I am back in my town, up early, sitting with my brother Jeff ,drinking my first cup of coffee. We are both early risers still but he has to have CNBC on TV to catch up on the latest stock news. I need my gang on MSNBC. I used to switch the channel when he wasn’t looking but he keeps reminding me that he’s the king of his kingdom and over time I gave up. Jeff dictates in his kitchen as he listens up to stock news and reads the local newspapers, multitasking with ease. I am quiet, thinking about our upcoming final day for the week.
It’s good to be back home with my family. I am far removed from my own life in the town when I was teaching at our local high school. I’ve been a visitor since I moved away in 1986. Of course, I carry my history with me, but in real time we are feeling the loss of my mom, especially the morning after her birthday and my dad living just on the parallel street.
Christine and I have planned an interesting day with lots of structured writing time. We have been revisiting the calendar often, moving things around. We keep the updates on our blog. We have been using that blog all week and pushing the SI to do so as well. We are saving lots of paper and getting the group into the habit of clicking to the blog often to find the SI resources.
I leave later than usual, stopping by to see my dad. On the way out I make sure I can be in and out of the Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot for an extra large coffee for car ride sipping. I am met with a smile, a familiar smile. We know each other. My server is Rosa, Rosa Vega. I see her back in my English classroom in room 101, the room at the end of the hallway. She is small as a grown up. I remember her smaller as a 7th grader, in a wild class with lots of loud boys and even though she was tiny, I remember she was unintimidated by characters like Odell Whitaker, who took her very seriously. How can I remember that?
On my ride over the mountain, even with a bit of rain, by the time I get to the amazing panoramic spot where you can view the valley, the sun was burning away the mist. I didn’t stop for the picture. Yes, I know, STUPID! I had the time and there’s no going back.
So I arrive at our SI room and I’m alone in the cool ac, but not for long. Jennie and Rebecca are right behind me and they remember that we have to reorganize the room, grouping the desks in groups. I make sure we are set with the classroom computer and I open our blog for the morning writing into the day and our rituals that are getting to be routine, we hope.
A happy accident in scheduling has allowed us to offer the group blocks of writing time that some of our cohort may never have experienced- extended writing: writing into the day for 15 minutes, another 30 minute block for later in the morning to revisit previous starts and more time after that…
In between the writing Jennie offers a workshop in collaborative digital storytelling, working with clay to create our own characters and as much as I turned away from drawing with Rebecca, I embrace the colored clay, create my Molly, work with my group to create a story and then move around the room, checking out the work of the other groups. I think our group rocks the house even though Christine used her camera to offer photos for a digital start.
For SPECIAL THURSDAY we had everyone bring something for a pot luck lunch and even though we kept them working, yes it was wonderful to enjoy a communal lunch. I wonder, did anyone notice I didn’t get to bring anything? I owe you all!
The afternoon was for making everyone comfortable on our SI blog and for each of our group to play with their own blogs. It was challenging, but Christine took the lead with clarity and sensitivity to the nervous techies.
Then there was one more slot for me to share my work with digital storytelling and I used an old piece I created for my dad. I shared it to allow the group to consider how they might take up the challenge of writing a digital story and locating images that might not work directly with the text. As I worked through the past- when my parents were first together, I teared up. Some members of the group did as well.
At some point in my chat I realized we were all feeling the need to get out of our room, ending the day. They only thing they had left to do was write us an reflection on this week’s work and suggestions for the future. Silence once again. I was feeling good, really good all the way to Tuvia.
I’m remembering the heat of July at SUNY’s Old Main building before central air and renovation: the obstacles to our comfort. But now, in the luxury of the remodel, I am in heaven. I arrive early enough to select my parking spot in the front of the building or in back. I walk to the elevator and it is waiting to lift me up to the 2nd floor. Just me and my array of bags, of course.
