Edupreneur: Self-Publishing

I love self-publishing! As a poet I used it for a couple of my more experimental projects and when I entered into this business I knew I wanted to continue the craft to make my work available for anyone.

While many entrepreneurs are into self-publishing and understand it as a way to showcase expertise and build a little passive income, there can sometimes be a misplaced sense of doubt. There’s a sentiment that exists that unless your work is published by a traditional press or publishing house:

  1. No one will read it

  2. It won’t be taken as factual or valuable

  3. You won’t make money on it

While that certainly might have been true at some point, today the industry is so over saturated with books that anyone can write, make money, and become an expert without a company, big or small, backing them. A 2013 Forbes article [1] cites that there are somewhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000,000 books published every year and I’m sure that’s only risen in the six years that have followed the article’s publication. This seems daunting, but I actually think it’s exciting! Publishing has become is less about industry and more about your audience.

What do I mean by that?

People aren’t reading 1,000,000,000 books every year. It isn’t physically possible. But from those million, people are finding the authors and ideas that they’re most interested in and, what’s more, they’re willing to get specific. From stock market tricks, to bird watching on specific lakes in specific states, to running poetry workshops for students with developmental disabilities, self-publishing allows authors with a niche to profit. Presses and Publishers would have to pass on these texts, no matter how well written, because they’re too specific and wouldn’t attract a wide enough readership for the production of the books to be profitable. Self-publishing, however, allows these authors to get their ideas and information out to the readers who need and want them. It might only be the people on your mailing list, but that’s still a stream of income. And it’s an income that strengthens your relationship to your clients and customers as they get an in depth look at your thoughts.

Obviously, people push-back saying that self-publishing allows lower quality, under researched books to enter into the market. And that might be true. But have you read some of the books that are being published by traditional houses today?

If you don’t know how to go about making a book, that’s fine. I didn’t either. That’s why my first two education texts are simply downloadable PDFs. I like this format because it doesn’t need to be hosted by a third-party site like Amazon, the reader can download it to read digitally and print a physical copy if they want, and it allows me to keep costs lower without the production over head that goes into having a paperback made.

At it’s simplest you can just type up a word doc and export it as a PDF. Done.

I’d recommend getting a bit fancier and cleaning it up in InDesign. That said, it took me time to learn that (both the lesson that texts are worth cleaning up and InDesign) myself. I ended up using the free month trial of LinkedIn Learning to get an InDesign tutorial. There’s a lot of great content out there both behind pay gates like LinkedIn Learning and for free on YouTube to help you navigate InDesign and similar programs that can spruce up your document.

I took the InDesign course specifically because I knew I wanted to start putting together collections of children’s poetry again and for that to happen I’d need to work in with trade sizes and industry formats. In terms of actually getting a book made, there are a couple different platform options out there but my favorite three are: Lulu, Ingram Spark, Amazon KDP

I ended up using Amazon in part because it has instant market recognition, when I say my book’s on Amazon people know what to expect. It also has an easy interface and payment method.

(As a side note, Lulu is great for working on books with students because there’s an option to publish privately. This keeps the work only with in the community you choose and still results in market quality books.)

My intent was to make How Do You Butterfly into an e-book for Kindle as well as paperback, but making the e-book proved too difficult. My partner who works in publishing pointed out later that children’s books are rarely e-books unless they have the backing of a big publisher. The reason for this isn’t because of any philosophic standard or anti-screen time ethic of the publishing industry, but rather, it’s just too difficult to make a good looking children’s e-book. The old software still being used for both the Kindle and Nook simply can’t handle all of the illustrations on a page of children’s literature being directly uploaded.

Publishers have employees who can reformat the image files and slowly upload them to look good with this old tech. I do not. I still wanted to offer an e-copy though, especially because I could keep it a little cheaper for readers, so I went to back to my old friend the downloadable PDF.

With three books currently out and more in the works, it feels so good on a personal level to have my work out in the world for people to read and on a professional level it’s nice having a little money coming in for something I only had to work on once.

Self-publishing is a technique I'd definitely recommend to anyone out there with an idea they want to share. Don’t wait for someone else to give you the okay! It’s your idea! Worse case scenario, no one buys it. Even then, you have a piece of content you can bring with you to pitches, interviews, conferences, and the like to showcase a history of your thinking and that you have the self-discipline and skills to put your vision out into the world.

Sources

1 https://www.forbes.com/sites/nickmorgan/2013/01/08/thinking-of-self-publishing-your-book-in-2013-heres-what-you-need-to-know/#736a7e2414bb

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Holiday Cookie Poems

Since my first year running poetry workshops at Rebecca School, I've partnered with Cafe Rebecca “a gluten-free café located within the Rebecca School. Through the Café Rebecca program, our Transitions students (ages 15-21) bake, deliver, advertise and run all aspects of a café.  Our student bakers create everything from the logo to the cupcakes.  Everything made in Café Rebecca is gluten-free and nut-free, with vegan options as well.  Café Rebecca’s goal for serving food to the school community is to create a shared experience surrounding homemade food that all students and staff members can enjoy together, taking into consideration all food allergies.” [1]

Our partnership happens around the holidays and involves the workshops creating a poem to go on the Café’s holiday cookie tags as part of the marketing for the  holiday cookie sale. Every year the café packages and sells hundreds of cookies to families, students, and staff.  These packages come with signature tags, one side branding the café and the other with a signature poem.

Pile of three flavored cookies, chocolate, sugar, and oatmeal on a plastic wrapped plate. On top of the plate are two festive tags. One tag shows the front with the Cafe Rebecca logo, the other tag shows the back with the Rebecca School Poetry Workshop’s poem.

Pile of three flavored cookies, chocolate, sugar, and oatmeal on a plastic wrapped plate. On top of the plate are two festive tags. One tag shows the front with the Cafe Rebecca logo, the other tag shows the back with the Rebecca School Poetry Workshop’s poem.

Not every workshop takes on this project. It involves some pretty intense effort: writing on theme, working with space restrictions, and meeting a deadline. Of the eleven workshops I run at the Rebecca School, this year only two workshops took on the project.

So how do we get going on all this work?

I like to start the process right after thanksgiving to ensure that the workshops have a couple of weeks to progress toward the deadline. The deadline is usually the Friday before the winter break, so for example, this year’s 2018 deadline fell on Dec. 14th.

Since the tags are small, we get about sixteen words worth of space. To help the poets visualize this I’ll bring in a sample of the tags, either the blank slate the café is using, an example from the previous year, or both. I’ll also draw sixteen blank spaces up on the white board to give them a further visual for our word count. I often set this up in a standard 4x4 grid, but leave it free for the poets to move around as the piece demands.

School white board set up with sixteen blank, black lines in a four by four grid.

School white board set up with sixteen blank, black lines in a four by four grid.

For the actual writing portion, I give every poet note cards to write one word. Sometimes each poet will get two or three cards (depends on the workshop size), with the expectation that each card will only have one word each on it. I like doing this because it further reinforces the idea that we, as a workshop, don’t have a ton of space to play with. It also ensures that everyone is putting their own ideas down. Part of the fun of this project is seeing what words or phrases each poet associates with “The Holidays” then working together to fit these disparate ideas into a cohesive poem. After every poet is finished writing their word(s) we tape them up in the blank spots on the board.

