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Category Archives: Lesson Plans

Making Peace

Denise Levertov wrote this wonderful and I think it is a good way to bring my week to an end as I head to Sabbath. Stephen at Grow Mercy posted this earlier and I did try to share it with those who follow my blog. It did not make it over and this was the next best thing I could do to get it to you folks. Take a moment and visit Stephen’s blog.

I used a lesson plan with my students where we talked about a culture of war and a culture of peace. They had to describe each one and we did them separately. We have many more words that come to mind when we talk about peace. I filled whiteboard, they would share for an hour, be disappointed when it was over, and the quiet ones were always present. There is a presence in peace. The students ran out of ways to describe a culture of war very quickly.

A voice from the dark called out,

“The poets must give us

imagination of peace, to oust the intense, familiar

imagination of disaster. Peace, not only

the absence of war.”

But peace, like a poem,

is not there ahead of itself,

can’t be imagined before it is made,

in the words of its making,

grammar of justice

syntax of mutual aid.

A feeling towards it,

dimly sensing a rhythm, is all we have

until we begin to utter its metaphors,

learning them as we speak.

A line of peace might appear

if we restructured the sentence our lives are making,

revoked its affirmation of profit and power,

questioned our needs, allowed

long pauses. …

A cadence of peace might balance its weight

on that different fulcrum; peace, a presence,

an energy field more intense than war,

might pulse then,

stanza by stanza entering the world,

each act living

one of its words, each word

a vibration of light–facets

of the forming crystal.

The Opening of Eyes

David Whyte wrote this wonderful poem and it resonated with me today. We hold considerable wisdom collectively and individually. We each need to open all our senses and be receptive to what we hold. It is in the silence that we learn so much.

Today, only a few students attended. I decided some time ago that our Fridays would be art day due to the low attendance. Students focused on activities and silence reigned. I heard in the silence they want to finish the year positively.

That day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out,
I knew then, as I had before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read.

It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air.

It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and finding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground.

Leaving Home

I posted Taylor Mali’s poem, Undivided Attention, the other day and found my way to his website. He taught for several years in the New York City school system and he has lesson plans on the site. I tried one with the students that examines the difference between the literal and figurative on Thursday.

Mali posed provocative questions and students wrote short paragraphs. Examples of these questions are “What happens to the dreams you don’t remember?”; “Which letter of the alphabet is the most intelligent”; and “Do leaves look forward to falling in autumn? Or do they hand on for dear life?” Students struggled as one of the instructions was to not explicitly name the thing in the question. They were to artfully describe their letter, the leaves, or what happens to dreams and present them in figuratively and not literally. There was a lot of conversation and some writing.

I took matters into my hands and wrote a short paragraph. I wrote on the fly so the language is a bit passive and words i.e. visage were not the right ones. Visage is French for face so would not have glanced around. When I model, I find the students make more progress.

“He frantically clung to life fighting a losing battle against nature and her forces. At wit’s end, he valiantly, vainly hung on not submitting to a cyclical reality. He sensed loneliness and not solitude. Assisted by gentle breezes his discoloured visage glanced furtively around. He was in this alone. His colleagues humbly had moved on ahead of him finding their way to become humus and rebirth in the next spring. What to do now? He realized this was not the end he had planned for and took his leave that autumn day. His job done and he wafted towards his destiny.”

Today, I crafted this into a poem. The language is a little more active and I hid the topic. The answer is in the tags.

Frantically he clings to life,

He wages a futile battle versus Nature,

Against all her marshaled forces.

Valiantly, he struggles,

Unwilling to let go,

He wages this vain battle.

He senses loneliness;

His, a solitary stance–

Sans ally.

Today, a gentle breeze rustles only him;

His discoloured visage turns–

And, he glances furtively about.

Colleagues, long departed

Humbly headed home

They add a new, rich layer.

Silent humus and rebirth whispers,

Come, ready Mother Earth

Help prepare Her new garden.

Not the end he desired,

But, this past season’s calling is complete,

Wisdom speaks and he lets go.

Downward, he gently falls

And, his job is complete

Gracefully, he alights.

