Friday, May 26, 2017

Poetry Friday: Last Day of Classes Edition

I was walking across campus the other day and thinking about the hundreds and hundreds of students that I have taught, and how at the end of every year you say goodbye to another batch, and at the beginning of the next year you greet a new batch, and you love them all but they all move on.  And then I was thinking about how so many years of my life have been spent on this campus, trying to make a difference in this community, and how much happiness there is in that, in spite of the challenges and the sorrows.

So today, here's May Sarton on happiness.  It might not seem very appropriate for a day of turning in projects, and passing back writing, and calming screeching excitement, but bear with me.

The Work of Happiness
by May Sarton

I thought of happiness, how it is woven
Out of the silence in the empty house each day
And how it is not sudden and it is not given
But is creation itself like the growth of a tree.
No one has seen it happen, but inside the bark
Another circle is growing in the expanding ring.
No one has heard the root go deeper in the dark,
But the tree is lifted by this inward work
And its plumes shine, and its leaves are glittering.

So happiness is woven out of the peace of hours
And strikes its roots deep in the house alone:
The old chest in the corner, cool waxed floors,
White curtains softly and continually blown
As the free air moves quietly about the room;
A shelf of books, a table, and the white-washed wall—
These are the dear familiar gods of home,
And here the work of faith can best be done,
The growing tree is green and musical.

For what is happiness but growth in peace,
The timeless sense of time when furniture
Has stood a life's span in a single place,
And as the air moves, so the old dreams stir
The shining leaves of present happiness?
No one has heard thought or listened to a mind,
But where people have lived in inwardness
The air is charged with blessing and does bless;
Windows look out on mountains and the walls are kind.

This last day of classes won't be much about silence or inwardness; those days are coming up: a chance to finish a thought, to clean up the clutter in my classroom, and my house, and my brain.  But in my students, and in me, "another circle is growing in the expanding ring."  Another ring added to the tree of our lives, and our school. 

Here's today's roundup.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Celebrating Reading

One of my tasks in this last week of classes is to pass out the students' reading folders and have them count how many books they finished this year.  I don't ask them to estimate, but only allow them to count books whose titles they have listed in the folder.  We make a ceremony of writing all the totals on the board and adding them up.  This year I impressed the seventh graders by adding them faster in my head than they could using calculators.  A student called me "Flash" and marveled that I'm even wearing a red shirt.  (I'm not sure what any of that means, but I take my compliments where I can get them.)

The seventh graders read 444 books this year.  (There are 24 students in the class.)

The eighth graders read 795 books this year.  (There are 21 students in the class.)

I asked them to write down the favorite book they read this year.  I'll come back after school is out and add links to the list, but I want to go ahead and post it so you can see that it's not necessarily about reading classics; it's about reading.  I want these kids to enjoy reading.  I consider it a success that every single kid found books they loved this year.  (Or at least books that they'd finish and enjoy pretty well.)  I read books with them, too - books I chose, books we discussed and took quizzes over - but these are the ones they chose themselves.  I forced them to read, I say without shame, but I let them pick what they wanted.  I celebrate and honor the reading they chose to do this year. 

7th graders - 444 books

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children series
Percy Jackson series
She’s With Me
Charlotte’s Web
Looking for Alaska
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, two votes
Chasing Red
Captain Underpants series
Anna Dressed in Blood
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Twilight series, two votes
Big Nate series
Every Soul a Star
Keeping the Moon
SAS Survival Handbook
Finding Audrey
The Clique
The Red Pencil

8th graders - 795 books

Bluford series
Lionel Messi and Maradona (autobiographies)
Counting by 7s
Saving Everest
Art Eyes
The Heroes of Olympus two votes
Salt to the Sea
The Lost Hero series
Amulet series
Alex Rider series
Gone series
Divergent series
Auggie & Me
Everything, Everything
Harry Potter series
Who Was series
Princess in Love
Good Omens

Friday, May 19, 2017

Poetry Friday: Days I Delighted in Everything

Days I Delighted in Everything
by Jessica Greenbaum 
I was listening to a book on tape while driving
and when the author said, “Those days I delighted in everything,”
I pulled over and found a pencil and a parking ticket stub
because surely there was a passage of life where I thought
“These days I delight in everything,” right there in the
present, because they almost all feel like that now,
memory having markered only the outline while evaporating
the inner anxieties of earlier times. Did I not disparage
my body for years on end, for instance, although, in contrast
that younger one now strikes me as near-Olympian?
And the crushing preoccupations of that same younger self
might seem magically diluted, as though a dictator
in hindsight, had only been an overboard character — 
but not so.

Here's the rest.

I know there have been days in my life when I have delighted in everything, but I have wasted so much time in fear and worry.  And there's so much to delight in.

Hope you're delighting in today.

Here's today's roundup.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Reading Update

We have the day off today for Flag Day (flag below, and national anthem in this post), so I am celebrating by writing a Reading Update post and also grading many papers.

Book #28 of 2017 was At the Edge of the Orchard, by Tracy Chevalier.  Most of Chevalier's books that I've read have been centered on art of one kind or another, but Remarkable Creatures, which I read in 2014, was about fossil hunting, and this one continues in that more science-y direction.  This one is about trees - apple trees, redwoods, sequoias.  Turns out that working with trees is more of an art than I'd ever realized.  I really liked this book.

