A little fun this morning for all of our friends, across the country, who are probably sitting in cafeterias and presentation rooms (I can smell the coffee and I can hear the thud of grocery store muffin landing on a small paper plate all the way here at Hankins Ranch in southern Indiana). Have a super day, friends. Feel free to sing along.
“Pretty Screwed” (To the Tune of Taylor Swift’s “22”)
It feels like the CC PD Day; we’ll talk about standards
And whisper bad words. . .uh uh uh uh
Cause something about the standards just ain’t right
They draw my anger. . .uh uh uh uh
We’re stymied, baffled, confused, and perplexed all at the same time.
They’re miserable and misguided. . .oh yeah
We’re coming up on standard adoption deadlines, it’s time uh uh
I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling pretty screwed,
but it seems so much better since I’m sitting next to you.
We don’t want CC, but they say we do.
We’ll just keep taking notes, but it’s becoming clear that we’re pretty screwed, pretty screwed
A word you can hardly hear
and not think about place:
on the key ring
on the table
at the farm with the windmill
at the lake with the sandbar
near the city with the tall buildings.
A gymnasium on a Sunday afternoon.
A word you can hardly say
and not point your finger
in some direction:
by that tree
just over that hill
over the centerfield wall
up in the hayloft
standing by the man in the tan coat.
Your place in the processional.
It’s a word you can hardly read
And not think of some other:
person you had hoped would come
places that you might be right now
project that will be waiting tomorrow
A word that invites prepositions to take its side
all the while propositioning us
for our attention, our affection, our allegiance.
And how many times have you been
Invited to consider “out there”
reminded of the “out there” to come
challenged by “out there” while wrestling with “in here?”
“In there” is where you need to live
for a span of time longer
than it will take to read every name
than a metal chair will have to hold your frame
than the cautious hug you give your favorite teacher
than the countdown before the family photo.
the Spanish word for “home.”
the symbol for gold and silver.
a wood on a snowy evening.
a moment in time when a country was defined.
a still life you can see when you close your eyes.
a teacher who frightened you on your first day
a teacher who listened to something you had to say
a teacher who might have pointed a way. . .
Take a moment to look in there.
Don’t dawdle or daydream in the line.
Don’t miss your name when it is called.
Watch your step as you cross the stage.
Take a moment to look at every face you see. . .out there.
All of this.
Not “out there.”
In there is
a moment, a memory, and a monument
a locker, a lesson, and a legacy
a class, a community, and a course
a grade, a grade point average, and a graduation.
And when you know what’s in there
then you can begin there.
Hello. Like You, I run. Well…I just started running. Back in September of 2012. I had always run while I was in the Navy (when as Billy Joel might sing I “wore a younger man’s clothes”). But this kind of running was always job-embedded. I don’t think I ever relished these early morning company runs. I don’t think I liked to lead them, and I surely didn’t like when my faster shipmates led them.
But I have come to really appreciate running. I am not a fast person, but I can move in a particular manner that takes me from my driveway, around my subdivision, and back to my driveway. A kind of Family Circus Marathon if you will, I leave a dashed line around five miles of peacefully-paved streets that read like Country View and Shady View. Serenity (except for that January morning when the thermometer struggled to get to zero. I call this day “insanity”).
I have been profoundly affected and moved by the events of this week. As a casual runner training for a mini-marathon, I share very little with the qualifiers of the Boston Marathon yet they feel like my kin. Or at least my kind. They laced up on many a morning or afternoon with the intention of moving along the biggest path of the running year. This was intentional. As intentional as you and I running around the block even though we are already at the place we are going to be after many struggling steps and even more bated breathing.
You might know that I am also a teacher. I belong to a robust community of teachers at Twitter and Facebook called #runteacherrun. Of late, I have also joined another community called the 250/500/750/1000 challenge (an injury kept my miles down in February, but this weekend I will be approaching 220 of my 1000 for this year. How’s that for accidental pacing? Ask me some time how many miles I ran between January and August 2012. . .
At some point during the week, I started thinking about what I do each day in the classroom. Then I started to take a look at my numbers over the past couple of years in Room 407 and Room 210.
I counted again. You cannot make this kind of stuff up.
Six courses taught over a two day period.
26 (and some change. . .not quite 26.2. . .that would have been something).
Well. . .what am I going to do when I come to this kind of epiphany? Well, without taking up too much space here, I’ll tell you quickly. Here are 26 Points to You.
