Affect Autism Interview

Affect Autism is a fantastic blog, podcast, and one stop shop for all things DIR/Floortime. I had a chance to go on the podcast and talk about the poetry workshops! You can read the full blog summary here, find the episode “Sensory and Developmental Poetry Workshops" on your favorite podcasting app or service, and watch the video of the interview below!

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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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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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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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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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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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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”

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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!

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A Part of My Job

A part of my job, I realize, as a teaching poet in the school, is to make the students laugh. To keep them entertained. Yes, even if it means resorting to cheesy gimmicks like me acting like I am getting attacked by a shark in a box
— Inside My Pencil: Teaching Poetry in Detroit Public Schools by Peter Markus

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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!

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Split This Rock Poetry Festival

Split this Rock Poetry Festival

Split This Rock poetry festival is the biennial festival of the Split This Rock organization where, “[e]very two years poets, activists, and dreamers gather in our nation’s capital for four days of readings, workshops, discussions, youth voices & activism.” [1] I applied to their open call for workshops and was pleasantly surprised to be accepted. I had a blast presenting, volunteering, and exploring DC!

excerpt of Langston Hughes poem “Big Buddy” title, author, and poem excerpt in bold white letters on a black background. Square, Split This Rock Poetry Festival name tag in square plastic case. “Donnie Welch” written in black lettering. A cartoon dalamation sticker is in the bottom right corner of the badge.

excerpt of Langston Hughes poem “Big Buddy” title, author, and poem excerpt in bold white letters on a black background. Square, Split This Rock Poetry Festival name tag in square plastic case. “Donnie Welch” written in black lettering. A cartoon dalamation sticker is in the bottom right corner of the badge.

 

April 19th

My day started bright and early with a volunteer orientation. I had taken a late night flight into DC after teaching a full day and probably would have been pretty grumpy were it not for some delicious cookies baked by volunteer coordinator Tyler French. The orientation itself proved pleasant, informative, and engaging. I was impressed by the attention the festival paid to accessibility. In the lead up to the festival, I saw all the email reminders about the scent-free environment, shuttles, and requests for adapted materials, but it’s one thing to talk the talk and another to have these details emphasized throughout the festival.

"People First Language" guidelines included in the Volunteer information packet. Brief introduction followed by two columns “Say This” “Not This” in black lettering on a white background.

"People First Language" guidelines included in the Volunteer information packet. Brief introduction followed by two columns “Say This” “Not This” in black lettering on a white background.

 

After the orientation I got ready for my session which was from  1:30pm-3pm in the Charles Sumner School Museum. An hour and half is the longest I've ever presented and I was pretty nervous leading up to the event. I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to fill the time or hold people's interest for that whole slot!

I had nothing to worry about though, because my session was full of an amazing group of people. They were really game for the collaborative activity and curious to learn about my work! After being around so many educators and academics at my other presentations (no offense) it was refreshing to be around poets. There was a general sense of optimism or, perhaps more accurately stated, a “can-do” mentality. People weren’t asking me about budget concerns, common core alignment, class management strategies, and other ( admittedly valid) concerns, instead they wanted to know the poem titles poets came up, what the writing looks like, have any of my students published? It was an exciting atmosphere to be running a workshop in!

Collaborative poem made by the poets in the "Let the Words Sing" workshop at Split This Rock. At the top of a dark wooden table there’s “Don’t Talk the Talk / Come Split this Rock” written in black marker on a manila folder. Stacked vertically underneath are note cards, each with two lines of writing in pen, making up the poem.

Collaborative poem made by the poets in the "Let the Words Sing" workshop at Split This Rock. At the top of a dark wooden table there’s “Don’t Talk the Talk / Come Split this Rock” written in black marker on a manila folder. Stacked vertically underneath are note cards, each with two lines of writing in pen, making up the poem.

After my presentation I went over to the Deaf Poets Society reading where I heard from a line-up of incredible poets. I was especially found of piece from Jay Besemer which used some probiotic imagery ( as I've been working on a kefir poem myself) and the erasure work of Jill Khoury.

The night’s feature was also incredible. Every poet who was reading was someone on my wish list of poets to hear and the Jonathan Mendoza, who opened with his Sonia Sanchez-Langston Hughes Award winning poem "Osmosis", is a familiar face from my Emerson College CUPSI days, so it was cool to see his growth and success!