School white board set up with sixteen blank, black lines in a four by four grid. On these blank lines now are notecards with individual words and some hand written words

School white board set up with sixteen blank, black lines in a four by four grid. On these blank lines now are notecards with individual words and some hand written words

After taping them up we can really get down to editing and creating working drafts. Sometimes the word count makes it so that we have extra space to write in new words, other times we’re exactly at sixteen and have to take some poetic license. The taped note cards allow the editing process to be visceral. Poets can go to the board, take words off, move them around and do what they need to show their vision for the poem. They can, quite literally, break the lines!

School white board with note cards and handwritten words still in that four by four structure but now without the guiding blank lines. The board is broken up with a column to denote which part of the draft the workshop is going to be working on.

School white board with note cards and handwritten words still in that four by four structure but now without the guiding blank lines. The board is broken up with a column to denote which part of the draft the workshop is going to be working on.

 Reflecting a bit more about this partnership, I realize that it informed the growth of my workshops and especially the Sensorimotor Poetry Workshops. This writing and editing technique, based around the social-emotional skills and the necessity of structure to a poem, forms the literacy back bone of that Sensorimotor modality.

This partnership was also the first opportunity I had to showcase the writing that the workshops were doing in the school. Being offered that opportunity when I was still running and managing these groups on top of my Teaching Assistant responsibilities was incredibly confidence boosting. It’s really touching and difficult to word how special it feels to have someone recognize and want to promote the work you’re doing. And, beyond my facilitator ego, to have the school community recognize the work of these poets is equally touching.

Big piece of butcher paper taped to a window. The four by four grid of lines is back with words handwritten in each. Along with these words there are now editing marks such as Xs, arrows, and circles, to denote where parts of the poem are being moved around to or potential placement ideas for words in the poem.

Big piece of butcher paper taped to a window. The four by four grid of lines is back with words handwritten in each. Along with these words there are now editing marks such as Xs, arrows, and circles, to denote where parts of the poem are being moved around to or potential placement ideas for words in the poem.

This long standing partnership is one of my favorite holiday traditions... and eating cookies at the end of it certainly adds to the spirit!

Sources

  1. https://www.rebeccaschool.org/cafe-rebecca/

Sensory Supports

Working with a population of learners who have a wide array of sensory needs means adapting the classroom space to meet those individual needs. As I reflect on this past semester I wanted to create a little list of some easy sensory supports to include as part of a workshop, or classroom, environment.

 One easy thing is alternative seating like a yoga ball. The bouncing of the yoga ball can help offer input for students to be more attentive and engaged in the lesson. The one difficulty is sometimes everyone wants a turn to sit on the ball, whether it’s right for their sensory system or not, so establishing it as special seat for an individual student right from the get-go is important. 

Tiled classroom with a white board. Black chairs arranged in a half-circle around the white board. In the middle of the chairs is a teal yoga ball intended to be a seat. On the board can be seen some writing.

Tiled classroom with a white board. Black chairs arranged in a half-circle around the white board. In the middle of the chairs is a teal yoga ball intended to be a seat. On the board can be seen some writing.

Another easy tool is a weighted blanket, providing deep pressure to help students remain seated and regulated who might otherwise want to move around to seek sensory input. I’ve found there isn’t as much temptation from other students around these blankets, so it’s a nice, low impact addition to the classroom space.

The student it’s intended for can keep it on their body, take it off when it’s their turn to go to the board and then put it back over them or have a staff put it over them as the other poets take their turns.

 

Teal and dark blue weighted blanket sitting on top of a black chair in a tiled classroom.

Teal and dark blue weighted blanket sitting on top of a black chair in a tiled classroom.

Another, subtler and smaller form of deep pressure are hand squeezes to rhythm. A colleague of mine offers this to a poet in one of the rhythm and movement based workshops I run. It’s a simple tactile cue that helps the poet stay attuned to the group activity while also giving their body a bit of support.

For the workshops that are doing writing on paper rather than the white board I like to offer writing utensils that have different sizes and textures. This way every poet should be able to find a tool that fits comfortably in their hand.

Clear mason jar of writing utensils on a tiled classroom floor. The Jar has plastic ball point pens with both smooth and rough grips, pens with cardboard wrapping, regular sized pencils, and giant pencils.

Clear mason jar of writing utensils on a tiled classroom floor. The Jar has plastic ball point pens with both smooth and rough grips, pens with cardboard wrapping, regular sized pencils, and giant pencils.

These are a few ideas I have, but I’d love to hear what else is out there and what other artists and educators use in their spaces!

Edupreneur: Business cards

At the start of Donnie Welch Poetry I was resistant to getting business cards. In part because it felt a bit wasteful to get a bunch of tiny, paper cards made. I also thought it’d be silly for a teacher, or a poet, or a teaching poet, to have business cards. Admittedly, I had a card for when I was performing more regularly, but I kept that a bit silly, with a big bear on it, because I wanted be a bit tounge-in-cheek about it.

I tried going my first couple months without them, but after being asked time and again, “Oh, do you have a card?” I finally caved and accepted the fact that as an edupreneur I’d need to buckle down, make some, and get them ordered.

((Alt text: Three white busines cards on a blue background. One on the left has a black and white bear and info for Donnie Welch Poetry. Two stacked on top of eachother on the right have the current, ink well logo for Donnie Welch Poetry and the current contact info, also in black and white.))


My advice though, don’t order them until you have to.

Like I mentioned, I only made them once people started asking or once I ran into opportunities where I wished I had them.

While they aren’t exuberantly expensive, when you’re first starting a business there will be a lot of things to spend money on and business cards shouldn’t be the priority.

Make sure you budget appropriately and once everything else is in line, like your LLC paperwork, any supplies you need to get started, or office space needs, then invest some money into getting cards. There are a lot of boutique and expensive options out there, but I just did a basic, black and white, Vistaprint order and feel good about it!

Snowball Dialouge

New article over in Whale Road Literary Review on “Snowball Dialouge” a writing technique I’ve used with students in the Sensorimotor Poetry Workshops.

While this article talks specifically about moments of peer learning in the workshop space, I've also used this as a strategy to help communicate and co-regulate with students in the day-to-day as well.

It's a good back pocket tool for any educator!

Black text on a white background. The top has the masthead for  Whale Road Review  with four lines right aligned indicating an online drop down menu. Below that masthead is the start of the article with “Snowball Dialogue” in bold, black title lettering and the article lettering beginning in paragraph form below.

Black text on a white background. The top has the masthead for Whale Road Review with four lines right aligned indicating an online drop down menu. Below that masthead is the start of the article with “Snowball Dialogue” in bold, black title lettering and the article lettering beginning in paragraph form below.

ICDL 2018

The 2018 International DIRFloortime Conference took place in Rockville,Maryland this year. It’s organized by the International Council on Development and Learning or ICDL. I went down with a contingent of Rebecca School therapists, teachers, and administrators to present with two colleagues of mine on a poetry workshop we facilitate. The conference was a two day event (with a third per-conference day for the ICDL training leaders) spanning Veteran’s Day weekend.

Jeff Guenzel a middle aged white male with professionally dressed addresses an audience from behind a podium. In the foreground is a table with a conference flyer and in the background, behind Guenzel, is the ICDL logo on a power point screen. Around Guenzel can be seen equipment such as projector, speakers, lights. The walls of the hotel lobby are yellow and the floor has a navy and yellow rug to match.

