Tag Archives: celebration

Reflections on Writing: #whyiwrite

Each year on October 20th people from all over are invited to write, to share their writing, and to consider the prompt: #whyiwrite.  I appreciate a National Day on Writing, a day to celebrate this often unexamined practice that most of us engage in daily.  Sometimes we are confused by the word writing, considering only the writing that appears in bookstores, in magazines, or in prestigious online spaces as “real” writing.

Whatever writing we do is real.  But fear can keep us from getting those words out of our heads and onto a page.  I often find myself writing as I walk, starting a narrative or poem in my head, sparked by something I noticed, overheard, observed.  These words are easily lost, blown into the sea breeze if I don’t make a conscious effort to remember long enough to get them written or somehow recorded for later writing and elaboration.

I find that my words take flight when I turn off that internal censor.  When I stop worrying about writing the perfect essay, saying the “just right” thing that will dazzle and impress someone else.

dsc07101

But why do I write?  I started blogging to hold myself accountable to regular writing.  But all I write isn’t reflected in this public space.  This space, though, offers me the opportunity to connect, to reflect on my writing, teaching, photography, and life in general.  It lets me start small as I wonder and wander through the ideas in my mind.

img_3643

A writing project meeting yesterday led us to a new room on campus, where this quote was prominent on the walls.  I don’t know that it is perfectly true for me, but I like the sentiment. That risk-taking matters.  Sometimes we have to approach an old problem in a new way to figure out a solution.  I’ve been thinking about that a lot when it comes to teaching.  There’s so much talk about how kids are different these days, how they struggle to pay attention (often blamed on our screen-centered society), and how we need to prepare them for jobs that don’t yet exist.  Most of these comments are posed as problems, difficulties to overcome instead of aspirations to reach for.  Why would we teach students today the same content in the same ways as we taught that class ten years ago?  Why is curriculum more similar to than different from what it was when I was a child oh-so-many year ago?  Is this student problem really a teaching problem (or a structures around teaching problem)?  It might just be an assessment problem, since the content that is tested is certainly prioritized in our schools!

dsc07117

That ever-moving target can sometimes make us all feel like failures.  We keep reaching for THE solution, instead of enjoying each wave as we ride it.  Watching surfers from the San Clemente pier yesterday reminds me of the importance of patience, playfulness, and persistence.  (And those same traits might just apply to the photographer as well!)  I’m sure each surfer out there in the cool, salty water in the slant of light on a late fall afternoon was in search of the perfect wave, the great ride, the most fun…  What I loved as I watched was noticing the surfers spot potential waves, start and stop–sometimes bailing out of a waves at the last possible moment; lining themselves up to catch the upcoming wave–paddling, turning, jockeying with other surfers for position; playing with waves that turned out to be less than–swan-diving backwards out of the ride.  I’m reminded that there is learning and joy in the process, not just the end product. How do we help students (and teachers and parents and the public) see the learning that happens in the trying rather than in the exam or “final product?”

dsc07147

So why do I write?  I write to play with words and ideas.  I write to problem-solve, to follow a line of thinking to a place where I can grapple with it.  I write to pay attention to the world around me, to inhale the joy and exhale the heaviness.  And I persist in writing even when it feels too hard, too time consuming, too frustrating, too messy.  Writing matters, each one of us has to find all the reasons why for ourselves (we just may need a little nudge from our friends, teachers, lovers, mentors).  Thanks for the nudge National Day on Writing!

Now it’s your turn, why do you write?

 

A Tiny Celebration of Writing

I aspire to a daily writing practice, following my thoughts where they lead, planting seeds of ideas that may produce something more at a later date, documenting life’s everyday events—both ordinary and extraordinary. Many days I fail to write, excusing myself mostly because the practice is not firmly established enough to be a habit that I no longer have to prioritize. But sometimes I get the opportunity to write in the course of my day…a treat that reminds me of my intention.

