I am going to add the media element to my Slice of Life posts this week, if I can. I am already using the six word story format on Twitter, with Soundcloud as my accompanying podcasting site. And now, I am tapping into Haiku Deck to create a simple slide, with background image. Upping the ante … not sure if I can sustain it!
This slice is about a conversation I had with my son about walking into a bookstore. He made me feel like an old man.
It’s day two of Slice of Life. I won’t be sharing my slicing here every day, since I am mostly going to try to use Twitter and Soundcloud as my main platforms, at least at the start. But here is what I wrote this morning, reflecting on how we used Dr. Seuss in class yesterday.
Tomorrow, I will be beginning what seems to be my sixth year participating in the Slice of Life Challenge with my friends, Ruth and Stacey, at Two Writing Teachers. I was going to go into the history of why I participate in the Slice of Life (which is a generalized idea of looking at some moment of your day through a reflective lens and then sharing that writing out) when I remembered that I had done a podcast about that every point three years ago.
This year, I aim to do something a little different, moving beyond just blog posts (which work great). I am going to attempt to use Twitter and Google-Plus and other various forms of media to do my slicing this year, making a shift as a writer across various platforms. In the past, I have often added video and audio from time to time. But I am wondering how my views of the world will change.
And I invite you to join us, too. Information about Slice of Life (both the individual writing challenge — which is to try to write a slice every day in March — and the new classroom challenge — getting students involved) is available at Two Writing Teachers. But really, it’s easy. You write at your own writing space (blog, etc.). Each day, you leave the link to your post at Two Writing Teachers. (There are even prizes). And we hope you follow a few links to other folks writing, and add comments. (This year, there is even a Slice of Life support team.) It’s as much as about the writing as it is about the sense of being part of a larger community of teacher/writers. If you are on Twitter, use the hashtag #slice2013 to share out your pieces, too. (I am going to try to storify the tweets.)
So, I know March has not yet started but here is my first pre-Slice of Life tweet. I am starting off with a six-word-memoir format on Twitter.
Snow day arrived; Contemplating late June. #slice2013
Yesterday, we had a moderately messy snow storm. It was a mixture of freezing rain and snow, but not as bad as it could have been (and not as bad as our local television stations would like it to be, if you know what I mean). This morning, I took the dog out for a walk, and the air felt fairly warm but there was still this layer of ice on top of everything. There was a satisfying “crunch” as we walked in the dark morning hours before anyone else was up. Our crunching footfalls echoed off the houses. I like that feeling of the body just heavy enough to crash through the first layer of ice, and then sink down into the soft snow underneath. I suppose the warmth will melt a lot of yesterday’s snow, leaving it packed and dirty. But this morning, it was fresh and clean and full of sounds not yet created.
Here’s mine, which goes to the heart of what I do as a writer and what I try to do as a teacher (and as a father and husband, and well, just about everything. I am not saying I am always successful with my reflective stance, but I try):
Last Tuesday night, as my band was practicing to get ready for our gig over the weekend at the local regional fair, I was in the middle of a solo (on Love Potion #9) when the neck of my saxophone snapped off and fell to the ground with a sickening “thud.” I was stunned, and the rest of the band just stopped and stared. I have an old saxophone, but still … that certainly had never happened. And the gig was just days away!
The next day, I took a long ride to a music store, and pleaded with the repair dude to see what he could do. He did, and he was able to put the pieces that came apart back together.
But throughout the gig, I was tight, thinking that any moment the saxophone was going to fall apart on me, in front of all those people. It sort of felt like those before-first-day-of-school dreams we get (I’m having them this week) in which all of your careful planning goes for naught. But my saxophone held, and I am sure my first days with students will be fine. Sometimes, things fall apart, but we can find ways to get them back together again.
I suppose my slice is similar to just about every teacher who is slicing this week, or last week, or next week … depending on when your school year begins (or has begun). I’m feeling the summer fading and my anxiety about starting the year beginning to creep into the back of head (you know, that place that keeps you up at night?). Along with leading various professional development sessions (which invades that same part of the head), I am thinking about my curriculum, and doing some weeding and planting.
One way I do that is by visiting my website where I showcase the curriculum for my sixth graders. This allows me to revisit the previous year and start thinking: does this belong? How about this? As a result, I have solidified my decision to toss out our month-long puppet unit (a difficult decision) in favor of our video game design project, adding in a digital citizenship unit, began thinking of how to teach more informational text in conjunction with our novels, and tinkered here and there with various things.
What I have added early in the year is an I Search research project, so that I can teach some basic skills around research, sources and critiquing websites. These skills were lacking last year, and I normally don’t get to it until the end of the year, which now seems pretty silly since they need to know how to do those things early. Duh.
So, you can see what runs through my head in the middle of night ….
The other night, our local park held its second annual Fireworks Event for Independence Day (a little early, I know). My wife and I, and our youngest son, set up chairs at local golf course so we could watch the action in the skies while still avoiding the crowds after the event. It was a beautiful night, and the fireworks were spectacular to watch. Just wonderful. We even forgot the bugs that were pouncing on us as we waited for the pyrotechnics to begin.
I was reminded, though, of childhood, when I was living in an apartment complex where every Fourth of July would bring disparate families together, and many adults would have horded up collections of fireworks from vacation visits to New Hampshire and places down south. It would be a sort of contest between the two main wings of the apartment buildings — who could have the more spectacular displays that night? As kids, it didn’t matter who won that sort of contest — we were all winners. But what the other night brought back to me was how, the day after the fireworks at our apartment building, us kids would all get up wicked early in the morning and have our own contest: who could find the most spent fireworks. We’d scuttle around on wet grass, gathering and gathering, and then showing off what we found, even trading like baseball cards.
I imagine our parents didn’t mind. We were doing some sort of unofficial clean up duty of the neighborhood. But I still remember the lingering smell on my fingertips of old firecrackers and roman candles, and even a few unexploded ones how dead from the dampness of the night. Sometimes, we’d let them dry out, spin the paper off them, and then light the powder left behind. All out of eyeshot and earshot of the adults, of course.
This memory had me wondering about the fireworks we watched from the distance. Who cleans up the spent fireworks at the park? Is there a horde of kids coming out of the mist of dawn to gather them up? Somehow, I doubt it. It just seems like yet another childhood tradition fallen by the wayside as we “protect” our kids. Even me. It didn’t occur to me to get my sons up bright and early that next morning and scour the fields for old fireworks. I’m not even sure they would go.
I happily sealed up and mailed off a copy of our Teaching the New Writing: Technology, Change and Assessment in the 21st Century Classroom yesterday to one of the many writers in the Slice of Life Challenge that took place in March over at Two Writing Teachers. The book was a gift as a prize that Stacey and Ruth were giving out to participants. It seemed the least I could do for them, giving their work in nurturing writers for the past five years of the Slice of Life Challenge.
I sent the book, and a short note, off to Barbara, who runs a blog called First Grade Delight. I hope she enjoys it and finds some useful ideas in there. As I noted in my letter to her, sometimes we are planting seeds of ideas and hoping things will take bloom, even if it happens slowly and over time. Our aim with our book was always to showcase some teachers, and provide some ideas to think about the possibilities of writing as technology becomes part of the lives of our students.