Poetry Friday:Infinity by Barbara Crooker

Poetry Friday is hosted by Jone at Check it Out


I am done with winter.

No longer will I talk of the beauty of snow as it falls and transforms our neighborhood into a Currier and Ives painting.  No longer will I speak of warm-by-the-fireside coziness, or of the pleasure of being bundled up in favorite sweaters or lacing up fur lined boots.  No longer will I think it charming to walk by children adding  final touches to their front yard snowmen.

I am done with snow every where, and cold all the time. I am done with the tiresome ritual of hat-mittens-scarf-boots-coat just to take out the trash or walk the dog.  I am done with snow melting into sloshy rivulets at every turn during the day and freezing into ice banks at night.  I am done with a cold and cough that will not seem to end.

But, it’s February…and winter is not done with me.

Feeling gloomy the other day, I turned to poetry and found this one by Barbara Crooker.  It captured exactly the weariness I felt about winter:


Another gray day, snow everywhere, the piles at the margins
deckled with grit. No sun, again. In the backyard,
crows are passing rumors one rough syllable
at a time. Spring is a language from another
country. Green is a vocabulary word on a flash
card. Crocus and daffodils, impossible constructs.
This is all there is: sky, the color of snow. Snow,
the color of sky. Every day, a few more inches
deposited in the bank. Accumulation takes on
sinister undertones. Finches cluster sullenly
at the feeders, won’t trade their shabby
cardigans for something yellow and silky.
The mind of winter is white and interior.
Silence fills the shadows. The sky lowers,
and look, more snow’s beginning to fall.

~Barbara Crooker

#celebratelu:The bookends of a blessed life


Celebrate with Ruth Ayres @ ruth ayres writes  …. because we need to celebrate moments in our lives every chance we get.

The last two weeks have followed a predictable routine: wake up-get to school-teach-come home-collapse.  I’ve been in the grips of a virus I simply can’t seem to shake, and I probably should not have been in my classroom at all in my condition, but…anyway, the kids of 202 have a way of making me forget how miserable I should be feeling, until I get home and have to crash.

Today, feeling as though I am finally in recovery mode, I read Ruth’s Celebration call of welcome:”I’m glad you are here to celebrate. Your act is one of claiming time.”   This weekend, I am claiming time by reflecting upon the two things that (truth be told) got me through this week.

The love and warmth of my kiddos, who left messages of encouragement all through the past two school weeks:

And a few photographs of our beloved farm, now winter bound.  It will be a while until Spring allows us to visit again, but a friend took some pictures so that we could imagine ourselves there:

This weekend I celebrate my kiddos and my farm…bookends to a blessed life.  Thank you, Ruth, for your call to celebrate, no matter what!



Slice of Life Tuesday: We’re back…now what???!!!


Slice of Life Tuesday is hosted by Two Writing Teachers


It is dark and dank when I leave for school.  A cold drizzle sweeps across the roadways, and I settle into the drive to the beat of windshield wipers.  My headlights pick up hulking shadows by the side of the road – Christmas trees dragged out the night before  in time for the final leaf pick up of the year just past.  They look spent, all their holiday sparkle now a distant memory.

Our classroom looks smaller, somehow, when I walk in. With a jolt I remember that I had forgotten to put our desks back in their usual formation the afternoon I hurried out for winter break: our “dance floor” greets me, as do the sticky remains of our holiday party. Our classroom needs to be brought quickly into 2017, and so I set to work.

Before long, I hear students climbing up the stairs and making their way into hallways.  Their treads sound lethargic, heavy  with regret and foreboding.  Their voices, usually filled with the boisterous exuberance of middle school, sound subdued and sleepy as well.  So, I am prepared for what walks into our classroom: sorrowful children, morose that winter break is over, unused to being awake when it’s still dark outside, and tired…oh, so tired.

Soon, the bell rings and our day officially begins with the Pledge and morning announcements.  We are on automatic pilot, going through the motions with whatever energy is there to summon…which is not very much, it seems.  And then there is a moment when we consider each other, quietly.

