Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Going Beyond

I am sometimes my worse critic but as I age something has changed. Instead of self flaggelation (no, I really don't literally whip myself), I think of ways of improvement. That involves learning from others. I was in a fifth grade class today. The students had a writing prompt to write. They had to write about a moment when they were alone. Their textbook presented ideas on how to write concisely with detail and vivid images.

I had a brainstorm and wanted to share something outside the text. I wrote on the whiteboard a quote from William Carlos William's poem So Much Depends.

So Much Depends

Upon a White Rooster

Besides a Red Wheelbarrow

Glazed with rain water.

I explained to the students that this poem is so vivid with details and this is what makes good writing. They are to write concisely and make it so vivid that a reader can visualize it.

Then I realized that I overdid it when the paraprofessional led them to the textbook to read the guidelines. When she added her personal experience it seem to make it clearer to the students. The example she presented was about the scent of the ocean and how much her dog loves walking the beach. It was a depiction of the moment when she drives along the Jersey Shore and can open the car's windows to smell the scent of the ocean.

The lesson that I learned today is to know the age level I am teaching. Maybe if I were in a high school English class the example of the poem may have worked.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Is it time to let it go?

My excavation tools for snow removal lean on the wall. They were put to use this winter. I want to put them away in the shed and say farewell to winter. We're creeping along in March with only rain storms. March is unpredictable though. Temperatures dip for one day and snow falls again. The best thing about being in the downside of winter is that the snow can melt quicker. So maybe I can put the roof rake back in the shed. Maybe it will be another 15 to 16 years when it will be needed again. That is how long it hasn't been used prior to this winter. The snow shovels and the ice melt pellets can stay out for a few more weeks. I'm hoping that April won't be cruel.


Friday, February 18, 2011

A Teachable Moment

What is a teachable moment? It is a connection made between a teacher and a class. The teacher can draw from his/her experiences and share. It sometimes can fail and when it succeeds it makes an impact on students.

I was assigned to subsititute for a seventh grade class in middle school. The teachers selected a film for the students to watch. It was a movie made for television based on the events of the march in Selma, Alabama in 1965. The movie depicted bigotry and violence contrasted by the marchers' non-violence. Guided by Martin Luther King, Jr. the African-American community of Selma acheived their goal for voter registration.

The team of teachers wanted the students to compose their reflections on the movie. This wasn't a film that could end and there couldn't be any follow up. Seventh grade is an excellent time to raise consciousness within students. Most of them have never experienced a denial of anything. They have been privileged and sometimes feel an entitlement.

I was privileged to share with them my insight because I was in the seventh grade when the events occured. The media brought attention to their struggle. I was attending a Catholic school then and we had the fortune of having two young nuns who made us aware of social justice. The march in Selma was discussed in class. I don't remember who was our guest speaker. He was invited to speak to the seventh and eight grade about his experience in the march from Selma to Montgomery. The only memory of that presentation was his witness of violence and looking at the reaction of one of the nuns. She was crying.

There had to have been a discussion about this film during lunch because another student from another class approached me. He wanted to know if the schools here in Connecticut were segregated. I told him now. Of course at the time my parochial school was all whites but not because of segregation.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Winter Can't Get Me Down

I have been away from this bog for awhile. Some of my time has been involved with outdoor activities. The activities are not skiing or ice skating. My principle activity has been snow clearing. This winter has been extremely unusual. The meteorologists call the phenomena the "Pacific North Action". The air currents curve from our West Coast up to the Artic and then descend to the warmer waters of the Gulf thereby picking up the moisture. Viola, we have a snow maker.

The snow makes fantastic patterns. Besides becoming concerned about the weight of the snow on my roof and possible leaks there has to be space to find solace. My thoughts ran back to the past when a creative writing professor self published books of poetry. One poem is titled "The Big Snow". My copy of the book is stored somewhere in the attic along with other books that haven't been read in a long time. Maybe I will have time to search for it before the next snowfall or maybe when spring comes and the snow melts. Then I will have words and images to remember this winter.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Ice Storm

We had an ice storm this week. Here is the birch tree in our front yard. It was hazardous and yet looking at this tree glazed with ice I was reminded of Robert Frost's poem Birches.

Here are the opening lines of his poem.




When I see birches bend to left and right

Across the lines of straighter darker trees,

I like to think some boy's been swinging them.

But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay

As ice-storms do.  Often you must have seen them

Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning

After a rain.  They click upon themselves

As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored

As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.

Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells

Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust--

Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away

You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.

They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,

And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed

So low for long, they never right themselves: