School Days Reminiscences of D. Avery

School Days, Reminiscences of D. Avery

Welcome to the School Days, Reminiscences series in which my champion bloggers and authors share reminiscences of their school days. It’s my small way of thanking them for their support and of letting you know about their services and publications.

This week, I am delighted to introduce D. Avery, poet, writer, blogger. I met D. when she rode up to the Carrot Ranch, dismounted and took a lead role around the campfire with her humorous tales and witty conversation. I also try not to miss her posts on ShiftnShake where she shares poetry, flash fiction and short stories sprinkled with philosophical pearls of wisdom and creates characters as like and unlike any you may chance to meet. Whatever the topic, there’s sure to be beauty in her words, wisdom in her ideas and smiles to lighten your day.

Books by D. Avery

I have read and enjoyed all three of D.’s books and was both honoured and delighted when she quoted me on the back cover of After Ever. This is what I wrote:

An interesting and eclectic collection of short stories and even shorter flash stories, this collection has something for everyone. Whether the situation be mundane or mystical, tragic or cheerful, D. Avery records events matter-of-factly, telling how it is or was, and leaves it to the reader to choose how to respond. After Ever is great for reading in bites or as an entire feast.

I thought I’d reviewed all three of D.’s books on Amazon, but all I could find was my review of For the Girls:

After receiving her own pre-Christmas un-gift of a cancer diagnosis, D. Avery unwrapped how the diagnosis affected her personal journey and view on life. Written from her own need and for others facing similar situations, D. Avery explores through poetry, the emotions that fluctuate in intensity from the moment of diagnosis until, hopefully, remission is declared. Anyone who has endured the pain of diagnosis or suffered alongside another who has, will find something with which to identify. None of us are ever free of the fear, but hope has a stronger pull. These poems are food for the soul.

Before we begin the interview, I’ll allow D. Avery to tell you a little of herself:

D. Avery, writer, fisherwoman

Born and raised in rural New England, D. Avery is never quite out of the woods, though she has been in other fields. She has been a veggie vendor, landscape gardener, and a teacher.

Cursed with a compulsion for wordplay and a growing addiction to writing, D. Avery blogs at Shiftnshake, where she pours flash fiction and shots of poetry for online sampling. D. Avery tweets ‪‪@daveryshiftn‪‪ and is a Rough Writer at Carrot Ranch. She is the author of two books of poems, Chicken Shift and For the Girls. Her latest release,  After Ever; Little Stories for Grown Children,  is a collection of flash and short fiction.

Welcome, D. Now let’s talk school. First of all, could you tell us where you attended school?

I attended public school, my first three years at a K-12 school in Skagway, Alaska, then third through sixth grade in a four room graded school in Vermont, before attending a 7-12 regional school that serves a number of small towns.

What is the highest level of education you achieved? What work or profession did you choose after school and was there anything in school that influenced this choice?

I experienced a year of small private liberal arts college in Ohio and that was enough of that. After a year off from school I completed a two-year program at the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at UMass Amherst, earning an Associate’s Degree in Science, Commercial Floriculture. This course of study had practical and immediate application for me, and served me well. I spent the off season from greenhouse work and landscape gardening subbing and volunteering in the elementary school and after a few years I decided to answer the call and get my teaching certificate. I got my Masters of Education at Antioch New England Graduate School and switched careers, becoming a fourth grade classroom teacher and more recently a sixth grade math teacher.

What is your earliest memory of school?

I have lots of early memories. I do think back on how cool it was to be in a small K-12 school that was the center of a small (and isolated) community. The entire school, K-12, took part in a Christmas pageant every year for the town to see. Likewise Field Day had everyone involved and the high school kids might be on the team of a kindergartner or would somehow be helping out.

What memories do you have of learning to read?

I was reading before attending school, something I picked up at home. We were read to, and there was plenty of print around. One day while looking through a comic I realized I knew the words. It was pretty exciting. I went through the stack of comics and numerous picture books. By second grade I had read all my brothers’ Hardy Boys books. And we had quite a stack of Classics Illustrated, classic novels condensed into comic book form; I started in on those at this time. When we moved back to VT I read every Vermont heroes and histories books on those dusty shelves of that old graded school. There was a collection of William O’Steele books too, historical fiction for kids, pioneers headed west. Of course there were the Little House books. Then they instituted the Dorothy Canfield Fisher program and our school library got built up with more modern young adult novels. I still enjoyed the historical fiction the most though.

What memories do you have of learning to write?