Last week as part of some work bringing National Writing Project (NWP) teachers and science museums together to consider ways they might partner to support students and teachers, I wrote. On my table a hotel coffee cup contained some small shells and a couple of hand lenses. We were invited to examine a shell, sketch, and write.

Here’s my beginning thinking—the result of taking about five minutes to sketch and write.

img_5890

Layers of ridges that wrap the diameter and also extend along the length give the surface a spiky texture that I can feel as I roll the shell between my fingers.

Spiraling up from a tiny sharp tip, an opening is revealed on one side of the widest part. Although I’ve seen a version of this shell many times, I don’t know who lives there or what it is called.

I imagine a tiny snail carrying its home on its back, washed with the tides without a permanent resting place. Perhaps these creatures are the original Tiny House Nation, secure, bringing their homes—intricately assembled for efficiency and functionality—with them wherever they roam.

I’m reminded again of the importance of establishing this daily practice, even if in tiny spurts—one I regularly espouse for my students and teachers I work with. Can I spare five minutes a day for writing? Of course, everyone has five minutes somewhere. Why don’t I write for five minutes every day? There are a million excuses—among them, the fear that I will need not five minutes but an hour once I get started.

So today I’ve written another five minutes or more, moving this small piece from my notebook to my blog and adding a bit of context. I hope this is a catalyst for reestablishing that daily writing habit, even if for only five minutes a day. Today I will celebrate the tiny start and be reminded that small starts are betting than not starting at all.

Tiny Celebrations

It’s easy to get involved in all the chores and duties of life and leave the actual living behind.  Loads of laundry, stacks of dishes, the carpet that needs vacuuming, stopping by the gas station after work, the quick trip to Trader Joe’s for cat food and yogurt…  In that blur of activity, a focus on what matters most can easily slip.

For me, that’s where my camera comes in.  When I head out with my camera, even if it is only out into the backyard, I start to pay attention to the beauty and life around me.  I find an appreciation that might otherwise be overlooked.

Today, instead of a walk after work, I headed home.  But even though time was short, I knew I needed time outdoors, so to the backyard I went. The ground was pretty muddy from all the rain, weeds sprouting where grass used to grow.  Plants in pots have gone crazy, with succulents growing large and lavender beginning to blossom.  I leaned in, zooming close with my macro lens.  I love the way that this close up shot brings the lavender into focus, blurring the background into a beautiful abstract painting.  And I was delighted by the bokeh effect, scattering the light behind the lavender without using any special effects.

1e3d0587-a1cc-47f8-a379-9b4f6a842933

As I walked along the fence line, I noticed some blossoms on the pear tree that we thought had died.  The drought has taken a toll on our yard, killing most of the lawn and any other plants that were not well established.  This young tree is showing some signs of life…but is certainly neither robust or likely to bear fruit any time soon.  But the blossoms are delicate and dainty–reminders that spring is on the way.  Time outside helps me find focus and reminds me that there is more to life than daily chores.  Tiny celebrations make all the difference!

dd55b64a-b049-42f3-a589-6fc0a39cf5df

I read an article I found on Twitter the other day about the power of five post-it notes to make you happy, confident and successful.  I feel like I can achieve the same effects with my camera.  Look closely and find something beautiful, something unusual, something funny (like this photo of the little girl hula hooping in her tiara and long pageant gloves)

img_5684

…all reminders of what life has to offer when you make time everyday to appreciate the world around you.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Celebrate

This last week of the school year has been a whirlwind of activity.  An end of the year musical production, complete with cookies made by a beloved member of our community that reflected some of our classroom learning (like making mobiles) and also the unique qualities of our local community–like the Cardiff Kook (a public piece of art in our place),

IMG_5734

added to our celebration of learning.  Our students sang and danced and described many things we learned this year with their families as appreciative audiences,

IMG_5732

Celebration is definitely the word of the week!  And in the middle of the all of this end of the school year celebrating came the DML conference in Los Angeles and the opportunity to share insights learned from our Intersections work on field trips.  Yet another celebration…and lots of hours on the freeways between here and LA.

