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Friday, July 19, 2013

My Friday In The "Institution"

I am taking part in the Greater Madison Writing Project summer institute from July 8 to August 1.  Each participant must log the work done during one day of the institute.  This is my photo essay log for Friday, July 19.
The sunrise of Friday, July 19, 2013 finds me traveling to Madison, WI for
a short day in the Greater Madison Writing Project (GMWP) 2013 summer
institute.  Most of the days are 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.  Today we meet from
9:00 am to noon.  This is the tenth day of the 18 day institute and I already
feel overwhelmed with all of the new ideas for my classroom learned from
my new GMWP friends. 
While walking to the Teacher Education building a freak rain shower starts.
Later I am reminded that it is times like these, when you can see both the rain
and the sun, that rainbows are possible.  I'll have to remember that for a poem.  
Normally we meet at Olbrich Botanical Gardens.  Our two Friday sessions
are, however, held here at the Teacher Education building at 225 North Mills
Street on the UW-Madison campus.  This is a relatively quiet part of campus,
which seems fitting for a place where teachers gather to learn. 
In front of the teacher education building is a hole.  Sadly it is not a sinkhole.
We have had an ongoing joke about banishing our problems to a sinkhole.
I also learned that you must be very careful walking on the rubber, temporary
"sidewalk" when it is raining since it becomes a slip-n-slide.
I am early.  I have never mastered the art of showing up "on time."  I like it
this way.  I've found a quiet corner near the stairwell to sit and write a little.
When Christine enters the room she asks if I saw the double rainbow on
my way in; I didn't but I'm glad she asks me about rainbows.  It has made me
think of the picture I took earlier in the rain.  The other members of the summer
institute arrive eager to take part in Christine's teachers workshop.  Since we
will need our computers, David helps Beth get her laptop connected to the
wi-fi and logged in to the UW network. 
Erica starts the day by giving us our write in prompt.  Her prompt is based
on the fact that today is her cousin's birthday.  Her cousin was the first baby
she ever held.  We are to write about firsts.  I suspect that Carol's first is far
more interesting than mine which is about my first attempt to get a driver's
license (I failed but passed the driving test the second time).
Andy (and everyone else) listens as Jen delivers her log from Thursday.  She
frames it as a trial transcript that proves quite well that teachers are neither
being lazy or loafing in our summer's "off."
We relocate to the PC Classroom 348 in the MERIT Library (still in the Teacher
Education building).  We get logged on and settled in as Christine prepares
to start her workshop.
The teacher workshop is a big piece of the summer institute experience.  Each
member of the group prepares an inquiry based, 90 minute session that focuses
on answering some question he or she has about the classroom.  Often this 
inquiry leads to some new technique, practice, or understanding that will become
part of his or her classroom.  Christine's teachers workshop is about incorporating
wikis and blogs into the work she does at the Wisconsin Center for Academically
Talented Youth.  She summarizes her current teaching practices, explains
how she envisions using wikis and blogs as part of her work, and lets
us explore these two tools in order to contemplate how we might use them
in our own classrooms.
These are three of the resources that Christine has us experiment with.
Mindmup.com is an online mind mapping/webbing tool that lets you easily
create webs without buying expensive software.  Kidblog.org is a blogging
platform designed for classrooms.  Wikispaces.com is one of many wiki hosts
that specialize in serving the education community.
After Christine's workshop, my table group (Cindy, Angela, and Mary Ann)
types up a review of the session.  Each of the four table groups is doing the same
at this time.  The feedback from peers is extremely valuable when trying
to decide what worked and what didn't, what ways this might be used in a
class, and what pitfalls might have gone unconsidered.
At the same time, Christine meets with Mark D., Beth, and Mark N. to discuss
the workshop.  This discussion with the organizers of the summer institute
also provides valuable information when thinking about how to proceed
after the workshop is over.
Since this is a short day, the next thing on the agenda is our write out.  Mark
tells us that today's prompt is to add to the shared Google doc called "GMWP
Questions About the World."  For example, Stephanie adds this question:
"If the earth was a head and trees were its hair, would it feel like people are
lice running all over its skin?"
Each day ends with the wauthors (writers/authors) chair.  Mark shares the
story of a friend proposing to his girlfriend in Rome on the previous day.  It
was a happy story to end the week on.  The normal days of the institute
include reading group time, writing response groups, and choice time for us to
read and write whatever we need to get done at that time.  It is hard to
believe that there are only eight more days left.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Fifth Way of Looking at Me - Declaration of Independence

In Institute, July 16, 2013

We know that each member of the human race is delightfully unique; we honor and accept those differences in all we do. Though thoroughly unequal, individual, and unique from birth, each member of the human species must have the rights to pursue industrious activities to meet his or her needs, share love in all its nurturing forms, and share the beauty of his or her humanity through expressive outlets; these rights should be limited only to ensure the preservation of the same rights for all.