1. I might not always hear my own breath, but I know that I am breathing.
2. I am NOT in love with running every day.
3. I miss running on my rest days.
4. Reflection is among the very best uses of the double-back.
5. Mile-schmile. . .some mornings I only run a while.
6. Sometimes, I look at my shoe laces just to have some symmetry in my life.
7. The road is real; there is no mythology in asphalt. It lies; it is.
8. Every run is a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end.
9. “Go, you!” is sometimes more helpful than “Good for you!”
10. The footfalls of a 1000 can never drown out the one fallen (see #4)
11. If you know what “want” really means, you’ll look for shoes today.
12. In the dark, everything appears to be flat.
13. Contrary to personal beliefs, you really DO like hills.
14. It’s never “one and done” with runners, there’s “tomorrow’s run.”
15. Trading out old shoes can be a tender moment. Embrace it. Tend to the sole.
16. I used to chide my wife about purses. Before I ran in two separate shoes.
17. The road is optimal, but my treadmill speaks opportunity on rainy days.
18. Okay. Sometimes I glance at my calves to see if they’re getting bigger.
19. Others can only suggest shoes for you. You choose your own gear.
20. I’m strong enough to stand up and say, “This/these don’t fit right.”
21. If the shoe fits, wear it. Even if it’s not the snazziest model.
22. I quietly cheer you on when I’m driving and I see you on the road.
23. Finish lines are temporal. They are folded up at the end of the event.
23. I am a runner. A part of a great lineage (some say “mileage”).
24. I am part of a community that encourages what I do and what I achieve.
25. Stop? I WON’T stop. I won’t EVER stop.
26. A year ago, I wouldn’t have said any of this to you.
26 Points to You. . .
All drafted in some bagel shop in Louisville where while tacking these down to a yellow legal pad before blogging, I have watched a number of my family members moving down the sidewalks.
They haven’t stopped either.
I highly-doubt they ever will.
Update: On Sunday, Mr. Hankins did three miles in the morning and four miles in the afternoon for a total of seven miles. Those afternoon four were not exactly pretty, but the scenery was nice along the Ohio River. On Monday morning, Mr. Hankins will run at least 2.2 miles to complete 26.2 miles in the past week in honor of those affected by the bombings at the Boston Marathon. Our thoughts and prayers go out those injured and to those hurting from the events of last Monday and Thursday.
(The “Angel of Wonder” from Kristie Hankins’s Collection)
Twice this weekend, I have been in a conversation regarding a young person who made the ultimate decision to end their life as a result of a bullying scenario. One was up close and personal and I had an opportunity to share a moment with the friend who was processing the news that was. . .brand new. . .and the term “breaking news” never seemed more literal. A heart was breaking–on the spot.
The other came in the form of an email from a colleague and friend. And while that scenario is still playing out, there is a community in grief over the loss of a student. . .a classmate. . .a member of a learning community.
And while I cannot substantiate one story on the basis of what was said and who said it, I can share that one story involved a message that might have sounded like, “The world would be a better place without you in it.”
I’d like to respond to that comment for a moment if you’d permit me. I don’t know to whom I should address my remarks, so I am sending this to YOU. Yes, YOU.
A video version of the piece appears at the bottom of the post to share.
Because I want you
to know the world
is a better place
with you in it.
I can tell you this
because I used to think
that the world could be
shrunken down into
a very small place
with only me
or maybe without me.
I used to draw all of myself
into my body, arms hanging
straight down my sides
as if I had been staked
into place and the only
way to withstand
the words and the winds
was to hold some position
if only temporarily
maybe I thought by standing
in one true place, God would
find me in that one place
like a some sort of mall map
that would read:
“I am here
and I seem
to have lost myself
along the way.”
This is a small space
to be sure, the kind of place
that might be marked
by a golden star,
but these never stick
to the tops of desks
to the walls of a bathroom stall
to a the metal of a locker door
or the mettle of a Facebook wall.
Oh, and while we are
talking about this world,
(the world that is better because you are in it)
this is your gold star.
I think you must have lost this
when you heard–
from an uninformed source–
that this world
would be better off without you.
No doubt you had thought
it to have lost its ability to shine,
or you might have kept it safety-pinned
to your chest or at least
you’d have kept it in your pocket
to rub now and then with
your thumb and forefinger
as you walked along in a world
that is better
with you in it.
