In The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child, originally published in 2009, Donalyn Miller explains her philosophy of teaching, and how she creates a rich reading environment in her classroom with structures, practices and support for independent reading with her students. I appreciated her long-term view of the importance of developing students as readers for life, not just for a test. I respect that the author has endured the test-happy environment in the great state of Texas as a Language Arts teacher.
Miller shows an obvious interest in her students through her support of their interest-based reading. She challenges students to read 40 books in a school year. There is precious little talk of this kind from most pedagogues. It seems everywhere in education the dominant mindset is that students have to prove everything through skill-based activities and multiple choice tests and that we have to hold their hand and spoon-feed everything. Sadly, this is the lowest common denominator and has not improved society’s literacy at all. It’s as if, “If it ain’t on the test then it doesn’t exist.” Getting kids to love reading in this environment is rather like trying to get someone to savor the flavors, scents, and sights of a gourmet meal while the chef is quizzing them about their daily calorie intake.
I recognize that if I am to embrace this kind of approach, then my first step is to contend with my own life as a reader and step it up a few notches. I love non-fiction, and am a self-professed nerd when it comes to reading. I have my own “Miller Mountain” at home of books I want to read. I also like to write, blog and write songs. I primarily “read to learn,” read/write poetry, love philosophy, ancient mythology and stories that connect to the great mysteries of life. But mostly, I love to read non-fiction.
I do want to connect my students with books they love too though, and in order to do that I need to be reading more of those books myself. I have to admit, she shamed me into reading more. My goal this year already was to read 25 books, which I think I will make this goal. But I set that goal before I read her book. To be a better language arts teacher, Donalyn convinced me I need to read more of the books my students will want to read, which I tend to avoid doing during my free time because it feels like “work.” So yesterday I pulled 4-5 titles from my classroom bookshelves that I want to read and who knows, I may make 40 books yet by December. I have convinced myself that it isn’t really “work” if I choose titles I am interested in. I hope I can convince my students of the same.
Several years ago I subscribed to a newsletter put out by Education Re-Imagined, a non-profit organization that connects people and programs that work on the frontiers of educational innovation. It was through reading one of their recent newsletter issues I learned of this book, Thrive. Its co-authors are Valerie Hannon and Amelia Peterson.
Hannon is co-founder of the Innovation Unit of Global Leader Partnership and Peterson, has a PhD in Education from Harvard University.
Thrive gives a research-based overview of existing evidence and case studies of innovative school programs world-wide with a framework of suggestions to realign educational goals towards creating conditions that promote “thriving.” First, the authors set about defining what they mean by “thriving.” They give four levels of thriving:
A. Global B. Societal C. Interpersonal D. Intrapersonal
Then they identify four key questions:
1. How can all learners best prepare for economies with technology-driven opportunities and development? 2. What tasks can humans perform better than machines and conversely, what tasks can machines perform better than humans? 3. What knowledge and skills do humans need to shape and direct computing power? 4. How can people best be prepared to learn and relearn skills to do human work, rather than be second class robots?
There is a central theme throughout the book of generating a more sustainable relationship with the Earth and its resources in the future. The authors identify both economic globalization and migration as key issues effecting the future.
They prioritize a different relationship between humans and our environment as a key desired outcome. The authors make the claim that education’s purpose is not to merely position kids for wealth acquisition in the job marketplace.
Hannon provides ample school examples already creating conditions for thriving with descriptions of their programs. She discusses an Ecosystems Approach that addresses:
A. Equipping learners for a disrupted jobs/work landscape (published post-Covid) B. Educating for building respectful relationships in diverse, technologized societies C. Creating local sustainability endeavors that address problems in local communities D. Providing real-life application of knowledge, addressing “learner agency”
I liked hearing about how innovative schools in others locations are already adressing and accomplishing these tasks. I would have liked to have seen more data about learner outcomes attached to this overview of innovation. More could be done to follow up on these outcomes. How well did students of these types of programs do on measured learning standards, and perhaps for the more established programs, how did the graduates measure in terms of life happiness, mental health, employability, and the broader goals of interpersonal and intrapersonal thriving as they became adults? Where results were available, it would have been nice to hear more of it although the lack of data is not the necessarily the fault of the author.
The book does accomplish the goal of helping the audience become aware of what is currently being done in schools across a broad range of issues to address global problems we face. Teachers interested in innovation and change will be interested in this book.
If you love the stars and history, what a sweet little treasure you will find in The Star Tales of Mother Goose. This is a fun read, full of beautiful, playful illustrations and the beloved mother goose rhymes for the little ones. For adults, it is informative and engaging and re-ignites our childhood wonder of the stars. Stewart-Adams explains the history and meaning of each Mother Goose Rhyme for adults and brings it alive with stories.
For example, in the well known rhyme Humpty Dumpty, she explains how the king’s horses and king’s men are the four constellations of the four seasons and that Humpty Dumpty himself is the SUN! Summer solstice is the wall, “the moment when the sun stands still, highest above the celestial equator.” Then the sun falls back down again and Bootes, Hercules, and Perseus are the KIng’s men and Pegasus and Equeleus are the horses. In like fashion, she explains ten different rhymes and their starlore meanings.
