Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A Quick Note --Tuesday Weekly Reflection 4/12

A Quick Note --Tuesday Weekly Reflection 4/12

I promised myself I would try to blog once a week after the March challenge.
I am tired. I need to go to bed, but I need to keep my promise.
It would be sad if I could not keep up with one blog a week after undertaking the 31 day challenge. What an invigorating challenge!

The workload has not diminished.  Life continues...There have been happy and sad moments this week. I continue to work to uphold gratitude in every moment. I hold gratitude close to my heart. Slowly I extend my arms into a challenging situation with palms up to carry gratitude into the situation.

Since it is way past my bedtime, I will share:

One proud moment:
Last Friday, I was so excited to hear several students from my Creative Writing class read their poems. The students have a true love for writing! They have a true reverence for words.  Their poems ranged from extended metaphors, to using nature to describe a social injustice, to describing vividly a profession.  The goal was to emulate famous authors.

They came up, they read...Students gave warm feedback to each other. Students snapped for each other.  Unexpected volunteers (usually quiet students) added their names to the list of presenters and came up to speak their words!  I was so excited.  I could not hide my joy: my joy as their words reached our ears and hearts. I still need to work on encouraging some quiet voices...

As the presentation ended, I thanked the students for performing without notice.  That night, I changed my regular lesson when I allowed my tired body and mind to acknowledge that students had just finished midterms and needed to do something different. Just as I thanked students and started to move on to the next activity, they said, "What about you? Why don't you perform a poem?"

I looked up at them and literally jumped for joy.  I grabbed my Chromebook. With joy, I said, "Wow, you want me to share.  No one ever asks me to perform." I even removed my purse which I wear messenger style and pretended I was warming up for a race.  They were all laughing with joy.  And then, I just started reading a poem I had written for my 31 days Slice of Life Challenge.

I lost myself in the words.  They listened...I did not have to stop to ask for quiet. They gave me warm feedback, and we moved on as a community of writers.  WOW! What a moment. We are all writers willing to do the hard work...Willing to hear cool and warm feedback.

They were also excited to see a vocabulary word in the poem and the play on words with "in vain" and "vein."

It's 11:17 p.m., so I will simply say one thing I can do better next week, I can try to write another poem.  I will challenge myself to do the Social Injustice poem I assign to students after we read "Strange Fruit" by Van Meeropol. If the students can live up to the challenge, I need to do so....

I want to thank my students for appreciating the power of words.

Here is the poem I had published earlier in March as a Slice of Life Entry:

I Am Hungry- #Sol16 - Day 16

"I Am Hungry"   -  # Sol 16 -- Day 16

I am hungry for a poem
I am
starving for letters
cooked into words
that emit an aroma
of understanding
an aura of love and

I am hungry for letters
that will weave a colorful
tapestry of joy
to shield the already
saddened from the daily
breaking news of
human hands stopping
human hearts.

I am searching among
the shelves of supermarkets
for words to create a recipe
whose secret lies in
healing the hurt
who feel a need to hurt back
letters to anoint
the bruised hands and
feet of those who have
endured more than my
letters can spell.

A spell of letters
a cauldron of stirred words
that will rouse the hearts
of leaders, soldiers, young men
trained to starve for
the blood of newborns
whose umbilical cords were
severed before their lips
learned how to suckle
their mothers' milk.

I am hungry
for words to rock
to sleep childless
mothers and fathers
siblingless brothers
and sisters.

I starve for words
to lure
young boys trained
to hold uzis
before they can
steadily hold a
pencil to search
for letters to
remind them of
back home under a tin
roof hosting baked bread
a mother's or a father's
and lots of love, love, love
words to help them learn what
it is to understand, be confused
words that elicit the power
of compassion.

I am hungry for letters to
cast a spell that will free
kidnapped daughters and sons
I am searching in the
jungles of blinded drugged
human souls for letters
to convince and compel
those who hold the gun
cuddled against their heart
to stop
lead lost daughters and
sons back home under the
spell of love and safety.

I pick through
the dumpsters
of rotten words of hate
murder, genocide
in hopes of finding letters
that will drive away
the man's
the woman's
loneliness as he
she grabs a needle
filled with poison
a hunger so deep
so blind he
she needs to poke a hole
through her skin
a hunger so gut wrenching he
she injects a needle
of desperation
into her parched vein
now starving
for chemicals
that can exhume one
to infernal heights
just as it can enshroud
one in living

I am searching
in vain to fill the
veins of the hurt
confused and lonely
eyes red yearning
for the next fix
young face already
looking  old not
with wrinkles but
with skin pulled taut
stretched to cover
all the bones of the living
dead whose mind and
soul under a spell of a fix
reach for that needle
the breaking point
the breaking news
reveals the daily

I am looking
for strings of letters
and fortifying twine
to weave a net
and catch sparkling silver
fish streaked with the blueness
of peace
fish that can be magically
to feed dry parched
lips whose tongues
have only tasted for days
the bloody chipped
rotten enamel.

