Thursday, September 12, 2013

Going Forwards and Backwards!

Poetry Friday fan?  
       Head to Jen Vincent's web site, Teach.Mentor.Texts.  Thanks for hosting Jen!
The title seems to have a double meaning, considering all that is happening (or not happening) to educators lately.

       I wrote this poem a while ago as a holiday wish for my colleagues, and have pulled it out again because of all the recent controversy about teaching and testing. I've changed some of the wording to fit today rather than the holidays.  I think teachers are just great, and am happy to share the poem in their honor.  A Poem That Speaks Forwards and Backwards!


        This is a lesson from Kelly Gallagher’s book Write Like This, which includes the poem The Lost Generation, found here.  I loved taking this challenging exercise and applying it to my own life right now.  It would be great to do with older students.  It is also similar to Marilyn Singer's Reverso poetry books here.



                                 I Believe

This school year could not possibly be everything I want
So I try not to believe that
All I wish is some time for myself and those I love
It may be surprising to others that
I think education today is too challenging for teachers
I won’t accept that
I can do wonderful things with students
And I might tell others that
It is not worth it
Some educators believe
Hard work pays dividends  
I see things differently because
It is not easy to say that
The hours spent correcting papers and creating curriculum are always wise
I do believe
Much personal investment of time is profitable, and
I am convinced that
In this new year
There will be an increase in students behind in their work
I am not certain that
We will benefit from weekends of rest and recuperation because
Our renewal as teachers stems only in part from sleeping in and eating well, and
It is true that
We do not love our work and definitely
It is a false belief that
We will have a positive year with our classes because

       All of this will stay a reality unless we choose to reverse it.

Linda Baie, © All Rights Reserved

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

36 comments:

  1. Good morning, Linda. It's a balancing act for teachers. Important to have realistic expectations, but stay positive at the same time. I hope the beginning of your school year is going well!

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    1. So far, very well, Laura. Lots of meetings and plans starting. Thanks!

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  2. Yes, these are such challenging and strange times, and wise welcoming places like your blog are havens. I often find it interesting to think about the weather inside me, how much I determine what is good or bad, how much of my mood is simply a choice and a stance. But man, it can be tough sometimes. Poetry helps. xo

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    1. Yes, it's important to pay attention to one's "weather" as you wrote, Amy. It applies in every part of life, good or not. Thank you!

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  3. Hi Linda and Amy,

    Do you know the Haim Ginott quote Amy about the teacher determing the weather in her classroom? “I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.” From Between Teacher and Child

    Anyhow, great minds definitely think alike. I found it interesting that our new superintendent of schools back in 1984 shared this quote at his first meeting with us in our school library. It really is true in so many regards. AND especially now as teachers are under such a narrow microscope and pressure. I have heard the frustration from too many and worry that I could not take it either. Too much curricular and testing fears so teacher "choice" goes out the window and then what. I hope teachers are able to keep this idea in their hearts because our kids deserve it and poetry, as we know, truly helps heart, soul and mind. I didn't know this idea, Linda and will have to check out Kelly Gallagher's book. Are you coming to NCTE, Linda? I think so. Janet F.

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    1. Yes, I'm coming, Janet! I love Haim Ginott, still share his books with others, & was thrilled that Peter Johnston referenced Ginott in the workshop I attended with Johnston. Lots happening in education now & not all is for celebration. Thanks!

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    2. Oh, wow, that is great to hear! Peter will be here on Sept. 28. I will listen for that connection to Ginott. Opening Minds is something to celebrate and share. I heard him talk at NYSRA last fall, but it was on a different topic. Have you read Vicki Vinton's book and blog? I think you would love her. In the opening of What Readers Really Do (co written with Dorothy Barnhouse) they thank my friend, Brian Cambourne and also Peter Johnston. I bet you are a fan of Brian's. I met him at a small NCTE event and he is a generous, smart, wonderful educator to this day and beyond. He gave the research address at IRA in May and it was radical, called for big changes in ways we look at education research and ideas....I can't wait for the article and book to come out with this idea about research and education. Thanks again for your sharing, Linda. Janet F. Can't wait to see you in Boston!

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    3. Thanks again, Janet-I'll look these people up-sounds good!

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  4. Nice to see such positive thoughts for teachers...I'm sure they appreciate it!

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    1. Thank you Matt. Praise for colleagues is important!

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  5. Can't imagine teaching in this day and age. Your poem really showed me the struggle! I'm glad that you shared your thoughts in your poem.

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    1. Thanks BJ-I really don't have the struggle like those in public service do, but there are other challenges as a teacher we all share.

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  6. I love finding a message forward and backwards in this poem, Linda.

    It certainly seems that teaching is much more challenging than ever -- even more reason to appreciate those truly devoted to their profession and their students, who always go the extra mile.

    Have a great school year!!

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    1. Thanks Jama-mixed messages for sure seem to be occurring!

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  7. Read it forwards and backwards and I have come the conclusion that there is no more noble profession. I went to the open house at my son's school last night and was simply blown away... especially by one of his teachers in particular. Her commitment to his success just made want to cry... or hug her... or both.

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    1. How wonderful that you had such a good experience Michelle. I hope your son has a wonderful year with every teacher, & especially that one! Thank you!

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  8. i wake up every day and sally forth to my classroom believing that being a positive force for learning and growing up in my kids' life is a sacred duty. I cannot change the political climate, I cannot change the great tides of "reform" that seem to be sweeping through our education system...but I can make my classroom a safe haven for learning and growing up. And that gives me comfort. Thank you for sharing these powerful words with us today, Linda.

