Wishes & Stanzas

For our writing assignment this week, the students, and I focused on 8 wishes (and no, you can’t wish for more wishes!) Here are my 8 wishes for the moment:

1- to have a homestead in the country with 150+ acres
2-to have the ability to learn languages quickly and fluently
3-to have musical talent (affinity)
4-to be lucky
5-to have a green thumb (not literally)
6-to be able to be vulnerable
7-to truly love myself
8-to heal others

Then, we took our own 8 wishes and either (A) wrote a poem about all of our wishes with each wish getting its own stanza or (B) wrote a poem about just one of our 8 wishes using the same stanza format. Here is the stanza format that we used:

A two-line stanza (couplet)
A three-line stanza (tercet)
A four-line stanza (quatrain)
A five-line stanza (quintain)
A six-line stanza (sestet)
A seven-line stanza (heptastich)
An eight-line stanza (octave)

Here is my attempt at Option A and I chose Wish #7:

Love myself
Is a wish
That everyone should make
Because when you love yourself
You can love others as well
You wield the power to create a
World that holds space for all its inhabitants.

This was a really hard process– choosing wishes and writing about them using this format. Even though the “words get to sit on the page in all sorts of ways when you write a poem,” My words seemed to keep wiggling around in their seats and even getting up and leaving the page. I’d like to revisit this writing assignment and see how it goes the second time.

For more on writing about wishes and poetry using stanzas, check out Rip the Page!: Adventures in Creative Writing by Karen Benke (That is also where I got the quote above).

Taylor Mali’s Metaphor Dice

All of the students loved this activity. You roll three separate die (red = concept, white = adjective, and blue= object) and then create a metaphor by supplying a verb. The formula is the concept is a (or whatever verb phrase) adjective + object. We rolled the dice 10 times (switching sets of die after 5 rolls). Here are my results:

Party clown always makes fun of gentle time.
Hope is a handed-down superhero.
Beauty wears a gentle wedding gown.
Poetry dreamed of being an unspoken meadow.
Hope was born a handed-down blessing.
Victory claimed to be a back-handed thunderstorm.
Victory dreamed of being a burning wasteland.
My soul dreams of being an impossible wonder.
My body is a broken trophy.
My heart holds a burning wonder.

Then, we create poems using one of our metaphors. Here is mine:

My body is a broken trophy.
Passed down from team to team
Always to the victor
That went beyond his means
Lying, cheating, unsportsmanlike conduct
They have done it all.

Breaking the rules,
Keeping track,
Racking up scores
All for selfish pride
And their own fame
My body is a broken trophy
Left alone in a case.

Here are some awesome examples from my students:
Passion turned into a handed-down wedding gown.
Happiness turned into a sad curse.
Your body sounded like a desperate thunderstorm.
The past is a small town promise.
The truth acts like a silent midwife.
Happiness is a midnight drum.
Love is a midnight dance.
My birth turned into a last-minute sideshow.

You can also create stories from these metaphors. Here is my story about “Power was born an unspoken midwife.”

Not happy with her job, she looked for ways to escape. Running errands so she could find exit routes and stash supplies. She was meant to be more… so much more than a lowly servant covered in bodily fluids–sweat and blood.


When I see you,
You will only see–part of me.
The part of me that everyone sees.
You might notice the reservation in my eyes,
And the tilt of my body.
The need to reacclimate around you,
Before I can be with you.

It is not surprising…
Every moment we join, then disperse.
It is another goodbye,
Death by 1,000 cuts.
My body feels covered in them
Some are seeping, while others are scabbed
But all of them are scars.

Golden Shovel

I love the new enrichment class that I am teaching because I get the chance to write with my students. I am so inspired and learning so much from these amazing writers. Today, we looked to the mentor text, One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes.

I used the poem, “Cinderella’s Mourning” by Laura Whipple from the book If the Shoe Fits. The quote I chose was “You won’t need to be silent and sad.” Here is my first Golden Shovel poem…

Life seems to have discarded you.
Like something it wanted, but it won’t.
Like something it doesn’t need.
Life changed its mind to
Focus on other things. And left you to be
All alone, separate and silent
Because it does not see your worth and
Why would it desire something so sad?

For my second attempt, I used the poem, “What Is Black?” by Mary O’Neill from the book Hailstones and Halibut Bones. The quote I chose was “When there isn’t a star.” Here is my second Golden Shovel poem…

NIght Inside
I don’t know when
it started. There
wasn’t “one moment.” Isn’t
it strange, I can’t find a
single reason to wish upon a star.


