New Year, New Me! Right?

By Leslie Alton

coffee cupEvery year January rolls around and people choose to push off the changes in their life that they wish to make until January 1st. Sometimes these changes stick for people, and for others once January ends so does their resolution. Personally, every year I try to add an activity or increase the amount of time that I devote to self-care. One of the self-care activities I have always left behind at the end of January is self-reflection. Why? Because who really likes to sit there and rehash how they feel about everything they have done in the past month, week, day, or even hour?

This year, the resolution of adding to my self-care regimen was pushed into high gear five months in advance. There was no waiting around until January 1st. The reason for this is because I began my Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree program here at Marquette. Yes, I understand that self-care is something critical to the field I am entering. Though the amount at which self-care was going to be launched upon me was far greater than I could have imagined. In every class we were assigned to look back on the activities we had done and things we had learned, many of which were placed in the context of our own lives. The first semester of graduate school is a whirlwind and every hour of my day was packed with class, work, daily living activities, repeat. Despite my packed schedule, self-care managed to wiggle itself into the agenda. This is partly because my professors integrated it into our assignments and partly because it helps me to balance the responsibilities I was juggling. In my Introduction to Counseling class Dr. Cook we compared the importance of self-care to the way flight attendants explain the order of which to put on your oxygen mask in the event of an emergency. If you do not first take care of yourself then you cannot as effectively take care of the people and responsibilities around you. This is especially applicable to the field that I am in, though I know it is applicable to any person or profession.

While I was forced to kick my New Year’s resolution off early, I am grateful that I did so. I believe that self-care is important to everyone’s wellbeing and is worth fitting it in to your busy schedule. Therefore, I am going to suggest a few ways to fit self-care into your life. Different things work better for different people, and I hope that if you find the right one you will carry it all the way into 2019 with you.

  1. There are a variety of meditation apps that take you through a guided breathing activity that is paired with peaceful music. Two specific apps are called “Breathe” and “Headspace”. With these apps you can choose from various lengths of recordings that address certain feelings you would like to pinpoint. A good time to fit this into your schedule is either a few minutes before bed or when you wake up. If you are a person who takes public transportation you could use this as a time to plug into the app and rejuvenate on your commute.
  2. Going for a walk during your lunch break is something that you can take a chunk from your break to get away from your office and have some time for yourself. The fresh air and moving of your muscles can help you to re-energize and make tackling the afternoon a bit easier.LA 2
  3. Exercise of any kind is a great form of self-care. It helps to release endorphins and contributes to physical health. Having a plan to exercise is a way to ensure that you fit it into your schedule. Whether that means scheduling a time for yourself in your agenda to go to the gym, or working out with a friend who holds you accountable. If you enjoy group workout classes, signing up for classes weekly will increase the likelihood of you staying on track since you made a monetary and vocal commitment. After creating a habit of exercise in your routine it will hopefully begin to feel necessary to ensure you engage in exercise.
  4. Healthy eating is a part of self-care that fuels your mind and your body. This is a popular resolution that people strive for, but it is hard to maintain. An easy way to keep this goal on track is to plan your meals for the week before you do your grocery shopping. This will not only help you to cook healthy meals since you are sticking to a grocery list that you have prepared, but it also can be a time saver as it can save from multiple trips to the grocery store each week.
  5. Preparing a few short mindfulness activities for yourself is a way to ensure you take a few minutes out of the day to reflect and be aware. This can be made easier by getting a book of mindfulness activities. Having the activities laid out for you makes following through with the goal more achievable. Books such as these can be found on Amazon or in local bookstores, or another option is finding some online for free.
  6. Journaling is a self-care task that to me sounded daunting for a long time. This was the case until I realized that journaling is for me and me only. There are no outside voices to critique or judge what you write. Giving yourself a prompt is helpful to spark your thoughts about what has been going on in your life lately. Personally, I am a fan of the rose and thorn technique (one positive and one negative event) that stuck out for me that day. Prompts such as these are helpful for when nothing to reflect on comes to mind.
  7. Sun salutations are a string of yoga poses that flow together and are used to get in touch with your body. They do not take more than five minutes, and getting into the routine of doing a sun salutation after waking up each morning can help to jumpstart your day with piece of mind.

