Summer Camp Design: Student Explorations of Past, Present, Future

Minds Made for Stories Summer Camp Mission StatementI am in the second year of facilitating a free summer camp for inner city middle school students at our local National Historic Site — the Springfield Armory. This project is funded through Mass Humanities foundation, with support from the National Park Service and the National Writing Project.

Our Western Massachusetts Writing Project, of which I am a member, is the lead organization, but there are all sorts of interesting partnerships that have emerged from this adventure. Our partner school — Duggan Middle Academy — is a social justice-themed expeditionary magnet school in Springfield, Massachusetts.

This weekend, I worked with the other teachers to complete the design of our free summer camp, which takes place at the Armory itself. Our theme this year is the World War Two Homefront, and we will be tackling issues of women in the workforce and segregation of the military (Double V) and innovation and technology at the Armory.

We’ve worked on a mission statement to guide our design, and I think it does a nice job of capturing what we are planning, which is an immersive, hands-on experience with history, told through the stories that will emerge from the vast archives of primary sources available at the Springfield Armory. This statement guides our planning work.

I took our statement and tinkered with Lumen5 to create this:

Peace (and perspectives),
Kevin

 

Get Ready To ‘Write Out’ This Summer

Write Out Comic

I’ll be sharing more about a project called Write Out as the summer progresses, but I am a co-facilitator for an open learning adventure this summer that connects the National Writing Project and the National Park Service together, helping teachers make connections with park sites and historic sites, and vice versa.

It’s going to be fun.

Read a quick blurb at Educator Innovator

Then, listen to some of my fellow colleagues chat about the summer project at NWP Radio.

Finally, the Write Out website is up, but still being developed. You can take a peek, if you want.

The Write Out project will take place in mid-July.

Peace (outside and inside),
Kevin

 

 

 

At Middleweb: Raising Teacher Voices

My latest column for Middleweb is all about a publishing project we do at our Western Massachusetts Writing Project, in which we partner with the local newspaper to feature a teacher columnist every month.

The result is some amazing writing and sharing, a chance to raise teacher voices into the public sphere, and a raising of the profile of WMWP. We encourage our teacher-writers to bring a lens into learning and teaching, and to consider how the mission statement of WMWP might be a guide for this writing.

So, it’s all good.

I coordinate the program, so I am often chatting with teachers about their writing, and making sure the connection with the newspaper stays strong. And I get inspired by what my colleagues are exploring in their pieces.

All of the columns get posted at our WMWP website, as archived voices and stories.

Read Raising Teacher Voices in our Community Media

Peace (out loud),
Kevin

Annotation Invitation: Writing Our Civic Futures

The last round of this year’s Writing Our Civic Futures from Educator Innovator and Marginal Syllabus is a chance to engage with the first part of writer/educator Steve Zemelman’s new book From Inquiry to Action: Civic Engagement with Project-Based Learning in All Content Areas. 

I know Steve through the National Writing Project and I interviewed him for my Middleweb column recently.

You can access the chapter via Hypothesis (free and powerful open source annotation platform) and Steve is right in the mix, too, interacting with readers in the margins of the text.  In his book, Steve lays out the rationale for student engagement that moves into social and political and community action. His emphasis is on impact in the local communities.

Come read and annotate and discuss the book. You can also read more about the Writing Our Civic Futures project here.

See you in the mix.

Peace (in and out of the margins),
Kevin

 

 

 

Blog Celebration: 10,000 Comments and Counting

Blog Comment 1

I know numbers are not everything. But some events still require a little celebration, right? Yesterday, during the Slice of Life, Chris posted a comment about my interaction with a student, and her comment became the 10,000th comment at Kevin’s Meandering Mind.

Blog Comment 10000

It’s funny because I kept checking in all morning to see if I would reach 10,000 during the morning, after posting my Slice of Life. I knew it would happen because the Slice of Life group is one that regularly reads and comments on Tuesday mornings.

I just didn’t know who it would be or when it would be. Thank you, Chris, for being the one.

I’m still staggered by that number, though. Ten thousand comments. That’s … like, a whole city of comments. A book could be made of the comments here. Pretty cool to consider.

I went back and searched my blog for the very first person to comment here and I found it was Will Richardson on July 27 2006. Will being the first commenter is sort of symbolic in a way because Will’s work early on with blogs, and wikis, and podcasts, helped inspire me to dive in with wonder when I first started blogging as a teacher (this blog came as a result of conversations and work with National Writing Project friends in a Tech Matters retreat in Chico, California, and I still have many close friends from that retreat.)

