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

 

There’s no denying that this has been a difficult start to a new year of teaching. I’ve been faced with a number of new directives, new policies and new students. I have felt like I would never quite get my feet on the ground.

I started this week with teaching the Book, Head, Heart framework from Disrupting Thinking by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst. (Christina Noseck was interviewed by Scholastic and quoted in this article about the framework.) While I was discussing the Heart part of reviewing a book, I made a mental connection. Here I’ve been overwhelmed and quite ranty if you’ve been within earshot lately, but what is the heart of my call to teaching?…the kids.

I looked at my group of students all attentive and ready to learn and realized that none of that other stuff matters all that much. Not as much as this: The heart of my teaching is connecting to the heart of a child. This is going to be a great year all because of the hearts I have the privilege of spending time nurturing.

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Poetry Friday posts are with Kay at A Journey through the Pages.

Monday, August 21st is the day. Here in South Louisiana we will get about 72% of the total eclipse. On this site, you can put in your zip code to see what time is best for viewing and how much you will see.

Kelly Gallagher sent out this article of the week for students to read closely.

NASA is full of interesting information.  I even found a lesson for my students here that I adapted for younger kids.

On Facebook for Laura Shovan’s 10 words project, Jone MacCulloch posted this:

My students enjoy writing poems about science.  This 10-word prompt worked well for those kids who don’t know what to write when given a more open topic.  By doing this activity, we discussed words we didn’t know and then used them in a poem.  What better way to incorporate science topics, vocabulary, and reading comprehension?  Poetry does it all!

Solar Eclipse

As the sky turns obscure

the shadow will reveal the corona.

The eclipse will collect luminosity

as if it is understanding

that it is interconnected

with the universe.

By now the Solar eclipse should be charged

since the last random appearance.

–Faith, 6th grade

I drafted a poem alongside my students.  Mine is not about the solar eclipse, but an eclipse of another kind.

Cicadas Sing to the Sun

Charged with luminosity,
cicada songs rise in a corona of sound.

My shadow follows their lead,
not to understanding, but
to hope.

When hearts are eclipsed
by misunderstanding,
we forget
our interconnected stories–
yours, mine, ours,
theirs, too.

Obscurity reveals our vulnerability.

When we are too close to the edge
of possibility, one step forward
can change everything.

Be careful where you step.

–Margaret Simon

 

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

I, like many of you, have been sad, mad, and disgusted by the recent happenings right here in our own country. In our own nation where freedom has been a song sung for generations, white supremacists have stained the honor of that freedom with hypocrisy, hatred, and violence. And, like many of you, I don’t know what to do with my feelings.

On Sunday evening, I answered a Facebook call to a vigil, a simple gathering of diverse people who held candles, sang songs, read poems, quoted speeches, and together held each other up in prayer. We celebrated our freedom to do this on public ground without fear.

I don’t believe that attending a vigil will change much, but it was someplace to go and be with my community in support of the community of Charlottesville. Charlottesville never asked for their town to be the marketplace for hatred. They never wanted angry men carrying tikki torches to make a spectacle of their freedom. How did this happen? I have no answers.

On Monday morning, I spotted this brief rainbow. To me, this is always a sign of God’s promise. We all need to let go of discrimination, prejudice, and intolerance. We are better than this.

My friend Nettie attended Sunday’s vigil. She read aloud the poem, Stonewall Nation. She read it with conviction and passion.

I hope these dark days will pass, and all of us will join together in being a better people and a better nation.

Come on brothers, march along.
We’re all gonna sing our song.
Right now, right now.
Sisters Take me by the hand,
We’re gonna build our promise land,
Right now, right now.

And the Stonewall Nation’s,
Gonna have its liberation.
Wait and see, just wait and see.
You can take your tolerance and stow it,
We’re gonna be ourselves and show it.
The Stonewall Nation is gonna be free.

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

 

I know “pantser” isn’t a real word.  It’s derived from the phrase, “flying by the seat of your pants.”  I’ve seen this term used in reference to writing style, “Do you plot or pants?”

This tweet from Ralph Fletcher during the Two Writing Teachers Twitter chat jump-started my thinking about this idea.

I started thinking about my first week of teaching and how often I veered off the plan. Pantsing it is where I find my creative teacher self. It’s when my students tend to respond more authentically.

I understand the purpose of planning, and I am certainly capable of falling into a planning zone when I’m writing my lesson plans for the week. I research to find the resources I may need to use. I write out an outline of this, this, then this. But once the day starts and there are real live children sitting in front of me, I begin to fly by the seat of my pants.

Actually I like the phrase, “Go with the Flow” better. As a teacher, my calling is to respond to the needs of my students, or to the creative flow they direct.

This is a silly example: I bought a chair at Goodwill that had an exercise ball in it. I spray painted the black plastic part orange. I brought it to my classroom. When we had writing workshop and were ready to share, the students brought out the ball chair to sit on. I said, “This is our new author’s chair” like that was my plan all along. The kids called it a snail. I said, “Author’s snail” which became “Arthur the author’s snail.”

