Back in March I wrote a slice of life about a new structure I had noticed behind a fence and hedge in my neighborhood. Today I noticed something new, which also became the subject for poem #29 (one day to go!).
It started with license plates
peeking up beyond the hedge
hinting at more inside
strung with lights
creating a romantic evening glow
What is behind the fence
beyond the hedge
beneath the license plates?
a playhouse for neighborhood children
a workshop for ambitious hobbyists
an escape for harried parents?
A clue emerged
pointing to the truth
or at least to the cardinal directions
Atop the vane
the rooster crows
and when I looked down
it was announced
The chickens have
Inspired by this blog post, I had my students write a slice of life poem this morning. They had plenty of fodder, coming off our spring break. And while they wrote, I wrote too. Here is my slice of life poem.
“You’re it Grandma”
they squeal and I chase them
“chase me” “and me too”
“you have to tag both of us!”
Spring green grass
tickles my toes
fill my heart
We chase each other
until we collapse
in a pile of
I’m not sure why I need an “official” challenge to keep up the daily writing, but whatever the reason…here is day one of my entry in the Slice of Life Challenge. Thanks to those at Two Writing Teachers for offering this annual event.
After a week of above average temperatures, the weather suddenly turned yesterday afternoon. The wind picked up, the clouds gathered, and meteorologists are predicting winter storms. That actually means we have a chance of rain here by the coast and there are forecasts for snow in our local mountains! And as much as I love the summer-like mild temps and the fact that I have been venturing into open-toed shoes in the last week, we really need the rain and snow! Drought is unfortunately too common here–and drought means the likelihood of a fierce fire season. And that is terrifying!
I’ve been trying to walk everyday, for both my physical and mental health. My camera is my motivation…and the beach is my favorite location. I wasn’t sure I would squeeze my walk in today–my husband isn’t too keen in walking in the wind–and I had resigned myself to a lazy Sunday catching up on some work that got neglected during an overly busy work week last week. I didn’t even pick up my camera today. But as we headed out to run a couple of errands and to grab a quick lunch, conversation turned to the possibility of a walk–and I wasn’t saying no! My camera was at home–but my phone was in my pocket.
I love the moods of the beach. The sky and surf, the birds and wind, the sand and rocks create an ever-changing kaleidoscope of views and conditions. I pulled my hood up against the wind and set off down the beach. The seagulls were swirling and squawking above me as the salty wind rushed against my face and sunglasses. The waves chased me…teasing as the tide moved the shoreline away from the cliffs with an occasional push higher, threatening to drench my shoes. The sun played hide-and-seek, dancing with the clouds, swinging out now and then to brighten the day. I couldn’t resist a little game of chase with the ever-present seagulls…grabbing my phone to capture a photo or two of them in motion.
Can I maintain both a daily walk and a daily slice of writing through the entire month of March? I’m going to try!
In my profession, May roars, leaving me windblown and mud spattered in the wake of the urgency to squeeze in every last bit of learning, every memorable project, and all the performances, displays, meetings, and endless, but somehow necessary, paperwork before school ends in mid June.
And May is rich. Students have blossomed into their most curious, creative, innovative, and independents selves. They seem to peak as the rains ease and the skies warm, classroom routines providing the inner rhythm, the back beat, that allows imaginations and a year’s worth of learning to come together in perfect synergy. The classroom is busy in May, with students leading the charge…both eager for school to end and reticent leave the comfortable place the classroom has become.
But there is a week in May where time crawls to a snails’ pace. State testing, mandated in public schools, demands that my students spend hours demonstrating their learning. During those times I hear each click of the clock reverberate against my eardrums. The room is unnaturally quiet as students work through question after question designed to test their mastery of third grade. The work is not too hard for my students, but it is too long…and requires them to operate very differently from our typical classroom routine.
It seems almost from birth, our students were encouraged to collaborate. They’ve learned to work in groups, sort out misunderstandings through discussion and conversations, negotiate roles and responsibilities, turn to each other for support and critical feedback…until it’s time for the test. Then they are asked to be quiet, to read and understand complex questions independently, write and revise without feedback, and sit for long stretches of time.
