Even with the best of intentions, my first poem for the first of 30 days of National Poetry Month is posted on day 2! Blame the road trip I set off on yesterday and the many other distractions that accompanied that start. But, alas, here is the poem…and expect another later today to “catch up”.
On this 31st day of consecutive writing and posting, like so many others, I’m taking a moment to pause and reflect. I have to begin this post with thanks to the team at Two Writing Teachers for creating a challenge that is also an amazing community of thoughtful and welcoming writers and responders. Writing everyday is possible when there is a responsive community that makes the task feel both worthwhile and enjoyable–and keeps me accountable, if only because of my own sense of commitment.
This daily writing reminds me:
Writing begets writing: I always find myself most challenged in the first days of writing when it feels so hard to come up with anything to write about. I’m guilty of setting impossible standards for myself, paralyzing my writing brain. But I find that when I know I will write each day, I start to mine the ordinary for writing topics. This is such an important reminder for my teaching too. When my students expect to write each day, they begin to figure out what they want to write about. It’s important to establish a predictable practice.
Reading other writers is a treasure trove: I noticed tricks and structures that others used in their writing. I’m wishing I kept better notes about all the different approaches that I want to try on for myself and the ones that I want to offer to my students. And after reading some of theirs, I found myself inventing my own structures like Saturday Satisfactions.
Responses to my writing encourage more writing: I find more internal motivation to write when I know that someone else is reading it. It’s such fun to find another blogger returning to comment. And I often head off to that person’s blog to see what they are writing about…and how they are writing too.
Photography and writing (for me) are interrelated: When I find myself stuck, with nothing to say, I head out with my camera. And when photographic inspiration is not immediately evident, I have to figure out how to look in new ways. That search for an image also unlocks my blocked thinking about writing. I’ve found myself pondering a collection of photos to find a way into the day’s writing.
Writing for a public audience pushes me to find a positive slant: I don’t want to complain on my blog. I want to write my way into a more positive view of my world, my work, and the children I work with. Knowing someone else might be reading my writing pushes me to examine negative thoughts and look for potential solutions. I sometimes write myself into action.
I leave this post on the 31st worrying. Without this challenge will I write tomorrow? Luckily the Slice of Life Challenge is followed by National Poetry Month and I have already challenged my students to write a poem a day during the month of April. I know myself well enough to know that I will do it ONLY if I post the poem here, on my blog. So beginning tomorrow I will post a poem each day, continuing my writing practice for another 30 days!
Today was the last day for students to attend school in our hybrid AM/PM schedule. They will be remote for the rest of the week to allow time for parent conferences and then after a week off for spring break, the class will unite and become one whole class that attends school all 5 days together. I look forward to this coming together–and hope that the two halves of my class will complement each other.
The PM group is the half that NEEDS their fresh air break. They burst from the classroom doors when it is time, unleashing the energy that they have tried (not always successfully) to contain in the classroom. Today started no different. Most of the kids skipped eating a snack and headed straight for the playground equipment. But a couple sat on the grass to eat a bite…and before I knew it, they were chasing ladybugs.
And catching them.
Gently cupping them, they lifted them from the grass to bring them to me to photograph. (I love that they know that I will want to take photos!) They transferred these brilliant red polka-dotted beauties from the cupped palm to rest on the arm so I could get close for a clear, close up photo with my phone. Somehow they could find these tiny gems when they were not visible to others. Like jewelry, they wore these insects as they danced around the field. Sometimes the ladybugs rested patiently on the arm, other times they spread and fluttered their tiny wings in a blur of red.
These kids never stop talking. They kept up a torrent of descriptions and theories as they ran and collected these friendly insects. One theory they floated was that the number of dots was equal to the age of the bug. (Were they thinking days? Insects don’t tend to live very long lives!) Luckily I had just read an article on ladybug varieties, complete with gorgeous photos (who knew that would come in handy!), so I was able to talk to them about the large number of varieties of ladybugs that exist.
An impromptu break chasing ladybugs was the just right way to end this current mode of teaching. Moments like these remind me how much I enjoy the exuberance and energy of children–and the ways they fuel my teaching and my own learning.
We’ve been writing in 7 minute intervals. Every day. Sometimes several times a day. There’s something about the timer that seems to help my students focus intently on the writing. And when the timer sounds, someone always wants to share.
Of course, that 7 minutes is only the smallest part of what it means to write. That timer-influenced writing usually follows a stimulus of some kind (often a picture book or poem), conversation as a group and in partners, studying a mentor text and the moves that writers make, and sometimes drawing or some other kind of art.