Festival flyer for Split this Rock. The top title is in white with black and red lettering stating the festival name. The middle of the flyer is black with white and yellow lettering to introduced the featured poets. The bottom of the flyer has a banner of red with white lettering giving the details of the featured reading. The very bottom of the flyer is white with the festival tag line in black lettering.

Festival flyer for Split this Rock. The top title is in white with black and red lettering stating the festival name. The middle of the flyer is black with white and yellow lettering to introduced the featured poets. The bottom of the flyer has a banner of red with white lettering giving the details of the featured reading. The very bottom of the flyer is white with the festival tag line in black lettering.

 

April 20th

I decided to volunteer for Split This Rock in exchange for a free festival pass. While there were presenter rates and I thought it would be fun to involve myself with the organization.

I had a 11am-1pm shift at the merch table  which was really quite pleasant. I’ve sold merch before for friends in bands and the experience, while a little more serious at this level of event planning, was similarly pleasant. The people coming to buy merch were in good spirits, spending vacation money (which isn’t real money) and wanting something to bring home and remember the festival by.

View of the National Housing Center atrium from the merch table. In the foreground, on a table, are rolled up black t-shirts with red stripes bearing black lettering. Beyond that is an atrium with tiled floors and a tall window-like structure jutting out into the atrium space.

View of the National Housing Center atrium from the merch table. In the foreground, on a table, are rolled up black t-shirts with red stripes bearing black lettering. Beyond that is an atrium with tiled floors and a tall window-like structure jutting out into the atrium space.

My next shift started at 3pm, so I popped over to the Wilderness Society and saw their Ansel Adams prints. This (like so many other amazing museums in DC) was absolutely free! I definitely recommend stopping into the gallery if you have chance, it's a truly epic reflection on the American landscape.

My 3pm-5:30pm shift was as a greeter outside of a venue. At this point in the festival most of the attendees had gotten a grasp of the layout, so it was pretty slow going.

I went back after this shift with the intention of taking a power nap, but that turned into a bit more of an endeavor and I accidentally napped through the feature! Gathering myself up, I headed over to the open mic at Busboys & Poets.

When I was younger and more involved in the Slam Poetry scene Busboys & Poets was always talked about by touring poets and older figures in the scene, so it felt fulfilling, in a manner of speaking, to attend an open mic there. I didn’t read, instead I just took in the space and listened to some of the people I had met at festival and in my workshop share their writing.

April 21st

The Social Change Book Fair was amazing! I spent the morning and early afternoon going from booth to booth, talking about my workshops and speaking with editors, journals, and presses both new and familiar.

An open room with large windows full of tables, some covered in cloths, other bare, all with materials (books, computers, magazines) on them and with people behind them sitting in chairs or standing up. On the other side, people are walking around and talking to those behind the tables. It’s clear that its sunny outside as light is coming through the large windows of the space and brightening up the book fair scene.

An open room with large windows full of tables, some covered in cloths, other bare, all with materials (books, computers, magazines) on them and with people behind them sitting in chairs or standing up. On the other side, people are walking around and talking to those behind the tables. It’s clear that its sunny outside as light is coming through the large windows of the space and brightening up the book fair scene.

 

After the book fair, I decided to take the day to explore DC. I went to the National Portrait Gallery and saw the Obama portraits along with a number of other paintings that I recognized, but hadn’t realize were housed there.

I also stumbled upon a painting I’ve been using in a reading group I run on the Sleepy Hollow legend, which was a fun discovery.

Donnie Welch, a young, white male bearded, with glasses and in a black long sleeve shirt stands in front of "The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane" (1858 oil on canvas) by John Quidor pointing at the art. The painting is a water color showing two horsemen, one the black, spectral, headless horseman on a black horse, reared up, the other a regular man on a white horse trying to ride away. The painting fairly small and in an ornate gold colored frame.

Donnie Welch, a young, white male bearded, with glasses and in a black long sleeve shirt stands in front of "The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane" (1858 oil on canvas) by John Quidor pointing at the art. The painting is a water color showing two horsemen, one the black, spectral, headless horseman on a black horse, reared up, the other a regular man on a white horse trying to ride away. The painting fairly small and in an ornate gold colored frame.

