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

Slice of Life: And So The Year Begins …

(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.)

 

 

 

On this day
before the
first days
of school,
the dreamers
in us remember
long nights of
wonder and
worry, the
unknown spinning
us forward
into something
unfocused
and still a
bit blurry;
each year begins
with a single
step of pause,
then comes
the hurry

Peace (at the start of it all),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Sometimes, A Tree Falls

(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.)

The hurricane on Sunday and into Monday was not as bad as it could have been here, but we still had strong winds and lots of rain.  The river down the street is raging. And, alas, a tree fell from a neighbor’s yard smack dab into our yard, right over our fence line.

Tree FallI know this happens. It’s nature. It’s part of life. It was a storm. It could have been a lot worse.

We’re lucky it didn’t hit the house and we’re lucky that I moved a glass-top table we usually have near that part of the yard for outdoor gatherings. No one was hurt. It’s still frustrating because it was a lovely tree, providing some nice shade on summer days, and now I am calling around, trying to find a tree service who can help remove it.

I guess if we learned one thing last year, it is to go with the flow, adjust as needed, and keep things moving forward. I’ll be on the phone today again, with tree companies, and chatting with my neighbor about her lost tree and my damaged fence.

Peace (rooted),
Kevin

 

 

Slice of Life: Noticing The Moments As Poems

(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.)

Summer ain’t over yet but it’s getting there … so I am trying to quiet my mind a bit before the frantic start of a new school year, using my daily morning poetry to notice moments. It’s sort of like some zen incantation, how writing words as poems of moments of stillness gives the head a chance to pause.

Four Moments

Two small finch
balanced on stems,
nibbling seeds,
their hollow bones
in perfect sync
with summer flower,
fluttering, bending,
but holding steady,
swaying in the breeze

The dragonfly
alights to the edge
of the boat,
lands and waits,
as I draw in paddles
to let us float,
its wings a-hover,
a stillness moment
of quiet wonder

They climb the tree
that is a castle
that becomes a cloud
that moves a mountain
that starts a story
that becomes a poem
that looks its way out
on the wider world
where we are only wandering by,
watching

In the aftermath
of the receding,
with the world
painted in brushes
of broken limbs
and damaged parts,
the evening sky
casts us a glow
in pink, amber, blue –
an act of forgiving
while still giving
the storm its due

Peace (sharing it with you),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Stop Me If This Sounds Familiar

(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.)

I was pretty successful in my attempt to not think too much about the new school year throughout the month of July (we ended our year at the end of June). Now things are creeping back into my head, day and into the night, and I am beginning to feel that anxiety increase again.

Someone on Twitter dug up this comic of mine from last year, a comic that seems appropriate again this year, as the Delta variant upends the plans for the start of the new school year.

Educator Insomnia

To be fair, I don’t even know how Delta will affect our school opening in a few weeks. I live in a state with high vaccination rates and the Covid numbers are still fairly moderate. But any elementary school, where kids are too young to be vaccinated, is sure to be a place of concern for families and staff, and students.

And I noticed our public libraries and spaces are shifting back to mask mandates for everyone.  More people are masking up in grocery stores. And my high school son remarked that he just can’t even think about starting a year in remote. My wife, a school librarian, and I are having more conversations about Covid, again.

Suddenly, the return to school is back to the forefront of our lives, and ‘normal’ still remains a distant memory.

Peace (thinking it out loud),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Alone On A Path Through The Woods By A Lake

(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.)

Yesterday, due to circumstances,  I found myself hiking an unknown path all alone (usually when I hike, my wife and/or sons are with me). The trail in this conservation area was well-maintained by some Eagle Scout, apparently, and there was no one else around. Nobody at all.

I stepped forward at a leisurely pace, wary of the bugs (ticks!) in this rainy season, and soon was lost in thought as the path wound around what the maps called a pond but which was clearly a large lake. The high water levels cut off some connected trails, leading me to interesting dead ends and views of the water, before I was forced to circle back and continue on an alternative route.

The only distraction was noise from a nearby highway. But birds out-whistled cars at points, and the farther I went in, the farther away I was from the noise pollution. I took a chance on an unmarked path at one point, and felt a little lost, but used the water as my navigation point, and eventually circled back to known terrain.

