"The free play of art is the result of mastery. " --Ernst Fischer, The Necessity of Art

"Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them." --Ladybird Johnson

"...a well-trained ear, a well-trained intelligence, a well-trained heart, and a well-trained hand...." --Zoltan Kodaly


Daily Life, 75

OK, this is not for the squeamish:

At the Second Grade Curriculum Night last  evening,  students displayed their science experiments (mealworms in cornflakes) on paper plates....not unduly distant from the plate full of cookies...

just sayin'.....

See you tomorrow. (Hope your breakfast went down OK after that...)



Daily Life, 74

Have you read Guillebeau's distinction between good work and great work?

Not a new concept, as he says, but it caught me this morning: "Good work is useful, productive work.  There's nothing wrong with it, but the problem is that we have too much good work.  (His italics)  Great work, on the other hand, is revolutionary.  Great work leads to innovation.  While most good work is comforting, great work is simultaneously comforting and discomforting, because it pushes us to go further."  Guillebeau, The Art of Non-Comformity,  p. 211

The characterization of good work as 'comforting'  is eye-opening for me; it's troubled me previously that the good/great distinction undervalues the contribution and satisfaction levels of what I actually do every day.   "What's wrong with it?"....and here I see: it's good, but it's static.   

Yep.   More to think about.

See you tomorrow.



Daily Life, 72

Kids are awesome.

That's all.  Just sayin'.

See you tomorrow.


Daily Life, 73

In First Grade Music today...

Me "And what's this part of the xylophone, this big part on the bottom?"

Kids "The resonating chamber!!!"

Jack*   "I think that part is really big and really empty."

Rachel*  "Well, that depends on how you look at it."

Me   "Hmm....first, yep, it's the resonating chamber.  Good memory, everybody.  Second, Jack, you're right, it's the biggest part and there's nothing inside.  Rachel, can you tell me more about that?"

Rachel*    "Well....it IS empty, in one way.  But if you look at it another way, it's really fulled up."

Me    "Hmmm....tell me a little more, OK?"

Rachel*   "Well, it's all full.   It's full, you know, with all of those sound waves and all of that sound."


See you tomorrow.


*Rachel and Jack are, of course, not these young musician's real names.


Learning Link, 25

Some good advice about helping kids (hmm...and ourselves?)   to learn more about technology over at Lifehacker awhile back.

From the site:
"New York Times writer Kevin Kelly spent the last year focused on teaching his son to be technologically literate and in the process came up with a few rules for technological literacy in the 21st century."   

Good article--check it out  here.

See you tomorrow.



Daily Life, 71

Heard any good questions lately?  Here's some that have come my way of late:

"What is the right thing to do in this case?"

"What do you want to do?"

"If you took away any question of fear, what are some of the things you'd like to do during your life?"

"What kinds of things make you happy?"

"Who says?  Who says you have to do it that way?  Want to look at it my way?"

From Pre-K to adults, we all wonder, sometimes....

See you tomorrow.



Learning Link, 24

OK.  If you care about kids and  creative writing, and you don't yet know about 826 valencia,  you might want to check it out.    Fantastic organization,  original ideas, and pirates!  You can find  out more,  here.

See you tomorrow.



Daily Life, 70

"But I want it to be this way."

"My ideas are different."

"Who said it has to be that way?"

"That's not what I meant."

Learning to have fierce conversations can be difficult for adults, who've been conditioned to 'be nice', to get along with everyone--sometimes at the expense of true individual needs.   It can be challenging to speak the truth calmly, kindly and clearly.

So why do we sometimes gloss over what children say, or--in the interests of 'the team'---encourage compromise?

Just sayin'.

See you tomorrow.



Daily Life, 69

Learning music often includes learning how to perform.

That happens to be a statement which carries a burden of political weight in our district at the moment, but regardless of the context, we often find ourselves teaching students how to deal with performance anxiety.

Here's a phrase that might prove helpful:   "Fear is energy mangled and a powerful motivator, so I just turn it into something positive."  (Sloane Berrent, quoted in Guillebeau's new book, The Art of Non-Conformity, p. 46)

The concept of  "the jitters"  being a form of energy that can be used to improve both the enjoyment and quality of performance is not a new one.   I simply liked the straight-forward way Berrent phrases it.