The minutes drag as I roam the room. I check to make sure these first time test takers are progressing through their tests rather than spending inordinate amounts of time on any one question. I search their faces, ready to intervene when signs suggest they are ready to crumble. I remind them to use their tools, to take a breath, to stretch, and to check their work. That clock slows to a snail’s pace, each click requiring the coil of the snail’s body to snap forward, oozing its slimy self toward its destination.
After the second day of testing I can feel the mood shift. Novelty got us through day one and two, but day three feels heavy. The hands of the clock are now mired in sludge. Students need more encouragement to keep moving forward. I need to summon some super powers to settle the boiling tummy, churning with uncertainty. A walk and a talk helps, we are able to settle in again.
I’m proud of my students. They did it. All persisted, all persevered, all finished the tests in front of them. And honestly, that is accomplishment enough at this stage of the game. Now we can get back to the real learning–the noisy, messy, complex, interactive projects that bring joy to the classroom. I’ll be the one who is windblown and mud spattered and reveling in the mess.
After 60 days of daily writing, it’s time to reflect on all I’ve learned from writing every day. My first 30 days were entries classified as “slice of life,” vignettes and stories from life as I lived it. The second 30 days were poems, one each day of April as part of my classroom poem-a-day challenge.
The first and most important lesson learned is that daily writing makes daily writing easier. The more I write, the more I have to say. That is not to say that writing is easy. In fact, writing is work. Every. Single. Day. I have my share of “writer’s block,” but when I expect to write every day, I look for strategies to push through it. Throughout my day I find myself paying attention to words, images, interactions…everything I encounter is potential fodder for my writing.
A tiny, furry caterpillar scurrying across the sidewalk grabs my attention and I stop to take a photo or two, knowing that there’s a story or a poem or a musing about life somewhere in that fuzzy body. I’m reminded that attention to tiny, perfect things primes me for daily writing.
I’ve also learned that my students need me to give them tips, techniques, and inspiring mentor texts to nurture them as writers. They need to see me as not just their teacher, but as a fellow writer who also experiences challenges and successes, who starts and stops, and even stalls sometimes during the composing process. My scribbles and scratch throughs show that writing takes effort and that it is worth the effort. Being a writer in a community of writer breathes wind beneath our writerly wings.
I’ve learned to see revision as a gift rather than a chore. Writing doesn’t have to be perfect as you lay the words on the page. Revision invites opportunities to revisit and re-see, allowing for new ideas to reshape that thinking on the page. I especially love what revision offers my students. Once they push past the idea that “done” is the goal, they are willing to rework their writing, especially when they have specific techniques to experiment with and concrete feedback to focus the reworking.
The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike, say a brain surgeon. You can always do it better, find the exact word, the apt phrase, the leaping simile. Robert Cormier
I leave this post saying now what? 60 days of blogging challenges have kept me accountable to my daily writing. Will I write tomorrow without a challenge to motivate me? Will I invent a new challenge to keep myself going? Can I keep up a daily writing practice without posting publicly? And what will keep my students writing? They will spend time over the next week or two curating their poems: selecting and revising to create a book that showcases ten of the poems written in April.
Habits are hard to form and easy to break, so I’ll be working to keep this writing habit alive…for myself and for my students.
We challenged the SDAWP SI folks to transmediate their own writing by adding sound and/or animation. And that meant that I had to figure it out too! I know I am most comfortable with still photographs and words, so this pushed me out of my comfort zone. After some frustrating attempts at other applications, I turned to iMovie for my make. I used my original photos along with a couple others had taken of our group, added a poem I wrote on yesterday’s writing marathon around the UCSD campus, and then recorded my voice.
Here’s my first attempt:
I am wishing that I had taken some video on the writing marathon to add some other texture to the piece. What suggestions would you make to improve this piece?
Last Tuesday morning I fell in love. Head over heels, irrevocably, intensely, impossibly, and wonderfully in love. I expected it…and yet, the depth and utter wonder was unexpected and emotional.
I felt my heart expand when I laid eyes on him. I looked closely and realized I knew him, maybe I’ve always known him. It was truly love at first sight.
How could this tiny being have so much power over me? And all of the those feelings were magnified this weekend when I met him in person.
