Tag Archives: reflection

Time Travel

I’ve really been feeling the pinch of time in my classroom this school year.  My new schedule has me on campus only three days a week, handing my classroom over to a partner teacher for the other two school days.  I feel super productive when I am away from school, with long stretches of time to focus on specific work, flexible hours to schedule meetings and phone calls, and the ability to arrange most of my work travel on days I am not on campus.

But…I feel like time is taunting me when I am with my students.  Each lesson and project seems to take longer than anticipated, forcing me to leave work hanging across weeks instead of days. I’ve found myself prioritizing and rethinking everything I ask students to do.

My past practice has been to use Fridays as a day of reflection and work completion, giving students long stretches of time to read and write and think.  Without new instruction, they could dig deep, revise, rethink, and get projects done.  Today, Monday became that kind of day (I no longer have Fridays with my students).  I did have to spend some time reviewing expectations, reminding students of the work we started, but then they dug in…and that beautiful thing happened.  Work began to hum, students were engaged, working at their own paces, allowing me to help individuals as needed.  Time both stopped and flowed–no one needed to use the bathroom, roll around on the floor or annoy a classmate.  I wasn’t feeling the need to rush students with my eyes glued to the clock, dolling out minutes like rationed resources (I’m thinking about the water restrictions we experience in Southern California).

The reality was that still everything didn’t get done.  I’m already reevaluating and reprioritizing my plans for tomorrow, pushing off launching that new math concept to make space for a bit more finishing time, figuring out ways to make space to confer with students over a piece of writing they’ve been working on and provide feedback on another project.  And I’m excited about some new reading and writing I have planned for tomorrow…something I’m already anticipating taking more of that precious time than I initially allotted.

Somehow I will figure out how to travel through time this year, carefully balancing new content with time to dig deep, think carefully and produce meaningful, high quality work products.  I know I’ll still find myself with unfinished student work, lessons that run short and those that run long, requiring that continual rethinking of lesson plans.

I’m hoping that this will be the year that I learn to make time jumps, those science fiction leaps of faith:  pushing time forward to see which lessons produce the best results and scrapping those that end up as a waste of time.  But…just in case that doesn’t happen, I’ll keep paying close attention to my students, adjusting to their needs and reworking my plans to make sure school is more about learning than about time.

kelp haiku and art

 

 

#whyiwrite: October 20, 2018

I should probably title this post, All the Reasons I Don’t Write, instead of using the National Day on Writing hashtag #whyiwrite.  But instead of enumerating a list of excuses, I will use this occasion as an opportunity to write.

I’ve established a regular walking practice.  I’ve learned to carry my walking shoes (and my flip flops) with me in my car, leaving me ready for unexpected opportunities–and no excuses for not walking because I don’t have the right shoes.  My camera is also a motivator for my walking–I love to take those daily photos and walking gets me to interesting locations where I find the fodder for my photography habit.

My writing practice fares better when I have an external expectation keeping me on track.  I wrote and posted daily during the month of April when my students and I took on a 30-day poetry challenge.  And I posted weekly photography challenges for years when the iAnthology was my audience.  So now, I know I need to create some reasons for establishing a regular writing practice–one that takes me beyond the more work-related writing that always happens–you know, the lesson plans, the emails, the proposals and reports.

So I will begin today with some thoughts about birds.  If you’ve visited here before, you have probably noticed my obsessions with egrets, including the post I wrote about the egret being my spirit animal.  But yesterday and today, it was a different kind of bird that was called to my attention.

Birds of prey are difficult to photograph–and even to get a close look at without a camera.  They tend to soar high above our heads, their sharp eyes on the lookout for prey.  Yesterday I spied a hawk perched on a sign along the beach-side cliff.  It sat, overseeing the beach and was not at all bothered by me approaching from below to photograph.  Somehow it seemed appropriate that the sign it was perched on said, “Pack Your Trash!”  While I’m not entirely sure, I’m thinking it’s either a red tailed hawk or a red shouldered hawk.  I thought at first it might have been an osprey–I’ve seen them before in this area, but this was clearly a hawk of some sort.

Hawk_packyourtrash

And today, not far from this same spot along the cliffside, I noticed a man looking intently high up on the cliff.  When I looked up, he drew my attention to the large bird of prey sitting on some bare branches above us.  I knew immediately that it was an osprey (I had done a bit of research when I got home yesterday).  He pointed out the fish beneath the bird, which he had been watching for a bit.  I stood under the branch, trying to capture a photo of this beautiful bird.  Other people came by, commenting on the beauty of this elegant sea eagle.

osprey lunch

I found myself thinking about this coincidence of spotting two birds of prey on my walks on two consecutive days.  When I watch egrets, I think of their patience, their calm and regal manner as they stand knee-deep in the ocean water.  They seem solitary–in great contrast to the seagulls and smaller shore birds that ofter hang out in groups, running with the tide.  When I think of birds of prey, I think of fierceness and independence.  They seem to take control of their environment, taking the long view of the resources below.  They are brutal and efficient, moving sharply as they take their prey, gripping firmly with sharp talons and sharper beaks.

Do I have something to learn from birds of prey right now?  Is this a call to be more decisive, to be more fierce and determined?  I know these beautiful birds have me thinking…and writing.

I know that I write to think, to better understand myself and the world around me.  I write to reflect and to express, to slow down and pay attention.  On this National Day on Writing I renew my commitment to daily writing…and to more frequent posting here.  How will you celebrate the National Day on Writing?  Why do you write?

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.

sunset tree

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.

branching out

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.

bloom

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.

take flight

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.

glitter

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.

lrg_dsc04833

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.

snapseed-31

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!