Saturday, February 26, 2011

Drive your tractor to school day –Teays Valley High –Columbus Ohio


In all the years that I have been visiting schools this was a first – Drive Your Tractor to School Day that I have experienced. In central Ohio one doesn’t have to drive very far away from Columbus to end up in farmland and Teays Valley High in Ashville Ohio – (20 minutes south of Columbus) certainly qualifies as a Farmville. The real deal that is – not that annoying Facebook game.



So how does Future Farmers of America and creative writing mix? Surprisingly well. Of course the whole student body didn’t show up to school in coveralls knit caps and work boots on Friday via the cabin of a giant enclosed combine-like farm implement. The place had a healthy mix of your alternative kids, athletes and scholars along with some pretty dedicated teachers. (What doesn’t show dedication more than staying after school for a professional development session?)


teays02Thanks to school librarian Lisa Campbell I was invited down for two days – heck I was so excited to work with these guys I came down a day early much to my and Lisa’s surprise. That was another first in my school visit career – I had never mixed up dates and shown up day early before – luckily I had the time to spare and cooled my heels catching up on correspondence and other work back at my hotel.



When I came back on my scheduled days the kids and I worked on memoir, vocabulary, figurative language, and public speaking skills. This visit type was one of my favorites where we did different stuff with almost each session. I like this type of day. It gives the teachers a variety of ideas and it keeps me on my toes switching gears. Kinda like those tractors I saw leaving the parking lot after school on Friday – puffs of black diesel popping from their smokestacks as their drivers headed home for the weekend.

Thanks to all who helped make my visit possible and to the students who worked so hard.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Hawken Middle School

Spent two fantastic days at Hawken Middle School where we worked on writing about change and revolution. Here’s a short vid.

Hawken Middle School–Cleveland Ohio

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Don’t mention it…

One of our thank you notes from the kids in Aiken SC. I especially like the part about writing a poem with her mom.


I also like the fact that she kept everything to the left of the red margin – even if it did mean truncating my name.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Keystone Middle School–LaGrange Ohio

keystone06Spent two days at Keystone Middle School in LaGrange Ohio. It’s a little rural town near Oberlin and the kids couldn’t have been better. We wrote about getting the wind knocked out of us, X-Box game controllers catching fire, miracle horse births and the importance of wearing tight underwear along with a whole lot of other ideas.


We spent our first day getting our ideas all sorted out and organized during a pre write and then the second forty minute class was spent writing and sharing our memoirs. Well, the visit was memorable to say the least and I look forward to working with the students and staff again sometime.

keystone03Meanwhile here’s a few pics I took with my new android phone (I left my good camera on the dining room table again.)


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Gecko, Gecko – who's got the Gecko?

Upon arriving at our Bungalow at the Alam Sari resort in Bali Sara informed me that the bathroom was already occupied. By a twelve inch long Tokay Gecko who was clinging upside to the ceiling. I ran and grabbed the camera but then he was gone. The rest of the week I stalked our reptilian friend trying to capture him for posterity.


Here is our guy after dropping off the ceiling onto my head, floor then rushing up the wall to disappear outside through a crack where the ceiling meets the wall.


This is the ceiling beam that our gecko hung out on – I have a whole lot of pictures of this ceiling beam with no gecko clinging to it. Now there was gecko on it when I first entered the bathroom but by the time I got back with my camera he had flown the coop.


Here’s out guy clutching to to the top of the beam as if it were a rolling log. By the time I could squeeze off another shot he was gone again. I obviously had to come up with another plan. I took our camera and set the focus for the beam then I set the flash and I began creeping into the bathroom at night, in the dark hoping to catch him unaware.


This almost worked but he obviously heard me coming so my next attempt would be even stealthier. I refocused the camera for the general area where he was hanging out and took a couple dozen practice shots.


Almost got him! Next time I will aim a little further to the right and I should get the shot.


The little bastard tricked me – the whole time we’ve been here he has been hanging close to his escape hole and this time he is further into the room. maybe he is getting used to me and the camera.

Well now he disappears for a couple days and I am afraid that my chance to get his portrait may have been squandered. Then one afternoon when we come in early to sit out the daily thunderstorm he is there. Sitting like he is posing. I calmly and quietly walk into the bathroom and click the shutter button a couple time.


Then later that afternoon he posed again – this time for a close up.


Nice getting to know you Mr. Gecko.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Jakarta International School

jis001Not even a microbiologic sneak attack could keep me from my visit to the Jakarta International School. The day before our slated visit both Sara and I ended up flat on our backs with separate instances of some sort of food poisoning.  Sara first then I followed about six hours later. She believes her assailant was a salad we had outside of that final temple we visited where the lettuce could have been washed in untreated water and my guess is that I got mine at the airport via ice cubes in an iced tea. I spent the evening shivering cold with my intestines cramping afraid that I would have to miss my first day of school at one of my international favorites.


Lucky for me the next morning I felt just good enough to crawl out of bed and make the trip to Jakarta International School.  We couldn’t have been made more welcome. Kate and Matt the Middle and High School  Librarians made sure that we felt like rock stars the moment we stepped (Mm my head still spinning a bit) onto campus.


We started our three day stay with an assembly for several hundred seventh graders beginning with some great introductions by a couple students and a number from the middle school string quartet. I told ya this place is a class act. The assembly ended with the Middle School Principal Mr. Henry giving us a very gracious and eloquent impromptu welcome.


One thing JIS does is keep us busy. Each morning Sara and I would say goodbye to each other and then head into the middle and high schools respectively. I worked with 9, 10 and 11th graders and Sara with 6, 7, and 8th. Occasionally we would catch a glimpse of each other as one was walking across the schools lush campus. But, other than that we were full steam ahead.


Unfortunately I could not say the same for my stomach. The first day I had to duck out of class at least once during the eighty minute sessions as we worked on personal narrative and definition poems. The second day I made it through  whole periods as we practiced figurative language writing and by the third day, when we were working on public speaking, I was finally pretty much in control of my digestive system


Throughout the students and staff were hard working and engaged. I especially liked the extended class time allowing us to think more deeply about the work we were doing and the opportunity to work in the same teacher’s classroom a couple times really helped me to connect with a couple really great English teachers. I even met and AP English teacher who is also the schools champion rugby team coach.


This was not surprising though, see Sara and I have been here before and we had high expectations for our visit and they were met and then exceeded during a morning farewell assembly where we were given some lovely parting gifts and  Mr. Henry ended the shebang with a poem he wrote about Sara and me.

Thanks for the warm welcome – the great three days – and the fond farewell JIS. Seeya next time!