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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

My email inbox is filled with ways for me to improve myself from reading recommendations to Enneathought (how to improve my personality and spirituality) to Choice Literacy.  It was this month’s Choice Literacy email that caught my eye and my idea for this week’s DigiLit topic.

This quote from Atul Gawande was the epigraph to Matt Renwick’s letter.   Quoting from the Gawande’s book Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance, Matt outlines 3 ways for us to be better as teachers.

  1. Don’t complain
  2. Write something
  3. Change

These three directives immediately resonated with me.  This school year has ended, and I was having lunch with a colleague in our gifted department.  She said, “We have to do better next year.”

We then began a long discussion of how we could.  One way is we are going to meet together even if we don’t get paid.  As the years have gone by, the education budget has gotten smaller and smaller.  We were once able to meet weekly to plan for the next year and get a stipend.  Does the stipend matter?  Not when we are talking about doing our best for the kids.  We will meet anyway.

I am reading Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading by Vicki Vinton.  Vicki challenges our current thinking about the teaching of reading.  She calls for a change to embrace reading as the complex act that it is and teach the whole child-reader. I am convinced this book will not only improve my teaching, it will improve me.

The only way to make sense of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance. –Alan Watts

Summer break is a time to rejuvenate and renew what we believe about our own lives as well as our selves as teachers.  This year was my thirtieth year in education. Yet, I’m not best yet.  I continue to talk, write, and change to meet my own needs and those of my students.  Won’t you join me in doing the same?

Please add your links below.  Click to see more posts about Better.

 

Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

I grew up in Jackson, MS.  My father grew up in Jackson.  Mom moved to Jackson when she was 15.  Even though they both lived in Jackson, they didn’t meet until they were attending LSU.  I love to tell the story about how they met at the Episcopal Student Center and that Jeff and I met at the same place.

I came home yesterday for the Memorial Day weekend.  Dad showed me that his cousin had given him a thorough book about his mother’s ancestry.  Reading through genealogy is interesting to me.  I spent some time last night and this morning reading.  My father was interested in the murder story.  Apparently a brother of his great grandfather killed the mayor in an argument over back taxes.

The story that interested me was about his great grandfather’s wife, Malvina. My father’s great grandfather, William Yerger, was a prominent man in the history of Mississippi.  He became Chief Justice of the State and worked toward the state’s reconstruction after the Civil War. But I took interest in the quality of character that his wife upheld.  A tribute to Malvina appeared in a Jackson newspaper after her death on Dec. 4, 1914.

 

For a southern woman to have passed through the bitter years of war, and the bitter years of sacrifice after the war, to have given up her beloved ones to fill the ranks of gray clad youths, and then to give up all else–home, land possessions, everything save honor and loyalty and love, meant that she had been burned as with fire, and in the case of Mrs. William Yerger, the fires had marvelously purified a nature already of the finest, and it seemed that the years since then, have in consequence, been one long season of benediction to the world about her, where her example has oftentimes encouraged those who have suffered loss and grief, and others the heavy burden–to think upon the life of this noble woman and thinking, it lift up the heavy heart and go forward with renewed courage and faith.

I wish I could go back in time to know her.  Having such a strong woman in my ancestry comes with empowerment as well as responsibility.   Maybe some small part of Malvina is in me, and with whatever fire may occur, I will be able to encourage love and honor and raise up the suffering.

 

Poetry Friday is here!

Sorry, my Poetry Friday folks!  I forgot I was hosting.  You see, yesterday was our last day of school, and there were other things occupying my limited brain space.  But here I am and here you are.  Link with the button at the bottom of this post.

Each month on the first week of the month, a group of us bloggers post for Spiritual Thursday.  We are a group of open-minded thinkers who enjoy exploring what God means in our lives.  Irene Latham coordinates our group.  Last month she wrote this in her post about Reaching. 

Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam.” What beauty there is in that breath between those two fingers! And what makes it beautiful to me is the anticipation of touch, the reaching, the beauty and openness of that moment– before we know what happens next. –Irene Latham

Those words moved me.  A poem appeared as response.  I love when that happens. Thanks, Irene.

 


Breath of God

Breath–
one small space
as God reaches
to Adam
hanging high
above
turned up heads.

Eyes cannot focus
on such a small space
so far away,
yet Michelangelo
placed it there,
an inch between them.

In that space
I can rest
suspended,
floating between
God’s hand
and my own.

Nothing
becomes
everything.

–Margaret Simon

 

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Grab your bike and go on tour with me through the town of New Iberia, the city of live oaks.  Jim has been leading this tour for years, but I joined for the first time last weekend.  I was amazed at what little I knew about live oaks and their history in our town.

The above picture was one of our first stops at the fire station.  Jim pointed out the resilience of oaks. They fight to survive even while people try to control them with trimming as well as the abuse of concrete and traffic.

The New Iberia oak

In the early 1930’s a local historian Glen Conrad sought to register live oaks in New Iberia that were 100 years or older.  This massive oak lies on a corner of Main Street near McDonalds.  The property is abandoned so this oak has been allowed to sprawl and spread its wings.  We were moved to clean up trash while we stopped to admire this majestic tree.

Armond’s oak, Main Street, New Iberia

Jim stopped at this home on Main Street to talk about Armond’s oak.  Armond Schwing doesn’t live here anymore, but in 1992 he called Jim after Hurricane Andrew damaged this oak.  Jim asked Armond to be patient, the tree would recover in time.  And now, almost 25 years later, the tree has grown a new branch to balance itself.  To me, this is the magic of nature.  The magic of our trees.

