Slice of Life: The Face on the Floor

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge for March, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We are writing each day about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

sol16One of the best things about Slice of Life (there are many, of course) is that writing about moments every single day focuses your attention on things otherwise forgotten or ignored. You are always on the look-out for something you missed.

I was walking down the school hallway yesterday morning, taking a break from an early morning of filling out report cards, when I saw a face that I see every day, and think: I should take a picture of that.

So, I did, knowing that I would be writing about it this morning. This Face on the fFloor, shaped by the construction of the floor tiles — and a chip in the tiles that has expanded into a sort of mouth — and the emergency door system, is just a wonderful surprise, and sometimes, I try to imagine what it is thinking all day long. (Heck, that just might be a Daily Create suggestion in the future).

Face in the Floor

The Face seems contemplative about the world around it, doesn’t it? Almost … amused. 

We all see the world in different ways and I never asked students, How many of you have noticed the Face in the Floor? They pass over it and by it a dozen times a day. They are more likely to be chatting with friends, or thinking of lunch, or juggling books and binders, or looking at the artwork on the walls.

This might be a good writing prompt in my classroom …

Peace (on all of our faces),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Hanging Out With Teachers

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge for March, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We are writing each day about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

sol16Our students had a half-day yesterday because of teacher professional development session, but the presenter for our afternoon session on literacy was sick so a collection of us teachers in grades four through six spent the afternoon talking about writing in the content areas.

It was fruitful, if only to have time to meet and talk with colleagues in other grades about teaching. We only rarely have time to collaborate with colleagues outside of our grade areas these days, given schedules and district priorities and such. To be honest, we also all have report cards on our mind (they go out on Monday).

After my school day ended, I zoomed off to the second session of a course I am co-facilitating with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project around using the Library of Congress digital archives for primary source and student inquiry projects. It was another great session, even though everyone was tired after a long day in the classroom. We spent a lot of time working on creating primary source text sets and developing lesson plans, as they will be teaching a lesson with primary sources and bringing student work back to our last session in three weeks.

I wrote about this professional development course and the work we are doing with the Library of Congress at Middleweb, if you are interested.

In both cases — at my school and at the PD session — the level of discussions, questions and sharing reminded me of the power of teachers coming together. While the impromptu session at my school could have used more structure, the conversations were valuable. In the evening session, the exploration of something new with student inquiry as the focus remains a spark of celebration. I am grateful to have been part of both.

Peace (and connect),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Sitting Down with Mike

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge for March, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We are writing each day about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

sol16My friend, Michael Silverstone, has started up a monthly podcast series in which he is interviewing folks along a wide range of ideas … with creativity at the center. Michael is a teacher, musician, songwriter, published writer, and a colleague in the Western Massachusetts Writing Project. He asked if I would join him for a conversation for his First Saturday Podcast series, and we talked about writing, teaching, technology, kids and more.

These kinds of conversations, where someone asks you questions, give you an opportunity to evaluate our thinking, to reflect in the moment and peruse your view of the world, out loud. I did not know what questions Michael would be asking before I joined him, although I had some ideas given our similar paths, but I enjoyed the flow of the discussion as we sat in his living room.

The podcast (30 minutes long, just so you know) went live this weekend and I just got to listen to to it yesterday as I was getting my classroom ready for the school day. It’s an odd experience, to hear yourself like that, but I think we did a nice job of moving through important ground, even with my numerous “uhs” that peppered my thinking out loud.

Thank you, Michael, for inviting me into your podcast.

Peace (in the reflection),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life: Looking at Trees

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge for March, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We are writing each day about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

sol16My youngest son asked if he could invite some friends over to go play in the neighborhood woods. Of course, we said yes, and I was tasked with being the ‘adult nearby’ during the nearly three hours they played Capture the Flag, and then Manhunt, and then various forms of Hide and Seek.

Three hours of fresh air in their lungs on a sort of cold day and lots of running and playing. Their clothes were all muddy when they were done. Not that they cared.

My dog was my companion, and as the kids were playing and needing no help from me (and I purposely kept myself aloof from their planning and playing), I started to notice the trees.

I dug out my phone camera and began to take shots of the various trees, moving closely in to get textures and slight colors, and I love how this collage captures the variety of tree trunks I examined.

Trees

Peace (in the observation),
Kevin

Slice of Life: The Winning Shot

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge for March, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We are writing each day about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

sol16The youngest of our three boys is the only one still playing basketball, and his youth basketball team — which struggled at the start of the season as individuals on the court and then found its groove as a team working together near the end, just as you would hope would happen — had his first playoff game yesterday.

It was one of those sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seats game that exemplifies youth sports. The game was up and down, and then went into overtime after a gutsy player make two foul shots by the other team. Actually, he missed the first one because someone on our team shouted when he was about to shoot, and the referee rightly gave him another shot, and educated our player about sportsmanship. (We had a long talk about that kind of behavior on the way home. It was not my son but still …)

In overtime, our team’s defensive energy hit overdrive, and my son hit a basket with less than a minute left that sealed the game, as we won by two points. He was giddy with emotion, but suitably humbled by the experience. He did none of the bragging and fist-thumping that you see in the NBA at times.