Sometimes writing helps us heal. It gives us perspective and a space to put down our feelings. Again, like so many of my other pieces, this one is still being molded, especially the ending...

It was a beautiful spring day as he walked through the woods. The sunlight streaked through the new growth.  Not a cloud in the baby-blue sky. He stopped and listened. There were so many birds singing their songs, flitting from branch to branch. 

Then, he noticed a small bird. One that he had never seen before, dancing gracefully on the ground. He had almost missed her. She blended in—no special colorings, no distinguishing features—but he knew in his heart she was special.

He watched her for a couple of moments. Her unaware of his presence. Then, she disappeared in an instant. He searched but could not find her, so he returned to his stroll.

The next day, the path called to him. His thoughts were on the bird: What did she eat? Where did she sleep? Did she have a mate? He hurried to the last place he had discovered her. Then stopped. There she was, skittering on the forest floor.

He thought to himself, “She is just a simple bird.” As he watched, he was mesmerized by her playfulness, her resourcefulness, her beauty. Then, she was gone. He trudged home.

The next day before going into the wild he brought with him different seeds and fruits. Maybe she would like these? I could provide for her so she won’t waste her precious energy. He got to the spot—their spot—and laid out the foods like a picnic. Then sat and waited.

She cautiously hopped over but did not take one offering. He was disappointed, but he knew he had to earn her trust. She was a wild animal after all—they can be wary, especially one who has so many predators.

He returned day after day with more treats. Sitting still and waiting for the opportunity for her to let down her guard and return his attention…

This day was cooler. The leaves rustled. Winter was on its way. He worried about the bird: What will she eat? Where will she sleep? Will she fly away? They had bonded spending the summer days with each other. He even got the chance to hold her. She was warm. Her sleek body touched him softly, molding perfecting in his hands. He could not bear the thought of her in danger. Yes, he needed to protect her from this world!

She came into view, and he looked at her in awe. She was frolicking in the underbrush. The sunlight glimmered off her brown plumage. His heart skipped a beat, and he knew he must save her.

The cage quickly engulfed her without warning. Desperate chirps escaped her as her prison moved gently back and forth through the falling leaves to the beat of his footsteps. But the other birds were silent. They did not want to be bothered. Happy to be rid of the competition. She had done this to herself! The way she flirted in the undergrowth. She was not like them. Birds were supposed to fly for their next meal.

He proudly opened the door and set her on the table. “You have a home now. You will be safe.”

There are two different directions I want to go with this. End the poem now or have the bird escape. I came across this quote in a book by Emily Nagaski, Ph. D., about healing, and it gave me inspiration on how I might end the poem differently…

“At last she said, ‘It’s like… I’m sitting with a stunned bird in the palm of my hand. If I get tense and try to hurry it, it will just stay frozen. But if I’m still and patient long enough, the bird will wake up and fly away’.”

Maha Shivratri 2022

Maha Shivratri is a night for self-reflection and introspection with the goal of growing and letting go of everything that is getting in the way of us being our best selves. It is difficult to look in the mirror and see your reflection clearly. It is scary to let go. But tonight, I am honoring myself and my journey. I am surrendering–releasing the fear and control to allow joy and peace the time and space to enter my life. I can’t wait for all the little surprises I would have missed.

Where I’m From

I am at the Boothbay Literacy Retreat experiencing the most awesome professional development EVER (and food!). Being supported by Kylene Beers, Bob Probst, Kelly Gallagher, Penny Kittle, Teri Lesesne, and Linda Rief (along with the Heinemann staff) is truly uplifting. Not to mention the inspiring words (that had me laughing and crying) from Chris Crutcher and Kwame Alexander.

Kylene gave us homework (which was not a choice– she’s not Penny Kittle, after all) to create our own poem using the mentor text, Where I’m from by George Ella Lyons. After much hemming and hawing, erasing and scribbling, here is my not-quite-finished, but has-to-be-good-enough poem:

Where I’m From
I am from dirt roads
winding through sun and shade
I am from wildflower-filled fields
(colorful, swaying
tickling my cheeks).
I am from butterflies
the birds and the bees
whose dances and songs I remember
as if they were my own.

I’m from rocky shores
slippery from hidden treasures
I am from Atlantic ocean waves
that freeze off my ankles
And take my breath away.
I am from pink beach roses
with fragrant kisses
and deceiving seagulls that badger me.

