Fly In Formation With Us, Like Geese ~ National Poetry Month 2013 (Amy)

“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.” 
Rainer Maria Rilke 

253733_10200683787600151_1511462174_nWhile the calendar may announce that it is spring, the weather in Upper Michigan has a different opinion. It has been a long winter and we will have extra days tacked to the end of our school year because we were plagued with ten snow days. While teenagers always seems to be exuberant and full of energy, there have been many days where you can feel an oppressive energy sweep over our entire building. As I type this I have to sigh that I am home on spring break because the snowbanks in our yard still range from three to ten feet.

This year we went from a six-hour schedule to a seven hours and as a result I was fortunate enough to be trusted with TWO sections of creative writing. While this class is usually a welcome relief to students, because of its unstructured nature and the freedom to express themselves, I have noticed that spring fever has even impacted my creative writers.

I looked forward to National Poetry Month as an opportunity to breathe some fresh air Poetry Monthinto our writing and I decided one day, completely drained by another snowstorm, that we would think positive and beckon spring weather with our poetry.

To get us started we used the concept of geese as a springboard for the musings in our journals. We discussed how we eagerly anticipated the sound of honking geese returning from southern locations to announce spring. I sought out and shared websites that explained the phenomenon of how geese fly in a V formation and how they take turns leading. We marveled over the fact that when one gets wounded or sick, other geese will help and fly close beside them (or even leave the formation to take cover together on the ground).

When I was in college at Marquette University I remember being moved by the beauty of  Aldo Leopold‘s, A Sand County Almanac. Since we live in such a rural area my students can relate to his nature images. I love to bring passages of his lovely prose into my classes and on this particular day I shared a couple of passages about geese and birds.

“One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese, cleaving the murk of a March thaw, is the spring.”
― Aldo Leopold

“On motionless wing they emerge from the lifting mists, sweep a final arc of sky, and settle in clangorous descending spirals to their feeding grounds. A new day has begun on the crane marsh.”
― Aldo Leopold

“Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher ‘standard of living’ is worth its cost in things natural, wild and free. For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television.”
― Aldo Leopold

We also read a few poems by Mary Oliver and were deeply moved by her poem,

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

from Dream Work by Mary Oliver
published by Atlantic Monthly Press

Using Leopold and Oliver as inspiration my students wrote their own poems. After the poems were written they added visual elements so I could hang the poems in the hallway outside of my door. As an educator, I think it is important to publish  student work in a variety of ways in order share their work with their peers and school community. I want them to know that their voices are valued and that their words are potent. It makes me smile when I approach my classroom and see students, and even staff, stopped and transfixed by the luminous poems that my students have penned.

The door leading to my classroom often becomes a canvas for my students' writing.

The door leading to my classroom often becomes a canvas for my students’ writing.

Here is a sampling of some of the poems that my students created:
151413111098765432116I am so proud of my students and I love being able to share their work. I am thankful that together we share a passion for language and that each school day affords us the opportunity to fly in formation together and make time to write. While I have been savoring each moment of spring break, I miss my “kids” and I hope they are resting and will come back to school restored, refreshed, and ready to write. I cannot wait to celebrate National Poetry Month with my flock.

Jessie

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High School Student Generated Writing Prompts for National Poetry Month (Amy)

“Poetry is eternal graffiti written in the heart of everyone.”
― Lawrence Ferlinghetti 

ErikIn anticipation of National Poetry Month my creative writing students at Gwinn High School spent the two weeks before spring break contemplating activities that could engage other writers and stimulate poetry. In January I started a health food blog entitled, Produce, and as leader for Weight Watchers I shared a challenge that I involved my WW members in for the month of March. The March Madness Challenge invited participants to complete at least one healthy activity each day and record it on a calendar.

Taking inspiration from my WW challenge, and in celebration of NPM, my students came up with a plethora of prompts that would help free writer’s block and encourage writer’s of all ages to write poetry. Our hope is that other teachers will find our prompts useful and encourage themselves and their students to fill their notebooks with a month of writing. While I did handout a calendar to my students, we will be extending our challenge into May, since April was interrupted by our spring holiday. I also hope to use this activity with my 9th grade English classes at the end of the year when we study poetry.

Here is the calendar that I printed out for my students: April-2013-Calendar Poetry Month The purpose of the calendar is to keep track of what number prompt they wrote to on that particular day. As a teacher, I think it would be a great way to feed classroom discussion and examine the wide-range of places and experiences where poetry can take root.

As my students were brainstorming prompts I asked them to consider all different learning needs, writing styles, and to invoke their ultimate creativity. I am pleased with the results and am thrilled to share their ingenuity.

Poetry MonthPrompts Generated by Gwinn High School Creative Writing Students:

