Table of Contents

Wonder Moments

Teaching in the Realms of Gold

The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on. –Carl Sandburg, 1916 [I read a reflection recently about the role of moments of wonder, joy, and even terror … Continue reading

HOW TO TAKE NOTES IN CLASS

Don’t waste your time taking notes.  Don’t let your school work interfere with your education.  – Mark Twain.     If you write down everything that happens, you may as well be a stenographer.  Stenographers are paid to do transcripts, … Continue reading

HOW TO TAKE CLASSES

Passing Grade, Least Effort If  you’ve decided you want a passing grade with the least effort – for whatever reason – you’ve come to the right place.  (If you’re taking a course that sets your mind on fire, you’ll do … Continue reading

How to Take Classes, Part 1

Once you think about it, it will be obvious that school subjects are not English, history, chemistry, biology, and so forth. School subjects memorizing reading textbooks taking classes doing assignments taking tests handling stress   Right? Of course. When you … Continue reading

Mastery Learning

Playing to Win — Updated from Get Your  A Out of College School is a wonderful place for an education.  Somebody ought to try it sometime. When we realize we are in charge of our own learning and always have … Continue reading

It’s a Sucker’s Game

Schooling Is Not Education Maybe I haven’t made it clear enough why I wrote Get Your A Out of College. Mainly, it made me feel bad to see my sweet, innocent students trying be play the school game without knowing … Continue reading

The Myth of Species

Bridging the Worlds In the English department in the college where I taught, we had  ESL classes – English as a Second Language.  They were for people who’s mamas spoke Spanish or Urdu or Farsi.   But what about the native … Continue reading

Turning Tests into Crossword Puzzles

  I have resented to this day When any but myself presumed to say That there was anything I could not be.                                     – Robert Frost The Testing Mania There is so much wrong with giving each other tests I … Continue reading

Unnecessary Beauty

One afternoon I picked a spear-shaped bud along the lagoon path.  Look what happened overnight. Nature — What will you think up next!

The Zen of Remembering

As Good as Necessary                                                To remember well enough to get through your classes with high grades or to remember what you need at the store or to turn out the lights when you get ready for bed, you … Continue reading

  • Pointing the Cart Where It Wants to Go
       Smart Entities Don’t Exist in Isolation [These posts can be read separately, but they’re sequential, too.   If you’d like to follow the thought process, start with the first posting.  There is a list of latest posts on the left.] Here’s  a little about how this website is set up.  It started out as a book … Continue reading
  • Chapter 1 OnLooking Into John Keats and This Book
      On the Person in the Mirror [ These posts can be read separately, but they are sequential, too,  each continuing from where the previous one left off.  So if you would like to follow the thought process, start with the first posting.  There’s a list of recent posts to the left of each page.] … Continue reading
  • Surface Features
    [ These posts can be read separately, but they are sequential, too,  each continuing from where the previous one left off.  So if you would like to follow the thought process, start with the first posting. The latest posts are listed on the left of each page. ] There’s More to Anything Look at the … Continue reading

Going To and Fro on the Earth, and Walking Up and Down on It — Looking for Poems

images

Mount Diablo — 3849 Feet

I Brought Back All the World on My Face

Dear McKowen: I have spent a Sunday up on the mountain of Diablo: Motorcycling up and down, looking at the scenic view . . . I brought back all the world on my face–cheeks set aglow by sunset sky, planes, hawks, people, woods, horses, spring flowers and wind.

Years ago I found those words in a reflection of Lupe, a student of mine, from Puerto Rico, at Diablo Valley College. No wonder I enjoyed my work. Let’s make Lupe’s reflection look more like a poem:

images3-8-30.horse.m

           Dear McKowen

I have spent a Sunday
up on the mountain of Diablo:
Motorcycling up and down,
looking at the scenic view.
I brought back all the worldimages
on my face–cheeks set aglow

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by sunset sky, planes, hawks,
people, woods, horses,
spring flowers and wind

How does that look? Any better?

This makes me think of a class I had with some students one morning years ago. I remember putting a poem of William Carlos Williams on the chalkboard one day and pretending–just for fun, but more than that too–that I had written it to my wife and had left it on the refrigerator that morning.

Plums Realms

So I asked the students if they thought Ruth should forgive me. Shouldn’t she be glad I ate the plums? They discussed that back and forth for a while. Some thought it was pretty sneaky.

Then I asked if I could get away with telling Ruth that my note was actually a poem? Maybe she’d go for it? Did they think my note was a poem? Come on!

Well, what if I had typed it up and arranged the words like this:

                                                  THIS IS JUST TO SAY

imagesI have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

I thought she ought be damned glad to have such a swell husband even if he did eat the plums. (I did later  confess that William Carlos Williams was actually the guilty party.)

And along that same line of thought I asked if, say, someone had written a note like that instead of writing a regular reflection, should I forgive him or her? And I played around with that a while: Is he or she “getting it” – getting what the study of our language and its literature is all about? I asked. Isn’t eating a delicious plum, whether school keeps or not, precisely the same thing as reading a delicious poem?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A Delicious Poem

Remember when Piglet asked Pooh, “When you get up in the morning, Pooh, what’s the first thing you think about?” And Pooh says, “What’s for breakfast? And what do you think about, Piglet?” “I wonder what exciting is going to happen today,” says Piglet. Pooh ponders that and then says, “It’s the same thing.”

Pooh and Piglet

It’s the same thing.

Get it?

There are delicious plums right under our noses – wonder moments – lying about on sidewalks and in the dust balls under the bed – everywhere. And as Auntie Mame said to Patrick when things looked dour, “ Remember, my little love, life is a banquet, and some poor bastards are practically starving to death!”

Mame1

Life is a banquet.

It’s a matter

of

reframing.