Friday, June 28, 2013

Winter Wish: Poetry Friday

Don't worry, I'm not wishing for winter.  I'm not sure I will ever wish for winter.  We went to the Columbus Zoo yesterday and saw the moose.  The moose looked a little sad and as I researched I realized moose really do not like heat.  They don't like temperatures above 57 degrees.  I'm guessing Ohio summers are as pleasant to them as Ohio winters are to me.  So today's original poem is dedicated to the moose as they struggle through these sizzling days.  

Thanks to Amy Ludwig-VanDerwater at The Poem Farm for hosting today's event.  Stop by for more Poetry Friday fun --- and try not to get lost on Amy's amazing treasure of a site.  

Winter Wish
The sun beats down
I hide under this tree
Wanting to remove
My heavy coat
Or wade in a deep cool pond
Instead I rest
For the cold days of winter

I miss snow
Weeks of winter white 
My hooves are snowshoes
My lanky legs keep me moving
In the deepest of snow storms
The cold is comforting
The extra fat I have stored
Cushioning my body

I miss my wintery world
But it is summer
Heavy heat surrounds me
Even in the shade
I do not move
Do not want to eat
There is nothing to do
But wait
Wait for winter.

© Cathy L. Mere

About the Process
Those of you following my writer's notebook dilemma know I am trying a few digital notebooks.  I'm starting to really like Noteshelf.  Here is some of the playing I did on Noteshelf before posting this poem.  

At first I thought I'd be writing about the fact
that none of the moose had antlers, but as I
researched something else caught my attention.

So Noteshelf doesn't help my handwriting.
My apologies.  However, it did let me play
with words by changing colors before
publishing today's poem.  

More About Moose
I enjoy playing with nonfiction poetry.  There's something about a little bit of research and a little bit of writing that I find interesting.  Here are a few sites I used to learn more about moose:

Ranger Rick:  Moose (love the PDF magazine format)
Zoo Borns:  Orphaned Moose Calves Know How to Kiss (Columbus Zoo 2011 story of moose)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Notebooks: Bound or Digital? That is the Question

Today's piece is part of the Slice of Life Challenge hosted on Tuesdays at Two Writing Teachers.  Thanks Stacey and Ruth

Yesterday was the first day of Teachers Write hosted at Kate Messner's blog.  I was excited to see many of the participants from Slice of Life joining this writing event.  This is my first year to participate and I'm looking forward to continuing to build my writing community.  Today's post is a reflection of yesterday's conversation --- and a continued problem for me.  I hope you can help.  

Notebooks:  The Beginning
It's been a little over ten years now since I trained to work as a literacy coach in my district.  I often look back at that time, not just as training to be a literacy leader, but also a training in life.  I learned many life lessons along the way and changed the way I do so many things.  Our trainer at the time, Max Brand, taught me perhaps the most important lesson:  not to TEACH literacy, but to LIVE literacy.  

Along the journey I picked up a notebook and began to write.  It was truly the best time for me to pick up a notebook as my grandfather had just passed away.  I was devastated, but somehow I found comfort in tracing back through the stories we shared and recording snippets in my notebook.  Somehow I found happiness among the sorrow as I remembered working in his workshop, the ways he'd make my grandma crazy, his family slideshow presentations, his myriad of life lectures, and his wonderful way with people.  

Picking up a notebook in these days wasn't the first time I had written.  I had notebooks here and there along life, but they hadn't amounted to much.  Probably my best notebooks were poetry notebooks filled with poetry I had written in my younger days.  It was, however, the first time I had really committed to keeping up with a notebook.  For years I recorded moments in life that made me pause:  a memory from long ago (yes, there are a lot of grandparent stories), funny things my children said or did, poetry, phrases, ideas, lines from books I read, webs of ideas, conversations I overheard (yes, creepy I know --- but, admit it, you do it too), articles that caught my attention.  My notebook was a messy catch-all for all I was noticing.  

