Notes on distance learning

The world of zoom and creation distance learning lessons have made it easy to lose track of time and space. Holding on to what day it is challenging. Videoing lessons can feel like putting a message in a bottle and hoping someone opens it. The response is delayed, and figuring out where kids are is a bit “laggy.”

Despite all of it, there is a fair amount of good.

My current library consists of ebooks on EPIC. I know some of the books, but many are new to me.  In many ways giving students access skim at their own pace has created student-led book recommendations. Some of my kiddos miss books that are made of paper. (Dare I say, real books.) But for some, clicking on a word and learning the meaning is liberating.

Learning how to make small groups work has been a journey. Not being next to a student to look at what they are doing is difficult. But, distractions are minimized. The work is very small. Students need help in making daily plans. And that has reaped tremendous rewards. Students are successful and realize they need this kind of accountability to stay on pace.

Simple is bigger than I realized. Short articles, simple sentence stems have pushed student thinking and offered room for deeper student response.

Everything takes more time. Perhaps this is something that will speed up with familiarity. Perhaps this is what was necessary all along.

While this type of teaching far from ideal, the result of it has made me take a hard look at what works. And in the end, small pieces of this work will benefit our classroom. Whenever we see it again.

 

 

Progressive Poem 2020

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I’ve been a Progressive Poem bystander for years. Watching the annual process is a treat. But to take part in this tradition, started in 2012 by Irene Latham at Live Your Poem, was a whole different matter. The idea of contributing was a worry. Especially toward the end of the month. That said, the clever choose-your-adventure approach made it playful and offered a flexible entry point.   Thank you to Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche for continuing the tradition and for giving me a push.

The poem started as an early morning walk drove us deeper into nature and an unexpected encounter.

Janice Scully at Salt City Verse passed on these lovely lines to me. Thank you, Janice.

I continue the path that winds down to the lake
or
I shake from my rucksack sweet sticky crumbs,

Progressive Poem 2020

Sweet violets shimmy, daffodils sway
along the wiregrass path to the lake
I carry a rucksack of tasty cakes
and a banjo passed down from my gram.

I follow the tracks of deer and raccoon
and echo the call of a wandering loon.
A whispering breeze joins in our song
and night melts into a rose gold dawn

Deep into nature’s embrace, I fold.
Promise of spring helps shake the cold
hints of sun lightly dapple the trees
calling out the sleepy bees

Leaf-litter crackles…I pause. Twig snaps.
I gasp! Shudder! Breathe out. Relax…
as a whitetail doe comes into view.
She shifts and spotted fawns debut.

We freeze. My green eyes and her brown
Meet and lock. Time slows down.
I scatter the cakes, backing away
Safely exiting this strange ballet.

I continue the path that winds down to the lake.

I felt the moment with the fawn and doe was something to hold onto as our journey continues, so I offer these two lines to Ruth at There is no such thing as a God-forsaken town.

Option !: Missing my breakfast for beauty’s sake,

or

Option 2: A heart filled with an adventurer’s ache,

 

 

2020 Progressive Poem Contributors

1 Donna Smith at Mainely Write
2 Irene Latham at Live Your Poem
3 Jone MacCulloch at deowriter
Liz Steinglass 
Buffy Silverman
Kay McGriff 
7 Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
8 Tara Smith at Going to Walden
9 Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link
10 Matt Forrest Esenwine at Radio, Rhythm, and Rhyme
11 Janet Fagel, hosted at Reflections on the Teche
12 Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
13 Kat Apel at Kat Whiskers
14 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
15 Leigh Anne Eck at A Day in the Life
16 Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
17 Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe
18 Mary Lee Hahn at A Year of Reading
19 Tabatha at Opposite of Indifference
20 Rose Cappelli at Imagine the Possibilities 
21 Janice Scully at Salt City Verse
22 Julieanne Harmatz at To Read, To Write, To Be
23 Ruth at There is no such thing as a God-forsaken town
24 Christie Wyman at Wondering and Wandering
25 Amy at The Poem Farm
26 Dani Burtsfield at Doing the Work That Matters
27 Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge
28 Jessica Bigi at TBD
29 Fran Haley at lit bits and pieces
30 Michelle Kogan

Life skills

As much as I try to take a day at a time, and have a schedule that grounds me, I get thrown. Last night’s news report declaring a dip in the cost of oil, coupled with several state governments’ move to open up and relax restrictions, was one of those moments.

Life vs. livelihood. What is the later one worth without the former? What could this mean for the safety of my family, my students, and their families? I went to bed, wondering which way the scales were tipping.

Mornings shine brighter and lighter. When our conferences start, students’ faces peer back at me through my computer and lift my spirit. Our classroom community floats on. Catching the wind of what could be and what students can imagine. Nothing has stopped their wondering, trying, and growing.

Conversations live on.  Student to student.  Demonstrating resilience and agency.

“I looked at the time, and thought, oh no! I gotta get to the meeting.”
” I can’t find my writer’s notebook, so I’m using paper until I find it.”
“I didn’t get it at first, but you helped me.”
“That’s ok. We learn from our mistakes.”
“Who wants to set up the zoom call?”
“I think I’m going to make my gameboard out of boxes from the recycling.”
“We worked together on this with Google Duo.”
“I figured it out.”
“You see where it says, students? Click on that.”
“Oh, now I see. Thanks.”

I am so proud of the life my students are creating and the essential skills they are unknowingly tackling. Skills that breed hope.

My gratitude goes out to the families and the students who rise up and give their all daily.

