Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wordless Wednesday #5

Answer: Dr. Ralph J. Bunche, first African American winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, here congratulating the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King on his, December 4, 1964.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

What's Wrong With Homework?

I wonder what would happen if every teacher reading this, or every business person, were to leave his or her work behind at the office each day?

Many of us would not be able to function at an optimum level if we were to work only in our classrooms and offices without bringing something home occasionally

This is a fact of life. And it is a fact of life that our children ought to understand and be prepared for. The way we prepare them for this work ethic is through homework.

I have read several blogs by teachers concerning the incessant interruptions during class and they wonder how the students can learn. Students are routinely separated from their classes to attend special instruction. There is constant movement and it must be difficult for students to keep focused.

When I was in elementary school, we had homework. We had homework every night and that included something over the weekend, usually concerning current events for Monday (I started reading the New York Times in 1st grade). The time needed to complete these assignments was according the the grade. I think we had a half hour for first grade and up to about 90 minutes for sixth grade. We even had homework during some holidays. These assignments ranged from coloring, pasting pictures, spelling, arithmetic, memorizing poetry, book report, to art projects. And there was always something to read! While we always complained about homework, we all did it because it was expected.

This was my job as an adult in training; I was supposed to learn in order to become an educated and responsible individual.

My education did not stop in the classroom.

My whole family was involved; my mother, father, and older brother helped out, corrected, or at the very least, looked over my work before I went to bed to make sure it was neatly done. Some teachers required the parents to actually sign off on the homework! Most times I managed to get more accomplished on my own time than in the classroom. (This is true even today in my work life!) I enjoyed the solitude and the chance to organize my time. I also understood when one of my parents had to work on a project at home.

Additionally, I had a sense of individual responsibility and accomplishment. Homework can foster an appreciation and respect for the work ethic, good study habits, and discipline involved with independent study.

I remember I was in a study circle from first grade on and I worked on my homework and projects with a group of friends. It was not unusual for me to be found in the school or neighborhood library after school or on Saturday involved in research. Oh! What I could have accomplished with a computer! (Everything in those days was handwritten and penmanship was a priority. Mine is still very much like the copperplate script taught by Miss Fastenburg and subsequent teachers; the direct result of homework!)

And yet, with all of this homework, I still managed to be a part of extra-curricular activities, music lessons, dancing lessons, sports programs, and caught Dark Shadows on TV every day! Many of my classmates also attended religious or foreign language classes after school. Others worked alongside their parents in shops. However, in my neighborhood, our academic life came first; this was a given.

Despite all of this, my childhood was a fun-filled, pleasant one!

So what's the problem here?

Elementary education sets the tone for the future academic life of each student. Teaching children how to be self-disciplined and to acquire solid study habits is beneficial throughout his or her entire academic and business career.

Are we teaching our children that education is only a 9 to 3 activity? Are TV programs, IPODS, computers blogging, video games, and other pursuits more important? Should we cave in to all the soccer moms and dads who over appoint their children?

No wonder, we're falling behind most other countries, not to mention home schoolers!

What does the future hold for these students?

Oh gosh! It's 7:40 PM and I still have some work to do.... (Oh yes, I still make time for NCIS, Law and Order, and this blog!)

The Educational Tour Marm

March Madness for Educational Student Tours

Open Season Starts for Educational Student Tour Telemarketers!

It’s that time of year!
Old and new teachers are contacting me about their class trips for 2008 – before they have even traveled in 2007! It’s a different type of March Madness; a frenzied sales period throughout the industry! Large student tour operators have hired more telemarketing sales people to supplement their already large staff and are busily calling schools! These salespeople are supposed to be selling student tour 'packages'. (How many calls have you received so far?)
But it is no longer a ‘slam dunk’ that teachers who had been loyal to a particular company will remain with that company, because the bottom line is cost.
Teachers are actively seeking out other companies because of the spiraling expenses. Rising airfares, motorcoaches, hotels, and food, are making it difficult to provide a quality program. In fact, travel programs are becoming prohibitively expensive. It used to be far more economical for a group to travel, but with the introduction of efares, group bookings have become significantly more expensive than the advertised single fares one can find online. It is now costing from $425 to $650 for a West Coast group to fly non-stop, cross-country! (I have been lucky enough to find $358, but that was ‘off season’.) Motorcoaches have been affected by fuel prices and inflated insurance rates due to current security issues; the group also has to take care of the driver’s hotel room, food, and tip. This constitutes a big chunck of the total trip price and the result is diminished educational content.
The four years following September 11th brought about artificially lowered rates to get people to travel. On the fifth year, prices rose dramatically, some even quadrupling!


