Saturday, April 26, 2008


As I was walking over to school this morning, I saw a dead rat on the road. It looked just like characters in cartoons look after they have been run over by a steamroller - flat, but still recognizable as the creatures they used to be. Except that in a cartoon they generally bounce back from this treatment, whereas this rat was very much dead. A big brute, it was. I was not so sad to see that its life was over.

When I got here I saw another teacher arriving with a basket of laundry. She, like me, is here to take advantage of the generator to get some work done, but her work is ironing. I'd rather do my work than hers.

Well, I'm off to grade and enter grades on the computer and plan for next week and do a new seating chart for my seventh graders.

(Here's the Saturday Review of Books.)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Excess Commas, All Over

Commas, Turning Up, Everywhere, according to The Onion.

That's really interesting because in the student writing I've been reading lately, a lot of commas have been missing. Perhaps now I have the first clue about where they've gone...

Poetry Friday - From My Classroom

I had intended to do reviews of poetry books for each Poetry Friday in April, but I diverged from my plan last week in order to honor Aimé Césaire. On the first Friday I took some books off the shelves and my bedside table to review and on the second I wrote about some of our favorite children's poetry books.

I had to come home early again today, as almost every day this week, to be with my sick child, but on my way out the door I grabbed a pile of poetry books to blog about, as this week I had planned to write about poetry books that are in my classroom. I have far too many for one post, but here are a few representative ones.

I do a Daily Poem with my middle schoolers, and while I get these from many places, Nancie Atwell's book Naming the World is an excellent source. As well as work from professional, published poets, she includes many pieces written by middle schoolers. She has great ideas for presenting the poems and following up afterwards. Paul Janeczko's Opening a Door: Reading Poetry in the Middle School Classroom and Poetry from A to Z: A Guide for Young Writers are valuable as well. Then there's R is for Rhyme, a poetry alphabet book full of background on 26 different kinds of poems, with an example for each.

Normally I don't much go in for cutesy writing exercises, but I enjoy using something every now and then from Kindle the Fire: Writing Poetry with Middle School Students. Tucker provides frameworks for various kinds of poems, as well as examples written by other kids.

I keep my copy of Pablo Neruda's Fifty Odes in my classroom, but I often wish I had it here at home. I love Neruda's focus on simple, ordinary things, and his beautiful language (though, sadly, I'm reading these poems in translation, and not in the original Spanish - this book contains both the original text and the translation, but my lack of Spanish sends me to the English versions). Here's a bit from Ode to Scissors:

in the house
and within their nest
the scissors crossed
our lives,
and then
how much
they cut and cut
for the brides and the dead,
the newly born and hospitals
they cut
and cut,
the peasant's hair
tough as a plant growing in stone,
the flags
which later
fire and blood
pierced and stained,
and the grapevine
stalks in winter,
the thread
of the
on the telephone.

Some forgotten scissors
cut your navel,
the thread
of your mother
and gave you forever
your separate existence:
others, not necessarily
will some day cut
your burial suit.

The Miss Rumphius Effect has the roundup today.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Happy Birthday Shakespeare, of course - 444 years old!

...and to me, since as of today this blog is two years old.

Monday, April 21, 2008


How can it be Monday again already? Where did that weekend go? It must have been the shortest weekend in history.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


This is going to be a busy day. As well as the regular catching-up work I always do on Saturdays, we have a big event at school that will take much of the day.

Here's today's Saturday Review of Books.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Adieu, Aimé Césaire

One of the French teachers at school asked me yesterday if I'd heard that Aimé Césaire had died. I hadn't, but soon found these articles. People at Global Voices Online are remembering him. Here's some more on his life and work (in French).

Aimé Césaire wrote in the 1930s:

Eia pour le Kaïlcédrat royal!
Eia pour ceux qui n’ont jamais rien inventé
pour ceux qui n’ont jamais rien exploré
pour ceux qui n’ont jamais rien dompté

mais ils s’abandonnent, saisis, à l’essence de toute chose
ignorants des surfaces mais saisis par le mouvement de toute chose
insoucieux de dompter, mais jouant le jeu du monde…

Here's an English translation of these lines (from here):

Eia for the royal Cailcedra!
Eia for those who have never invented anything
for those who never explored anything
for those who never conquered anything

but yield, captivated, to the essence of all things
ignorant of surfaces but captivated by the motion of all things
indifferent to conquering, but playing the game of the world...

