What the 7-day black and white photo challenge was really about

I have mixed feelings about social media photo challenges. I appreciate the connection the person who tags me is making, and the challenges are a creative way to step out of the mundaneness of daily life. But they’re also a bit off-putting. I don’t like bothering people by tagging them, and I also have a hard time following the rules that usually come along with each challenge. It’s definitely an odd social phenomenon: creating connection and yet, creating a slight-annoyance.

I decided to take part in the 7-day black and white photo challenge (no words. no explanations… this is what irked my inner rebel) for two reasons: I think black and white photography is a worthy challenge (you need to find the right color contrast or the shot won’t have much impact), and the particular seven days this challenge fell on marked a major transition in my life that I wanted to chronicle.

A transition happens when one experience ends and another begins. It can be an exciting time, but it can also be intimidating or overwhelming. Transitions of varying degrees happen many times over the course of our lives. They can mark events such as a birth or death, and they can also mark events such as changing classrooms or educational communities – a topic I’ve written about in the past (see: transitions and group dynamics).  Of course, the magnitude of the impact isn’t determined by the event itself but by the person experiencing it. There is really no big or small transition. They are all worthy of acknowledgement and honoring. By honoring the transition we create space for the possibilities ahead, and we send appreciation to the experience we are letting go of.

At the end of these seven days, my transition point would look like this: I’d have started maternity leave knowing I wouldn’t return to the university I’d been teaching at for the past eight years; I’d have moved out of the apartment that saved me from commuting from our home in the countryside; and of course what would eventually greet me on the other end of all this is the uncharted world of parenthood.

So abiding by the rebel within, and my everlasting appreciation for transitions, here is my explanation of the pictures I took during those seven days.

Day 1 – Mother Nature Soothes

I took this picture at the end of our Sunday walk. At the start of the walk, I’d been feeling overwhelmed thinking of everything ahead. I had midterms to correct, final classes to teach, professors to guide as they took over my classes, a doctor’s appointment to go to, an apartment to move out of, a big baby bump to carry… While I knew it wasn’t true, it felt like I had to take care of it all then and there. But there’s nothing like a walk with Samsoon in the fresh autumn air to bust that all out of my head.

Since I’ve been pregnant, Samsoon seems to look back at me more often when she’s walking ahead. Maybe she feels my increasingly slower pace. She seems to show a loving concern for me that I never noticed before. She recently heard me slip on the gravel — thankfully I didn’t fall — and then rushed over, looked at me, and licked my hand. The combination of this sweetness and the sun shining on the falling leaves shifts my mood at the end of those walks.

Day 2 – The Waiting Room

I took this in the doctor’s waiting room during one of our now weekly Monday visits. It’s crunch time. The baby is shortly on its way, and doctor’s visits are becoming a bit tenser.

Day 3 – My Last Office Lunch

This was the last time I bought my office lunch chamchi (tuna) kimbap at my usual kimbap place. The owner always greeted me with a smile. The same goes for the owner of the Paris Baguette where I got my morning coffee. I’d like for them to know how they always set a positive tone for my day.

Day 4 – Student Appreciation

During the final moments of my last class, I received this “rolling paper” from my students. It was filled with words of support for the coming birth, and appreciation for the two years I had been their professor. They even gave me suggestions for naming the baby (still don’t have a name yet). It was hard to hold back the tears. So I didn’t. I couldn’t have finished my time at the university on a more positive note.

Day 5 – End of an Era

No more walking up and down these ramps to get to and from class.

Day 6 – Silent Celebration

The midterms are corrected and handed in. I’ve passed the baton to the professors who will replace me during my maternity leave. I’ve said goodbye to my students. We’ve moved out of my apartment. It’s been a full week to add on to my full belly. It’s time to rest.

Day 7 – On the Last Day the Dream Begins

Ceramic whales by Seo Byongchan

And like that, I take the first steps into a new life. A life that was first hinted to me nine months ago in a taemong (태몽) / conception dream. Many Koreans believe that before a woman becomes pregnant, she, or someone close to her, will have a vivid dream of either an animal, fruit, or other significant objects. The subject of the dream is supposed to predict the personality or the gender — or rather, genitalia — of the baby.

Since this isn’t part of my culture, I wasn’t really looking for a taemong, but one morning I remembered the comforting dream I had of a blue whale. I was on the deck of a large ship, enjoying the salty air and wind in my hair. Then all of a sudden half the body of a huge blue whale emerges, turned so that it’s looking at me with its one eye. We gaze at each other and have a gentle yet silent exchange. Nothing is said, but all is known. And then it submerges quietly into the depths of the ocean.

This was our baby’s taemong. We have yet to know what this will mean for our child’s personality, but the whale seems to be connected to wisdom, strength, and peaceful communication. Sounds good to me!

What transitions have you gone through lately and how have you honored them? Share your experience in the comments below, or send me an email by subscribing HERE.

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How Do You Create Smoother Transitions?

Transitions can create cohesive compositions, but transitions can also create cohesive groups. If teachers provide the right context, transitions into new situations or environments can be smooth, and can even help create strong connections between new group members (classmates).

One of my goals for the first session (total of 5 weeks) of our three session program is to help participants understand the basic construction of a paragraph. One of the elements we look at is how to create cohesion. However, what the participants may not notice is that through the process of learning how to write a cohesive paragraph, they are also becoming a cohesive group of learners. Through collaboration and shared understanding, a natural camaraderie develops during that first session.