The days of, “Hey! Let’s take the kids on a trip!” are over. These programs have to be carefully planned well in advance and parents need to be prepared to pay for it, even before their sons and daughters enroll in the school that travels! (Hint: A savings account started in elementary school for the seventh or eighth grade makes a great deal of sense.)
If the trip is going to be expensive, why not get the most for your money? Make the trip count for something more than sightseeing.
This is the perfect time to shop around to find out the differences amongst companies and the services they provide.
Many smaller educational tour operators are benefitting from the exodus of teachers from the larger companies, These teachers are trying to find more value and educational components to their programs. Most mom and pop companies do not have the huge profit margins and staff turnover of the larger companies and can provide personal service rather than a website and access number.
I try to work within the respective budgets of all my schools. (I have designed and conducted a couple of programs for practically no profit and no pay.) Most of the schools have fundraising campaigns that significantly defray the cost of the trip. If they work hard over the year, or two years, the out-of-pocket cost for the students (actually their parents) can be as low as $398 for a seven day, with all the bells and whistles experience that would normally cost over $2000! It’s hard work, but getting the parents and community involved also give the students a greater sense of focus and appreciation for the trip as opposed to entitlement.
Many of private schools (particularly ones associated with the NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools) close down for a week to accomodate various travel and outdoor programs; the cost of these is included in the tuition; it's a growing trend. They definitely understand that these experiences serve as a curriculum tool and are well aware of the intrinsic value to the students.
But how does one begin?
Normally, it begins with either a phone call or email from the company/designer or the teacher/administrator. It works from both ends. The topic of conversation usually covers the types of programs offered, past experiences, and costs. There are lots of questions on both sides. My favorite question to ask is: What do you want your students to get from this program?

Many of you have to present the trip to parents, administration, school boards, and superintendents. What does this travel program truly represent and how can you justify the cost?
Since I do not have any generic itineraries or packages to offer, it is a bit harder to compete against the large student tour operators. Instead, I stress that I can custom design a program geared to curricula and teaching plans adding hands-on discoveries where appropriate. There are other people like me in the industry.
However, it is possible for a teacher/administrator to get a quality program from a large tour operator, if one has an idea of what one wants to accomplish with the trip. Teachers can tell the quality of the company by their willingness and ability to work with them to provide an educational, rather than sightseeing experience. The companies should be able to align their programs with SOL’s and curricula. If you are told that they cannot or will not do it, seek another company. Packages are designed for sightseeing.

The customer is now in control. The company should work for you, not the other way around.
With a little bit of research online, teachers can find out educational programs that are offered at various museums and historic sites. Many of these programs are free or of nominal cost and can significantly enhance the quality and enjoyment of the trip. The larger companies cannot offer these because of their volume; some museums can take only one or two schools a day. Most sales people don't even know these programs exist! It becomes the teacher's responsibility to suggest these programs.
One of the best tests for a full service educational tour company is the use of 24-hour tour guides/educational program conductors. In Washington, DC, there are hundreds of kid-friendly, student tour specialists who stay with the group from the moment they step off the plane to the time they reboard for their return home. These are not ‘escorts’ or bus drivers who pick up step-on guides in Washington or some other cities to give perfunctory city tours. These are fully qualified guides who not only pay all the bills, take care of the students in the hotel, give logistical support, and troubleshoot emergencies, but most importantly, they know their history and provide a cohesive educational experience throughout the entire trip; they become your best resource and on-site advocate while bonding with the students. They are fully trained, proficient, and professional. Accept nothing less. Again, if a company cannot or is unwilling to provide this essential service, seek another.


Other questions to ask concern the quality of the meals and where the hotel is located, but I will address that in a separate post.T here will be more in this series concerning the anatomy of the educational student tour.
Stay tuned!
The Educational Tour Marm

For a discussion of types of companies and ethics please visit this post.

Wordless Wednesday #2 - Answer

Charles Willson Peale: Renaissance Man
In 1801 Charles Willson Peale formed the first scientific expedition in American history when he supervised the excavation of the remains of a mastodon from a farm in upper New York State. Bringing the bones back to his museum, he restored them and then reassembled the skeleton. Exhuming the Mastodon 1801, one of the very first American genre paintings, represents the record of the exhumation. Peale painted it between 1806 and 1808 and portrayed himself as the one holding the sketch of a mastodon bone. This painting contains 75 figures and shows the great wheel used to lift the water from the marl pit where the bones were embedded, the plank room, and the army tent where the excavators slept. A sketch by his son (above), Titian Ramsey, shows the completed skeleton.

The Artist in His Museum (1822) shows him lifting a curtain to reveal his museum. A partial jaw and a large mastodon bone can be seen on the bottom right propped up against the green table cloth as well as a peek of the mastodon behind the curtain. An artist's palette sits on top of the table.