Today we wrote about a place we love. But first, last week we read My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero. We noticed how she focused on places she loved in her community and on her dad and family. We studied her writing. We marked the action words she used: zigzagged, cruised, revs, and roars. We notice the way she uses senses, including sounds and smells and textures, in her descriptions. We paid attention to her comparison of the experience of riding the motorcycle to a comet in the sky. Then we started to name places we love: Tennessee, Legoland, grandma’s house, the kitchen… We sketched a map of this place. And finally, after a quick demonstration of how I might use the mentor text to get started with my writing, I set the timer.
A hush fell over the room. Pencils raced across the page. And when the timer rang, hands started going up. Unfortunately, there was no time to share today. We’ll have to start there tomorrow. I can’t wait to hear how these much-loved places will be transformed into words on the page.
Writing with students is all about planting seeds. I can’t wait to see what blossoms.
Exploring with my camera is a way to clear my head, to relax, and to pay attention to the world. But I have to admit, the monotony of a lockdown year has taken its toll. I’ve had to work to find new ways to look at the things I have seen over and over again.
For a change of pace, today we headed up the coast to a seaside town about 30 miles north of here. We did a bit of shopping and then, of course, headed out to the beach to walk and take photos.
I know, I know…I take beach photos regularly. But a different place offers a different vantage. Today I found myself focused on lines. We parked near the train station and right away my eye was drawn to the parallel levels of lines…the train tracks, the fence line, and the horizon line of the ocean behind. (And the blues were magnificent today!)
As I stepped up closer to the fence to peer over at the ocean, a series of horizontal lines came into view.
We had intended to walk the seaside trail parallel to the shore, but on the east side of the train tracks. Unless the tide is low, there isn’t much beach to walk on this beach. We started off–but the summer-like weather brought out the crowds–and the trail was feeling pretty uncomfortable with a combination of runners and walkers, dogs on leashes, and bikes (both electric and pedal-powered) whizzing past. At the first staircase access to the beach, we headed to the sand, realized the tide was low and getting lower, so decided that the shoreline was out best walking choice. There were still people, but they were much more spread out–in the water and laying in the sun–giving us a wide, unencumbered walking space.
As we passed the pier, I could hear aircraft. Helicopters are pretty usual. We have military bases nearby, coast guard copters, and of course people out to see the sights from above. But when I looked up I noticed a small plane cruising by…right over the pier. More lines.
Every time I visit a pier I feel compelled to take a few shots from beneath. There is something about the view of the ocean through the elaborate under structure that fascinates. Each pier is a bit different–some have a specific “door” to look through. This one does not, but it does have lots and lots of different lines to look at.
Even the pigeons managed to get in on the line action today. They were hanging out not far from the fishing people on the pier. Just waiting.
So is there anything significant about all these lines? This would be the time for the pithy conclusion to give meaning to a series of photos featuring lines. Instead, I appreciate a day slightly different from the ones that preceded it. And a perspective that took my eye in some different directions. Hope you also enjoy these lines, in all their insignificance.
I figured a listicle would be in my future sometime during 31 consecutive days of writing for the Slice of Life Challenge. And today is the day. So the following is my short list of satisfactions from this Saturday in particular.
Sleeping in. Somehow my body hasn’t quite adjusted to the “spring forward” command from weeks ago. I keep wanting to go to bed early each night and then find myself awake before my alarm clock. Even with no alarm clock set today, I found myself awake before my usual 5:30am wake up time. But it was Saturday, so after scrolling through some news on my phone I cuddled back under the covers and went back to sleep for a while. It felt heavenly!
Breakfast…with love. Most days I grab a yogurt, sprinkle a few berries and some granola on top, and voila, that’s breakfast! But today my husband made french toast–not the toaster kind–the real kind dipped in an egg mixture and topped with powdered sugar and served with a side of bacon and fresh grapefruit. Definitely a Saturday Satisfaction!
An egret sighting on the low-tide beach. I love an egret sighting anytime. I didn’t think it was going to happen today. I was more than halfway back when I noticed an egret fly in for a snack. I picked my way across the slick reef, trying to get close enough for an interesting photo. It didn’t stay long…there were too many people exploring the tide pools today…but I did get this straight on shot!
The exuberance of young people. I love watching young people on the beach. I am reminded of the verve and energy that teens bring to life…which reminds me of the importance of diving in, following my own passions, and embracing each day as it comes.
