Slice of Life: Reflections Of An Intermittent Writer

Thank you, Slice of Life friends, for taking the time to visit my blog on the days when I wrote and shared. As I wrote on the days before March, I gave myself permission this year to wander in and out when I felt the inspiration. I kept to that.

But as always, I appreciated when I did write, and when folks came by here to read and comment, and I certainly enjoyed the days when I wandered through the Slice blogs to see what others were up to.

The fact that hundreds of educators were writing together and connecting together has to be cause for celebration. It shows the power of writing, and the possibilities of online connected spaces, too.

Peace (and words),

Slice of Life: Obsessing Over A Single Word

Each morning, I write a poem (see my collection, if curious), mostly from one word prompts over at Mastodon. This morning, the word was “quill” and I wrote a short piece of three stanzas, and then moved on to other things. But something didn’t feel right and that disquiet kept pulling my mind back to the poem. I had added a single word at the last line of the poem, and as I ruminated on it, it didn’t work. And it bothered me. A lot.

These mornings poems are quick writing exercises so I usually don’t worry too much about them, but something about this one, and that one word, bugged me. I had to go back, edit and revise, and remove, the word, and when I did, I had that feeling of, yep, that’s better.

A Quill To Quiet The World

The word was “crazy” had been before “world” in the above poem (but crazy is now removed), and I had added it late at first to give alliteration to “quill” (the one word prompt) and “quiet” but the rhythm was off for me. The removal of the “crazy” (interpret that move metaphorically, if you want) put my mind at ease.

Weird, the way the writing brain works, right?

Peace (and Poems),

Slice of Life/Silent Sunday: A Face In The Woods

Silent Sunday

Normally, for Silent Sunday, I don’t write a thing — I just share a pic with no text. But since this is doing double duty as Slice of Life, I’ll explain that I was walking through some nearby woods on a hike, and noticed that someone had come through with a chainsaw to clear trees from the last winter storm, and left a face on a tree to greet walkers like myself. It was a delightful discovery.

Peace (and Surprise),

Slice of Life: It’s Quidditch Season, Baby

Those who have followed my writing in the past (hey, nice to see you!) know that our school plays a cray cray version of Quidditch. But like so many other things, the entire Quidditch extravaganza was put on pause for a few years, due to the Pandemic.

Well, we decided to bring it back this year, and we’re gearing up for a Quidditch Championship Day in April for the four sixth grade classes to play against each other (and then a night game of students versus teachers), and students are in the midst of doing training in Gym class, working on a variety of art projects (posters, brooms, etc), designing and writing about sports plays and more.

Quidditch 2023

Each class decides on a team name and my class chose “Frostbite” as the name, and yesterday, the entire sixth grade was in the cafeteria, working on making their own team t-shirts (it was a half day, for conferences, so it made sense to allocate some time) that they will wear for the Quidditch Championship.

If you are curious about how we play the game (it was originally created by a student and our Physical Education teacher, and then has been adapted with different rules over the years by other students, and teachers. It’s played in our gym – and is not at all like the college version), check out the video we made years ago (it has 11,000+ views) to encourage other schools to play.


Peace (on the Quidditch Pitch),

Slice of Life: Spring Equinox

At lunch, we all were talking about the shift from winter to spring with the equinox but not one of us knew the exact time.

One colleague said it would happen at 4:55 pm and another said, no, it is 5:10 pm, while another thought 5:15 pm was the time of seasonal change.

To be honest, I had no idea, and later, I looked it up.

At 5:24 pm, eastern time, yesterday, we shifted from winter into spring.


Peace (and pondering),

Slice Of Life/OpenWrite: Bewildered By AI

Since December, when ChatGPT arrived, I’ve been paying close attention to how the advancements of Artificial Intelligence have been playing out. I wrote a column about its impact on education in our local newspaper and I’ve played with many of the tools arriving seemingly daily that integrate AI into the act of writing.

I’m still bewildered by it all. I can certainly see the possibilities but also worry about the unforeseen elements of these AI systems pushed out into the public, with few guardrails or weak parameters. We just don’t know how people will use the AI tools, and that’s a concern, I think.

I don’t necessarily arrive at the AI evolution from a negative standpoint, thinking it will be the end of the world as we know it. I am open to the wonder of technology. I remain very curious. I do believe AI will change teaching and learning in many ways, although how and when is still undetermined. I just hope that change isn’t reduced to writing essays in little blue notebooks again. I hope we educators look at our teaching practice, critically, and revamp to make inquiry and creativity at the heart of what we want our students to do.