Peale had already established a museum in Philadelphia, which was known as Peale’s Museum, and was eventually moved to the second floor of Independence Hall. This museum contained portraits of famous Americans, a number of Native American relics, wax dummies, as well as specimens of natural history. He invented his own type of taxidermy and was the first to present animals in a natural setting. Additionally he created background paintings in dioramas to depict habitat; his mastery of trompe d'oeil gave a three dimensional quality to the scene. Charles Willson Peale was a century ahead of his time.
Charles Willson Peale was born in Chester, Queen Anne’s County Maryland April 15, 1741 to Charles Peale and his wife Margaret. His father was called an adventurer who was transported to the colonies from England for forgery and embezzlement. Peale's father died when he was nine years old leaving him, his brother James, and their mother in dire financial straits. At this tender age, Peale became the head of his family trying to take care of both his younger brother and mother by entering into a series of opportunities to make money.
At the age of 13 Peale was apprenticed to a saddler (a wholley unhappy experience). He eventually learned watchmaking and by the time he was 21 and married, added clockmaking and upholstery to his repertoire. He was to maintain an enduring and active interest in all things artistic and scientific. In short, Peale was a true son of the Age of Enlightenment and was fascinated by the world around him, seeking ways to understand and improve her.
It was around the time of his marriage that he became interested in painting through a local amateur artist, Gustave Hessalius. He was forced to flee to Boston because of debts and ended up living with America's most famous portrait artist, John Singleton Copley. In 1766 some wealthy benefactors raised eighty-three pounds to send him to London to study with Benjamin West. He stayed in London for three years returning to Annapolis. In 1772 he painted the first portrait ever of George Washington (above) who was then a Colonel of the Virginia Militia. He was to paint 60 more portraits of Washington.
Peale's family was growing; he was to have a total of 17 children (all named for famous artists and taught how to paint), by three wives, being widowed twice. His reputation as an artist brought enough money to warrant a business move to America's largest city, Philadelphia. Since he was an ardent Whig and radical, he became close friends with most of the founding fathers, and painted many of them. He and his brother both served in the Continental Army under Washington with distinction in Trenton and Princeton.
He became more involved in government (served on several committees in Philadelphia and in the Philadelphia General Assembly), science, invention, and the diffusion of knowledge as he grew older. Peale developed a level of expertise in fields such as carpentry, dentistry, optometry, and shoemaking. He wrote several books on various subjects including engineering, hygiene, penmanship, and domestic happiness. He had several patents to his name and had even invented a rude motion picture technique. One invention, in particular, can still be seen at Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson: a polygraph used to make copies of letters. He also sketched several of the specimens (see horned lizard above) brought back by Lewis and Clark.
In 1795 he established the Columbianum, America's first public exhibition of both modern paintings and Old Masters. Out of this he organized the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, which received its charter in 1806 and which stands today as the oldest art school in America.
Peale was the consummate patriarch and the Peale home was a large and happy one as well as serving as a self-contained school. Several generations of the Peale family (including women) became artists and others became politicians. The family members (and extended members) are all well-documented with Peales painting Peales!
He died in Philadelphia on February 22, 1827 and is buried in St. Peter's Episcopal Churchyard.
After his death, his museum was sold to, and split by, showman P.T. Barnum and Moses Kimball
then sold to France, and now rests at Hessisches Landesmuseum in Darmstadt, Germany.
In 2006, Peale's full length portrait of George Washington at Princeton brought 21.3 million at auction.
Further study:
Reading List:
American Monster by Paul Semonim
For students:
The Great Unknown by Taylor Morrison
Seven Scenes from the Painting "Exhuming the First American Mastodon"

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Snow Day

It is most probable that you do not live in a highrise complex. I am lucky enough to live in one with a central park that includes two outdoor pools and six tennis courts. We don't get snow very often and it is a cause celebre! Unfortunately for the students, this snow day came on a Sunday. School is open tomorrow!

See the pretty snowflakes
Falling from the sky;
On the wall and housetops
Soft and thick they lie.
On the window ledges,
On the branches bare;
Now how fast they gather,
Filling all the air.
Look into the garden,
Where the grass was green;
Covered by the snowflakes,
Not a blade is seen.
Now the bare black bushes
All look soft and white,
Every twig is laden, --
What a pretty sight!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Thursday XIII:6 Washington Rules!

George Washington's Rules of Civility
Thirteen Great Tips for Teenagers
(Not in the original order)
1. Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.
2. When in Company, put not your Hands to any Part of the Body, not usualy Discovered.
3. In the Presence of Others Sing not to yourself with a humming Noise, nor Drum with your Fingers or Feet.
4. If You Cough, Sneeze, Sigh, or Yawn, do it not Loud but Privately; and Speak not in your Yawning, but put Your handkercheif or Hand before your face and turn aside.
5. Put not off your Cloths in the presence of Others, nor go out your Chamber half Drest.
6. Make no Shew of taking great Delight in your Victuals, Feed not with Greediness; cut your Bread with a Knife, lean not on the Table neither find fault with what you Eat.
7. Shake not the head, Feet, or Legs rowl not the Eys lift not one eyebrow higher than the other wry not the mouth, and bedew no mans face with your Spittle, by approaching too near him when you Speak.
8. Keep your Nails clean and Short, also your Hands and Teeth Clean yet without Shewing any great Concern for them.
9. Run not in the Streets, neither go too slowly nor with Mouth open go not
10. When you see a Crime punished, you may be inwardly Pleased; but always shew Pity to the Suffering Offender.
11. Do not laugh too loud or too much at any Publick Spectacle.
12. Wear not your Cloths, foul, unript or Dusty but See they be Brush'd once every day at least and take heed that you approach not to any Uncleaness.
13. Eat not in the Streets, nor in the House, out of Season
Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Tour Marm Goes On Strike!

