Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Course of Common Core

No longer staying the course,
I must find a way to chart a new course,
Adding what's new in Common Core,
trying to make it something I don't abhor,

Last year's student wrote a note of thanks to me,
for all I did to help her grow and see,
in the memoir she wrote in the fall
and shared at the end of the year,
The first time she told the truth of how she's in that chair,
the story of a sick loved on who fired a shot.
The remembering and writing helped her see it was more than an evil plot.
The process of healing and forgiveness began its course,
and now she has joy and is plotting her own new course.

Memoir writing,
the best way I know to make meaning out of life,
has helped my students
find their voices,
make meaning,
discover themselves,
grow and reflect,
and see the power of the written word.

What I wonder about next year,
looking towards Common Core,
a time of writing
in response to text,
in a formal style,
with no room for narratives in extended writing,
is how can I help my students find their voices,
as they try to make meaning
out of
the loss of a loved one,
the auto accident that killed a child,
the loved one's shot who paralyzed a child,
the fears overcame,
the lessons learned from friends and loved ones battles with cancer?

The power of language,
the meaning of life,
the authenticity of exploring our
through our words.

Is there still room for that?
Will I get a letter of thanks next year like the one  last week
from a student I haven't taught in a year?
A letter that thanks me
for instilling a passion in reading,
for helping the process of healing,
for changing a life,
for helping find forgiveness,
for helping her think about the tough stuff?

Or will I get a letter thanking me
for helping a learner understand
academic writing,
textual evidence,
formal style,

My state units are packaged neat and clean,
I will follow obediently,
but I must find myself
in the midst of change,
if I will help my students
find themselves.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

My Big Brothers (Version 2-Revised)

My BigBrothers

For Joel & Glenn

I borrowhis good stapler,
“Keepit, he says,
“I won’tneed it when I go.”
He knowsthe value
ofsharing what works
underthis roof.

Packingand stacking boxes
my otherbrother
pauseslooking through
theyearbooks--we laugh
and sharestories
of thetimes we’ve left behind.
He, nolonger a fixture,
closesthe book—leaving
hisshelves empty and forlorn.

Soon theywill both be gone;
these twoprincipals leaving me
like bigbrothers
off tocollege.
Neithermerely a boss,
principal,colleague, or authority.

Off toface new challenges,
leavingus, the family,
missingour big brothers.
My bigsister sighs—
knowingshe, the principal left behind,
bears theweight
ofpulling the family together
withoutthe help of
the bigbrothers.

Over theyears,
my bigbrothers have
challengedme and inspired me, 
directedme and redirected me,
frustratedme and led me,
provokedme and tormented me,
laughedat me and laughed with me,
acceptedme and encouraged me,
consoledme and watched over me,
befriendedme and defended me.

My bigbrothers listen,
andrespect the ideas and insight 
of theirlittle sister,
knowingthey don't have all the answers.

Making me
a betterteacher
seeingthe good in me,
meetingme where I am,
making mewant
to findmy best self,
balancehome and work,
be thebest teacher I can be,
treat allpeople with respect,
meet allchildren where they are.
These brothers of mine help me
navigatethe treacherous waters
as I tryto keep balanced
and staythe course.

Readingand responding  
to theverbosity in my emails and texts,
lettingme vent,
dealingwith my brashness.
All thewhile patiently,
helpingme through my struggle
to findmy best self.
Stillteachers, they help me learn— 
when tolet go,  how to let go, 
and howto back down.

Like alost little sister,
with mybrothers going away to college
sometimesI find myself
deflated,with tears falling down my face,
wonderinghow I will find my way
withoutthem here to guide me.

Maybe mybest self,
willemerge and even apart,
they willstill be a part of who I am
as aperson and as a teacher
as I moveforward.

I willlook back
and tryto find a little bit
of themas I’ve seen them
when theyfind their best selves
encouraginglike Barnabas,
as theymotivated, challenged, and inspired
cultivatingthe best in others.

Even whenthey go,
theiractions and words 
willresonate with me,
as Icontinue to try and find
my bestself
under newleadership,
with newchallenges, 
and with newobstacles.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My Two Brothers

It's like my two big brothers
are leaving me
and going off to college.
These brothers, my friends,
my colleagues,
my principals are off to new challenges.
At least my big sister principal will still be there.

Like big brothers do
they have
challenged me,
inspired me, 
directed me,
redirected me,
led me,
provoked me,
tormented me,
accepted me,
encouraged me,
consoled me,
befriended me,
taught me,
and watched over me.

They have made me
a better teacher
by seeing the good in me,
meeting me where I am,
and encouraging me through 
the tough times 
in and out of the classroom.

They have read my lengthy emails,
responded to my texts,
listened to my venting,
helped me through my struggles,
helped me find my best self,
and helped me know when to let go or back down.

Like a lost little sister,
I don't know what I'll do
when they go away,
off to college,
their new challenges await,
and I am left at home,
without them
trying to find my way.

Even apart,
they will  always be a part
of my teacher identity,
servant leaders,

Their actions and words 
will be with me,
as I return to school next fall,
with new leadership,
new challenges, 
and new obstacles.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Imperfect Brilliance

Slicing every Tuesday with some great  friends/writers
I've never met, but I'm getting to know
at http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/

My jaggedness and roughness
tamed by time.
No longer sharp and cutting;
rounded and smooth
I bask in nature's splendor
as the water rushes over me.

My beauty not striking,
unless falling upon me,
the sun's radiance
in her generosity
reveals my shimmering brilliance,
catching your eye
and so you scoop me up.

You examine me.
my other side revealed.
My jaggedness protrudes,
rough to your touch,
rugged and unfinished;
my striking imperfections
no longer concealed.

I am the river stone.
Time has softened me
My defenses are down.
Here I lie in my imperfect brilliance.

I am the river stone,
not completely smoothed
my sharp words cut
my beauty concealed--
my imperfections revealed,
I am not done.

I hold my river stone;
we are one.
My quest is complete.
I clutch my river stone
Not wanting to let go.

I drop my river stone,
no longer my own,
waiting for the purifying water
to rush over me
cleansing my soul,
and softening my edges
once again.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Early Literacy Experiences in a Two Language Arts Teacher Family

We get figurative language at my house. Imagine two ela teachers with Michael and Sarah . My children's similes are so creative, often not the tired, old ones I see on paper. I could fill the pages of the book with their words--too bad I can't remember some of those creative similes right now. My son at an early age recognized sarcasm and would call his parents out on it. Lately, though, hyperbole is creating some family fun with words.

After School at Home with Michael, Age 8
My ela hubby said, "Michael, I've told you 1,000 times to pick up your socks."
Michael hollered down the hall, "Hyperbole."
Formative Assessment: Student can identify figurative language in various contexts and can distract parents with his witty comments.

Shopping with Sarah, Age 4
"Sarah, I guess we should finish up our shopping and go home. It's past dinner time."
"I'm so hungry I could eat a whole entire pig."
"That's hyperbole."
"Hyperbole, what's that?"
"It's when we exaggerate. You couldn't really eat a pig, could you?"
"Haha, no, but I'm really hungry."
"What's that word, girl?"
"You got it, Sar-bear. You are going to be soooo ready for your language arts classes in school."
Formative Assessment: Student can use figurative language for desired effect.