Writing as a Gift

Thursday, mschuibookawrites sent the link of her slice entitled Inundated to those who were together earlier that day in a meeting. It spoke to all ouf us. Somehow, her master arrangement of sea-related words and images including “bobbing, grasping, whirlpool”, connected to us all. I found hope reading “look beside you”.

As I prepared for my coaches CLT on Friday morning, I printed out copies of this poem. I placed one on my Principal’s desk with a note saying I am grateful to be by her side this school year. I did the smae for one coach who had to miss the meeting. I read aloud the poem at the start of our meeting. We all shared a connection. I received Cindy’s gift and was moved to gift it to others.

I am always amazed how the few words of a poem, chosen and craft well, can name what one is feeling and also gives just the needed dose of hope to keep going. Of course, I had to pass it on.

Have you given writing as a gift before? I recommend it!

A found Poem from My Comments

An ode to comments!

Comments fuel us

notice the craft moves

the essence

moves and language and structure

the mirror

to help us see

this space as readers and writers

pleasure and responsibility

fuels us

spot on

felt seen

to keep them writing

You matter!

It’s a loop.

as important as posting

truly a gift

NOTE: On March 21, I wrote a slice about comments and it received comments from Erika, Margaret, Aggie, Chuizar, Glenda, Dmshrriff, JCarey, Fran and Denise. Their comments were filled with inspiring words and phrases. I took time to cut and paste all into a document and print it out. Then this morning, I reread and circles words that spoke to me most about comments. I then simply typed the phrases, line by line, into this post. I used the line up and down arrows to rearrange. I also was inspired by Denise’s writing as found during her eavesdroopping slice HERE, In summary, I found a poem about comments, using the words from slicer comments. The last line of this poem sums up how I feel about this writing community!

Before that…

NOTE: I have tried this Before That format a few times over the past years as seen HERE.
On this 2nd to last day of the challenge, I thought I’d try it again. Here goes…

I climbed the third staircase to my bedroom, set the alarm for 5:30am and called it a day. As I closed my eyes, I wondered about what I’d write about tomorrow.

Before that, I sipped a glass of Malbac and eat the warm risotto, chicken and green beens for dinner.

Before that, I stirred the boiling water with seasoning and rice, as I read many slices from last week which I had missed.

Before that, I walked the Harris Teeter aisles wondering what to serve for dinner. I added a rotisserie chicken, frozen green beans and a package of risotto whose directions indicated only 20-minutes to prepare, to my recycled bag and headed to the self-checkout aisle.

Before that, I drove to the public library, walked to the HOLD section, grabbed the 12 books already pulled for me, self-scanned them and headed back to my car.

Before that, I sat at the conference table asking “Why did you join? What words describe it? How’s it help you and your students?” as Teacher Research cohort member answers were video-recorded for a district video.

Before that, I led a grade-level English meeting and jotted down the books still needed for her students’ research as I offered to retrieve them from the public library. Quickly, I logged into the public library system and saw that the books I already placed on hold for this teacher on Friday were ready for pick-up.

Before that, I taught my 7th grade Reading class, helping 3 boys rehearse the speech they are writing for their English class and helping 4 others build background knowledge of WWII for their historical fiction book club.

Before that, I introduced my 6th grade Reading class to the concept of social issues in preparation for our Social Issue Book Club Unit by showing them political cartoons related to climate change, homelessness, police brutality, and physical disabilities and then provided them time to read Newsela, to notice more reports on social issues.

Before that, I created the slides to show during Reading 6, found the video of a speech and a picture book to share with Reading 7 and annoyed with myself that I was doing all this at the last minute.

Before that, I viewed the Broadcast News Show produced by Team 3 of my homeroom and sat in awe of their creativity.

Before that, I copied my hyperlink for my Day 29th slice about my breakfast routine, posted it to the TwoWritingTeachers blog, read the 2 slices posted right before me, refreshed and read the slice post right after me and then headed to school.

Before that, I drove to Starbucks, still wondering what I’d write about for my 29th slice.

Before that, I heard my 5:30am alarm beeping, hit snooze and laid in bed thinking, “What should I write about today?”

 Right Now I Am

NOTE: I am using this structure which I learned from Terje when she gave it a try HERE.
In honor of her birthday today, which I read about HERE, I will give it a try today.
Happy Birthday, Terje (and also a Happy Birthday to my husband)!

Right now I am...

:: sitting in my living room able to look out of the 6-windowed corner to view the mostly bare branches pinned against the the blue-gray canvas painting the morning sky

:: wondering if the fox or bunny or just squirrels will enter my viewshed along with the many birds passing through

:: glancing at the weather app showing 40 degrees with a windchill making it feel 32

:: savouring the warmth of my sweater and the comfort of my upholstered chair

:: avoiding opening my school backpack which holds post-assessments demarding to be scored followed by a few hours of planning for the next unit.

:: counting down the days until Spring Break (10-school days) and then the weeks until my daughter’s wedding (5)

:: hoping to be productive today so the upcoming week is smooth

:: hearing the sound of the coffee grind holder banging as it is emptied followed by the water running to fill the machine. My husband is in the kitchen making his daily pot of coffee.