 

After that I walked around the city some more and finally circled back to my hotel to freshen up before the closing festivities for Split this Rock.

All in all it was a great adventure. The festival was incredible and highly reccomend it to any poets out there who are interested and DC turned out to be a pleasant surprise. I was expecting a lot of tourists and powersuits, but I found myself quite charmed by the capital and excited for a return visit sometime.

 

Sources

[1] http://www.splitthisrock.org/programs

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Berklee ABLE Assembly

This April I went back to my old college stomping grounds, Boston, MA, to attend Berklee College's Arts Better the Lives of Everyone (ABLE) Assembly. It was a wonderful three day event hosted by the college's Institute for Arts Education and Special Needs.

April 6th

Really cool opening reception, which I suppose should be expected from Berklee. The band during the reception was a jazz trio composed of students from the school. The welcomes all talked a lot about the recent merge between Berklee College of Music and the Boston Conservatory, in part because the merger is what made this program possible.

After the welcomes and introductions, the Merry Rockers took the stage. The Merry Rockers are a reggae band and led by Marissa "Mar" Lelogeais  a Berklee Alumni and self-advocate with cerebral palsy and a visual impairment. Mar took some time on the mic to talk about what drew her to the reggae scene. She said, in particular, that it’s focus on positivity and the lyrics that uplift whether than dwell on difficulties or  belittle or demean others drew her into the genre.

The reception ended with the trio taking the stage and the Merry Rockers dispersing into the crowd. It was a cool way to set the tone for a conference dedicated to “Arts Education and Special Needs”

In purple-hued stage lights two musicians play. A younger black male in a short sleeve gray shirt and jeans plays trumpet with a younger white male with long hairs in a black cardigan and dark jeans plays stand-up bass. They’re both on stage with large monitors, a drum set, and key board around them a and screen bearing the conference title behind them

In purple-hued stage lights two musicians play. A younger black male in a short sleeve gray shirt and jeans plays trumpet with a younger white male with long hairs in a black cardigan and dark jeans plays stand-up bass. They’re both on stage with large monitors, a drum set, and key board around them a and screen bearing the conference title behind them

 

April 7th

I got a bit of a late start to the conference. I stayed out in Watertown with an old friend of mine, rather than spend the money on a hotel closer. While it was really cool to catch up with him and have a more familiar environment than a hotel to return to, I learned that proximity is really important in conference-ing. These events can be exhausting, especially as someone who has to make a conscious effort to network. They start early and tend (officially or unofficially) run late, so being able to wake up and walk right over to the venue makes a big difference.

I started this day off with a session on movement entitled “Meaningful Movement in the Classroom: Techniques and Activities to Deepen Learning and Increase Engagement” led by Portia Abernathy the Director of Programs at VSA Massachusetts. The workshop was really well done and offered a lot of actionable ideas for classrooms big and small.

One of my favorites was the “Flock” activity: the group, probably around 40 people, was broken into smaller groups of 4-6 each with their own set of movement guidelines. The person at the point of the small group was the leader and the others had to follow their movement until it was passed onto the next member. This process continuing all the way around the group.

 Over the course of the activity, these small groups joined one another until all of the attendees were moving together. It was a fascinating activity that really required concentration and attention to one another, something Abernathy pointed out at the start, as we had to be aware of the shifts and follow whoever becomes the new leader. Also, the feeling of that leader position shifting to me was intense! There was something very moving (no pun intended) about knowing that 40 other people, in this instance complete strangers, were following my lead. I can see how students could really bloom after having that kind of an experience.

Lunch was free, but hosted at the Berklee College dining hall. While I’m certainly never one to complain about free food, and especially fresh, good, free food, it felt a little off putting and to be thrust into that setting. Maybe that’s due in part to my own experience as an undergraduate in Boston rolling out of bed to meet up with friends and eat away all those late  nights studying.

After lunch I had my workshop. Working on the audio and visual stuff with Berklee sound folks was pretty awesome! Tom (the guy in charge of my stage) was really kind and accommodating and I’m grateful for his patience during my set up!