IMG_5747

From the 19th floor I had an interesting view of the city below…and on Thursday looked up from the ground level and found these folks rappelling down the side of the hotel!  (A celebration of conquering addiction)

IMG_5750

I celebrated the sunset in the city on Thursday…and then got up before dawn on Friday to share the last day of school with my students back at school.

IMG_5761A

And then one of my second grade students insisted on a cake “made with love” (not one from Costco) for our class party…staying up until 10pm to pour her love and effort into, a tribute to her passion for learning and appreciation for our learning community.

IMG_5767

I headed back to LA Friday afternoon (with way too many others bringing the freeway to a standstill–iconic LA traffic) for two sessions today.  I ended the day celebrating the beginning of the CLMOOC next week…a wonderful, creative, provocative, stimulating opportunity for making and learning with folks from all over the world.  (I encourage you to sign up…even if you only want to take a peek!)  We played a making game with folks from the DML conference, rolling dice to determine words to represent with an image (or a collage in my case).

clmooc

So what are you celebrating this week?  The days lasting longer?  Sleeping in?  The bounty of your garden?  Finishing the book you’ve wanted to read for a while?

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!)

I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #celebration for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

What’s worth a bit of celebration in your life this week?  I look forward to seeing celebration through your lens!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Change

Tonight was Open House at my school, that wonderful evening of celebrating all the learning that has happened all year.  The third graders (and their parents and teachers) are feeling a bit melancholy, realizing that the end of three years is in sight and there is change in the air.

In addition to spending time chatting with families we currently teach, we also met many of the students who will be our first graders in the fall.  Those shy, unfamiliar faces will soon be a part of our learning community.

Tonight’s Open House featured MACville–our student created community made up of twelve 32 x 32 inch grids.  Each grid was planned by a group of four students working within the constraints of a building code.  Here’s a peek at our cardboard community.

IMG_5559

And when I got in my car to head home after a very long day, the sea and sky called to me.  The weather forecasters have been predicting rain, but we often get a chance of rain in the forecast that comes to naught.  But with the sun setting into the ocean and storm clouds gathering, I headed toward the beach with my phone in my pocket.  As the wind whipped my hair and my jacket billowed around me, I snapped shots of the amazing colors of the sky and sea.  No editing was needed, the light and clouds and water did all the work.

IMG_5570

So where is the change in your life right now?  In the weather?  In your classroom?  In your personal life?  In your art?

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!)

I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #change for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

Change is the air for me right now.  What change will you capture through your lens?

Write My Community

We are writers…and today we celebrated writing.

I teach in a pretty unique situation, in a multiage class of first, second, and third graders.  I co-teach this class with another amazing teacher and we keep our students for three years.  We are not merely teachers and students, we are a learning community.  We support each other, challenge each other, learning together over an extended period of time.

And this is the third year where we have celebrated the National Day on Writing by joining up with our district’s other multiage class–this one of fourth and fifth graders–many who were our students.  This time, the older kids joined us at our school starting with some shared play time on the playground…and lots of hugs as kids reconnected, siblings sought out their brothers and sisters, and older kids reminisced about their days as “little kids.”

And then the fun began…

As 80+ students headed into the auditorium, they each had a part of an animal picture to match to find their cross-age partner(s).  After spending a few minutes getting to know one another, partners were ready to begin a collaborative writing activity.