See you tomorrow.



A poem for the month

A colleague gave me this poem--neither of us knows who the author is.  (If you do, please let me know in the comments--thanks.)

We accept responsibility for children
who like to be tickled,
who stomp in puddles and ruin their new pants,
who sneak Popsicles before supper,
who can never find their shoes.

And we accept responsibility for those
who can't bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers,
who are born in places we wouldn't be caught dead,
who never go to the circus,
who live in an x-rated world.

We accept responsibility for children
who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money,
who cover themselves with Band-Aids and sing off key,
who squeeze toothpaste all over the sink,
who slurp their soup.

And we accept responsibility for those
who never get dessert,
who don't have any room to clean up,
whose pictures aren't on anybody's dresser,
whose monsters are real.

We accept responsibility for children
who spend all their allowance before TUesday,
who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food,
who squirm in church and scream in the phone,
whose tears we sometimes laugh at and whose smiles make us cry.

And we accept responsibility for those
whose nightmares come in the daytime,
who will eat anything,
who have never seen a dentist,
who aren't spoiled by anybody,
who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep.

We accept responsibility for children
who want to be carried and for those who must,
for those we never give up on and for those
who don't get a second chance.

For those we smother..
and for those who will grab the hand
of anybody kind enough to take it.

--Author, unknown

See you tomorrow.



Daily Life, 68

During First Grade Literacy Block this morning (I was a visitor):

Teacher     Well, why in the world is it important for us to learn how to read?
Kids          It impresses the grown ups!  It lets you know what the pictures mean.  It tells you stuff.
Teacher     Good answers!  Why do you suppose it's a good idea to learn how to read really well?
Rachel*    I know! I know!  Reading....reading....you know, it sort of opens up a whole new world inside.  You know, it's like, it's like...it's like it brings a whole new life into you."

Seriously.   Amazing, yes?

*Rachel is, of course, not this perceptive student's actual name.  Although these are her actual words, not dressed up....I wrote down what she said, right after she said it.  (That is, after my jaw came back up off the floor....)


Learning Links, 23

Good ideas to help keep an organized work space

This is one area that yields sound dividends in a much calmer day and more productive output--for me, at least,  reading up on new ideas (or new takes on old ideas) is generally a good idea.

Interested?  Check out this Lifehacker article.

See you tomorrow.



Daily Life, 67

Learning something new can be exhilaratingly hard work.

It's a good thing to experience that on a regular basis, for many reasons.

Oh, you're wondering what brought this up?  Glad you asked: my friend Dave let me try using his backhoe to dig up part of his back yard this weekend.   WOW!  As much fun as learning a new tune, but with a powerful engine humming through the levers.

Can that experience be useful in the classroom?  You bet.

See you tomorrow--



Reality: Poetry for Kids

Talking with my students about--and being introduced to--imaginary friends...reminded me of my big brother Joey, who had three imaginary friends during childhood.

Since one of our other topics was poetry and song lyrics, it seemed appropriate to post, this weekend, the story of Gonieony, Geengy, and PanPan--Joey's longlost friends.  Here it is, written (by me) when those friends had not been away yet, for very long...

Gonieony, Geengy, and PanPan

 Gonieony, Geengy, and PanPan
slept beside Joey's bed.

Gonieony, Geengy, and PanPan--
"My best friends", Joey said.

Gonieony, Geengy, and PanPan
followed Joey's feet...
up the stairs and down the stairs, and
up  and down the street.

Gonieony, Geengy, and PanPan
went exploring with Joey each day.
They conquered the yard, and sunk a few ships,
and turned  the bathtub into a bay.

Gonieony, Geengy, and PanPan
could hide in the dark or the light.
Why else could Mommy not see them,
when they're standing so plainly in sight?

Gonieony, Geengy, and PanPan
ran off to Wewash when Joey turned ten.
They liked it so much, they stayed for a while---
but he still sees them, now and again.
---Karla, 1980s

Not great poetry, I know---more, just a bit of fun for a Saturday morning.

See you tomorrow.



Learning Link, 22

"A teacher that can be replaced by a machine, should be."
"If children have interest, then education happens."

Both quotes, by Arthur C. Clark, are part of education scientist Sugata Mitra's astounding TED talk about the process and results of his educational research.

