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

Getting Playful at the City Museum

City Museum, St. Louis

Some museums are designed to places of playful learning. Some, teach you. No museum that I have gone to is quite like the City Museum of St. Louis (where we are attending a National Writing Project conference). The City Museum is like some Alice in Wonderland, brought into an old building and the only way you experience it is by following the unmarked paths, and getting lost for a bit.

You’ll come across dark caverns, a ten-story slide, more smaller slides than you can fathom, unlit tunnels, myriad nooks and crannies, displays of bizarre artifacts, a human hamster wheel, an airplane connected to the outside roof of the building, a tunnel of mirrors, a huge pencil for balancing upon, and so much more. Oh, there’s also a circus that performs daily. And a small train for little kids.

City Museum, St. LouisIt’s dazzling, disorientating and all designed for play and exploration. Sort makes me think of CLMOOC and its ethos of immersive learning.

City Museum, St. Louis

And what it also makes me think of how to design a physical space for play, and how to imagine a museum of sorts that pushes the boundaries of what we expect from such a space. There are museums of discovery, and then there is the City Museum. It was a fantastic way to cap our last full day here in St. Louis.

Peace (twisted and turning),
Kevin

Meeting Up in St. Louis … and Making the Path Forward

Elyse at NWP

She made the best of the situation. No surprise there. National Writing Project Executive Director Elyse Eidman-Aadahl worked the large crowd of hundreds of NWP educators and leaders at our annual meeting yesterday here in St. Louis, Missouri, by keeping to the script of a traditional Plenary Address — a celebration of the work and spirit of the 180 writing projects sites across the country.

Just as we have done every other year (see annual report).

We heard stories from the stage about the impact of the writing project. We were mesmerized by stories of three outstanding educators who took part in the Holocaust Educator Network, and then returned to their schools to engage their students in powerful discussions of social justice and equity. One of those teachers dazzled the audience with a spoken poem addressed to a parent concerned about the teaching social justice in schools.

All this came as inspiration and celebration, even as Eidman-Aadahl  acknowledged that the federal SEED funds that have supported the work of the writing project has disappeared, and the NWP itself is shrinking. The main office is dwindling in staff, whom we gave a rousing standing round of applause for, to show our collective appreciation for the work they have done and do behind the scenes on many projects.

NWP won’t be disappearing, but it will be smaller than it probably ever was since it was first founded on the campus of Berkley in the 1970s, and began to spread out, thanks to the energy and vision of founder Jim Gray. Our Western Massachusetts Writing Project site is nearly 25 years old.

WMWP Cohort at NWP Annual Meeting

“We are not closing shop, by any means,” Eidman-Aadahl told us. “We’ll still be here. You’ll still be here.”

What happens next is not exactly known, but it follows the trajectory of the wave of Republicanism in this country: cut the top level of everything (even if it causes disruption and chaos) and let the local community determine what survives and what doesn’t. (I don’t agree with that political rhetoric but it’s hard to ignore that’s what’s happening.)

“The future of your (writing project) site is in your hands. The future of our network is in your hands,” Eidman-Aadahl said, and I thought of the guiding philosophy of “teachers teaching teachers” as what might continue to guide us forward. “Walk towards your purpose. We will get through.”

And then she left us with a challenge. The National Writing Project is celebrating its 44th year this year. She wants us to be around to celebrate its 50th year in six years from now (maybe, this writer says to himself, a new president and administration will realize the impact of NWP on the quality of education in this country. Hmmm.)

So, she said, what about a “50 for 50” campaign of some sort. Local sites can determine what that might mean. Maybe it’s 50 new leaders at the site in six years. Maybe 50 new writing resources developed. Maybe 50 classrooms reached. Maybe 50 testimonials to the reach of the writing project.

50 for 50 … we can do this.

Peace (in St. Louis),
Kevin

The Last National Writing Project Annual Meeting Hurrah?

NWP Presentation Materials

It’s not easy to write the title of this post nor its contents, even while staying positive in spirit and tone.

Tonight, after a day of teaching, my wife and I head to St. Louis, Missouri, for what may well become the last Annual Meeting of the National Writing Project. The federal education department shut off the last bit of support for NWP’s work with teachers/professional development. While NWP will surely survive in a diminished form with other partnerships and initiatives, the lack of support by the Trump Administration (which had already started to diminish in the Obama Administration, too) will pose difficulties for many of the NWP sites around the country, I am sure.

The writing, so to speak, has been on the wall for years, even with the documented success of the writing project’s impact on classrooms and schools (see this report). A recent newsletter update from NWP indicates this kind of event may now fade away in its current form, which is the coming together of NWP educators to learn together, to share together, to connect together. I think I may have only missed one or two Annual Meetings since I started teaching more than 16 years ago. I suspect it is expensive to host these gatherings, and when looking at the bottom line, it makes sense that this would be something to cut (or merged into NCTE as a strand, perhaps?)

At a recent leadership retreat for our Western Massachusetts Writing Project, this topic of reduced and loss of NWP funding was front and center as we talked and set forth plans for the coming year. We know we can’t expect some rich benefactor to step in (but, heck, we’re open and ready for it to happen), so our site work around professional development and offerings for teachers will have to find some balance of bringing in funds for that work to pay for other projects. The fate of our core Summer Institute is OK for the immediate future, but unsteady in the years ahead.

In St. Louis this week, I am part of a presentation with the National Park Service that looks at how we can use National Parks and Historic Sites for engagement of teachers and students. Our work here with the Springfield Armory site has been fruitful for teachers and young people, particularly during our summer camp program. That project, which I facilitate, is funded through the Mass Humanities organization, for which we are thankful, and for which we know might be model of partnership support going forward. Still, small NWP grants have helped pave the way for this work in the years past.

So, yes, we will celebrate the National Writing Project at a the St. Louis gathering of the Tribe that has always energized us (and not far away, the National Council of Teachers of English meeting will be starting its meeting, too … another Tribe), and we’ll worry about the future of NWP, too. I consider the National Writing Project and the Western Massachusetts Writing Project my professional “home” and the prospect of such uncertainty is unsettling. It also makes me wonder which charter school, private venture, religious school is getting Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ attention instead of the NWP.

Peace (in Missouri),
Kevin

Comic: Virtual Presenters in a Virtual Conference

Gone Virtual?

Someone outside of my usual teaching and technology life asked about my upcoming presentation at the 4T Virtual Conference on Digital Writing, and they got sort of hooked into the “virtual” piece. I think they heard “virtual” and thought I was going to be wandering through some virtual reality workshop.  Maybe with goggles on. I wish. Instead, I will be in a Blackboard Elluminate platform (which is pretty far from VR, believe you me).

Their pondering about what I was doing for 4T inspired the comic up above, which I hope you might see as an invitation to join me in my 4T session on Emergent Learning (or Expecting the Unexpected) with a specific lens on the Connected Learning MOOC (CLMOOC).

Promo: 4T Virtual Conference

It’s free. It’s virtual. It’ll be later downloadable.

Peace (also, free, and distributable),
Kevin

 

Add comic and reminder about info on session …