RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: August 2012

Classroom Rules For All Ages

Posted on

As a teacher I worked with students of all ages from elementary school, through middle and high school and finally at the university level. Without fail, on the first day of class I’d layout and discuss rules that would guide the semester.

Yes, there would be a listing of books to be read, topics to be covered, forms of writing to be explored, and problem solving techniques. Most importantly, however, was the attitude and process that would be in play.

As a child, I hated the “If you don’t know what you did wrong, I’m not going to tell you” approach—it was deadly. I’m a great fan of setting clearly defined expectations at the beginning. Although the wording might have changed over the years as I moved from teaching ten year-olds to twenty somethings, the messages were consistent.

Here’s the list of “rules” I have collected from various sources over almost forty years. I reviewed one by one on the first day of class… and kept the list posted in a highly visible spot all year long:

  1. Mistakes help us learn.
  2. You’re not supposed to understand everything the first time around. Critical thinking, pushing beyond the obvious, and perseverance are what count.
  3. Good students ask for help and for lots of feedback on their work.
  4. Consistent effort and effective strategies are the main determinants of success.
  5. Everyone is capable of high achievement, not just the fastest ones.
  6. If you try hard, learn from your errors, and persist, you can succeed.
  7. Mistakes are not signs of weakness. They’re data to use. They’re an opportunity for learning. Don’t be afraid of them.

I’m noticing that these are “rules” that I seem to use everyday, no matter what the venue. Whether it’s reading a challenging book like Jonathan Safran Foer’s new, unusual Tree of Codes or attempting a complicated sweater design or a sudoku puzzle, the rules help me push beyond chaos and get to something meaningful. Getting rid of the fear of failure and using our own learning experiences as a tool is one of the best lessons we can learn.

Best for Last

Posted on

Happy Feet

The last week of August at the beach is the ripest, juiciest of all. Maybe that’s because the end of the long hot days is near, and the nip is already in the night air. Today Woodneck Beach was absolutely perfect, more perfect than usual.

My Favorite Place on Earth

At five o’clock there were still a few families lingering and languishing in what was left of the day and the season. The sun did its sparkling twinkles on the water, and the waves tickled toes.

Stone Puzzle

The rocks always catch my eye. I love the mosaic they make when they’re flat on the beach. Every once in a while someone creates a sculpture—we all walk around it and don’t disturb the art. Of course, I filled a small cloth bag with shells, rocks and assorted treasures to scatter across the walkway to the house. Sea glass on a path to the front door is a welcomed surprise all year long.

Built It

Tomorrow we’ll head to the beach earlier, sit in our chairs, books in hand, camera in beach bag, maybe a few snacks and we’ll soak up the last of summer and look forward to fall.

Top Ten List for Kids Leaving Home for College

Posted on

1. Make real connections with your professors. Get to know them and make sure they know you. Learn ALL you can from them.  You’re paying for an education.

2. Learn when to invite friends into your room and when you need to be alone.

3. Be true to yourself. Don’t be a follower. Use your spine.

4. Bring your quilt/blanket and pillow from home. Sleep in your own bed—alone.

5. Get enough sleep. You’ll need it. People become incredibly stupid when they’re sleep deprived.

6. Avoid illegal substances because you also act stupid when you’re under the influence.

7. Keep up your own private, self-selected reading. It’s something you do just for you, even if it’s only ten minutes a day.

8. Buy 30 pairs of underwear because you won’t do laundry for quite a while. Going commando gets tired very fast.

9. Use a calendar, electronic or the old fashioned paper kind. Write down everything that’s due, schedule time to study each subject.  Then actually use the calendar.

10. Keep in touch with people who love you.

Bored…Clean the Toilet!

Posted on

Monday’s Short List

Being bored was not permitted in my childhood household. Any version of or indication that the words “I’m bored” were to be voiced were met with an immediate command to grab a rag and wipe the baseboards or, worse yet, clean the bathrooms. So, I learned not to voice it and never to think it.