:: planning to visit the Farmers Market now so tonight I can cook a yummy salmon dinner as a birthday treat

:: crafting a slice using a structure shared by another slicer which is making it a little easier for me

:: appreciating all the writers I have met through this writing challenge, most only through clicking their link like Terje and others who I am able to meet in person but feel much more connected because I read their slices.

Where are you, right now?

Quickwrite: Life During Wartime

I create these directions.
Clear. Step-by-step.
Then before kids arrive
I give it a try.
Always my mantra
I give it a try, too.

I circle…
grave sites
sound of gunfire
used to it now.
This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco
This ain’t no fooling around.

I circle…
I sleep…I work…
Heard about Houston?
(inside my head, I add to list, Ukraine)
blend in with the crowd
We make a pretty good team
The burning keeps me alive

Then my QuickWrite:
This song, written in the 1970s
seems to foreshadow 2022
I watched the news again last night.
I saw the destruction caused by weapons
Creating more and more grave sites
I heard the gunfire
I hate that we are getting used to it
It is no kind of party.

Yet, I hear the work of the Red Cross
I hope
I hear the talk of negotiations
I hope
Though I just want to blend in
I know teamwork is needed
My thoughts, my jots are burning.
With teamwork,
The burning keeps them alive.

This is my quickwrite lesson with 8th graders today who are in a Dystopian Reading Unit
Here’s what some of my student’s wrote:

This song makes me think about my Dystopian novel, Among the Hidden. One of the verses says, “You ought to know not to stand by the window”. In my novel, Luke is not able to do downstairs or even go in the kitchen. Luke has to stay up in his room all day and all night doing nothing. He looks through the vent and sees the world go by and he isn’t allowed to do anything.

“To the receiver” makes me think about my book, The Giver.

Some of these phrases make me think of my book (Among the Hidden). For example, it says “know not to stand my the window.” In my book, the main character is not allowed to stand or look out the window because people might see him and his whole family might get in trouble.

“loaded with weapons” makes me think of Ulraine because they are going through a war right now. Another thing is when it says, “a place where nobody knows” makes me think of a Dystopian World.

“This makes me think of my book (Maze Runner) because nobody has time to do anything. Every person has their own job and they can’t take time to help others to survive.

This song reminds me of a Dystopian environment. This song is saying they are running away from something. The song also says that using phone lines and computers are illegal. Makes me think that the government doesn’t allow the use of electronics.

Before that

My friend texted me: I enjoyed it! She’s so amazing

Before that, I sent this text to my friend: That was lovely!! Thanks for letting me know about this.

Before that, she shared how a picture books takes her weeks to six months, Brown Girl Dreaming took three years and Before the Ever After took three years and LOTS of research.

Before that, she answered her why of writing is so many things, including allowing readers to know “I Matter” because I can see myself in a book.

Before that, she explained that football is both a beautiful sport and a brutal sport and her advise to parents of children who want to play this sport is to first do some research and walk into it informed.

Before that, she shared how the topic of CTE (Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the term used to describe brain degeneration likely caused by repeated head traumas) was not a topic seen in literature before and how many black and brown athletes suffer from it.

Before that, she was introducted by the VA Festival of the Book moderator as an award winning author, having won the Newbery, the National Book Award, the Astrid Lindgren Award, a MacArthur Genius Award, the Children’s Literature Legacy Award, the Coretta Scott King Award and was named the National Young People’s Poet Laureate and the National Amabassodor for Young People’s Literature.

Before that, ten days to be exact, my friend sent me an email saying: Good Morning, I registered you for an event via the VA Festival of the Book. This year it is virtual. It is Jacqueline Woodson discussing Before the Ever After on 3/16 from 2-2:30pm.

Author Marc Boston interviewing Jacqueline Woodson
as an event at the VA Festival of the Book, March 16, 2021

Since Last March

Inspired by a poetry form, Since Last March… written by Fran yesterday, I’m going to give it a try today. This will be my quick draft. I know it can be better once I really research all I did since last March. By here goes, off the top of my head….

Since last March,  I’ve been all over.
France to see Anne
Brooklyn to see Bridgit.
Louisville to see extended family.
The Upper West Side to see my educational family.
and La Jolla to see the sunset.

Since last March, I’ve said good-bye.
Good-bye to my dear friend, taken too soon by Alzheimer’s.
Good-bye to waiting for approval or invites.
Good-bye to practical and predictables.

Since last March, I’ve said hello.
Hello to a finished modern home.
Hello to the new mantle, rug and sectional sofa.
Hello to new sod and shrubs and 2 new trees.
Hello to the entire family visiting over the holidays.

Hello March!

Where have YOU been since last March?
What have you said good-bye to since last March?
What have you said hello to since last March?


Women – take 2

I wrote a poem called Women on 1/8/19
Today, I tried to revise it by starting each stanza with dialogue, then character description, and end with my reflection. I also got some help from my writing club, two wonderful woman writers – Thanks!

