Sunday, October 30, 2005

When did it become cool to be dumb?

This is a question that has been haunting me. The attitude seems to start around middle school but it projects itself into the political arena all the time. Maybe doubting the intelligence of the world is simply a rite of passage, like the rite of passage where adults upon reaching a certain age (much older than I, of course) question why the world doesn't value the wisdom of its elders more.

I asked a group of students this question last week and one girl replied that Jessica Simpson started it. I dare say it started long before her chicken of the sea embarrassments, but it was good to know the student knew what I was talking about.

Have been working hard on two new books, many hours at the computer. Not enough time for reflection.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Westerly Elementary School

A week at Westerly -- this is the elementary school both my daughters attended. I was lucky enough to spend the week there doing writing workshops with the third and fourth grades culminating in a grand poetry jam on Friday afternoon. The auditorium was darkened, the stage set, names drawn and many poems performed to enthusiastic applause. Many thanks to Martha Fisher for her extra efforts in making the week a success.

Many many students have heard me tell the story of how I came to write "The Dog Ate My Homework." How our dog ate my daughter's report card and then the spelling book, how I had to make apologies to her teachers. What many students may not know is that that teacher is a real person and that she is still teaching after (rough estimate) 600 students have passed through her lively classroom. Her name is Mrs. Woodburn (see picture). In her cupboard she now keeps a three ring binder of homework excuses. She is a star in her students' eyes and in her profession.

Westerly's Poetry Jam Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Mrs. Woodburn and some half cracked poet with her eyes closed. Posted by Picasa

Poems from State College Posted by Picasa

State College, PA

Driving through Pennsylvania in the twilight of October is nothing if not a colorful experience! That drive was only surpassed by the fun I had visiting Mt. Nittany and Park Forest Middle School and schools in State College and meeting with all the students and teachers. Four days in the district, it's hard to pinpoint the highest point, but it might have been the visit to the class pictured below.

The teachers and libraians Kathy Billet and Dotty Delafield had the students so pumped up about poetry, their enthusiasm was in the air and on their papers as we shared our poems and even composed some new ones. Lots of poems on the walls and lining the halls. After meeting with the students, I spent a half day in-service with the teachers in grades 6-12. I wonder if the kids know what great poets their teachers are.

Many thanks to the staff, administration and especially the kids in State College. And a little thank you also to Mother Nature for sharing her pallet enroute.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

State College Poets (a few among many) Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Who are you wearing?

Once in a while a student question just sticks with me -- usually the ones I don't have answers for. Last Friday (now Sunday) following the final assembly (eighth grade, last period, we all survived) after I had reminded the kids of the rights and responsibilities of free speech, revealed personal facts about my life, joked and urged them to put their own thoughts and feelings down on paper and share them with others, I asked for questions.

"Who are you wearing?"

I had to ask for a restatement -- not what was I wearing, but who?
Is this a sign of too much time spent aside the red carpet with Joan Rivers? Over exposure to People Magazine? The world has an elevated temperature, the country has been visited by plagues of winds and floods and fire, the heads of the senate and the congress are being investigated for illegal activities, the country is a war. . . and there was no discussion about the world, the content of my poems, the content of my soul or the student's, all he wanted to know was what corporate entity was on the label of my wrapper.

At first I thought it was such an insignificant question, I didn't even pause for a response, so many hands in the air. But the more I think about it, the more important the question becomes. Had I answered the question, would that have changed the boy's view of me? Colored it? I never intended my wardrobe to provide that ah-ha moment poets search for.

I didn't have a good answer.
I still don't.
But I can't erase the question or the young man's face from my vision of myself or the world. I guess today, that student is who I am wearing and to tell you the truth, the ensemble kind of itches.