Monday, August 3, 2015

1,200 Teachers Take Over the Upper West Side

I joined 1,200 teachers today at #tcrwp Writing Institute at Columbia University's upper west side. It was powerful seeing the number of K-8 teachers and administrators who came in droves to hear Lucy Calkins and the other Teachers College Reading and Writing Project staff developers talking about writing and units of study.  I learned a lot about the history of the pioneers of writing instruction, had several chances to put pen to paper, and jotted down furious notes about the teaching moves and language the staff developers used.

I was lucky to be paired up with Cornelius Minor, a Liberian born teacher, with a wealth of knowlege about middle schoolers, soccer, skateboarding, and technology. I could listen to him for hours!  I was also starstruck by the author of "Upstanders," Sara Ahmed, who just happened to be attending the same small group section. GASP.

The afternoon rounded out with a large group session with Mary Ehrenworth.  Mary's poise, verbosity, and heart of gold for all things literacy are infectious.  You just want to be a better reader and writer, or anything for that matter, in her presence.

If the rest of the week is anything like this first day, this will be an experience to remember...and well worth the budget hotel blues.

Quicker than a New York Minute

 Yesterday I arrived at LaGuardia airport and took the M60 bus to my hotel. It was a stifling 89 degrees and the bus was crowded to say the least (the reviews on the internet were extremely accurate about the bus route's popularity), but who can beat the price: $2.75.

I then checked into my budget hotel room only to discover, after I had already unpacked nearly all of my belongings, that the toilet wasn't working. After switching rooms, the new one being much more zen and having 1 1/2 feet between the edge of the bed and the wall versus 6 inches like the other room, I checked out my surroundings by taking a walk around the upper west side.

After a quick bite to eat, I purchased a gallon of water at a market near Teachers College, a 13 walk block from my hotel, and then discovered three lovely markets just around the other corner from my place. When I returned back to the room, I discovered that the lamps within the room are evidently just for show since neither were close enough to an outlet and when moved close to an outlet, the prongs were splayed and would not fit in a socket. What's a girl to do?

When settling in for the night, I started reading "The Unstoppable Writing Teacher" by Colleen Cruz. I immediately identified, and think my husband would agree, with the writer's proclamation about being a pessimist.  Not pessimist in the sense of constantly being negative, but one who thinks of all the possible problems that could occur and actively thinks about what he/she could do to solve them; looking at issues like " probletunities" to be grappled for growth.

Looking at my surroundings, the wheels stared turning about my present situation in a budget hotel on the fourth floor.  The scenario which came to mind was a fire.  I noticed a fire escape right outside my window, another one was just beyond the shared kitchen, its see through metal staircase, a nightmare for a person who is scared of heights, and wondered if I could actually use the fire escape if the situation arose.

Fast forward 10:18 pm when I was awoken by a peircing noise: the smoke detector. It too k me several seconds to register what was happening, then came to about the concequences of this situation. I poked my head outside my door and heard some laughing, but no sign of any immediate danger. All I could really think was: Are you kidding me?  Is this really happening? Will I actually have to use the fire escape? I grabbed a few essentials and valuables and headed down the hall to find the receptionist making his way up.  In the end, he turned off the incessant noise and I went back to bed.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Iceland Writers Retreat Contest 2015 Entry

I entered the Iceland Writers Retreat Contest on January 25, 2015.  I would have loved the chance to travel to Iceland, a country I've longed to visit, and to meet Barbara Kingsolver.  Alas, this year is not my year.  Perhaps another year. Congrats to the winner and two runners up.

Below is the image we were asked to write a less than 500 word essay, short story, or poem about.  I wrote a short story.

Since I was not awarded first, second, or third place, I thought it would at least be nice to have a venue to share my work. My blog felt like the best place for that.

Sea Serenity

                Sigurður rested his bow on his shoulder and gazed out. The honeycomb shaped glass of the Harpa Concert Hall entranced him and calmed his jittery nerves. Guiding his eyes between the two constructs of the building, he searched out into the harbor wondering if his mind could transport him away.

Sailboats swayed on the cerulean waters, bobbing effortlessly in synchronicity.  He could hear the cacophony of the metal clanking against the poles, creating a rhythmic sweep. Clank, ca-clank clank.
Sigurður closed his eyes. His body succumbed to the beat; swaying ever so slightly, foot tapping methodically. He lifted his fiddle to his chin with the bow in the ready position.
Sigurður, they’re ready for you,” an impatient voice called.
Sigurður had known it was only a matter of time before hundreds of eyes gazed upon him scrutinizing his every move, his every note. He knew his solo backwards and forwards––had practiced for months––but the judges knew the piece just as intimately. They would recognize even the slightest mistake.
Sigurður rose to his feet, bow and fiddle folded in front of him, and followed his father towards the auditorium. His limbs felt heavy as he walked, and his heart beat rapidly in anticipation. This is your last chance, he told himself. Your last chance to prove yourself. And if this doesn’t go well, it will be your last chance to play.
His father forced a smile and patted Sigurður lightly on the back as he made way to center stage. His shoes echoed in the expanse and his breath vibrated in his ears.
“Name?” asked the gentleman left of center as he passed a stack of papers to the remaining judges.
Sigurður.” His throat made a noise as he swallowed. “Sigurður Ingolfsson.”
“Welcome, Sigurður. You may begin when you’re ready.”
Sigurður lifted his fiddle and bow, the instrument slipping slightly in his clammy hands. The first few notes entered the space stiff and forceful. He glanced cautiously at the faces of the panel, the other musicians in the audience, and his father waiting in the wings. The expressions, deadpan, looked straight at him. Sigurður heard his father’s voice in his head: It’s time you chose a sensible career. One where you can put a roof over your head.
Sigurður closed his eyes, pictured the harbor, and replayed the clanging of the boats in his mind. He breathed deeply from his abdomen, and his body swayed. The softening of his stance resulted in a rich legato sound much greater than he had ever produced.

When he finished the piece, he lowered his bow and fiddle to his side afraid to look out. A noise from the audience caught him off guard. A sharp whistle, then thundering applause erupted. He looked out at the head judge who gave him a gentle nod and over to his father whose eyes glistened with tears.