Wednesday, May 27, 2020

You Can't Be Neutral

Yesterday, I couldn't get anything accomplished. I spent the day horrified and angry by the events of the day.

Just weeks after two men were arrested for killing Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd was killed by police officers in Minneapolis.

And then Amy Cooper.  I watched the video of Amy Cooper calling 9-1-1 and then read Ibram X. Kendi's words on Twitter.

And, I have been thinking about the words and Ibram X. Kendi's response to Amy Cooper's apology.

And then I read this important piece by Ibram X. Kendi's in The Atlantic, 

"You can either be racist or you can be antiracist. 
You can't be neutral."

As a white woman, I have learned that much of being anti-racist has to start with a commitment to do a lot of internal work. I am grateful for the many people writing and sharing and having honest conversations with me,  so that I can begin the internal work needed to be anti-racist.

For me, reading and reflecting has been important for starting this internal work.  A few years ago I started a Padlet where I collected articles and posts that were important--that helped me reflect and begin to unlearn.

But it's the books, the deep dives into the issues of race, white fragility and racism that have been most powerful for me. This is a lifelong journey and these books have helped me begin. I've shared these books over and over and over in workshops and professional meetings.

These books are not easy reads. They are books that pushed me to reflect and realize and unlearn. These are the books that have been important to me so far and I highly recommend each one.  And I highly recommend following each of these authors on social media and then following people whose work they cite and share. And when you finish with these. find more to read and study and unlearn all of the racist ideas you may have.

Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell

My first step in this anti-racist work is to do my own internal work and these books have been helpful so far.  I've read them and I've also bought them for people I know. But this is only the first step.
As I mentioned early, this is a lifelong journey. So much catching up to do in this work. So I have a summer stack started.  I have found that audiobooks are a great way to experience some of these books. I have also found that I can't read these books cover to cover--I need time as I read to process, reflect and reread.  These are not quick reads.  I have found that every book and author I find leads me to another. So, on my stack this summer I have:

(finish) How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi (I've started the on audio but need to spend more time with it each day so that I can finish it.)

An Indigenous People's History of the United States for Young People by Jean Mendoza, Debbie Reese and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (I've started this one but need to finish and reread more deeply.)

Me and White Supremecy by Layla F. Saad

Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall

Lifting as We Climb by Evette Dionne

Dark Sky Rising by Henry Louis Gates Jr.

I can't think about yesterday's news without connecting these two events and without doing something. I know reading is not enough but it has been an important step for me and one I hope more people take.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Thoughts on Teaching & Learning: All the Ways Books Are Important to Readers

Over the past several weeks, I have found myself doing a lot of reflection trying to get this online teaching right.  I keep meaning to get my thoughts on paper but then get caught up in the day-to-day work of teaching in this pandemic era.  I know if I can catch my breath, there is a lot to learn and reflect on during this time. So, I decided that every day in May, I will share my thoughts on Teaching and Learning.  

During the last week of school, I met with students in small groups.  As we finished the year, I wanted to try to do some of the things I usually did to celebrate growth, reflect and end the year. In these small group meets, I asked each student to talk about a book that was important-- a book that was important for some reason.  I chose my words carefully, as I didn't merely want a favorite book or a book they liked. So, I asked, "Tell me about a book that has been important to you in 5th grade for some reason." And then I gave them time to think about it.

The answers gave me a lot of insight into our year as readers and it also told me a bit about the ways my students approached books as readers. There was no wrong answer, but there were so many right answers. As I look at this list, I am happy with all of the ways books were important to my 5th graders. 

The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman 
"It was the first book that made me cry."  

"It was the longest book I ever read. I never thought I could read that book by myself."

A Whole New Ballgame by Phil Bildner
"It was the first book I read that was about basketball, but it was about more than basketball. It was a sports book that was really not about the sport but about friends. I realized sports books can be about more than the game."

The Unicorn Quest by Kamilla Benko
"I loved how the plot developed and it helped me think about how I develop plots as a writer. Reading it made a huge difference in my writing."

"I skipped a lot of parts that seemed boring. But then I got confused and had to go back. I realized that parts I didn't think were important in a book, might be important later."

Refugee by Alan Gratz
"This book was so confusing at the beginning.  When a book is confusing at the beginning I usually quit or ask for help, but I kept reading and rereading and it started to make sense. I learned that I could stick with books and get less confused as I read. And it is okay to be confused at the beginning of a book."

More to the Story by Hena Khan
"I loved this book and I think it was one of a lot of books that taught me empathy. Then the coronavirus happened. Between books and the quarantine and coronavirus, I became a more empathetic person."

Love, Sugar, Magic by Anna Merianao
"This book was one I annotated (a lot!) on my own and the notes helped me really think about the book in ways I don't usually when I am reading by myself."

