Archive for July, 2010


Unless You Have Self-Governing Innards, Avoid Any Opportunity Allowing You The Possibility Of Consuming More Than Your Stomach Was Meant To Hold

July 23, 2010

For July 21, 2010

You can only eat so much, you know? • Elvis Presley

It is difficult to find a good meal when you’re on the road. I like home cooking for reasons too numerous to go into here, in part because most of what I encounter in restaurants sounds better than it tastes. Menu descriptions are enticing, but the plate seldom delivers what the words and pictures promise. Even finding a green salad—the meal I really crave—can be challenging.

Sometimes I consider visiting an all-you-can-eat buffet so I can load up on spinach and broccoli and tomatoes and carrots and a garden of other goodies, but these fiestas of food are not a bargain for someone like me who prefers multiple small meals to gorging myself by taking in a week’s worth in an hour.

I know that’s what these purveyors of excess are counting on, that for every overeater, there’ll be several of us who want to stop before we’re stuffed beyond capacity. They make their money off the likes of me and not on those folks who keep heapin’ the goodies on plate after gravy-dripping plate. I watch in amazement as people who can eat all they want by returning to the steam-table trough pile their platters high, mounding the stuff as though they have to get all they can consume at once.

Miss Piggy said you should never eat more than you can lift. I say you should never lift more than you can comfortably eat and you certainly shouldn’t put it onto a plate or two or three or more and plow through it as though you’d never get to eat again. I also say that you should travel with some dried fruit and granola bars just in case you need them.

When you’re on the road, what foods do you long for?

It is really wonderful how men of refined tastes and pampered habits, who at home are as fastidious as luxury and a delicate appetite can make them, find it in their hearts – or stomachs either – to gorge such disgusting masses of stringy meat and tepid vegetables, and to go about their business again under the fond delusion that they have dined. • George G. Foster (1814-1856), columnist writing about “eating houses” in New York City’s financial district

My time is up at this connecting point. More later. Perhaps much later!


“Hello,” He Said To The Charming Young Lady Standing By The Hors D’Oeuvres Table At His Cousin’s Wedding, “My Name Is Charlie Charming, And My GPA Is Four Point Oh!” “Good-bye,” She Said, Wandering Off To Find Someone More Interesting.

July 23, 2010

For July 20, 2010

Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school. • Albert Einstein

Walker Percy said that you can get all A’s and still flunk life and I agree. Nonetheless, I’d be lying if I said that grades don’t matter. Sometimes they do. They matter when you’re hoping to go on for further education. They matter when you want to be considered for an internship or a particular kind of job or a scholarship that requires a high GPA.

They matter when you’d like to do something outside the box of requirements, since a record of good grades provides instructors with reassurance that you take your studies seriously and can spark their willingness to take a chance on your intentionality. No matter how much an instructor may like a student as a person, educational possibilities are usually built on a foundation of excellent, caring, high quality work.

Grades can also matter because they provide validation for students. A good grade shows someone that they can be successful in school. In my own life and in my work with other adults returning to school, a grade that recognizes the effort we put into our studies can be meaningful and motivational. It lets us know that success is possible and keeps us going.

There is seldom an opportunity in real life beyond school to share your GPA. No one cares. They care what you can do. They care what you do do. Your accomplishments are what counts.

And while it’s true that grades can and do count when you’re in school, it’s also true that grades aren’t the purpose of education, although it sometimes seems as though they are. Any time you are proud of your work, regardless of the grade it receives, you’ve been successful.

What’s an assignment you’ve been proud of after you completed it—in school or in life?

But there are advantages to being elected President. The day after I was elected, I had my high school grades classified Top Secret. • Ronald Reagan


Education Is Homeland Security

July 23, 2010

For July 19, 2010

The Possible’s slow fuse is lit
 By the Imagination.
• Emily Dickinson

I’m a no-nonsense kind of gal. I don’t coo over babies and long to have another tiny one around the house, although, note to my children, I really enjoyed them when they were tiny. I don’t like tearjerkers. I wear comfortable shoes. I visit a hair stylist only to have a couple of inches chopped off the parts of my hair that have grown irritatingly long. I cut my own bangs. I spend less than ten dollars a year on makeup. My girly side never fully developed, although I do love shiny stuff like rhinestones.

While other little girls were sugar and spicing it, I preferred reading revolting stuff, grubbing in the trash, and taking my fashion cues from movie gangsters, my grandpa, and Fred Astaire. I’ll take snips and snails and puppy dog tails over pink frou-frouish delectables any day. And about that shiny stuff, crows like it too.