I will bring this back to you,
because I learned to look for stars,
the kind you might see on a clear night
or the kind you might find on a darker day.
As beautiful as they are sprinkled
across a clear night, we can call
to them harshly and cruelly and sometimes
they fall, scattered like so much glitter
mixed into the sawdust of some
sideshow where we were cast
as the curiosities, the oddities,
But I cannot hold your star
for you. We are allotted one each
to wear and to maintain.
So, let’s put some shine
back upon this star, shall we?
Because the world is better place
with you in it,
and we’ll want you to shine.
Now, watch please, friend,
because I have picked up a thing or two
as I have run in between the trailers
and these tricks are not listed
upon the bills nailed to fences
or painted on mass-produced posters
or on the flyers hung on doorknobs.
No, these are the words
that will make a place for you
in this world that you can immediately
recognize should we lose each other
YOU are important.
YOU are loved.
There is no other like YOU.
The world is a better place because you are in it.
(glass chime image courtesy of windchimecentral.com)
Late last summer, our local Rite-Aid had a special on wind chimes. These were the very chimes I had been eyeing since early spring when they were going to twenty to thirty dollars a piece.Glass and metal with a lovely peacock on the main plate that would hang from the shepherd’s hook in the back yard.
But now, they were going two for twenty dollars.
I’m not a chime-ologist, but it seemed like a buyers market, so I took two sets of wind chimes and I hung these in our day lily patch at Hankins Ranch.
Maybe I should have taken those wind chimes down before snow started to fly in southern Indiana, but as our winters are generally cold, without much snow, I thought that they would be okay.
I like the sound of chimes, don’t you? I mean. . .very little is required to make them work. A breeze.
Clearing the lily patch for spring, I noted one of the sets of chimes was in terrible shape. The “chime-y” parts that hang downward from the decorative plate were hopelessly tangled. The pretty, glass “chime-y” parts were cracked or broken. I could see the pieces glittering in the dirt below my feet.
Since the other set of chimes were not broken, I thought to discard the broken set. And then, fingering the tangled strings and feeling the smoothness of the metal rods that used to make music last season, I thought again.
Ah, what to do. . .well. . .I’m a poet, so the first thing that I knew to do was to take in the whole of the situation. Perhaps a haiku:
The tangled wind chimes
hang hopelessly entangled,
The poetic moment passing, I set to work on untangling the wind chimes.
And then I saw what I believed to be the crux of the problem.
The biggest glass piece in the chimes is the part that dangles the lowest from the set. In my limited understanding of chimes, I would call this “the clapper.” It hangs in a sort of plumb line to catch the breeze that moves the glass piece in order to make the other elements. . .chime. It had broken free from the set.
And it lay in the dirt. Unable to do that thing it was meant to do. Catch the breeze as it passes, take it in, and send it to the other chimes. Without a “clapper” the whole set of chimes is left to its own devices.
They seem hopeless.
The music suffers.
And the more one might pull on the tangled mess, the tighter the whole thing becomes. To set things right requires a methodical releasing of the minor tangles to get to the larger ones. But, I am not a chime-ologist.
I am a poet. I want to be a “clapper.”
Perhaps a cinquain would do:
that once swept the set to singing.
I think we have lost our “clappers” in the classroom. I see it at the beginning of a school year in Room 407. A number of hopelessly tangled chimes walking into the room. Tangled in backpack straps, the parts that had made them glitter once have been left behind in a sandbox somewhere and traded in for quiet desperation.
They have music inside of them. But they have lost their “clapper.”
I’ll say that I see this often at the beginning of the year because when we watch ANGUS (based on Chris Crutcher’s short story from ATHLETIC SHORTS, “A Brief Moment in the Life of Angus Bethune,” I watch students roll their eyes when Angus gets the obligatory, Hollywood “slow clap” at the end. Our students have seen this motif in films a hundred times. They are as desensitized to this outpouring of affirmation as they might be to the horror they see in the latest slasher flick.
And what a shame.
August Pullman, the main character in R. J. Palacio’s WONDER says, “There should be a rule that every person receive a standing ovation at least once in their lives.”
In order to make this a reality, we often have to be “the clapper” for our students, for our learning communities.
As the lead learner:
We are breeze keepers.
We go first.
We bring in the music of our subject to share with our students. We ask them to take notes.
We hang back when everyone has left the building. Making notes.
We are aware of breezes and what they offer.
