I passed a mile marker yesterday. Well, literally, on my bike ride up the canyon, new markers were erected this summer; and about the time I rolled past mile five, a realization hit me.

I no longer divide my ride into three hills as I used to: in the past week I have experienced the morning ride as a whole. For ten years I have counted the hills as so many obstacles to my progress, as the three difficult climbs that must be gotten past. It was a mental disposition that seems to have vanished overnight, a milestone in my awareness.

The moment I noticed it, I felt somehow freed to appreciate my ride as a whole, rather than as a series of discrete sensations of shade and brightness, squirrels and grosbeaks, or meadows and forest. The ride itself became a constant, like the stream paralleled by the bike path for the entire six miles. “It’s allone ride,” I told myself, echoing the voice of my British History professor at SF State, who was asked a question one morning as he sat cross-legged on the desk at the front of the small room in the Humanities building, clutching his coffee mug after recounting a story of Lady Astor. “Will this be on the test?” Looking baffled, but clearly prepared for this type of student, he replied, “It’s all one history.”

I suppose the reason I have never forgotten his reply is that it was the most sensible thing I had ever heard a teacher say. He wasn’t saying that tests were unimportant, but that dividing the content of a course, or the history of an empire, into relevant and irrelevant bits of data was counterproductive to the project of understanding the whole. As I passed mile marker five on Saturday, with new appreciation for the holistic experience, I connected this change in my outlook with a recent pattern of thinking about my English classes. Having read a few course descriptions online that morning before setting out, I had noticed several that specifically addressed grammar and vocabulary skills, while lumping the arguably heftier course content (reading, writing, thinking, speaking, listening, researching, literature studies)into a phrase. What would it take to approach the language arts as a whole, rather than as a set of skills to be mastered? Only when parents and students lose sight of the individual skills and notions of their “relevance” to college, career, or testing and grading will they become liberated to experience and enjoy literature as a whole, and writing as a means of engaging with the world.

“it’s all one English,” I am tempted to write on the syllabus. It could be a great way to begin dialogue about what is truly important.


0 Responses to “Milestone”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Gordon’s Tweets

  • RT @onewheeljoe: A3 Almost all of the challenges I have encountered I handle by giving the student an alternative. When students have voice… 40 minutes ago
  • RT @danahmaloney: The Pope: “There are many ways to silence young people and make them invisible. Many ways to anesthetize them, to make th… 45 minutes ago
  • @CathEdToday Newman’s Ideas of a University inform my daily teaching practice. 56 minutes ago
  • RT @CathEdToday: “A great memory does not make a mind any more than a dictionary is a piece of literature.” CARDINAL JOHN HENRY NEWMAN ht… 57 minutes ago
  • RT @ziwe: if you're arguing whether the children are in cages or windowless rooms, you've lost the plot 58 minutes ago

RSS Good Questions

  • Guided Discovery Lesson Plan: Cubbies November 9, 2015
    This lesson introduces students to the their classroom cubbies. The lesson allows the class as a whole to determine what is the appropriate use of a cubby and how to best care for them. What is a Guided Discovery? It is a student-centered … Continue reading →
    Erin Mahollitz
  • Guided Discovery Lesson Plan: Freeze Signal November 6, 2015
    The Freeze Signal is used to communicate to students that they should suddenly stop what they are doing and pay attention to the teacher.  I consider it an important safety measure.  Personally, I use a singing bowl, but I have seen teachers use … Continue reading →
    Erin Mahollitz
  • What is this Maker Movement? February 12, 2015
    I am a maker.  At least I think I am.  I sew. I blog. I cook. I bind books. I built a deck with my dad. Is that what people mean when they talk about ‘making?’ When I hear people … Continue reading →
    Erin Mahollitz
  • Let the Planning Begin – Tools for Success August 13, 2013
    Procrastination finally comes to an end. Today I begin the work of plotting out the first few days (and weeks) of school. While the students are out shopping for school supplies (which induce panic attacks in me), I pull out … Continue reading →
    Erin Mahollitz
  • Story Starters August 9, 2013
    This is a first for me.  I have been contacted by SmileMakers to preview one of their products, of my own choosing.  As an avid writing teacher, and a writer myself, I chose to review their Story Starter Word Cubes. … Continue reading →
    Erin Mahollitz
  • Teachers Love Tech August 3, 2013
    My love for tech begins at a personal level.  I plan my life (and my lessons) on iCalendar. I create invites, worksheets, game handouts and more with Word and/or Pages.  All of my music comes from the web (check out … Continue reading →
    Erin Mahollitz
  • Math Game: Hangmath October 8, 2011
    What is it? Hangmath is paper and pencil game similar to Hangman.  Players take turns creating two-digit addition problems, which the other player guesses. Rationale: Hangmath reinforces place value concepts because the Magical Minds must ask questions about the digits … Continue reading →
    Erin Mahollitz
  • Studying Systems October 7, 2011
    SYSTEM: a set of connected things or parts that form a complex whole. The Magical Minds are investigating different kinds of systems.  We started by looking at smaller systems, things we could find in the classroom. We began to expand … Continue reading →
    Erin Mahollitz
  • Reading: Understanding Genre Help Us Make Predictions October 6, 2011
    Today we began to think about how to use what we know about genre to make predictions about our books. To illustrate this point we compared nonfiction and fiction books. We already know that nonfiction books are full of information, … Continue reading →
    Erin Mahollitz
  • Math Game: Foreheaded (place value) October 5, 2011
    What is it? In this game each player receives a mystery three-digit number, which they place on their forehead.  Using a guide sheet (below), players take turns guessing the digits in their numbers. Rationale: This game allows the Magical Minds … Continue reading →
    Erin Mahollitz

%d bloggers like this: