Thursday, February 16, 2017

Tangled Talk

I’m a language person...a reader…a writer.  I have always enjoyed playing with language and still remember some of the jump rope rhymes I used to sing with my friends.  “Eeeny Meeny Bepsy Deeny...oooo bop bop sa deeny…” (I have no idea what the words were, but that’s what I said every time I sang this chant.)  

As a teacher, I came across a book by Audrey Wood called Bright and Early One Thursday Evening: A Tangled Tale. It caught my attention because the rhymes were so completely nonsensical.  After doing some searching, I discovered that this “tangled talk” has been around for quite a while.  There is a relatively well-known poem (though I could not find who it is attributed to anywhere) that goes like this:

Ladies and jellyspoons,

I come before you
to stand behind you
and tell you something
I know nothing about.

Next Thursday,
the day after Friday,
there will be a ladies' meeting
for men only.
Wear your best clothes,
if you haven't any,
and if you can come,
please stay home.

Admission is free,
you can pay at the door.
We'll give you a seat,
so you can sit on the floor.

In the years since, I have often come across many examples of tangled talk in real life.   I do it, and I don’t think I’m alone.  I want to have balance in my life, so I work until dawn.  I want teachers to grow in their craft, so I provide them step by step plans. I want to take risks as long as I won’t fail.  

Sometimes, I don’t even realize that what I’m saying and doing don’t align until I write it down.  Then, I realize how tangled the logic is.  We all do it, and when it is our own personal life...we may be the only ones affected by this doublethink. But if you are an doesn’t just affect you.

So, I decided to try my hand at some tangled verse.   I use myself as the “I” in this because I consider myself first and foremost...a teacher.  

They’ll learn to think if they do what I say.
I’ll teach them to be creative in just the right way.
I’ll do all the work so they can learn.
If they’ll just listen, their voice will be heard.
I’ll give them the tools to find all the solutions.
Why they’ll be problem solvers if they will just use them!
I’ll make writing a priority if we have enough time.
I’ll motivate them using all the same interests as mine.
I’ll get them “future ready” by preparing them for ONE test.
The 20th century will be well-staffed if they just do their best.

What we think and what we do in the classroom matters.  We have to reflect to see if our practice matches our beliefs.  I have met so many amazing teachers and administrators who are pushing boulders up hills that don’t have to exist.  If we recognized our own tangled talk, we can change it.  

I would love to hear some other tangled thoughts...what are yours?

Friday, February 3, 2017

Artists Needed

I have been thinking a lot about art lately.  Actually, I always think about it because, well...I love art.  As a kid, I used to spend hours drawing, then I would get a chair from the kitchen table and put a sign on it that said “ART SALE”.  I would set out all of my masterpieces and charge my brothers and sisters mere pennies (literally) to own my hard work.  They never bought them...I take that back.  After a while, my oldest sister would take pity on me and buy the whole lot of pictures- for about a quarter. I didn’t care, though.  I was just happy that somebody appreciated the pictures.  

Art has always been an arena of dangerous ideas, and maybe that is why I am drawn to it.  The impressionists completely disrupted the art world of Paris with their crazy ideas about how color and light could be used.  If you don’t know much about this period, read The Judgment of Paris--it is really fascinating.  The thought that people could cause such unrest and discomfort and fear simply because they wanted their art to be seen excites me.  

A few years ago, I read Seth Godin’s book The Icarus Deception, and it changed the way I look at my work.  The book is about how our economy and way of operating has changed and how what is wanted in today’s world is ….art.  In the book, Godin defines art as “...the act of a human being doing generous work, creating something for the first time, touching another person.” That seems so nice and touchy-feely, doesn’t it? Well...not so much.  One of my favorite quotes in the book is “Art, though, requires both pride and disobedience.” What do I mean?

To me, art is anything I do that is
aligned with what I believe. I believe teaching is my art.  The way I teach...or you teach...has to be aligned with what we believe about education, students, assessment, etc. for it to be of any value, though.  We can teach without it being art.  The act of teaching is not what I am talking about.  I’m talking about the ART of teaching.  THAT requires both pride and disobedience.   

I see so many educators on a daily basis who are artists but have put their paintbrushes away out of fear or just plain exhaustion of having their art criticized.  Please don’t.  Do your art.  Your students need your art...not your compliance.  If you believe that EVERY student can contribute to this world and deserves the opportunity to do so, then… do. your. art. It’s not easy.  Art is risky. Art requires you to be uncomfortable and often makes others uncomfortable as well.  Art sometimes takes sacred and revered things (or practices or philosophies or programs) and questions them, repositions them, shines new light on them, or breaks them.  That does not always make people happy, but it does make a difference.  

If we ever needed artists, it is now.