Always Finding A Way For Purpose & Authenticity In Student Work

wolfganglonienAlways Finding A Way For Purpose & Authenticity In Student Work

Some weeks you hear the same message in your head over and over. No, this week’s message wasn’t, “Happy Mothers’ Day.” In fact, I believe it had much more to do with my father. The one year anniversary of my father’s passing is at the end of this month. I can not believe it has been a year. I have been thinking of him and I believe he is the true inspiration for this blog post.

A year ago I stood and shook as I said the words I felt I needed to say. I share those words with you and realize how important the words can be:

“A young woman baked her favorite family meatloaf recipe. She followed the recipe carefully and obediently cut the ends off the end of the meatloaf and threw them away before putting the loaf into the pan. She wondered why she did that? The next day she asked her mother, “Why do we cut the ends off the meatloaf before we bake it?” Her mother answered without a beat, “Because that is what MY mother did.” The young woman went to her grandmother and asked the same question. She received the same answer, “Because that is what MY mother did.” She decided to pursue it a bit more and asked her great grandmother, “Granny, why do we cut the ends off the meatloaf in the family recipe?” Her great grandmother replied, “Because I never had a pan big enough for it.”

I shared these words with friends and family because I wanted all to know my father would not be forgotten. My father passed on to me the love of Johnny Cash music and the quirky trait of mispronouncing words. I will admit, he was much more charming with those weird words than I will ever be. The local pizzeria “Rocco’s” was always called “Rosco’s”, no matter how many times we corrected him. He always asked us for a “tumtack” to pin things to the wall. I made a promise to friends and family on that day when MY grandchildren and great grandchildren used a “tumtack” to pin things, it wouldn’t be done “just because that’s what we say” but because they knew the reason and the story of the hard-working man behind the mispronounced words.

This week, my father and this story have been rolling in my mind. It started with a conversation inspired by a blog post I wrote about summer assignments. The main point for me, I said in one conversation, was “Don’t do it just because it is what you or others always do. Assign it because it has a real purpose.” The same conversation began when I discussed teaching and learning cursive. “Don’t do it because it is what we do…do it with purpose.”

Then the viral video of the “no more packets student, Jeff Bliss” crossed my Twitter stream. Packets, for many teachers, are what they know to assign. It is how they know to teach. I am not championing for any teacher who gives packets to students. This was just another piece of conversation that prompted me to say, “Don’t assign packets because you always have. Reflect deeply, discuss, and question why we do these things.” Do not do it because it is what we do without a purpose behind the assignment. Is there a better way? Can there be?

Finally, yesterday morning I watched with awe “This is Water” by David Foster Wallace. This video is an amazing 9 minutes and reminds us all to remember, to be aware of the blessings around us. We must be conscious of the the life around us and to employ empathy.

I ask you to realize, in our lives and in our educational system, we do have bigger meatloaf pans available to us now. Be aware. You don’t have to cut the ends off your meatloaf. If you DO cut off those meatloaf ends, do it with the full understanding of why.

Now, I am going to go listen to some Johnny Cash.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and the opportunity to #learnbetter with you. @kaybisaillon

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