Jeff Guenzel a middle aged white male with professionally dressed addresses an audience from behind a podium. In the foreground is a table with a conference flyer and in the background, behind Guenzel, is the ICDL logo on a power point screen. Around Guenzel can be seen equipment such as projector, speakers, lights. The walls of the hotel lobby are yellow and the floor has a navy and yellow rug to match.

After the welcome, the first Keynote started up: Alicia F. Lieberman’s “Treating Trauma in Young Children: The Gifts and Challenges of Speaking the Unspeakable” While an admittedly heavy topic to start the day with, it was eye and mind opening, Lieberman was a true well of knowledge. From quoting academia to quoting graffiti, or an “anonymous philosopher” as she termed it, Lieberman took the overwhelming challenge of working with youth who have experienced trauma and gave the audience both inspiration and actionable advice to help their clients, students, and (in my case) poets.

Beyond the clinical applications of her work, I also noticed that she branded each of her slides with her contact info and institute name. I though this was an incredibly smooth move, making it harder for someone to republish without credit and also easier for her to be contacted, something I’ll be sure to do for future presentations of my own!

Black and white photo. Alicia F. Lieberman, a senior woman, addresses a large crowd of people from behind a podium. Behind and around Lieberman conference equipment can be seen including a large presentations screen, projector, speakers, and a banner with logo draped over the podium itself.

Black and white photo. Alicia F. Lieberman, a senior woman, addresses a large crowd of people from behind a podium. Behind and around Lieberman conference equipment can be seen including a large presentations screen, projector, speakers, and a banner with logo draped over the podium itself.

Lieberman’s talk on Trauma would mark the start of theme throughout the conference as many of the breakout sessions happening the next day would also showcase work and address strategies for working with youth who have experienced trauma.

The second keynote of the day was Dr. Stephen Shore. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Dr. Shore present at a couple different conferences, but every time I do I’m impressed by his passion, advocacy, and commitment. His 3 A’s (in the photo below) are important tenets to keep in mind as a professional in this field.

Large presentation screen with a black curtain skirt on the bottom. On the top in Green is “ The 3 A’s of Autism” below is a stack of three words showing each concept as a foundation for the other. From the bottom up in red “Awareness” in yellow “Acceptance” and in light blue “Appreciation”:

Large presentation screen with a black curtain skirt on the bottom. On the top in Green is “ The 3 A’s of Autism” below is a stack of three words showing each concept as a foundation for the other. From the bottom up in red “Awareness” in yellow “Acceptance” and in light blue “Appreciation”:

After the two keynotes, there was a break for lunch and then we went right into the plenary sessions. It felt a little intense to be in the same space hearing presentations back to back. I felt pretty antsy at moments and had to take standing and walking breaks. I wish that there was more to interact with on this day, like a small vendor area or designated networking space. Without that kind of diversity of programming the day not only felt long, but felt more like professional development than a conference.

That said, the plenary sessions were great! Zachary Kandler a Nordoff-Robbins trained music therapist brought the house down with “Finding Flow in Music: A Case Study of Developmental and Emotional Transformation” The session highlighted his work with one specific client from their first meeting to the present and it was a especially compelling watching the narrative of their sessions unfold. The case video of the two of them playing, writing, and performing together also brought a bunch of great energy into the space!

Zachary Kandler, a professionally dressed, young white man addresses a large audience from behind a podium. Behind and around Kandler there is presentation equipment such as speakers, projector, and large presentation screens. On the screen behind Kandler can be read “Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy” with black and white images of the two men (a bit difficult to distinguish from the photo). All of this is taking place in a hotel ballroom with navy and yellow rug and yellow wall.

Zachary Kandler, a professionally dressed, young white man addresses a large audience from behind a podium. Behind and around Kandler there is presentation equipment such as speakers, projector, and large presentation screens. On the screen behind Kandler can be read “Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy” with black and white images of the two men (a bit difficult to distinguish from the photo). All of this is taking place in a hotel ballroom with navy and yellow rug and yellow wall.

Following Kandler’s rousing presentation on Flow was “Critical Core: Role-Playing Games and the Future of Social-Skills Enrichment” presented by Virginia Spielmann, Adam Davis, and Adam Johns. This was a cool exploration of Critical Core, “a therapeutic tool for kids 9+ in the form of a fantasy role-playing game. Developed by parents, therapists, and educators, it's an amazing new skill building tool that can be used at home or in the clinic. “ [1]

 It’s tricky having the last session of the day, but I was impressed with the group, especially the simple movement activity they used to start! They had us imagine blowing up a balloon, holding the balloon, then letting out air in the balloon by making all the silly, squeaky, farty, sounds that involves. In doing so, Adam Davis, who led the activity, brought it back to his own feelings and anxieties presenting before an audience and how now that we had all made these fun noises together we were able to alleviate that. Pretty pro-move!

Gaming would prove another small theme throughout the conference with two Saturday breakout sessions dedicated to it as well.

Large presentation screen with black, curtain skirt. On top of the screen in large white lettering “Challenge the Status Quo” Under that is an image of a fantasy, warrior character facing a large dragon-like monster emerging from a body of water. In the bottom right is the C logo for Critical Core.

Large presentation screen with black, curtain skirt. On top of the screen in large white lettering “Challenge the Status Quo” Under that is an image of a fantasy, warrior character facing a large dragon-like monster emerging from a body of water. In the bottom right is the C logo for Critical Core.

My presentation was on the second day of the conference. I got to the hotel a little bit later, taking an easy morning out of the Air BnB I shared with colleauges from Rebecca School which was about 40 minutes away in DC.

I was glad I made it in time to see “DIRFloortime Case Studies: The Clinical Experience at Floortime Thailand” by Kingkaew Pajareya, MD or “Dr.K” as she referred to herself. It was fascinating seeing the way this work takes form on a global scale.  While Dr K.. was present to answer questions and guide the session, she also filmed herself presenting and had the video over dubbed by a colleague in English as a way to overcome the language barrier an hour long presentation in English presented. I thought was pretty unique approach!

After lunch I took the stage with Colleen Gabbert and Courtney Latter for “(Move)ment; The Poetics of Purposeful Action and Commnication” a presentation on the interdisciplinary approach the three of us bring to a poetry workshop at the Rebecca School. This was my second time presenting with Gabbert and Latter and it’s always such a treat to share the stage with these two brilliant clinicians!

From left to right: Colleen Gabbert, young white woman. Donnie Welch young white man. Courtney Latter young white woman. All dressed professionally. The three are posing in front of their title slide on a large presentation screen with a black, curtain skirt. Behind them can be seen a speaker and light as well as the navy-yellow rug and yellow wall of the hotel ballroom.

From left to right: Colleen Gabbert, young white woman. Donnie Welch young white man. Courtney Latter young white woman. All dressed professionally. The three are posing in front of their title slide on a large presentation screen with a black, curtain skirt. Behind them can be seen a speaker and light as well as the navy-yellow rug and yellow wall of the hotel ballroom.

The presentation went really well! And following it I took some time to network and follow up with attendees before popping into “Think Before you Speak: Supporting Pre-Linguistic Development in Individual with ASD” to support Latter and my other colleagues from the Rebecca School Speech Department.