To better serve the young people we work with, to establish our rights and responsibilities as practicing professional teachers, and to establish a more honest and complete identity for each individual, we declare our independence from the following:

  • Those who would institute practices that interfere with the beliefs stated above
  • All people who accept that any human person, a human's experiences, or human potential can be reduced to actionable numbers (see “Yet Another Standardization Movement”)
  • Those who harmfully damage the development of a young person by neglect or neglectful coddling (see “But You Don't Know His Home Life”)
  • Those who separate themselves from reality so they can maintain an overly simplistic view of the problems we face which allows the myth of simple, miraculous solutions to flourish (see “Let's Just Focus On The Positive”)
  • Those who choose to perpetuate this same myth of easily identified and easily solved problems to the public (see “2013 School Board Report: Yet Another Wonderful Year”)
  • Anyone unwilling to have a respectful, open discussion that allows for clarity in the identification of real problems (see “What We Need Is Professional Development That Blames The Teachers”)
  • Anyone unwilling to share those problems publicly with the appropriate groups to garner empathy, support, and real solutions (see “We Can't Admit We Have Problems and Other Problems For Scared Educators”)
  • Those who view the teaching profession as a drain on society, which is in direct conflict with the role education plays in maintaining the shared values of our representative republic (see “My School Experience Was A Waste Of Time Except...”)
  • Anyone who views teachers as “those who can't” (see “Any Media Outlet In The Last Ten Years”)
  • Any person whose first priority is to sell a system, book, program, or “guaranteed” fix to complex problems (see “Most Professional Development Most Teachers Have Ever Experienced”)

Our pleas for understanding and requests for dialogue have been met with stony stares and cold hearts (see “MSD School Board Meeting July 2011). If it is impossible for you to include us in the process of developing policy and evaluating practice, we will ignore you out of necessity (see “CCSS Implementation” and “Teacher Effectiveness Models”). If you make further mandates that make our jobs impossible, you will lose our services (see “Teacher Retention Rates” and “Decline in Enrollment in Education Majors”). A far more dire consequence is the impact this will have on students, on our future.

Neither have we been neglectful of our duties to our students. We have continued our work through all of the hardships (see “Act 10”) and neglectful leadership (see “I have Outlasted Many Administrators”). Can we not work together to achieve the common goal of ensuring the education and futures of our nation's children? Can we not find common ground and mutual benefit built on compromise? If we cannot accomplish this, what do we expect our students are learning about collaboration?

We, the 2013 cohort of the Greater Madison Writing Project, seek peaceful resolution of our grievances; absent that, we seek separation from your tyranny.

When peaceful talks and collaborative efforts can continue, you know where to find us; we are the teachers at the center.

Fourth Way Of Looking At Me - Summer of '13 Songbook

I love all of the albums and songs listed here. The fact that I find something beautiful in each of them tells you something about me.

In addition, I have highlighted the lyrics that resonate with me the most. These are the lines that I will belt out louder than the performer if I am alone in the car when the song comes on.

In some cases they are the lines that break my heart because they capture my own experiences so well.

I hope you find a song or two to add to your summer listening.
-Carney A. Lentz

Annotated Track List

1. “Hell Yeah” from Out of Range by Ani DiFranco
-DiFranco expresses her unique view of the world by giving glimpses into genuine moments. The line “sometimes there's some poetry / if you turn you back long enough / and let it happen naturally” reminds me I need to live in the moment to appreciate and absorb the beauty around me.

2. “Lost” from Theatre Is Evil by Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra
-A quote from this song is also in my “One Last Love Letter.” The idea that “nothings ever lost forever” challenges everything in my experience; this is one reason why I like this song.

3. “Save Me” from Making Mirrors by Gotye
-With all of the changes in my life over the last few years, I've learned that I'm stronger and more capable than I used to believe. This song implies that one person inspired the singer to change; for me, the inspiration to change is from many people. I can, however, still connect with the emotion expressed here.

4. “Other Side Of Me” from Laughter In The Rain by Neil Sedaka
-One frustration with choosing to change is that some people never really see the new me, while those who meet me today have no idea the struggle it has been to get to this point.

5. “Please Read The Letter That I Wrote” from Raising Sand by Robert Plant & Alison Kraus
-I love the idea of the letter coming from sleep and the image of the “well of many words.” This gets at the mysterious and sometimes completely inexplicable sources of inspiration and insight.

6. “Telling Stories” from Telling Stories by Tracy Chapman
-Chapman touches on the darker side of how words can be used. She is expressing this in the context of a failing romantic relationship; however, the idea that one person can tell a partial truth or leave to implication a much darker meaning is powerful, and it applies to all areas of our lives.

7. “Paperback Writer” from 1 by The Beatles
-The desperation to have someone appreciate your art and see the meaning and value of it is a familiar feeling.