"This was a topic I was interested in that I didn't know I was interested in."

"This book taught me that words like 'monster' that come up in a story can have multiple meanings. I realized that books and words could have more than one meaning at the same time."

The Rain Dragon Rescue by Suzanne Selfors
"I didn't know I could read a book on my own. I usually read longer books with audiobooks. But this one I read on my own and I was surprised and happy I could do it. Then I started to read lots of books."

Projekt 1065 by Alan Gratz
"I have only read fantasy for years. I thought I only liked fantasy. But this book helped me see I could like other kinds of books and I started to like historical fiction."

In my life, books have been important for so many reasons. I plan to spend some time reflecting on the many reasons books have been important in my life as a reader and as a human and to think about ways to bring more of these conversations into my work with children.  Listening in to all of the ways my students found books to be important gave me some new ways to think about the impact of books on readers.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Poetry Friday -- Praise and Amazement

This week, I received a digital ARC of Irene Latham's September book, This Poem is a Nest.

At first, all I could say was, WOW. Over and over again. Wow. Wow. WOW. I said it to the publicist at Wordsong, and then I said it to Irene. She responded, "No project I’ve worked on has been more exhilarating than that one. Just me being me."

Irene being Irene means she wrote a poem...a "nest"....and then found ONE HUNDRED SIXTY-ONE other poems..."nestling poems"....inside that "nest!" I. Can't. Even. I'm still gobsmacked.

Here is a portion of her nest, and a few of the nestlings she wrote. These are used with permission of the publisher.

I gave it a try using a poem I wrote for my 2020 NPM project as my nest.

I Have a New Friend

I have a new friend.
We've never met.
She chalks art and exercise challenges on the sidewalk.
She leaves the chalk out.
I write and draw my thanks.
Her chalk sticks became a pile of chalk pebbles.
I left a package on her porch --
Highlights magazines and gently used sidewalk chalk.
She left a package on my porch --
coloring pages, crayons and markers, four Cra-Z-Loom bracelets.
And a note.
I have a new friend named Annie.
We've never met.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2020

Here are some nestlings. Titles don't have to be found inside the nest, but the words of the nestling have to all come from the nest and have to be used in the order they're found in the nest.

Art Exercise

Draw a porch
a package
a note
a new friend.

My Favorite Squirrel Leaves a Message

Pile of pebbles on porch and sidewalk.
A note:
we've met.

Setting Sun

On the leaves, 
the sticks,
a pile of pebbles--

Try it! It's addicting and not at all easy. But most of all, get excited for September when we can hold a copy of Irene's newest wonder in our hands!

Carol has this week's Poetry Friday Roundup at Beyond LiteracyLink, and next week, the roundup is here!

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Thoughts on Teaching & Learning: A Different Summer #bookaday Plan

When this pandemic/online teaching began, I thought I would get a lot of reading done. I figured I'd have lots of time and loved Donalyn's idea of Social Distancing #bookaday.  But I really haven't read so much.  The remote teaching and worrying about everyone during this pandemic have been taking a lot of energy. But I have started to read and as I go into summer I plan to commit, as I always do to Summer #bookaday.

I love Summer #bookaday.  Each May, right before the end of the school year, I count the days of summer to set my goal. This year is a little trickier because, with retirement I don't have an easy end date but decided to go with Dublin City School's start date because I think that is the timeframe that makes the most sense to me. Tomorrow is our last official teacher workday.  (Tuesday was our last day with students-more about that later.). So, if I counted right, I'll have 86 days of summer, so my goal will be to read 86 books. That seems like a lot, but I usually meet my Summer #bookaday goal.

I feel like I need a different plan than usual this year.  Our libraries are opening but in a limited way. Typically, during the summer, I order a stack of picture books each week and spend a day reading through the pile. I am not sure that is going to be possible this year.  So, I have to think about my goals as a reader and what my priorities will be since my library access will be limited.

I think it is probably a different summer for #bookaday for most of us.  This spring was not normal and even though we have plenty of time to read, falling into books is not so easy.  Plus, as Mary Lee mentioned in her post about Goals last week, she may have to be okay not meeting her reading goals as she prepares for teaching in the fall.

It feels weird not to have a classroom to read for in the fall. Getting ready for a classroom gave me a purpose for my summer #bookaday in the past.  Finding the best new read aloud, reading the best new books to recommend to 5th graders, etc. But it seems like this might be a good summer for me to catch up on all of the books I've not been able to keep up with--young adult, transitional chapter books, picture books for primary grades.  And I am thinking I may have more time than usual for adult fiction.

I haven't been keeping up with books so much. I am behind on reading a few issues of The Horn Book so I may start there.  I also need to check out Mr. Schu's Book Release Calendar to start reserving some picture books from the library.

