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 Amiel
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
We are lonesome animals. We spend all of our life trying to be less lonesome. One of our ancient methods is to tell a story begging the listener to say-and to feel- ‘Yes, that is the way it is, or at least that is the way I feel it.’ You’re not as alone as you thought. —John Steinbeck
The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.
Storyteller with happy children
A storyteller is passionately interested in human beings and their endless conflicts with their fates…. Dudley Nichols
On Mondays I teach math activities to small groups of children in an after school program. Yesterday is rainy and attendance is down for the lesson on measurement. The lesson begins by marking each child’s height on a growth chart.
A girl who is repeating first grade and a home schooled kindergarten boy are the only ones in the first group. We each have rulers and with a bit of practice learn how to line the ruler up against the object to be measured. How long is this pencil? Is this book the same length on all four sides? Who has the bigger shoe? When we measure the 4′ fish tank with a tape measure, I hold one end and the little boy holds the other. The girl is to read the number, but she has no clue. The kindergartener helps her. My job is to make suggestions and monitor their skills.
The second group consists of the first grade brother of the kindergartener and a second grade boy. The second grader, a bit disruptive in most group settings, is completely engaged as he measures everything in the room. The first grader needs more encouragement from me.
A fifth grade girl and sixth grade boy are in the third group. The sixth grader has just begun middle school and his new maturity shows. He patiently works with the girl as she struggles to figure the area and perimeter of the door. I just watch and affirm.
The last group consists of twins, eighth grade boys who are enrolled in an online school, and another home schooled sixth grader diagnosed with Asberger’s. This combination is trickier. The twins compete with each other and the sixth grader is hard to engage. But each in his own way found something in the room that was 20″. ( The best answer is the diagonal of a hanging picture) Once again my job is to watch and affirm, even with the sixth grader, who in his own time and way participates.
I, as teacher and writer, am finding my place in the story.