8. “This Is Not A Test” from Volume One by She & Him
-It is the beauty that we leave behind that we are remembered for isn't it? And that beauty can come I many forms: relationships, children, lessons taught, artwork, etc.

9. “Stars” from Some Nights by Fun.
-I never know what to say when people tell me that they have been moved by my work. What is the proper reaction when “people on the street...they're telling me that they like what I do now”?

10. “We May Never Pass This Way Again” from Greatest Hits by Seals & Crofts
-Since we are likely to not pass this way again, what beauty can we experience and leave behind?

11. “Going Home” from Old Ides by Leonard Cohen
-We are all just “the brief elaboration of a tube.” Isn't what we are capable of all the more amazing with that in mind?

12. “Immortality” from Number Ones by Bee Gees
-The opening lines of this song are undeniably life affirming. I love the use of “faith” to refer to inward examination (“my faith in who I am”) rather than a perception of some outward force.

13. “Heal Yeah!” from 12 Songs by Neil Diamond
-This song was a recent discovery for me. It instantly became one of my favorites. It is the best anthem for a life lived without regret that I have ever heard.

[What song(s) are the soundtrack for your summer?]

Monday, July 08, 2013

One Last Love Letter - Third Way of Looking At Me

 Today would have been Colleen's birthday.  Today is also the start of my time at the summer institute for GMWP.  So, it seemed fitting to have the third way of looking at me be about Colleen.
July 8, 2013

My Love,

Today you would have turned 54, and you have been gone for over three years. You will never read this. You will never know these words just as you will never know so much about my life. There is so much I would tell you, so many experiences I have wished to share with you, and so many times I have longed for your trusted guidance and loving arms.

I know this is supposed to be a “love letter” but I need to first air some of my regrets. Perhaps on the screen, on paper, or simply out of my head they will not seem so bad. I wish I had convinced you to get medical attention earlier. I'm sorry you never got “Up North” for one more trip, though some of your ashes are in Lac du Flambeau and Lake Superior. I regret not taking more time away from work while you were in the hospital. I wish I had been more honest with you about how ill equipped I was to manage your home care; I didn't know myself until I saw how the nurses cared for you. I'll never forget how heart broken you were when I told you that you could not come home from the hospital; though I know it isn’t true, I feel like that disappointment helped to spread the infection already lurking in your system. I’m sorry your father wasn’t with you when you passed; I should have made them stay. I'm sorry I didn't hire professional mourners to stand in the back of the church to wail, rip their clothes, and pull out their hair.

Colleen, you need to know – I think you knew – I was ready to spend every day of the rest of my life with you. That was my plan. And I haven't exactly formulated a new one yet. In the weeks after your death I asked your friend, Betsy, about how she had moved on after the death of her Noah. She laughed at the potentially demeaning nature of her own comment, “You've had dogs die and yet you've been able to love a new dog right? Well, every person I've loved has been different in a similar way.” I laughed too because I know she wasn't comparing our lovers to dogs; she truly sees her animals as people, members of her family. And the people in our lives enter and exit at unpredictable times.

In the three years and two months since you died, I took a quick trip around the state and into South Dakota to visit places you loved and leave some of your ashes (sorry, I haven't gotten to Hawaii yet), my father died, your father died, your mother sold their house, she moved to Portage, your aunt Lorraine died, I bought a house, I self-published a book of poetry, I started a writing club at school, I've lost about 150 pounds (with about 40 or so to go), Mom has had the farmhouse repainted – blue, I've started to take my photography more seriously, Joe has been a good friend – you were right about him, I've went every year to see Marge Gibson release the eagles in Sauk Prairie, Dalton graduated from college, eventually so did Bug, Mikal started college working toward a nursing degree, Mikal is still driving your old car – she is taking good care of it, and so much more.

This verse from “Lost” by Amanda Palmer has been going through my mind a lot lately:

No one's ever lost forever.
When they die they go away,
But they will visit you occasionally.
Do not be afraid.
No one's ever lost forever.
They are caught inside your heart.
If you garden them and water them,
They make you what you are.

This is a song that you never heard by a singer you never heard. I think you would have liked it and liked her. And it is true. And all the sappy songs about loss are true. You are gone, but the love remains.

In my garden you are the oak tree with tiger lilies around its trunk. Tall, strong, and enduring with flashes of color in spring and fall. In my garden you provide shade to all and a place to live for all the little birds. I suspect there might be a cat in your branches as well – not the Cheshire cat Alice encountered but your cranky Punkin cat. In my garden you are one of the anchor points around which everything else must make sense.

Thank you for being. Thank you for being my love. Thank you for sharing your time.


Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Six Word Novel - Second Way Of Looking At Me

My second "Way of Looking at Me" that I had to have ready for the GMWP summer institute.  Trying to write a six word novel about your own life is much more difficult than you might think.  I went through something like 30 variations some with completely different themes the the one I settled on.