Monday, February 13, 2017

I ❤ zeugma

I love trying new recipes &, sometimes, my students' patience.
I love getting around obstacles of hypocrisy & by bicycle.
I love reading books written for younger audiences & arcs of flying Frisbees.
I love writing concisely & couplets.
I love running dirt trails & early for meetings.
I love asking questions & for ideas.
I love hearing popcorn pop & They Might be Giants.
I love wandering thoughts & libraries.
I love learning keyboard shortcuts & how my wife's day was.
I love going abroad & to sleep.

Happy Valentine's Day!
For more on zeugma, click here.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Knowledge collage

Eleven quotes, three paraphrased thoughts, and three online resources gathered at last week's Colorado Council of the International Reading Association (CCIRA) annual conference -- listed in order of appearance in front of my brain:

"Never hold a strategy in higher esteem than students' learning." --Douglas Fisher

"I've loved the kingdom of story. I've lived in the awe of words." --Nikki Grimes

"Everyone's a language learner, cultivating word consciousness... Every word is everywhere once you start noticing." --Ashley Maxwell

Reading should be the reward, rather than relying on extrinsic trinkets to prop up reading habits.
--Beth Claycomb

"Denouncing evil is a far cry from doing good." --Philip Gourevitch, quoted by Danny M. Cohen

“Say, you’re teaching 3rd grade… you’re not teaching 3rd grade; you’re teaching all the way from 7th grade to cave man.” --Danny Brassell

Use semantic maps to relate new words to known words, rather than having learners glean out-of-context definitions from dictionaries. --Nell K. Duke

“Reading accompanies you. It goes with you everywhere... Literacy is the most flexible invention that people ever created." --Pam Allyn

“We as teachers get the privilege to assign meaning to data.” --Valerie McBride-Taft

“Humor transmutes pain into meaning and connection. When you laugh, you’re connecting... When you can laugh at something that mortified you, you’ve healed it.” --Jeff Anderson

Two chief types of questions: inquiry questions broaden thinking; probe questions focus thinking.
--Vicki Collet

“Such a beautiful balance in a conference between what do we know and what we think the kid needs. Conferencing is such a subtle series of moves.” --Penny Kittle

“Time is the currency of education. How do we spend special, limited time?” --Kelly Gallagher

Voice is “that ineffable quality that makes writing sound like a real person.” --Kate Messner

Monday, January 30, 2017

I can't believe it's not a run-on sentence

The very same week that figurative doors around our country were slammed shut by a ham-fisted executive order, I witnessed two hours of middle-school spelling bee in which students (their familial roots stretching across Asia, Europe, and the Americas) deconstructed words that sifted into English from French, Spanish, Latin, Arabic, and Native American dialects -- a juxtaposition that left my mind reeling and my head shaking.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Rhetorical question

I've got a more unwieldy slice in process about a book I just finished. (Needs more time in the oven.) So, when I heard this news item featured on the radio this morning, I welcomed the chance to compose tiny writing during my commute to work.

If time makes even
Everest stoop, then what chance does
our mortal clay have?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

There & (mostly) back again

You know the investing disclaimer about past performance being no guarantee of future returns? Well, check out this slice for a nearly literal off-label application.

With my newish knee ligament and the connected parts getting stronger, I've stepped back on skis of the Nordic variety the past two weeks. Six pristine inches of snow and the federal holiday Monday encouraged me to hop on a nearby multi-use path for a shushing jaunt. The outbound journey went a deliberate 2-3 miles. Fairly wet snow and old, neglected skis meant I sometimes had to pause, scraping from the ski bases clumpy chunks, harshing on my meager glide. A small headache, I figured, given the passable ground coverage that meant I could keep skiing. I made even quicker work after turning around to head downhill. That is, until about a mile into my return when first I saw ominous tread tracks; then the surface changed texture:
Turned out, since I'd last passed, all that coverage had been swept aside by a go-getting municipal employee who'd plowed well beyond the sign that threatened (promised?): "End of city maintenance." I milked the soft shoulder for all it was worth before I had to resort to my two feet, clicking on concrete, for the last several steps home.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Slice of someone else's life

Turns out it's a lot easier to stop writing than to start. That's one reason I'm glad I met this woman at the bus stop today.  Actually, she was standing 50 or so feet away from the bus stop when I politely squeezed past her on the sidewalk at 5 p.m. She walked along with me, commenting how she'd just realized she'd misplaced herself. We made small talk, awaiting the bus: weather, of course. In a show of boldness, she asked what I did. When she learned I was an English teacher, she asked if I wrote. "Informally, amateurly," I stuttered, "to model for my students." "Not to get published?" she asked. I shook my head. "For my own reflection, really." She said she loved to sing and write songs; in fact, she was headed to a music rehearsal. She admitted that she would never let her dreams die. She'd dreamed for a long time of a life in rock and roll. She'd lived itinerantly.  Before singing tonight, she needed to attend an AA meeting. Her laughter rang like wind chimes. Turns out I never know what might re-start my writing.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

On fragmenting & fragments

I love to read. I love to foster students' excitement about reading. I love when students who claim they don't love reading maybe, just maybe, start to change their minds -- a little. For these reasons and others, I champion independent reading as a classroom priority.

It's not all peaches and cream, though. I also notice downsides of independent (vs. shared) reading. For instance, our classroom community does less connecting and thinking together about books. It doesn't have to be this way; lately, it just is. Some student feedback at the end of this semester has me thinking about that and subtly different approaches we might take in 2017.

Mean time, I'm using this space (increasingly) to share slices of what I'm reading. A few powerful quotes are sticking with me from the book I just finished, When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. This space seems like a good one to park them, along with a few related thoughts...
  • On why Kalanithi pursued a career in medicine versus one in a more abstract realm like literature or philosophy: "Moral speculation was puny compared to moral action." (43) I take this as a reminder, when teaching, not to get too bogged down in analysis when brisk action might be key.
  • On the doctor/patient relationship, crystallizing a stance I aspire to take with students: "Here we are together, and here are the ways through -- I promise to guide you, as best I can, to the other side." (88)
  • On growth mindsets by way of math metaphor: "You can't ever reach perfection , but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving." (115)
  • On death, dying and the calculations science make: "The angst of facing mortality has no remedy in probability." (135) This dynamic has analogs in education as many students and their families, and school systems even, equate failure with a killing blow.
  • On seeking connections in service of learning: "Human knowledge is never contained in one person. it grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world, and still it is never complete." (172)
Thanks for reading.