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We started our first Monday together with this quote. I introduced notebook writing. Begin with a quote, talk a bit about it, then write for 10 minutes. Writing alongside my students gives me great joy. I’ve missed this over the summer and happy to have it back.

Here’s a little peek into my notebook musings:

There’s a book by Parker Palmer with the title “The Courage to Teach.” I read it years ago, and I can’t remember much about it, but the title still resonates. I’m entering my 32nd year of teaching. I would be what they call a “veteran” teacher. You could say I’ve earned my grey hair, but I rarely feel like an expert. Everyday teaching requires courage. You must put aside the headache from lack of sleep (or lack of caffeine, or both), and be ready to listen and see each student as a child who needs you to love them, to know them, and to understand them.

Currently I am listening to Cornelius Minor’s book We Got This. I highly recommend it even though I’m just a few chapters in. Cornelius speaks of the courage to teach as well as the necessity that we be intentional with our every step. We need to teach in a way that meets the needs of our students. And we get to know these needs by listening.

I’m encouraged that what I do for my students (notebook writing, independent reading, etc.) are courageous steps toward being a compassionate teacher. I need to trust the years of experience to guide me and comfort me in the knowledge that I Got This. Courage doesn’t always roar. It’s a daily walk, a listening ear, and a loving heart.

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Carol at Beyond Literacy Link.

One of my favorite books in my rather large collection of poetry books is What the Heart Knows by Joyce Sidman. This week I shared the poem Happiness, a chant invoking happiness.  We talked about writing from the perspective of direct address to an emotion.  I directed my students to choose an emotion and to try using imagery to make the emotion personified.  I played along with my kiddos and took out the magnetic poetry cookie sheets.  Finding the word poems mused me to write a direct address to poems.  Karson and I both used the imagery of a monarch butterfly drawing on our experience of hatching and releasing monarchs this week.

Poems,

You hide in shadows
of oak trees.
You whisper words
in the breeze.
You shudder my heart.

Poems,
When we meet eye to eye,
I am amazed
by your strength,
unexpected yet welcome.

Poems,
Your delicate wings
unfold before our eyes
surprising us
with your ease of flight.

–Margaret Simon, draft, 2019

 

Free image from Pixabay.

 

Excitement,

too much thrill can bring confusion
and confusion leads to mystery.
You are like the breeze on the top of a mountain.
When I see the brightness of the moon, I feel you.
You are the feeling when a monarch flies into the distance.

Karson, 4th grade

 

Curiosity,

You are full of forest mazes
that my mind gets stuck in.
My eyes show the way.
You bring me thoughts,
you make me think,
Curiosity

Jaden, 3rd grade

 

 

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Playing with poetry has led to a playful poetry attitude in my class.  My first class is reading poems aloud on the intercom for morning announcements from Great Morning: Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud by Pomelo Books.  Each day they pass it to the next-up.  He or she chooses a poem they want to read and go through a quick practice to make sure they know how to pronounce all the words (especially the author’s name).  I am pretty much hands off.  They remember whose turn it is, come by the room to get the book, and just do it.  Their read aloud skills are improving as well as their confidence.  They are also learning that poetry can be fun to read aloud.

In the spirit of playing with poetry, I pulled out the individual white boards and proposed a game of collaborative poetry.  They quickly changed the title to “Friends Poems.”  Each friend wrote a line in the poem as we passed the boards around.  The originator of the first line got the poem back and could add to it if they felt it needed more.  This was fun and playful and built a sense of a writing community.

This one was written by Karson, Daniel, Breighlynn, and Jaden

I love the color of the midnight sky
shining stars
dawn and dusk compete
to meet eye to eye
the night is complete

 

I played along with my second group.  We’ve watching monarch caterpillars in the garden.  One day we counted 11 caterpillars.  I’ve brought some home for spring break, but I’ll share more about this later.  Here’s my collaborative poem with Kaia, Landon, and Jayden.

In the spring-sprinkled garden,
Listen as the bird tweets.
Watch the water run and flowers sway.
Look closely at monarch caterpillars.
Praise this amazing day!

 

 

 

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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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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life

“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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Bach Google Doodle screen shot

Did you see the Google doodle on Thursday and Friday?  To celebrate Johann Sebastian Bach’s birthday, Google had an app for writing music.

I come from a musical background.  My mother has her masters in piano and taught lessons for many years.  My brother got the talent in his fingers and still makes a living as a professional musician.

Me? I gave up piano after high school, but I can still read music and sing in the church choir.  But I’ve never written music before. That is, until Thursday.

In my last group of students, Madison and I played around with the doodle and discovered we could save a link and return to the song we created.  Of course, we also had to write words to go with our songs, all of which proved to be harder than you would think.

I introduced this idea to my first group on Friday morning.  We had to borrow headphones from the computer lab because all that composing going on in one room was enough to drive you crazy.

I was fascinated by how challenging this was for my kids.  They spent at least an hour on it and would have gone longer, but it was a gorgeous spring day, so I shooed them out for recess.

Here is a link to a tune I created for the words “When I sing this lovely song, I feel a sense of pride.

My students posted theirs on our kidblog site here. 

Who would think that you could build a whole class activity around a Google Doodle? Technology never ceases to amaze me.

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