Life got busy every now and then, causing me to move away from my notebook, but I always came back. A few years ago, I found tech.  Oh, tech.  Yes, it changed my thinking yet again, but it took me away from my notebook.  I was more likely to find a device in my hand than a notebook.  I've written about this dilemma before.  Yesterday, I read Kate's post about notebook, and I was catapulted right back to, perhaps, my greatest writing challenge:  capturing ideas.

Why Paper?
My biggest goal for this writing challenge is to find an effective way for me to capture ideas yet again.  Honestly, when participating in Slice of Life over half of my ideas came from revisiting my notebook (other half were from that day events --- daily writing will do that to you).  There's something to be said for physically writing an idea.  For some reason, ideas I've written by hand feel like they stay with me longer; I can locate them in a snap.  Hand writing an idea makes it easier to grow and yet keep a trail.  In my notebook I can easily cross out words, list possibilities off to the side, highlight favorite phrases, draw pictures to help me think.  However, I'm not the neatest person in the world and even I sometimes I have difficulty reading my quick thoughts.

Why Tech?
Yet, ideas come in the craziest places and my notebook is too big to lug around.  For a year or so I carried a smaller notebook with the intent of moving ideas into my notebook, but they never got moved.  Small notebooks, in my world, are easily forgotten.  What to do with these ideas that hit me as we ride the motorcycle through the hills, as I sit in coffee shops, when I'm waiting on a game to start?  Tech.  Using tech to record ideas allows me to easily include pictures that have started my thinking.  It allows me to easily link information connected to my idea.  With tech, I can grow ideas in a different way.   With tech I can voice record, add images, type, list, and so much more.  I've written ideas on several different apps only to, as Kate said, forget I have them until I stumble upon them one day.  Another concern with going digital is accessibility, will I always be able to return to the pages?  (See apps I will be considering here:  Writer's Notebooks.  Going Digital)  

My Goals
March's Slice of Life Challenge followed by May's Poetry Challenge have really helped me to get back into the habit of writing.  For this reason, I think I am going to make all of my goals about getting ready to write.  I'm going to make all of my goals about finding a system that works to capture ideas.  Here are my goals for this event:

  1. Find THE App!:  My first goal is to find an app that works for capturing ideas.  I need something that can have images, (links and voice would be a plus), tags, writing/drawing capabilities, can be linked (synced would be best) with Evernote (Evernote ALMOST WORKS, but it doesn't feel "journal-like" enough and it doesn't have drawing capabilities).  
  2. Capture at Least One Idea a Day:  During the summer it is easier to find time to write. I usually begin my day writing, but I'm not always as good about taking time to write down ideas and things I notice.  I'm going to really work on this side of my writing.
  3. Figure Out the Role of My Notebook:  Is there a point where I want to move ideas into my notebook?  Are there certain types of writing that work best with a notebook (I'm wondering about poetry here)?  
  4. Organize:  I really need to figure out some way to organize, color code, prioritize --- do something with all of this thinking.  
More About Notebooks
Have you seen Taylor Swifts commercial at the movie theaters.  I honestly can't even tell you what product she's endorsing (sad for advertisers), but I'm fascinated with her notebook.  Have you seen the way she is has it coded?  I think you need to see it so I looked it up (now I know, Diet Coke). 

Here are some of my favorite sites/posts about notebooks:

Friday, June 21, 2013

Poetry Friday: Lily Dance

Today I join the Poetry Friday fun with this poem original poem about lilies.  Carol Wilcox is hosting today and has some great poetry books waiting for you there.  Stop by Carol's Corner ( for more poetry fun.    

Lily Dance

as the tulip and iris bloom,
you wait
staying close to the ground
for warmth.

It's hard to resist
the sun,
calling you to play.
You reach
your ladder-like leaves,
connecting ground and sky.

The warmer days
call you out,
you climb,
rising above others watching.
You ascend higher,
hoping for a better view.

you can see her,
orange and hot
in the deep blue sky.
You burst like a firework
in stunning color.

you bring color
to the green all around,
in your magical stance.
Lily radiating from the earth,
Sun singing from the sky.