Adding one or two of these activities to your schedule is a huge step in taking care of yourself. Taking the time to check in with what is going on in your life and body is key to managing your personal stress level and balancing your professional life with your personal life and wellbeing. I hope that you find a strategy that you can add to your routine in this new year, and the discipline to make this change past January 31st.


The Milwaukee Public Museum Poetry Competition Provides Inspiration, Motivation and Authentic Writing Opportunity for Wisconsin Students

By Elizabeth Jorgensen

Looking for a way to energize my classroom with authentic writing opportunities, I scour websites, newspapers, and online announcements for student-friendly writers’ markets. Although I could formulate a hypothetical audience for my classroom writing assignments, I find that student motivation increases with authentic opportunities. One Wisconsin-wide writers’ market is the Milwaukee Public Museum’s annual poetry competition. Now in its tenth year, the competition is open to Wisconsin students in grades 3–12.

The competition fits naturally inside Wisconsin English or social studies curricula as students are challenged to compose a poem in 30 lines or fewer as a response to the Museum’s permanent or temporary exhibits, collections, or fields of research. During the 2017–2018 school year, the Museum will celebrate the tenth anniversary of the competition with the theme “10 at MPM,” which focuses on “ten iconic exhibits that highlight the Museum, its collections, and mission, and celebrate its legacy as one of the region’s most treasured cultural institutions.” The ten exhibits are the Hebior Mammoth, Humpback Whale Skeleton, Streets of Old Milwaukee, Butterfly Vivarium, Hell Creek, Native American Pow Wow, Crow Indian Bison Hunt, Masai Lion Hunt, Crossroads of Civilization, and Japanese House and Garden.

(From left to right) Joey Hassler, Andrea Beaudry and Kenneth Walloch won the poetry competition during the 2016–2017 school year.

The submission deadline for next year’s competition is April 27, 2018, and teachers may submit one poem from each student by surface mail or submit electronically from a link on the poetry competition webpage. Although students could visit the museum, online resources allow them to research and create original poems without leaving the classroom.

Void of a rubric, student poems are “judged on creativity, originality, imagery, artistic quality, and sense of poetic expression.” But what do these terms mean?

To begin, I have students read the contest guidelines and create their own definitions of the judging criteria. They connect “imagery” to showing instead of telling. They define “artistic quality” as “how a poem is like art.” They agree that effective art evokes an emotion and makes the viewer (or in this case, reader) think or feel differently. Creativity, they decide, makes one submission stand out from the others, and they surmise that of the hundreds of statewide submissions, theirs will need to not only address the theme, but also be original. Throughout the discussion, I jot down notes for them to access later. This discussion helps them form an imaginary guideline of their own.

To further guide the writing process, students read and analyze previous winning poems, such as this 2013 winner, noting commonalities and how the poems fit the judging criteria:

Brenda Suhan, author of “Porcelain Deathbed”, won the MPM Poetry Competition during the 2012–2013 school year.

Porcelain Deathbed
Dresden Tete-a-Tete Tea Set
By Brenda Suhan

“Porcelain, the chilly

white of fresh Dresden snow

sits on the windowsill.

Kaleidoscope of rich

maroon and gold dances

in the winter sunshine.

The one gift she asked for.

He saved all his money

to grant a final wish:

Her childhood fantasy,

one luxury glowing

in the winter sunshine.

Fragility of life

released in wispy breaths

of steam soon extinguished.

Warmth of blood grows colder

than snowy porcelain

in the winter sunshine.

Just one more final sip,

smiling, content and free.

He smiles back, an echo

of their love forever,

cherished in this moment

in the winter sunshine.”

I ask the students what they notice. “There is a story,” one student says. We discuss how Suhan drew inspiration from a museum artifact (Dresden Tete-a-Tete Tea Set) and used her own creativity and voice to tell an original story that fits with the authenticity of the artifact. One student highlights the characters, themes, and conclusion. Another notices “interesting language choices.” I push for specifics, and the students say they notice the rule of thirds in the line “smiling, content and free,” and action verbs — “dances,” “sits,” “grows,” “released,” “extinguished,” “asked,” “saved,” “cherished.” Earlier in the semester, students learned about stylistic devices and literary terms. This discussion carries throughout the MPM poetry competition. No matter the writing assignment, they learn to identify stylistic devices and purposeful writing choices in exemplars and utilize them in their own work. “Her structure is strong,” another says. Students note six lines in each stanza, each line contains six syllables, and a repeating sixth line. While they comment on the use of enjambment and emotion, I continue adding notes to our brainstormed list.

