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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April 3, 2014

Even with standardized testing LOOMING…or maybe because of it…we took some time for Genius Hour last week. My students work so hard on their projects; let me share some with you.

When a student moved, this student took over his volcano project:


Next, another boy is writing his own guide to surviving Minecraft.  We hope to get it published online somewhere.



This student is half a partnership that is planning a school-wide paper airplane contest:



Another girl wanted to learn more about traditional Native Alaskan housing and is finishing up the interior of a sod dwelling:



This project has been the most difficult to keep moving, my rose gardener.  She’s working on her final poster now:



These are her roses:


 (I trust you see her frustration.)


After studying salmon, this fourth grader made a life-sized three-dimensional model.  He used finger paint and said it had been a while since a teacher let him do that.



He’s created a collage to mail to his favorite ball player, in hopes of an autograph:



She’ll have a Barbie dollhouse when she’s finished:



And soon, this will be a model of Jupiter:



I love Genius Hour because I see my students as creators.  We get that sometimes in our other Language Arts work each day, but this hour is when they shine.

Want to learn more about Genius Hour? (The only real answer to that is “Yes!”)  Check out the Genius Hour Live Binder or follow #geniushour on Twitter.

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Global Read Aloud: Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

October 16, 2013

My elementary reading group is part of the Global Read Aloud this year.  It is over 100,000 students around the world reading the same book.  With four books to choose from, students of all ages can be a part.  It is so exciting to be a part of this!  I chose Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper to be a part of this year.  This book is about Melody, a girl with a lot of challenges.  Will she overcome them?

We are doing a weekly Skype with another classroom within our school district, though 70 miles away.  We are also contributing to a classroom blog in South Carolina, and then doing other things as we come across like this Padlet about Melody’s fish, Ollie.


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September 6, 2013

Blogging is an interesting endeavor.  On the one hand, anyone can do it…just put your ideas out for the world.  On the other, anyone can do it…put your ideas out to the world.  The key is to just doing it.

We’ve started an amazing year at my school…three weeks ago.  I went to Chicago all by myself for co-teaching training…six weeks ago.  I attended ISTE…three months ago.  You would think that I could have found some time in between to blog about these things.  We are doing a 6 Word Story in my elementary language arts group which has turned out to be way more difficult than expected.  That needs a blog post, but did that motivate me to start typing?

No.  Instead I walk past the lab and see a student looking at my static website and I’m a  little embarrassed that it is in the shape it is in. (How old is it?  My son’s pic on it is from the summer before he turned one.  He’ll be in Kindergarten next fall.)

I rave all the time about how great technology is to connect with others, yet this poor blog spins stale.  Let’s see what I can do about that *this* year.

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#ISTE13 Take Aways

June 26, 2013

Seeing as I am creating on my phone, this will be a list of my #ISTE13 take aways.  More to come when I can get to a keyboard since I am sooo Old School like that.

1.  I know what I am doing with edtech.
2.  I have plenty more to learn.
3.  That is a good place to be as an educator.
4.  I have things to offer others, therefore…
…I will do at least one project with my students via ePals this school year.
…I will do a short term project with Australian and/or Coasta Rican students this school year.
…I will help organize an #edtech for Kenai by June 2015.
…I will answer ‘yes’ to the setsig and epicyen ISTE special interest groups.
…I will rejoin ASTE.
…I will blog more.
5.  I will help my students own their learning and work hard at what it takes to ‘level up’ because that is how they will learn.

Thank you, ISTE13.  You weren’t the game changer for me that ASTE11 was but I know now that you are the team I want to be a part of as we play the same game.

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June 21, 2013

I’m 40 hours from attending the International Society for Technology in Education’s annual conference in San Antonio.  I’m attending courtesy of the school district’s professional development grant and the loving support of my family as I couldn’t attend with kids in tow. 

As much as I love technology, I am going to be completely outclassed.  I will be challenged and my brain is going to hurt.  I know this because I’ve attended the Alaska version of this conference and it was amazing. This is a video I made reflecting on that conference:

ISTE is going to be ASTE on steroids, 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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Challenger Learning Center

May 1, 2013

We are in the middle of a comet rendezvous simulation mission. This is the kind of thing I would have loved loved loved as a student. I was on a (albeit short) path to astrophysics at one point. This all reminds me that I need to keep STEM in my brain as I plan for reading and writing lessons. These skills can be taught with any content, you know. And it is their future, even here in remote Alaska.


One of the best reasons to do these things? My instructional decisions directly impact by own daughter. Lucky girl, right?


I also think a few video clips from the “Apollo 13” mission control room might be in store tomorrow.


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