And I arrive and make my way to the last room in the maze of hallways. We are just before the bathrooms. In the old days I had to pick my personal bathroom breaks selectively, after all the closest bathroom to our 3rd floor classrooms was back down on the second floor, way down on the second floor. I luxuriate in the modern version of Old Main!
It’s early and quiet and the soft hum of the cool AC air keeps me awake. The table has been laid for today’s breakfast by Jennie and the group is still following Christine’s healthy modeling. I wonder if today I will actually eat the lunch I put together :)
Camille steps up with an intriguing prompt moving us to write about difficult events in our lives and many race to share in Christine’s elegant author’s chair.. It’s a great start!
Jackie logs with a Wordle, Heather has her TIW reflection and Sarah, her photos and everyone is comfortably already on the blog.
Rebecca steps up confidently with her TIW focused on the study of illustration and text inspired by mentor Katie Wood Ray. I find that this Si I am engaged, anchored in the TIWs, fully present comfortable. I find myself though, hating the drawing section of the work. I am remembering my own inadequacy when it comes to art. Yes, I have artist friends but me, I am an appreciator. I am impressed with Rebecca’s movement to the groups, engaging with each of us, supporting us, asking questions, mentoring. She am visualizing her with her 2nd graders.
We move through her workshop, examining her student work, sharing our observations. She is grateful for our time and effort. I am thinking deeply about what happened to me in elementary art.
We set up the Writing Groups strand and send the groups off for some writing and sharing. Christine and I spend time focusing on playing with Google’s We Videos as our platform for teaching the SI participants about digital stories. It has gotten easier since the last time I opened it when I was working with Jack two years ago. Much better than Photo Story 3. Not iMovie, but we have lots of Mac users who are interested in taking on iMovie, so we can work on both platforms.
Maybe we provided too much time for the first writing group, hoping that they would all break and write, but a break is good. Everyone returns from lunch with more of our SI life under their belts and time to prepare for Odell’s Community Reading session. It’s a good piece but I let the conversation go a bit, inspired by the text to write about my own writing life and the first adult story I wrote about my torments as a kid in my 5th grade classroom with Mary Otens. Where is that piece? Time for a rewrite?
We linger a bit with the team but we are exhausted and I am anxious to get in my car and ride over the mountain to Ellenville for dinner with my dad and time with my brother and s-i-l on July 10, my mom’s birthday.
The ride is breath-taking and I take it slower than usual. Just before I hit town, I am passing the cemetery. I double back, ride my car up through the open gate and stop at my mom’s spot. I am alone, surrounded by the Jewish dead of our town. Of course, it’s me, and I race back to the car for my camera. It’s muggy still but peaceful. I walk among the tombstones, recognizing the names of the dead. I recall each one vividly.
I sit with my mom and I am remembering my first theater experience with Our Town. I was in the 7th grade and that year Our Town was the senior play. The boy/man who played George was a guy named Marvin who I watched (not stalked) from a far, my crush of sorts. I was so tiny and he was a school star. Here in the play, as the lead, I let the fantasy engulf me. Until we moved from the romance of dating to marriage and then… death? really?
The grave yard scenes hit me hard as a 7th grader and I never forgot that first experience with Wilder. One of my favorite plays even now. I started to consider life and death then. As I sat with my mom, I thought about that first experience with Our Town.
It was good to leave for life. My dad was waiting and I would not be sharing this experience with him. In the early months after my mom’s death he came to visit her every day but since the unveiling of the stone he would break down when he visited and finally decided it was too much for him. The stone seemed to make her death more real.
We went out to dinner and it was good to be with him.
Another rich day for me.
Another smooth morning after a night of sleep. Today Tara was joining me for my rides up and back and for a day as my guest at the SI. Day 2 was our only shot at the perfect opportunity for her to experience the HVWP’s Summer Institute and maybe it was better that we are still fluid, not quite yet a bonded community of learning women. Tara felt comfortable and the group was welcoming. As I took the morning prompt, sharing our lives as Slicers with Two Writing Teachers on a Slice of Life Tuesday, Tara was the first one up with a posted Slice and it was perfect and easy to click right to her Slice and have her read it to the group. I knew Tara wouldn’t flinch. Perfect start and then a solid writing for 15 minutes now that I’ve traded in my bells for my guitar timer sounds of mystic river. I can write too, without distraction. I did.
I liked it when Christine suggested we all shared something… all the voices, sharing. I loved that!
And then we moved through the rituals- my pictures, Odell’s log, Christine’s TIW reflections and even with computer issues, now that everyone comes with a laptop and can easily access the web, we are free! Heather was smooth with her TIW and I thought about my own relationship to science, wondering a lot about how real scientists feel about the way science is taught in most high school classrooms. I thought about how Janine has been incorporating writing into her science. I remembered Alan Alda’s work on stage and in the real world. My mind was racing and I was engaged and relaxed. Two days and I’m still relaxed.
We took a break. Gathered the group downstairs for a full photo and then back up for TIW groups. Each new opening seems to be moving smoothly. I loved our conversations about the TIWs in my group.
It was a love day for me. Well, I didn’t love the kale lunch, or eating outside in the heat or that stale sweet potato muffin. But I loved the company and that’s more important. I have my lovely lunch back in the room.
Back in the room, Mary appeared to get us engaged in our writing museum. I remembered grabbing up books, a journal before I left for the SI on day one. I had a good bunch but for the first time I took the time to think through the time line I created and I was annoyed I didn’t have other things. Really I had enough, but that writing experience was more for me.
I loved setting up next to Tara who probably would have liked to have brought more but it was so good that I remembered to send her the assignment so she could participate fully in the day. I hope it’s not too late to join the NWP for her at Rutgers. Do they still exist?
I was tired as we finished our small group debrief. I wanted to watch Jennie’s digital story but I had a trip to make and then another beyond. Too much ahead of me and Tara was patiently waiting.
So I am home and almost finished with this reflection of Day 2. It’s good, really good. So glad I came back after a two-year break.
More coming my way tomorrow. Shorter ride home to Ellenville.
I was relaxed on our first day of our SI, really relaxed. I even got more than 15 minutes of sleep last night- a lot more!
As Tuvia and I headed out this morning at 6:45 from my place, I was covered in bags, balanced, ready to reach for my overnight bag but Tuvia was faster, grabbing for it. I argued. He ignored. I won :) and we were off with plans to meet up for dinner in Paramus after we both worked a full day.
Both of us began on the Thruway but he was off in ten, back to Paramus. I was prepared to hunker down and love the ride to New Paltz. I was riding with the wind at my back, struggling to stay closer to 70 than 80. I was trying harder than most of the cars around me, but when I was close to the college, riding the back roads, with the mountains to the right, everything felt good, except the police car that suddenly blocked my view as I struggled to bring down my speed. I was sure I was speeding and yes, with a bit of hesitation at first, I was right. Red and Blue lights started flashing, whirling, and I moved over and stopped. I had lots of time, so early now, and I had to remember, be nice, the cop has the upper hand. Don’t act pissed off.
So when the nice female cop came to my window smiling, shaking her head and reminding me that I had passed by two signs warning me to slow down, I agreed.
“Hey I know you’re in a hurry.”
” Yes, I agreed, first day of our Summer Institute at the college.” Never hurts to remind her that I’m in the “club”.
I handed over my license and registration before she asked. I was really trying to wangle my way out of a ticket.
She kept me waiting just a few minutes as she checked me out in her car.
“Bonnie, Bonnie, come on. You have to SLOW DOWN….slow down when you get close to campus. You know that, right?”
“Yes, of course.” Just give me back my stuff and ‘yes, I promise.” No ticket. NO TICKET! I promised, really!
How could I not feel that everything was right with the world: a good night’s sleep, a clear day, a kind cop and I was on my way to kick off a fresh SI with my buddy Christine, our great group of returning fellows and new cohort of interesting, passionate women.
I arrived, got a spot in the circle right outside our building and grabbed up every last bag and my tripod and I was sailing up to the second floor in the speedy elevator. I wasn’t the first but I was the most relaxed. Really relaxed and ready to enjoy sharing the experience, participating in a writing into the day with a TED talk I knew well. I wrote about my greatest fear- the fear of aging alone. Sad, yes but I was writing free and open. Some people shared their writing even on our first morning and Christine was set with a very powerful workshop to introduce herself to the group who had met her only virtually via Google Hangout.
Whoops, Tuvia is here. Time to power down, sleep and return for more of a great day. Later!
More fun on the first day- Christine put together a perfect first day workshop: sharing student work with a protocol! Modeling what teacher collaboration could be and should be in the best of all possible worlds. Are we moving yet, to the best of all possible worlds???
I loved the rich sharing in groups. I felt free to read student work and get to know my group as teachers making sense of student writers. PERFECT! I loved the fact that modeling the TIW journey was clear. I watched Sarah shake her head at me with confidence. Sure, we get this! It was great to have Christine actually sit down for the reflection section and script the group’s reflections.
Break time: Calendar sharing, Reading Groups spelled out. Books disappeared from the table and I was easy about a sudden change in my book selection. I wanted to read another Lisa Delpit but, okay, Peter Johnson and his two-book set were known to me as well.
I chose to stay in our SI space and feast on my very healthy, calorie lite lunch of: Danon raspberry yogurt, a packet of baby carrots and a lunch-size tub on Sabra humus and water. It was good but I wondered just how many lunches would be this controlled given my love for lunch spots in New Paltz.
I love the breaks of our SI schedule with time for a walk to take care of parking permits and someone to step up and lead. I love reading with a small group. I love returning for one last touch-base with the larger community. Yes, the days will feel full before they end and I will dread the long ride home when I am fried but I wouldn’t trade a minute of this rich, unique experience- not a minute. And tomorrow I’ll be joined by Tara, Slicer extra-ordinarie.
I am so enjoying my memories of the All Write Conference and my two weeks of transition before I plunge back into my wild riding up and down the NYS Thruway for our annual Hudson Valley Writing Project’s Summer Institute 2013. After two summers off, I’m back in as lead co-facilitator with my buddy Christine and a great team of Returning Fellows. We are a smaller group this summer. Seems like teachers are more exhausted than ever after tough battles with the ed “reforms” that are kicking in. Some great applicants had to bow out, but we continue on.
We always begin after the 4th and just like Labor Day determines the start of school in our area, when the 4th lands in mid week, we get to enjoy a longer summer start before our SI Day One officially begins on Monday the 8th. Of course we do end in early August, but tomorrow we meet with our leadership at Christine’s for a planning meeting. Thanks to Google and their docs, Christine and I have been sharing the crafting of our agenda for the day.
So these weeks of break offered me time to read, to meet up with family, ( my 92-year-old aunt, Sally, a family favorite, is arriving on the 5th to see my dad, visit my mom’s grave(her sister, she’s the only remaining sister from the 4) and in her honor, we are dining on Friday night with lots of family who are joining us to see her. I got to be a learner yesterday in a photo workshop led by one of my best buds, Sharon who collaborated with me regularly when we both taught at Pearl River High School. She taught art, I taught English and together we met on the stage for at least on play a year. But yesterday it was her show and probably I am best as a learner, when it’s something I want to learn. How about that, I realized that I do love abstract photography even though I usually capture humans. And yes, I can move off the automatic settings to the challenges of manual, easier than I once could. I loved yesterday even though we couldn’t shoot outside :)
And last but not least, on Friday I met up with a Slicer who was missing from All Write 2013. Tara Smith and I were back at our original meet-up spot in Ridgewood, New Jersey, drinking coffee and tea and not breaking down to scarf down my absolute favorite Crumbs Red Velvet cupcakes. We were caught in talk: catching up, sharing and planning a project that will take more shape next Tuesday when she joins me for a day at our SI. I am SURE she will love it and the group will love her. Too bad New Paltz in an impossible trek for her on a regular basis, but for one day, I can’t wait to have her with us.
So, even with more rain on the way, I refuse to be held back from the fun of downtime: books, movies, video work, planning, family, friends and Tuvia.
Happy 4th of July, everyone!
Read more Slices at Two Writing Teachers
Before I take a ride back to Indiana, let me first take a moment to RAVE about the work of Alan Cummings, known for his Cabaret, his work on the Good Wife as Eli Gold and now MACBETH. Last night I dragged Tuvia with me on a sweltering Monday night to live through a night of Macbeth, just one more time. Yes it was hot outside and inside as well. What happened to the AC? Maybe, it just added to the power of play.
WOW! A one man Macbeth! I had to see it and like the All Write 2013, I was taken beyond my expectations. I never took on the “Scottish Play” myself when I was directing high school theater, but it was on the list- a Star Wars version :). Alan Cummings made this monster his own and took us to a new place with a play that we know well. His setting fit perfectly, in a psychiatric ward complete with TV screens and guards. I hope there’s a way that it can be recorded for everyone who can’t get to New York City in the next few weeks. A true Tour De Force. I could see it again and again. I think once was enough for Tuvia. Shakespeare’s words are lost for him but he did love watching Alan. It’s the morning after and I’m still with Lady Macbeth descending into her bath, naked. Later her descent into madness, his descent into evil will remain with me.
Okay… I could say a lot more about this production and maybe I will somewhere else, but I need to marshal my energy and do some reflecting on my thrilling adventures in Warsaw, Indiana, okay?
So I was ready for this adventure. My Hudson Valley Writing Project was picking up the tab (YES!) and I was set for hours of travel without the convenience of a direct flight. Yep, I am very spoiled living so close to Newark Liberty Airport, a hub of United and direct flights everywhere. Okay enough complaining.
I arrived at the Fort Wayne airport met by a very sweet driver who was waiting for me and a trio of education superstars: Carl Anderson, Jeff Anderson(no relation) and Terry Thompson. Can you imagine the conversations in that van? I was right in the middle of Carl and Jeff and it was non-stop talk. Sadly, I learned more of the details of the recent settlement agreed to by the powers-that-be for teacher assessments designed for the NYC teachers. UGH! If you haven’t heard, I don’t want to bring you down now right now.
So we arrived and Mindy was on hand to give us a minute to get our rooms, wash our faces and join her for a ride to the opening dinner arranged by Ruth. A room filled with SLICERS and interested teachers. No we didn’t break into a Slicing prompt, but we did take the time to introduce ourselves and I was overwhelmed, trying to recognize people that I’ve been writing with for years now, just from their blog pics. Yes, I was overwhelmed as I shoveled down my salmon as everyone else was already on their last courses.
I sat across from Linda and close to Elsie, two Slicer buds who I counted on throughout the past year of mourning my close friend Eileen and my mom. Every day I posted an entry they were right there with a comment. And I would be remiss if I didn’t include Tara into that trio. Three friends who always had something wonderful to leave me with. Tara and I live close by and we do meet for coffee, dinner and movies. It felt complete to spend quality time with Linda and Elsie throughout this intense three days, even though by 9PM I was ready to get back to my room, unpack a bit and change into PJs.
The next morning we were up early and picked up by Ruth with a small group of Slicers, Ramona and Nanc,for a quickie breakfast and then off to the opening of the conference. Let the photo ops begin:
I was starting to feel comfortable and we were off with a shot of Starbucks and a bit of muffin. Our conference space was a gorgeous school, with students still engaged in the last days of the year as we moved from space to space. The auditorium was filled with 650 teachers as Carl Anderson, my bus bud, kicked off the conference. Just was he was feeling his mojo and rolling along: FIRE ALARM and we headed outside and the conversations continued :) with Deb, Christy and Tammy and when we returned Carl finished up and we were off to explore ideas with a wonderful variety of teacher leaders.