The Cailcedra, according to my Littérature Francophone Anthologie, is a large tree in West Africa, under which people often meet to tell stories and talk together.

Adieu, Aimé Césaire.

Today's Poetry Friday roundup is at The Well-Read Child.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Education Carnival

Here it is. I probably won't have time to read it myself - too busy grading - but you go right ahead.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Back to School

It was good to see my students again after our enforced holiday. Most of them, when asked whether they had enjoyed the break, responded with the word "boring." It seems that even school is better than staying home for days on end.

Here's to the rest of the school year being uninterrupted...

Sunday, April 13, 2008


I'm staying home from church today with a sick child, and while she dozed off (though when she woke up she denied that such a thing had ever happened), I took the time to experiment some with the camera we were just given. (Thanks, guys, if you're reading.)

This ficus tree has roots that will not quit. They have broken through the bottom of this concrete pot and snaked down into the concrete below and the earth below that. You have to be careful not to plant them near a cistern, because the roots will break it.

I want to sink down my roots into God's love in the same way.

"...that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith - that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:16-19

Somewhere I'd Like to Go Today

I found out about this little tea shop in Paris on Paris Daily Photo yesterday and ever since I've been dreaming of going there.

Recent Reads

Book #12: The Spellman Files, by Lisa Lutz
Book #13: The Appeal, by John Grisham
Book #14: Bleachers, by John Grisham
Book #15: Jesus Land: A Memoir, by Julia Scheeres
Book #16: One True Thing, by Anna Quindlen

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Ah, the Sweet Sounds of Evening

The neighbors' generators roar. Books are read and bedtime stories told. The lullabies play softly.

Shots ring out! The children ask, "What was that?" We reassure them that someone was just shooting a gun and that they shouldn't worry. My husband calls a neighbor to make sure she's all right.

The water pump starts up with a whoosh as the city power comes on.

You Are a Question Mark

You seek knowledge and insight in every form possible. You love learning.

And while you know a lot, you don't act like a know it all. You're open to learning you're wrong.

You ask a lot of questions, collect a lot of data, and always dig deep to find out more.

You're naturally curious and inquisitive. You jump to ask a question when the opportunity arises.

Your friends see you as interesting, insightful, and thought provoking.

(But they're not always up for the intense inquisitions that you love!)

You excel in: Higher education

You get along best with: The Comma

Saturday Review of Books

Here's today's edition.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Poetry Friday

Hooray! The electricity came back on! I don't know what the problem was, exactly, but we got fifteen minutes on Wednesday night and then nothing since until this afternoon. With all the chaos in the country right now I was sure it wouldn't get fixed, but I am happy I was wrong.

Last week I started National Poetry Month with some poetry reviews, and today I was going to review some books from my classroom. Then when we were stuck at home, I decided to review some children's poetry books from my kids' shelves. Then we didn't have power at home, and I went to school since things were calmer on the street, and then I couldn't get Blogger to work there.

Anyway, I decided to stick with Plan B, now that the power's on, and talk about some children's poetry. My children have always enjoyed having poems read to them and we have a reasonably large collection, but here are some my daughter chose as her favorites, plus a couple more I added because I like them.

As a child I loved When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six, and I'm happy that my kids like them too. I memorized Disobedience, about James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George Dupree and his mother. My daughter's always quoting from poems out of these books.

One Hundred Years of Poetry for Children includes some lovely, unexpected choices: Rabindranath Tagore, for example, and Patricia Beer's Abbey Tomb. Some of the poems are more an adult's idea of what a child should like than what children of my experience actually do like, but on the whole this is a good anthology.

Treasury of Children's Poetry is edited by Alison Sage and includes some traditional choices and some surprises. The illustrations are wonderful. The categories are "Nursery Rhymes and First Poems," "Rhymes and Poems for the Young," "Poems for Older Children," and "Older Poems and Classic Poetry."

