2.18.2006

No, I wasn't tripping when I talked about the tree



I really do include things in the little photo icon thingys. Sometimes. If you click on the photo, you might find something there. Sometimes they coincide with the picture, sometimes not.

This past week, A took the subway, alone, to the boathouse for rowing practice.
He trained. He ran across a bridge. He worked out on the erg. He loved it.

This week, we have been studying more about The Great War (WWI) [note: part of my "gimmick" to teaching history is what I found worked well when I was a student. It was a trick employed by an educator or two at my former British school, and a certain history professor at university: I study the material very, very thoroughly, then I tell it, as though it were a campfire story (As if I had been there, or as though I were talking about my friends; and yes, I could probably even tell you the favorite foods of the characters in question].

The surprise of WWI is that we, the United States, took the side of the guys who might be considered politically incorrect today (that is open for debate, of course, but we basically took the side of the guys who supported the Serbian terrorists). And when I gave the backdrop to General Pershing, A was totally, I mean, completely and enthrallingly, taken with the story of Francisco "Pancho" Villa. In every war, on either side, there is a national hero, I began. I admit that the Pancho Villa story is a very, very good action drama. "But why isn't Pancho Villa mentioned so much in school history books? He actually invaded our country. And there's hardly any record of him anywhere." I could not give A a good answer.

Anyway, as an educator, I decided to do my African-American History duty in our WWI studies. I'd like you to read about and write up a presentation about the Harlem Hellfighters. A did some research. "Wait. This says that these guys 'suffered heavy losses' and fought the longest, 'more than any unit in combat.' Did they die first? Before everybody else?" It's possible, I said. "And wait. They were originally NATIONAL GUARD?" That's possible, too, I said. A got so into it, he actually started looking up the names of the possibly living members of that infantry. "Can I call this guy?" he asked me when he found a name listed in the phone directory. Sure. But you have to be prepared with what you might want to say. Are you writing an article? An essay? What? And remember, he will be VERY VERY OLD.

After some thought, A rang up the number.
(S&*t, I thought, he's just like me)
Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring.
No answer.
Give it some time, I said. If he's still alive, he's incredibly old, with old legs. He can't just run to the phone.
"Okay," said A. "I am a little nervous."
It's exciting, isn't it?
Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring.

..................to be continued................

4 comments:

Andrea said...

Oooo! That's *very* exciting! We visited my grandfather yesterday, who just turned 90 years old. He was in London during The War. (He always calls it that - like it has capitals and there's only one you shoudl know about. :) )

He has some of he greatest stories. I've been getting him to write them down and to record them on tape.

Anonymous said...

WHAAAAAT!? You can't leave me hanging like this! I'm even delurking just to freak out. FYI - I also have a one 12 year old boy.

Rebel
http://www.mindspring.com/~rebel_hart

la Maitresse said...

cool, Rebel! Glad you delurked!

jo said...

Isn't storytelling just so powerful and glorious? One of the reasons I hated school was that there were no great stories happening there - or if there were stories, they had nasty reading comprehension questions to follow, which reduced them from the sublime to the pernicious.

I love your history telling technique. I do much the same, and the children get a go too. We call it 'literary archaeology' as we make up the details, while more or less sticking to the facts. It is fascinating watching their literary styles emerge. My 12 year old leans toward the comic (with Terry Pratchett as his role model), while my 9 year old is more concerned with domestic detail, and loves lists (her latest effort is the epic journey of the first people to reach Australia over 100,000 years ago. You have no idea how much stuff they managed to fit on those rafts!).

OK, so now you can tell us...what happens next? What an incredibly brave child you have raised!