Font Fopas

I can't tell you the amount of times I print something off quickly for workshop, read it, realize every capital i looks like a lower case L and debate with myself whether or not I should recycle the papers or just power ahead.

So for a small tip: take a few extra seconds in your prep time to make sure you use a font where capital i and L are obviously different, especially working with poets just learning to read and write. I usually keep it basic with Times New Roman, but there are definitely more fun and engaging fonts out there that also make a clear distinction.

This simple edit makes it easier for everyone to read, whether you're printing something for a collaborative found poem, individual reading activity, or blowing the letters up large for an activity on the board.

Young Child Expo 2019

Yesterday I presented with my Rebecca School colleague Allison Johnson at the 2019 Young Child Expo here in NYC!

Allison is an occupational therapist who works with me in one of my younger workshops and has helped me integrate movement into those sessions. More than that, she’s been a teacher, taking the time to give me a deeper understanding of movement and the body’s sensory system.

She has such an amazing sense for what will help each poet in our workshop. I often find myself referencing her for what movements we should do. It’s truly a super-power, this seemingly innate sense that “oh, yeah, bear walking right now will help this poet regulate.” I can’t gush enough!

I’ve put up our slides on SlideShare. As a note, we had a fairly video heavy presentation culminating in a twenty-minute case study of one of the poets. These had to be removed for confidentiality so there are some blank slides and slides that just have titles.

That said, the SlideShare presentation still contains great information about the movements we use in the workshop and why we use them.

Give the presentation a view and if you find the information useful, feel free to share it around with your friends, colleagues, and admin!

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Wall Writing

As I’ve mentioned in other posts I keep the workshop spaces completely clear except for the essentials. For some groups that’s chairs, for others it’s movement ques, and for still others it’s nothing at all!

As one of my workshops is focuses on writing longer and longer texts like sonnets, there wasn’t a great space for the poets to write.

Bringing in a table with chairs or some desks was a possibility, but that always felt like a big transition to have in the middle of a session. The alternative, having the poets lie down or hunch over while writing, is poor form both in terms of posture and mechanics.

Colleen Gabbert, my OT colleague who facilitates this session with me, recommended taping paper to the wall and having the poets stand and write. This little change has made a huge difference!

Not only are their body posture and fine motor work better, but the poets who might otherwise need sensory breaks from sitting are able to engage in the writing activity for longer durations. I imagine because they’re not getting as tired from using only their core to support them or (when they can no longer support themselves) hunching over and losing focus on the group activity.

I’ve noticed that standing also allows a more seamless sensory release. For example, poets can rock or pace if needed while thinking of the next line while. When sitting, the poets had a tendency to stay seated or if they stood up it would be to move quickly around the room or leave altogether for a quick break or support in the hallway.

Some of the poets prefer staying seated and when they do I try to encourage that they use a binder or book to hold the text so that they sit up right. It certainly isn’t perfect (old habits die hard), but for the poets who accept the tool of wall writing it’s helped immensely!

Just a reminder that if things are feeling a bit stilted or stale in your class or sessions, the answer isn’t always a big change. Sometimes all you need is a different perspective (make friends outside your department!) and a couple pieces of tape!

A hand holds a pen to a piece of lined paper taped to a white school wall.

A hand holds a pen to a piece of lined paper taped to a white school wall.

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O, Miami Poetry Festival

I traveled to Miami for the first time at the start of April as part of the O, Miami Poetry Festival. I went with my friend and Rebecca School colleague Raquel to run three days of workshops at Brucie Ball Educational Center, a day school for students with severe disabilities.

The sessions were amazing. Beyond amazing. The students, teachers, and festival staff were all incredibly welcoming and made it such a joy to be working down in sunny south Florida. Rather than write too much here though, I’ll let some professionals tell you more as the sessions got the attention of both the Miami Herald and the local NPR station WLRN.

Visit the links below to hear and read more!

“Workshop Helps Kids Find Language And Poetry Without Words” WLRN Miami / South Florida

“These Students Found Rhythm, Art and Joy Through Poetry” Miami Herald


The word "hope" spelled out in large, capital letters cut from poster paper and suspended in a school library. Inside the letters are butterflies of various colors crafted out of paper.