The Tour Marm Goes On Strike!

Early in my career I had the displeasure of working with a very prestigious private school in Southern California. I say displeasure because the teachers had absolutely no control over the students, who were running the show. (I was to find out that the teachers and administration were actually afraid to discipline the students because the parents would complain and send their children elsewhere!) It was impossible to have fun with these students as I was always in a crisis management mode.
My colleagues on the other two buses were very young and inexperienced. They did not know how to handle the students or teachers. It was frustrating for all of us!

It had become a dangerous and intolerable situation, but I couldn’t get the head teacher, who was on my bus, to acknowledge that his charges were little miscreants and vandals. Safety is a major consideration with me and I could envision several liability issues. Each destination that we visited was followed by several complaints from the venues and vendors. We were even thrown out of a restaurant as a result of a food fight and disrespectful behavior towards the waitstaff! I was particularly vexed when they were running around, willy-nilly, trying to catch chickens at Stratford Hall. Stratford Hall, the home of the Lees, is close to where my parents lived and I knew everyone there! More importantly, it’s bad for the chickens!

The evenings at the hotel were horrors and we had to employ extra guards after the first night!

We were visiting Washington, DC at a time when there was relatively light security and more accessibility inside the Capitol and other buildings. (Ah! The good old days!) I’m from New York City and don’t like to stand on line and I prefer to take shortcuts! I knew almost every tunnel and passageway to and through the Capitol and used it to my advantage; my groups benefited from it. (I still take a great deal of pride in the quality of my tours, and I had a good reputation where the Capitol Police and Doorkeepers were concerned.) As a result, I was never stopped from going through corridors and bypassing other groups! In fact, most staff working in the Capitol thought I was a Legislative Aide from California since I dressed professionally and never wore my tour company’s badge! The other 80 eighth graders from the school had already lined up in the noonday sun and would be entering within two hours, standing the whole time!

The working relationship that I had with the head teacher was rapidly deteriorating; I had lost all respect for him. And let’s not even talk of the students’ attitudes! But things really came to a head when I was on my way to the new Hart Senate Office Building, so we could get to some restrooms, an air-conditioned area, and a ride on the Senate Subway.

But they were so obnoxious! They ran across the street against the light, and continued to skip and shout halfway down the block in front of me. Clueless lemmings! I stopped, looked at them, assessed the situation, realized that desperate measures were warrented, and promptly sat down on a dirty, hot sidewalk in front of the Dirksen Building while crossing my arms in defiance!

You see, my daddy taught me that if you are having trouble with a group of people, do something outrageous to get their attention. He used to tell a story about an obstinate donkey that wouldn’t move. Everyone tried his hand, but the animal was not about to budge. Finally, a man came up with a 2x4 and hit the poor donkey right between the eyes!. The startled animal quickly got up and moved. The moral: first you have to get its attention! (I don’t advocate that action on animals or children; it’s just a parable.)

Imagine seeing a middle-aged woman wearing a strand of pearls, a linen suit, hose, and high heels sitting on a public sidewalk on Capitol Hill during a hot summer day! After a while the lemmings realized there was no leader and turned back to see this odd sight. (The teacher was still strolling far behind and had not even crossed the street!) Soon a crowd of students surrounded me. I didn’t move, and I didn’t speak.

There was absolute silence! It seemed like an eternity!

Finally, one of the students summoned enough courage to ask me why I was sitting on the sidewalk.

I expressed my resentment and embarrassment; I simply did not want to be seen with them. Association with them would ruin my good reputation! And they weren’t worth it!
You should have seen the shocked faces of these well-heeled, Californian kids!
Because I believe that every moment can be a teaching moment, I told them what a sit down strike was and that I was protesting, as is my right!

By now the teacher caught up to us and went 'ballistic' when he saw me! I suggested very calmly that he ought to go to the Library of Congress and do some research! He stormed off and called my tour company to have me replaced. (This was before cell phones and I was glad to get rid of him!)

The students and I entered into a series of negotiations. (It became obvious to me that many of their parents must have been lawyers, agents and producers by the quality of the exchange!) I told them of my plan to give them a more comfortable tour experience, and best of all, to cut in front of the other two busloads from their school. (If truth be told, I was doing it for my comfort and convenience. Who wants to stand outside in ninety degree weather and high humidity with 147 eighth graders for two hours, when there is a better option? It would be insanity not to go for the other option!)

What did they have to do to achieve that? I explained very succinctly and in detail what would be expected of them, otherwise, I would simply stick them in line for the public tour, while I went off somewhere to put up my feet and enjoy a couple of iced teas.

It was put to a vote. Unanimous! I cautioned that one infraction would cancel the deal. They understood that I meant business! Two fellows politely helped me up. I had collected a wad of hot, oozing gum on the back of my skirt!
However, grace or good fortune followed us that day!