We listen for the music that is made when the breeze of inspiration moves through the room.
We guard against the brutality of hails stones.
We recognize the benefit of a light shower every now and then.
We weather storms.
And. . .we recognize the distinct sound of music coming from the chimes that need only a little assistance here and there. Freshly-polished chimes that hang in ornate gardens of nurture, opportunity, and promise.
And. . .we hear the music that could be in the broken.
One that might hang decoratively in a place where little else may grow.
Where cool, inviting breezes seldom blow.
Those left without “clappers.”
After working with the strings a little, I was able to release most of the chimes in the set. I retied the clapper. But the strings that were to attach to the main plate were so frayed, I knew they would not last the next season.
What to do. Maybe a couplet:
Even when my strings are frayed,
from above my heart’s music’s made.
I kept all of the original pieces to the chime set that were not broken beyond repair. I will find stronger line and retie the metal chimes to the main plate. What’s more, I will make a trip to the craft store to add some elements to the chime set that were not there before.
Don’t we change the value of the students that come into our learning communities just this way? Taking a look to see where the tangles originate. And with some gentle pulling and nudging here and there, we see our way free to get back to the potential of the music still inside.
Tangled chimes do not play. They hang.
And they remember.
And they long.
Chimes–like love–simply are. Their name is what they do.
I find this wonderfully poetic.
The gentle breeze and the gentle response of a “clapper” sets the whole thing in motion. And sets the whole thing to music. From outside the room it might sound like cacophony, but to the “clapper” it sounds like the very music of all that is good in the world.
An untangled chime can do what it was meant to do.
And chimes want to do this.
Hang a set of chimes this weekend from a shepherd’s hook. They know what to do. They need very little coaching.
But they do need to be watched. And maintained.
Oh. . .and always, they need to know that someone is listening.
Perhaps something philosophical here:
If wind chimes ring and no one there to hear them, what becomes of the song?
If you have a set of chimes in the room that are not playing these days, check the “clapper.” Look at the ties. They still bind.
Connections made today are music played into tomorrow.
I was having a little fun thinking about Whitney Houston’s “One Moment in Time” this morning and I posted a status update at Facebook with a potential chorus. I was thinking about how this very song inspired a generation of fans of her music. Then, I started to think about our students today with all of the testing they must do now and will do in the future. Is a song like Whitney’s–full of hope–lost on a generation of students whose schools now use the main spaces and hallways to post the most recent data and the number of stars the school has earned instead of using that space to display the rough drafts of a new poem or a haphazard attempt to draw a giraffe?
So, I sat down and wrote the whole parody, “Give Me One Test; Make It Timed” to try to say that I believe–with the highest degree of confidence–that no generation of student will ever look back upon their childhood and say, “I really appreciate hwo my school embraced a testing culture and made that culture a part of our day everyday.”
These parodies come up pretty quickly and in bursts. I try to stay as faithful–phonetically–to the original work. If you want to. . .sing along.
And please share along. . .I write these for me. . .for you. . .
and for them.
You see. . .today’s anchor picture for this parody are my two children, Noah and Maddie. This is their time.
To be children.
This moment in time is too brief to spend it filling in bubbles.
“Give Me One Test; Make It Timed”
(a parody of “One Moment in Time” by Whitney Houston)
In the past week, I have seen two students who have been in either Room 210 or Room 407 in the past couple of years in, or on, the news. Both of these students have cases pending against them and neither of the cases have come to decision.
To say anything about either here would be inappropriate, if not presumptuous.
And they are still my students.
Could I delude myself into believing that even after sharing a series of TED videos, “reading in the dark” invitations, readings of TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE, and other elements of our learning community could keep all of my students from making bad decisions after they leave the room at the end of a class meeting?
And I do.
Someone has to believe in kids. And since these are my kids for 90 class meetings, I will believe in them.
Even when I have to stop and pause in a moment of disbelief.
But for every couple of kids who end up seeking the wrong kind of attention and ultimately making terrible decisions that cause them to wind up in trouble, there is that one student who the media misses. There is no stinger music alerting the viewer to an update.
Their story plays out without teasers or taglines.
And anyone who knows story or The Hero’s Journey knows that the best reporter of this story is not the freshly-preened representative for the network but the person who has been on the journey.
Last Friday afternoon, while stopping to get gas and something to drink at the end of a long week, I ran into such a reporter.