  1. Make up words and write a poem using at least two of the words.
  2. Go to a thrift store and buy the ugliest shirt you can find and wear it for a day, go to a public place and write a poem while wearing the shirt.
  3. Build a snowman and write from his/her perspective (if you don’t have snow, build a snowman out of brown sugar or dirt, or make an imaginary snowman).
  4. Write a poem while taking an ice bath (or just a normal bath).
  5. For the whole day (on the weekend, at home) don’t say any words at all, and only communicate through poetry you write.
  6. Have a tea party with stuffed animals and write poems.
  7. Watch Despicable Me (or any kid’s movie) and write a poem from the perspective of one of the characters.
  8. Drink a cup of coffee different from what you normally do (more sugar, less cream, black, or just drink a cup of coffee if you never do) and write a poem while drinking it.
  9. Talk to your pet and write a poem, from your pet’s perspective about how much they love you.
  10. If you’re right handed, write a poem with your left hand, and if you’re left handed, write a poem with your right hand.
  11. Write a poem with the first line “my unicorn…”
  12. Finish this sentence and write a poem about it:”my mother never…”
  13. Bring your notebook to a restaurant (or just the dinner table at dinner time) and write a poem about the environment.
  14. Write a poem with your eyes closed.
  15. Go to a public bathroom and write a poem while sitting in one of the stalls.
  16. Use the word “aqua” twice in a poem.
  17. Take a whole day (or at least a couple of hours) and don’t use any technology at all, and write multiple poems throughout the day.
  18. Take a shower with your clothes on and then write a poem in your wet clothes.(1-18       written by Brea, Sami, Ben, and Zoe)
  19. Find a poem you like in a book or on-line. Use a resource such as Poetry Foundation  http://www.poetryfoundation.org/ or American Academy of Poets: http://www.poets.org/ After having read it create an accompanying poem.
  20. Identify a specific poem or kind of poem you find to be ridiculous or trivial. Then create a parody of the poem or kind of poem.
  21. Create a poem that expresses satire over something you observe around you.
  22. Write three different poems about the same thing but use three different methods, such as iambic pentameter, haiku, or free verse.
  23. While engaged or after engaging in a physical activity write a poem inspired by your activity or that comes too your mind because of the activity.
  24. Think back on a past event, take one part of it like a day at the park or a conversation you had with a friend. Take that specific idea and romanticize it, make it out to be more important and glorified in a form of poem.(19-24   written by Matt and Christian)
  25. Write a poem using letters from alphabet cereal/soup. Take a picture of it and share it on Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, etc…
  26. Write a poem/story in a different language. Use an online translator or a language dictionary. Memorize it and impress friends and family.
  27. Lie in your driveway, or have a picnic. If it’s raining (even better) try to clear your head to write beautiful poetry.
  28. Come up with a list of words that can be a noun or a verb. (example: brush a brush, see a sea)
  29. Play a (safe) prank on someone. Write a story about unexpected surprises.
  30. Run in circles until you fall over. After you have regained your composure write a poem or a list words to describe how you feel/felt.
  31. Go to the zoo, and attempt to read the animals minds. Write a poem/story about being behind a cage.
  32. Use the following quote to inspire a poem: “But luxury has never appealed to me, I like simple things, books, being alone, or with somebody who understands.”― Daphne du Maurier
  33. Think about the simple things in your life you could not live without (no technology included!) Write about these simple pleasures.
  34. Eat some baguette (French hard bread), or another exotic food you have never tried.( just to change things up and inspire writing)
  35. Read a book backwards. (Think about Einstein’s theory of Relativity…) Write about this experience.
  36. Write from the perspective of a frog or other amphibian.
  37. Eat chocolate cake and orange juice. Try other strange combinations; you never know what will actually be good. Write about the sensation the food gives your taste buds.
  38. Make up a product (that doesn’t exist), and try to find it at Wal-Mart. Ask an employee to help you! (Doing something strange, inspires great poetry.)
  39. Take your favorite food box of cereal, or other packaged food. Pick three ingredients and add them into a poem.
  40. Write like a child. Children have no limits on language. (Who cares if your grammar is correct?) Write what you are afraid to write.(25-40 Written by Megan and Abbi)
  41.  Listen to your favorite song write a poem about what it means to you.Pickflowers and write a poem about the scent
  42. Go for a run write a poem about what you saw and heard.
  43. Look at old pictures write a poem about your memories. 
  44. Draw a picture and write a poem about your drawing.
  45. Sleep on it and write a poem about your dreams. 
  46. Read your favorite childhood book and reflect on how it made you feel as a child. Does it bring back any childhood memories, hopes, or emotions?
  47. Write a poem to your grandpa (or another family member) and tell him how much he means to you.
  48. Eat a banana, write a poem about how it tastes, looks, and feels
  49. Make faces on fruit; write a poem about what inspired you to make those faces.
  50. Read a blog about your favorite food or dessert. Write a poem about what you learned.
  51. Make a snowman with your little sibling. Write a poem about bonding with them and how that made you feel to spend time with them. (If you do not live in an area with snow, do another seasonal activity.)
  52. Do your hair/makeup funny or silly and take a bunch of pictures. Write a poem about how free it made you feel.
  53. Put on some fun upbeat music and dance your night away. Write a poem on what your dance moves looked like and how you felt.
  54. (41-54 Written by Alexis and Mariah)
  55. Send an original poem to someone and ask for one in return.
  56. Write a short poem and read it in public.
  57. Write a poem and send it off on a helium balloon with your school’s address and teacher’s name attached. Ask for a reply.
  58. Record yourself recounting the events of your day, then play it back and find a poem.
  59. Use this prompt: “I can’t be sure if the whole thing is real, they took all my nerves and then they told me to feel.” -Jon Fratelli.
  60. Ask a child under the age of five, three questions, and base a poem off of their responses.
  61. Sit with a pet for 10 minutes then write about what you think they would’ve been saying to you if they could talk.
  62. Spend a night in, but dress up as extravagantly as you can, then write about it.
  63. Watch an independent movie then write a poem from a character of your choice’s perspective.
  64. Flip through a family photo album. Select four random pictures. Write a four or eight stanza poem using one picture for each stanza.
  65. Take a day off from your phone, laptop, iPod, and any other technology that you can. Write a poem and if you’re writing perspective has changed at all.
  66. Find the nearest book and go to the following pages: 3, 12, 27, 45, and 94. Close your eyes and point randomly at the page. Use the words in a poem.
  67. Bake bread or cookies (yes, even if you’re not a baker) and use the experience as a prompt for a poem.
  68. Write a poem using as many palindromes as you can.
  69. Go back to a time in your life when you felt somber. Even though it might be difficult to think about, take that difficulty and tension and turn it into a poem.
  70. Find an old article of clothing that you haven’t worn in at least a year. Write about it.(55-70 written by Alex and Laura)
  71. If you’re a Democrat, watch the traditionally Republican news station Fox News or read liberal articles in the paper or online. Write down what you agree with.
  72. If you’re a Republican, watch CNN or read conservative articles in the paper or online. Write down what you agree with.
  73. Study a famous historical person (ex; Queen Elizabeth, MLK Jr., Churchill, ect.) and write a short fictional story about how that person would react. Make sure to include cats.
  74. Write about a parallel universe where only one everyday normality is changed. How does this affect everyone’s daily life?
  75. Write a short story about an alien visiting your home country. What would the alien do? Would the alien fly back to space on its saucer because of the insane culture or would he fall in love with the feline species?(71-75    written by Meg)
  76. Grab your bag or purse and pull out a random object. Take that object, observe its color, and think about a new object that looks the exact opposite of that color. Write about the second object.
  77. Take a small ball or anything that is not breakable, walk outside, spin in a circle, and then throw whatever you have. Go to the location where the object landed and write about the location.
  78. Open Pandora radio, pick a station you wouldn’t normally listen to, and write down the third line of lyrics of the second song that comes up. This will be the first line of your poem.
  79. Take six random objects and place them in a line on the floor. Get your dog all wild and excited so they run around. Write about whatever object your pet touches or knocks over first.
  80. Randomly look at a clock. Take the last number and divide it by 2. Once you have your number, add the first digit of your birth month and use that number to pick out the random object to your right. For example, if you get the number 10, look to your right and write about the tenth object you see.
  81. Go outside, look at the sky, and write about the shape of the first cloud you see.
  82. Eat food of your least favorite color and describe what it tastes like. Use those descriptions to write a poem.(76-82 written by McKayla)
  83. Write a poem describing your favorite color without using the name of it.
  84. Write about the difference between anything and everything.