The final session of the day led me to colleague Christopher Hernandez’s “LevelUpTime: An Interactive View of the future of Floortime through Videography, Coding, and Design” As Chris is also a close friend of mine, I know that this was his first presentation and despite his nerves he absolutely crushed it! The presentation showcases the first year and amazing growth of a game design program he developed and runs at the Rebecca School, “LevelUp Time™ EDU is a comprehensive science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics program designed for children with neurodevelopmental delays, including Autism, using the DIR Floortime teaching method. The purpose of the program is to teach children with Autism that technology can be used for so much more than "screen time" and to open up a new world of career possibilities in their future.” [2] To learn more about his model, head over to his site and Level Up!

Chris Hernandez a young Puerto-Rican man, presents from behind a table to a group of people sitting. His body language suggests he is engaged and mid-speech. Behind him is a large presentation screen with “So…What is a Video Game” written over the image of a console controller. Around Hernandez can be seen equipment such as a laptop, sound board, and projector. The presentation is taking place in the hotel ballroom and the navy and yellow rug and yellow wall of the room are seen in the photo.

Chris Hernandez a young Puerto-Rican man, presents from behind a table to a group of people sitting. His body language suggests he is engaged and mid-speech. Behind him is a large presentation screen with “So…What is a Video Game” written over the image of a console controller. Around Hernandez can be seen equipment such as a laptop, sound board, and projector. The presentation is taking place in the hotel ballroom and the navy and yellow rug and yellow wall of the room are seen in the photo.

This batch of breakout workshops ended the conference. It felt a little odd that there was no closing speech or event, but there were also a lot of attendees with busy travel plans so perhaps the conference committee wanted to keep the schedule flexible

All in all it was a great time. I had an opportunity to celebrate the work of close colleagues as well as pick up a few new tips and tricks from people who have been working with youth and presenting in the industry for quite awhile.

Oh, but there was some cool conference swag!

Black and white ceramic style coffee mug with “ICDL" and ICDL’s Logo in bold white lettering on the front. The coffee mug is sitting on a checkered wooden cutting board.

Black and white ceramic style coffee mug with “ICDL" and ICDL’s Logo in bold white lettering on the front. The coffee mug is sitting on a checkered wooden cutting board.

Edupreneur: Productivity Plan

One of the hardest transitions to entrepreneurship for me was keeping a consistent schedule. I consider myself a pretty self-motivated person, but I still found it easy to waste whole chunks of time on the days I didn’t have workshops booked. Whether doing something actually unproductive, like scrolling through Twitter, or spending an inordinate amount of time on something that’s productive, but not directly related to my businesses, like photo editing for blogs or planning an instagram story.

I wanted to think about how I spent my days and figure out if there was a smarter way for me work. I decided I’d build daily itineraries for myself and be my own personal assistant for a bit.

I would schedules parts of the day for deep work like writing blogs, curriculum planning, and workshop prep. Other parts for meeting and communicating with clients. And still other parts for media work and less mentally intense effort.

But before I did that I wanted to know: when should these things happen? What’s the optimal time for each of those activities?

To help answer that question, I found this chart from UNC-Chapel Hill that would allow me to keep track of what I do, when, during the day.

While it starts at 8am, and I often wake up before that, I just tracked those first hours separately. It was a big time save for me to find a pre-made chart! If you’re adept at making spreadsheets and know all the short cuts, you could just as easily make your own with a broader time range.

Chart on white background with black writing and lines. The title is in large bold letters reading “Weekly Planner (30min intervals) and on the right most end of the header is a “Week of” area with a line for the user to write the dates. The cahrt is broken up across a week Monday- Sunday horizontally and vertically listing times from 8:00am to 12:30am in half-hour intervals.

Chart on white background with black writing and lines. The title is in large bold letters reading “Weekly Planner (30min intervals) and on the right most end of the header is a “Week of” area with a line for the user to write the dates. The cahrt is broken up across a week Monday- Sunday horizontally and vertically listing times from 8:00am to 12:30am in half-hour intervals.

I took a week to journal every half half, listing out everything did in that block of time.

What I found was really interesting! Admittedly, for the first two days I think just knowing I was journaling made me a bit more productive, but by Wednesday I had fallen back into old habits and the data I collected on myself proved useful.

For example, my most productive writing time is between 8am and 11am, so I decided I would front end my days with deep work in that morning slot and make sure to schedule meetings and client calls for the afternoon when, as my data showed me, I’m more restless and distracted so it’d be a good time for me to travel for a meeting or set up a phone call.

This is still very much a work in progress for me, but charting my habits has helped me optimize my days. Not necessarily to do more, but to respond to the way my body and mind (or attention span) prefer to operate and in doing so, ensuring that I’m doing quality work in for all the different aspects of Donnie Welch Poetry.

Try it yourself for a week and comment with any surprising results you find!

Mendive Closing at Bronx Museum

The Bronx Museum invited myself and the students from PS 73 read their praise poem as part of the closing ceremony of the Manuel Mendive exhibit. 

During and after the ceremony the poem was displayed on the museum floor in the midst of Mendive’s work. It was touching watching people pass by, read the poem, and interact with the content. Some laughing at the sillier answers, others nodding in consent as a word resonated.

Large, mural poem is load out on a concrete gray exhibit floor. The mural poem itself is colorful, with white letters popping out through greens, purples, reds, blues, and yellows, to form words. The angle of the photo makes it difficult to see the start of the poem, though the lower words “ And running / playing/ minecraft / call of duty/ PS4/ and fun” are visible. In the background is the Manuel Mendive exhibit full of natural imagery with trees, leaves, roots, birds, jungle like plants, and human figures all visible in blues, greens, red, yellows, and browns. To the right is one of Mendive’s ladders also featuring the nature themes in smaller detail along the side and on the steps.

Large, mural poem is load out on a concrete gray exhibit floor. The mural poem itself is colorful, with white letters popping out through greens, purples, reds, blues, and yellows, to form words. The angle of the photo makes it difficult to see the start of the poem, though the lower words “ And running / playing/ minecraft / call of duty/ PS4/ and fun” are visible. In the background is the Manuel Mendive exhibit full of natural imagery with trees, leaves, roots, birds, jungle like plants, and human figures all visible in blues, greens, red, yellows, and browns. To the right is one of Mendive’s ladders also featuring the nature themes in smaller detail along the side and on the steps.

The ceremony itself didn’t last too long, but it was quite a powerful showcase. Poet Orlando Ferrand read his praise poem he wrote to Manuel Mendive over the beat of Roman Diaz and his supporting drummers. This had been the basis for both the rhythmic and thematic work I had been doing with PS 73 throughout the Fall partnership, so being there in person to hear a live rendition was a wonderful experience.

Afro-Cuban Poet Orlando Ferrand reads into a microphone from a red folder. He is wearing all white beret, glasses, a red shirt, white pants and black sneakers. In the foreground are audience members holding phones up to film and take pictures. The background is the Mendvie exhibit. No single piece of art is all in frame, but the nature elements of Mendive are clear with trees, leaves, roots, birds, jungle like plants, and human figures all visible in blues, greens, red, yellows, and browns.