Believing that writers write best from abundance, last week students in both our classes drafted some poetry.  Our students had studied some poetry mentor texts from some of our favorite poets including Kristine O’Connell George and Valerie Worth and then, considering things they care about and know about, set off to write some poetry.  Once drafted, they separated their poems into individual lines and then cut the lines apart to store in a baggie. The other class used a similar process and came to our event today with lines of poetry in a baggie as well.

ndow protocol

After getting to know each other, students pulled three lines from their poem from the baggie to share with their partner and after reading and listening to the six lines of poetry, decided how to build on those ideas to create a collaborative poem representing the partnership.  A hush fell over the room as poets set to work negotiating and collaborating, crafting poetry together.

collaborating

And even though the room was full, it was if each partnership worked in a bubble of creativity and focus of their own.

poets at work

And it wasn’t long before drafts were prepared…and the writers were ready to go public with their poems.

poem draft

We headed out…beyond the school gate…to the sidewalk outside of our school, out into the community.  And with sidewalk chalk and their drafts in hand, our writers chalked their poems onto the sidewalk for the public to see and read: a chalk-a-bration!

making it public

It was fun to watch cars slow down to see what we were doing and people with their dogs stop to admire our handiwork.  Chalking their poem onto the sidewalk was not as easy as students first thought.  There was the dilemma of figuring out which direction to write and how much space it would take.  And then applying the right pressure to make the words readable…and even finding a comfortable position to do the writing came into play.

chalking the sidewalk

Students began to suggest that we post the written poems on the fence near the sidewalk, realizing that reading pencil on paper might be easier than chalk on sidewalk.  We’re looking into the feasibility of the possibility.

sidewalk poem

Our celebration ended with an open mic back in the auditorium.  I’m always amazed with how eager our students are to share their writing.  We could have stayed for another hour listening to the poems, but had to limit ourselves to a few random poem selections…for now!

For us, the National Day on Writing is an opportunity to publicly celebrate what we do every day…write.  And this year’s theme: write my community, was perfect for us.  We are a community of writers that extends beyond the classroom and across age and grade levels.  We write to learn, to remember, to explain, to share our knowledge, to explore, to convince, to analyze, to reflect, and to express ideas and feelings.  We write for ourselves, for each other, and for the public.

We are writers.

Happy National Day on Writing!

ndow setting

 

 

A Day for the Unexpected

I started my morning with an unexpected email from a former student…checking in, updating us on the new school year, and letting us know that she misses us.  And she reminded me that she had a couple of blog posts pending and would I please publish them.  (Her blog is still connected to my class since we haven’t started blogging yet this year in our class and her class hasn’t started blogging yet either.)

Last month she started celebrating a “person of the month”…her aunt was her person of the month for August.  Imagine my surprise when I found this afternoon that I was featured on Mallory’s blog as her September Person of the Month.  Here is a glimpse of the post:

Mrs. Douillard was very supportive of my writing career, yes I am very interested in being an author, she encouraged creative thinking and when someone said they were “done” she said you could always make things better! She taught me many different writing styles, and introduced me to blogging.

It is amazing to be celebrated publicly by a student for inspiring and encouraging her as a writer. This unexpected honor touches my heart and reminds me that the work of teachers is often not realized in the moment, it unfolds over time, often in unexpected ways.

The end of the post celebrates teachers and urges teachers to “take a day off and relax at the beach…”  By coincidence, I did stop by the beach after work today.  It’s been oppressively hot here in normally moderate San Diego, and with no air conditioning in my classroom, sweat has become part of my fashion statement!  So to cool off, I headed to the beach to dip my toes in the waves.  When I pulled up I noticed the large waves caused by the hurricane off the coast of Mexico and the towering white clouds in the sky…not just over the mountains, but more to the west and north than usual.  Of course I had to capture some pictures of the waves…although they don’t begin to capture the size and power I watched.

big surf

As I cooled my feet along the edge of the water with my sandals in my hand, still dressed in my work clothes (a skirt and top), a rogue wave surged and drenched me nearly to the waist! (Definitely cooled me off!)  I chuckled to myself as I walked back to my car and searched for a grocery bag to sit on as I drove home!

Thanks Mallory, for the honor of being named Person of the Month for September…and for encouraging teachers to “take a day off and relax at the beach.”  You definitely made my day today!