Thursday, June 22, 2017

welcome, summer: the round-up is here

Welcome, Poetry Friday friends, and glory be to the circle of the year!  We have come around again to that moment I love, where another year of teaching (my 30th!) is concluded and the summer break lies open ahead of me with time to do the things I have put off for days, weeks, months: writing, reading, rethinking, planning....nothing!

I like to think of myself as 50% teacher + 50% poet, but as all you other full-time teachers will attest, teaching is not a job which allows itself to be easily contained in a given chunk of time or attention. And if you add in a couple of family milestones, it's even easier for the 50% poet intentions to be overwhelmed by the ever-greater percent teacher obligations.

Just when we think we've got the hang of [insert your grade here] 2nd grade, along come new [insert your new initiative here] Monthly Instructional Reading Level assessments, and when we've got the hang of MIRL, along come [insert your next big thing here] Elementary Math Assessment Tasks, and when we've got the hang of EMAT, suddenly we realize that the daily discomfort is not an issue of "simple" overwork--it's an issue of INTEGRITY.  Am I spending my time in the classroom doing what I know is right for the children, or am I spending my time carrying out the agenda of adults who don't know my students?

The best classroom moments for me are when we are doing poetry.  Is it selfish to be thinking of expanding those moments, or is there something about the Lead Learner's passion that intensifies learning for everyone?  Right now I feel pretty certain about the latter.  On the very last day of school, I invited my class to collaborate on an acrostic poem using their class name, the Diamond Miners.  I typed their suggestions straight into a prepared format so that I could print it out and they could glue one last gem into their Poetry Anthologies.  Here is what they wrote:



What strikes me about this is the vocabulary they pulled out.  They knew we were celebrating our year, and I did give 6 or 8 examples of words we could start with (including "daring"), but other than that, my 2nd graders showed that they had actually taken in and now own the following concepts that were taught, modeled, discussed and practiced:

*accomplishment through effort, motivation and persistence, as by accomplished figures in American history
*moral courage, as in doing the right thing because it's the right thing to do
*open as in "open, open, o o long o"
*knowledge, as in what we know and have learned even if that doesn't include a silent k
*morning meeting as a way of greeting the day and each other, practicing silliness and mindfulness together
*intellectual risk-taking even if you're not sure
*that normal learning is enough for some
*that caterpillars metamorphose and so do we
*that "radioactive" is more than a cool word starting with R that names a song
*and that stamina, from the first day of school when we learned that IRS stands for "Independent Reading Stamina" to the last day of school when we all needed one more blast of stamina to get through, may be the most important learning skill

The surveys and letters I asked my students to write in the last days of school did not reveal this learning--a poem did! And it proves to me also that this poem also, used as a greeting and a game, sank in over 10 months.

Diamond Miners, diamond diggers
finding all the precious rocks.
Diamond Miners, diamond shiners,
lock them in your treasure box.

And just in case you can't guess, your treasure box is your mind and/or your heart.  Thanks for coming by today!  I wish you all a wonderful summer and look forward to being much more regular in my Poetry Friday participation than over the last 6 weeks.  Please leave your link below--it makes such a pretty patchwork--and enjoy the bounty!


Thursday, June 8, 2017

closing time

As I write this on Wednesday morning, there are still 7.5 days of school on the calendar, but for me only 6--tomorrow I will take off to see Daisy graduate from high school, and next week a morning to watch my son's promotion from 8th grade.  As a teacher, of course, I'm used to endings, but this year feels a little different, a little more momentous!

"Lyrics as Poetry" is a favorite theme of mine, and Tabatha has explored it thoroughly too, but the difference between a poem and a song IS marked, especially when the mood and melody of a song works to enrich the lyric.

I feel that way about this song, in which the structure and bittersweet tone the verse is what stands out and sticks with me rather than the refrain.  Others must feel the same way, because this song is used everywhere from radio stations to baseball stadiums to signal an ending.

I have always assumed it was beloved and often replayed because it captures that precise moment of graduation from high school or college, as young people step out into a new stage of life, so it was interesting to learn that it was written about an impending birth--that first "baby" step into a very new and different stage of life!

So, let my 30th year of teaching come to an end, let Duncan's little-boy days come to an end, let my firstborn's whole childhood come to an end. May it all close full of grace and gratitude.


Closing Time || Semisonic 1998


Closing time
Open all the doors and let you out into the world.
Closing time
Turn all of the lights on over every boy and every girl.
Closing time
One last call for alcohol so finish your whiskey or beer.
Closing time
You don't have to go home but you can't stay here.

I know who I want to take me home.
I know who I want to take me home.
I know who I want to take me home.
Take me home

Closing time
Time for you to go out to the places you will be from.
Closing time
This room won't be open till your brothers or your sisters come.
So gather up your jackets, and move it to the exits
I hope you have found a friend.

Closing time
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.

Yeah, I know who I want to take me home.
I know who I want to take me home.
I know who I want to take me home.
Take me home

Closing time
Time for you to go out to the places you will be from

I know who I want to take me home.
I know who I want to take me home.
I know who I want to take me home.
Take me home

Closing time
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end