Having a session slot right after lunch is always a little tricky. People are usually a bit late, and a bit sleepy, but the group I had was amazing. I had a small, but devoted crew! I had about 10 people, which really was the perfect size for the activity I had in mind, and all of them seemed really interested in and committed to learning about my work.

During the model workshop/ collaborative writing portion they were really together and we made a lovely little poem based on my wishful Spring prompt.

“April Showers / bring Mayflowers” is written in black lettering on a white board. Below that in a vertical column are note cards. It’s clear that there’s writing on the cards, but the writing itself is illegible in the photo.

“April Showers / bring Mayflowers” is written in black lettering on a white board. Below that in a vertical column are note cards. It’s clear that there’s writing on the cards, but the writing itself is illegible in the photo.

 

After my workshop I attended two back to back sessions “Music Learning and the Brain” by Erica Knowles and “The Effects of Rhythm on Social-Emotional Learning Skills Development” by Jonathan Mende. These two were standard 20 minute sessions with a set 10 minutes for Q&A after. The ABLE Assembly had a lot of interesting formats and groupings for presentations which broke up the event nicely, including the ABLE 15, “lightning rounds of 15-minute presentations, grouped into 45–minute sessions.”[1]

I was especially interested in hearing Mende talk about his work. The presentation was on his organization Drums & Wellness, “a drum-based educational program for community and personal development.”

In a classroom with a brown rug, desks, and tiled, white ceiling Jonathan Mende, a younger black male in a black suit, red tie, and glasses, presents to an audience, his hands out stretched emphatically. Behind him is a colorful slide and around him is a table with computer. Below this table is an amplifier, plugged in, with a white mesh front.

In a classroom with a brown rug, desks, and tiled, white ceiling Jonathan Mende, a younger black male in a black suit, red tie, and glasses, presents to an audience, his hands out stretched emphatically. Behind him is a colorful slide and around him is a table with computer. Below this table is an amplifier, plugged in, with a white mesh front.

 

After these sessions, I caught the tail end of Sheila Scott’s “Vocal Activities for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” When I walked in she was playing a kazoo which, while not my cup of tea, I can certainly see younger children really responding to and finding some enjoyment in.

April 8th

I’ve been making a conscious effort to take time and enjoy the cities I travel to, for example in Austin I took time to hike the Greenbelt, so I decided to hang out with my friend and visit Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. The Boston MFA is one of all-time favorite museums. As a college student I was able to get in for free, so I ended up spending a lot of afternoons and evenings wandering around and taking in the artwork.

The Takashi Murakami exhibit had just closed on April 1st which I was really bummed about! I’m hoping that it makes it’s way to NYC soon, but I was able to catch a little sneak peak of it as the museum was still in the process of taking it down. I was excited to see their other special exhibit though: the sketches of Klimt and Schiele: Drawn which was a cool look at the early work of Klimt and introduced me to Schiele’s work which I had never seen before.

I also paid a visit to the reconstructed Buddhist temple the museum hosts and, along the way, was really taken by another rotating display they had of Japanese psychedelic art from the 1970s. The illustrations of Takeda Hideo held my attention in particular and it was fascinating seeing the ways in which Japanese artist responded to the Zeitgiest of that era because the American imagery is so recognizable.

After that, a trip to a favorite coffee shop in Brighton and a quiet dinner with some friends closed out my trip. I’m always charmed anew by the city of Boston. While I’m not sure I'd want to live there again, I can say for certain I’m excited for a return visit.  

Sources:

[1] https://www.berklee.edu/able/call-proposals-able-assembly-arts-better-lives-everyone

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SXSWedu 2018

March 4th

My trip to Austin started with a delay at JFK. However, it wasn’t all bad. The passengers were mainly people traveling to the conference so I was able to meet teachers and administrators from NYC schools, an education activist, and the Founding Executive Director and Dream Director of a company from Connecticut called Workspace Education who I actually sat next to on the flight down.

Once I finally landed, I checked out The Lion & The Pirate open mic at Malvern Books. This is an inclusive open mic organized by Pen 2 Paper an arts branch of the advocacy group Coalition of Texans with Disabilities.

 

I was only able to catch the tail end of the event because of my flight delay, but what I saw was a really powerful community of writers and musicians sharing some funny, touching, and moving work.