I went into the Wayback Machine to look for my blog in 2006.

My Blog: Wayback Machine 2006

I am grateful that people still bother to read blogs (now and then, but not as often as it once was, alas) and that they even bother to read mine, and then, take the time to leave comments. It makes blogging feel more like a public act of writing, as opposed to a private notebook posted for others to look at. I wish I were better at using comments to start larger conversations.

Certainly, social media platforms have overtaken blogging in many ways. People (and not just the young kids) are more apt to use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr (sort of a blog), and more, and the decline of RSS readers (I still use one) as a way to gather aggregated feeds from blogging writers and educators is less a reading experience for many. Blogging isn’t dead, not by a long shot, but it has faded a bit into the busy background of the social media landscape.

So, if you have left a comment here sometime in the last 12 years, thank you. See you at 20,000 comments in about 12 more years … right?

Peace (making note of it),
Kevin

Poems with Bud: An Image Inspiration for Every Day Writing


Pencil Sculpture flickr photo by listingslab shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

I hope you have places to write poems. For me, this month, it has been over at Bud Hunt’s blog. Years ago, he and I used to riff off images he left there, pictures to inspire poems.  He’s doing it again this year, and even as it seems as if he and I are the only ones writing at his site some mornings, still I write. He does, too. The image above was what greeted me this morning. Neat, right?

Bud and I know each other from our work in the National Writing Project. Thank you, Bud.

Here are the poems I have been writing so far this April, as a way to curate the first half of Poetry Month. You’ll have to follow links to his blog to see the images that inspired the poems, and then, as long as you there, you might as well write, too, right?

.. even I don’t remember
where I put
those letters, those poems
from November,
when the snow did linger
and my frozen fingers
refused to write;
words now lost
forever.

— via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/16/npm2018-prompt-16/

 

–You told me
you sent me
a message on
the wires —
a telegraphed
story that tells me
you’re tired —
but all I can see here
is the moon
on an angle,
a light in the night
as the evening
expires.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/15/npm2018-prompt-15/

 

Some words,
just disappear:
whispers of cloud
designed to become
invisible after reading;
each writer, needing
only a single lover
as audience, and
blue sky beckoning.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/14/npm2018-prompt-14/

 

Blink,
and you’ll miss
it;
the bug on
the brain like
the words on the
tongue of that poem
I began when
I was writing a song
about you.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/12/npm2018-prompt-13/

 

When the everything
around us descends
into a strange, feverish dream,
the best we can do is take cover,
drink liquids,
and wait it out,
for the world
to break.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/12/npm2018-prompt-12/

 

Each second
I forget
to love you
is an eternity
of time that can’t be
returned.
Still,
I try.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/11/npm2018-prompt-11/

 

… later, when we
returned, you
put your fingers
on the spaces
where my toes
would go, and
traced the movement
of my feet
in the sand,
and when I gave you
that look, the one I give,
you shook your head
and told me:
I would never understand.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/10/npm2018-prompt-10/

 

The writer’s morning
begins
not with food
but with words,
stories on the grill
and poems, poured out
on the plate.
We drink from experience,
nourished
with the knowledge
that our next piece of text —
elusive as anything , yet
lingering on the tip
of the tongue —
may be in the batter,
on the grill,
about to get flipped
onto our plate.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/09/npm2018-prompt-9/

 

I hid my camera
from your eyes,
from your stare
from the glare you gave me
when I took the shot,
from the way you made me
hesitate, I’m not sure now
how it is you made me feel
as if this public space
were no longer mine,
but only yours,
and yours alone.
I took the shot,
and walked away
but your eyes, your eyes,
your piercing angry eyes,
they still settle down
into my bones.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/08/npm2018-prompt-8/

 

You wonder
how it is
that the world
has to be seen
on an incline,
how you have
to bend your head
to bend your eyes
and quint to find
the reality of any
given moment.
Down here,
it’s all perspective
and nothing looks
quite the same.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/07/npm2018-prompt-7/

 

No one had to tell you
the world’s a stage;
you just knew.

We watched you move
from stagehand to actress,
all guised up in the cloak
of another.