I usually eschew the touchy and feely, but sometimes in the business of teaching, I need it. I need to be reminded why I do this job that can often feel thankless. Teachers are blamed for many things that are beyond their control. We are easy targets for cultural disappointment.

We can design meaningful lessons and we can provide classroom opportunities that are differentiated to address our students’ multiple learning preferences and abilities, but, in the end, we cannot force anyone to learn. Still, we need to believe that it’s possible that all of our students will learn. I think often about what’s possible in the classroom, and sometimes I ask my students to think about it too.

I’ve been working for years on a collaborative found poem taken from responses to the question, “What is possible in your classroom?” This year, some of the responses are from students finishing a teacher licensure program. The ongoing poem is entitled “Education Is Homeland Security,” and here are a few of this year’s responses. I’ll add them to the others to remind me that regardless of how bleak things may seem, what teachers do matters and continues to make a difference in people’s lives:

It is possible to inspire, love, challenge, intrigue, respect, cherish, and give one hundred percent to your students. It is possible to share yourself and stay true to who you are. It is possible to be someone’s favorite teacher.

It is possible to create a space that celebrates students as individuals and as impassioned collectives. It is possible for students to change their communities. It is possible for education to be an adventure we as a class embark upon every day.

It is possible for students who don’t want to discover anything to change everything.

It is possible that each day as students leave our room, they will know that they are loved .No matter what type of home students come from, they have a safe haven where people believe in them. Connection.

It is possible for me to choose to love and care about each student who comes into my classroom.

In my classroom, it is possible for students to learn valuable life skills, no matter their academic skill level. I want to make a difference in all of my students’ lives. In my classroom, it is possible to be successful. Hopefully, it is also possible to dream.

You’ll see more of these later. As a funsultant, I am inspired by these possibilities and by the opportunities for learning that are orchestrated in classrooms around the world. What is possible is unlimited.

If a teacher has ever made a difference in your life or challenged your thinking or helped you in any way, I hope you’ll let her or him know. S/he needs your encouragement in order to live in the possibilities.

We have more possibilities available in each moment than we realize. • Thich Nhat Hanh


Foodish Thoughts From The Road: Do Not Be Tempted By The Deep-Fried Twinkies®!

July 23, 2010

For July 17, 2010

Health food may be good for the conscience, but Oreos taste a heck of a lot better. • Robert Redford

I have sacrificed myself on the altar of bad taste and sampled a deep-fried Twinkie® so that you do not have to. This makes me both saint and sinner.

My desires are generally modest. I hunt for rubber alligators, globes, robots, masks, and other affordable art and artifacts. Sometimes my goals are even more modest. During my latest visit to Sin City, I set my heart not on ogling the dancers in topless reviews or plugging my pennies into slot machines or admiring the latest Soleil incarnation, but on sampling the ultimate in junk food: a deep-fried Twinkie®. I am a cheap date. Ninety-nine cents and I was delighted.

Until I took a bite.

The crème-filled spongecake on a stick is dipped in funnel cake batter and fried in hot oil. Then it’s topped with powdered sugar and chocolate jimmies. It is execrable. Seriously. This doesn’t even sound good, does it? I’ve seen people on the Travel Channel and the TV Food Network rhapsodize about this so-called treat. I fail to understand why.

The best part of the crusty concoction—the crème—is gone, melted and absorbed into the surrounding cake. This does not help the flavor of the cake. The whole mess becomes tooth-achingly sweet. I took one bite from the inside (I already know what funnel cake crusty stuff tastes like) and threw the rest into the trash where it belonged.

Don’t do it. Pass up the deep-fried Twinkies®. I suspect you’d be wise to forgo the similarly-prepared Oreos® as well. My self-sacrifice did not extend that far.

What have you eaten that proved to be a disappointment?

For my college students, I do have your breakfast available: Snickers and Mt. Dew. And for the Breakfast of Champions, I have cold beer.• Amtrak lounge car breakfast announcement, 8 :03 a.m. Monday, June 14, 2010


If Only I Were Prefect And Never Maid A Mistak

July 23, 2010

For July 16, 2010

To err is human, to forgive divine. • Alexander Pope

As we travel by car from Oregon to Las Vegas, a drive that includes endless miles through desert and deserted country, I go over the presentation I’ll be giving and almost immediately find a mistake in my printed materials. This must be someone’s law: it’s impossible to proofread anything to perfection. I try, but I seldom succeed.

When I was a high school teacher, I promised a prize from the Chest o’ Treasures—a box decorated with faux jewels and filled with newspaper-wrapped toys and treats—to the first person in each class who found an error in any of my handouts. I did this to encourage students to actually read these printed materials.

