Saturday, June 13, 2009

Bless your heart...

Eating pretzels above the clouds
as I fly home back to the north coast - thirty five thousand feet above Georgia - an hour away from touchdown according to the announcement just made by our flight attendant.

Four days in the upper nineties and humid Deep South – Perry, Georgia followed by Columbia and Lexington, South Carolina. First two days spent speaking and attending sessions at a teacher’s conference the third with a kid’s writing camp and the fourth with a group of about 50 teachers involved with The Writing Project (look it up – it’s a great national program that is based on the principle that if you are going to teach writing you should be a writer.)

It’s been a good week – Sara and I each tried some new stuff which was received well and I took some pretty useful classes myself at the Dodge Learning Resources sponsored Georgia Teaching Writing and Reading Conference. We had some pretty bitchin’ barbecue – listened to some live bluegrass, twangy and frenetic in Lexington with our teacher hosts. I went on a six mile run around Columbia – five of which were finished in a torrential thunderstorm that was amazingly refreshing even with the occasional sting of hailstones. Kurt Vonnegut said that when things are going good one needs to remember to notice and tell themselves so – I remembered to do this as I was soaking wet splash pounding through the rivers of water spurting out of the overtaxed storm drains on Lincoln Street. Of course the namesake is Lincoln the Confederate general in this case.

One recurring theme I have been noticing in the different keynote addresses and breakout sessions I have been attending the past couple years is that of contemplation. Taking time to think, to ponder and to wonder keeps coming up in the lectures given by the educators I have the most respect for. I listened to Georgia Heard talk about creating wonder centers in classrooms, on the flight out reading Ellin Keene’s new book To Understand she stresses the importance of deep thought to, well, understand.

Oh – here’s a side note. I left that book on the plane when we landed in Atlanta – I had the thing packed with notes in the margins, passages underlined, highlighted and paragraphs of my own reflections. I can easily get another copy of the book – but all those notes are gone! I am in the process of tracking where it could be (hopefully not in the trash) I was able to find out that the book was not removed from the plane in Atlanta and that the plane then went to Houston – so I will start with that info when I get home – I’ll let ya know how it goes.

Anyways – back to contemplation and taking time to think deeply. Doesn’t it just make sense? So why is it our education system seems to be set up for expediency? We give pizza parties for the class that reads the most books – who knows what they will retain from that reading or how much they understood – let’s just see how many we can tear through. We measure reading ability with a stopwatch – test comprehension by what can be parroted back – never mind what the piece read might mean to the reader. Here’s a vocabulary list – look up the definitions and use the word in a sentence it doesn’t matter that you have no other context or personal connection to understand the word, just pass the Friday test. Oh yeah – that’s a school book – you better not mark in it!

Isn’t that where the learning is though - in the margins and pigeon scratched notes inside the back cover? That highlighted paragraph – the sticky note in the center of the page, the turned down corner – isn’t that where the thinking is happening? Sometimes the questions don’t get answered, and that’s not the end of the world either. The end is when the questions stop getting asked.

I hope I find my book (it’s become a quest now) – but if not I’ll buy another and fill it all up again with comments and questions – some will be the same and I am sure some will be new.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Last Day of School!

Well at least for me for this year.
Sara and I visited Bay Middle School for a haiku hike and subsequent Head to Head battle. Here's a link to last year's post about the event. That should take care of school visits for the year unless something comes in out of the blue in the next week.

This summer we'll be working together and apart at various teacher institutes across the country - from Atlanta Georgia to Albuquerque New Mexico. We're also talking to overseas schools again and have booked for Abu Dhabi in January and are speaking with others in the neighborhood (that neighborhood being that side of the world.) Korea and Burma are in the mix too and we would love to get back to Indonesia or Africa - hint hint.

In the meantime - here are some pics from my groups haiku hike.