Steamboat House, Main Street, New Iberia, LA

Just a few months ago a large draping branch from this majestic oak fell.  The owner has already refilled the blank spot with a pagoda and new driveway.  Jim was called to consult on this incident, too.  His advice to the owner was to build the driveway at a slight incline near the tree to allow the root system air and space. One of the things most people do not understand about these trees is that the root system is as large below the ground as the tree is above.  This is imperative to the survival of a tree.  This one was already endangered by losing a large root for the construction of the house next door.  Jim wanted to ensure the surviving roots were given the attention they deserve.

Feel the energy. City Park, New Iberia, LA.

This live oak lives in City Park.  I walk in this park often and I’ve never paid attention to this tree.  Jim explained that he calls it the Energy Oak because it has been struck by lightning numerous times.  He told us to relax against the tree and feel the energy.  After all that biking, I needed a touch of live oak energy.

We are blessed to have an oak of 250+ years in our own backyard, but this one just down the Loreauville Road is bigger by circumference.  This tree is tucked in a grove of live oaks.  The space feels like a forest.  The bayou just beyond completes the magical setting.  Unfortunately, Jim explained that this tree is at the end of its life.  Years ago an owner tried to keep the tree from splitting, so he roped it together.  This was a fix that worked at the time, but it is now constricting and damaging the tree.  I felt privileged to be in the presence of this ancient oak.

This tour of live oaks created in me a cause.  I want to speak for the trees.  I want to give them my love and attention.  Hand in hand with my 2017 One Little Word: Cherish.

 

 

 

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

I didn’t tweet out a topic for DigiLit this week because I’m in an end-of-the-year funk. In some ways I’m ready for this school year to close. I’m tired. I want to have time to relax, read, write, visit my parents, etc.

However, this time of year sends me into a sadness that I don’t really understand. The classrooms around me are loud. The teachers are out in the halls talking. Announcements over the intercom are warnings about the things we teachers need to turn in. Learning, questioning, quiet reading have all stopped. This week brings award ceremonies, splash days, and early dismissals. It’s time to pack up and put everything away for the yearly floor waxing.

“The classroom is so empty!”

While I was packing up, I filled a bag with books to take home. Some are middle grade books I haven’t read, a few poetry books to inspire my writing, and professional books I haven’t gotten around to reading yet.

Cathy Mere and Michelle Nero lead a Cyber PD each summer. I didn’t join in last summer because I was traveling a lot. But this summer I’m ready. They are asking teacher bloggers to share their professional book stacks on the Google+ #cyberpd page.

Michelle’s post here explains how to participate. They will announce the chosen book on June 3. The reading and posting will happen in July.

If you are writing a post today, please link up. If you are reading my post, please click the link to read more #DigiLitSunday posts.

Poetry Friday is with Keisha at Whispers from the Ridge

Photo by Kim Douillard

I follow Kim Douillard’s blog. She posts a weekly photo challenge. Last week’s challenge was “Path.” To me, her post was poetic, so I took words and lines and created a found poem.

Path
a found poem from Thinking through my Lens

The snail’s wet trail caught my eye.
I remember Emerson’s words–
go where there is no path
and leave a trail.

I find the sculpture;
Its path formed of trash
her artistic eye transformed
into beauty.

My own path
ebbs and flows like the tides.
I follow moments of sunshine
to clouds echoing the waves.

Seabirds above
follow an invisible path.
In the sky, agile pelicans
intersect the line of a hang glider

Causing me to wonder
what magical paths
await if we are willing
to look.
–Margaret Simon

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

I have never been an activist. For the most part, I am an introvert. Introverts do not usually travel outside of their comfort zone. And, for me, activism, speaking out for or against a cause, has not been within my comfort zone.

Last week a friend invited me to come to her house to write letters to our senators and representatives about the proposed Bayou Bridge Pipeline. Rose Anne is a soft-spoken, humble woman. Activism was all new to her as it was to me, but we had a common concern for our precious wetland environment.

In the sunroom of her bayou side home, a few friends gathered. Opal brought banana bread. I learned about the texting number Resist Bot. I was amazed at how quickly and efficiently I could send a letter to my U.S. senators and representatives. I also wrote an email to my state representatives.

Our main topic of concern was the absence of an Army Corps of Engineers Environmental Impact Study. Already our Louisiana bayous and waterways have been subject to culling and drilling and endless human invasion. Little consideration has been given to the environment.

The Bayou Bridge Pipeline is a proposed extension of the Dakota Access Pipeline. This section would connect Lake Charles, LA to refineries in St. James Parish through the Atchafalaya Basin. This swamp land is already riddled with abandoned wells. Not only is this area home to many species of birds and wildlife, it also lies above an aquifer that provides water to many people.

Who knows what my little act of opposition will affect, but I felt empowered by the experience. This is a cause that is close to my heart. The proposed action endangers the beauty as well as the safety of my home.

Rose Anne sent us a message on Facebook that Representative Richmond has sent a letter to ask for an Environmental Impact Study. That’s a step in the right direction. I received an emailed reply from the legislative assistant to my state representative that he agrees with me. Another step. Step by step, letter by letter, I can voice my opinion and know that someone is listening.