Tobey's Thesis Thoughts 2016-02-21 19:02:00

Trying to Narrow Down
I spent about an hour exploring Rainbow School's website Friday. I figured it was a good place to start as I wanted to see if this "ignore the Core" curriculum that I have looming in my head already exists. If it does then, the idea is moot. I watched videos from their winter concert, saw clips of the kids gardening, got excited when the director talked about the fifteen minutes of centering they do in the morning through yoga or meditation to settle everyone in for the day of learning, and watched parents discuss the connection they felt they and their children had with the the teachers. Then, I clicked on the curriculum link, and further clicked on the writing link!!! And all my thoughts about this wonderfully hippie crunchy school became an"Oh no!" They teach isolated grammar instruction, the parts of speech, there is no evidence that their lessons tie into any out of the classroom experiences, in 6th grade  language arts instruction was 45 mins long while recess was 50 mins, October was designated to the paragraph, and they still taught book reports, the curriculum mapping from year to year was inconsistent at best. There was no real continuum. I was, let down. There was no pot of gold at the end of my rainbow :( 

The curriculum at my school is really good. I actually enjoy most of it. It is just that I do feel strangled by CC.  I wish there was more freedom. That is why when I see a school like Rainbow that has the freedom to do anything, and see that they revert back to old school methods, it drives me crazy. 

I envision multimedia usage and field trips that inspire the creation happening in my "Ignore the Core" curriculum. For example a poetry unit might include not only immersing the students through reading a variety of poems, but hearing poems being read( as I feel they are meant to be) through audio sites and videos, as well as a trip to a poetry slam, maybe in Harlem so they can see Langston Hughes' stomping grounds. We could also visit Rutger's Botanical Gardens in the springtime to appreciate nature as the English Romantics might have. They would bring their journals everywhere and write ideas, poems, free write.  The students' experiences and their ideas would come back to the classroom for formal poetry lessons and creation. To end the unit, we would hold a poetry slam or a night of readings for our community. 

It sounds great right?  


I love NPR's StoryCorps. It's been a long time since I listened. The first two I selected had me in tears. I like how simple, yet not so simple the stories are. Weighing in around three minutes, one must figure, "How much can I learn about a person in three minutes?" Well, the answer is A Lot! Subjects are interviewed by someone in their life. This allows for a personal and emotional feel. There is unabashed honesty that takes place. These podcasts are uplifting and addictive. With over 60,000 archived since 2003, a person could chose to sit and listen to the fascinating stories of average people all day long.

On their website there was a list of purposes to Story Corps. To paraphrase:

  • To show that everyone's story matters
  • Build connections between people and build a more just and compassionate world
  • Preserve and share humanity's stories
  • Teach the value of listening
  • Showcase the diversity of the participants
Do these podcast fall into the genre of memoir? 

The definition of memoir is: a collection of memories that an individual writes about both public or private that took place in the subject's life

A memoir must be told in the first person point of view

It is a subclass of autobiography, but where a memoir is an autobiographical writing an autobiography can never be a memoir

An autobiography captures a person's full life, a memoir captures a phase/ period/moment of a person's life

There seems to be many ways authors are creating memoir these days. Rosalie Lightning by Tom Hart is about the loss of his young daughter. Hart creates his memoir in graphic form.  Michael Ian Black creates his memoir Navel Gazing through the use of vignettes. An example of another memoir with a twist in structure is David Seders' Me Talk Pretty One Day, which is filled with hilarious stories that don't necessarily "go together" to create a book of one long cohesive story. It is refreshing to see so many new takes on how author's are telling their stories. The lines of structure are open. However, there are still very strict rules in that the story must be the storyteller's own voice.

**Sidenote-I was thinking back to my creative non fiction class and dug up the names of those we studied during that class and are in the field. These individuals would probably be a guide towards the start of lit review work: Phillip Lopate, Lee Gutkind, and Brett Lott. 

The genre of memoir, has been one of my favorites to read for a very long time.  My bookcases are filled with them. Knowing that a story is true always makes it better for me. It's like when a movie starts and I see the words, Based on True Events, I'm pulled instantly in. 

