July 31, 2005

Disturbed Youth

If you want to be close to the family you have to hear all of the crazy kid stories my parents just can't wait to embarrass me with. One night I crawled into bed with my parents, but the alarm clock going off in the morning scared me. So I hid it. I took my first plane ride when I was just a baby, and well, uh, babies just gotta go poo sometimes. A sip of my grandpa's Oly gave me the courage to walk. Oh, and what about that time my mom took a picture of me and my dad after a successful hunt, and later when I found the picture I decided to do a little hunting myself? Evil dead deer picture! Die!

A nice father and daughter photo with dead animals in the background is not viewed as at all strange in my family. Putting meat on the table for the rest of the year is an enormous, well-deserved celebration. We have several pictures with members of my family showing off their kills--one of my favorites is my brother, age 8, with a huge string of rainbow trout. So, it's not the content of the above picture that makes me wonder, it's the condition of the photo.

According to family story, when I saw the picture, I stabbed it repeatedly with a pencil. My mom says I did not like the picture. I can't help but wonder if the picture upset me so, how I must have enjoyed posing for it! Did I not like seeing so many dead animals? Did the violence perceived in my toddler mind deserve the death of the photo preserving it? Disturbing. As an adult I revel in the levels of morbidity this family photo contains.

This Is Really About My Students

I don't remember when I first stumbled across blogs...but I thought it might be a useful tool for me in the classroom. Over the years I've wanted to use more technology in my classroom, and often started the year off with good intentions, but I never sustained it. Oh, I use the computer everyday to help me with forming my instruction, but the students don't have much opportunity to use computers. Or technology of any kind. There were many years I didn't even have an overhead projector. The computers I did have in my classroom were perpetual lemons. It was so anti-technology.

Sara Kajder and Glen Bull in their article "Scaffolding for Struggling Students: Reading and Writing with Blogs" (Learning and Leading with Technology Oct 2003) articulates all the reasons why I should use blogs.

  • Economy--students know the forum to which they are writing requires succinct language. Hey! Anything that gives voice and audience focuses student writing!
  • Archived--because the entries are dated, this serves as great documentation of student progress
  • Feedback--publishing is one thing, but this whole forum fosters an environment that encourages feedback.
  • Multimedia--hello? Technology! I'm loving being able to illustrate my posts, wouldn't my students? I loved the literary magazines my students would publish with artwork that either they or others submitted--and that was just on paper! Think of the possibilities with blogs!
  • Immediacy--that's what our whole world is about! And each generation expects it more than the previous. Expects what? Instant gratification.
  • Active Participation--students are writing for a purpose. They are reading their classmates' writings. It's so interactive.

But then Pessimistic Peggy (my alter ego) says:

"Are you friggin' nuts? What about security and privacy and making sure students don't post stuff that is completely inappropriate?"

Yea, so she's got a point. It's a scary place out in the big, bad WWW. And if any students are going to push the envelope and get me in trouble for exercising their right to free speech, it's going to be my students. I haven't even met them yet, but it's just my karma. I could probably talk to my tech person and get some Intranet thing going. It wouldn't be too bad just publishing within our school, but then we couldn't share it with the world!

You know, other schools are doing this. They have stringent usage policies. Parents could be made aware of the dangers of not paying attention to student Internet usage at home (danger is greater at home since most schools have zealous content blockers). And if a blog is created for school, it has to adhere to the policies.

Pessimistic Peggy also said, "How are you going to assess student blogs? We're talking 150 students! Are you on drugs?!?! You know how confusing it could be to have all those sites floating out there. Plus, exactly what are you going to assess?"

Peggy has my back, you know, but this issue isn't half as bad as the potential evil use of technology. Of course it depends what is in their blogs as to how I'll evaluate them! Duh! And it's not like I'd read the whole thing everytime--a piece at a time. But then that part about being confused...well, she has a point. Although I wouldn't have to carry home a stack of papers or notebooks, it is harder for me to manage things I cannot touch. I don't care how long I've been using a computer, that concept is still tough for me. And although I can look forward to everything being legible (unlike some students' handwriting), it is harder for me to read off a screen for a long time--not to mention all that scrolling. But I'll just strap on my wrist guard and my glasses and I'll be fine. (Do I sound geriatric or what?)

Actually, a friend of mine sent me some info on blogs that some outstanding teachers are doing in their classrooms, and for many the focus is on CLASSROOM or SMALL GROUP BLOGS. The NWP Blog Project has some great resources. Why not start with baby steps, Khrys? Duh! Do a classroom blog! Showcase some work! Or have students do some response group stuff on a blog. I think the NWP Blog Project is going to be my new best friend. Well, that and Will Richardson's Weblogg-ed site. Perusing those sites will keep me busy for a good long time as I explore using blogs in my own classroom. Oh yea. Baby steps.

July 30, 2005

Life of Photography

focus sight through a lens
what was once blurred, sharpens
a clear perspective
zooming changes it all

what was once blurred, sharpens
compose a perfect shot
zooming changes it all
hold steady, remain calm

compose a perfect shot
finger clicks, thumb swings
hold steady, remain calm
life immortalized

finger clicks, thumb swings
focus sight through a lens
life immortalized
a clear perspective

Twin Lakes, California (Fall 2002)

July 29, 2005

East Trop

Where are the people?
Holed up in their
crowded air-conditioned dwellings?
Out for the evening?
Don’t they have children
who romp and play outside?
Are they pleasant people?
If I dropped by to say hi
Would they answer the knocks
from a stranger outside?
Or should I fear
what lurks
behind closed doors?

Just down the street,
Why are the stores so crowded?
What has sucked the life
out of these tired,
droopy shoppers?
Are any of them my neighbors?
Do we share walls?
Will our purchased goods,
later used,
end up
joined again
in the trash bin?
What does that say
if only our rubbish
has a common bond?
If we met at the dumpster,
would they at least
share a momentary glance?
A familiar smile?
Any humane gesture?

Is it possible to feel
at home
in your own home
in a place
you don’t know
nor trust
your fellow pod dwellers?

In this bustling, transient city
are my neighbors lonely, too?
Or are they just too busy
to feel a little?
Do they wonder about me
stealing furtive glances
at them in line?
Where I go when I’m not home?
If I’m laughing or crying
behind locked doors?
Are they too fearful
of the unknowns?

July 28, 2005

"Huh? Blog? Wassat?"

Why does blogging sound interesting to me? I've seen quite a few while surfing out and about. There's some good stuff out there! Well, okay there's a lot of weird-ass stuff that I don't understand, too. To each his own! While wandering about, I thought it might be something I'd like to try, too. So, I'm stumbling around blindly trying to figure this out. What is this is all about and why people do it. I've asked some friend what they know about blogging, but few of them have any idea what I'm talking about. I'm not sure if we're all culturally illiterate or technologically challenged--or both!

I'd love to be a more diligent writer--yea, me and a million other people. I've spent much of my summer in the Southern Nevada Writing Project Institute, and it has totally refreshed me. Our catch phrase: "It will change your life!" Well, now that my life has changed, I don't want to revert back to my wannabe ways. Like I wannabe a writer. How lame! I've been many things in my life, but I've been a writer for over twenty years. It's just that sometimes I don't practice. I wannabe a practicing writer, I guess. I just gotta fight with life to make sure I get my share of time to dedicate to the craft.

Will this blog give me opportunity? We'll see.

BTW. I have other reasons for experimenting with this? Any guesses? Stayed tuned!