I am from cool brooks
bubbling through woodland forests
From scampering creatures tolerating
the presence of me
feasting on blackberries along their paths
Tiptoeing trilliums
and delicate lady slippers
To discover a soft patch of moss
that will hold all of my dreams.
I am from these moments
Playing outside endlessly
until being called back in.

New Year’s Resolution

Well, it is the start of another year. It is time to reflect back over my life this year. I know that I should not be such a black hat and celebrate all of my accomplishments. However, if I could sum up one word about my life last year it was… STRESSFUL. And when I ask myself the question, “Am I truly happy?” I guess I am truly not.

So, back to the drawing board… I need to highlight and fix some parts of my life that are causing me the most stress.

Stressor 1: My job- Being a teacher is hard work. I get that. But I always feel like I am behind the 8 ball. I want my students working harder than I am, and right now that is not happening. Lessons are disjointed, and my students are struggling with learning independently. Its January and they still can’t follow basic procedures for learning even though we have been practicing them since September (and there are anchor charts!)

Solution 1: Thank god for Matt Miller and the Ditch That Textbook Digital Summit. I realized that I could utilize technology to help me achieve my goals in the classroom thanks to @mrmatera@hollyclarkedu@tanyaavrith@ericcurts@jcorippo@kellyihilton ‏,  @lhighfill ‏, @SARAHLANDIS, and @spencerideas

So, I am taking some online courses and becoming Google Certified (Level 1). I am going to work smarter so my students can work harder and more independently.

Stressor 2: My books- I know this seems really crazy, but I am a book whore. One of the professional highlights of last year is that I was accepted on the Maine Student Book Award Committee. I use a lot of books in my teaching, and I am always looking for the next best book to convert non-readers to readers. To quote one of my darling students, “I don’t hate reading, but I just like reading this book.” The problem is I don’t have enough room for my books, and I can’t find the right book when I need it. Some are in storage, some are at school, some are at home. And of course, what I need is not where I need it.

Solution 2: Build a bookshelf at home. I have designed a book shelf that will cover one part of my living room wall and will house over 600 books. Phew! Now,  I will be able to find everything I need and catalog my books.

Stressor 3: No energy- Well, I have been feeling a little depressed and dumpy lately. I’ve turned into a couch potato and have been eating like one. It’s time I treated my body with respect.

Solution 3: Eat healthy meals and workout. One of the best presents I gave myself is Beach Body on Demand. I used to do P90X, and I loved it. But it is expensive buying the next program and the next. And sometimes it is nice to just try something different. I also got a Fitbit Alta for Christmas and it is helping me to track my lifestyle decisions… It also looks like I need to drink more water and get more sleep 🙂

Stressor 4: Empty well- I really don’t take enough time for myself to recharge. I notice that I don’t have as much patience with others most days. My days are filled with obligation, after obligation. I know when you are an adult you have responsibilities, but it is unhealthy to always be adulting every second of the day.

Solution 4: Read. Read. Read. And take naps, cuddle with my cats, write, go for a walk, hang out with my friends and kids, cook something new, go see a play… I am going to choose one thing that I can do for myself to bring me peace and happiness, and do it. No questions asked!


Teachers Write 7.10.17

I am so excited that my sister asked me to join Kate Messner’s Teacher Write 2017.  Today’s focus is how setting can provide a vehicle for character development/analysis. So today, I took the perspective of one of my teenage daughters. I recently moved to a small town about 1.5 hours away from our “original” home that was a bedroom community for a small city. Both of my daughters have struggled with the change of scenery, and the transition from their dads (in the city) to my house (in the country). This writing piece is a work in progress because I haven’t quite accomplished the effect that I wanted to create (resentful and lost to finding solace and a sense of belonging or home).

Here is my very rough draft:

I’m in the middle of absolute no-where.
Blocked in by trees
Frustrated with the lame internet service
Nothing is loading…
My texts are not sending…
Why did my mom even move to this place?
So far from civilization, from my friends
In the middle of freakin’ no-where.

As I sit here on a screened in porch
Birds are chirping, animals are scurrying, bugs are zooming by
But I’m not getting any notifications
I’m not going anywhere.
Trapped by the wilderness.
All alone.


Day #31: Last one

Phew! I can’t believe it has been 31 days already.

The research states that students should write everyday. Participating in this writing challenge has given me a first-hand perspective on what it means to write every day.

  • it’s ok if student struggle with topics to write about
  • it’s ok if students can’t “write”
  • it’s ok if students don’t “finish” their writing
  • it’s ok if students write in different formats

The best way to support students with their writing is to provide options, examples, and encouraging feedback within the framework of a community of learners.