Thursday, April 30, 2009

 "Bluebird", oil on mat board, by Mike Beeman 

Teaching Journal

Day 134, April 30, 2009

     Today one of my 9th grade classes had a Skype video discussion with a school from a long distance away, and later, I got to thinking about the idea of ‘distance’. I used my etymological dictionary, as I often do, and discovered that the word ‘distance’ derives from the Latin for ‘stand apart’. The class that visited us on the screen in my classroom is from a school near Chicago, so they certainly stand apart from us in terms of miles. Aside from a video conference, the only way my scholars and I could visit with this class over such a distance would be by taking a long and expensive flight. However, there’s a positive side to ‘standing apart’, and I think our two schools (Pine Point in Stonington, Connecticut and William Fremd in Palatine, Illinois) were excellent examples of that today. My scholars, I think, felt like they stood apart from other classes and other schools by taking part in such an inventive educational experience, and I imagine the scholars at William Fremd felt the same way. This morning’s video-discussion of a poem made us all feel somewhat special – like we were a distinctive and out-of-the-ordinary group of English students. We felt like we were ‘standing apart’ in elite company – not in a snobbish way, but in a lucky and grateful way.

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     We held the finals of our April Madness Poetry tournament today, and in some ways, it seemed as stirring as a basketball tournament. 4th graders through 9th graders gathered in the gym, gave the readers their attention for nearly 60 minutes, smiled or frowned according to the poem, and screamed or sighed when the winner (“The Little Brother Poem” by Naomi Shihab Nye) was announced. The kids seemed to listen more carefully with each passing poem. They appeared as focused as spectators at a close basketball game. I noticed a conspicuous tension arising as we neared the final round, and there was a serious buzz going around as we began reading the last two poems for the championship. 

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