Friday, October 13, 2006

Sticks, stones, and lupines

Had a rocky experience a few days ago on a large educational list. Made a comment suggesting the list ought to be moderated (after a racist comment was made and many emails followed in a flurry), offered to help... This was met with over a dozen list responses, all in opposition to this. People were very upset. Somebody suggested I might be a troll. We're not talking a Grimm fairy tale here, folks.

So I did not write back. I thought about things. I reminded myself that I have done good work, that I have made a difference. That Don Leu thought enough of my work to mention me first in his groundbreaking The Miss Rumphius Effect: Envisionments for Literacy and Learning That Transform the Internet ...that the very list I was writing to was spawned from Don's article.


And when I reminded myself of the history: vindication. It was a big part of web 1.0, that project. There were interviews, many websites on the topic, and I even wrote a chapter in a book published by the IRA.

Of course the book at the heart of all this is Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney. I love this book. It is the highlight of my reading curriculum, every year - and I always manage to wait until we're close to Earth Day before pulling it out. Basic premise: young girl promises her grandfather three things:

  • to visit faraway places
  • to live by the sea
  • to make the world a more beautiful place

Miss Rumphius does the first two, no sweat. But it is not until she is an old woman that she discovers and shares the beauty of lupines - flowers that multiply, and spread, and on, and on...

I'll be spreading seeds again this year, not throwing sticks and stones.


Sarah said...

Lupines are so beautiful..fields grew in Monterey where down the road I once taught in Greenfield, CA and centered years of lessons on this wonderful story ....I once wrote a story called "Are you White" (which needs serious edits) that I'll haul over and throw onto my blog if you want to see the entire thing...but reference it only as it came to mind, in it I was recalling dealing with race and perception of intent around meanings when we dialog and of course the problems with racial slurs...and the ongoing problem of when to say something and what is acceptable speak. Very hard for me.. Among the many pieces from that time teaching I struggled to touch on was one moment I recall when in South Central my 4th grade students made a very sincere and sad inquiry into my "whiteness", for them a position of great unenviable regrets (for me). Writing of those times and all the ins and outs and trying to deal with everything to be sensitive to all around was/is very tough....but for me, just me, a teacher who is at 47 rather fatigued with insults and Underperforming scripts and affronting kinds of exchanges going on in the world labeled "discussion" and watching what passes as acceptable dialog about immigrant children, I still walk/run away from sticks and stones as a sorry kind of behavior. Teachers...well....we have to draw lines. I'm sure you reacted with your sound ethical perspective and tried to be fair. Too bad it turned around. Of late as I try to go onto blogs by teachers and learn of their worlds and see the connections we share(enjoying reading here) and seek some kinds of commonalities for encouraging my soul during troubling developments for me in teaching, I note that the permission to be really rude seems at least to some extent a feature in virtual worlds...and in real world too. I had a nice interpersonal experience today taking my 16 first graders to the library. A very aggitated nut(soory, person) treated them to a loud shouted obscene insult fest on their ethnicity when we crossed a driveway he wanted to pull into without waiting. And he followed that up with a call to the school to talk about the kids not giving him and truck the right of way. There are trolls...and they hide behind holding others to the rules they so blithely refrain from using...How wonderful you have shared something so positive as the beauty of the lupine over the degradation of the insult or the foolishness of all of that. I hadn't thought of lupines in ages...Sarah Puglisi

Mark Ahlness said...

Sarah, thank you for your thoughtful comment. Your words ring true for me on many levels. Yes, although it's often the hardest, the best response to negatives of any kind is to simply walk away...

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark, you acted in all sincerity and you are a good person. I have no doubt about that. Sometimes we are misunderstood and it hurts. It's good that you were able to write about it and add to the knowledge about this and add to the dialogue and the communication. And btw I am on myspace now and I saw you on myspace. Do you ever go over there anymore? That is also a way of adding to the dialgue and opening lines of communication. see yo over there some time.

Unknown said...

Mark, through Sarah, I just read your blog about the Miss Rumphius Effect using technology! I am so wired to try some of this. In fact, updating needs to be done to that article or extensions made--do you (ha, I'm sure you do!) know about glogging and glogster! Where do these people imagine such exciting technology? I thought the use of multiple intelligences was exciting--yes, at that time. Now there's all this new stuff that just gloggles the brain (yes, a play on glogging).
Voicethreads is another!
Keep up the good work and don't let the trolls bite.