D. Avery was always confident as a writer

Norah, you might remember when I gave some detail about being taught to form my letters in school. It was kind of fun so here’s a LINK. But school did get better after that. My second grade teacher did a great job of integrating reading and writing. I became a writer the day that my writing was hanging in the hall and some of those high school kids were reading it and even complimented me for it. Throughout my school years some of my writing got some attention and publication. I had encouraging teachers and still remember the Poets in Schools program. I was always fairly confident as a writer, using it to baffle them with bullshit if I couldn’t dazzle them with brilliance.

What do you remember about math classes?

D. Avery: maths should be accessible and meaningful

I could neither baffle nor dazzle with math. Math was never taught very well, I realize now, and I did not like it. It was a lot of rote drill-and-kill work.

Fortunately, my great grandmother got me straightened out with times tables in one briefing so that helped.

I managed, barely, but never “got” math until a course at ANE Graduate School. Since then I have taken a number of courses. Now I truly enjoy math and have enjoyed demystifying the subject for students third through sixth grades.

I don’t remember ever having fun in math class, but my own math students have had fun. Math students need to see patterns and to make connections, to keep math accessible and meaningful.

I also realize that the best math practice I ever had, and what really built number sense, was not from school at any level but from my summer work as a teenager on a truck farm where there was no cash register or calculator. My mental math got quite good. Working there and earlier helping my dad out with different projects also built my math skills.

What was your favourite subject?

D. Avery: it's the people who make a subject more interesting and more accessible

I have always enjoyed history and social studies, and those were probably my favorite subjects in high school. But I also enjoyed Latin and English (reading and writing). I also was very fortunate to have had some remarkable people as my teachers. That’s what one remembers as much as anything; it’s the people who make a subject more interesting and accessible.

What did you like best about school? 

D. Avery, what did you like best about school

I liked learning. I found most of my subjects interesting. There were some excellent teachers and also an excellent library. School had books and magazines to be read, it was a place to pursue ideas and interests. It was a path to possibilities. And school was where my audience was, it’s where I performed and entertained. But I did manage to learn in spite of myself.

What did you like least about school?

I liked being with friends at school, but people are also what I liked least in school. Kids are always having to navigate the social waters and to find their own balance between conformity and individuality. It’s stressful. I was always grateful and glad to be home at the end of the day, where I could have quiet alone time in the woods.

I feel bad for the kids today who, because of their devices, are never able to be alone and to decompress. I feel bad for people who do not have the outside time and space. I know it was vital for my time in school to have good work and play experiences out of school and time to get re-centered. People now are never alone and never lonelier. I still require lots of alone time.

How do you think schools have changed since your school days?

School girl D. Avery coming in from skiing

With the pervasiveness of computers and social media parents have an extra responsibility, an extra worry now, and most don’t fully comprehend the depths of that. Technology has made teaching and learning more difficult; it has distanced people from nature, from each other, from generational wisdom- from their selves. “Knowledge” at our fingertips is not lasting; internet access in many ways erodes curiosity and problem solving skills, critical reading and thinking skills, and the stamina required for meaningful learning.

I know arguments could be made in defence of technology, but I rarely see a healthy balance. Gaming addictions, cyber-bullying, plagiarism and general distractions are some of the issues that impact teaching and learning nowadays. That maybe didn’t really speak about schools, but these phones are a huge change in our society and so our schools.

What do you think schools (in general) do well?

Schools have changed, but they are still staffed with people, most often good caring people who are educated in their subject area and also in pedagogy and in best practices based on research. Educators take into account how students best learn, and how to engage them in that enterprise.

More than ever before, schools look out for and provide services for a student’s mental health, their social/emotional wellbeing. A person with trauma or health issues is not the best learner, and schools are learning to take a more holistic approach to all students.

How do you think schools could be improved?

D. Avery "Schools should be creative safe havens"

Our schools don’t always seem to measure up, but what is the measure? Not everyone is measuring up to standardized tests, but if we really want to close achievement gaps, if we really want to leave no children behind then we need to reform much more than our schools.

While I think we should first focus on out of school factors, within school we have to do more than give lip service to Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences. Which means schools need to not succumb to the testing culture; schools need to be less programmatic and prescriptive. Curricula should encourage empathy and build flexible and adaptive skills and strategies required for individuals to pursue their own interests and inclinations. Schools should be creative safe havens that sustain a sense of wonder and curiosity.

thank you for your participation

D., thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general. I would have liked to take your responses to the last three questions and make them all quotes. You express it all so perfectly.  It’s been a delight to have you here. I learned so much from and about you. I enjoyed learning about your own school days and totally agree with what you have to say about education in general.

