Archive for the ‘Teaching’ Category

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Janice Scully at Salt City Verse.

Dropping a smoothie sent me over the edge.
I was trying too hard to hold it all, and the weight shifted.
Everything fell out of arms and undid me.
Return to Presence, my Enneathought of the Day says,
but a return to presence meant I needed to start over.

Give me a task, a group of fourth graders to watch over.
I can count to ten, but I can’t climb down from the bleachers.
I can sit on the floor with them to eat lunch, but I can’t
get back up. Know thyself.
Be true to who you are.

A body that is running on fumes of a school year.
A plate that is toppling, balanced on a single finger.

Among the smiles of graduates on Facebook,
I found a poem, a gift of Mary Oliver
whose wisdom buoys me,
“How two hands touch and the bonds will
never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.”
Comfort me, oh poem.
Be with me, in me, over me.
Help me walk back into school today
another day in May.

Margaret Simon, flash draft because I’ve been too busy to spend any time on crafting a poem.

May as a teacher is the hardest month of the year. Emotions are heightened. We are trying to squeeze in field trips, fun day/water day, ceremonies, awards, grades, and all the other seemingly endless paper work. It’s overwhelming. I didn’t have a poem ready for today, so I just did what I do best, open the blank blog post and write straight from my gut. This stress will be over soon, and I will settle into the relaxing days of summer. But today, there is much to do and little time to get it done. I’m sure you know what I mean. All my best to all the teachers out there just trying to make it to the end still smiling, still loving their job, and still being their best selves.

Waterfall exhibit at the Hilliard Museum in Lafayette, LA.

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

On Sunday morning, I noticed the chrysalis on my back porch that I had nurtured was turning black. This could be a good sign or a bad sign. I found the swallowtail caterpillar in my friend’s garden when she was offering me two dill plants for my student’s butterfly garden project. I took the cactus it was hanging out on as well as some dill for feeding it.

When the little puffed up caterpillar made its chrysalis, he did it on the dill. Yikes, I knew the dill would die eventually because it was just in water. What actually happened was the dill stem bent down. No! The chrysalis must stay in the position it was made in.

Swallowtail chrysalis usually takes on the color of its environment. It can be green or brown.

I found a stick in my yard, placed it next to the dill stem with the chrysalis and tied then together with dental floss. I wasn’t sure it would work. This chrysalis traveled home in my car and sat on my back porch for another week. Until Sunday.

There he was, like a miracle, fully formed and on the just right day before the school week started again. I was able to take him to school, show him off to students in the hallway and with the gentle help of Avalyn, we released him into the wild.

My friend Mary who originally gave me the caterpillar is out of town tending to her brother Carlos. I named the butterfly Carlos and now he is roaming free somewhere in Coteau. We hope our newly planted butterfly garden nurtures him, but as with all wild things, we will never know.

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Poetry Friday is hosted today by Ruth at There is no Such Thing as a God-forsaken Town.

This has been an April full of poetry. In between the dreaded test prep, I have offered my students poetry breaks. I pulled out all of my poetry books and let them dig in. We also wrote some poetry. My students, when they hear the word poetry, breathe a sigh of relief and joy. I am lucky they are young and haven’t been stained by the bee that says poetry is hard.

We’ve watched a few of Allan Wolf’s Poetry Month videos. They are all on YouTube. It’s like having him visit my classroom with all his humor, antics, and natural Po-Love. My students loved watching him juggle while teaching them about dactyl meter. Sadie, 4th grade, is writing her own poems using dactyl meter.

My emotional bees

Make me want to have pet fleas!

My emotional bees

They just never seem to ease!

Sadie, 4th grade

My third grade student, Avalyn was drawn in by Marilyn Singer’s reverso poems in Mirror, Mirror and Follow, Follow. I sent Marilyn a message on Instagram, and she sent us a “Tips for Writing Reverso Poems.” Avalyn borrowed a few lines and created a poem of her own. We discovered reversos are really hard to write well.

Very pleasant,
happily ever after.
Luggage is packed.
You sob.
Nobody is there.

Nobody is there,
you sob.
Luggage is packed.
Happily ever after,
very pleasant.

Avalyn, 3rd grade

Each week I present This Photo Wants to be a Poem on my blog and with my students on Fanschool. You can see their Prime Number Haikus this week at this link by clicking on the comment button at the bottom of the page.

Prime Number Haiku

Grows great and strong but
Will not stay for very long
You try to win but you will pop very soon

Adelyn, 4th grade

April has been a wonderful month of poetry. Thanks to all of our Poetry Friday friends who have contributed to the Kidlit Progressive Poem which is still traveling, almost done. Today it’s at Karin Fisher-Golton.

