Monthly Archives: January 2014

Play is the Word

Today is January 18th…and I think I may have found my “word.”  Lots of people make resolutions for the new year to set their intentions and make change in their lives.  It’s evident from increased traffic at the gym and folks in exercise clothes walking in the neighborhood.  What I notice is that by the end of January, attendance in the gym is waning and best intentions are set aside…again.

My friend and SDAWP colleague Janet wrote about finding her word for the year here, and even though I read others’ blog posts about their words, it was reading her post that got me thinking about what my word might be for the year.  I thought about the usual suspects…focus, balance, love…but they weren’t resonating as the word.  And I let the idea of a word slip to the back burner.

This morning I woke up to find that Janet was authoring the writing prompt for the iAnthology this week, the same group that I am now posting a weekly photo challenge for, and that she had decided to riff off the photo challenge I posted for the week: frames.  Here’s what Janet wrote:

Kim Douillard has begun to curate a great Weekly Photo Challenge here on iAnthology,…

and since we both hail from the San Diego Area Writing Project, I thought it would be fun to piggyback on her prompt this week with my own twist on Frames.

At the beginning of the year, many of us set goals and resolutions for the new year. I wrote about this on my blog at the beginning of January. Since we are about 3 weeks into the year, I figure many of those have already gone by the wayside. (For example I am on the couch writing this rather than hitting that 8 am cardio class this morning). But rather than frame my year as an “all or nothing” goal setting adventure, this year I have opted to frame my year with one or two focus words that guide my decisions this year.

My word to frame my year is PURPOSE.

It is quite an interesting way of looking at the world when I focus on my word. For example, rather than get down on myself this morning for not making the class, I remember my purpose for exercise is to stay healthy, and later today I can go walk the beach with my husband instead. It’s also healthy to write, to create, and to share, so all is not lost on the morning on the couch. See, framing your decisions with a word changes the perspective. It has influenced many decisions as I returned to the classroom this past week as well.

So I am asking you this week to set a word, or two if necessary that frame your thinking this year. How will you frame your world? You can use images, words, video, music, whatever you feel shares your word. In this busy time, a one word post or image will also give us all pause to think.

Looking forward to seeing how you frame your world.


As I read this invitation by Janet, I realized that I know what my word for the year is!  I will frame my year with the word play.  People who know me might be surprised by this decision. I’m often accused of being too serious…and working way too much.  But if you’ve read my blog over the last several months you’ll find evidence of my attention to play…both for myself and for my students.

In a #clmooc Twitter chat the other night, some of my colleagues and I talked about play…how we define it, why it matters, what it might look like in the classroom, and how we find it in our own lives.  Through that conversation, we found ourselves wanting to make more time for play in our lives…and to consider ways to infuse play into the things we do everyday.

In lots of ways, my photography has been a way of infusing play into my life. I find myself on the lookout for interesting photo opportunities while I’m commuting to and from work and making intentional plans to explore with my camera on my days off from work.  I’m taking time to pull off the freeway, find a parking place near something interesting and start shooting some photos.  Just the other day, after a routine doctor’s appointment, I followed a sign for a park I had never visited and discovered an amazing view of this region where I have lived most of my life.  I could see all the way to the ocean from this vantage point…and was surrounded by native plants, and even found a community of monarch butterflies dancing in the setting sun.


The other morning when I headed downstairs to have some breakfast before work, I noticed the full moon peeking through the half round window in my living room.  I grabbed my phone and captured a shot…knowing, as I’ve mentioned before, that the moon is tricky to photograph.  But when I had a bit of time today, I played with the photo in Camera+ (cropping and adjusting) until I created something more interesting…and if you look closely in the left hand side of the window, you will see the moon peeking through.


When I take the time for play, I find that I have more energy and a better attitude to apply to all the other parts of my life.  I also find myself eager to try new things, experiment, and push my learning.  I’m studying photographs I admire to incorporate new techniques in my own. And my play is not only about photography (although lots of it is!), I’m also playing with some other things, especially digital tools.

And I want play to infuse my teaching too.  I want my students to find the play in their learning and I want to create opportunities for play to be the goal.  When we have a passion for the things we do, new possibilities open in front of us.  So, Janet, I want play to frame my year…and thanks for asking.

How about the rest of you…what word or words will frame your life and learning this year?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Frames

Here’s the week 2 Weekly Photo Challenge prompt for the NWP iAnthology.  You can look back at week one here.

I take and post a picture every day, and have for over a year and half now.  Sometimes I find myself taking the same photo over and over again.  Somehow I stand in the same place and use the same angle…and the photos begin to look the same.

So to keep myself from falling into this familiarity rut, I try different photography techniques. One I have done some experimenting with is using the natural frames I find in the environment when I am shooting pictures.

Here’s a couple of my examples.  One of my favorites is this view of the ocean through the pier.  I took several other shots, but I love the way this one is like a door opening, framing the sea.

pier frame

Here is a playful one I took during my morning playground duty using the playground equipment as the frame.

playground frame

And here’s one of a window–that includes the window frame as a frame itself.

window frame

Share a photo of a frame you have found…post either the photo alone or do some writing inspired by the photo.  And feel free to be inspired by the photos of others…and either write based on another’s photo or shoot another photograph of a frame based on the inspiration of someone else’s photo.