We entered efficiently and they stood inside quietly. That, in itself, saved one and a half hours of waiting time. I immediately noticed my senior Senator from Virginia, John Warner, standing with three other Senators. John Warner knew me professionally and that my brother was attending VMI with the intention of going intro the Navy. (My brother has since retired as a full Commander!) I introduced him, as well as the other Senators, to the students. One of the students knew that Senator Warner was married to Elizabeth Taylor and thought that was so cool! Senator Warmer asked me about my brother and the kids were extremely impressed! Senator Warner's colleagues complimented the group and offered to get us into the Senate Gallery to hear them speak on the floor before a vote! We walked the narrow, air conditioned passages under the Capitol after our Senate Subway ride. That saved another 45 minutes because we got in front of several groups!

After the speeches and two votes, we took the connecting hall from the Senate to the House side and we had a lively discussion in the House Chamber concerning government and bills. They were marvelously quiet climbing up and down the interior staircases. Now, onto the Old House/Statuary Hall/Whispering Stones and then into the Rotunda, and Old Senate, for all the art, architecture, and history! (I preferred visiting the Rotunda last because it is a spectacular climax!) Gosh! I could even relax a bit and tell a joke!
As we were going down the steps to enter the crypt level, we were stopped by the Capitol Police. A VIP was leaving the building and I found out that it was Vice President Gore. As he descended the steps, I called out that I had a group from California that was interested in the environment. (He had attended a meeting concerning the Mojave Desert.)
The Vice President approached us and I introduced myself and asked how Tipper and their daughters were doing? He was warm and gracious and put his hand on my shoulder while he told the students how lucky they were to have me as a guide! But the effect on the students was incredible! (The Vice President knew their tour guide!) There was a quick Q&A as well as a photo op. (By-the-way, I had never met any of the Gores up to that point!)

As we entered the crypt for another restroom break, I noticed the head teacher inquiring about us! I approached him and he informed me that I was being replaced. The other two busloads were just entering the Capitol and the teacher had not seen nor heard from us for two and a half hours and wanted to rejoin us! (He stood in line with the other two buses, after completing his phone call.)
The students rushed over and excitedly told him about our adventure.
The teacher called my company from the Capitol and cancelled my replacement!

I had no further problems with my students after that, but on the last day, the students who were on the other two buses, were asked to leave the Washington National Cathedral before their tour even began!

I worked with that teacher for several years until his retirement; I had handed him a list of my personal demands and a deportment contract for all future trips. Although I was always requested by him, he never really liked me and told me so, repeatedly; that’s OK, I’d rather be respected!

Wednesday Words - Lent

To Keep a True Lent
Is this a fast, to keep
The larder lean
And clean
From fat of veals and sheep ?
Is it to quit the dish
Of flesh, yet still
To fill
The platter high with fish ?
Is it to fast an hour,
Or ragg’d to go,
Or show
A downcast look and sour ?
No ; ‘tis a fast to dole
Thy sheaf of wheat,
And meat,
Unto the hungry soul.
It is to fast from strife,
From old debate
And hate ;
To circumcise thy life.
To show a heart grief-rent ;
To starve thy sin,
Not bin;
And that’s to keep thy Lent.
Robert Herrick 1591-1674

Wordless Wednesday #2 Again!

What's going on here?
C'mon, take a guess! This is one of my favorite paintings!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Craig Ferguson - Role Model 0n Taking Personal Responsibility

Last night (early morning) I experienced some extraordinary television!

I watched a late night talk show host discussing the problem of mean-spirited remarks and the possible effects they might have on people who are vulnerable along with an emotionally riveting, personal discourse on alcoholism.
It's not often one experiences raw honesty on television.

It's no secret that I have been an unabashed fan of Craig Ferguson's since the first night he stepped onto the stage at CBS. Late night comedic material can be uneven, raunchy, and even ungraceful at times; Craig Ferguson's is no different, but he has the gift to speak directly from the heart. (I think a particularly good one.) Many of his interviews are insightful and I've learned more about celebrities on his show, from their own mouths, than any other place. He is smart, wise, engaging, articulate, vulnerable, and genuinely cares about people. (I wish he would conduct more interviews. )

Last year his book, Between the Bridge and the River, was published. If you're offended by foul language and explicit content, this book would be a difficult read, but it was semi-autobiographical and dealt with disparate people in crisis as well as the grace of divine intervention; I found it fascinating.

Three recent, highly publicized, incidents prompted Ferguson's talk on alcoholism and crisis; Britney Spears, Anna Nicole Smith, and Lisa Nowak.

Although it was pointed out that he had no idea if they are/were alcoholics or substance abusers, he indicated that these are three women who were crying out for help. And we watch them fall apart through the lens of a camera. And we buy and support the tabloids. And we add to the revenues of awful entertainment shows at the expense of these people. And we take great pleasure from it. The German term, schadenfreude, is the best explanation for the relationship the morally bankrupt public has with celebrities.
People in crisis need our help through interventions and reality checks in order to recognize that a problem exists. Additionally, Ferguson doesn't believe that 28 days in rehab is the ticket to sobriety or to treat the root of one's problems. I feel that Hollywood rehab is just an expensive, time out.
The description of his own journey was graphic, admirable, and courageous outside of Bill W's domain. Craig F. knows what it is like to be between the bridge and the river, he's been there and not only miraculously survived, but has prospered. That has taken a great deal of resolve and discipline.