Art and Haiku

We are artists the Fridays we attend. I am not an artist, but have the good fortune to have parents who contribute and are quite artistic. A number of the students are good artists as well. Our first artistic venture was Grid Art. I included a couple of pictures today with a little poetry along with images. I used my cell phone camera so I don’t think the pictures turned out well.

Bird 2

winged clouds above

contrasted against blueness

majestic in flight

Cosmos 2

Brilliant colour

Emerges from black richness

Ever expanding

Tolerance and Flexibility

Despite the weather, we had a great day. Many students do not attend Fridays. In past years, we attended every second Monday. Our administration changed that this year without consulting parents or me. I struggled with it for several months and made a dramatic shift a couple of months ago. I decided to devote Fridays to art i.e. drawing, painting, and building. I am not an artist in that sense, but was able to get access to resources from a friend who is an artist and an excellent teacher. The students enjoy the change. We built kites today and I felt a positive and life-giving energy in the room. I thought of this poem by Lao Tzu.

Living humans are soft and limber.

Dead they are hard and rigid.

Living, the 10, 000 grasses and wood species are soft and crisp.

So “hard” and “rigid” accompany death.

“Soft” and “limber” accompany life.

So if armies are coercive, they do not triumph.

When wood is strong, the axe comes out.

Strength and dominance reside below.

The soft and limber belong higher.

The Journey

I am not sure what my schedule is like for the rest of the afternoon, so I will post earlier than I normally do. I read quite a bit yesterday and one of the books I finished was by a friend, Deb E. Berg and is called Ja-Mya and the Journey. I taught two members of the Berg family and Deb was a founding member of our small school. Much of the underlying philosophy that led to this group of parents approaching educators with their idea of a different way of imagining a school and children’s learning is reflected in this book.

The book weaves story-telling reminiscent of classics such as The Chronicles of Narnia, Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz, and many others. The two main characters, Teagen and Andrew, search for life’s meaning as two adolescents who embark on their summer vacation with their uncle. They search for their Heart’s Desire, explore deep and timeless questions adolescents ask, and enter a fourth dimension where time is not as we understand it. They witness two opposing worldviews: one of abundance and stewardship; the other of scarcity and depletion. They learn their greatest strengths are often their greatest weaknesses. The reader embarks on a journey with Teagen and Andrew as they learn about nature, connect to a new world through their imagination, and find wisdom. In a single afternoon, Andrew “fought a war, rode a dragon, wrote and performed a song while learning about my Heart’s desire.”

This book is about finding and integrating the contemporary with the traditional. It is about a real need to see legacy not through the eyes of adults, but through the eyes of children. What world do we choose to leave for them? What is our gift to them?

I leave you with the song Andrew wrote and performed at the end of the book:

Life begins, life ends,

Struggles come and go

What the Journey holds for each

Is something we cannot know.

Friends along the way,

Providing what we need

In companionship and wisdom

With varied type of deed.

One’s Heart’s Desire can only be found

When walking the road of life

No matter what we find it is

The awareness will bring less strife.

Emotion also finds its place

Along the Journey’s way

With welcoming and firm embrace

Wisdom will guide today.

Value, meaning, the hope of life

Shows in the time we take

To listen to a kinder voice

Love’s words to never forsake.

Life begins, life ends,

Struggles come and go

What the Journey holds for each

Is something we cannot know.

I would love to use this book in the form of a novel study or a reading project with junior high students.

Haiku Sampling

I have not posted haiku for a while. We wrote haiku as our last activity of the poetry unit. Whenever we write poems, I roam the classroom with a marker in hand. There are four whiteboards in the room and I write randomly as thoughts come. It helps students on two levels. I write poetry and it is not just them being told to do it. As well, I offer exemplars, some good and some less so. Here is a haiku sampling.

Water seeks freedom

Released from lethargy

Water plunges, plummets.

100_4206

Fry it in a pan

Friends for eggs and potatoes

Pig meat, oh soooo good!

Did I mention some were not great?

Fedora wearing

The coolest Rat Pack member

Sinatra maybe.

One student wears a fedora. I mentioned that it reminded me of the Rat Pack. He had no idea what that was or who Frank Sinatra was, but I told him it was cool to be compared to Frank Sinatra.

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