She also guides the inexperienced in locating these stars with easy descriptions of how to find them and their constellations without any technical terms. Wonderful for parents and children to watch the night sky together with and dream or just for the young at heart. I highly recommend this book for parents of young ones or to give as a gift.
The birth chart of the school year could be said to be the first day of school, so here I have taken the start date for the first day of school for my locality as August 17, 2021 at 8:00am, Tomball, Texas CDT.
Quick Summary: A positive year for communicating, thinking and learning with a theme of conserving or storing resources for the future and keeping one’s true identity and values foremost in one’s mind as one plans for the future. (See Interpretation Below)
Highlights of this Chart
Mercury is the ruler of the chart
Mercury and Mars conjunct Virgo on the ASC
Sun, Mercury, Venus and Saturn all in Rulership – a bit of a conference
Trines with the Nodes to Venus and Saturn
Moon & Mars in Accidental Dignity
Venus in Libra in the First House, but First House ruled by Mercury
Uranus Rx – Aug. 20 Mercury Rx Sept 27-Oct. 18 Mars in Scorpio on Halloween Pluto direct – Oct. 6 Saturn direct – Oct. 11 Mercury direct and Jupiter direct -Oct. 18 Eclipses – Nov 8, Nov. 19, Total Solar Dec. 4 Mercury Rx – Jan. 14-Feb.4 Venus Rx Dec. 19-Jan. 29 Jupiter in Pisces – Dec. 30 Uranus direct – Jan. 18, 2022 Chinese New Year – Feb. 1, 2022 – Begins Year of the Tiger Pluto Rx – Apr. 29, 2022 Partial Solar Eclipse – Apr. 30, 2022 Mercury Rx May 10-June 3, 2022 Total Solar Eclipse – May 16, 2022 Summer Solstice – June 21, 2022
Interpreting the Symbolism
The 2021-22 school year has a positive outlook. With many planets in air signs, it will be a productive year for learning, thinking, and communicating, which brings some hope for integrating all of that was learned by teachers and all that was not learned by students in schools since the pandemic.
Mercury is the ruler of the chart at 10 Virgo, the symbol for which is a child molded in their parents’ aspirations. There may be pressure to live up to others’ expectations, and a need to go after what you want instead. With Mars conjunct we are given the “oomph” or grit to assert. But, if we cannot accept our true identity, we may be in trouble as our true identity is exposed. We are no longer able to hide or pretend because Mars at 11 Virgo’s symbol is a bride with her veil being snatched away.
Here we can imagine the image of the Norse God Thor, acting the part of Freya with a veil in order to trick his enemies.
If you are the bride, accept the new realities and commit without pretense. If you are the one doing the snatching away of the veil, there may be feelings of violation or a rude awakening to the reality but we need to accept the situation.
This school year may bring a theme of evaluating the changes that took place during pandemic and taking the best of the past going forward. Venus is at 1 Libra, Lynda Hill describes the Sabian Symbol this degree:
“This wonderful Symbol shows a time of new beginnings with an implementation of a brand new order. Often, this shows people being interested in attaining spiritual transformation and attainment. As you change and grow there’s a need to respect the value of what is waning, and to take the best qualities from the past with you into your future. This often shows being within reach of your ultimate potential. Some aspects of society are left behind for a higher, more evolved state. ” – from SabianSymbols.Com
Loose ends from previous experiments need to be tied up, and so it will be a year of trials, creativity, and problem solving. This requires good communication and a back and forth flow of test and revise, and test again until the fine tuning of right solutions emerge. The ASC of this chart is 8 Virgo, an expressionist painter making futuristic drawings.
So with Venus at 1 Libra and taking the best of the past and bringing it forwards into a new order, we can be creative and visionary in drawing up future plans, but we have the danger of being too idealistic as well. We may be living in the mind too much or overemphasizing the future without considering reality of the present. Venus at Libra 1 suggests new beginnings and bringing forward collective wisdom in service to the future.
Two trines exist between two planets in rulership to the north node, Venus in Libra, the MC/Nodes in Gemini, and Saturn in Aquarius. This could bring a creative synergy of ideals and values that align with true purpose.
The Lunar Node is on the midheaven of this chart at 7 Gemini. This is the Sabian Symbol for aroused strikers surround a factory. Social tensions have been high for quite some time, and that is not likely to abate. We still have Uranus in Taurus which might suggest revolution (Uranus) in the realm of physical resources (Taurus). Mercury and Venus near the horizon of this chart suggest embracing one’s true identity. This is also inconjunct to Chiron, at the degree whose symbol is a bomb failing to explode.Note here, this need not be a literal bomb, but could rather a symbolic one and seems to suggest disasters averted rather than things exploding.
There is a back and forth between urgency and fanaticism on the one hand and the need for crowd control, and calm, stable leadership.
The Moon at 19 Sagittarius gives the Sabian symbol of in winter people cutting ice from a frozen pond for summer use. This brings to mind the image of planning ahead and conserving resources, which shows up in a few other symbols for this chart. Where can we be like wise Joseph as Pharoah in the Old Testament, storing grain for the drought?
