I remember once when I was little, trying to dig a hole in the yard deep enough to stand in and look around me at ground-level. Silly and odd, I know. But I wanted to. So I started digging and soon I did have a pretty deep hole, but I was tired and my muscles had begun hurting so I went inside to get some water and relax. I was planning on going back outside to finish my project after I rested up some, but then I got side tracked by this and that… The point is, I never finished digging the little pit. This was probably the first time I fully realized that I have a bad tendency to leave a project when I get bored with it. I hadn’t started writing at that time (though I did draw a little) however, since then I’ve seen this bad habit of mine even more. The point of this is, I learned an important thing about myself through simple observation and clear-thinking. There was no school I was confined to when I learned this, nor any teacher pounding how to learn this into my head, or even any curriculum telling me
When I was in the 4th grade, all of my friends played soccer and I wanted to play it, too. They all played at the rec department, so when it was the next season, I signed up to play with them. When I want to learn, I like to figure things out by myself. So I tried to figure out how to kick the ball where I wanted it to go and I finally got it. My friends and my coaches helped me a lot every season and I was starting to get the hang of the game. I spent every day outside playing soccer to try and be as good as my friends that had been playing since they were 3 or 4 years old. Through the years, I played with so many people and I was coached by a lot, too. I loved all my teammates and coaches and I still do. But one day after practice at the rec department, my mother pulled me away from everybody and told me that my favorite coach had passed away while I was playing. Soon everybody knew and people quietly went home because everybody was sad. I was upset about
I remember the first time I learned that I could control what I learned. It was a sudden burst of freedom unlike anything I had experienced. In first and second grades, my school limited the library to a small section of books that were deemed appropriate. I was bored with the selection of books. I wanted access to the rest of this seemingly huge library. On the first day of third grade, my teacher actually took us to the library. On the first day! I was elated. I thought she was the best teacher ever. And when she and the librarian told us that the library was now open to us, I think I actually cheered. Books were rare in my house. To suddenly have access to this repository was joyous. I remember checking out 3 of the toughest books I could find. I just wanted to see if I could read them. I was free. Sure, I had to do well in school. But now I could learn what I wanted, not just what the teacher taught me. I was going down the rabbit hole, and I have never looked back.
Growing up in the most rural section of Rhode Island during the 1960’s provided learning experiences that were powerful in ways that are still being revealed to me today. Our town, in those days, did not have a high school, so students were transported to neighboring towns on a tuition basis. For my brother and me, that meant an hour bus ride at each end of the day, and the the high school moniker of “hick”, used playfully or painfully, as any given situation warranted. As I reflect on it now, we were a mobile learning community without even knowing it. We learned to care for one another; no one talked about being compassionate, but older students looked out for the younger riders, and family norms revealed themselves over time. We learned patience, tolerance, and just how much revelry our driver would tolerate. Studious riders used the time to complete homework; others made it a social event every day. For me, personal traits of leadership, teaching, and nurturing were developed and primed over the many years of those bus rides. I learned who I was, and more importantly, who I might become, during those formative years. Bus drivers may be
I am a high school English teacher. The learning communities that I have been a part of that were most powerful were my graduate classes in literature. In most of them a group of 15 or 20 people who loved literature sat in a circle and discussed novels and stories and poems. We batted about ideas, we interpreted and reinterpreted, we disagreed and really enjoyed disagreeing. At the end of a class we would walk out in groups and wander here and there carrying on our conversations. The reason that my title is “My Poems” is that one of the things I used to do in these classes was write poems. Most of the time some other student would say something, a line or a phrase, that I thought was quite poetical. I would jot it down and build around it, even though it wasn’t my line or my thought, and the person who said it didn’t mean it as poetry. But something about it had struck me as poetic, and that was the powerful thing about those classes: I never knew what strange and interesting and poetic ideas were going to just fly out of someone’s mouth at any
I have considered patenting a T-shirt with a badly beaten bunny saying, ‘Enough stick! How about some carrots!’ I think of this when addressing my students about my schooling in ‘the day’, and their reaction – wishing for a time machine to return to those practices. First, I must offer a bit of biography. I grew up in a small Kansas town, where my mother ran the diner and my grandmother ran the shoe repair shop. Both women were smarter than I will ever be, but had relatively little access to education. (My grandmother had a third grade education, and my mother graduated from high school). They modeled for me that learning was a matter of curiosity not economic gain. Both worked long hours, and spent their free time reading (Grandma ‘ Zane Grey novels, Mom, newspaper (cover to cover) and mysteries (in bed at night). Neither had much money, so the library was central to them. I had similar experience as a child. To me learning was not associated with school (where I did poorly), but with my individual interests. I remember early interests in astronomy and genetics. The latter produced some controversy when after going through family picture