SOL 2016 Day 28: Really Only Four Days Left?


Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.

Here I am, having posted for 27 days in a row. Some posts were more successful than on others, depending on the demands of daily life and my involvement level.  That's how writing goes no matter what the task. For a few days now I've been counting down, hoping I could make it to the end of the month. Now that there are only four more posts, including this one, I find myself feeling almost nostalgic. 

I've participated in such online challenges before. For the entire year of 2014, as part of a private Facebook group, I wrote and posted a haiku everyday (well, to be honest, almost every day. I missed 2 or 3). 

Writing haiku became so much a part of my life that I've continued with that group although I  admit I haven't written one every day. But every few days I find a haiku within me to post.

Last year I wrote a poem each day for NaPoWriMo as part of National Poetry Month.  National Poetry Month - April - starting four days from now.

And that's what I've been pondering as I reach the end of the Slice of Life Story Challenge. Am I up for another month of writing and posting? Can I come up with 30 poems? 

I find myself doubting my ability to commit in the same way I felt as March 1st rolled around for Slice of Life. But as I make it to the home stretch of this wonderful journey, I feel that maybe, just maybe I can keep going.

SOL 2016 Day 27: Portland Haiku


Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.

blue grey northwest sky
rain clouds sun playing tag while
spring green dances wild

SOL 2016 Day 20: Spring Equinox Haiku


Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.

I would have thought that on a Sunday I'd have the energy to write a long post, but sadly not. So here is a Sunday haiku instead:

outside the window
olive tree's arched branches bloom
inside poetry

SOL 2016 Day 18: Tiny of Slice of 17 Syllables


Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.


great gallops of fog
rides roughshod over hillsides
luring ocean scent

Learning from Anne Frank's Tree

Leaving the classroom to become a coach for English/Language Arts teachers has left me in a bit of a quandary. I'm still a poet who loves to travel, but am I still a teacher?  Not having papers to grade or report cards or parent conferences anymore has made me more than a little guilty when I talk to my teacher friends. Coaching teachers isn't easy but  facing a class of 30 8th graders is much, much more difficult.  So, am I still a teacher? For the last few months I've wondered if I should continue this blog or change its title. Somehow I wasn't sure I had anything more to say here.

Then I found something I wanted to share.


One of the duties of my new position is writing curriculum that aligns with the Common Core State Standards. I know there is much debate about the new standards, but to me one of the most hopeful aspects of the new English/Language Arts standards is a renewed focus on the meaning of individual pieces of literature. In the former California State Standards, instruction centered around comprehension skills that were then tested with multiple choice questions. Trying to understand the author's real message was often lost. While writing this new curriculum, I've had to dig into texts in a way I have not done since I studied literature in college. It's been exciting.


The other day, while writing about and researching The Diary of Anne Frank, I came across an online project I had never heard of before:  Anne Frank Tree: An Interactive Monument. It has been a long time since I read Anne Frank's diary, and I had forgotten how important the chestnut tree outside her window was to her. She mentioned it over and over. I also didn't know that the actual tree had become diseased and was blown down by high winds on August 23, 2010. However, people had found a way to commemorate both Anne and her tree.


This interactive project is sponsored by Anne Frank House. Individuals can create a message about Anne and how her work inspired or affected them. This message is typed on a "leaf " that joins other messages to create a digital tree as a monument to Anne Frank's memory. As of today 709, 222 people have participated. I thought this would be a wonderful way for students to respond to Anne's story.










The actress Emma Thompson was invited to place the first leaf when the project was unveiled. In the video of her speech introducing the Anne Frank Tree Monument , she shared some interesting insights about Anne and her importance to us all:



Listening to her made me realize that this didn't have to just be for young students. I decided to place my own leaf containing the haiku I had written about Anne. And that haiku led to another one:

immersed in Anne Frank's baby leaves budding
story I still cry for all frothy yellow in sunlight
her lost future words soon they will glow green

I also learned about The Sapling Project. When it became obvious that Anne's tree could not be saved, The Anne Frank House began gathering chestnuts from the tree. These chestnuts were germinated, and the seedlings sent to various organizations around the world. The American Anne Frank Center in New York received 11 saplings that were distributed to places throughout the United States. One sapling was given to Sonoma State University not far from where I live. That tree became a part of the University's Holocaust and Genocide Program. Since discovering this, I plan to visit the tree soon.

