Swarthmore College

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Last Friday, I paid a visit to my former-student-cum-friend, Maya Kikuchi, at Swarthmore College. I grew up not far from the campus and had been there a few times in the past, but I’m not sure I ever noticed how absolutely stunning it is. The brisk, slightly drizzly weather didn’t hurt (that may sound like bad weather to some, but I haven’t experience autumn in a decade and am loving every second). I met Maya by “the Adirondack,” a sculpture, perhaps eight feet tall, though I suppose it could function as an actual chair for a small clutch of students. Maya took me on a walking tour of the campus. She showed me one of the three libraries, which was neat. I was especially impressed that superhero comics were prominently displayed and completist-ly collected. I saw the dorms, and the “teaching garden,” and then we went to Seven Stones Cafe in Media, where we caught up and talked shop (Maya was in two of my classes, and I was her advisor for the novella she wrote as her independent study project last year, so we’ve gone pretty deep). Then we visited my former high school English-teacher-cum-friend, not to mention poet extraordinaire, O. John Brown, at his house. Maya read some of her recent poems about the sky to us and John critiqued Maya’s poetry with great kindness, insight, and humor. Then, as I drove Maya back to her dorm, we saw a red fox. Alas, we forgot to take a picture of the both of us, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that I wasn’t alone.

Three things I thought about during my drive home with regard to Punahou School, where I teach:

  1. Sculptures – Why don’t we have any that I can think of? We could help out some sculptors and expose students to an art form most likely know little about. It would be important, I think, to keep getting new ones, nothing permanent, lest they become stuffy old relics.
  2. Punahou is in Hawaii. It’s very beautiful. We need a teaching garden like this. Or at least, I need to take students outside more often. The deterrent, though, aside from the heat, is that I worry kids will get distracted by other kids. And so, back to my original thesis: we need a teaching garden.
  3. We have students trained in giving reader-based feedback in our Writing Center. It’s a great service, and a writer can gain much from it. Still, I can’t help thinking there’s something uniquely wonderful about having a dedicated, lifelong artist/writer critique your creative work.

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