One Hot Chocolate
Band: Robert Bradleyâ€™s Blackwater Surprise
Record: Time to Discover
Iâ€™m no coffee house snob. Lattes, mochas, and macchiatos sound like a disease line up to me. â€śSorry sir, but you are infected with the drippy macchiato.â€ť Coffee is my caffeine of choice. BUTâ€¦ every now and again I find myself in the awkward position, usually on a Saturday night when the place is buzzing with hipster city folk, standing in front of the barista ready to order. I found myself in that very position on Saturday night at the Green Line CafĂ© in West Philadelphia, PA. I was there to support The Silence Kit. â€śThe Kit,â€ť as I like to call them, is a post-punk band that sound like The Killers and The Cure all swirled up together, put into one those silver cups, and steamed.
I strolled up, joined the line, which was more like a circular meeting (â€śNo, you goâ€ť), and devised a plan while I waited. Sneaky. (Rubbing hands together) When I finally was face-to-face with the master coffee-drink-maker I said, â€śSurprise me. Make me whatever you like.â€ť She apparently gets this a lot and took it in stride. She worked her magicâ€“â€“ shaking, mixing, and even used the silver cup. Man, I thought. Iâ€™m getting something good. Then she filled the top of the cup with whipped cream. Huh? â€śOne hot chocolate,â€ť she crooned. She chose to hit me with the simple, yet complex, drink of champions; the drink of cold, snowy nights; the drink of The Polar Express. All of those fancy drinks and she picks simplicity. Isnâ€™t that what education needs? Simplicity. Donâ€™t get me wrong. When I say simplicity, I donâ€™t mean reverting to the â€śold daysâ€ť of pencil, paper, and splintered, wooden desks. I meanâ€¦.
The Rules of Simple are Simple (written simply by Gaetan Pappalardo)
Rule #1-Whatâ€™s the Big Idea?
Honing in on the â€śbig ideasâ€ť should be first and foremost. Instead of cramming the curriculum with petty content, spend more time in the deep end. Community, Environment, Communication, Artistic Expression, etcâ€¦ In his book, Holding on the Good Ideas in a Time of Bad Ones: Six Literacy Principals Worth Fighting For, Thomas Newkirk praises Eagle Rock School in Estes Park, CO, for its mission and philosophy that fits on one side of a piece of paper. â€śSimple,â€ť yet so powerful. â€śTeachers and students had wide latitude in how these goals were met, and everyone would return to them again and again.â€ť (Newkirk) Now thatâ€™s spending some time in the deep end of the pool.
Rule #2- Simple is as Simple Does
Make it simple for the kid. Everybody can use a little â€śsimple.â€ť We can all agree that â€śthe kidâ€ť has changed. Making school, or a least a bit of it, simple for todayâ€™s little bean might be adding a video game reference to your lesson; allowing kids to compose stories with different computer programs; letting them read alternative literature on the Internet; Graphic novels. Yes, pop culture needs to be valued to connect with â€śThe Kid.â€ť
Rule #3- Simplicity needs time, believe it or not.
Simple is not easy. I spend time with teachers discussing how to effectively teach kids to write. The jaws drop when I tell them I teach one whole class lesson a week. Maybe. Barry Lane, in his book But How Do You Teach Writing?, simply states: â€śReal writing needs real time.â€ť How do you become a writer? You do it. How do you become a Scientist? You do science. How do you become a golfer? You golf. Time is needed for instruction, but more time is needed for the â€śdoing.â€ť The â€śdoingâ€ť is what grabs you and shakes up your bones and makes you think: I want to do it again. You learn by simply â€śdoing.â€ť
Guess what? That hot chocolate was the best hot chocolate Iâ€™ve ever had. Simplicity, refined, refined, and refined to perfection.