Working With Poetry

April 30, 2014

We are playing around with figurative language in our Middle School LA class.  Here’s all the more I can come up with for practicing an epistolary poem.  (I’m tired already, and it isn’t even summer yet!)


Radiant orb slips slowly in the West
Golden grace graces us all
No one sleeps
No one dreams but the dreams of

You slip slowly in the west, your golden grace covers
no one sleeps
no one dreams
but the dreams you plant in motion

Your drive to fill life fruitfully full
Tires me
Exhausts me
Consumes me
until I fall forward
with welcome weariness
to the void of unaware
blissful void of silence
(though not of dark, you thief)


There’s more to this, I’m sure.

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June 6, 2013
Doldrums of summer until the right
Then spin slowly,
a dancing dandelion puff in the breeze.
Then twist tightly,
a leaf leaping from the branch at the wane of fall.
Then whirl wildly,
an eddy over rocks refusing the tide.
Then surge, flurry, gyrate, envelope, encompass.
Circle violently,
like the ride at a two-bit fair, casting children in exhilarating motion.
Creep down,
an elephant trunk hanging in the putrid sky
which heaves aside tons of rubble, a tantrum fit unmatched.
Then panic.
then abandon homes,
abandon hospitals,
abandon schools, cars, trucks.
Abandon fear.
Ebb again, silent
retreat into cerulean peace.

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Alongside: A Biographical Sketch

June 6, 2013

The following is a piece written for the Alaska State Writing Consortium class in Homer.  The process was an open-ended prompt of “Write a Biographical Sketch of a classmate.”  Partners were assigned in a random manner, given an hour of time together for an initial interview, and then the partners met again the following day to review the first draft.  Two days and several revisions later, a “final” copy is now on the internet for classmates’ comments as well as the perusal of any other readers.



“Any situation in which some men prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence; … to alienate humans from their own decision making is to change them into objects.” ― Paulo Freire


What does it really mean for a person to have religious faith?  Is it the faith of an institution or organization that defines this for an individual?  Does faith come in the mysteries of legends and folklore, the shades between fact and fiction in a culture built on oral tradition?  Or is it prescribed based on centuries of study, thought, reason, and emotion which culminates as the beliefs of a person’s soul?

Questions such as these weave through Ward Walker’s experiences in life and resonate now with him as the Principal/Teacher in False Pass, a small village on the eastern end of Alaska’s Aleutian chain.  The village has long been a site of Aleut settlement, predating Russian fur traders who brought the first wave of the Western World to their shores.  Since then the desire of remaining an autonomous indigenous culture within the larger world challenges both those on the inside and outside of that culture.

Ward’s role as principal allows him to engage in this discussion as a contributing member of the village, and he is even more open to the puzzle of tradition’s balance with progress in his home village of Stebbins.  It was there as a Catholic Priest that he acutely felt the tension between the needs of the people and the rules of the Church, a tension which ultimately led him away from formal ministry and into education.

His is a varied past. Growing up in Canada, Ward struggled through elementary school with Dyslexia.  A move to a different school changed that for him in sixth grade.  He’d worked in school, but now found motivation to work even harder; as reading came together for him that year, so also did a faith in himself as a learner.  In the speak-ese of schools, he was transformed from a D/F student to a regular on the Dean’s Honor Role.  This new found confidence likely changed the outcome of his life.

He would find other lives to change.  After a brief foray in Engineering studies, Ward moved to California to study theology at the University of Santa Clara.  While in Southern California he worked with the Missionary Brothers of Charity, a Catholic order founded by Mother Theresa to minister to the “poorest of the poor” throughout the world.  This became the primary step in a journey alongside people malnourished both in body and spirit:  the poor of Guatemala, the orphans of Haiti, the mentally ill and disabled in the care of Franciscans, all people who the Western World casts aside in its relentless charge forward.

Ward’s work in the world draws on the writings of Paulo Freire, an educational philosopher from South America.  Freire advocated “accompaniment” of indigenous peoples, that educators and others should come along side cultures as the culture itself works its way through the issues brought forth by an impassioned mainstream declaring all must be like the rest of the world.  Summer work in Alaska provided a connection to the Alaska Native culture and he recognized this as the call of his mission, to practice the philosophies of Freire within his own country with those who would become family, friends and community.

Education is Ward’s current vehicle in this endeavor.  He taught in the Western Alaskan villages of Selawick, Stebbins, and Gambell before his current position in False Pass.  Recognizing the educational needs of his students, he completed a Special Education Endorsement as well as an Alaska administrative certificate from the University of Alaska Anchorage.  He ultimately recognizes that for himself, education is a means for the significant work of accompaniment.  It is in education that Ward looks to aid students and their communities to understand that the gifts and talents they bring are enough to improve life on their own, to become authors of their own future.

Ward is able to discuss the role of religious faith in the Native culture at length with the Russian Orthodox priest who travels to the village, as well as a Baptist missionary who seeks to save souls in this far flung village.  Listening becomes discussing in these visits, and then encouragement for those men in their mission of shepherding their flocks in the village, albeit with very different traditions.

What then is the role of the Christian faith in a non-Western culture?  Ward believes that the people are not interested in returning to the naturalistic shamanism of the past, but are seeking to express their beliefs in a manner that honors who they have been and who they are while communicating the central truths of their adopted religion.  Most in False Pass attend the Russian Orthodox Church, but that institution has only been part of the region for a few hundred years.  How does a culture far older than organized religion express its beliefs in a manner that touches the core of who they are as a people?

As he works together with his Native friends and family, Ward believes that the culture will come closer to an answer for that question.  Perhaps the result will be an autonomous Christian church of blended traditions, or another reflective approach to the questions of faith in the world.  Regardless, Ward’s commitment to come alongside his community on this journey of understanding will continue until the Word becomes flesh for them in ways that resonate with their past experiences and future dreams.

