Meme: Passion Quilt

I am SO late getting to this meme called Passion Quilt. Someone tagged me (darn it, I can’t remember who!! If it you, sorry) and I spaced out on it but I am interested. This was started by Miguel over Around the Corner and the meme is to find a picture for a virtual quilt that represents your passion for teaching.

I know I just used this photo for my Slice of Life, but it does represent something powerful to me: young people seeking out the good in each other and finding words to praise those actions and deeds and words.

So here is my entry for the Passion Quilt

Miguel provides three simple Meme rules:

  • Post a picture from a source like FlickrCC or Flickr Creative Commons or make/take your own that captures what YOU are most passionate about for kids to learn about…and give your picture a short title.
  • Title your blog post “Meme: Passion Quilt” and link back to this blog entry.
  • Include links to 5 folks in your professional learning network or whom you follow on Twitter/Pownce.

So, whom do I tag?

Peace (in connecting strands),
Kevin

Bob, the palindrome video (by Weird Al)

This video was shared over at the collective Teach.Eng.Us site by Linus but it had me laughing so hard, I just had to share it out. It’s a Dylan homage (does Weird Al do homage or just farce?) and uses palindromes.

Very funny.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/RCG2E6AtNfc" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Peace (in backwards and frontwards words),
Kevin

Slice of Life, Chapter 13

(This is part of the Slice of Life Project)

Duck! There is a snitch flying over your head. But don’t duck too fast or you’ll get creamed by a bludger. And then there is also the quaffle to avoid as the chaser is moving fast towards the goal with just one thing in mind: score.

Phew!

Standing in the middle of our field of Quidditch is dangerous work but as the “coach” of a fledgling team, grounded perhaps by lack of magic but wound up by the chance to play a magical game, I am trying to keep track of three or four different layers of the game going on at once. The beater is trying to nail the opponents (with a soft ball) to knock them out of play for five seconds; the chasers are weaving in and out of people, attempting to score on the keeper in the goal; and the seekers have their Quidditch cups raised high in the air, moving to scoop the flying snitch (ie, foxtail) as it floats through the air after a release from the sideline launchers.

I’m barking out advice — “go for the corners — the corners! — good!” — and encouraging my team — “excellent block … now find the open player … that’s it!” — and singing praises for the entire group — “you guys are fantastic out there!”

It’s crazy, I tell you. And a whole load of fun.

This week officially begins Quidditch season for our sixth graders, who will compete in a day-long tournament in front of the entire school in April. It’s not all about the winning. Not exactly. It’s about teamwork and cooperation and good sportsmanship and physical movement. It’s about coordination and following the action on many levels. It’s about multi-tasking in a physical way. It sometimes is too much for even me to track and I’ve been known to nurture a headache at the end of the day. But the kids just eat it all up.

Our game of Quidditch was first designed and implemented by a student who wanted to bring her love for the concept of Quidditch in Harry Potter to the school. This was about eight years ago now, and our physical education teacher has worked to improve the game every year. All students — even my most needy and disabled students, everyone — are in the mix, getting involved and being part of the team effort. No one gets left out.

Yesterday, I watched from the sidelines as some of my stronger athletic students went out of their way to help some of the not-so-athletic students on the floor. I saw a team starting to gel and I saw our class coming together in a new way. There were no Quidditch hogs on the court yesterday.

I think about this as I remember two students in particular. The first, the most shy and fragile student I think I have ever taught, is on the sidelines, tossing a snitch into the field. That is a major victory in itself. The second student, who has Asperger’s and is diabetic, is running, yes running, down the court as a chaser. A teammate tossed them the quaffle and they catch it and toss it towards the goal. This, too, counts as a major victory. It was more movement and integration into physical activities than I have seen in a long time from either of them. We could quit right now and declare the season a success.

Here is a basic scheme of what our Quidditch Court looks like (and if you click on the photo, it will bring you to a Flickr site with written description overlays on the picture itself of various positions).

quidditch field

Peace (in play),
Kevin

PS — I know it’s not about winning but my class won the tournament last year for the first time and it was pretty exciting. Our team name was Arctic Shock! The kids are working on brainstorming a name for this year’s team.