You can find previous winning poems going back to the 2014–2015 school year on the Milwaukee Public Museum’s poetry competition webpage.

After we collaboratively analyze previous winning poems, I provide students with independent work time to immerse themselves in the MPM Poetry Competition’s website to look at additional poems for themes, inspiration and ideas. Although exemplars provide ideas, I caution them about mimicking a previous winning poem: “Your poem should be uniquely yours.” I remind students that poems will be judged on originality. The goal of the discussion is to remind them of their writing toolbox and inspire creativity.

Once students understand the purpose and background of this assignment, they decide on a topic that coincides with that year’s theme and something that interests, inspires or intrigues them. “Don’t do too much. Don’t take on everything all at once. Start small,” I say.

After choosing a topic, students share ideas and brainstorm. “Just brainstorm and freewrite about your topic. What does your topic smell, sound, taste like? What connections can you make between your topic and your own life? What stories could you tell? What do you want the purpose of your poem to be?”

Then, we make a list on the board of how to incorporate a structure: number of lines in each stanza, a repeated line or phrase, number of syllables in each line (or pattern of syllables), shape, headings or subtitles, theme, punctuation, pattern, rhyme, repetition. Students also share what structures were used in previous winning poems. They write first and second drafts of poems, peer edit, receive feedback from me, and continue to polish and perfect. Additionally, they take turns sharing drafts with the class and in small groups. They enjoy creating their own story and structure. They also appreciate the opportunity to write for an authentic audience and writers’ market.

Joey Hassler, a junior in my Creative Writing class, said, “I enjoyed submitting my work … I definitely didn’t think I had a chance at winning the competition, but writing is an art, and you never know when something you write might strike someone.” Another student, Andrea Beaudry, a junior, said, “Regardless of winning or not, each piece tells its very own story. I think that [students] should not feel pressured or think about the prize, but let the words flow. When you peacefully write something it ends up being a lot better than if you were stressed out trying to make it the best.”

During the 2016–2017 competition, three of my students were selected as winners: juniors Beaudry for “Summer Time Snack” and Hassler for “The Story Behind Food (11×26),” and senior Kenny Walloch for “Building the Perfect Calzone,” all posted on the MPM Winning Poems website.

This post was taken from an article I co-authored in the Wisconsin English Journal.

Hedderman, Richard and Jorgensen, Elizabeth. “Excavating the Soul: The Milwaukee Public Museum Student Poetry Competition.” The Wisconsin English Journal. Vol 59, No 1–2. Fall 2017.

Neuroscience for Kids Poetry Contest

Power of WordsBy Elizabeth Jorgensen

The University of Washington recently opened the 2017 Neuroscience for Kids Poetry Writing Competition. This competition is open to students enrolled in kindergarten through college — as well as teachers and parents.

For this writers’ market, entrants are asked to use his or her imagination to create a poem, limerick or haiku about the brain. “All material must have a neuroscience theme such as brain anatomy (a part of the brain), brain function (memory, language, emotions, movement, the senses, etc.), drug abuse or brain health (helmets, brain disorders, etc.). Be creative! Use your brain!”

Jenna D. (Grade 7), 2017 Neuroscience for Kids Poetry Entry

Students in Kindergarten through Grade 2, are asked to write a poem in any style. “The poem must have at least three lines, but cannot be longer than 10 lines.”

Students in Grade 3 through Grade 5 are asked to write a rhyming poem. “You can rhyme the last words on lines one and two; the last words on lines three and four, etc. or you can choose your own pattern. The poem must have at least three lines, but cannot be longer than 10 lines.”

Students in Grade 6 to Grade 8 are asked to write a haiku. Example haiku:

“Three pounds of jelly
wobbling around in my skull
and it can do math.”

Students in Grade 9 to Grade 12 are asked to write a limerick. Example limerick:

“The brain is important, that’s true,
For all things a person will do,
From reading to writing,
To skiing to biting,
It makes up the person who’s you.”

College students, teachers, and parents are asked to enter a rhyming poem and explain why it is important to learn about the brain.

One of my former students, Diya Ramanathan, was the 2016 Neuroscience high school contest winner. Here is her winning poem:

“A cluster of tissue and membrane

made light pink by the great Galen Vein.