I have a LOT of books at home. Books I haven't gotten to that I have been wanting to read. I also packed up my classroom library and have those boxes of books ready to be unloaded in the basement. There are several there that I never got a chance to read because they were making their way around the classroom. And I am hoping to make semi-regular trips to our local independent bookstores to pick up some of the newer books I am hoping to read.  I also have several professional books I am looking forward to reading. I signed up for Book Love Foundation's Summer Book Club on Cultivating Genius.

I'll keep you posted!

How will your Summer #Bookaday look different this summer?

Some books I know I want to read soon:

Monday, May 18, 2020

Thoughts on Teaching and Learning: Goals

How does one set goals for a completely unknowable future?

And since the future always has been and always will be unknowable, why does the current unknowable future seem more murky than all the others we've lived our way into? (Perhaps that one little word...pandemic? Yeah...)

I've decided I'm going to move forward with Seth Godin's advice in mind. I'm going to "...put some effort into making an imperfect situation a little less imperfect."

My goals for the summer are "Toolkit-Filling Goals." I'm going to get my Google Educator Certification (Levels 1 and 2, if all goes well), my NewsELA Educator Certification, I'm signed up to attend the Inclusive STEM & CS Summit, and I'm going to work through all of Amy LV's Notebooking videos.

Big plans for what I will do means I will have to let go of some things. This past weekend, I gave myself permission not to try to make an entire wardrobe of masks for myself and hubby. Instead, we'll support the economy as creative entrepreneurs make all sorts of functional (and hopefully fun) masks for us to buy.

This will likely be the year I don't make my Goodreads goal. And I'm okay with that. I haven't stopped reading. I just won't make it to the number of books I've read in the past or the number of books that seemed possible last January.

The "completely unknowable future" is just beyond the bend in that photo at the top of this post. I'm going to do my best not to try to see around the bend. I'm going to keep my eyes on my feet, taking one step at a time. I'm going to watch the clouds, and look for meadowlarks in the grass. One step at a time.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Thoughts on Teaching and Learning: Worried About Our Kids

Over the past several weeks, I have found myself doing a lot of reflection trying to get this online teaching right.  I keep meaning to get my thoughts on paper but then get caught up in the day-to-day work of teaching in this pandemic era.  I know if I can catch my breath, there is a lot to learn and reflect on during this time. So, I decided that every day in May, I will share my thoughts on Teaching and Learning.  This is Day 17.

During these last two months, I have been worried about our world's children. As teachers, we knew with this online/pandemic teaching, our priorities had to be connecting in a way that helped students and families through this difficult time.  The phases of this online/pandemic teaching seem predictable--it seemed fun at first and we all thought it was temporary. But then children and families and teachers got weary and this week many of my students verbalized the sadness they were feeling. I know teachers everywhere did an amazing job of taking care of our students and teachers. I am wondering how our children will be impacted in the future.

This article--Kids Are So Over Zoom: Here's What ToDo About It--popped up in my feed today and it put in words a lot that I've been worried about. It explains a lot that teachers have been seeing. For teachers and parents, it's  worth the read.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Thoughts on Teaching & Learning: 3 Picture Books

Over the past several weeks, I have found myself doing a lot of reflection trying to get this online teaching right.  I keep meaning to get my thoughts on paper but then get caught up in the day-to-day work of teaching in this pandemic era.  I know if I can catch my breath, there is a lot to learn and reflect on during this time. So, I decided that every day in May, I will share my thoughts on Teaching and Learning.  This is Day 16.

Typically, I read lots and lots of picture books. We have a fabulous library system and I often order a stack to read through on a Saturday and then decide which ones I need to own. I've really missed out on picture books over these last 2 months-I haven't kept up on the new picture books at all. And I think my students miss them too. Usually, we read at least 2-3 picture books a day but during this remote learning, we haven't really read a lot of picture books live and together. It's something I would change for next year.

This week, we did share a few picture books on Google Meet. Both are books I need to own and they both invited great conversations. If you haven't seen Lift by Minh Lè and Dan Santat, it is a must-have. I had preordered this one long ago (I do that when I see a must-have book and then I forget about it and it is a nice surprise when it arrives!). This one is as fabulous as I had anticipated. The words, the pictures, the title, all of it. There are some great themes in this one and I think it would be an amazing book to read at the beginning of the year too, as classrooms are building community.

Brave Molly by Brooke Boynton-Hughes is a book I learned about from John Mere in a Build Your Stack session this winter. This is a wordless book and the Kindle version worked out well on Google Meet. Students could see all of the details and noticed a great deal on each page. This book addresses social anxiety, but students had conversations around fear and anxiety in general so it seemed like a good book for this week.