Women of the Web 2.0: Darfur Project

I had the pleasure of joining some very smart teachers on the Women of the Web 2.0 Webcast this week (the second one I popped into — I also checked out It’s Elementary Webcast with good friend, Matt Needleman, earlier in the week,. If I make it to tonight’s Teachers Teaching Teachers, it will be a three-fur, but I don’t think that is going to happen. Some of the family is going away for five days and we need to some family time).

The WOW Webcast was all about the Many Voices for Darfur Project and it was great to hear Wendy and George talk about how they connected and then brought other teachers into the mix.

You can listen to the webcast here.

Or head to the WOW page at EdTech Talk and take a look at the chat room transcripts.

The hosts were gracious and open and accommodating to all of the guests, and I am still hoping to move my students into some kind of social action beyond the blogging. This was part of the conversation last night: what next?

Peace (in webcasts),
Kevin

Day in a Sentence: Off to Australia

Day in Sentence Icon

This week’s Day in a Sentence moves away from the continental United States and rests on the blog of our good friend, Anne M., from Australia. Anne invites you to join her Day in a Sentence adventure at her lovely named blog: ejourneys with technokids.

Come along for the journey and boil your week down to a sentence (with the option of using a VoiceThread — which everyone should try) and then share with our ever-expanding community of teacher-writers. You are cordially invited, wherever you are and whomever you are.

Peace (in traveling in virtual space),
Kevin

Slice of Life, Chapter 12

(This is part of the Slice of Life Project)

It was all about praise in my classroom yesterday. Our school is part of the Peacebuilder’s network and The Responsive Classroom, which means that we work on a social curriculum designed to foster positive peer interaction. I’m not always sure how much my students buy into it, though. They seem to just drone out our morning Peacebuilder’s Pledge that asks them to seek out wise friends, notice the hurts they cause and make ammends,etc.

It has become just words rolling off their lips. I can tell and it bothers me. It’s not that I am all into Peacebuilders program, per se, but I am into peace and the cooperative nature of my classrooms. I know that not every student is going to get along with every other student every day of the week, but I certainly expect them to respect each other as individuals.

Yesterday, I tried to move them into a place where such ideas make sense to them in a meaningful way. We began converting some of the walls of my classroom into a Praise Wall. We use colored sheets of paper where students can write notes in praise of each other. This is not about telling your friend that you like them. It’s not about false praise. It’s not a contest to see who gets the most praise. It’s about recognizing the actions of others by identifying them as people, explaining the things that make them noticed, and then signing off on the note.

As you can imagine, this is a mixed bag of messages for my 11 and 12 year olds, but most of them got it, I think. Each of my four classes spent time building the wall with their words and even those kids who seem to fall outside of the traditional circles of friends were being praised. Such things warm my heart, I don’t mind saying.

Here are a few of the words that now don my wall. They all begin with praise for an individual:

  • for being there when I feel bad. You are always a pal.
  • for helping me in math when the teacher is busy.
  • for picking up those pencils in library when nobody else was watching.
  • for always asking me if I am OK.
  • for standing by me through thick and thin.
  • for helping me up when I fell down into that deep puddle.

I was helping a student with some writing when another of my students tapped me on the shoulder.

“Mr. H,” she said, holding up a pink Praise Note. “I wrote something for you.”

I took the paper. She was praising me “for caring about the people of Darfur and working to help people other than himself.” I smiled and thanked her, but what I really wanted to do was give her a warm hug (not allowed, of course). She made my day.

Peace (everywhere and all the time),
Kevin

Slice of Life, Chapter Eleven

( I seem to have been off a day with my chapters, so I am skipping Chapter 10 and moving right into Chapter 11).

(This is part of the Slice of Life Project)

The sun was bright so the older boys were out — one on a bike ride around the neighborhood and the other on a walk with a friend. Neither went out the door with a jacket, so I almost yelled at them to get back in here and bundle up. Then, I figured: what’s the use? There’s freedom in being able to abandon your jacket for the fresh air. I let it go. There’s too much snow on the ground, though, and there was a biting nip left in the air. But still … still … Spring is inching its way closer, I can tell.