My daughter got Children's Classic Poetry as a gift for her second birthday and it has been well-used since; it's falling apart. This is her absolute favorite, with such poems as Mr. Nobody, William Blake's The Tiger, and I Eat My Peas with Honey. It seems to be out of print, but you can get it for one cent on Amazon, so go ahead!

A recent addition to our poetry library is Here's a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry. Jane Yolen is one of the compilers, and she's such a beautiful poet herself. Polly Dunbar did the fun illustrations. It includes Langston Hughes' April Rain Song (which my five-year-old finds hilariously funny, for some reason), A. A. Milne's Halfway Down, and lots of poems that were new to me. This is a terrific choice for a first poetry anthology.

Poetry Friday is at A Wrung Sponge today. After I link this post I'm getting offline - city power is already off again!

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Yesterday I spent lots of time online but we only got 15 minutes of city power last night, so it looks as though I'm going to have to cut back today! Things are quiet so far except for the neighbors' generators. Let's hope they stay that way.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Education Carnival

Here's this week's Education Carnival, which is the closest I'm coming to teaching today.

Two Articles

This morning a friend sent me this article. It seems that Marvin, North Carolina, voted not to allow a certain subdivision to be incorporated into their town because the homes only cost $300,000 to $400,000. Letting in this area would be introducing "a certain element," they felt.

A few weeks ago, another friend sent me this article. It's about how people fight hunger by eating cookies made out of clay.

How can these two situations exist on the same planet?

It Must be International Riot Week

Here's the news from Kenya.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Crazy Day

I started fourth period with twenty-two kids and ended it with fifteen. And they didn't leave all at once - oh, no. Every three to five minutes the office would call, or a sibling would come to the door, or a parent would call a kid's cellphone (apparently someone told the kids to turn on their cellphones this morning because there was unrest forecast for today). Of course as more and more of their classmates left, the ones who remained got agitated. It wasn't really an environment conducive to learning!

There was looting and mob violence all around the city today. At lunch time the cafeteria workers were listening to the radio; one had a radio held between her ear and her shoulder as she was dishing up rice. In the early afternoon a business right across the street was looted as people on our campus watched. The police showed up just as the looters were finishing carrying everything away that they could lift. As school ended probably two thirds of our students had already been picked up, but there are still some at school whose parents have not been able to get there yet. Roads are blocked and people are calling ahead to make sure that their route is safe.

No school tomorrow. We hope by the end of the week we'll be back in school, but only time will tell.

It's a World-Wide Problem

I read this article last month - it explains some of the reasons for food prices rising around the world.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Political Days

It's been a pretty quiet year so far, politically speaking. We haven't missed any days this year due to unrest. Today, however, there were demonstrations downtown and some of our families at school were a bit nervous. People are protesting the high cost of living. Food prices have skyrocketed in the last couple of months, and for people who were already poor, life has become intolerable. Now they don't know what to do, or where to turn, so some have taken to the streets, burning tires and, in some places (not our city, as far as I know), looting.

We have been getting phone calls asking if school is going to be canceled. In some ways, this is similar to a snow day - the way you sit with bated breath listening to the radio or watching the school closings scroll across the bottom of the TV screen. But political days aren't benign holidays, times to sip hot chocolate and go sledding. They are days of anxiety, often. They are days when we wonder what's coming next, and our students wonder even more than we do because they hear their parents speculating on the direction the country will take, obsessing over the radio news, calling their friends and sharing the latest story they've heard.

It's always nice to get an unexpected day off in the middle of the week, for whatever reason. Even if you deplore the reason, you can't help but enjoy not having to go to work. We've had these breaks in the past for demonstrations, days of reflection called by the government, strikes, times when too many children were being kidnapped, days when foreign troops were arriving, even an attempted coup d'état. People who have lived here longer have had many more, for successful coups, for staying indoors while tanks were rumbling down the street. But as much as we like sleeping in and a change of pace, I hope that this year will end without any political days. I hope we'll have a normal, boring school year this time around, when kids complain about not having enough excitement.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Poetry Friday

The cynical say that National Poetry Month is all about selling poetry books, and of course there is nothing wrong with encouraging people to buy more poetry. I thought that I would post some reviews of poetry books this month - not necessarily new ones, but some of my favorites. I'll start this week with some of the poetry books on my nightstand and my bookcase.