I wanted to have a soft start to the day this year. This is the kind of thing that if you don’t start on day one and continue, it won’t happen. The planner in me put on some quiet music (I had carefully selected and downloaded it to my phone), and we all read silently for 20 minutes. I read, too, which felt like a joyful rest from the rush of getting to school.

Then my pantser self kicked in, but only because I had read Dynamic Teaching by Vicki Vinton this summer. Following the quiet reading session, I asked my students to take some time to write about what they knew so far and what they were wondering about. Then to turn and talk to their neighbor about the book they were reading. This started meaningful conversations about books that have continued all week.

Being a pantser comes with experience. I have lots of strategies in my tool bag just waiting for the right time to be used. I think it’s time for me to stop feeling guilty when I run off the lesson plan. Actually, I want to embrace my pantser self and bring her out more often. That’s when the real teaching happens.

If you wrote a blog post for DigiLitSunday, please link below.

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Poetry Friday posts are here today. Scroll down and click the green frog.

Welcome to my birthday poetry party.  I am a birthday triplet with Linda Mitchell and Julieanne Harmatz, both of whom I originally met through blogging.  Now they are real life writing critique friends.  Hop over to their blogs to say Happy Birthday! Julieanne

Linda

I am sharing some poetic treasures.  Joy Acey sent me a beautiful watercolor painting of an iris along with a fluttering haiku for the Summer Poetry Swap.   She also sent a blank card, so I put it into WordSwag and wrote a response haiku to Joy.

Joy wrote in her note to me that she considered this alternate third line.
Blue Dutch Irises
flutter to the wind’s command
Happy Birthday wishes!

Sea blue echoes
Ukulele birthday song
Windcall my name
–Margaret Simon

School has started.  I found on a shelf in my classroom an old copy of Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.  I read to my students the chapter “Be Specific” in which she quotes William Carlos Williams, “Write what is under your nose.”  Then I read aloud River of Words by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet about the life of William Carlos Williams.  Writing prompt: Write a poem that uses something specific and ordinary and begin with “So much depends upon…” after W.C. Williams’ poem with the same first line.

I was pretty pleased with my poem about the sparkles of condensation on a glass of mint iced tea until I was absolutely blown away by my students’ writing.

So much depends upon
the warm glow of the fairy lights,
silver and golden with gems and hearts
gently pushing me to the ocean of dreams.

Drifting calmly until the waves
rock me to the land of reality,
until the fairies and their lights
send me out again.

Erin, 6th grade

 

So much depends upon
the brass uniform of a senior dragonfly
soaring past
the barking, yelling, chirping, rumbling
noises of the day.

Lynzee, 3rd grade

 

I can already tell that this is going to be an amazing year of poetry writing. Did you notice “brass uniform of a senior dragonfly?” We were all blown away by that line.

Link your Poetry Friday post below.

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

Rain falls every day where I live, deep down south in Louisiana bayou country. And it never fails, Charlie, my nearly 10 year old schnoodle, gets upset. He cries, and I have to open the back door to let him run outside and bark at the rain. I tell him, “Charlie, it does this every day! You should know by now.”

This is a dog that sets his clock by a treat in the morning and a Dingo at dinner time. He knows when it’s time, and he sits by the cabinet and waits.

This is a dog who knows when I have tennis shoes on, we are going for a walk. His tail wags, and he gladly stands still for the leash.

This is a dog who grabs his ball and runs to the door when I say, “Daddy’s home!”

If you have a pet, you know how they are. Creatures of routine. So why, when the thunder booms and the rain falls, does he always need to bark it away? Ah, yes, routine. Rain comes around every afternoon. He feels the lower pressure. He anticipates the fearful storm. A creature of habit.

I hear the rumble of thunder, feel the rhythm of cicada song, and know that all is well with the world. Charlie is on call.

Charlie sits for a treat.

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Saturday morning yoga, my instructor, Susan, says “You should not tell yourself that your body can’t do something. Challenge yourself to try, and your body may just surprise you.” So when she said we were going to do head stands, I stopped the “No way,” and said, “Ok. I’ll try.” I opened myself to her knowledgeable instruction. She guided me step by step. And when I was upside down, I felt powerful, giddy, invincible.

I want to take this learning into my classroom and into my teacher-self. Our school year begins on Wednesday. Scheduling is a nightmare for anyone who has to look at a master schedule and plan for all the various pull-outs and special classes. I am one of those teachers that messes up the master schedule. This year I will be servicing three schools. Three different schools with three different schedules pulling out gifted students in 5 different grade levels. I know you must be saying by now, impossible.

Teachers, isn’t that how we roll? Turning impossible into possible. Whatever it may be, a move to a new classroom, grade level, or position, a new administrator to get to know, a crazy schedule to make work, we put on our super hero capes and take off, letting the winds of self-doubt fly past us. Flexibility is in our stride.

 

If I can do a hand stand, I can go confidently into this school year. But just in case I need a guiding mantra, I made a Canva poster out of Cornelius’s charge and my friend, Dani Burtsfield’s photo from Glacier Park in Montana.

 

 

Be sure to join me in the new #TeachWrite chat on Monday, August 7th at 7:30 EST.  For more information and a list of questions, go to #TeachWrite Chat.

 

Link up your DigiLitSunday posts below:

 

 

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