I feel so excited to think about working with my dad and telling his stories. I love the idea of using podcasts to capture his voice. I have so many ideas/questions that are spinning around this type of project. Which stories do I pull from him? How will it be organized? How can I bring in not only voice but possibly visual? What will my writing look like/feel like? What will my interpretation of his stories look like through my own writing? What is my creative take on his stories? What is my creative voice going to sound like through my dad's? Am I capturing his stories through my writing or something else? Our relationship? My own memories of growing up with him?

How do he and I come together to create a new type of memoir?

Is it still memoir if an outside voice is being woven into the first person narration?

There is a lot to think about. Plus, I still haven't asked him if he is willing to do it. Lol! Although, I'm quite sure he will.

Tobey's Thesis Thoughts 2016-02-10 21:49:00

The Best Free Write Ever Assigned!!

So Dr. Zamora says when I write this week think about my goals for when I finish my thesis. Then she suggests to get dreamy. What would I do If I really could?  No holds barred. What a fun assignment! So I was thinking in terms of personally and professionally. 

Personally, I would love to continue to work on myself as a writer. I have really enjoyed experimenting with creative nonfiction writing. Exploring my past and my childhood years through writing is not only nostalgic but has been fruitful. My brother in all his wisdom, told me that no one is really going to want to read about someone they didn't know, so I should put my writing to good use and find interesting and somewhat popular people in NJ to interview and tell tales of their childhoods. He sounds pretty insensitive,  but he's just my brother. Many people get started as unknowns. Now I don't know if I'd write for publishing or just for me, but since I'm dreaming here...

My family has also time and again discussed how someone must capture the cornucopia that is my father's life. My dad has been a story teller since I was a little girl. I heard stories of his days growing up "down neck." Stories that felt as though my dad and his brother ran a gang of kids like in the Little Rascals or like the kids in the movies A Bronx Tale or Sleepers. As I got older, we sat around the kitchen table mesmerized by tales of his time in the Air Force during the Korean War or his strange but true encounters with famous people including Elvis Presley. Stories highlighting hysterical rendezvous with the many female companions he boasts about are some of my favorites. Therefore, dream number two or maybe it's number one: I'd love to write my dad's biography, or several memoirs. We even have a title picked out: Down Neck: Tales from my Father. I think my fear is that I couldn't do it justice. He is truly, truly an amazing storyteller. I fear my words would fall flat.

And to get super dreamy here, my utopia: an empty beach all mine, my dogs, the sun, good food and drink, quiet, writing poetry. Poetry from my past, present, and future.

Professionally, I'd like to create units that are not based solely on the Common Core State Standards. My kids no longer write poetry because it is not supported by CCSS. We had a fun poetry unit in 7th grade that has been dismantled. The kids loved this unit.  Ignoring CC and creating  a unit that inspires my students on a different level would be great. Many of them are never exposed to poetry and if they are it's not until they are in high school and take a creative writing course. Hey...maybe what we need is an elective creative writing course for middle school. Put all of the ripped up and disassembled units destroyed by CC back together agin, but in a much cooler way. Integrating collaborative work and multi-modal takes on assignments.

Teaching adults??? I go back and forth with it. I like that I will have the degree to fall back on if I ever needed it. I know that when I started my first year of grad school, that was my ultimate goal, but I'm not sure that it is any more. There are days when I think about how nice it would be to have a room full of adults instead of whiny kids who didn't do their homework. I think as long as I feel happy in my position and my hubby is not ready to pack up and move to Asheville, I'll probably stay put. Linwood Middle School is in sense a home to me. I know I'm not staying there until our new retirement age of 60! Adults could seem nice by then. How about a nice adjunct position teaching creative writing to a classroom full of eager adults. It does have a nice ring.

Finally I think of The Rainbow Academy in Asheville. My sister and I stumbled upon this school's site when we were playing around and looking for teaching jobs for me. We didn't really scope it out seriously, but it opened my eyes to the fact that the area of Asheville is abundant with these "alternative" type schools. I told my sis that if hired by Rainbow Academy, I was going to take my sixth grade class out kayaking on The French Broad River. We would stop about half way and journal for awhile, sparking ideas for a creative writing piece that we would develop later in the classroom. Ahhh. That sounds wonderful!

It's so nice to dream...