Book #29 was Glitter and Glue, by Kelly Corrigan.  I enjoyed this memoir for its portrayal of a complicated mother-daughter relationship.  Corrigan's mother said once, "Your father is the glitter but I'm the glue" in the family.  When Corrigan goes to work as an au pair in another family, one where the mother has been lost to cancer, she starts to see her own family in a different way.  I could relate to the way looking at other people's experiences helps you figure out your own and also how intense experiences, however short, can be life-changing.

Book #30 was The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey.  I loved how I was never completely sure whether this book was realistic fiction, fantasy, magical realism, or some bizarre combination of all three.  Fairy tales, Alaska, snow: ultimate escape from my tropical reality.  Yes please!

Book #31 was Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  This was my third Chimamanda book.  (I like to fantasize that we are friends and I call her Chimamanda, which is such a fabulous name.)  Have you watched her TED Talk, The Danger of a Single Story?  This book is about Africans in America, African-Americans, Americans in Africa (Nigeria, to be precise), hair care, and many other things, but it is most definitely not about a single story.  The brilliant author plays with stereotypes and shows us that each character is unique and that attempting to generalize would be ridiculous.  Plus, the book is compulsively readable.

Book #32 was Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult.  I find Picoult's novels pretty uneven, but this one, I liked.  It's a story about white supremacists who go to the hospital to give birth to their first child, and run into a highly competent African-American labor nurse, whom they hate on sight due to her race.  Drama ensues.

Book #33 was The Edge, by Roland Smith.  I've been reading Smith's book Peak with my seventh graders for the past few years, and this is the sequel.  Peak is climbing again, but this time in Afghanistan.  Drama ensues.

Book #34 was drama-free, which I kind of enjoyed after all the drama.  It was The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy, and "Women's Work", by Kathleen Norris.  Short, profound, and worth rereading.

Book #35 was Devotion, by Dani Shapiro.  This is a spiritual memoir, and while I can't agree with lots of aspects of Shapiro's mixture of Judaism and Buddhism, her questions and struggles in "the afternoon of life" do resonate.

Book #36 was the fourth Inspector Gamache book, A Rule Against Murder, by Louise Penny.  I did like this one the best so far, so I guess I'll continue reading this series.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Poetry Friday: Bougainvillea

Last week for Poetry Friday Michelle Kogan shared a poem about Mexico that included this phrase: "the red bougainvillea raves."  I've been thinking about that verb choice all week.

This year I am doing a photo-a-day project, and following prompts that I get from Capture Your 365 (here are the May prompts).  It's amusing to me how many of the photos I've taken so far this year have been of bougainvillea.  It's the ultimate tropical plant, thriving through all seasons in a variety of intense colors, rioting over walls and gates and mixing its thorns with the razor wire that tops those walls and gates as well.  There's nothing subtle about it (though there are some paler colors that are a bit more delicate).  It's confident and happy.  It doesn't care whether you're looking or not; it's just busy being beautiful.  Cut it back to a stick, and it returns more luxuriant than ever.  I love it so much, and I aspire to be more like it.

I'm going to share a few bougainvillea photos in this post and then a little bit of information about bougainvillea, and then end with the poem Michelle shared.

According to Wikipedia, "The first European to describe these plants was Philibert Commerçon, a botanist accompanying French Navy admiral and explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville during his voyage of circumnavigation of the Earth, and first published for him by Antoine Laurent de Jussieu in 1789.[2] It is possible that the first European to observe these plants was Jeanne Baré, Commerçon's lover and assistant who was an expert in botany. Because she was not allowed on ship as a woman, she disguised herself as a man in order to make the journey (and thus became the first woman to circumnavigate the globe)."  

What a story!  Has someone written a novel about it?

And here's the poem, set in the Oyamel Forest of Mexico, where the monarch butterflies go in the winter.

Song of the Oyamel

On the other side of this door

You are an oyamel native to the mountains of Mexico

Rising in a cloud forest of sister evergreens
Shedding pollen cones, shedding winged seeds

Our lost wings
                    singly and in pairs.

This is why the monarchs vanish    
Raising sienna-hued colonies longer than my arms

Hibernating in Mexico where it’s hotter in January
                than my front yard, where the red bougainvillea raves

Here's the rest.

Here's a poem I wrote about bougainvillea in January of 2016.

You can find today's roundup here.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Poetry Friday: Daylight Savings

During National Poetry Month, I got a poem-a-day email from Knopf, and on the 9th, that poem was Jill Bialosky's "Daylight Savings." 

Daylight Savings
 by Jill Bialosky

There was the hour
when raging with fever
they thrashed.  The hour
when they called out in fright.
The hour when they fell asleep
against our bodies, the hour
when without us they might die.
The hour before school
and the hour after.
The hour when we buttered their toast
and made them meals
from the four important food groups -
what else could we do to ensure they'd get strong and grow?

Here's the rest of the poem, which concludes that all those hours are precious, and we don't want to lose any of them.

Jama's someone who knows how to make the most of hours, and she's hosting the roundup today.