Afro-Cuban Poet Orlando Ferrand reads into a microphone from a red folder. He is wearing all white beret, glasses, a red shirt, white pants and black sneakers. In the foreground are audience members holding phones up to film and take pictures. The background is the Mendvie exhibit. No single piece of art is all in frame, but the nature elements of Mendive are clear with trees, leaves, roots, birds, jungle like plants, and human figures all visible in blues, greens, red, yellows, and browns.

Two afro-cuban men play drums. The one on the left is younger and bit cut off by the frame. On the right is Roman Diaz, he is an older man, wearing a black berret, sunglasses, a red shirt and a black blazer. His large drum is horizontal across his lap and covered in a decorative blue, white and gold cloth. In the foreground are audience members, one holding up a phone to film. In the background is artwork by Manuel Mendive on a white museum wall. The art has a jungle like scene where humanoid figures are sitting on, around, and underneath a tree.

Two afro-cuban men play drums. The one on the left is younger and bit cut off by the frame. On the right is Roman Diaz, he is an older man, wearing a black berret, sunglasses, a red shirt and a black blazer. His large drum is horizontal across his lap and covered in a decorative blue, white and gold cloth. In the foreground are audience members, one holding up a phone to film. In the background is artwork by Manuel Mendive on a white museum wall. The art has a jungle like scene where humanoid figures are sitting on, around, and underneath a tree.

Check out these studio recordings of the praise poem on the Bronx Museum’s Soundcloud to get a sense for the reading. In the large exhibit space though Ferrand’s voice and Diaz’s rhythm carried, making it an almost mystic experience, as if the audience was wrapped up in an incantation. A final spell from Maestro Manuel Mendive.

Also, the students and I made the flyer! We had our names in the interior copy and this great photo of our poem on the back. Big time stuff!

Small paper flyer on a white table. The flyer has a photograph of the large, mural, praise poem in situ at the school against a brick wall with other art projects surrounding it. Below the photo is a description of the Bronx Museum, it’s social media content, and the funders/donors.

Small paper flyer on a white table. The flyer has a photograph of the large, mural, praise poem in situ at the school against a brick wall with other art projects surrounding it. Below the photo is a description of the Bronx Museum, it’s social media content, and the funders/donors.

Mural Poem

I’m finishing up my Fall partnership with PS 73 through the Bronx Museum and wanted to reflect on one of the final projects I did with a class there. The idea sprung from a conversation with a fellow Teaching Artist at the museum who had done a negative space project. They covered paper with tape to form various letters and shapes then after the paint dried had students remove the tape to reveal what was left in the white space covered by the tape.

I thought this could be a great project to display the final, collaborative praise poem that one of the classes made. In this way it would allow the letters to be the student’s own work without any writing or re-writing from the adults to help with clarity.

I started by tracing some letters on thick construction paper and cutting these letters out to be arranged into words on a piece of mural paper. Once the words were formed I taped them down securely so that they’d stay in place while getting painted over.

Three letter “E” “S” “E”on blue construction paper. One of the letters is an outline in sharpie, the other two are yellow stencils. The sharpie is seen in the top left corner of the paper.

Three letter “E” “S” “E”on blue construction paper. One of the letters is an outline in sharpie, the other two are yellow stencils. The sharpie is seen in the top left corner of the paper.

Gray work table with stencils, scissors, construction paper, sharpie. The stencils are organized alphabetically at the top of the table, the other supplies at the bottom.

Gray work table with stencils, scissors, construction paper, sharpie. The stencils are organized alphabetically at the top of the table, the other supplies at the bottom.

Eventually, I smartened up a bit and realized that I could arrange the letters in a way that would both save paper and time by using the very edges of construction paper.

Sharpie outlines of letters on blue construction paper. The letters come to the edges of the paper.

Sharpie outlines of letters on blue construction paper. The letters come to the edges of the paper.

Even this didn’t save me that much time though! This was an incredibly time intensive project! If I didn’t have the resources of the Bronx Museum at my disposal, I’m not sure I would have accomplished the vision. Not only was the abundance of high quality supplies important, but I had to recruit the help of the museum’s Education Intern to help finish the prep work.

If a parent or teacher reading wants to try something like this, I’d recommend doing it on a smaller scale! For example: maybe only doing four or five words or (if you want to get form specific) doing a haiku. The time needed for the prep on a large scale mural like this is unrealistic for what teachers are provided and for the time I imagine most parents have on top of their responsibilities.

Another thought would to get the poets involved in the tracing and cutting of the letters rather than have it be prepped. The way the timing worked out in my partnership didn’t really allow for it this season, but the more the poets are involved in the structuring and refining of their own work the better. Plus all the tracing and cutting is amazing fine motor work!

Large white mural paper. “These Are'“ spelled out at the top in blue letters cut from the construction paper. Below there are more pieces of paper with tracings and a pile of letters cut out not yet organized into words.

Large white mural paper. “These Are'“ spelled out at the top in blue letters cut from the construction paper. Below there are more pieces of paper with tracings and a pile of letters cut out not yet organized into words.

The next step was bringing it from the museum workspace into the museum classroom at the school. This involved me walking through a busy and blustery Grand Concourse, with the paper folded, hopping none of the letters slipped off and blew away to get crunched under morning rush hour traffic!

Fortunately, Patrick, the Bronx Museum Education Director, let me use some of the special mural paper the museum has on hand for their teen programs. This paper is made to withstand both a lot of media and material son it and some weathering. It’s composed of paper and cotton pulp and it feels soft to the touch, but is nearly impossible to tear. Part of the fun of this project was taking sensory, tactile, time at the start of the session to simply introduce and explain the material to the poets after they had all felt the paper and taken guesses about what gave it that texture.

White mural paper with the poem in blue construction paper letters laid out on tables covered in plastic. The poem reads “These are / our favorite / things in / class 303 / Singing / Dancing / Drawing / Math / And running / playing Minecraft / call of duty / PS4 / and Fun”

White mural paper with the poem in blue construction paper letters laid out on tables covered in plastic. The poem reads “These are / our favorite / things in / class 303 / Singing / Dancing / Drawing / Math / And running / playing Minecraft / call of duty / PS4 / and Fun”

The painting got a little (maybe lotta) bit messy. I should have come prepared with some smocks, but in all the excitement over the scale of the project it had totally slipped my mind! Rookie mistake! The poets weren’t particularly bothered by it, but their teacher’s were a little concerned over how some of the parents might react to paint covered clothes.

One of the teachers suggested rather than using brushes and giving every poet a spot of the poster, to have them take turns with paint rollers which I thought was a really wonderful idea and something I’ll implement when doing this project again. While there’s something fun about the unevenness of the paint, having a more linear structure from the pattern of the roller could be a cool effect and the class management side of turn taking with only 2 or 3 rollers is also appealing. The trick would be keeping poets not painting equally engaged and a part of the group activity. Perhaps a challenge for the Spring!

