGee’s new book Feedback that Moves Writers Forward.  In the session, Patty showed us how to honor what students are already doing and yet, move them toward growth.  I look forward to digging into this book.

From Jason Reynolds, the equity message was evident in his acceptance speech for the NCTE Charlotte Huck Award.  The story of Ghost is based on Jason’s real life friend, Matthew.  The real Ghost also loved to eat sunflower seeds.  Jason challenged us teachers by asking us what kind of sunflower eater would we be.  One who puts the whole seed in your mouth and sucks all the salt off to spit it out whole?  One who chews the whole seed and spits it out?  Or one who carefully finds the perfect place to crack the shell, hides the tiny seed in a safe place, then takes out the hard, cracked shell?  #sunflowerseedchallenge.

 

Jack, the lemur, eats sunflower seeds slowly.

From a panel of moving educators (Sara Ahmed, Katharine Hale, Jessica Lifshitz, Donalyn Miller, Katie Muhtaris, Pernille Ripp, and Katherine Sokolowski), all women who have a story, a story of inequity, a story of how they were called to stand up and stand out for justice.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.  I was more than moved by their stories.  I resolved to be better, to do better.  I resolved to carefully eat my sunflower seeds and offer a place a safety, a place of equity, a home for all student voices.

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

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

On Saturday I attended a photography workshop about using your smartphone held at The Shadows on the Teche, our resident plantation home.  I have fond feelings for this place not just because of its beauty, but it’s a place where my students participate every year in a play for first grade students in the parish.

After James, our presenter, gave us much technical information (some of which flew right over my head), we were sent out on the grounds to find interesting things to photograph.  Although he didn’t say it, most of us interpreted that James wanted us to look at things with a new eye, a different perspective, and an appreciation for the hidden beauty of the place.

I was drawn to a lace curtain over a window with moss in the trees barely visible beyond.  When I got home, I played around with the effects on the iPhone app and sent the photo off to Shutterfly and ordered cards.  One thing that James pointed out to us is that nothing is more satisfying than seeing an actual, hands-on print of your photo.

I also wrote a haiku to place inside the card:

Through the lace curtain,
moss hangs in soft stillness
whispering a prayer.

James assured us that not every photo we take will be “the shot”. We have to take a bunch, practice moving around the subject for many angles, and give yourself permission to try new things.

Here is a gallery of a few of my favorite photos from the day.

The Shadows on the Teche

Moss hangs over the Bayou Teche.

My photo partner wanders to find a perfect shot of the graveyard.

This workshop helped me feel more confident with photography with the camera I always carry with me. I am now more alert to what may make my next winning shot.

This week I’ll be at NCTE.  Hope to see many of my slicing friends there. I’ll be presenting on Friday morning with a panel of knock-out authors.

Read Full Post »

Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

 

Developing a mindset for presence is difficult in these busy fall days.  I am adjusting slowly to the shifting of gears three times a day as I travel from school to school.  I use the car ride to reflect on the last class and prepare for the next.  I’ve got the time down so that I’m not rushing.  I’ve noticed on the sign-in sheets at my schools that my time is the same every day even without my paying much attention to it.

 

EnneaThought® for the Day

Type Two EnneaThought® for November 11th

How can you fully experience your Presence here and now? Observe the many thoughts that pass through your awareness without becoming attached to any of them. (The Wisdom of the Enneagram, 47)

 

This week I’ve been practicing mindfulness and meditation with my morning group of kids.  They looked forward to this.  But Friday was Friday and their little busy minds just would not relax.  Eyes were opening, mouths were smiling, feet were fidgety.   So after the timer dinged, I asked my students to open their journals to free write about the word ripple.  I selected the word from the mindfulness card that said to imagine dropping a stone into the water and watch the ripples.  Adding this layer to the meditation practice brought my students to a vulnerable place.  I’m learning that when we open up our classrooms to the experience of mindfulness and safety, emotions can arise.  We have to be ready to treat them with gentleness and kindness.

Focus on nothing
everything becomes clearer
morning mindfulness

 

 

Read Full Post »

Click over for Coffee and Donuts with Jama and more Poetry Friday.

 

Laura Shovan’s 5th annual February Poetry Project continues with one of us selecting an article each month and pulling out ten words.  This month Kathy Mazurowski selected this article and these words: nostalgia, reflect, interferes, cope, memories, personal, uncertainty, crystallized, bittersweet, science.

One morning I sat at my computer determined to get some words in for the day. I looked at the words Kathy selected, at my reflection in the kitchen window, and this poem appeared.  Every once in a while the muse visits me. I just need to sit here every day.

 

Glass reflects
the shape of things–
shadows of me
sitting here:

a cup of coffee
a vase of daisies
a cat
a stack of books

crystallized in a photograph
nostalgic for
the bittersweet taste
of uncertainty.

News interferes.
Memories flee.
How do we know what
tomorrow will bring?

Somehow we cope–
put on the cloak
of science and move on.
It’s not personal.

I reach over
to pet the cat.
Her fur is soft,
and she purrs.

–Margaret Simon, all rights reserved

Read Full Post »

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

 

We’ve been talking about mood lately, in reading and in writing. I pre-ordered a box of mindfulness cards, Mindful Kids by Whitney Stewart. They arrived last week.  I started to use them along with meditation first thing in the morning.  I wasn’t sure how a group of various ages would respond to the concept of meditation.  So far, I’ve been pleased.

I pulled a card from the Mindful Kids box and the instructions were to draw a picture of your mood.  I asked my students to select a color that depicted their mood. I talked about the importance of being in touch with what you are feeling.  Each response was as different as the kids in the room.

Dawson, 4th grade, said the picture on the right is how he felt when he came to school. On the left is how he feels in our class.

 

Austin, 6th grade, wrote a key to his color and image choices.

We turned off the overhead lights and sat in a comfortable position. I turned on the Insight Timer app, and we were silent together.

This was a beautiful and thoughtful way to begin a Monday morning, a Monday after another mass shooting, a Monday of a soft lockdown, a Monday in new time.  I am coming to believe more and more in the face of these troubling times, I need to create a safe place.  A safe place for expressing your mood, speaking your truth, and creating peace.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »