SI 2013

Last Day of Our First Week: SI 2013

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.DSC_0107

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…

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

Categories: Hudson Valley Writing Project, SI 2013 | Tags: , | 6 Comments

Another Full July Day

 

 

 

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.

SMOOTH…

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.

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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.

 

Categories: Hudson Valley Writing Project, SI 2013 | Tags: , | 9 Comments

Day 2? Really? Slice of Life at the SI

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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.

Categories: Hudson Valley Writing Project, SI 2013 | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Reflections on Day One: Summer Institute

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.

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Categories: SI 2013 | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

RIding Up the Thruway Again

Morning Friends,

It felt so familiar and fresh to give into my early morning restlessness and begin the day in darkness.  I tried hard to keep Tuvia sleeping through my shower and prepping to leave, but no luck, we were  actually showering simultaneously and as I grabbed for a towel, he handed me my essential 1/2  glass of OJ.

Just before 7,  I was back in my car, prepping its audio bluetooth for Alec Baldwin’s latest NPR podcast.He could easily keep me distracted for my 62 miles ahead. The forecast for the day was rain and more rain, but maybe just the overcast skies would hold for me.  One last wave to Tuvia, who would never go back for one last snooze, and   I was off on very empty Paramus roads ready, I hoped, to  kick-off our 13th Hudson Valley Writing Project’s  Summer Institute.

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For the past two years,  Tom Meyer has been anchoring the SIs with different co-faciltation teams. As I step back in after my two-year hiatus we will be creating yet another new variation of a cohort.  Christine, finishing up her Fulbright work in Finland will be joining me as a co-faciltator along with  three returning fellows from last year’s team, 3 brand new returning fellows and a smaller than usual group of new teacher consultants. We will be  fifteen in all which is not a bad number for our action-packed July ahead of us.  Maybe more time for us to write and reflect and breathe!

Yes, it will take patience and careful planning to make sure everyone feels comfortable in this new community, but good thing that as I planned my trip to Finland, Tom and I found the time to plan for the orientation days and  allowing for a smooth handoff, Tom will be spending the morning working along side me as we  begin the essential work of creating a new cohort community.

With the exit just a mile ahead and Alec’s interview with Martin Green coming to an end, I grab my iPhone to check in with Tom to get a sense of where he is in his race to join me with the journals, lunch, coffee pot, handouts etc.  In the early days of our work together the early-morning call was a welcome staple.  He is gulping down one last sip of coffee with his wife, Julie and then ready to make his way to the college with a packed car.

Will I make it through the day finally freed of Fin jet lag?

I arrive in front of our Ed building with my pick of spots.  There’s just spot taken by, Camile  already there, waiting in her car.  It’s great to see a familiar face for both us.  She helps me empty my car and we search a bit for an open door and head up in the elevator to the second floor, to a room at the end of a hallway, which will be ours for next week and the rest of our SI in July.  Jennie and Rebecca, more familiar faces are already wondering how we might set up the room.  A U might be perfect!

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Tom has arrived earlier than expected and the caravan begins to unload his car.  So many details to consider. I hang back ready to welcome the newbies who enter with a bit sheepishly, not sure what they are doing here on a precious Saturday morning at 8.

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Coffee is set, my bagels and muffins are nibbled and conversations quietly begin.  It will never be this quiet again.

We wait for a few stragglers and the room is perfect.  The U works to bring everyone into the community. I introduce myself and  we begin with our morning ritual, Writing into the Day with an short article by writer Ken Haruf about how writers write. And we all write about how we, writers write for 15 minutes.  It’s the most wonderful silence I know. I’ve remembered my bells. We come out of our writing to  share in pairs.  I make sure to share someone new, it’s  Kenneth a wonderfully interesting and thoughtful person-writer.  It’s an interesting conversation about his need to incubate his thoughts in writing.  I focus on my issues with writing as a lefty- why it was so easy for me to give up the pen for the computer keyboard.

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A full swift sharing as each new SI member  shares the essence of that first writing in a brand new HVWP gifted  journal.

We have invited Elaine,  a teacher consultant from last summer’s SI to present her workshop on the power of using blocks and writing.

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I’ve seen her present this workshop before and yes, it’s a wonderful way to kick off the this SI.  Tom anchors the discussion as the group is introduced to  the Teacher Inquiry Workshop strand.  This is always the most challenging of all our challenges and no matter how clear it seems I know that it will be tough for the new members.  I’m wondering if pairing up our returning fellows with each newbie will be effective. It’s worth a try and the smaller numbers allow for it.

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I’m wondering too how we deal with the question now an issue, how can take something from this workshop, all workshops, back into their classrooms?  What power do they still have over what they teach?  How they teach? One of our new members, a  3rd grade teacher shares that because there isn’t enough funds to offer all teachers blocks, those that have a set has lost them in her school.

I’m wondering how we stay positive and supportive in this reformed world of school.

Tom leaves as we begin lunch.  A few housekeeping details and   we have just one activity scheduled for the afternoon. Heather leads an modeling introducing the reading strand with key National Writing Project text, Because Writing Matters, published in 2006.

As we read the introduction together, I’m wondering what others a thinking about a text written before the recent changes in public education.  I hope there’s a update in the works.  We all need it.

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It’a good day, a really good day even though by the end of that day I can’t see straight.  Jet Lag is still with me and the skies have opened sending down some powerful showers.  But I pack up, share last goodbyes and head for home.

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Yes, this will be a good one, a great one when I get my mo-jo totally working. 🙂

Categories: SI 2013 | Tags: | 12 Comments

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