Empires Rise and Fall

I’m not sure if today’s theme is really the Empire State Building or not, for our Wonders of the World poems (I think it is), but I started to think about the word “empire” and then that led me to “family.”

I took my poem — Empires Rise and Fall — and went into Poetry Genius, a site that allows you to annotate poems with text, links, images, and video. You will notice that I put the podcast of the poem into the site, too.

Feel free to add your own annotations to the poem — confront me on my views of memory and feel free to challenge me on the truth of my own family story. Or add your own poem by lifting lines from mine.


Peace (in memory),
Kevin

Webcomic: The Dangerous Lives of Poets

This morning, the Wonder Poem (posted by Mary Lee) is about the CN Tower in Toronto. I wrote a poem and then thought I would jazz it up a bit with some humor as webcomic. So, I did. I was struck by the use of colors for events through the year and how it seemed to me to be like a flower without petals.

The Dangerous Life of Poets (CT Tower)

Peace (in the high places),
Kevin

Intentionally Imbalanced Infographic: NextGen Testing

Intentional imbalanced Infographic
The PARCC test has been on my mind a lot lately, due to its piloting all over the world (or so it seems, even though I know it is only in PARCC states). More and more news items are coming into my RSS feed of parents opting out, of teaching refusing to give it, of superintendents telling families how much they don’t like it already, of parents at a school in my city picketing PARCC with signs and everything, of criticism that our state Educational Commissioner has a role in the PARCC consortium, of talking to teachers at my school (and parents of kids) who administered the PARCC pilot (although they are not allowed to talk about the test), and more, more, more.

A very powerful piece ran in the New York Times opinion section by Elizabeth Phillips that is a must-read: We Need to Talk About the Tests.

And I saw from Diane Ravitch that Pearson, who is developing the PARCC, is searching for scorers, but they are targeting college students and paying only $12 an hour. These are the scores that are going to be used for teacher evaluations someday down the road? for student graduation requirements?  Ack. for revising the PARCC? (cue fake laughter on that one).

It’s hard to keep an open mind with all that floating around. So, I went and decided to make a completely unreliable infographic of what I believe will be the end result of PARCC, which is that the testing companies will make out like bandits in the end. ‘Cause they will.

Read Valerie Strauss’ piece at The Washington Post: March Madness.

Meanwhile, with the federal test-creating grants running out later this year, the future of the two consortia is not clear. But for now, they’ve got a pretty good deal: They get millions of field testing subjects — for free.

I know I’m being grumpy and pessimistic here, but it’s hard to see things unfolding in a positive light right now around the Common Core testing systems underway, and if any of my sons were in classes where Pearson is piloting the PARCC, I would probably have them opt out. (Hey, Pearson gets free data from our kids, doesn’t have to share any of the results with anyone? That’s a coup. Maybe they should donate a cart of laptops to every school that has piloted the PARCC.)

Sigh.

Peace (in the test),
Kevin

The Poet in Me

I saw some friends writing “in defense of poetry” poems (there must be a meme that slipped my view or something, or maybe defending poetry is something that we realize we have to do more visibly) and I started to write one, too, but then realized I was writing about me, working to be a poet.

Poet in Me Poem

Peace (in the flow),
Kevin

Visual Poetry: Tunnel Through

For today’s Wonder of the World poetry prompt, the topic was the great Channel Tunnel. I decided to go inside the tunnel with a visual poem, writing about finding your way through from one end to the other.
Tunnel Through
And here is the poem:

You can get here from there
You just need to crawl through small spaces
Hugging walls and pipes and concrete
As you move from there to here.

Nothing fancy with the poem itself but I like how the use of the cylinder shape, with pitch black background and white words like flashlight beams, makes the visual poem something a little special. And the title of the poem, in green, seem like those headlights that miners wear so they can work. (I used an app called Visual Poetry to make the poem).

