Slice of Life: A Game of Hide the Water Bottle

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

Sometimes, I just watch to see what my students will do in the time between learning. It’s always fascinating. In other years, this is how I first learned about Minecraft, and heard about Visco Girls, and watched students show me the Mannequin Challenge, and was taught in detail about dance moves on Tik Tok, and more.

This year, I’ve been observing a gaggle of my most energetic boys play a game in which they hide each other’s water bottles in the classroom. They play it voluntarily and I have not noticed them bothering anyone else’s water bottles. Here’s how they do it: one boy turns his back or goes into the hallway, and the others scheme inventive places to hide it. The owner returns and tries to find it, and the others give hints, if needed.

At this point, they are running out of new places to hide things in the classroom, but I’ve observed them put it behind books in the bookcase, inside a tube of rolled paper that I have, behind our class mailboxes, below the old mounted television set, buried in a box of colored pencils, stuffed under tables and desks, and more. They get very excited when they find a new hiding spot.

They tell me they have been playing versions of this game for years, which I find rather amusing, and as long as it doesn’t get out of hand and as long they are not bothering anyone else, I am content to keep them engaged in their playful game, and see where the water bottles will go next.

Peace (and play),
Kevin

Poetry Book Review: Slate Petals (And Other Wordscapes)

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I first stumbled on Anthony Etherin‘s poetry on Twitter. What caught my eye was the visual formats and sheer playfulness of his odd verses in tweets, including some crazy palindromes. I ordered his poetry collection — Slate Petals (And Other Wordscapes) — both out of curiosity and to support a fellow poet.

I enjoyed many of the poems here — gathered under different kinds of ‘scapes: Landscapes, Seascapes, Skyscapes, Mindscapes, Lorescapes, Endscapes, and then at the back, Formscapes, where Etherin returns to the poem to further explain his intentions with form, concision and constraint.

It was this last section that brought a deeper appreciation for what Etherin was going after. For while I enjoyed many of the poems as I was reading them, I had trouble wrapping my head around the different poetic forms he was both working in and hen breaking way from. Etherin, in particular, enjoys many forms of palindromes, and word and phrase reversals run through many of his verses.

His visual poems, too, are surprising on second view, with the knowledge of what he was doing with ancient texts, or cut up poems, or invented visual letters, and more. It seems everything he does is an invention, fueled by the curiosity that I admire in writers and poets. He even has a musical manuscript in which he has composed a song palindrome in the book, too, for harpsichord.

Here, for example, is a poem I saw before knowing the background, and I sat it with for some time, following the phases of the moon and trying to gather the underlying poem. In his back notes, Etherin explains how it is a visual sestina, using the six phases of the moon and end-word patterns.

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He also works with poems within poems, so that a new poem unfolds inside the larger poem, causing both intersections and dissections. In the book, he uses a lighter font color that draws the reader’s eye downward.

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(Note: these images are taken from his Penteract Press order site for Slate Petals)

Finally, I noticed references to a form of poem called the Aeliondrome, which I had never heard of. Of course not. Etherin invented the form, and although there is a two-page description and definition that goes deep into some mathematical permeations and thinking, I am still getting my head around the form, which involves a palindrome-like reversal not of letters (as palindromes do) but of number sequences, or word parts and phrases.

Even when I wasn’t sure what form I was experiencing, Etherin had my attention. That’s a good trick of any poet.

Peace (and form and pieces),
Kevin

Audio Postcard 2021: Three, of Six, Weeks of School

DSC01722 (2) -01 DSC01722 (2) -01 flickr photo by suzyhazelwood shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

Last year, I took part in a research project in which teachers recorded weekly audio postcard journey entries for the first six weeks of school. It was the Pandemic Year, so I was already trying to document my time as an educator in such a disruptive time, and I found the audio entries were helpful for my own reflective practice. (See my last post with all six audio files)

This year, they are doing the Six Weeks project again, and I agreed to be part of the project again, too. So far, I have recorded three entries for my first three weeks.

Week One

Week Two

Week Three

 

Peace (listening in),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Finding a Rhythm

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

My wife and I were chatting the other night with a friend of our eldest son. This friend just became an elementary classroom teacher so my wife and I are checking in with him, regularly, and cheerleading him through the start of his career.

We were talking about settling down into a rhythm, and I admitted to him, even after so many years, I am still trying to find that rhythm of my new school year days, three weeks in. There is a flow that I know happens, where lesson planning and curriculum design and daily schedules and student stories and administrative busywork … it all eventually comes together so that there is a rhythm of the days.

