Archive for March, 2017

Just Can’t Help Myself

March 29, 2017

Earlier this month, a colleague and I sat in on a meeting with student teachers in my district. The focus of the gathering was to talk about what we do with our gifted and talented students, and to discuss differentiating in the classroom. In essence, our job was to talk about what we do and why.

Friends, that is absolutely one of my FAVORITE things to do. It comes as no surprise to anyone who knows and works with me that it is frightfully easy to get me talking about what’s important to me as as an educator. The title of my blog – Soapbox – should be the first clue.

The hardest part about sessions like this is to communicate as many of those key foundational ideas as possible without completely scaring people off.

The importance of social-emotional learning? PARAMOUNT.
Homework? It’s nice, but if kids can’t do most learning at school, I’m doing my job wrong.
Gifted kids? They NEED each other.
Want to know what I think – about anything education related? Ask me, ask me, ask me!

I’m just getting started, people.

In some ways, it is a little embarrassing that with nothing but a nudge, I wax on about one of the (many!) areas of passion when it comes to education. I can imagine several folks I know rolling their eyes in a “here we go again” sort of fashion when I geek out with another soapbox. Even now, I’m having trouble sitting still because there is so very much I want to say in this post. I must be a hit at parties.

And yet.

I am over twenty years, three states and four school districts into my practice. I am still just as enthusiastic, as passionate, as idealistic as when I first came out of college. If nothing else, my experiences with students and as a parent have only served to strengthen those ideals. It’s taken a lot of work, but I’m proud that I have been able to hold on.

I’ve been on this blog for about eight years. I love how it serves as a record of my discoveries as a teacher. My practice evolves (always a journey, and probably the subject of a future post!), yet I’m grateful to find, at my core, the vision that has guided me from the start.

‘Til then, just know that if you hear me get rolling on any particular issue…you’ve been warned.

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Using Images to Establish Mood

March 19, 2017

A little while ago, my fourth graders and I began to pair poetry and art to show how words and images are powerful creators of emotional imagery.

First, we talked about art. What mood do artists create, and what techniques do they use? Color? Light? Shade? Brush strokes? Position and treatment of the subjects? It was wonderful to see how clear and articulate the kids were when it came to discussing their thoughts.

From there, it wasn’t a far leap to talk about poetry. Just as artists use their craft to fill viewers with emotion, poets also have tools to accomplish the same task with readers. Instead of using brush strokes and shading, however, writers use tone, figurative language and descriptive vocabulary.
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To further drive the lesson home, we examined Albert Bierstadt’s Cathedral Rocks, Yosemite (1870). Each student reflected on the emotions the painting stirred up within themselves. Our goal was to make our readers feel those same emotions though poetry.

For me? I did the same. My writing began with a brainstorm of the emotions this piece of art brought out in me, then a poem to (hopefully!) invoke those emotions in my reader. I started with a draft, showed students how I edit for word choice and clarity, then asked them for further feedback. It got messy!

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I wound up with the following poem. Enjoy.

Cathedral Rocks, Yosemite

Sometimes my eyes don’t see it
Through the brush,
The fog,
The trees.
But my heart
Remembers it is there.
The mountain lays in wait,
Its sun-washed steep face solitary as the journey itself.
My legs demand respite from the climb.
My soul answers a higher calling:
To sing from the heights,
To discover the next summit.
It wills my feet onward.

Onward.

Post-script: My students’ poetry was absolutely FABULOUS. Both they and their parents were floored to see what their talent and creativity could accomplish. Here’s to more amazing writing!

When in Rome

March 17, 2017

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Whenever I assign my kids creative writing, I like to join along. For starters, it helps keep my own creative juices flowing. More importantly, I want my students to see me as a writer, right along with them. I want them to see what successes struggles I encounter as I work to improve my craft.

Today, we had fun with poetry. The teachers are having a staff lunch on Tuesday (World Poetry Day!), and I asked my kids to write food poems to serve as placemats. We grabbed the construction paper, set out some markers, stuck on some cool tunes, and we had ourselves a writer’s workshop! The two poems below are my contributions. Not sure I’d call them exceptionally deep or earth-moving, but they were fun to write. (And, I hope, fun to read.)

The World in a Fruit Bowl

Joy: an apple
Upon first bite
When tongue
And teeth
And tastebuds
Find their perfect
Crunchtartsweet.

Apprehension: blueberries
All together,
Baby and granddaddy,
Nestled in a bowl.
Sweet and tangy?
Achingly sour?
One way to find out.

Despair: that melon
You picked out the other day
That felt perfect
And smelt perfect
Only to reveal
Its darker self
As sandpaper
And mush.

I Won’t Do It (And You Can’t Make Me)

I don’t fall for those famous food lies,
“Open your mouth and close your eyes.”

Or that phrase guaranteed to sicken:
“Try it! It tastes like chicken.”

Another thing to make me say “Ew,”
“Drink it! Surprise at the bottom for you!”

And the best way to get me to fight?
“No dessert ’til you take that last bite!”