Poem laid out on the tables, but now the white mural paper is covered in various layers of paints: black, green, blue, pink, brown, red, and yellow. The blue construction paper letters have been removed so that now the letters come through from the empty space, white gaps on the mural paper. The poem reads The poem reads “These are / our favorite / things in / class 303 / Singing / Dancing / Drawing / Math / And running / playing Minecraft / call of duty / PS4 / and Fun”

Poem laid out on the tables, but now the white mural paper is covered in various layers of paints: black, green, blue, pink, brown, red, and yellow. The blue construction paper letters have been removed so that now the letters come through from the empty space, white gaps on the mural paper. The poem reads The poem reads “These are / our favorite / things in / class 303 / Singing / Dancing / Drawing / Math / And running / playing Minecraft / call of duty / PS4 / and Fun”

After drying, the mural was hung in the museum class space and recited as part of a performance for the entire grade. The poets also have an opportunity to read it at the museum as part of a closing ceremony for the exhibit we visited.

If you’re interested in trying this with your own poets I’ve supplied the list of materials below. As I mentioned, I was making use of some higher end museum supplies, so the list has the basic materials with no prices attached. Be aware that when using poster paper or butcher paper paint might bleed through and cause tears so make sure your poets don’t go as thick as some of mine! Also, keep in mind that different paints will have different results. I was using specific mural paints purchased by the museum, what’s available to you might apply and dry differently.

Materials:

  • Reference poem (what you’ll be painting)

  • Traceable Letters / Stencils

  • Construction Paper

  • Scissors

  • Tape

  • Paint

  • Poster Paper

  • Large table and/or work space

The poem hanging up on a brick school wall. Other pieces of art from other projects surround it: individual drawings and crafted ladders. The paint colors (red, blue, brown, black, yellow, green) have dried. The poem reads “These are / our favorite / things in / class 303 / Singing / Dancing / Drawing / Math / And running / playing Minecraft / call of duty / PS4 / and Fun”

The poem hanging up on a brick school wall. Other pieces of art from other projects surround it: individual drawings and crafted ladders. The paint colors (red, blue, brown, black, yellow, green) have dried. The poem reads “These are / our favorite / things in / class 303 / Singing / Dancing / Drawing / Math / And running / playing Minecraft / call of duty / PS4 / and Fun”

Brooklyn Public Library Oct 20th

Last weekend I ran a workshop at the Brookyln Public Library’s central branch! It was an exciting space to be in, especially since they were having a book sale at the time! My session in the Information Commons was smack, dab in the middle of all the excitement.

The workshop was an inclusive Found Poetry session for teens 13+. I had the room broken up into four tables, each with a unique book and set of supplies on them.

Two wooden tables with books and supplies on them. The front table has colored felt pens, blue construction paper, scissors, glue sticks, pens, and a yellow children’s book. The back table has lined paper, crayons, scissors, glue, and a full length book. Both tables have gray chairs around them.

Two wooden tables with books and supplies on them. The front table has colored felt pens, blue construction paper, scissors, glue sticks, pens, and a yellow children’s book. The back table has lined paper, crayons, scissors, glue, and a full length book. Both tables have gray chairs around them.

Two tables with books and supplies on them. The front table has both adaptive and regular scissors, glue, glue sticks pens, sharpies, red paper, and thick book. The back table has a children’s book, yellow paper, glue, glue sticks, and scissors. Both tables have gray chairs around them.

Two tables with books and supplies on them. The front table has both adaptive and regular scissors, glue, glue sticks pens, sharpies, red paper, and thick book. The back table has a children’s book, yellow paper, glue, glue sticks, and scissors. Both tables have gray chairs around them.

I set the room up like this not only to help with crowd control a bit, but to encourage conversation and movement. I wanted the poets to move around the room and actually talk to one another in order to exchange supplies and source books for the making of their found poems.

Four source books arranged in a square. The top two books (left to right)  The Pelican History of Art  and  Deciding to Go Public . The Bottom two (left to right)  Old MacDonald Had an Apartment  and  Time too…  The books are all on a wooden table.

Four source books arranged in a square. The top two books (left to right) The Pelican History of Art and Deciding to Go Public. The Bottom two (left to right) Old MacDonald Had an Apartment and Time too… The books are all on a wooden table.

It was a fun hour and I found myself so busy floating from table to table and talking with the poets about their work that I didn’t have much time to put one together myself!

All in all, it was a great time and will hopefully happen again soon! I've posted some of the poems from the session on instagram, so be sure to follow @DonnieWelchPoetry to see them!

Edupreneur: Early Bird

There’s the old saying, "the early bird gets the worm." While the twenty-four hour nature of the world today renders that a bit invalid, in education and the education market that phrase still holds true.

Everyone who works in schools: teachers, administrators, staff, custodians, etc. knows how it feels to get up early. Making the shift from an edupreneur didn’t change my natural (or real) alarm clock as I still find myself waking up before sunrise most days.


Four alarms set on a smart phone at various times: Rebecca School 6am on Tuesdays and Fridays, BX Museum 6:30am Monday and Wednesday, NYRP Workshop 10am on Saturday and Sunday, and Nap 3:15pm on Sunday. A light blue slide shows us that all the alarms are currently turned on.

Four alarms set on a smart phone at various times: Rebecca School 6am on Tuesdays and Fridays, BX Museum 6:30am Monday and Wednesday, NYRP Workshop 10am on Saturday and Sunday, and Nap 3:15pm on Sunday. A light blue slide shows us that all the alarms are currently turned on.


This skill is useful though, not only in terms of time management and efficiency, but in keeping me in the same time frame as my market.

For example:

I know if I send an email in the morning it’ll be answered faster than one sent in the afternoon because so many teachers check their emails as part of prep before school starts.

So if I want to blast out a newsletter with important information or a deal, I'll be creating content at the same time my audience is ready to interact with it.

It’s little tricks like this that allow me to stay ahead and make sure I’m speaking to my intended audience.

Think about what you know about your corner of the education world:

Maybe you're a social worker and know specifics about the timing of parent and caregiver phone calls.

Maybe you have an understanding of the organizational skills and prioritizing of an administrator.


Whatever it is, leverage that time so that you and your customers can make the most of it!

Edupreneur: Stay in School

A lot of business books and blogs I read when I was starting out on my edupreneurial adventure talked about making your current employer your first customer or client. Like any entrepreneur, edupreneurs can do the same!


Still of Dorie Clark’s  Enrepreneurial You ,  hardcover edition on a wooden table

Still of Dorie Clark’s Enrepreneurial You, hardcover edition on a wooden table

Anyone in education knows how stingy schools can be with their budgets. And rightfully so! Schools have a lot of expenditures to make sure students needs are met. But that makes it difficult for new contractors and outside work to get a foothold.

You can drop resumes at booths and tables at conferences, make phone calls, send emails, but what if the better answer was right in front of you all along?


Table at the CEC-DADD 2018 conference. Two older Caucasian women look at pamphlets on a red clothed table. A Third middle-aged Caucasian women is seen checking her phone behind the table.

Table at the CEC-DADD 2018 conference. Two older Caucasian women look at pamphlets on a red clothed table. A Third middle-aged Caucasian women is seen checking her phone behind the table.

Rather than cold emailing a school and trying to convince an administration that doesn’t know you or has never worked with you that you’re worth part of their discretionary spending, ask the people who already know you.

Assuming you have a good reputation with them, the administration that knows you is way more likely to hire you! Then, not only do you have money coming in, you also have a reference for future schools and institutions to see when they view your resume or client list.

Somethings to consider:

Show that you’ve developed this idea in order to help. If your service offers something you find lacking or in need of improvement in education, chances are your school could benefit from this service too. The trick is: how can you offer this service without offending an administration you’ve worked closely with?