I am keeping all of my daily poems in a slide show. Here’s my own Prime Number Haiku which was a prompt from Ethical ELA.

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I am following #VerseLove at Ethical ELA. A few days ago the prompt was taken from a poem by Clint Smith (linked here). Spending time back in my home town of Jackson, MS always brings up memories. When I was 15, I spent my summer volunteering at a church sponsored camp for underprivileged children who were referred by their teachers as struggling readers. The experience launched me into a lifetime career of teaching. Do you remember why you became a teacher? or whatever your chosen career? Why do we make these choices in life? How do we know it’s the right choice? I’ve always known teaching was right for me.

Something You Should Know
after Clint Smith

I became a teacher the summer I turned 15,
volunteering for “Operation Life Enrichment”

We gathered the underprivileged children
from the dregs of Jackson Public Schools–
children struggling to read and know things
like zoo animals and swimming pools and reciting
the ABC song.

Their skin was the color of cafe ole,
smooth caffeine
that entered my veins in their hugs,
their fingers in my soft blonde hair.

I learned how to cradle their heads,
singing to them
the lyrical language
of picture books.

I knew then
as I know now
my passion, my calling, my purpose
is teaching.

Margaret Simon, draft
Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

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I am privileged to have the opportunity to write poetry with gifted kids. Their minds are open and in tuned to ideas. Most days they can’t wait to tell me what they are thinking about. Most days they want to write, welcoming the blank page. This week I shared with two of my young students (2nd and 3rd graders) photos of the full moon that I had collected from social media. I actually had another idea for them, but as we were looking at and discussing my picture of the moon above my neighbor’s house, they were full of questions and wonderings and a poem emerged. It was a happy moment because somedays little boys would rather be running outside than writing a poem with their teacher.

Click the image to see a larger view. Photo by Margaret Simon.
There are still a few dates available to sign up for the 2023 Kidlit Progressive poem. Click Here.

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

I read Beautiful Hands to my youngest students, 1st-3rd grade. The question “What will your beautiful hands do today?” is the theme of this short and inspiring book by Kathryn Otoshi and Bret Baumgarten.

The story of this book is both sad and joyful. From a Bookology article by Nancy Bo Flood:

Beautiful Hands was done for Bret Baumgarten, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. When we found out, it was at stage 4. It was heartbreaking. He and I both wanted to do a book for his children, Noah and Sofie. I found out every day he would hold his kids’ hands in his and ask them, “What will your beautiful hands do today?”

I wanted everyone whom Bret loved to be in this book. We arranged for his family and friends (mine too!) to make handprints as part of the illustrations in the book, so that they could participate and be a part of this narrative. Over 100 people’s handprints are in the rainbow at the end of the story. So many people loved Bret, we didn’t know where to put our grief. The book became a positive way to remember the message he wanted to impart most: love, creativity, compassion, and our connection with one another.

Kathryn Otoshi

With my youngest students, we practiced using acrylic paints.

1. You must put on a t-shirt to avoid stains on your clothes. (I provide old t-shirts.)

2. Mrs. Simon will squirt the paint. It comes out fast and can splatter.

3. We only have primary colors, so how do we make other colors?

4. Which illustration do you want to make?

5. You can only use hands, no paintbrushes. We used the paintbrushes to apply the paint to their hands.

Here are some samples of final works of art.

My Painting

by Carson

Sunflowers bloom.
My heart booms!

Clouds float in the air.
My hands show that I care. 

Carson is brand new to poetry writing. He gets very nervous about it, so we have to use some breathing techniques while I prompt him with sentence stems. We worked on making lists of rhyming words. He wrote “Clouds float in the air” with little prompting. And selected the word care from our list of rhyming words. All I said was, “Look at your hands in your painting. My hands…?”

“Show that I care!” shouted Carson. We celebrated with a high five and a glowing smile. When I typed it and let him tape it to his artwork, he was as proud as Vashti from Peter Reynold’s book, The Dot. ( If you don’t know about Vashti yet, you must go Google The Dot right now.)

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

On Tuesday mornings, I have cafeteria duty. I hate cafeteria duty. You have to be a cop, making sure the kids follow the procedures and keep the talking to a minimum. “It’s time to eat, not talk. If you continue to talk, you will be asked to leave.” The kind of talk that’s not kind. I do try to greet the kids with a smile and good morning, but breakfast time has one goal. “Eat something.”

When P came in, he didn’t follow procedure. He came straight to me before going through the cafeteria line.

“Good morning,” I said. “I see you have a broken arm. What happened?”

P begins his monologue. A story he has practiced and told before. “I was on my skateboard, and I was trying to go up the two steps, but I hit the first step and fell.”

I express my sympathy, “That must’ve really hurt.”