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Alaska State Writing Consortium

June 3, 2013

I’m taking a class this week, one about teaching writing to students.  It is sponsored in part by the National Writing Project.    One thing I hope to bring back to my classroom is strategies for engaging young, reluctant writers.  I suspect more will come with that..  I’ll be posting a few writing samples to this blog:   stay tuned!

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Creative Writing Club

April 10, 2013

When surveyed about possible after-school clubs, our students came back with ideas like a book club or writing club.  (Interesting that they ask for more school, don’t you think?)  Writing club?  I could do that.

Right now seven students and I sit in the computer lab, working on scripts for the now defunct “Script Frenzy” that the NaNoWriMo folks.  Some have page goals and ideas flowing while others are making muse posters to grace the walls of the lab.

Fun it is to hang out with students in this role.  I hope to start this up next year in the Fall so we can do NaNoWriMo together.  I will work with writing for a few years but then the mom in me thinks MathCounts might be the next thing to work with students on once my daughter gets to Middle School.  She (and hence, all my students) needs these things to compete in her future.

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Expository v. Narrative Writing

October 31, 2012

We are starting Expository Writing.  Here is what we know so far about Expository v. Narrative writing:


Wrote these stories 1st Quarter
Has characters
There’s problems in it (conflicts).
Narrative stories have solutions (resolutions).
They have setting.
Beginning (Characters, setting, conflict)
Middle (between the conflict and solution, rising action)
End (the solution and the falling actions)
They are fun to write.


Do they have settings, too?
What is it?
Does it have to do with anything of a narrative writing?
Can they have settings, problems and solutions but they are real?
Do they have a narrator?
Is it in 1st, 2nd or 3rd person?

We do know that…

Expository is non-fiction writing.  They are fun to write, sometimes.

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100 Word Challenge is so much fun!

October 3, 2012

We have our second 100 Word Challenge prompt posted over at Warrior Writers.  My students are very excited to see posts from their friends, other teachers and people from around the world.

We really like the 100 Word Challenge at ... writing for a real audience is a great way to learn our craft!

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100 Word Challenge

March 12, 2012

This is the first week for my Creative Writing students to particpate in the 100 Word Challenge at  There is a version of the challenge for adults, too, and so I will post 100 words myself.  Check out their work on our Creative Writing Blog!

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Happy Leap Day

March 1, 2012

What did we do yesterday?  We posted to as part of a world-wide blogging event.  Over 20,000 people visited the site, mostly school children and mostly from Great Britain.  At least 20 of my students posted with a variety of posts about life, school, basketball and lists of 29.

Most had fun.  Some did it because I ‘made’ them do it.  Most followed our iSafe rules about posting personal information on the internet.

Posting for a global audience thrilled me, and I hope it started the kids thinking, right…there is more to our world than what I see outside the classroom windows.

I posted four times….in the thousands of posts, here’s the one I can find.

What global writing project will we participate in in 2016?

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Hungry for “The Hunger Games”

January 30, 2012
Image from

Image from

Have you read The Hunger Games?  You should!

One assignment we do in our Middle School LA/Reading class is a book talk.  This boils down to an oral literary analysis of a book where the theme of the book drives the assignment.  You have to give the theme of the book and support that with a quote from the book, as well as tell about the plot elements that support the theme.  You can’t spoil the ending, though, or you have to redo the talk.  (We’re such meanies, my co-teacher and I.)

The Hunger Games trilogy is coming up often in these book talks.

I reread it this past Saturday with the question in mind, why is this a good book?   Why are my students and my peers enthralled with the story?

1. The idea of the Hunger Games isn’t too far fetched. This story is set in a dystopian future where the annual Hunger Games are televised to the country.  There are betting pools on who will win, contestants are sponsored, and the winners become a type of societal hero.

Super Bowl Sunday approaches, and over 100 million people will watch that football game live.  The winning team will be come superstars (for now) and much money will be won or lost in Vegas over any number of betting scenarios.  Companies have paid millions of dollars to sponsor the event through commercials.  Not too different from The Hunger Games, see?

2.   We are used to the reality television thing, and this story takes it to another level we hope society never attains. The reality show “Survivor” has run 24 seasons, and all of them have watched at one level or another at my house.  “Big Brother” and “The Amazing Race” also have good followings, never mind “Jersey Shore.”  We have no problem watching the train wrecks of other people’s lives.  In a world where life itself is troubled, why not watch the Hunger Games with your neighbors and hold your own child extra tight for the night.

3.  We (adult women) like Katniss. She’s a rebel.  Well, not really in The Hunger Games.  She only wants to survive and if that means she has to poach outside of the regulations, or twist the games into something that isn’t exactly part of the-powers-that-be’s plans, so be it.  She will do what it takes to make it home.  More than that, the only reason she is even in the games is  because of her own personal sacrifice for ones she loves.  Deep down inside, we too want to be like that.

4.  Young women like Katniss. She’s strong and smart, is amazing with a bow, she gets to live a fairy tale for a bit, and she is loved.  She is a far stronger character and role model then say, Bella, from that other popular YA series.  Oh, to have been such a individual at 16 years old!

5.  Suzanne Collins tricks us into reading on. She really does.  The end of each chapter is a cliffhanger, and I don’t know about you, but I have to keep reading.  There is a reason I tell my peers, make sure your children have food available that they can fix themselves since you’ll be reading and can’t be bothered to fix it for them.

6.  The literary experience is satisfying. Insert all the literary critique of a good writer here:  Collins does well with her character development, she uses the setting to support the plot and theme, and she connects with readers.  A four-star book for sure, seeing as I save five-stars for the likes of Tolkien and Poe.


There’s my two-cents.  What’s yours?

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