Friday, January 28, 2011
Flung from forbidding fathoms to gasp at stars in a
Silvered universe of so very many shining moments,
Only to gulp at some superfl'ous little mite;
And fall forever backward to fluid with a resounding
Like a gunshot that reverberates and that makes the
Head come up out of the water of its own thoughts;
To catch a glimpse of distraction from the far flung
Depths of its own fluid way since that first emerging
Like a hardness of light and sound, signifying presence,
To begin movement and thought, constricted to surfaces,
Ordained by the environment of limited nature where
Even a third and fourth, and the very one millionth
Will not reach higher than the might of the fish flop
Nor than that of the head upturned, with the stars within,
While the surface still is seen as dust places to dust,
And stars are thoughts deeper than levels of yet another
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Visceral and mesmerizing, IN DUE COURSE is the story of an old Zulu warrior’s pervasive influence on the gifted young Adam Broadford. In Northern Rhodesia the childhood promise Adam makes has their lives hurtling along a gauntlet of challenges. Worthiness of being is a thing to be earned. But due to Adam's self-righteousness, his selfishness, he is convinced he is responsible for once having sparked an enemy that results in murder, pillage, and revenge. His bid to escape his guardians when holidaying in England compounds his predicament. Forced to Return into the blistering birth of Zambia, his reactions create a cauldron of life-searing choices. In South Africa, in boarding school, he remains hounded by the ancient soothsayer’s prophecy. Conscripted as a sniper to the Zimbabwe border during the apartheid era, Adam attempts a different identity. But it is as a stoker on the railways that he determines finally to alter his seeming destiny. Still, must his last act for release from a childhood promise have to cost him his one great love?
In literary fiction born of clashing African cultures Adam's story of the search for an alternate life is a dramatic series of challenging incidents bringing him to terms with forgiveness, assimilation, compassion, and integration. Misunderstood by family, boyhood friends, and by his fellows, he intuitively strives for wisdom. Ultimately, IN DUE COURSE is not only the story of an Adam, but a story of us all.
Monday, January 10, 2011
Ring the Bell! I leave this profession of teaching after more than 35 years, and I have a declaration to make; an appeal to ring out; an alarm to sound. I am concerned about that dread topic, accountability; specifically, grades.
Excellence is our watchword. Yet I do not believe ‘excellence’ ought to be bruited about as a generality for students. I believe in putting people before product. I do not believe in putting product first. I believe in developing discipline and passion in the individual; I do not believe in conscripting a student to hate, loathing, despising, or even dislike of a subject. I do not believe in raising the bar so high for a given class that curriculum expectations are a series of frustrations and failures for an individual. I do not believe that a curriculum should equally challenge a general class, that a test should equally challenge all students, that a rule should equally apply to all pupils, that a standard should equally be applied to every learner, or that a student should have to take every level. I do not believe that I should have to take a subject beyond a proficiency level according to my life-needs or interests. (I personally have never used cosine theta, though no doubt my life over a bridge has depended on it, thanks to Penelope, who loves Math.) I do not for that matter believe in Drama 30 for Percival, per se, but since he chose it (or worse, was assigned to it) I am prepared to accommodate his interest and modify my expectations of his participation in order still to challenge him individually. I do not believe his grades should be a measure of comparative accountability. I do not believe in comparisons for grades. I do not believe that comparative grades are a measure of a program’s success, or a teacher’s success, or a school’s success, or a district’s success. I believe school is for everyone. It is for the individual. And for it to be so we, the education professionals and experts, should be allowed to treat students as individuals, to test students as individuals, to challenge and to promote the student entirely as an Individual.
What rings a personal bell for each is the opportunity to get lessons related to oneself, to have learning be made useful, to not have to be tested on the “clearly not my cup of tea” lessons. Percival does not care for Shakespeare, but loves quadratic equations; Penelope is just the reverse. Why require either of them to write the same test? Excellence as a goal of the product, per se, is for the rarefied few; to strive as a general populace for perpetual excellence is to court continual disappointment. Rather, let the individual strive for a personal excellence, strive for a personal best, strive to be the very best that he or she can be, and provide him or her with every individual opportunity to excel.
We ring the bell to summon the children to come unto us. Those children are as different from each other as their districts, their parents, their well-spring, and their stars have been aligned. Bells ring for individual reasons. It is for me in the particularized differentiation of lessons according to the needs of the individual that we prove ourselves as educators to be the most efficacious. I submit that implementing along with Penelope’s interests the rigour of an individualized provision for excellence may indeed have her becoming the very best of brain surgeons, and may well have Percival become the very best of mechanics, but whether no best Percival ever, or never a best Penelope, let the bell keep ringing individually for one, for each, and for all. Ding, ding, ding… Ding!