13 and 14 year olds on a beautiful spring day


This is a photo of some of my students on our way back from visiting our “little buddies,” a group of kindergartners with whom we have partnered. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

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Understanding Poetry



And the poem that inspired the above, “The New Poetry Handbook,” by Mark Strand


1 If a man understands a poem,
he shall have troubles.

2 If a man lives with a poem,
he shall die lonely.

3 If a man lives with two poems,
he shall be unfaithful to one.

4 If a man conceives of a poem,
he shall have one less child.

5 If a man conceives of two poems,
he shall have two children less.

6 If a man wears a crown on his head as he writes,
he shall be found out.

7 If a man wears no crown on his head as he writes,
he shall deceive no one but himself.

8 If a man gets angry at a poem,
he shall be scorned by men.

9 If a man continues to be angry at a poem,
he shall be scorned by women.

10 If a man publicly denounces poetry,
his shoes will fill with urine.

11 If a man gives up poetry for power,
he shall have lots of power.

12 If a man brags about his poems,
he shall be loved by fools.

13 If a man brags about his poems and loves fools,
he shall write no more.

14 If a man craves attention because of his poems,
he shall be like a jackass in moonlight.

15 If a man writes a poem and praises the poem of a fellow,
he shall have a beautiful mistress.

16 If a man writes a poem and praises the poem of a fellow overly,
he shall drive his mistress away.

17 If a man claims the poem of another,
his heart shall double in size.

18 If a man lets his poems go naked,
he shall fear death.

19 If a man fears death,
he shall be saved by his poems.

20 If a man does not fear death,
he may or may not be saved by his poems.

21 If a man finishes a poem,
he shall bathe in the blank wake of his passion
and be kissed by white paper.

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“Little Song of the Mutilated”

Tonight was the 18th annual French recital where the 8th grade students recited French poems, acted out scenes in French, and performed the music of French composers. The ambiance of the room was very cafe-like (flowers and candles on the table-clothed tables, dimmed lights) and the students were wonderful. Organized by an amazing French teacher at our school, the energy was high, the talents varied and quite impressive, and the madeleines absolutely delicious.

I made a small contribution by reciting the poem by Benjamin Peret (1899-1959), “Little Song of the Mutilated.” It is a lilting poem whose rhythm contrasts with the words of a soldier who has been mutilated in World War I. Peret was a French surrealist and political activist who served in the Great War.

Petite chanson des mutilésHR_56600100889600_1

Prête moi ton bras

pour remplacer ma jambe

Les rats me l’ont mangé

à Verdun

à Verdun

J’ai mangé beaucoup de rats

mais ils ne m’ont pas rendu ma jambe

c’est pour cela qu’on m’a donné la croix de guerre

et une jambe de bois

et une jambe de bois


Lend me your arm

To replace my leg

The rats ate it for me

At Verdun

At Verdun

I ate a lot of rats

But they didn’t give me back my leg

And that’s why I was given the Croix de Guerre

And a wooden leg

And a wooden leg


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I am awake


In the context of sakura (cherry blossoms) blooming in Japan, Hana Matsuri, The Japanese Flower Festival, celebrates the birth of Buddha some 2500 years ago. To commemorate this auspicious day is the following traditional story adapted from Art of Dharma.

It is said that soon after his enlightenment, the Buddha passed a man on the road who was struck by the Buddha’s extraordinary radiance and peaceful presence. The man stopped and asked, “My friend, what are you? Are you a celestial being or a god?”

“No,” said the Buddha.

“Well, then, are you some kind of magician or wizard?”

Again the Buddha answered, “No.”Om-Mani-Padme-Hum

“Are you a man?”


“Well, my friend, then what are you?”

The Buddha replied, “I am awake.”

(photo of the Buddha at the Art Institute of Chicago at the top of the post by JB)

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Anja Niedringhaus


Karzai’s Legacy, March 31, 2014 ©Anja Niedringhaus/ Associated Press

6cabd40d-25c1-44f0-9072-15cb79f4e6dbAnja Niedringhaus, a Pullitzer prize photographer, was killed by an Afghan policeman in Afghanistan three days ago. The journalist Kathy Gannon, who accompanied her, was also shot and is in very serious condition. The two of them were covering the Afghan election. They both were sitting in the back seat of a car when the shots were fired. It has been reported that the Taliban, bent on upsetting the elections that occurred on Saturday, did not want to target Afghans because they did not want to alienate them, and instead decided to target foreigners in Afghanistan which would bring the Taliban publicity hopefully scaring off any international support for these elections. In the past month, the Taliban has taken responsibility for 25 deaths.