Is there staff that would speak on your behalf? Testimonials are always good, even with people who know you. Sometimes administration can be pretty removed from the everyday, so having teachers, therapists, and teaching assistants willing to say how interested they are in you and your service can be helpful in securing a contract.

Would you be willing to offer a reduced rate? The first client is an important get and the familiarity with this school can give you some wiggle room to negotiate, but it can also give them that same wiggle room. Make sure you have a bottom line that you won’t go lower than before you start talks!

What can your school do for you that you can’t do on your own? You can take this any direction you want: school culture, professional development, health care, money. One big thing for me was the financing to attend and present at education conferences. Make a list of 5 things that your school can offer you that would help sweeten the deal if the budget really does require them to go lower than you’d like.

Edupreneur: NYC Resources

I spent this past summer vacation getting myself official and forming Donnie Welch Poetry LLC! And while it’s wonderful feeling having that weight off my shoulders, it definitely took some time and money to get here.

Scan of formal document from the State of New York Department of State. White paper with black text including the state seal of New York and a formal signature form the Executive Deputy Secretary of State Brendan W. Fitzgerald

Scan of formal document from the State of New York Department of State. White paper with black text including the state seal of New York and a formal signature form the Executive Deputy Secretary of State Brendan W. Fitzgerald

This is a post for anyone hoping to start a small business in NYC. I’ve compiled some of the resources I used, whether attending their events or just viewing the content their sites offer. I’m sure many other cities and states have similar resources and I definitely recommend you look into those. Any help you can get will go a long way!

Many of these services are free and it’s worth the initial investment of time to gain the knowledge they’re offering you. It’s also great practice talking about your business and vision with strangers.

I went to a free legal clinic though City Bar Justice’s Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project (listed below) and realized it was the first time I explained the vision of Donnie Welch Poetry to people besides my family and close friends.

While the clinic was helpful with logistics, it was the experience of defending and explaining my business that really stuck with me. It was an important moment of personal development that built my confidence and gave me some momentum moving forward!

Below are a list of services, some maybe right for you, others not. Feel free to use them as you need and in ways that make sense for you and your business!

Block Party!

With the school year looming ahead, I wanted to take some time to reflect on one of my favorite NYC summertime events: block parties!

I’ve had a blast volunteering at block parties in Harlem and Washington Heights. I’ve run activities tables for kids ranging from storytelling to magic wand making.

Donnie Welch, young caucasian male stands behind a table in a white T-shirt. On the table are a bubble machine, story book, and supplies for children’s crafts. In the background can be seen apartment buildings and people in costume for  Wizard of Oz  party theme.

Donnie Welch, young caucasian male stands behind a table in a white T-shirt. On the table are a bubble machine, story book, and supplies for children’s crafts. In the background can be seen apartment buildings and people in costume for Wizard of Oz party theme.

 There’s an amazing, hectic energy in this work. It can go from me standing around to six kids all asking for help with a craft in a matter of seconds!

Unlike working in a classroom or through program where there’s a set time and attendance list, block party work really keeps me on my toes!

I also like to come a little early and volunteer with the set up when I can. As a program provider in the community, I think it’s important to be involved in events I don't plan.

If all I did was show up to the garden or roll into the library for my half-hour sessions that would technically be enough (since that’s all I’m asked), but putting in the extra effort shows the families I’m working with that I’m here to stay, not just parachute in for my programs.

Plus, it can be fun! When I worked the West 150th block party I showed up early and they put me on letter board duty!

Big white letter board sign with black and red lettering. Sign has a red star at the top and reads “ 10 years / of heart / brains / & courage”. The sign is on a rocky surface with some plants and mulch from the garden visible behind it.

Big white letter board sign with black and red lettering. Sign has a red star at the top and reads “ 10 years / of heart / brains / & courage”. The sign is on a rocky surface with some plants and mulch from the garden visible behind it.

Block parties are a great space for working with whole families. In programs, parents sometimes feel like they should sit out unless asked to be directly involved. But at the parties, everything happens so fast and the energy so high! I've had parents who are just as interested in the activity as their child and who sit down to really engage in wonderful ways with their kid around completing the craft. That's where it's at!

If you're out and about in the city next summer and  see me working a booth come by and say hello!

Edupreneur

What’s edupreneurship? Well as I define it: It’s simply being an education entrepreneur.

A lot of time people think this means specifically edtech work, but I would contest that there are a lot of opportunities to start a business that can benefit schools, teachers, students, and all education stakeholders that don’t involve technology at all.

In my edupreneur posts I’ll be sharing tips and tricks I’ve learned in my first year of running Donnie Welch Poetry. A lot of these are things I’ve learned the hard way and wish someone had told me!

I’ll be sharing posts that I hope inspire people to make the leap in edupreneurship!

(Photo by  Julianne Nash ) Donnie Welch, young caucasian male, sits on radiator by the window of a empty classroom. He’s in a red shirt, jeans, and sneakers, sitting with one leg crossed. The gray and white tile floor and white board of the classroom are visible in the foreground.

(Photo by Julianne Nash) Donnie Welch, young caucasian male, sits on radiator by the window of a empty classroom. He’s in a red shirt, jeans, and sneakers, sitting with one leg crossed. The gray and white tile floor and white board of the classroom are visible in the foreground.

Part of what motivated the creation of Donnie Welch Poetry was a desire to advocate for more arts education in neurodiverse learning. Rather than just standing on a literal or digital soap box, I decided that one way I could help get more arts ed in neurodiverse classrooms was to build a business that did exactly that.

I believe that edupreneurship can help drive education reform.

If you believe so too, then I challenge you to start a side hustle that addresses some of the wrongs you see in education.

Picture of stars & constellations from a poetry workshop. Black construction paper taped together with yellow finger paint on them. To the left are two columns of three, then a column of two, then one all the way on the right. The finger painting is different in each, some dots, some swirls and some full hand prints are visible.

Picture of stars & constellations from a poetry workshop. Black construction paper taped together with yellow finger paint on them. To the left are two columns of three, then a column of two, then one all the way on the right. The finger painting is different in each, some dots, some swirls and some full hand prints are visible.

Maybe you have a way to better track district budgets that could save money and get funds allocated to programs that need it?

Maybe you have the curriculum idea that’ll rock the STEM world?

Maybe there’s a way to create fluid partnerships between local musicians and band classes?

Maybe you have something else entirely!?

Whatever skills you have, bring them to the table. The education system needs new ideas and if you don’t do it then who?

Step up. Students need you!

Summer Fun

Summer school just finished for me at Rebecca School, so now I'm on a three week break. When I return it'll only be twice a week to run workshops which is exciting and a little duanting. It's going to be a big change both professionally and personally for me.  I've taken some time to pause and reflect over the break and in that reflection, I've realized what a special time summer can be for teachers.

Summer is an amazing opportunity for experimentation and change.

Long white table full of supplies. In the foreground are paper plates with rainbow colors, a bag of yellow cuts and a black expo marker. Next there’s a green poster board cut to look like a crocodile with an eye drawn, on the green poster paper are scissors and white paper cut to look like teeth. The table extends with more rainbow plates in the background.