Poem A Day: Volume 2, edited by Laurie Sheck, has, as its title suggests, 366 poems in it, one for each day of the year, including February 29th. The subtitle promises "a wide range" of poems, and the book delivers. The poem for April 1st is by William Carlos Williams, the one for April 2nd is by Carlos Drummond de Andrade, a Brazilian modernist poet who died in 1987, the one for the 3rd is by Ellen Bryant Voigt, who was born in 1943, and today's is by Henry Vaughan, who lived in the 1600s. Tomorrow's is a Haiku by Oshima Ryota, from the eighteenth century. It's fun to find new poets this way, and while I don't read this book every day, I do find myself turning to it quite often.

The anthology Good Poems for Hard Times was edited by Garrison Keillor. Many of these poems show up in the Writer's Almanac. Keillor's Introduction is wonderful and I love his section headings, too - "Kindness to Snails," "Whatever Happens," "Simpler than I could find words for." All are quotes from one of the poems in the section. I think most of the poems in this anthology are great choices. Some were already familiar to me - there's some Donne, Shakespeare, Stafford, and others. Many were delightful new discoveries.

I started reading Billy Collins a couple of years ago. Nancie Atwell introduced me to him (and to many other authors and ideas, I should add). Since then I've acquired a couple of his collections. One I just pulled off my bookcase is The Art of Drowning. I love Billy Collins. Here he is talking about how glad he is that he won't be going to Italy this summer: "Instead of slouching in a café ignorant of the word for ice, I will head down to the coffee shop and the waitress known as Dot. I will slide into the flow of the morning paper, all language barriers down, rivers of idiom running freely, eggs over easy on the way." (From Consolation, which you can read the rest of here.) In Thesaurus (which you can read here), he writes: "It could be the name of a prehistoric beast that roamed the Paleozoic earth, rising up in its hind legs to show off its large vocabulary." How can you not love a guy who writes stuff like that?

Billy Collins also wrote the preface to Conversation Pieces: Poems that Talk to Other Poems. I couldn't resist buying this book. For one thing, it's in a wonderful Everyman Pocket Poets Edition - hardback, with a ribbon bookmark attached, and the inscription on the front endpaper: "Everyman, I will go with thee and be thy guide, in thy most need to go by thy side." And for another, it has such great poems in it. Ever wonder what the love replied to the passionate shepherd? Christopher Marlowe wrote the original poem, which begins, "Come live with me, and be my love," and his contemporary Sir Walter Raleigh wrote The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd, where she essentially says, "You've bought me a bunch of cool presents, but I have a bit more sense than that, thanks." Here we see several other replies, and different versions of the original invitation, too. But that's just the beginning. The book is full of responses - poets replying with their work to something another poet wrote, participating in the "Great Conversation," as Collins' preface points out. To Auden's Musée des Beaux Arts, Randall Jarrell answers, "About suffering, about adoration, the old masters disagree." Billy Collins himself writes, "As far as mental anguish goes, the old painters were no fools." Both go on to discuss other paintings. Annie Finch makes the Coy Mistress respond to Marvell, beginning with these words, "Sir, I am not a bird of prey: a Lady does not seize the day." Edward Hirsch writes the letter back to the River Merchant's Wife of Ezra Pound's poem, saying, "Sometimes the world seems so large, you have no idea." This anthology is so much fun - go buy it and support a poet or two.

Here's today's roundup.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

DP Theme Day: Water

A while ago I saw a meme where you were supposed to post the first sentence of your first post of each month in the previous year. My first post of the month is always to draw your attention to the Daily Photo Blogs' theme day, and this month will be no exception. It doesn't make for a very thrilling response to that meme, but there's always plenty of lovely photography on show. April's theme is water.

Why not start over at Sharon, CT? Jenny has provided links to all the other DP blogs participating.