  85. Write a poem about the first part of your face that you feel when you get the chills.
  86. Inhale or exhale?
  87. Write a poem using the statement, “I’m jack’s… “
  88. Start your poem with the third line of the lyrics of your favorite song.
  89. Create your own discipline for yourself and write about it.
  90. If this was anarchy, what would you be doing at this moment?
  91. What kind of night is a late night on a molecular level?
  92. Write a prayer for the selfish.
  93. Write rules on how to keep yourself at a certain state of mind.(83-93 Written by Anastasia)
  94. Pick out an outfit with your eyes closed. Put it on. Write about decisions you make when you can’t see the whole picture.
  95. Google ‘birds.’ Take a minute to reflect upon the fact that you will probably never see half of these birds in your life. Now write about places you wish you could go.
  96. Read a passage from Genesis. If you are not religious, this is just a book. How do you see mortality?
  97. Close your first. Open your fist. Notice how loose your skin gets, and then notice how it tightens. Imagine and write about what it will be like to be old.
  98. Bring five blankets into your kitchen. Take all of the kitchen chairs into the living room. Run the water. Lay the blankets on the floor and over the table. Fill a glass of water and sit down. Do you realize how safe you are? Write about it.
  99. Set three books in front of you. Flip one of them over, open the back cover and see how many periods are on the last page. Tell me how many small endings it takes to get to the final one. With a different book, count how many times the word ‘with’ appears in the first five paragraphs. Write about what it means to be alone. With the final book, keep it closed. Smell it. There are some things you will only understand by sense. Write about it.
  100. Have a thumb war with someone or by yourself. Write about being submissive or dominant.(94-100 Written by Macie and Melissa)
  101. Search “Orange Ladybug” on your favorite search engine. Click on a web address or picture that catches your eye and write a poem based on that photo or website.
  102. Find a dictionary and open it to a random page. Use one word on that page as the first word of a poem. After that open it to another page and select another word to use at the end of your poem (preferably one starting with a different letter than your first word).
  103. Find words in a foreign language online. You can look up specific words or just random words in any language you choose, (Preferably French, Spanish, Portuguese, or German), but pick only one language. Write a poem that sounds good using those words.  The main point of this is to create a poem that sounds like it makes sense, but once translated back to English it’s really just a bunch of jumbled words.
  104. Pick one object on your left and write a poem about it or including it.
  105. Choose your favorite number. Once you’ve chosen that number, write a poem about anything you’d like, with that many number of lines.
  106. Try to write a haiku about your favorite color. Remember a haiku is a poem with three lines. The first having 5 syllables, the second having 7 syllables and the last having another 5 syllables.(101-106 written by Erik)
  107. Do dishes and belt out- EXTREMELY LOUD- She Talks to Angels by The Black Crowes. This will give you the power to write something awesome, and the soapy hands from the dishes means you can’t write down any good ideas you have. That’s when the good ideas always come.
  108.  Plan something impossible (your future house’s kitchen color, how many children you have and what their names will be, the centerpiece at your wedding). Write a poem about it.
  109. Wait.(107-109 Written by Payton)
  110. Do a pass around or collaborative poem- The first person writes a line and then passes it for the second person to write a line. The second person will fold over the very first line and then pass the poem, so on and so forth.
  111. While watching television, hit the “guide” button and write a poem using the show titles on the screen. (Or) Do the same thing with the movie titles in the “Now playing” section at the theatre.
  112. Find some notes from a friend or anyone you’ve ever passed notes with, and pick lines from them and turn them into a poem.
  113. Find a roster of your favorite team and use your favorite players’ names in a poem.
  114. Think of any lines from any movies you’ve seen and put them together in a poem.
  115. Look at the song titles on the back of a CD and use one of the titles to start a poem. (Or as a prompt by itself)
  116. Find the nearest book to you and go to page 23. Use the 4th line to start a poem.
  117. Open up a novel and write down the first line of each chapter. Use the lines you’ve written down to write a poem.
  118. On television or YouTube or something else, watch a clip of one of your favorite shows as a little kid and use it as a prompt.(110-118 Written by Tyler)
  119. Write a wish in the sand. (Optional: take a photo of it) Write a poem that accompanies your wish.
  120. Eat dark chocolate while watching your favorite comedy movie and write about it.
  121. Gather all of your friends and take a trip to Starbucks, or another coffee shop, and write poems together.
  122. Crank your favorite song while in the car (and write a poem). Make sure that the car is not moving.
  123. Lay in the sun on a warm day and write, write, write.
  124. Write a poem about coloring Easter eggs.
  125. Drink sparkling grape juice out of a fancy glass and write a poem about elegance.
  126. Write about a peppermint stick in a half cut lemon.
  127. Start a new collection (stamps, sea shells, coins, scarves, jewelry, etc.) and write about this collection.
  128. Make homemade kool-aid popsicles and write about them.
  129. Write about the first rainfall. In the poem, grab your favorite pair of flip-flops, and dance in the rain. (Even better, do the dance in the rain first)
  130. Write about making a bowl of jell-o, and eating it through a straw.
  131. Imagine and write about what a cumulus cloud would taste like.
  132. Write about wearing bright pink lipstick.
  133. Use the following as a line to a poem, “Sing karaoke in China Town.”(119-133 Written by Mariah, Kristen, Sam, and Sam)
  134. Bake a chocolate cake and write about you process.
  135. Go to your favorite spot and write about what you see.
  136. Eat chicken noodle soup and write a poem about what you taste.
  137. Talk to your best friend and write a descriptive poem about them.
  138. Brush your teeth and listen to Bach, the great composer, and write a poem.
  139. Do your makeup in different ways and write about the different designs.
  140. Dress up as someone else and write from their perspective.
  141. Take a nap and write a poem as soon as you awake.
  142. Go to Wal-Mart and take notes about the first three things you see. Write about them.(134-142 Written by Mckayla and Caite)
  143. Pretend that it’s opposite day. (Ex. Instead of saying that it’s a good morning, say that it’s NOT a good morning. Describe something by saying what it’s NOT)
  144. Write upside down. Describe an upside-down world.
  145. Write backwards. Describe a backwards world.
  146. Type random letters and try to pick out real words out of the mess. Write a poem with those words in it. (Ex. Hsdklaghjkgyuirjafklasugthgjklauigyrrjaijsiojkckjasiufnvkzoaqwifnjhstweukjbgiswikhzxjgsklshjjauirkcnjkhcvnbvjkljvnsdtwenjkmnvbzlonguighiyerijvjk)
  147. Write a poem about a very small object. *
  148. Write a poem about something that spirals. *
  149. Write a poem that starts at the end, moving backwards. *
  150. Write a poem that is about the “un-truth.” *
  151. Write a poem using, “how to…” For example, “how to write a poem”, “How to break my heart”, “How to distinguish a flower from a frog” *
  152. Write a poem that describes a walk through a house from the perspective of a child. (143-146 Written by Adalia, Maddie, and Shianne. 147-152 taken from: http://www.davidrm.com/thejournal/tjresources-exercises.php#poetry
  153. Write a poem about doing Yoga.
  154. Alter the pictures of a magazine and write accompanying poems.
  155. Listen to Lana Del Ray and write.
  156. Light some candles or burn some incense and write.
  157. Look out a window at a nice view and let it inspire a poem.
  158. Take a walk while the sun is setting. Stop and write.
  159. Look up Bon Iver- listen to that and write.
  160. Paint a picture (even if you “can’t paint”) and use the experience to fuel your poetry.
  161. Turn out all of the lights and only use a flash light to explore your house. Write.
  162. Make a sheet fort and go on a writing adventure.
  163. Study the contents of junk drawer and write about these items.
  164. Get yourself a drink (coffee, soda, tea, water, juice) as long as your thirst is quenched, you should be ready to write(153-164   written by Jessie and Kaine)
  165. Write about doors. Metaphorical. Oak. French. Glass.
  166. Smell perfume and write down the first three things that come to mind. Write a poem with the words. (You could travel to the nearest mall and ask for samples at the cosmetic counter).
  167. Listen to the song ‘Breathe 2am’ by Anna Nalick and write a response to it.
  168. What’s your favorite thing about summer? Write about it.
  169. Imagine you are lying under the stars. What can you see?
  170. It’s raining. How does that make you feel? Write about this feeling.(165-170 Written by Kacy and Jessica)
  171. Imagine as if it was the opposite season it is now. Write about the experiences you may be having.
  172. If you were the first person to be on Earth, what would things be like? Write about the struggles and benefits of this situation.
  173. Write about your perspective as if you were any type of food.(171-173 written by Sophie)
  174. Write a few of your own prompts.Here is a printable version of the prompts: National Poetry Month Student Generated Prompts This activity was created in hopes that we could inspire others to write poetry in April and beyond. I am excited to see the pieces that my students write. We would love if others shared their poetry with us.Stay tuned, in an upcoming post I will be sharing some marvelous poems written by my students and more poetry activities! May you and your students find April a fruitful month of reading and writing poetry.