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    1. Yep! I understand completely. In early October we need to get together and look at the program for NCTE-so looking forward to that, Tara! Hope your days have gone well!

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  9. I a little bit jealous reading the comments about everyone meeting up at NCTE. Linda, your poem speaks to the back and forth of positive and negative in our schools today. I am a lucky in my position teaching gifted kids, but so many of the regular ed teachers are working too hard. They have thrown a new curriculum at them with very little PD to help. Just loads and loads of boxes of paper! I am worried about where the paper trail will lead.

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    1. It's hard to me to believe that some think teachers can just pick up a curriculum and start. There is so-o much to consider. Sorry for your teachers, and wish you were going to be at NCTE! Thanks, Margaret!

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  10. Wow! It must be really hard to write this form. Really nice poem!

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    1. Thanks for your comment on my blog. Yes, I do know that book, and I have a copy in my classroom. I agree that it's wonderful! I blogged about it here: http://thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com/2010/09/eight-days.html

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  11. Hi there dearest Linda, this is a very timely poem - especially here in Singapore which is a largely test-driven culture with a great deal of high stakes testing. Your poetry is a reminder of what is truly important in schools and being an educator. :)

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    1. Thanks-somehow I thought that the US was one of the few taking these testing stances. Whew, poor kids! Thanks, Myra.

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  12. I am struggling mightily this year in a "pass the test or else" situation, when my heart is all "learn to love reading and writing for a lifetime." Your poem brought me to tears with its truth. How am I going to make it through this year? Through to the end of my career with my beliefs intact?

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    1. Thanks Mary Lee, you know I wish you all the best for this school year. I know you are so grounded in your beliefs that you can make it work! Thanks also for the comment on the last post!

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  13. I wish everyone had the benefit of the big-hearted teachers in this Poetry Friday sphere. My hat is off to all of you as you do such important work with commitment to what you know to be true, in the face of politicians dictating what you "should" do in the classroom.

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    1. It is a wonderful group, I agree, Keri. Maybe the key word is students first, curriculum follows-don't know if that is wrong in some eyes, but it works for me.

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  14. Your poem and the form are both thought provoking. Thank goodness for teachers - our future depends on them. Thank you for reminding us of this today, Linda. =)

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  15. I was lucky to teach in an NYC school that was exempt from the nonsense that plagues public schools. I can't imagine what it's like now with CC and modules and blah blah blah. I really like the form of your poem and it's important message of positivity! Power to the teachers!

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  16. Thanks Bridget & Renee! I am continually worried about those teachers so impacted by new policies. Their work is challenging enough without added pressure!

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  17. Linda, beautiful poem that really speaks to the challenges of being a teacher in today's world. Thank you for sharing this.

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    1. Thank you-all mixed up isn't it? Wishing...

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  18. Hi Linda,
    I came back because I wanted to see the other comments here. I have never tried to write a reverso and am wondering if I could do it. I am curious how long it took you to write yours and how your mind can get you to the place where the words can be read in both directions, so you have really piqued my thinking. I also have liked reading the comments of the others. I want to check out Ruth's post and Mary Lee, hang tough! You have to just keep on teaching as you know best and be sure the kids are able to have the stamina to interpret difficult questions. I think stamina, that is going to come from what you already do with how they read and think and talk about books, will set your kids on the path to "good scores". It is going to be interesting to see how the scores fluctuate over time. But for teachers who are under the APPR gun from RTTT money from Duncan and Obama, well, getting on a T.I.P. (Teacher Improvement Plan) when you know if you could teach the way you want, instead of some "other-created" approach that got you the low score ie below effective in the first place.....well, it has to be more than painful. I visit an historically fine school known for its innovation and effectiveness with teachers stressed to the max with "worry" the flavor of the year. I pray in this time of flux for the kids and the teachers. In NY, though, the commissioner has a letter coming out about the scores soon to be mailed to parents that supposedly tries to soften the blow of the lower results. We will see. Anyone can go online in NY State and read the daily lesson plans in the Modules with the scripted language. I have heard, but forget who created them. I would like to find out. Imagine every gr. 4 teacher and kid on the same lesson on the same day across the state. Scary thought. I don't believe the Modules are going to be required and were created to help meet CCSS. However, there is no guarantee that using these is going to raise scores OR turn kids into lifelong readers, writers, thinkers and care-ers. Unless I am missing something.
    This article was in our local Sunday paper, though. http://blog.syracuse.com/opinion/2013/09/mesopotamia_too_hard_lets_stop.html
    There has to be a better balance that is realistic and meaningful. Trying to reinvent the wheel without teachers being given the time and opportunity to learn and plan and try and re-group etc. is not the best approach in my opinion. Education reform. Ugh. Been there, done that, but this is newer and scarier. I recommend Diane Ravitch's new book a lot!
    Janet F.
    (Sorry to go on so!)
    Janet F.

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    1. Wow-Janet. First of all, I don't remember how long it took me to write-probably a few days of messing around. I still see places that aren't quite right, so am still looking at it and deciding. As for the CC and all the testing, fortunately my school is making ourselves aware, but we do not do any testing nor adherence to a set curriculum. It's a big deal with us to take each student and let them 'fly'-no ceilings, just keep going. I am reading others' blogs and articles and am aware of how sad things are, and aware of how anxious my grandson gets at test time-he's now in 7th grade. I want him to be excited about school & except for a few classes, he is not. I'll try to read the article you sent tonight. Thank you!

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Having a conversation is a good thing!