His conclusions are succinct and on-point: there are ways out, but it is up to the individual to seek them.

Unfortunately, during the monologue, his audience laughed at an inappropriate place, and was promptly, but gently admonished. "It's not funny, people are dying. Anna Nicole Smith is dead." Again, his audience didn't quite get it and chuckled, still waiting for a punch line.

A punchline did eventually come, and it was sober.

I suggest that you review this monologue on the Late Late Show website or YouTube, download it and show it to your students. It should provide some good discussion.

As for me, I'm sticking with Craig. Tonight, Patricia Heaton is on and might have some words of wisdom on the subject. However, the true test will be Wednesday, when his friend Danny Bonaduce visits!
And Craig, happy 15th anniversary!

The Tour Marm

For a review of Washington, DC show and tailored itinerary

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Poetry: For School and Soul - Growing Up With Poetry

Growing Up With Poetry

Islands and peninsulas, continents and capes,

Dromedaries, cassowaries, elephants and apes,

Rivers, lakes and waterfalls, whirlpools and the sea,

Valley-beds and mountain-tops - - are all Geography!

The capitals of Europe with so many curious names,

The North Pole and the South Pole and Vesuvius in flames,

Rice-fields, ice-fields, cotton-fields, fields of maize and tea,

The Equator and the Hemispheres - - are all Geography!

The very streets I live in, and the meadows where I play,

Are just as much Geography as countries far away,

Where yellow girls and coffee boys are learning about me

One little white-skinned stranger who is in Geography!

As a fourth-grader in the New York City public schools, this poem is how I learned about geography. The year was 1963, and my schoolmarmish teacher, Miss Vera Fastenberg, required us all to memorize and recite it. While I hadn't much trouble with the memorization because I had become accustomed to it with my own family, I did have to look up such exotic creatures as dromedaries and cassowaries; I already knew about elephants and apes.

Forty years later, I still remember this poem and roughly 100 others that the New York City curriculum—not just Ms. Fastenberg—required us to memorize. To this day, I can even recite a line I learned in first grade. Our class had memorized Edward Lear’s Owl and the Pussy Cat, and my line in our playlet was, “So they took it away and were married next day by the turkey who lived on the hill.”

I loved the way Farjeon’s and Lear’s words rolled off my tongue. And I relished the vivid images their rhymes created in my head. These poems have not only enriched my personal life but have come in handy in my professional life, as well. I’m an educational guide and tour designer. Based in Alexandria, Va., I give roughly 22 tours to about a thousand students each year. I take them on visits to Washington, D.C., monuments as well as historical sites up and down the east coast. But I don’t just tell students why a particular memorial is important or give them the CliffNotes version of a historical event. I make statues and stone come alive with poetry. And as teachers see how enthusiastically their students react, I encourage teachers to incorporate poetry into their field trips and classes.

My family background is best summed up by Elias Lieberman’s poem, I am an American. I was brought up in both urban Jewish and Christian rural environments and was blessed by parents who loved literature. Family members, from both sides, read poetry to me as soon as I uttered my first words. Three of my most prized books were, and still are, When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six (both by A.A. Milne) as well as an anthology of over 700 poems, Favorite Poems Old and New, edited by Helen Farris. Prayers and psalms from the Bible, followed by the dramatic passages and sonnets of Shakespeare augmented my repertoire, all before eighth grade.

Memorization was an acquired skill employed by my family members for diversion as well as discipline. The older generation had neither radio nor television growing up, and going to a movie was a rare treat. Recitation and music were the acceptable outlets; reading was required for both. I was required at times to recite poems for the enjoyment of my family. Once, when I forgot a line, my father chided me that young Winston Churchill (who was nearly at the bottom of his class at Harrow) could recite over 1,200 lines of Macaulay's Lays of Ancient Rome. (I imagined that they were short lines, but have since found out otherwise.) Elderly members of my father's family in the Northern Neck of Virginia could conceivably have matched Sir Winston Churchill; they constantly regaled us with John Henry and other long folk poems and songs. My late cousin, Harvey Bailey, was particularly entertaining and could, at the drop of a hat, recite something that he had learned nearly 95 years ago, when he was a young whippersnapper.

In the summer of 1969, I tried writing poems of my own. That time was particularly magical for me. It’s when I first started to understand and write love poetry, for it was the year of my first boyfriend. It was also the summer of Apollo 11. My family was glued to the television watching the Apollo 11 mission and mesmerized by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Talk about poetry!

When the astronauts eventually rested, Dad opined that in any other century such a momentous occasion would be marked and celebrated in poetry and song. He lamented whether anyone nowadays would see the poetry in it. Eager to please my father, I rushed upstairs to write something to capture the moment, which has become a family joke:

O! Fain that I would see the day

The moon does not belong to lovers!

