Thursday, February 24, 2011

Shoes That Fit and Shoes Fit For Lady Gaga

Yesterday, I bought my mother a pair of sneakers.  This may not seem like such a groundbreaking thing; however, I think it might represent the gradual change of power that happens in a parent child relationships and is mirrored in successful student-teacher interactions.  Let me explain.
For many years,  my mother wore incredible high heeled shoes when she went out.  She really was pretty aware of and tuned into style  Yet, as a responsible parent, she took me to the local Stride Rite store for sturdy and responsible shoes.  The one pair I remember most was a pair of brown and beige saddle shoes that were hideously out of style (in my 10 year old mind) AND probably worse, they made my already size 8 feet look like they were size 9!  I scuffed those things on the playground and celebrated when they were finally put to rest.  I was not grateful for shoes and took the acts of walking and running for granted.  Oh the innocence of youth......

Now, my mother's social circle is significantly different and she walks around the grocery store or CVS hesitantly on toes that are filled with painful arthritis.  She has retired her heels (reluctantly) and even her old sneakers were so painful the she could hardly walk around Turcos.  So, she agreed to try on shoes at her favoite shoe store (thank you Hellers in Mt Kisco) where they wait on you like "in the old days."  The goal was to find a pair of comfortable and light weight shoes that would not hurt her feet.  We were certainly shopping in the "sensible" section of the store  It took a while and she tried on probably 25 pairs of shoes.  There were soft leather shoes with price tags greater than my first car and gorgeous sneakers with delicate trim....but none of them fit just right.  Incredibly, the pair that fit were pink all over - yes pink sneakers!  "I could NEVER wear those," she invoked as they were pulled from the box.  And yet, at my urging, she tried them on....and they were soft and light and lovely to her feet...and well constructed and like those old saddle shoes....the right ones for now. 
As she made her way around the store checking out these new shoes, my mother looked wistfully at a group of "young ladies" trying on shoes that would evoke a smile from Lady Gaga.  At that moment, my mother indeed found her voice and encouraged those girls," Wear them now while you can." 
We left with the new pink sneakers on her feet but I am sure my mother will NOT WANT to wear them with her red sweaters and her pink turtlenecks and earrings will be moved to front and center of her line up.  However, these new shoes fit her perfectly and are just what she needs - right now. 

See full size imageAnd then, partly because I felt sorry for the sales clerk but mostly because I have been hearing my mother's scaffolded message for many decades, I too bought a pair of shoes.  My new shoes will be the rage for Lady Gaga in about 30 years, I suspect, because they are flat; yet, they are MUCH fancier than the sturdy and functional Clarks I normally buy.  I guess I really have been listening to my mother and yes I do need shoes that fit but I also need to wear those glitzy flats now,while I can!

  As I reflected on the saga of the shoes that fit and the shoes that are fit for Lady Gaga, I really do see a connection to teaching kids to be writers. 
We are (even when we don't realize it) scaffolding support for our students when we model the strategies of "sturdy" writers.  We are serving as examples and role models as they explore and try to represent the styles of writing that they see in their peers and in popular culture (like Twitter or graphic novels).  As our student become more proficient, we, like parents, gradually let go of some of the control and encourage them to write like the writers they are.
There just might even be a message in my afternoon at Hellers: let our students try new strategies, outlandish techniques, and diverse writing genres while they can and while they have the time.  Let them explore monsters and poetry and tall tales because our students can.  There will be many years when they will have to write sensibly!


1 comment:

Caitlin said...

Dr. Ferreri,

I know you always say that writing is difficult for you, but I think you're a wonderful writer. I love that you paralleled your shoe shopping experience to that of a writing teacher. Your "do it while you can" message is a meaningful one, and I will put it in my back pocket as teacher of writing.