Posts Tagged ‘gifted’

The Important Thing

December 20, 2016

First, a poem I wrote:

The important thing about silence is that it is quiet.
It comes in many shapes
And sizes
And moods
And it might frighten you
Or distance you from others
It might fold around you in comfort and protection.
It is a generous listener,
Or the house at night,
Or the almost-no-sound
Of a pencil scratching,
Or children breathing in their sleep,
Or the hum of the earth.
But the important thing about silence is that it is quiet.

Next, the back story.

Have any of you ever read The Important Book? It’s an incredibly charming book by Margaret Wise Brown (think: Goodnight Moon, Runaway Bunny). I shared it with my fourth graders a while back as part of a collaborative project with some colleagues.

Each page begins and ends with the sentence,
“The important thing about ________ is __________.”
We also noticed that the truly important things often were articulated in the remaining text, not in those sentences.

My students then created their own “Important Thing” poems and had a great time.

Today, wouldn’t you know it…the conversation led right back to that book. We were talking about Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth, and how both words and silence seem to be important in different ways. Which gave me an idea.

We all took out our notebooks, and I wrote the following on the board:
“The important thing about silence is…”

Then we got cooking. I have nothing but admiration and awe for the words of my students. Their writing blew me away and made my day.

The important thing about students is that they amaze me.

(a poem, perhaps, for another day)

A*Typical Day

May 18, 2016

So what does it look like to have a classroom where students’ social and emotional needs come before academic ones? It’s not a set of prepackaged lessons, or some slick videos. It’s the day to day slog of being a noticer, of knowing when there is an opportunity to set my loveys on a positive path when they need a nudge.

I could easily record a dozen of these a day. I’ll just share one.

Today I delayed my lesson with second graders so I could teach them why the word “duh” is hurtful. A kid said it about someone else’s response. So I stopped what we were doing to have that conversation. As in…

“When you say that word, you send a message that you think what they said is dumb. Is that the message you meant to send?”
(Shocked) “No.”
“I didn’t think so. That’s not you. But it does make others feel that way.”
(Another student) “Mrs. Levin, I thought dumb was a bad word.”
“I am so glad you asked. You’re right. It is. But…sometimes we need to be clear about things. Sometimes, even though we know it’s not a good word, sometimes it is the word that fits best. Has anyone ever had that feeling when someone has made us feel dumb about something?”
(All hands go up. Surprising, yet not, for a room of gifted students.)
“I thought so. Nobody likes that feeling. But using the word ‘duh’ makes other people feel that way.”
“So…’duh’ is like, ‘you’re dumb’ but shorter?”
“I suppose you can look at it that way.”
(Appreciative nods)
“Now…we have some readers’ theater to practice.”

 

Home Switch Home?

May 17, 2016

Here is the next installment of the fiction story I began. I even got brave enough to share it with my students today, opening it up to their comments. I’m happy to read yours, if you have them!

Part 1

June 16

I am sick and tired
Of sharing this space,
Sick and tired
Of finding HIS junk
Under MY bed
Sick and tired
Of the cramping
The crowding
The noise
The sharing
The “cozy”
And I just want
Space to
Breathe.

June 17

Friday night,
Restaurant night
Not much noise
From our regular booth
Above the chattering chopsticks
And the clink of spoons
Against empty plates.
Even HE is quiet tonight.
My hands crack a
Stale fortune cookie
To reveal lottery numbers
And a cheesy fortune:

“YOU CAN STAY IN ONE PLACE AND STILL GROW.”

Whatever.
Those things never make sense.
I jam the scrap of paper
Into my pocket as we
Make our way
Home.

Story Crafting: Part 1

May 16, 2016

OK, so now that my students – eyeball deep in story writing – have begun to bug me about writing my own story, I suppose I need to get started with the drafting. Been feeling guilty about not getting on this earlier.

Hoping it’s not cheating too much to write it in free verse instead of prose. Who knows? Maybe I would do better to compose the story as poetry and then rewrite it in paragraph form.

It’s scary, it’s exciting, and actually…a little bit fun.

No title yet, but here is part one. Lots of revising to go. Thoughts? Questions? Challenges? I’d love to hear them! Write me a comment below.

June 14

I’ve had it.
If he ever
Leaves his underwear out in the
Middle of our floor AGAIN,
I say,
I will personally see to it
That they get hung out
In our front yard.

Be kind,
My parents say.
Be patient,
My parents say.
He’s younger,
My parents say.