© Cathy L. Mere

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Slice of Life: Why I Stay

Today's piece is part of the Slice of Life Challenge hosted on Tuesdays at Two Writing Teachers.  Thanks Stacey and Ruth.  It is written in response to the numerous "I quit" letters written by educators that float around the internet.  

A few months ago our son, at that time a business major with nearly two years of business classes completed, came to us with news. I could tell he was worried and nervous as he sat us down to talk. My husband and I listened intently as our son explained his reasons for wanting to switch his major to education. Jeff and I, both educators, looked at each other and smiled. I think we both had known this day would come eventually.

John's decision made me think carefully. It is one thing to endure the current stresses in public education, yet quite another to envision your child (another one of your children) in that situation. The long hours, the continued attacks by politicians, the enormous amounts of mandated testing, the goal to educate for the 21st century while we assess in 20th century ways, the continued push to do more with much less, all weigh heavy on educators. The push for profit in education from companies like Pearson, the rise of vouchers, and the current trend to tie testing to teacher evaluations and pay, have undermined public education. External stresses can divert attention from teaching students, meeting the needs of a diverse group of learners, and being passionate about the profession we all proudly joined.

Yesterday when another resignation letter was being passed around the internet I sighed. More and more you see letters from teachers posted to the internet about their reasons for resignation. In these letters one detects a feeling of powerlessness or a refusal to continue to do what is felt as not in the best interest of children. Many factors are out of teachers' hands. Kids come to school unfed. Families go through crises that make learning hard for children. Some neighborhoods are not safe. Learners need a variety of types of support. Children sometimes have needs beyond a good test score.  Educators feel they are losing the ability to make decisions in their classrooms. All of these made me think of my son's decision and the reasons why I stay.

When John told us he was changing his major to education, we were happy for him. Jeff and I both love what we do, and John has seen that. Like us, he has enjoyed his work at a local summer camp and in my district's latchkey program. I see how much he likes working with children and how good he is in that work. Like John, I enjoy the time I spend teaching children. It is the first, and most important, reason I stay. I often wonder, "How many people get up in the morning excited to go to work?". I do. Each day I look forward to working alongside the students in my classroom. I enjoy their stories, marvel at their curiosity, laugh at their jokes, and celebrate their successes. I stay for the children.

I stay because I am passionate about learning. First and foremost, I am a learner. The world is a big place, and it seems there is always something to learn. I've spent years reading, studying, observing, reflecting to improve my ability to help others learn. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing others accomplish goals. I can't explain to you the feeling that comes from witnessing a student as they realize they can read. There are no words for observing a student discover something new. It is a privilege to watch children develop as citizens, readers, writers, scientists, and mathematicians. It is an honor to observe as they wonder, question, search, seek, create, solve, discuss, and collaborate.

I stay to make things better. I am glad I am not a student right now. The requirements and expectations sometimes leave little time for personal reading, writing, and learning. The consistent message that they are scores and numbers instead of journeyers on life's learning path must make it challenging for many. The constant push on education from politicians who seem to struggle doing their own job can be frustrating, but running doesn't fix things. We need a variety of voices working toward a common goal: what's best for children. We need new teachers sharing what they see. We need experienced teachers looking through a longer lens to speak up. We need to speak up and speak out to advocate for the children we teach.

I stay to share the real story of education and the positive things that go on each day. Last night I participated in an uplifting conversation on Twitter (#tlap) sharing ways to be passionate and immersed in the work we do. It was amazing to be a part of a discussion among educators, many on break, sharing their thoughts. You can find this passion all over the internet.  As I move from blog to blog, I'm continually reminded of the many ways educators work to create learning environments that allow children to have ownership in their learning. Constantly, I hear school hasn't changed and, in some ways, I suppose this argument could be made. There is always room for improvement. However in our school, and many elementary schools, learning is very different than when I went to school: expectations are higher, children have more choice, work is more authentic, collaboration and conversation happen across the day, technology has taken learning beyond classroom walls and given students a voice. Classrooms are places to explore and create.  I feel strongly it is our job as educators to spread the word about the learning taking place in our classrooms. It is our job to find ways to show student progress in ways beyond standard assessments. Image is up to us.

