What I’ll Carry

The quarantine has been lonely and long. I look forward to when we will get back to normal, especially at school. However, there have been multiple silver linings for me. I have several things I look forward to carrying with me into post-quarantine life.

Vegan Stuffed Shells

Cooking and baking are on my list. I’ve always loved to bake, but now I have added a sourdough starter named Stanley, who is serving us well with weekly loaves of sourdough. Cooking, on the other hand, was always only functional for me, never fun or creative. I have turned around 180 degrees, and now I delight in making healthy and delicious meals. My genius hour during our at-home learning was about using the spices in my spice cabinet. I continue to do so with abandon and joy.

In addition to being in the kitchen more, I am also happy that there is less stress in my life, due to a lighter schedule. I’m getting better sleep and have more prayer and quiet meditation. I’m an introvert through and through, so I do better with more solitude. I know the quarantine has not been good for everyone’s mental health, and so I am humbly thankful that I feel as good as I do.

Though I’ve been disappointed in my lack of quarantine reading, I am pleased with all the writing I’m doing. I’ve always been a writer, but since the end of February, I have written more regularly than ever before — 50+ blog posts and 40+ poems, not to mention at least 8,458 emails for school.

Finally, what I am making a commitment to carrying after we go back to “normal” is the message of Black Lives Matter. The U.S. (and, indeed the world) should not go back to normal in the area of human rights. Too many of us, and that includes me, have stayed silent long enough. We must work to dismantle systemic injustice, inequality, and racism. I pray we all carry the story of George Floyd so this is a turning point in our civilization.

Those are a few things I will carry with me throughout the days I have left in this world (minus writing all those emails).

Today is Wednesday, Day 106 in Bahrain, day 71 of The Isolation Journals with Suleika Jaouad. Today’s prompt was provided by Clifford Thompson. It is to write about what we hope to carry forward from the quarantine? Clifford’s latest book is What It Is: Race, Family, and One Thinking Black Man’s Blues.

Feedback with an Audience

Writing for Slice of Life with TwoWritingTeachers.org

Something happened today that was one of those snapshot moments. You know the kind you know is special so you take a mental picture to remember it?

It was in our Zoom “Open Hour” meeting. This time is like office hours for my fifth graders during emergency remote learning. Students can come and share the draft they are working on, ask a question about the assignment, or just say hi and see their friends.

Zainab had a question on our assignment, which was to write a poem about ourselves using figurative language. She said she wanted to write an Etheree poem, which is a ten-line poem starting with one syllable and then each subsequent line adds another syllable. She explained that she had written 8 metaphors and similes and she wanted to use them all, but they were each 7-10 syllables. So what was she to do? What a great writer question! The ensuing conversation between us was one of those writerly moments that makes me love my job as a teacher. I shared alternative form ideas, but also an example of how I had to shorten some of my ideas, like my metaphor–“I am a sunrise of hope”–became “rise of hope” for line 3. During this encounter, I began contemplating the question, do we write for ourselves or our audience?

Anyway, we were into this sweet writing conference, and at one moment I looked around the Zoom gallery and saw the 13 attentive faces of the others in our meeting, listening to our conference. For a few moments I had forgotten about them.

I’m sure it was the first time in my entire teaching life that I was having a conference where 13 others sat in on the conversation.

We had lots more of these mini conferences during the rest of the meeting. Sometimes other students would chime in to help. By the way, each time I asked the students if they wanted to share and receive feedback in front of their peers. All of them said yes.

Here are our poems. I chose the Etheree, and Zainab chose a different form. I think the Queen of Poems made a good decision.

An Etheree Poem about Me
Rise of hope
Map of my heart
Daughter of the King
As old as a grandma
Talkative as a parrot
Delighted as a young puppy
Friend of caring, hope, and honesty
Trying to be a better ancestor

I am Zainab.
I am the taste of pancakes and sweet maple syrup.
I am the smell of daisies starting to grow.
I am the sight of a birthday cake full of delights.
I am the sound of babies whining and their sweet laughter.
And the cheers of a crowd.
I am the taste of freshly baked pizza with a sight of delight for dessert.
I am a collector of my memories.
I am the sound of classical music playing.
I am the touch of guitar strings and fluffy marshmallows.
I am the taste of a fresh salad with a dressing that is made of magic.
I am the smell of the sea on an early summer morning.
I am the sight of knowledge walking on a runway
And books humming their words.
I am a girl with hair like a flowing river.
I am a princess with cheeks as red as roses.

Done by:
The Queen of Poems,
Zainab Aref Almukhtar (5A)