Thursday, January 19, 2012

The End

It's kind of hard to read when your eyes keep filling with tears. I seriously love this story.

"Wilburn said he didn't give a damn, but he did. Every time it was line-up day, Wilburn put on a clean shirt and overalls. I watched Wilburn" (p. 188).

How are we going to teach/reach the Wilburns in our classes? I'll take a stab at answering this question in class today, but I think that Granma and Granpa have already shown us. On every page of this book they have done all they could to help Little Tree feel important, to feel needed, and to feel appreciated. Next week I will ask you to read an article about how to teach "at-risk" students (think Wilburn). The author suggests that each of these children, like each of us, have the following needs: 1) love and belonging; 2) mastery; 3) power; 4) meaning. Not that I want to give away what will be on the exam, but it is possible that you will need to find examples of how the characters in this book helped Little Tree meet these needs. I reckin that would be a good question.

I sincerely hope you have enjoyed this book and that it has helped shape your teaching philosophy. I am so excited for each of you to begin teaching, I am confident that you will each be a powerful influence in the lives of your students.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Chapters 11-15

I'm still laughing over the chapter about Mr. Chunk and Mr. Slick. I apologize for the foul language and hope that you are finding the humor in some of this.

"Birds, just live everything else, know if you like them. If you do, then they will come all around you. Our mountains and hollows was filled with birds: mockingbirds and flickers, red-winged blackbirds and indian hens, meadowlarks and chip-wills, robins and bluebirds, hummingbirds and martins - so many that there is no way to tell of them all" (p. 107).

Certainly students know if you like them. It's often not what you say, but how you act and how you look at them. As with birds, there are many different types of students. They may look different and sound different, but each must be equally important to you as a teacher. And again, as with the birds living on the mountain and in the hollow around Little Tree's cabin, students will come all around you when they know you like them. They'll be waiting outside your door in the morning before school, they'll want to eat their lunch in you room, and they'll be back after school to hang out in your room. It may become an annoyance to you at some point, but let it be a sign that you are doing something right!


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Chapter 6-10

I'll just share briefly here, but I have a few thoughts I would like to discuss as a class on Thursday.

I love Granma and Granpa's reaction when Little Tree returns from the mountain after avoiding the law and saving the still. "They didn't come up the trail but stood and watched as I come along with the dogs. I felt good about it. I still had my fruit jars and had not broke any of them. Granma set the lamp down and knelt to meet me. She grabbed me so hard, she nearly made me drop my fruit jars....Granpa said that he couldn't have done any better hisself....Granpa said I might wind up being better'n him. Which I knew wasn't likely, but I was proud he said it. Granma never said anything. She toted me the rest of the way home. But I could of made it, more than likely" (p. 75).

Being a parent, having worked with parents as a teacher and a coach, and having interacted with parents in a variety of social and church settings, it is interesting to ponder how many parents would respond in this situation. I believe most would be falling all over themselves apologizing to their child for how difficult the ordeal must have been..."Oh, I'm so sorry you had to go through that, you must have been so scared" or "Daddy will never let that happen again, I'll make sure of that" and "You poor thing, that wasn't fair, that's our fault that things were so rough." These are comments that I think we would hear, along with some sharp words between husband and wife.

The differences in response are enormous in my mind, and may have significant consequences in the development of the child. I believe that Granma and Granpa are developing confidence, resilience, and dare I say...self-esteem in Little Tree. More typical responses, although perhaps well-intended, I fear may cause children to feel a level of entitlement, to view themselves as victims, and may actually decease feelings of self-worth and confidence.

I believe that how we communicate with students, especially when they encounter a challenge or adversity, can have a great impact on their behavior.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Chapters 1-5

In Chapter 4 we learn that ol' Maud had lost her sense of smell, but still had great eyesight and good ears. Granpa explained that, "...this gave her something she could do and take pride in knowing she was of worth. Granpa said if a hound or anybody else has got no feeling of worth, then it's a bad thing" (p. 21-22).

How true this is for students. I once had a student who was in my class for a second time (having failed the first time around) and was again failing miserably. He refused to turn in work and enjoyed trying to distract other students or disrupt the class with inappropriate comments. He would frequently try to read automotive magazines in class and fancied himself as a bit of a mechanic. One day I had a very self-serving, yet highly effective idea. I asked if he would replace the alternator in my truck during class. He was thrilled at the opportunity. I began class as usual and he set out to the parking lot with some tools. He was back in no time announcing to all how easy of a task it was. In thanking him I mentioned to the class that there was no way I could have made the repairs on my own and that I sincerely wished I had the skill and knowledge to complete such a task.

I was thankful to have saved myself the time or money that would have been necessary in fixing the problem on my own, but was even more thankful at how this special assignment seemed to turn this student around. Suddenly he participated in class, treated others with respect, and became a productive part of the class. I believe the transformation came about because he felt, much like ol' Maud, that he was of worth. I have since seen similar changes in countless students. Truly everyone desires to feel needed, valued, and appreciated. Throughout this book we will have the opportunity to see how Granpa continuously helps Little Tree create a strong and genuine sense of self-worth. It is one of the many things that we can each incorporate into our teaching practice which will be of great benefit to our students.


Thursday, January 5, 2012


In many ways this book has helped to shape my personal teaching philosophy over the years. I have read it many times now, but each reading brings new insight into how I can better interact with students and assist them in reaching their full potential. I hope that sharing it with each of you will in some way help you in your preparation to be teachers. As Gramma said, "When you come upon something good, first thing to do is share it with whoever you can find; that way, the good spreads out where no telling it will go. Which is right."