Sometimes I deliberately included errors because I didn’t want students to be demotivated by the perfection of my offerings, but usually what those sharp-eyed teens found was something I’d overlooked. It’s a good thing I had lots of prizes. Perfect isn’t possible. I strive for it because I’m hoping I’ll produce high quality work, but even with something as short and simple as this blog, I find errors months later.

When I read student work, I generally have a three-errors-before-they-begin-to-count policy to allow a bit of room to be human. Since I’m not perfect, I try not to expect others to be. I love this quotation excerpted from Stephen Manes (1982), Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days!

Congratulations! You’re not perfect! It’s ridiculous to want to be perfect anyway.  But then, everybody’s ridiculous sometimes, except perfect people. You know what perfect is? Perfect is not eating or drinking or talking or moving a muscle or making even the teensiest mistake. Perfect is never doing anything wrong – which means never doing anything at all. Perfect is boring! So you’re not perfect!  Wonderful! Have fun! Eat things that give you bad breath! Trip over your own shoelaces! Laugh! Let somebody else laugh at you! Perfect people never do any of those things. All they do is sit around and sip weak tea and think about how perfect they are. But they’re really not one-hundred-percent perfect anyway. You should see them when they get the hiccups! Phooey! Who needs ’em? You can drink pickle juice and imitate gorillas and do silly dances and sing stupid songs and wear funny hats and be as imperfect as you please and still be a good person. Good people are hard to find nowadays. And they’re a lot more fun than perfect people any day of the week.

It isn’t always fun being imperfect, but it is inevitable, at least in my world. Sometimes, you just have to laugh about it. Sometimes you can ignore it. Sometimes you have to apologize for your humanity.

What was the last mistake you made and what did you do about it?

They say that nobody is perfect.  Then they tell you practice makes perfect.  I wish they’d make up their minds. • Wilt Chamberlain


I Do Not Love You Enough To Pay Big Bucks To Possibly–And I Do Mean Possibly–Try To Connect With You

July 18, 2010

To err is human, but to really foul things up requires a computer. • Farmer’s Almanac, 1978

Greetings from Las Vegas where the internet connection is not a sure bet. It’s spendy and I’ve already wasted more money than I wasted in Washington, D.C., on the same problems–connections so slow that my systems time out before anything happens.

I am only persisting right now because I had grades to enter. That’s done. I’m sitting in a McDonald’s with free WiFi and have been forced to purchase fries and sweet tea in payment for my space to work. Yes, you’re right, I could have purchased a salad, but I did not. I cannot eat salad and word process. That’s my excuse and it’s all you’ll get!

As usual, I’ll be writing when I’m out of town, but this is my last missive from the land of wedding chapels, nude dancers, and loose slots. I love you, but not enough to pay $6.95 for ten minutes of your attention.

Had any computer frustrations lately?

Computers make it easier to do a lot of things, but most of the things they make it easier to do don’t need to be done. • Andy Rooney


Becoming A Thaumaturgist*

July 15, 2010

We are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams. • Willie Wonka

It’s my last day of teaching until fall. I’ve been teaching six days a week and traveling on the seventh and I’m ready for a break. It’s not that I mind teaching. I’m grateful both for the interactions with students and for the opportunities to keep learning.

There’s no way to teach with passion without continuing to learn. When you teach, you look at the world differently. You listen to the radio with teacher ears, watch television and movies with teacher eyes, and scrutinize just about everything you see for its usefulness in the classroom. You read books and magazines and newspapers and websites differently. Your walks through the neighborhood or through the mall or on the beach or in the woods become ideafests.

You think once, twice, three times before tossing away an empty box or a paper sack or leftover yarn or other bits and pieces and scraps. Lots of it you get rid of because you know there’s no way you can store it all (although I try), but you become a hoarder of ideas, an imaginer of possibilities, a magician of what ifs, taking this and turning it into that for the delight of your students.

I teach experienced teachers as well as those who will just be getting their first classroom in the fall and if I could give each of them a single gift, it would be the gift of boundless enthusiasm for their job. I am tired, but I am not tired of teaching.

It isn’t just teachers who function as thamaturgists in the world. How can you bring delight into someone’s life today, this week, this year?

Anyone who can be replaced by a machine deserves to be. • Dennis Gunton

* A thaumaturgist is a magician, a worker of wonders and miracles.

Note: I will be presenting at a conference next week, so will be on the road and sporadically connected as I’m able to be. I’ll be posting when I can.