If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.-—Joseph Campbell

Archive for the ‘teaching/learning’ Category

Learning about Learning

Common core and current education research encourages students to use higher order thinking skills. We turn to Bloom’s Taxonomy for guidance. There is a revised version that I like. It’s found here:


This is a newer version of Bloom’s using revised categories and a circular image rather than the hierarchical pyramid.  I will use higher order thinking skills to journal a “section” a month and each word in the section for four days. After six months I will put together a book of anecdotes, activities and new ideas for each section of the taxonomy.

It’s a plan. A more specific framework than I have tried before, and it’s scary.

But I teach a college seminar for beginning teachers. Using experiences from my thirty years as a public school teacher, I have been encouraging students through a version of theory (abstract ideas from college methods courses) into practice (the reality of a class of one’s own) for the past five years. Now after thirteen years of writing practice I am ready to document this journey.


A Month of Presence

I made little quote notebooks for family and friends this year.This is the letter I enclosed with each book:

I really like quotes, but often wonder what others’ words mean for me. Here are some ways I attempt to satisfy my curiosity.

1. Read one in the morning as a morning meditation.

2. Consider connections when first reading it.

3. Write it over and over. (Remember learning spelling words that way?)

4. Go through the day watching for examples of the quote. (Like when hearing a new word or idea and suddenly it’s everywhere.)

5. Come back to the quote at the end of the day. Do a ten minute free write using it as the prompt. (Set a timer. Put pen to paper and write. Don’t edit. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar. Just write what comes up.)

The following is from the blog I used to write, itstartedwithaquote.wordpress.com.

“The entire universe is within us. My answers are inside of me, and yours lie within you, too. Everything that seemingly happens externally is occurring in order to trigger something within us, to expand us and take us back to who we truly are.”  Anita Moorjani

In the little notebooks I wrote the following month’s worth of quotes.

1. Write it on your heart that each day is the best day in the year. Ralph Waldo Emerson

2. Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. Mary Oliver

3. Follow what you love and it will take you where you need to go. Natalie Goldberg

4. All creation teaches us some way of prayer. Thomas Merton

5. It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts. Attributed to Harry S. Truman

6. There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one you in all time, this expression is unique. Martha Graham

7. The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. Eleanor Roosevelt

8. The most sophisticated people I know–inside they are all children. Jim Henson

9. Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground. Rumi

10. Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. Rachel Carson

11. I believe that when we ask to be led, we are led, and there’s nothing too small or esoteric for spiritual help. Julia Cameron

12. In a gentle way, you can shake the world. Mahatma Gandhi

13. The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them. Thomas Merton

14. The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are. Joseph Campbell

15. If you want to be incrementally better, be competitive. If you want to be exponentially better, be cooperative. Unknown

16. To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind that to be hopelessly in love with spring. George Santayana

17. You’ve got to keep the child alive; you can’t create without it. Joni Mitchell

18. Their story, yours and mine–it’s what we carry with us on this trip we take, and we owe it to each other to respect our stories and learn from them. William Carlos Williams

19. Deep listening is miraculous for both listener and speaker. When someone receives us with open-hearted, non-judging, intensely interested listening, our spirits expand. Sue Patton Thoele

20. Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

21. Every survival kit should include a sense of humor. Author unknown

22. Those who wish to sing will always find a song. Celtic proverb

23. Wherever we go, we take everything we’ve ever known with us whether we know it or not. Maya Angelou

24. Always walk through life as if you have something to learn and you will. Vernon Howard

25. As long as you live, keep learning how to live. Seneca

26. The meaning of life is to find your gift, the purpose of life is to give it away. Pablo Picasso

27. Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are. Marianne Williamson

28. Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is. Francis Bacon

29. It was in the 1920s when nobody had time to reflect, that I saw a still-life painting with a flower that was perfectly exquisite, but so small you really could not appreciate it. Georgia O’Keeffe

30. Learn to be quiet enough to hear the genuine within yourself so that you can hear it in others. Marion Wright Edelman

31. A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary. Thomas Carruthers


Growing Community

We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.   Marian Wright Edelman

Day 11

Last night at the community garden volunteer training workshop we brainstormed how to get a neighborhood more involved. The Valencia Community Garden was established four years ago and the neighbors are still not working in the garden or participating in the monthly veggie of the month food demonstration or yearly taste-a-thon. I listen to ideas that sound similar to the ones we come up with every year at this training.