 

Find out more about D. Avery

from her website ShiftnShake

Connect with her on social media

Twitter: @daveryshiftn

Purchase your own copy of her books from

Amazon

If you missed previous reminiscences, check them out here:

Charli Mills

Sally Cronin

Anne Goodwin

Geoff Le Pard

Hugh Roberts

Debby Gies

Pauline King

JulesPaige

Look for future interviews in this series to be posted on Sunday evenings AEST.

Coming soon:

Christy Birmingham

Miriam Hurdle

Susan Scott

with more to follow.

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your comments. Please share your thoughts.

89 thoughts on “School Days, Reminiscences of D. Avery

  1. Pingback: School Days, Reminiscences of Christy Birmingham | Norah Colvin

  2. Susan Scott

    Most enjoyable thank you both! It’s fascinating to read of people from different parts of the world and their earlier exposure to school and their felt experience of it. I too am glad that technology wasn’t at this advanced stage when I was a child – and that there was a freedom in enjoying the outdoors that maybe isn’t that much available today; or maybe it is and those who are not attached by the hip to cellphones and games still enjoy the outdoors and all that there is on offer.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Hi Susan. Life and childhood was different in our day, wasn’t it? I don’t think we can ever go back. I’m not sure that I’d want to. I find it sad that children don’t have the freedom that we did but the thought of them having it is almost incomprehensible because so much has changed since then – the amount of traffic on roads for one.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  3. Christy B

    Such thoughtful answers from D. here. I especially like the encouragement of learning and showing empathy that D. suggests for schools. Perhaps that could go far in anti-bullying efforts.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Thank you, Christy. Yeah, relationships are the most important thing in school. From a practical standpoint, if you have a positive relationship with your students, if they know you care about them, then they will be able and willing to learn. They feel safe and known. And that makes everyone safer.

      Liked by 2 people

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  4. TanGental

    How very interesting, D. My rural schooling came in senior school as did that decompression time – my primary education was fairly remote too, but not like yours. I do agree to how useful it is, that time away and alone. I have always needed to be away from people even though my friends would see me as gregarious to a fault. In a city like London that was through walking and cycling alone to and from work. Now it’s with dog on endless walks. At school it was often the solo journeys to and from school.
    And your points about the rapid influx of mobile technology and connectivity and how it is impacting and influencing young pliable minds makes a lot of sense. It’s such a rapidly changing novelty that we haven’t yet begun to understand how to react to it sensibly at all ages let alone regulate it. We will but one hopes not at the cost of those current trailblazers who are today’s children.
    I am a trustee and volunteer at a local youth club charity. We have recently expanded to run a forest school, right in the heart of inner London in a park we utilise with support of the local authority. Despite the limitations of the urban built environment it focuses on what you’ve highlighted – outdoor learning – based on a Scandinavian model. Here’s a link https://www.forestschoolassociation.org/what-is-forest-school/. It’s not quite Alaska or Vermont! What it has shown is how it helps children who otherwise struggle to thrive in a traditional classroom. It isn’t a panacea, of course, but as you pertinently put it, we need to educate flexibly and holistically and offer different models to different individuals.
    A lovely read D. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for sharing your experiences in response to D.’s, Geoff. I think many of us writers may need our time alone – how else would we ever get time to dream up stories and write?
      I love that your are involved with a local youth group. I know you have mentioned this before. That you’ve expanded to include a ‘forest school’ is just wonderful.
      I totally agree that “we need to educate flexibly and holistically and offer different models to different individuals.”

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
    2. D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Wow! Thank you Geoff, I just learned a whole lot about you! The class cutup just showed his serious side. At Antioch New England there was a huge focus on the importance of children being outside, its impact on creativity and emotional health. At that time I felt like the elementary school where I worked did pretty well with the (I forget what he called it, but an inventory of the outside areas and how much natural elements were available to the children, “wild” spaces to play in) But every year as we grew in numbers of students and added on buildings and playing fields we lost trees, bushes, and overgrown brush lots that we used to be able to access for play, and for science and geography lessons and activities. That school is become an island in a sea of tarred parking lot. There’s the wide open soccer field and the playground but no more the quieting spaces under trees for imaginative play and just relaxing.
      It’s no wonder we have more anxiety and general lack of social skills among our students.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. Norah Post author

        An interesting reflection on the changing landscape of your school, D. It reminds me of the song “The Big Yellow Taxi”. So sad that we don’t seem to be able to accommodate people and nature (recognising that we are part of nature) so well.

