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Sweet and sour.

Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens

Today was one of those days:

“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.” –Charles Dickens

I witnessed the basest of human interactions, including the “scratching one’s head with the middle finger” from one student to another (AS IF I DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS!?) to sublime, heart-wrenching poetry readings from many students who had fifteen minutes to find something (race for art!) and present the poem to the class. Talk about stepping up: I had Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, Tupac Shakur, and many others. Even the “finger  scratcher” read one about grief and loss that was heartfelt and sincere. Colleagues were observed, Anime Club was raucous, and I was home in time to finish my last blog post for April.

We are facing our state’s mandatory test, we are facing the fire, we are facing the truth. I hope we all didn’t go the other way. But I think we are right where we need to be.

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How does your garden grow?

howdoesmyladiesgardengrow-waltercraneThere is an old Mother Goose rhyme which goes: Mistress Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? With silver bells, and cockle shells, and pretty maids all in a row.

“Contrary” means stubborn, or argumentative. There has been a lot of interpretation of this and other Mother Goose nursery rhymes, but suffice it to say, at its base is the message, “Hey, chica? How do you make this work? How to you make things happen, especially when you’re so stubborn all the time?’

So, I’m going to ask myself, “How do I make my garden grow?” How do I approach the day, with 130+ adolescents who are on the cusp of the abysses, and it is my charge to build the foundation under them as they leap? (I’ll just keep mixing metaphors until I get the right formula!)

Here are my first thoughts:

  • I get to know my students individually
  • I find something positive in every class, and every teachable moment
  • I’m firm to be kind, and set boundaries
  • I work really hard, and I work really smart
  • I listen
  • I talk
  • And I know when to do each

So, I’ll give it some more thought. What do you do?

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Spare change.

This morning we (teachers) watched a great TED talk presented by a young girl named Adora Svitak. You can watch it on this blog, or click this link:

The theme of the morning was addressing change, and why there is resistance to change, staying in ruts, (metaphorically and literally). We collectively read an article titled, “Beyond TTWWADI” by Ian Jukes and Ted McCain (c) The InfoSavvy Group 2007.

Change is good. Change is inevitable. But who decides what changes will take place?

Politically, we elect, and re-elect leaders because we believe they will either change what we think needs changing, or stay with the status quo that works for us, as individuals and corporations (as entities).

Financially, we determine how money shall be spent, saved, or squandered. One man’s fiscal responsibility is another man’s waste, usually because what one man needs isn’t what another man needs. We think in terms of only our own narrow lives.

I really appreciated young Adora’s clearly articulated points. If an adult had made the same points, given the same speech, the message would have been lost. The messenger, in this case, was the message.

During the TTWWADI conversation, I fantasized about a time during the turn-of-the-century when a group of educators sat around a large oak table and discussed how the industrial revolution was going to change students’ educational needs.

Do we need to change ways that we teach and reach students? Yes. And nothing will change my mind about that.

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Pot luck.

potlatchAny fourth grade student in the Northwest worth his or her salt knows the term “potlatch.” It comes from Northwestern Native American tribes, and it means a gathering, bartering time, a feasting and sharing occasion. The key word is “reciprocity,” which means fairness and equality – you get want you want and need, and give to others what they want and need. Fairly simple concept, and apparently worked so well it was banned by Canadian and U.S. authorities at times in our collective North American histories. Because any student of history worth his or her salt knows that if a group is functioning, another bigger group must come along and control it.

 But this post isn’t about that.

It’s about what we all bring to the party.

We North, Central, and South Americans are constantly reinventing ourselves, make-over capital is in the U.S. Lots of heated debate over immigration laws, what it means to be free, and what it means to be responsible.

Here’s my challenge, my diverse, intelligent young leaders: What are YOU going to bring to the party? What are you proud of in your ancestors’ past, and what gifts and talents can you share to create the nation, the future, that you want?

I’ll see you at 8:25 AM. Dress casually.