Friday, September 24, 2010

TGIF! (and Poetry Friday too!)

Whew! Another week survived...and yes, "survived" is probably still the best word to use. Every time I get the feeling like I might just be getting my head above water, it always seems like something else comes along to push me under again. But deep down, even though I'm very tired and begin most days feeling overwhelmed, I am still striving onwards. After all, I know the surface is up there somewhere...(or at least I hope!)

But changing the subject completely — today is Poetry Friday!! And for the second week in a row, I'm actually finding time to participate. :)

Now one of my favorite movies to do schoolwork to is Freedom Writers. It's one of those movies, that I can just let run — i.e. it gives me background noise. I don't really sit and watch it, but it does always seem to help my productivity when I'm attempting to grade papers or do lesson plans. I think it works, because there's certainly parts of Erin Gruwell (the teacher) who I can relate to. She puts her students first, works very long hours and wants the best for them, even when it means putting everything else in her life on a back-burner -- and, for better or for worse, that can describe me pretty often too. Her belief in her students' voices being important and that they have stories to share, definitely matches my philosophy also.

So when I started thinking of what poem to share this week, my mind somehow began to think of Erin Gruwell's students — the Freedom Writers (yes, this probably is a big sign that I've been doing way too schoolwork recently). So, last night before I went to bed, I picked back up my copy of the The Freedom Writers Diary (the book that inspired the movie) and started flipping through it. What I ultimately opened to was the following poem — a poem Erin shared with her students, and one which I've now decided to make my poetry Friday contribution for this week...

Moment by Vincent Guilliano

Let him wish his life
For the sorrows of a stone
Never knowing the first thread
Of these
Never knowing the pain of ice
As its crystals slowly grow
Needless pressing in on the heart

To live forever
And never feel a thing
To wait a million lifetimes
Only to erode and become sand
Wish not for the stone
But for the fire
Last only moments
But change everything

Oh to be lightning
To exsist for less than a moment
Yet in that moment
To expose the world to every open eye
Oh to be thunder
To clap and ring
To rumble into memories
Minds and spines

To chill the soul and shake the very ground
Pounding even the sand
Into smaller pieces
Or the mountain
Brooding, extinct
Yet gathering for one fatal moment
The power to blow the top clean off the world
Oh to last the blink of an eye and leave nothing
But nothing unmoved behind you

You can check out more poetry over at this week's round-up. It's hosted by The Blog with the Shockingly Clever Title this week.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Poetry Friday!

I still can't say I'm flying...but I haven't completely crashed yet either (which, I guess is a positive). It's definitely been a long week, but at least I can celebrate that I survived to another Friday! (Hip, hip, hooray!) And, even better, I'm actually having time to participate in Poetry Friday once again too. :)

As I've written about before, I love sharing poetry with my class. Thanks to Nancie Atwell (who first gave me the idea), for the past three years I've started almost every writer's workshop with a daily poem. I'm striving to do the same thing again this year, but as I've also recently written about, getting workshops started has been a lot tougher than normal this year. So far, fitting in a daily poem has been a challenge, and sadly it's been a part bumped from the schedule on more than one day. With the shorter time I have to work with, I'm getting forced to make tough decisions: all parts of my old routine will no longer fit in. I know certain things will have to be sacrificed, and I'm trying hard to keep poetry in, but at the same time, I'm beginning to think it might be the part that I'll be forced to soon say good-bye to... :(

Nonetheless, for this week's Poetry Friday entry, I decided to go to my binder of daily poems. The following is one I scheduled to do in class this week with my students (but sadly didn't get to). It's a poem I really love because of the message inside of it. I think it relates powerfully to what I see too many students experiencing in many language arts classes. Every year I get tons of kids who have no concept of their voices as writers. When left to their own devices, they have no clue what to write on paper. In fact, often, just mentioning the word writing only brings an immediate groan.

Now, personally, I admit these feelings do make the beginning of every year's workshop just a bit frustrating for me. I continually forget from year to year the amount of time it takes to nurture those voices out. But, at the same time, being able to witness that growth is one of the things that has convinced me that I love Writer's Workshop. It's inspiring to see students who entered with no concept of their own voice, often leave at the end of the year, seeing themselves as real writers!

