Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tribute Tuesday: Mr. Page

Oh hey, lookee here...I'm dusting off the Tribute Tuesday idea.  And about time, because there are so many people to thank for their positive contributions to my life.

I got the idea to thank Mr. Page while listening to an interview of a woman who has written a book about the move to silence differing points of view instead of entering into reasonable debates.  It made me think of one of my freshman year tutors at St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland.

At St. John's we have tutors, not professors.  They are not tutors in the "my mom hired a math tutor this summer, ahhhhh kill me now" sense.  They are tutors in the Cambridge/Oxford sense of a learned fellow leading a group of students, often in a dialectic.

At St. John's, seminar was the highlight of the Great Books Program.  It was a 2 hour class which met twice weekly (from 8-10pm...egad, I feel so old wondering how on earth I managed that!)  The seminar was composed of about 18 students and 2 tutors.  The tutors usually ask an opening question and the discussion flows from there.  They interject, question, redirect, and facilitate, but never lectured.

Mr. Page and Mr. Casey were my freshman seminar leaders.  Although both fine tutors, Mr. Page is the one who had the greater impact on me.  It is probably a rather thankless job at times to lead a freshman seminar.  You start with a group of kids who are feeling rather impressive and grandiose--now they are college students and not mere high schoolers--and may not yet have learned how to have a group discussion without waiting for a teacher to call on people with raised hands.  In those first few weeks there's a lot of one-upping and everyone trying to show how intellectual they are.

Thankfully, Mr. Page was equal to the task of putting us in our place and teaching us that we really knew nothing.  He was the drill sergeant of seminar.  He was from New Zealand and in his 40s or 50s, always nattily attired in tweed suits.  He had a very gentle voice but could deliver stinging rebukes.

Of course, I am sure--it's a matter of first principles--that as a freshman I was obnoxious.  But from Mr. Page I learned, in short order, a few valuable lessons.

1.  Respect your classmates, your tutors, and yourself by being prepared for class.  Do the reading and do it well.  When there are parts you don't understand, make notes of them so that perhaps you can bring it up as a topic of discussion.

2.  If you haven't done the reading, keep your mouth shut, lest you waste time with your very avoidable ignorance, and refer to principle #1.

3.  When you speak, be prepared to back up your claim with a citation.  Don't just throw opinions out there unless you're prepared to defend them with the text.

4.  Try to avoid bringing in esoteric or outside information to a discussion of the text.  [This was a fairly common rule in seminars; I am not sure it really applies in daily life, but it was very helpful in teaching us how to go from the text and to level the playing field.]

5.  Be respectful of the views of others, and don't dominate the conversation.

6.  Have an open mind and be ready to consider all evidence.

7.  Listening to your classmates does not mean waiting for them to be quiet so you can make your point.  If the conversation passes your point by without you getting the chance to say it, so be it.  Don't drag everyone back for the sake of your pride.

I remember one seminar rather early on (October?) where we were discussing a large chunk of Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War (worth reading and very relevant). Mr. Casey had thrown out an opening question about one of the battles and there was probably a moment of silence. Mr. Page asked, rather bitingly, "Was this such an unmemorable reading that none of you can think of a thing to say?  Why don't you open your books and begin looking?"  I remember learning to keep my finger in many different parts of the book, ready to cite the text.

Mr. Page was not a very approachable person; at least, I did not find him approachable.  There was a program called "take a tutor to lunch" wherein the tutor and student could eat at the dining hall for free if the tutor was the guest of the student.  I finally worked up the nerve to ask him to be my guest, and he rather coolly replied, "Hadn't you better be working on your annual essay, Ms. Lowe?"  Yeouch.

Work on it I did.  I ended up writing about the Athenian leader Pericles as a model ruler.  At St. John's, the custom is to write the annual essay and then defend it in an oral exam with your seminar tutors.  I did so, and it was a very lively conversation.  Mr. Page paid me the great compliment of saying it was one of the best freshman papers he had read, and gave it high marks.