They aren’t the ones who have to
Share a ROOM
With that human tornado.

 

June 15

This time it was my art stuff.
I know he was
Into it.
I know he was
Using it.
I know, because
I like my markers in
Rainbow order,
And the tips are all wonky now.
My paint brushes are layered
With a thin coating of
Little brother hand grime
And I will probably just
Have to burn them.
This stupid house!
Why do we have to live
In such a small, stupid house?

Sarah, they reply,
Anyone can have
A big house.
It takes a special family
To share a cozy one.

And stop rolling your eyes,
Young lady.

 

My Sweet Pittle Loem

May 4, 2015

Ever hear of spoonerisms?

I asked my first graders to write poems in that style. They had so much fun I thought I’d join in. Here’s my attempt. Keep in mind that these poems are best when you read them out loud. It’s fun to hear the sounds and experiment with them. Give it a go!

The Learded Bady

Stere’s a hory about a learded bady
Her hacial fair was wick and theighty.
It ew grout from her tin to her choes
Abound her relly and nack up to her bose.

One dine fay, she gaw a suy
With a bicker theard, just bassin’ py.
She thiled and smought, “That’s mo I’ll wharry.”
And the wouple was cedded the fext Nebruary.

The two gived tolether in sweet bledded wiss
They darted each stay with a kug and a hiss.
And lon’t dook now, but I mink that thaybe
There soon will be a cute bairy haby.

Seesaw Kind of Day

February 18, 2015

I had an up and down day teaching today. On the plus side, I got to sit back and just take notes during discussions while groups of students held insightful, incredibly rich conversations about the nature of violence and compassion, and what impact those attributes have on society. Yes. Inspiring. It always is when people can make me think of things in ways I had never expected.

I also had to work with a student through some really difficult choices he had been making.

Times like these make me question how I’m really doing. Sure, I say that I prioritize my students’ social and emotional well-being.

Still.

There have been so many times across the years where I honestly believe I’m acting in a child’s best interests. There have been times where I feel so sure I am taking the compassionate approach to problems my students face. And then, looking back, I wonder if I have done the right thing.

Should I have gone softer, or taken a harder line?
Should I have brought in the parents when I did, or should I have waited for things to develop?
Should I have let more time pass, or should I have been more immediate in my actions?
Should I have involved other people, or should I have handled things on my own?

There are places where I know I haven’t chosen well, and I continue to think about those children long past their schooling years. These are the children I have always “taken home” with me at night. These are the ones I continue to think about, even as my own kids come to me for guidance and support with their struggles. These are the children whose parents I want to say, “I know it’s hard. I know parenting stinks sometimes. But your kid will be okay. We will all be okay.”

Because I have to believe that things will be okay. That sometimes life gets bumpy, and we have people along the way to help us see our path more clearly.

Until then, I’ll be thinking of them as I cook dinner. Or walk the dogs. Or fold the laundry. Or…

Haiku #2: The Leap

January 13, 2015

Worked with another set of students on composing poetry, so…you know…I felt compelled to write again.

This one? Well, I have a feeling I’m not done with the metaphor. I think there is more for me to explore.

But.

Have you ever had an odd feeling of excitement/anxiety that you can’t quite pinpoint the source of? Yep. That was my mood when I wrote this. Taking a breath, being brave. Here we go:

Today, I’m hopeful.
A flutter in the belly
Says, “Expect good things.”

I wonder sometimes…
What if I COULD do all I
Am capable of?

Fear and excitement:
Two sides of the same coin (or
So the story goes)

So then: which is it?
Toes curled over the high dive,
Looking down and down,

Or perhaps the joy,
Resounding splash and relief
Having made the leap?

How I’m Doing

January 9, 2015

This morning, after two snow days at home, I was feeling poetic. So, for the morning warm-up, I asked my students to tell me how they were doing.

In haiku.

Here’s what I love about haiku. Yes, it’s a structure to writing, which means that it requires discipline. Unlike other forms of poetry, however, it isn’t restrictive. Haiku takes the banal, the ordinary, the literal, and it elevates it somehow.

Of course, I wasn’t going to make my kids write without giving it a stab myself. Here goes:

Not much is doing
Glad to be right back at school
Back where I belong

It’s not that I don’t
Enjoy the comfort of a
Snuggled-in snow day,

But there is something
To be said for the sheer joy
Of work, learning.

Besides, I’d rather
Be here, in the cold, than in
Heart-warmed, hope-filled June.