I learned throughout the next 48 hours from Jeff A.,Jennifer Serravallo, Ruth Ayers and her partner DEB, Chris Lehman, even though I realized that there’s another Chris Lehmann that I had thought would be there. Oh well, there’s two great Chris Lehmans.
I wasn’t expecting to buy any new books but then, not everyone is on Amazon’s Kindle section so, yes, I added to my library, like everyone else :) And as we finished our dinner with Kate Messner and Mary Helen, my ace in the hole, encouraged me to pick up one of Kate’s books from my favorite 6-year-old Mia. On Saturday, at our family barbecue she and her brother walked in reading books and I had one for her, autographed by Kate with a picture of us and the book. She was blown away!
And last but not least let me send a Shout Out to my Slicer bud, Mary Helen who offered me peace of mind when I was figuring out how I would get back to the airport on time. She had her charming son and his cousin drop me off at the airport and I could then enjoy her company and our Slicer group for one last evening of fun and one last day of conference learning.
I did love being with all these Slicers, face-to-face. We seemed to pick up from where we left off from our online writing community . Yes, there is power in sharing writing in cyberspace.. KUDOS again to Two Writing Teachers. Stacey, we missed you!
Next year? Who’s coming???
Crazy day ahead: Dentist in the early morning, maybe an hour at the gym, finally, on the 3rd try the right sized air conditioner will arrive and then a hair appointment at Salon Elyse. Just another crazy Tuesday and yes, time for packing to make my way, tomorrow, for the All Write Conference: joining up with Ruth, Elsie, Linda and more. I’m just hoping that the flights to Indiana run smoothly so I can make my connections.
I’m ready for it! So looking forward to a great atmosphere in a small town in Indiana where a group of amazing educators are coming together. Hey, did I juice up my batteries?
Lots of time to get to the latest book I’m hooked on: Americanah by Chimamanda Nogzi Adichie, who created an amazing TED talk about the Danger of the Single Story. It’s been awhile since a book has had a hold on me and tomorrow will be for reading. And I am also participating in the National Writing Project’s Making Learning MOOC.
and here’s Kevin’s Intro model:
I have an introduction to complete today. That could happen as I wait at the dentist’s office, for the Air Conditioner, at the salon, as I wait for my refreshed look. Lots of time for the next two days, once I get where I need to be.
Maybe I’ll add mine later today.
Never a dull moment.
It’s another rainy morning over the Hudson and some of the roads in our area are flooded but it looks like I’ll be able to get to finish my professional development project at Highland Falls Intermediate School today. Teachers are finally able to get into computer labs to have their students create digital stories. YES!
Last night though I was back in Finland as I edited a piece focusing on a wonderful retired education professor, Viljo Kohonen at the University of Tampere. He was our very first interview. I had just arrived, unpacked, and we were off. He sat with us for two amazing hours and I am sharing 15 minutes of our conversation with you if you are game. He been at the center of Finland’s educational reforms.
I was thrilled to have Stacey invite me to write a post as a guest blogger and reflect on my experience on my recent visit and it pushed me to get something down on paper. If you missed it and want to take a read it’s right here.http://wp.me/p2dQA-1fs
My good friend Christine will be home as her Fulbright ends on June 15th and then together, our plan is to create a documentary. But I needed to begin my thinking with some deep reflection and a small piece of our experience with Viljo, who welcomed me into the Finn educational experience.
But before I end this post I need to share another video piece. Last Saturday I attended the One Voice rally in Albany organized by NYSUT, our teacher’s union. We were able to avoid the rain and even though we arrived early to an empty space at The Egg, by noon, as the rally officially began we were surrounded by approximately 25, 000 fellow teachers, administrators, students parents and even a few politicians. After my wonderful trip to Finland, I needed this experience.
Here’s a video of the speakers. My favorite voice, is the voice of a student who has just graduated high school. He is a key to our hope of ending the “madness.”