Friday, October 25, 2013

OIK: academic vocabulary

Outside, during our daily 5-minute run-around:

Me:  "Look up and notice the clouds.  First they were over there and now they're over on this side of the sky.  How do you think that happened?"

Julee:  "Maybe the clouds collaborated together to travel through the sky."

wind and

wind and

nimbly swim
across the sky


Friday, October 18, 2013

the dishwasher of my mind

This is going to be one of those posts where I attempt to connect and convey quite a few overlapping ideas; luckily all teachers in Maryland have the day off in case they want to attend the state NEA convention, so I have some extra time today.  I'll be spending it with you all on Poetry Friday and in the Garage, but getting a late start, because sometimes a girl just has to sleep in.

Yesterday I heard this fascinating piece on NPR about new research regarding the role of sleep in animals, including humans.  Why we need to sleep is a question that has puzzled scientists, because in terms of the survival of any species, sleep is costly--way too many opportunities for an individual's entire genome to be snapped up off the face of the earth in the dark of night.

It's beginning to look like the function of sleep is to shut down other processes of the brain so that it can be flushed--literally flushed--by an influx of cerebral spinal fluid that washes away the toxic waste proteins accumulated during a day of learning, thinking, problem-solving, remembering.  In fact, brains that don't have an efficient sleeptime plumbing system to remove proteins like amyloid-beta are brains which have neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer's.

This question of sleep is on my mind too, because as in many school districts, we've been having a push to Start School Later, especially for adolescents, whose sleep cycles shift with the onset of puberty.  When a kid's melatonin (the sleepy hormone) doesn't kick in until 11pm or midnight, and then she has to get up at 5:50am to catch a bus to high school that starts at 7:25, a kid is routinely missing out on 3-4 hours of the sleep time that allows her brain to perform that essential cleansing process.  Here's some info on what other effects this ritual abuse of our young people can have on them and on the rest of us, courtesy of the national organization Start School Later.

Here in Montgomery County, MD, a surprising thing recently happened--the newish Superintendent of Schools read all the findings of our SSL Work Group and recommended that we actually move towards doing it!  Start time for high school would be pushed back to 8:15 and middle school would stay roughly the same at 7:45. Elementary schools would start at 8:45, as now, but have the school day extended by 30 minutes to allow the staggered triple school bus runs that we currently depend on.  I have high hopes that we can work this out over the next year--it's a win-win and a good step towards better aligning the  schedules and calendars of working families and schools.

But, you may ask, where is the poetry in all this?  Well, on Wednesday I spent 3.5 hours in chair reviewing and planning the entire kindergarten curriculum for Marking Period 2 at high speed.  By the end my head was spinning and I thought, "This is what our kiddos feel like every day!" We have a highly compressed kindergarten day in which we attempt teach a huge mass of concepts, skills and indicators without sufficient time to balance it all with a relaxed lunch, sufficient recess, or indoor creative play. At the end of our meeting, our Staff Development Teacher acknowledged that we had been "jambarded" by information, and a poem was seeded.  (Thanks for the great word, Joelle Thompson!)

The last thing you need to know is that this year our school serves universal breakfast in the classroom, which is a great thing with a lot of unintended consequences for instructional time and also tabletop cleanliness.

The dishwasher of my mind

Happy happy Tuesday
I've been up since 6 o'clock
the password at the door is like
this is how we walk in line
(does my name contain a b?
what to choose for lunch?)
after breakfast and announcements
(read the job chart, pledge allegiance,
total rainfall and respect)

the plates
in my brain
are already
"whole grain" cinnamon buns
sticky bombs of how-to-do-it
protein packs of need-to-know
jammy wraps of chant-it-fast

morning meeting, hello greeting
(say the rhyme sit down stand up)
plans and practice sounds and spelling
Quiet Reading all four steps and why
why do we quiet-read?
(shaky egg the Teacher Table
reading groups fly in and out)
she won't know unless I read it
date it draw it what's my center?
now clean up

the bowls
in my brain
are filled to
maple syrup-flavored pancakes
fudgy sauce of mix-and-fix
fatty folder-fill-it worksheets
spicy soup of story time

now it's time for lunch.
It's loud.

I need a chance to wash my dishes,
rinse and scrub and scour my brain,
clean off all the dried-on layers,
greasy gunk of what I learned,
sizzled residue of thinking.

Can't I lay my head inside a
shiny box with glowing buttons,
start the cycle,
take a nap?

~Heidi Mordhorst
    draft 2013

The Poetry Friday round-up today is with Cathy at Merely Day by Day.  I see her Teachers Writing badge, and I'm glad to have the chance to be one!

Friday, October 4, 2013

mortimer bounces back... answer this question:

"What poem do you wish you had written?"

Oh--do you mean the one that came to me at a crucial moment in the development of a healthier, looser grip on, well, everything?  You mean the one that I printed out in turquoise and taped to the inside of the mug cupboard, so that I see it every morning whether it's a tea morning or a coffee morning?  You mean this one, by my friend Liz Steinglass?  This little miracle poem, packed with images both fresh and nostalgic? This one that reminds me that there is both celebration and shatter in every day, that flow takes practice and that laughter is the last word?

"Yes," says Mortimer, "this one."


Pool | Liz Steinglass 

Cool me.
Soothe me. 
Paint me blue and lose me.
Hold me.
Enclose me.
Show me how to flow.
My crashing,
Into splashing,
Collapse in waves
Of laughing.
When I’ve gone,
Sit still.

Thanks for letting me share this, Liz, and thanks for asking, Mortimer.
Go get splashed by more poetry with Dori today over at Dori Reads.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

OIK Tuesday

Keeping it together in Room 166 is a big job these days.  Good work is getting done somehow, despite trials and tantrums, but there's not much left of me at the end of the day and what's Overheard in Kindergarten doesn't tend to be very poetic, especially out of my exasperated mouth.

However, there have been a couple of gems out of other mouths, including one from a Concepts of Print assessment that I conducted with a supersharp Level 1 ESOL student.  Please pardon my terrible Spanish, but I was trying to help him show everything he knew and that required me to be (as ma belle-mere once said of my French) "colorful and communicative."

Tell me, Elmer
from El Salvador,
Tell me:  What is this?

"Puntito!" Yes, it is!
It's a period in English,
but don't stop there--
Que dice el puntito?
Tu no sabes?  Never mind.

Y aqui, este marco,
what is this?  Conoces tu?
...A comma makes us pause,
ellipsis while you think...

Elmer, por favor,
what is this cutlass blade
atop a dot?

Eyes wide, sidelong glance,
leaning in, whispered breath--
You earn yourself
an exclamation mark.

~Heidi Mordhorst 2013

I so wish I could show you a 3-second video of his face when he whispered, "Misterio!"  The drama was gripping.  Go get gripped by more poetry (no doubt including some punctuation) with Dori today over at Dori Reads.

And now, rather belatedly, I need to thank somebunny once again for tagging me last week to do the Children's Poetry Blog Hop with Mortimer...if you didn't get there, please visit Laura Shovan's post and Janet Fagal's, and look forward to seeing Joy Acey's Mortimer Minute this week! Here's how it works:
1) Make up three questions you've always wanted to be asked in an interview about children's poetry and then answer them on your own blog (suggestion: use one question posted by the person who invited you to the Hop).

2) Invite one, two, or three other poetry bloggers to join the Hop. Children's poetry is preferred, but all poetry lovers are welcome.

3) In your post, list the names of the bloggers you invited and give the dates when they'll be posting for the Poetry Blog Hop.
Mortimer says, "Time for bed," and he's right....