Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

It's a reading weekend. And of course, I am many other things I should be doing, but I am in love... with this book! It's written in the form of letters and I love reading other people's letters. Each word is delicious, meant to be savoured! The characters are great and I had no idea (well maybe I did one time) that Guernsey, part of Britain but located off the Normandy coast, was occupied by the Germans during the Second World War! The book is set after the war when a journalist receives a letter asking her to send the name of a bookstore in London where he, Dawsey Adams, can order a book with more of Charles Lamb's writing. The reason he has written to Juliet is that the book he has by Charles Lamb once belonged to her as her name and address were written in the book. A casual reference to the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society makes Juliet curious and the story begins... The story of how the book was written is fascinating in itself and for you readers of books for children, you may recognize the co-author, Annie Burrows, as she writes the Ivy and Bean series. Visit the book's website and check out the video link on u-tube. This book again is a gift of hope.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Hope was here...

Which came first? Hmmm... First I bought a beautiful picture book, Amazing Peace, by Maya Angelou and illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher (Random House, 2008) and then I went to NCTE, heard Joan Bauer speak and bought Hope was Here for a young friend. I returned and Joan Jung showed me a beautiful book entitled Hope is an Open Heart, an amazing book with incredible pictures from around the world. This morning I finished reading Hope was Here by Joan Bauer, a young adult novel about a girl who has no father and an absentee mother, lives with her aunt who is an amazing cook but has just lost her diner in Brooklyn. She and her aunt are forced to move to a small town in Wisconsin and now work for a new diner's owner who has leukemia but has decided to run for mayor of a politically corrupt town. Some beautiful writing and not a few tears. I think one could do an amazing unit with all or some of these great books or just enjoy them...

Maya Angelou's 'Amazing Peace'
Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem
By Dr. Maya Angelou

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth's tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortal's, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal by Naomi Shihab Nye

By Naomi Shihab Nye

After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,
I heard the announcement:
If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,
Please come to the gate immediately.

Well—one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,
Just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly.
Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her
Problem? We told her the flight was going to be 4 hours late and she
Did this.

I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.
Shu dow-a, shu-beduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick,
Sho bit se-wee?

The minute she heard any words she knew—however poorly used—
She stopped crying.
She thought our flight had been canceled entirely.
She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the
Following day. I said no, no, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late.

Who is picking you up? Let’s call him and tell him.
We called her son and I spoke with him in English.
I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and
Would ride next to her—Southwest.

She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of
It. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and
Found out of course they had ten shared friends.

Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian
Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering

She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies—little powdered
Sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts—out of her bag—
And was offering them to all the women at the gate.

To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,
The lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same
Powdered sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookies.

And I noticed my new best friend—by now we were holding hands—
Had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing,
With green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always
Carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,
This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.
Not a single person in this gate—once the crying of confusion stopped
—has seemed apprehensive about any other person.

They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.
This can still happen anywhere.

Not everything is lost.

Naomi Shihab Nye was born to a Palestinian father and an American mother and grew up in Jerusalem and San Antonio. Her books of poetry include 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East; A Maze Me: Poems for Girls; Red Suitcase; Words Under the Words; and You and Yours.

(Naomi read this poem at Middle School Mosaic at NCTE last Saturday afternoon. She was a surprise visitor and gave us this poem as a gift). This week we had a poetry slam in Steve Turner's grade six class at Cavell. The students did a great job of performing poems written by Rebecca Kai Dotlich (Lemonade Sun) and Ralph Fletcher (A Writing Kind of Day, Poems for Young People. I found the poems echoing in my head in a way that they didn't on the page. Another gift!)

See them run

Wednesday night when I should have been finishing my workshop for the next day, I went to an event put on by Room to Read (see side bar). It was the screening of a documentary film, See Them Run, about three young Victorians who spent this summer running across Africa from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. We met Erin, Patrick and Reuben, the three people who ran a marathon each day for 100 days to raise money and awareness. At the screening they presented Room to Read, an organization that builds schools, libraries, publishes books in English and the home country's language all over the world, a cheque for 40 000 dollars. Feel inspired?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

San Antonio musings

Well the wonders of the internet! I am awaiting a flight to Dallas and then Vancouver. I meant to write before but I was just a bit too busy at National Council of Teachers of English Conference. I have two suitcases full of books and a head full of ideas. So many great sessions! Some people argue that individual professional development isn't effective but for me a conference like this gives me needed inspiration. It also exposes you to what the leaders in the field are thinking and gives you the opportunity to meet people that you never thought you would be able to. I know I will spend the next few days unraveling some of what I saw and heard.
Highlights-hearing and actually speaking to Greg Mortenson (Three Cups of Tea) (that's him in the picture with Pam) who has become one of my heroes, hearing what Lucy Caulkins, Heidi Mills, and Brenda Power see as the "musts" of literacy coaching, enjoying a session with Frankie Sibberson and Cris Tovani and others on formative assessment, another session looking at Reading/Writing Connections with Notebook Know How's Aimee Buckner, Jeff Anderson, and Kelly Gallagher. Kelly Gallagher is fantastic by the way, high school teachers.
Last year I loved a session on Improvisational Drama and this year,I was able to attend another. Now I have a book full of Second City exercises and literacy links. Then there were the authors and the books... And yes, the wanders (sometimes almost runs) along the River Walk. Tomorrow it's back to real work but I hope I have brought a little of my inspiration along...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My other blog-and online literacies...

As if one blog wasn't enough I have added another for our provincial International Reading Association, BCLCIRA. For instance on this site you find out about coming events such as our evening event/dinner with IRA board member, Donald Leu, who will be speaking on The New Literacies of Online Reading Comprehension on February 3. Now just to check to see if anyone reads this blog or the other one, I will give a free registration to the first person to post on this entry. We have already had one winner, Mike McEwan, principal of Cavell Elementary who was our draw winner at our working together coordinators' meeting at the VSB! To obtain a flyer for this event just push the button for VSB professional development on the sidebar and once on the website hit the external professional development opportunities button.

Haiku anyone?

I am feeling guilty. I am behind in my blogging. There has just been too much literacy "stuff" to blog it appears. Up early, cleaning out my vsb e-mail, and I discovered information on the Vancouver Cherry Festival that I probably haven't sent out. I hit their beautiful website and thought what a lovely way to find a bit of peace in the busy classroom. Teaching grade six, my class usually studied Japan in depth and many haiku were written. With this festival, your students can submit haiku and who knows, their poem might be posted on a bus! The festival organizers are anxious to have school submissions and many of you like me may not have known about the festival. Due date is mid December. Gorgeous photographs to inspire your students and teaching tips and lots of other neat information is on their beautiful website!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Here's to change...

I have to admit I am feeling excited. I tuned into a favorite website, Huffington Post, and discovered that the voters of Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, had voted just after midnight and the verdict was 15 for Obama and 6 for McCain. Dixville Notch is a scenic spot high in the White Mountains just over the border from where I grew up. It's the site of a still surviving grand old hotel called The Balsams which my uncle apparently once thought of buying. I hadn't been there in years until a couple of years ago. It's still rather spectacular. I always remembered in my childhood how the first vote was always there.

This is only the second time they have voted Democrat since 1968 so I think I finally really really believe that Barack Obama is going to be president. Today history is being made in a good way. I'm excited!