    3-27-2013 9;30;21 PMMy Poetry Month Poster

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National Poetry Month 2013 ~ Student Posters (Amy)


Poetry Month
“Write about your sorrows,
Your wishes,
Your passing thoughts,
Your belief in anything beautiful.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

Every year I anticipate getting the new National Poetry Month poster in my school mailbox. This year I decided it would be a meaningful project to have my students create their own posters. Before we started the posters, I engaged my high school writers in a brainstorming activity that allowed us to expand our definition of poetry into metaphorical terms. Here are the questions that we pondered and wrote about: Poetry Month Poster Brainstorm

This year's National Poetry Month Poster displayed in my classroom.

This year’s National Poetry Month Poster displayed in my classroom.

After the brainstorming activity we browsed the gallery of past National Poetry Month posters at poets.org from the Academy of American Poets. Since our spring break falls into April, we will be extending Poetry Month into May this year. My students will hang their posters up in our building and I will be blogging out their poetry, prompts that they have created, and other poetry activities in hopes that we can inspire other budding poets to unleash their creativity.

It was energizing to dig out my art supplies and watch my students create beautiful visuals that eloquently express their love of language.

IMG_1434IMG_1436

Work in progress

Work in progress

Alex

Completed Posters

Completed Posters

I created a video of their completed posters:

Here’s also a photo gallery of the posters:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The poster activity is one that I hope to continue every year. I love that technology affords me the opportunity to share my students’ work with the world. Stay tuned for more National Poetry Month posts! We have been busy in our classroom, writing about our sorrows, our wishes, our passing thoughts, and our belief in anything beautiful. I cannot wait to share more of my students’ work with you.

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A Teacher’s Message of Brotherly Love on a Cold Winter’s Day (Amy)

I beg you
Do something
Learn a dance step
Something to justify your existence
Something that gives you the right
To be dressed in your skin in your body hair
Learn to walk and to laugh
Because it would be too senseless
After all
For so many to have died
While you live
Doing nothing with your life.
~Charlotte Delbo (Auschwitz and After)

I cannot believe how fast the first semester has whizzed by. In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan we have been plagued by numerous wind chill, ice, and snow days off from school (six total with one 2 hour delay). While not delighted by the prospect of adding extra days

Snow covered trees in our yard.

Snow covered trees in our yard.

on to the school year in June, it is one of the opportunity costs of living in such a wild and beautiful place. I have tried to make the best use of my time away from the classroom to cook, workout, write, read, and reflect. Today is one of those days where reflection has been front and center.