The word "hope" spelled out in large, capital letters cut from poster paper and suspended in a school library. Inside the letters are butterflies of various colors crafted out of paper.

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Teachers & Writers Publication

It has been a wild couple weeks for me, but wanted to take a second to share that I recently published “Found Poetry & Accessibility” in Teachers & Writers Magazine. The piece offers three ways to use found poetry as an accessible and inclusive entryway into poetry.

Give it a read!

Example of a black out poem. A page from a book about birds has large strokes of black blocking out specific lines of words, images, and design details. The remaining words form a poem and in the bottom left is the picture of a bird.

Example of a black out poem. A page from a book about birds has large strokes of black blocking out specific lines of words, images, and design details. The remaining words form a poem and in the bottom left is the picture of a bird.

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Edupreneur: Cut Your Business Card Clutter

Conferences like SXSWedu are great opportunities to meet and network with other professionals. But with that community building inevitably comes a pile of business cards.

I'm someone who hates clutter. As a writer I already have more than enough notebooks, loose leaf paper, and little ideas scribbled for my home office space. What I don’t need are even more little slips of paper hanging around!

After any conference where I get a the contacts of a bunch of wonderful people I have a strategy for both documenting and communicating with them. It starts by simply typing up cards into a spread sheet. The sheet has columns labeled:

Name

Company

Position

Email

Phone

Website (personal or company's) 

How/ where we met

With the pertinent information running vertically across the cells.

If you want to go an extra measure you could also add a column (or two) that says when you contacted them and whether or not they responded or took action (such as connecting over a media platform) as a result of the email. I choose not to do this, in part because I'm more interested in continuing conversations than quick boosts, so the hope is that my reaching out sets off a thread of emails, a Twitter conversation, phone call, or similar back and forth to build our relationship. 

I send the email as soon as the card is typed up. Going one at a time so I don't procrastinate and let things pile up. Or slip into the habit of saying, “first I’ll do the easy thing and type the cards, then I’ll email,”… and never actually email. I also know, without having to make an extra column or any highlights, who has been contacted when I work at this slower pace.

Pile of business cards, mostly white with colored text and images, on top of a brown wooden desk.

Pile of business cards, mostly white with colored text and images, on top of a brown wooden desk.

Finally, when it's all done, I recycle the cards. As someone who has cards and adds onto the pile of others I know this might seem cruel. "These cost money to make!" and "What if you want to pass it on to someone?" Are two common quips. In answer, I know they cost money and also take time to design, but it makes me feel better and write more efficiently having a clear space and keeping the cards in storage would just add unnecessary clutter.

And if I want to pass on the info, I'd simply send that person an email or text. It's more seamless too, they can copy the email right from their account and send a message or highlight the number on their phone and make a call.

Give it a try next time you come home from an event with a stack of business cards. And if you have any organizing strategies you like please share! 

Oh, and if you do go digital, don’t forget to back-up your spreadsheet!


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Edupreneuer: SXSWedu 2019 Mentor Session

I’m excited to share that the mentor session registrations are open for SXSWedu 2019!

As a mentor at this year’s conference you can sign up for a slot to come and talk to me! What can you talk with me about? Well…

We can chat about working in and providing programming for learners of all abilities.

Or muse over edupreneurship and more specifically, solopreneuership. Especially if you’re coming from New York state or New York City, I’d be happy to chat about my experience navigating all the regulations, paperwork, and payments getting Donnie Welch Poetry legit this year.

Or let’s babble, prattle, and gab about Arts Education! While I focus specifically on inclusive arts education, I’ve made a lot of connections in the broader field that I’d be happy to share and my work as a Teaching Artist at the Bronx Museum has given me insight into that pathway as well. Furthermore, I’d be excited to hear about and support any ventures in community arts partnerships, as that’s some of the most equitable and exciting work happening in arts education right now.