I ended the night with SXSWedu’s early bird social. This is a pretty low key event for attendees who are in time to get their badges on Sunday night. As someone who is more introverted by nature, I find this event a nice time to warm up my networking skills before the conference really kicks off.

March 5th

I started at the keynote “Stories of Schooling & Getting Schooled” hosted by the Moth’s Micaela Blei and featuring stories from three teachers: Chris De La Cruz, Crystal Duckert, and Tim Manley. The session brought a nice energy to kick off the conference and as Micaela Blei said, “we want to open the conference with teacher voices.”

 

After the keynote I spent time exploring the PBS Teacher’s lounge. This was one of the sponsored hang out spots throughout the conference offering coffee, snacks, refreshment, and more colloquial programming. For example, on my first visit to the lounge it was a conversation on media literacy led by a member of the PBS media team. PBS was also giving out T-shirts with their retro logo and I definitely waited in line for one.

My first breakout session of the day was, “Create a Generation of Super-Students with Fitness” led by Dr. Elsie Traveras from Massachusetts General Hospital and Kathleen Tullie, the founder of the BOKS program. It was an interesting run down of how practice can couple with research. BOKS is a before school movement program that offers a, “free physical activity program that improves our children physically, mentally and socially by strengthening their minds and bodies through movement.”[1] After the success of the program in area schools, Dr. Traveras became intrigued and conducted a three year study to prove that, “before-school exercise has a direct effect not only on a student’s academic performance, but on their mental and physical well-being.”[2]

I floated around the expo hall, where all the vendors are located, and was pleasantly surprised to see 826 National represented. 826 is a non-profit providing youth with creative writing opportunities. They have seven chapters throughout the country that, “[offer] five core programs: after-school tutoring, field trips, workshops, Young Authors’ Book Project, and in-school programs — all free of charge — for students, classes, and schools.”[3] At the national level, the organization has now complied the resources of their seven chapters into one online location that’s free for teachers to access! If you want to sign up yourself then go to www.826Digital.com 

One of the best sessions I went to all conference happened this afternoon. I attended a panel entitled “Art as a Pathway to Health & Wellness.” The session was hosted by Head Starter Network and consisted of Jeanette Betancourt of the Sesame Workshop (aka Sesame Street), Lee Francis of Native Realities a publisher who, “strive[s] to give you the most original and authentic representations of Native and Indigenous peoples through stories and texts that educate and entertain children, youth and adults,” [4]Melissa Menzer from the National Endowment for the Arts, and Jane Park Woo from the Clinton Foundation.

It was a fascinating discussion on the role art can play in human development and how it scientifically impacts our emotional and physical health. I learned the term “neuroasthetics” which is, “a new field of research emerging at the intersection of psychological aesthetics, neuroscience and human evolution. The main objective of neuroaesthetics is to characterize the neurobiological foundations and evolutionary history of the cognitive and affective processes involved in aesthetic experiences and artistic and other creative activities.” [5] I had never heard of the term before and now I keep digging into it as it seems so central to the work I’m doing in the poetry workshops.

 

March 6th

Spent the morning prepping and getting ready for my presentation “I’ve Got Rhythm: Poetry in Autism Education.”

Donnie Welch a young white male with brown hair, a beard, and glasses stands on a red carpet with a blue banner for SXSWedu 2018 behind him. The blue banner his SXSWedu 2018 and the event details in white-yellow hued text. Welch is wearing tan dress shoes, blue pants and a paisley shirt.

Donnie Welch a young white male with brown hair, a beard, and glasses stands on a red carpet with a blue banner for SXSWedu 2018 behind him. The blue banner his SXSWedu 2018 and the event details in white-yellow hued text. Welch is wearing tan dress shoes, blue pants and a paisley shirt.

 

The session went really well and was definitely a step up from anything I had previously done as a speaker or presenter; as evidenced by my being given a clicker for slide changes!

For real though, people in the audience were receptive and interested. I had educators, parents, and administrators coming up to pick my brain later, and after the conference received a tweet from a librarian who made use of the information I shared as soon as she got back to work.

After my session and a lunch break, I checked out the talk, “Fellowships Are the Next Big Youth Extracurricular” led by Yerba Buena Center for the Art’s Jonathan Moscone. He shared stories from the Youth Fellows program YBCA runs, “a yearlong paid fellowship for high schoolers that places them at the intersection of art and activism.” [6] It’s a fascinating initiative that places youth in the driving seat of art and change in their own neighborhoods.