If you also share on other social media (Twitter, Facebook, google+, Instagram), use the hashtag #frames and include @nwpianthology to make it easy for us to find and enjoy!  You can find me @kd0602.  Be sure to share your media handles too!

And if you are reading this on my blog, feel free to share your photo/response by either linking your photo or your blog to the comment section below.  I am excited to see the frames you have explored through your lens!

While We Wait

We do a lot of waiting.  In line at the coffee shop, in the lobby at the doctor’s office, to get through the TSA screening at the airport, for meetings to start, movies to start, for our kids to get home…

Sometimes I welcome the opportunity to wait.  It gives me a chance to catch my breath, check in on my email and social media, read a few pages of my book, text my sons, daydream, or just take the time to reflect on my day.  These trees remind me of that good waiting…patiently waiting in line, enjoying the sunshine and the view…


The worst kind of waiting is when you have to stay alert and attentive.  When you’re waiting in traffic, about to board your flight, trying to be on time to that afternoon meeting and behind the person with 50 coupons in the grocery store…  At those times you can’t turn your attention to something else and take advantage of waiting as down time.

My students do a lot of waiting too.  They wait in line after recess for us to pick them up and walk back to class, they wait for directions, they wait for their classmates to take their turns ahead of them…

So I find myself thinking about good waiting and frustrating waiting…and wanting to make sure my students have time for reflection and to catch their breath.  But not spend precious time spinning their wheels when they could be doing something more productive.

Today my students were amazing.  They were about to embark on a sewing project (I’ll expand on that in another post) and needed to wait for supplies and wait for help with needle threading, knot tying…  And yet, they were not frustrated.  Instead I saw them watching carefully as they waited, making plans as they waited, and studying every move of someone nearby who started before them.

Attitude is everything.  They were ready to wait today.  They knew waiting was inevitable given the complexity and newness of the task ahead of us…and they waited with joy and anticipation.  This is going to be a great project…my students demonstrated that today!

Wishing on the Moon

We are having an unusually warm winter here in southern California.  It was 75, sunny and dry on the coast today and the forecast is suggesting 81 for tomorrow!  My students have gone back to their shorts and tank tops…and many are not even wearing sweatshirts when they arrive at school in the morning.

Our school garden is growing like crazy and trees and other plants think that spring has already arrived.  Even though we see pictures of snow in other places, it’s hard to imagine that it is still winter.

It’s still getting dark early and the moon was making its presence known as the sun was setting around 5.  Even knowing that my moon pictures never turn out very good, I headed out across the street to try a photo or two of the moon near the palm tree in my neighbor’s yard. With a bit of editing, I was able to produce this interesting moon photo.


And although warm weather is beautiful, I’m ready for some rain.  We’re well below our already pitiful yearly ten inch rainfall total…and no water now will mean a real threat of devastating wildfires in the summer and fall, the scariest of our weather conditions!

So while I looked up at the moon tonight, I was wishing for rain.  Is it true if you make a wish on the rising moon it will come true?  Or is it just wishful thinking?

Window Views

I’ve heard that saying that eyes are the windows to the soul…a way to look beyond the surface of a person into their thoughts and emotions, which got me thinking about windows.

From the outside, you can look through a window to see what is inside.  But sometimes, when the light is right, what you see when you look through the window from the outside is a reflection of the sky and trees…like this.


It’s almost more of a mirror than a window.  You don’t see through it, you see the world reflected back at you.

And other times when you look through a window you can see through one window and then back out another window…and catch a glimpse of what is on the other side.


It’s almost like looking beyond the present…into the future or maybe into the past.

But what about the shape of windows?  How does that impact our view?  These windows are long and thin, reducing the amount of light that enters and restricting the view.  Was that an intentional goal of the windows in this applied physics and math building?  Or is there some physics and math at work that impacts just how these windows work?


Looking through my photos also makes me realize just how much of my life is seen through the frame of a car window.  How does this window affect my view?  (This one is from the passenger seat…not the driver’s!)  I was fascinated by the VW bus, the rusty roof, the retro license plate…


And we also look out through windows.  Sometimes the view is pretty open, allowing a wide angle of view.


And other times there are barriers, restricting our vision and limiting what can be seen.


So are our eyes really like windows?  Do they sometimes reflect, sometimes allow the viewer to see beyond, sometimes carefully frame or give a view influenced by your seat?  What affects the way we see out?  When are the curtains drawn wide open and when are the blinds restricting the view?

How do your windows influence your view of the world?

Documenting Growth

The garden metaphor is pretty common in education–you know, planting seeds and watching them germinate, grow, and eventually bloom.  And as a teacher who keeps her students for three years, I really do get to plant some of those seeds, watch them germinate, grow…and bloom–sometimes a year or two after they are planted.