I’m getting there, I told him, but I am not there yet. (I think he was relieved that a longtime teacher felt the same way as he was feeling, although I know he is experiencing the craziness of newness more than I am – I still remember those days).

Meanwhile, our Music Special had to take part in the classroom yesterday because of some classroom space shifting in our building for cleaning (mold). Our new music teacher has been teaching drumming and patterns. As I worked in the back of the room or wandered in and out, my students were using drumsticks on their desks to pound out drum patterns she had printed out for them.

Mostly, it sounded chaotic, but every now and then, they found a beat together, and the click click click of the sticks on the tops of desks became one solid sound, and I thought, there’s a metaphor in there somewhere about working as one and making music together in the uncertainty of flexible learning in a Pandemic.

So I am ending this slice on the idea that began it – my students and my classroom. Call it circular writing rhythm.

Peace (on the two and four),
Kevin

Remembering ‘The Rising’ and More

On this, the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, I am remembering and listening to The Rising album by Bruce Springsteen, who wrote new tracks in the aftermath that, to me anyway, touched an emotional nerve of how the world had changed, on a small human scale of the stories of loss and survival of his characters in a landscape changed in a single day.

A few years ago, a bass player in my band unexpectedly shared his experience of being in New York City that day of September 11 over a band dinner, and later, he and I continued the discussions, as he shared his writing and poems from those days. I took some of his pieces and crafted a poem as gift back to him and his memories.

And finally, today is also the birthday of my youngest son — born a few years after 2001 but on the same day — and each year, as the world grieves in memories, my wife and I remind him and ourselves, and everyone else we know, that his presence is a gift of beauty and love to the world on a day often shrouded in loss.

Peace (to all),
Kevin

 

 

Book Review: Amber & Clay

Amber and Clay | A Mighty Girl

Laura Amy Schlitz’s Amber & Clay is an epic, all right, and told with a variety of narrative styles — Greek poetry, traditional prose, artifacts — that bring us deep into Greek Culture in Ancient Athens, as the lives of Rhaskos (a boy born free who becomes enslaved) and Melisto (a girl of means who dies too young) are entwined by the magic of the Gods.

Clay is Rhaskos, whose talent with art and clay is enhanced with the help of Hermes and Hephastias, among others, and whose role as a slave in Athens fuels the story forward. Amber is Melisto, the wayward daughter of an aristrocratic family. As a young girl honoring Artemis, she is struck by lightning during an important ceremony, and then bound as a spirit to Rhaskos by his mother (a slave in Melisto’s family).

As the story progresses, we come to learn that the trial of Socrates in Athens (and his death sentence) will play a large role in Rhaskos’ decisions that eventually free him, with the help of Melisto as his guiding spirit.

I appreciated the story, and the ways the story was told, and Schlitz’s talent for recreating Athens in all of its glory and follies (the sentencing to death of Socrates for being wise and questioning is long been viewed as a monumental mistake of hubris by the leaders of the city) is admirable. She weaves in voices of mortals and gods with verve and characters, and brings the loose ends together by the close of this novel.

As someone interested in writing, I also thoroughly enjoyed her author’s notes, where she writes about the struggle to balance verse with prose, and how her characters helped her find a way forward. She also explains how she used her research and historical records to underpin the story of these two young people, whose trajectories collide just when they need to, with the help of the magic of the gods and something akin to love.

Peace (pray the Gods hear),
Kevin

Slice of Life: A Library With No Librarian Is Still a Place of Books

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

When I started teaching at my school, many years ago, a budget crunch meant that our school had no librarian. The library was mostly dark during the school days. It was a travesty I could not understand as a new teacher, as a lover of books, as someone who knows the power of a library and a librarian to spark a love of reading and learning.

Well, we’re back to that situation again.

The community where I teach voted down a budget last year that has meant many cuts at the school, and one of the most dramatic is that we did not replace our librarian, who left for another job, and the library is dark again.  I don’t know if we will even have a paraprofessional or volunteer in there to check out books. It’s unclear right now.  I also don’t know if we lost our budget for buying new books for the library. Gaw. (Another ramification of the budget cuts is a reduction in hours of our amazing school nurses — something else I have trouble wrapping my head around, particularly in a Pandemic).

I don’t cast blame on my principal, who did the best she could with the budget she was given, and she was able to keep Art and Music and Physical Education through creative scheduling, etc. I’m grateful for that.

But to lose the library (not lose, maybe, as I am sure we will come up with a plan to bring students there to get books .. I hope) from our regular school day, as a place of literacy and instruction and fun, is difficult and unsettling, and I am still grappling with that change as our school year begins.

Peace (and books),
Kevin