The Holidays are Upon Us

The holidays always bring back memories of family times and moments of passage in our own lives.  The core of the Iditarod for me has always been the life stories, struggles and triumphs of the mushers’ experiences.  My students read about the journeys and learn from them that life, for all of us is metaphorically a trail that we follow and a series of choices we make when the trail forks.  My first lesson this month is just that Life is a Trail  Students learn the concept of metaphors and apply it to their own lives as they choose how to express the experience they have had and the choices they have made.  It also gives them the chance to anticipate choices to come and how they will answer those.  They may see their lives as a river following its carved out course or a ferris wheel constantly following the same circle.  Whatever it is . . . it will be enlightening both for you and the student.  This is, of course, one of those experiences that I embark upon after reading and sharing the life journeys of everyone from Norman Vaughn to Lisa Frederik.  Refer to the reading list that I posted last month for ideas.

The next lesson I have to offer is a challenge into Math Vignettes  I have written one and attached it for you, but challenge yourself and (if old enough) your students to write some of their own.  I have always been impressed by how much more students learn when looking for and forming the questions themselves.  The learning experience is deeper and longer lasting than simply responding to the questions we ask.  (one facet of experiential learning)  It seems to be 4th through 6th grade that the turning point really begins to drive their learning.

I noticed, while putting together the lessons for this month that, for the most part, they address older students so I have included a Rookie Dot to Dot  by the number for the younger set.  It is not so simple as it seems to get it right as I approach my easel each morning, but if your students work on it, they may be re-creating Rookie as well, or even better, than I am by the time I get to Alaska for the race.

I hope you enjoy the challenges this month and as always – I am on the trail, with Rookie as my guide,


Pencil Point . . . Again

November Oak

I am finding the oak tree to be very illusive.  It is such an icon of strength and steadfastness that drawing it is like trying to draw a feeling or a dream.  It is like a child that changes day to day with the currents of their lives.

I imagine a musher when he or she finally decides, “I’m going to do it!”  She sees the Iditarod as so many things at once.  Where do you start?  What do you master first? Or can you even approach it that way?  Isn’t it a truly magnificent whole and isn’t that why you want to do it?  It is the feeling, the dream of the oak tree that takes one hundred years to become what it is.

I start by looking at it, trying to really see it.  And I look at it again and again, each time trying to see something that I didn’t notice before.  Then I do it again.

I have an Art student this year that took the class, because he thought it would be an easy A, not because he thought he would draw, no background whatsoever and no belief he could do anything at all.  We started with a circle, just a circle, trying to makeit as perfect as possible and I employed Mrs. Van Zyle’s  approach – that’s good, “do it again.”  I have included here the product of three weeks of circles.  If only my oak tree would improve this way.  But practice makes perfect and I have patience.

Alex's orange

And I always start with the trunk, because that is what everything depends upon.  A musher’s trunk is his team and the relationship they share.  If each member doesn’t look at every other member with the same trust, everything will fall down.

As teachers we know that before the paper and books and rulers and chalk there is the relationship of mutual trust that must be born between teacher and student, and student and teacher.  It is that intangible thing that holds everything together.  It is the reason I look at the oak tree again and again, more carefully each time.  It is the reason we study those faces each morning.

The valley I live in is literally full of oak trees and there are days I don’t see even one.  Those are bad days – the days that never quite get off the ground.  So make a promise to me, yourselves and your students to have no more bad days and I will take another look at that oak tree out back.

With Rookie as my Guide,