Sends signals to nerves,

has ridges and curves — 

it’s the spongy mass known as our brain.”

The complete set of rules and the official entry form for the contest are available at:

“To enter the contest, mail your completed entry form with your poem to:

Dr. Eric H. Chudler
Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering
1414 NE 42nd Street; Box 37
Seattle, WA 98105–6271

  • Entries must be received by February 1, 2018 and cannot be returned.
  • People and their families associated with the Neuroscience for Kids web site are not eligible to enter the contest. Kids from ALL countries are welcome to participate.
  • The staff of Neuroscience for Kids and other individuals will judge poems on the basis of originality, scientific accuracy and overall style.
  • At least one winner from each group will be selected. Winners will be announced by March 1, 2018 and will be notified by e-mail or regular mail. The winner agrees to allow Neuroscience for Kids to publish his/her name (first name and last initial only) and poem on the Neuroscience for Kids web site. Winner addresses and e-mail addresses will NOT be published.
  • All materials received will become the property of Neuroscience for Kids and will not be returned. Neuroscience for Kids will not be responsible for entries that are damaged or lost in the mail.Winners will be awarded a book or other prize to be determined later.
  • Prizes will be mailed to the address listed on the winner’s entry form.
  • Void where prohibited by law. Questions about this contest should be directed to Dr. Chudler at:

Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Student Poetry Contest

getting to the pointBy Elizabeth Jorgensen

The Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets is asking students to submit to their 2018 Student Poetry Contest. Winning poems will be published in, and receive a copy of, the 2019 Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar.

There are cash prizes in each division (Junior Division for students in grades 6 through 8 and Senior Division for students in grades 9 through 12). The deadline for entries (either emailed or postmarked) is Saturday, January 13, 2018.

Rules: Students may enter one poem, which must be the student’s own work. Maximum length: 24 lines (which includes stanza breaks, but not the title). Line length: 60-characters, including spaces and indents. Plagiarized poems, longer poems or multiple entries will not be accepted. Poems co-authored will be disqualified. In order to submit, students need to be attending a school (or be home-schooled) in Wisconsin. A student’s previously-published or award-winning poem (except this contest) is still eligible. Additional requirements for submission can be found here.

The Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets, during 2016-2017, honored two of my students. First place was given to Kevin Eggert for his poem, “A Look Within The Ramen Bowl.” Receiving an honorable mention was Nicole Tarnowski for her poem “Fun, Frosting, and Family: Memories to Laugh About Later.” Here are those poems:

A Look Within The Ramen Bowl

By Kevin Eggert

It is noon as a man enters a small food shack

and orders a bowl of Ramen.

The man is hungry.

It tastes of afternoon sweat

as a farmer picks another scallion

while he sears in the scorching sun.

It tastes of a jolly pig

as it munches greedily on corn

unaware of the scraping sounds of cleavers.

It tastes of bitter cold

as a diver yanks at seaweed

in a pillaring forest of kelp.

It tastes of humid morning fog

as bamboo is cut down to size

and bound in cord and twine.

It tastes of careful balance

as a worker carries a basket of eggs

and protects the fragile payload.

It tastes of nothing.

The bowl is empty.

The man is happy.


Fun, Frosting, and Family: Memories to Laugh About Later

By Nicole Tarnowski

White fluffy snow falls as
the sun glistens off the landscape.
Christmas carols blare from the living room and I
leap down stairs two steps at a time.
Cookie cutters clutter the counter.
Cups of red, green, and yellow frosting rest on the table.
Zach stumbles into the table with a bang,
and as frosting slides.
Dad throws himself to save it.
These are memories to laugh about later.

Mom rolls dough on the counter as
eight grubby hands grab for Santa, reindeer and boot cutouts.
The first batch bakes in the oven,
the sweet aroma of sugar filling the house…
It’s time to bake another batch.
Zach slips on a puddle of water (that he didn’t clean up)
and cookies fly as if they are birds taking their first flight.
These are memories to laugh about later.

The table fills with family.
Three dozen cookies wait for red, green and yellow frosting.
We share stories from years’ past.
“Remember when…” Mom says.
Dad puts red frosting on the dog’s nose and calls him Rudolf.
And still white, fluffy snow falls as
the sun glistens off the landscape.
These are memories to laugh about later.



