Showing posts from May, 2010

Poem Written With Wisconsin Students

With what we know,

We’ve discovered the anatomy of snow,
We’ve gone to the moon,
By explorers whose lives have ended too soon,

But with what we dream,
We’ve seen unseen,
Traveled to the center of the earth,
The womb of humanity’s birth.

With what we know,
We’ve made crops grow,
Traveled around the world,
Ancient mysteries unfurled;

But with what we dream,
We’ve found that things aren’t always what they seem,
We’re free of boundaries,
Allowed to create realities.


[Not sure if this really counts as a poem...more like a quote.]

We should print everything we read,
Send or email, watch and receive.
It’s easy to know not to send so much
When you’re drowning in paper.


I recently outgrew my loyally serviceable (and rather unassuming) pair of blue Timberland shoes--my toes push, petulantly, up against the edge of the tip of the shoe, and then hurt later. Being naturally mistrustful of any shoes not of that species, shoe shopping is a rather challenging experience for me (especially as the only shoe store I trusted, Shoe Pavilion, liquidated some time back).

As a result of SP's liquidation, I'm forced to go to the cheaper Payless Shoes down the road, where the selection leaves much to be wanted. After two torturous hours of forcing my feet into shoes which didn't fit and made me only more violently regretful that I'd outgrown my good old blue shoes, I settled for a pair of sneakers (sans shoelaces, of course, since I'm too lazy to tie shoes) but with a tongue, which I found useless and rather annoying as well. I'm not sure what the purpose of shoe tongues are, but they are a bother if you're just trying to slip into the sho…

Lessons Learned in L.A.

I wrote this for a homework assignment--a timed write, where you were supposed to write a two page personal narrative in thirty-five minutes. See below:

The Los Angeles subway system winds through the glitzy avenues of Hollywood and the decrepit streets of abandoned neighborhoods in South L.A.; it brings you down into dark tunnels and up into the sun. It was on this subway that my mom and I spent a lot of our time in Los Angeles--partly because we were too cheap to take the taxi, and mostly because my mom doesn't drive. If you really want to make someone feel like a stranger in a new city, ask them to take public transportation. It's hard to know where the stations are, let alone whether you should take the Blue Line or the Green Line, Bus 54 or 235. That was why it was so incredible to us when someone asked us for help on the subway--we'd come full circle, from tourist to (impromptu) tour guide. But it didn't happen overnight--like anything, it took practice. When we …

On Grammar and Spelling

Recently I got very mad (as I usually do) after reading yet another misspelled, grammatically incorrect piece of writing from my mom. Some people evaluate others by the way they dress; I evaluate them by the way they write. To me, a misspelled and grammatically incorrect piece of writing either shows that you're a) ignorant of some of the rules involved, in which case I would say LEARN, or b) you don't care enough to use Spell-Check. I've found that for too many people, the answer is b.

The problem with my mom is that she makes the same mistakes, every time. Before I even sit down and edit her email for her, I can predict there will be a comma splice, an overly repetitious (and often incorrect) use of the word "to," a non-capitalized or non-italicized book title, or some other kind of heinous mistake. It's not hard to write an email and sound like my mom. All you have to do is use (at least) one comma splice, a "Hi ______" salutation on the same lin…

The iPad is Not Too iBad

Read my post about the implications of Apple's iPad for education:

Skip the Massage--Write a Letter

There is something rather therapeutic about writing a letter, and while I have extolled the glories of letter-writing before, I think that this is one aspect that has not been too much explored. Recently I was replying to letters from fifth graders in Massachusetts--some very wonderful, well-written letters--and I felt a very nice sense of peace and calm when writing that letter, that one doesn't really feel with the frenetic pace of tapping out an email.

Even if you have all the time in the world, the very format of email seems to hurry you up--it says, "C'mon, hurry up, write this, you have a freaking keyboard, you can go faster, the person's going to check their email soon, get it in now!" Whereas no matter how fast you write a letter, it won't make a difference as to when it gets there (unless you're writing it right before they come and collect the mail); the mail is all picked up at a certain time, and all delivered at a certain time. Email has a c…

Today's Teaching

Today I video conferenced with students in Arkansas for a session titled "Dancing Fingers: Animal Poems 101." Inspired by a section in my poetry book, "Feathers, Horns, and Claws," the presentation centers around getting inspirations for poetry from animals. A very creative class with an impressive vocabulary, the Arkansas students were able to come up with lots of ideas for poems. We explored using animals as metaphors for larger things, like natural disasters and things were scared of (see example below):


The big brown bear eats everything,
It never stops to think
About what it eats,
And then it leaves a very giant stink.We also explored how reading scholarly papers/encyclopedia entries/articles about animals could give us great descriptive words for our poem. After reading an article in National Geographic about the Giant Panda, we collaborated on this poem (using the words solitary, hungrily plucked, and insatiable from the original article):


Teaching Carson Middle School

Poem Written with Carson Middle School Sixth-Graders

Today I video conferenced with Carson Middle School's wonderful and creative sixth-graders. We talked about Ridiculous Poetry (writing funny poems), and how to make mundane activities (like walking) into interesting, humorous poetry ideas through exaggeration. We also discussed what makes things funny. Their responses included:

Weird Animals
Made-up wordsFinally, we put our learning into practice with an activity that exaggerated a real-life event/activity we dreaded. When asked for examples of dreaded activities, one student said, "Walking." When I asked, "Oh, like walking the dog," he responded matter-of-factly, "No, just walking in general."

Here's the poem we wrote together:
Walking is so difficult,
It’s really very hard,
Your legs hurt so bad, they might fall off in the yard.
There’s always a chance That you’ll step on a stick Get it lodged in your shoe, And get permanently sick; Walking is slow, unbearably slow, It takes so much time…

On Language

I've been mulling over our language, specifically our pull at moments to speak it, for a little while, mostly because of my mom. Originally from China, she speaks Mandarin and Cantonese in addition to fluent English. She always speaks English with my dad, my sister, and me (since we're not as fluent in Chinese as she is in English!) But when my Chinese grandparents (who speak very little English) are over, it's a different story. Is this some kind of language peer pressure? It's even evident when there are people around who my mom doesn't even know. For instance, I remember once being in Hawaii. My mom and I were at a hotel lobby, and a Chinese couple across from us started a discussion in Mandarin. Suddenly, my mom started speaking to me in Chinese.

I do think that the language the people around you speak can have an impact on the way you, yourself, speak. At the most basic, it would obviously explain why babies in Iceland grow up speaking Icelandic (since no oth…