Meanwhile Saturn at 9 Aquarius has the Sabian symbol for a person who had for a time become the embodiment of an ideal is made to realize they are not this ideal. This repeats the theme of embracing one’s true identity, just as the symbol of the veil being snatched away. Where can we recognize what is and what is not the ideal? How accurate are our assessments of these ideals? Judging things by the level of popular support does not always equate to what is truly ideal or what is best.
The Sun is at 24 Leo is opposing Jupiter in Aquarius. With the Sun in rulership here in the 12th house, we have an image of a large camel crossing a vast and forbidding desert. We may have to carry the load for a long distance for others. The warning here is to prepare for the journey, to collect reserves and resources, and avoid mirages. We may have to push ahead in difficult times, be self-sufficient, have mental stamina and exercise mental self-control on a journey through a desert. This also rings true for the Chinese Astrology for this year – the Metal Ox, next year we move into the Year of the Tiger. This axis shows the polarity of self (Leo) and the collective (Aquarius). There is also this idea of bringing something of value or great importance across an expanse of desert to someone in need of it, in other words, precious cargo that requires self-sacrifice.
The Sabian symbol for 27 Aquarius is a tree felled and sawed to ensure a supply of wood for the winter. It is interesting to have so many repeated symbols for conserving and storing resources for future use. Who is going to need the precious resources and how will we get it to them, who will make that journey or sacrifice to ensure it?
Chiron, Neptune, Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto are all moving retrograde suggesting consolidation of ground previously covered in the social movements and collective of the day.
Venus is in rulership in Libra and her location in the Taurean house of resources seems positive. At the same time we have Pluto in Capricorn requiring transformation. How can we transform the idea of power based on material resources? Where are we merely creating more waste or peddling our knicknacks and where are we setting a standard for excellence in what we create that is in alignment with values for the future? Since Venus inches near to the second house it is suggesting that we are not quite there yet. Rather than focusing on our fears of what we don’t want, have we clearly defined what we value and what we do want? While our values may not all be the same, where can we find common ground and work together? Here we need a solid sense of identity before entering commitments. Chiron in Aries points us toward being examples of calm leadership. Sharing our values and ideals may be one of the most important creative acts of service we can render because to fail to bring these out, or to hide under the veil is to fail to participate. That is like putting your head in the sand, thereby ensuring common ground will never be found. A move forward begins with conversations that matter and self-assertion (Mars) and revealing our true nature. Having conversations about shared values and conserving physical resources will be relevant this year.
For more information on Sabian Symbols, please see Lynda Hill’s Sabian Symbols.
If you are a teacher, and you get a chance, pick up and read James Hillman’s On Soul, Character and Calling. In it he explains his “Acorn theory.”
In one interview Hillman commented, “It’s important to ask yourself, ‘How am I useful to others? What do people want from me?’ That may very well reveal what you are here for.”
For teachers, Hillman gives a reminder for why we may have gotten into the profession in the first place, namely, to place ourselves in the path of young people to help them develop their potential. It is a reminder to get down to what is real and have more humility. “We need to get back to trusting our emotional rapport with children, to seeing a child’s beauty and singling that child out. That’s how the mentor system works — you’re caught up in the fantasy of another person. Your imagination and theirs come together.” The image is of lighting fires.
Hillman in an interview: I think the first step is the realization that each of us has such a thing. (a calling) And then we must look back over our lives and look at some of the accidents and curiosities and oddities and troubles and sicknesses and begin to see more in those things than we saw before. It raises questions, so that when peculiar little accidents happen, you ask whether there is something else at work in your life. It doesn’t necessarily have to involve an out-of-body experience during surgery, or the sort of high-level magic that the new age hopes to press on us. It’s more a sensitivity, such as a person living in a tribal culture would have: the concept that there are other forces at work. A more reverential way of living.
That life of reverence is so closely tied to the work of teaching. I could not describe that better than Hillman and it makes me feel at peace about being a teacher who is studies the destiny question, or what Hillman calls the acorn theory. Teaching really is all about paying attention to the other human being, and developing a deep respect, love and curiosity for the mystery of another human being and the potential of their calling, helping them uncover that despite anything else, including: what your own picture of them might be as their teacher, or what you would wish to mold them into, or even what you might have them believe.
I would like to see our educational system become more reverential of the mystery of each person, and less rigid, prescriptive and injurious to the outliers who don’t fit the mold. Perhaps this can’t be implemented in a structural way, perhaps it is just something which must be shared from person to person. Either way – we should try to do it more in whatever ways we can.
It all leads to many more questions, like how do we teach in a way that is respectful to another person’s divine blueprint? We can’t cast or stamp out each person from the same mold, in a one-size-fits-all approach. We need to leave a certain part in freedom. This is where when it comes to standardized testing or standardized anything I have bones to pick. Our society is in its infancy in terms of our ability to develop human potential respectfully. This is where and why I wonder whether and how astrology and education intersect in fruitful ways.