Saturday, May 13, 2017

A Day in the Life of a Teaching Poet

Alexander Valley School Poetry Journal notes

This past week I've been an artist in residence at Alexander Valley School. Sleeping on former teacher Peggy Maddock's window seat at night. Watching the stars spin their wheel in the sky between me and Mt. St. Helena.

My poetry teaching week in review: I'm up every day at 6:30 AM to read poems, comment, type; then I teach from 9 AM to 3 PM, then I read new kid poems, comment, type up work until midnight. Get up at 6:30 AM....repeat. Sleep deprived I am.

Saturday, ditto, as I'm preparing the student poems for final editing, I need to make individual files of all the typed poems, and comb journals for new work, or poems I've missed.

I was up at 8 AM, and worked on two classes journals to 3 PM; then again, from 5 to 8 PM, to read even more poems and pull them off Google Docs server to reformat on our pages.

I also do a slow, final read as I comb each journal for revised poems, and hidden gems. I make more comments, type more poems; plus I make a final file/page of corrected poems for each student, for laying out final pages for kids to edit on Monday, for book.

Ditto this pattern for the two upper grades on Sunday. It takes me a couple of hours per class to do final edits. I have a bit of a headstart as I have some of the Mother's Day poems they sent me via Google Docs already typed.

AVS set up an account for me yesterday at the end of the day. Suddenly I got something like 35 poems sent to me all at once. LOL, some were in 96 point type, curlicue fonts, other were multi-colored, a dyslexic's nightmare. Of course they're loaded with typos.

Monday will be student in-class final edits, poem title additions, and maybe some new poems for book...Then I'll fix Monday's edits & typos, reprint final layout pages for Tuesday morning and then each student will design their pages with art.

Some students will design front/back cover pages, and other book art. My intro page is always the last, always the hardest...but it always come together at the last minute.

Then I'll run off copies, collate, and staple book. And the copy machine will break down early and often. And everyone will be using it as final projects come together for Open House. It will be a zoo.

Then we will have four poetry readings for Open House on Thursday (every kid reads!!! so cool with parents in attendance— a captive audience).... Augh, will I make it? If I think about it, I'll freeze. One foot in front of the other.

I couldn't have done any of this residency without my gracious host, former AVS teacher Peggy Maddock who first brought me to Alexander Valley School way back in 1992. She feeds me (OK, so sone wine is involved), and I spend the week at her house. And many, many thanks to abfab First Grade teacher Shannon Giusso Hausmann, who spearheads the poetry project each year, of course. She showed me what is possible with first graders. Wow!

Paul Hardstone said: You should give extra credit for typed poems. Believe it or not, I did manage to get 3rd & 4th graders to each send me a Mother's Day poem via Google Docs, it's a whole lotta work to fix them as Google Docs is a bit buggy. AVS set up an account for me yesterday afternoon. I can't imagine the first & 2nd grader managing to do this.

But we did manage to incorporate technology into the project at the very end of the day Friday. Chuffed! It would've been more interesting if I had known that this was possible beforehand.

I found out by accident on Friday morning (at the end of the residency) that the kids could post their typed poems to me. They have cute little Chrome tablets. It took me three hours to access the poems and reformat them as Google Docs is so buggy. It sure works better under Chrome than an old version of Safari. Less spinning beachballs.

Wow, I just realized this is the first moment I've had a minute to reflect on what we've accomplished in a very short time. The kids are so sweet, and because I teach here every year, the momentum builds. Amazing school, amazing kids. Love my work.

Shannon said that we should go out for a glass of wine after Open House. I said I think I need an entire bottle for myself. It's so labor intensive. This is the first moment I've had to catch up on emails, and Facebook. 

There's no cellphone reception at AVS or at Peggy's, or at my cousin's, so that eliminates some distraction. No Facebook access at school. So, I literally haven't had time to go online. Sort of retro. These journal bits have been written on the fly when I have reception, and time to write.

These Alexander Valley School Poetry Journal notes were lifted from Facebook comments, my only link to the outside world, these days.

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