Today my husband Mike is nursing a cold and trying to study for his courses at Northern Michigan University.  His plan was to snow blow when he got home from his evening class tonight (we received over a foot of snow last night and the thermometer plunged to bone chilling temperatures). This afternoon I took a look outside and found our elderly neighbor taking care of our drive way.  Mike stumbled outside to thank him and our neighbor patted Mike’s arm a few times and said, “You always take care of us. We are neighbors, that’s what we do for each other.” It is true that Mike does the snow removal for our neighbors if he can get to it first, as well as other errands that pop up. Throughout the year there are many reciprocal deeds done in our neighborhood. It gave me such a feeling of warmth today to think about how nice it is to live in a small town and have such kind and considerate neighbors who look out for each other. It also was an important reminder of what a big difference the things we do for others can make. Never underestimate the impact of an act of kindness.

My brother Jamie is one of those good guys who makes me remember that chivalry and kindness is still alive and thriving. He is a Service Technician for The Boss snow plow, so obviously, he never complains about harsh winter weather. Secretly, I think it is his fault we have had so many snow days. I imagine he has magic snow day rituals just to make sure that he is busy at work and that his sister has extra days added to the school year. 😉 While we may have had our share of sibling quarrels over the years,  Jamie is a very special guy and even though he is five years younger, he has always been my “big brother” and has taken care of me. Jamie has always been wise beyond his years and has a genuine warmth that makes him highly respected by people he comes in contact with. It was no surprise when he recently received this note from his neighbor. Jamie's noteJamie attributes his kind nature to his goal of trying to live up to the man that our grandfather, Lyle Armstrong was when he was alive. Grandpa was always doing kind things for others and I know that he would be proud of the man that Jamie has become.

Jamie shares the same sacred reverence for the Paint River that Grandfather cherished and called home. In his eulogy poem, I wrote that Grandpa had the capacity to repair both carburetors and broken hearts and one look at Jamie’s garage makes you realize he is a chip off the old block. Jamie has given me many pep talks over the years and has soothed me during many late night phone calls.

I talk about my brother often to my students and about how his hard work ethic and engaging, down-to-earth personality have really helped him find success in life. The boys in class love to see photos of his vintage 3-wheelers and hear all about his trophy bucks and the lunker walleyes that he has caught. I always tell them that if Jamie was a student in my English class that he probably would not enjoy writing poetry and reading, The Odyssey or Romeo and Juliet, but he would do so with a huge and generous smile on his face and that he would bring his charm and sense of humor into class discussions. That is the kind of guy that Jamie is — and the reason that I love him so much.

Jamie's work photo at The Boss. He is in the middle.

Jamie’s work photo at The Boss. He is in the middle.

Jamie fishing on his boat, "Little Jacki" affectionately named after his fiancé.

Jamie fishing on his boat, “Little Jacki” affectionately named after his fiancé. Photo by : Mike Laitinen

Jamie fishing on The Paint River. I have this photo in my classroom.Photo by: Mike Laitinen

Jamie fishing on The Paint River. I have this photo in my classroom.
Photo by: Mike Laitinen

My students LOVED this photo. Jamie got all his machines out for his daughter, Kristine. There is nothing like prom in the U.P. (at least it was not snowing)

My students LOVED this photo. Jamie got all his machines out for his daughter, Kristine. There is nothing like prom in the U.P. (at least it was not snowing)

My little, big brother. <3

My little, big brother. ❤ Photo by: Mike Laitinen

When I think about qualities of kindness, compassion, and cooperation, I also cannot help but think about Heather. For the past twelve years we have been a team on numerous projects and often we take turns doing the leg work. Last night after work, while I white-knuckled it home in a horrible snow storm, Heather stayed on at school to work on our application for a Global Teacher Fellowship. This grant would be an amazing professional development opportunity for us. I will wait to share our proposal topic when it is accepted (fingers crossed). I sent Heather a text at about 8:30 last night because I had a sneaking suspicion that she was still fussing over every word. Yes, I was correct! Even though I had sent her some scattered notes on my ideas for the project, it was her toil that was coaxing our dream into fruition.  At a little after 9:00 she sent me her finished work and I cheered out loud at her brilliant and witty writing. It never ceases to amaze me how lucky I am to have a talented colleague and dear friend like Heather who shares the same passion for education, writing, reading, and travel that I do. We work well together and our ideas mesh as bounce ideas back and forth to create new revelations and brainstorms. Often, I think about how lucky we were to come into each other’s lives at the beginning of our teaching career. Without a doubt, I know that we were destined to be the Hamy educational partnership!

On the last day of January, I still find myself in a state of reflection over 2012. Last year at this time Heather and I were delighted and stunned that we would be traveling to Poland and Israel with a group of Holocaust Educators that we trusted and loved. Heather wrote about this opportunity in a post on March 2, 2012, Walking in survivors’ shoes gets us back to blogging. Our local newspaper, The Mining Journal, ran this article about our experience, Gwinn High School Teachers Visit Concentration Camps.  Heather, I am sure, would agree that we still have not been able to fully comprehend the impact that the trip will have on our classrooms. Nearly a year later and we continue to unpack the lessons we hauled home with us. We continue to try to spread the message of tolerance, the importance of bearing witness, and the images of darkness and light that we witnessed in Poland and Israel with our students. I find myself touched more deeply by moments of kindness and sharing like the one revealed in the note my brother Jamie received, our neighbor’s kind act in snow removal, and Heather’s devotion to her students and our work together.

When I was reflecting today I felt the urge to spread this message of light and love with a new blog piece. When I looked through the Blended Voices dashboard, I realized that I still had a draft for a piece about “Our Responsibility to Bear Witness” that I was working on in May of 2012. A busy schedule hampered me from finishing it. Today I thought was the perfect time to share the video that I created when we got home from Israel. Our superintendent asked if we would do a small presentation about our trip at a school board meeting. We were asked to keep it short, 5-7 minutes. I poured over hundreds of photos and decided that a slide-show would help compare and contrast some of the images that we witnessed and share the emotional journey that we navigated together. Heather and I have future plans to create more detailed digital pieces from our travel journals and the images we captured with our hearts and our cameras. Heather, let us make that happen soon, okay?

