Text, Tool, and Thought: Rufus the Writer by Melanie Fuemmeler

Brilliant! I am often itinerant, as a Teaching Artist, sharing String Stories: my cart will be transformed into a String Story Stand!

Nerdy Book Club

Text: The book Rufus the Writer by Elizabeth Bram is an endearing tale about a young boy (Rufus) who decides rather than the traditional lemonade stand, he’d like to open a story stand.  With all the diligence and vision of a young entrepreneur, he readies his stand with a tablecloth and sign, paper and pencils, a cheery disposition, and, of course, the ever professional bowtie.  His customers soon flock, inquiring about this new business venture.

“What are you doing?”

“How much do your stories cost?”

Through these interactions with friends and family, Rufus learns about each of them, and this information sparks ideas.  Using his imagination and love for words, Rufus creates cherished stories for his friends and family, showing everyone the gift a story is to its reader.  A gift in which a price cannot be placed.

Tool: This text provided inspiration to think about instructional tools it…

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(Re)Engaged for 2017

Thanks, Michael. My word is “collaboration”– I just launched this new year with a fascinating conversation with my nephew, a project manager for complex software implementations, about interactions he facilitates and my string game teaching. In both cases, getting to good communication is the key…a collaborative process, communicating.

The Buist Babble


flickr photo by buistbunch shared under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

Engaged. Or rather (re)engaged. That’s my word for 2017.

Every day for the past six months that word has stared at me, a sticker on the left side of my laptop’s keyboard. But was I really engaged? Did it mean anything to me, a constant reminder of part of my role as an educator? At times yes. But more often, no. It’s hard to admit to yourself that you’re not giving 100% every day. That you’re not being the best you that you can be. That you’re not being the person you need to be to those around you, who depend on your attention, guidance, and leadership.

When I chose the word in July, it meant something to me. It meant that this year, my 19th as a teacher was going to be different (as each year…

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Teaching Lessons: What KIPP Did—and Didn’t—Learn From America’s “Best” Teacher

Wanting to keep this post handy, and link it to the discussion of “discipline systems” we had in the #CLMOOC

Andrea Gabor

Real Talk2

Two things struck me as soon as I metaphorically cracked the spine of my e-version of Real Talk for Real Teachers, the latest opus by best-selling author and public-school teacher extraordinaire Rafe Esquith: How many of his ideas were borrowed by KIPP. And, yet, how radically Esquith’s philosophy and his renowned teaching methods differ from those we’ve come to associate with KIPP and KIPP-like charter schools.

Esquith teaches fifth grade at Hobart Boulevard Elementary, a traditional public school for mostly poor Latino and Asian kids in Los Angeles. His new book led me back into the pages of Jay Mathews’s book on KIPP, Work Hard. Be Nice, which refers to Esquith as “the most interesting and influential public school classroom teacher in the country.”

Esquith is the specter that haunts KIPP’s founders in Mathews’s book. He is one of two mentors whose teaching practices so influenced…

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Learn The Address


“American culture is identified as very individualistic, and yet there’s a tremendous social pressure to conform and to be like everybody else, and to marginalize and pathologize people who function differently in all different kinds of ways,” says Tom Ehrenberg, a therapist. “I will get parents who will say to me, ‘I just want my kid to be normal,’ and sometimes I have to say to them: ‘It’s not his job to be normal. It’s his job to be who he is.’ ”

“Learning From What Lincoln Had to Say”, Neil Genzlinger, NY Times April 14, 2014

“The inspiration for this project is the tiny Greenwood School in the small town of Putney, Vermont. The school’s students, boys ages 11-17, all face a range of learning differences that have made their personal, academic and social progress extremely challenging. Yet each year they are encouraged to practice, memorize, and recite…

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A Burr in Your Sock

Wanting to archive this discussion, as so many interesting aspects have been touched upon.