September’s shiny novelty has worn off: everything from our pencil cases to our lunch boxes are on their journey from “spanking new” to “well worn with good use”.  And, I suppose, you can say the same for us – the novelty of being together as a learning community has settled into the comfort and challenge of knowing all about each other, and working hard together anyway.

That’s the shift after winter break; all the adjustments and getting-to-know-each-others is out of the way; now begins the work of pushing ourselves to reach higher, to take what we have learned of ourselves as learners and set new goals rather than just settle in.

So, we consider each other.  We know each other well enough to know what we are thinking at this moment: here we all are, let’s breathe out the old year and let’s breathe in the new.

T.S. Eliot. Quote for the new year!:

#IMWAYR:The King of the Birds, Preaching To The Chickens, & Ghost


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! is hosted by Jen Vincent  @Teach Mentor Texts & Kellee Moye @ Unleashing Readers.

Winter break gave me the chance to dive into the box of books I had had shipped home from NCTE, which was just the kind of vacation activity I enjoy most: reading!

The first book I reached for was The King Of The Birds, Acree Graham Macam’s delightful picture book:

king of the birds.jpg

Natalie Nelson’s gorgeous cover had caught my eye as I was wandering through the maze of book displays at NCTE, and I remember stopping to leaf through it even though I had promised myself that since I had already bought too many books already and blown the book budget, I would absolutely NOT buy this book.  It took just one page to break that promise, for how could I resist the glorious story of how Flannery O’Connor came to add to her collection of birds (it was news to me that O’Connor even collected birds – lots of them – when she was a young girl) with a peacock?  Unfortunately, this is a peacock who refuses to preen, until O’Connor wakes up in the middle of the night with a solution:


This is the perfect book to share with my students on a bleak winter day when they are tired of school and everything about school and need a jolt of color and diversion.

Georgia Congressman John Lewis led the iconic march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge  in Selma, Alabama and has continued to lead us in our march towards a more just society. His story is now also told in a three volume graphic novel, which is a wonderful way to keep it alive and part of the conversation in classrooms.  One of my favorite anecdotes from March was the one about how Lewis discovered his love and gift for preaching, which is the basis of Jabari Asim’s new picture book Preaching To The Chickens:


Jabari Asim’s poetic telling of Lewis’ story resonates because we know the great work that was to come from this humble beginning:

Like the ministers he heard in church, John wanted to preach, so he gathered his chickens in the yard.

John stretched his arms above his flock and let the words pour forth.  The chickens nodded and dipped their beaks as if they agreed.  They swayed to the rhythm of his voice.

John’s henhouse sermons became so regular that his brother and sisters took to calling him Preacher.  He didn’t mind.  He knew that someday he’d speak before thousands. He hoped that his words would stir people’s souls and move them to action.

E.B. Lewis’ exquisite paintings allow the reader to linger and savor the power of this story all the more:


I had heard so many amazing things about Jason Reynolds’ Ghost, that I knew I would love it…and did.


Castle Cranshaw prefers to be known as “Ghost”, on account of his amazing ability to run, and run fast.  Ghost does not see himself as a team player for any sport, not even basketball (which he loves). That’s just not who he thinks he is, a team player.  But then he comes across a track team led by a cab driving coach who seems more than just a cab driving coach.  And, as he is drawn into the team and its ethos, he comes to learn about himself, about the anger that boils up inside him when he thinks of his father, and how he came to be so fast in the first place – running away from his father.

Ghost is one of those rare books that one reads and connects to on so many deep and important levels: it’s a story about discovering one’s true self, and about confronting one’s darkest secrets; but it’s also a story about perseverance and having faith, and how important it is for children to have adults in their lives who can nurture their desire to persevere and to have faith in people.

Late in the story, coach tells Ghost, “…you can’t run away from who you are, but what you can do is run toward who you want to be.”   Ghost is a powerful reminder that our kids need adults in their lives who can help point them towards what they want to be.


