Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Autumn poems

After School Special
The sugar maple in Pastor Karl and Tina's yard
blazes in its brightest yellow jacket
these eighteen years on West L Street,
the dwarf burning bush I planted two years ago
on the northeast corner of the house is a
hot red, like living flames of love,
warming my soul in this damp,
misty air.
The tea kettle whistles,
the steam rises to wet my nose,
Earl Gray steeps
in its tea-pot shaped infuser,
the warm cup
in my hands,
a fleece blanket around
my shoulders; I sit in my
wicker chair and
open a book.

Garden Plot

Clods and chunks of Earth
bits of withered tomato vines,
cold and fruitless,
stick out of this ground,
too cold to produce,
ready for winter sleep;
marigolds, once smiling yellow
and happy orange,
fade into brown,

Walk--5:00 a.m.

Like clock work, I awake before the alarm,
the weight of my body, heavy,
I stumble to the bathroom to pee.
In the dark,
I grapple with my jeans and sweater,
make the bed, and head downstairs
to don my running shoes and sweatshirt.
I open the door
to a sky filled with stars,
cool air that's easy to breathe,
walk the neighborhood three times,
step up onto the curb when two oncoming cars
don't see me.
My joints feel better.
My muscles have moved.
My mind has walked miles.
It's quiet.
I'm awake.

Writing Marathon Odes

Bleachers Ode

O Northwest wind,
sweeping away
the last remnants of autumn,
preparing us for
the coming season
with your chilling fingers
creeping into crannies
of this thick black coat,
reminding us that Old Man Winter
welcomes us with Blindingly
Cold blasts of Arctic air.

Ode to Autumn

Autumn Sun is a blessing,
staving off the turn
in the temperature,
its last desperate days
to warm the Earth before Arctic
air descends upon us as
the Earth orbits around it,
this cycle of rotation,
a circle, unending,
unbroken, a pattern,
a habit, a permanence,
that sustains us.

Ode to the Law Library

Volumes of brown and red
law books envelop me
with a sense of security,
knowing that generations of citizens
invested their wisdom and insight
into creating laws for the
benefit of me--
the benefit of you--
the benefit of ordinary
citizens who go about their
unaware that book after book,
volume after volume has
been written for them.

Popcorn and Pistachios: A Poem

A greasy bag of popcorn
scutters in the brisk breeze,
spewing its two-day old
contents across the bleachers.

Kernels popped,
coated in bright yellow seasoning salt,
mingling with the dirt left behind
by boots, sneakers,
and shoes,

I look down at my feet,
pale pistachio shells,
scattered here and there,
emptied by a nervous parent
watching eleven players
on a field of intensity.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Deep Maps

Here are several deep maps created in College Composition and English 12 classes at the beginning of the school year. Following this post are postings of several students' deep maps and accompanying legends or essays. After the student essays, you will find my deep map and legend.

Brad's Deep Map

Baseball and Brad

If you were to look at my "Deep Map" most people would notice one thing above all the other objects. That thing would be the baseball. To many people baseball maybe be just a boring game or a place to go waste a couple hours, but to me baseball has, and still is, a major part of my life.

Any kid could tell you that moving can be really tough. You want to be yourself, yet you want to be accepted and have friends. When I first came to Aurora, I knew no-one and had no friends. My first few months of school were difficult because I really didn't belong to a certain group. However, that all changed when baseball practice began. During t-ball practice, I learned the names of many kids and made many new friends. It was an awesome feeling to know that you and 10 others had something truly in common and to work together towards a similar goal. While playing t-ball that summer, I believe I both made a lot of new friends, but also stuck to being myself.

The game of baseball is not only important to me, but it is also important to my family. Summer after summer, I have spent hours in our batting cage with my dad and brothers hitting buckets of balls. During that time we spent together playing baseball, I have built a strong relationship with my family. My love for the game pushes me to attend all of my brothers' games, and they both go to all of my games. They always are encouraging me and pointing out things I can do better, and I return the favor.

Another activity that my family takes part in that pertains to baseball is our yearly trip to Kansas City to watch the Minnesota Twins play the Kansas City Royals at the end of July. For the entire weekend my family and I go to the baseball games and just enjoy the last part of summer. It is a way to celebrate the summer and a time to rest before the school year begins.
As you can tell, baseball to me isn't just a game. Whether we are watching a game at Mitchell Field, sitting on the couch watching the Little League World Series, or playing home-run derby in the backyard with my brothers, baseball is a major part of my life and I will continue to love the game the rest of my life.

