Saturday, October 4, 2008

Sunday, July 6, 2008


Visited the Strand for the last time before moving--I only went because Miriam and Andy were visiting and they wanted to go! And I didn't buy anything. On the rare book floor, they had two Algers, The Young Salesman, which we have at least three, probably four copies of, and one we don't have: Bernard Brooks' Adventures. Fortunately, Bernard Brooks' Adventures is one of the Stratemeyer Algers so I was not tempted.

Andy and Miriam told me I wasn't going to miss the Strand; Portland has Powell's. Thank god for Powell's, yes, but... the Strand is the Strand. Not as likely that I'll find a Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo program from the 30's at Powell's--the Strand had one yesterday, and I don't need to own it, but I got to examine it. I like the ephemera in the rare books room at the Strand. Portland has plenty of ephemera, true, but this is where I will be reminded of how much younger Portland is.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Packing packing packing

I can say with some degree of certainty that I will never again pack my books in boxes which formerly contained Tropiway Brand Cocoyam Fufu Flour.

I am going to miss Brooklyn, and in some ways especially Bed-Stuy.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Been packing all morning, packing since school ended Thursday at 11 a.m. My house is full of boxes--including TEN already packed with books, and I've cleared just one bookcase completely bare. Plus parts of a couple others. Maybe two are completely bare--a shelf here, a shelf there.

Started writing about all of this here and it might've turned into something like the first draft of a real essay. Which makes me still more hopeful about getting back to Portland and writing more again, for reals. Of course, I'm also procrastinating actually putting more books in boxes. Plus it's summer. But yeah--hopeful.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Delpit postscript.

Some kid keeps playing the recorder outside. This morning it was "Mary Had a Little Lamb," leading me to wonder if you could learn the recorder by the Suzuki method. Now it is more abstract.

But that is not what I wanted to say. Just what the immediate circumstances are.

In the last post I wrote, I described a "Lisa Delpit moment" I had in school the other day, but I didn't have time then to explain what I meant by a "Lisa Delpit moment." Delpit is an urban education scholar whose book Other People's Children taught me more about being a white middle-class teacher in an urban school full of students of color than anything else I read in grad school. It is telling that the book wasn't assigned in any of my grad classes in my New York City Teaching Fellows sub-standard graduate program, but rather recommended by a friend.

Other People's Children and Delpit's other writings, including an anthology she co-edited, The Skin That We Speak, have helped me figure out how to try to teach my students well, and led me to think differently and very carefully about the ways that our cultural differences lead us to approach experiences, hear what is said to us, and view education and its purposes (among twelve zillion other things). For example, from Other People's Children, in a chapter titled "The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People's Children": "Children from middle-class homes tend to do better in school than those from non-middle class homes because the culture of the school is based on the culture of the upper and middle classes--of those in power." She talks later about how the way students are taught sometimes "creates situations in which students ultimately find themselves held accountable for knowing a set of rules about which no one has ever directly informed them."

The example I always think of, which may not actually appear in Delpit's work, is that of a young excited white teacher saying something like "Wouldn't it be fun if we all got out our independent reading books now? Come on everybody, who wants to READ?" and then when students don't get out their books and start reading, she starts writing names on the board and taking minutes off recess. But she never actually told anybody that it was time to read. She merely suggested that it sounded like fun, but if they disagreed with her, why would they get out their books? Then when they didn't think it sounded like fun, she punished her students for not following directions that were not actually explicated. If she had said, "It's time for silent reading. Please get out your independent reading books," then the directions would have been clear and consequences would have made sense because the expectations would have made sense.

Yes, I know Jonathan was maybe at least partly being a pain in the butt during his reading assessment just for the fun of it, and knew very well that he did not have the choice not to read the rest of the passage, but thinking lately about standardized tests (the school I taught at this past year had the lowest sixth grade test scores in Brooklyn), I am thinking again about what is built into middle-class culture, and needs to be taught explicitly in school to children who are not growing up in middle-class homes--at least as long as we live in a culture where these things are considered as important as this culture considers them to be.

I am not being my most articulate self right now. But the school year is OVER and I am almost relaxing--except that I come home from my last day of school to blog about school. Hmph.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Reading Assessments

Had a Lisa Delpit moment yesterday when finishing up "running records" using the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project materials. I read the "Level N" introduction to Jonathan: "In this story, Brian and Josh are trying to teach Josh's dog named Arful to think like a cat. In this scene, the boys have gotten together at Josh's house. Please read aloud the first section. When you get to the line, you may read the rest silently--"

Jonathan interrupts, "If I want to? So I don't have to read past the line!"

I say, "No, you have to read the whole thing. Let's fix that: When you get to the line, read the rest silently. When you're finished reading, I'll ask you--you have to tell me--what you read."

Oh, clearly articulated expectations.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Sam and I went and bought lychees in Chinatown yesterday after school, and I complained about how they're still seven dollars a pound, and neither of us will still be living in New York by the time they get down to three pounds for ten dollars (of course, I get sick when I buy them three pounds for ten dollars, but then I get over lychees until the following summer, so...?). The lady selling fruit said something to the effect of "These are from Miami, ten dollars a pound. Chinese lychees, three pounds for ten dollars." Sam was briefly disappointed about lychees from Miami--just wrong. But he got over it.

June seems to be the best time to plan future visits and coordinate certain things: beach with Adri, lychees with Sam.