Long white table full of supplies. In the foreground are paper plates with rainbow colors, a bag of yellow cuts and a black expo marker. Next there’s a green poster board cut to look like a crocodile with an eye drawn, on the green poster paper are scissors and white paper cut to look like teeth. The table extends with more rainbow plates in the background.

 It was over a summer session that I first ran workshops at Rebecca School and it was summer time when I first really tested the Sensorimotor Poetry Workshop model. The lack of academic pressures makes it a season for discovery and even rediscovery.

Outside of school walls, summer is also the time of year when I work with the New York Restoration Project, or NYRP, running programming in their gardens! This is always a lot of fun, it's nice to be outdoors and to have an opportunity to do some nature play. This summer the workshops are "Ceramic Stories" involving students painting a story onto a pot like Greek pottery[1]. Once the pots are painted they'll plant something hardy in them and take the plants home to have something to grow!

Orange/Brown ceramic pots on a white table cloth with various shades of paint in purple and white pots. Some paintings are visible on the pots, others appear blank. In the background is a vibrant teal slatted fence with red poppies painted on.

Orange/Brown ceramic pots on a white table cloth with various shades of paint in purple and white pots. Some paintings are visible on the pots, others appear blank. In the background is a vibrant teal slatted fence with red poppies painted on.

As a hiker and outdoor enthusiast myself, it's a wonderful opportunity to blend that passion with my poetry and education work. This year I'm running two sessions: one was at the Lucille McClary Wicked Friendship Garden in June and the next one will be in September at the Rodale Pleasant Community Garden.

Flyer for a program called “Ceramic Stories” Cartoonish vines grow from the top, followed by the title in bold yellow letters and the details in smaller white lettering. In the bottom right are logos and finally a border of vines appear to grow up from the bottom. All on a dark green background.

Flyer for a program called “Ceramic Stories” Cartoonish vines grow from the top, followed by the title in bold yellow letters and the details in smaller white lettering. In the bottom right are logos and finally a border of vines appear to grow up from the bottom. All on a dark green background.

Meanwhile, in school, I started a "Shadow Puppet Poetry" unit with a couple of the groups . We've gone and visited the roof playground to catch the sun and trace our full shadows onto poster paper, along with some silly hand-animals made along the way as well.  We also stayed indoors on a rainy day and played with flashlights.

Where exactly this project will lead I'm not sure yet, but it's a ton of fun and is a great body awareness and sensory practice for the students.

With so many amazing things going on over the summer, I'm sure I'll be back in school before I know it! When I am, it'll be the start of a whole new adventure!

Sources & References

[1] #MetKids Blog https://www.metmuseum.org/blogs/metkids/2017/greeks-vs-amazons

SXSWedu Panel Picker 2019

Panel Picker is part of the conference selection process for SXSW and SXSWedu.

It's a  voting platform wherein, "Community voting comprises 30% of the selection decision, plus input of the SXSW Staff (30%) and Advisory Board (40%) helps ensure that less well-known voices have as much of a chance of being selected to speak at SXSW EDU as individuals with large online followings. Together these percentages help determine the final content lineup." [https://www.sxswedu.com/news/2018/panelpicker-community-voting-is-open/]

To vote, visit panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote  and make a free account by providing an email and creating a password.

I've submitted Rhythm & Learning with two close colleagues of mine. This workshop will go into greater depth about the poetry workshops than my previous half hour sessions at the conference. This will include on overview of the DIR/Floortime model (the theoretical framework for the sessions) an overview of the workshop structure and process, and end with a model workshop.

Check out our proposal, leave a comment, and an upvote if you like what you see. Also, if you're going to the conference and/or have a proposal feel free to reach out. Hope to see you in Austin!

Autism Live Interview

Last week I had a blast skyping into Autism Live's talk show "Let's Talk Autism with Shannon & Nancy." I've shared a Youtube video of my interview segment below.

In this 10 minute clip I talk about the Sensorimotor Poetry Workshops, my self-published "Sensory Reading Starter Kit", and future plans for myself and the program.

Teacher/Poet Donnie Welch tells us all about his sensory poetry workshop and guidebook and how he helps children of all different abilities fall in love with language! Like Autism Live on Facebook at http://facebook.com/autismlive Sign up for Autism Live's free newsletter at: http://www.autism-live.com/join-our-email-list.aspx Autism Live is a production of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD), headquartered in Woodland Hills, California, and with offices throughout, the United States and around the globe.

Workshopping the Workshop

Today marked the start of a new project with one of the workshops. Rather than building a collaborative poem off of a few lines from each poet, we're writing, revising, and (eventually) publishing full, individual poems.

Image of a poem written in black marker on a school white board. Photo editing has given everything a slight burnt tint. The poem’s title says “Tornado Brain” by Donnie. Parts of the poem are circled in orange, and brown other lines have writing around them in blue and purple ink.

Image of a poem written in black marker on a school white board. Photo editing has given everything a slight burnt tint. The poem’s title says “Tornado Brain” by Donnie. Parts of the poem are circled in orange, and brown other lines have writing around them in blue and purple ink.

Before summer break, every poet wrote a full piece on the prompt Tornado Brain, myself included. In introducing the idea of editing and revising I wanted to use my work rather than make any one post feel picked out. This not only takes away the anxiousness of having a poem critiqued, but it gives me the chance to model, as facilitator, the way to accept and process feedback. It also allows the poets to tackle this new subject as a group and use the collaborating, social skills they have in place from the group writing projects.

The idea of finding something to change was initially off putting to some of the poets and, admittedly, I don't know what I would have done in school if a teacher gave me a lesson saying, "okay, what would you change about this poem I wrote?" Two strategies I found that worked: asking the poets to identify what they like and have them circle it and asking them to make additions to the text.

Circling was a good entry way into the text because once they showed me what they liked they were more equipped to talk about what they didn't. Whether that's because it helped them identify their preferences or because it's socially easier to give someone a compliment sandwich, I'm not sure.  In either case, it helped lead to productive conversations and, as you can tell in the picture, even the circled favorite of one poet proved an area of critique for another.

In asking for additions instead of changes, a couple poets were able to interact with the text and give it a personal sense of completion.  Once the additions were made, it was easier to talk about the full text, including their suggested additions. The explanations for why their additions made sense often highlighted elements of the piece they did or didn't like and served as nice opportunities for myself, other facilitators, and peer poets in the room to interject or agree.

Another technique that seemed to work for this lesson was having  every student use their own color marker at the start. While some overlap eventually happened (best laid plans...) this was nice while it lasted! It not only let me see the work of each individual poet, but it made it easy for them to see what each other thought and, in turn, to respond to each other's comment. Next time I'll try and keep the colors a little more carefully coordinated!

After the success of this, I was hoping the poets would be ready to edit their own pieces, but that was definitely a rushed thought. The poets hesitated and rightfully so. Not only is this something new, but it's something a lot scarier than any reading and/or writing exercise we've done. I think workshops are scary! I just know that the end result is a much better, tighter draft and these poets need to see that pay off before they put themselves out there.

I was focused on having this be a summer project, ending with a summer school publication, but I need to step back and enjoy the process. Next session I'm planning to bring my revisions so that they can see how I've accepted their changes and maybe I'll have them go at it again to get some more practice in and, hopefully, see that it can be a good thing to have other poets read and interact with your work.