Tag Archives: reflection

Reflections on Writing Poetry

After 30 days of writing a poem a day, I asked my students to take some time to reflect on what they learned from participating in the challenge.  So, in the spirit of full participation, I am also taking the time to reflect on all I learned from this poetry challenge.

My thoughts seem to have coalesced into four categories: learning from poetry, learning from writing, learning from students, and learning from blogging.

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Learning from Poetry:

Poetry offers opportunities to express feelings, to practice crafting vivid descriptions, to bring others into your view of the world.  Like the sunset, poetry makes everything more beautiful. Each word contributes to the painting the reader experiences, blending and building,  As I read poems written by others–published or not–I found inspiration for my own poetry.  Poems became mentors for my poems, they opened my eyes to my own experiences, allowing me to see my own life in new ways.

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Learning from Writing:

The only way to be a writer is to write.  I have learned the lesson again that when I write daily, writing comes.  My brain and my hands seem to respond to the daily habit of putting words on a page.  Knowing I will write each day helps me pay attention, helps me think about connections between thoughts, actions, and ideas, and helps me articulate my thinking.  When I write daily I get into that mode we in the writing project often call writer’s brain.  It is a space where experiences become fodder for written expression.  When I expect to write, I write more and better and explore life’s possibilities through language.  Writing helps me branch out, trying on new ideas in different ways.

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Learning from Students:

I have watched my students blossom as writers.  Stilted, ordinary poems have become unexpected expressions of whimsy, of fear, of love, of exploration.  My students have become a community of writers who are interested in the writing of others and who are eager to share their writing with others.  They are talking about their inspiration, about their struggles as writers, about their ideas for revision, and finding poems in their baseball games, in their dance rehearsals, in the night sky, and in the books we read.  I have loved watching their poetry grow in sophistication and I have noticed that writing has become less daunting, although no less challenging as they strive to express themselves.

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Learning from Blogging:

Blogging my 30 days of poetry has been a public affirmation of poetry as a valuable learning activity.  I not only made my own poetry public, but I also showcased the poetry of my students. Giving my students an authentic audience was motivating.  They were eager to share their poetry and have it appear on my blog.  Many checked my blog to see whose poem they would find. Blogging each day also made real my commitment to being a teacher-writer.  I not only teach writing, I write.  Being vulnerable as a writer helps me remember that this writing thing is not easy…and is filled with pitfalls.  I remember each day when I work with students that writing needs nurturing…and writers do too!

Thanks to all of you who read and liked and commented during our 30-day poetry challenge.  I look forward to reading my students’ reflections and hearing their perspectives on this learning. I’ll be sure to share their insights with you too!

A Day of Love and Learning

They practically danced in this morning, clutching bags of carefully labeled Valentines for their classmates.  Anticipation of candy, trinkets, and a day of celebration made the energy palpable.

I’ve spent years dreading Valentine’s Day.  Not because the holiday makes me feel sad or because I have any real complaint with the holiday overall, but because it has felt like a wasted learning day.  The high of Valentines and candy overshadowing math and reading and writing.  I tried ignoring Valentines, banning them outright, shoving them off to the side…none resulting in a satisfactory outcome.  I kept coming off as the Ebenezer Scrooge of February, ruining everyone’s fun.

So I decided to try something new this year.  After much thought, I approached my students a few weeks ago to talk about a potential plan for the day.  I started by asking my students if they wanted to bring Valentines for their classmates.  It was unanimous.  Every student wanted to bring them–some had already purchased them or started making and/or planning their hand-crafted gifts.  So I asked if they were interested in using their Valentines as a learning tool and having a Valentine’s themed day of learning.  Again, it was unanimous.

