Archive for November, 2010

Grizzlies and brownies are not bears.

Posted 29 Nov 2010 — by Jennifer
Category role of teacher

Look at this photograph—I just love it—my son is on the left, surrounded by men 30+ years older, learning how to tie flies at Urban Angler in Virginia. I sat on a couch nearby for 3 hours, for 3 Mondays.  And I learned a lot.

I overheard an entirely new vocabulary and way of speaking—I learned (or began to learn) another language—hackle, the big-bushy, dubbing, building up the head, tying in, keeping it on edge, wrapping through it, parachutes, grizzlies, brownies—but overall there was a respectful hush at the table.

I watched a skilled teacher deal with different ages and abilities, balancing attention and support with grace and incredible patience.  He never seemed frustrated, and had different strategies to offer if the person didn’t get it the way he demonstrated the first time. He encouraged and complimented and at the same time corrected and critiqued.

I saw students asking questions and learning from each other, as well as the teacher.

My favorite part was observing the different expressions of concentration on the students’ faces—a tongue hanging out, a crooked smile, a furrowed brow, a tongue in cheek—the mark of people truly in the zone.

I wish I observed more moments like this in classrooms—children truly engaged and invested in their work, with teachers who know well the dance of teaching and learning; an unhurried pace, with extended periods of time to work out problems and try different variations; more men teaching our boys and girls in early childhood classrooms; different generations coming together; and having and pursuing a hobby that connects the hand and the mind.

on the importance of art and materials

Posted 16 Nov 2010 — by Jennifer
Category Uncategorized

I am constantly asking myself to be more articulate about why the exploration of materials and the presence of the arts in school matters. I have emotional/intuitive explanations, and opinions, and my personal values, but faced with incessant pressure from school administrations and parents to concentrate classroom time on “academics,” I need stronger words to talk with.

Tonight, browsing through books at the American Art Museum, I found this quotation from poet Ann Lauterbach, from “The Night Sky,” which gives a little more clarity to my thoughts:

“If we lose our ability to make meaning–that is to interpret–to find form in the raw materials of life–then we stand in danger of having meaning made for us.”