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  5. robbiesinspiration

    I enjoyed learning about Miss D’s school days, which seem to have been filled with positive messages. Imagine living in Alaska, how every thrilling! A lovely, balanced article, Norah. It is good to know that the schooling system works so well in the more rural parts of the US.

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. Norah Post author

      I’m pleased you enjoyed learning more about D. Robbie. It sounds so incredible to have lived in Alaska doesn’t it. I thought so too when I read it. I think living in other places, as you have also done, is a wonderful education.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  6. Hugh's Views and News

    You’re so lucky to have had such caring teachers (well, maybe not your Maths teacher, D). I love how you saw school as your stage where you could display your writing. And what you said about technology and people – ‘People now are never alone and never lonelier.’ is so true. I’m happy I experienced childhood before the age of technology.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. D. Avery @shiftnshake

      My maths teachers were not unkind, they were just that type that knew the math but not how to teach it to those who didn’t. It perpetuated the myth of their being “math people” and “non-math people”. I did some writing back then but the stage was for entertaining with slapstick and stand-up. I was the comic relief and I had a captive audience. Funny thing is, I have always been a very serious person.
      And yes, it’s a good time to be an older person, as far as I’m concerned. I am glad to have had a childhood.
      Thanks, Hugh.

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
      1. Norah Post author

        I had a maths teacher who could do it but couldn’t teach it. I’ve always thought it an advantage, as a teacher, to have had to work for what I’ve learned. It helps me understand the increments in learning that others, for whom it came easy, often fail to see.

        Liked by 1 person

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  7. thecontentedcrafter

    Lovely to read about you and your educational experiences D. It’s alarming how the same problems are experienced globally, one of the great things about the web is the ability to share and disrupt that experience of things happening in isolation. I really appreciate your final thought: ‘Schools should be creative safe havens that sustain a sense of wonder and curiosity.’ No matter what the age of the student, that should indeed be the mantra of all educators!

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      I’m not surprised a creative crafter would agree with that statement, Pauline. Isn’t it great to have so much wisdom shared about education. Now we’ll just have to get the administrators to pay attention and make some changes. We’ve got the people if they want to know!

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
    1. D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Thanks. Schools get blamed for a lot nowadays but I know that I learned a lot from my activities outside of school. Outside of school learning is one piece of the velcro, school learning is the other. Too many kids only have one side. Nothing sticks.

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
              1. Norah Post author

                I didn’t see it and can’t find it. WP seems to be doing funny things with comments lately, particularly when I miss more than a few days. Never mind, I’ll Google his name and see what I come up with.

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    1. D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Yikes, I haven’t been around for ages. But I do truly appreciate you reading my stuff from the beginning, a couple years now. That’s a fine sentiment that last sentence. And sometimes schools get in their own way and stifle creativity and crush curiosity. Of staff and students.

      Liked by 2 people

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      1. calmkate

        it’s all real interesting and then you get to that line at it KO = knock out ❤ a potent punch 🙂
        Obviously we have the cancer survival in common but sadly too many belong to that club!

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
            1. Norah Post author

              I see you and D. as having a lot in common. I didn’t know about the cancer survival bit. I see these things:
              . poetry
              . philosophy
              . love of nature
              . weavers of magic with words
              Need I go on?

              Liked by 1 person

              Reply
  8. Jules

    Howdy D! Just from reading your words I feel like you are and will continue to be a wonderful educator. I used to go Up State NY for weekend summers. But always back to the city for school. Over crowded classrooms always let some folks slip by.

    Looking forward to meeting up soon. I’m still working my way through the book I won – by you.
    I really enjoy the humor and the life you bring to words.

    Thanks for sharing a bit of yourself via this wonderful series hosted by Norah. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your lovely comment, Jules. I have no doubt that D. is a wonderful educator.
      I am so envious that you are going to meet at the retreat. I so wish I could be there. I’ll be with you in spirit. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  9. Darlene

    I too went to a small school is a rural area where everyone knew each other and helped each other. It was such a good start and certainly instilled the idea of teamwork. A great post, thanks to Norah and D.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Darlene. I think it is great when schools are small enough for everyone to know each other and feel a part of the community.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  10. Darlene

    I too went to a small school is a rural area where everyone knew each other and helped each other. It was such a good start and certainly instilled the idea of teamwork. A great post, thanks to Norah and D.

    Like

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