My days were always jam packed with things to do; some were required tasks dictated by firm looks, but most were fun adventures in my head just waiting to happen. I loved getting up early and riding my bike around the neighborhood, feeding Papa Louie’s chickens, reading a book under the big trees in the front lawn, climbing up into my tree house and looking straight up at the sky through the sassafras leaves…there was never a dull moment. None of these events are earthshaking or monumental, just little moments that collect to make a fine, non-boring day. I also learned the value of solitude. I gave myself time to myself. That was a lesson worth learning.

As I got older, my stack of books on my nightstand got taller. The local bookstore and library became favorite haunts.  I chose a bookstore as a client and teaching as a career so I could get even closer to the good stuff. A similar pattern erupted with fabric and yarn and cookware. There’s always something that wants to mix and hatch—and I’m quite excited about it all. Mind you, it’s not non-stop busyness—there’s ample quiet, downtime to recharge my creative batteries, daydream, and sleep!

Having an overflowing list of possibilities is how I function. Yes, I have to work to limit the overwhelm and chaos, but it’s worth it. I make lists, but have learned to keep them short. Three items on a small scrap of paper guide my daily adventures and give some modicum of focus. There’s no real obligation to complete the list or even to look at it… it’s just a suggestion. I do much better with suggestions rather than ultimatums. At age sixty, I enjoy “being in the moment” more than ever and let that govern my schedule.

When I go to a restaurant or any kind of food purveyor, I often ask… “What should I not leave today without trying.”  That opens new doors and lots of windows every time. Spotify gives me the chance to play “what’s new” and try to figure out if I want to hum the lyrics. Pinterest provides fresh visual images and interesting ideas from around the world. When I was in the classroom, every day was a new adventure with lots to think about during and afterwards. I appreciate the “rush” of pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone. Maybe that’s why I’m never bored… who knows.

This time of the year marks new beginnings for me. It’s probably because I always connect the end of summer with the beginning of the school year. It’s an opportunity to look at time spent, and look forward to how I want to spend it in the future. Assess, reevaluate, re-think, create anew. Now that I’m retired, this ritual is more rich and exciting. What do I want to accomplish this Fall? The challenge is to keep the list short and never boring:

1.    Design and create 25% of my wardrobe by hand.

2.   Exercise every day (oh bullshit… maybe every other day)

3.   Read a book a week. Yes!

4.   Play in the garden.

5.    Waste less time on the internet.

That’s it. I’d love to hear how you broach Fall and any issues with boredom. Please feel free to leave a comment.

Half Way to 120 Years Old

Posted on

This week I turn 60 years old—I like to think of it as half way to 120. I’ve never been the type to fret about birthdays or aging. There’s so much I’ve got left to do as long as I’m here. That’s why I like to think about it as half way to 120.

First on my list is to continue to take good care of myself. Self-care has never been my forte. This past year it has been a priority, and I’m getting better at eating healthy, exercising and de-stressing. Being at the Cape has been a help; the world moves slower here, and I take time to do things that are good for me. There will be time to enjoy my hubby and the kids. The girls are all grown up, and they’re so much fun to be with. I’m a lucky lady.

The community here is a wonderful mixture of artists, intellectually curious minds, and generally sincere, good folks. My book group, knitting circle and to-be-formed spinning group bring out the best in me. So does a visit to the Farmer’s Market and the Falmouth Library. Having dinner at the Quarterdeck with Whitney as our all time, fabulous waitress is a regular date.

There are books to be read, writing to be done, creative projects to hatch, and gardening to tend. I promise not to get old and grumpy. There will be no complaining about the weather or saggy skin or a big ass. I will not dye my hair shoe-polish brown or wear orange lipstick. There will also be no bitching about stuff on television. I won’t be undergoing any plastic surgery or liposuction, but I will be eating more veggies. I will spend less time on the internet and more time daydreaming.

I’ll design and create most of my own clothes—and actually wear them. There will be fewer pieces in my closet, but they will be good looking and well-loved. There will be shelves with empty space on them and cupboards with room to spare. I’ll have less stuff, more time, less agita, more creativity and no headaches. There will be fewer rules and more coloring outside of the lines. That’s what turning half way to 120 will be for me. Oh, yes, there will be cake!