Thursday, March 25, 2010

Not So Stinky No More

Since I was so quick to out my 4th grade writers when they were being the Stinkiest Stinkers ever, I should be just as quick to praise them when they are the Loveliest Lovelies who ever sat writing in a little room. Since their Stinky episode, they have joyously tried their hand at writing a 12-line pantoum. In fact, most of them wrote several. One kid said, "Wow, almost no matter what you do, these turn out good." Hahahahahaha! Oh, and here's an actual exchange between the spousal unit and your Nesting Ground Mistress (NGM):
Spousal Unit: What're you doing?

NGM: Typing a pantoum.

Spousal Unit: What's a pantoum?

NGM: A...poetic form.

Spousal Unit: Oh. [pause] Tell me again: why did you marry me?

Hahahahahaha! My 4th grade writers also stepped up and did a fantastical job with my Where Are You From lesson, which I adapted from something I saw on the Teachers & Writers Collaborative site. First I asked them where they were from, and they offered up typical answers: from Stanford Hospital, from my mom, from San Mateo, etc. etc. Then I showed them this video I found on YouTube:

They were really into this video. I think I need to do this kind of thing more often, as they are, after all, the Childrens of the Internets. Afterwards, I passed out a hard copy of the poem, and we read it together. Then I asked them if they felt like Hughes' poem answers the question, "Where are you from?" Lots of chattering ensued. And then they wrote.

This little girl has moved around a lot, and she became visibly upset while writing. Her classmates were supportive, though, and she ended up with this:
I am from the hot dogs of New Jersey
I am from the colorful, spotted peacocks of Arcadia
I am from the fresh air of North Carolina
I am from the humid temperature of Simi Valley
I am from my friends and family
I am not from the crowds of San Francisco
This girl is obsessed with fighting with her brother. She writes about it almost every week, and I was afraid she was going to turn out yet another piece entirely devoted to how "lame" he is, but she managed to restrain herself:
I am from chocolate that my mom makes me. I am from the fights I have with my brother. I am from the books I read; they change me. I am from my loving family. I am from the ice skating we do in Lake Tahoe, I am from Tom and Jerry, I am from the bright city that I live in. I am from lots of colorful ice cream. I am not from jail, where the bad people are.
And this is from my own Risa, who almost finishes writing things before I even give direction. She's so fast. The bad part is she has no interest in editing her work. But her first drafts are usually pretty good:
I am from the letters in my name
I am from the colors I wear
the lines on my skin
and the words that come from my mouth
I am from the people before me and
The people before them
I am from the numbers in my age, which you do not know
I am from the words my teacher speaks
And from the lines my pencil makes
I am a Filipina princess
I am from the world
Here are a few lines from a girl who is reluctant to write when things get too serious. She's from a broken family, and it's so easy to see the different ways it affects her. Her short piece ends with a stab to the heart, pretty much:
I am from the stories that my mom tells. I am from the recipes my family writes. I am from the fierce animals that are inside me. I am from Utopia. It’s perfect there.
And this is from our only boy. He's kind of all over the place when he writes, and this is a good snapshot of his work in general:
I am from the tall grass of England
The buttery smell of lobster
From my dog Brandy
I am from the tall redwoods
The flying football and baseballs
A huge mountain
A lasting friendship
A cookie factory
I am the Christmas spirit.

So I am happy for now. But they are like a dam fixing to burst. Sooner or later we're headed back to fart-talking, crush-revealing, test anxiety, and who knows what else. I must hunker down and plan my offensive NOW...

Friday, March 12, 2010

So Close, And Yet...

The other night the Spousal Unit and I somehow ended up watching a show on the Discovery Channel that recounted several instances in which people, via absolutely ZERO work or dedication to craft, became suddenly "rich." A meteorite shower in a small Illinois town resulted in several neighbors picking meteorites up off their grass, and then selling them to a museum for anything from $2,000 to $40,000 dollars. The SU looked at me incredulously. "Who sets the price?" he asked. I nodded in silent agreement with his unvoiced sentiment. Any of those people would have been happy to take $50, so...bad on you, museum.

In another story, an older couple were clearing out their antique store when the lady-half of the couple found an old baseball card. She put it up on eBay for $9, but then her son and husband realized it was extraordinarily rare. They begged her to remove it from auction, but she refused because she'd never before taken anything off auction. After much cajoling, she finally agreed to part ways with her auction principles, and it's a mighty fine thing she did, too, because she ended up selling the faded card for $75,000.

And then a woman found an abstract painting in a garbage can in New York. She brought it home and eventually discovered that it was the work of a famous Mexican artist, that it had been stolen 20 years before, and that a Sotheby's auctioner had been obsessed with finding it for lo those many years. Blah, blah, blah, the woman was granted a finder's fee and some kind of financial thank you from Sotheby's.

During a commercial break, I remembered that earlier in the week I'd raided the change bowl for parking meter money and found a Wisconsin state quarter from 2004. I'd never seen anything like it, so I tossed it in with my jewelry and forgot about it until this crazy show came on. Said I to the Spousal Unit, "That reminds me. I found a Wisconsin state quarter in the change bowl, and I meant to google it."

"They made a bunch of state quarters," said the Spousal Unit. He readjusted his lounging position. "It's nothing."

"Well, with that attitude young man, I will not be sharing whatever riches come my way."

"Okey dokes," he said. "Go to town."

And I marched into my room and opened my jewelry drawer and pulled out my Wisconsin state quarter, and googled it.


Some of the Wisconsin state quarters contain a flaw which makes them valuable to collectors.

These flawed quarters came from the Denver mint, and they are worth up to $500.


My Wisconsin state quarter came from the Denver mint.

I reported these facts to the Spousal Unit. "What? Really?"

I began to laugh hysterically. After calming down, I reported that the flawed quarters have an extra corn husk leaf protruding from the left side of the corn. Sometimes it points up, sometimes it points down.


My Wisconsin state quarter did not contain the flaw.

So this is not the best blog post ever. But you have to admit: it was close.

Friday, March 05, 2010

A Letter from Me to Five 4th Graders

Dear little stinkers in my 4th grade writing workshop,

You are all stinky stinkers. I brought to you the loveliest of lessons yesterday, all about Sei Shonagun and her pillow book and palace intrigue and how it's so amazing that we can read the diary of a woman who lived a thousand years ago, etc. etc. And I told you all about her 164 lists, and I showed you a painting of her, and I told you how she disappeared after leaving the imperial palace and that no one knows what happened to her...and you! You didn't care!

I held out little fortune cookie-like slips, each with the title of one of Shonagun's lists, and set you free to write because I am The World's Most Bestest 4th Grade Writing Workshop Facilitator. I ask: who among us would not love to put pencil to paper and go crazy writing lists to represent...

Splendid Things?

Rare Things?

Awkward Things?

Things That Irritate Me?

Things That Make Me Happy?

Things That Pass By Rapidly?

Well, apparently, stinky stinkers like YOU would not love such a thing. Stinky stinkers like YOU just wanted to crack up about bodily functions and hobos (wtf?!), classroom crushes, the morning's epic dodgeball game, and your fear of the upcoming Gold Rush test. So then I had to make you flip your notebooks back to the very first page and made you recite our group agreements, and then you all become contrite and sorry, and I almost forgave you. But I didn't. Because you are the stinkiest 4th grade stinkers to ever stink up a writing workshop.

Grudgingly Yours,

Ms. Montes