I didn’t want to just add hearts to math problems and read a Valentine picture book.  I wanted whatever we did to fully incorporate the actual Valentines and push our thinking and learning forward.  I decided on graphing and spent some time Monday and Tuesday reviewing the essential elements of a graph.  My students are already adept at interpreting graphs, but not quite as confident building their own.  Yesterday we explored creating a data set and practiced constructing our own graphs as a class.  Today, once the Valentines were all distributed, I asked students to sort their Valentines into 3-5 categories to create a data set for the bar graph they would create.  I loved watching the focus as the Valentines were sorted for a reason, data sets recorded in their math notebooks, and graphs created on “real” graph paper.  They willingly put the Valentines back into their bags and put them deep into their backpacks for the rest of the day.

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data set

After recess I pulled out Love by Matt de la Pena.  I love a book that makes me think…and makes kids think.  I loved watching their faces as I read each page and showed the pictures.  Looks of confusion showed as they tried to figure out love defined as adults blocking the view of the TV and love as burnt toast.  Smiles appeared as the story turned to love as a game of horseshoes.  I heard a student gasp as the beautiful brown face appeared in the mirror. The discussion that followed brought up understandings about loss and love, death and memory.  We decided that we will re-read the book tomorrow, there is more that we want to explore.

The day flew by, we didn’t have enough time for all I wanted to accomplish today so we will continue tomorrow.  In my 29th year of teaching I continue to learn from my students.  When I listen to their needs and desires and combine them with my own goals, magic happens.  That crazy holiday energy that can make teachers want to pull our their hair became my friend today, pushing students to think and create…and yes, to learn. I’m already thinking about next year’s Valentine’s Day and how I will include my students in the planning to make the day productive and have fun doing it!  I #loveteaching every day, even on Valentine’s Day.

Valentine's Day

 

 

 

Splash

Water. There is something about the sound of a splash, waves curling with foam before crashing onto the shore, the white noise of the ebb and flow of tides that brings a calm and focus to my brain, causing connections to build, ideas to generate, understandings to emerge.

Maybe it is the smell, briny molecules that tickle my nostrils.  Cool, damp. Particles searching for their polar opposites, sticking together, forming droplets that create a film on my skin, a chemical change that soothes not only the body but also the soul.

Could it be the walking that makes the difference? Putting one foot in front of the other, the bipedal motion integrating the hemispheres of the brain, breathing in and out, swinging arms in rhythm. Or is it the combination of water, walking, and fresh air that energize the mind, replenish the spirit, and allow for creative thinking and problem solving?

As I walk the shore my eyes search the horizon, taking in the blues and greens and all the shades of white.  I notice the ripples in the sand under my feet, the tiny bean clams sitting up on end partially buried, the uneven terrain of pools and islands revealed as the tides pull the water back.  Seagulls squawk, shouting directions and warning to their kin,  Sandpipers whistle their concerns.  Pelicans dive and float, soar and scan, only to dive again.  Children scream and squeal as they race into and out of the water.

In all of this commotion, there is stillness and space.  I breathe deeply, taking it all in.

Splash.

egret silhouette

 

One Little Word 2018: Stretch

The past few weeks have passed in a blur…just where did 2017 go? School was in session right up through December 22nd, leaving only the weekend to finish last minute preparations for Christmas and the whirlwind that was about to ensue.  And once family left on Sunday, I had time for a bit of celebrating before waking up yesterday to a new year.

In spite of the time warp, I have been thinking about a word to guide 2018 as well as reflecting on last year’s word.  For 2017, I chose the word possibilityPossibility is a great word, and as I read last year’s post I could still feel the reasons I chose this word.  But what I have learned about a word as a talisman is that I need a word that requires action, a word that reminds me to do something when the going get rough or stagnant and I need that proverbial kick in the butt,

So for some weeks now I’ve been trying on words.  Even this morning I thought I had settled on my word, but found myself reconsidering as I pulled out my computer to begin writing.  I thought reach would be that perfect word, encouragement to go beyond my comfort zone, to look past the edges of my sightline.  But suddenly, reach seemed too stagnant, too grabby, too self-serving.  I needed a word with more layers, something to encourage me to go beyond, but also to be flexible, introspective, and compassionate.