Caitlin's Deep Map

I created my deep map in a style that's a bit different than a traditional map. Because I am not the most gifted artist in the world, I decided to answer the questions: "Who am I?", "Where am I?", and "What is my purpose?" with words rather than an actual drawing. My map is supposed to resemble a facebook flair page. My facebook flair page to be exact. Because I regually use facebook to keep in touch with faraway friends, as well as the ones I see everyday, I thought it would be appropriate to include the theme since my friends are a part of who I am.
All of my flair are spread out across a blue background (the only reason for this is to contrast the white buttons) and range from different sizes, colors, and levels of seriousness. Most of them are hand-written, while a few designs were printed off my computer because the were too complicated for my feeble drawing skills.
I tried to arrange my flair randomly to make sure that colors, themes, and sizes were all spread out. On the other hand, I also tried to put the most important flair to me in the center of my poster. The button that reads,"GOD. Because not all things can be answered by Google.", took this position because faith is a BIG part of who I am, and why do the things I do.
If there's one question that got the short end of the stick on my map, it would have to be the "Where am I?" question. This however, I suppose is to be expected when I didn't draw a traditional map with places on it to begin with . . .I would definetly say my map is lacking a Nebraska button and/or a corn button.
Some of my buttons remind me of other groups of people or locations like my "I quote OIDS" button that I associate with my speech team, the "It's marching band season". "I heart my family", and "my sister has the best sister" are pretty self explanitory. As for places . . . Honestly, any of the previously mentioned buttons remind me of Aurora, because that's where the memories of the people I associate them with are. Other buttons that were sent to me as gifts however, such as the "I speak Spanish" button was from a friend who lives in Washington, so that's who and where that piece of flair reminds me of.
If I had to give my map a title, it would be called "flair". Not too terribly creative of a title, but I thought the idea itself was creative. The fact that no one else did a flair page for their map is what I like the most about mine; it makes it unique. I dislike the fact that I mainly focused on two questions, and neglected the third.
On some the verymost edges of the map we find some of the less serious buttons, such as the "Office" button, "I used to be cool. Now I drive a Minivan." button, and one of my personal favorites, the "Rawr. I'm a sparkly vampire. Fear my glitter." button. While these are definetly a part of my now, they may change in the future. That's part of the beauty of humanity though; our ability to change. So while my deep map consists of button that reflect the three questions now, I'm curious about what it would look like if I made another one in fifty years . . .

Matt's Deep Map and Essay

My City

My deep map says a lot about who I am, and who I want to be later on in life. I have many different buildings and other objects on my map. Most of the objects are all non-living except for the grass. Everything takes place in a small city in the air, supported by a pole.
Flashing with the 'Home' sign, is of course, my home. It doesn't really look anything like it, but it is a representation of where I live. My home is important to me because it was where I grew up and spent most of my life, and will have a lasting effect on me. It is the origin of my morals and beliefs, not to mention a large portion of my childhood- a very important part step in my life.
The hospital and graphic arts buildings represent the two careers that I'm considering going into. While the graphic arts building represents a possible future career in digital art such as commercial advertising, the hospital is another big career choice. It could possibly represent a career in pharmacy or even a lab technician.
The two giant buildings, the "Super Foods" building and the dog building represent the places of work. The dog building stands for the Humane Society that I volunteer at. While I don't get paid to work there, it is still an important to me. The Super Foods building has not only played a big role in my life, but has also took a large amount of time out of it. Working at Super Foods has taught me good work ethics, and has provided me with money to which I can begin starting my financial living later on in life.
Circling the city is a roller-coaster type ride. I think this represents the fun side of me that likes to go on rides at amusement parks or fairs, and that I enjoy games.
Last is the "City Ville" sign. This shows that I want to someday move to a more larger city than Aurora, with more opportunities. Aurora has been my foundation for many personal dreams and morals, but I think later on I will want to move away from the nest, and be a part of the hustle and bustle of the "real" business world.
Overall, I think I covered most of what I do in my life with my deep map. It shows where I am currently, and where I want to be-not to mention some of the things I do in my spare time.

