April 28, 2015

Teachers who use rubrics often have discussions about cut-lines, what differentiates a 2 from a 3, or a 1 from a 2, and the like.  It occurred to me recently, that perhaps a 4-point rubric is part of the problem of surface reading that teachers face with young readers.  It’s possible that they have progressed up through reading levels by riding just a point above the cut-line.  What would that mean for readers?  Yes, they pass, but do they ever really connect with a story, infer a feeling or motive, fall in love with a character, or stay riveted to a rising action?

I’m coming to believe that this is partly my fault, if I have been one to “pass students” up the levels without ever really requiring and even demanding that their twos become threes and their threes become fours.  I feel bad about this and have made a commitment to myself to really consider how to stop the practice at my school of accepting mediocre reading comprehension year after year.  Teachers are under pressure to have students make at least a year’s progress, but is it really progress just to move up?  What about what can be learned by moving out–by reading broadly, across genres, deeper into characters, and across curricular boundaries?  I have been lulled by linear progress when I know in my heart of hearts that progress is dynamic in all directions.  I don’t know the word for that (it’s probably a math word), but I’m loving the idea and challenge of taking kids “off-road,” of getting them off the “just left of the cut-line” reading that satisfies no one.

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April 21, 2015

I want to remember

this spring

when the early things

came late,

and the late things

came early.

When bluebells

spring beauties

and forsythia

bumped up against

plum, pear, and

cherry blossoms.

Azaleas, dogwood, and

redbud bursting–

In a rush.

Familiar rhythms

in cut time.

April 14, 2015

I stopped in to visit TWT this evening and was so rewarded by the posts I read.  I am humbled and thankful.

This week I accepted 3 musical challenges.  The first is the hardest – to accompany a semi-professional opera singer at a large event in Washington, DC this Saturday.  The music is challenging for my out-of-practice fingers.  I also notice that my stamina and concentration need some work, too!  Kind of like readers who haven’t read in a while.  It takes a while to connect.

The second challenge is to play the organ for a large church gathering on April 24.  Piano is my first instrument; organ is my 2nd language.  Kind of like our ESOL students, I’m not as fluent on the organ.

The third is to play for our school’s 5th grade chorus program in June.  I always love playing for children to sing and want them to have the best experience ever.

I’m thinking, why did I label these three events as challenges, rather than opportunities, or engagements, or performances? I think it is because I still feel that I might not measure up, so it is a challenge to be met. Then I thought some more and decided that I want to make these three musical moments joyful, just joyful. If I make a mistake, or if my pages get messed up, or if I lose my place, so be it. I want to let go of the baggage of expectation. I know there are no perfect performances, but there can be joyful moments. It’s about time I let myself have some.

April 7, 2015

Today I traveled across the country coming home from visiting my youngest daughter and newest grandbaby, Maggie. What a wonderful time it was to be with her and her young parents. While staying with them, I observed some very sweet reminders of what makes marriage work and what keeps it alive and sweet. Besides the joy of caring for a newborn, I was touched by the low mumble of their quiet pillow talk every night when the lights went out. I could only hear that they were talking, not what they were saying, but it made me happy. Another time, Mark came home with Jill’s favorite kind of cookie, knowing that she hadn’t been out of the house in days.

When I later opened my email, I found this poem posted by Ted Kooser, former US Poet Laureate, on his website “American Life in Poetry.” It seemed to capture the secret of keeping a strong marriage and affirmed what I had observed with Jill and Mark. I love how the comparisons in this poem are so accessible and real. The mundane things often teach us profound lessons.  The words that follow are Ted Kooser’s:

“I don’t think I’ve ever sold anything that, later, I didn’t wish I had back, and I have a list of regrets as long as my arm. So this poem by Melissa Balmain really caught my attention. Balmain lives in New York State, and her most recent book is Walking in on People, from Able Muse Press.”

Love Poem

The afternoon we left our first apartment,
we scrubbed it down from ceiling to parquet.
Who knew the place could smell like lemon muffins?
It suddenly seemed nuts to move away.

The morning someone bought our station wagon,
it gleamed with wax and every piston purred.
That car looked like a centerfold in Hot Rod!
Too late, we saw that selling was absurd.

And then there was the freshly tuned piano
we passed along to neighbors with a wince.
We told ourselves we’d find one even better;
instead we’ve missed its timbre ever since.

So if, God help us, we are ever tempted
to ditch our marriage when it’s lost its glow,
let’s give the thing our finest spit and polish—
and, having learned our lesson, not let go.