All These Warnings for a Tea Leaf Ducky. What About the Other Stuff, Like How Poor Academic Performance Could Endanger Our Country’s Economic Prosperity? (A 420 Character, 9-Line Poem by Patty) NaBloPoMo

IMG_3174All These Warnings for a Tea Leaf Ducky. What About the Other Stuff, Like How Poor Academic Performance Could Endanger Our Country’s Economic Prosperity? (A 420 Character, 9-Line Poem by Patty) NaBloPoMoIMG_3173

Rubber duckies come with warnings,

like this little loose tea infuser,

but I want such signage attached to Diane Ravitch‘s comments

disparaging school testing: She says, “don’t pay attention to them.”

But if I do, I see that while tests of U.S. students are improving,

we’re not catching up to other developed countries,

and we KNOW that poor academic achievement

endangers a country’s economic growth.

Rubber Duckies.


Much as I love Sam Cooke and this song, it just won’t work if we don’t know stuff, and if we don’t know that we don’t know.



After un millione years of marriage, I no longer think in terms of what’s yours and what’s mine.  It’s ours, the whole honey pot.  So this week’s photo challenge was mind-joggling.  And then it came to me.  I have something that was made just for me, from the Land Before Ours.

Paolo Salvatore Abbate (1884-1973) was an internationally renowned sculptor born in Villa Rosa, Sicily and educated in Rome.  He studied sculpture with Domenico Trentacoste, the director of the art academy in Florence. Abbate was also a teacher and an author.  But, as a kid, I knew him as our friend ~ Paolo-who-has-goats.

Dad and I visited Abbate at his barn and small house across town.  He made the barn into a sculpture studio, and cut a large window up high to let in natural light.

Like a true Italian, he covered the exterior with stucco and added a fanlight above the door. He built a fieldstone fireplace for heat and dug two wells ~ one for himself and one for his goats. I can still see him, framed by the iron arches and pulleys above the well, filling water buckets, talking art with my Dad.


We never got to see Abbate’s studio in NYC, a busy gathering place for the likes of Enrico Caruso and friends, whom he sculpted. But wherever he was, he gave generously of his time ~  as president of the International Fine Arts League, a member of the National Sculptor’s Council, the Artists Council, the Connecticut Artists and Writers Society, and as a founding member of the Torrington UNICO Club, an Italian-American service organization.



The Paolo S. Abbate collection (1884-1973) was donated to the Immigration History Reseach Center at University of Minnesota. A microfilmed collection of his papers is in the Smithsonian Archives of American Art in Washington, DC.  It includes biographical material, letters to and from George Grey Barnard, writings and speeches on art, sketches, scrapbooks with pictures of his sculpture, newspaper clippings and exhibition price lists.


Locally, his work can be seen in Newburgh, NY, the Torrington, CT Cemetery, Brown University in Providence, RI, the National Arts Club in NYC, the Silas Bronson Library and the Mattatauck Museum in Waterbury, CT, and …

… in my house. This thing of beauty is ours.

Toni 10/3/12

in memoria di

Get It Inside You Or How To Avoid Magical Thinking: It’s No Secret

These are your orders. Top secret. Get them inside you.

The Navy duty officer hands a slip of paper to the young lieutenant, my father-in-law, and as Pop starts to read, the officer continues,

And once you’ve got it memorized, shred and swallow. Here’s some water.

Secrecy was that important in those early days of WWII.

Well for this high-achieving, high-poverty school I’m watching, the secret’s out: What’s important is Getting it Inside You.

Mrs P is teaching the strategy of estimating before adding and subtracting decimals to her fifth-graders.

Okay Millie, where do we start? (It’s the second day for this topic. Mrs P wastes no time waiting for volunteers. The kids are SLANT-ing as in Sitting up, Leaning forward, Attending, Nodding, and Tracking the teacher (or whomever has the floor).  Yes, exactly. And Wilem, what comes next? Remember the rounding rules? Tell me how it goes. Use the strategy that works best for you.  Armen? Yes, the number line works for you. Go with it. Let’s do one more together and then you try it. (So far, in these first 10 minutes, Mrs P’s done one problem and told the students: Watch me while I do this. Then she and the students did one, with Mrs P eliciting from the students the next step.)

During next phase, the Try-It, she grazes the room and coaches, with no pencil in her hand for demonstrating because at this point in the lesson the students are expected to do more of the math work.

Show me what you’re doing. Where are you using the strategy we just did on the board? What’s your strategy for this one? Tell me what you’re doing. Say it out loud. What will you do next? Tell me the words you’re using to guide yourself: yes, find the chunk; yes look at the smaller number; does it make sense. Good. You’ve got it.

And over and over she says: Use my words. Get them inside you. Then you’ll have a guide inside.

Her words are clear, relevant, and, yes, redundant. They have to be.

Mrs P doesn’t engage in any magical thinking; she knows that this hand-over step is as crucial as the initial first teaching. She’s teaching for transfer. Making the students responsibile for using what’s been taught.

If you’re saying to yourself, but of course that’s how it works in schools, you’re wrong. Teachers teach and students learn, but that doesn’t mean that the students are learning what it is the teacher is teaching.

Teachers need to deliberately teach for strategies first and then, just as deliberately, teach for transfer of those strategies. And the kids need to know that by next Tuesday- the 4th they are expected—on their own—to do the thing the teacher is teaching.

Get it inside you.

It’s that important.

And, unlike that poor young Navy officer who had to get the orders inside him by downing them with water?

It’s no secret.

Patty 8/28/12