Wednesday, June 8, 2011

From the Bellows

"So, Peter, you're a boy playing a boy playing a girl."

Peter beams up at me through his eyeglasses and says, "Yup! And look, Ms. Ryane!"

He crosses his eyes, because he can, and because one time I said anyone doing that always makes me laugh. Peter gives laughter as love.

"And your character, Francis Flute, is a bellows-mender. Know what that is?"

"Ummm, not really."

I draw a lousy picture of a bellows and tell him it's what helps a fire take hold. "It's all in the air, Peter. We have to feed the fire air."


What makes a fire burn
is space between the logs,
a breathing space.
Too much of a good thing,
too many logs
packed in too tight
can douse the flames
almost as surely
as a pail of water would.

So building fires
requires attention
to the spaces in between,
as much as to the wood.

When we are able to build
open spaces
in the same way
we have learned
to pile on the logs,
then we can come to see how
it is fuel, and absence of the fuel
together, that makes fires possible.

We only need to lay a log
lightly from time to time.
A fire
simply because the space is there,
with openings
in which the flame
that knows how it wants to burn
can find its way.

—Judy Brown

And this is how I direct, and how I teach...and then I step back and marvel. Every time I meet with these children, we explore what a character wants, how that character is like us, and what that character does to get what he wants.

I set them up with blocking, give them the text, and watch as they explode as ideas catch fire.

I am nothing more than a good match.

What I would get for William Shasepear birthday is I would get him a book about plays because I know he likes to write about plays. I bet he would be so happy. I would also get him a book so he knows what to do for his play that he will write.
—Calvin, 5th grade

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