Living close enough to have the beach be my daily happy place. While I don’t go quite every day, knowing that I can access the beach with a short drive is a gift. When our beaches closed last year during the pandemic, I was heartbroken. It was hard to stay away, hard to see the ocean from a distance but not with my feet on the sand, and hard to find joy in my replacement neighborhood walks. Each day I revel in the wonders of living near the sea–and try hard not to take it for granted.
What is under your feet and over your head today? A much needed walk took me to the beach, where after a rainy yesterday the sun shone brightly this afternoon.
I tied on my ratty sneakers, the ones with hole in the toe, knowing that I’m always at risk for a salt water foot bath, or the sneak attack of some sand covered blob of tar on the beach.
In my usual fashion, I start out walking quickly trying not to let all the sights and sounds and smells distract me as I attempt to earn my exercise minutes, and then slow down letting the environment speak to me as I pull my camera to my eye.
This jelly was nearly invisible, an almost clear glob of gelatinous organic matter. I sometimes see bits and pieces of jellies, but seldom a fully formed (and quite large) creature like this one. I’m not sure what kind of jelly this is–maybe a moon jelly? I’m happy to not have stepped on it, even though it is no longer alive.
A beautiful spring day also meant a healthy breeze blowing. I’ve been noticing more and more people playing on the beach, throwing balls, building castles, and flying kites. This one was really soaring, getting lots of loft and lift into the bright blue sky.
What did you find underfoot and overhead in your place today?
It’s jacaranda season. The time of year when the trees burst into purple flower, spreading cheer and news of springtime.
While the trees are not native to our area, they are iconic in our area. I even just read that they are the official (non-native) tree of San Diego (as of 2000). Apparently it was Kate Sessions (the tree lady) who brought these beauties here and made sure they were planted all over the city.
In full bloom, these trees are beautiful. They are fragrant and their color ranges from bluish purple to these in my neighborhood of the more pinkish purple variety. My eye is always drawn to them as I turn the corner to drive into our neighborhood.
They’re messy…but such a beautiful harbinger of spring in our area. There are places in our city where the ground will be covered in these purple flowers as the blooms begin to drop.
Cue music: imagine Prince and Purple Rain. The city becomes carpeted in purple, like our own version of the yellow brick road. Raining down from above, purple blossoms are everywhere. They fall into your hair, stick to the bottom of your shoes, and cast a magical hue as spring begins to shift to summer.
There were a ton of things on my to-do list this morning:
Whole class Zoom meeting with students
Second COVID vaccination (hopefully with no side effects–no time for that!)
Get those report cards done!!!!
Lesson plans for next week–and for coming back to a full classroom after spring break
Figure out how to fit 25 students in my classroom seated 3 feet apart (it was 4 feet last week, but change is the watchword this year!)
Respond to student work, especially the poetry that we are starting in anticipation for National Poetry month in April
Once I got through the Zoom meeting and driving through the livestock barn at the local fairgrounds for my second Pfizer vaccine, the only thing I could focus my energy on was rearranging the classroom.
So instead of fighting that urge and heading into report card writing without a true focus, I decided to just commit myself to the physical task, knowing that once done I would have space in my mind (and a lowered anxiety level) to buckle down to the other tasks.
There were so many tables! The room felt tight, with no room to breathe. Something would have to go. I’m not really good at envisioning space–I just have to move stuff, and then move it again until I get it right. So, I started dragging tables from here to there, folding over the area rug for easier movement, and considering just what I could live without.
After smashing my finger between two tables (it’s looking a bit purple on the knuckle), emptying the big kidney shaped table to move it across the room, and throwing my sweatshirt onto a chair, the space started to come together. Once I had a general vision that I thought would work, I texted our custodian, asked him to bring his measuring tape, and requested his assistance.
I tried the kidney table in its new position–but no, everything still felt too crowded. With C’s help, we determined in addition to losing the kidney table, I could also get rid of a student table and still have adequate seating (distanced) for 25. We measured and checked, pushed and pulled until things fell into place. Now there are walking spaces, working spaces, sitting spaces, and distance. I think this will work!
Obviously in my hierarchy of needs, getting this physical space right superseded the report cards and lesson plans. And now that this physical work is done, I know what lies ahead of me for the next few days. I will have some long stretches attached to the computer, entering grades and writing comments in preparation for the parent conferences that will come at the end of next week. The lesson plans are already dancing in my head as I look forward to having students do their school work in the classroom full time instead of at home part of the time.
I’ll get those report cards and lesson plans done–they always get done. But I do feel better now that the space is organized.