The SPEAK house

I’m back in Columbus, OH, where they filmed SPEAK. The librarian at Columbus School for Girls, Beth Abramovitz, generously drove me to the street where the House of Speak is so I could see it.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Ta-da! (Yeah, I think they’ve painted it.)

Thanks to the young women at CSG for being so sweet and energetic yesterday. The day flew by. But (for a change) I remembered to take some photos.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic I am the one not wearing a cute plaid skirt. (I’m not sure I could ever wear a uniform… too rebellious.)

I was lucky enough to be invited to a cool Seder dinner for Passover last night, too. Many thanks to the family that opened their home and their celebration to me, and to Beth for arranging a great day and evening.

As I was being driven back to my hotel, the moon was full and fat, and the spring wind was blowing and I was exhausted, but feeling content and grateful.

I’m off to one more day of Columbus (why do so many of the big cities of Ohio start with “C”?). Home tomorrow!!

Amazing Timken Experience

Days like yesterday give me faith in the American High School. Yeah, I really just wrote that. I can’t believe it, either. I have lots of faith in teenagers and good teachers, but I have been in way too many schools where administration was a weak link, and the kids suffered from a lack of vision and compassionate adults who were willing to fight for them.

Let me tell you about Timken High School in Canton, OH.

If you look at the statistics, you’d sigh. Many of the kids in this school come from what is politely called “underserved” areas, meaning their families struggle with poverty, unemployment, and a host of other concerns. These are the kids that are usually forced to accept the bottom of the barrel. Not at Timken. It has brilliant administrators (yes, I put those two words next to each other!) who have crafted a high school that offers all kinds of academic and vocational programs for their students. The school is divided into academies: a Technology Academy, an Arts Academy, and a Service Academy. Along with the elements of a traditional secondary curriculum, kids are given loads of opportunities for real-world education, and can take classes that will feed directly into post-secondary training to prepare them for jobs. I really hope some smart reporter looks into the innovative and practical things that are going on there.

My presentations were unique, thanks to the handiwork of Lynn Rudd, who coordinated my visit. Speak was chosen as an “all-school reads” book. Yep – everybody read it, including the guys in the auto body classes. Students made magnificent artwork based on the book and discussed it all over the place. Instead of just having me blather on in the auditorium, Lynn set up an extravaganza. The jazz band played while students took their seats. A beloved principal and one of their top seniors (who will study broadcasting) interviewed me on stage. And when the show was over, a punk/rock band played as students left. If any of you teachers out there are looking for information about this innovative format, or how to pull off a whole school reading the same book, please give Lynn a call.

Yes, like many schools in America, Timken is struggling. They have received a lot of attention because of the number of pregnant students at the school, an issue which they are addressing head-on. (Many of the administrative and curricular changes are recent.) Resources are stretched. But the faculty there is committed to their students in a degree which I rarely see. The kids are fantastic. People there are all working hard so that every student has the chance to grow, strive, and become the best person they can be – regardless of income or background. I left there feeling energized and uplifted by the people I met. So thank you, Timken!!! Thank you very, very much!

Oh, and when I was in the Canton/Akron area, I got to drive past the NFL Football Hall of Fame. It does not look as imposing as the photos make it look. In fact, it looks rather like the kitchen tool you use to squeeze lemon juice from a lemon, or maybe a painful medical device. I was amused.

Now I am in Columbus for a couple more days. I think I’m going to get to see the house where they filmed the Speak movie tonight. Will take photos.

(Note to a couple friends of mine who are trying to reach me by email – these hotel internet services are weird and I can’t send email out, plus I am really busy. Call me at home on Friday afternoon, or I will email you back then.)

the perfect high school?

First things first. Thank you, thank you to the students, staff, and parents of the Chadwick School (esp Kim Sonnenblick!) for making my visit so relaxing and enriching. I enjoyed the last two days so much!

Now I am in Cerritos. The ride from Palos Verdes here was mind-boggling; a typical LA mild-traffic jam kind of experience. I guess living out in the country is having more of an effect on me than I realized. I kept thinking who are all of these people? Where are they going? And how do they live so close to each other??? The driver of the car pointed out houses that cost millions of dollars that are – literally- separated from their neighbor’s million dollar house by only a few feet. I cannot get my head around that.

Today is catching up on work day, so I’ll keep this entry short. I have a question for you before I go: if you had a magic wand and were going to create the perfect high school from scratch, what would it be like?

Cali pictures

Chilly CA

It hasn’t been exactly warm here, but it hasn’t snowed so I’m not complaining. Had a blast at La Jolla Country Day and am doing it all over again at the Chadwick School which I think is just outside LA. (The geography of Los Angeles confuses me. The greater LA area feels as big as Vermont. All I know is that if you’re looking at the ocean, you’re facing west.)

Image hosting by TinyPic Frozen Chadwickians. They aren’t quite used to the brisk temperatures out here. But they are really nice.

Image hosting by TinyPic The Writing Workshop – highlight of the day for me!!

Image hosting by TinyPic The best sign I’ve seen.

My hotel is interesting. The people in the room next door have deadly boring lives which they detailed LOUDLY on the phone last night for hours. Argh. And the guy who decided that it was a good idea to race his motorcycle around the parking lot when I was trying to sleep? I wanted to introduce him to the Boring People. Maybe they could have talked him to death or something. But except for those two things, this has been a stellar trip and I’ve had the chance to hang out with fantastic people, so it’s all good.

Airplanes are magic

It’s always hard leaving home, especially for a week. Sunday morning was last minute packing, tea-drinking, mild fretting. Because I had proclaimed Spring the day before, we were enjoying more lake effect snow.

Image hosting by TinyPic The drive south to Syracuse.

But we got to the airport in one piece and my flight took off with no problems. I watched Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in the air (movies in the air – amazing) and scribbled ideas and headed into better weather.

Let’s review yesterday’s visuals:

Image hosting by TinyPic Mexico, NY

Image hosting by TinyPic San Diego, CA

::great sigh::

The very, very nice people of La Jolla Country Day School took me out to dinner last night at a restaurant that overlooked the Pacific ocean and the setting sun… yeah, it had everything, crashing surf, beach, crazy freezing cold surfers, you name it. But the company was even better and it was a terrific way to end a long day. I leave here in a minute to go to the school. Tonight I fly to LA, tomorrow, the Chadwick School.