In his words, "this could change everything".

Intrigued?  His discussion will more than live up to expectations.  Check it out here.

See you tomorrow.



More books....

Current bookshelf.... 

The Boy Mechanic, by the editors of "Popular Mechanics' magazine
Funny, interesting, practical although not necessarily useful drawings and directions for woodworking and other projects

A Place of my Own,  by Michael Pollan
So well-written, it almost doesn't matter what the topic is.  In this instance, however, it's a good subject, too: a journal about building a small cabin by hand, as a beginner carpenter.....with many digressions into the literary and social implications of the process, as well as practical details.  An absorbing read.

Fierce Conversations, by Susan Scott
I'm ambivalent about this one, although I do intend to finish it.  Basically, an exploration of enriching conversations---some good ideas but very slow-paced.

All Marketers tell stories, by Seth Godin.
What needs to be said?  It's a Seth Godin book.  That alone makes it worth the read.

Up next....(as soon as it arrives on my doorstep, actually):
The Art of Nonconformity, by Chris Guillebeau.
I read a great post about this on Johnny B. Truant's blog and immediately ordered the book.  More, as soon as I get to read it....

What are you reading?  I'm interested to hear....

See you tomorrow.



Daily Life, 65

One of the students who clearly shines in Kindergarten, already, is also one who spent the first few years of her life out on the beach in Hawaii.

Not in an expensive PreSchool.  Not listening to hothousing tapes, cds and whatnot.

Not even in an intense homeschool.

Just running around on the beach, playing and hanging out.

And already, she's making her mark in Kindergarten.


Not judging here, just sayin'.....

See you tomorrow.



Daily Life, 64

Kindergarten Music today:

Me     "...and this is a conga drum.  There's lots of drums here that we're going to learn to play this year!"

Sara*    "My daddy has lots of drums in his garage.  He even has a big one with lights."

Me     "Wow, Sara.  How cool is that?  Is your Dad a musician?"

Sara*  "No, he's just a drummer."

With apologies to George and my other drummer friends out there....

*Sara is, of course, not this young music critic's real name.


Daily Life, 63

 A thunderstorm cascaded over our town earlier today, changing the light, clearing the air.  Ushering in a double rainbow that filled the sky for a few brief moments. 

Reminded me of how many words carry that kind of beauty:
Luminous.  Evanescent.  Lambent.    Twilight.

Made me think about the words with which we surround our students--and ourselves--each day.

Just sayin'.

See you tomorrow.



Learning Link, 21

What's one difference between jazz and bowling?

and what in the world does that have to do with teaching?

Check out today's  post from Seth Godin (his blog is here) if you'd like to hear his thought-provoking answer.

See you tomorrow.



Daily life, 62

On the morning of September 11th, around the turn of this century,  a classroom full of second graders leaned forward in their seats, straining to hear what it was that the grownups were discussing so seriously, out there in the hall.

That morning,  an entire school full of elementary kids were nurtured and protected and loved, with an even more dedicated intensity than before.

Sometimes  sorrow can push us hard  to work towards joy.

Just sayin'.


Learning Link, 20

 Leo Babauta (of mnmlst and zenhabits.net) has some good ideas about ways to help clarify what's important and what's not, in our lives---and on our 'to do' lists.  

Especially timely insights, as we start a new school year.  Read more here.


Daily Life, 61

Grade 1, talking about favorite foods during morning meeting:

Alexandra*   "My Mother's mac and cheese!  I'd eat it every day.  She adds extra butter and cheese and crunchy things.  It's yummy."

Rian*   "I know what artichokes are.  But I can't eat them right now, until my bottom two grownup teeth come in."

Stuey*   "My favorite food is gum.  Did you know I've had this gum (in his mouth at the time) since yesterday?"

*These budding gourmets' names are, of course, changed.  Just as their food delights may, in the future..


Learning Link, 19

An artist and musician friend often talks about the process of creating as one of 'listening to the materials'.  

Found the same concept in writer Michael Pollan's thoughtful book on building a small cabin.