I pulled the strings
to open the curtains
and claimed my seat
in the very front row

Eyes on the surprise
that someone from me
could become
someone like you

and then, there was
the applause,
my hands still ringing
with wonder.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/06/npm2018-prompt-6/

 

You are the side
that sticks
with me, all day
long. You unwrap
me from my emotions,
yanking me from
some deep sleep
wandering, and remind me
to stay put, right here,
until my weathered edges
disintegrate.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/05/npm2018-prompt-5/

 

On this side
of the lens,
the world
remains golden,
a hue of
other days,
fading away.
Nostalgia tumbles
from the sky,
the truck’s plow
clearing a path
for today.
We live
in metaphor.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/04/npm2018-prompt-4/

 

I’m waiting
for the poem to
arrive; Godot is
late again.

Out here
in the open,
I just can’t hide,
I’m waiting
in the rain

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/03/npm-2018-prompt-3/

 

Someone
hid the button
on me,
words disguised
as instructions.
No, I won’t
hit to play —
not tomorrow
not today.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/02/npm2018-prompt-2/

 

I’m so tired
of frayed
wires .. static
clinging to
my ears.
Can’t you
hear?

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/01/npm-2018-prompt-1/

 

So, that’s half a month (or more) of poems, every day. Thanks for reading. I hope you write poetry this month and beyond.

Peace (beyond stanzas),
Kevin

Six Word Slice of Life: Talking and Listening

(For this month’s Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers, I am aiming to do Six Word Slices most days, with some extended slices on other days.)

Context: As I mentioned in my Slice of Life yesterday, I am here in Washington DC, with a large group of National Writing Project teachers, lobbying our members of Congress to support educational funding for professional development for teachers. The president has decimated that funding in his budget but the recently passed funding deal might have a little more leeway for increases. We in the writing project network hope to be able to tap and leverage federal funds for our work. My Massachusetts contingent visited the offices of four Representatives (Kennedy, Neal and McGovern) and two Senators (Warren and Markey), telling our stories as teachers in the classroom. To be honest, these were sympathetic ears, already supportive of education. But telling our stories of our work, and the stories of our students, to those in power is still important. I think we’ve all learned, you can’t rest on your laurels these days.

Six Word Slice of Life Talking and Listening

Peace (in the halls of power),
Kevin

Six Word Slice of Life: NWP in DC

(For this month’s Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers, I am aiming to do Six Word Slices most days, with some extended slices on other days.)

Context: My wife and I headed to the airport after school, and flew together to Washington DC for the Spring Meeting of the National Writing Project. This gathering is about advocacy — the NWP’s funding has been cut by the Trump administration — as well as developing and supporting programs. I am involved in a new project stemming from a partnership between NWP and the National Park Service. However, with both my wife and I gone, we have been stressed and worried about the kids at home, enlisting family member and neighbors to help us. It will all be fine, and the two boys at home are old enough that this is not a problem. The problem is us. We leave home but never really leave home, if you know what I mean.

Six Word Slice of Life NWP

Peace (in distance),
Kevin

Annotation Invitation: Critical Literacies and Student Stories

Annotation Event: Critical Literacy

As part of the ongoing Writing Our Civic Futures project, through Educator Innovator and Marginal Syllabus, a crowd annotation of Linda Christensen’s deep article on how she turned her classroom around to focus on the lives of her students is underway.

And you are invited.

The project uses the open sourced Hypothesis tool, which allows for discussions and annotations in the margins of online documents. Linda Christensen is also participating, so you might have a chance to dance in the text with Linda. The article — Critical Literacies and Our Students’ Lives — was first published by NCTE via In the Middle, and Christensen’s views about how to pivot towards authentic stories in times of testing is an important sharing moment.

I’ve been moving some of my annotations of the paper version of her piece to the online piece, via screenshots. But you can add text, images, gifs, videos, sound, and more in Hypothesis, creating a multimedia collage of thoughts and connections.

Critical Lit Margins6

I was fortunate to be invited to take part in a video conference with Linda and some other educators to talk about what she wrote and the nature of public annotation of writing, as sort of a preview for the annotation event. She was very open and insightful, and I most appreciated her thoughts when I asked her about how she was feeling about opening up her words to annotation in the commons. (see her response)

I hope you can join us in the margins …

Peace (in and beyond the classroom),
Kevin

 

On the NWP Stage: Dear Intolerant Parent

This spoken poem response to a parent critical of teachers bringing social justice issues into the classroom roused the Plenary Session of the National Writing Project this past week. Michelle Clark delivered this piece from the stage.

Clark and two other teachers were sharing the work they had done with the Holocaust Educators Network and then their own classrooms, and she had explained the powerful work that came from students’ project to create an art show/auction to support immigrant families in California as a way to open up dialogue. The poem is a response to a parent who sent her an email, critical of that project.

Peace (bring it on),
Kevin