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Mac & Cheese

My mom got me from school one afternoon and she didn’t take me to get anything to eat before we went home. So, when we got home, I was hungry. I begged her to make me macaroni and cheese! But she told me she wasn’t making it, and that she was going to lie down. Oh jeesh! I had to do it myself. Well, I had never made macaroni and cheese by myself before. I’m not good at following directions. I always read directions too quickly. However, in this instance, my mom just told me what to do; she didn’t give me the box for some reason! So I start making the mac and cheese. The water boils, and I’m doing pretty good…or so I thought. I started mixing cheese in as soon as the noodles were drained. I thought I had it all perfect, but then I realized-I had forgotten the milk. My mom came in the kitchen and tried to take the cheese out, but that didn’t work. No one ended up eating the macaroni and cheese -except for our dog. My lesson is I learned I need structure and quiet in order to concentrate on what I’m

How to piss the world off!!!

Almost two, I stand there watching and listening, trying to learn to talk. It’s like I knew what was being said but could not say it. Frustrated as people would tease, say mama or dada I would try, but it always came out wrong. Over and over, the tongue twisters made me madder and madder until some days I just would not even try. I knew what I wanted which would make things only worse. I would cry scream and kick and just piss everyone off till I got in trouble. I would walk around the big world; being so little made things much harder on a little guy like me. Every task was ten times harder for me and would get me all upset, especially when I wanted my juice. Seeing how I was only two, I couldn’t get it myself, so I would have to try to get someone to do it for me. Not being able to talk was a big problem because I had no way of telling my dad or mom what it was I wanted. I would try and say juice but it only came out a word that I even thought was strange.

What’s in that box?

In first grade my teacher, Ms. McDonald, came to class one day armed with a big cardboard box that was so big one of us could have fit inside it. We went quiet as we were all guessing what was inside and what this was all about. Ms. McDonald opened the box and pulled out another box that was white and had a rounded shape. That box turned out to be made of styrofoam, which I couldn’t pronounce yet, and there were actually two of them in the larger box. I did not know what to think yet but my curiosity had me leaning forward to see what came next. Each side of the classroom was divided and so we went into groups and either group had its own box. Ms. McDonald went to assist the other group and my group had a teacher’s helper (I think they are called TA’s now) to give us the guidance we needed for our project. We all got handouts and the mysterious box that could be anything was finally unveiled. We were making ovens! Ms. McDonald gave each side a kit with aluminum foil, a corded incandescent light bulb, masking tape and a

Jan Resseger’s Learning Story

My primary school in an upwardly mobile neighborhood of a small Western town in the early 1950s was new and clean. The floor was vinyl, the walls a pale pastel. Dim round ceiling lights produced what was said to be the correct amount of light without glare. Desks in rows, we were arranged in alphabetical order. Paragraph by paragraph we read aloud from basic text books cleaned of excitement and controversy. Work completed, were were allowed to read the faded orange biographies on a shelf at the back of the room — Louisa Alcott, Clara Barton, Daniel Boone, George Washington Carver, Henry Clay. School was one of the places I learned the virtues of compliance and obedience, what most families expected of white, middle class American girls in that era. My classrooms represented the values of my town. Maybe this is the reason I pay a lot of attention to the physical space in the schools I visit. At one time I assumed that school buildings that appealed to the imagination, that sparked curiosity and intellectual rigor were settings for the education of the wealthy, but I now know that is not true. At Chicago’s Harold Washington Elementary School, hallways display

Whitney Ferre’s Learning Story

I opened The Creative Fitness Center in 1996 to provide my community with an environment where they could develop the “artist mentality” I had read about in a career book. I did not know where people went to learn this mentality, but I did know (3 years out of U of Mich) that life was much more like a blank canvas than a multiple choice test. The result was an entire community of people who were empowered to create change on the canvas that is their life. I was asked to open a private school based on the supportive, stimulating environment at The Creative Fitness Center. Kids loved it because we respected their own unique expression and made it fun to reach deeper to learn different ways of creating. Our teaching provided them with a foundation on which to build — what they built was up to them! If you read Dan Pink’s book A Whole New Mind, Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future you will see how important it is to “work out” our right brain/creative muscles so that we can follow in your (Obama) footsteps to create change.

