Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lester Laminack

On Saturday…nine teachers (including me) from my school journeyed across our state and into neighboring New Hampshire to spend the morning and afternoon with Lester Laminack. We did so because a friend from another district told me he is one of the best speakers she has ever heard (and she has heard many). When I conveyed that information to my teaching friends, we took the long drive of faith.


With no PowerPoint, handouts, or overheads; Lester captivated his audience for the two hours before lunch and the two hours after lunch. He shared his six year old impersonations, his passion for writing and reading, and his personal pilgrimage for acceptance. The audience laughed at his antics, misted over his memories, and consumed the books he read as if we were being exposed to reading for the very first time.


With a simple question, “When did hand raising begin?”, he wove his entire presentation in and out…to and fro…like tidal waters coming and going but always returning to the theme. Lester wanted us to think about why we do the things we do in our classrooms. Do we do them because we were taught that way? Do we do them because they are best educational practice? Why do we so often ask children to only speak when called upon? What is the art of conversation? How can we have conversation in a civil way without begging to be called upon? How can we better listen to the speaker and then add to that speaker’s thoughts?


Lester Laminack is a class act. I hope he continues to traverse the country and spread his words like butter on warm toast. He does so with intellect, passion, and purpose. He wants our youth to grow up rich in literature, spilling with language, and penning the thoughts that pour out of them. If you have not seen him speak, find him and go. If you have seen him speak and you are as impressed as I am, I bet you will seek him out again.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Shedding the Heavy Foods for Lighter Fare

Do you ever get stuck in eating habits? My husband and I have two eating patterns; those foods for Spring and Summer and those for Fall and Winter. You know…salads and grilled meats for the warmer seasons and roasts, casseroles, and carbs for the colder months. We seem to fall into a weekly menu rotation and eat the same foods over and over again until we cannot stand them any more.

Since it still feels like winter here in Maine, we are mired in those heavy, hot foods that are meant to comfort the soul and warm the tummy. On Sunday I decided to take on a new recipe keeping us from yet another redundant meal. With help from Rachel Ray, I shopped for adobo, chilies, peppers, onions, hot roasted diced tomatoes, chicken, and fresh corn on the cob. I picked up salsa, blue chips, and avocado as well.

My recipe: Chicken Tortilla Soup. Although I have had this soup many times when dining out, I had never made it. I spent about an hour peeling onions and carrots, scraping corn off the cob, chopping celery and peppers, sautéing the veggies in bacon drippings and olive oil, and adding in the rest of the ingredients. I let the soup bubble on the stove for a while and then added spices and green chilies. I turned off the heat and let the soup sit in the Dutch oven for the afternoon.

When it was time for dinner, my husband helped a spring green avocado escape from its tough skin and mixed it with garlic, cumin, lime, and hot sauce. I reheated the soup. We opened a fresh bag of blue corn strip chips and opened the fresh salsa I had purchased. The steaming tortilla soup was ladled into bowls. Dinner was ready. It was warm and yet light…just right to help us ease into a new season.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Staying Alert

How did the SOLC impact me?

I had to stay awake, notice what was going on around me, and take in the details. All too often it is easy to get into patterns. Get up…get ready…drive to work…engage with the kids…go to meetings…prep my room for the next day…drive home…and it starts all over again the next day. I would not have had much to write about without noticing what was happening on my way to work, looking around my room for what is new and interesting, taking a walk along the river to watch an unknown hawk dive after its prey, and listen to the poem of a budding writer who thinks she is writing hip-hop. SOLC forced me out of my winter hibernation and into a senses awakening.

This year it was much easier to write than last year. I got into a rhythm and routine that worked for me. I watched, listened, smelled, touched and tasted all the possibilities each day, came home at night and started to generate a piece, and then got up early each morning to revise and polish. I loved the writing but I equally enjoyed reading all the posts and commenting on as many as possible. The comments I received were generous, helpful, and inspiring.

I have been thinking about all of you as I have read your great works. I wish we could have some kind of SOLC reunion where we could all meet each other. It would be so much fun to see the people behind the words.

See you on Tuesdays and next March.