Beyond myself there’s a whole roster of amazing mentors! In particular I’m excited for a chance to chat with: Alexander Kopelman from Children’s Arts Guild an organization I very much admire, Kristin Corliss a special education teacher from DC, and Allison Valchuis who works with the 92nd Street Y here in NYC!

It can seem daunting to carve out time in a already full schedule of workshops and presentations for one-on-one conversations, but keep in mind these are only twelve minute interviews. While that’s admittedly a significant chunk of the thirty minute and twenty minute presentations, it’s possible to partake in a mentor session and politely enter into the back of one of the longer, and often larger, sessions. So (like much of SXSWedu) it’s about building a balanced and flexible schedule that’s comfortable for you.

Oh, and, I know I linked all these amazing mentors, but y’all better not take my spot! Seriously though, there’s so many great leaders, teachers, and thinkers you can meet one-on-one with throughout the festival. The work of these three resonates with me and what I’m hoping to accomplish, but give the mentor list a rundown for yourself and see who on there inspires you!

Seeya down in Austin!

Screenshot from the SXSWeud App with the SXSW logo and a bright yellow background up top. Below that in tiers of information are the details and location to a mentor session with Donnie Welch

Screenshot from the SXSWeud App with the SXSW logo and a bright yellow background up top. Below that in tiers of information are the details and location to a mentor session with Donnie Welch

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Sonnet Challenge

For Valentine’s Day I challenged one of my workshops to write sonnets.

This was my first time teaching a form in any of my workshops. I’ve done haiku scavenger hunts before, but those were more about the experiential nature of haiku than any of the form’s diction and thematic restrictions.

To start this sonnet lesson I explained that some poems have rules, which piqued the attention of a couple poets in the room right away. We’ve been writing together as a group for almost two years now and in that time I’ve pretty much let them free write, the exceptions being group projects like our holiday cookie tags, so this was something new.

I had Sonnet and the numbers one through fourteen listed downward on the board as a visual for everyone to reference. I decided to start with the basic rule, that a sonnet is a poem with fourteen lines. While rhyme and meter play a big role in the Shakespearean Sonnet (which is the form I was basing this introduction on) it didn’t quite feel right to dive into that. I wanted this to be a challenge for the poets, but not overwhelm them. Furthermore, I wanted them to be engaged and intrigued and bogging them down with all the details of form would have dimmed the excitement.

on a white dry erase school board the word Sonnet is written at the top with a vertical stack of numbers 1-14 underneath it. All the writing is in blue.

on a white dry erase school board the word Sonnet is written at the top with a vertical stack of numbers 1-14 underneath it. All the writing is in blue.

Next I talked about the theme, sonnets are about someone or something you really like. I got a lot of “blehs” from this as the thought of writing a love poem, or “love letter” as one of the poets said, was off putting. I told them though that it didn’t have to be addressed to someone, it could simply be fun and addressed to a video game the loved, a show, a book, anything is sonnet worthy.

Once that was established and no one felt like they had to write a love poem, the poets set to work and it was amazing! They tackled the challenge so well! Even the poet who was so opposed to writing “love letters” started with Sonic, but ended with an amazing ode to family, friends, and school.

One note, I started off just letting them free write, but it became quickly apparent that encouraging the poets to number one to fourteen down the side of their paper (like I had up on the board) provided a good frame of reference. Aside from this addition to their papers and occasional encouragement from the teachers and therapists supporting the group not much scaffolding took place.


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University of Alabama Guest Lecture

Earlier this week I had a chance to speak with a group of aspiring theater educators at the University of Alabama about ways to ensure arts education spaces are inclusive and accessible for all learners.

After smoothing out and working around the technical blips that always accompany this sort of a thing, the lecture went well and the students asked a lot of great questions afterwards.

I’ve shared my slides publicly for people to visit. While the information itself is fairly short and really more a guideline for my conversation with the class, I thought it’d be nice to keep the content up for the students to reference and share as well as for anyone else who’s curious! Click the linked title slide below to check out the presentation for yourself!

Title slide of powerpoint presentation.At the top is the title, followed by a center is an image of hand painted stars, yellow finger paint on black construction paper. Below that is the presenter name and information.