“For me, covering conflict and war is the essence of journalism,” Niedringhaus wrote for the spring 2012 issue of Nieman Reports, a publication of Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism. “The legacy of any photographer is her or his ability to capture the moment, to record history. For me it is about showing the struggle and survival of the individual.”

Born in 1965 in Hoxter in Westphalia in Germany, she started taking photographs as a freelance photographer when she was 16. She then went on to study journalism, philosophy, and German  literature in Gottingen. Working for the Associated Press since 2002, she won the Pullitzer for her images of the Iraq War in the Breaking News category in 2005. She has covered the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, in Israel, Libya, Pakistan, even the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Olympics.

“Anja Niedringhaus was one of the most talented, bravest, and accomplished photojournalists of her generation,” said AP Vice President and Director of Photography Santiago Lyon. “She truly believed in the need to bear witness.” Her photos and her life compel us to bear witness as well.


Pakistani bank notes covered in blood are displayed on the body of a dead suicide bomber after police found them in his pocket in the center of Kandahar, Afghanistan after an attack on the former Afghan intelligence headquarters. March 14, 2014 © Anja Niedringhaus/AP


An Afghan honour guard stands next to pictures of late Afghan vice-president Mohammed Qasim Fahim outside his house in Kabul, Afghanistan. March 11, 2014 © Anja Niedringhaus/AP


An Afghan woman waits to have her picture taken to register for the coming presidential elections in a school in Kabul, Afghanistan. March 18, 2014 ©Anja Niedringhaus/AP


November 26, 2013 ©Anja Niedringhaus/AP

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Jessica Oreck, documentary filmmaker and animal keeper at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, directed the animations of the etymologies of 26  words, one video for each of the letters of the alphabet. Each video took between 80 to 120 hours to complete. The series is called Mysteries of the Vernacular. “Clue” is featured at the top of this post.

Oreck loved biology in school but became enamored with filming it after viewing Attenborough’s Private Life of Plants. She is the founder of Myriapod Productions whose mission is to make inspired and inspirational films about nature and create a sense of wonder about the world around us. Her full-length documentaries Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo (about the Japanese fascination with insects) and Aatsinki (about Laplanders) have met with very positive critical acclaim.

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This is really hard to do


We’re in the midst of All Quiet on the Western Front now. I have assigned groups of students a different group of chapters. Each group is responsible to give and grade a reading quiz, and to prepare vocabulary, pertinent quotes, and interpretive questions for their chapters. They also lead a discussion in class.

Today during lunch, a group was huddled at a table in my room going over the quizzes they gave the day before. The group was trying to be consistent in their grading.

NW: Give him the 5 points.

WC: Why should I do that? He didn’t get it right.

NW: Yes, but his score is really bad and maybe we can give him the benefit of the doubt. Isn’t he your friend? I’m not his friend and I still feel sorry for him.

WC: I do feel bad for him but it doesn’t mean I can’t be professional about it. You don’t grade quizzes on a curve relative to their own answers.

SP: Then why don’t we just give them all three of our scores? A score from each of us.

WC: C’mon we can do better than that. You get it right or you don’t. You can even get it sorta right which is worth some points. But you can’t be so random about it. If you give someone a grade higher than they deserve then how will I ever be able to trust my own grades?

SP: BT has a 51%. I have gone over her quiz three times. I don’t see any way to raise her grade.

WC: How is raising her grade helping her ? Give her what she deserves. She deserves the 51%.

SP: Can you read this? Yo? Yell? Ugh. It’s only a couple of words and I have spent like 10 minutes trying to read this handwriting.

NW: Just mark it wrong.

WC: This is a reading quiz. It’s to see if students read or understood the reading assignment. Not to make anyone feel good.

SP: This is really, really hard to do.

From the mouths of babes.

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