Are We Here Yet?

When we are driving for more than 15 minutes, Jude, my four year old, will inevitably ask me, “Are we here yet?” I always say, “yes, we are right here.” After a few seconds more driving, I will say, “Oh, and now we are right….HERE.” He gets the joke and then asks me if we are “there” yet instead. But we are never “there”- we are always here. When I was a kid, there were hardly any kids I knew who went to pre-school. Kindergarten was meant as the transition to grade school. In Kindergarten we played a lot, did art, music, and had naps. We also learned things like colors, numbers, the alphabet, and shapes. Now, most kids I know are in pre-school. Children are expected to come prepared for Kindergarten because it is more challenging and academic. Despite much research on the importance of play, It is actually challenging to find a pre-school that is play-based and not focused on preparing children for Kindergarten. In Second Grade there is already talk about preparing for the CSAP test (Colorado Student Assessment Program) that comes toward the end of Third Grade. There are numerous complaints from parents and teachers that education

La Madre Superior

I have been teaching, formally and informally, for over ten years, accumulating many interesting stories and experiences along the way. One of those experiences stands out from all the rest as a lesson and reminder as to why I teach. Unlike most of my teaching experiences this particular one was not planned nor was it in the United States. Towards the end of a volunteering vacation at a boys orphanage in Guatemala, I realized that there was a sluggish pattern to the young boys’ school days — spend an hour watching an educational video, recite math to the nuns, play soccer for a couple of hours, then color in what were supposed to be educational coloring books. So when one of the nuns asked if I would like to teach the boys numbers in English, I jumped at the chance to bring some variety to the day. I put together a quick game and we recited our numbers — 1-10 in both Spanish and English for about an hour, after which we went and played our daily soccer game. It was not until later in the day, during coloring time, that I realized the true impact I could leave the

Dorothy Boddy’s Learning Story

I am a teacher in a Title I school in Phoenix. For the past six years, I have been able to raise the funds to take some of my students to the Grand Canyon to take a class called “Dynamic Earth.” It is taught by the Park Rangers, who specifically deal with education and align the trips to the Arizona State Standards. Many of these students have never been out of their neighborhoods. When we get to the Flagstaff area and view the San Francisco Peaks (our tallest mountains — over 12,000 feet), my students are so excited. Last year there was a thin layer of snow at the rest area. Many had never seen snow. They ran and jumped around it until we had to get back on the bus. Their first view of the canyon was like watching children on Christmas morning or some other special occasion. The Rangers took us to a fossil bed a 1/4 mile down. They all learned that this area was once an ocean. They also learned the types of animals that lived in the ocean. Next, they hiked along the rim and learned the layers of the Canyon. The Rangers teach them the

Lisa Wininger’s Learning Story

When I was very young, I always liked to run around outside and play in the woods, creeks, fields, and meadows. I found the natural world fascinating and spent as much time as possible in it, digging holes and trying to catch wildlife. When I was in elementary school in the 70′s, the environmental movement was just hitting its stride, and our teachers accepted the challenge of trying to get kids out of the classroom and into nature as much as possible. We had all school field days where we went to Yosemite National Park to learn about geology. We trekked out to the nearby riverbanks and took plaster molds of animal tracks for identification and measurement. Our music teacher created an all-school musical with an environmental theme, where we sang, danced, and acted what we had learned, to the delight of our parents and our small community. Later in high school, my biology and ecology teachers moved us into the real work of water testing in local streams and irrigation ditches, and tracking and noting bird species in our local park. But by far the best were the trips she arranged to take a busload of valley and mountain

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