Today as I sit in my living room on a cold January afternoon, I vividly remember staring at the buds on the weeping willows at the entrance of Auschwitz and how it was a struggle to imagine life springing forth from the ashes. I wondered, would have the strength to walk through that infamous gate? It soon struck me that it would be easy to put one foot in front of the other, because at any time I had to freedom to walk back out, when during the Holocaust so many did not. I remember the haunting train tracks and walking the great expanse of Birkenau, while making the startling realization that I was walking on a grave with every footstep. I remember hot tears running down my face as we placed stones on memorial tombstones. I remember the weight of darkness and trying to figure out how I could explain the giant, horrifying question mark of the Holocaust to my students.  I remember feeling like a burden was lifted from my shoulders when we touched down in Israel. I remember walking around Jerusalem and seeing churches, synagogues, and mosques closely located to each other. I remember frolicking in the Dead Sea like children and writing feverishly on small pieces of paper to slip into the Western Wall.

Amy and Heather at the Western Wall in Israel

Amy and Heather at the Western Wall in Israel

Almost one year later and I feel more grateful than ever to the Memorial Library of New York City for this life-altering experience. How thankful I am to have such a beautiful friend like Heather to walk so many roads with me. As teachers we will continue to seek out new opportunities to enrich our classrooms and our students. We try to share with the precious young lives we are entrusted with that writing can open doors and we attempt to model this reality for them.

I am honored to share this video and I challenge everyone who watches it to remember how much of an impact we can make on the world if we remember that we are all neighbors. Do something special for someone today, tomorrow, and every day after. Practice acts of kindness like my brother Jamie. Love your work fiercely like Heather and Jamie. In the words of Charlotte Delbo, Do something

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Teaching is my calling ~ No use in trying to fight it, I might as well write about it… (Amy)

My student's Greek mythology presentation visuals.

My student’s Greek mythology presentation visuals.

“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.”
― Ben Sweetland

My 2012 felt very much like Heather’s last post. I did experience many incredibly meaningful experiences but the year seemed to flash by in an instant. Our blog posts were horribly mismanaged and non-existent, though in passing we always promised each other we would write. This year Heather and I have planned a monthly “blog date” and I am going to hold her to it. In fact, I think our writing adventure is creeping up. How fun it will be to write together again! Heather and I have a fascinating relationship that reaches back to our education classes at Northern Michigan University. We have so much in common that we do not have another choice; we are fated to be friends. I have a feeling that 2013 is going to be a marvelous year for us. We are finally going to find the words that we have been searching after for so many years.

One of my resolutions for 2013 was to make time to write beyond my classroom. I started a blog, Produce, in hopes that I could separate the teacher and writer and health enthusiast that I am. Ultimately, I am finding that I am failing miserably. Though I have three posts under my belt, I am finding that the material that is feeding my blog comes straight from my classroom. Teaching is my calling and it cannot be avoided. The post that I wrote today comes straight from my 9th grade English classroom where we are studying Greek Mythology. If you, like me, are obsessed with the myth of Persephone and Hades you might want to take a peek at a recipe I created on my new blog, Produce. Maybe I will whip up Heather a Jeweled Ambrosia Green Smoothie to help inspire our 2013 blog posts!

Athena by a 9th grade student.

Athena by a 9th grade student.

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Ushering in the New Year with a Flourish

By Heather Hollands

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” ~Annie Dillard

My one-word resolution for 2013 is “flourish.” I like one-word resolutions because they guide you throughout the year but don’t restrict you to one goal. When I look back on 2012, it mostly was a bland year for me. This is because I did not nurture myself as a reader, writer or artist. I didn’t set the tone of the year with a resolution like I have in years past (“breathe” was my word for 2011). I dropped blogging. I didn’t write to get published or even write in a personal journal. I only read a few books. I didn’t create art. Looking back, I wonder Where did the year go and how did I spend my days?

HEN trip 2012

HEN trip 2012

Incredible opportunities did land in my lap. A trip to Poland and Israel with teachers from the Holocaust Educators Network provided me with experiences I cherish: walking the railroad tracks at Auschwitz-Birkenau, remembering victims and honoring survivors at Yad Vashem, exploring the Herodian fortress Masada, and floating in the Dead Sea. Another highlight was a trip to the National Writing Project Annual Meeting in Las Vegas. On both of these journeys I reconnected with teachers from around the country in my Personal Learning Network and spent quality time with Amy Laitinen. We teach across the hall from each other, but rarely find moments during the day to say more than “hi.”

Rachel Wood reads her book "Butterfly Cave."

Rachel Wood reads her book “Butterfly Cave.”

In the classroom, my students and I also enjoyed many learning collaborations. Two units that delighted me in English 10 were developed by the teens themselves. They wrote and illustrated children’s stories then shared their books with elementary school students. They also celebrated a coffeelicious Poetry Cafe day to culminate a productive writing unit.

A "Mad Scientist" Halloween

A “Mad Scientist” Halloween

This school year, I still teach tenth grade English but have added seventh and eighth grade Science Exploratory classes. On Halloween my science students and I set up a ‘Mad Scientist’ lab that would make Steve Spangler proud, and we conducted several spooky experiments. We used black lights and made huge batches of slime. We’ve sampled astronaut ice cream and have marveled at explosive Mentos-Diet Coke geysers.

The moments in between these highlights are when I could have done more to pursue my passions. I wish I would have reflected more, created more. I spent too much time getting an extra hour of sleep instead of waking up and writing, or watching another episode of The Bachelorette when I could have been reading John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. So how can I get over this slump in 2013?

When I first considered “flourish” for my resolution, it didn’t quite suit me. I think of grand gestures but I have a more laid-back style. Or I think of showy strokes of the pen. I love to write, but there are no sweeping lines or swirls in my penmanship. I prefer to clack on the keyboard.

For a moment, I rejected the word for the way it looks, like “flour-ish,” a white, powdery mess. Yet, the word kept repeating itself to me  flourish flourish     flourish. Thrive. Create. Write. Grow. Read. Produce. Excel. Influence. Learn. Enjoy.

In the first six days of this year I have submitted an essay to be considered for a book about teaching and poetry; I have committed to writing a chapter for a different book about rural teachers; and I have contacted a publication about doing some freelance writing on educational issues in Michigan. I have started reading The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall. I even scheduled a time this week for an artist’s date with myself to create a visual reminder of my resolution.

The word “flourish” comes from “flower.” In 2013 I am a clutch of my favorite flowers, stargazer lilies. It is said that pink stargazers (yes, a little bit showy) hold a promise of good fortune and prosperity. I will stay watered. I will spend my days in bloom. My creativity will flourish. This is how I choose to spend my days.