One of the highlighted projects paired young artists and designers with a neon glass company so that they could create new lights for their local bodegas. The lights would depict fruits, vegetables, and other healthy food rather than the alcohol neons that storefronts are given promotionally. The Youth Fellows were responsible for budgeting this project, forging connections with the stores in their community, and completing the creative piece as well. Really cool stuff!

I ended the day in the Startup Spotlight, a space that is mainly for edtech startups hoping to find funders and/or new users. I usually don’t spend too much time in these spaces, but my friends from Workspace, who I met back on the plane in JFK, were there to talk about their organization and I wanted to give them some support. You can find out about the cool work their doing with community driven, alternative education by visiting http://workspaceeducation.org/

March 7th

I gave myself the morning to explore Lady Bird Lake and the Barton Springs Greenbelt. These are part of a really gorgeous urban park network that offers amazing natural scenery and views of the Austin skyline. The Barton Springs Greenbelt alone has over twelve miles of hiking trails![7]

In the foreground is a fairly wide dirt path with a metal bench, one person running, and two people walking together. Beside the path is a river. The path is covered in trees, some green with leaves others with small purple/pink buds. In the background is a bridge and beyond that are skyscrapers in the Austin, TX skyline.

In the foreground is a fairly wide dirt path with a metal bench, one person running, and two people walking together. Beside the path is a river. The path is covered in trees, some green with leaves others with small purple/pink buds. In the background is a bridge and beyond that are skyscrapers in the Austin, TX skyline.

After a couple hours hiking and enjoying the warm weather I returned to the conference to hear a featured conversation: “National Arts Networks & Stories of Impact.” This was a conversation between the Kennedy Center’s Mario Rossero and Hakim Bellamy a Citizen Artist Fellow with the Kennedy Center and the inaugural Poet Laureate of Albuquerque, NM. While much of the session involved stories directly related to the Kennedy Center’s work,  Rossero and Bellamy both brought a wealth of experience, albeit slightly different perspectives, so their conversation had real wisdom about building community through arts programming in schools.

I spent the rest of the day popping in and out of some of the more informal, quirky, and hands-on sessions like “Make a Food Computer” and “Virtual Voyaging Through California State Parks” which offered ways to blend ecology, technology, and outdoor education.

March 8th

The last day is always fascinating because downtown Austin transforms itself in preparation for the main SXSW music and film festival which begins the following week.

Much like the city, I decided to prepare for the future, and attended a Panel Picker 2019 meetup to receive some insight into what the programming committee is looking for in next year’s conference.

Then, before my afternoon flight home, I caught the first of the three closing keynotes: “Who Has the Right to Education” by Dr. Alaa Murabit. This was an amazing investigation into the root causes of inequality in education, especially in relation to women’s education, and suggested points of entry for teachers to start instilling change in their own classrooms and schools.

 

I left Austin (my flight delayed again, but only a half-hour this time!) ready to push myself as an educator and help my students achieve more and dream bigger.  This conference is always a blast. I find it especially inspiring because of its bend toward innovation. SXSWedu is a space that accepts, welcomes, and showcases new ideas in the field rather than rehashing the same researched notions. It draws a crowd of practitioners who are willing to experiment in order to improve their efficacy as teachers and classroom leaders. This cohort is the community I always seek out when attending other conferences, so it’s a motivating feeling to be with spend a week, learning and discovering, alongside forward moving, forward thinking teachers and educators..

 

Sources

[1] https://www.bokskids.org/

[2] SXSWedu 2018 Program guide

[3] https://826national.org/about/

[4] https://www.nativerealities.com/pages/about-us

[5] https://neuroaesthetics.net/neuroaesthetics/

[6] SXSWedu 2018 Program Guide

[7] https://austinot.com/austin-greenbelt-guide

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Using Ekphrastic Poetry With Students With Disabilities

I'm excited and grateful to share a guest blog I have up on Moving Writers. This piece is about my ekphrastic poetry projects, using Charles Simic, Joseph Cornell, and some shoe boxes!