—-
And you? How are YOU doing? Leave a haiku comment to let me know!

Resolution: Another Direction

January 6, 2015

Today, my fourth graders discussed the layers of conflict in Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet. Kids worked together to find evidence in the text for conflicts involving Man vs. Man, Man vs. Self, and Man vs. Nature. (And yes, for the pedants out there, we did talk about how “Man” meant “People.” It’s all good, I promise.)

Kids gathered evidence to highlight conflicts that Brian, the main character, struggled with, and evidence demonstrating a resolution of those conflicts.

Which got me thinking.
(That’s when the fun REALLY begins.)

Here’s what I asked the kids. We have these three types of conflict. But what, exactly, does it take to RESOLVE those conflicts? To get past them, to work through them, to make things better?

The result was a brainstorming session and an incredibly insightful conversation. Here’s a picture of where our thinking went:

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It gave us a chance to wrestle with some pretty tough questions:
*Must we have an apology before we can offer forgiveness?
*How is conflict with ourselves like conflict with others?
*What does it take to bridge the gap between the vision we have for ourselves, and the reality we see in ourselves?

Pretty amazing stuff, if you ask me. It’s one more reason to get up in the mornings, and just one more way the kids I work with excite, teach and inspire me.

What to Do About Ferguson

November 25, 2014

I remember Columbine.

I remember it occurred on a Tuesday.

I remember it occurred on a Tuesday because that was the night my fourth grade class always had to watch the news and bring in a current event.

All that Tuesday evening, as I watched the news, my heart went out to the Columbine students and families. I searched for a way to comprehend for myself and just couldn’t. Then I remembered my students were watching, and I felt even worse. I had unwittingly exposed a group of ten-year-olds to this. This aberration. This massacre.

That Wednesday morning, there was absolutely no doubt what story the students brought in to discuss. We spent nearly two hours talking about the events of the previous day, trying to make sense of things. When it boiled down to it, the students learned:
1. There really is no way to make sense of these things. Even for grown-ups.
2. Events like these make us look at the people in our lives with renewed love and gratitude.
3. Our parents worry about us, want us to be okay, and wish they could always protect us. They can’t.
4. See # 2.

And now.

Last night, my family sat transfixed as we watched Ferguson tear apart. My sons witnessed the burning cars, the people running to escape tear gas, the broken windows, the pleas for peace. They asked many questions, some of which I had the answers to. Others? Well…I only wished.

Being the teacher that I am, I process everything through the lens of student interactions. My mind went through how I would discuss these events with my students. Because in my classroom, we have to. We would have to use this opportunity to open our eyes to the events of history and understand who we are, where we stand, and what we individually must do.

But.

I don’t have my own class.

I’m a specialist who sees kids, depending on their grade, between one and three hours a week. I don’t get to assign current events anymore. We don’t get to have morning meetings. Or community time. These are the times I miss having my own group of students. Kids that I can love and nurture and give what they need all week long, not just for thirty to sixty minutes at a pop.

I began to think that I would have to let this opportunity pass me by. After all, I don’t have much time with my students. Furthermore, and more importantly, who’s to even say that my kids even KNOW what’s going on in Ferguson? Some of them may have parents who talk to them about the news, but I don’t think the majority of them are up on what’s happening around them.

I could wait for our next novel study. It’s a book set in the Civil Rights Era of the 1960’s. I would do a tremendous disservice in allowing my children to think that this struggle is a thing of the past, that racial equality arrived hand-in-hand with the March on Washington. That we have overcome. That we now live in a nation where all citizens truly have equal opportunities, and where people of different races live in harmony.

We still suffer the ills of inequality, of racism, of injustice. Ferguson is a symptom.

And then it hit me.

My fifth graders are reading A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. Yes, it’s a novel study, but we’re mostly using it as a springboard for studying bigger stuff: the nature of intelligence, the cosmos, dystopian societies, the Cold War. Big ideas for young minds.

Today is the day I show them the video clip of Carl Sagan’s famous essay, The Pale Blue Dot. 

Bingo.

It’s perfect. In three minutes, it communicates what I wish to get across: people’s needs, their struggles, their desires for power and agency. It seems both so critical and so insignificant all at the same time.

It’s a start.

We may not be able to have a direct discussion about the events in Ferguson today. But we just may. I just may have one student: sensitive, aware, concerned. One student who may beg the question. And when that student does?

I’ll be ready.

Watch Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot for three minutes of reflection, perspective, and, hopefully, inspiration.