I also remember one time in seminar where he grilled me for quite a few minutes straight on something I said about Lucretius's work De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things). I did not agree with Lucretius' worldview one little bit and made some sort of remark to that effect.  Suddenly I was the target of Mr. Page's intense line of questioning.  I don't really remember much about it now, except that it was a back-and-forth for perhaps 10 minutes or so, and I don't remember ending in defeat.  We didn't change each other's minds, but in my memory it serves as a sterling example of having lively and civil debate about a passionately held subject (in this case, the necessity or non-necessity of a Creator) without rancor.

We need more of those types of debates.  Everything now seems to start out with rudeness and end with shouting or snarling; or debate is simply shouted down.  Some points of view are not even considered fit to be discussed.

Thank you, Mr. Page, for being a great tutor and someone who has influenced me both personally and professionally.  I always sought to impress upon my students the same things you impressed upon me.  You'll probably never read these words (and if you do, I am sure you will be quick to point out the flaws in my logic or misrememberings), but thank you nonetheless.  I tip my hat to you, sir.
Yours sincerely,
 Mrs. Cook (nee Ms. Lowe)

Friday, June 19, 2015

7 QT: How do you get rid of bamboo, y'all?

Any suggestions?
1.  We inherited a veritable bamboo forest outside our yard.  It was even more bushy last year but I hacked a lot of it down.  I knew that wasn't going to be a permanent solution, but I didn't really have the energy to try to get rid of it for good.

This summer, though, I'd like to get it out and put in something nicer and less invasive.

So, does anyone out there have a tried-and-true method for getting rid of bamboo? I've heard of dumping straight bleach into the ground, but that sounds like it would ruin the soil for any future plants.

2.  My attempts at gardening are very modest, because I didn't seem to have inherited my matrilineal line's green thumb gene.  I decided to stick to container gardening, and it is going nicely so far.  We just got to the best part: getting to eat the produce for the first time!
Ruby received a strawberry plant from her aunt Alishia for her birthday...

...and its first fruit was delish, by all accounts!

Baby arugula and butter lettuce

Basil and our (only) cherry tomato (so far)
The cherry tomato was delectable.  I bought two cherry tomato plants and am looking forward to a good harvest.  

3.  Speaking of container gardening...
Top row: cherry tomatoes, strawberry, starts for marigolds and black eyed susan.
Middle row: lettuce starts, arugula, butter lettuce.
Bottom row: basil and rosemary

Hard to see it but that's a raspberry on the right.
And I think that is some kind of volunteer sweet pea vine on the left...

A very expansive cucumber...I forgot to buy bush type :/
The coconut planter has some pansy seeds (which I despair of ever seeing germinate)
and the oblong containers have scarlet runner beans.
4.  Allen is always a "finder" of interesting things.  He found two lovely hanging baskets and brackets, and put them up recently.  It is so cheerful to see some nice plants out of the kitchen window, since I'm often standing there with dishes.  

I read about using sphagnum moss to line the hanging basket and then planting starts in the bottom and sides.  So far it looks a little...weird.  Not sure if they will end up failing but I wanted to give it a try.  I plan to add marigolds and the trailing black eyed susans once they get started.  

Pretty petunias

Another of Allen's finds at work was a set of four of these concrete blocks.  I immediately saw their planter potential, especially in the front of the trailer, which is currently covered in dead pine needles and pea gravel, known as "poop rocks" by the kids due to some of the neighbor cats' use of them as a litterbox.  

I like how the blocks look as little planters!  

5.  When you're the kid of an apprentice carpenter, there are certain perks...

One such perk is that you get a playhouse that's an actual model of a real house.  Allen's site was about to pitch their model house.  Allen asked if he could have it, and the powers that be said, "Sure, if you want to haul it."  Ha! As if hauling huge, awkward, heavy objects were anything daunting to Allen.  

