Saturday, December 11, 2010

Digging for Treasure: At School

A few days ago I talked about the first time I dug for treasure—figured out how to take my subconscious knowledge and turn it into something I could teach.

Here’s another dig. (I'm loving the image of the carefully tended hole in the dirt, the string sections, the notebook drawings, the sieves, the precious finds...I guess that's an archaeological dig. Can I have two kinds of treasure in my metaphor?)

My partner has a little nonprofit elementary school, the Drinking Gourd School. I wish you could know how amazing it is. It’s a place where kids don’t want to go home at the end of the day. Where they make amazing strides in academics because they’re working on exactly the right task for them. Where kids who need lots of practice to learn feel just as good about themselves as kids who learn really fast. Where you can see a six-year-old mediating a conflict on the playground. Where the teacher knows each child in depth. Where every adult who visits says, “I wish I could go here!”

When it was time to hire another teacher for Trisha’s school, we realized that passing on the philosophy and teaching program of the Drinking Gourd was not going to be simple.

This learning culture came out of Trisha’s brain. She has spent her whole life developing these methods, which don’t exist in any other school. She holds in her mind a vast amount of information, concepts, routines, systems—and the attitudes that underlie it all.

It’s not written down anywhere.

I have been Trisha’s sounding board for twenty years, and I knew a little bit about what she was doing. And I realized that this was the same kind of situation as my indexing workshop. So I offered to help.

How does one go about such a huge task?

We started with the teeny tiny tapie. Yes, okay, it’s my digital recorder, but we call it the tapie because that’s what they had on Get Smart. (But I don’t have a shoe phone.)

Anyway, every day after school I would turn on the tapie and Trisha would brain dump. Everything interesting that happened that day, in no particular order. And anything else that crossed her mind. We did this every time we drove in the car, too.

Transcribing the tapie sessions gave me masses, absolutely masses of information. Finding a structure to contain all of this treasure was fascinating.

It turned out that Trisha already knew a lot of the categories things needed to go in (otherwise known as sections of the training material). They just appeared as soon as I asked her. Some really obvious ones like how she teaches reading, writing, and math. Some not-quite-so-obvious ones like empowering girls, homework, and how to use the physical environment.

So we had the beginnings of a structure.

I started to label each little paragraph of story with a category or point that it illustrated. Like this:

Child: Look look look! I read 40 pages at quiet reading today! Trisha: interesting. What's the story about? Is it happy or sad? What’s the exciting part? Are you at the end of the story or are things still happening? Child: the part when they had to escape from the dinosaur was really exciting! But I don't know where they're going to go next. Trisha: all right, well now I can tell you did some good reading! [reading: valuing content not just quantity]

Of course, some examples didn’t fit easily. I didn’t have any category to put them in. They got labeled “Where?” Some others fit into five categories at once, so I just listed them all and we decided later where to use them. We kept discovering new categories.

Once we had some categories, she started to do brain dumps about particular subjects. “Okay, Trisha, tell me everything you can think of about… recess.” I typed and typed, filling in sections with details and examples and instructions. She read over and edited what I wrote. And the more treasure we dug out and sorted, the more we understood how it all fit together.

And the most marvelous thing? The threads that run through everything Trisha does. The biggest one was individualization. We knew it was important. But we didn’t know it was going to turn up everywhere. We found out that at every moment, as she plans, teaches, evaluates, she is thinking about the individual differences and needs of each child. We realized that this focus, which lots of education people talk about but which almost never actually happens in the classroom, is the core and magic of her approach. The huge glowing jewel in the middle of her treasure.

I ended up writing a whole training manual.

And now our new teacher is shining in her classroom.

Related posts: My First Dig


  1. If you are going to write more books, you could use software where you talk to the computer and it writes what you say.... (Dragon Naturally Speaking? something similar?), then you don't have to type in taped info....

  2. Hi Robin! Yes, many digital recorders will load their audio files into Dragon. I actually do a layer of thinking and organizing during the typing step.


  3. Wow, I didn't know that kind of software existed - and it's available for both PC and Mac. I work all day on a computer and when my shoulder flares up from overuse, I have to limit my time on the computer at home.
    Another good idea - for when I can afford it. Yay!
    Thanks, Robin.

  4. Ngày nay việc tìm mua bàn làm việc văn phòng rất đơn giản vì thị trường nội thất văn phòng ngày càng phát triển nhiều xưởng sản xuất cho ra nhiều mẫu mã sản phẩm đa dạng với giá cả khác nhau nên việc chọn mua bàn văn phòng hcm như thế nào tại đâu hiệu quả tốt nhất giúp đáp ứng nhu cầu sử dụng. Hiện này khi chọn mua nội thất văn phòng thường với xu hướng chọn ghế chân sắt hoặc inox, bàn làm việc chọn loại bàn gỗ. Sự kết hợp của vật liệu kim loại và tự nhiên giúp căn phòng có sự hài hòa và trong đẹp mắt hơn. Hơn nữa việc chọn ghế chân sắt - inox cũng góp phần giảm thiểu được một khoảng chi phí khi loại ghế này có giá rẻ hơn khá nhiều so với ghế làm bằng gỗ, vì với chi phí thuê hay mua một văn phòng làm việc tại TPHCM là không hề rẻ nên cần phải tính toán chi tiêu hợp lý. Ngoài ra, hầu như tất cả văn phòng đều được đặt ở những tòa nhà cao tầng nên việc vận chuyển ghế gỗ khó khắn hơn rất nhiều do có trọng lượng nặng đáng kể. Cho nên khi chọn mua sản phẩm nội thất văn phòng hcm nhừ bàn ghế hay tủ bạn nên chú ý đến văn phòng của mình vị trí nào đễ dễ cho việc di chuyển sau này. Cho nên khi bạn có nhu cầu chọn mua những mẫu bàn làm việc giá rẻ tphcm nên cân nhắc đến các vấn đề về: Phong thủy, kích thước diện tích văn phòng, phối màu và sự phối hợp liên quan tới các sản phẩm nội thất khác trong văn phòng đặc biệt là sự di chuyển , bảo hành trong quá trình sử dụng.

  5. Mother’s Day is celebrated for our family most special person our mother. Mother is a god gift for all people in the world. Every son/daughter is celebrated Mother’s Day for their mother; they express their feelings, love, and joy with their mom. Mother’s Day is celebrated in all over the world on different days; it means Mothers Day Date is not same in all over the world. happymothersdayimages In most countries, Mother’s Day is celebrated second Sunday of month May. Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908 when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother at St Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. St Andrew’s Methodist Church now holds the International Mother’s Day Shrine.

  6. The best collection of Happy Mothers Day 2017 Images, Photos, Pictures, Wallpapers, Mothers Day Quotes, Wishes, Messages, Greetings,
    Happy Mothers Day Poems & Sayings, Mothers Day Messages, SMS, Text Messages,
    happy fathers day images
    happy fathers day image
    fathers day pictures 2017
    fathers day cards 2017
    father day images free
    happy fathers day quotes
    happy fathers day message
    happy fathers day to my husband
    happy fathers day wishes
    father's day quote
    eid mubarak 2017
    Mothers Day WhatsApp Status & Facebook Status, DP Images,
    Mothers Day FB Profile Pics, FB Timeline Cover Photos etc.


I'm excited to read your thoughts and reactions! Easiest way to comment: Where it says "Comment as," click the drop-down arrow and choose "name/URL" Then just type your name (and your website if you want).