Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Home? Where's Yours"

Home.  Where’s yours?  Today I was reading from a wonderful collection by Lee Bennett Hopkins called, Home to Me: Poems Across America.  It’s a grand collection of poetry about “home” and it is striking!

I’ve been thinking about home a lot of late.  Today, I was sitting in my classroom after school, with a pile of books on my table, planning our next study as writers.  In Lee’s book, Pass the Poetry, Please!, I read the words Lucille Clifton offered, “… lives become generations made out of pictures and words just kept.”  Generations.   

And, as I was reading Home to Me I was awestruck when I read Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s poem “A Place Called Prairie.”  I was breathless with her words, “I breathe in stories told to me; when winds came calling, a fine dust falling on these same prairie plains…”  And then, I read “Needed” by Sandra Gilbert Brug.  That was it.  I was brought to tears, remembering…

I started remembering my childhood.  Remembering times spent with my brother-in-law and sister on the “Turkey Track” near Colorado Springs.  Remembering playing with my nieces in the hayloft, in the corrals, in the chicken houses.  Remembering grand dinners and lunches whipped up my sister, Doris.  Remembering feeding cattle, learning to drive the pickup, riding horses, branding cattle.  Remembering laughter and country songs playing on the phonograph.  Remembering the warmth of eggs as I gathered them in the morning.  Remembering tomatoes canned at summer's end.  Remembering gatherings of neighbors and friends.  Remembering falling asleep to the night sounds of coyotes on the lawn and then the raucous roosters waking us in the morning.  Remembering… The simplicity.  The joy.  The hard work.  The life.  Home.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about where our educational road is leading young learners.  I think about assessments and standards and backwards planning and publishers out to make a buck.  And the plethora of “stuff” whipped up by the those whose home is farthest away from children... in the name of accountability and ‘being number one.”  Instead of slowing down, we keep speeding up… and learners who need to think deeply, ponder regularly, and question often still have a place in the 21st Century.  It's my hope that we can all slow down a bit, after all, isn't that want the core content standards propose?  Depth, not breadth.  Synthesis, not regurgitation.  Thinking, not filling in blanks. 

But, back to home.  What I’m really thinking about is storyRuth Ayres always inspires me to remember story (she reminds us not to forget story and its importance in our lives).  Ruth’s voice has been echoing in my brain since I heard her keynote at the AllWrite Conference last summer.  And, so I’m befuddled.  In all the madness and rush to move readers and writers through continuums, programs, rubrics, and such, I worry about the simplicity, the organic nature of learning, the heart of the learner.  Moving slowly and deeply must lead children safely into the complexity of this thing called learning.

As I pondered Lee’s work today, I began to lay out our next “unit of study.”  I decided that we, as learners, are going to have to take the slow path, the scenic path, enough to do some remembering.  We’re going to have to dig deep into the satchels of memory we carry (don’t worry, I’ll make sure we’re learning something viable).  We’re going to have create the same kinds joy that has inspired Lee, Lucille, Rebecca, and Ruth. 

Home. The power of “home.”

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Here’s what I jotted in my journal in response to the reading I did this afternoon.  A little poem, just to ground my thinking.  Enjoy.


I drove to the prairie today,
For what?  I don’t quite know.

Perhaps to listen for the sound of cattle hooves
tramping across their well-worn pasture path.

Perhaps to see the windmill blades
churning beside a lone horse tank.

Perhaps to smell the dampness of the blue grama
drifting amidst a prairie wind.

Perhaps to touch the dusty earth
warming slowly after morning rain.

Perhaps to taste the evening breeze
blowing its breath into the world.

I drove to the prairie today,
For what?  Perhaps just to remember.

Perhaps to return... home. 

p.s.  As I reread this post, I felt this kinetic jump from topic to topic... a slight disconnect.  But, it's what was on my mind.  Let's just call it... random post for the month!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Patrick - Another BIG snowy day here in KC so I'm catching up on some blog following! Realized how much I've missed yours!
    Thank you for these words: Instead of slowing down, we keep speeding up… and learners who need to think deeply, ponder regularly, and question often still have a place in the 21st Century. I was having exactly that conversation with my son the other day. He is nearly 20 and has just lately discovered his love of thinking & pondering deeply. He's always been a thinker, but never was given the opportunity or encouraged to enjoy it. Let's HOPE that the common core standards will allow some of that time and I'm inspired to encourage them to do it! Thanks!

    Kelly M. - (one of your dinner-mates from Highland Park Elem in Lee's Summit MO)