So yesterday he came home with the house (in pieces, of course) and he and a neighbor helped heft it into the yard.  He started reassembling it.  It still needs a lot of work, but luckily he had plenty of temporary fencing, and--of course--appropriate signage.  

It's going to be a pretty swell playhouse. 

6.  Speaking of Allen's work, he's plugging away.  Next week is the last class of his second year of carpentry classes before his summer break.  Not that he gets a summer break from work, mind you: his job is all year and I can't remember how far away he is from earning some vacation time.  Probably a long ways. 

If you look closely, you can see the wooden L-shaped walls along the red wall.
Those were Allen's handiwork.  Pretty cool, eh?
This picture is from the company newsletter.
I just hope he doesn't let the publicity go to his head ;)

He's past the 2000 hour mark towards the 8000 hours it takes to achieve journeyman status, and just bumped up another notch in wage percentage.  Woohoo!

6.  Mornings are a nice time to be out in the yard with the kids.  The sun is out but not yet scorchy.  Today I got some nice photos of the kids at play.  

Apparently, Ruby is picking "ironberries."

Ben is beginning to learn the time-honored
Oregonian skill of walking in rain boots. 

I suppose the plus side of inheriting bamboo is that we also inherited rose bushes which seem extremely hardy.  I had to prune some way back about a month ago, and I was afraid I'd killed them.  But hurrah, they are sending out happy, healthy new branches!  I hope to see some buds soon.
This one has pink roses

Our pretty, pretty white rose bush

Have a good weekend everyone!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Arbor, My Arbor

Trees...they are plentiful there, and part of the play equipment
This school, you guys, is life-changing.  
Arbor just wrapped up its 26th year

I know, I know.  That word is thrown around so much it has whiplash, and it shows up way too often on infomercials.  Well, let me reclaim it.  My two years at Arbor changed my life.

I lived here (for a few months)...
This bedroom is now a room of records and files, I think
I worked with amazing people and made wonderful friendships with my fellow apprentices...
My wonderful fellow apprentices (and one of our fabulous mentors/teachers)

That's a pretend microphone; I could have used it doing my "man on the street" interviews with students about oceanography

I even got married on Arbor's grounds!  It's no church but there was still a sense of sacredness about the space (not to mention the natural beauty of it!)
Exchanging vows and rings in the amphitheatre
Reception in the Arena
Among the sunflowers in the Primary gardens

I convinced my brother to be an apprentice there, too.  It was life-changing for him, too.
I don't have a good picture of him teaching, but he loved it almost as much as he loved baby Ruby (which, as you can see, is a lot)
"Okay, okay," you may be thinking.  "What's so great about this Arbor place, anyway?"

A question which is well worth a long and well-crafted answer...in another blog post.  In this one, I'm just going to treat you to some adorable then & now shots of my dear, dear Primary Easters (residents of Primary East, that is).

Big bro shows little bro the ropes
My all-time favorite shot of this little guy
Not so little now, but the smiles are still the same!

Lovable rascal 
Might still be rascally and definitely still looks lovable!

Still sweet!

Silly girl
Showing her serious side

What a Peach!
Very refined

An independent and bold thinker from day one
Now independent, bold, and a beautiful young woman

What a ham!
Still a ham...an adorable, tenderhearted ham

I can't locate great "then" pictures for the rest of my Primary East kiddos, so here are the "now" ones. The quality of the photos is pretty abominable, I'm afraid, but they are still worth putting up here for the love I bear them.

Some fine young men!

Kit, the woman who dreamed up Arbor and has made it a beautiful reality

This is next year's batch of 8s (I taught some of them also!)

My wonderful mentor teacher Felicity

Somehow Allen's truck looks out of place...

Back in my Primary days, singing with the kids
As I say, Arbor deserves a fuller blog paean...maybe a future Tribute Tuesday?  But for today, here's to the wonderful grads of 2015, heading off to do (even more) amazing things!  Thank you for having me in your journey.  It was an honor.