BETSY DEVOS? NEED A PENCIL? TAKE A NOTE: We do not teach and learn wisely and well if certain sturdy stances aren’t in our repertoire. This is a Listening-Conversing-Questioning-Routine from “my” high poverty-high achieving school.

Mrs. M: You’re going to write about your grandmother’s kitchen table, Milo?

Milo, his notebook closed, nods.

What’s the memory attached to the table?  (The 5th graders are writing stories connected to important objects in their lives.)

Milo shrugs. Don’t know. He slaps the notebook open and riffles through pages tagged with post-its.

Wow. You’ve marked all your notebook entries that relate to the table. You’ve got a lot!

Milo and Mrs. M go head-to-head and read the entries silently. Mrs. M learns that Milo lives with his Granny and Mom, how the light plays on the table from the window in the kitchen door, about the honey tones of the wood surface, and how Milo always sits at the same spot at the table.

You always sit at the same place?

Yup. He points to another flagged entry. I like how the sun comes in the door window and warms my back.

Cozy. What else?

I watch my Granny cook oatmeal every morning from my seat. Milo looks at his teacher and smiles. Earlier he’d read an entry to the class about how when he was little he could hardly wait for his Granny to finish stirring brown sugar and golden raisins into the thick, bumpy oatmeal. Once he was so excited he’d knocked his chair over.

Are you going to write about the time the chair tipped over with you in it?

Milo shakes his head.

Mrs. M waits.

I sit at the gash.

The gash?

Milo sits straight and points to the pencil groove on the desk. It’s about this long but deeper.

Is it an inlay table–you know with decorative carving on it?

It’s not a design. It’s from the knife.

It’s like Milo has dropped a fishing line into a memory lagoon and snagged onto something he’d forgotten.

It’s from a knife?

The carving knife.

A carving knife?

My Dad had it.

Was he carving the turkey, and it slipped?

Nah. He wasn’t carving no turkey!

What was he doing?

Fighting with my Mom. I was hiding.

Where were you hiding?

Behind the door. It was wide open. I could feel the cold on my feet.

What happened?

He’d burst into the kitchen and grabbed the knife. It was in that wooden knife holding thing on the counter.

Then what?

He chases Mom around the table.

With the knife?

He’s waving it. Mom’s screaming. Milo pauses. Then he sees me.

Behind the door?

I’m peeking. Through the window. On my tiptoes.

And he…?

He stabs the knife into the table. And runs out the door.

So the gash you always sit at…?

Milo nods. I sort of forgot how it got there ‘til now. He picks up his pencil.  I never saw him again. He turns to a clean notebook page. I put my pencils in it now. He makes a margin on the left side of the page. When I was little I stood my Lego men in it.

PATTY

Note from PATTY:I wrote this in 10/14/12 and feel it would be helpful for the new education czar to learn what it looks like in schools where, despite high-poverty, the students are high-achievers, where the teachers have finely tuned their skills at listening and questioning. You can’t teach a child until you know what he’s bringing to school with him besides his trapper keeper and empty lunch box. Teaching memoir as a genre is one way of helping kids get a handle on who they are and what they’ve got going for them to value and develop. 

THE LIBRARY THAT BELONGS TO EVERYONE ~ IT’S LITTLE AND IT’S FREE

The Little Free Libraries project is the brainchild of Todd Bol.

The first Little Free Library I ever saw was in Savannah.  What a charmer, tucked under the stairs on East Charleton Street, the site of Flannery O’Conner’s childhood home.

 

Now these little book boxes have gone viral.  (Find one near you here.) This one is ready for it’s coming out party, in front of my YMCA in Stuart, FL.

 

Here’s the skinny.  There are no rules or fines, the books are always free. If you see something you want to read, take it.  You can leave a note in the book if you want. When you’re finished with a book, pass it along to a friend or return it to any Little Free Library.  I’ve got one ready to tuck inside after the ribbon-cutting.

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In a time when Google, Amazon, and Netflix unnervingly predict what we want to read/watch/think, it’s crackling good fun to open the door of a Little Free Library.

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Want to build your own?  I know I do.  But, if you’re like me, you have minimal non-existent carpentry skills. No worries. It’s a cakewalk.

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Little Free Libraries are bringing people together through books. The political right likes them. So does the left. Who says ‘no’ to reading?

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Little Free Libraries bring out our sweeter side.  So, what are you waiting for?

Whatcha Readin’ ? is the new Hello.

Toni 2/25/17

 

 

WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: A GOOD MATCH

Ben H., the Editorial team leader at WordPress, says some things just work together: babies and stripes, road trips and loud music, beaches and beer. His challenge: share a photo of a satisfying pairing.

Cats always strike a pose that’s photogenic, don’t they?

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Cat in a fishing boat, Isola dei Pescatore, Italy

Cats don’t beat themselves up about not working hard enough.  They don’t get up and go, they sit down and stay.  For them, lethargy is an art form.  From their vantage points on top of fences and ledges, they see the treadmills of human obligations for what it is – a meaningless waste of nap time.

Helen Brown wrote this in her book, Cleo.  I couldn’t say it any better.

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How much do you love cats? Take this quiz.

Toni 2/22/17

 

 

WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: AGAINST THE ODDS

In Stresa, the promenade along Lake Maggiore is quite impressive.

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In among the hedges and shrubs and hickory trees, there are signs.img_1340

Translation: *it is forbidden to administer food for the birds

But birds flock here because there’s room….

img_1342…and board.  That’s just the Italian way.  Che gentile.

Toni 2/18/17