This morning, over at the OpenWrite at Ethical ELA, the prompt for poetry was to consider using an AI site for playing with poetry, but I found I didn’t want to do that today. Instead, I found myself writing a poem about being bewildered by AI, particularly about how our own words — put out here in blogs and other online spaces — are probably what is feeding the AI databases, and when we write a prompt for the AI to write to, it’s probably regurgitating back with our own words, just jumbled and jangled up, and tied with a technological bow.

Isn’t that strange to think about?

Here’s my morning poem:

Let me sit a moment
in this silence,
reduced to the hum
of a machine, at rest

It’s bewildering, at best,
this database, the way
predictive text paints
a poem with someone else’s

or maybe inked of our own,
you never know –
some scraps of writing
past might now be
nestled inside the box,
boomeranged back
with a prompt

But I won’t even
recognize myself,
reduced to numbers
and noise;

What’s long gone
gets gobbled up,
and the future,
still a pencil mark away

Write At Rest

Peace (and Purpose),

Slice of Life: Scenes From The Storm

Other communities west of us, and higher elevation than us, got hit much harder and many people lost power, so we counted ourselves lucky, but the Nor’easter that slammed in here yesterday with a wallop still dropped a good amount of very heavy snow where I live.

I took our dog to the nearby school so she could run around and get some energy out, and took some images that capture a deserted school on a winter day.

The Buddy Bench, in particular, caught my eye, with the ways the lettering lets us see through to the scene behind the bench.

Buddy Bench

And the rest:

Jungle Gym
Tire Swing
Water Faucet

Peace (and snow),

Slice of Life: A Smile To Light The World

I often have to pick up my son from his high school. It’s not a straight route from my school, so it takes longer than I’d like and it can be more frustrating than it needs to be.

Every day, like yesterday, I see another high school student – a young woman — walking in the opposite direction, and I swear, there is not a day that she doesn’t have the biggest, brightest smile on her face.

It’s one of those smiles that makes you want to smile, too, and seeing her is a nice counter to feeling frustrated by the drive. The world needs more smiles like hers.

Peace (and Happy),

Slice of Life: A Scent Of Spring

Enter the greenhouse at Smith College this time of year, and your first reaction is to merely stand still and close your eyes. Close your eyes and breathe deep. Breathe in the scent of flowers of many varieties, all in bloom. Outside, although it is a sunny March day, snow still remains on the ground. A Nor’easter storm is bearing down. Winter remains, a stubborn creature. But here, in this glass enclosure, contained and curated, the bulbs for the annual show have come into bloom, and the result is a magnificent reminder for the senses that the season is in the midst of shift. Soon, there will be no need for a greenhouse enclosure. No need to wait in line with other people for the experience. No need to follow the crowd along a designated path. Soon, the sleepy seeds of the soil will be coming up in yards and flower beds and in random places not yet known. Soon, yes, but not quite yet.

Smith College Bulb Show

Peace (and Flowers),

Slice of Life: The Kid Goes Flying By

I can’t quite believe that our youngest son is a high school senior, with college on the horizon and just a few more months in our city’s school system.

Sometimes, the transitions in our lives ahead become crystal clear.

Yesterday, I drove more than three hours into New York City to reach the New York Armory to see him run for less than a minute with his high school indoor track relay team at the Nike Indoor Nationals.

It seems absurd when you consider the hours of travel versus the time of running like that, and I could have watched the webcast from the comfort of home, but it was important to me, and to him, that I make the drive, to send him encouragement from the stands, to be there to support him.

In his pink shoes, at the sound of the starting gun, he was flying, going so fast from starting line to the baton handoff with his teammate that he was nearly a blur from the stands, disappearing as I tried to capture the moment on my phone while shouting encouragement.

Everything becomes metaphor at some point, doesn’t it?

Driving back home later that night (he is staying in the city with teammates, to cheer on another crew of runners who will compete today), I was complaining to myself in the car about the long drive (it was raining) but then reminding myself: hold on to these kinds of moments because they won’t be available much longer.

Peace (in the Time Passing),

PS — his Speed Medley Relay (SMR) team came in 7th place, out of 30 teams.