Downtown Writing and Press


Creativity and Struggle

 August 23rd, 2015  
 creativity, culture  
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Worth a listen

From Brain Pickings…

Seth Godin and Debbie Millman

Design, at its core, thrives when a human being cares enough to do work that touches another — it doesn’t thrive when it gets more “efficient.”

 January 3rd, 2015  
 community, creativity, culture, marketing, passion  
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Teachers Who Love to Learn

I’ve just spent the day at Collegiate School in Richmond, working with teachers on inquiry learning. I came away knowing the students at Collegiate are in good hands. Good hands.

And that’s such a good feeling. As I watch twitter, read blogs, and browse news headlines, it’s easy to get discouraged. About kids, teaching, school. Life. But today I was able to work with teachers who are digging deep to find ways to reach kids. It’s not so hard, is it? We know what matters. And it’s not the tests we give at the end of the year.

We spent some time talking about questions…and this popped up in my reader today:

“It is not that I’m so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer.”
― Albert Einstein

Yes, the questions.

 November 26th, 2012  
 culture, curriculum  
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Zombie Writing

I had a good session with one of my writing students yesterday. We’ve been discussing the difference between writing a summary and writing a persuasive essay. He’d recently watched Becket in history class, assigned to complement their study of the middle ages. We worked on a summary of the movie before moving onto “taking a stand,” something he’s asked to do in DBQ’s (data-based questions).

I decided to help explain the difference in the two using The Voice, a quirky television show I’ve become somewhat addicted to. I asked him to summarize the purpose of the show, and then to explain which team is the strongest, using details from the show to back up his opinion.

He hadn’t been watching The Voice, so he found it difficult.

“What shows do you watch?” I asked, thinking we could switch gears.

His face lit up. “The Walking Dead!” he said, starting to summarize the show. “It’s about…..”

Well, you get it. The exercise worked well, and I learned more about zombies than I want to know.



 November 9th, 2012  
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A Crush

Brene Brown speaks to me. She opens her mouth, and I nod. Sigh. Smile.

I’ve read all her books, and I’ve downloaded her recent Daring Greatly to my kindle. She makes her research approachable, inviting, and meaningful.

This interview with Jonathan Fields from The GoodLife Project touches on so many important ideas: vulnerability, writing, parenting, teaching, and what makes a good life. It’s worth watching.


 November 4th, 2012  
 community, culture, mindfulness  
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I understand this fellow.

I spend a lot of time staring at the ocean, too.

That might seem wasteful or self-indulgent, but to me, it’s time well spent. Some of my best thinking happens at the beach. The regular pounding of the surf lulls me into a kind of meditative state where my mind is clear.

Even the simple routines of anchoring the boat on the salt pond and then carrying lunch, books, and chairs across the barrier beach provide a way of grounding me. I step onto the hot sand, leaving my rubber flip flops at the end of the path. Block Island sits straight ahead on a clear day. Quonochontaug to the left and Weekapaug to the right flank the long stretch of shoreline.

Settling in, I am grateful beyond words for this opportunity to connect with the sand, surf, and familiar sights again.

Edited: I discovered a lovely wordfor this: Uitwaaien




 September 4th, 2012  
 culture, home, mindfulness  
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Online Friends

I’ve written before about my online connections–both the rich friendships I’ve made and my reluctance to be so public.

Today I want to talk about a connection to someone I don’t know– author Patti Digh. I bought her book Life is a Verb about four years ago, and it resonated immediately. I started following her blog and then on twitter, also purchasing her book What I Wish for You. I haven’t taken her Verb Tribe class, yet, but that’s on my list, too.

You know how a stranger often feels like they could be a good friend? That’s what happened to me with Patti.

So when I read recently that her husband had been diagnosed with cancer and there was a fundraising drive on to help with expenses, I immediately clicked over and donated.

Helping to save a life. This becomes the best, most profound way our networks serve us.

She includes a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye on her blog today, one that will carry me for a long time.


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

-Naomi Shihab Nye


 August 9th, 2012  
 culture, social media  
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Speaking About the Arts

So worth watching:

And so worth reading.

 May 22nd, 2012  
 creativity, culture  
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Be Willing to Change the Game

About a year ago, I pasted a quote into Evernote by Chris Lehmann (probably from Educon 2011):

If we want our students to grow, we must do that ourselves. This weekend we believe differently. All of us have a stake in the game. Solutions must include us (and our students). We cannot solve problems by doing things TO students.

This morning, as I bumped into the quote again, I was reminded of a teacher I met this past weekend. We were discussing change and what kind of “change agents” we want to be. He paused, turned his head slightly, eyes widening: “I just realized,” he said. “I ask my students to take risks all the time….and yet I don’t put myself out there at all.”

He was referring to sharing and working online, being willing to reach out to others to learn and grow. He’d been satisfied, thus far, to be the director who told his students what to do without doing the work himself. He looked as if he had walked into a strange, new place with no idea how he had arrived.

I smiled. I’ve seen that look before. And it can be both scary and exciting.

During our session, this teacher had shared some amazing insights, and I was eager to find his space place online to learn more.

“I don’t have a space online,” he’d said. “But I guess that needs to change.”

We must model the kind of learning we want from our students. And we must also be willing to learn from them as they explore their interests and passions.

First, we must believe in the change. And then we live the belief.

This seems pretty simple, doesn’t it?



 December 5th, 2011  
 culture, passion, pedagogy  
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Goodnight to all….

Here’s hoping we all manage to sleep well in years to come. I do worry about our kids who sleep with their phones, squashing any chance of a solid night’s sleep.

 November 29th, 2011  
 1 Comment