So how does such a close-knit group feel when they find out that for the second session they will need to separate into new groups? As I discovered during this first session’s closure class, the participants felt scared, worried, apprehensive, and sad. I witnessed more tears than I expected on that last day. They didn’t want to leave the comfort and familiarity.

To support a transition from tears to smiles, the context I provide includes creating metaphors and diamante poetry. In the photo gallery below, you’ll see this context in process. Just click on each picture to get a closer view.

The transition process begins with groups searching for new walking, running and jumping synonyms. Then, using these words, they write individual metaphors, and share them with their partners, explaining why they chose the words they did. It’s at this point that they begin to notice others share similar feelings about both sessions. The whole process finally ends with them writing a group diamante. By this point, they realize that they may just get along with these folks too. With all this, the transition process has taken a softer step forward.

I’d love to know what you do to help your students or course participants transition. How do you support them in their transition from not being a student to now being one? What do you do to help them transition between semesters? Do you have a special routine to help students reconnect after Christmas, Thanksgiving, or spring breaks?

Now please enjoy the gallery walk!

* Previous posts about transitioning: In the post Lesson Planning Flow – Thesaurus Poetry, I write about the language (walking, running, jumping periphery verbs) participants generate in order to create both their metaphors, and their diamantes. In A Joyful Transition, I share the positive experience that past participants felt after they collaborated in writing group diamantes.

A Joyful Transition

“That was fun!”, sighed a participant as she sat down after presenting her group’s diamante poem.

I heard a similar exclamation from a participant in another class. What teacher doesn’t like knowing her students enjoyed a lesson, but to have that joy exclaimed without any probing from me is a pleasant bonus. My intention was simply to help them process their transition between sessions.

After seeing their smiles and hearing their laughter, I asked why they enjoyed making their diamantes. They explained that they felt a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. They also loved the creative factor of putting their poems on construction paper, and then reading their colleagues’ poems during a gallery walk.

I also noticed that they had very little anxiety about explaining their poems to the other participants during the gallery walk. The fact that they were feeling positive about their experience may have influenced the lowered affective filter. This helped them jump into their impromptu presentations.

T.T refers to Team-teaching, but it suspiciously also resembles the crying emoticon

I feel satisfied that my goal was met. I helped them process their transition into a new session. Now they feel a bit more connected to their new classmates, and they also know that many of these classmates share the same fears and aspirations.  The added bonus is that this transition has now been punctuated with a little fun.

Lesson Planning Flow – Thesaurus Poetry

Sometimes lessons create themselves; they flow on your students’ creative energy. This is what happened to the following lesson sequences.

Between the first and second sessions during the fall 2010 semester, I introduced periphery verbs for the core verb, to walk. I used the visual representations found in the book Lexicarry to elicit periphery verbs such as crawl, skip, tiptoe, march, and weave, to name a few. Most of these words were new to my trainees.

I then wanted to help them understand the importance of thesaurus and English learner’s dictionary usage. I assigned each group two of the periphery words. One of the members in the group looked up the definition in the dictionary, and another found synonyms in the thesaurus. They also wrote a sentence with the initial assigned word. The next step was to replace that word with the synonym that most closely resembled the word in the sentence. Of course not all of the synonyms they found could work in the sentence they created, so they had to use the English dictionary to find the word with the closest definition. After they were done, they wrote their sentences on the board to share their work with the other groups.

We ended the class by reflecting on the benefits and shortcomings of using the thesaurus and English learner’s dictionary. One of the benefits mentioned was that by using this method, they could find the subtle meaning of the synonyms, whereas when they use an English-Korean dictionary, the meaning is not as obvious. A shortcoming was that they were not used to this type of word search, and that reading definitions in English can be tiring. They did admit that the English learner’s dictionary was much more comprehensible than typical dictionaries.   

From one session to the next (usually 6 weeks each), trainees switch homerooms, and also have to face new course challenges. As the semester progresses, so does the curriculum’s difficulty. As a way to help trainees transition into their new homerooms and session, I asked trainees to work in groups to create diamante poems. Their task was to use Session 1 and Session 2 as different points of the diamante. I also asked them to use the walking verbs learned in the previous lesson for verb line of their diamante poem. These verbs worked as metaphors for their feelings. You can see that each group had a unique take on the transition between sessions.

Then just when I thought I had exhausted all the work we could do with these words, my trainee wrote this in her dialogue journal.

Where have you gone

Im Myung Sook

With my staggering mind,
Leaving empty vessel behind,
Where have you vanished?
With my confidence:
My self-confidence
Confidentially.
Trudging across the field,
I followed you with vanished mind,
Stumbled constantly,
Twisted an ankle and a hand,
Walked on knees and a hand
To find you
Continuously.
While you racing,
I toddled and paced.
With your confident walk
where have you gone,
Striding
Lumbering.
 
 

She was inspired by the poem below. Reading this poem was a powerful learning moment for me. It reminded me of the importance of making language your own. By playing with language in a way that you enjoy, you are more apt to internalize and use it. I am grateful to my trainee, Im Myung Sook, for allowing me to post her poem. It was a great joy to read it and share it with you.

As you can imagine I received a lot of satisfaction with the lessons around these “walking” periphery verbs. When a lesson goes beyond your expectations, it is extremely rewarding. I look forward to teaching these lessons again.

 

Where have you gone

Mari Evans

With your confident
walk with
your crooked smile
Why did you leave me
when you took your
laughter and departed
are you aware that
with you went the sun
all light
and what few stars
there were?
Where have you gone
with your confident
walk your
crooked smile the
rent money
in one pocket and
my heart in another…