Sunday, September 29, 2013

Preemptive Education Lecture Reflection


Maxine Greene, Megan McDermott Lecture


What a pleasure to attend such an inspiring event! A lot was discussed by the panelists in a short while. In addition, there were young poets displaying their unique talents to the room. In freely expressing themselves, by creating their own verse, having their own rhythm, and meter, these poets embodied the kickoff’s clear message: students that tune in to their own unique frequencies and inner feelings, and then share these perceptions, allow for others to build on and or find their own set of beliefs, and enable them to make sense of their world (paraphrasing Dr. Greene).

The lecture had a magnificent impact on my thought processes in the days to follow. I found myself writing poetry the next day while on my lunch break: a freeing and cleansing exercise, in and of itself. However, while I have always felt that way about creative writing in general, I will admit, in my many conversations with friends, family, students and colleagues, I seem to be in the minority. Perhaps I could never adequately articulate why the arts are so important, most notably in the mental and spiritual sense. This is where Dr. Greene comes in, and why I feel so blessed to have been in attendance. She helps put into words what all poets feel. That there is no such thing as good or bad poetry (that all of it is good) as long as it comes from the heart. That poetry is a medium with the capacity to hold feeling and emphasis. That poetic words go beyond didactic meaning. That poetry is an aesthetic response to the outside world that can overcome aloofness and pacificity and allow for tangible change through the communal voice of individuals seeking to better and improve the externality of our existence.

In the pedagogical sense, the lecture opened my senses up to, yet again (pfffff), the question we, as educators ask ourselves over and over again: How do we bring out the voices of our students? Leave it to a room of poets to sweep everyone up off their feet feeling elated, everyone exiting the lecture on cloud nine, but no one with any clear direction as a means to sustaining that high. This was the one thing I found the lecture to be lacking in: specificity. However, in thinking about it more, that is kind of the message, and also where preemptive education enters the classroom. Maxine Greene says she “welcomes ambiguity,” and that she “hates fixed anwers.” One of the questions asked in response was, “How do we teach that to students, when the school system only wants to test us?” There is no clear distinct answer to this question in my opinion. If we are asking our students to find themselves, we as teachers need to do the same, and do it quick, before students get used to responding in a way that is strictly what they think we want to hear.

I go back to the original message of the lecture: that by tuning in to our unique frequencies we allow for others to do the same. In the practical sense, we as teachers can be ourselves, first and foremost. Also, we can design lessons that focus more on upfront individual, student interpretation of the coursework and text, before honing in on conventional or accepted beliefs surrounding an idea or theme. This paves the way for assessment, more in terms of reflection and analysis, rather than relying strictly on rote and recall. There is a critical connection for students and teachers at every turn, readily accessible, assessment checkpoints for teachers, built-in to this formulaic approach, as students are allowed to first develop their sense of perception, and then hold that up to the canonical interpretation and either challenge, agree, or meet somewhere in between. You truly can allow students to learn on their own; as Megan McDermott said, it is our primary duty as educators “to create space for children with a vision to do THEIR best work,” and also believe they will arrive where they need to be in the end, to pass our tests, but also end up at a place of individual understanding, and come to make sense of what these exams and rubrics really signify, rather than having their entire scholastic existence revolve around what they have been told by teachers that come to fear the test. That is preemptive education: doing something to make a change for the better, before it is too late.


Saturday, September 28, 2013


Poetry to me is
The best things in life are
Free as the wind,
To run-on like the
Ins and outs of the inside shouts
Do spread—
Innocent and free
Like four month old foals’ guiltless folly,
Beyond the breakers that turn to plains inside the brains
Of little, Plain Janes and Average Joe beaus and other young women of land and sea
Who splay out dreams
With their net eyes’
Vision of catch and release,
Transpose and disguise
Fishes and wishes of fishermen dishing out fresh,
With every cast
Of shadow and light—
Doling out life,
In overture
As the wind
Freely forms illusion,
The entire scene
Beneath the breakers, below the barge
Beyond the naked eye, more stretches of land,
A most, masterful confusion—
Running after foals,
Swimming with the shoals,
Soaring through the open sky,
Beyond the Heavens, below the Earth
Where between the lines
There is only

