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Chilly pigs.

Chilly Pigs

I don’t win a lot of debates or arguments with my husband. We either agree, or when we don’t, he’s usually right. I don’t know why. One of his skills is to keep facts and data stored, ready to use as a mental graphic, to prove points. He remembers stuff. I don’t remember facts and figures as much, or as well. But when I do, it’s burned into my brain like a brand. I’m more of a big picture kind of gal.

Today is National Pigs in a Blanketday. What does that have to do with arguments with my spouse? A few years ago we were talking about pigs in a blanket. His stance was PIABs are ONLY, and the TRUE, the HOLY GRAIL, of a meat product in a carb, the ONE AND ONLY WAY TO KNOW ITS TRUE DEFINITION is when a sausage link is wrapped by a pancake.That’s it. All other manifestations of this protein/carb gimmick food are false prophets of pork products. That’s what his mother told him, that’s what she served him, that’s what she served when she was a waitress, and that is how it is forever and anon amen.

Now, the rest of the European/North American populations would most likely disagree. Yes, PIAB do come in pancake form, but they also come in Pillsbury crescent roll dough and hot dog form, Vienna sausages (I can just imagine Mozart know, with a little porcelain dish of the diminutive delicacies, writing one of his operas), or one new way, wrapping sausage in bacon. (Sorry, PETA, I am not promoting this or denouncing this, just reporting).

I think I have written about this before. But no matter. The good news is we have really only had three arguments, but we do recycle them.

We humans recycle bigger arguments, too, and bigger conflicts. I wish every disagreement was as easily resolved.

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Rip Van Winkle, wake up!

Rip Van Winkle illustrated by Arthur Rackham
Rip Van Winkle illustrated by Arthur Rackham

Rip Van Winkle is a story written by Washington Irving, in 1819, about a man who likes to wander away from hearth and home, and let’s just say ends up taking a very long nap. He wakes up to find his friends and family gone, and life has passed him by. His fable has been used as a metaphor for those who “sleep through their lives.” Miss trains. Lose track of time. Procrastinate, then panic.

I used to have this dream when I was in college. Not a “I have a dream” dream, but a recurring, while sleeping, dream. I am sitting in my senior year social studies class, though I don’t belong. I try to tell the teacher that I am already accepted in college, and I don’t have to be back in high school. He says I didn’t pass this one test, and everything I’ve done since then is null and void, meaning–worthless. High school diploma? Worthless. Acceptance letter for college? Nope. The dream was one of those that are so real, they stay with you, burned in the psyche and soul decades later. More of a nightmare than a dream, I’d say.

Every checkpoint along the way of a school year, inevitably I have students who pull a Rip V.W. on me. The third quarter is over. (And no, I’m not going to get into some arbitrary discussion about grading, assessments, the artificiality of time, blah blah blah.) I will get an email from the dreamer asking “Is it too late to turn in assignments?” Now, mind you, these assignments are formative assessments – I check for completion, and then give feedback separately. And, many of these assignments are two months old.

“Dreamer Dan” loves to read in class. Well, that tugs on my Language Arts teacher’s heart. Dreamer Dan will poke his head up out of his book from time to time, and provide an insightful discussion point. Tug, again. Now I’m just feeling baited. This student is obviously bright, insightful, and has something to add. So why doesn’t he just get his assignments turned in on time so I can see his thinking on paper? (Virtual paper, yes, but on paper?) Where is the resistance coming from?

Maybe I’m asking the wrong question. Maybe the question is, “What makes a student turn in their work?” Most students do get their assignments turned in on time, or close to it. And, I always accept late work, to a point. I send email reminders, links, access to resources, and stay after school to help. I answer questions, clarify, assist, modify, differentiate, and guidance.

At some point, my dreamers, it is over. The school year will be over. You won’t get to go back and redo it. You will have a job to be on time for, a plane to catch, a dental appointment to keep. We are all battling “Man versus Time.” I am doing my part by providing as creative, interesting, and meaningful instruction as I can. But wake up, kid. Be proud of your accomplishments in the moment. And no one can turn that into a nightmare for you.

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Jolly Green Giant tmA blast from my past come across my mind today, the song Stand by R.E.M. I guess it’s because many people taking different stands, and trying to convince me they’re right. I made my own recycled soap-box today and stood on it, on my little patch of earth, shouting up to the heavens, hoping someone would listen. A lot of nodding heads, but I’m not sure how much power we really have.

Perhaps it comes down to priorities; we are given these brief and shining little lights of life, and we are wired to scramble, adjust, and desperately try to make our mark.

But like the speed of light, we’re gone. We’ve left an earthly footprint, some atoms and shoes behind, and a legacy of some proportion.

There are the souls amongst us who cry for a complete overhaul: there are those who claim we are speciesists, with wanton cruelty to animals and other living beings not of our own species. There are those who feel justified that dominion means control and rule. Others believe if you take the life of another species for the sake of your own survival, if you provide a gracious blessing and thanks, that covers the spirit world.

My own little ant-path across this planet has taken place for slightly over 46 years. I have dotted the globe from Texas, to Tehran, Denmark to Delaware. I have ancestors, and I have progeny. In our pasts, we have futures. In this little terrarium we share, no wonder why we can’t agree on whose turn it is to clean the cedar shavings. But wherever you stand, stand for positive change, stand for love, stand for hope.