When Liz was a student in Room 210, she was over-the-top. A little overweight which always goes well with a little over-compensation. Boisterous, but not to the point of total disruption. She was a distraction to herself, but she was a delight to me. So much joy for the day, she was the kind of student that greeted you in the hallway in a manner that made other authority figures say with their eyes, “Are you going to allow that?”
Yes. I will. And I did. Because Liz was talking to me. And a student talking to an adult is an in-road to deeper conversations. To stand in judgement is to liken myself to a series of signs and a chaos of cones that suggest every interaction and conversation must merge toward maturity.
The Liz I met on Friday must have remembered that an interaction and conversation with me is an open-access road. If there is gate, at all, it is a hug that greets you when we have not seen each other for a while.
And I had not seen Liz for a while.
The Liz before me had lost a remarkable amount of weight.
The Liz before me had tattoos that the Liz I had known before did not.
The Liz before me was ready to talk.
“Wow. Mr. Hankins. You look great. Look at me. I hadn’t expected to see anyone here. Wow. I hadn’t expected to see YOU here. Wow. Look at me.”
Seemingly, somewhere along the road, Liz must have been listening to a lot of radio as the stream-of-conciousness greeting I was hearing sounded a lot like the legal disclaimers that have to be compressed into the last five seconds of a thirty-second spot.
And, if you know Mr. Hankins, I am not a thirty-second spot. If you’ve got mel you’ve got me. And one way to get me–take one of our desks in Room 210 or Room 407 for ninety class meetings. I’m in. . .
All in. . .
And while my time was running short on that Friday afternoon, I was going to give Liz what I had so I could hear where she had been and what she had been up to.
“Well, Mr. Hankins. . .I am so glad that you are seeing me today and not a year ago, you know? I have a job now. I work as a CNA at _____________. They don’t take taxes out so I have to be real responsible about doing that for myself. But, it’s good you know. I love the residents and they love me.”
“But I am glad you are seeing me today though. Hey. Mr. Hankins. I’m pregnant. Me. Can you believe it? I’m going to be a mother.”
Get one, Liz. Roads can be bumpy. Watch other drivers.
“Anyway, Mr. Hankins, I’m glad you are seeing me today. Not a year ago, you know? A year ago, I was addicted to heroin. I lost my brother. He overdosed. He died, Mr. Hankins.”
The road has as many statistics as they do stripes. Stripes and statistics. We should pay even attention to both. One marks the way. The other are marks gone astray. All white. Pass with caution. Use your rearview mirrors.
“I was living in my car, Mr. Hankins. In my car. Oh, Mr. Hankins, I couldn’t have you see me that way. You might have seen me right here. Like this. Here. I lived in my car.”
Mobile homes. I know about homes that park and homes that move. You are always aware of the wheels beneath you.
“But I am taking classes now. One class at a time. School’s not really my thing. But I am going. And if I keep going, eventually I’d like to be a nurse, you know? Take care of people. Maybe do better for them than I did for my brother, you know? Anyway, that’s what I’m doing now. Taking care of people. Taking better care of myself.”
Routine maintenance. Check levels often. Kick the tires.
Our short interaction ended as it began. With a hug. I was thinking to myself that it really mattered to Liz how I saw her now.
I was still remembering a “then Liz.”
But the “now Liz” had survived a series of wrong-turns and dead ends to come back to describe the road she had been down and the path that was set before her.
Our students DO care how we see them. Just last evening, I made a Twitter connection with a young first-grade teacher whom I have known since she was a very small child who attended daycare in the house behind mine. Her father, Bill Frye, was my math teacher at Boyne City High School.
I am math-inhibited. I can do math. I choose not to. I failed Mr. Fry’s class with the kind of efficiency that would be the very antithesis of math. But Mr. Fry made every student feel like they were a part of his class, especially if they helped the curve.
But, if the class celebrated anything or had a special day, Mr. Fry made sure that each and every student felt welcome and a part, even if their performance was lackluster.
When I started student teaching back in 2004, I sent Mr. Fry a thank-you note for all he had done for me as a student. In part, because I wanted to tell him that I had taken an entry level math course and took the credit hour requirements in the next semester.
I got a B+ in that math course (the only B on my transcript in undergraduate or graduate work if this is important to my readers). I wanted to run that B+ to Mr. Fry.
For no other reason than to show him that I COULD do the work.
And to honor him for his example that would provide a template for my own approach to teaching. I’ll bet Bill Fry doesn’t even know that his impact has reached across almost thirty years to a classroom in a different state.