Read the full blog at the link below:

https://movingwriters.org/2018/03/21/mentor-text-wednesday-using-ekphrastic-poetry-with-students-with-disabilities/

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19th International CEC-DADD Conference on Autism, Intellectual Disability, and Developmental Disabilities

 

I was accepted to give a poster presentation entitled “No Gravity in My Poetry: Poetry Workshops as Social Emotional Literacy Learning” at 19th International CEC-DADD Conference on Autism, Intellectual Disability, and Developmental Disabilities.

Donnie Welch, young caucasian male, stands in front of an academic poster title “No Gravity in My Poetry: Social Emotional Literacy Learning” He smiling and in a green turtle neck. Red conference lanyard around his neck. Images of students have been censored out using “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” monkey emojis.

Donnie Welch, young caucasian male, stands in front of an academic poster title “No Gravity in My Poetry: Social Emotional Literacy Learning” He smiling and in a green turtle neck. Red conference lanyard around his neck. Images of students have been censored out using “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” monkey emojis.

 It was a fascinating four days! Below are some brief, journal reflections from my time!

Tuesday

Flew away from the snow in NYC to a 72 degree Tampa day.

It felt nice to relax and settle in so that I didn’t have to balance my travel with the first day activities.

I unpacked, went up to the fitness center (which was on the top floor with a gorgeous view of the coast) then explored around for dinner.

Every restaurant around had a wait time! I ended up back at the Sheraton’s Mainstay Tavern which surprised me with its craft beer selection and really delicious food. I had a Grouper sandwich, apparently a must have dish in this part of the state according to my kindly lyft driver, and a salad with a house made raspberry vinaigrette. Not a bad start!

 

Wednesday

Registered nice and early!

Conference Materials for the CEC-DADD 2018 conference. At top is a red lanyard with a sponsors name on it, the name is blurred by a twist in the lanyard. Below the red lanyard is the program written in blue and pink text on a white, laminated booklet. At the bottom of the booklet is a picture of an island/beach sunset. To the right of this picture is a badge with “Donald Welch” on it and rainbow “presenter” ribbon attached.

Conference Materials for the CEC-DADD 2018 conference. At top is a red lanyard with a sponsors name on it, the name is blurred by a twist in the lanyard. Below the red lanyard is the program written in blue and pink text on a white, laminated booklet. At the bottom of the booklet is a picture of an island/beach sunset. To the right of this picture is a badge with “Donald Welch” on it and rainbow “presenter” ribbon attached.

 

There was a sponsored luncheon between the pre-conference training sessions. Since those cost extra and were on topics I wasn’t too interested in I skipped those, giving me the morning to myself. I spent it preparing for my poster, figuring out what sessions I wanted to attend for the conference, and exploring Sand Key Park next door to the resort.

Got my poster safe and sound with the help of a young concierge named Brent. A big relief to have it in my room and know it arrived!

The Opening session was a nice reflection of education legislation and changes in Florida. While it was a little state specific, it was still cool to hear about the progress places are making around the country. It was also interesting to learn about some of the innovative post-secondary institutions that are popping like the Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities. In fact, post secondary and transitions would prove to be a pretty large theme of the conference with quite a few posters and spoken presentations geared around that piece of education.

After the opening came the first round of posters. I was glad to have the opportunity to be a spectator before I put mine up the next morning. It gave me a chance to listen to conversations and see the way people with more experience handled themselves and talked people through their presentations in a timely manner.

In this session I met Dr. Christopher Denning from Umass Boston who was presenting “Piloting a Physical Activity Program for Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” He was really kind, listening to my rookie concerns about my presentation the next morning and then pointing me in the direction of some movement research that might be helpful for my workshops!

Academic poster form Umass Boston. The title and subtitle blocked out by a light glare. The Umass Boston logo and color scheme, blue and white, are employed throughout. The lettering and charts are black on a white background.

Academic poster form Umass Boston. The title and subtitle blocked out by a light glare. The Umass Boston logo and color scheme, blue and white, are employed throughout. The lettering and charts are black on a white background.

 

Thursday

Big Day!

I had my poster up in the morning sessions and it was a fun, new experience. I really enjoyed the conversational tone of the presentation format and found that the hour and half block went by fast. I had a steady flow of people popping in and out to chat and listen.