“Yes, but… that’s not why I’m talking to you. I need help with my tray.”

I jump into action. “Of course, I’ll get your tray for you.” I went through the line, brought him his tray, opened his milk, and packaged, heated breakfast sandwich.

His smile and puppy dog eyes were thanks enough.

Later, I was walking down the hall to transfer to my next school. P’s kindergarten class was dutifully lined up to go to P.E. or library. He stepped out of the line when he saw me and whispered something I couldn’t understand.

I leaned over, put my arm around his good shoulder and leaned in. He whispered, “I love you.”

My heart melted. I actually had tears in my eyes as I wandered out to my car. I’m going to change my perspective on cafeteria duty.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

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Poetry Friday is hosted today by Susan at Chicken Spaghetti.

What is the greatest gift a poetry teacher can ever hope for? A student who keeps writing poetry, even though you are no longer teaching her. You may remember my student Chloe. She’s now in 7th grade and attending another school, but last week she sent me a poem. She told me that she was in Thibodeaux, LA for a gymnastics meet. Her father went to college in the town and showed her the route to where he had lived. He asked her to write a poem about it. And what father do you know encourages the poet-daughter? I was charmed, of course, and asked if I could post her poem here. Please leave encouraging comments for Chloe.

Thibodeaux Turns

Extravagant land that turns your world 

The world that grew with you 

That rested with you

That prayed with you

Never felt alone with this land 

These bodies of water mark journeys in our lives 

And heart

And minds

Traveling tree roots that build our homes and house animals that feed us 

This air that circulates our bodies and arms and legs

Blowing away our doubts and fears 

Bringing us to our pot of gold at the end of our Louisiana adventures 

Our sugar cane grounds desperately reaching for the water we provide 

Thibodeaux turns turn our history 

Our signs 

Our lives

Chloe Willis, 7th grade

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Grab the 2023 Spiritual Journey image for your blog posts.
Image by Henry Cancienne.

Do you select a One Little Word for the year? For years, I’ve been choosing a single word to guide my spiritual journey. Last year’s word was Enough. This word kept me in check. Whenever I questioned myself, I remembered “You are enough.” But as 2023 approached, I thought I wanted a more active word. I follow my good friend’s daughter on Instagram. Faith Broussard Cade has become an influencer under the name Fleur de lis Speaks. I clipped this recent post:

My new word for 2023 is Purpose.

What is my purpose?

Does this activity fit with my purpose?

Can I live each day with purpose?

I have been having mixed feelings about the word, so I talked it over with a friend. She offered me the wisdom that my purpose is with God, to bless others with my own faith.

My daughter got an oracle deck for Christmas. She said, “Just for fun, ask the oracle a question and pick a card.”

I kept the question to myself, but the card I picked was “Dancing Spirit” with a beautiful butterfly as the image. The main tenants were “Honoring Oneself”

*Build self-esteem

*Feeling the sweetness of life

* Sharing your inner light in a centered way.

I believe that purpose will continue to show up in my life. Funny how that happens.

I love to share the practice of choosing a word with students. I found some word beads and elastic string at Target, so my students each chose a word and I made them a bracelet.

Students share their one little word bracelets.

I asked them to write a post about their words by choosing a quote and writing about what the word means to them and why they chose it. It’s a fun way to greet the new year.

If you are joining the link up today, please click on the InLinkz below. If you’d like to join our group and host a month, follow this link to our google spreadsheet.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!Click here to enter

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Poetry Friday is hosted today by Michelle Kogan

For the Christmas season, I have decorated my classroom doors (I service 2 schools) with a Christmas tree, but they’re not typical Christmas trees. They’re Grati-ku Poet-trees. Each day since Thanksgiving break, my students and I write a gratitude poem on a paper ornament.

Our Grati-ku Poet-Tree

We are reading daily Santa Clauses (a book of haiku written by the man himself) by Bob Raczka. These poems are inspirational to us and help us see the different ways to create a haiku poem. A complete sentence, a metaphor, a moment in time.

Japanese poems
Santa Claus inspiration
I write haiku, too.

by Avalyn, 3rd grade

Avalyn wanted to invite some teachers to write poems, too, so she asked the speech therapist whose classroom is adjacent to ours to play along. (She calls it a “haiku party”.) Kim wrote:

A burnt string of lights
one bulb out, they all go out.
To the store I go!

By Kim Degeyter

School spirit is everywhere this season as students and teachers participate in dress-up days. I wrote a grati-ku about this:

Reindeer headbands on
little girls’ heads bouncing down
Holiday hallway

Margaret Simon
Other teachers join in the fun!

You should join the fun. Write a grati-ku holiday inspired poem in the comments. I’d love to share them with my students.

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