“Can I go to the restroom?”
The quiet, middle-schooler asked
with her cat-ear headband
poking up from each side of her curly blonde hair.
A good 15 minutes late, she returns to class,
headband in place
and her gym uniform in place of her jeans.
“Must has gotten her period,” I think to myself
and I give her a reassuring nod.

“Sad news…we are losing the baby”
I read in a text from my colleague.
Just last week during lunch she told me
“It’s the size of an avocado and
can make a fist and suck its thumb.”
I tremble as I text back “How can I help?”
knowing full well I can’t.
Her news makes no sense to me.

“Congrats to a new Arrival!”
I read in the email message line
then click and I see another colleague and his wife smiling
as they hold their new bundle.
“9lbs, 21 inches long” I read in the email.
Perfect weight and size I think
and what a family photo is supposed to be.

“Is it hot in here or just me” I wonder to myself
As I remove my sweater and toss it on the chair.
Thinking about these three women
and on the miracle that allowed me
to bring my own two into the world.
I nod my head, so overwhelmed.


End of our Reading Celebration

At the end of our Reading Celebration today, I said something like this:

Readers, I want you to have this poem as a bookmark to use as a reminder of this unit. As I read it aloud, think about why I think this poem matches some of the things we discussed during the unit, things like:
* how when reading we stopped at the trouble in our stories and noticed the relationships between the characters involved in the trouble.
*how we noticed who has the power and its effect on the trouble,
*how we named the groups the characters belonged to and the social issues that sometimes come about because of these groups
*and how we identified moments when characters were victims, perpetrators, bystanders and upstanders.

Then I read aloud the poem, emphasizing the pronouns:

Screen Shot 2018-03-13 at 5.12.45 PM

What are you thinking, I asked. Their replies:

“I think she’s short.”

“I think he might be blind, like the grandfather in As Brave As You”

“Maybe she’s in a wheelchair so he didn’t see her.”

“I think he is the kind of man who is only seeing his world and doesn’t care about anyone else.”

“Yeh, he’s too important and is acting selfish.”

“I think if the man hadn’t said “Oh my God” then he would just be rude but since he said that, he isn’t so rude.”

“I think the cashier is an upstander.”

“I think if the poem was longer, he’d become an upstander, too and let the lady go before him in line.”

I ended by telling my wise students something like this:
WOW! When I read this poem by myself, I focused on a man not seeing a woman and thought about the women’s movement and the social issues related to gender bias. But now discussing it with you and listening to your comments, I realized this poem could be about so much more. And that’s why I hope all of us keep reading and discussing in clubs. We are better readers when we can do it as a book club! Promise me you won’t only form a club when a teacher tells you to. Read and encourage your friends to read the same stuff and then talk about it.

Finally, my hope is that as we go forward, we rewrite the last line of the poem, “I really didn’t see you” and instead resolve to really seeing all the yous we encounter each day. Let’s try to do all we can to see each other and to stand up for each other.

NOTE: If you’d like to read more about the Social Issues Reading Unit I taught, click HERE for more on ending,
HERE for prepping for celebration
and HERE for Book Tasting.

December, 2017

My daughter send me a text with the link to this poem by Ken Nesbitt:

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 12.54.16 PM

She is teaching English to students in France so the list poem can give the kids a laugh, as well as teaching them vocabulary. This poem gave me the idea to change the last lines to:

So that’s my list
of everything
I love about

Here’s my Poem…

December, 2017

Neighborhood houses aglow with lights.
Roofs outlines and door frames wrapped.
Porch rails draped with pine branches.
Some have elegant, simple wreaths at windows.
Others have over-the-top giant, inflatable characters
squatting on their lawns.

In my kitchen, dough is mixed and dropped onto the tray.
Then red and green M&Ms added on top and baked.
Cream cheese is mixed with chopped green pepper and pineapple
and rolled in pecans, making the best holiday cheeseball to spread on crackers.
Both pair nicely with hot chocolate, stirred with peppermint sticks.

On the radio, carols stream 24/7
from Thanksgiving to the 25th.
Yo-yo Ma’s Dona-Nobis-Pacem instrumental
reminds me of singing this song as a three-part round
during my Catholic Elementary School Carol Night
40+ years ago.
I can see the church lights turned low
and the tinsel sparkling on the altar.
And feel the student body and myself
transformed to angelic beings,
at least for the hour performance.

On a brisk morning, the search for the tree begins
walking the lot on a farm, hours from the city.
Gloves used as spotters for the ones liked best.
Then a decision and a signal to the farmer.
His ax cuts the trunk
and the tree is secured to the car roof
and home it goes.

This year, an asphalt lot is walked
just ten minutes from my home.
The tree fills the living room corner
and a scent of pine fills the air.
White, blue, and green strings of light
Weave throughout the tree.
Some twinkle.
Then balls are added and ribbon, too.
And the angel is placed on top.

Now I am ready.
Ready to plug in my porch lights.
Ready to hang my wreath on the door.
Ready to share cookies and cheeseball snacks.
Ready for gifts to cover the tree skirt.
Ready for family and friends to gather.

So that’s my list of everything
I love about Christmastime.