Over the summer, all our students in grades five through eight read Restart, by Gordon Korman. The kids loved the book, and have had some amazing discussions about its characters and themes. Earlier this week, as a culminating event, we had a Skype visit with Mr. Korman, who entertained us with stories and writing advice. Before our visit, the kids came up with many insightful questions. Their thoughtful wonderings inspired this poem. (Which was also inspired by Naomi Shihab Nye‘s ditty challenge for September on Michelle Heidenrich Barnes’s blog, Today’s Little Ditty.)
To the Author Of My Favorite Book:
What made you write this story? What gave you this idea? How did you find the just-right words to show the way I feel? Did you peek inside my diary, or spy on me each day?
Were you ever lonely? Were you ever blue? Did someone ever write a book that felt like a friend to you?
Do you think I can be happy like the girl inside your book? You made her come alive, you gave me a new friend. Please write more of her story so our friendship never ends.
Like many of you, and hundreds of thousands of educators around the country, I’ve been busy preparing for the start of school next week. The buzz of anticipation at meeting new students, sharing new books, and embarking on our learning journey never fades. Unfortunately, there are always aspects of our teaching lives that we have no control over and don’t always agree with. What we can control, though, is our response to the situation.
I’ve always admired people who remain calm in every situation because I occasionally go to DEFCON 1 in an instant. I know this is not always appropriate or even warranted. It’s usually also never helpful. This is something I’m working on. I will carry the last line of this poem by the very wise and wonderful W.S. Merwin into the new year to help me.
by W.S. Merwin
As though it had always been forbidden to remember
each of us grew up
knowing nothing about the beginning
but in time there came from that forgetting
names representing a truth of their own
and we went on repeating them
until they too began not to be remembered
they became part of the forgetting
later came stories like the days themselves
there seemed to be no end to them
and we told what we could remember of them
A quick scroll through the photos on my phone would let you know that I am fairly obsessed with birds. So when Christie Wyman, a true kindred spirit and fellow bird devotee, issued a “bird-related poem challenge…to anyone willing to fly along,” I knew I was in.
My contribution to Christie’s feather-filled roundup was inspired by a chance encounter earlier this summer.
All at once, a heron is standing in the middle of the road. Maybe she thought flecks of mica in the pavement were fish darting back and forth in a creek.
But no quicksilver fish swim in this endless stream of asphalt.
Bewildered, she extends her graceful neck like a periscope, searching.
Suddenly, an alarm only she can hear buzzes and the moment is over.
Without a sound, her wings lift, beat the air, and she is aloft, her beak a compass needle pointing toward true north.
My first published writing was “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” an article that appeared in Connecticut Parent thirty years ago. It was inspired by my son’s love of dinosaurs and my own lifelong fascination with these prehistoric creatures. Although Michael’s interest waned as he grew older, mine never has.
So it was that I spent a hot August afternoon roaming the halls of the American Museum of Natural History. Most of these exhibits are familiar to me, but I still love visiting them. Since my last visit, the museum has added a new resident: the titanosaur!
You can learn more about this truly massive specimen here.
Contemplating all these fossils reminded me of this poem, by Myra Cohn Livingston:
Their feet, planted into tar,
drew them down,
back to the core of birth,
and all they are
is found in earth,
recovered, bone by bone,
rising again, like stone
skeletons, naked, white,
to live again, staring,
head holes glaring,
towering, proud, tall,
in some museum hall.
Congratulations to Rebecca Herzog, Kimberly Hutmacher, and Amy Warntz! You are the winners of last week’s giveaway of Great Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud! Thank you again to Sylvia and Janet for making this giveaway possible!
Please be sure to visit Mary Lee Hahn at A Year of Reading for the Poetry Friday Roundup!
“Poetry is a lovely gift we give to children that appreciates in value
and lasts throughout their lifetimes.”
~ Maria Brountas ~
Welcome to the Poetry Friday Roundup! I am thrilled to be hosting today because I’m celebrating the book birthday of Great Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud, the newest member of Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong‘s Poetry Friday Anthology® Series. What kind of celebration would this be without gifts? Thanks to Sylvia and Janet’s generosity, three lucky readers will receive a copy of Great Morning! just in time for the beginning of the new school year! Everyone who leaves a comment before midnight, July 31st will be entered in the drawing.
