OnPoEvMo: Like Birds in Flight, January 2007

Some of the writing for my OnePoemPerMonthForaYear project have come easily and some are still in the midst of revision and stuck with me as I try to understand just what I am trying to get at with my words and phrases and voice.

This poem, called Birds in Flight, is a prime example of this internal struggle. It is inspired by some conversations with my students about their own experiences living in a very insular and safe community, primarily white, and how our preconceptions shape our understanding of people who look, talk and act different than we do. My students’ experiences are very similar to mine as I was growing up and I tried to capture in this poem some of my conflicted feelings that took place when I first forged some close friendships with people of other color during my time as an infantry soldier in the Army National Guard.

I came to realize how racist some of my impressions were and how long it took for me to see them just as people, and not as different people because their skin was different from mine. This is something that no one taught me. I had to learn with experience.

Like Birds in Flight (January 2007)

Listen to the poem

I can’t crawl inside your skin
I’m claustrophobic with the fingers of history wrapped around my neck
and, besides, your black doesn’t fit with my white.
We clash.

Or so I have been told, not in so many words, of course, but in so many looks.
Which leaves us both here with this sense of intense misunderstanding
and missed opportunities that come from rage at the ways of this world.
No one ever told me that you were always the same as me,
with the same dreams,
the same heart,
and you, with your ancestors on an timeline that intersects with mine only in pain and infinite sadness,
you look so different from me — on the outside.
Your black doesn’t fit with my white.

I often wonder how it would be if we had a covering of feathers instead of skin
and you were to become haloed in a rainbow
with hues casting deep shadows that I could just swallow up like worms on a summer day after the storms have cleared away,
filling me whole with experience and reality,
and then maybe — maybe — I could finally feel your light, your strength, your sense of being you.

Just you and nothing more.
Your black would fit with my white.

We would no longer feel tethered by this solid Earth
and instead, as one, we would rise to the clouds on the upward draft of hope
and avoid the fears that keeps us rooted so firmly in our own minds.
I look at you.
I don’t see you.
Instead, I only see skin.

Peace (with understanding),
Kevin

NWP in T.H.E. Journal

The National Writing Project is featured in the recent edition of T.H.E. Journal magazine as one organization that sees the potential and benefits of technology in the classroom. The article notes that blogging has a strong foothold in the NWP network (we know this ourselves). The article also mentions the Technology Initiative, which my Western Massachusetts Writing Project is part of through our Making Connections project (more on that to come soon as we are almost set to launch our second year).

From the article in THE Journal:

“Whether the digital vehicle is e-mail, blogs, or podcasts isn’t significant; what matters is that these are all tools that involve students in writing and bring them into the company of distant audiences, which supports the learning that comes when writers see what readers make of their work.” — from http://www.thejournal.com/articles/19919_3

Peace (with the Writing Project),
Kevin

Map My Words

My Google Homepage keeps changing as I experiment with the various Gadgets (or are they widgets?) that are available. I like the idea that I can add and delete programs as I see fit. One of the cooler items I came across is something called MapMyWords dictionary, which visually connects daily words with other words through common connections. It is very visually and interesting to think about the connections.

I couldn’t help map out two words of interest to me: Writing and Music.

Peace (through connections),
Kevin

Fun With Comix Creation

At a site called Make Beliefs Comix, you can create your own little comic strip. So I created this comic about my blogging practices. If you click on the comic, it will take you to flickr and the bigger picture (I had trouble fitting it on the blog):

Peace (in frames),
Kevin

Teachers Teaching Teachers: Mid-Year Reflections

I took part in another Skypecast conversation lastweek with other teachers who are using blogs, wikis, podcasting and other technology through Teachers Teaching Teachers site (which is wonderful — check it out!). The conversation is now being podcast through the site, too.

Take a listen.

The conversation was a bit crowded for a deep and rich conversation but it is still very empowering to be part of a larger community and I appreciate the efforts of Paul and Susan to keep this forum alive and thriving. Their topic was reflecting on how the school year has been going and what is ahead for us.
One interesting aspect was a visitor to the conversation from China, who is not a teacher but still had some things to say about education in China in comparison to education as we were discussing on the skypecast.

Peace (with multiple voices),
Kevin

De-Lurker Week

Did you know this is De-Lurker Week?
Me, neither. (Hell, every week is a holiday on the Internet, right?)
But, you are required as a reader of this blog to leave a comment, a breadcrumb, a trail of words … please. And I will do the same. My goal is to leave six comments on six different weblogs that I read regularly.

Delurk7_1
(Steal your own De-Lurker banner at I Speak of Dreams or  Paper Napkin)

 

Peace (with conversation),
Kevin

 

 

OnPoEvMo: Shrinking Clothes, January 2007

Here is another poem for my OnePoemEveryMonthForaYear adventure. It’s about my younger son and how his feet are starting to pop out of his pajamas.

Shrinking Clothes (January 2007)

Listen to Shrinking Clothes

I know you grow
Because in the foot of your pajamas
I can see your toe
Poking through the fabric
and so, your toe shows
how unbound you are by your shrinking clothes.

Peace (with warm pajamas),
Kevin

Inside Someone Else’s Skin

There is no easy way to teach young people how to understand the experiences of others, but writing is at least one avenue for such investigation. This past week, my students studied the Underground Railroad in preparation for reading the book, The House of Dies Drear by Virginia Hamilton. We talked about the history of our country and how skin color still seems to create walls between people. It’s difficult because the town where I teach is small, very insular, and mostly white middle-class. My students eyes are barely open to the real world.
Our inquiry into ways that slaves found the courage to escape and the people who helped them along the way led to a project in which we created paper quilts using patterns that represented messages for those making their way to freedom. I then had them write a first-person narrative of someone running away and using patterns from quilts as a guide.

Here are their stories, told in a digital story format:

[googlevideo]-7684783453528948651&hl=en[/googlevideo]

Peace (I mean it),
Kevin

PS — here is just the audio version of their stories.

Graphs, diagrams, number lines as language

In my Bloglines account, I have a number of humorous feeds (I hope you all do, too) and one that continues to make me think is called Indexed, and it uses Venn Diagrams and other charts to make simple, yet intriguing, insights. It is as if the artist has a few minutes to spare, doodles some cool idea, and then graphs it out (I am thinking math concepts as a storytelling device here).

Here is the post from the other day:

[card588.JPG]

(from http://indexed.blogspot.com/index.html)

This morning, the Indexed site had a link to a very neat movie that uses some of the same concepts in a very intriguing way, drawing connections to thoughts through lines, diagrams and other concepts of math.

Check out the movie from Le Grand Content

Peace (in numbers),
Kevin

“Not on the Test” by Tom Chapin

The singer-songwriter Tom Chapin (with help from John Forster) has written a very insightful (and funny) song called “Not on the Test” about all the things that you won’t find on standardized test.

You find the song at National Public Radio’s site.

I particularly liked a few verses, such as:

“Each box that you mark on
Each test that you take
Remember your teachers –
Their jobs are at stake
Your score is their score
But don’t get all stressed
They’d never teach anything
not on the test.”

And

” Debate is a skill
That is useful to know
Unless you’re in Congress
or talk radio
Where shouting and spouting
and spewing are blessed
‘Cause rationale discourse
was not on the test.”

Peace (in multiple choice options),
Kevin