Early that afternoon I was the adult assigned to a table of four young adolescents in the youth summer gardening program. The tasks were to fry green tomatoes picked from the garden and to make a remoulade sauce. Two of the guys began the job of slicing tomatoes (carefully tucking fingers out of the way of the sharp knife) and then coating them with egg, flour, and a cornmeal mix. The only girl in our group took over the frying, diligently stirring and flipping the prepared slices. The youngest member of the group (whom I affectionately call Tigger) measured and whisked together the ingredients for the sauce.

There were no cuts, no burns, no big spills…and no arguments. All I really did was watch, amazed.

Hey y’all. Maybe we’re overlooking something here. For four years we’ve been grooming the next generation of neighbors. And they are very involved.


Data Collecting

To write it, it took three months; to conceive it three minutes; to collect the data in it all my life. F. Scott Fitzgerald

Education is not the piling on of learning, information, data, facts, skills, or abilities – that’s training or instruction – but is rather making visible what is hidden as a seed. Thomas Moore

I need projects in the summer when I’m without much of a schedule, so this month I am keeping a reflections notebook.  My beginning teachers will do this next fall to help them self assess. I want to see how it works for me.

I note what I see and hear around me, what I think about what I see and hear, and how I respond. I try to go into each setting with beginner’s mind…to be open to what is.journalstack

Now is the time for new adventures. Tomorrow I will be in a sculpting workshop. A sculpting workshop! Yikes! Breathe, Laura… and pay attention.

I wonder what I’ll learn.


I attended a meeting last night seeking community input as the search for a new school superintendent begins.  Although I retired twelve years ago, I now work with beginning teachers, many of whom are employed in this parish’s system.

There were about 35 people present, some I’ve known from public meetings like this twenty years ago. Why was I there, I kept asking myself in this morning’s journal pages. What did I learn?

I am using Alan Cohen’s words for further reflection…

Every choice before you represents the universe inviting you to remember who you are and what you want.

Life’s gift to you is your unique vantage point. Your gift to life is expressing from it.

Heaven is gained or lost not by dramatic deeds, but by the simple of acts of daily living.

Fantasy is often closer to reality than what most people accept as reality.

Let out a little more string on your kite.

Anansi the Trickster

It is by teaching that we teach ourselves, by relating that we observe, by affirming that we examine, by showing that we look, by writing that we think, by pumping that we draw water into the well.  Henri Frederic Amielanansi

Yesterday in our after school folk tales class we read another Anansi story. Anansi, the trickster in West African folklore, often takes the form of a spider. Sitting on the table was a pipe cleaner spider with wiggle eyes and a Jolly Rancher sucker abdomen. I had the children’s attention.

We read the book, discussing the difficulty a spider might have taking a large python and forty-seven stinging hornets to the Sky God. The children were impressed.

Then we made our own spiders. The younger children’s chaotic spider legs were subtly adjusted as I hot glued the eyes. Everyone left happy.

Alas, I was so completely involved in the lesson I had no time to take pictures of the children.

When I got home last night a book I had ordered was waiting in the mailbox…The Tao of Teaching.

Let it be still, and it will gradually become clear.   Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

Noodle Kaboodling

This weekend the arts festival was open to the public and I was assigned the booth most likely to have the highest traffic.  Noodle Kaboodle.

Swim “noodles” had been cut into discs by the wonderful women in the supply room. Each child gets a paper plate with one disc hot glued in the center (also prepared by aforementioned w.w.) The child then builds a sculpture using several loose ones, toothpicks and other plastic foam shapes.

My job was to hand out plates, foam and toothpicks, engage the artist (or not) in conversation about their creations, and help he/she put it into a plastic bag to take home.

It was non-stop. Friday night 5-9, Saturday 10-9, and Sunday 1-5.  A huge success. I’m exhausted!




Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.  Pablo Picasso

Listening to Learn

Learning to Listen

Listening for Lessons

A Teacher and her Writing Practice

Writing Is My Drink

slake your thirst; find your voice


~ creative ideas for making a difference ~

...the house I live in...

A journal of life pursued