Maybe this is what Liz was seeking on Friday. And Mr. Fry’s example is perhaps what makes me open to these types of interactions. Liz had brought to me her grade for the past year. Anecdotally. In an oral presentation.
And while I would never–okay, never meaningfully or maliciously–say this to a student, current or former, I would have told Liz, “I give a shit about your story. Tell me.”
This is our rest stop. We’ve arrived together. It’s been a stretch, yes?
And while Liz was wrapping up her story, I thought of the road and what it has to teach us. How we continue to make sense of the scrambled messages by making words from the letters of license plates. How a wind-torn billboard can inspire silly songs. How the passing of each motorist is another story we didn’t get to read. . .yet. . .or maybe ever.
And you only come to these kinds of realizations when you take risks.
For those of you who have asked for the poem from Saturday’s presentation, here it is for a brief period of time. I am actually embarrassed by how rough this is, having written it at about 4:30 in the morning in the hotel room.
But. . .then. . .when I think about it, this piece may have been writing itself for 25 years.
But. . .here is the deal. . .we will only leave this up for a day or two and then it will be gone, okay? It needs some polish (note that no revisions have been made the scribbled notes I brought into the room for the presentation) and I’d like to have some kind of control over where the piece goes when it is in the condition it is in right now. And the last line is really a gesture which is difficult to render or communicate on the page. . .
And note. . .the original plan was to have left these notes in Room 368, but I grabbed them at the last minute before check out this morning.
For a year,
I could see
the high school across the street.
Like watching The Divine Comedy
through the bay window where I discerned
that there were two hells to which I could report:
the hell in which I resided
the hell to which I would be assigned.
On the tour of that same high school,
at the end of my eighth grade year,
I noticed that my classmates all seemed to know someone already.
High school students greeted them.
Friendly teachers called some of them by their first names.
Today, I might have thought that they had all received
an Advanced Reader Copy of the eighth grade class
while I was the book separated out,
full of remainder marks,
a card pocket in the back filled in with appointments kept
and return dates for when I would be skimmed again
by the bookish and the smart.
During this time, I used to walk
with my shoulders pitched upward,
arms tight to my side.
My eighth grade classmates called me “Shrug.”
As I approached them in the halls,
they would immediately begin to mock my posturing,
these fake readers of my story.
Who could blame them for having only read the CliffNotes
of the chapters of abuse that had been set down in ink.
They couldn’t have possibly appreciated that was an illustrated text,
all of the hurt drawn in long before.
Terrified for the duration of the tour,
we entered as a group into a classroom full of high school students.
That’s when I heard a voice from the corner of the room shout,
“Hey, look at that screamer!”
I turned to see the face of the one who would be my tormenter
for the next three years and I saw
his shoulders go up to his ears, and his body turn
from side to side to the delight of the others in the room.
In that brief encounter,
I had been skimmed, highlighted, and underscored.
All of the stars from my review went to the one who gave it,
and I drew even tighter into myself if only to assure
that the glue would hold,
that whatever bound me together would not break.
In time, I learned
that by carrying my books around from class to class
my posture seemed more natural and appropriate.
And until the moment came when I would no longer require the bracing,
I was held up by the books I carried.
Do you feel this way sometimes too?
That moment you’ve read something
that makes you draw all of yourself in–
the arms go back, and the book moves upward
and you find yourself embracing it?
You do, don’t you?
I do too.
There were times that I second-guessed this response
There is this scene in STAR WARS wherein Luke is first “getting those droids cleaned up before dinner.”
You probably remember it.
Luke is scraping R2-D2 with a tool when he remarks:
“Wow, you’ve got a lot of carbon scoring on you. You guys see a lot of action?”
We are sharing STAR WARS with our Room 407 Readers while they read R. J. Palacio’s WONDER this marking period. We are considering the film because of the number of references that August Pullman, the main character in Palacio’s book, makes to the film that were being missed by my juniors.
All of these. . .were getting by my Room 407 Readers. They simply didn’t have this film in their toolbox. Even with a sense of “assumed consumption” for all of our cultural references to the film, the references were getting by them.
And I had to do something.
I mean. . .I am the “Hero’s Journey” guy, right?
And in the midst of this something, I got to see STAR WARS again.
And I got to see it for the first time.
Let’s replay that scene again with Luke and R2-D2.
