A Little After-school Music

  Glen Campbell and Barbara Cook both died today. When I was in elementary and middle school, there was not the level of homework assigned then that there is now. My siblings and I had the opportunity to entertain ourselves in the hour or so after school before Mom got home. The two artists who…

Memorials and Memory

I walked the National Mall on a recent Saturday morning with a friend. We wanted to be ahead of the crowds and the heat, and we beat the crowds  – but not the heat. There are few names that I would recognize on the Vietnam War Memorial. It does not really matter; the space is…

Birthday Concert – James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt

My daughters and a dear friend of mine engineered an amazing birthday gift this year. Paige (my friend) and I were both selected for a National Endowment for the Humanities Teacher Institute in West Virginia, and we happened to be finished for the day at noon on the Friday of the concert. The Institute was…

Two Museums

We visited the National Gallery in Washington, DC and the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown, MD in one weekend. I love American art and artists, and even though the gentleman at the desk of the National Gallery really was steering us toward the Dutch Old Masters and the Renaissance painters, I made…

Antietam

The reality of Antietam was hard to grasp. The magnitude of the battle and the ferocity of fighting balanced with the peace of the place now has some cognitive dissonance for me. The peace of Antietam creek, the cornfields, the quiet – all of these make for a contemplative space now. During this decisive battle…

About the Place Names Around Here

I am attending a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute for Teachers for the next three weeks. We are in Shepherdstown, WV – and it is a beautiful old town and a lovely old university (Shepherd University). The thing that initially is interesting to me is the power of the place name. Surrounding locations…

Point Reyes Lighthouse

Yesterday was a spectacular day. Slightly cooler than Sunday but clear and sunny. We went to the end of the world, the Point Reyes Lighthouse. To get to it you climb down a long staircase that you must eventually walk up. There were no whales when we were there, but apparently the weekend brought sightings…

Walk to the Beach

So yesterday we took a moderate trail to the beach. It is a well established trail and it is clear that people are making certain that it is passable (cutting downed trees for example). It is a beautiful trail, with switchbacks to make the descent to the beach something that is manageable for a couple…

Tides + Mountains

We are traveling for break, a different kind of brain break than the February recess as we are visiting family and determined to explore in a way that we did not explore the beach in Mexico. The weather is lovely in Northern California compared to Chicago in April. Flowers (rhododendron, hydrangea, tulips, poppies) are blooming…

Shopping List for Monday’s Classes

I could not be more excited for next week. It is the culmination of a design project from my classes this week. Yes, I’m an English Teacher, but language isn’t all about books, and a lot can be learned from taking a chance. My favorite conference in recent years has been Constructing Modern Knowledge in…

Two minutes in defense of reading

Last night was the annual curriculum night, and I went off book a bit. I didn’t use my three minutes to tell the parents what I teach; they have the curriculum guide for that. I used it to defend reading. So here goes: A recent study from Emory University titled “Short- and Long-Term Effects of…

Learning About Learning: Varnishing

So what does refinishing three old doors teach me about teaching and learning? This is one of those projects that we put off. For years. When we renovated our old house (built ca 1860) in 2000, we didn’t use crappy new doors or expensive, authentic new doors – we used all the lovely old raised…