I thought about this as I went out in the backyard to put some rotting veggies and fruits in the compost bin (our little effort to cut down on the landfill and create some black gold). I came upon what remains of our Christmas tree poking up through a pile of ice and snow. I felt the urge to dangle an angel on the top, just as a way of angling my faith for warmer weather. My youngest son spied the Christmas tree out the window and he demanded to know what it is doing there. He doesn’t understand that it has been there for months and only now, with the thaw, is it coming back into view. (We had to remove the tree from the house in the dead of the night to avoid separation anxiety. It was like a spy operation, although more like Maxwell Smart than James Bond.).

I told him that we will soon burn the Christmas tree and use the darkened ash for our garden, bringing its spirit into our world in a different way. He is alarmed at this, however. He doesn’t understand how fire can be something that is good since fire is so hot. Later, he back at the window. A little bit more of the tree was now visible, thanks to the emerging Spring. And the wreath wasn’t far away.

“Christmas tree. The wreath,” he whispers to himself. Standing behind him, I give him a hug and, together, at the window, we wait for the spring melt to continue in our yard and wonder what other treasures might reappear from beneath the white cover of snow.

Peace (in the backyard),
Kevin

Slice of Life, Chapter Nine

(This is part of the Slice of Life Project)

I’m going to call this The Story of the Magical Manicotti Mood Swing.

Let me set the stage: Three year old boy. Daylight Savings Time has ripped an hour from the clock. Lunch was little more than a nibble of humus and crackers and strawberries. Long hours of playing with dad. Forgotten snacktime. Van ride over the river is just enough time to doze off but not enough time to nap. Suddenly, starvation and tiredness sinks in.

It’s tantrum time.

Get situated at the dining room table and slide a plate of spinach manicotti in front of him. Calms down enough to be interested. Wipes tears from eyes. Stops screaming. Begins eating like there is no tomorrow. Then, raises the index finger of left hand high up in the air, forcing his body upward towards the ceiling.

Me: What are you doing?

Him: My finger is a potato (giggles)

Me: A potato?

Him: (ignores the question) My name is …. Apple.

Me (now confused): Apple?

Him (laughing, with manicotti sauce on his lips): My name is … Banana.

Me: Oh.

Laughing, laughing, laughing. That manicotti was working its magic last night.

Peace (in the ups and downs of the day),
Kevin

Your Days as a Couplet

You know, you are an amazing group of writers. Here I am, throwing out the concept of boiling your days down into a couplet and you don’t blink an eye. You get down to it and start writing and start sharing and you blow me away every week. I am thankful for everyone who participated again this week. I am thankful to know all of you through your writing.

Thank you.

Here are your couplets:

I got a chuckle out of Saras, as I know she has a birthday coming up (or has it come and gone?).

where did the years go from 6th grade ’til now?
the last birthday in the twenties, coming up – ka-pow!

Mary brought us into her classroom. Mary is part of a new technology team that I have put together.

digital stories all about fractions
Posters made to show all the actions!

Anne H. has long been looking at how technology is both used and mis-used and she is a colleague at the Western Massachusetts Writing Project.

A computerized tutorial program that responds to emotions–
What brave new world brings such notions?

Kathryn answered my call on Twitter (yeah!)

Bad time management and should have gone home
Instead distracted by twitter not work and writing this poem

Nothing like a load of grading to weigh you down, right, Cynthia? She writes:

Doth not it seem yon English teacher is just a bit uptight?
Perhaps grading those darn research papers hath kept her up all night.

Jane is part of the Slice of Life blog project that I discovered and jumped into, and I am happy that that she posted for this project. But I am sad she is in a bit of pain.

The train of my life has gone off the track
Derailed by the pain in my sore lower back.

Karen (who may have also ventured here from the Twitter world?)first informs us, “This is my week, so far, in a nutshell (or nuthouse, as the case may be)”:

Grading! Grading! Report cards are due!
Teacher is wishing she had the flu.

Elona crams a lot into her two lines. First, she writes: My week? What can I say except,

Anxious, confused, frustrated my students and I are
Research projects, tag clouds, wiki, Voki avatar

The weather impinged upon Barbara, and she isn’t so happy about it.

Old man winter, plaguing us with rain, wind, and snow
Closed school? ) tacking snow days to the end, ( OH NO!