 

Read Aloud Reimagined

This week, we started “school” again. From my kitchen table to my kiddos in their bedrooms, living rooms, and backyards, we connect and learn.

So much of what I think about these days is how to create an online experience that feels like the learning we do in class. Transfering simple moves, like the use of post-ts and anchor charts, took me time. What is obvious today wasn’t on week one or two or three. I can only imagine what I will discover by week ten.

This week. we started a new read aloud. As much as I want students to turn and talk, controlling that interaction seemed impossible in a zoom environment.

New norms were set.
During read aloud, audio is muted, screens are off, the chatbox is quiet.
I told students, “Your job is to listen, envision, and jot your thoughts.”

With these expectations in place, I read the first four chapters of Katherine Applegate’s Wishtree.

Pausing to stop and think as a reader. Wondering if wishtrees really existed in the world.
Asking students to jot what they would wish for if they had a wishtree.
Wondering whether Red is a boy or a girl tree.
Wondering what the problem in the story might be.
All along, their answers were muted.

When I got to the stopping spot, I asked students to open up the chat and share their thoughts in writing.

Slowly, it started.

Wishtrees are real. They have them in Japan.
I’d wish for a dog.
Maybe someone is going to cut down the Wishtree.
This is similar to The One and Only Ivan because the main character is talking to us.
It’s also because a human isn’t the main character.
Katherine Applegate likes characters who aren’t human.
I’d wish for my own room.
I’d wish we’d be back at school.
It’s also like Ivan because there are illustrations.
Wishtree is wise.
Optimists are people who see the good in bad situations.
I’m Wishtree and S- is Bongo.
Hey! Why am I Bongo?
Because you’re shorter.
I’d wish for the end of COVID.

Hmm. The good in bad situations. This chat stream was exactly that.

 

slice of life: worn and unkempt treasures

Poetry feels like an essential service these days. It is a place to create meaning in unsettled times.

Some Things I Like by Lemn Sissay attracted me because it covets the unseemly. Confronting the uncomfortable is never easy. Especially now. This poem is contrary. It invites difficulty in and praises it.

Sissay’s poem begs me to see things that others might not cherish, but I do.

I like the safety of a cluttered desk and unemptied trash.
I like piles of dirty laundry,  waiting to be tended.
I like the white worn edges of an album cover.
I like unbound pages of a book slipped in place.
I like the escaping hair from a week-long, slept-on ponytail.
I like weeds reaching through a chainlink fence.
I like crooked eyeglasses and too-short, too-tight pants that are worn without knowing.
I like a blue tongue after sucking candy and playground blackness smudged on faces.
I like shoes used just short of the sole.

Pink Sock

 

You went missing as you traveled
with towels and t-shirts down the hall.

I consider your whereabouts,
knowing you are near.

You could have slipped out early in the journey
hitting the hardwood to be kicked aside to a dark space in between.

You could have missed the dryer
only inches to the north muscled out by oversized cotton.

You could have missed the crossing
and sit silent, collecting dust behind the hamper.

You could be waiting, held captive clinging
while your partner faithfully waits, with others of his kind.
.

Last week

Reflecting back is a practice I’ve let slip away.
Now, as the world loses shape,
my ritual rekindles.

Frustrated by an inability
to give needed things
other pathways open,  and offer sprigs of promise.

Ebooks on overdrive to feed reading lives
Schedules to meet in two-d
Budding student agency sprouts to-do lists, to be on time, to learn, to try

Hope wonders out loud, when will school start again?
Countered by One, next time will be next year.
I smile and say, we don’t know,

yet,
privately mourning projects left on tables, charts posted on walls,
and books that sit unopened.

 

slice of life: nature as an avenue to peace

The end of March is here,  and I am grateful to have this space. To be able to celebrate nature has been an avenue to peace. These pictures are some of my favorites of the month.

Songbirds perch on stark shafts
Only until the crunch of sand
Shift their balance

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Solar shafts spotlight
black-eyed Susans’ bloom
cutting through stages,
newborn to deadhead

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While morning waves wash tidepools
the saltwater saturates the rocky shore
where tiny creatures and worn glass wait

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slice of life: hidden lives wait

As I walk closer, the honking calls of peacock and peahens intensify. They have to be perched in this tree. Danny, Champion of the World by Roald Dahl with its trees full of pheasants comes to mind. I look up, knowing they are there, waiting for me to leave. Giving in to their patience, I move on. The flutter of wings and honks stop me. Two hens fly off. Now, I know there are more.

Finally, I see her.
A pointed head
balanced
atop
a
long
neck.
Her breast and body
house a complex network of folded feathers,
engineered for efficiency and grace.
She looks out above the tree line
for her next roost.

Destination determined she takes flight.
Wings unfurl, and in seconds she secures her spot
where she agrees to show herself.

Framed against the blue dawn,
crown to beak
giving me
her best side.

 

 

 

slice of life: small wonders

Halfway through my run, I turn toward the ocean. A cruise ship is anchored a mile off the coast. Passengerless, it sits. I wonder about the crew. It looks festive shining in the early morning dawn. But what must that be like? Waiting. No destination. No purpose. This is my halfway mark.

The road flattens and the wind rips from the west. My eyes water and my stride slows. After a few blocks of picket-fenced homes, I reach the trailhead, and the sun rises.

My morning run is timed to finish with a walk through the trails. I crunch along an uneven path. I slow and stop to notice small wonders. IMG_9309

Magical lupine
above spiraling fronds that
will drip yellow bells

Floral intertwined
as a newlywed couple
joined in their first dance