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Condensing Our Stories: Six-Word Memoirs (Amy)

Another school year finished. Reflection time. ~ Six-Word Memoir

It’s officially the last day of school for students and Monday is a teacher work day. I should be grading the growing pile of essay exams that sit on my desk, but instead I find myself jotting reflective notes in my journal about the strengths and weaknesses of the 2011-2012 school year. A sketch of how I would physically like my classroom to look next year has even started to take shape. Over the past eleven years I have found that I need to change things up often, not only with my lesson plans, but with the visual aspect of my classroom. As an English teacher I often feel overwhelmed with the paper clutter, forgotten visual aids, and the assortment of artifacts my students leave behind. Early in my teaching career I learned that I can’t save all the engaging projects that my students have created. Fortunately, technology allows me to capture digital images to use as models for future students. Today I made a note in my journal that I need to be extra mindful of cataloging classroom projects next year because this year I failed miserably in documentation. Plus, this will really put the new camera gifted to my classroom by a Donors Choose project to great use!

Heather and I have been so busy that we have not really had the opportunity to talk lately. Sometimes we dart into each other’s classrooms for a quick conversation and often at the end of the school day I stop into the computer lab where she runs the after school homework lab. As always, I value the personal and professional friendship that Heather and I share. I cannot imagine not having her teach across the hall from me. I honestly would be lost without her listening ear to vent, laugh, and share teaching ideas. Heather is one of the greatest sources of inspiration for me and I secretly wish that we could team teach together. What an amazing adventure that would be!

Last year, Heather had her sophomores create riveting videos based on the prompt, “If you could say three words to world, what would you say?” Blogger Deb Day commented on Heather’s post by mentioning that a Six-Word Memoir project would also make a great video. I was curious about this project and wanted to learn more.  I discovered a plethora of information that pointed to a 2006 article in Smith Magazine that created the Six-Word Memoir frenzy.

My 9th grade English students enjoyed discussing the legend about Hemingway giving rise to the Six-Word Memoir when he was challenged to write a story in six words. The story credited to Hemingway is, ““For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” My students came up with multiple meanings for Hemingway’s story. As a class project I decided that we would write our own memoirs.  Each student was given a blank piece of white computer paper and instructed to choose six words that either explain their “life story” or their “philosophy of life.” Illustrating their Six-Word Memoir was recommended. As an alternate to the piece of paper they could also turn in a photo file. After a late night of scanning photos I used Movie Maker to create a video of our memoirs. My creative writing students also created Six-Word Memoirs and some choose to give the project a neat twist by creating, “A Dozen Words for 2012.”

My students enjoyed watching the video and I thought I would blog them out today (especially since I only got two hours of sleep on Wednesday night to create them). Thank you so much to Heather and Deb Day for the inspiration! Maybe another teacher will see this blog post and add the Three Words to the World or the Six-Word Memoir project to their growing “to do list” and end-of-year reflection.

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Watching Our Students Find Their Voices (Amy)

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” 
―    F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

With only three days remaining of the 2011-2012 school year, I find myself with that familiar pit in my stomach. While I welcome warm summer days spent in my garden and long hikes with my husband Mike and our dog Phoebe, I know I will miss my daily routine and my students’ boundless energy. The seniors at Gwinn High School have already moved the tassels of their mortar boards to the left and the hallways seem vacant without their swagger. After eleven years you think I would learn, but I am always so startled with how traumatic the end of the school year feels.

My ninth grade English students do not seem to share my trepidation for the school year to be over. As we discuss the essay they will write for the final exam, I watch their eyes glaze over. The last of the book presentation grades are entered and they write notes to each other to slip into the “time capsules” they will get back as seniors. It saddens me that many of them will walk out of my classroom on Thursday or Friday and seemingly never look back at room 116. Next year some will pop their heads in to say “hello” and stop to chat in the hallway. Though, I know that by their junior year the majority will be too busy and preoccupied with their other classes. I like to think that sometimes they pause and reflect on our time together navigating Greek mythology and Romeo and Juliet. Ultimately, I hope that some return to take my creative writing class to dabble in fiction writing and poetry.

Macie Mitchell, who in three days will be a senior, is one of my students who returned to explore the power of language in creative writing. She is sweet and shy girl and often puts her hand over her journal, or computer screen, to hide her work from me. This always makes me laugh and I understand wanting to guard our words from the world. I can still see Macie sitting in her desk as a 9th grade student. She dazzled me with a stunning collage for her book project on Pam Muñoz Ryan’s novel, Esperanza Rising. Quickly, I learned that Macie was both a gifted visual artist and a wordsmith. She’s a pensive girl who keeps a deft eye on the world through her striking photography and carefully crafted lines of poetry. When you mention a book to Macie, it is not long before she owns it and is devouring the pages. I am delighted that this year she came to know and love The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye. It is students like Macie who remind me why I love being a teacher and the magic and wisdom we can seek out in gorgeous pieces of literature.

Right now my creative writing students are in various stages of completing digital projects for their final exam. I know this is a painful process for many and I try to keep the expectations and options wide open. My wish is that they experiment and explore different methods of publishing their writing and by doing this they allow their words to breathe. Two students composed and recorded an eloquent and political charged spoken word poem and one student, who enlisted help from a group of friends, snapped over 600 photos and uploaded them to Movie Maker to bring her poem to life.

Macie was one of the first students to bring her completed digital story, or Action Poem, to class. Heather and I always encourage our students to use their own narration when they create digital stories. Though often we find our students hesitant to put down their own vocals. When I played Macie’s poem I had to keep myself from jumping out of my seat with jubilation when I heard her voice coming through the speakers in my classroom. Her writing sent goosebumps through me and I am thrilled that she took her hand from the page so we can all experience the majesty of her writing.

I am so proud of Macie and I cannot wait to see where her creative pursuits take her.  I know that she will make the most of the summer and will type out brilliant pieces on the vintage  typewriter she just received as a gift. Macie brings to her writing a wonderful combination of old-fashioned values, an appreciation for the music and literature of the past, and an understanding of how technology can amplify our writing. How thankful I am that Macie came back to my classroom and continues to share her creativity with me.  I urge her to continue to flex and find her voice. It’s such an honor to be able to share her lovely digital poem with you today.

