Tag Archives: mentor text

Lift Off: This One’s for You, Teachers

“For generations we have known of knowledge’s infinite power.”

I’ve been so fortunate throughout my teaching career to work within true professional learning communities. My colleagues have been passionate, informed, and welcoming, and as a result, those dreaded professional development days have never, in fact, been days that I have dreaded.

“But I’ve always been a thorn in the side of injustice. Disruptive. talkative. A distraction.”

Today is one of those days for our team, as we meet to discuss planning concerns, student successes, and vertical alignment. To frame the day, we began by reading the transcript of a truly beautiful spoken word poem: “Lift Off” by Donovan Livingston.

This poem was performed originally at the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s 2016 convocation ceremony, and on reading the transcript multiple times, I only find more layers to unpack.

“She told me that our stories are ladders that make it easier for us to touch the stars.”

As a learning community, we kicked off our day by standing and reading lines from the poem that struck us powerfully–lines I’ve italicized and woven into this post. Beginning a day with a whipshare of Livingston’s words was a centering way to frame discussions around our work with attention to equity and justice.

“Beneath their masks and mischief, exists an authentic frustration.”

I highly recommend sharing this poem with your teaching team, students, or anyone else who might benefit from rich language around learning. If nothing else, watch it just for yourself–it will help you lift off as you begin your day.

“Together, we can inspire galaxies of greatness for generations to come.”

Shana Karnes is fortunate to live and work this year in Madison, Wisconsin alongside many professional colleagues both in the Madison Metropolitan School District, as well as the Greater Madison Writing Project. Connect with Shana on Twitter at @litreader.

A Mini-lesson on Extended Metaphor

The Good Luck of Right Now is the first book by Matthew Quick that I read. It is a good book. I love the quirkiness of the narrator’s voice. It reminds me a little of the narrator in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. I don’t know which I like better.

I am not sure this is a book that my students will want to read, although I will share it with them with my high praise. I do know that there are several passages that I can use for mini-lessons. I especially like this one with an extended metaphor. I think students will be able to write their own, and maybe add it into their narratives, once we take a close look at the way Quick uses this one here:


The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick, p111

(I have to say that everything seems to be unraveling lately. Or maybe it seems as though I am a flower myself, opening up to the world for the first time. I don’t know why this is, and I’m not really in control of it either. Flowers do not think. Okay, it is now May, so I will reach up toward the sun and relax my fist of petals into an open hand. They do not think at all. Flowers just grow, and when it is time, they shoot colors out of their stems and become beautiful. I am no more beautiful than I was when Mom was alive, but I feel as though I am a fist opening, a flower blooming, a match ignited, a beautiful mane of hair loosened from a bun –that so many things previously impossible are now possible. And I have been wondering if that is the reason I did not cry and become upset when Mom died. Do the colorful flower petals cry and mourn when they are no longer contained within a green stem? I wonder if the first thirty-eight years of my life were spent within the stem of me — myself. I have been wondering a lot about a lot of things, Richard Gere, and when I read about your life I get to thinking that you also have similar thoughts, which is why you dropped out of college and did not become a farmer like your grandfather or an insurance salesman like your father. And it’s also why so many people thought you were aloof, when you were only trying to be you. I read that you used to go to the movies by yourself when you were in college and you’d stay at the movie house for hours and hours studying the craft of acting and storytelling and moviemaking. You did all of this alone. This way maybe when you were in the stem–before you exploded into the bloom of internationally famous movie star Richard Gere. Such vivid colors you boast now! But it wasn’t easy for you. I have been learning by researching your life. So much time spent acting on the stage. You lived in a New York City apartment without heat or water, one book reported. And then you made many movies before you became famous –always trying to beat out John Travolta for roles, and being paid so much less than him. But now you are Richard Gere. Richard Gere!)


Do you have other passages that work well to teach extended metaphor?

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