#DigiLitSunday & #celebratelu: Celebrate


#DigiLitSunday is hosted by Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche.  Today, Margaret asks us to think about celebrations.

Celebrate with Ruth Ayres @ ruth ayres writes  …. because we need to celebrate moments in our lives every chance we get.

A bleak December morning.  On the drive to school, I dodge big piles of leaves left curbside by the army of lawn service folks I had dodged on my way home from work the evening before.  Obstacles…there are obstacles everywhere, I think to myself gloomily.  I can’t seem to get a blog post started, and an article for Choice Literacy is halfway to nowhere, still.

School begins.   We have another week to go before our winter break, but that memo does not appear to have reached my kids.  During our usually calm and purposeful “slow start” morning routine, I find one student creating an elaborate Sharpie tattoo on another student, and two others slowing picking apart the straw seat on one of our reading chairs. And then, just as my students begin to get into their research groove, there is an announcement over the intercom: we are in lockdown.


Lockdown over, we slowly find our way back into the writing mode.  But, during conferences, I discover that we were not as far along in our writing process as I’d hoped. Flash draft after flash draft reveals big gaps in research needs, although this was the intention behind those flash drafts in the first place, I am discouraged – we will finish this particular unit later than I’d hoped, which means making adjustments to the next unit’s plans.


Josh tells me that he really hasn’t been able to address any of the strategies we’d discussed three days ago to move forward with his flash draft OR his research.  Why? I wonder, with an edge in my voice.  I guess I’m thinking of Hanukah, he confesses, and if I’m finally going to get the video game I asked for.   What is there for me to say?  Marissa has a similar confession, but she’s been thinking about baking.  She’s been wondering if her grandma will be well enough to bake with her this Christmas, ’cause she always does, and this year she may not be able to.  I think about my father-in-law, in the hospital and seriously ill as well, and take Marissa’s hand.  We sit quietly for a few minutes, each lost in our own thoughts, far away from the work at hand.


Then, there is a shout from the table groups by the window: SNOW!  At some point in the morning, the sky had turned dark and now a snow squall has burst onto the scene. Everyone races to the windows to take in the sight, and I turn the classroom lights off. There we stand,  some lean against the window, some teeter on chairs, and one (who I pretended not to see) perches on a table; some chatter away excitedly, and some are content to look on in awed silence.


Someone asks to hear “Let It Snow” and so I oblige.  In no time, the reading rug becomes a dance floor.  Any hope of regaining writing workshop time is, clearly, hopeless.

Outside, the squall seems to be abating, and a wintry sun begins to appear once more. Inside, however, my sixth graders’ high spirits show no signs of slackening.  And, in their happy faces, and their goofy dancing, I stop seeing obstacles any more.

There will be a time to get things done, things have a way of getting done in their time, anyway.  A year is ending, a holiday season is beginning…this is the time to wish, to think about those we love, to dance, and to celebrate, even.

Poetry Friday:At the Beginning of Winter by Tom Hennen

Poetry Friday is hosted by Tabatha Yeatts @ The Opposite of Indifference

bare trees 2.jpg

Winter has arrived, and with ferocity.  The trees are all bare now, the lawns are brown, and the piles of leaves waiting for the last pick up are brittle and spent.  Today, the wind howled around every corner, and a snow squall took us by surprise just before lunch.   It is time to reach for the warmest coat even for a quick walk to fetch the morning paper.  And, of course, it is dark for most of the day – sun shine passes quickly.  We are never really ready for winter…even in December…

At the Beginning of Winter by Tom Hennen

In the shallows of the river
After one o’clock in the afternoon
Ice still
An eighth of an inch thick.
Night never disappears completely
But moves among the shadows
On the bank
Like a glimpse of fur.
Flies and spiderwebs
Appear alone in the flat air.
The naked aspens stand like children
Waiting to be baptized
And the goldenrod too is stripped down
To its bare stalk
In the cold
Even my thoughts
Have lost their foliage.