Thinking Through My Lens

Today was a prickly kind of day in the SDAWP SI.  There’s something about confronting formulaic writing that sticks in your socks like those little burrs you find on weeds that seem to plant themselves in the most unlikely places.


Over the weekend we read a collection of articles about formulaic writing, thinking about why this approach to writing instruction persists, and the implications for student writing.  Even teachers who are proponents of using a formulaic approach to teaching writing still complain about the deadening experience of reading the resulting student writing.  Who wants to read paper after paper of repetitive phrasing and uninspired thinking?

I contrast that with the playfulness of this week at the CLMOOC.  This week’s make is to hack your writing.  And already on day two interesting writing is filling my feeds.  I woke up this morning to a poem by Kevin “stolen” from yesterday’s…

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Preparing for Teachers Teaching Teachers on August 22

Something nostalgic for me about a Chemex coffee makerContinuing the reflecting process, I just had a productive Hangout with Paul Allison, brainstorming and planning for ding a session on Teachers Teaching Teachers (TTT) on August 22 about the 3rd Space Conference last July and our followup activities. I have plans cooking at three levels on three different timescales: immediate–this TTT session is in 10 days and my collaboration with Ed is in just over two weeks, other workshops with Ed and Bowen need to planned for the next few months; middle-term – doing a second “3rd Space” conference in May 2013 in Santa Cruz; and long term – getting a 6 or 7 figure grant for the curriculum development to bring 3rd Space thinking into the regular public school classroom (and end “testing as we know it”).

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The relevance of rigor relegates reality to “after”-school: The Third Space

I’ve been struggling, ruminating, reflecting, about the relevance of rigor, given the comment by the MacArthur Foundation representative that it’s understandable for parents to resist the idea that we are “experimenting” on their kids in the high stakes world of real school, and so creative and innovative work needs to be done in out-of-school contexts. So the excitement I feel on returning from the 3rd Space Conference in St. Louis needs to be translated into concrete opportunities for kids. 

Ed Martinez and I are collaborating on a workshop he calls Forage Species–here’s a photo of his work


and here’s Ed’s write-up, without any but minor edits from me:

an ‘Artucation’ workshop for young creators

Hosted by Edward Martinez and Fred Mindlin

Proposed for 4th Friday August 31 – 5-9 pm

Concept: This workshop is based on commitment, Intellectual curiosity, and pride in real life accomplishment. Using the Forage Species experience at MAH as a template, young artists become engaged in a single work of flying sculpture by Edward Martinez that will be hung in the cupola of the Octagon Building.

Site has been surveyed and methodology for suspending the piece is available for approval review. •

This is an engineering piece and students will help Ed figure out the geometry of a large piece of sculpture.

• Topics for a written piece could include “discussion of the marine food chain” or “the process of making technical art – what it meant to them. Students will write a short piece on the experience Friday evening. They will be brought back to help hang the piece when it is arranged with the host site.

Science Writing topics

  • • Near Shore forage species and climate change.
  • • Engineering for a large flying public art project.

The workshop: • Set up for 10 kids and have the framework of the piece one and ready to assemble. • Kids hammer fish and help attach, creating the school.

• 4 hour Running dialogue on the topic of forage species. Including information on 3 species of near shore forage species and how they support the marine food chain, cause and effect and basic geometry. The work “Forage III”

The piece itself will be approximately 8’ by 10’ – designed to fit the dome over the bar – a space roughly 20’ horizontal by 12’ vertical.

The piece will create 50-100 Anchovies to be textured by 10 kids and the artist. The piece should weigh less than 30 lbs. and install in 3 hours or less.


So I want the students as well to bring all their media tools and smarts to bear on how to document and explicate their experience, and provide some tools. For me the iPad as a camera is really intriguing, I’m not sure why. So I’m hoping to tap into the #3rdSpace Twittersation, get some tips, and share possibilities. So far Ed and I have talked about the Boys and Girls Club, Barrios Unidos, and the Teen Center that used to be by Kinkos as possibilities. 

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