For many years, the assistant principal and I have read poems during morning announcements. Usually we’d read poems to celebrate the arrival of a new season, or a fun “National (fill in the blank) Day.” I have dozens (and dozens) of poetry books that are full of wonderful poems that we’ve read over the years, including all of Sylvia and Janet’s previous Poetry Friday® books. And, like all of the Poetry Friday books, Great Morning! is full of poems perfect for sharing.
What makes this book so special is that these poems are tailor-made for every imaginable school occasion. Did you just have a fire drill? Read Janet Wong’s “We’ll Keep Safe” to reassure kids that everything is okay. Starting a recycling campaign? Sharing Susan Blackaby’s “Recycling” is the perfect way to kick off this effort. There’s even a poem, “Testing Blues” by Xelena Gonzalez, to lift everyone’s spirit during those dreaded assessment weeks. There are also poems to celebrate all the people who work so hard to keep schools running smoothly: secretaries, nurses, custodial staff, even volunteers.
Great Morning! is divided into two main sections. The first section includes 39 poems organized by topic. Each poem in this section includes a brief “Did You Know” paragraph that can be read to introduce the poem, as well as a “Follow Up” that encourages teachers and children to think more deeply about the poem and topic. There is also a “Poetry Plus” tip that offers suggestions of appropriate times to share each poem.
The second section of Great Morning! includes a second poem that is linked thematically to each poem in the first section. Also included in this section is a “Poetry Bonus” for every poem. This provides links to many additional resources, including audio versions of some poems, digital postcards, and more.
Finally, as if all this weren’t enough, there are almost 30 pages of ideas and tips for using poetry throughout the day, as well as information to share with parents. There are also lists with a plethora of additional resources.
This book, like all of the Poetry Friday® books, is a treasure. Great Morning! is unique because it’s aimed directly at school leaders. In the introduction, Sylvia and Janet write “our goal is to provide support for those who might be unfamiliar with today’s poetry for young people and might need guidance in how to begin.” By supporting school leaders in this way, this book will help send the message to students that they are valued so much we want to share the gift of poetry with them each and every day.
I love this book for all these reasons, but I am also extremely honored that a poem of mine is included. “Walking For a Cause” is especially meaningful for me because our school has held several 5Ks to raise money for a foundation started in memory of a beloved student who lost her battle with aplastic anemia.
“Walking For A Cause”
Hey, kids! Have you heard?
We are walking for a cause.
Ask your parents, neighbors, too,
if they would like to share.
Dollars, quarters, nickels, dimes,
every penny shows we care.
We’re spreading hope with every step,
supporting friends in need.
So lace your sneakers, tie them tight.
Come and help our walk succeed!
I am excited to read these poems throughout the year with my enthusiastic Assistant Principal, Andy Schoefer, during our morning announcements. Here is the poem we’ve chosen for the first day of school, “How to Make a Friend,” by Jane Heitman Healy:
“How to Make a Friend”
You start by saying Hi there,
Hello, Aloha, Ciao– If someone answers back to you,
Smile and nod and bow.
You might try saying Hola,
Salut, Goddag, Shalom. If someone answers back to you,
They might be far from home.
A friend begins by greeting
Those they meet along the way
To make them feel welcome
At home, at school, at play.
Thank you, Jane, for allowing me to share your poem today. I think it is perfect for letting all students know they are welcomed and valued in our school. Poet Elizabeth Alexander calls poems “handbooks for human decency and understanding.” Thank you, Janet and Sylvia, for creating Great Morning! and all the Poetry Friday Anthology® anthologies and filling our schools with volumes and volumes of “decency and understanding.”
Want to know more? Read this post about Great Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud at Sylvia’s website, Poetry for Children.
Thank you for stopping by to help celebrate Great Morning! Please leave your link below. Don’t forget to comment if you’d like to be entered in the giveaway.