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Archive for the ‘Slice of Life’ Category

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Carolina wren nest in the school garden.

It’s that time of year. Yes, we are in the last week of school and instead of nesting, I am de-nesting, if that’s even a word, but in the natural world, it is nesting time.

Out in the school garden, we were planting sister seeds, sunflowers and beans. Our garden sponsor explained that while the stalk of the sunflower is thick and tall, the beans grow on a thin vine that will wrap around the sunflower stalk. They help each other. I love this and was anxious to get our seeds into pots for my students to take home for the summer.

There is a thick vine growing in the garden, a perfect hiding place for a nest. I heard little peeps and climbed on a bench style storage box to see a bird sitting on a nest. I scared her off and there were baby birds wide-mouthed and featherless in the nest.

I wasn’t sure what kind of bird it was, so I sent my students on a Google search to find it. We think she is a Carolina wren. There is something so marvelous and hopeful about a nest of baby birds.

If you’ve been following the wood duck drama, you know that we now have another clutch of eggs. The first clutch of eggs this spring, we believe, got too cold and died. We cleaned out the nesting box on Easter Sunday. Last week amidst end of the year activities, field trip and splash day, I didn’t check the doorbell camera much. (We mounted a doorbell camera on the roof of the house and can monitor the activity inside.) On Friday night as I was settling in bed, I heard an alert on my phone. It’s unusual for the female to go into the box at night. Unless there are eggs!

I was so excited to see that she had been busy all week laying a new clutch of eggs. She’s been sitting on them every night since. Yesterday she spent the whole day in the house. I think it’s safe to start counting the days. These eggs should hatch around June 16th. Fingers crossed. Prayers said.

Wood duck hen in a nesting box.

On Twitter last week, Amy VanDerwater tweeted an article from the New York Times about the devastation of climate change and the things we can do. In my small corner of the world, I am nurturing these nesting birds and am holding onto a bit of hope for the world.

And I can remind myself, all day long every day, that there’s a difference between doing something and doing nothing. That “something,” small as it might seem, is not “nothing.” The space between them is far apart, limitless stretching distances apart. It’s the difference between a heartbeat and silence.

Margaret Rinkle, Surviving Despair in the Great Extinction, May 13, 2019

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In May the flowers appear and the end of the school year rushes up like the ground when a plane is landing. The fears and doubts niggle at you. Have I done enough? Have I reached who I needed to reach? The beauty and curse of it is that you have, and you will also never know. The moments that mattered most to others are rarely the ones we remember. The encouragement and guidance teachers give moment to moment is as unconscious as breathing. And students will go on just living their lives, holding on to a moment or two of encouragement from you that you’ve missed in the midst.

Brenda Power, Choice Literacy, May 10, 2019

I walk past the countdown every day.  10 more days of school.  One of my students asked me last week if I would put a countdown on the board, and I told her, “I don’t like countdowns. It’s just a reminder that I am going to miss you.”

There are so many things to do in May.  Paperwork, cleaning, packing… I’m not into it.

Don’t get me wrong, once summer is here, I’ll be enjoying sleeping in, reading a good book, visiting my parents in Mississippi, and walks with Charlie.  This summer I have the added benefit of time with my new grandson.  All that is good, but I wish we didn’t have to go through May to get there.

In May, I question if I’ve done enough.

In May, I wonder who will watch out for my students’ reading and writing growth over the summer.

In May, I feel a sense of losing my grip.  Slip-sliding to the end.

My friend Christina Nosek of Literacy Learning is doing a blog series on the last 20 days, about how she is making learning happen each and every day.  I admire this.  I envy her self-contained classroom.  With my itinerant status, I am never quite sure who will show up for class in the last weeks of school.  There are a multitude of field trips and special days, and I’m often left out of the loop.

What I do know is that whoever shows up will read and write their way to the last day, with a few learning games thrown in. We will celebrate the reading we’ve done, write final blog posts, and plan for our summer reading.  We will say goodbye, but many of my students I will teach again next year (the plus side of pull-out gifted).

May is here.  I must face it.  Head up.  No crying. Hugs all around.