Emma Thompson said that Anne Frank's "would haves are our real possibilities." I believe Anne would have liked that phrase. For myself, I think reading Anne's words again has made me see that teaching and writing is not only about making my own possibilities come true but also helping others as well.  

If you have never read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, I urge you to do so. If you have already been touched by her story as I have, perhaps you will write a message on a leaf. 

Happy New Year!

According to history.com, "Civilizations around the world have been celebrating the start of each new year for at least four millennia. The earliest recorded festivities in honor of a new year’s arrival date back some 4,000 years to ancient Babylon." That's a long time.

Just what is it that makes human beings feel the need to celebrate cycles, reflect on our past and wonder about our future? I guess it is one of the things that makes us humans. Since I am not a philosopher, psychologist or minister, I'll leave the whys to someone else. Suffice to say that today I have joined the millions of us around the world who feel the need to do a little reckoning of our lives on this day.

Today my inbox has been filled with blogs from others doing just what I am doing right now. And the problem is that all our musings and reflections are of little use to anyone except ourselves. With the burgeoning of blogs and online sharing of every sort, we often reveal too much too many times. I don't want to fall into that category so I'll just say this:

It's been a strange year for me. I changed jobs after 23 years, and am no longer a classroom teacher. I didn't use my passport once, the first time in over a decade that I didn't travel somewhere internationally. And there have been other strangenesses that are too personal to reveal here.

While much of the year has left me shaken, there is one accomplishment of which I am particularly proud: my daily haiku writing. Over the past 365 days, I have written 365 haiku. I will admit I missed three days (one of them was my birthday for which I can be forgiven), but did make up for those by doing double haiku afterwards. Most of my hundreds of haiku were just plain horrible as far as poetry goes, but some I think actually can be called poems.


Along the way I have had the deep pleasure of being involved in an online Facebook community of fellow haiku writers, most of whom I have never met in person. Even so, I have learned so much about these wonderful people through their haiku. Along the way we have become writing buddies, "liking" and responding to each other's work. It has been a joyous experience. 

So to ring out the old year and welcome the new, what better way than with a haiku? It may not be one of my best but it's the last of 2014.

                          day scrubbed shiny clean
                          sunlight streaming through windows 
                          new year's eve wishes 

Today I can be thankful... 11/24/14

Yesterday I tried to be thankful. I really did. But I couldn't make myself feel it at all. I wasn't thankful for the sunny morning or the afternoon deluge that left the streets flooded. I wasn't thankful for eating lunch with my teenage niece or dinner with my family. Nothing worked yesterday.

So this morning, I tried again. Here in Portland, it's a crisp Autumn morning - perfect for taking a walk under tall, yellow-leafed trees, sloshing through piles of wet leaves. Growing up, was my favorite season in the midwest. It is a something I have always missed since moving to California. Here in Portland, I get to experience that beauty again. 


Today I am thankful for those trees and for my two legs that could walk me under them.

Autumn leaves gilded
sun-struck I walk through masses
breath puffs before me

Today I am thankful for... Saturday November 22, 2014

Today in Portland the rain has stopped and there is a hint of blue sky over the roof tops -- at least for now. Sitting in this little condo that I bought with my sister and brother-in-law, I have a few moments to myself before going off to take my mother to see my father. His condition is improving, and he will be moved out of the hospital today. So many things to be thankful for right this moment.

after rain and wind
blue sky morning peeps over
roof tops and bare trees

this small place I build
myself pen paper coffee
hot in a green mug 

Friday November 21, 2014

 I had planned to spend my Thanksgiving holiday with a friend in Calistoga, walking and talking, tasting wine, maybe even having a mud bath for the first time. However, Life (at this time it seems appropriate to give her a capital letter) got in the way. So instead of hanging out and relaxing, I'm sitting in the airport on my way to Portland. My 87-year old father is in the hospital, and I need to go help my mother. 

However, after my initial self-pity and grumbling, I've decided to think of this as an opportunity to stop every day to reflect on something I can thankful for. After all, I'm sitting here at SFO surrounded by travelers going off for their own Thanksgiving holidays. I will get to see my family. That's a good thing.

It's been over a month since I posted to this blog, so this time between security screening and boarding gives me time to reflect. And I realized how this small moment has given me something.