Peace (in the poem),
Kevin

I had Stickers – An Early Childhood Appreciation

The other day, I volunteered to lead a family poetry workshop at Barnes and Noble to support our Western Massachusetts Writing Project. I didn’t know what to expect, so I gathered up a bunch of supplies for a Post It Sticky Note Poetry idea. I had a bunch of small mentor texts (haiku, couplets, shape poems, etc.) along with lots of art supplies.

 

I set up in the little staging area of the children’s section, still not sure who would come and participate. Now, remember, I teach sixth grade and spend my days in the midst of 11 and 12 year olds. And I have three boys of my own, two teenagers and one 9 year old.

So, imagine my surprise when I was surrounded by a group of five girls — ages 3 and 4 — with their parents for the poetry workshop. I was a fish out of water because clearly my plans for writing and understanding poetry styles would not connect with this group of energetic mostly-pre-writing girls. I was in a sixth grade mindset and that would not work here.

Luckly, I had stickers! Lots of stickers! And that led to some post-it poems, of a sort (well, more like drawings) and some basic rhyming games. Some of the girls could write some basic words, so we wrote rhymes. For others … it was all about the stickers and post-it notes.

That was OK but it reminded me (again) of the task before our early childhood colleagues who are often faced with a class full of young learners who might or might not have had preschool experience, might or might not have had parents read to them regularly, might or might not have had pre-writing experiences, and the range of literacy was staggering in that little group.

It was fun and enlightening, and certainly a very different kind of teaching experience for me, one that reminded me to appreciate the kinds of days that my colleagues often have, and how grateful I am as a sixth grade teacher for all the work that gets done in the years before my students reach me to get them ready for the rigor of our learning.

Thank you, teachers.

Peace (with stickers)
Kevin

 

Book Review: There Will Be Bears

The only time I went hunting for real, I was a teenager with a friend on his family’s farmlands. We each had shotguns and we were looking for deer. At some point, a flock of geese flew over us and I raised the gun, pulled the trigger and took a life from the air. It was a perfect shot (right through the neck) but I remember the feeling of dread, and the tiring hour spent trying to find the bird (we had no dog), and then the realization that “Since I shot it, I need to eat it” as we brought the goose back to his house, where his mom helped me dress it and cook it. The meat was gamey and I hated every bite. I never went hunting again.

I was remembering this story as I read the novel There Will Be Bears by Ryan Gebhart, in which the protagonist, Tyler, is coming of age and is determined to join his aging grandfather on an Elk Hunt in the Grand Tetons. Tyler’s life is a muddle, with his family’s finances causing stress and difficulties, and his best friend is his grandfather, Gene. But, his grandfather is ill with kidney failure, and as the day of the hunting trip nears, his grandfather is shipped to a nursing home.

The two decide to break out of the nursing home and go on the elk hunt anyway, against the wishes of Tyler’s parents and the doctors. Oh, and there is a grizzly bear with a mean streak roaming the elk hunting grounds, and Tyler’s fears and trepidations grow even as he refuses to give up on his rite of passage in his family. The story pushes towards a climatic moment in which the elk are hunted, the bear appears and Tyler realizes some important thing about life.

There Will Be Bears is a solid tale, told well, with the reader burrowed down into the confused head of a teenage boy. This book doesn’t take a stand on hunting, and in fact, keeps an emotional balance, thanks to the strong character of the grandfather (who turns out to have a story of two of his own, including his status as grandfather).

Peace (in the hunt),
Kevin

A Poetic Conversation: You, Me and the Leaning Tower

This morning’s writing prompt for the Wonders project is the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I went into a tool by Google called Google Story Builder, which is a nifty way to create a document of dialogue (and other kinds of writing) into a video.

You Me and the Leaning Tower

Check out my dialogue poem

I was trying to get at the idea of looking at the world from a different angle, told in couplets. Not the best poem of the month, but after watching UConn win the NCAA championship last night (go Huskies!) and fighting off a cold and sore throat, it’s all I had in me today.

:)

Peace (in the poem),
Kevin