Stretch…somehow it feels right.  I need to make space in my life for more stretching, allow this body to bend, to regain the flexibility that I’ve allowed to erode as yoga has faded from my regular routines.  I want to stretch my mind and my thinking, remember to listen carefully to others and to consider perspectives different from my own.

I want to stretch time, gathering up minutes that turn into hours that I waste doing things that don’t matter and return to more writing, reading, and photography.  While I still always fit those activities into my life, I know I can be more mindful and deliberate about making them a priority.  I want to grow my skills, stretching to learn something new each day.

I intend to stretch my legs, walking and hiking into new places and seeing familiar places in new ways.  And I want to stretch out my passport and travel, exploring some new venues–those places we’ve talked about visiting but haven’t quite gotten to.  I will also keep stretching low, picking up those little boys who are almost not babies anymore!  Stretch to reach those small hands that are so eager to explore the world, offering me new insights on teaching and learning.

I can already feel the muscles in my back and shoulders unknot and relax, knowing that each stretch will result in flexibility and strength–a combination that seems perfect for 2018.

And as a reminder, a photo from my New Year’s Eve beach walk of an egret stretching into flight.  Like the egret, I will stretch my wings, pay attention to my surroundings, and even stir up the waters to uncover the tasty tidbits beneath.  (Have you ever watched an egret hunt?  I love the way they stomp and rustle the waters to get the fish to come into view as they search for food.)

stretch

What will you choose as your One Little Word for 2018?

 

Writing and Photo Challenge: Reflection

Reflection in writing and thinking has become habit for me…and it’s something I emphasize for my students.  In fact, I did an extensive study of reflective thinking and writing for my MA quite a few years ago now.  I know that reflection helps learning stick.  It creates opportunities for problem solving and connections.  In the classroom we talk about reflection as a way of collecting learning.

Over the last week or so I’ve been playing around with reflection in my photographs.  It’s a bit different from reflective thinking and writing.  Instead of examining your thought processes and searching memory, this kind of photography requires a shiny surface of some sort to catch the reflection.  Low tide walks are perfect when there is some sunshine to create reflections.  I’ve had to tinker with angles, how close to get to the reflective surface, and what kinds of objects reflect well.  Yesterday, low tide was near sunset.  Perfect weather, warm and clear, allowed for a refreshing walk in the water.  I noticed the reflection of the pier, light posts, pilings, and even people, creating a perfect mirror image on the wet sand.

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I couldn’t resist trying to capture the color in this reflective photo of the buildings and palm trees along the shore line.  I love the brilliance of the blue sky reflected on the wet sand.

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I noticed this reflection as I worked to create an interesting photo of some trash on the beach.  As I turned my phone to find an interesting angle, I noticed the reflection of the palm trees.  While the angle isn’t perfect, I was able to get an interesting #litterati photo and get some plastic off the beach and out of the ocean.

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I’m a bit obsessed with seabirds.  I try to get as close as possible without spooking them, getting low if possible.  These guys are pretty perceptive and love to start walking away when they see me in the distance!  I particularly like the soft light of the setting sun warming up their reflection with the pier in the background.

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I captured this guys’s image earlier in the week.  The day was a bit gray and blustery, ruffling his feathers and making the texture dimensional. This is the only photo in the post that I have edited.  I found that by darkening and brightening the image, I could draw attention to the detail of the feathers, the beak and the reflection.

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Reflecting on all this reflection reminds me how much there is to learn from thinking about the processes we use.  While photography uses different skills and processes than writing, they both benefit from taking time to reflect on successes and frustrations.  And it always helps to study the work of another.

So, head out with your camera and try your hand at capturing reflection. Low tide created a perfect shiny surface for me.  Will you find another body of water?  A wet patio deck? The shiny side of your car?  And what will you learn when you take the time to think back and write about your experience capturing reflection through your lens?

Share your #reflection this week, in images or words…or both. 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 #reflection.

I can’t wait to learn from your reflection photos…and your reflections on reflection this week!