Hike and lake

Why am I writing this? Quiet moments may not have a lot of drama, but they force you to notice the world. I could also easily dig deeper into what I just wrote — on the surface, about a solo hike — and find metaphorical points with which to climb. But I won’t. I’ll just leave it as a hike in the woods by a lake. The perfect kind of summer Slice of Life, I think.

Peace (in the terrain),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Poems for Planet Earth

(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.)

A few weeks ago, I noticed a “call for artists” through our local public library, for an exhibit they were pulling together about healing, health and the state of our planet. They were seeking videos, art and writing. Intrigued, I decided to try my hand at some poems — five short poems — with environmental themes, and I sent them in, and then I forgot all about it (as I am apt to do).

The other day, I found out that the library art gallery had accepted three of the five poems I sent in for its “In This Together: Virtual Exhibit on Planetary and Human Health” display. I feel honored to be among the 41 local artists (some of the other pieces in the collection are really amazing to look at — particularly the visual artworks).

This is from the gallery description:

As we emerge slowly from the Covid-19 pandemic, we reflect on how it has changed us, the environment we live in, and our outlook. While our societies and our world are still in the midst of enormous changes, how do we feel about our role? How has the past year impacted how we relate to the environment and to each other? Have our priorities changed?

abstract photo by Faith Kaufmann

via Hosmer Gallery, Northampton, MA

My three poems can be found here, here and here.

As a poet writing daily throughout the Pandemic, I noticed the act of writing has often been rather lonely. (Maybe that always is the case for poets, but the isolation of the lockdowns seemed to make it even more so). I like the idea of a few of my words being part of a local community collective effort to think on the changing Earth, and how the Pandemic is influencing that thinking, that wonder, that warning. To see my words mingled in with other media and art feels right, and satisfying.

I’m not naive. I don’t think poems or poets can change the world. A few verses won’t change policy. Stanzas don’t scale up.

But writing poems can change the poet who writes those poems, I believe, and the time I spent composing the five pieces gave me a chance to sit with the ideas, to mull things over, and try to capture some thoughts that will help me in my own small actions, each day. There were threads across the five pieces that I know are there, threads I made visible to myself that connect to how I can and should view this world we are caretakers of.

What more can a writer do?

Peace (in poems and planets),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Hold On To The Positive (Comic)

(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.)

This is a comic slice, the latest edition to my collection of comics I have been making since the Pandemic began as a way to deal with the turmoil. With this school year over, I am in reflective mode.

Hold On To The Positive

Peace (in panels),
Kevin

Slice of Life: This Is How The School Year Ends

(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.)

In the short but provocative novel Flying Solo by Ralph Fletcher, the classroom of sixth graders has a tradition that they enact whenever someone is set to leave the class during the school year (either by moving or some other event). They conduct a Rock Ritual. The way it works is that the student who is leaving chooses a mineral or stone from a class collection, and then each classmates passes the rock around the circle, telling stories of the student who is leaving. That student takes the rock with them, with the idea that the rock has collected the words, stories and memories.

When we read Flying Solo in the middle of the year, my class of sixth graders all asked if we could do our own version of the Rock Ritual at the end of this crazy Covid year. I said yes, of course, and this morning, on our last day together, we will gather in the classroom to have our ritual (using Ring Pops instead of rocks).

Yesterday, we spent part of our morning with a sheet of all of their names, writing down ideas for the stories we would tell.  (Frequent Question: Can we write about ourselves? Answer: Of course). You should have heard the noise and laughter, and sharing, even though I suggested we wait until today’s actual Ritual to share (this is a rather boisterous and louder-than-usual class of sixth graders that is relentless in its socializing).

I’ll have to circle around another day to really reflect on this year of teaching and learning in the Pandemic, and all that I have learned and wished I had learned, and everything else. For now, I will settle into a final act of Community in the Classroom, as we tell stories of our time together in a year like no other.

Peace (and tradition),
Kevin

Slice of Life: One Final Sentence (as prose poem)

(The Slice of Life Challenge in March has been hosted by Two Writing Teachers as way to encourage teachers-as-writers. There is also a monthly call for Slices on Tuesdays. You can write then, too)

Every Sentence that’s been a Slice has narrowed my writer’s focus to single small moments of time and yet, in constructing the days in this constrained way, each string of words inadvertently left out much more than I could say.

Peace (as prose and poem),
Kevin