There was also a camaraderie with the other poster presenters that I didn’t necessarily expect. I had my neighbor presenters stopping in to chat and hear about my work and I did the same for them. Even though our work and perspectives were different, the whole vibe was a cordial, supportive, and helped take the edge off any nerves I had.

After my session I stopped into the DADD Online Journal publication session where editor Dr. Stanley Zucker went over publishing in the DADD's online journal. As one of the people in the session who had no previous experience with academic publication, Dr. Zucker used my work as a walk-through example for turning a poster into a paper. While the process itself was for the benefit of the group, I found it personally, really beneficial as a I continue to draft my submission together.

I then attended an amazing session facilitated by Dr. Elizabeth Harkins with Christine Scholma and Rebecca Kammes there in person and Dr. Gloria Nules and Dr. Rhonda Black video chatting in from Hawaii. Their presentation, “How to Navigate the Sexuality Dance: Inclusive Sexuality in the Current Political Landscape,” was an informative presentation complete with actionable ideas for teachers, professors, family therapists, and really anyone working with students. “I say all the scary words first,” was my favorite piece of plain-spoken advice from Christine Scholma.

Worksheet typed up in black ink on a white paper. Around the given, typed, information are handwritten notes in blue ink. Some of theses handwritten notes are circled or have arrows to help relate back to specific points in the typed information on the worksheet.

Worksheet typed up in black ink on a white paper. Around the given, typed, information are handwritten notes in blue ink. Some of theses handwritten notes are circled or have arrows to help relate back to specific points in the typed information on the worksheet.

 Before lunch, I stopped in on a session led by Dianne Zager of the new Shrub Oak International School. The presentation “A Model for Transition Programming for High School Students with Autism” gave a rundown of various transitions models, offered ways they can be used together for greater success, and included a pretty robust discussion period with the attendees.

The last sessions of the day ended at 4:30 leaving a lot of downtime to get dinner, relax, and explore around the resort. I wish there was more late night programming, but as someone much younger than the average attendee, perhaps I’m in the minority on that opinion. I know many attendees brought families along and probably appreciated the time to have a vacation with them.

 

Friday

There’s this great scene in the documentary Woodstock where a person who attended the festival recalls Jimi Hendrix’s performance on the last day and says something to the effect of, “I was so tired I remember just wondering when he would stop.” This always stays with me. It could be the most ground breaking performance (like a re-imagining of the Star Spangled Banner) but at a certain point the energy just fades.

I often feel this way at big conferences, to no fault of the organizers or presenters!

I spent most of the morning poster session enjoying the continental breakfast, checking in for my flight, downloading my boarding pass, then taking care of odds and ends for my travel home.

I attended a panel “Perspectives on Publishing Pre-Tenure: Advice from Experts in the Field,” that was (quite clearly) more for early career academics, but I still gleaned some good writing tips and listening to a group of people discuss their craft and writing habits was a nice, non-intensive activity on the last day.

Dr. Elizabeth Harkins was leading another session with Dr. Gloria Niles video chatting in again, this one entitled, “Challenging Heteronormativity: Intersectionality of Gender, Sexuality, and Disability.” I enjoyed the first so much I decided to stop in and wasn’t disappointed!

After another catered lunch (tacos!) I sat in on “The Science of Mindful Breathing” presented by Dr Amrita Chaturvedi, Dr. Nikki Murdick and Dr. Kristine Larson and learned some new breathing techniques, namely alternate nostril breathing, which, while easy enough to perform, but can be quite the head rush!

The closing keynote was delivered by Robert Pio Hajjar, a self-advocate and author who offered his, “ I can, YOU can,” motivational speech as final call to action for the event.

Black and white photo of a large, hotel, ballroom. In the foreground, a table with a pen and conference booklet, you can’t quite make out what it says. Beyond that are people sitting in chairs at round tables and listening to a closing keynote given by an older , male caucasian speaker at a podium.

Black and white photo of a large, hotel, ballroom. In the foreground, a table with a pen and conference booklet, you can’t quite make out what it says. Beyond that are people sitting in chairs at round tables and listening to a closing keynote given by an older , male caucasian speaker at a podium.

 All in all it was a great time! More academic and research geared than I’m used to, but it was interesting to be among that section of the industry for a while and see the work people are doing in the field.

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