I am a grandma and I want to shout from the rooftops! My baby boy now has a baby boy of his own…a tiny little boy who takes me back in time to when his father was a baby. But…it’s also so different. I get the delight of cuddling that sweet baby, smelling that incredible newborn baby smell, but I also get to hand him back to his capable mom and dad when he needs to be fed and I get to sleep when he is fussy in the middle of the night. I get to be helpful (I hope) and supportive, but the big decisions are not mine. I can worry–but he has parents to worry for him too.
It was hard to say goodbye and go home last night, leaving that beautiful boy and his amazing parents to their new lives together as we returned home to our everyday lives. But everything has changed too, enriched by a new life and new possibility. The world is just a bit better with that little guy in it and my world has expanded–just like my heart, and I have new things to think about, learn about, and plan for. (And yes, the next trip to see him is already planned!)
And this is just the beginning…I will be a grandma again in the next week or so when my other son also becomes a dad. There’s plenty of room in my heart and in my world–and I am sure that I will be falling in love again and again. I am a grandma, it’s an incredible state of mind!
Living where I do, sometimes it seems like the skies are always blue and the sun is always shining. And lots of people equate the blue skies and sunshine with happiness. Sometimes, though, it is gray skies, dense clouds, and the promise of rain that soothe the parched land and the stresses of everyday life.
As much as I love my work, the end of the school year brings its share of stresses. And for me the answer to those stresses is not more work (to catch up–as tempting as that is), but to get away and clear my mind, move my body and appreciate the beauty and love in my life.
Heading up toward Stonewall Peak with thick, wet clouds wrapping us in their embrace quieted the roar of all the tasks that need to be done and made space to listen to the bird songs, the wind, and the sound of my own breath. And as I broke through my own funk, I also noticed how nature was dealing with the effects of the devastating fires from a few years ago.
This Tennessee Williams quote captures the quiet power of nature.
The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks.
We found ourselves mesmerized by this tree that had grown into and around a big boulder.
As we hiked, I noticed details…like raindrops on wildflowers and the still life arranged by the wind. And as I noticed, the knots in my shoulders loosened and I felt relaxation breaking through.
When we drove down the mountain heading toward home, the skies were still gray but my own mood had lifted. I felt the satisfying tiredness that comes from following trails, climbing rocks, and walking miles. Like the violets breaking rocks, I can feel the healing breaking through life’s stresses giving me energy and strength for the week ahead.
Sometimes life seems to be taking place in fast forward–moving at speeds that make it impossible to catch up (or keep up, for that matter). Weekends offer opportunities to reconnect with loved ones, squeezed between chores like laundry and grocery shopping…and when I’m really lucky, time for an adventure or two.
I love the way my camera makes time stand still for an instant, but today I was trying to capture moments of motion. We headed north to the San Onofre State Beach, also home of the now defunct nuclear power plant. I’m always surprised by the multitudes of treasures I’ve yet to discover not far from my home…how have I missed this place I have passed by on the freeway so many times?
The day was gray and threatening. The weather forecasters had dismissed the rain for the weekend, but the clouds hung dark and heavy in the distance. We saw a couple of cars with surfboards on top heading away as we pulled in, and my husband joked that the surfers were done for the day. Until we turned the corner and saw the sea dotted with wet suited surfers afloat on their boards.
And a few were in motion.
I love watching sea birds, and I wasn’t disappointed today. I saw egrets and cormorants as well as the usual seagulls and pelicans.
I also caught this sandpiper frolicking in the surf.
Further north, we strolled out on the San Clemente pier with the wind whipping my hair and making me wish for the heavier jacket in the back seat of my car. The colorful flags danced in the breeze, in constant motion.
Surprisingly, there were no seabirds on the pier. But there were lots of pigeons. I noticed these bobbing their heads to drink from this sink. (Notice the sign…hmmm, were they drinking salt water or were they sipping from tiny pools left from the increasing drizzle?)
I love to go under a pier. There is something about watching the waves through the mussel-laden pilings that I find mesmerizing. The color of the water, the sound of the rocks, and the rush of the waves creates a musical performance of constant motion.
As we headed to the car, the rain began in earnest. And after all that motion, I am now sitting, near motionless, listening to the rain fall outside as I cuddle with the cats, chat with my husband, and try to stock up on some much needed rest to fuel the week ahead.