Access to Education in Peru

While the academic semester and the calendar year wind down, we are looking back at 2017 and reflecting on lessons learned. Our first faculty-led study abroad trip left Milwaukee for Peru last summer. Students learned lessons about education in Peru, and they have brought those ideas back to their time in the classroom both as students and pre-service teachers. Amy Krzoska, currently a senior in the College of Education, saw similarities among the differences in schools across Peru and Wisconsin.


We, as teachers, need to find that spark for children to want to make a change and provide all children with the opportunity for quality education, no matter their race, socioeconomic status, or country of origin.

By Amy Krzoska

During my time in Peru, my eyes have been opened to the wide range of schools that students have access to. We began in a wealthy school in Peru where it costs thousands of dollars just to apply. We then traveled to a school in Cusco that had tarp roofs because they are not getting enough funding from the government to provide students with adequate learning facilities. Even within Lima there was a major gap between the access to resources and quality education that students at Colegio Roosevelt had and students in El Augustino had. What really struck me and made me question how students gain access to education was in Cusco when we were given a presentation at the Fe Y Alegria school. The woman who gave the presentation said that many of the students at schools in rural areas have to walk at least 2 hours to get to school each day. Once they get to school, they then have classrooms that are lacking in resources and are not ideal for their learning. On the other hand, at Colegio Roosevelt, students have filtered water on their campus, they get bussed to school, and have access to all the technology and resources that they possibly can. While the students seem to be taking advantage of these resources in their classroom, I am still amazed at the gap there is between the access that students have to education.

It is crazy to think that these same issues of access to education are not just happening in Peru, however, that they are happening right here in the United States, in Milwaukee for that matter. In the United States, the issue with access to education has to do a lot with inequitable funding systems. According to a Department of Education study, “45 percent of high-poverty schools received less state and local funding than was typical for other schools in their district.” The problem with this is that these schools are being run by tax dollars, and in these impoverished areas there is not much money being poured into the schools where they need it the most. With less funding, students who need resources to succeed, dedicated and well-prepared teachers are not receiving those things. Instead, they are provided with teachers who are not strong in their field or who do not challenge the students in the classroom.

There is also an achievement gap that exists in schools today between minority students and their white counterparts. According to US News, minority counterparts have a different starting line from their white counterparts. Many times, minority parents have attained less education than their counterparts, which in turn results in lower expectations for the students. If students have lower expectations and fewer opportunities to learn and read outside of school, then they are starting behind their counterparts and it continues on into their schooling.

According to Boundless, “In the United States, and in most countries, people with more education tend to enjoy higher economic status, power, prestige, and levels of income.” When thinking about higher education or education beyond high school in the United States, this statement stood out to me. In this day and age, it is almost necessary to have a higher education in order to get a high paying job. Often times, a bachelor’s degree is not good enough and people have to go back to school to maintain a job. The problem with this is that college education is ridiculously expensive. Many students have to take out loans that they have to pay back over many years. While they are paying back these loans for so many years, they are then hindering their ability to save up for their children and to send their children to school. Then their children have to go through the same cycle that they do. While college education should be available and affordable to all people, I believe that it is necessary for students in K-8th grade to have adequate resources, qualified teachers and a curriculum that challenges the students no matter their background.

Where I saw students trying to close the achievement gap and push for change was during our visits to La Inmaculada and Colegio Roosevelt. While these were the privileged schools that we saw in Lima, they seemed to be doing a lot of work with the less fortunate communities. For example, at La Inmaculada, which sits in the middle of the wall of shame, the students go over to the less fortunate side and work in a school there that they have created. They also work with the casitas program in El Augustino to form relationships with the students. At Colegio Roosevelt, the students also participated in service where they would work on forming relationships with the students they were working with rather than just going in and helping them and leaving. One of the fifth graders in my class told me how she started a library for kids in the jungle during her service time. She said that she ran a book drive and brought them all to the jungle to provide the kids with books to read and look at. These small steps toward improving access to educational resources can go a long way!

Because there are so many similarities between the United States and Peru in regard to educational access, I wonder why we haven’t been able to find a solution to provide all students with the education that they need and deserve. I think if we start early with children engaging in Social Justice Education Projects that Romero talks about, we can begin to make a change. We, as teachers, need to find that spark for children to want to make a change and provide all children with the opportunity for quality education, no matter their race, socioeconomic status, or country of origin.

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