So, anyways, without further ado, here's the poem (or at least the first couple stanzas). It's The Little Boy by Helen Buckley. As the poem is a bit lengthy, I've provided a link to where you can find the poem in it's entirety...

Once a little boy went to school.
He was quite a little boy
And it was quite a big school.
But when the little boy
Found that he could go to his room
By walking right in from the door outside
He was happy;
And the school did not seem
Quite so big anymore.

One morning
When the little boy had been in school awhile,
The teacher said:
"Today we are going to make a picture."
"Good!" thought the little boy.
He liked to make all kinds;
Lions and tigers,
Chickens and cows,
Trains and boats;
And he took out his box of crayons
And began to draw.

But the teacher said, "Wait!"
"It is not time to begin!"
And she waited until everyone looked ready.
"Now," said the teacher,
"We are going to make flowers."
"Good!" thought the little boy,
He liked to make beautiful ones
With his pink and orange and blue crayons.
But the teacher said "Wait!"
"And I will show you how."
And it was red, with a green stem.
"There," said the teacher,
"Now you may begin."

The little boy looked at his teacher's flower
Then he looked at his own flower.
He liked his flower better than the teacher's
But he did not say this.
He just turned his paper over,
And made a flower like the teacher's.
It was red, with a green stem.

The entire poem, which you've got to read to get the full message, can be found via this link. Yet again, I only posted the first four stanzas. And, yes, this poem is going back into my lesson plans for next week. Scheduling might still be a nightmare, but I'm not ready to completely give away our daily poems quite yet!

Otherwise, Poetry Friday is being hosted this week by Wild Rose Reader, so you can find the full round-up there. :)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Flying or crashing? Well, I don't know...

So have I flown or crashed?? Well honestly, I think the verdict is still out. Almost 3 weeks into the school year, I still don't feel like my feet are underneath me at all. Every day I deal with the feeling that everything is going to come crashing down, but somehow the day ends and I'm still aloft (if just barely).

Overall, I like my new school so far. It's much bigger and there's still days when the number of kids in the hallways just overwhelms me, but overall it's not that much different than the school I left. So far, probably the biggest two changes/challenges I'm trying to get used to are the class sizes & class lengths. My smallest group is 27, and the other three classes are 28 respectively. I'm teaching 3 science classes and 1 language arts each day and each period is an hour long. For science that seems to work well, but for language arts I'm struggling. I dream of having my 90 minute block back (which I've been used to for the past 4 years)!

I haven't quite been able to diagnose the exact problem, but getting readers & writers workshop going this year has been tough. In fact, I have to admit we haven't gotten a full official workshop in yet. :( My first week, I didn't even really try, but since then I have been trying, but it's not been going well. We keep running out of class time before anything in the independent part really gets started, and I'm beginning to feel frustrated.

I worry that we're this far into September, and so little progress has been made. I mean, my classroom is still only partly put together (half of my library & many of the writing resources are still in storage boxes). I'm still struggling with the schedule (in how to have workshops not only in less than 60 minute periods but also when some other things (ex. a specific vocab program) have to be fit into class to keep us semi with the rest of the language arts team). And to make matters worse, I still feel like I'm only working day-to-day. I haven't really had the time to sit down and think big picture yet, so I don't have a good sense of where I want to ultimately go. In the past, it's been something I've always planned out before school started, but of course, this year I didn't have that privilege...

So, again I don't know: I guess barely staying afloat is better than nothing, but I still worry about how language arts is ultimately going to go. In only a couple weeks, I get observed and I desperately want to have both WW & RW at least roughly going, but I'm starting to wonder when we're going to get there. The shorter time and also student numbers (28 readers & writers!) are certainly going to make this year tricky!

But oh well, right now much planning & paper grading still await, so this blog entry must end for tonight. Who knows when I'll have time to blog again (free time is still *extremely* limited), but hopefully it will be soon. :)