Monday, December 10, 2007

Fritz taught all weekend while I set myself up in one of the offices at the Center and got lots of work and writing done. I was just down the hall from the room where the class of 17 teachers worked through various arts and projects relevant to a study of three different world cultures—Maori (New Zealand), Northwest native-American (U.S. and Canada) and Aboriginal (Australia). I sat in on the final presentation on the Maori because the preparations (including a thunderous rehearsal session for the traditional Haka greeting/warning dance on the floor directly above me) seemed particularly detailed and careful.

Part of the genius of the Masters degree program that Fritz puts on here for primary school teachers is that it teaches how to integrate the arts into all the subjects they teach. In a way it’s very subversive—at a time when school systems are ruthlessly eliminating music, and art from their curricula, teachers who come out of this program will bring them right back in and their students will benefit enormously from that. Each class (there are seventeen in the one that met this weekend) gathers for one weekend a month for 22 months for an intensive Friday afternoon to Sunday night experience of topics including, curriculum development, music, poetry, storytelling, art, drama, movement, etc. etc.

There are major final project presentations at the end, as well as creative assignments along the way—this weekend began with an exhibit of wind chimes made from found objects. Some of the degree candidates teach art or music but most don’t, so they learn new techniques here by doing, and then take their experience to their students.

Another thing that I love about it is seeing Fritz in action. He’s a born teacher and much of his effectiveness, I am convinced, comes not only from his deeply held and passionately expressed belief in what he’s doing, but also from his background in theater. This is something we share and that has informed how we approached our students through the years. We both know how to play off the energy we get back from our “audience,” and how to ignite response and enthusiasm when it’s lacking. We also know when and how to introduce a diversion, employ humor, make a dramatic pause, drop a particularly visceral image. He absolutely blossoms when he gets in front of a group, puts out a lot of energy, and makes a lot of personal contact with his students. The bulletin board in the lobby of the Center always features several newspaper articles about teachers from his program who get named their school district’s Teacher of the Year.

Speaking about things subversive, I got a Northern Sun catalog in the mail for the first time this year and liked their signature T-shirt, which is also available as a poster and as cards with envelopes, all of which I ordered. Their merchandise has an extremely liberal bias and a lot of it is blatantly anti-Bush. Here’s the T-shirt:

On Sunday morning, Fritz was able to take a short break while his students were preparing their presentations that were the culmination of the weekend’s work. We got in the Jeep and he drove up to the new house, now free for the first time in months of the barrier of trucks and excavation machines across it’s façade. It would have been lovely if there had been sun, but I didn’t much care; here’s a complete, unblocked view of our very photogenic new house:

The exterior is finished except for the stone on the cement piers (dark gray in the photo), which will happen next spring.

We went in and checked out the latest work. Some cleaning has been done but a lot of trash and dust remain. Still, it was much easier for me to negotiate the downstairs on the crutches and get through the various spaces. The boiler for the hot water and the heat, an amazingly small, on-demand system, has been installed although not yet hooked up to the in-slab radiant system. The general contractor says there should be heat in the house by the end of the week.

Jean, the genial, highly extroverted head of the framing crew, stopped by Saturday evening to say good-bye and leave us his business card. He and his crew (one of whom returned today to finish window details and clean up tools, etc.) have done a superb job.

I would love to visit your work in progress!

Maybe you'll need to commission a custom quilt (or ten) for various decorative places, or for just cuddling under!

And reading you talk about Fritz teaching brings up a whole tumult of feelings for me.

It seems silly that we never see you guys, considering you're 20 minutes away at most.

I'm away for work the rest of this week, but aside from that we have no non-work plans the entire rest of the month.

That last bit makes us sound a bit pathetic!

My email address is the same as always.
It all sounds like things are gearing up in a very busy way up on the's so fun to have been there and checked in out in person...and then to continue hearing about the in's and out's of the project and your lives. I'm still talking to people about the lovely meal you all fixedme!
My dad and sister are both professors, and I always loved sitting in on their classes to see them in action. Watching anyone use his or her gifts and talents is great, but it's especially wonderful when it's someone you love. I wish I could have sat in on that class of Fritz's as well, both central agenda of it, but also because I'm fascinated by those three cultures. I wouldn't have thought to put them all in a single class. Pretty cool.
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