Imagine you are side-by-side with your student. In a conference scenario.
Do a quick formative assessment of the student.
What do you see?
Lots of “carbon scoring.”
But the student hasn’t seen a lot of action.
They have seen a lot of assessment.
And I have yet to find the tool that can effectively remove this kind of carbon scoring.
It’s sort of. . .permanent.
But, while watching STAR WARS with a new lens since my first viewing in Petoskey, Michigan back in 1977, I am taking away these talking points from inviting “The WONDER to be with me” this marking period.
For those of you who. . .umm. . .wonder how I pair literature and film, you’ll want to take notes. . .or print this off for later use. . .I kind of tickle myself when I stumble upon these kinds of ideas.
These ideas are no more than a half hour old as I present them to you here. Here is how August Pullman (WONDER) and Luke Skywalker (STAR WARS) teach us how to teach our students with a new understanding of who they are and the mission they are upon.
1). Both enter into the world as a kind of “wonder.”
2). Both have their sense of true “wonder” stripped away systemically.
3). Both are homeschooled.
4). Both are about to enter into a larger world for which they are not equipped.
5). Both are introduced to an intangible quality they don’t grasp initially.
6). Both have initial training that is short-lived but long-range in scope.
7). Both have a shift in world view only after reconciling what is within them already.
8). Both are unaware that they are the rescuer as much as they are the rescued.
9). Both are celebrated before adoring crowds for their achievements in the end.
10). With reflection, both able to grasp what/all they have learned in a short time.
And. . .true to my word. . .I want to get these ideas out as fresh as they came to me this afternoon. If we check the time stamp, we must submit now.
A tip for new bloggers. Always begin your blog with something that will prompt your readers and followers to respond. Here, we use chronological progression and celebration. Readers will respond to this.
I haven’t run since Thursday afternoon because of a combination of sore calves and shin splints.
A tip for new bloggers. You can also use something that might draw the sympathies of your readers and followers. The Greeks called this Pathos.
Part of my birthday celebration was to go out and pick out some new running shoes. My current shoes–the ones I bought before I ever believed I would put twelve-mile runs in the log book–had about 250 miles of being pounded upon by a 250 pound man. They were finished. They could no longer do what they needed to do and my whole body–shins, calves, and back were all telling me this.
And it wasn’t comfortable yesterday morning, slipping in and out of different models of shoes specifically designed to meet my running needs. You learn all kinds of new terms like “neutral gait” and “motion stabilizing.” You learn about shoes that are designed to prohibit the inward roll of a foot that wants to roll. . .umm. . .inwardly.
And I want to say this about running shoes. In the past, because of my size and my weight, I have had to be fitted for, go through the pain of paying for, and trying to maintain any kind of dignity for, the Brooks BEAST model of shoe.
Nothing against the Brooks line of shoe. I eventually ended up choosing the Brooks DYAD 7 model, a snazzy little number with blue shoelaces that I cannot wait to hit the road in. . .
Could you line up for a sanctioned running event lined up in something called “the BEAST (and keep in mind, this is a very good shoe for those who absolutely need to wear them, but for me they are akin to wearing form-fitted Rubbermaid totes on my feet)?
And the point here is that all of these shoes were lined up according to specification and the runner’s needs. Over the course of the day, I tried on some shoes that I would have love to have had on race day, but they did not meet the needs of my feet for daily training purposes. Then, the kindly gentleman told me that I could have a weekly training shoe and one pair that were specifically set aside for race days.
It would be my choice.
Is there any better word in the language for those who speak Reading and Books? I’m going to put it in the blog again (a tip for bloggers. . .use a word more than once for emphasis. And if your readers and followers put your blog into a Wordle, than that word will come up. . .nice and big).
So, let me bring this around to the reading rant. With what started as a casual interaction between my good friend, Donalyn Miller, and me, I am thinking today. . .once again. . .about reading management programs and their costs.
We could talk about the monetary costs of reading management programs to the horror of those who never get to see the bottom line of expenditures but are asked to read with those at the back of the line when it comes to how monies are spent when it comes to reading management programs. There are no clear winners here, in my opinion.
As committees wrestle with which reading management program to adopt, it will be the readers that end up pinned upon the mat by the restrictions set forth by these programs (take a look at Read 180, and you will note a disclaimer that reads the parent company will not guarantee results if the scripted program is not followed to the letter and to the sequence).