Stripped of the lies and myths of past

They of the moon that were truth’s covers.

And three were on that awesome flight

‘Twas such a very brave endeavor

Scientists were victorious;

Now lovers croon about the weather!

Despite this inauspicious beginning, my poetic attempts were not confined to home. I eventually became the literary editor of my high school’s literary arts magazine. While one of my poems included in that publication was given a ‘rave review’ in the school newspaper, another was panned. I persevered, however, and still write a few lines when the spirit moves me.

As an educational tour designer, I suggest specific poems that complement venues and curricula to both teachers and tour guides. Peregrine White and Virginia Dare, a poem by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benét about “the first real Americans” that I memorized as a teenager before visiting Jamestown, has a place on the tour, as does the now iconic line from Apollo 11, especially when I’m at the National Museum of Air and Space. There are several other places during a tour of Washington and Virginia where one could inject a poem or two. Mount Vernon is a spectacular backdrop for the Benéts’, George Washington. The Benéts also composed a poem that helps me introduce President Lincoln and his massive memorial; it’s called Nancy Hanks:

If Nancy Hanks
Came back as a ghost,
Seeking news
Of what she loved most,
She'd ask first
"Where's my son?
What's happened to Abe?
What's he done?"
"Poor little Abe,
Left all alone.
Except for Tom,
Who's a rolling stone;
He was only nine,
The year I died.
I remember still
How hard he cried."
"Scraping along
In a little shack,
With hardly a shirt
To cover his back,
And a prairie wind
To blow him down,
Or pinching times
If he went to town."
"You wouldn't know
About my son?
Did he grow tall?
Did he have fun?
Did he learn to read?
Did he get to town?
Do you know his name?
Did he get on?"

These are relatively simple poems that I learned in fourth grade. I have parts of them written on index cards that I distribute amongst my students to read aloud together. After that, they share their thoughts on how different choices could have changed George

Washington’s life or how they would reply to the questions posed by Lincoln’s mother. Carl Sandburg's, Washington Monument by Night, is another poem that my students love; it can be adapted as a sort of a choral piece. I even suggest they compose a poem describing their impressions of another monument or memorial in D.C.

During our three-hour walks through Arlington National Cemetery, out come more index cards so that the students can recite lines from Bivouac of the Dead by Theodore O’Hara, In Flanders Field by Lt. Col. John McCrae, and High Flight by Pilot Officer Gillespie McGee. This last poem is chiseled into the back of the Challenger Memorial and seeing it touches the students as they learn that the author was killed just days after we entered World War II. (High Flight would also be suitable for the new Air Force Memorial adjacent to the Pentagon.) These poems set the tenor for a solemn visit, as does Hello David by Nurse Dusty at the Nurses’ Memorial, which is part of the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial.

It's sad that so many of the eighth-graders I have conducted on tour have no knowledge of the Benets. They've never read anything by Carl Sandburg, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, Alfred Lord Tennyson, William Wordsworth, Alfred Noyes, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, or Edward Lear.

Children are hungry for poetry because poetry expresses inner thoughts and creates indelible images; it might be their first exposure to beauty. It makes them examine themselves as well as use their imagination. Concepts that are philosophical, theological, allegorical, and emotional are all explored and encapsulated in poetry. Poetry aids in personal growth. Ask a child to write a poem, and you will get a revelation about him or her.

Last autumn, as I was bringing a group down the forested mountain at Monticello, I jumped up on a bench to improve my view of the stragglers while holding onto the tree for support. One of the students asked if I were a, “tree hugger”? In fact, I literally was. I told the group that I loved trees, especially in autumn. To keep their attention, I started to wax lyrical and recite a couple of poems by Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost as well as Joyce Kilmer's, Trees. Quoting Kilmer, I told them, “Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.” It was their first time hearing these poems, which I had assumed were already part of their cultural literacy and curriculum.

When the whole group was finally gathered, one of the students asked me to recite another poem. I thought Geography would be perfect. The students applauded after I finished. One young man thought that it was a hard poem and must have taken me a long time to memorize. (He probably wondered how I was still capable of remembering it at my advanced age!) They were all stunned when I revealed that I had learned it in fourth grade and it took less than a week.

“That's nothing, would you like to hear me recite the poem for which I received extra credit when I was in fourth grade? It's called, The Highwayman!" For the next five days I recited poetry and taught them folk songs. Goober Peas was the number one crowd pleaser. Soldier, Soldier, Will You Marry Me? was also well-received.

On these trips, my audience often includes teachers and administrators. They, too, appreciate the verses I recite. And they recognize that poetry and song are equal partners with history and civics.

Sometimes I just have to remind them.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Wordless Wednesday Answer #4 - Phoebe Snow, American Advertising Icon

Phoebe Snow, Advertising Icon Promoting Clean Fuel
Upon the Road of Anthracite

Historyiselementary reasoned correctly that the photo is American by virtue of the African-American Pullman Porter who is assisting the woman in white. The man holding the suitcase is a Red Cap.

