Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Saluda Trail Middle School, Rock Hill SC

I had the best time visiting Saluda Trail Middle School. Please Please if you read this click on the school name above and hyperlink to the site where the kids have posted their poems. I don't even want to think about how long it took to put up this grand site, but I can tell you it is very cool.

The day started with a teacher workshop because it was a delayed start for the kids. The teachers were great and tried their hands at writing poetry all across, over and around the curriculum. Congrats to them for working outside their comfort zones. Then I performed two assemblies, but that wasn't the best part. The best part was reading the poetry written by Saluda Trail students and seeing them perform. I don't think I have EVER been to a school that was more pumped up by their own writing and performance. I came home with a DVD of their voices, pictures of their bulletin boards, a T shirt and some of the warmest, bestest memories any visitor could hope for. And on their website you can read energy poems from science class, poetry from Spanish class, percetage poems and even poetry from (get this!) computer class! The poetry was everywhere.

Actually, what I always hope for is that my visit inspires kids to express themselves through their own writing and performance. What was especially cool at Saluda Trail is that not only had the kids been inspired to write, but the teachers got them stoked before I got there so I could see the results of their work. Lucky me.

I came home to the birth of the grandbaby and then NCTE followed closely by Thanksgiving company so I am late posting this, but that does not diminish my excitement one single bit. Thank you so much to Carolyn Moore for making the connection. Wow.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Sara Kelly Lufkin

Born November 11, 2006 at 4:59 pm. Weight: 4 lbs. 9 oz. (tiny baby!). She joins mom and dad (Katie and Doug) and her big sister Steph and brother Scott (aka Scooter).

She was anxious to make her arrival and check-in several weeks early, but Sara Kelly is eating and breathing at the same time and I'm sure, dancing in place.

I say I am sure because although she is living and breathing a mere few miles from here, I HAVE YET TO SEE HER AND HOLD HER! This is a minor tragedy for me, but a good thing for her as I have been sick sick for over a week and no granana would go and breathe germs on such a precious little bundle. I will undoubtedly make up for lost time as soon as it is safe for her to camp out in my arms.

Lights blue-bright, I squint
and hear a familiar voice.
This is life outside.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Warm Up Joy

You have to give respect to get it!
Be the best you can be!
Play by the rules, be a winner!
Giraffe heroes stick their necks out for the common good!

The gymnasium at Rockcave Elementary School is papered with inspiring banners, all ending in ballooning exclamation points. I was particularly drawn to the talking giraffe urging kids to stick their necks out for the "common good," which was kind of quaint in our "me first" society. Cool. Continuing to browse the banners, waiting for the kids to arrive and the assembly to start, I noticed a white board with hand written directions. Reading from the bottom up, it said
10 sprints
coffee grinders
and the first line, which I read (from across the room) to say, "Warm up Joy."

I wasn't sure what a coffee grinder was but I know a sprint and a windmill is pretty self explanatory -- but what about this "warm up joy?" How cool is that? Not only has this school NOT followed the current trend to cancel gym class for phonics drills, but they are encouraging JOY.

Joy! Just the word lifted my spirit through the gym roof.

It didn't even bother me too much when I realized I had misread the white board and what it actually said was "Warm up Jog." Didn't matter, the subliminal message stuck.

If I did not go into elementary schools, if I did not talk to elementary school children and hear their writing and see their pride and excitement, if I just read and believed the reports on children that I read in the newspapers, the reports from the greedy testing companies with feeder, scripted programs sold to schools to support their tests and the published achievement (or lack of achievement) numbers, I would believe those reports and never experience the daily, private, joy of kids learning together.

So, here's the question -- how do we slip more uplifting subliminal messages into our stressed out, over-tested, underfunded schools?