From A Place of My Own,  by Michael Pollan:

"The architect Louis Kahn used to talk about interrogating his materials in order to learn what they "wanted to be'---that is, what the distinctive nature of a material suggested should be done with it:   
         "You say to brick, "'What do you want, brick?"  Brick says to you, "I like an arch."  If you say to   brick, "Arches are expensive, and I can use a concrete lintel over an opening  What do you       think of that, brick?"  Brick says, "I like an arch."

.......Working attentively with their materials can draw the architect and builder into a kind of dialogue with the material world; you learn a lot about a shingle--and about red cedar--watching how it responds to your handling."    (A Place of My Own,  Michael Pollan, pp. 199-200)

Just thinking about how that process evidences itself in working with creating music and most importantly, working with children....


First Day of School

  "Xylophones? We get to play xylophones this year?"

"Hey! She said we get to lounge on the floor while we listen..."

"I really wanted to play the drum with the ropes, because I'm really really good at it. I hid my head because I wanted to keep my crying inside  so that I wouldn't be embarrassed in front of the class."

"My pockets make jingling noises."

"I'm the best whistler in my family. Listen."

"I don't know where my classroom is, and I'm only 5..."

"My daughter just got a fulltime job today."

"We're working on that."

"Just clarifying what was actually said."

"What?! We're going to learn how to play ukuleles?"

"I don't like to sing in front of other people.  No, I don't want to even just stand with the group, because I don't like to stand with other people.  OK, I would rather just be the audience. That's probably going to be OK."

"I told you my name once already.  You already forgot?!"

"Electric Bass? and Banjos?  AND Ukes??  ...That's coooool."


Last day of summer for 2010

It's official:  the new school year begins for us tomorrow.

Does anything more really need to be said?


Learning Link, 18

Looking to buy a new computer sometime this year?

According to Gizmodo, it's cheapest to buy computers in the Autumn & in April.

Interested?  Read the article here.


Learning Link, 17

How to Learn and HAVE FUN!!

If you like Cajun music, dance and food, the  Blackpot Festival & CookOff would feel like three days of sheer heaven,  based in  Lafayette, Louisiana.

It's put on by the Red Stick Ramblers,  and features many local bands and a day-long cookoff.  Some of the best music and dance around....

Want more info?  Check it out here

See you on the dance floor!


Learning Link, 15

What Great Teachers Do Differently, by Todd Whitaker

Yes.  You're right: many  books and materials intended for teachers' professional development  are written poorly and contain nothing of real value.

Not this one.  It's evident that the author has spent time in the classroom: pertinent examples drawn from real life, truthful clarity in discussing issues, and a collection of the things we'd all like to remember to think about, and to do.

Check it out:
  In a discussion about standardized  testing--or, as Whitaker put it, the "shark-infested pool of standarized testing" :
"Effective teachers don't let hot-button issues shift their focus from what really matters.
....Effective teachers focus on the behaviors that lead to success, not the beliefs that stand in the way of it.
....Effective teachers keep testing in perspective.
....fully aware that success on standardized tests brought them greater autonomy to do what they believed was best for students....
....center on the real issue of student learning."  (pp. 109--111)

"Great teachers have high expectations for students but even higher expectations for themselves."

"Great teachers consistently filter out the negatives that don't matter and share a positive attitude."

"Great teachers never forget that it is people, not programs, that determine the quality of a school."

(all quotes above, pp 127-128)

Intrigued?  More depth and more great quotes await....well worth the time,  I'm thinking.

Learning Link, 14

How you can learn  to play the Ukulele....really.

First of all, it's a forgiving little instrument.
Sounds great, from the first time your fingers brush its four sweet strings.

But, you say, how to get started?  

The answer?  (Cue orchestral swell here):  Ukulele Underground.

Great site, free lessons, tons of information.  

Happy strumming!


Learning Link, 13

How to make your dreams come true

One way is to simply get started.

Good advice from the folks at 37Signals.com (who also wrote the helpful book ReWork--see Learning Link 4 for a review) can be found in a short article


Learning Link, 12

How to write better

Are you re-working your September curriculum letter for the 10th time? Lost in the maze of writing PTA Open House notes, field trip permission slips, and such?

Happens often, to many of us. Here's a brief article full of good writing tips (from Copyblogger) which may help:

Hahaha....guess we'll see if it helps improve the writing here! (hmmm...hope so!)