Friday, September 20, 2013


It’s all on you,

You know what you must do,

Tiny cues, collectively, like inner ear whispers from the brain growing you up

Telling you to get going,

Throwing you into the toss around

Every man for himself

Churning the engine

Screeching out in sound

Riding along on this merry go round

Screaming at the body collecting signals

Heart, the home

Boarded up with shingles

Melding, hardening with

Every little pang to the gut

Shock to the skin

Sledgehammer to the head,

Back spasm—

Spastic inelastic ideas of soldiers at war

Attacking your core

Matching the physical, aging stubborn mind

Toughen up at any cost thoughts serve to remind

Until the sound of spirit becomes muffled

And everything you are gets lost in the shuffle,

Forgetting family

Forgetting friends

Losing touch with love

And the helping hands

The bonds you have and hold dear to your hear

Not knowing where to turn

Not knowing how to start

All over again,

Feeling alone and hopeless,

The needle and the yarn back to recovery in the weak, shivering hands

That seamless threads of illogic govern

Like a dream gone bad in

Standstill, the self stranded

Troops disbanded

Overrun with fear

A deer in headlights

You appear to the bright white

Stepping outside for a moment,

Walking in the footsteps frozen over from just before that were forgotten,

Seeing the others’ imprints,

Feeling the cold win blow

Smelling a bonfire burn

Somewhere off in the distance, coyote howls

Savoring the berries of winter,

Coming to know again

Truth and sense

By virtue of the sensory,

The door always open,

To portal you back.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


In response to the suspicion of these seven deadly,
Lyrical sweet medley,
In every color
Balance beam walking dream visions
Above the debauchery and derisions,
Be you part undercurrent flail about nightmare
Fattened by the many stares
That scoff at your share?
By rejecting the flares and self indulgent fares
Of those that inhabit your Earth, this dirtied receptacle
That pays dearly for their spectacles
In many ways
As you count down the days
Tightrope tippy toe slow
Wide open plain stroll without care
To climb up the ladder,
Chew on your fodder,
“But hey, you idiots, this is America!”
Have ye no shame ,
Have ye no inner honorable flame
Be it famine or fame,
Squeaky clean surface or stain,
“How can you just stand there,
We’re all going to die!”
They wrote it on their hands as kids,
Let it roll around,
And when that day finally came,
Grace in the face of endless fire, reborn.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Education Journal Entry

There is a lot to think about in and around the world of teaching today. Diverse contexts have always existed. However, in recent years there has been more public awareness than ever before on the nature of these contexts and the implications therein. Administrative bodies and teachers are now turning their attention to the full scope of diversity and the widely-varied, stratified representations of the student populace, in which many grey areas do exist. As such, there is an increased need for a constructivist approach to teaching; the learning is hands-on, discovery, experiential and task-based, and is employed to bolster the acquisition of knowledge and to encourage the emergence of student identity. What exactly is knowledge? It is hard to put your finger on it. It comes in many forms. We KNOW that standardized tests, state and national education boards will never recognize or emphasize the importance of each and every variant. We SUSPECT that administrative bodies are primarily concerned with measurable data as a means for sectionalizing the masses and fitting students into neat, little sub-categories to feed our American need to measure, compare and contrast. It is certainly true that test scores and conventional methods of assessment are relevant data teachers can use. However, before data, there comes the students themselves. Teachers and parents see students as comprising our youth: bright-eyed and hopeful, exhibiting qualities and talents from time to time that are unique and special, difficult to quantify by any set of standards. And yet, teachers are told to assess in a very specific way, most of the time. It is part of their job. So the question becomes, how do we encourage the development of student talent(s) that fall outside the range of the conventionally assessable? There is an entwining of ideas here. As we come to realize the plethora of grey areas of diversity and the vastness and openness of the “contextual field,” in which anything tangible today is plotted, we better understand knowledge, as the elusive immeasurable. Essentially, it is the field. Some of it is visible, though much of it is hidden away in the brush, underground, etc. Teachers need to do their best to bring this knowledge out into the open so that it can grow and manifest into something tangible. The only way for teachers to do that is to better understand the students themselves. A constructivist approach allows for this, if teacher participation is dual, in that they both facilitate and engage in the way a student would, as a learner.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Writer's Response

Writers see everything. There is always much to discuss, too much, in fact, after something has just happened. And yet, the writer is quiet, as everywhere else, all around, there is outcry. He or she is in need of time; to ingest and process. Writers tell their stories to themselves inside of their heads over and over again as they reflect and revise, reviewing past occurrences, conjuring up fantastical forward thinking possibilities that are endless, forming loose associations with their own present perspective, that can be all encompassing, though not necessarily reactive or related to any facts that have been presented that are relevant to the story at hand. Their minds are simultaneously keen and hazy, as thought after thought after thought passes through. Mature writers tells their stories only to themselves at first, for they have failed too many times before, in speaking them; a waste of good energy. Often, embarrassing, too. It is a writer’s hope that he or she will hold onto the vigor of occurrence, harness, redirect and infuse life into a work of art, that you might read and enjoy. Something has just happened. In those first moments to follow, writers will not know what form their story will take, only that there is a story there, one worth being told. That is why the immediate, responsive, verbal conveyance of subject matter at hand for writers first, speakers second, is rarely eloquent, and often disjointed. The story is not yet eloquent to the writer; the mind, laden with imagery; snippets of occurrence and light speed possibility, flashing. The subject matter is not yet clear. Readers, please standby for abridged version.