As readers wrestle with the requirements of a reading management program, they quickly learn that their opponent has read every manual in existence and before the end of the year will have them in a “figure 4″ submission hold having them beg for mercy while waiting for summer.
As teachers wrestle with the parameters of a reading management program, many are forced to reconcile their own innate love for reading without reward against a program that honors the passing of a ten-point quiz with the reward of a box of Ho-Hos (or a can of Pringles–I don’t want to presume what is given away by way of regional or district specific preference).
As administrators wrestle with the climbing costs of reading management programs, there is a sense of embarrassment that comes of honoring that which we throw monies toward. And further embarrassment that might come of recognizing that, after a specific period of time and monies spent, no new or research-proven strategies that could be done much cheaper and to the benefit of all involved in a systemic reading approach have been suggested, let alone employed. And so, these principals and curriculum coordinators continue to cut that check each year (sometimes at six dollars per student for access fees) in the hope that some new breakthrough will come of a broken system that leaves readers, teachers, librarians, and all stakeholders waiting for the referee to notice that these programs have their students in what most within the reading community would deem an almost-illegal choke hold.
Labeling a reader with any label other than reader is what these reading management programs do. Call them what you will.
Rockets. Bluebirds. Mustangs. Cobras.
Why not? Those who are reading on level could be Beauties.
And those who are not could be Beasts.
This is how reading management programs make our readers feel. Those with an inflated sense of success from passing quizzes after reading a book will feel beautiful for the moment. And those who miss will feel almost beastly.
Still wrestling with the idea of adopting a reading management progam?
Can you not see the sales rep is hiding a folding chair behind their back and that your reader is the target?
Someone needs to cry foul. Or at least start a chant.
I want to get back to my calves and shins if I may (sensing that my wrestling metaphor has run out of steam). Calves and shins are the essential pieces of one’s gait (as I think of my own–aching this weekend, I think of that Biblical story of the iron giant with the clay feet and the big bowling ball of a rock that takes it all down–but there I go again). Calves and shins should develop together, but if one is over-developed and the other has to catch up, injuries occur. Something hurts. And this weekend, both my calves and shins hurt.
My new shoes are still in their box.
These shoes should not be in their box. They should be on my feet. On the road.
Books should not be in a box. Or within a program. When this happens–as I have said before”When you put a lexile or a level on one library book, you quietly put locks on others”–readers lose out on the one element of reading that really counts.
The one element of reading that really counts (see what I did there).
The one element of reading you want to catch fire (or accelerate ((I did it again)).
CHOICE (a tip for new bloggers, using a word three times is almost Biblical. Once to say it, twice to affirm it, and three to hold the audience accountable ((“Didn’t you hear me? I said it three times.”)).
CHOICE. There. That’s four times. When someone asks what this blog was about, you tell them Mr. Hankins was talking about CHOICE.
And as calves and shins are to the successful training of a runner, then caring and sharing are for the successful nurturing of a reader.
And here is the upshot of caring and sharing in relation to calves and shins.
You cannot over-develop either one.
I’ve yet to hear someone say, “I’m exhausted from having cared too much about reading to share a new title with my readers this morning” or “Oh, my aching bookshelves; I couldn’t possibly reach out to share one more book with one of my readers.”
We have to get out of the box (programs) and move toward the investing in book lovers (people). This is what my friend, Donalyn, said this morning.
Did you miss it?
Invest in the people. Invest in the readers.
What is the vested interest in reading management programs? Ask somebody who cuts the check for these. If the answer does not begin with a nod toward those readers who must move within the program–or be checked by it–then I would call this suspect.
Think about it. . .and I want to leave my readers with this.
We offer student readers more choice in the lunch line than we do when we limit them with lexiles and levels.
What’s more. . .if you look at the cafeteria as a profit-generating entity within the school. . .and a lunch at my school is sold for just a little over two dollars, then the expenditures vastly different. Two dollars for lunch and six dollars for a license.
But I can verify that my kids are really eating.
Those who subscribe to and believe in reading management programs for the collective whole of your reading community (I will offer a nod to programs that meet the needs of a reader who needs extra assistance without unnecessary restraint), I have a question for you:
Can you verify–without qualification–that for the monies expended to feed the reading program machine that the kids are really reading.
It’s an expensive ruse.
A dirty trick.
It’s powder in the eyes of the readers we are called to help.
And, yet. . .we still wrestle with the idea of reading management programs.