However there are three figures, and it is the woman who is the subject of this post as well as the intended subject of the photo.. (I intend to make Pullman Porters and A. Philip Randolph, Jr. the subject of another post sometime this summer.)

One hundred years ago, Phoebe Snow, was a household name. Adults and children would not only recognize her from all the photos and rhyming advertisements for the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad, but they could also recite the various jingles (very much like the Burma Shave campaign):

Says Phoebe Snow
about to go
upon a trip to Buffalo
"My gown stays white
from morn till night
Upon the Road of Anthracite"

Now Phoebe may
by night or day
enjoy her book upon the way
Electric light
dispels the night
Upon the Road of Anthracite

Phoebe Snow was one of the very first fictitious icons of American advertising created by the DL&W in-house advertising department in 1903. This is was when advertising agencies were in their infancy.

This campaign was a sensation and one of the most enduring campaigns in advertising history; she was even more famous than Aunt Jemima* or Betty Crocker, who were fictitious characters in logos and illustrations. Phoebe became far better known to the public that the other two mentioned because she was photographed and attended civic events and celebrations covered by the press. This coverage gave the impression that she was an actual young woman of a refined background. Many thought she was a debutante or socialite from New York City! People trusted* her because she seemed innocent and pure! There was also a sense of safety conveyed in the ads, afterall, it was a single, young woman who was the traveler. These pre-Madison Avenue era, media-savvy advertising executives knew how to manipulate the public by employing several actresses to appear in person as Phoebe.

One hundred years ago, a public reeling from the pollution of the Industrial Revolution was also interested in cleaner fuel and energy. The ad campaign featuring Phoebe Snow was created to introduce the public to a cleaner railroad experience because of DL&W's use of anthracite coal. Hence the use of the white dress and choice of the name, Snow. Obviously, the target market was the upper middle class and wealthy, although the working classes were also fans of Phoebe's.

Anthracite, or 'hard coal', was discovered in Maunch Chunk, PA in 1791. Both bituminous, 'soft coal', and anthracite have contributed to Pennsylvania's wealth for over 200 years for both fuel and the steel industry. The Lackawanna Road burned 'smokeless' anthracite not just because it was cleaner or for the convenience of the passengers, but it owned its own mines which yielded an abundant supply of anthracite. Before the invention of automatic furnace stokers, no market existed for this hard coal until the 1880's, when the Reading Railroad had perfected a method of burning this waste coal. The Lackawanna essentially turned a waste product into locomotive fuel, which was quite economical. They proceeded to capitalize on this by advertising it as a virtue that would benefit the traveling public. (Nowadays, we would use the term, Environmentally Correct.)

It was a brilliant scheme to increase ridership considering that one, and one's clothing, could still be affected by soot and cinders, if any of the windows of the railroad car were opened!

The federal government during the First World War put an end to the use of anthracite in steam locomotives and so, Phoebe was retired briefly, only to reappear in white military garb during WWII to publicize Lackawanna's war efforts. By that time she had become legendary, and no doubt mothers and grandmothers would recount Phoebe's travels to a new generation of children, who had not grown up with the jingles.

in 1949, DL&W inaugurated its first streamliner passenger run from Hoboken, N.J. to Buffalo, N.Y. and this train was named for Phoebe Snow, (I imagine this was appropriate since Phoebe had traveled to Buffalo so many times in the past!)

The last Phoebe Snow train made its final run in 1966, at the time when the great railroads were either going under or merging with Conrail and later becoming AMTRAK.

How should we promote and advertise clean-burning fuel and alternative energy sources? The Lackawanna ad execs knew their public and not only captured their imagination but their creation became a cultural icon for a generation and beyond. I could well imagine a large Madison Avenue advertising agency creating another such engaging, iconic figure to promote hybrid cars, corn and soybean fuel, and 'green homes' to the American public. Heck, why not re-employ Phoebe Snow to counter our dependency on fossil fuels, for a cleaner environment? The campaign could start with:

Phoebe Snow, On the Road From Anthracite!

Why not try enlisting your students as a creative team to come up with an ad campaign to promote cleaner fuel and energy?

By the way, the Phoebe Snow album cover is just an offering to those disappointed visitors who expected something more on the multi-talented singer, so I won't let you down: Phoebe Laub was born on July 17, 1952 in New York City. She borrowed her stage name from the Lackawanna Railroad's passenger train called Phoebe Snow which ran from Hoboken, NJ to Buffalo, NY. So the singer took on the name of the train!

The Tour Marm

* The image of Aunt Jemima appeared in the 1890's and was of a 59 year old ex-slave by the name of Nancy Green. Ms. Green never appeared in any photos or in public as Aunt Jemima. that I know of. (The image of Aunt Jemima has been updated throughout the years as has Betty Crocker's, who is totally fictitious.)

*Trust is an important element in advertising which is why a cereal company used the image of a Quaker to promote their oats; Quakers (Society of Friends) were considered to be honest.