One book that I did not share with my class, but that I will probably share this week as a great one for summer reading is this new nonfiction picture book. You're Invited to a Moth Ball: A Nighttime Insect Celebration by Loree Burns is amazing! (I think I discovered this one from Melissa Stewart.) And such a great invitation for children and families who are stuck at home. I love this book for so many reasons. First of all, it is a great fun activity for kids and families to do at home, outside. Second it is a great mentor for How-To Writing. And there are lots of extra features that give more information. And the photos are fabulous. I became a huge Loree Burns fan several years ago when I read Handle with Care and I've followed her work since. This book is fabulous, and I can see it being a well-loved book in K-5. as it has so many different entry points.

We got good news this week--our library will be opening with curbside pick-up so I am hoping I can spend the first few weeks of summer reading reviews etc. and ordering all those picture books that I've missed knowing about.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Thoughts on Teaching & Learning...Closure

Over the past several weeks, I have found myself doing a lot of reflection trying to get this online teaching right.  I keep meaning to get my thoughts on paper but then get caught up in the day-to-day work of teaching in this pandemic era.  I know if I can catch my breath, there is a lot to learn and reflect on during this time. So, I decided that every day in May, I will share my thoughts on Teaching and Learning.  This is Day 15.

This week was our last full week of remote learning. Our last day with students is on Tuesday. We have a few fun virtual events planned for next week but today I dropped off gifts to my students. It was a bittersweet afternoon. It was soooo fabulous to see many of them either waving from the porch or a window after I rang the bell. I knew I missed them but it was REALLY, REALLY good to see them. And it was hard. It was not the kind of goodbye we should have had. And I felt bad for each of them to have to be going through this.

Since the beginning of this, my goal has been to make this online/pandemic learning experience as good as it can possibly be for kids and their families. I tried hard to focus on connections and community and giving them some sense of normalcy. This week, I could tell it was getting harder for kids to realize that this was the end of their elementary years.  So I hope that this small gift can help bring a little joy and a bit of happy closure to the end of this school year.  And really, putting together the gifts and spending the afternoon dropping them off, seeing some of the kids in the process, was quite a gift for me.  Today was so good for my heart.

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.
-Winnie the Pooh

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Poetry Friday -- Pineapple

Thank you Evelyn (via Jone) for this tasty pineapple poem.

For you, readers, I offer this recipe for bliss:

Over cubes of fresh pineapple, drizzle dark molasses, then sprinkle with the zest of one lime. Let it sit as long as you are able to resist the sweet tropical scent, then indulge. You may never eat plain pineapple again!

Now, head over to Jama's Alphabet Soup, where chocolate chip cookies and the Poetry Friday Roundup await you!

Thoughts on Teaching and Learning: A Fun Break (with some thinking about writing...)

Over the past several weeks, I have found myself doing a lot of reflection trying to get this online teaching right.  I keep meaning to get my thoughts on paper but then get caught up in the day-to-day work of teaching in this pandemic era.  I know if I can catch my breath, there is a lot to learn and reflect on during this time. So, I decided that every day in May, I will share my thoughts on Teaching and Learning.  This is Day 14.

I am not often a binge watcher. It is a frustrating thing to my family, but I can't sit for 10 hours and watch 20 episodes of a Netflix series. However, I did find myself binge-watching The Holderness Family videos this week. You might remember them from a Christmas Pajama video a while ago. I remember watching it and thinking it was cute, but their quarantine videos have made me become a big fan. A huge fan.

This What Happens Now? video popped up in my Facebook feed and I was quite amused. Not enough to start binge watching but a few pleasant moments laughing at this.

Then (you know how these YouTube videos conveniently go right on to the next one...) I saw this one and boy I could relate.

But I couldn't help but notice the brilliance in the song rewriting.

Then I was hooked. This family is hysterical, and they are capturing so much of what the world is going through. So, I kept watching.

My writing teacher brain kicked in and I could not get over the brilliance of these videos.   Pure entertainment--but what must it have taken to create these? They are telling really important stories in this fun format. They are capturing lots of history in a clever way. The writing and word choice, the music, the visuals, the video special effects.  I couldn't help thinking about digital writing and what these videos could teach me about possibilities for our kids. Does this genre of writing have a name? How do all of the pieces of each video fit together? How do we make room for things like this in our writing classrooms?  I keep watching these over and over, thinking about the creation process.

These videos REALLY made my day a whole lot better when I discovered them and binge watched.  One of the best purposes for writing and creating I can think of. Granted, the Holderness Family brings professional knowledge, tools and access to these videos. I continue to be amazed at all that people are posting these days --from their homes--it really does open up the possibilities of what our students can do, in and out of school with creation and digital tools. The writing process, word choice, added visuals, etc. make these Holderness Family videos very complex pieces. They have reminded me that I have to continue to expand what I think writing looks like and think about what I can learn from all the videos, podcasts etc. that are helping us get through this pandemic/quarantine.