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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Two Themes in My Life

Last weekend, I was privileged to go to the Art Institute of Chicago and a Poets & Patrons workshop with one of my best friends, Cathy Decker. It satisfies a need deep inside to see the beauty and meaning others can create and then try to create a little truth myself. The two exhibits I saw at AIC were the Japanese prints of the 1960s and 1970s and Light Years: Conceptual Art and the Photograph, 1964–1977. The Japanese prints were quite different from some of the other collections I have seen at AIC. The older prints have the perfect design and details but the themes are traditional. The collection leaving the AIC on March 4 showed more variety in techniques used and the images they created. What a service the artists did for the world! The photography exhibit had several interesting viewpoints that were thought-provoking. One artist showed photographs comparing Chicago and New York City. Another had taken photographs through a telescope showing what appeared to be absolutely blackness. Distances were described in light years to the 10th power. All photographs looked completely black with no details. The intent of the artist was not clear. Was it to put all life on this planet in a vacuum of nothing, or was it to show how precious life on this planet really is?

The Poets & Patrons is one of Chicago's treasures. I joined the group many years ago when a poem I submitted to the annual contest won an honorable mention. John Dickson was still a member at that time. This group meets four times a year in the Chicago Public Library at the main branch on State Street for workshops. After a relaxed luncheon, we adjourn to a small room on the third floor. Two "judges" critique our poems for about an hour. In recent years, the format has changed a bit to include an actual writing workshop after the poetry reading and critique. Last weekend, we enjoyed hearing poems from Cynthia Gallaher and Carlos Cumpian, our judges. Then Cynthia led a short exercise using the most outrageous post cards I have ever seen. Carlos played some sounds from his everyday environment and asked us to identify them. Both exercises illustrated the way our perceptions can help us become better poets.

That's my fun weekend. How was yours?

Coming soon! My notes from the 2012 ICE Conference are coming this Friday. If you can't come to the conference, don't forget there are lots of materials online.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What I am Learning in LASSO

Every day I go to work with a plan in mind. I hope that my students are able to comprehend a weather report so they know what to wear outside. I'd like to think that folk music is teaching them a little about the values of the country they live in. I see them learning new words in reading and beginning to understand that words have meaning. I would like to think that they are getting comfortable with computers, not just to surf the Web and watch videos. Can they comprehend the role that math plays in our lives? Are they beginning to understand that they can write words to describe what their life is like? Do they know what is going on in the world around them? Can they go to the library and check out a book or video? Can they follow the steps needed to succeed at work? Most importantly, can they begin to calm themselves down when they get upset, instead of blowing up and striking those nearest and dearest?

To balance my introspection, I must also look at how the students influence me. It is so ironic that I have been given such beautiful, loving students my last year of teaching. It is going to be very hard to say good-bye, knowing they won't be there every day, showing me love in their unique little ways. I forgot today how important Valentine's Day is to students. I tried to have a normal day, just following our schedule. The students reminded me, however, that today is very special - a chance to show love to each other. I got my Perfectionism hat on and plow through my planned activities, while the students demanded their sweets all day long. Being a special education teacher in a high school setting can really have its challenges, like how to treat students like their neurologically-intact peers when they really need a party! Well, we did at least have treats in class and sent home gifts and goodies from everyone. Tomorrow is a new beginning and I relax a bit so that we all have fun. My students have taught me that.