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Sharing A Layered Legacy of Love and Light on Mother’s Day (Amy)

“And so our mothers and grandmothers have, more often than not anonymously, handed on the creative spark, the seed of the flower they themselves never hoped to see or like a sealed letter they could not plainly read.”  ~Alice Walker

I do not have children of my own, but Mother’s Day is a very special day for me to reflect on the gifts that I’ve been given by my own amazing mother, Karen Puskala Armstrong. My mom has never held a formal teaching certificate, but it was her voice who taught me to love stories and her heart that taught me to love. Today and every day I celebrate the fact that my mom taught me to believe in myself and to see the talents and power that I possess. I try to pass down the life lessons she taught me to my students and to help them realize the legacy and the power of their own stories.

Naria, was a student in my 9th grade English class last year and she impressed me with her exuberance for writing and her hard work ethic. A talented writer and singer, Naria expertly created digital projects in my class and I knew right away that there was something magical about her gift with words and expression. When assigned a final project for The Odyssey, Naria completed a digital project by singing an a capella rendition of Cream’s, “Tales of Brave Ulysses,” that included famous artists’ renderings of the Sirens. I was stunned. Without fail, assignment after assignment, Naria took my breath away with her attention to detail, astute writing, and maturity.

I am our district’s organizer for the Veterans of Foreign Wars: Voice of Democracy Audio Essay Contest. This year Naria’s essay took second place in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Her touching essay was about her grandmother who was a Marine, the late Shirley Ann Ford. In a conversation, I mentioned to Naria that she should turn her essay into a digital story as a gift to her mother Michelle. Soon after, Naria placed a DVD in my hand of a beautiful video that she had created. I again was in awe of Naria’s ability to reach out and speak from her heart. The loss of her grandmother was still so raw, but she wanted to share her love and pass on the torch that her grandmother had extended. This torch was a love of country, of family, and of friends.

Naria granted me permission to include her video in a blog post and I have been waiting for the perfect moment to do so. I realized that Mother’s Day would be the perfect day. You see, Naria is such an extraordinary student and young women because her mother, Michelle, is devoted to her daughter and has been her support and her guide. It’s a legacy that’s been handed down by her own mother, Shirley. This legacy has many layers. I am so thankful that the digital universe and social media can help us share our stories and I am proud to help Naria and Michelle honor the memory of Shirley Ann Ford.

Yesterday, I was spending my afternoon running errands. I was walking across the parking lot of a local store when I heard, “Mrs. Laitinen!” I looked up to see two of my 9th grade students smiling and waving. When this happens I stop and think about how fortunate I am that when my students see me out in public that they go out of their way to say “hello” instead of choosing to hide. We chatted for a few minutes and when I turned to leave, one girl said, “Oh, I want to wish you a Happy Mother’s Day.” I smiled, hesitated, and responded with gratitude, “Thank you.” Truth be told, I almost reminded her that I did not have children. But there was something so sweet and genuine about her wish that I could not. While driving home I thought about the fact that I may not have any biological children of my own, but each year I am entrusted with the hearts and minds of over a hundred young people that I must help nurture and develop the skills they need to be  productive members of our society and thoughtful world citizens. I am thankful for involved parents like Michelle Ford Thompson who make my job such a rewarding adventure and I am always thankful for students like Naria who inspire me and fill my heart with pride. I am delighted to help pass on the legacy of Shirley Ann Ford to you today. I know you will appreciate and savor Naria’s hard work. Happy Mother’s Day!

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Walking in survivors’ shoes gets us back to blogging (Heather)

Amy and I created this blog in August 2010 to celebrate our tenth year of teaching. We faithfully blogged throughout that year, then took a hiatus. Now, in our 11th year of teaching, we both miss blogging and plan to get back to it. Although we haven’t been writing much online, we have been doing some personal writing. Amy, for example, is taking a graduate-level fiction class that sounds amazing. So far, I have not been able to pry the drafts of her new short stories out of her hands, but I do believe that she is creating some very special writing.

The biggest news to develop for us since we’ve been away from the Blended Voices blog is that Amy and I will be traveling to Poland and Israel this month! We will blog to share our journey with our students, family, and friends. 

Here is the press release that details our trip:

GWINN TEACHERS TO VISIT HISTORICAL SITES IN POLAND AND ISRAEL

 Gwinn High School English teachers Heather Hollands and Amy Laitinen, will join 16 other educators from across the United States, all of whom have received fellowships to participate in an educational tour of historical sites in Poland and Israel from March 24 through April 4, 2012.  They will travel with Professor Sondra Perl of Lehman College of the City, University of New York, visiting historical sites related to the Holocaust and important contemporary Jewish life.  They will then bring their firsthand experience of these places back to their classrooms and communities. 

 Hollands and Laitinen belong to the Holocaust Educators Network, a program sponsored by the Memorial Library in New York City, which is comprised of a group of more than 100 middle school, high school, and college faculty.  The teachers, whose backgrounds and faith traditions all differ, are experts in teaching about the Holocaust, other genocides, and issues of social justice. 

 Hollands and Laitinen, along with teacher Corey Harbaugh of Gobles, Michigan, led a satellite seminar for the Memorial Library in Kalamazoo during the summer of 2011, and worked with teachers from across the state, helping them learn about the Holocaust and enabling them to develop action plans and implement a curriculum that addresses social injustice on both the local and global level. 

 During this trip, the group is scheduled to visit Poland’s extermination camps including the Warsaw Ghetto, Oskar Schindler’s factory, and the concentration camps including Majdanek and Auschwitz.  Their journey will be made more personal as together they will walk where survivors they have met in New York have walked:  they will see where Gisela Glaser labored in the Plashov concentration camp, where Irving Roth dug ditches near Birkenau, and where Olga Lengyel used her skills as a physician’s assistant in the infirmary at Auschwitz. 

 In Israel, the group will see what has grown from the ashes of Auschwitz.  They will travel to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, where they will be able to tour both sacred and secular sites including Yad Vashem:  The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, and visit Masada, a UNESCO World Heritage Site of critical importance of Jewish history. 

 The group will travel with a Holocaust survivor and a historian and will meet with educators in order to exchange ideas about the rewards and challenges of teaching about the Holocaust.  Throughout their trip, Hollands and Laitinen will write about their experiences for a blog created for their students back home. 

To learn about the Memorial Library, the Holocaust Educators Network, the Summer Seminar and the Satellite Seminar programs, please visit www.thememoriallibrary.org.

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