Title slide of powerpoint presentation.At the top is the title, followed by a center is an image of hand painted stars, yellow finger paint on black construction paper. Below that is the presenter name and information.

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Class Environment

A big consideration in prepping for the workshops is the class environment, or how things are arranged and set up in the room to best support student learning.

One important component of design for the sessions I run is a circular structure.

I do this because I want the poets to be able to reference one another. The social-emotional and self-expressive aspects of these workshops are just as important as the academic and in order to facilitate these empathic aspects I need to set up the room in a way that promotes communication between poets.

A circle of classrrom chairs, black and one blue, on a tiled floor. In the middle of the circle of chairs is a smaller circle of colored cards. In the foreground is a classroom dry-erase whiteboard.

A circle of classrrom chairs, black and one blue, on a tiled floor. In the middle of the circle of chairs is a smaller circle of colored cards. In the foreground is a classroom dry-erase whiteboard.

For example, in my younger workshops where I use the movement cards I put the circle of cards in the center of the larger seating circle. This gives each poet a kind of performance for their turn and then I still keep an open space for writing on the board, trying to keep it so that the poem is a kind of part of the circle.

I like to keep the room clear as well, nothing but the seating and activity.

It’s important to note as well, that teachers, therapists, and other facilitators are sitting (or standing in the case of other workshops) with the poets. This equanimity in seating is twofold in that it’s a visual representation of the fact that all voices are valued, student voice on the same tier as adult voice, and it allows for seamless 1:1 support. Whether that support is because a therapist is using this session as a group mandate and needs to work in close capacity to fulfill goals or because a poet needs sensory support in a moment of challenge, this set up makes it so that there are no dramatic/run across the room/jump in the middle of the activity/ stop everything situations that arise.

It’s pretty simple, but taking small considerations can make big improvements in peer learning.

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Patreon

If you’ve noticed and clicked the new button at the bottom of the site, then you’ll see I’ve gotten a Patreon account!

 This is my first time trying out any kind of crowd funding or donation model and I’m a bit self-conscious about it. While Donnie Welch Poetry is a consulting and programming service and therefore a business, there’s a lot of content I’d like to keep free.

For example, this blog!

I want this blog to be a resource for both entrepreneurs and educators to find tips and learn from my experiences. I’m also working on video content on YouTube, these short readings and conference clips will be free for people to enjoy and learn from as well.

Another goal is to keep my curriculum affordable. The market for classroom texts is wild, but both of the texts I have available are purposefully under $20 and I intend on keeping them that way!

Beyond my online content, I run some after school and community workshops free of charge for both the organizations and participants who can’t meet my rates because a part of my mission in starting Donnie Welch Poetry is to make poetry more inclusive and equitable.

However, all of these things come with a big time commitment. And who ever came up with the saying “Time is money,” wasn’t wrong.

I’m hoping Patreon can be a resource that helps me keep this digital content free, my products affordable for parents and educators, and my workshops available to anyone who needs some poetry in their life!

Give the page a look and see if you can help, I’ve purposefully kept my donation tiers pretty low and even the $1/MONTH “Haiku Hero” offering goes a long way!

Patreon home page. In the top is an avatar image of Donne Welch, a young white male with glasses, followed by a description of a $1 donation tier.

Patreon home page. In the top is an avatar image of Donne Welch, a young white male with glasses, followed by a description of a $1 donation tier.

Rebecca Listener Interview

I was recently interviewed on The Rebecca Listener a new podcast from The Rebecca School produced by Chris Hernandez, the school’s media director, to offer parents, providers, and anyone interested with insight into the work happening at the school.

The podcast is available on all of your favorite platforms and currently has three episodes, with new ones coming out every week (I think!)

Check out myself and my colleague Courtney Latter discussing the range of workshops at the Rebecca School and how we navigate all the different developmental levels and ages while keeping the poets in engaged in learning on episode three “Poetry Groups”

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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/

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

Sources:

[1] http://www.criticalcore.org/

[2] https://www.leveluptime.studio/levelup-time-studio-edu.html

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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!

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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.

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