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Archive for the ‘Slice of Life’ Category

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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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I made it!  And so did you.  I’ve been joining the Slice of Life challenge for 8 years now and always breathe a sigh of relief on March 31st.  Some years, and this one included, I will keep going through the month of April with daily poetry writing.

Some of my fellow slicers have written reflective posts about their learning.  Terje has been writing for nine years, so she did nine things she learned. Elisabeth inspired Terje’s post with Four Things I’ve Learned in Four Years of Slicing.  And Lisa, who I think started this whole idea, wrote Six Things I’ve Learned in Six Years of Slicing. 

Here are my Eight Things I’ve Learned in Eight Years of Slicing:

  1. I am not alone. Writing in a community of writers makes my work and my words worthwhile and valued while. at the same time, I feel a sense of obligation to be the best writer I can be. The feedback encourages and uplifts me.  I also make friends along the way.  People I may meet some day or not, but even so, we are friends.
  2. Writing makes writing easier. Opening the blank page on my blog used to fill me with fear.  I’ve learned that there is always a back button, a move to trash option.  The more I write, the more I find to write about.  The world is my open for my noticing.  There is big magic waiting to be written.
  3. Readers appreciate honesty.  Some of my most successful posts (if I take the time to look at the stats) are ones in which I put my heart on the page.  There is camaraderie in sharing the vulnerable moments of your life.  I’ve learned that readers want to connect in some way.  The best way to connect to someone else is to be honest.
  4. There is room for lots of voices.  I don’t even know how many people are doing the SOLC this year, but I know it’s a lot.  And there is no way I can read and comment on all the posts, but that’s OK.  There is room enough for all of our voices.
  5. My go-to writing is poetry, and I’m OK with that.  I can always count on a poem coming to visit me, so I’ve stopped making excuses for it.  I am a poet; There, I said it.
  6. I have time to write.  I stole this one from Elisabeth, but it rings true for me, too.  People always ask me, “How do you find time to write?”  I don’t stay up late.  I do get up early, but most of the time, I carve out the time and it works.  I am currently writing at Whole Foods outside in the breeze with a vanilla latte’.  This makes me happy!
  7. A teacher of writing must be a writer. I’ve heard this over and over.  Now I live it.  I am a better teacher because I do this every day.  I know how it feels to be vulnerable with my writing.  I know how good comments feel.  I am a writer, and it makes a difference.
  8. Slice of Life is not just for a month.  The people I’ve met here become lifelong friends and even writing partners.  If you sliced this year, don’t go away.  Stay and write at least once a week on Tuesdays.  You will be glad you did.

Thanks for reading my daily posts.  And now…Playing with Poetry Time!

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The shoe showed up in the school parking lot sometime in September.  Someone graciously placed it on the curb, like an offering.  “Here I am.  If I am yours, take me home.”

But no one claimed the shoe.

Every day I park in the same vicinity of the shoe. It became like a parking spot marker.  “Oh, you.  Back again.  I’m still stepping in your path.”

Winter months came.  Lots of rain.  The shoe remained.

One day I asked the secretary when I stopped to sign the ledger, “Have you seen that shoe in the parking lot?”

“Huh?” She looked up from counting money.  The secretary always seems to be counting money.  “No, I don’t think so.”

I tried to ignore the shoe.  Maybe I could pass in peace and not notice.

Well, the shoe heard me all right and decided to do something to show me.  Here we are, almost to April with 7 weeks left of school, and that darned shoe stuck herself right in my path.  I opened my car door about to step out and Yikes!  There it was!

By this time, I felt the shoe was stalking me.  I took no sympathy and kicked the thing underneath another car.

You didn’t think I was going to pick it up, did you?  I didn’t see it today.  Perhaps it’s gone to another parking lot.  One can only wish.

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Carol at Carol’s Corner.

Spring is in full swing and weeds are choking the ground.  When we discussed service projects we could do for this quarter, Landon brought up the garden.  He is in the garden club, so he knows it needs some loving care.

I suggested Thursdays. 30 minutes. Keep it a secret.

When Thursday came, the sun was high in the sky with a slight breeze and the perfect temperature to be outside.  The kids didn’t forget.

Landon showed us the stash of gloves and tools, and we went to work on a small patch of weeds.

I was surprised at how excited they were to get down and dirty.  Kaia said, “I have a poem.”  We had also talked about writing secret poems for poetry month and placing them in the garden.

We hadn’t brought our notebooks (note to self for next week), but I had my phone, so I opened Notes and captured her poem.  Jayden laughed when she got the chance to star in our poem.

We are the secret gardeners.
We don’t make a sound.
We are digging weeds
Right out of the ground.

We are pulling and pulling.
Watch out for the bees.
What a charming day!
Jayden’s about to sneeze.
Aaaaah…..Choo!

by Kaia, 3rd grade

Bouquet of flowers from the garden.

Poetry Month is just around the corner. My NPM19 Poem A Day project is Playing With Poetry. I am joining Jone MacCulloch and Mary Lee Hahn. We will be playing with Haikubes, Magnetic Poetry, Metaphor Dice, and Paint Chip Poetry.  Join in if you’d like! We can use the Twitter hashtag #playwithpoetryNPM to find and support each other.

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“You created a group of kids who advocate for themselves.” My supervisor called me on my way to school.

“I didn’t create them.  They came to me like that. I just encouraged it.”

“Yes, but so often that spirit is crushed by teachers.”

B. called me to tell me good news.  That’s the kind of supervisor she is.  A group of gifted seventh graders had summoned her to come to answer questions they have about their next steps in math.  It’s a pivotal decision that will put them on a certain math track.

These were my kids in 6th grade.  One of them was in my class from 1st through 6th.  They are my heart.  I’ve come to understand how to best respond to these moments of affirmation.  I just say, “Thanks.”

On deeper reflection, however, I think back to how these kids were with me during a vulnerable time.  Their education involved very little choice.  They often came to my class frustrated over one constraint or another.  What I gave them in the safe space of our gifted classroom was freedom.  They could be themselves.  They had choice over what they read, what they wrote, and who they wanted to be.  Acceptance and love permeated the room.

I miss these kids.  They stretched me to be the best teacher I could be.  They trusted me as I trusted them.  They taught me to embrace them as unique individuals, to respect each one’s dignity and voice.  They demanded it.  We made a difference together.  I’m happy to know their wings are soaring.

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