So here is the first of my haiku to celebrate this Thanksgiving week:

sunrise over air-
port flying alone gives time
to write into day

Won't you stop at least once during this busy day and notice the goodness around you?



Saying Goodbye to Room 31



After 23 years teaching Reading and  Language Arts to more 7th and 8th graders than I want to count, I am hanging up my teacher shoes.  I began my career in this very room in 1991.  As the years of my teaching life piled up, I thought I'd spend my entire time as an educator right here in Room 31.  Then a new opportunity came my way, and I decided to leave the classroom for a new career path.  What happened to change my mind?  I haven't really figured that out just yet.  Maybe summer vacation will reveal the answer.  Maybe not.  Maybe it doesn't matter.  Perhaps some changes just don't need explanation.

In any case, when August comes, instead of standing at the door to Room 31 to greet a fresh bunch of middle schools students, I'll start my new job as a district English Coach working with teachers to help them with their own students.    

Saying goodbye to this dusty old classroom with peeling window paint and rickety furniture older than my career is bittersweet.  Being teacher has been so much a part of my identity for so many years that I'm nervous about who I will be and become.  I'm like one of my eighth graders going off to high school.

And of course all this uncertainty has come out in writing.  Here are some haikus about how it feels to end this part of my life:

twenty-three years one
classroom time to close the door
step into unknown

Steinbeck: teaching great
art melding mind and spirit
what will stir me now?

eight more days to teach 
asked my friend what will I be
poet she replied

paper folders books 
paper folders books all packed
now to say goodbye

Farewell to Poet Mother Maya

“Poetry put starch in my backbone.” — Maya Angelou

Years ago I was privileged to hear Maya Angelou speak before a large audience of teachers.  This statement that she made about the importance of poetry has stayed with me.  In fact I’ve had a poster with these words in my classroom ever since.  

This morning I woke up thinking about this statement.   Then I heard that Maya had died this very day.  I like to think she visited me as she went on her journey.  So like so many other writers around our country, I felt compelled to write about her.  How she would love to read all the poems written in her name.

Mother Maya passed
in dreams today reminding
me stand up stand tall

Northern California Haiku

This weekend I got to spend some quiet time on the edge of the Pacific Ocean in Northern Sonoma County.  No cell phone or wifi, just waves and whales, stars and moon - but of course I still wrote my daily haiku!


5/9/14
waves crash below cliffs
hot tub bubbles as week's cares
offered up to moon

5/10/14
pelicans take flight
whales northbound on day's bright now
begin our own yes

 



5/11/14
Happy Mother's Day

nose up flippers down
mama seals and babies rock
sea wave nursery



Day 30: Haiku Continues While Saying Goodbye to Poetry Month 2014





National Poetry Month has been more of an adventure than I had expected.  I took up the challenge of posting a poem every day for 30 days to prove to myself that I have the writing discipline to follow through.  After having proclaimed my intentions to my entire online community, I had many, many witnesses to watch my progress.

Of course already having pledged to write a haiku every day in 2014 helped.  My haiku practice was already in place, but before April those poems had been posted only in a private Facebook group.  For the month of April, I had to find the courage to send my little haiku out into the big, bad online world.  And I admit at first I was very nervous.  After all, it's difficult enough to write a poem every day, much less a good one.  Sending out any poem, the good, the bad and the downright uninspired seemed like a huge risk.

But the response from readers has been more positive than I could have imagined.  I've gained more followers on Twitter and have had some of my haiku re-tweeted to spread them even further.  That amazed me.  In a workshop I attended about creating an online presence as a poet, the director of Poet's House in New York advised tweeting lines of poetry.  He was so right.  There are actually people out there who are looking for poetry online.  I just had to give them what they wanted.

I even have some readers who want me to continue posting my daily haiku for them.  The encouragement and readership I've gained makes me feel the need to keep sharing - perhaps just less often.   I have cringed when posting poems that I didn't think were worthy, so from now on I'll just share the highlights of my weekly practice.  And keep the others to myself.  But I promise that I will write a haiku every day for the rest of the year.  I'm up to 119 with only 246 to go.

And so on this last day in April, the 30th day of haiku postings, I bid National Poetry Month 2014 adieu with one more springtime haiku:

flocks of hoodies swoop
middle school hallways winging true for June's promise