Traveling from Florida to the Upper Peninsula is like going from the nation’s left ankle to its eyebrow. When I was a kid growing up outside of Deeetroit, we used to call everything above Flint, “up north.” But this trip took me REALLY up north, about as north as you can go without taking a dip in Lake Superior. In between the airport and the car, I got my first whiff of winter. Believe it or not, it smelled pretty good.
But inside was all was warm and cozy. Loved listing to Marc Brown and his tales of Arthur and the gang — most interesting was his story of tangling with Bill O’Reilly who misrepresented and detonated an episode of his PBS series on tolerance in which one of the characters came from a home with two mommies. The entire right wing media machine came down on his head, funding dried up and perhaps most frightening — 5 large envelops arrived in his mailbox from the IRS. He and all of his companies were being audited.
We live in frightening times. But as long as we keep speaking out — the poets, the kind hearted aardvarks on PBS, and all the teachers spreading peace and tolerance, there is hope that calmer, more just philosophies will prevail. That’s what all this testing is about if you ask me — it’s putting restrictions on teachers so that kids can’t find independent voices — so that they are trained to reiterate only limited information, and in the case of the dasterdly DIBELS, nonsense syllables. More on that topic later. Anyway, all of this drilling threatens to murder a kid’s natural sense of curiosity and love of learning — the tests loom over their heads like a relentless continum of IRS audits.
But Up North I met a lot of teachers and student teachers dedicated to helping kids find their own voices. A group of U-ppers are studying my book, helping kids develop their own poems in response to learning across the curriculum. Thank you thank you to Mandy, Sandy, Lucy and all the teachers who are putting my meager poems and ideas to Superior use. And this picture, with all the post-its sent me through the roof!