A confetti of letters
swirl above my head
like a halo of
words I cannot reach
words that cannot teach
that war, poverty, hunger,
man-struck deaths of bullet
Should cease.

I am hungry...

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Weekly Reflections --- Tuesday Challenge 4/5/2016

Weekly Reflections --- Tuesday Challenge 4/5/2016

For my 31-day challenge, I posted blogs about my personal life.
For the weekly Tuesday entries, I hope to reflect at times on my teaching.

Two things that did not work this past week

1 Rushing...When I am excited about a lesson, I rush to it and through it. I need to remember that my students need time to digest this new information that is not new to me. The beauty of teaching is that a classroom filled with students' rich discussions always brings new perspectives to the known.

2. Last week, I did not feel very well.I felt tense and stressed. Though, I tried to remain as pleasant and patient as a teacher, I was not very patient with myself. I pushed myself to exhaustion instead of listening to my body.

Two things that worked this past week

1. I tend to plan too many meetings during my prep. I tried to honor my prep time, so I could accomplish much planning alone and/or with a colleague. This week, I hope to dedicate more time to grading.

2. In all the 22 years of teaching vocabulary, I have always written the sentences with context clues and left a blank for students to infer the right word.  In a recent workshop, I was reminded of the importance of letting the students use and repeat the words. After introducing the meanings, I provided sentence stems in which I used the new vocabulary word and students then completed the sentence with clues. This practice during class allows students to demonstrate understanding of the word: The young man asked his boss to augment his ____________, so he can _______________________. *Note the concerned vocabulary word is in bold.

Students then read their completed sentences to each other in small paired groupings. The focus is on the context clues.

I still create my traditional fill-in-the blank for tests, but this new method for class practice is the best thing I learned this week.

Wishing you all a healthy and productive week.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

"Why I Wrote?" -#Sol 16 -- Day 31

"Why I Wrote?" - #Sol 16 -- Day 31

Inspired by Terry Tempest Williams

I wrote because my colleagues invited me, encouraged me, coaxed me, and finally persuaded me to write every day during one of the longest months of the year.

I wrote despite my initial fear, concern that I would run out of words, run out of ideas, bore myself, bore readers. I wrote despite my fear that once the thoughts in my mind emerged into letters and words, I would not or could not stop.

I wrote against the fear that writing would take over as laundry and dishes piled up.  I wrote....

Poems visited me. The departed gave a nod.  Thoughts buried in my mind peeked from behind the curtain of my thoughts, and places I have not seen for many years traveled to me.

Memories long forgotten resurfaced...

A "Slice of Life" every single day: a glimpse of our day, thoughts, and feelings.

I continued to write as long forgotten memories resurfaced in the form of the red gate, the ice cream sundaes, the "deferred dreams" (Hansberry). I wrote because each evening I looked forward to enjoying captivating and poignant "slices" from my colleagues' lives and days. Sharing and receiving comments was fun! What a writing feast this "Slice of Life" challenge.  Comments gave me an incentive to keep writing as people were listening. I wrote as I realized the beauty of community of writers and readers. A community I want to create in my classroom.

I wrote because I could not stay quiet after reading fellow colleagues' entries that sharpened my mind, widened my horizons, and sparked questions for me to explore.

I wrote in search of joy.

When stuck, I followed any image that emerged and let it lead me to an unexpected piece and a welcomed peace.

I wrote because I can't give up.
I write now to wish you all joy and lots of reading and writing for the remaining months of the school year.
I write now to say goodbye.

Is it blog party time yet? Bring some tea. Bring some fruits. Bring your colleagues' captivating blogs and share!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Roller Skating #Sol 16- Day 30

Roller Skating - #Sol 16- Day 30

I love roller skating.  I remember my skates back in the 70s: a metal contraption with thick leather straps and grating wheels.


In the afternoon, the older girls would play double dutch. Since I could not master simultaneously jumping with two twirling cords, I would try to get the girls' attention by offering them cookies or putting on my roller skates and fighting my way against the bumpy concrete to "roller skate" up and down my block.

I remember later when I was older, my father bought me these beautiful skates: white with yellow wheels.

Vintage Roller Skates // White Retro Skates // Vintage Roller Derby Skates // Sure Grip Ridell Skateshttps://www.etsy.com/listing/124612849/vintage-roller-skates-white-retro-skates

These roller skates were my dream skates.  Skating round and round a rink while listening to my favorite 80's songs was my favorite. I think we used to go somewhere in New York called...Oh, well, I cannot remember the name...I am getting old.

When it was warm, I could also roller skate in Central Park. I was never a pro, but I just loved gliding along under a summer sky and slamming into walls when I could not stop elegantly. I never trusted those stoppers or "brakes" in the front. I always thought I would topple over if I tried to lift my ankle and use the "stopper."

Eventually, I outgrew these skates and went skating less.  The last time I went skating I rented skates and had fun trying to get back in the groove. I could not relate to the contemporary music. The kids were much quicker than I. Therefore, I stayed close to the wall and tried to glide around and around trying not to collide into anyone.

I still have fun! Hoping to go skating one day this summer!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Ignorance -#Sol 16 Day 29

Ignorance - #Sol 16 Day 29

Since I have been writing about dreams, I will write a very short piece (since I lack knowledge anyway and have papers to grade) about my dream to live on a farm for a period of my life.

Okay, I will confess that reading novels by Willa Cather in high school or even more recently Roxanne Gay's An Untamed State where the rural setting plays a healing role has always made me yearn for a life on a farm. Yes, more confessions: I loved watching Little House on the Prairie with Laura Ingalls and her amazingly dedicated and loving dad.  Rural life seemed to be always associated with families and values and of course urban life offered another perspective on life.

 Please do not judge me. I am not trying to romanticize rural life. I obviously do not know anything about farming besides scenic walks on farms in Haiti or the typical apple picking trips in the fall.

What I do know is that agriculture and planting instills me with a sense of wonder: that a seed tucked inside the earth can become a corn plant, a mango tree, a banana tree....

This Sunday after church, I found out about a program called WWOOF-World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms 

The WWOOF  gives individuals the opportunity to volunteer in farms around the world. The writers of the website explain: 

"You may be asked to help with a variety of tasks like sowing seed, making compost, gardening, planting, cutting wood, weeding, harvesting, packing, milking, feeding, fencing, making mud-bricks, wine making, cheese making and bread making." (http://www.wwoof.net/how-it-works/)

This program looks interesting, but I wonder: will the host farmers be nice? Will it be safe? Okay, as an African-American woman whose ancestors were enslaved, I am a bit skeptical about volunteering my services to an unknown family and farm owners. Okay, I had to let that out....

I wish I had even considered to study agronomy in college. Then again, I was not so great in science.

The closest I have come

In 2nd grade when we planted a lima bean with a cotton ball and water.

Or when we planted a classroom carrot when I was teaching middle school.

When I visit my parents' province in Haiti, I love to walk through the farms. Okay, I will admit as a city girl, I am not really into animal manure, but I realize how the latter makes the land rich and fertile. I love walking across the field. I love seeing the different plants growing. I never cease to feel so ignorant as people point out how "things" I eat every day do not sprout from supermarket shelves.

Oh, and I did spend one summer, travelling in the beautiful mountains of Haiti. My volunteering position was to visit different flower shops and some farms and encourage people to compost or buy this specific compost the organization was selling (Okay, I guess that organization had its own financial benefits). At least, I learned about composting that summer.

Thank you for reading.  After this post, there are two more posts. I look forward to reading your remaining posts.

Last Words
I will finish with one of the miracles of nature that I learned while visiting a banana plantation. To the farmers and scientists out there, please pardon my ignorance.

Once walking through a banana plantation, I noticed that each tree had a baby tree right next to it. Actually, the writers of this website that I am about to share say that they are not trees but rather "perennial herbs."   This is what the writers of this  informative website state, "A banana plant takes about 9 months to grow up and produce a bunch of bananas. Then the mother plant dies. But around the base of it are many suckers, little baby plants." (http://www.tropicalpermaculture.com/growing-bananas.html)

Isn't that amazing that nature takes care of itself and makes sure another banana plant is growing?  


"As a bunch of bananas ripen on one stem, a sucker (on the left of the plant’s main stalk) begins to grow from the base of the plant. When the taller plant is finished fruiting, the sucker will grow to take its place." (https://student.societyforscience.org/article/saving-banana)

Please feel free to send any corrections or clarifications of any of my "wrong facts" in your comments.