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.


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. 


Here’s the ad for Carrs of Carlisle biscuits… just in time for the summer wedding season of 1956.

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The copy reads: Today is her day of days — tomorrow she will be a housewife. And she will want everything of the best for her home and husband.

Ah, the misogynistic days of the 50s.  I hope we’ve finally shunned the H-word and its image of domestic drudgery.

Married to a house? Is there a Facebook status for that?

Oh wait. It is the twenty-tens. We’re all just bumblin’ through together. 

Put on your lipstick and smile. Meet Babylonia Aivaz and her bride-to-be.

 Do you take this warehouse? 


Toni 7/13/17

The Good Wife Rules, pub. 1955




If we were having coffee I’d say, hey, do ever read Alison Gopnik’s stuff? She writes the Mind&Matter column in the Wall Street Journal. This week she made my day.  She reported on a new study by Jay Blundon at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital where he alters mouse genes.  Yep, old mice can learn new tricks.

It all started with a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco.

Michael Merzenich says older brains produce chemicals that actively suppress flexibility.  You know, the if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it-mindset of using what you know instead of being open to learning something new.


Now, about those mouse genes. Blundon and his colleagues set to tinkering. They injected chemicals found in young mice to counteract the inhibitors in old ones and, whaddya know, the older brains started looking  – and behaving – like younger ones.  I’m not a doctor, but, any bit of good news, even the most radical of possibilities, in the field of aging intrigues me.  I don’t necessarily want the brain of a child but resisting change, well, that’s not in my personal evolutionary plan.


So, how do you fire up your neurons?  Me? I listen to Merzenich’s podcast and guzzle caffeine.  Do you ever wonder what our President uses to fuel his late-night tweets?  It’s got us all guessing, that’s for sure.  Sen. Orrin Hatch piped up last week, following the MSNBC hoopla, saying he was “not a fan” and that every once in a while you get a “dipsy-doodle.”  (Like the sound of Wile E. Coyote going splat? How bad can it get?  Brace yourself.)



Whenever you think you’re crazy
You’re just a victim of the Dipsy Doodle
Ah, but it’s not your mind that’s hazy
It’s your tongue that’s at fault, not your noodle.

The Dipsy-Doodle Song made songwriter/bandleader Larry Clinton famous. Such a talented guy, he played trumpet, trombone, and clarinet, but he used them all sparingly because he had a ”10:30 lip,” meaning that it tired early in the evening.  Food for thought, Tweeters.


Online and on screens ~ oversize egos, unruly behavior, shifting cultural tides. Do you wonder the outcome ~ selfishness or selflessness?  We’re on the precipice, ready to radically redefine society as we know it.  Maybe those mice genes hold the secret to more than just keeping our wits sharp.


Toni  7/10/17

#weekend coffee share/www credits Sue K for inspiring this post



Everyone speaks well of the bridge which carries him over.              ~Unknown


The Ernie Lyons Bridge, Hutchinson Island, FL


And everyone in town speaks well of this man, Ernie Lyons, for whom the bridge is named.  He grew up here before there were any bridges at all.

Ernest Lyons, former editor of Stuart News

Toni 7/8/17