Kathryn's Deep Map and Esssay

This is Kathryn's Deep Map and Essay

Where I Am

We all live in an environment that influences what we experience and who we become. However, very few of us take the time to analyze and reflect upon where we are. Being conscious of where we are, is as important as being conscious of who we are, and what we intend to become. In order for you-and other people-to truly understand how you came to be, you must take the time to dig deep and uncover your roots.

In my environment, everything revolves around my faith. For me, my faith in Christ is what’s most important to me. This faith can be found in several places in my environment. The most obvious one is church. Within the church, I have a sort of extended family. They aren’t related in the strict sense, but because of our common beliefs and our willingness to be there for each other, we have formed what you call a church family. Through this family, I have met some of the most extraordinary people I have ever known.

Another place that holds a dear place in my heart is Aurora, Nebraska; my hometown. Originally I was born in Worcester, Massachusetts. But for most of my life, I have lived in that quiet, small, and unique town of Aurora. My family and I came here because my Dad got a job here as a pastor for our church. And I couldn’t have asked to be sent to any place better. In this small town I have met people who I know will have an impact on me for the rest of my life. I have also seen the kind of character and spirit that this place has that I haven’t seen anywhere else. The people who live here have also carried on the tradition of having a tight knit community; a tradition that is often lost in many places nowadays.

The place in Aurora that has impacted me the most is Aurora High School. In this school system, I have been given numerous opportunities. I have been given opportunities in education, music, leadership, involvement in group activities, and in friendships. It was here that I learned many of life’s lasting lessons. And even though I will move on from there to do new and greater things, I will always look back on my experience in high school as being one that has shaped me for the better. If it weren’t for high school, I may have never gotten to know the friends I have now. Some of them became close friends that I love to hang out with. Others are the friends that I have in the classroom. I am certainly not as extraverted as most people, but I feel like I got to know many good kids at school. And many of them will be ones that I’ll never forget. I’ll remember those who were funny, serious, quiet, loud, athletic, artistic, musical, shy, confident, and calm. I’ll remember those who I would invite to movies, simply said “hi” to in the hallway, did projects with in class, and made memories with.

And of course all this wouldn’t be complete without taking a look at my home. For me, home is a very relaxing place (when I don’t have to do homework anyway). I have a Dad, Mom, and two sisters whom I love very much. In my home, the kitchen is the center for great home cooked meals and friendly conversation. My place of security is my room that is found in the basement. It’s painted a calming blue color and displays several of my collected knick knacks. My home has also been the location for many parties. Some of the most memorable were the Christmas parties we would throw each year. I can honestly say for me that “home is where the heart is.”

I have many places that have impacted who I am and who I will become. I have been blessed in that many of them have had a positive influence on me. And now I hope that I can do what I can to spread that positive influence to those whom I come across in the years to come.

My Deep Map

My deep map symbol represents two important things about me: one, I love peace, hence the peace sign, and two, I love the earth, hence the 'green' peace sign. The peace sign also allowed me to represent the multi-faceted aspect of who I am, where I am, and what I am supposed to do. In the upper left corner, I have depicted "where I am" by drawing pictures of my house and its surroundings. Above my house is Aurora High School and the Platte River, two fixtures in my life for the past 18 years. Below my house I drew three things: a highway representing I-80 because I have spent a good portion of my life on the road to Lincoln and and teh University of Nebraska. I also included Andrews Hall on the UNL campus, because I have spent a lot of my time there as a graduate student. I'm sure my ghost will haunt those hallways for a long time. I also have the Hamilton County Courthouse because it is a very noticeable historic landmark in Aurora. I put a yellow sun in the corner of that section of the peace sign because being where I am makes me happy.

In the lower section of my peace sign, I depict 'who I am' by splitting who I am yet acknowledging that it is impossible to really separate who I am from a teacher and scholar from a mother and spouse. On the left side, I have the scholar's flame above the mortar board, and I am surrounded by books, and I wrote the words, "Words, words, words" (to quote Hamlet), and books, books, books. On the right side, I am holding a frying pan with bacon, and I have the quote, "I can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan." I am also wearing jeans and a t-shirt with WWHD, which represents, "What Would Hamlet Do?" (This is based off a real t-shirt a friend of mine gave me a couple of years ago). I also have two I (Red Heart) symbols. I love my family (with framed family photo) and I love humor, both of which are true. I also have a movie reel that depicts that I love moveis.

