Poetry: In the Time of Troubadours

I listened to the new Dylan album (Rough and Rowdy Ways) and it’s pretty good, with him in more control of his voice and some lush production at times, as well as some old-school blues. To think he’s been doing this — releasing music (some great, some not so great) — for nearly 60 years is pretty amazing, even if you are not a fan of Dylan.

This morning’s poem is about Dylan and listening to him in my earbuds:

Gravel-voiced troubadour,
my ears are ringing
with your singing,
the way you’re always
bringing characters
into song;

A lyric
is a poem
is a story
is a commentary,
exposing shadowed light
with a turn of phrase
forgotten in the night

We’re all still lifting
so many songs of self,
sixty years of music
sleeves, yet you belong
to somewhere else

Peace (singing it),

Poetry: Sometimes Jazz Inspires Words

The last live concert I went to was for jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington, and it was such a great show, as his compositions weave funk, jazz, Afro-beat and more into complex pieces of art. I created a Pandora station based on Kamasi Washington and was listening intently to his music again, and I found this poem in the back of my mind this morning.

I’m listening,
I’m listening

I’m here in this space
of song with your horn,
reveling in the something
beyond echoes of Shepp,
Shorter, Bird, Cannonball,
Kirk, Sanders, Trane;

This exquisite, complicated
melody brushing up against
rhythm, heartbeat, rhythm
as you’re singing your history,
with your saxophone,

and I’m listening,
I’m listening

Peace (augment those chords),

Teacher Reflections: What Worked/What Didn’t with Distance Learning

Distance Learning Pros Cons

I facilitated a workshop with colleagues the other day on using Google Classroom with students, but first, I brought us all into a collaborative document to write and reflect together on the previous three months of unanticipated Distance Learning. I was curious to know the pros and cons of our work now that we had a moment to take a breath together. The chart above gathers some main themes from what we wrote about, together. I suspect there might be some universal themes from teachers in other places.

Peace (gathering it together),

PS — And now this is all of us:

You Call This Summer?

Words as Music: JazzKey and Poetry

A poem, A song

Two CLMOOC friends, Wendy and Terry, were playing around with a site called JazzKeys and I was curious. It’s a site that turns the typing of words into music, and it’s a small bit of loveliness, really. I tried it out and dug it, the way a poem has a soundtrack built on the physical typing of the letters themselves.

What I found was that I was tried to write in a certain rhythm, as I was listening to the jazz piano play with every keystroke. Although I wrote the poem on the spot, I redid the poem at the site a few times because I am apt to make spelling errors with my quick finger typing method, and I decided not to keep them. I wanted a clean copy (although one could argue that a poem written, rife with errors and music, might be more authentic and interesting)

Here’s how you can listen to my poem: https://jazzkeys.plan8.co/?msg=-MA0enUc_DVFV8VwKfUP (or if you prefer, the other color-schemed version https://jazzkeys.plan8.co/?msg=-MA0bvPmpbJBlXhv7mIz)

Try it out yourself: https://jazzkeys.plan8.co/

Peace (playing it),

Slice of Life: The Reverse Parade

One tradition at our elementary school on the last day of school is that the entire staff comes out to the front of the school and the buses with students drive around and around (and around) the bus loop so we can all wave goodbye and welcome everyone into summer.

Not this year, obviously.

But the principal wisely organized a Reverse Parade, in which we staff members lined up on both sides of the school parking area (with social distancing and masks on) as families drove cars with their kids to the school and slowly made their way across the grounds as we cheered and waved and shouted, “Have a good summer!” to each other.

There were more than 300 vehicles, I’d estimate (and maybe closer to 400) as the line stretched from the school parking lot way down the street. I guess we all need some closure to the school year, and for families, this was an “outing” and the “event” of the day, no doubt, as kids made elaborate signs to hold and car windows were painted with beautiful pictures and words.

I saw many of my sixth graders, maybe for the last time for a long time (as they move forward to the regional middle school). I felt a little sad, again, about not having proper closure with the class, as would normally happen. A wave through the window of a car is nice, but still lacked a finality to a school year.

Goodbye, School Year

Peace (rolling through slowly),

Pandemic Diary Entry (Three Months In at the End)

In mid-April, I wrote and recorded an audio diary entry about what it meant to have been gone from our physical school for a month. With the three month mark the other day as we held our Step Up Day ceremonies with sixth graders, and with another visit to my classroom as it was being dismantled for summer cleaning, I decided to do a second audio journal entry. Maybe I’ll come back for a third entry in August, gathering some reflective ideas from the moments we are in, with the impact of the Pandemic on us as teachers and learners.

Peace (thinking on it),

PS — Here is my April entry


Poetry: Whose Name Goes Here

Daisy Remembered

Daisy Remembered by Kinglear55

The recent controversy over the names of military bases after Confederate Generals is part of a larger discussion about race and symbols and American ideals. I was reading through a piece about the ten bases named after Civil War generals from the defeated South (Seriously, how was Bragg even considered? The guy was a military failure), and I remembered my own time as a soldier training for five months at Fort Gordon in Georgia, when the name of the place meant nothing to me.

But names are important. They remind us. And the naming of public institutions, like military bases, should reflect the common good, not the push by a few to hold on to a defeated past.

This poem came as I was thinking on all of this, and I definitely advocate the changing of the names of the ten bases under review right now by military leaders and Congress (but apparently, not the president).

Beauregard / Benning / Bragg
Gordon / Hill / Hood / Lee
Pickett / Polk / Rucker

Soldiers / Rebels / Bases
Icons / Symbols / Racists
Past / Present / Faces

Hurt / Anger / Pain
Loss / History / Story
Forget / Remember / Again

Peace (don’t forget),

Book Review: The One and Only Bob

Bob ain’t Ivan.

That sounds snarky and negative, so let me say upfront that I thoroughly enjoyed The One and Only Bob, except I really missed the voice of Ivan, the silverback gorilla of The One and Only Ivan, in my head. Bob, Ivan’s close dog friend, is the narrator of this sequel, which centers on a storm and tales of survival.

In the original book, inspired by a true story of a gorilla being kept cruelly captive in a shopping mall, Ivan’s voice is so unique — the use of flow, of language, of pacing, of syntax — that I can still hear Ivan when I pass the book over to students with a “must read” recommendation. Bob, on the other hand, is unique, too, in his way, but he sounds to my ears a bit too much like a person at times.

It’s not fair for me to compare Bob to Ivan, but Ivan will always be the one and the only Ivan.

Luckily, Ivan is still a big part of Bob’s life. He makes not only an appearance in The One and Only Bob, but the gorilla is crucial to the storyline at multiple junctures. Ivan’s presence is everywhere, as it should be. And Bob’s voice, too, emerges more strongly as the story moves into gear. Maybe it took me, the reader, time to get into the flow of Bob, after putting Ivan aside.

Bob’s adventures here unfold gradually, picking up a few years after the first book, and it’s a huge storm that propels Bob into bravery he didn’t know he had and on rescue missions that force him into action he’d rather avoid. We also slowly get his family backstory, a rich narrative that moves into the main plot.

I’d recommend The One and Only Bob for elementary and middle school readers, and maybe pair it up with The One and Only Ivan, too. (I guess a movie version is in the works). You can’t miss with Katherine Applegate, really.

Peace (more than one and more than only),