May Day Flowers

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What a wonderful month full of poetry love!  Looking back over the month, I wrote 28 posts. The thing is to write one poem worthy of publishing on this blog, I had to write more than one poem a day.  Some will stay buried in my notebook.

Thanks to Mary Lee Hahn for inviting me to play along with her this month.  I’ve enjoyed sharing this playtime with Christie, Molly, Jone, and Elisabeth.

One of the perks of my teaching job is I get to write poetry every day with my students, too.  They’ve been working on a poetry project that included writing at least 5 poems and reading a poetry book.  We were immersed in poetry, between testing sessions, that is. You can read their poems at our kidblog site. 

Last night I participated in the #NYED Twitter Chat.  If you have a chance, check out the hashtag.  I made a Padlet of resources to use throughout the year.  It’s public and open for comments and additions.

The Progressive Poem is complete! I am so amazed at the talents of Donna Smith who pulled out a “found” ending and actually put the song to music.  Check it out! 

Another exciting part of this month was being a featured poet-teacher on Today’s Little Ditty.  Being among these poets was an honor: Classroom Connections. 

When you walk in poetry every day, everything becomes a poem.  This morning on my walk I dictated this poem.  The air was sweet with the scent of jasmine, gardenia, and magnolia.  The scents of the southern landscape energize and inspire me.  What do you see, hear, smell while walking?  Make each step into a poem.

Breathe the jasmine air.
Rest in Love,
the love that created you
as perfect as
a star blossom
on the vine of the world.
-Margaret Simon, draft 2019

 

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If you’ve been following our wood duck house, there is sad news.  None of the eggs hatched.  After nearly 40 days, we thought it was time to give up, even though the hen was still sitting on them.  What do you do with such a life lesson?  Write a poem about it.

Nature can be a cruel teacher.
Eggs in a nest box,
how a silly duck hen

will sit for days and days.
Could she smell the rotting?
Did she see the gray shadow growing

cold? Some days nature is so violent
whole trees fall.  They block the road.
They tell us we don’t belong.

Why on earth are we all here?
When birth is so random,
so dependent on the stars

sprinkling miracle dust,
declaring life.
Not today.  When we take the eggs

out of the box, I forget to count.
Toss them into the water,
an afternoon snack for an evil snake

grabbing anything it can for survival.
Survival is not for everything
God makes. Some days

you just have to clean out the box,
add new shavings in,
Begin again.

— Margaret Simon, draft, 2019

 

 

 

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My fifth grade students were testing, and since my classroom is a computer lab, I was left with no place to teach my third grader.  What does a teacher do when it’s a beautiful spring day and there is no space in the school?  Go outside.  Kaia and I went to the garden.  I had with me paint chips and the book Because of Winn Dixie, so we wrote poems and read aloud.  When we took a break and walked around the garden, we discovered a patch of milkweed and counted four monarch caterpillars.

The next day we were offered the French classroom, but we made some time to go out and check the garden.  Our count went up to eleven.

On Thursday when we went outside, there was a garden group who comes once a month to tend to the garden, teach 4H students and hold garden club after school.  Today there was a naturalist who was speaking on monarch butterflies.  She taught us a few things.  One thing, do not trust your count because there are always more than you can see.

She showed Kaia how to touch a caterpillar.  They do not sting or harm you, but you could harm their delicate feet.  Kaia spotted some crawling all the way over on the concrete slab away from the garden.  She rushed over to tell the naturalist about this.  She explained to us that monarch caterpillars travel away from the host plant when they are ready to pupate.  She gently picked these two up and carried them back to the garden area.

I decided to come back after school and gather a few caterpillars to take home.  Meadow (yes, the naturalist’s name is Meadow) gave me instructions on how to care for them.  It’s a good thing she did.  I thought I had only brought home four caterpillars fat and ready for pupation, but as the days went on, there appeared 3 more in the net habitat.

The four made chrysalises on the plastic top of the container, but I’ve had to feed the three that appeared.  I’ve been gathering (stealing) milkweed from our church school’s garden to keep them fed. I hope I haven’t brought home even more caterpillars unknowing.  So far, so good. I’ll post updates on my Instagram and Facebook pages.