I stay to retain an active voice and advocate for public education. This quote by Kofi Annan says it best, "Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy, and sustainable human development." I'm very concerned that a movement toward standardized testing, school vouchers, charter schools, and virtual academies are part of a politically based movement to undermine public education. I believe strongly that education is a human right; one that is essential for the future success of our country. Children, no matter their socioeconomic status, have a right to a quality education.  We must advocate for equal opportunities in education and the funding to support learning for all.

I stay because I have great respect for our profession. For this reason, I am proud of my son's decision. He, and his older sister, are what our profession needs to continue to move forward and to advocate for what is best for children.  In Teach Like a Pirate, David Burgess reminds us, "At some point in your career you have to decide if you care more about teaching to tests or teaching kids.  My decision was made a long time ago.  I teach kids."  So I've renewed my professional memberships, purchased my summer professional reading, scheduled summer classes, and continue to follow the conversations on blogs and Twitter because I am staying.

Why do you stay?  Please comment below.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Stalker: A Poem for Poetry Friday

Today I'm joining the poetry Friday conversation hosted at Reflections on the Teche with poem inspired by my cat who seems to have two personalities.  

she lounges
in the warm sun
on patio chairs
purring softly

our sweet gray
tiger cat
waiting for attention

without warning
she leaps 
to her feet

she saunters
like a shadow
through tall grass

feathered creatures
from tree
to tree

they don't see her

slowly she steps
one paw 
in the tall green grass
patiently pausing

another step
to her unsuspecting

our gray tiger cat
with bad intentions

© Cathy L. Mere

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Summer Road Trips

Today I am participating in the SOL event hosted at Two Writing Teachers.  Thanks, Ruth & Stacey.

After several days of work I finally said goodbye to my classroom for the summer.  Books are back on the shelves, supplies are put away, charts are off the walls, and there is very little sign that learning takes place there for most of the year.  

Having that work behind me allowed me to begin to kick off summer with some of my favorite events. I joined the 48 Hour Book Challenge, planned summer learning, filled my Shelfari shelf with books I hope to read (both pleasure and professional), and started filling my calendar with times to catch up with friends and family.  

Today I started with the first road trip of the summer.  Each summer my dad waits until I have my classroom closed down and then we take a day to drive to Logan County where he grew up.

There's nothing quite like a road trip with Dad.  We kick off our trip with a coffee stop and then visit the cemeteries of relatives, place flowers on several graves, stop at a local farmer's market, tell stories of generations before us, drive by my great grandmother's old lake house, and of course stop to eat at the Tilton Hilton.

Picture via
Why didn't I take a pic?  Goodness.
If you haven't visited the Titlon Hilton, it's worth the stop.  It likely gets its name because the floor inside actually tilts.  I'm pretty sure we were sitting at least at a 25 degree angle as we ate.  The building sits along the lake and has seating inside and out.  The people who work there are always friendly.  We, of course, go there for the hamburgers.  They are delicious!  I'm not kidding when I say the hamburgers are the size of my fist.

My great grandma
(that's me on the far right)
We go there to reminisce too.  When I was young my great grandmother had a house at the lake.  We loved to go there because Grandma was so much fun.  I guess after you live a long time you learn about priorities.  You learn what really matters and what really doesn't.

Visiting Grandma at the lake we had a lot of freedom.  We were able to go fishing, take pedal boats out on the water, walk to the beach to swim, shop the local candy store, and play in the tar bubbled streets (cars never went down the road).  Grandma didn't plan to eat at a  certain time.  She didn't plan to be anywhere at a certain time.  She just had time for you.  We'd paint ceramics, play games, laugh over stories, and eat whenever we were hungry.  My dad tells some of these same stories about time spent at the lake.

Driving by the abandoned house I think my dad and I notice its emptiness, yet at the same time I think we see the stories that rest within its walls.  We both have to smile a little.  Those stories and times at the lake fill us with great joy still --- as do these road trip adventures.

One Little Word 2020

As Christmas approached this year, I looked at the calendar and took a deep breath.  We were out of school on Friday and everyone was arri...