Even at home, when we told his older brothers — who have played on high school basketball teams — he spoke low-key about it. They were congratulatory, which was good because their attitude toward him as the younger brother can often be unpredictable. He both wants their attention even as he worries about the Big Brother-itis that can come along with being the youngest.

Peace (it’s a win),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Disappointment, then Forward Motion

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge for March, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We are writing each day about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

sol16It’s not a huge thing, really, but still, I feel this lingering disappointment about a grant that our Western Massachusetts Writing Project was going for and didn’t get. We found out about it this week in a very kind letter. I know this is how it goes in the competitive world of grant funding. Small pots of funding means lots of people vying for support, and not everyone will get some. I’m thankful there was even an opportunity.

But I had been the primary writer of this grant, drawing on more than a few projects from the past that our writing project has been quite proud of, and building off an existing two-year initiative that connects science teachers around argumentative writing and NextGen Science standards.

Our grant application took that a step further, proposing to virtually connect the students in those classrooms in online spaces as science writers, so they would have authentic audiences and collaborative hubs of inquiry. We had more than a half-dozen teachers in urban and rural and suburban schools ready and willing, with hundreds of middle school students who would have been in the mix next year. It would have been crazy and hectic, but inspiring and enlightening.

This was a visual of our vision of our Connected Learning hubs:

Making Scientific Connections Hubs

We’ll keep pursuing funding in other places – we believe in the project’s potential — and I’ll keep an eye on the initiatives that did get funding. We can always learn from each other, even in disappointment. And laying out a vision of this kind of project on paper was educational in and of itself. The disappointment comes from wondering where we fell short, and if I missed something in the visioning process.

Peace (shake it off),
Kevin

Slice of Life: A Demo Song for Someone I Don’t Know

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge for March, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We are writing each day about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

sol16

My bandmates and I are in a strange situation. We lost our singer and bass player, and then lost our practice space (see: lost bass player). So the four of us now huddle in the drummer’s basement, jamming quietly and seeking a way forward.

And I keep writing songs for a band that I don’t know will come to be (but have faith that it will). I write for a singer I don’t even know exists (but have faith they will find us as we find them). I keep on writing and playing because I can’t imagine any other way. I’ve written near a dozen new songs since the fall (and tossed away at least another handful that didn’t make the cut).

This is the latest demo song, written after I read a piece in a magazine about memory, and then I read a short story of a man who remembers a kiss from the past, and accepts that tender memory for what it was and is. I like the haunting feel of the tune. Whether it has legs for the eventual band, I can’t say.

Here is the demo. Eventually, if the song goes further, I will play saxophone on it, but I recorded this all myself, with live guitar and voice, and the rest as instrumental tracks on the computer:

Peace (in the song),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Of Zooks and Yooks

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge for March, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We are writing each day about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

sol16This is a sort of deja vu slice, since I think I have likely written about what I do for Dr. Seuss Day and Read Across America Day (they were both yesterday) at least once or twice in past Slice of Life. But I still enjoy digging out my Seuss The Butter Battle Book to share with my sixth graders on that day.

The real lesson for literature is Allegory (a term none were familiar with) and history (The Cold War) but any reason to bring out a Dr. Seuss book is fine by me. Not many have had The Butter Battle Book read to them (a few had watched the video version at some point) and I made sure my reading style projected both the absurdity of the tale (butter? bread? Yooks? Zooks?) with the sharp political commentary of the Cold War’s nuclear arms race.

I even found a great chart online that connected the symbolism of the book with geopolitics of the Cold War age, which led to long discussions in each class about the Berlin Wall, for example, and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

You can’t go wrong with Seuss.

Peace (let is be now and into the future),
Kevin

Slice of Life: One Man Voting

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge for March, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We are writing each day about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

sol16

I walked in, unenrolled. Walked out, unenrolled. In between, I was a Republican, not for the first time ever but I can truthfully say, not very often, either. I wanted to lodge a protest vote in our Primary Elections, as some sort of individual counter to the Trump push.

So, I voted for Kasich, who at least has a positive message even if he has no chance at all in gaining the nomination of his party. And I can’t say I agree with him on many issues, either. He just seemed like the only one on the GOP ticket that I could vote for with any kind of good conscience.

Turns out, my protest vote didn’t matter much. Our liberal New England state’s Republicans, often seen as moderates on the local and national stage, went all-out for Trump, too, with 49 percent of the vote. Kasich came in distant second, however, so that’s something.

Strange days …

Peace (in the vote),
Kevin

Daily Create: Five Image Story

Today’s Daily Create at DS106 was a multi-step affair — generate a story starter and then construct a visual story with five images. So, StorySpark gave me this odd story starter:

An anxious storyteller spies on a quick-witted quantum chemist in a diabolical toy store

So I went into Flickr Creative Commons to make this visual of that story:


flickr photo shared by amenclinics_photos under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license


flickr photo shared by Elvert Barnes under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license


flickr photo shared by Simon Greig Photo under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license


flickr photo shared by benchilada under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license


flickr photo shared by Foomandoonian under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

Phew.

I used the Flickr CC Search Engine, and then Alan Levine’s wonderfully helpful CC citation tool.

Peace (in the story as image),
Kevin