In the upper right hand section I depict what my purpose is by drawing a lake (which looks like a tornado, but it's not). In the tornado-looking lake, I have a big black rock which is supposed to depict me, being dropped into a lake, making ripples. The ripple effect is to remind me that each of us has a purpose and that purpose is quite far-reaching, like ripples in a lake, that expand out into a vast area. That is what teaching is all about. We affect one student at a time, but that affect is far-reaching. It is a ripple. That student (for good or for bad, unfortunately) affects another human being, and that person, another and so on. Above the lake, I have a very large sunrise that is reflected or echoed several times, to depict the same affect of the ripple in the reflection off a lake. In a nutshell, my purpose is extraordinary and far-reaching. I then wrote the words, "Blessed is the influence of one true loving human soul on another" by George Eliot. I think those words sum up what I was trying to depict about my purpose or vocation in this life.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Welcome to My Little Corner of the World

I wanted to begin the class sharing some music to celebrate my new blog, "My Little Corner of the World." Let's share a bit about our place through deep maps, poetry, photographs, songs, podcasts, or whatever kind of media you'd like to experiment with this semester. I hope I can assist you if you need it, but I know some of you will probably be able to help me! Welcome to class.

Blessed is the Influence

Blessed is the influence of one true loving human soul on another.

These words by George Eliot epitomize my teaching life. I believe each teacher is a loving human soul who has a tremendous influence on the lives of her or his students. I don't recall when I first came across these words, but they left a lasting impression on me. I think I probably happened upon them some day during my teaching career when I was utterly down. You know those days when you feel like your students didn't understand or care about a thing you said? These words reminded me that there was probably one student whom I did have an influence upon, and in truth, we may be that one truly loving human soul who affects the life of one other human being. And that is enough. It is more than many people ever experience.

Today, I rode my bike to school an entire two blocks and I happened to come up behind Mr. Haden, the 8th grade science teacher. I said, "Hey, Ron, it's the beginning of my 18th year of teaching here at Aurora. What year is it for you?" I really had no idea. "This is my 30th year." I just about wrecked my bike. I have known Ron for 18 years. We share a love of stars. He lives down the block. He coaches cross country. He is out early in the mornings like me; he runs, and I ride my bike to the fitness center to run on a treadmill (my shins and concrete do not like each other). But I had no idea he had been teaching here for 30 years. That is the beauty of teaching in Aurora. Most people stay for a very long time. We like it here. I have seen a lot of very good teachers stay here well ove r 30 years and retire here. We are all invested in this community.

So, I have been fortunate to teach juniors and seniors over the course of my career, finding my way through No Child Left Behind and standards to preparing curriculum for Wesleyan Honors Academy courses. I spent many years directing the three act fall play and the one act and coaching speech. Thankfully, after six years, I was able to just focus on coaching the speech team. I really do enjoy working with students on the team because it wonderful to see them gain confidence as public speakers. It's also just a lot of fun to be with adolescents outside of the classroom. My speech team teaches me over and over again that each student is facing something in their lives. In the daily work of the school day it is easy to forget that.

In 2006, I received an Excellence in Teaching Award from the Nebraska Department of Education, and I wrote a "Where I'm From" poem to commemorate that occasion:

I am From: Teacher Version
(an imitation of George Ella Lyon's "Where I'm From")

I am from screaming at the top of my lungs to support a student participating in an athletic event.

I am from waking up when it's still dark on a Saturday during speech season and getting on a cold bus for a long trip to who knows where.

I am from Saturday nights at school grading essays while the football coach is in the next room compiling offensive, defensive and special teams statistics.

I am from nail-biting panic that my students won't memorize their lines for the fall play.

I am from standing backstage in awe when they do nail that line they missed for the past six weeks of rehearsal.

I am from finding the right words to say when a speech competitor doesn't make it to finals.

I am from the joy of a novice competitor who gets up on stage to receive a medal.

I am from young men telling me, confidentially, in their junior and senior years, “This is the first book I’ve ever read.”

I am from going off on a tangent in the classroom (and I do this often) for a spectacular learning moment.

I am from "Excellent," "Exceptional," exclamation points, question marks, triple underlined words, numerous editing marks, and sentences of response in the margins on student papers.

I am from sitting side by side a student and reading and writing and talking about the paper because they really care about writing well.

I am from fifteen years of tear drops on student papers, because each year, someone was depressed, someone was hurt deeply, or someone died.