One of the families in our class gave each of us a mason jar planted with a narcissus paperwhite bulb for Christmas with a note on the lid telling us to be sure to take the top off and water.  And since taking that top off three weeks ago, I’ve been watching that bulb.  It began by stretching roots down, filling the jar with stringy white texture.  And then green shoots began to emerge, quickly growing tall above the rim of the jar.

Earlier this week those tall shoots got taller than they had the strength to hold onto and bent over, startling me as I looked up and found the shoots looking down at me.  My handy husband found some old chopsticks and propped the shoots back upright.

Close examination over the last week revealed buds, and I checked daily to see if they were ready to open.  And today when I got home from my morning San Diego Area Writing Project Leadership Group meeting, I found that the blossom had opened.  And of course I had to get my camera out and take some photos to document the growth and capture the beauty.


I’m loving this still life, an unedited photo taken with my iPhone.  If you look closely you can see the blossom at the top and the one to the left that is getting ready to bloom.  (You can even see the chopstick props if you really look closely!)

Of course I also wanted to lean in and capture the detail with my macro lens.  The detail of the blossom is revealed by the magnification of the lens.  This is another unedited photo.


And sometimes it’s nice to get a different view.  In this shot I used the regular iPhone lens and then brought the image into Camera+ to crop and enhance. I like the effect and how it emphasizes how the shoot changes as it gets close to the blossom.


I’ve enjoyed documenting the growth of this bulb through my photography.  It also has me thinking about how we document our students’ growth…and how they keep track of their own growth.  We keep samples of students’ work and have them reflect on their own learning, encouraging them to notice, stretch, and build on what they have learned.

My photographs document my growth as a photographer.  I can see how my composition has improved and as I examine my photos I make plans to try new techniques.  I seek out mentors on other blogs and on other internet sites.

We plan to start our students blogging next week.  We began blogging last year…figuring out how this might work with young students as we worked through each step of the way.  We’ve let the blogs idle as we established our classroom community and let our first graders develop some fluency and confidence with writing.

As we get ready to restart our blogging, I want to think about student blogs as documentation of learning…as portfolios of growth over time. And I want to capture snapshots of their growth like I have with the paperwhites, documenting their progress and their process over time.  Maybe the blogs will be like my camera lens…

Yellow, then and now

If you asked me what my favorite color was when I was a kid, I would never answer with one color…my favorite color was orange, yellow, and green: the brilliant nearly neon tones of the 70’s.  My bedroom sported lime green walls and the most amazing orange, yellow, and green polka-dotted vinyl wallpaper.  My bedspread and curtains continued the theme with orange, yellow, and green stripes.  And the final highlight were the nearly glow-in-the-dark posters that every adolescent of the time dreamed of.

But somewhere along the line I decided that orange and yellow were colors that didn’t suit me.  I veered far from them when choosing clothes and wouldn’t consider them as decorating accents as an adult.

But when I saw that the Word a Week Photography Challenge was yellow this week, I realized that yellow (and orange) have reappeared in my life in new and different ways.

I’m particularly fond of this shot of the lagoon that features the yellow salty susan looking out to sea from the mouth of lagoon.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

I enjoyed the reminiscing that this prompt allowed this week…and I wish I could put my hands on a photo that features that orange, yellow, and green polka-dot vinyl wallpaper of my 70’s childhood bedroom.  And I’m enjoying my new relationship with yellow…a color that brightens the day and focuses energy.

What is your relationship with yellow?  Do you have a color relationship that has changed over time?

Weekly Photo Challenge: My Place

Some colleagues over at the National Writing Project iAnthology asked me if I would be willing to post weekly photo challenge prompts for their site.  Personally, I enjoy weekly photo challenges and find that they also tend to prompt writing for me as well.  I often participate in the weekly photo challenge at the Daily Post…I love that I have an entire week to figure out how to respond to the prompt, visually and/or in writing…and I love seeing the different ways that each prompt is interpreted.

So along with posting this challenge over at the iAnthology, I thought I would also post it here on my blog so others could participate.  Here’s my first weekly photo challenge prompt:

Photography gives me the opportunity to explore the places I see everyday and come to know them in new ways.  Sometimes I zoom in and discover the beauty of something I had walked by hundreds of times before or just pause and appreciate something I had otherwise taken for granted.  Once in while, a change in the weather or other conditions paints my place and when I take the time to look through the lens, I see what on the surface seems to be an annoyance as an opportunity to reflect, learn, and appreciate another layer of my place.

Here’s a photo I recently took on a stormy day (a relatively rare occurrence) in my place.  Rain makes the roads crazy (even just a light drizzle) and people grumpy, but taking photographs has encouraged me to seek out the beauty and wonder that stormy days have to offer.


Share a photo of your place…either the photo alone or do some writing inspired by the photo.  And feel free to be inspired by the photos of others…and either write based on another’s photo or shoot another photograph of your place based on the inspiration of someone else’s photo.

If you also share on other social media (Twitter, Facebook, google+, Instagram), use the hashtag #myplace and include @nwpianthology to make it easy for us to find and enjoy!  You can find me @kd0602.  Be sure to share your media handles too!

And if you are reading this on my blog, feel free to share your photo/response by either linking your photo or your blog to the comment section below.  I am excited to see “your place” through your lens!