Ben B. once again weaves wit with words.

Much food and few people was I then with
At a free seminar on one Adam Smith.

Karen prefaces her poem with the following thought: This couplet is about something that’s been on my mind for a few days.

If March comes in with wind that will blow
Is it a lion or lamb, and how will it go?

And Aram made a discovery of the unpleasant kind.

Her poem surprised me, so deep, so gifted.
One google later, I found it was lifted.

Aram adds: That’s how it goes, lately, Kevin.

Sue is waiting for the tube to catch her class.

This week was exciting, and the students can’t wait to see
if our local news station will be covering their podcasting on TV!

And, she adds: “Yes, This can become addicting…”

Larry, Larry, Larry. You did fine. Here is his note: “As you read this couplet, be aware that in college my poetry instructor wrote this in my final class evaluation: `Larry did write one good poem this semester.’”

At school and at the gym, at basketball I’m trying harder,
but no matter what I do, I stay at mediocre.

Jo got inspired by one of her students. She explains, “this is a bit ironic when you know that the student in question spends most of his class time, once he finally arrives, trying to covertly text message. With the number of zeros he’s accumulated, he’s doing pretty well to have as high a failing grade as he does. ;)

Her couplet:

“You’re the hardest teacher here!” said a student.
I smiled and said, “I take that as a compliment.

And Bonnie was the reluctant poet this week. Reluctant, but brave.

Snowstorms last weekend, floods today.
And Mother Nature just keeps on laughing away.

Next week, the host of the roving Day in a Sentence will be Anne M. from Australia, so be on the look-out for that announcement and join Anne on another writing adventure.

Peace (in verse),
Kevin

Slice of Life, Chapter Eight

(This is part of the Slice of Life Project)

Last night, I was accused of being a “Northampton Nationalist.” I accept that label, with pride. Northampton is the city where I live and it is a wonderful little place, with a vibrant downtown full of the arts and restaurants and music clubs. The outskirts where I own a home is a peaceful place. It is a neighborhood of giving and supportive people. I love that we are raising our family here.

The comment about my nationalism came following a Letter to the Editor that I wrote to the local newspaper on the topic of our city’s Poet Laureate program. It was published yesterday morning. This is the second time the city has chosen someone who does not live within our city for the post and it completely befuddles me. I know the reason — they want a higher profile — but I can’t fathom why we can’t have someone who lives here representing poetry for our residents. (The two Poet Laureates who are the outsiders are this year’s Leslee Newman — a talented writer and educator — and Martin Espada — a fantastic political poet). We even have a very active Poet Society that puts on shows and readings and events.

The playful accusation came during a large block party called The Spring Blues, in which more than 150 neighbors, complete with hordes of kids, gathered together to eat 35 pizzas and try to win an assortment of prizes (ie, junk) in a fun-filled raffle that also raises money for our neighborhood civic association. We did not want the cast-iron potbelly stove nor the doggy shade tent, but we came home with a box of baseball cards, 15 small rubber duckies, a large fire truck (the catch of the night for the three year old), a white stuffed bear and a potato gun (there’s gonna be trouble, I can tell).

Eight people at the party pulled me aside to agree with my letter to the newspaper, so I guess I was on to something.

Here is my letter:

I am writing to both praise and question the city’s Poet Laureate program. I heap plenty of kudos on the initiative because, as a writer and as a teacher of young writers, I think the role of a City Poet is such a wonderful concept. I love that we as a city can celebrate writing and poems in this way and that the Poet Laureate is designated to act as a sort of ambassador into the world of rhythm and rhyme and verse. What I don’t understand is how we can be choosing Poet Laureates who don’t actually live in Northampton and then call them the Northampton Poet Laureate. This is not to be considered criticism about Leslee Newman, who is a fantastic writer and who works diligently with others to promote the power of writing. (I also understand she used to live here but no longer does). I know there may be a desire for a higher-profile person on the part of the selection committee. But I believe that we have such talent in Northampton itself and such a diverse group of writers that we should be able to choose someone who is now living in the city and who is part of our city life to be the designee. It strikes me as wrong that we need to seek talent from outside our community. I would rather have our poets come from within the city itself.

Peace (in pizza and life slices),
Kevin