The science of nature fascinates me.  I think I’d like to be a naturalist like Meadow when I grow up.

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This weekend I had the exciting privilege to participate in the third annual Books along the Teche Literary Festival.  Early on Saturday morning, I spoke on a panel with my publisher Josh Caffery from UL Press, Carol Stubbs co-director of our local SCBWI, and fellow authors Denise Gallagher and Jess Butterworth.  My friend, author illustrator Paul Schexnayder, moderated the panel.  We had more than thirty people in the early morning crowd.  We talked about writing and publishing for children.

Following the panel, ten children’s authors and illustrators joined me in Church Alley for story time, book signings, and a bookmaking workshop.  My former student teacher brought her sons and their cousins to make zines with me.  What fun to have these kids successfully write a Things to do poem and illustrate them in little zines.  Look how proud they all were!

 

 

Another highlight of my day was when a former student came by.  I taught her in my early years of teaching, some 30+ years ago.  She’s a mother now, and she brought her 6 year old to meet me and get a book signed to him.  Later, he drew a picture for me from one of the illustrations in Bayou Song.  His mom texted me the picture.  Oh, joy!

With Pam and Port at the Books along the Teche Literary Festival

 

This was a day to remember and treasure.  My favorite part of this whole author business is making connections to kids (and reconnecting with their parents.)

For National Poetry Month, I am writing a poem a day.  Today we are borrowing William Carlos Williams’ line “So much depends upon.”  I played with magnetic poetry to create this one:

So much depends upon

a diamond rose
rising
from still rain

a thousand fiddle
symphony
rising
from birds in the trees–

a lazy spring moment.

–Margaret Simon, (draft) 2019

 

 

 

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Some of you have been following our wood duck house story. In late February, my husband built a wood duck house and set it up near the bayou. We put a Ring doorbell camera inside to capture the whole process. We were amazed when a hen came in the very next day. It took her a few weeks to lay the eggs and begin sitting on them. I wrote about it here and here.

The last time I was able to count the eggs, I had counted 13 eggs.

The problem with using a Ring camera is, with the constant motion of a hen sitting fairly consistently, the battery runs down. We changed it out once with no problem, but Saturday afternoon, it had totally died. Because we couldn’t look at the camera to see if the hen was in the house, my husband spooked her when he went to change the battery.

She came back for a brief minute then flew back out at around 7:30 PM. After that, nothing.

Did she abandon the nest altogether? Alerts to motion come onto my phone. I usually turn off notifications during the night but I didn’t Saturday. We waited for the buzz of the phone. Nothing.

Sunday morning I looked out the window, saying a few prayers that she would return. I saw the couple in the water. I practically begged at the window, “Please go back in. Please go back in.”

She flew up and around the house and landed back in the water.

I woke up my husband who admits he wasn’t really sleeping. I said, “There must be some kind of sound coming from the camera to scare her like that.”

He said, “To hell with broadcasting, we need to save these eggs.”

But taking the camera out didn’t prove necessary. I heard a buzz on my phone. She’s back! She was in the box, settling in, poking around, as if nothing had happened. Whew! Relief!

Relieved to get this phone alert.

Jeff watched one of the videos from the camera and noticed that there was a hen perched at the hole flying out while another hen was in the box sitting. Could they both be sitting? Are they sharing the nest?

While our hen was away, I was able to get a shot of the eggs. She hadn’t had time to cover them before she left. I counted 20 eggs! Twenty!

If my calculations are right, and the 12 hour hiatus doesn’t change the incubation time, the eggs are due to hatch on or around April 11th. You know I will be posting. You can follow on my Instagram or Facebook page.

Now for poetry. I am playing with some fun poetry games. My students are playing along and posting on our Kidblog site.

With Paint Chip Poetry, I pulled honey, quicksilver, and under the sea. The prompt was “We’re all in this together.”

We’re all wild honey
under the sea
free and quick
like silver sparkles
together
making waves
splashing
sprays
whale family.

Margaret Simon (draft, 2019)

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