I am from all the courageous students who have bravely shared their lives with me through their writing,

I am from the poignancy and splendor of their lives,

I am from over a thousand, truly loving human souls who have had

a lasting, a remarkable influence upon me.

Catherine Cave English
October 31, 2006

Monday, August 10, 2009

Home Sweet Home

My home is my own little mansion. No, it's not as palatial as some of the homes in Aurora, but it's my quiet refuge after a long day of teaching or the place I can work on my dissertation in peace. My favorite room in my house is the sun room where I am writing my dissertation in the accompanying photo. I like to spread out here rather than in my office which is down the stairs into the lower half of our split-level home. The sun room is where everyone wants to hang out. My husband, Jerry, is the plant keeper, not me. They would all die if I had to water them. I love being surrounded by all that green. It's calming and keeps me focused. And I love the daylight! The sun room is also just off the kitchen, my second favorite room in the house because it is where I love to cook, especially in the summer with all of the wonderful garden vegetables my green-thumb husband likes to grow. Lately, I have 'put up' ten quarts of green beans and fourteen quarts of corn. 'Put up' were the words my mother and grandmother used for canning vegetables, but I have chosen to freeze them, which is much easier and less steamy during the humid dog days of August. This evening I made homemade marinara sauce from our Roma tomates, garlic, kosher salt, sugar, pepper and fresh herbs: rosemary, basil and oregano. Truly lovely with angel hair pasta!
Our home is two blocks west of the Aurora School complex, so I try to ride my bike the two blocks until the weather gets unbearable or if I have a lot of things to take to school. We are surrounded by several people named Carl. Carl Moore lives across the street caddy corner. Carl Arendt and Karl Larson live across the street to the north, and beyond those two lives Carl Johnson. Carl M. is retired, Carl A. is a retiree who still does handy-man work, Karl L. is the pastor at the Covenant Church down the street, and Carl J. is retired from Bonnavilla homes, but he helped his wife Margaret in her daycare business for a few years. They both helped raise our daughter, Anna. We are also surrounded by English teachers in our neighborhood. You had better speak correctly if you are walking around our neighborhood--four of us live within a block of each other.
We have looked all over Aurora for just the right home for years. Finally, four years ago, the house that we wanted was up for sale. The main thing was that it was in the neighborhood we had been in since we moved here. We really couldn't bear the thought of leaving our friends and neighbors. Anna was especially concerned about that because most of her friends were from our little corner of the Aurora.

Oh, and by the way, the link to "Sweet Home Alabama" at the top is a tribute to my husband, Jerry, and his green thumb, who has loved Lynyrd Skynyrd for a lifetime.

So This is Aurora, Nebraska

This is an excerpt from a chapter titled "Going Where Good People Go." It conveys a good little snippet about my community.

I live and work in a community that many small town Nebraskans would consider a “pretty big town,” with a population of 4,225. In the last decade, I have witnessed more and more graduates of Aurora High School move and live in other areas of the country, or for many Aurorans and rural Nebraskans, the move isn’t so far—it is within the urban area of Omaha, or the state capitol, Lincoln. “Because Nebraska’s institutions of higher education are in the majority located in larger communities, young people can be expected to continue leaving rural areas in large numbers upon completion of high school” (Cantrell 4). Aurora, a micropolis, is the county seat of Hamilton County and seventy-five miles west of the nearest metropolitan center of Lincoln. The open country that buffers us from Lincoln is prime farm ground. On my commutes on Interstate 80 to the University of Nebraska as a graduate student for eleven years, I have watched the seasons pass in the fields—planters in spring; combines in the fall. Aurora’s “downtown” is built around an historic county courthouse completed in 1895, constructed of red brick with Colorado sandstone with a tall spire. A strobe light rests atop the spire in recognition of Harold “Doc” Edgerton, inventor of the strobe light, one of Aurora’s most famous native sons, and a MIT graduate. There are approximately 6-10 businesses on each side of the square. Some buildings are empty, some thrive. Within four or five blocks of Aurora’s downtown, there are many majestic two-story houses that look like something out of the American South: palatial plantations surrounded by grand yards full of deciduous and evergreen trees. I drive M Street almost daily. It is the red brick street that runs from Highway 14, (16th Street) past the square all the way to 1st Street. Aurora High School is at M and 3rd Street. Each year, since I moved here in July 1992, I have taught approximately 100 students, give or take a few peaks in the population.

Listen to Ted Kooser recite his poem "So This is Nebraska."