Writing and Photo Invitation: Change

Change happens.  Sometimes when you least expect it.  It’s still warm and sunny and shorts are my go-to weekend attire, but on my beach walk Sunday I was thankful I had grabbed my sweatshirt.  The breeze was chilly…and honestly, it has felt fall-ish all weekend.

On my way to work each morning I drive along the coast.  Lately I’ve been noticing the field of pumpkins, bright orange and framed by the row of palm trees.  I read something today that informed me that these are grown by people at the Self Realization Fellowship (located just to the west) and they become a magnificent display of creatively carved jack-o-lanterns on Halloween each year.

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Seasonal change is subtle in San Diego.  I’m starting to see posts and photos by friends who live further east and further north.  The trees are turning and color is dominating the natural landscape.  Instead of brilliant reds and oranges, I am noticing that the beach is wide open with many fewer tourists visiting and maybe many locals occupied by piano lessons and soccer games instead of those long lazy summer days on the shore.  I love this time of year with the sun warming my shoulders, my feet in the surf, and long stretches of open space in front of me.  The shore birds seem to enjoy it too, less skittish as I come near with my camera.

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There is lots of change in store decor these days too.  Supermarkets are filled to brim with pumpkin flavored this and that and those pop up Halloween shops are opening.  A trip to Home Depot over the weekend revealed lots and lots of fall flowers.  The bees were happy, flying around and doing their pollinator thing, regardless of the change around them!

fall flowers and a bee

And all change isn’t seasonal.  My teaching life is profoundly changed this year too.  After 23 years co-teaching a multiage class, I am on my own with third graders this year.  I am adjusting to the change in workflow and loving the intimacy of time alone with my students.  The rhythms are different, but the work is familiar and fulfilling.

img_8389What does change look like in your place, in your life?  You might consider the seasonal changes…or not.  There are lots of changes that we experience, some because of the change in the weather and some because of other changes in our lives.

 

Share your #change this week, in images or words…or both. 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.

Take a look around and notice change in your life this week.  Pick up your camera, phone, notebook and pen and document all that you see and experience.  Be sure to share…I look forward to seeing and thinking about your change too!

 

 

Waiting

We do it every day in lots of ways.  In the line at the grocery store or as the barista prepares that perfect latte.  In the dentist’s office or in that line of cars on the metered freeway onramp.  For the ladies room during that oh-so-short recess break or that important phone call you were expecting half an hour ago.  Waiting…

As I walked the beach the other day I noticed a bunch of surfers out on their boards on the waves…waiting.  Or were they?  Does it only count as waiting if it feels like time is slipping away?  That you could be doing something more important or more productive (or more fun)?  As I’ve watched surfers over the years, I notice that surfing involves spending quite a bit of time sitting on the board, watching the waves develop, visiting with other surfers, perhaps even enjoying the sun (or rain or fog or even cold) in the time between actually paddling into a wave and standing up.  Do surfers see that time as waiting?

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When I know I am going to wait, I come prepared.  I carry my book or some work I need to get done, I pull out my phone, flip through social media, news, photos.  If it’s a long wait–like an airplane ride, I bring an assortment of activities and hope for access to a movie or TV shows to help pass the time.  The worst waiting for me is the kind of waiting when you can’t do anything but wait–like sitting in rush hour traffic.  My only options then are to listen to the radio or maybe squeeze in a phone call (hands free, of course!).  But sometimes, waiting leaves you with only you to spend time with.  Time for thinking and reflection…alone with your own thoughts.

So maybe waiting is about your frame of mind.  When it is part of an activity you enjoy–like surfing, waiting isn’t waiting, it’s just what you do.  So what about those lines at the grocery store? Can we make them more enjoyable, time spent in thought, perusing tabloid papers, visiting with the stranger in line in front or behind you?  Maybe we need names for the different kinds of waiting–like the names for snow in those really cold places–to express the nuanced differences between them.  I’ll be thinking about that as I sit in traffic tomorrow…