(R.E.M.: Berry/Buck/Mills/Stipe)
Stand in the place where you live
Now face North
Think about direction
Wonder why you haven’t before
Now stand in the place where you work
Now face West
Think about the place where you live
Wonder why you haven’t before

If you are confused check with the sun
Carry a compass to help you along
Your feet are going to be on the ground
Your head is there to move you around
Your feet are going to be on the ground
Your head is there to move you around
If wishes were trees the trees would be falling
Listen to reason
Season is calling

If wishes were trees the trees would be falling
Listen to reason
Reason is calling
Your feet are going to be on the ground
Your head is there to move you around

So Stand (stand)
Now face North
Think about direction, wonder why you haven’t before
Now stand (stand)
Now face West
Think about the place where you live
Wonder why you haven’t

[repeat 1st verse]

Stand in the place where you are (Now face North)
Stand in the place where you are (Now face West)
Your feet are going to be on the ground (Stand in the place where you are)
Your head is there to move you around, so stand.

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playgroundHow do you know you’re growing up?

And what does it mean to be an adult, anyway? Do we lose all of our baby teeth and start to use deodorant, is that what it means?

How do the adults in your life inform you that they recognize you are growing up?

The Amish community has a tradition called rumspringa (running around). To understand the importance of this, you need to first understand the strict conditions by which the Amish community choose to live. Strict is my description; they may view it by what they determine as ‘normal.’

Read this article carefully, and listen to it, too. What are your thoughts?

What would you do? Do you feel that society “shuns” you anyway during your teenage years? What would you like to see different? Do you think you deserve the privileges that come along with the responsibilities of adulthood?

Are you surprised that 85-90% of teenagers return to the Amish lifestyle? Why does that or doesn’t surprise you? Compare this to your own life and choices.

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What do you remember?

What do you forget?

Do you find that you sometimes remember the most silly things, facts and memories that have no meaning or effect on your life in the present tense? Why do you remember these random thoughts, yet, trying to remember how to spell “conscious” or “commitment” (does it have one t or two?) or what you just read in science class eludes you? (Turns out, with spell check, commitment is indeed, one ‘t’.)

My guess was, that memories get tagged with some sort of emotion or association. I’m not a psychologist, but I still like to think about brains. One book I’ve been reading off and on over the past few months is Daniel Willingham’s Why Don’t Students Like School: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom. I say off and on because I’ve been reading many other books in my spare reading time – The Lacunaby Barbara Kingsolver, just finished Paper Towns by John Green, and Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving. (And no, I don’t get any money from if you buy these books. Don’t buy them. Borrow them from me, with parent’s permission. Some of them are PG-13.)

So far, I really like Lacuna…but I can’t figure out how Kingsolver is going to end it…I’m two-thirds finished, and it already feels finished. What else can she do to that poor protagonist, Harrison Shepherd? And Paper Towns – I never warmed up to Margo Roth Spiegelman, though I immediately remembered her name, because Green uses it in almost mythological terms – her full, three-word name. She is an unlikeable character, in my opinion, but worshipped by the protagonist, whose name, um, escapes me now. And Night in Twisted River – darn it, Irving! Rehash, dude! But I remember everything, because it’s basically the same plot you’ve used for over twenty years. It’s engraved in my literary heart.

 (Get to the point, Love.) Books are like chance acquaintances. I don’t expect or desire that you produce that time-honored tradition of a book report. You can copy and paste those off of the Internet. But I do want you to be able to have some sort of memory, some sort of connection to what you read. So, when you read, take a moment and do your quick reflection. What did you like about it? What choices did the author make that you question? Do you like a character? Do you dislike a character? (Not a big fan of Margo Roth Spiegelman, obviously.)

Many of you ask me if I’ve read every book in my classroom library, and the answer is no. I’ve read most of them, though; I read them as soon as I get them,or over summer break. I want to be able to talk about these books, because when you’re looking to me to be your ‘book match-maker’ I want to find a good fit.

In Why Don’t Students Like School: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom, the author does a very good job of explaining brain, learning, and memory in layman’s terms. (That means I can understand it.) Memories and learning that sticks with us usually has some sort of emotional trigger associated with it. That makes sense – we remember with our whole minds, our whole selves. If I spelled ‘commitment’ correctly at the local spelling bee and won $75 in prize money, I bet I’d never misspell it again.

I’m not suggesting that you use emotions to remember everything, or even that remembering everything is even important. There are people who can do that, and it drives them crazy. Literally. But, try to remember a few things. Remember the levels of knowledge, and be cognizant of your thinking.

And, you may be asking why I’m using Albrecht Durer’s image in this post. He was a 16th century artist/engraver/printmaker, and it was he who inspired me to pursue printmaking in college. He produced intricate engravings, and when he reached a certain master status, had his journeymen do the engraving in the copper plates. Beauty out of metal. He looks to be somewhat vain and egotistical, but hey, when you’re a rock star artist, you can look that way, too. I read everything I could about him, and wrote a graduate-level paper that received an A. I still have that paper, and I’m still proud of it. I remember that.


Remember your successes, too.